You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

"But what about the CHILDREN?"

[UPDATE 2:

'The Web site of Ms Magazine – yes, it still exists – is calling on readers to sign a petition: “I have had an abortion. I publicly join the millions of women in the United States who have had an abortion in demanding a repeal of laws that restrict women’s reproductive freedom." Well, so much for the right to privacy. If Ms readers hadn’t had so many abortions, there might be more Ms readers...'

- Julia Gorin, "Petitioning for Life," Wall Street Journal (17 August 2006)

UPDATE 1: It appears that some religious groups, but not others, are permitted to have a view on the morality of abortion.

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'Lyn Allison was 18 when she found out she was pregnant. Living in Fairfield, Victoria, in the 1960s, the idea of being an unmarried mother was a burden too great for her family to bear. As the Democrats leader revealed in the Senate last night: "An estimated one in three women have had an abortion, and I am one of them." [...] Senator Allison explained her decision to the [Sydney Morning] Herald: "I came from a very conservative family and for them the shame of having a child out of wedlock was unacceptable... I lived near an unmarried mothers' home and they were out of sight in what was effectively an institution. That was never going to be a prospect for me." Her family knew, and her GP referred her, an act that would have been illegal at the time. Having a child at 18 would have changed her life in ways she was not prepared to contemplate. "I probably wouldn't be here [in the Senate]," she said...'

-- Stephanie Peatling, "Revelation adds to emotional debate", Sydney Morning Herald (9 February 2006)

Perhaps not, Senator. On the other hand, there might be one more 40[?]-year-old Democrat voter alive today, to help your party stave off its impending electoral extinction.

Unfortunately for the pro-aborts, in a political system based (assuming that Australia can continue to stave off the imposition of a Bill of Rights) on universal adult suffrage, there's no way around the brute mathematics of "I'm pro-life and I vote... and so do all my kids", no matter how often they repeat the chanted mantra of "Not the Church/ not the state/ Let the Woman/ decide her fate". It is not necessary for the pro-life side to chant back "Children's lives don't/ belong to others/ Not their fathers/ Not their mothers". We just have to be the ones who have children. (With the caveat that you don't of course, have like, fifteen or sixteen kids so they grow up unfed and unclothed and get so pissed off with their deprived "pro-life" upbringing that they turn your society into another Italy, France, Ireland or Quebec in a single generation.)

Having had much experience in my youth with student politicians, I always simply assume that at least half of our MPs at any given time have either aborted a child (if female) or have sired an aborted child (if male). This cuts across Left-Right lines, since the logic of easy abortion is as highly appealing to the Party of Lust as it is to the Party of Greed.

Perhaps we can have similarly rational and impartial debates about the merits of other controversial social policies? Hmmm... "When I was 18, I called an effeminate schoolmate of mine a 'faggot'. The Bill before this House today, by outlawing vilification on the grounds of sexual orientation, would have made me -- and thousands of others like me -- a criminal! A law-breaker! But I'm a law-abiding citizen! Therefore, if what I did would conflict with the law, then the law must be wrong!..." And of course, society is still locking up young unmarried mothers, in what is effectively an institution, just like in Lyn Allison's youth, to brutally punish them for having sex out of wedlock.

I don't really expect much more than this from the Democrats (although I do hope Natasha Stott-Despoja took care to turn down the TV sound in case her baby son [1] hears her telling the world "Mummy might have had you chopped up by the doctor if you'd been inconvenient for her lifestyle"), or from Julia Gillard. But Fiona Nash? One of the few redeeming traits of the Nationals used to be their much-trumpeted attachment to Christian values. If they want to become the party of selfishness on children's rights, as well as tariffs, subsidies and taxes, then to hell with them.

Having said that, the pro-life side seems to be putting a lot of energy into a battle over an essentially short-term and symbolic question: whether it is the Health Minister, or an appointed govt board, that can give final approval to the abortion pill. Even if they win, it could well turn out a pyrrhic victory: Tony Abbott (who seems, given his views on abortion and the monarchy, to be undecided as to whether a person's chances in life should depend on whether they're lucky to be conceived in the right womb) won't be Health Minister forever. As Jackie Kelly noted during the debate, "if you don't like our [current] Health Minister, look in three years' time you can get [Labor's] Julia Gillard as Health Minister."

Moreover, I disagree with the anti-RU486 tack of framing opposition in terms of concern for the woman's health. Not because I want women to bleed to death as punishment for procuring at-home abortions, but because they have voluntarily assumed the risk. Pro-aborts frequently depict anti-aborts as paternalistic chauvinists who don't think adult women can be trusted to make decisions in their own interests; this anti-RU486 argument plays right into the hands of those who peddle this stereotype. Me, I have no doubt that on balance women are as good as men are at making decisions to promote their own interests,[2] at least in the short-term;[3] what I don't buy is the creative Cannoldian line that, if your mother decides to abort you, that's in your interests too. (I am not making that up. Cannold is an ethics lecturer, believe it or not. But then, so is Peter Singer.)

[1] Yes, I know Natty's kid is already out of the womb. But you show me what part of Lyn Allison's Oprahfest limits the logic of her claimed "right to choose" to only children in utero; and a screaming three-year-old would represent a much bigger obstacle to Allison's precious Senate career than would a first-trimester bump, even with morning sickness.

The real reason is not logic or justice, but sentiment, which is the basis of most pro-choice convictions and (coincidentally?) of most Australian Democrat policies. The pro-aborts don't have the guts to say "No, you can't, that would be killing a child" to a pregnant woman. On the other hand, they don't have the guts to actually do the killing themselves, mano a mano (hence the popularity of a pill that does it for you, and the hysteria with which pro-aborts react whenever someone actually publishes a photo of what an aborted foetus looks like). If they had any principles, the pro-aborts would follow (as, to his partial credit, Prof Singer does partly follow) GK Chesterton's suggestion: "Let all babies be born. Then let us drown the ones we do not like."

[2] Except, of course, when women vote for John Howard. Then they're naive dupes of the ruling class, the media and dog-whistle politics.

[3] Avoiding for yourself the costs of bearing any children, or more than one designer child or a pigeon pair, is entirely rational in your own self-interest, even if it depletes your political tribe's electoral clout over the next two or three decades.

PS: Valid comment from John:

There are a number of types of behaviour which are perceived as 'wrong' largely because they carry a risk of self-harm. Quite a number of these are banned by law.... Furthermore, the law intervenes to force people in some limited and usually extreme circumstances to do things they don't want to for their own protection.

I suppose the difference with "Don't have an abortion, it's not safe for you" is that, unlike John's examples, it's seen as "paternalistic" in the most gendered sense: ie, men telling women how to best look after themselves.

2 comments:

LYL said...

Great post!

John said...

Re: "Moreover, I disagree with the anti-RU486 tack of framing opposition in terms of concern for the woman's health. Not because I want women to bleed to death as punishment for procuring at-home abortions, but because they have voluntarily assumed the risk."

There are a number of types of behaviour which are perceived as 'wrong' largely because they carry a risk of self-harm.

Quite a number of these are banned by law. To give some varied examples -
(a) possessing illicit drugs is illegal,
(b) distilling home-made spirits is illegal,
(c) refusing to surrender articles used for paint sniffing / 'chroming' to Police is illegal,
(d) climbing buildings or structures such as cranes without safety equipment is illegal,
(e) driving without seat belts is illegal and
(f) sailing without life jackets on board is illegal.

Furthermore, the law intervenes to force people in some limited and usually extreme circumstances to do things they don't want to for their own protection. For example, Involuntary Treatment Orders can be made over mentally ill patients who refuse to take their medication and would be a danger to themselves if they weren't medicated.

I guess this raises the question of whether the State has a legitimate role as 'parent' of all citizens to save people from harming themselves in risky situations where there is evidence to suggest that left to their own devices many people will opt to take risks.

This is a vexing question and I don't pretend to know the answer.

However, if the answer is 'yes', then the argument that RU486 and some other forms of abortion are potentially harmful to the Mother certainly has some legitimacy.