Commission Music

Commission Music
Bespoke Noise!!

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Blog For Choice Day

So I'm blogging for choice. As I see it, the anti-choice arguments that are stated tend to fall into a couple of camps. One is "accepting consequences for your actions" So if you accidentally cut yourself and don't wash it and it gets infected, you should be denied medical treatment because it's the consequence of your actions? Or does this just mean that unwanted pregnancy is a punishment for having sex? Babies aren't punishment! Or at least, they shouldn't be. Also, medical care is a good thing. Being able to interviene in the course to change the outcome of an earlier action is a good thing.

Another argument states that fetuses are people with certain rights. There are actually two halves of this argument, the first of which centers on the personhood of a fetus. Whether or not a fetus is human is absolutely not a question. But being a person is more of a philosophical issue. In the past, even babies weren't really people and it was ok to leave them out to die of exposure. Now, I think we're all pretty much agreed that babies are people and therefore have the rights of people. Some want to extend personhood back before birth. But how much before? In it's article on the Immaculate Conception (of Mary), the Catholic Encyclopedia states,

The term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. The question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents. Neither does it concern the passive conception absolutely and simply (conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata), which, according to the order of nature, precedes the infusion of the rational soul. The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body.

Personhood occurs with the creation of a soul. This occurs after fertilisation. In a reversal of course, Catholics have since decided that it happens at the same time as physical conception. More than 75% of conceptions do not make it to term. They imagine an afterlife full of "people" who never lived. Who never even got past a few cell divisions. This seems strange to me. Furthermore, if every conception does indeed create a person, then the rhythm method of birth control kills many, many people. It tends to result in conceptions that are either to early or too late in a cycle to survive. It's one of the most zygote-killing methods of birth control. Given that, the church can't possibly both believe, honestly, that personhood is conveyed at the moment of physical fertilization AND that the rhythm method is the only moral method of birth control.

At no point during a pregnancy is a fetus treated as a person by the church. No name. No ceremony. No recognition of death (by miscarriage). If they really thought it was a person, baptisms (necessary for admission to heaven - the unbaptised can only get to Limbo) would be given at the first positive pregnancy test. The church does not in any way act as if fetuses are people.

I'm inclined to argue that a fetus is not a person. Personhood occurs at birth. But this is moot, given the second half of the personhood argument, which is that fetuses, if they are people, have certain rights.

People who argue that fetuses have rights are not arguing that fetuses have the same rights as other (actually born) people, they want to argue that fetuses have a great deal more rights. Specifically, fetuses have the right, in this argument, to compel their mothers to provide them with use of her body and organs.

(the following argument is borrowed) Imagine that you've been kidnapped. You wake up in a strange place to find yourself hooked up to a lot of medical machinery. Lying in another bed next to yours is another person. That person is also hooked up to a bunch of equipment. Your captors explain that this other person has no liver and will die without access to a matching liver. Yours matches. Therefore, they have attached your liver to him through the medical equipment. You must remain that way until a liver donor can be found for him and he is able to survive on his own. they expect the wait to be nine months.

If the sick man is unhooked from you, he will die. Are you therefore morally obligated to provide him with use of your liver for nine months?

Some will point out that the kidnap victim had no agency in her situation and thus this differs from somebody who is accidentally pregnant. However, then the argument is no longer about the rights of persons, but rather is about accepting "responsibility" for actions and was addressed in the first argument. Legally and morally, no other person can force you to provide use of your liver. If fetuses had that right, they would have more rights than other people and their rights would drastically decrease upon birth. They would have far more rights than their mothers, who are unarguably people. Fetuses would not be people, they would be super people. This is obviously in error.

What could be the motivation that people might have in trying to confer fetuses greater rights and personhood than their mothers? One obvious answer is to seek to control sexuality. This again ties back into the "consequences for actions" argument. However, I think it's only a subset of the answer.

There are those who firmly believe that people do not "own" their own bodies. In this belief system, (some) body modifications are a moral evil. Biology should be destiny. This world-view is strongly associated with sexism. If biology is destiny and pregnant women lose rights to their person, then male superiority is implied. Furthermore, people who use their bodies to do thing like have same sex encounters are defying their biological destiny and are thus also committing a moral evil. As are transgender people, crossdressers and especially transsexuals. Thus supporting choice and the body ownership it implies is essential for queers. If pregnant women don't own their bodies, neither do we. None of us. Even straight men with very minor kinks or who have "illicit" sex are committing the "evil" of acting as if they own themselves.

Choice benefits everyone.

Finally, those who reject biology as destiny are people and should be treated as such. Rights to medical care. Rights to just try to get a damn haircut without being stared at. Etc. I'll march for choice so my pregnancy-prone sisters can safeguard their rights and mine that are implicitly threatened too. Will they stand up for me?

No comments: