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Something in the bucket...

As I've mentioned before, I don't really like marches. They tend to jumble up messages and become nothing more than incoherent imagery. They raise tempers without raising the level of debate. As I've been watching Chris take on Irishlaw bicker over an image from the "March for Women's Lives" in Washington, it's merely strengthened my general distaste for such 'action.'

I've only linked to the image here because (a) it's almost certainly subject to Reuter's copyright, and (b) it's somewhat distasteful. To describe it briefly, a man stands defiant in the midst of the march, holding up an image of a bloody fetus on a poster with the hyperbolic "ABORTION IS GENOCIDE." Around him, three women appear to be taunting him or dancing around him, holding posters of their own or showing off their t-shirts. The photographer captures a sense of antipathy and confrontation that evokes a sense of reasoned horribleness.

It's images like that which make me waver in my politically pro-choice stance. Unlike IrishLaw, I can see practical policy reasons for leaving the choice to carry a life to pregnancy in the hands of a woman. But at the end of every abortion, there's something that ends up in the bucket. We can bicker about whether that something is a 'human life' before or after a viable birth, but it's a potential, a something different from a tumor or a rotted tooth. Under different circumstances, it might be a subject of love and warmth, intelligence and kindness. And there it is, bloody.

I'm pro-choice, and I'm willing to accept that fact. I have no respect for those who picket abortion clinics or harass frail and nervous women after they've made or are making their choices. But there is also a cost to this policy--that something in the bucket--and I don't ever want to forget that fact.

I'm sure the counterdemonstrator is there to cause a disturbance: that's his intended role. Doubtless he's done his share of aggravation, and kicked up what trouble he can. Put him in front of a clinic, and I'm not likely to love an image of what he'd be doing. But his other purpose is to remind those of us who are pro-choice exactly what it is we're choosing: that we're making decisons about life and liberty, freedom and responsiblity. I can see ignoring him. I can even see pausing respectfully to observe him. What I can't condone is the taunting, the amusement, the confrontation, the dancing apparent in the picture. Because that image he's holding is what's being chosen by those marchers as a matter of policy: that is their end. Whatever rational reasons we may give ourselves to allow it, it's a horror not to be celebrated.

In the comments section of Chris's post, he takes me to task for describing the women as filled with "Distasteful hysteria, the triumph of identity politics over any reasonable moral principle." But really, I'm granting them the benefit of the doubt: that they're inspired by the heat of the conflict, women embroiled in a 'women's rights' march, and not by a genuine conviction that the image before them is forceless, costless or even laudable. Otherwise the marchers face that picture shouting, "Look upon our works, ye mighty, and rejoice!"

I'll stand by that statement of hysteria as one of hope, simply because if the women in that image are not hysterical, then they are horrifying.

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Something in the bucket..." href="http://www.threeyearsofhell.com/archive/000603.php">Anthony and Jae each in his and her own forthright manner highlight what is missing in America's abortion debate: balancing. Absolutists' mudslinging and clinic-bombi... [Read More]

» Abortion Absolutists Disgrace America from Kamelian X-Rays
Something in the bucket..." href="http://www.threeyearsofhell.com/archive/000603.php">Anthony and Jae each in his and her own forthright manner highlight what is missing in America's abortion debate: balancing. Absolutists' mudslinging and clinic-bombi... [Read More]

» Abortion Absolutists Disgrace America from Kamelian X-Rays
Something in the bucket..." href="http://www.threeyearsofhell.com/archive/000603.php">Anthony and Jae each in his and her own forthright manner highlight what is missing in America's abortion debate: balancing. Absolutists' mudslinging and clinic-bombi... [Read More]

Comments

Tony, I have no problem with your post. Obviously, I have sympathy with the goal of the man with the Genocide poster--which is to say that I think in the end he's right. He's right because our modern abortion ideology has its roots in eugenic ideology, and he's right because the discarded victim of every abortion is something you once were and I once was, and that to me is abhorrent. But more than this, those who disagree on legal or moral grounds should stop pretending to hide behind choice. It is absurd to claim, as Clinton and Kerry did/do, that abortion should be "rare" but safe and legal. This is an unconcscionable dodge. For abortion, if it is not murder, is not objectionable. It should not be stigmatized or judged as "personally wrong." It is wrong, if it is, because it violates the human rights of another being--and if it does so, then it is PRECISELY the sort of decision we use the coercive power of the state to proscribe. Even a libertarian would agree to that. So the question begging nonsense that "I think it's wrong, but I can't impose that on others" needs to be challenged and exposed. It is nonsense on stilts, except that's an insult to stilts. Or perhaps I overstate myself...
It is wrong, if it is, because it violates the human rights of another being--and if it does so, then it is PRECISELY the sort of decision we use the coercive power of the state to proscribe. See, that's the step I'm not willing to go towards. (Though I'm happy to say it's a step that should be legislatively decided.) 'Choice' is a buzzword, just like 'life' is. The choice they're talking about is the ability to have an abortion. Other than that it just identifies a side. I'm satisfied by most of the policy rationales--difficulty in policing abortions, burdens on women, indeterminacy of whether the 'something' is a 'human being'--so I'm not certain it's all based on a rationale summed up in the word 'choice.'
I'm not sure we disagree about the logic of the issue, although if one is so thoroughgoing a Posnerian as to obscure what's at stake in say, slavery, then we may need to talk. But if you grant that it's extra-legal resources that determine for folks who gets included into the "rights bearing" club, then we're just agreeing that there's a separate, deeper discussion to be had on that issue. My more limited point about what we "precisely" use the coercive power of government for was directed at those who, like Theresa Heinz Kerry this week, claim to recognize that a foetus is human life, claim they wouldn't choose abortion, but claim they don't think government has a role "imposing" that view. This is a total misunderstanding of government, and of the relationship between law and morality. As to the related objection--"I can't outlaw it because I don't know what I'd do," or its kissing cousin, "if you don't have a womb, you can't have an opinion," this line also misses one of the great purposes of law--to protect us against what we might do in our most difficult moments. Nobody outlaws only those things they could never imagine doing. The reverse is much more often true...
Addendum: by the way, my point about being overly Posnerian is that I'm not sure what to make of your "policy" points. Are they determinative, for you, of the staus question (whether the foetus is a human being) or do they simply trump whether we regard the fetus as a human life or not? Either way, I'm troubled. If you think that, absent a clear answer on the status question, the policy considerations guide, there is a different discussion to be had...
"Itís a horror not to be celebrated." Itís not the "horror" that's being celebrated. Itís the ability to decide if/when they will be pregnant.
But at best, that decision is a solemn one, with an understanding of the costs involved and the sacredness of the decision. Certainly if one is to 'celebrate' the ability to make that decision, it's best to do it in a manner appropriate to the event. Even supposing one posits a right to die, it would be crude to celebrate the fact instead of treating it with the solemnity it deserves. There's something ghastly about treating a decision with immense personal, emotional, and moral consequences with the air of carnival.
I appreciate your comments, Tony. I do think you underestimate the effect marches can have. I have a certain distaste for them as well, and doubt their impact on political policy (or on the courts, though as Justice Scalia observed in Casey, the people might be doing well to lobby the Court). But sometimes it's important to remind people about issues (or keep them in the public eye), as with the peaceful march every year on the anniversary of Roe, or as happened with the Civil Rights marches of the 60s. And sometimes individuals can be affected. Apparently the 'Silent No More' group, just by standing there, really affected some people. You yourself seem to say that while you're usually comfortable in a pro-choice stance, seeing images of abortion or really thinking about what dies in abortion (that 'something') make you waver. Someday, they might work : ) I also agree with Fr Bill that ultimately, if one thinks abortion should be rare and approached with gravity (at least a much more respectable position than many marchers took), one should think through the why. Why should it be rare, if it's only a 'something' that dies? But if it's a human being (and how could it be anything but - it's certainly not, as you say, a tumor or tooth) how can it ever be acceptable to intentionally cause its death absent an immediate and real life-threatening circumstance? (This would be getting into Aquinas's unintended effects of an intended action - something like this would only ever be permissible if fetal death was an unintended if foreseeable effect of a direct action to save a mother's life.) Lastly, re: your observation about me and Chris "bickering," please don't think I, at least, have lost my temper; and I hope you don't think I've been incoherent. To the contrary, while I do have passionate opinions on this subject, I strive to maintain a rational tone and discourse, and bolster my arguments with facts. Also, to a certain extent, I'm just bemused by the reactions my posts can provoke, but I welcome the discussion. Sometimes it's even productive : )
First, I should probably apologize for the 'bicker' comment, to both of you. It was a bit hyperbolic, though obviously you two have some personal antagonisms of some sort. A more neutral verb would have been more appropriate. With both your permissions, I'd be happy to change it. But secondly: You yourself seem to say that while you're usually comfortable in a pro-choice stance, seeing images of abortion or really thinking about what dies in abortion (that 'something') make you waver. Someday, they might work : ) No, that's precisely what I don't say. It's not the image held by the man that makes me question my stance, because as I've said, I accept the fact that by keeping abortion legal, something is sacrificed. (If you see the article above, you might realize what I mean if I say I haven't 'left Omelas' on this issue.) What the image makes me question is a slightly more subtle argument: that allowing abortion creates a coarsening of our valuation of life. It's not the man who disturbs my conscience, but the women. If the fight itself makes some people lose track of the consequences, or even argue that there are no consequences, I'm troubled to be in the same camp. If the practical outcome of legalizing abortion begins to become its acceptance or celebration, that's my concern.
My apologies - you're right, I misread your statement to say that you waver in your actual stance, not your political stance. And I clicked on the "Omelas" link, and understand the reference now. (Though please understand, from my perspective, it's not even just one child being kept in filth here, but thousands killed every day.) I think you're absolutely right to be concerned that allowing abortion (particularly given the means by which it has been allowed here - judicially, not legislatively) coarsens our valuation of life. I believe that, unfortunately, it already has, in many ways. I think that we merely differ in our response to that on policy grounds; you would (I think) hope to remind people that while abortion should be legal, it should not be celebrated, but seen as regrettable. I respect that, but I believe that the solution should rather be not to have abortion at all.

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