In 18 months of blogging, I’ve only brought up abortion a handful of times (usually in service of a larger point). Today, for some reason, I’ve got two posts about it. Let’s hope there’s nothing Freudian about that…
I agree with Kavita Ramdas that empowering women is the key to making progress in society. I am sure this will garner me my fair share of dirty looks from a crowd of people who will see this as sexist against men – I am as immune to your looks as you are to rational argument. I join Christopher Hitchens in recognizing the cure for poverty as being “the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.” A key component of such emancipation is the presence and defense of rights to abortion. However uncomfortable one might be with the idea, terminating unwanted pregnancy is part and parcel with recognizing a woman’s right to be reproductively autonomous. When women have the power to do with their bodies as they choose, the world becomes a better place for all of us.
Mexico doesn’t seem to recognize this:
Mexico’s Supreme Court has upheld an amendment to Baja California’s state constitution that stipulates life begins at conception, in a move hailed by anti-abortion campaigners. Although seven of the 11 justices deemed the measure unconstitutional, eight votes were needed to overturn it. More than half Mexico’s 31 states have enacted right-to-life amendments that severely restrict abortions.
I wonder if Baja will also recognize that, since life begins at conception, women who miscarry ought to be subject to prosecution for child neglect. Of course, life doesn’t begin at conception. Life, by all available evident, begins about 3.5 billion years ago. Our bodies teem with life – we eukaryotes are basically the equivalent of a trade union of cells. I can feel the doom-gaze of FTB’s biologists turning my way, so I will veer away from this line of reasoning after simply stating that the question of when life begins has nothing to do with the relevant questions surrounding abortion. The question of personhood is a good one, or perhaps even the question of suffering or what it means to be human are relevant here, but “life” doesn’t really enter in any meaningful way. (I can’t wait to have that line pulled and taken out of context by some anti-atheist publication).
Even if life were relevant to the discussion, it is a scientific question rather than a legal one. However, this doesn’t seem to be an argument that the courts in Baja – well, 4 of the 11 justices at least – thought worthy of consideration. It is perhaps no mystery why Mexico would be so sharply anti-choice, considering the deeply-entrenched ties that country has to the Catholic Church whose policies on abortion are downright inspirational (by which I mean they are inspiring many young people to leave the church). It is, however, regrettable, considering the rotten shape that the Mexican economy is in. If women’s reproductive rights are part of the key to reducing poverty, Mexican courts have just announced that they are pro-poverty.
Here’s what I can’t stomach about the anti-choice position: they are not fighting against compulsory abortion or a child-limiting policy. They are fighting to take the right to choose when to have children away from women and putting it squarely in the hands of horny teenagers, unscrupulous abusive husbands, religious belligerents, and improper condom use (a.k.a. God). I have heard the response to this argument – abortion is murder. We don’t let people ‘choose’ whether or not to murder, do we? The problem with this argument, aside from how reductive it is, is that it is a false claim. Murder has a very specific legal meaning. So does infanticide. The mere fact that we do not consider infanticide equivalent to murder – in a legal sense – reveals that, like it or not, abortion is absolutely not murder.
But legal wranglings aside, this is a sad day for the women of Baja state, who I’m sure needed this ruling like they needed a kick in the uterus from a fetus brought to term against their will.
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