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."