Leaning to the Left

Writing from a liberal persuasion

Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Tiller’

Abortion, Dr. Tiller, and a Runaway Argument

Posted by Beau Winiger on June 2, 2009

Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who performed late-term abortions, was killed this past Sunday at his church by a gunman.  This lowers the number of doctors that will perform late-term abortions to two.  Yes, only two in the entire country.  Now perhaps this is partially a result of doctors objecting to abortions of this nature, but, when you combine this with the recently reported statistic that only 13% of counties in America have access to a clinic that provides abortions, it is hard to believe that the domestic terrorism being practiced by some on the anti-choice side of the argument has nothing to do with the increasing scarcity of abortion clinics.  Doctors are performing legal procedures, and there are some, most notably Bill O’Reilly, who compare these doctors to Stalin, Hitler and al-Qaeda, and then stand back and act surprised when people gun these doctors down.

Those that would work to stop abortion through the threat or actual use of force are perpetrators of domestic terrorism, and those that encourage them in words or action are encouraging terrorism.  If you do not wish for abortion to be legal then that is your right, but please refrain from referring to those that either practice, receive, or fight for a woman’s right to her own body as murderers.  For one, murders of doctors such as George Tiller show the real consequence of words.  Were those like Bill O’Reilly directly responsible for the murder?  No.  But if you wish to claim that words and messages on TV can have no consequence then please stop arguing against violent video games, violent movies, etc., and also please be willing to make the argument that advertising, where a message is repeated over and over, does not work.  The words of a man who compared Tiller to Hitler are not directly responsible, but neither are they completely free from consequence.

Also, abortions are legal, and it is in no way agreed upon that performing an abortion is a murder.  There are many philosophical arguments that can be made concerning this (and frankly there is not enough space to run them all down here), but one that I have always respected is the argument put forth by Judith Jarvis Thomson in her classic “A Defense of Abortion”.  In this essay she argues that it doesn’t even matter if we grant that a fetus is a human (which is especially applicable in the case of late-term abortions), for even this doesn’t necessarily grant the fetus rights to the woman’s body.  I will not summarize the entire argument, but suffice to say that the crux of her argument is that even if you had sex, with the knowledge that you might get pregnant, this does not mean that a fetus therefore can use your body for the next 9 months, in the same way that no person has a right to use your body, even if that person will die without the use of your body.  And that is what the case of abortion ultimately boils down to, and what the case of Roe v. Wade ultimately hinged upon, the right to privacy.  You as a person have the right to your own body, and it is not within the scope of the government to tell you what you can or cannot do to your own body, or whatever happens to be using your body to sustain its life. 

Even many on the anti-choice side of the argument subscribe to this opinion.  The big three caveats with those that oppose abortion are cases of incest, rape, or where the woman’s health is at stake.  Why allow abortion in these cases (especially rape and incest) if the fetus is a human with the right to use the mother?  If you oppose abortion because you believe the fetus is fully human with all of the rights of a human then there is no other choice than to oppose abortion in all cases.  Otherwise you are directly (albeit unknowingly) supporting the contention by those on the pro-choice side of the argument that the fetus is not in fact fully human, or at the very least that there is perhaps a difference in the rights of the fetus vs. the mother.

Abortion is a touchy subject, and one that has very little apathetic middle ground.  You might believe one way or the other about when abortions should be performed, but you still have an opinion.  When dealing with such an emotional issue it is even more important to restrain our arguments to facts, rational arguments, as opposed to slogans and words that are meant to inflame the hearts of those on either side.  When we begin to allow emotion to guide our arguments we lose the ability to hear what the other side is saying, and in some cases we lose all desire to listen to the other side, instead resorting to violence to answer the argument.

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