black or white

along with old compositions, some old blog comments resurfaced today. naturally cautious about arguing hot-button topics, i think this was an interesting discussion on nicholas’ blog. you can read the original post here:

http://www.candancealittle.com/2007/04/black-and-white-wrong-and-right.html

the discussion continued 25 comments later, ending with one if my own:

Jenni-beck said…
I have been following this exchange, and while I hesitate to jump directly into the discussion, I will comment on a few of the topics mentioned.

One exchange particularly caught my eye:
“The woman and the man are merely experiencing the consequences of their behavior, an important life lesson. Remember, over 50% of women would prefer to have the baby but have abortions due to pressure from the man or her parents.”

As a woman, (and furthermore, as a woman who is acquainted with women who have had abortions), I couldn’t disagree more with the above statements. Yes, I will concede that, in the majority of cases, the men and women who find themselves contemplating abortion are indeed experiencing the consequences of their actions. What I take issue with is the suggestion that over half those women would prefer to have the babies in question. First, where can the data be found on which that statement is based? I know Nicholas has already addressed this, and I admit that I will be using a far more emotional argument than either of you. However, I think you would be hard-pressed to validate that statistic, because it is not easily quantified. Due to the fact that the issue of abortion is tied to issues of morality, even the emotions/preferences/mindsets surrounding the act itself are not clear-cut, but similarly, lie in grey areas. The emotional questions lie in the very nature of femininity and a woman’s role…and as a result, could be spun into at least a dozen tangential discussions on those subjects. On that note, I will say that it interesting to follow the arguments of two men arguing both sides of the debate, but what is woefully lacking in this discussion is a woman’s voice. (I only wish I had more time to address the full discussion.)

Historically, reproduction (and the nurturing of offspring) has, for better or worse, been considered the primary role of a woman. Until the very recent past, women were as valued as the number of children they were able to produce. In some cultures, this remains the case to this day. This is obviously considered neither fair nor right to most contemporary women, but thousands of years of history (and a clearly embedded pattern in human nature and nature itself for that matter) cannot be undone so easily. Given that females host the offspring into life, the burden lies with us. It is for that reason that I oftentimes find it difficult to hear the matter argued by men. The issue, while delving into universal questions of morality, is a uniquely feminine dilemma. Infanticide may be committed by either a man or a woman. With abortion, however, the onus seems to fall on the woman. I digress…

Given the moral implications of abortion, a woman’s role in society, and the women’s role as reproductive enabler, how can this be an easy question for a woman? Of course, it is not, and thankfully, no one seems to be arguing that point. Yet, I question the ability to objectively define the preferences of a woman who has had an abortion. Think about it. Using Nicholas’ war example, what soldier would not state that they would have preferred not to kill? If that soldier’s primary function is to avoid killing civilians and it nonetheless occurs, where does the fault lie? Is that the soldier’s burden or is it the burden of the state that sanctions the war? Would not that soldier, in retrospect, have a tendency to shift that burden off his or her own shoulders? Without use of that clumsy example, would not a woman similarly prefer to cite pressure from significant others or family as a reason for going through with an abortion? Isn’t that only natural given what is at stake? We are only human. Can we really objectively define the appropriate female stance on the matter…especially when it becomes a question of morality and of a woman’s very natural function? I do not think so. I am not arguing the validity of abortion; I am merely stating that a woman’s feelings about abortion are going to transcend what I believe your average man can understand…with all due respect, of course. Perhaps that is why I find it absurd that we argue such things in our courts: laws that pertain to only half the population.

Anonymous said…
OK!!! my son….you have as usual created a wonderful dialogue with good thinking people….I have always been very proud of the fact that you are an intelligent thinker and I do appreciate that my values and ideas have been influential in your thinking process…after all I was the community health educator for Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma for eight years and I taught you well my son….And by the way Neil, the issue of termination and the right to choose for a woman….is similar to the Israeli/Arab situation ( if you would like to start a dialogue on that matter, I assure you it will be as everlasing as the termination right issue…..) But for now I would like for you and Neil to get into a discussion of what is Motherhood….with Mother’s day approaching….let me hear some of your ideas about what is it to have a Wanted- Loved child that you can mother for the rest of your life….. Motherhood is a priviledge that no one should take if the resposibility is not present and available, because you can never return a child for credit …please remember that……
Nicholas you are one of my shinning sons and I am a very proud mother…..I love you…(Nicholas’) Mom

Neil said…
Good questions are motherhood. I’m a father – one of the great joys of my life – and I assume motherhood is swell as well. Being a parent is arguably the most important thing we’ll do in life.Not surprisingly, I think motherhood begins before the baby’s brief journey down the birth canal. Arguments used to justify abortion at, say, 7 mos. could easily be used to justify infanticide (economic conditions, privacy, freedom). Intuition isn’t always right, but it often is. Ask an expectant mother what is inside her and she’ll typically answer, “My baby.” She is already bonding and caring for “it.””Motherhood is a priviledge that no one should take if the resposibility is not present and available, because you can never return a child for credit”Amen! You can give her up for adoption. But you can’t un-abort a child. Abortion is forever. People change their minds all the time on important life issues – especially when circumstances change. I am completely in favor of children being wanted. But I am against the notion of destroying those that aren’t currently wanted and in favor of changing hearts to want the ones that do exist.

Neil said…

Re. the historical perspective – I think it is interesting that someone like Susan B. Anthony would not have been running a PP clinic – see This is feminism?!

Jenni-beck said…

Regarding the historical perspective and the Susan B. Anthony reference, I don’t think the Susan B. Anthony quotes really address the point I was endeavoring to make. First of all, I would prefer to see the quotes in their original context. Secondly, the below quote is working on the original assumption with which I took issue:

“[Is the woman] guilty? Yes. No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; But oh! Thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!”

I noticed that the last phrase was bold. This is precisely the type of statement that prompted my initial response. “He who drove her” assumes that it was not a decision the woman in question made herself. I am not arguing that this is not ever the case, but the supposition that women make that decision under male pressure the majority of the time is, to me, impossible to determine.

I respect Susan B. Anthony’s position as a personal one. Due to the fact that this blog quotes her without including any particularly relevant arguments backing her remarks, I see her words as opinion. (An opinion to be respected, no doubt.) However, just because a feminist leader supports one idea, it does not make her words the gospel for all those who champion feminist ideals. It is a complex, pluralistic world…even within specific interest groups. I take issue with the contrary assumption on the same basis on which I take issue with so many religious groups. Prescribing whole-heartedly to a belief-system (whether religious or political) without taking the time to form one’s own opinions seems only problematic to me. Does this make the task of law-making very complicated and difficult? Of course. Yet, we would be short-sighted and superficially addressing the issue (or any issue for that matter) if we endeavored to over-simplify and classify things as black or white. Alas, my problem with our current political system. Again, I digress!

Secondly, I take issue with the last statement on that webpage:

“. . . abortion is the ultimate male chauvinism. . . . abortion rips off women as much as it rips off the unborn, and allows male chauvinists to run free. ” -Rev. John C. Rankin

John Rankin? Not sure I consider him the authority on the female perspective, but I doubt anyone would argue that point. The thing that bothers me about his remark is that it doesn’t make any sense to me. How is prohibiting the right for a woman to do with her body what she wants not a sign of male chauvinism? Are we to assume this is the case because sometimes, female fetuses are aborted? My opinion is that is a weak argument.

I also noticed the comments below the blog post.
“The ready availability of abortion also makes it easy for men to not even use birth control: 70% of women who abort were not using it at the time. I really don’t see why allowing a man to not use a condom so that he enjoys it more, then having the woman abort so that he doesn’t have to pay child support, is anything but the height of chauvanism.”

I see mention of birth-control and child-support. Interesting alternatives indeed. The thing that I never quite understand is how oftentimes these alternatives are touted as genuinely easy things to obtain. This idea works on the false assumption that everyone is educated about birth control and is able to easily obtain it. The claim was made that birth control is frequently not used in an effort to make the sexual experience more pleasurable for a man. Does this happen? Sure. Yet, is it not as frequently the case that birth control is either not available to everyone, its use not fully understood, or the need for birth control not fully understood? I am thinking of the dozens of teenagers I knew having sex in high school. (Does this mean I associated with a crowd with lax morals? I do not think so. I think there is quite a bit of premarital sex occurring in all schools, parochial or public, to which many people prefer to remain ignorant.) Do all these kids understand how to use birth control? Do they fully understand that birth control is absolutely necessary to prevent pregnancy? Absolutely not. (I distinctly remember overhearing a teenage girl talk about using the rhythm method. I ask you if your average teenager can understand that.) Furthermore, imagine a teenager whose parents do not approve of her sexual activity. Is that child going to be likely to seek advice or support in obtaining birth control from her parents? Of course not. Will she get that guidance from her school? Probably not…and she shouldn’t, according to the conservative viewpoint. Does this mean she won’t have sex? No, of course she will. So, what is the right answer?

The greater contention I have with this statement is that it suggests that men won’t want to use condoms due to the ready availability of abortions. The fallibility in this statement lies in that I would argue that most men (who don’t use condoms) don’t think about the resulting circumstances of unprotected sex at all. Most men (that don’t insist on using condoms) simply assume that the woman is using oral contraceptives…or they are simply not thinking about it. More often than not, even the responsibility of birth control lies solely with the woman.

On child-support, I find the suggestion that, by not having a baby, the woman is saving the man from having to pay child support (and that it is the ultimate chauvinism) particularly absurd. How many women having both wanted and unwanted babies have a difficult time collecting child- support? Is someone suggesting that, if a man isn’t thrilled about having a baby, he might be thrilled about paying for one? I doubt it. I can speak from my own mother’s personal experience that child-support is not always easy to obtain, even when the child is wanted. In her case, she never received a cent. (Thank goodness my brother was both loved and wanted!) So, given this set of circumstances, a woman is not only burdened with a child, but with the responsibility of potentially caring for it on her own…in the name of stifling chauvinism perhaps?

The main point that I maintain is not that I support abortion, but that I do not believe men understand very much about the female dilemma. I am not shifting the blame to men. To the contrary, it would be ideal for women who choose abortion for themselves (excepting those few who are pressured into it) to boldly (notice I don’t say proudly) take responsibility for their actions. Until they do, they form a quiet faction whose thoughts and feelings are allowed to be misinterpreted and miscommunicated. Yet, this is the root of the debate: an issue of privacy. How can a woman even fully explain that type of choice when the act itself carries such a stigma? Even cold-blooded murderers are innocent until proven guilty. Again, with all due respect, I am convinced that a man is ever going to have the full picture. Does this mean all women agree on these issues? No, and I realize that. However, I would be interested to see how a vote would turn out if women (not politicians with agendas) were left to determine these things for themselves.

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~ by ladamesansregrets on November 29, 2007.

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