Thanks, everyone, for your reply to the first abortion question I read everyone’s thoughts and meant to answer a few of them, but I spent pretty much all the time I had to devote to this talking with Carol. (And Carol, sorry to let that conversation fall where it stands – I’ll come back to it in a few days if I have time, but I want to move on to other things.)
That first question was a bit tricky for me. My instinct was that sex isn’t so special that the normal rules don’t apply, and that conversely there aren’t special rules that only apply to abortion and contraception. But that’s where things get very tricky very quickly. If you want me to say what kind of restrictions I think apply, I first need to work out what the purpose of laws are. That’s touching on an area of philosophy I’m increasingly drawn to, but that I’ve only waded in ankle-deep. (I know, I know, most people aren’t nearly this anal about politics and the law. I am.) And I think that’s something I was trying to drive at: that there could be restricitons, but only the kind of things we’d accept in other situations that had nothing to do with women and sex. I still think that’s a good place to start. But as for the specific suggestions I mad about what restrictions, exactly, the law should impose, or the goals laws needed to be aiming for? I’m completely persuadable on those grounds. I don’t think I know enough to argue for specifics, and what little I do know would take too long to go into.
Now I’d like to move on to the nest question:
In 2010, the Economist featured a cover story on “the war on girls” and the growth of “gendercide” in the world – abortion based solely on the sex of the baby. Does this phenomenon pose a problem for you or do you believe in the absolute right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy because the unborn fetus is female?
This is a point I mentioned briefly before, but I didn’t really go into. I said that one purpose of the law was to act as a kind of “training wheels,” to help people develop virtue. (This is one of the things Carol and I were talking about, which she rejects.) But I also made the point that the law should only be relied on as a last resort. Even if you think the law is useful here, there are a lot of limits to it.
This “gendercide” mentioned here is a symptom of a larger problem where women are undervalued for a variety of reasons. It’s a moral problem: either the woman is wrong to not want to keep a daughter, or else there are legitimate practical concerns like poverty and cultural misogyny that need to be addressed so she can properly value her daughter. In either situation, the law isn’t really equipped to handle the problem. I mean, in theory (and I wouldn’t recommend this!) it could keep her from having that abortion. But it’s not going to change her underlying opinions toward her daughter.
There are probably other factors going into these decisions, too. The question assumes that you have an abortion for one reason; that just doesn’t seem true to life in my experience. Would an Indian or a Chinese woman who was rich enough to afford multiple children also abort a daughter? Or are there other concerns? In some situations, I can even see the abortion being logical from a pragmatic position. Quite often, life is much harder for women than men, and a daughter may not be able to earn enough to support the parents in old age. Here, if you want to prevent the abortion you need to fix those situations.
So my gut reaction is: this “gendercide” is clearly wrong, but also clearly not the kind of thing the law should be addressing. Do you agree?
There’s a bigger question lurking behind this one, and I don’t have an answer that I’m completely happy with: when is something just immoral, and when should it also be illegal? My instinct is in this case, the law is not our friend. But I can’t see a good cut-off point on that either. Any thoughts on that?
P.S. – I’m writing this on two nights of four hours sleep each. And after a grad school class where we struggled with Swinburne on evil, and I feel a bit like I’m teetering on the edge of falling apart a bit. (It’s been a long, hard day.) My brain is tired. I do hope this makes sense, but if it doesn’t I’ll try to finetune what I was saying down the line..
2. In 2010, the Economist featured a cover story on “the war on girls” and the growth of “gendercide” in the world – abortion based solely on the sex of the baby. Does this phenomenon pose a problem for you or do you believe in the absolute right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy because the unborn fetus is female? [this post]
3. In many states, a teenager can have an abortion without her parents’ consent or knowledge but cannot get an aspirin from the school nurse without parental authorization. Do you support any restrictions or parental notification regarding abortion access for minors?
4. If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it begins? At what stage of development should an unborn child have human rights?
5. Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down Syndrome, most women choose to abort. How do you answer the charge that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement a century ago – the slow, but deliberate “weeding out” of those our society would deem “unfit” to live?
6. Do you believe an employer should be forced to violate his or her religious conscience by providing access to abortifacient drugs and contraception to employees?
7. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. has said that “abortion is the white supremacist’s best friend,” pointing to the fact that Black and Latinos represent 25% of our population but account for 59% of all abortions. How do you respond to the charge that the majority of abortion clinics are found in inner-city areas with large numbers of minorities?
8. You describe abortion as a “tragic choice.” If abortion is not morally objectionable, then why is it tragic? Does this mean there is something about abortion that is different than other standard surgical procedures?
9. Do you believe abortion should be legal once the unborn fetus is viable – able to survive outside the womb?