Monday, July 31, 2006

Partial Credit

In discussing polls that says that a majority of South Dakotans disapprove of their no-exceptions abortion ban, but that a majority of South Dakotans would approve of a ban that only included exceptions for rape, incest, and the health or life of the mother, zuzu of Feministe has demonstrated one of my pet peeves.
Oddly enough, I have a lot more respect for people like this guy who support a total ban (with an exception for the mother’s life) than for those who would ban all abortions except in the case of rape and incest:

Gordon Geick of Sioux Falls, who is voting for the ban, said he’s had his mind made up on the issue for some time.

“Primarily, I think it’s murder,” said Geick, 75. “To start with, I don’t think there’s anything in the U.S. Constitution that gives anybody the right to kill another human being.”

Now, I happen not to agree with Mr. Geick, but at least he’s got some convictions. If you believe that abortion is murder, then you support a ban for any reason other than the mother’s life (because then it would be murder to let her — and most like the fetus as well — die). Why? Because you believe it’s murder, and murder’s wrong no matter how the fetus got there.

However, if you think that abortion allows women to escape the punishment of their loose ways, you support a ban for any reason other than rape and incest. Because if a woman was raped or a victim of incest, you can tell yourself that she didn’t have teh sex for her own sake. That she’s not someone who has to bear the consequences of her actions.
Adhering to a coherent ethical framework isn’t necessarily impressive on its own. I find it a little more compelling and ethical that a person would at least somewhere have some compassion and absorb some data from the world around them - e.g. “look at how unhappy that pregnant rape victim is” - than when they make up a set of rules and stick by them no matter what the real world is telling them. I’m willing to give partial credit to someone whose skull is thin enough to absorb the reality of human misery in that situation, even if they haven't quite worked out the inconsistencies in their philisophy. As my husband has put it, it becomes more like a game of moral chicken (see also Lou Dobbs' insistence that the Irish flag should not be flown at St. Patrick's Day parades) than a discussion about the ethics of interacting with the people we live with on this planet.

I am most definitely the kind of liberal who wears her bleeding heart on her sleeve. I go for all sorts of "mushy liberal values" but this does not mean that I am about to let anyone get off the hook for slicing off their daughter's clitoris or forcing her to bear the child of her rapist. Or any number of other revolting things people do with a greater respect to their dogma or their ethical framework than for their fellow man. If you can't explain to me why an action that causes human suffering is ethical without referring to your self-contained ethical apparatus, I'm not going to listen.

Not everyone in the world shares the same religion or belief system or culture, and that makes it hard to communicate our values to each other. All I'm asking is that people use the one thing we do share - the experience of being a human being on planet Earth - to identify with each other in the public sphere.

Or is that too simple?
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