A CORRECTIVE TO THE ABORTION DEBATE

Abortion is no longer an issue in Canada, and let’s hope, touch wood, it remains that way. This is because Canada, unlike its unfortunate neighbour to the south, is a civilised country. As is most of Europe and the Antipodes.

By a civilised country I mean one in which the lion’s share of health care is socialised, that’s done away with capital punishment, and respects women’s reproductive autonomy. Okay, okay, so definition by ostension like this is less than ideal. But how else would one define yellow, or good looking? 

Because civilised, not unlike good looking, is what Wittgenstein would call a cluster concept, we’re allowed to say that Japan is a civilised country notwithstanding it still practises capital punishment. And of course the term is indexed to where we stand in history. Ancient Greek and Roman societies are widely regarded as civilised because notwithstanding both practised slavery they enjoyed the rule of law. And besides, what was so bad about slavery if it kept the trains running on time?

America, on the other hand, and by today’s standards, clusters more to the morally primitive. This is why the Dobbs decision is so widely seen as a return to Gilead. An exaggeration perhaps, but even were it not, what’s so bad about Gilead? Neither that, nor the one about slavery, are rhetorical questions. But it’s the one about Gilead that I want to try to answer here.

Not unlike most phone solicitors, much of the abortion debate puts the accent on the wrong syllable. The metaphysical status of the foetus – is it a person or isn’t it? – might be relevant in a theocracy. But presumably America is not a theocracy. That is, let’s suppose that there’s a God, and that to God, as the Monty Python song says, every sperm is sacred. What needs to be shown is that the will of God is incumbent on His creatures. In fact even that won’t do. What needs to be shown is that the will of God is incumbent upon His creatures’ political processes.

Let me repeat the point. The problem is not that there’s no way to know whether there is a God and how He’d like to see us behave. The problem is the incumbency of this knowledge. God wants her to carry to term. She doesn’t. That the state is His agent, not hers, is the very definition of theocracy. 

What’s my problem with theocracy? Is the answer, “Nothing, provided the state is privy to God’s will!”? No it’s not. What’s wrong with theocracy is that God’s will often conflicts with mine. Or in this case hers. For the state to take sides against me is to place us in a state of war. For it to take sides against her is to do likewise.

Of course a state of war against a sizeable portion of its citizenry is precisely what any legislation announces. The state need hardly do so in the name of God’s druthers.  It does so, and rightly so, in the name of another (usually) sizeable portion of its citizenry. We’re not constantly in an active state of civil war either because a) we give uptake to the authority of the state to adjudicate our conflicting interests, or because b) a minor setback of our interests doesn’t reach the requisite threshold for rebellion. 

If I’m hearing them correctly, most of the people in the US who are protesting the Dodds decision do not give uptake to the authority of the state to outlaw abortion.  But neither, it seems, is the Gilead that the Dodds decision unleashes enough to trigger a civil war. Is this because the people most effected by Dodds are women? I suspect it is. For obvious evolutionary reasons, women are orders of magnitude less likely than men to take up arms. And legislators know that.     

Elections have consequences. Most can be reversed. Appointments to the Supreme Court cannot. Hence Trump’s victory in 2016 lead directly to the overturning of Roe v Wade. Sixty percent of Kansans recently voted to retain female reproductive autonomy. Score one for the good guys. But Texans and Floridians may not be so lucky.  

I’ve argued elsewhere that, in the absence of federal legislation on the matter, SCOTUS was right to throw the abortion question back onto state legislatures. So the fault, if fault there be, lies not with SCOTUS. It lies with the ilk of which the other forty percent of Kansans are representative. 

Are people of this ilk motivated by their loyalty to the will of God? If so, that would be astounding. I don’t believe it. There must be something else going on in their reptilian brains, something only another reptilian brain can understand. I certainly can’t. 

As already noted, I understand why women aren’t shooting these pro-Life legislators. What I don’t understand is why their menfolk aren’t. That would certainly put an end to this rush to Gilead. I can only conclude that the male Democrats of the 2020’s learned nothing from the male Jewry of the 1930’s. Counterintuitive as it may seem, women who value their reproductive autonomy might consider dumping their current invertebrate anti-Second Amendment partners and marrying a more manly Republican for protection.



Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy

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