Thursday, 23 August 2012

So here are the problems I have with abortion debates...

Normally, I would not touch an abortion discussion with a fifty foot pole because, as anyone who's ever accidentally stumbled into one with me could definitely attest, I get really angry.

But some things about the way people debate it really bother me, and so I'm just going to touch that, which is tangential, and therefore, it's like I'm just touching the fifty foot pole with another shorter pole.

1/ Everyone always cries rape.

Whenever an abortion debate arises--or do they even have to arise anymore? I mean, it's pretty much just an ongoing top-on-mind issue for the whole of society now, isn't it? but anyway--it seems impossible to have a logical conversation that does not include the phrase "But what about rape?"

Here's my problem with that: It's not the point. If you think women should only be allowed to have abortions when they are raped, then by all means, express that opinion. But if you don't, then why even mention rape? It dilutes the message that most people bringing it up are trying to convey, which is that a woman should be allowed to choose, regardless of the circumstances, whether or not she will carry a child to term.

2/ It's not really a women's rights and feminist issue.

As a woman, I am actually offended by the suggestion that abortion is a women's rights and feminist issue, as I am at any time when my voice is appropriated by someone presuming to speak for the whole of the female gender. Or for Canadians. Or for white people. Or whoever.

Reproductive rights do not strictly belong to women, and the only reason it's just us that abortion laws seem to affect is that we happened to get the vaginas. The immediate response to this idea is always "You can bet that if men had babies, nobody would be arguing against it!" (you were thinking it, weren't you?) and I disagree. As evidence, I offer the fact that nobody anywhere is arguing for reproductive rights for men. But then I take that back because historically, the people arguing most ardently for the reproductive rights of women also argued for them for men. But nobody does anymore--at least not enough and not very loudly.

Furthermore, to suggest that it is a basic right of women to terminate pregnancies and that every woman believes so is to completely alienate those women who don't believe so. It's not a feminist issue. It's a moral issue that absolutely transcends gender.

3/ Pro-life is a valid opinion.

People act like being opposed to abortion is absolutely abhorrent, and I find it a little sickening. There are some other things that surround the debate that I think are really unkind and ill-motivated, and I understand being disgusted by them and hating people for them. But at the very heart of the "is it okay to terminate a fetus or is that murder?" debate, there is a valid question with valid input from both sides.

There is no clear answer here, and for someone to presume to have access to the absolute truth of it all is preposterous, no matter where they think that truth is coming from.  Our entire society relies upon us all agreeing to moral laws that at some time would have been up for similar debate. Some of them were in the not-so-distant past.

4/ It smells like a maguffin.

Everyone is debating abortion and birth control, and sometimes I want to scream "I AM MORE THAN WHAT I'M ALLOWED TO DO WITH MY VAGINA AND UTERUS" because I feel like we've all just submitted ourselves to the idea that if women can take the pill and have abortions then equality has been achieved, and that's what we should be fighting for, godammit, and as long as you believe that we're allowed, then you must believe in equality for women and live your life with the utmost respect for doubled up X chromosomes.

And it's just not true. I know men who believe stringently and stridently in the right to abortion and perceive women as nothing more than sex objects. I know women who believe in it, too, and who are yet the very epitome of deference and patriarchal submission.

Plus I can think of about a dozen social injustices off the top of my head that rarely even get addressed in the news or elsewhere and are far more offensive (to my own sensibilities anyhow) than the idea that maybe women wouldn't be allowed to have abortions. It just seems like a bit of a red herring, and it's working really well.

I think that's all for my unpopular views of the day.
It's okay to hate me. Most people do.


  1. well said.

    i worry about maguffin syndrome. it often seems to go hand in hand with conspiracy theories.

    it seems that people would very often rather head off from the central topic/s and make things about something effectively irrelevant. i understand that abortion is a touchy subject, but i can never really get where people are going with their discussions about it. except that whatever their position is, it's entrenched.

    1. I completely agree. Well said! I don't think there is actually must conversation happening about abortion. Just everyone shouting loudly at each other in a crowded room. That's part of why I keep quiet and observe, which is in turn, perhaps why I see both sides more easily than some people do.

    2. must conversation? much conversation.