Friday, September 12, 2008

Exempting Abortion (JM)

So I am concerned about tackling an issue this controversial, but I think there is an underdiscussed aspect of the abortion issue that deserves discussion. As a quick preamble, I think abortion is a deeply personal decision, one the can only be reached by the potential mother and the other people involved in the matter. I think choice is the right way to deal with such an issue, but it is neither an easy, nor a clear cut choice. That said, a lot of people take issue with Sarah Palin's unwilling to support exemptions in the case of either rape or incest. There are many things I don't like about Palin, many many things, but this is not one of them. Let me explain.

When one takes a position that abortion ought to be outlawed it is already a fairly extreme position in the sense that we are superseding a person's right to make decisions about their body and health. The reason they would take this position is that they genuinely believe that this a question of protecting a life and the rights of that child. Everything that follows is a consequence of that position. Now I recognize just how dreadful a situation might be where one is called upon to make a decision about a child created in either rape or incest. However, at the point that a person thinks that this is a being worth absolute protection I actually think it's morally inconsistent to support any sort of exemption based on the potential future of the child. Once we are willing to do that, then it seems to me that we should revert back to the position of choice.

So to the extent that not having such exemption is unpalatable, I agree and I understand. However, I think such exemptions seems like political expediencies rather than genuinely consistent positions. If the child were born we certainly would never consent to killing him or her, yet for the most part the pro-life position is held up on the conceit that a conceived child is life and that life is simply our highest value. So I don't agree with Palin's position on abortion, but I do think she is at least consistent in the regard and respect that.

As a final aside, I think there needs to be more respect in this debate on both sides. On the pro-life side I think there is a fundamental failure to respect that fact that this is still and always a tremendously difficult decision and that the fight is for real personal choice (something for which Republicans are supposed to be top advocates). At the same time, I think people who are pro-choice need to realize that, for the most part, pro-lifers are not on a personal crusade against women and rights. Many firmly believe that they are trying to save lives, and to the extent one believes that, it is hard not to respect such a fight. These are deeply personal issues and ones that will never be resolved with hectoring, violence, yelling or name calling. I think a dialogue about these issues would do the country some real good, and it's my fervent hope we will have one, but my sincere doubt that we actually will.


Jess said...

This is exactly how I have felt about abortion. The only reason to be anti-choice is because you truly believe that abortion is murder. If you believe that, there shouldn't be exemptions, except possibly to protect the life of a mother, but even then it would be murky.

Anonymous said...

I think the bigger question is why don't more pro-lifers agree with this? it seems that most pro-life people would create an exemption for rape/incest. Is it just a political judgment? or could it be that most pro-life people don't really understand their own arguments?