Saturday, May 07, 2011

Ideology vs. Thought

Ron Paul discusses his position on abortion. Ron Paul believes that:

The fetus has legal rights—inheritance, a right not to be injured or aborted by unwise medical treatment, violence, or accidents. Ignoring these rights is arbitrary and places relative rights on a small, living human being. The only issue that should be debated is the moral one: whether or not a fetus has any right to life. Scientifically, there’s no debate over whether the fetus is alive and human—if not killed, it matures into an adult human being. It is that simple. So the time line of when we consider a fetus “human” is arbitrary after conception, in my mind....

If you were to ask someone like Amanda Marcotte to unpack this statement a bit, she'd probably conclude that the problem is that Ron Paul doesn't believe women are people. I see a different problem. Ron Paul is, above all else, an ideologue, and the one thing an ideologue simply cannot stand is ambiguity. Now, I think he's correct that "the time line of when we consider a fetus "human" is arbitrary." To me, that's an argument for stepping back and saying the government should stay out of this decision as much as possible. I guess I should back up a bit. I think most reasonable people would agree that, at 8 months, you've pretty much got a baby in there, and an abortion would be morally unacceptable (although on rare occasions medically necessary). And most reasonable people would look at the photo below and conclude that at 6 weeks, what you have is a lump of cells. It may technically be "human life," but it's not a person:



So yes, if you, for example, were to strike a truce by outlawing third trimester abortions with an exception for serious health issues (which would outlaw an exceedingly small number of abortions anyway), you are making an arbitrary call. That is, you're admitting that we don't really know when a fetus stops being a lump of cells and starts being a small person, so I'm not going to make that decision for anyone else.

Or let's look at it another way. I think we can all agree that protecting human life is a moral priority. But outlawing abortion isn't only protection of a human life. It's also forced childbirth. It's a violation of an individual's autonomy over their own body. Is Ron Paul really unable to see women as having autonomy over their own bodies? I posit that the problem is that Ron Paul is unable to accept that a fetus could be a human life AND part of a women's body. By God, it has to be one or the other! Just like a union has to be either an essential protection for laborers or an impediment to reform, and downloading music off the internet has to be either a moral act (because music wants to be free!) or theft from the musician. I don't object to any of these positions existing, but nobody really wants to talk about shit in politics right now. They just want to yell at each other. Which I suppose is why kids still buy Che Guevara T-shirts, and Republicans still worship Reagan. It's not about their actual positions (it's become a cliche to point out that Reagan would practically be a democrat today, and the Cuban revolution did not exactly put liberal principals into place), it's about being that young revolutionary with fiery eyes, or that stoic cowboy demanding the fall of the Berlin Wall. It's much cooler than sitting down and talking shit out, coming up with a compromise, which is what democracy is really about.

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