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Monday, May 3, 2010

Abortion Rights Past and Present

I decided to wait until after my stay in Nashville for 8 hours or so at MTAC in Nashville to post this, but ended up staying until about 1PM on Sunday. But I’m pressing forward to get this article out by Monday. I found an article on either Thursday or Friday confronting the issue of younger supporters of abortion in contrast to the older generation that fought for Roe v. Wade in the 70s. The issue that seems crucial to the two page article is that the so-called “postmenopausal militia” that had a genuine interest and experience of the suffering that came about through the illegalization of abortion and their fight to give women what was an extension of the right to privacy, while the younger generation doesn’t have that vested interest or recognition of the importance of the right to abortion that was given by Roe v. Wade. This is especially relevant in a culture that continues to strive to give women equal rights even today.

There is a counter argument on the alleged liberation of women, that in fact it only empowers men to exploit women all the more, since there is no longer the risk of an unwanted pregnancy that they must apparently feel obligated to take responsibility for. While I do recognize the importance of taking responsibility for your actions, if you are a couple that was committed to putting off children for a few years and your birth control failed unexpectedly, abortion as an option is empowering to both members of the relationship, the woman in that she maintains control of what is primarily, though not solely, her reproductive capabilities, and the man in affirming that he is not pressuring her into an abortion or the reverse; that in fact, he supports her decision after discussing it with her and respecting what is not completely his area to criticize, however much he contributed to the pregnancy.

The difficulty with the analysis of the writer, one of the NARAL supporters, NARAL being an acronym for National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League, previously a more confusing acronym of National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws; confusing because abortion laws can potential swing one way or another. But the intent is still evident with recent passing of restrictive laws in Nebraska, claiming a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, which while debatable, is where NARAL still has relevance for consideration by younger supporters of abortion rights such as myself and other local groups in my community. If these laws continue to be passed, abortion may very well slip into pseudo-illegality again and the quest for reproductive justice of sorts will have to start all over again, or at least work that much harder to repeal the laws in some form or fashion. Not to mention there is the problem of anti abortion activists and the potential violence that can occur in one way or another. I’m certainly not claiming everyone who opposes abortion rights for whatever reason is going to try to kill abortion doctors, like what happened to George Tiller last year. But I would say that many protestors who insist on focusing the debate on the fetus, using especially maligned pictures to try to shock women into choosing life are committing psychological violence upon the woman, more than what she is already going through making a difficult decision to secure the future for what she hopes for; a child she can provide for and not have to give up to a system that may leave the child orphaned for their childhood.

The issue of abortion rights should be a balanced consideration of what are admittedly biological and ethical concerns on the one hand for the potential life or person considered within a particular perspective and also the interpersonal and psychological regards for the people involved: the woman, her family, her significant other, and the people involved with the abortion procedure. There is no reason to dehumanize the people involved with abortion or excessively anthropomorphize what is demonstrably human in genetics only until a particular stage of development (you know, the part where the gills and tail go away?). And there is a need to pursue a consideration of issues beyond the individual woman getting an abortion. To consider how her choice affects others is not succumbing to pro life rhetoric or even stooping to their level, except when you are focusing solely on the negatives and primarily on the alleged other that is technically intertwined with her in a sense. If I consider how a friend’s choice to abort affects me, it’s different and more distant than if we consider the varied ways her family could react or how the abortion clinician will treat her, since I would imagine there are a few ways you can present abortion. In this way, we shouldn’t boil the issue down to purely scientific issues, but we also shouldn’t boil it down to purely abstract ethical ideas that tend to make people think in black and white terms and never have any compassion beyond the in group that is being persecuted. Broadening the horizons of the abortion rights debate will open doors that were not there before and close doors that have been open too long, including such atrocities as the complete banning of partial birth abortions (some of which would save the woman’s life, even at the loss of the fetus) and the pushing back of alleged viability or sensitivity towards the fetus’ supposed rights. Until next time, Namaste and Aloha.

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