September 4, 2013

The Perennial Fail of the Pro-Choice Argument: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Two, related issues strike me as weaknesses in pro-choice arguments most of the time. The first weakness is the notion that empowering women requires dehumanizing the unborn and the second is ducking the moral/ethical arguments rather than grappling with them. 

To the issue of dehumanizing the unborn, I think its just a complete failure of choice advocates to stress the idea that unborn children are not human lives. I think an argument about empowerment of women that relies on withholding humanity from their children simply isn't strong at all. In fact, that really sets up the other weakness, which is not having any moral/ethical basis for when a woman should or should not have an abortion.  Choice advocates take the position that a woman should be able to have an abortion for any reason and at any time. Whether those reasons are good ones, bad ones, frivolous, is of no consequence. Its a somewhat extreme position and it only makes logical sense if you first dehumanize the unborn, thus rendering them ineligible for any moral/ethical consideration of how they are treated. 

Abortion, couched in this fashion, is actually pretty repellent and positions its adherents to essentially being the champion of men and women who want to behave in any fashion they please and evade any responsibility for their behavior. 

I'd argue that choice advocates should do the hard work. First, stop dehumanizing the unborn to save yourself the moral/ethical angst of destroying an unborn human life. Destroying a life should not be considered a blase event.  Deal with it. Secondly, articulate a moral/ethical basis for making such a decision in the first instance.  Stop ducking the moral/ethical issues and confront them. The germ of such an argument can be found in the writings of Bible scholars like Dr. Obery Hendricks opinion of how abortion was treated in Exodus. 

You can't of course just go at that with an isolated reading from one book of the Bible.  You'd have to look at all of the Bible's references to the killing of unborn children to begin to form an understanding of what a Christian moral/ethical basis for abortion might be, if indeed the Bible even supported such. The bad news for choice advocates may be that the Bible doesn't give you the basis for such, only flat prohibition.  But how would choice advocates know, they haven't put in the work.

I understand the concept of women controlling their own bodies, the political dimensions of being in control of the right to reproduce or not. But if the only ground to anchor that in is the dehumanization of unborn human life and the rejection of any moral/ethical standard that might remotely proscribe a woman's power to choose to have an abortion, pro-choice advocates are not doing women a service.

On the contrary, I would argue that choice advocates are doing their own bit to disempower women by divorcing their having power over their own bodies from any moral/ethical standard for the exercise of that power. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

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