Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/12

28

“A Gift in a Very Broken Way”

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Via Think Progress (I know, I know), here’s Rick Santorum explaining why a woman left pregnant should be compelled to give birth:

Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life. And this is not an easy choice. I understand that. As horrible as the way that that son or daughter and son was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or doesn’t, it will always be her child. And she will always know that. And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time, I’ve always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you. As you know, we have to, in lots of different aspects of our life. We have horrible things happen. I can’t think of anything more horrible. But, nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad situation.

We”?

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21 comments

  • Angie Van De Merwe · January 28, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    AMEN to the “We?” !

  • Conrad · January 28, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    All decisions about sexuality, personal relationships and reproduction should be left to the individual, period….the former Senator and never-to-be-POTUS included.

  • wm tanksley · January 28, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    “Compelled to give birth”? That’s an odd thing to say. Why not claim that the real problem is that the product of that rape would be “compelled to grow up”? The compulsion was the act of the rapist, not the act of the consequent biology.

    There are at least decent evidential arguments that abortion is not the “easy way” out of pregnancy due to rape, even that childbirth has fewer probable long-term adverse outcomes than abortion. This is what Santorum is pointing out. For all his other problems, he’s making an argument here — one that requires a better answer than a scornful “we?”.

    But let me respond to your single-word argument. YES, WE. We must admit that there are rapists in the world, and WE must admit that because they cannot help solve the consequences of their crimes even under compulsion, WE MUST. We cannot morally leave the victimized woman alone to deal with the consequences the crime has thrown on her, especially under the false pretense that SHE can choose to sweep the pregnancy under the rug by killing the fetus — and WE tell her, falsely, that this choice has no consequences to herself. But if this is the society we choose, we imply that one of her choices is to take the cost of the rape onto herself, leaving the rest of society (your “we”) with nothing to pay. This teaches that abortion after rape is the socially responsible thing to do; and surely society must come to teach that.

    What we SHOULD do — yes, “we” — is set up a safety net, so that “unwilling mothers” (women made pregnant by rape) can choose to have their children adopted, with as much interaction with them as they desire.

    -Wm

  • wm tanksley · January 28, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Conrad – to a certain extent I agree, but in the presence of rape this very important rule has BROKEN. Quoting it won’t restore it.

  • Susan · January 28, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    William, there’s nothing stopping a rape victim from giving her child up for adoption now. (And if she wanted to have that much interaction with the child, she might choose to keep the baby.) There are, in fact, adoptions in which the biological mother is very involved in the child’s upbringing. The process used to be called “Mom Times Two,” or something cute like that.

    I suppose you could make the argument that if the state requires a rape victim to carry, deliver, and keep the child engendered by the rape, then the state owes the victim child support. Other crime victims get compensation for pain and suffering. Why should rape victims be different?

  • Sean · January 29, 2012 at 12:25 am

    “There are at least decent evidential arguments that abortion is not the “easy way” out of pregnancy due to rape, even that childbirth has fewer probable long-term adverse outcomes than abortion. This is what Santorum is pointing out.”

    I presume you are referring to “Post-Abortion Syndrome.” In a systematic review of the studies on abortion and mental health, the reviewers concluded: “The best research does not support the existence of a ‘post-abortion syndrome’ similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.”

    The Pro-Life movement wants there to be a such a thing, for political reasons. But when you control for other factors, the abortion-related stuff disappears. It appears that women prone to depression will get there whether they have an abortion or not.

    Frankly, this surprises me given how ubiquitous the abortion debate is in this country, and how even its proponents qualify their support on moral grounds (cf. “safe, legal and rare”). Our culture condemns the act of abortion on moral grounds pretty consistently, so you’d think that would show up in the numbers on depression and PTSD (guilt being a major driver of both).

  • RandyB · January 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    It’s a point frequently made that if most abortions were by married women with their husbands’ full knowledge and support, this would be a non-issue. We don’t hear a lot (a little, yes) about the tragedy of abortion of sonogram-detected abnormalities. Abortion is opposed largely because it’s a tool of sexual liberation of the unmarried non-procreative-intended, which is why the same people who most adamently oppose abortion are also opposed to unconstrained contraceptive distribution.

    Unfortunately, a lot of population we’d most like to see using contraception conscientiously aren’t, like unmarried minority group members who have an epidemic unwed parenthood rate. If contraceptive distribution was observed being effective at preventing such pregnancies, it would be a lot less controversial. Our society’s generosity about softening the blow of becoming a single parent, has made it entirely too easy a choice to make.

  • Jeeves · January 29, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    If contraceptive distribution was observed being effective at preventing such pregnancies, it would be a lot less controversial. Our society’s generosity about softening the blow of becoming a single parent, has made it entirely too easy a choice to make.

    I’m trying to think of contraceptive distribution (outside of middle school, that is) that anyone other than George Stephanopolous and the Catholic Church think is “controversial”

    I’d also question whether being an unwed mother is an “easy” choice. So far as I know AFDC ended with welfare reform, so I don’t know how much “softening” of the blow of single parenthood there is. Susan suggest that there isn’t any for pregnant rape victims, so I doubt consenting women get better treatment.

  • jb · January 30, 2012 at 12:38 am

    They say that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. If Santorum were being honest, he would just come right out and say that a raped woman can’t have an abortion because God has forbidden it, and that’s that. Instead he twists and turns, trying to find a way to argue that denying an abortion is really in the woman’s best interest, that it is a “gift.” Isn’t he paying tribute to secular values here, by acknowledging that even in his target audience of conservative Republicans, many value the secular virtue of compassion more highly than the religious virtue of obedience?

  • Snippet · January 30, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Let’s say that very same unwanted fetus did in fact get born.

    Does the same contempt for those who think it deserves to live still apply?

    If not, why not?

    If so …

  • Leclerc · January 30, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    It seems this post is really begging the question.

    It assumes that a foetus is not a person, and thus killing it is not murder; a crime.

    It then goes on to attack Santorum for not allowing rape victims to abort foetuses, when the real discussion is if abortion is murder or not. Santorum is just framing the situation assuming you know that he thinks abortion is murder – nothing wrong with that.

    Rape victims should not get a free pass to murder an innocent person, and if abortion is murder, a rape victim should not be allowed to abort. Anti-abortionists who allows rape victims to abort are inconsistent and displays a flawed morale.

    A note: I do not think a foetus is a person and thus have no problem with rape victims aborting, but a bad argument is still bad even if it tries to support my position.

  • jb · January 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    @Leclerc It’s true that Santorum’s position that “abortion is murder, and even rape victims aren’t allowed to murder” is perfectly coherent. But keep in mind that for Santorum murder is wrong for exactly the same reason that abortion is wrong: not because a person is harmed, but because it is forbidden by God.

    For the religious fundamentalist there is really only a single moral law: “Thou Shalt Obey!” The fact that Santorum is trying to argue that a rape victim benefits by being denied an abortion, rather than simply demanding obedience to the will of God, shows that he understands that even a lot of religious conservatives aren’t fully with him on this.

  • Leclerc · January 30, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Well, arguably God has forbidden murder because a person is harmed. I really do not se the problem in that. Do you have a better reason? A person is harmed, so what? (I am the devils advocate here, but then again I do consider myself religious).

    I may have strange notions of what an ateist is, but you description of religion as obedience is just st…. not good!

    If all religious conservative were with him, then why say anything? Then the nomination would be a done deal. I do not like Santorum but I think you are barking up the wrong tree on this.

  • Jeeves · January 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    @jb

    The fact that Santorum is trying to argue that a rape victim benefits by being denied an abortion, rather than simply demanding obedience to the will of God, shows that he understands that even a lot of religious conservatives aren’t fully with him on this.

    This may be correct provided there are a “lot” of religious conservatives whose belief in divine commandment stops short of Santorum’s. So, logically, wouldn’t such conservatives either (a) condemn aborting rape-victims’ fetuses as common law murder, or (b) make the standard rape, life of the mother exceptions?

    Santorum’s kind of absolutism boxes him in, and to the the extent it bothers conservatives and/or independents, can’t help him. The “irony” (if you will) here is that apparently only 1% of abortions are performed on rape victims. Being in the One-Percent of anything seems to be a liability in this election year.

  • jb · January 31, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    @Leclerc

    When I was very young, maybe 5, my devout and well informed Catholic mother (there are priests in our family) explained to me that the definition of “good” was “doing what God wants”. I asked “Does that mean that if God wanted me to kill people then killing people would be good?”, and I was told “Of course, but since God doesn’t want you to kill people that means it’s bad.” People generally don’t put it quite that bluntly, but since then I’ve read any number of solemn pronouncements from a variety of authors to the effect that the “ultimate sin” is rebellion against God, which is really just another way of saying the same thing. It seems to me this way of looking at things — that there is only one commandment: “Obey” — provides a coherent unified theory of fundamentalism. It explains the OCD ritualism of Orthodox Judaism and the aggressiveness of Salafi Islam every bit as well as it explains someone like Santorum. In fact this strikes me as a useful definition of fundamentalism!

    Of course not every religious person is a fundamentalist. Many have an expectation that God’s commandments must be “good” in the usual human sense as well, and they will reject doctrines that seem too harsh. Even people who are nominally fundamentalist often aren’t fully on board. (I once has a long conversation with an evangelical Protestant co-worker who was adamant that babies who die unbaptized must burn in Hell forever, because “without Jesus there can be no salvation.” He was fully on board!). These waverers are the people Santorum is trying to reach when he talks about the “gift” of an unwanted child, and I’m encouraged that there seem to be so many of them even among conservative Christians.

  • m.d. · January 31, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    I’m with Leclerc. If you do consider a fetus to be a person then aborting a fetus is murder. Why then would it matter if the fetus were the product of rape or incest? You can’t beat a muder rap by showing the victim was the product of rape or incest.

    You could quarrel with the belief that a fetus is a person but I don’t see any objective basis to determine that question. You could just as easily quarrel with the position that a fetus is just another part of a woman’s body, like a toenail.

    Most of us would come in somewhere between those two extremes, but again there’s no objective basis to claim we’re right, either.

  • jb · January 31, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    @m.d.

    Is a brain dead person a “person”? Apparently not — even highly religious people generally don’t have a problem with pulling the plug in a situation like that. Terri Schiavo notwithstanding, a mindless human body kept alive on a respirator is rarely defended as a “human life,” even though technically it is human, and it is alive. This suggests a natural definition of “person,” i,e,:

    Person == Mind

    More precisely, since even animals have minds, the quality of mind must come into play. This leaves room for argument, but it does cover situations like little green men in spaceships who come in peace and want to be taken to our leader. It seems obvious that such creatures must be “people,” but any definition of “person” that relies on “human” leaves them out.

    By this definition neither brain dead people nor fertilized eggs can be “people,” since neither has a functional brain. And a second or third trimester fetus? Well, that’s an argument! Personally I would allow abortion right up until birth, since I don’t think you can have much of a mind without significant sensory input from the outside world. But if outlawing third trimester abortions would end the fighting I’d be happy to accept the compromise!

  • Jeeves · January 31, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    @jb

    By this definition neither brain dead people nor fertilized eggs can be “people,” since neither has a functional brain. And a second or third trimester fetus? Well, that’s an argument! Personally I would allow abortion right up until birth, since I don’t think you can have much of a mind without significant sensory input from the outside world. But if outlawing third trimester abortions would end the fighting I’d be happy to accept the compromise!

    Amen to that. Ending the fighting, I mean.

    But about the “person=mind” (or “much of a mind”) approach, where does consciousness fit in? Is neurobiology saying anything about how soon in fetal life it appears? Razib would know. Not that an earlier start date would be the tipping point, and if you’re a life-at-conception dogmatist, it wouldn’t matter anyway. I’m just suggesting that the concept of mind might be tricky to define. Plus, a brain dead Terry Schiavo type has no potential, while a fetus does. Does that make a difference?

  • jb · February 1, 2012 at 12:51 am

    Plus, a brain dead Terry Schiavo type has no potential, while a fetus does. Does that make a difference?

    I’ve heard the “potential person” argument used, but I don’t think much of it. An acorn is a “potential tree,” yet it isn’t actually a tree (i.e., you can’t climb it, or cut it down and use it to build a house).

    Even worse, if potential is something to be valued in its own right, why stop at fetuses? Most women could potentially have more children than they choose to bear. Is using birth control equivalent to abortion? And if you have a problem with birth control, then what about the woman who enters a convent, and thereby denies existence to the 15 children she potentially could have had?

    Frankly, if you are going to make a general argument that “potential X” has the same value as “actual X”, then you are going to have to revise a whole lot of thinking that has nothing to do with abortion. :-) So:

    Potential != Actual

  • wm tanksley · February 4, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    jb, you’re using the word ‘fundamentalism’ as nothing more than a bad name (unfortunately, this is how much of the press uses it); you then repurpose that bad name to mean anything you want so long as it’s still negative and useful to the discussion. The word does have a number of meanings, but /none/ of them describe the divine-command theory of ethics. Your understanding of that theory is also a bit shallow, although that’s more understandable, since you heard it only as a child and you now disagree with its basic premise. It is nonetheless a live theory, actively discussed in philosophical circles; the explanation your mother gave a 5-year-old, although not wrong, is not the same explanation those philosophers give when discussing it amongst themselves and with philosophers who disagree.

  • Bill Snedden · February 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    ” If you do consider a fetus to be a person then aborting a fetus is murder.”

    NO.

    Killing a person is not *always* murder. If a fetus is a person, then aborting that fetus MAY be murder. Murder is *unjustified* killing. Lack of consent could certainly be considered a justification for aborting the fetus and thus abortion would not necessarily be murder EVEN IF a fetus were to be considered a person. Thomson’s “violinist argument” seems especially apropos in this situation; carrying the fetus to term may be morally praiseworthy, but it’s certainly not morally obligatory.

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