A free post for abortion advocates in which I court controversy by kinda sorta equating abortion and female circumcision


I am well on record as being against genital mutilation (as you can tell by my use of the word mutilation). Generally I've spoken out against circumcising boys as that procedure still has some cultural cachet in America (here's an example of my railing). But as female circumcision has never been very popular here, I haven't felt much need to talk about it.

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics has decided we should allow "pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm." Now, I'm opposed to this, but they make a good point: If you can draw a drop of blood and satisfy people who otherwise might go to Africa and cut off the labia and sew the vagina shut, then yes --- a nick is the better choice. Still wrong, in my opinion, but better than genuine mutilation. And so this proposed change to federal law is worthy of consideration.

Now. To relate this to abortion.

(Unfortunately, I can't the link I want at the moment, but please believe that I am not making this next paragraph up.)

I read, about a year ago, an essay by a prominent American feminist suggesting that abortion advocates were doomed to philosophical failure until they admitted that, yes, abortion is killing something human. The prolife people are not wrong about that, she said, and we need to be honest with ourselves and them and just admit that simple fact. And, having done so, we can then start looking for robust philosophical arguments that prove abortion can be necessary and a net good even though it involves killing a potential human being.

I agree with this. I believe that abortion is nearly always wrong. When it is right, it is only because the right is greater than the still existant wrong.

This is much like the argument the AAP makes. Not that female circumcision is a "good" thing, but that,0 in certain cases, the wrongness of an AAP member doing it is much more right than letting a family take care of it themselves. Which is where I see abortion: a wrong that might, sometimes, be more right than other wrongs.

And if the abortion cabal wants to make inroads with those who disagree with them, they should start by admitting what is plain to any child: Abortion is a wrong. Then prove that it's necessary anyway.

It's like tug-of-war --- giving an inch is good strategy.

Free advice. Take it or leave it.


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  2. Camille Paglia? (search for "abortion is murder")
    Fresh blood for the vampire

  3. .

    Ah yes. I knew you would know.

  4. .

    Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue. The state in my view has no authority whatever to intervene in the biological processes of any woman's body, which nature has implanted there before birth and hence before that woman's entrance into society and citizenship.

    On the other hand, I support the death penalty for atrocious crimes (such as rape-murder or the murder of children). I have never understood the standard Democratic combo of support for abortion and yet opposition to the death penalty. Surely it is the guilty rather than the innocent who deserve execution?

    What I am getting at here is that not until the Democratic Party stringently reexamines its own implicit assumptions and rhetorical formulas will it be able to deal effectively with the enduring and now escalating challenge from the pro-life right wing. Because pro-choice Democrats have been arguing from cold expedience, they have thus far been unable to make an effective ethical case for the right to abortion.

    The gigantic, instantaneous coast-to-coast rage directed at Sarah Palin when she was identified as pro-life was, I submit, a psychological response by loyal liberals who on some level do not want to open themselves to deep questioning about abortion and its human consequences. I have written about the eerie silence that fell over campus audiences in the early 1990s when I raised this issue on my book tours. At such moments, everyone in the hall seemed to feel the uneasy conscience of feminism.

  5. I wasn't initially going to respond to this post for several reasons. For one thing, abortion is one of those topics where no one ever changes their mind, and if they do, it's not because of a blog conversation. There's almost no point in responding, because people tend to just get mad quickly. My opinions also tend to rub people the wrong way when it comes to serious topics, and I like to keep my friends. But, your repeated Twitter pleas have swayed me. You have only yourself to blame now.

    Your suggestion that it would advance the cause of pro-choice advocates to admit that abortion is killing another human does not make sense to me. I cannot see how there could be a plausible moral situation where the greater good would be served by killing an innocent baby through abortion. Where in life does our society allow killing innocents to serve the greater good? War. Counter-terrorist attacks (bombing villages that harbor terrorist leaders). And...I'm having trouble coming up with other examples. It seems to me that our society morally allows killing innocents when the deaths are accidents, unintended, uncertain, or likely to prevent equal or greater deaths of others. I don't really see how abortion can fit into that moral scheme.

    Imagine the worst possible scenario: that you, your wife, or your daughter have been raped and impregnated. This is obviously a horrible thing. Imagine that you can get rid of that pregnancy by shooting a newborn baby in the head. As hellish as your experience is, it doesn't philosophically compute for me that you would be justified in killing to escape it, even if your situation absolutely isn't your fault.

    Our church councils against abortion for "personal and social convenience" but allows for possible exceptions in the cases of rape and incest, medical dangers to the mother, and confirmed severe birth defects for the baby. These exceptions completely make sense to me, but I don't see how abortion could ever be morally justified if our doctrine stated unequivocally that abortion is killing another person. I've never actually heard or read that the church officially believes that abortion is killing another human. To me, it seems like there must be something else going on. Does God give aborted babies another chance somewhere else with another body? Does God give miscarried babies that chance? Or, is this whole life begins at conception thing incorrect? I have no clue, but it seems like there must be something else here.


  6. ....

    I really do find conviction that life begins at conception mysterious. When a sperm and an egg meet, are they automatically assigned a soul? Is God watching and waiting for those two cells to merge, with a long line of hopeful spirits ready to slide down into the womb at the exact right moment? "Almost....almost.....okaaayyy.....NOW! GO GO GO!!"

    If you slide down the slide, and ten hours later your to-be-mother's body decides it doesn't have the right amount of estrogen or hCG or whatever hormone to continue the pregnancy, is that it for you? Is your run over? I mean, biology and life and everything are so messy and complicated, it doesn't make sense to me that the beginning of a new living soul be so easily defined as when two cells meet.

    And anyway, the abortion debate has always struck me as being a great deal about whether or not pregnant women have the right to get out of the natural consequences of having sex. But, I guess this comment is long enough.

    My point is simply that I think once you say that abortion is killing, it's going to be incredibly difficult to morally allow it in any situation, no matter how bad. I also don't feel that official church doctrine states that abortion is always killing. When the POTENTIAL to become a human changes to BEING a human, I can't say, but I certainly don't believe that life starts at conception idea. Because of this, the whole abortion debate seems incredibly complex to me. But in the end, I am positive that there are times when abortion is NOT killing. The problem is figuring out when that is the case.

  7. .

    I agree with every point you make. Where we seem to disagree is in why abortion advocates should admit to the word killing (or murder, as per the original). As long as people are shouting about definitions, reasons can never be addressed. By surrendering a definition, you can then move on to the next step in the argument.

    All that said, I have a very difficult time with abortion, especially willynilly abortion. And, as you say, doctrinally we lack clarity. So. That.

  8. .

    [Edit: Fixed letter swap; the AAP link works now.]