The Abortion Debate: Individual Rights vs Theocracy

The abortion debate is excites such passion for a number of reasons.  One reason is that it is fundamentally a debate about the role of religion in the political sphere.  It is also a debate over whether or not a woman must give up control of her own body to the state.  Two letters to the editor from April 29th’s Boston Globe illustrate this.  (Notice the section is womb woman, and child, not womb, woman and fetus).

SINCE THE US Supreme Court has ruled to uphold a ban on what some call “partial-birth abortions,” I would like to offer up my own legislation: The Unintentional Pregnancy Prevention Act, in which all males 18 years of age and older must undergo a mandatory vasectomy. The rule would be reversible only by an order of “Intention to Procreate” signed by the woman to become impregnated.

My law exclusively targets men. All anti-abortion laws exclusively target women. My law would force men to undergo a medical procedure against their will. Women denied access to abortion could be forced to undergo the medical procedure of childbirth against their will, regardless of any risk to their own lives.

Katey P has made a brilliant suggestion.  It is every bit as genius as proposed laws to nullify marriages that do not produce children.  It also puts the abortion debate into stark relief.  Proponents are arguing we force women to give their body up to the state, “regardless of any risk to their own lives”.  The Onion’s point counterpoint on abortion has finally come to pass in the court’s ruling.

The tactical importance of Jessica Linden’s uterus to national security is twofold: First, with its rich, fertile walls, this uterus is a vital source of future Americans. Second, the uterus is situated in an extremely strategic location, leaving it vulnerable to a hostile foreign power. This uterus must be given top priority by the Pentagon. Establishing a strong U.S. military presence in Jessica Linden’s uterine region is by far the most sensible course of action.

If we must destroy the uterus in order to save it, so be it.

Tom Tomorrow has long maintained that reality is overtaking satire, but this time the supreme court of the US has taken cues from an old article in a satirical newspaper.

A Theocracy is a government that derives authority from a specific religious source.  The Rev George S has this to say:

ELLEN GOODMAN (“Trumping women’s rights,” Op-ed, April 20) accuses politicians (mostly male) of playing God. May I remind her that it was the first woman playing God in a garden and deciding for herself what was good and what was evil that got us into the moral mess that we find ourselves in today.

May I remind the Reverend that his argument holds no water in a secular nation?  Who cares if a holy book says the first woman sinned in some way?  I do not believe in that holy book, why should any other American?  There is no reason to base our laws on it, and referring to it does nothing to help his argument.  It just reinforces the idea that some mainstream religions have misogynist roots.

Digby and Amanda have some good points on the difficulty of discussing abortion.  From Digby:

Abortion, I think, has always been difficult to talk about because it had to do with sex — and therefore, in some people’s minds, sin.

This goes back to the problem with arguments based in a particular religion.  What validity do they have in a secular nation?  I believe we should be aggressive in identifying arguments which start with religious premises, and proceed to tear those apart.  Abortion debates can lead to a discussion of blame, as though having sex is a decision that merits serious consequences.  We should offer a challenge to this premise.

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12 Responses

  1. “Abortion debates can lead to a discussion of blame, as though having sex is a decision that merits serious consequences.”

    This piece overlooks the fact that having sex does indeed have a serious consequence: the creation of a separate living, moving human being. Creating such a thing is a very serious matter. If a woman doesn’t want a baby, she shouldn’t have been having sex in the first place. Religion aside, the fact of the matter is that having sex has a side effect: making babies. Instead of passing laws to have males undergo a mandatory vasectomy, how about informing (or should I say, reminding) the public about 6th-grade sex-ed–sex makes babies, therefore unless you want the RESPONSIBILITY that comes with making babies, DON’T HAVE SEX.

    We need more responsibility and accountability and less killing.

  2. Eddie,

    If a woman doesn’t want a baby, she shouldn’t have been having sex in the first place.

    What about the man? What about contraception?

    Instead of passing laws to have males undergo a mandatory vasectomy, how about informing (or should I say, reminding) the public about 6th-grade sex-ed–sex makes babies

    Why not apply this logic to laws restricting women?

    It sounds like you are advocating abstinence only sex ed. Are you? (Do you know how ineffective that is?)

  3. Why doesn’t the religious reich teach their young boys to use condoms to take an active role in all of this? Oh that’s right. It’s not about responsibility to the religious reich, it’s about controlling and condemning women! They don’t want us to have control over our lives, our bodies, or anything else.

  4. I’ve just left this comment (see below) on my own blog where you left a link to this article… I thought it might be an idea to put it here too… not sure of the etiquette – does that make me a comment spammer?

    I must say that even for those who believe in a holy book, the idea that because a woman was first to sin, all subsequent women should be subject to her same punishment is just ridiculous. Even the Bible only threatens that the sins of the fathers are visited on the children to the third and fourth generations. Why shoud the sin of the Mother be visited on all female generations ad infinitum? Modern societies have done away with the better-supported biblical principle that the firstborn son should inherit everything, on the basis that it is unfair, as well as detrimental to society. We recognise that the “first” one has not actively done anything more meritorious than his siblings just by being born, and by being born male. Similarly, the order of commission of sin is no indicator of more or less serious demerit. It doesn’t show anything other than who happend to be in a particular place at a particular time. Adam’s sin was no less grievous than Eve’s, and he even modelled for her the despicable sin of blaming and passing the buck. It has also been argued that she was the younger and less experienced partner and that he failed her by not being present to guide her at the moment of temptation, so his sin preceded hers. Alternatively, it has been argued that Eve was the more intelligent, perceptive and courageous of the two in following her instinct as the image of God to become more like God in her knowing… I treat all these arguments as questions of literary interpretation as there is absolutely no way of knowing whether they or the story itself have any basis whatever in reality, but the point is that even if your worldview is shaped by the Bible, intellectual honesty should not allow you to conclude from a very few culturally-specific verses and a few others that are wide open to interpretation that God intended for women to be second-class citizens.

  5. Ok, I don’t see the need for the animosity towards religion…or the strict division of blame or defensiveness to either sex….I’m a Christian, and as much as I may have to learn, I know that the beliefs on abortion pertaining to pro-life are in no way trying to control anyone’s bodies or minds; we all have a choice. If someone wants to sleep around, REGARDLESS of their gender (it takes two, people! We each play a part and each have a responsibility!), God isn’t going to make a move to stop them or control them. But does that make it safe or right? People may often take comfort in the mentality of “It’ll never happen to me”, but the reality is that it simply isn’t true, and that sex, great as it might be, has consequences! If people aren’t willing to deal with the consequences of their actions, there are other alternatives; adoption, being the first that comes to mind. Yes, an adopted child can have it rough, but they at least have a chance at life rather than never being given the choice! The bottom line is that, when you have sex, and a woman falls pregnant, those 2 people have created POTENTIAL for life; something that we all were at one stage. Just because it dosn’t have a heart, or a brain, or organs, doesn’t make it any less possible for being alive! And to simply get rid of such an impacting thing as life because it isn’t what one planned, is violating that possibility… We all have the right to act as we please, yes; but in the same stead, the unborn child (yes, child!) has a right to live…even if the parents are to young or ill-equipped to handle the responsiblility, the baby still has a right to live; it’s not its fault that mistakes may have been made by thinking, moral people who almost always know what their actions could lead to.

  6. Good stuff, fitness, and I hope it’s ok with you that Tia reposts her comment here. Otherwise I would have miss it.
    Both of you make astute points and they are linked in a basic fact which overrules all other aspects of any abortion debate: we are a secular society and bibical interpretations or beliefs have no place in the discussion.

  7. Nats, there is no animosity to religion here. Believe whatever and however you want. The point of the post is that we are a secular nation and religion has no place in our laws other than to protect your right to worship.

  8. Kay,
    Abstinence Only education is a huge hole in the
    far right’s agenda. They are anti sex, period.
    And yes, I think the far right’s approach is anti-woman.
    Hopefully a few John Swift laws will wake more people up.

    Tia,

    Of course not, I appreciate the comment!

    These are very interesting points. Interpreting the Bible
    to implicate women is a choice, not a mandate by any means.

    Nats,
    Mirth summed it up beautifully. There is no
    animosity towards religion. There is an argument against
    using religion like the Reverend does.
    The Rev.’s usage here chastises Ellen Goodman and then
    assumes she buys into the same belief system as the
    letter writer.

    Pregnancy does not have to be a consequence of sex.
    That is something our society chooses with absitence
    only sex ed and laws restricting choice.

    In terms of sex leading to pregnancy, that is a choice.
    With contraception and abortion available, it is a choice
    people are free to make.

    Mirth,
    Of course! She’s making very important points,
    and the more places they can be seen, the better.
    #7 You are absolutely spot on.

  9. […] 7th, 2007 I discussed a Reverend’s religiously based response to an article on abortion.  Here is what he said: […]

  10. Mirth:
    “Good stuff, fitness, and I hope it’s ok with you that Tia reposts her comment here. Otherwise I would have miss it.
    Both of you make astute points and they are linked in a basic fact which overrules all other aspects of any abortion debate: we are a secular society and bibical interpretations or beliefs have no place in the discussion.”

    The Bible says nothing about abortion. As a Christian Pro-Lifer the only place my faith comes in is where I value life. I believe all life is precious. However, my problem with abortion is because I believe that the fetus is a life. So the debate is not a biblical one, it is scientific.

  11. El Queso, for you, this is true (and makes our debates all the more enjoyable). For Rev. George, he is using an antiquated biblically based sense of the role of women to make his argument.
    Take a look at his letter to the editor, and I think you’ll find much to disagree with.

  12. I’m sure I would. But please do not believe every Biblical qoute to be interpreted correctly. There are far too many people using it incorrectly.
    So do not take one Christians translation to be the universal translation. For that you have to go directly to scripture.

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