Sunday, 22 March 2009

Apparently being pro-choice means being pro forced pregnancy. Yawn.

Readers may recall the ah, interesting, discussion held in the comments of this post from Deborah, whereby NZ Conservative blogger ZenTiger enlightened us all as to his views. He has now accused us of mis-representing his and continued the disagreement by in turn assuming, as follows:
I was speaking of the twins of course, and wondering if the mother was ever asked what she felt about an abortion. That was never reported. It seemed to me such a thought a mother could want a child of rape, could acknowledge that this was another innocent life caught in the horror of the situation, was the last thing the folks on the Hand Mirror (and others) wanted to entertain. Rule One - a fetus cannot be acknowledged as having any right to live. Rule Two - The wishes of the mother would not differ from their own preferences.

But maybe I misunderstood, just as Deborah and others so clearly have misunderstood me?
Yep, you have misunderstood. To be pro-choice is not to be pro-abortion when the woman doesn't want to terminate. I think the term "pro-choice" is a pretty clear indicator really. It means that someone supports the right of the pregnant one to choose whether to continue with the pregnancy or not. Being pro-choice precludes supporting enforced abortion, just as it rules out supporting enforced pregnancy.

For some women who become pregnant as a result of rape they may see the pregnancy as a continuation of their violation, and want to terminate as soon as possible. Others may see the baby that could come at the end of nine months as something positive to come out of an awful experience, and they may rejoice at the opportunity. Many will no doubt be in between, and possibly vacillate back and forth.

For me the bottom line is that that woman has the power to decide what to do with her own body. Be that carry to term and keep or adopt out the resulting progeny, or abort, I respect her right to choose, without pressure or judgement from me or anyone else.

And so the case that ZenTiger goes on to quote in his post does not create any quiet in me, except that I was completely unaware of it until reading about it in his post today:
So here's another chance to clear up any confusion. A 13 year old is pregnant by rape and abuse from her father. She doesn't want an abortion, but it may be forced upon her anyway. This time we are talking of pre-born at 20 weeks of development, not 16 weeks. The risks for a normal pregnancy at age 13 are unlikely to be much different from an older teen, with access to good medical care. At the least, it would be fair to say the risk factor must be greatly reduced compared to the risk factors the 9 year old faced. The lines are blurrier.
Putting aside the unnecessarily emotive language ("pre-born"? I roll my eyes) and the possible bias of the original report, I support the 13 year old determining the outcome. It's her body, her pregnancy, and her choice. She should be given access to the best possible medical advice, second and third opinions if she wants them, and given every opportunity to make the decision for herself. If she does decide to continue the pregnancy then I would hope that she gets the support she will need, that any new parent needs, from a village that will surround her in a positive and loving way.



Anna said...

How was that conversation with the nine year old supposed to go, exactly? 'Are you ready to be a mummy? It might kill you - but if you have an abortion, you'll burn in the eternal flames of hell.'?

Why assume that neither the child's mother, nor the health or other professionals who have dealt with her, took her thoughts or feelings into account (as the bishop who denounced the child's mother so plainly failed to do)? Besides, I've got a feeling that our conservative friends would want the child's feelings taken into account only so long as she wanted to proceed with the pregnancy.

There are some good reasons that the law considers nine year olds can't consent to sex - one of them is that they can't make decisions about reproductive health, or indeed, health more generally. My daughter is not much younger than this poor little Brazilian child, and she believes in fairies, for heaven's sake. Generalisations about mothers which put nine year olds in the same basket as fully cognisant adult women aren't overly helpful, and are actually kind of disturbing...a uterus is a uterus is a uterus, regardless of the age or circumstances of its owner.

Conservative Christians have vocally opposed the ability of under-sixteen year old girls to seek confidential sexual health advice - they think this undermines the authority of girls' parents. This nine year old's mother exercised her parental authority to allow an abortion, and has copped flak for it. Parental authority isn't the issue here at all - it's about influencing girls to continue with pregnancies whether they like it or not.

And while I'm ranting, there's plenty of non-consensual marital sex in the world, and it leads to pregnancy. Women bear, raise and love kids they didn't particularly want all the time. Zen Tiger's 'Rule one' and 'Rule two' are a glib formula for an issue he may be a bit naive about.

Deborah said...

I get very, very angry when people tell me what's in my mind, and then criticise me for it. It's an incredibly rude and patronising thing to do.

Other than that, I endorse what Anna said. And that's a very nice point you make about parental authority, Anna.

My husband and I make health decisions for our daughters, in consultation with them, to the extent that they are able to understand what is going on. Fortunately, so far all that has involved is things like going to the dentist, and getting vaccinations. But at this stage, responsibility for our daughters' health rests with us.

Anna said...

Also, the law (and ethics, I'd argue) obliges parents to look out for the welfare of our kids. I don't know see how that requirement can be reconciled with making a child go through a life-threatening pregnancy.

Lucy said...

The risks for a normal pregnancy at age 13 are unlikely to be much different from an older teen, with access to good medical care.

Someone with the facts please confirm/correct this, but aren't the risks to mother and baby uniformly greater for younger teenage mothers? Okay, having babies at thirteen doesn't kill you, but it's not great for your health. I'm also kind of curious as to why the right is all "ZOMG teenage mothers are the scourge of our nation!" in general, but "ZOMG she has the right to have babies!" when abortion is considered. It's...interesting.

In general, though, I absolutely agree with this post: being pro-choice means being for whatever *the pregnant woman* wants, not pressuring her to make a decision that suits outside parties. It usually ends up being more about abortion rights because that's the decision which is most likely to be opposed, but the opposite is equally abhorrent.

Paul said...

I would really like to hear the opinions of these Catholic commentators on the ethics of rape. It seems that none of them are baying for the excommunication of the rapist and that this hideous crime has been overlooked by those involved in the persecution of the victim, her mother and her carers.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware that this case involved a pregnant woman at all. I don't think she's an adult at all.

The chances of getting three healthy humans out the other side is very low according to the stats I've seen.

I mean, 20% chance of premature single birth for 12-19 year olds (cf 16% of a 20 year old): (normally multiple births are much, much more likely to be premature). The other stats show a similarly bad relationship - the younger the mother, the worse the outcome on a range of measures from basic health (mother and infants) to social measures like income, education and imprisonment rates.

Merely being able to get pregnant at that age suggests early puberty, which again is associated with poor outcomes (pregnancy, solo parenthood, likely to be raped are obviously no longer future problems, but early exit from education, poverty etc are).


ZenTiger said...

The accusation still stands. I have been accused of treating the life of a women as less than the life of a fetus.

So when Deborah says:

I get very, very angry when people tell me what's in my mind, and then criticise me for it. It's an incredibly rude and patronising thing to do.

I suggest that is *exactly* what you did to me.

Putting aside the unnecessarily emotive language ("pre-born"? I roll my eyes)

Why is that term emotive? It's fairly accurate. In contrast, some used the term "collection of cells" to describe a fetus at 16 weeks of development. That's not just emotive, it's plain dishonest.

And "roll my eyes"? at the end of a sentence on being emotive?

She should be given access to the best possible medical advice, second and third opinions if she wants them, and given every opportunity to make the decision for hers

Exactly the point I was making in the first case - exactly the point being ignored - people were happy to assume that abortion was the only viable option on the table.

ZenTiger said...


I'm not a great proponent for the death penalty, but child abuse of the sort we are discussing in these cases would be one of the crimes that would be a good candidate. Hope that clears up your misconceptions.

"Ethics of rape"??

The two words do not belong together.

Although it's funny you should mention it. The Planned Parenthood Organization which believes it's every women's right to have an abortion, yet doesn't see fit to report rape and instead has been caught covering them up.

Isn't that disgusting?

Paul said...

Planned Parenthood did not cover up rape. They gave advice to women who pretended to be 15-year old girls who were pregnant after consensual sex with older men. This is statutory rape but not quite the same thing as a step-father raping a 9-year old. It was a sting operation conducted by an anti-abortion group on Planned Parenthood offices. And the only media who reported it were Fox and Lifesite - not the most reliable of sources.

So, my answer is no. I do not think it disgusting for a clinic to give advice to a pregnant 15-year old.

Paul said...

And to answer my own point about the ethics of rape: there are many Catholic priests who have sexually abused children. So far as I know, none have been excommunicated.

wickedferretknits said...

@ Zen Tiger

In the case of the nine year old girl it was. As if her life wasn't shit enough; abused by someone she was supposed to have been able to trust, she now has to bear his kids as well? HOW IS THAT FAIR?

To quote Rosemary Mcleoud's point, ever seen a nine year old girl? If you have, can you sit down and look her in the eye and tell her that she's ready to bear children?

I have a little sister,who's turning thirteen. I remember her at nine, and it makes me so angry that there should be any debate about this at all. It makes me sick

Why should this girl suffer because of the actions of someone else? You might say the same of the the aborted twins, but I say that the already living take precedent, in this case at least.

Anna said...

Zen, the alternative to abortion was likely death of the child, and certain trauma and damage. Do that strike you as a good, compassionate, ethical or viable option? These zygotes could not continue to exist without inflicting severe harm, and possibly death, on the girl carrying them. A good trade off?

The suffering of a child might be morally OK with you, but as a mother of a little girl of a similar age, I find it utterly repugnant. It takes a pretty perverse morality to put the suffering of a physically broken and mentally abused child on an equal footing with the existence of two zygotes.

You're simply dressing up your pro-life beliefs as concern for the little girl in question, and it's not at all convincing.

As a Catholic, it really bothers me that some Christians (quite often Catholics) can retreat into abstract little worlds where theological niceties matter more than actual people. It's a kind of obtuse luxury.

A Nonny Moose said...

I'm not a great proponent for the death penalty, but child abuse of the sort we are discussing in these cases would be one of the crimes that would be a good candidate.

It's this hypocritical stance from conservatives that get my goat. Proponant of the innocent, but damned if that human being steps out of line. Once that happens, that human being may as well crawl back into the hole they came from.

Anti-smacking, but lock up those bastards in jail till they rot (hopefully to be butt sexed to death). Anti-bullying, but the death penalty has a place in "extenuating circumstances". Anti-abortion, but doesn't matter if it kills the mother.

Potential is what's paramount here, not learned wisdom. Once that potential is lost, that human being be damned.

A Nonny Moose said...

Oh btw, I'm not advocating the rapist in the 9 year old's case not be jailed/dealt with - but I *am* a believer in starting dealing with society's ills at early age. Sex, drugs, violence - Catch them early, educate them early.

Of course that would require resources that our social welfare systems just don't have...and the conservatives don't want to give from our tax payers dollars. Because, you know, (turn on sarcasm detector) that's just throwing money away on the useless parts of society.

(apologies for double post, hit enter before I'd fully completed the thought. Guess that's what rising incoherency does).

MandM said...

Julie you write

“I support the 13 year old determining the outcome. It's her body, her pregnancy, and her choice. She should be given access to the best possible medical advice, second and third opinions if she wants them, and given every opportunity to make the decision for herself.”

Assuming for the sake of argument the demonstrably false claim that a fetus is part of a womens body. The problem is that 13 year olds are minors and legally considered unable to make decisions “about their own body”

It seems to me you cannot have it both ways if a 13 year old has a right to decide what to do with her own body then you should support NAMBLA’s campaigns to the repeal of age of consent laws. As these laws prohibit 13 year olds choosing how they will use their reproductive organs as they choose.

On the other hand if age of consent laws are just then 13 year olds are not competent to decide to do whatever they like with their own body and hence any abortion done on a 13 year old is done without valid consent.

The feminist position which seems to say that 13 year old girls are competent agents with a right to reproductive freedom when its abortion and incompetent with no such right when its sex makes no sense. Either support NAMBLA’s cause or admit you support coercive abortions. But stop insulting peoples intelligence with your inconsistent stances.

Anna said...

I don't see any problem with Julie's position at all. Thirteen year olds aren't supposed to have sex, but sometimes they do, and they may get pregnant.

At that point, life changes a great deal, and ethical reasoning has to change with it. If a child finds herself in the 'adult' situation of pregnancy, the approach which one might have taken to the child previously - ie assuming full parental decision-making - isn't likely to be so appropriate, and insisting on the legal classifications of minor and adult doesn't help you much through a very fraught situation.

Most people offer their kids increasing say in the decisions that affect them as kids grow older, and become more able to participate in decision-making. That's part of the developmental journey towards being a grown up. Refusing a child the opportunity for ethical development that comes with participating in decisions about her own body is not very helpful to the child's development - and involving the child doesn't mean capitulating to everything she wants. To put having regard for a child's input into her own life in the same basket as paedophilia is a little bit silly.

Not many people make all decisions for their children until they turn 16, then turn them loose into the world, although this is a parent's prerogative under the law. Life's just not that black and white. Most people try to give their children more rights and responsibilities as the children's maturity allows, while retaining the right to ultimately make decisions if a child's welfare is seriously endangered.

PS I am yet to see a foetus do well for itself outside a woman's body.

Julie said...

Ok Madeleine, maybe if you tried to be a little less blatantly offensive in your choice of words that would be a good idea.

If being opposed to forced abortions, being pro-choice, considering sex without consent rape, and thinking that children (under 16 imho) are not capable of consent are four inconsistent positions to hold then I'm very happy to be labelled inconsistent.

I've already written at some length about why I think outlawing abortion is impractical and cruel. Yes the 13 yo (and the 9 yo) shouldn't have got pregnant in the first place, because they were raped and that is too many colours of wrong to count. They are now pregnant, so what do we do? Stick our heads in the sand and our fingers in our ears and go nah nah nah nah I can't hear you? Or support them to choose to control their own bodies in a way that was denied them in the process of being raped and abused?

I'd rather these girls weren't having to make these choices. But they do, and that should be respected.

Let's talk about the inconsistencies in the pro-life position - if abortion is outlawed will you also seek to outlaw gin, hot bathes and coathangers? What about medical assistance for those left badly hurt by illegal attempts to abort? Shall we put women who attempt abortion in custody until they deliver? And seeing as how she attempted murder, from the pro-life point of view, does she then serve a jail term for it? And what happens to the child while she does that? And what happens to women who succeed in their bid to terminate and are found out - the death penalty?

Finally, I actually stuffed up the title of this post, but I figure it's too late to change it now. It was supposed to be "Apparently being pro-choice means being pro forced abortion. Yawn." It doesn't seem to have caused any confusion, nonetheless I apologise.

wickedferretknits said...

@ Madeleine

If a thirteen year old CHOOSES her own abortion, after being informed of her options-like Julie said- then it isn't coercive.


And bringing NAMBLA into it? WTF does that have to do with anything?

If I could bust out the cat macros right now I would because honestly, that's all your comment deserves. IT MAKES NO SENSE.

(This, I suspect, is why I cannot ever run this sort of blog. I could never be as polite as the Hand Mirror crew)

Julie said...

Sorry for the simul-comment Anna. Thanks for the support, and to the knitter amongst us too. My original reply was significantly less polite wfk ;-)

AWicken said...

To be fair, the NAMBLA argument is logical if you view things from a very simplistic perspective:

Age of consent laws are in place because children, in general, are not competent enough to make life-changing choices (in this case regarding sex, but also financial and regarding alcohol use);
Abortion is a life-changing choice;


If a child is competent to make a choice about abortion, then age of consent legislation is based on a false premis and should be repealed.

However, talking about the competence of children does not require we use the reasoning abilities of children. Situations in this thread are a LOT more complicated than the NAMBLA point can handle (e.g. participation in the decision process vs sole decider status)

Azlemed said...

who is Nambla? if it was either of my girls in that situation I would support their choice, I would help the to find as much information as possible and to help them process it logically, unless they were 9.... if they were only 9 i would procure an abortion for them.

A Nonny Moose said...

There was recently an episode of Boston Legal (always a good show for talking points) where a judge made a good speech about the "infantalizing" of children (the cause, in this case, was a political informed 17 yo arguing for her right to vote).

If our children are the future of our world, why deny them the ability to form healthy morals and opinions from an early age? I'm not saying chuck the booze, drugs and sex at them and telling them to have at. I'm not saying we shouldn't make their childhood as happy as possible. But not allowing a child to be informed and involved in a life decision is disrespecting a human being.

If you want to argue some law, or ages of consent, is not consistent with what we really need for kids - of course they're not. But it's a GOOD thing that we recognize that law making must evolve with our society. We're a learning people, and while we find the learning and re-education of our society tough, the fight is worth it to make ourselves a better people.

I always think "What would a higher intelligence think of us if they visited earth today?"

Anonymous said...

I have never ever met an anti-choice campaigner who can argue their point reasonably. I'm not surprised at all that ZenTiger is resorting to the usual anti-choice tactics. It's how they operate.