Monday, April 11, 2011

you can't defend something by constantly apologizing for it

I guess I don't have much to say about the continuing disagreement over what Planned Parenthood does than to say that this kind of weirdness is bound to happen when you keep apologizing for something you ostensibly defend. The failure in the Will Saletan/Bill Clinton line-- where you ostensibly want to keep abortion legal, but you acknowledge it as this terrible event best to be avoided-- is obvious. People don't feel compelled to defend what even supporters concede to be unfortunate. You're asking voters to thread that needle regarding a complex issue towards which many feel very emotional. It's a recipe for losing a base of support.

I know none of this is particularly novel. At the end of the day, I support abortion rights, and that means that I don't define abortion as some terrible, cruel necessity but as the valid expression of a woman's right to mastery of her own body. Asking me to do the dance where I define abortion as bad but necessary empowers the people I disagree with, removes the conversation from the practical realities of what law and policy should be, and most damningly, invites consideration of the kind of "perfect world" rationalizations that are the enemy of sober thinking about abortion in the first place. We don't live in a perfect world, and I refuse to define my politics in relationship to a theoretical one.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you don't have moral qualms about abortion. It's precisely the kind of issue I can imagine you driving yourself crazy over.

For what it's worth, "abortion is fucked up but should remain legal" isn't just something cooked up in a DLC laboratory, it's also how a lot of people genuinely feel.

Freddie said...

It's a big issue. I am trying here to separate the issue on the merits from the weird fusion of positions that many people advocate. If you'd like, I can talk a bit about why I support abortion rights, although a quick search of my archive here should also answer those questions, I think.

Anonymous said...

I understood your point, but I can see how my comment made it seem like I didn't, heh. I just disagree. I think you have the logic flipped as it applies to politics. I think acknowledging awkwardness is probably better than ignoring it, which I think causes even greater emotional/physiological tension.

Total specualtion on my part, I don't know shit about how politics actually works.

Freddie said...

Me neither. If you find out, be sure to drop me a line.

Anonymous said...

I don't really know how anything works to be honest. I'm probably too old to still be as freaked out about that as I am.

Random fact that might make you smile: I was flirting with Libertarianism before I started reading your blog and came back to my good senses. I'm embarrassed when I look back at the last 10 years of my thinking about politics and realize how often I lost the plot as it concerned just plain old morality. The Bush years really fucked me up.

Anonymous said...

* Wasn't trying to connect the Bush admin and libertarianism, just a thought thrown in at the end. Ok, I'll get my own blog now. :)

Tanuki said...

I want to second what Anonymous said:

"'abortion is fucked up but should remain legal' isn't just something cooked up in a DLC laboratory, it's also how a lot of people genuinely feel."

I'm pro-choice and have been since before my party registration said D, but when Clinton started talking that talk it was like a breath of fresh air because it reflected the way some people I knew actually felt.

On the other hand I can see how that position can be counterproductive when it comes to arguing policy. We're not in a political moment that rewards nuance; plus, the nuanced position on abortion can sound like just one more instance of Dems waffling rather than speaking up proudly for the policies they believe in.

BTW, I'm not sure why this was the issue that lured me past the lurker line, but I've been reading you ever since you resumed blogging. Your voice was something I didn't even realize I missed: it wasn't until you pointed it out that I realized how underrepresented the truly left-wing perspective is in the blogosphere. Keep up the good work.

Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

For what it's worth, "abortion is fucked up but should remain legal" isn't just something cooked up in a DLC laboratory, it's also how a lot of people genuinely feel.

Hmmm.

A lot of people also

genuinely feel

it's fine to murder whole nations if their native populace doesn't want to give up a certain natural resource.

So let's go steal some oil, kill some ragheads, rape some hadjiwomen, and eat some little camel jockey babies after roasting them alive on a spit to get their parents to yield... eh, what?

Civilized, if discussed whilst holding a bone china cup of Earl Grey with a pinky-finger hosting rigor mortis.

Very civilized.

Unfortunate, and we are truly saddened on behalf of those stressed or inconvenienced by these tactics, of course.

Of course.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, people are messed up. I don't really disagree with what you wrote because it's the kind of thing I think about as well. I'm a hypocrite and most of my opinions end up clashing.

Phil K. said...

Asking me to do the dance where I define abortion as bad but necessary empowers the people I disagree with

Banal, inconvenient reality rears its head again.

Anonymous said...

I think you're absolutely right. I, for one, do not think the issue is particularly "complicated." To me, the issue is not about "when (human) life begins" or any such "complicated" metaphysical question. The issue is about forced parenthood. It's about minimal freedom, freedom of one's own body. It's about not treating women as things, as machines, as incubators, as means to an end, rather than as ends in themselves. It's a slam dunk, no brainer.

I make no apology for my position. I believe in abortion on demand for a good reason, a bad reason or or no reason at all. I don't care about clumps of cells, or about fetuses or embryos either. I don't care when, or if, they ever become "alive" or "human" before they are born. They are in someone else's body. And that someone else should be in charge of what happens inside her own body. Period. End of discussion.

I don't care what the father thinks. I don't care what her parents think, no matter how old she is. I don't care what her "pastor," or the Pope or the Ayatollah thinks. I don't care what Antonin Scalia thinks.

I see no reason for elaborate line drawing, for "nuanced" views relating to trimesters, rape, incest, "medical" vs "psychological" or other "neccesity," and so on. I see no (valid) reason for waiting periods, mandatory sonogram viewings, "counseling," etc, etc.

And, politically, there is no way to win a battle if you surrender before it starts. If most people truly do feel the issue is "complicated," they can worry about that as it applies in their private lives. If they are the woman in question, they can decide for themselves how much, if at all, the alleged countervailing arguments should matter. If they are not women, or are not the woman in question, they can present their views to the women who is, and she can take it or leave it. There is no need to embody the alleged "complications" in law, and it is self defeating to embody them in politics. The law should be abortion on demand. The politics should be anything other than that is treating women as less than human, as not warranting the full dignity of a human being as set forth by Kant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, etc. If you are against abortion, politically (as opposed to personally), then you are fascist and a sexist. A totalitarian. A person who thinks women are less than human, and only exist to be "breeders." That's how I would present it, politically. Put the would-be moralists, and the crocodile tear criers over fetuses on the defensive. Take the battle right to them, and in a way that emphasizes, as you put it, the real world consequences of their position. Make abortion illegal? Then you are treating women like crap. That's what it all about. Not how many "human souls" can dance inside a zygote.

Abortion rights are something to be proud of, not ashamed of. In our society, what we are saying when we not only enforce abortion rights but celebrate them, is that women are, and should be treated as, full human beings. As persons in charge of their own lives, selves and bodies. As capable of determining for themselves whether they want to be parents or not. Not as incubators of the next generation. Not as baby machines. Not as invalids or idiots. As ends and not means.

davidly said...

Ditto @ Anon 8:31, which brings me to...

@Karl Franz Ochstradt:
Do you think such wars would be as popular if they were framed the way you did?

Which makes me wonder whether or not the admitting a personal distaste for the practice of abortion is, in fact, kind of like calling such wars and heinous acts of violence "humanitarian".

Still - the difference as I see it is that the human fetus is INSIDE THE WOMAN'S BODY not a foreign country to be raped, robbed, and pillaged.

If I were a woman, what would I do? How would I express my feelings about choosing to end a pregnancy? I dunno. I'm a man. I got a vasectomy.

Jeff_S said...

Doesn't the case of Europe refute the notion that we need a consistent, all-or-nothing synthesis between our moral and legal positions on abortion? I mean, Europe has widespread public funding for abortion services, good access to family planning services, sensible human sexuality education policies, far healthier and more liberal attitudes towards sex in general, and no political equivalent of America's religious right. At the same time, the legal conditions under which a woman can obtain an abortion are much more restrictive there than in the U.S. Presumably because Europeans have some significant moral qualms about the procedure. They seem to have threaded the needle just fine.

Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

It doesn't get INSIDE THE WOMAN'S BODY without some act by some nefarious and likely highly oppressive penis possessor, though... does it?

Either the dude has a wank for a specimen jar, or he persuades the Noble Uterus Bearer --against her will, most likely, as most NUBs prefer munching carpet to Oppressor Penetration-- to allow him to slide his Evil Penetrating Device into the Noble Uterus, where he hastily deposits 10-15 ml of Horrible White Goo.

The Horrible White Goo inhabits a strange existential amorph until the Noble Uterus Bearer makes Her Decision on whether she actually wanted the "baby"... or Rightly Hated The Punitive Penis in which case she screams "MISSION CONTROL: ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!" and runs to the nearest Uterine Nobility Restoration Facility.

Yes, it's clearly all about the Noble Uterus. Nary a Horrible Penis Persecutor in sight, nor in mind.

Kyle R. Cupp said...

Cards on the table: I'm anti-abortion, so take what I say with healthy skepticism. I fail to see why arguing for the legality of something unfortunate or terrible is tantamount to threading a needle. The pro-choice movement has done pretty well framing the abortion debate as a legal rather than a moral question. Essential it argues that, whatever the morality of abortion, a women should not be compelled by the government (or anyone else) to stay pregnant against her will. That position makes sense, and I don't see that it demands a whole lot of dancing. The "bad but should be legal" position seems to acknowledge that the world ain't perfect.