Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why ask why?
A guest post by THE RAVING THEIST

Over at RH Reality Check, Elisabeth Garber-Paul ponders the morality of gender-based abortions. Compared to disability, Garber-Paul considers gender to be a "more superficial reason" for killing a human being. Indeed, she flat-out concludes that it is "wrong." She doesn't supply the reason she thinks it's wrong, but, as she explains, it's also wrong to ask for reasons:

We have to be absolute in defending the right to abortion, without parsing the reasons behind it—otherwise, it’s a slippery slope to restricted access. All I can do is disagree [with] this woman, and hold the personal belief that her use of an abortion to control the gender of her children is wrong. But as far as legality, her choice should be protected. No matter what.
I was under the impression at least part of the purpose of the law was to prevent us from doing wrong things, especially things that are very wrong -- like killing. Garber-Paul seems to think that we shouldn't bother with the wrongness inquiry at all, lest the slippery slope lead us to prohibiting things that are right. Unfortunately, she doesn't define "right" either, although one can assume it relates to abortion for economic or lifestyle reasons. Note that in Garber-Paul's ethical universe, one's view on abortion is a "personal belief" whereas one's view regarding the legality of abortions is a moral absolute.

Perhaps it is some sign of progress that anyone at RH Reality Check has seen fit to use the word "abortion" and "wrong" (whatever it means) in the same sentence. But even that semantic achievement provoked epistemological outrage from an RH reader. An esteemed obstetrician/gynecologist (abortionist) writes:
The biggest issue here for me is, how is it that we think we can really determine, much less judge, a woman's reason? It's impossible to get to know a woman's entire situation, as much as we try in the clinical environment. "I don't want a girl" might mean "I don't want a girl". Or, "I don't want a girl" might mean "my husband's family will have me murdered for failing the family if I do not have a boy". As a physician, I think it is *far* beyond my right, or even my capabilities, to determine what means what - no matter how much I try to get to know my patients and understand their circumstances.
I thought that the highly-trained and perceptive Planned Parenthood counselors screened out the women who were aborting under threats of death. But doctor knows best. And if I'm reading this right, the commenter is suggesting that accommodating murder threats is a better reason to abort than gender selection. Not that we can judge between reasons, of course. Or even know what they are.