Hey Government, Stay Out of My Reproductive Organs

Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of the historic supreme court decision, Roe v. Wade. President Obama took the opportunity to release this statement:

As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue — no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

It should be more than a little surprising that the Republican party who consistently says that the government should not be involved in our personal lives wants the government involved in the most intimate of matters: marriage, women’s health, and birth control. From the narrative that Republicans have presented one would think that an apparently “socialist” Democratic president could never express a commitment to less government intrusion in private matters. Nevertheless, it is the Democrats who have consistently stood up for women’s rights (see this decision from Friday) on this issue and the Republicans who have shown their desire to have the supreme court decision overturned.

Further, I would be remiss if I did not note that President Obama’s strategy in this complicated issue is multiform and one that supports women and families at all stages, calling for reduced need for abortions (i.e. better and more available birth control) and especially promoting adoption. Contrary to popular belief not all who support Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose want to see every woman having multiple abortions and using the method as just another form of birth control. Rather, many of us support better health and sex education in our schools, more available birth control, proper care and support when a women is going through the decision making process (and that does not mean trying to guilt her into not going through with an abortion), and a more effective, efficient, and cheaper adoption system here in the US.

Having been adopted myself I know how thankful I am for the adoption process and those willing to sacrifice as much (and often more) than biological parents to be parents to those without. I also know, though, how complicated and expensive stateside adoptions are and while I commend those who choose to adopt a child from elsewhere in the world I also realize that it is often chosen over stateside adoption because the process and cost of adopting a child here are extremely prohibitive.

I am quite thankful that we have a president willing to stand with the medical community and with women and families on this most important of issues. And if you’re a female considering voting for a Republican this November, just remember the control that they want over your body.

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9 thoughts on “Hey Government, Stay Out of My Reproductive Organs

  1. I don’t understand the fence-straddling on this issue. If abortion is a fundamental right, if it’s not wrong, if it’s her body….why attempt to reduce the need for abortions? Why not use it as a form of birth control? Further to the point, why limit it to early-term pregnancies?

    I guess what I’m driving at here is: do YOU have a problem with abortion?

    1. I don’t think I am “fence-sitting,” but rather trying to present an appropriately nuanced view. I think life begins at vitality, thus my problem with late-term abortions.

      1. Whether or not any view of abortion can be “appropriately nuanced,” the law most certainly cannot. The law cannot say that abortion is legal, BUT you can’t use it as birth control, or only as a measure of last resort. In fact, the stats from the (pro-choice) Guttmacher Institute unwittingly suggest abortion is being used as a form of birth control: around half of abortions are performed on women who have had them before (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/2006/11/21/or29.pdf). Back to the issue at hand…

        Rather than vaguely quoting the existence of nuance, tell me instead why you believe it should be legal. You claim its her body, but whats your biological basis for that argument? A human fetus has its own DNA and circulatory system, typically has a different blood type and half the time isn’t even the same gender as the mother. The fetus is IN the mother’s body, to be sure, but what exactly makes it her body?

        Also, of note: fetal viability (I presume this is what you mean when you say “vitality”) is determined by science, not nature. This may seem a moot point at first, but meditate on the consequences for a moment. Fetal viability today is around 24 weeks, with some surviving even before 22 weeks. Viability used to be closer to 40. Do you expect me to believe that the lives of fetuses in the 1970’s began later than they do now? And perhaps more telling: the age of fetal viability continues to drop thanks to modern medicine; perhaps one day it will even drop into the first trimester. Will you still believe that life begins at fetal viability when fetuses are viable at 20 weeks? At eighteen weeks? Twelve?

  2. “The law cannot say that abortion is legal, BUT you can’t use it as birth control, or only as a measure of last resort.” You are quite right on this point, but from my perspective it is not the government’s place to make these sort of caveats anyway. We cannot, and should not, be everyone’s moral guide, but we can work to make the procedure available and safe for those who chose to have abortions.

    The study that you have cited from the Guttmacher Institute actually explicitly rejects the notion that the statistics contained therein support the idea that “abortion is being used as a form of birth control.” [“For example, repeat abortion is sometimes viewed as an indication that women rely on abortion as a method of family planning; yet several studies have found that women who obtained repeat abortions were more likely to have been using contraceptive methods when they became pregnant than women who were having their first abortion.” p.9]

    I think the woman has the right to make the decision because, as you said, the fetus is in her body. It is not in her husband’s body or her doctor’s body. I don’t think I ever said the fetus was her body.

    Vitality has certainly moved earlier in the process because of medical advancements and for that I am grateful. But the fact of the matter remains that if a fetus could not survive outside of the womb, then I don’t think it should be consider “alive.” And yes, I would say that the moment life begins can be earlier or later in some cases. Some babies are born at 6 months while others go full term. The first baby’s life began, in my opinion, at 6 months, while the latter’s began at 9.

    Again, I think abortion should be legal because I think a woman should have the right to choose and I don’t think anyone else should have the right to tell her how she has to make that decision or to make it for her. I simply do not believe that abortion is murder, so I see no reason why it should be illegal. If abortion is murder, then why should miscarriages not be considered murder as well, even if only involuntary manslaughter? Of course, then, the mother is not the guilty party but rather nature, or God, depending on your convictions. Certainly I have not seen anyone accusing nature or God guilty of murder.

    1. Of course Guttmacher rejects the notion; they’re pro-choice. I selected them as my source for precisely that reason, in the interest of fairness. The mere fact that they feel the need to refute the idea is prima facie evidence of abortion’s use – by some – as birth control. None of their claims change the fact that roughly half of abortions are performed on women who have had them before. Also, the idea (put forth in your final paragraph) of God or Mother Nature somehow being held on trial for what amounts to death by natural causes is indeed ridiculous, but none of this is at the core of my argument, so I’ll move on…

      You say “[w]e cannot, and should not, be everyone’s moral guide…” and I agree whole-heartedly. I imagine we even agree that women (all people, really) should be able to make whatever choices they want, provided they don’t hurt someone else in the process. The question (perhaps the ONLY pertinent question for the present conversation) becomes: should a pre-viable fetus be considered human life? After all, if it’s not human life, who cares what becomes of it?

      To this end I offer up the first chapter of ANY biology textbook that will, no doubt, seek to answer the question: “what is life?” You will find that a human fetus (even a pre-viable one) meets and exceeds all the requirements set forth. The fact that a pre-viable fetus cannot survive outside it’s mother’s womb is irrelevant. A baby can’t survive outside the womb either, without constant care. Further to the point, YOU couldn’t survive outside the cozy protection of this planet’s atmosphere, nor could a parasite live without it’s host. Yet, I’m sure we can agree that parasites, babies, and you are all alive. Furthermore, I’m sure we can agree that you and babies, (as the humans in the above example) should be protected by the rule of law from injury by another.

      I challenge you to make one biological argument that a fetus doesn’t satisfy the requirements of human life. A flat denial sans evidence won’t do, after all: whether or not something is alive is not a question of faith, its a question of biology.

      If my instinct is any guide: you will offer nothing of the sort. You will instead change the subject by attempting to make it a judgment-call. Perhaps saying, “we can’t know for sure,” or “who are we to say?” I’m prepared for those arguments, so I will presently stop putting words in you mouth and, eagerly await your response.

      1. I don’t think that Guttmacher has rejected the notion because they are pro-choice, but rather because the data simply does not bear out that conclusion. To be sure, some women do use abortion as a means of birth control, but I think the Guttmacher study shows an attempt to understand the broader phenomenon of women having repeat abortions in a way that takes into account the complexities of the situation and the varying motivations for repeat abortions.

        I understand your argument about pre-viable fetuses, but I will disappoint you with my response. I am not a biologist. I do not know whether you are. What I do know is that many reputable experts disagree on this question from a biological standpoint. I also know that, being an expert in what I study, that introductory textbooks are almost never the place to go to settle questions of this nature. They necessarily work to present complex ideas in a simplistic manner so that the student can get an introduction to the topic at hand. Reading and working through an introductory textbook on any subject does not an expert make. It seems to me that if the matter were as simple as you have presented it that experts in the field would not continue to have legitimate disagreements.

        So, I guess your instinct has been a good guide here. I am not persuaded by your argument and neither are you by any of mine; this much was to be expected. Because of this, I fail to see the necessity of the hostility in your argument.

  3. Introductory texts are certainly not where this discussion will be sorted-out. I was merely hoping to start there, but even that failed to get traction. It appears you think this discussion has run its course, and I suppose that’s fine. It is true, of course, that people disagree on all sorts of things, and intelligent people find themselves on all sides of arguments.

    Now, with regard to “the hostility of [my] argument.”

    I’m fairly certain that I’ve read everything you’ve posted online, so I think I have a pretty good feel for your writing style and tone. In fact, what I enjoy MOST about your blog is your provocative tone. You are not a conciliatory consensus builder (at least online), and I wouldn’t follow you if you were. You instead inspire thought and engage your audience by making well-thought-out, fomenting arguments. I was aiming to match that tone, and I’ll admit, I goaded you a bit in an effort to keep you in the conversation. Perhaps it had the opposite effect.

    It sounds like we have a shared experience: people rarely change their minds, no matter what evidence they’re confronted with. Trying to change your mind wasn’t even my primary goal. I’d place it no closer to the front than fourth place, behind: having a good fight, giving others pause, and hearing the sound of my own voice, respectively.

    In conclusion, I AM disappointed. I’m disappointed with the vague retort that “if the matter were as simple as you have presented it…experts in the field would not continue to have legitimate disagreements.” But mostly I’m disappointed with your lack of conviction to fight me on this. As a result, I still don’t understand your position outside of some mostly vague talking points.

    Perhaps you have closed off any possibility of changing your mind, because the conclusion is too awful to bear. For my part, I hope beyond hope that I’m wrong about abortion. But I have found that approaching this question step-wise from the front (rather than deciding first what you believe, then backing into an argument) leads fair-minded, rational people to one conclusion: a fetus is human life.

    And nothing is more important than human life.

    1. Well, I’m glad you joined in on the discussion. It’s taken me a few days to respond because I have been quite busy, but I have not forgotten about this conversation. My tone online is certainly provocative and I should have realized you were simply matching that tone. For that misrepresentation of your argument, I apologize.

      I do not think I “have closed off any possibility of changing [my] mind,” but perhaps I have. I will have to think about this. As it stands now, though, I find your argument compelling, but not convincing.

      I agree with you that life is important (not just human life) and I do want to do what I can to protect it. And while I think women should have the right to choose whether they terminate a pregnancy or not, I wish they wouldn’t use it as a form of birth control as certainly some women do. With that said, I feel it is also part of my responsibility to protect women’s health rights and not try to dictate precisely how they use those rights, even when I would hope they would choose another alternative. In the same manner, I think it is important to protect free speech rights even when I disagree with much of what is said in this country, especially as it relates to this debate.

      Also, if you read my posts as much as you have said, you should join in the conversation more often.

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