Feminist philosopher Laurie Shrage has posted an online version of a 35th anniversary lecture on Roe. It’s well worth checking out. One thing that’s very important about it is that she makes it very clear that one can be staunchly in favour of reproductive justice (she gives good reasons for preferring this formulation to ‘pro-choice’) without being an enormous fan of the details of the Roe V Wade decision. Her work is extremely thought-provoking, and I highly recommend it. Even if you don’t end up agreeing, you will have been given much to think about. There are many ways to vote, and be, in favour of reproductive rights. And it’s worth thinking very hard about how best to accomplish the goal.
‘Blog for Choice Day provides us with an opportunity to raise the profile of reproductive rights in the blogosphere and the media, while celebrating Roe’s 35th anniversary’, say the folks at Blog for Choice.
The film industry has recently been doing its bit with regards raising the profile of reproductive rights, with the newly released (in the UK) 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days. Reviews here and here. A horrifying tale of illegal abortion, in Ceausescu’s Romania, and its repercussions, which brings to the fore the grim and potentially brutal options that face women who are denied the right to reproductive control.
Go see it! (and try to find some pro-lifers or fence-sitters to see it with you!)
Whether or when the fetus becomes the moral equivalent of a baby is only one of the issues involved in the debate over freedom of choice, but it’s a big one. Michael Gazzaniga, in The Ethical Brain, looks carefully at the stages of fetal development to consider when and how characteristically human capacities develop. The scientific facts are enlightening. For example, a fetus looks human quite far in advance of its having a capacity for any consciousness of anything, pain included. Those pictures of those very tiny fetuses blown up in a way that disguises the fact that one of them would fit on the head of a pin? They’re also misleading about the stage at which one has anything that is more than superficially like a baby.
This is not to say that Gazzaniga’s book gets an honorable mention in feminist literature, and his views about the extent to which “neuro-logic” can issue the right decisions may strike one as misguided at some important points. Ditto for his convictions about the lack of value of thousands of years of philosophical thought. At the same time, he has the facts and he uses them to take on some of the biggest bioethical issues of our times.
The book is also a document about an important period in America’s history. One can get from it a picture of the debates that informed the commission on bioethics that Bush convened, of which Gazzaniga was a member. He leaves us with the sense he was appalled by what sort of view dominated in decisions, and rightly so. The book is disturbing in its picture of the extent to which, under the guidance of the current president, government laws and practices are driven by conservative religious values.
We have to stop this.
When I read about Blog for Choice Day, I thought “of course Feminist Philosophers must be a part of this!”. Then I read that to do this I had to answer the question “Why Vote Pro-Choice?”. And writers’ block set in, as I utterly failed to come up with a new reason. Then I saw this sculpture of Anita Garibaldi by Emilio Galloni (late 19th C), and found a new reason. If you don’t, legions of gun-toting women, mothers or not, will hunt you down. (While sitting side-saddle on a leaping horse, gun in one hand and baby in the other! Don’t mess with us.)Seriously, though, voting pro-choice is no laughing matter. We have a chance to elect a President who can begin to reverse the horrendous damage that’s been done to reproductive freedom in America. The alternative is one who will continue and heighten that damage. That is an unimaginably bleak thought. So get yourselves registered if you’re not. If you’re an ex-pat like me, go here. And don’t just vote pro-choice; tell others to do it. And, if you can, spend some time or money working for candidates who oppose forced childbearing. This election is a biggie. (Thanks to Mr Jender for his help on this.)