Friday, April 25, 2008

Are all reproductive choices really okay?

In an editorial in the Yale Daily News, Pierson College sophomore O'Hagan Blades discusses Aliza Shvarts abortion art project by writing:
Her project, surely, will become the poster child for irresponsible and disrespectful abuse of the right to abortion and a counter-example to the notion that a woman knows what is best for her own body.
The problem with this statement is it totally undermines the foundation of the pro-choice position. The pro-choice position states that women have a right to abortion because they (and not politicians, prolifers, etc.) know what is best for their own body and they therefore have the right to choose to do whatever they want with their bodies regardless of whether their actions would end the life of a developing human being.

Blades' comments here assume that some decisions to have an abortion can be irresponsible and disrespectful. But the pro-choice position doesn't really allow for claiming individual choices about reproduction are wrong. The pro-choice position affirms all reproductive choices regardless of what is being chosen. If an art student wanted to intentionally impregnant herself, carry the child for five months, have a late-term abortion and then display the remains of the child as "art," the pro-choice movement may be able to claim it's bad art but I don't see how they can claim it's a bad choice and that choice should be prohibited.

Blades continues:
I am fervently pro-choice, morally-relative, non-religious, politically liberal — and I will defend free speech with my life — but Shvarts’ project makes me want to cringe. It is not that she should have been disallowed from following through with her plans. But she seriously underestimated potential repercussions. Those who defend the right to abortion defend a woman’s ability to choose — to reason, to make decisions — yet with that right comes the expectation that her decision will be thought-out and considered somberly.
Somberly? Since when? I can't recall the movement ever claiming they were pro-somber-choice or pro-thought-out-choice. Heck, this is movement that fervently opposes 24-hour waiting periods. Plus, I'm not sure you can argue Shvarts' decision wasn't thought out. She may not have expected the national attention her project has drawn but she certainly seemed to be well aware that her project was controversial and put some thought into it.

Blades eventually gets to the reason she cringes at Shvarts' art. It isn't because Shvarts may have callously created and killed unborn children. It's because, horror of horrors, she may have hurt the pro-choice movement:
But I am not OK with the fact that in invoking abortion with the media, Shvarts has set back the pro-choice movement.....

It is “art,” she claims. Fine. Sure. I might even agree. But Shvarts cannot be so naive as to ignore the fact that millions of people do not agree and see this only as an abuse of choice. Just because she does not (as I do not) endow abortion with moral ideology, she must recognize that more than half of voters in America do. They will judge her piece. They will moralize it. And they will use it as impetus to ban abortion.
From a pro-choice perspective, I think Blades is actually right-on here. The reason pro-choicers should be upset with Shvarts isn't because she supposedly partook in a callous means of possible impregnantation and abortion, but because her actions point to gaping holes in the foundation of the pro-choice argument. A large majority of individuals (be they prolife or pro-choice) were instinctively disgusted by the idea of someone intentionally trying to impregnant themselves and then terminate their pregnancy for "art."

The question that then comes to my mind is: Which position (prolife or pro-choice) is better able to explain this instinctive disgust?

I don't think the pro-choice position can explain it at all. I don't see how the pro-choice position can pick and choose which reproductive choices to support when the foundation of the position is the idea that women should be able to make their reproductive for themselves regardless of the circumstances which surround that choice. If you want an abortion because you were raped - okay. If you want an abortion because you're in tough financial times - okay. If you want an abortion because your child has Down Syndrome - okay. If you want an abortion because you think fetal remains will make a good medium for your art projects - okay. If a woman's choice trumps all, then the desire of an art student to make a point trumps the life of her unborn child. The one caveat here seems to be that if you want an abortion and that abortion might turn people off to the pro-choice movement, that's not okay.

On the other hand, the prolife position can clearly explain the disgust because the prolife position recognizes the value of the unborn child regardless of a woman's individual reproductive choice and the circumstances that surround it.

The real reason pro-choicers should be mad a Shvarts is because Shvarts' choice shows that not all reproductive choices are okay.

(HT on the Blades' editorial to Jill Stanek)

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