Tuesday, January 25, 2011

fights for rights

As I mentioned, I'm taking an ethics class right now and our first topic of discussion is abortion. Part of our class participation is posting on the class discussion board. I'm trying to balance my apprehension about public speaking with my own strong opinions on these subjects and I wanted to copy my own post here, because I think it does a good job of summing up my thoughts about responsibility and abortion.

"A topic that often comes up in abortion debates is that of personal responsibility--namely should it be acceptable for a woman who unintentionally becomes pregnant (in cases unattributable to rape)to obtain an abortion? I think this is something many anti-abortion advocates seize on, making the argument that someone's "irresponsibility" should not give them permission to abort a child.

Thomson and Warren both address this issue. However, neither goes into the implications of such an argument (perhaps correctly--since it is not the direct focus of either piece). Those implications are something I'm interested in exploring, namely how the "responsibility" argument works as a means of undermining women's autonomy and judgment.

Insisting that a woman should be responsible for carrying a pregnancy because of any "failures" of responsbility (lack of condoms or birth control, misuse of these things, prevention failing, etc.) is to place the onus of sexual responsibility squarely on the woman. I believe that it, to some extent, makes sexual activity a punishable act for women, without enforcing those same restrictions for men. In doing this, an unrealistic gender dichotomy is set up--if we are to argue that a woman of childbearing age who chooses to have sex should automatically be responsbile for carrying a pregnancy that might come of such activities, then where is the line drawn? Do we argue that these women should not have sex at all? If the woman is married but does not want children (or cannot afford them), should she too abstain?

My point is, this kind of argument leads to a slippery slope in which womens' sexuality is placed under any number of authoritarian restrictions (which may be, but are not necessarily, placed on men). The "responsibility" argument also ignores a number of factors: rape victims, socioeconomic status (if someone cannot afford birth control, should she be banned from having sex? What kind of class division does this set up?), and most importantly, the right of a woman to make personal decisions about her own body and life."

1 comment:

  1. I will make the same argument with you that I have made with Nancy. If you want an unrealistic and unbalanced gender dichotomy, then feel free to look at the flipside of the equation, when a woman decides to keep a child.

    You cannot remain logically consistent by saying that you cannot punish a woman by prohibiting her right to obtain an abortion if you do not also allow a man to legally sever any rights to and responsibilities for a child born of an accidental pregnancy that a woman decides to keep. It is, effectively, the same thing you are railing against in this post. If a man cannot afford to raise a child or pay child support, should he be banned from having sex?

    Also, in reference to the main thrust of the post, the assumption in most cases is that, when you have sex, you understand that, no matter what methods of birth control you use, there is a minute chance of failure, meaning you should always go into sex thinking that pregnancy is a real possibility. If you choose to have it, anyway, then it implies an acceptance of that risk, with concomitant responsibilities.