I would like to tell you what I think about the abortion issue, but first I must beg the reader’s pardon for my overweening privilege-bloat. “Mea culpa”, as they say. Yes, and despite my autistic neurology, which has cumbered and reeked since my childhood like a dead walrus chained to my ankle — the oily stink of its rotting, blubbery flesh being a metaphor for whatever it is about me that some people (thankfully not all, or even most, but definitely some, and even quite a few whom I really cared about) seem to find so repellent — I am nonetheless a quite stereotypical example of a generally privileged group — a college-degreed, heterosexual white man of middle-class upbringing.
Without trying to minimize the general significance of my genetic and cultural endowments, and especially the unfavorable moral implications arising from my having selfishly hoarded all of that good luck and exploited it quite shamelessly to my own advantage and for most of my life; I wish to submit here for your consideration the idea that, when it comes to the question of legalized abortion, my own privilege-bloat — for better or worse — is all more or less irrelevant when compared to the fact that in addition to my own tainted privilege profile, I am also a former fetus and gestation survivor. As I see it (for now, at least, and until I encounter a good reason to change my mind), the simple fact of being an unaborted fetus is really the most important and relevant qualification anyone need have in order to be granted a legitimate voice in the public conversation about legalized abortion. I believe (again, for the time being) that my relatively substantial privilege endowment, and especially the fact that I’m a man, is largely beside the point.
In any case, and for whatever it may be worth, here is what I think about the abortion issue: In general, I really don’t know what to think about the abortion issue.
Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right
Am I pro-choice? Pro-life? To be as clear as concrete about it, I feel quite confused about this, actually. I think both sides of that conversation make excellent points, but to be honest, I see a lot of apparent stupidity on both sides as well. For example, I know I would feel utterly ashamed of myself if I somehow lost my mind temporarily and did something to stand in the way of, say, a rape survivor who wanted to purge herself of any and all physical traces of her trauma, especially some zygote that her rapist forced upon her. So, yes, from that perspective I am solidly pro-choice and think that at the very least some sort of right to safe abortions should be protected by law. Furthermore, whenever I hear arguments against that position, and especially when those arguments are clearly based on some kind of religious doctrine, those arguments always look quite half-baked as far as I’m concerned. I really don’t think it too harsh to describe any argument of that general form as just plain stupid.
On the other hand, given the prevalence of rape throughout history, I have to guess that pretty much every human being alive today is the descendant of surely a great many such rape-fertilized zygotes somewhere in the deep past. I think it must be quite certain that somewhere buried in your own family tree are countless great-to-the-nth-power grandmothers of yours who were raped into motherhood by countless great-to-the-nth-power grandfathers of yours. Each of us is nigh certainly the product and beneficiary of what tallies up to now as an epic monstrosity. And to the extent that is true, I find it stupidly hypocritical to simply assume without question that such a zygote has no moral right to the care and feeding it needs to survive, regardless of what its unfortunate mother might need in order to cope with the horror she endured.
All Rights Have Limits
All rights have limits. The right to free-speech is not the right to commit slander or libel, or to threaten violence against another. The right to own property is not the right to own another human being. The right to own a gun, is not the right to go around shooting it off in a crowded public space. And the right to a safe, medically standard abortion must also have its limits. For example, I think few would argue that a mother should be legally permitted to abort a near-term baby, simply because it’s still living in her body. To my view that would clearly be an atrocity. At the other extreme, I can see no rational justification to prevent a woman from aborting a newly fertilized zygote. Anybody who thinks that qualifies as a crime should feel either embarrassed about the inconsistency or utterly scandalized by the pan-cultural, globally practiced ritual of fingernail clipping.
Life does not “begin at conception”. Life on Earth began some 3.5 billion years ago, and an egg and a sperm are very much alive both before and after conception. To kill even a few hundred human cells, even if they are well on their way to growing into a human being, is (as far as I can tell) of no more moral significance than a haircut.
But in between those two clear extremes is a great deal of moral murkiness. Just where exactly should we draw the line? At one point do we blow the whistle and say “No! You’re too late, that’s a person in there, now, and ain’t nobody gonna do so much as scratch it!” And this is where I feel stuck, quite confused, utterly speechless, with nothing left to say on the matter, at least for now.