Saturday, February 24, 2007

Abortion is morally neutral

Amanda Marcotte has written an interesting post at Pandagon:
Time to open up the Overton window some more: Abortion is a moral good

The “I’m pro-choice but I think abortion is wrong” thing crops up a lot in these discussions, and while I understand the urge to feel like a complex person that lays behind it, I seriously don’t get why people think that it helps anything to hand wring about how terrible abortion is if you’re supporting the right to have one. Suggesting that abortion is immoral just reinforces the anti-choice claims that abortion should be banned and it strongly reinforces the anti-choice notion that women who get abortions are moral children who are too stupid to know what they’re doing. The belief that women are too stupid to really understand what they’re doing is evident in anti-choice measures like requiring sonograms and requiring that women spend a day to think it over before they get an abortion.

Having the notion that women are moral midgets and that abortion is an evil, even if you think it’s one that should be tolerated, being reinforced by pro-choicers does the pro-choice argument no good. So I’d like to argue against it. I think that abortion is not only a good thing, but I’d like to posit that it seems to me that in the vast majority of abortions, the choice made was the most moral choice for that woman.

I see what Amanda is getting at, but I have a different take on it.

Abortion is a medical procedure, and as a such, is morally neutral. I think medical procedures should be avoided if possible (in this case, by using comdoms etc.), but they should be available if wanted.

When you start mixing morality into it, you buy into the anti-choice idea that this is anything else than a medical procedure, and that morality somehow comes into it at all. It doesn't.

When a woman decides to have an abortion for whatever reasons she does, then it's quite often for quite reasonable grounds. This is not morally right, as it's not morally right not to buy an expensive car, when you can't afford it, or to avoid buying a house, because you don't want to have to look after the garden. However it's certainly not morally wrong either.

In reality, few choices in life have much to do with morality, and I wish we could avoid tainting the abortion debate with such words.

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Blogger Katie said...


I agree. However, I think that Amanda is right when she says that a lot of pro-choicers are fucking wishy-washy when it comes to abortion. Because of that, and because of the purely vile rhetoric of a lot of pro-lifers, I am tempted to say, "Hell, yeah, abortion is a moral good."

I think, too, that since lots of pro-lifers are prone to see matters in black-and-white, it doesn't compute for them that anything could possibly be a moral neutral. Something is either good or bad--it can't be neutral.

I'm not sure what this means for the language that we use to describe abortion, or if it even matters, but I think trying to tell pro-lifers (and, actually, a lot of Americans), that abortion is morally neutral is a little complicated.

March 01, 2007 12:44 AM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

I think we should make clear that the right to abortion is morally good, or that the choices that leads to abortion are morally good. This I do believe.

I just thing talking about morality, when we are speaking about the actual abortion, is a strategical blunder.

March 01, 2007 8:57 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Yeah, I know what you mean,and you're right.

What I was trying to get at is that people who are pro-choice hem and haw and talk about the evils of abortion and how it's a necessary evil and that's just tiresome. It was refreshing to see someone say "Abortion is good, and I'm not going to apologize for being pro-choice."

March 01, 2007 10:08 PM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Oh, I quite agree with you there.

Many anti-choice people would probably consider me a monster, because I cannot in any way see any moral problems with free choice, not even if they lead to abortions.

Nothing new there though, in the past I've been used as an example of everything that's wrong with the "pro-abortion" side.

March 01, 2007 10:18 PM  
Blogger VikingMoose said...

"I think we should make clear that the right to abortion is morally good, or that the choices that leads to abortion are morally good. This I do believe."

totally agree. well said

January 25, 2010 9:43 PM  
Blogger PostPunkery said...

Not to burst your bubble, but "it is a medical procedure" really falls apart as an argument. By that virtue, all actions take in a medical setting (i.e. procedures) are good and permissible. Someone who is a doctor can then not act immorally. You're essentially vindicating that actions of Kermit Gosnell with this logic.

Yes, you wrote this in 2007, BUT I couldn't remain silent on such a poorly reasoned approach. You should just be honest and say that you don't consider abortion to be murder because you don't consider the fetus to be a human or deserving of full moral status etc. It being a medical procedure or not is really a red herring.

Was electroshock therapy moral to employ decades ago? How about the Tuskegee experiments, or sterilzation of immigrants? I'll bet you would take issue with those, despite the fact that they are mere medical procedures. The trappings of medicine cannot have a moral weight in themselves.

June 26, 2013 9:21 PM  

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