I was talking about this thread with a friend of mine last night, and ey brought up a very important issue that has been implicated, but not yet explicitly discussed,1
in this thread. Abortion is a woman's rights issue because of the cultural history of sex, reproduction, and gender.
In Western culture in particular and agricultural societies in general, women have been viewed as baby-making machines, who are owned by their father or their husband, and who have a duty to reproduce and raise children. Current western culture rejects the idea that women are owned by anyone other than themselves, but current western culture still views motherhood as an extremely important duty and gift that women have. A woman is supposed to be a mother, and is supposed to be an enlightened, dedicated martyr for her children. Women are also supposed to be sexually pure, and not "dirty".2
The same expectations do not exist for men.
Western culture also has an expectation that "sex" is "supposed to be" about reproduction. In my opinion, this view is biologically absurd and culturally damaging. The sex act for many animals is quick, without a lot of fuss, and they only have "sex" when fertile. Humans, and a few other animals, have "sex" for fun. This isn't an adaptation to increase human fecundity, it is an adaptation to create social cohesion.3
Sex should be about whatever we want it to be about, and if I want it to be about social bonding with a large number of people, that's (at least) as valid as religiously conservative person wanting to have sex in order to have a baby.
Abortion is a woman's rights issue because abortion levels the playing field, and allows women to be treated as self-determining human beings, just like men, instead of just as incubators and as mothers. The discussion in this thread about when a embryo becomes a human is completely confounded by people's ideas and expectations about sex as reproductive, and women as mothers. My friend thinks that the question of when an embryo becomes human will become salient after the cultural expectations tied to women as property and baby-making machines are finally removed from our society. As I've argued in this thread before
, I think that the woman as a moral actor will always trump the society-wide view on the morality of abortion, but you don't have to agree with me to think that, everywhere in the world we have right now, abortion is a woman's rights issue.
morriswalters wrote:Not to put too fine a point on it, she put herself(along with whatever male helped her) in that position. No one else. They created the problem. The couples express and only purpose(assuming they weren't trying for a child) was to have a short period of intensely pleasurable experience. We have no obligation to make it easy for them to mitigate the host of problems that come up inevitably because of it.
Pregnancy is not an "inevitable" consequence of sex. It is just one possible consequence of some types of sex. I do think that society as a whole has an obligation to create and provide medical care that makes people's lives, and society as a whole, better. Abortion makes things better because it can reduce the number of unwanted babies, reduce the number of severely disabled babies, reduce the population growth rate, allow women to choose to have careers not interrupted by pregnancy, make the consequences of sex more equal for men and women, and a whole host of other things.
When people talk about pregnancy and babies as a consequence that should be accepted by all women who choose to have sex, they are trying to regulate woman's sexuality. Leave babies and children out of your attempt to regulate woman's sexuality. I don't want my sexuality regulated by anyone by myself, but if you must try to regulate my sexuality, please talk about regulating sexuality instead of talking about babies.
For me, abortion is a risk of sex. Because abortion takes time, money, and is a medical procedure, I try to minimize the risk that I might need an abortion. I know the risk of having a baby exists: someone could kidnap me at gunpoint, impregnate me, and force me to carry a baby to term. But I have not consented to having a baby simply by not yet having my tubes tied. For me, having a baby is not a risk of having sex: instead, having an abortion is a risk of having sex.
When anyone talks about the risks and consequences of sex in an abortion debate, that person is bringing woman's rights into the discussion, because they are arguing that woman's sexuality (which is a woman's rights issue) should be limited by the speaker's views on abortion.
1 That I could find, anyway. I read the thread straight through to page 6, but it's been brought to my attention that I've missed a few posts since then, because of how quickly the thread is moving. I'm pretty sure I've gone back and found everything, but if I missed an explicit discussion of the history of gender as it applies to abortion, please point me in that direction.
2 Women are expected to be "sexy, but not slutty", to have their sexuality be wholesome while male sexuality is allowed to be animalistic.
3 Of course, determining what a particular psychological or physiological trait is an "adaptation for" is quite problematic, especially as many traits have multiple consequences, and what a trait is being selected for changes with changing environments. But the data that argues that human sexual pleasure and sexual drives are "for" reproduction is extremely weak, and essentially consists of the cultural assumptions of the researchers. See "Sex at Dawn
" for a book-length version of this argument.