Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Now I get it

tmansnclar posted a comment in response to my earlier post that has really rocked my worldview:

While I support YOUR right to have an abortion, I don't want my taxes to pay for it.

Those of you watching my rss feed could watch my thinking on this issue evolve in real time as I posted and then deleted three different responses. The first one was:

This is not an unreasonable position, but it leads down a slippery slope. Should I be able to opt of paying my taxes for the military if I'm a pacifist?

But this, of course, misses the point because there is universal consensus that maintaining some kind of military is necessary. The disagreements are only over how big it should be and what it should be used for. So it's a false analogy. I then went with:

This is not an unreasonable position. I would support the elimination of taxpayer funded abortions as part of a compromise.

I struggled with this for a while because I really believe poor women should have access to abortions, but I've got this wicked libertarian streak in me, and I just couldn't come up with any principled justification for maintaining taxpayer-funded abortions except that I wanted them.

And then it hit me: there is no justification. Taxpayer-funded abortions are wrong. Absolutely, 100% wrong. If we liberals are going to argue that the right to abortion derives from the right to privacy then we'd bloody well better keep it private. But we don't. We want to put the government's gun to everyone's head and force them to support it financially. It's not so different from the Republican torture bill. We use the government's power to force people to support activities that they find morally reprehensible. So I get it. I understand now, for the first time, on a visceral level, why people vote Republican (or anti-Democrat). There's the little matter of the repeal of habeus corpus that still tilts the evilness scale in favor of the Republicans, but that is not a big comfort to me at the moment.

Gosh, can it really be that simple? If the Dems repudiated taxpayer-funded abortions would that tilt the balance back in their favor? I wonder if this is even on their radar.

To anyone I may have offended by my previous ranting about how evil the Republicans are, I apologize. I get it now. I still think the Republicans are evil, but I no longer think that voting for them is morally unjustifiable.

Shit. Now what do I do?

15 comments:

rsheridan6 said...

What makes abortion so special? There are all sorts of things that the government funds for which there is no broad consensus that they should, most of which are supported by liberals, some of which are supported by Republicans. Do you have a similar objection to national parks, sprawl-supporting highways, public schools, sports stadiums, Medicaid, AFDC, and other questionable projects?

Personally, my un-libertarian conscience is not shocked or horrified by any of these, though some should not be funded IMO.

tmansnclar said...

If I can change just one viewpoint, then my job here is done. It should be noted that while I am a registered Republican, I cannot say that I approve of all things Republican, or disapprove of all things Democrat.

Geoff said...

There is not universal consensus on the need for maintaining a military. There's not even universal consensus on the need for maintaining a State.

Geoff said...

Sorry to pick at one little bit of the post (the conclusion of which I must agree with, though for different reasons), but it's very uncommon to get universal consensus on anything, so be careful when you claim it.

Casey Kochmer said...

Interesting Post.

How about the case of rape, or medical emergency or teen pregnancy?

However, more importantly:
You are correct if the dems dropped the abortion issue all together. It would shift the balance. In Theory, In practice no.. see below.

You are also correct to those who are anti abortion, pro-abortion is a greater evil than torture.


The problem is the republicans are increasing government burden in order to keep control of everything. At this stage
with such a complicated infrastructure present. It wouldn't be enough for the dems to drop the abortion issue. The Larger Corporate-Political machine has a life of its own now
and that also has to be accounted for. So while people are screaming freedom, fighting over issues such as abortion. the bigger problem is they are not the true issue.
However, whenever something threatens the established seat of power now, those in power shake out the abortion issue or similar issues to polarize, separate and then control the voting population.


I have been pondering how to solve this for years now. My only solution literally has been: A Personal Tao.
Teach people to be fully themselves and in doing so separate them out from the corruption of the current government.
To weaken government itself by separating out its base of support. Literally use the governments(ruling parties) own policy of dividing the people by teaching the sheep they are people.

What do you think. Too idealistic?

Ron said...

What makes abortion so special? There are all sorts of things that the government funds for which there is no broad consensus that they should,

Yes, but very few of them are activities that a large number of people legitimately find morally reprehensible.

There is not universal consensus on the need for maintaining a military. There's not even universal consensus on the need for maintaining a State.

Sure. There isn't really universal consensus on anything. But it's close enough for government work.

How about the case of rape, or medical emergency or teen pregnancy?

I think there's broad agreement that abortions ought to be allowed in those cases, and perhaps even funded by the government. But if you're going to stand on principle, then if you want to be on the side of personal choice and privacy then you have to get government out of the abortion business. Let the private sector handle it. If we liberals think poor women ought to have abortions, let us pay for it.

JoeDuck said...

Nice - your personal debate lacks the usual baggage, "evil Republican" nonsense aside.

Overall I think we need to realize, as you have, that anti abortion people act from a moral point of view that needs to be respected. To respect is not necessarily to agree, though this point is lost on the majority.

Vera Bass said...

Great post.

As a woman who holds a preponderance of beliefs that are either on the right or libertarian ideologically, abortion has always been one of my most difficult issues as a voter.

I went through a very similar thought process years ago, arriving at the conclusion that government shouldn't pay for abortion. Ever. Whether it is liberals or other societal groups who choose to do so is also pretty personal, starting with family and spreading out to community.

If we really believe that government is too big and spends too much in irresponsible ways, then we have a duty to back those beliefs with actions and get back to taking care of each other in our own communities instead of turning the other cheek and leaving it to Big Brother.

Vera

rsheridan6 said...

Me:
What makes abortion so special? There are all sorts of things that the government funds for which there is no broad consensus that they should,

Ron:
Yes, but very few of them are activities that a large number of people legitimately find morally reprehensible.

How about evolution education in the public schools? A large minority, if the majority, of people in this country believe in intelligent design now, and find it horrifying that their children are taught that we are descended from monkeys in compulsory public schools - which they have to pay for even if they go to the considerable expense of home schooling or paying religious school tuitions. A similar argument could be made about sex education.

Is public funding of high school biology class evil and unjustifiable?

Ron said...

How about evolution education in the public schools?

I think you'd have to go pretty far towards the lunatic fringe before you found anyone who thought that teaching evolution is morally reprehensible, in the same moral category as murder or torture.

Furthermore, the foudational arguments for public education are not rooted in the right to privacy.

So no, I don't think that giving in on public funding for abortion leads down that particular slippery slope.

Chrystian Guy said...

I am canadian, where there are no real left or right, democrat or republican parties. In fact, we are a society of extreme-center, as one of our politicians once said.

I do not think military funding is a consensus. It might not even be a necessity, though it sure is a cautious decision!

So, in Canada, we have very poor military and very rich social politics. It is a choice, a social contract, probably dictated by our nature as a people.

On the question of abortion, I know that it is, like in the USA, a close to 50-50% split opinion, as of the death penalty and many other moral issues. But, we have decided, through our leaders, that abortion was moral and acceptable just like, for another example, same-sex unions are also ok.

Is it more moral? Does it make Canadians better that American? No. I don't agree with many of the Republican politics or decisions, but I think, in the end, it all comes down to a social choice. The choice of the leaders we put in office.

So, if abortion is not moral enough to get tax funding in the USA. It is a choice.

It is also a choice to fund the military, like it is a choice to go to war for economic reasons or ideologies.

Democracy is suppose to mean that the people chooses its leaders and endorses their decisions. Well, you got your leaders, we got ours. In the end, it is always a question of choice.

Phil said...

Very interesting. Since you seem to be in an open-minded mood, I'll ask a question.

I've always thought that to support abortion, you would have to have a huge amount of certainty that fetuses are not exhibiting human life. In fact, I'd say you would have to be certain enough to stake your life on it. (After all, how fair is it to stake someone else's "potential" life on it and not your own?)

Do you feel that science is capable of providing that perfect certainty, or do you disagree with my premise? Or perhaps the idea of "human life" needs to be further defined? (Too metaphysical?)

Ron said...

Do you feel that science is capable of providing that perfect certainty, or do you disagree with my premise?

You raise a very interesting question, one which probably deserves a post of it's own, but I won't have time for that until I get back. But the short answer is that I disagree with your premises -- all of them.

I've always thought that to support abortion

No one "supports abortion." People support the right to choose to have an abortion, which is not the same thing. No one is "for" abortion any more than they are "for" amputation. Everyone agrees that the fewer abortions (and amputations) the better. The disagreement is only over whether threatening people with prison is an effective way of achieving that goal.

you would have to have a huge amount of certainty that fetuses are not exhibiting human life

Why? There are many socially acceptable reasons to kill even fully-fledged humans: capital punishment, self-defense, war. People make cost-benefit tradeoffs involving human life all the time. Very few people really take seriously the proposition that all human life is infintely precious.

Do you feel that science is capable of providing that perfect certainty

There's a big difference between "a huge amount of certainty" and "absolute certainty." Science can never provide "absolute certainty" about anything. Only fundamentalism can do that.

Phil said...

No one "supports abortion."

Perhaps it wasn't clear without more context, but what I meant by "support abortion" would be more precisely phrased as "supports the idea that an abortion is a separate thing from a killing."

The disagreement is only over whether threatening people with prison is an effective way of achieving that goal.

That's the disagreement that gets the most attention in the media and government, but the deeper disagreement is whether such a thing is right in a given context.

There are many socially acceptable reasons to kill even fully-fledged humans: capital punishment, self-defense, war.

There are also socially acceptable reasons for such killings--society (and morality, if you think they're different) does not generally allow for the killing of innocent folk. For the purposes of this argument consider that opposing soldiers in the context of a just, defensive war commit the crime of wishing to destroy your country, though it's not technically a crime per se.

I'll grant there's a good deal of ambiguity in the case of life-threatening pregnancies, but what I really want to know your opinion on is the morality of a "convenience abortion" which is performed because someone doesn't want to deal with the consequences of their actions.

Basically I'm saying I think you can do better than the response you've given, and I look forward to a future blog post covering this topic in more depth. =D

Ron said...

"supports the idea that an abortion is a separate thing from a killing."

Actually, what is really at issue is whether or not abortion is murder, which hinges on the question of whether the fetus is a person.

There are also socially acceptable reasons for such killings--society (and morality, if you think they're different) does not generally allow for the killing of innocent folk.

That all depends on what you consider "innocent." Some societies condone, for example, the killing of rape victims in order to restore honor to the victim's family.

what I really want to know your opinion on is the morality of a "convenience abortion" which is performed because someone doesn't want to deal with the consequences of their actions.

My personal view is that to be considered a person you have to have a brain that is at least marginally functional, not just a full compliment of human DNA. This view is broadly if tacitly accepted by societies throughout the world. There is little controversy over the concept of "brain death" [1], and as a rule we do not employ heroic measures to "save" the lives of encephalitic babies.

But just because I do not consider even "convenience abortions" to be morally wrong, that does not mean that I endorse them. I don't. I think abortions are horrible. But people do all kinds of things that I consider horrible (like raise their kids to believe that they are hopeless sinners and can only be saved from eternal damnation by the Grace of God). The issue is not whether abortion is good or bad -- everyone agrees it's bad. The issue is whether we ought to be throwing people in prison for having or providing them. And the answer to that, from both a moral and a practical point of view, is a resounding no.

[1] Terry Schiavo notwithstanding -- the controversy there was over whether or not Terry actually was brain dead, not over whether the entire concept of brain death ought to be done away with.