Heya Lord High,

   I've muttered about the abortion debate on my MySpazz a few times, not necessarily making sense.  Your essay reminded me of something interesting I came across though - specifically this part:

   "I’m glad you said so, because guess what?  That means you were lying before when you said that you thought the fetus was a living human being.  If you really thought that, then you would consider a rape exemption to be equivalent to murdering an innocent for someone else’s crime.  So, you basically just admitted that you are only really against abortion because you want to punish women for having sex voluntarily, because you’re pissed off about being a giant loser." 

    In my "research" (read: did a bit of googling) I came across a site that argues for abortion from a religious standpoint, by collecting evidence of what the major religious traditions have had to say about it.  Dude found that the mother's life has always been weighed against the fetus's, and that the life of the already living human, the mother, was, quite reasonably, considered more important than that of the potential human, the fetus.  Admittedly abortion was only permitted in cases where the mother's health was at risk.  (Here's the site, hope I represented the article accurately based on memory: http://www.religiousconsultation.org/index.html).  Still, this standpoint (and let's take a deep breath and recall for a moment that religious traditions are a fund of ethical thought as well as mystic mumbo-jumbo) seems to me way more reasonable than either side of the current pro-fetus vs. pro-woman debate (as perhaps it should really be called).  There may be a logical contradiction in saying "I believe in abortion only when the mother's health is at risk" (in the case of rape, that would be emotional health) - but it captures some of the conflicting emotions involved in what is in fact an ethical question.  Don't tell me it's only an ethical question from the conservative standpoint – because women's rights are a question of ethics as well (part of the larger human rights question). 

    If your own logic, as outlined in this essay, is followed, you should be okay with women using abortion as birth control.  Are you okay with that?  Seriously?  Because I'm a woman, and I'm non-religious, but it makes me fucking uncomfortable.  Although not as uncomfortable as putting the government in charge of whether or not a woman can have an abortion.  ( = Human beings' - women's - well-being versus potential human beings' well-being on a larger scale).  So - what about getting together, left and right, to try to reduce the need for abortions, as you talk about elsewhere in the essay?  Works for me - only for that, both sides have to admit there's something to the other side.  Oh and also the right has to get over the major practical contradiction of being both anti-abortion and anti-birth control.  Which is another kettle of fish... and I need to get off the internet and go to bed!

      —Hiking Boots Slut

    Dear Hiking-Boots Slut:

    Thanks for writing, and for being the commendable sort of person who actually does research—even if it's "only" Googling—into viewpoints with which she disagrees (as opposed to just deciding the other people are shitheads, or simply making stuff up about what they do or don’t believe and how they do or don’t justify it, which is what most people do these days).  It seems like there’s only one direct question in your e-mail—the one about “abortion as birth control”—but before we answer that, we’d like to speak to a couple of the other things you mentioned in passing.

    First and foremost, we want to make sure people understand that when we pointed out the “logical contradiction” of rape or mother’s-health exemptions, we were of course only doing so in the service of highlighting the fact that the vast majority of pro-lifers are lying hypocrites whose true motivations aren’t what they claim them to be.  We ourselves realize that these are immeasurably important concerns, and that—if worse came to worst—the existence of anti-choice legislation with those exemptions in place would be better than anti-choice legislation without them.  We realize that our argument on that point involved playing with fire, but the goal of course is to try and get the majority of less-far-right pro-lifers to realize that they need to get their philosophical ducks in a row (i.e., realize that they are actually just sexually repressed and don’t really give a shit about fetuses at all), not to drive them even farther to the right.

    Additionally, we want to say that we definitely realize that it’s an “ethical” matter for the left as well—that’s why we’re pro-choice—and that we think your (half-joking? totally serious?) suggestion of relabeling the two sides as “pro-fetus” and “pro-woman” provides an insight into why it’s been so hard for us to get the right to accept this framework. 

    The right tends to be under the impression that the laws they want to make are better for society as a whole, and that the laws we, the left, want to make are “special” laws that would give “special” rights to “special” groups of people.  What they don’t see is that we are usually working with the exact same warrant that they are.  We believe that access to safe, legal abortion (not to mention, say, affirmative action or gay marriage) is the better law for society as a whole, not just for women (or whomever).  This is what we meant in the original post when we said that Roe v. Wade “wasn’t a ‘Roe v. Wade for women’ so much as it was a ‘Roe v. Wade for people.’”  The difficulty that some people have with understanding this, of course, involves the fact that, since only a woman can actually get an abortion, it looks like we are making a “special” law for women, when we’re actually doing nothing of the kind.  Obviously, over the years since the ruling, there have been nearly as many men who found themselves pretty damn relieved that Roe v. Wade happened as there have been women.  This is why we feel it would be dangerously missing the point to relabel the pro-choice side as pro-woman.  The fathers are often involved in the decision (you know, the titular “choice”), and a pro-choice philosophy certainly isn’t anti-man, so maybe pro-people would be better; or, since many of the couples who find themselves faced with such decisions are in committed relationships, and may even have other kids already, maybe even—dare we say it?—pro-family.

    That’s how we think about it, anyway.  Yet we do realize that, sadly for the left, there are many among our allies who would prefer to think of legal abortion as explicitly a pro-woman law, and who want the debate to be framed as a feminist struggle against masculine tyranny, rather than as a struggle by people who are not crazy against the tyranny of people who are.  One of us can even remember having once been yelled at for being pro-choice by pro-choice feminists—the beef being that he was obviously only pro-choice so he could “get out of it” if he ever got a girl pregnant.  Well, then, what is he supposed to be, if not pro-choice?  These particular women clearly just wanted all men to play the bad guy, and it’s not productive for our side to be looking at things that way—there are plenty of pro-choice men, and, sadly, plenty of pro-life women.  We urge all pro-choicers to remember when arguing about this that, as Jarvis sang, “it’s not a case of woman v. man; it’s more a case of haves against haven’ts”—the object of have, in this case, being brains.    

    And now for your primary question, which was about whether we are “okay” with women “using abortion as birth control.”  To that we can only say the same thing we say to Conservatives who try to make the “abortion as birth control” argument—that we don’t need to defend being “okay” with something that we don’t really think would happen.  Think about it.  You’re a woman: would you ever find yourself saying “Eh!  Screw a condom or the pill…  If I get pregnant, I’ll just pop in for an abortion?”  Do you know any women who would?  Yes, legal abortion makes it logically possible for women to use an expensive, invasive surgery involving a protracted, humiliating process as their primary method of birth control, instead of, say, taking a pill, but it seems to us that this is only happening in the nightmares of Conservatives.  We mean, legalized umbrella sale makes it logically possible for people to attempt to fight constipation by sticking umbrellas up their asses and then opening them instead of taking laxatives, but it doesn’t seem like this is something we need to worry about when deciding whether umbrellas should remain legal.

     And the existence of AIDS and other STDs makes this argument even better, because this means that even women who are on the pill (or Depo, or who have an IUD, etc.) are still using condoms on top of that, unless they’re in a monogamous relationship, in which case they are even more likely to be on some kind of reliable birth control, even if they’re not using condoms with their partner.  In the case of a woman who somehow gets pregnant despite any or all of this, then that woman would not really be “using abortion as birth control,” but rather as what it is intended to be—an emergency lever.  And in the case of a woman who is not taking these precautions, getting pregnant should be the least of her worries.  Sure, everyone has a story about this crazy friend or that crazy friend, but generally we consider “abortion as birth control” to be simply another Boogeyman invented by the right, in the grand tradition of “Welfare Queens,” “uranium from Niger,” and “rainbow parties.”

     Oh, wait—that last one was invented by Oprah.     

    —S.G. and the Crew 

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