Bush's Amoral Abortion Compromise

06.24.2004 | David L. Steinhardt | National Affairs | 4 Comments
Quick: What’s the morally indefensible position on abortion?
Yeah, I know, the opposite of yours.
No, seriously: Which position makes no sense, regardless of your moral stand on abortion?
Answer: the one the Bush Administration insists on imposing around the world.
It’s hard to set aside the red-faced rhetoric, but let’s try, because if there’s any issue people of integrity and goodwill can disagree on, it’s this one.
Those who oppose abortion point out it stops a beating heart. So does cooking a lobster, but since this heart is human, anyone can understand the foundation of this position. If abortion is a form of murder, then only the coldest heart could permit it. Talk till you’re sucking Clorets, and you won’t change any minds about making the most common surgical procedure in America illegal again.
Abortion rights advocates, on the other hand, point out this beating heart is always inside a woman or girl with undeniable legal rights. Banning abortion won’t stop abortions any more than Prohibition stopped drinking. But by forcing the most popular surgical procedure, ever, back to the black market, millions of humans who’ve actually drawn a breath would be placed in mortal danger. Illegal abortionists are incalculably more likely to botch it, extort “favors” or excessive cash from their “patients,” or at the very least fail to provide medical followup. The days of women’s bodies dumped in abandoned buildings is only as distant as Nixon’s first term. If banning abortion is seen as relegating family planning to back-alley torture chambers, only the cruelest heart could permit that.
So there we have it. Abortion opponents dig their heels into the moral high ground of opposing fetuscide, while proponents hold an equivalent peak on the grounds of women’s rights and public health.
Yet there exists a third way, which, in aiming for compromise, achieves pure amorality. This position demonizes abortion, yet permits it for three and only three categories: pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or to save the life (but not the health) of the mother.
That’s the position the Bush Administration, reviving a Reagan era policy, forces on much of the world by policy and pursestrings. It’s called the “global gag rule.” That policy yanks funding from any agency or organization that permits its workers to mention — mention! — abortion to any woman, anywhere, unless her pregnancy falls into one of the three categories. Not only that, President Bush is trying to cut funding for any organization, including Unicef — Unicef!!! — that does business with any agency that fails to conform to the global gag rule.
What’s amoral about it?
Just think it through from either of the two high-ground positions.
If abortion is tantamount to murder, then, what, killing the babies of rapists is OK?
If abortion is a private matter, then, what, you can allow it if childbirth would kill a woman, but not if it would cripple her?
The basis of the rape and incest exemption seems to be that although abortion is morally repugnant, even Administration “pro-lifers” can’t stomach telling a woman she has to give birth to her rapist’s or her father’s child. But if that’s their position, who are they to define such exceptions so narrowly?

Consider the implications: Your husband beats you? Take your newborn and run away! On the edge of survival and a pregnancy would render you homeless? How bourgeois! Too mentally ill to care for a child? Give it up for adoption! Giving birth would severely injure, but not kill you? You shouldn’t have had a sex life to begin with! Gonna give birth to a kid with no face? Bring it to term so it can have its glorious few hours of life, like a mayfly!
You had a consensual, loving affair with your mom’s youngest step-brother? You poor dear! Let’s dismember that fetus!
It’s the greatest of three evils, and it’s wreaking havoc around the world. Reason enough to vote out the current amoral moralizers in the White House, regardless of how your conscience insists you stand on abortion.

I think it needs to be pointed out here that these rules are in place as part of a deal with the EU where the Europeans make up the funding the US withdraws. You can attack it as crude pandering to pro-lifers, but people are not actualy being harmed by this.
06.23.2004 | Keith Davis
Not providing funding is in no way equivalent to "imposing" a moral position.
06.25.2004 | carter
The US provides the lion's share of funding for many agencies. The clear agenda of current policies is to have more of an effect on worldwide family planning so that abortion is too risky a procedure, financially, to offer, or even to mention. If the US yanks funding for Unicef, the chilling effect will be great.

Regardless of the debatable outcomes of these policies, they're stupid and wrong from any principled perspective.
06.25.2004 | David L Steinhardt
the y2k bug! we are devo!

bush doesn't believe in god in the first place, his professed faith is a political tool; or more accurately, a large chunk of those who vote for him are tools.
07.9.2004 | chaizzilla

PostPost a Comment

Enter your information below.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>