Thursday, March 02, 2006

My, That's A Lovely Two-Edged Sword You Got There

There's been a spate of posts about rape/incest exceptions in response to the Utah and Mississippi legislatures refusal to insert such exceptions into recent anti-abortion legislation. Now, here's a problem... The pro-choice crowd is going to be hoist by their own petard by calling for such exceptions. Its easy to understand why, from a pragmatic and humanitarian standpoint, we don't want these women to be forced to carry their pregnancies to term, but in the long run its going to do us more harm than good. In arguing for such exceptions, don't we actually play into the hands of those who would like to restrict abortion? Making such arguments explicitly reinforces the notion that rape and incest victims are a special category when it comes to abortion. And why are they a special? Because their pregnancies are the result of non-consensual intercourse. But doesn't this view, in turn, legitimize the belief that a women's willing (or unwilling) participation in intercourse has bearing on the abortion question? If you ask for an exception for one group you hold them up as especially deserving, in this case on account of the fact that they're the victims of non-consensual activity. But the unavoidable flip side of this is that the non-exceptional group has been made less deserving; their claim has been devalued relative to the exceptional class. And why, pray tell, are they less deserving? In this case because their pregnancies were the result of consensual behavior. Is this any different from the argument that "if she didn't want the kid she shouldn't have had sex"? If you believe that a woman is entitled to an abortion regardless of her health, her marital status, whether the pregnancy is the result of consensual activity or not, etc., then you can't ask for exceptions based on these considerations. Any time you carve out an exception you create a group who are entitled and a group who aren't entitled. If you believe that abortion should be universally excessible then any such carving violates this postulate of universality, there's just no way around it.
1 Assuming they're making a "sanctity of life" argument, which seems to be the case.

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