A propos of nothing much:
We (as in, people with similar social and political views to myself) don’t tend to think too highly of people who are opposed to abortion in all instances.
It seems both uncaring, to insist that a woman forefeit her right to make decisions about her own body, and scientifically illiterate, to assert that a barely fertilised zygote is not significantly distinct from any other “human”.
When someone of this disposition is willing to make some allowances, though – for cases of rape, say – that tends to mollify us a little bit. They’re not wholly dogmatic about their ideas. They’re willing to give a little bit of ground.
But surely what we’re doing, when we encourage anti-abortionists to make this exception, is congratulating them for betraying their principles. Or, rather, we’re giving tacit support to an implied set of principles that’s even more obnoxious and inhumane.
Start with the basic concept that terminating a pregnancy is always, unequivocally immoral. This is a frankly uninformed and irrational idea when taken to the extreme positions that some people hold, given the nature of a barely fertilised embryo in the earliest stages of gestation. If a tiny cluster of cells carries the same moral weight to you as a fully developed infant, then what you value can’t be called “human life” in any way I would recognise the phrase. I am strongly against this position.
But there’s some consistency there. People with this view are opposed to what they see as murder of defenseless innocents. That part I can follow, even if the logic behind their classification of “defenseless innocents” is ideologically inane.
If you’re willing to allow for the possibility of abortion in cases of rape, though… what is the guiding principle behind your moral judgments?
A fetus is no more or less deserving of protection based on whether its mother was being physically assaulted against her will prior to its conception. So if abortion would be “murder” in normal circumstances, why should it be different here?
One obvious answer that might present itself involves compassion for the mother. Some anti-abortionists just can’t bring themselves to insist that a rape victim bear her rapist’s child against her will. It seems unconscionable to them, so they allow for an exception. On the face of it, this seems like human kindness breaking through an ideological wall.
But it’s not really. Here are some other circumstances which have no significance to the condition of an unborn child, but in which we’re told abortion is an unacceptable abomination:
- A woman has consensual sex without using contraception, and becomes pregnant.
- A woman has consensual sex, uses contraception, it doesn’t work, and she becomes pregnant.
- A woman gets drunk, has sex, regrets it soon after, and becomes pregnant.
- A girl hears from her friends at school that you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex, doesn’t have this misconception corrected in any kind of sex education class, has consensual sex with her boyfriend, and becomes pregnant.
- A woman has consensual sex with her husband who has had a vasectomy, but she becomes pregnant.
Of the many possible contexts to a woman becoming pregnant, rape is the only one in which some anti-abortionists are willing to make an exception… and also the only one in which it’s entirely out of the woman’s control.
People who are against abortion with no exceptions are at least consistent in their concern for the innocent human life they perceive to be at risk.
People in the “except for cases of rape” camp aren’t as concerned about the welfare of the child as they are about whether it’s the woman’s fault.
The implicit message is that, unless a woman was sexually assaulted against her wishes, the responsibility for the pregnancy lies squarely with her… and that’s what makes abortion immoral. If you were raped, then okay, you’re off the hook – but if you just weren’t careful, or you were stupid, or you’re the kind of slut who actually has sex willingly and enjoys it, then you deserve to be stuck with this.
The fetus’s welfare doesn’t come into it. The one determining factor is whether the woman deserves to be “punished” (which is effectively what it amounts to) for being insufficiently sexually puritan and abstinent.
If you asked them, they probably wouldn’t agree that they think this way. They probably don’t even think they do. But underlying, deeply engrained hang-ups and presumptions about sex are pernicious and ubiquitous, and are one of many things harmfully exacerbated by a religiously based sense of morality.