Abortion

(via MoveOn*)

There are alot of things which should not be political but are. Issues where the opinions of morality, justice or even physics do not weigh evenly on both sides. The reason that these issues become political is very simply illustrated in the Hydrostatic Paradox of Controversy.

Estimates of abortion rates in the ’30s (prior to Roe) are comparable to estimates of the number of legal abortions today (~800k/year). Note that is the raw rate, uncorrected for our more than doubled population. While these numbers are likely to be unreliable in both cases due to under-reporting, they provide no support for the idea that banning abortion prevents abortions from taking place. Consider also that the Netherlands boasts the lowest abortion rate in the world in spite (or arguably because) of some of the least restrictive abortion and contraception laws. C.F. the prohibition era. The only thing such restrictions can be said to reliably accomplish is to encourage unqualified practitioners, with dire consequences.

Whatever you might think about the morality of abortion itself is irrelevant to the morality of banning or restricting access to abortion. Bans and restrictions do not save embryos, they merely endanger the mother. When we consider that such initiatives seem seldom to be coupled with measures that have shown actual efficacy in reducing abortion rates (such as improving contraceptive access and comprehensive sex education), we have cause to question the sincerity of the moral motivations behind them.

Anti-abortion arguments in the vein of ‘saving the children’ do not deserve to be engaged, they deserve to be patronized and mocked. If there were some intellectually honest benefit to engaging these arguments, that benefit would surely be manifest by now. It is not. The purpose of these arguments is to set up ad hominem questions about the morality of an opponent. Their success hinges on their ability to make you under-analyze by using your emotions to hide the inefficacy and negative consequences of abortion bans. Morality and justice do not weigh evenly on both sides of the debate over legal, accessible abortion. This has been settled for decades, and treating the debate as honest does a disservice to the good name of ‘debate‘.

The use of bombs and arson and death threats is a subject often considered out of bounds; it is a low blow to mention that extremists in the inappropriately named ‘pro-life’ movement exist because they are not a legitimate part of the movement. I might consider such objections to have more weight if the friendly fire on the subject were substantial and preemptive. It has been anemic and post-hoc, even while laws are debated to publicize the names and addresses of individuals targeted for violence are debated. The fact of the matter is that this violence does exist, it exists only on one side and it exists for no purpose other than suppression. Even if there was no imbalance in the weight of the arguments on each side, terrorism in favor of one side of an argument mitigates the degree to which that argument can be considered honest.

There will always be a few who are ignorant in an honest way and deserve to be engaged, but most of what we have now is nothing more than controversy generated through sheer force of will. There is no settling this controversy through reasoned argument, the only way to push back is to protect the organizations and individuals under both metaphorical and physical attack. Stop arguing. Start fighting.

“Do you think I don’t understand what my friend, the Professor, long ago called the hydrostatic paradox of controversy?
Don’t know what it means? – Well, I will tell you. You know, that, if you had a bent tube, one arm of which was of the size of a pipe-stem, and the other big enough to hold the ocean, water would stand at the same height in one as in the other. Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way, – and the fools know it.”

-Oliver Wendell Holmes

* If anyone knows the original source for this image, I would like to also attribute it to the artist.

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