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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pro Choice or Pro Liberty

I’ve been especially critical in multiple articles about whether pro life is a label anyone should use so casually or even at all unless they’re willing to take a position that covers the whole of what is loosely considered life, from pre birth to death. But pro choice is something just as polarizing and I haven’t gotten into any detail about why it’s just as problematic an idea, or at least very simplistic. With pro life, it is implied opponents are pro death, which doesn’t follow at all. It’s even ironic if the opponents are anti war, a leading cause of death in the basic sense. Even if abortion is a form of death, it is far more regulated and safe when done correctly than war could ever be, explicitly involving a direct risk to one’s life and safety. Pro choice creates a perception that opponents are anti choice. This isn’t the case in most examples of people who are pro life. They’re the type who would personally not get an abortion, but would not try to eliminate the option of abortion outright, but merely advise against it. Those that bomb abortion clinics or kill abortion doctors are the exception to anti abortion rights pundits. Though it might not be fair to say that those that are personally against abortion are against it being legal, but want stricter regulations on it, which is fair in the same way that we require proper labeling for alcohol and cigarettes, which many have personal objections to but are nonetheless perfectly legal to purchase when of proper age. The notions of choice and liberty are important to a nuanced distinction between being pro choice and pro liberty.

If you are pro choice in either sense, either personally choosing or not choosing abortion, you value the ability of any other person to make a choice. If you think women should be forced to carry a baby, even if to give it up for adoption, this is on what pro choice creates as the opposition, one who actually does not want a person to even have the ability to choose to have an abortion, by illegalizing or stigmatizing the process of abortion itself. To be pro choice is not necessarily to be pro abortion, but pro choice in the general sense, which conservatives and liberals can support in the commonly held ideal of personal liberty without the government’s intervention. Privacy is inevitably connected with liberty and choices we make, since many choices we make are fundamentally, though not absolutely, private. When those choices are protected by people’s liberty from government intervention, we have more freedom in general without it becoming excessive.

The difficulty people would bring up in terms of the accuracy of the pro choice label is that it seems to only apply to a select few areas, namely: abortion, birth control, marijuana, and a few other areas. In terms of other things, conservatives may bring up government mandates through “liberal” courts, such as energy taxes and the healthcare system enacted by President Obama two years ago. I won’t go into whether they are or are not excessive government intervention, but I agree that consistency is something that should go both ways in political parties. One cannot criticize a pro lifer for also advocating the death penalty and not reflect on whether you are really pro choice in all areas or only when it may benefit you directly. I don’t want to sound like a strong right wing conservative, since those just create more problems than they solve in a similar way that more statist left wing liberals do. Extremes of either side are equally problematic. If you try to suppress things, they only become more desirable to people in their illegality. But letting everything go with vague ideas of what boundaries should exist is equally problematic in that it creates a sort of slippery slope that might actually be taken seriously. If you don’t establish remote absolutes in terms of what is considered damaging to marriage, for instance, the claims that you’d just as soon marry anything to anything else is not completely unlikely, though still a logical fallacy. Maintaining a balance between over inclusivity and over exclusivity is difficult when we have a variety of issues that assault us, abortion being one of those that is very contextual as to when using it constitutes leisure or necessity.

To be pro choice might be a bit too permissive in saying that you value all choices. It’s one thing to value people’s liberty, which works both in restraint and freedom of actions, but it’s another to endorse any choice by a more general idea of what the label implies. You’re free to drive drunk? You’re free to take illegal drugs? You’re free to do any number of irresponsible things? Not at all. Libertinism is not and should not be what people think of in terms of liberalism and liberty. Any good thing is done in moderation, to quote Aristotle, a philosopher who existed in a very different time from ours.

Another inquiry comes to mind from critics of the pro choice position: if you are pro choice, why would you advocate government intervention in many other areas of life, not to mention birth control? With the recent mandate concerning contraception as relates to religious institutions being adjusted to apply to the insurance providers instead of the religious institution itself, it seems potentially counter intuitive to claim you are pro choice, but also want the government to pay for your birth control and thus subsidize your choices. It’s one thing to be used for preventative purposes, but some may very well abuse it for simple promiscuity. I’m not saying this is the necessary progression, but the mindset behind some activism may be in direct conflict with what pro choice, and pro liberty advocates by association, support, which are informed decisions based on the facts and not through societal pressures. Pro choice should not try to enable choices through the government’s aid, but facilitate an environment where people are allowed to make choices, rewarded for good ones, punished for bad ones, and each response appropriate to the decisions made. There shouldn’t be any sort of implication that there aren’t consequences for actions, for better or worse. To make choice something more than a method to facilitate one’s advancement, but also edify one’s character, there must be limits on how far political actions should step into managing choices. Sometimes, choices should be permitted, with reasonable regulations, even if there are those that are morally opposed to it. We’ve done it with tobacco and alcohol, why a sudden opposition to marijuana, for example? And abortion is a procedure that is necessary until obstetrics are developed into science fiction levels of technology to preserve fertilized eggs and the like in artificial wombs. If it is done responsibly and prevented with adequate use of birth control, then there is no reason to fear it as a choice that is abused for malicious purposes or focus on profits instead of people.

If we value such things as our right to control our bodies, our sexual health, what we put into our bodies, etc, then it behooves us to neither be overly strict on regulating the various aspects of life that present both benefits and risks, nor too loose and breezy with letting things just progress as they will and solving the problem as it comes. Being able to prevent eventual problems instead of acting within immediate threats is the mark of a mind that is both able to think on its proverbial feet and also think of the potential issues without clouding present judgment. Such a thing as abortion is reasonably able to be reduced if birth control is taught in schools within reason. No one should interpret this as forcing sexuality in an unhealthy and perverse manner upon schoolchildren. Teaching youth about such things is natural and should be handled with care, I agree. But it should not be left entirely to parents, many of which are very busy and seem unable to manage time with their children beyond leisure and basic manners. Sexuality and the like are pushed back on the system they initially only depended on for education in the academic subjects. If that be the case, educate children about real life as well, in a balanced portion to mathematics, language and sciences. Responsibility is not something only parents can teach. Schools can educate students on this and not be overstepping any implied boundaries. We should never value merely the choices we can make, but those we choose not to make. That is the fullness of choice as it is subsumed within liberty. Until next time, Namaste and aloha

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