Feb. 4th, 2017

If you don't know The Rude Pundit, let's just say that his nom du blog is probably even more accurate than mine. His words are not work-safe (though, as mostly text, the site tends to be), and I'm sure he has things that he just won't say, even in satire or parody, but if so, I really don't want to know anything about them, because, ew. He goes there. (He's also funny. Let me warn you: you don't get to support Rush "Liberals are evil" Limbaugh, claiming he's just an entertainer, and dis The Rude Pundit; use of naughty words and rude imagery are protected by the same First Amendment that protects Limbaugh.)

Anyway: credit where it's due - http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-red-trunk-project-small-good-thing.html - this sounds like an awesome, awe-inspiring idea that I haven't heard about, despite breezing through a bunch of lefty blogs. A tip of the hat to warmth and wonder from a source you might not expect it from. (I'm not surprised at his plugging of this project, mind you; weirdness sees stuff that normal doesn't. I just said that you might not expect it!)
A lot of complicated fuss is made about abortion, but at its root, the issue is very simple.

First and foremost: we live in what we like to call a "free" country - one where another person's discomfort with your choices doesn't get to restrict them. If there's damage caused, directly, and obviously, your actions can be forbidden, or punished criminally and civilly. But as the activity becomes more protected, the damage less direct, and the linkage less obvious, the right of the state to restrict or punish your actions should fade. That's what freedom means; that's what the US nominally stands for, that the law serves us, not we the law (on paper, or as embodied by a king).

(Yes, there are people who are tasked with upholding and serving the law; that's an entirely different sense of "serving the law than I'm discussing. The point is, laws exist to make things better for us all; we are not to meekly accept unjust, unfair, or just-plain-wrong, laws.)

So: if preacher A.S. Shole decides to preach that he hates gay people, that does increase the risk of people attacking gay folks. But speech is a vital freedom, the damage is completely indirect and, in fact, we can't be sure that Shole's words specifically led to harm. Spilling toxic waste and having it found in drinking water, and finding children who may have been sickened by it, is not entirely a direct line, but then, engaging in industry using (or a disposal company dealing with) toxic waste is less protected than speaking - proper regulation is essential to ensure that businesses add to the community.

So where does having an abortion fit in?

First, bodily autonomy - "this is my body and you don't get to tell me what to do with it" - is a huge deal. Second, pregnancy is a big. It's a substantial physical burden (even nearly-symptom-free pregnancies lead to weeks of extra weight pressing down on internal organs in uncomfortable ways). And there's a statistically significant chance of death, even in the healthiest moms and the most normal seeming of deliveries.

Given that, it's clear that if we weren't talking about pregnancy, if it were a condition that mimicked pregnancy, but didn't lead to childbirth, there'd be an absolute right to deal with it medically. So now we have to ask, where is the harm?

And this is where the sticky point comes in. Abortion is not a clean, happy making thing. Catholics have always believed that abortion was wrong. Evangelicals have ever since the Moral Majority needed a wedge issue (and to be fair, at least some believed it beforehand, but most didn't). And when you get right down to it, who wouldn't want to see the miraculous seeming growth from a single cell - microscopic? Or just barely visible? - into a 6+lb baby, awake and aware, and learning about this wondrous world it's been born into.

But that's purely into discomfort zone. That's not harm. Being icked out by something isn't enough to make it illegal or restrict access.

Okay, but - what about the teeny tiny baby? That's harm, right?

See, this is where Roe vs. Wade showed good judgment. They chose to create a bright line at viability - once viability came along, the state would have an interest in the developing fetus. Until then, the state shouldn't have an interest. Now, third trimester may or may not be the perfect place to draw the line. "Viability" has gotten more squishy, due to advances in medical technology, but I will urge one to remember that until the third trimester, a new born's survival is pretty dicey, and there's a very high risk of later difficulties. Still, "if the baby was born, it would survive to be a human with rights, so the state has an interest at that point" is a reasonable line to draw.

Keep in mind that this is not an argument for morality or absolute truth! The law shouldn't try to muck with those issues. But "if it was out of the womb, in normal circumstances, doctors could keep it alive, so it is now protected by the state" is a very sound, nearly objective, standard. That's a great standard for the law to shoot for!

One thing is clear: at conception, no matter how many heart-achingly poignant speeches are given, or essays are written, we have no meaningful standard to claim there is harm. However much a person considers the little zygote to be A Full Fledged Human Being, it's still just one or more undifferentiated cells. While it's perfectly okay by me if you consider those cells A Real Live Boy-or-Girl, cells aren't a person.

Side note: Even if they were, a "person" doesn't hae a right to connect to another person, and demand use of the other person's body and nutrients. People who are angry about pregnancy prevention that might (and it is only "might" - the possibility is only hypothetical) cause a zygote (technically, blastocyst) to fail to implant don't have any legal leg to stand on. Also, to sound off about a personal annoyance, such a method of birth control is not inducing "an abortion". Pregnancies are aborted. Until the zygote implants, there is no pregnancy.

Where was I? Right. So: we know that pregnancy will go through three stages. One stage where it's clear that there's no legal basis for claiming harm - there is only discomfort, which is not supposed to matter in a free country. And there's a stage where there's clearly a pre-born infant, recognizably and objectively human. And, finally, because this development happens gradually, there will be a harder, more uncomfortable area where people will have differing feelings.

Under these circumstances, in a free nation, the vitally important right to bodily autonomy clearly shows that there's a right to an abortion in the earliest stages, at least. Somewhere along the line, different people will become uncomfortable, but viability is a good, bright line where it's hard to dispute that the state should have an interest in protecting the child.

I started these two posts discussing why a person couldn't be widely accepted as a feminist and be "pro-life" and again, this depends on the political meaning of the term. A "pro-life" political figure wants all abortions outlawed. Not "discouraged," but outlawed. And if you feel that woman should not have bodily autonomy enough to have a very early stage abortion lawfully, then you are demanding that women put their bodies in service to the law - demanding they serve a "written king" rather than a physical one. And that's not what this country is supposed to be based on.

I do want to emphasize, if you say you are "pro-life" meaning, you won't ever have an abortion, and would immediately volunteer to adopt a close friend's or family member's child to prevent them from having an abortion, but you do, grudgingly, admit tht abortion should be legal, that doesn't mean you can't be a feminist. But I'm afraid the phrase "pro-life" doesn't mean that in the most common, and most important, arena. Truthfully, "anti-abortion" is a better name for "I won't have one" stance, which sucks, because a nice phrase like "pro life" shouldn't be about criminalizing abortion. But phrases get defined by usage; I can no longer call myself "pro-gun" because it no longer stands merely for lawful, responsible use of firearms. And, in point of fact, I no longer call myself Christian, though I'd bet that if I met a certain rabbi, we'd get on better than he would with a lot of soi disant "Christians"!

There's a lot more that I could write about on this topic, and I may. But for now, I just wanted to hit that particular issue: that, yes, it's fair that a "pro-life" person won't be accepted in the greater group of "feminists" because the most frequent use of "pro-life" means supporting the criminalization of a vital part of bodily autonomy. That's not supporting women and womenhood, and saying that denies one the title of "feminist" is fair.
One of the things I've seen some whining (and to be fair, some reasonable pondering) about is that women who are ardently pro-life aren't being accepted as feminists in the broader movement for women's rights. Isn't that terribly unfair? Well... no.

This gets long, so I'm going to break it into multiple pieces.

First: a key thing to remember is that "pro-life" means something very specific in political circles. It doesn't mean "personally opposed to abortion" and it doesn't mean "wanting to reduce the number of abortions performed" - it means "wanting to make abortion illegal for everyone, except in excruciatingly limited circumstances."

Whether a woman becomes pregnant or not, and whether she must carry the pregnancy to term, are big issues affecting a woman's day to day life; and any pregnancy, even a healthy, minimally-burdensome one, may, in fact, kill a woman. While a great many women, feminist or not, might be personally anti-abortion, to declare that abortion should be made illegal is to set yourself in opposition to a necessary component of women being free and equal. If you oppose women's freedom and equality, then, no, you don't get to call yourself a "feminist" and have that label broadly accepted.

See, this is the major, fundamental point about abortion: Pregnancy is a huge burden, both physical and otherwise. And it carries a significant risk of death. (Significant, in the statistical sense. It's clearly, certainly, not 0 risk.)

Although this wasn't always true, abortion is far, far, far safer than carrying a pregnancy to term and delivering a baby. It wasn't always this way - it used to be pretty risky. This is one of the reasons why early suffragists and other women's rights supporters might have opposed it - they didn't want women to risk being harmed or killed if a husband didn't want to support another child. Some surely had other reasons - Catholics have always opposed abortion, for example, and it's hardly a nice, happy-making topic in the best of times. Just keep in mind that circumstances change - for example, Protestants, including evangelicals, used to preach that abortion was in no way murder, and that this was biblically obvious and absolute truth. Many of them now say the exact opposite (except they still say it's biblically obvious and absolute truth; it's almost like they use the bible to justify their decisions, rather than studying the bible to learn their 'absolute truth').

There's another important issue to consider. "Pro-life" doesn't mean "opposed to abortion" - not in today's politics. Pro-life means trying to make abortion illegal, and to throw whatever barriers one can in the way of legal abortion. There are left-leaning folks who call "pro-life" folks "pro-forced birth" instead, which is fairly accurate, if not very nice.

You can be opposed to abortion - you can be a woman who would never, under any circumstances, have an abortion, and one who would be bitterly disappointed if a friend or family member chose to abort a pregnancy, and still be a feminist. What you can't do is, proclaim you want to take away women's rights, and expose them to civil and criminal charges inconsistent with life in a free society, and nevertheless claim you're in favor of women's rights and equality.

Of course, this idea falls apart if the right to have an abortion isn't a fundamental right. But it is, and that's a subject of my next post.
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