May 14, 2007

another new thing that's just not that new

Apparently a number of people, including some Planned Parenthood volunteers, are concerned about the moral ramifications of using genetic testing to decide whether to have an abortion. Normally I would sympathize, but several are presenting this concern as being somehow in conflict with current abortion support.

People. Say it with me. My uterus belongs to me. Your uterus belongs to you. Legally, I'm not sure there should be any other relevant statement.

Yes, morally, deciding to abort a disabled (or gay or retarded or female) kid is, well, icky. And maybe, in certain cases, wrong. Abortion is morally sticky territory, being that involves the blurring of categories like 'alive' and 'not alive.' Generally, women make serious, carefully considered decisions about their personal, individual situations, which they know much much better than anyone else.

As a consequence, no law ever applies well in these situations. Outlaw abortion (or any type of abortion) and you end up with situations where someone is trying to figure out when a health exemption turns into a life exemption. Ridiculous if it weren't so awful.

For many pro-choicers, this is where it ends, and I think this focus on the legalism doesn't give a clear picture of how abortion actually happens in the real world. Worse, it obscures the other side of choice, which is the choice to have a child and have the resources to raise it. That type of choice is often less important for middle+ class (often white) feminists, and a huge deal for women of color and poor women. White feminists need to be on that shit, because it is also choice, and it is also a way in which women find their reproductive options limited and constrained by state action. And it will reduce the number of abortions: the world's lowest abortion rates are in countries (Scandinavia, the Netherlands) with easy access to abortion and contraception and a solid social safety net. Reducing abortion isn't the point, though: the point is to honor and expand people's choices.

This is the same schema that ought to be applied to genetic testing. Abortion should still be legal for any reason, but we should be working to make this a friendlier world for kids with Down syndrome or other disabilities or, hell, kids. Because outlawing some reasons to have abortion and keeping others will be a disastrous muddle; but helping people know what their options are and have more and better options? and being nicer to kids? Not problematic. People seem to have trouble understanding that not everything icky needs to be illegal. I mean really, if we're going to go that route, we might as well make canned clam sauce illegal.


Abramorous said...

La, the point we talked about that I really liked was the whole idea that the law is just not subtle enough to actually do a good job separating abortions that are morally icky from those that aren't. Yes, if women could have abortions at any time for any reason, some women would do it for morally icky reasons, but it would be really rare, and I guarantee you the law would make more mistakes than individual women will.

amelia said...

you are just as right as always.