Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Support of Abortion

As someone who openly self-identifies as unabashedly pro-abortion, viz. supportive of abortion access without any government restrictions, I am compelled to share the philosophical underpinnings of a position that many would consider extreme. To be clear, I support a policy that allows all pregnant females unfettered access to safe, medically sound abortion services: at any gestational week, with or without medical necessity, and without regard to the age of the pregnant female. I oppose all restrictions to do with obtaining consent from, or providing notification to, parents, spouses or anyone else. And, I support a policy change so federal and state tax dollars can be used to fund abortion services at any gestational week—whether the procedure is medically necessary or not—for any female whose financial position does not enable her to pay for her own abortion care.

The principal objection to a policy of unrestricted abortion access centers on the fetus’ supposed “right to life,” an alleged right that, as typically conceived, is rooted in the purported “sanctity of life” that humans possess. This objection is easy enough to dispense with: apart from government-given rights, such as those the U.S. Constitution enumerates, there is no evidence that any rights exist at all; similarly, apart from the earnest disquisitions to which pro-lifers and other religious types are prone, I find a dearth of evidence that anything is sanctified, including life (let alone life that is specifically human, thus excluding other living organisms). Lacking affirmative evidence to undergird the sanctity of life, I conclude fetuses are bereft of it, as are fruit flies and full-grown humans. That being the case, any notion predicated on the sanctity of life’s existence (e.g., the right to life) finds itself eviscerated.

Although my dismissal of so fervently held a belief as the sanctity of life might strike some as audacious, I simply lay out the unvarnished truth: this imagined sanctity, as applied to human beings, emerges at the crossroads of muddled thinking and excessive self-regard. I can conclude nothing else given the fact that, when I ask for evidence that human life has been sanctified, I am frequently presented with a laundry list of traits that humans possess but that other creatures lack (or lack to the same degree). Human life is definitely sacred, countless misguided individuals aver, because of our advanced cognitive abilities, capacity to engage in abstract thought, complex emotional relationships and ability to create, as well as appreciate, art. What no one ever elucidates is the ostensible connection between any of these characteristics and the nebulous “sanctity” its proponents strenuously strive to substantiate. How does one know these qualities imbue sanctity? What is the established, well-evidenced connection between this particular list of qualities and the sanctification of an organism’s life?

If one wishes to substantiate the sanctity of human life, it is incumbent upon the proponent to explicate how characteristic [A] connects with quality [B], the latter being the sanctification of an organism’s life. Similarly, those who aspire to characterize abortion as immoral, viz. as violative of established moral precepts, must do the hard work of establishing the existence of moral facts. After all, absent moral facts, the entire foundation of moral judgment reveals itself as illusory…as lacking any meaningful grounding. To assert abortion’s moral abhorrence seems to require specifying what aspects of abortion violate established moral facts and, further, to render undisputed the moral facts to which one is appealing. Apart from the revealed knowledge contained in supernatural belief systems’ mutually contradictory texts, affirmative evidence of moral facts is scarce, particularly when defining the term with rigor so as not to include evolution-shaped conventions of civilization driven by instincts and predispositions that enhanced our ancestors’ reproductive fitness. I solicit evidence of moral facts that meet the five criteria I consider essential: (a) transcendent, (b) immutable, (c) categorical, (d) prescriptive and (e) universally binding.

At this point, one might wish to ask if they've understood me correctly: that I reject “the right to life” and all other rights apart from those formalized by governments; that I reject the sanctity not only of fetal life but also of all life forms, including full-grown human beings; and that I reject moral facts and, thus, all attempts at objective moral judgment. Yes, this is correct—no qualifications or equivocation necessary. My worldview recognizes our universe as meaningless and purposeless; by extension, the creatures birthed from its elements are ourselves meaningless and purposeless, save for meaning and purpose we invent for ourselves (e.g., to be the greatest baseball player in the history of Tuscaloosa). All of our activities—our hopes and dreams, our accomplishments and failures…indeed, our lives and the human species collectively—are transitory, our universe careening toward cold, dark, vast oblivion.

In light of ultimate meaninglessness, all questions introduced above—those of natural rights, sanctity and morality—vanish like a desert mirage. Our only guide, apart from the formalized rights, privileges and regulations to which we implicitly agree by choosing to live in the country, state and town we do, is our subjectivity: what happens to strike us as being correct. I, as a subjective consciousness, assign some value to human beings simply because, as a fellow human being, I feel kinship with others of my species. This is no different from chimpanzees that would be more inclined to protect and care for a fellow chimp than, say, a zebra. (I seek to underscore the subjectivity of this calculus, which centers on personal feelings of kinship rooted in genetic proximity.) I, as a subjective consciousness, assign higher value, however, to “bodily sovereignty”: a term relating to the principle that one may exercise autonomous control over one’s own body and anything that is growing within one’s body.

When human life duels with bodily sovereignty in a battle of conflicting values, the result is unambiguous: I assign greater value to the latter than to the former. Other individuals might reject bodily sovereignty altogether—particularly as a notion whose value is coequal with (let alone superior to) that of human life—and their assessment has the same objective legitimacy as my own: none. In the absence of genuinely real natural rights, objective values, moral laws and sanctified organisms, one has only the ultimately arbitrary convictions that one’s subjective consciousness produces. And, although I do not privilege my convictions over those of others in the sense of approximating “truth,” it nevertheless remains that the products of my subjective consciousness dictate my personal political positions, including being pro-abortion.

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