The Other Reason Anti-Choicers Aren’t Interested In A *Real* Debate About Abortion

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, March 17, 2014 9:38 EDT
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1. Ban abortion

2. ????????

3. Utopian paradise with no want or fear!

In my last post about the atheist/skeptic community’s dust-up over abortion and whether the tired “when does life begin” pseudo-debate have any real value for people who actually value freewheeling, rational discourse (answer: no, beyond downright mechanized debunkings of people who value fertilized eggs over grown women), I focused on the way the fake debate is used to distract from the real debate, which is whether or not women should be treated as a second class with truncated rights to bodily autonomy. Now I want to offer a second piece of evidence that anti-choicers are arguing in bad faith, even and perhaps especially the handful of “secular” ones. (At least the religious ones can say, in good faith, that they believe their God has a role for women they think the law should force on women, First Amendment be damned. They rarely put it that way—anti-choicers are consummate liars—but it’s there.) It goes back to policy and understanding if a person talking about policy is doing so in good faith, which makes them eligible for the practice of rational discourse, or whether they’re full of shit. I will return to this post by Kristine Kruszelnicki, and in fact the same paragraph I addressed last time, since the bulk of her bullshit is centered around the bullshitty asserted-not-argued claim that a seed is the same as a plant, and this paragraph is the only one where she even hints at the larger issues regarding policy and rights.

If we all work together to come up with real choices for women — better birth control, better maternity leave, subsidized daycare, a living wage, flexible work schedules, better schooling options, more attractive open-adoption and temporary foster care options, etc. — abortion may roll itself into the world of obsolescence, regardless of its legal status.

Besides the easily debunked gender essentialism of this paragraph, you’ll notice that it this argument, on its own terms, is utterly bad faith? Kruszelnicki is arguing for a ban on abortion (though with the usual anti-choice evasion of what the criminal penalties should look like), and she pretends to soften the blow by pretending to concede a bunch of conditions that would make such a ban less painful. (She pretends, incorrectly, that abortion could be made obsolete because all ladies want babies, but I debunked that in the last post.) The problem is that you have an expansive, downright socialist safety net or a ban on abortion, but you can’t have both, something I guarantee Kruszelnicki knows. If you vote for people who can get abortion banned, you are voting against a social safety net, voting for reduced access to contraception, and voting for labor laws that will eventually leave even more workers too impoverished to feed themselves consistently, much less their children. If you vote for people who will push this country into a better economic condition, you are also voting for pro-choicers. There are a few anti-choice Democrats, but their political power within the party is minor enough that we can safely say the Democrats will never use their power to ban abortion.

This is generally true in other countries, as well, with places like France making it both easier to have a kid and easier to get an abortion (the state pays for abortion in France). For people who aren’t distracted by the shiny bad faith arguments centered around the “personhood for zygotes” question, the fact that pro-choice views align with generally liberal attitudes is not an accident of history, but a direct result of liberal attitudes about the role of the state in serving all of its citizens, in contrast with the conservative view that government is there to protect the privileged and keep the oppressed in their place.

To make it simple, Kruszelnicki was arguing that we should ban abortion on the grounds that there might be a hypothetical better society in the future, even though banning abortion would require making that hypothetical society an impossible goal.

Let’s consider other ways you construct similar arguments that are more in line with the traditional stuff atheists like to talk about:

  • We should mandate prayer in school, because it wouldn’t be such a big deal if it was coupled with the requirement that students read all the major arguments against the existence of God and conduct weekly debates on the subject.
  • Religion isn’t so bad if all believers believed in an abstract God who doesn’t answer prayers, have angels, or take a direct, individualized interest in his followers.
  • Give me all your money now, and I promise, when I win the lottery, I’ll pay you back five times over.
  • If a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass when he hopped, so let’s ban frogs from bumping their asses on the ground.

See? It’s aggravating to have someone argue for giving them what they want now because some condition you like might be met in the future, though they certainly won’t be lifting a finger to meet it and, frankly, the odds that the condition will ever be met are really low. Oh yeah, and the person making demands is working against the conditions that they floated out there to bribe you.  Her argument is a scam. It’s exactly the sort of scam skeptics work to warn people about, and shouldn’t be entertained as a legitimate argument in skeptic spaces.

If Kruszelnicki was offering this discourse about a social safety net in good faith, she wouldn’t be arguing that we should ban abortion now because some utopian future could be achieved in theory (but probably won’t be, especially in a world where abortion is banned). If she really thought that a strong social safety net was the way to eliminate abortion, she wouldn’t by trying to convince anyone to ban abortion. She would be trying to convince anti-choicers—the vast majority of whom oppose a strong social safety net—to embrace a strong social safety net. She would argue that we should make every liberal concession, dramatically reduce income inequality, make motherhood a safe and fiscally responsible choice for everyone, and, in a hundred years or so, see if her prediction—that abortion is obsolete—becomes real. (It wouldn’t be, for reasons I outlined before, but since she thinks it would be, let’s try that experiment.) Then we can revisit the question of banning it. That’s how conditions work. They have to be met first. But since she’s putting the cart before the horse in her own argument, her argument isn’t a rational one, and has no place in spaces that purport to examine rational arguments.

And all this is not even talking about how anti-choicers like Kruszelnicki ignore the fact that banning abortion doesn’t really do anything to stop it. It just makes it more miserable an experience for women seeking one.

The sad part is that kicking Kruszelnicki’s argument around a bit probably won’t do much to convince most of the people who are pitching a fit and think “but I see a baby in there while you see an embryo!” is a fascinating and not even remotely tired “philosophical” debate. That’s because, as stated before, this is really about gender roles and unsurprisingly, atheists who benefit from adhering to traditional gender roles that value men over women are going to find arguments, no matter how sloppy, that reinforce women’s second class status to be appealing.

Frankly, the more traditional, conservative argument against abortion—no, they’re not going to lift a finger to help you with your unwanted baby and you should have thought about that before fucking, you stupid slut who deserves to suffer—at least has the refreshing scent of honesty to it.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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