That's it. I give up all pretense that this blog isn't just a link farm where I can bask in the brilliance of other bloggers.
At the moment there are three posts in particular that I would like to point out. The first two are by Dr. Bitch and the third is a piece by Joyce Arthur from the Pro-Choice Action Network.
Dr. B. first displays her brilliance in an idea for public child care that would be similar to public parking. A publicly funded, low price, pay-as-you-go drop in center in shopping districts where parents who need to run errands can leave their kids for a couple of hours. Sheer fucking genius.
She then goes on to expound on the virtues of public transit. This is, I think, a much more realistic version of my plan to make all selfish right-wing dumsnuts live on kibbutzim until they learn that no human accomplishment or activity is possible without the support of an entire community. Go Professor!
The third post I'm linking to I actually have a little more to say about. This extremely well-written article is called Personhood: Is a Fetus a Human Being? and, while I think much of it is excellent, there is also a fair bit I disagree with. So, here goes:
First off, I'd like to say that Ms. Arthur makes an excellent point about the distinction between words human(adj) and human(noun). A blastocyst is human in the same way that dandruff and fingernail clippings are human, but there is no argument that a blastocyst is a human that really holds up under scrutiny.
Anti-choicers also use the phrase "humanity of the fetus," by which they may mean its physical human qualities, but it’s ambiguous, maybe purposely so. In this context, the word "humanity" implies compassionate human feelings and virtues, such as pathos or love. The term seems cleverly designed to elicit sympathy for a fetus, and assign it human-like qualities it simply does not have. The ability to feel joy, sadness, anger, and hatred are an integral part of our "human beingness," and we do not learn to develop such sophisticated emotions until we start socially interacting with others.Ms. Arthur also takes time to point out that even among most anti-choicers, a fetus's "right-to-life" is negotiable, depending on the manner of its conception, as many anti-choicers would defend the right to abortion in the case or rape or incest.
Fetuses are uniquely different from born human beings in major ways, which casts doubt on the claim that they can be classified as human beings. The most fundamental difference is that a fetus is totally dependent on a woman's body to survive. Anti-choicers might argue that born human beings can be entirely dependent on other people too, but the crucial difference is that they are not dependent on one, specific person to the exclusion of all others. Anybody can take care of a newborn infant (or disabled person), but only that pregnant woman can nurture her fetus. She can’t hire someone else to do it.
Another key difference is that a fetus doesn't just depend on a woman's body for survival, it actually resides inside her body. Human beings must, by definition, be separate individuals. They do not gain the status of human being by virtue of living inside the body of another human being—the very thought is inherently ridiculous, even offensive.
One key paragraph points out that even if we were to give a fetus the same rights as a born human being, no one's right to life is entirely unimpeachable:
Even if a fetus can be said to have a right to life, this does not include the right to use the body of another human being. For example, the state cannot force people to donate organs or blood, even to save someone's life. We are not obligated by law to risk our lives jumping into a river to save a drowning victim, noble as that might be. Therefore, even if a fetus has a right to life, a pregnant woman is not required to save it by loaning out her body for nine months against her will.Unfortunately, this paragraph goes on the make what I think is a considerably weaker statement:
In response, anti-choicers say that being pregnant is not the same as being a Good Samaritan, because the woman chose to have sex, voluntarily accepting the risk of pregnancy. But sex is not a contract for pregnancy—people have a right to non-procreative sex.I don't like the last sentence there. Since when do people have a right to sex of any sort? Her bare assertion of this right, without anything to back it up, is every bit as weak as the bare assertion that a fetus is a human being.
I think this is salvageable, though. Firstly, as we'll get to later, I don't think that the entitlement to having sex is at all necessary for her argument to work, and secondly, I think that there is a reasonable answer to the anti-choice you-made-your-bed-now-lie-in-it argument. Even if we do accept that fucking someone of the opposite sex is a contract for pregnancy, I think that it would be ethically untenable to refuse to allow a person to back out of any contract that allows another person use of their body. The right to bodily integrety is an absolute necessity in a society that cares a whit about its members. That's always been the crux of my pro-choice argument, and I think that that is the best answer to this anti-choice argument. Like I said, though, this sentence isn't a fatal flaw in the article. Ms. Arthur's argument has a different crux, (well, three, actually) and I think they're great. We'll get to them in a second. First, I want to address another problematic piece of this article:
If fetuses did have a right to live, one could make an equal case for the right of unwanted fetuses not to live. This is alien to the anti-choice assumption that all life is precious and should be encouraged and preserved at any cost. In the real world, however, some people commit suicide because they no longer want to live, and others wish they’d never been born. Life is not a picnic for all, especially unwanted children who are at high risk for leading dysfunctional lives. Many people believe that being forced to live is a violation of human dignity and conscience. To be truly meaningful, the right to live must include the flip side, the right to die.Now don't get me wrong. I am a strong supporter of a right to die. I think that it's a vital part of that bodily integrety I talked about. But essential to the right to die is the right of the dying person to make that decision. Now, the exercising of that right can take many forms, from the active expression of the wish to die, to a living will, even including, if the person is unable to express their own wishes, a reasonable conviction on the part of those who know them best that dying is what they would want. But a fetus is not just incapable of expressing that it wants to die. A fetus is incapable of wanting. With this essential piece missing, I just don't see how the right to die can possibly apply in this case. I think the article would have been stronger without this paragraph.
That said, there is plenty of strength in this article. Here are its three, in my opinion, strongest arguments. The first speaks to the real and potential social status of a fetus:
Declaring fetuses to be legal persons with rights would generate countless legal and social dilemmas.The second speaks to the biological reality of the difference between a human being and potential human being:
Anti-choicers might argue that special laws or legal exceptions could be written for fetuses to accommodate their unique characteristics, but the very fact that exceptional laws for fetuses would have to be created proves that they are incapable of having the same legal status as real persons.
In earlier times, even infants may not have been valued members of the society yet. Infanticide has been a common practice throughout history as a way to select for healthy, wanted babies, and conserve scarce resources for the rest of the tribe. The human species is estimated to have killed 10 to 15 percent of its born children. Plus, infant mortality rates from natural causes were so high that babies were often not officially welcomed into the community until months or even years after birth, when their survival was more assured. Of course, this is not an advocacy of infanticide. I'm simply saying that personhood, or the point at which one becomes an "official" human being, is a value judgment made by society according to social custom and necessity. It is a social construction incapable of empirical proof.
Embryonic existence is very precarious. Zygotes, blastocysts, and embryos have a high failure rate, which throws cold water on the anti-choice claim that every fertilized egg is sacred. Scientists estimate that 55 to 65% of all conceptions are spontaneously aborted in the first few days or weeks of a pregnancy, usually without the woman ever knowing she was pregnant. [...] This shows that eggs and embryos do not yet qualify as human beings according to Nature herself—at best, they represent tryouts for the human race.And this leads quite nicely into the third argument, which centers on the pure metaphysical silliness that arises from considering a fetus a human being:
[...]life is a crap shoot. If your parents had decided not to have sex the night you were conceived, you wouldn't have existed. If your father had worn a condom, you wouldn’t have existed. Or, you could have been conceived, then miscarried.
[Anti-choicers] identify with a fertilized egg (it's where we all came from, after all) and feel horror and anxiety at the thought that they themselves might have been aborted. [...] Ultimately, if you hadn't been born, it wouldn't matter to you, the same way it can’t matter to aborted fetuses that they weren't born. The non-existent don’t regret their non-existence, and when the living start worrying about the non-existent, they descend into irrational nonsense.Bingo. We can all go home now, I think. The best arguments in favor of safe, legal abortion have been made.
Moreover, the difference between a fertilized egg, and a sperm and an unfertilized egg, is relatively minor. The sperm and ovum each represent the potential for a human being. But men release billions of doomed sperm over a lifetime, and virtually all of women's thousands of eggs go to waste. The number of potential, unique human beings forever lost to the world is astronomical, and although our sheer luck at being alive seems miraculous, [And here Ms. Arthur hammers the final nail into the anti-choice argument's coffin] it is pointless to lose sleep over such matters—and even more pointless to oppress half the world's population just so a few more of these gazillion potential human beings can exist.