A quick note on abortion

Posted by

I was looking for something on Thomas Nagel and neutral monism when I tripped over this piece of idiocy. I decided to write something about it so I have something to point MRA’s and anti-abortionists at (the older I get, the less inclined I am to waste any time engaging with them).

The author, who seems to be one of those tiresome men who spend a lot of time dancing on the head of a pin trying to prop up patriarchal religion, is responding to a question about whether one can see abortion as murder and still think it should be legal.

He does some sort of Syllogisms 101 rearranging to come up with the following:

The propositions in question are not logically contradictory. But one can generate a logical inconsistency by adding an eminently plausible  proposition.  Consider the following antilogism:

a) Abortion is murder
b) Abortion should be legal
c) Murder should be illegal.

The triad is logically inconsistent: the constituent propositions cannot all be true.  

Now (c) is the least rejectable (the least rejection-worthy) of the three propositions. For if the law does not proscribe murder, what would it proscribe? The purpose of the State, at a bare minimum, is to protect life, liberty, and property. (Call it the Lockean triad.) If the State is morally justified, then its passing and enforcing of laws is morally justified. Among these laws are laws pertaining to the killing of human beings. Without going any deeper into it, I will just assert what most of us will accept, namely, that the intentional killing of innocent human being is morally wrong and therefore ought to be made illegal by a morally justified State.

In short, we ought not reject (c). Therefore, one who accepts (a) ought to reject (b). Transforming the antilogism into a syllogism, we get:

Murder should be illegal
Abortion is murder
Abortion should be illegal.

It sounds very clever and logical, but it isn’t. As always, the autonomous pregnant woman, who should be the subject of the discussion and the arbiter of her own fate, is completely obliterated from the discussion; it is no accident that there is not one mention of the mother in this entire piece of ugly sexist sophistry.

Because if we spoke about the mother, we would have to acknowledge that this argument is a complete straw man; women’s right to abortion is not dependent on whether a foetus is a human, or a potential human, with a right to life.

It seems a bit silly to me (not to mention disrespectful to women) to regard a fertilised egg as equivalent to a human being, but if you want to grant it full personhood from conception, then by all means do.

What you do not have the right to grant it is the use of another human being’s internal organs, any more than I am entitled to the use of your kidneys, as Judith Jarvis Thompson argued with exemplary clarity in 1971.

This principle is upheld in every other situation. If your child has a kidney disease which will kill him and you are the only donor match, you cannot be forced to donate a kidney, even if your child dies as a result. (You may choose to, but you cannot be made to.) Your child’s rights have not been violated in such a situation, because his rights do not extend to your kidneys.

Similarly, you cannot be forced to donate your organs after death, even if your heart or liver is a perfect match for someone who will otherwise die.

But women are not permitted to control our own bodies in this way when pregnant, and we are made unmentionable in male discussions about abortion so that this huge violation of our autonomy can be conveniently overlooked. Pregnant women have fewer rights than a corpse under the totalitarian regime these men support. If you force them to confront this, they will mutter something about the uterus being different because it is ‘intended’ to gestate life, or something. But this is drivel and the point remains. It’s not your uterus, you don’t get to say what happens in it, and you should not even be expressing an opinion on the subject, considering that this is something that will never happen to you.

And more importantly, it’s not the foetus’ uterus either. The decision to go through with a pregnancy is entirely up to the owner of the uterus on which that pregnancy depends. It is the mother’s decision, and only the mother’s decision. The liberal left often does a lot of pacific waffling about “trusting women to make the right choice” on abortion. This is nonsense. The hard fact is that it is the mother’s choice, whether you think she’s right or not. No-one is expected to like it. They are, however, expected to defer to her right to bodily autonomy.

The foetus’ supposed right to life has nothing to do with it, because the foetus’ rights do not extend to its mother’s body, and because killing the foetus is a side effect of expelling it from the uterus, not the goal. If Bergoglio and his accomplices can come up with a way to extract the foetus alive without harming the mother, they are at liberty to continue gestating it, feeding it, changing its nappies, educating it, providing it with healthcare, and all the other things they will cheerfully expect the mother to do for free, regardless of the impact on her own life or the lives of her other children.

But they won’t, of course, because this has nothing to do with compassion for innocent murdered babies, and everything to do with the male’s pathologically violent need to control women’s sexual and reproductive capabilities. You can codify it in a so-called ‘holy book’, you can dress it up in a surplice and a fancy hat, you can swing some incense around and mutter in Latin to fool the plebs, but it’s still ape mate-guarding behaviour, and it’s as barbaric as fuck.

As for fathers’ supposed rights over a pregnant woman’s body because of having contributed a dribble of semen with a few sperm cells in it, as often as not by coercing the mother: I’m with Hobbes in seeing motherhood as a natural relation and fatherhood as largely a social construction. I think a good way to look at this is to say that your rights over the fate of your reproductive products end when those products leave your body. In the case of men, this is at the point of ejaculation. In the case of women, this is at the point of giving birth.

In other words, women, who do all the work of gestating new humans and most of the work of raising them, have nine more months to make their decision than men do. Get over it.