Below are comments I came across on this story: (linked from here). I wanted to write a response to them here to help equip others who might come across similar sentiments. Also as an outlet for my frustration regarding seeing these same unthinking statements come up again and again from the pro-choice/pro-abortion side.
“I have a penis and testicles, therefore my opinion is irrelevant. I wish all men would come to this realization.”
“How about when men can get pregnant and grow a child, THEN you can have a say about it.”
“He’s a man and he will never understand. No one will ever understand until they feel what it’s like to be pregnant.”
In effect, we’ve just disregarded the opinion of half of the human race. Seems like a big call. I would say that firstly, you do not have to undergo something or even have the capacity to undergo something in order to have a valid opinion on it. If we’re to limit what we can and cannot have opinions on only to things we can personally experience, then each person’s acceptable points of view become repressively narrow and unhelpful.
Secondly, moral issues relate to the protection of society as a whole, and therefore the whole of society has a right to be concerned with them. The defence of vulnerable populations should not be limited to those who have had first-hand experience. I have never experienced child-abuse, never known a child-abuser and – to the best of my knowledge – never known an abused child. And yet I am able to hold an opinion on child-abuse. That opinion is, of course, that it is very wrong, and I suspect that that is the reason why few would argue with my right to hold such an opinion – it’s easier to accept abstract opinions when you agree with them and don’t need to be looking for a reason to invalidate them.
Thirdly, this argument completely disregards any experience men may have had with abortion. They may have experienced the loss of what was to them a wanted pregnancy. Just as we would validate a man’s grief over the loss of an unborn child through miscarriage, even though it didn’t happen to him personally, so can we also validate a man’s grief over an abortion carried out against his will. Then there are men who have seen a girlfriend, partner or wife suffer through the emotional and physical repercussions of abortion, and their protectiveness of them drives their opinion on the matter.
Of course, I am a woman with a uterus – which has even had a foetus inside it at various times – so it seems that I get a free pass to have an opinion.
“unless you have had the experiences of getting an unexpected pregnancy, your opinion is irrelevant”
Whoa, okay. There goes my free pass. How disappointing.
This statement takes the first lot of arguments I looked at, gets in the car with them, drives down the street, turns left onto the highway and ends up three states over. Let’s have a play with this sort of sentiment in other situations, and see what we come up with:
“If you haven’t been tortured, your opinion on torture is irrelevant.”
“If you haven’t been an alcoholic, your opinion on alcoholism is irrelevant.”
“If you haven’t been a drug user, your opinion on drug legalisation is irrelevant.”
“If you haven’t been raped, your opinion on the punishment of rapists is irrelevant.”
Once again, to base the validity of our opinions on whether or not we have first-hand experience of the issue in questions is not only stupidly restrictive, it is also impractical. We need to be able to form judgments on many issues in order to create the laws that keep society functioning and provide protection for those unable to speak for themselves (the unborn, infants, children, profoundly disabled etc.), and it is simply not possible for everyone involved in these processes to have had firsthand experience. Furthermore, taking this attitude doesn’t actually resolve the argument. There are women who have experienced the situation of an unwanted pregnancy who have carried the pregnancy to term and consider themselves blessed, and also those who have had an abortion and regretted it ever since. So regardless of whether or not you apply this criteria, you will still end up with a broad range of differing opinions and an unresolved issue.
But if we’re going to stick with this kind of attitude, how about this one:
“I was once a foetus, therefore my opinion on foetal rights is relevant.”
“The best part of this whole argument and fight, is that most people who are pro-life, are male”
“Anyone notice how the ones who have a problem with abortions are pretty much all males?”
This is further explored here. Most interestingly is that in various surveys (not the one above), more women than men favour abortion being illegal in all circumstances. And by far the greatest percentage of men or women come down in the ‘legal only in a few circumstances’ camp; far from an overwhelming majority cry for abortion on demand.
In my exposure to the pro-life movement, I have come across more women than men. Admittedly, this is my personal experience and therefore may not extrapolate across the board, but to list just a few examples:
Hannah Rose Allen
The girls at New Wave Feminists
” And ten years after that [her abortion], I gave birth to my son at the time that was best for me and for him.”
“Just telling your unborn fetus to come back later is probably the best advice I could give to women with an unwanted pregnancy.”
I’ve read again and again that one of the reasons that women give for abortion is that, “I’m not ready to be a mother. I want to be a mother when the time is right.” Some follow this up with remarks like the first one above, in that they had subsequent children at the ‘right time’ and feel that they have been able to fully parent them. These sort of remarks baffle me slightly, because I’m not sure if the woman involved is deliberately deluding herself to protect her conscience, or if she really doesn’t think it through and realise that the foetus you abort and the foetus you bring to birth and parent are not the same child. Being the best mother in the world to your living children makes no difference whatsoever to the life that was ended by abortion. For that child, there was no best time, there was no right time. There was only one time, and that was when the woman was pregnant with them. Once that chance has passed, that child will never have another one.
“If you believe that a fetus’s right to life trumps a woman’s right to control her own body, you believe that everyone has the right to requisition organs from other people in order to maintain their life as well.”
“You are not legally bound to donate a kidney, blood, or anything else to a dying relative, even your own child. In the same respect, a woman cannot be legally bound to carrying an unwanted pregnancy”
One of the scary things about the first statement above is that someone further down in the comments seemed to find it a sound argument. But there are several problems with it;
Firstly and foremostly it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what pro-lifers are arguing for. It’s not the right to have life, regardless of the circumstances and the effect on others. What the unborn child should have, as should we all, is the right not to be unjustly killed. Once you realise this, you can see how their whole argument is going nowhere. Because when we consider that the individual in need of an organ transplant is limited to this right also, we can see that they are no longer justified in removing your organ to sustain their own life. However, it is also certain that you are not justified in sneaking into their hospital room and putting a pillow over their face.
Which leads onto the next point, as secondly, there is a strong distinction to be made between an act of omission which causes a death, and an act of commission which causes a death. In the case of the organ receipient-to-be, it is an act of omission which would lead to their death (not giving them your organ). In every case of abortion, it is an act of commission, a deliberate intervention, that leads to the death of the foetus.
Thirdly, an organ donation involves the introduction of a pathological state, permanent or otherwise, in the donor. Pregnancy, on the other hand, is a physiological state for which the body is designed and equipped.
Fourthly, this argument ignores the responsibility that a pregnant woman (in the majority of cases) has for creating the foetus’ current state of dependence; a responsibility that is not present for a stranger in need of an organ donation. A closer analogy would be that the someone had injured another person, causing them to need an organ donation, and then refuses to donate their own organ to assist and, in doing so, condemns this person to death.
I started discussing bodily autonomy here as well, but then I realised that to do it justice, I really need to devote an entire blog post to it. So I will postpone that discussion for now.
Part II coming soon…
*Edited to add links and fix typos