Question of Abortion
Not to steer the blog away from its current analytic maelstrom, but here's something I thought interesting to consider. I'm working on little sleep, so maybe I'm wrong and it's not. Digby has a series of posts about a woman who got pregnant, already has two kids, and can't afford a third. Had an abortion. He then posts a response from a pro-life, anti-left blogger, and disagrees with its conclusion, that sex is a choice, and like other choices, cigarette smoking, fast-food scarfing, you suffer the consequences (I'm oversimplifying -- read the response). If you can't afford to get pregnant, the logic goes, "don't fuck." Digby responds with an argument along the lines that sex is elemental, you can't expect the poor, etc., to not fuck. And that such an expectation deprives people of their humanity.
Well, now let me say that I am one-hundred percent for legal abortions. I think they should be legal under almost any conceivable circumstance, and you just can't have a judge, senator, etc., providing oversight on anything like this. However, I find Digby's argument weak, and it actually makes me a little queasy. A lot of it is based on the idea that we humans have a sex-drive, and that it is just basic, and while we are not just humping animals, as Digby's interlocutor implies Digby implies, "sex is elemental." Well, yes, I guess it is, on an evolutionary sort of level at least.
But the idea that the ability to have sex when we want it, knowing that we will be able to have abortions if necessary, is an ability which if interdicted leads to the death of our "humanity," I think is overblown. People abstain from sex. Some folks are celibate. Some folks only have sex once in a long while. (And lots of folks are gay and don't face the same sex/pregnacy question). I'm not trying to be a prude. And I certainly sleep/fuck better at night, knowing that abortions are legal. As they should be. But to me the abortion argument should begin and end in an individual rights framework. Arguments that start arguing for the moral necessity of abortions based on human sex-drive, or some other quasi-biological factor, put the Left in the position that the technocratic right (see Steve Pinker, Larry Summers, and much worse) is embracing these days. Don't start arguing morality on the basis of naturalistic descriptions of drives, impulses, etc.
On a basis of individual liberty, I disagree with Digby's respondent. And in no way am I going condemn anyone for getting an abortion, least of all a mother of two, who can't afford to raise another. I do not have the moral authority, nor do I think anyone else does. More power to her. But I'm not really going to get into it with someone like Digby's respondent on a moral framework. Individual responsibility in a case like this seems to be a moral issue that I can differentiate from the basic point that the woman should do what is best for her, and I'm not going to get up in her business. But I am unwilling, and especially in the context of an ineluctable "sex-drive" argument, to boldly attack the respondent's moral framework. Notice he/she doesn't say the woman should not be allowed to have an abortion -- only that he/she doesn't think it's a moral thing.
I don't think we should get in the business of telling folks like that they are wrong or immoral. Just gently point out to them a few things in the New Test. about casting first stones, etc. And let the moral issues work themselves out in the margins.
Of course, if this kind of moral rhetoric is used to pursue abortion restrictions, then blast the hell out of it, and call the whole lot of 'em fascists. That's what I do.
UPDATE 1: Amanda at Pandagon takes Digby's view, and even more elaborately. I'm not insensitive to the point at all. I am just not comfortable, on a theoretical and on a practical level, in taking as axiom #1 in the abortion debate that everyone needs/wants to have sex all the time.
UPDATE 2: I want to clarify something in my "argument" above. My attempt to create a dichotomy between an "individual rights framework" and a "moral framework" is specious. My belief in the supremacy of individual liberty must itself be acknowledged as a moral position. I don't have any strong confidence in the type of juridical hand-waving that, via pathetic fallecy, identifies a non-moral basis of belief in written law. So I am asserting the supremacy of a morality of individual rights over any specific moral position in the debate about the morality of abortion qua abortion. I just don't think that the morality to which I would refer can be articulated in the language of a subordinate morality that deals with abortion in particular.