As any woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy will know, deciding what to do involves a delicate balancing act. Do you make a decision based on your physical and mental health, and the impact continuing the pregnancy will have on your entire future? Or do you take into account the feelings of people you’ve never met, who don’t have to live your life, but who may feel, well, a bit icky at the thought of you having a termination? It’s a difficult situation, and one on which pregnant women aren’t really qualified to comment since they obviously have such a vested interest. Thank heavens, then, for men like Daniel Sokol, who’ve studied law and ethics and don’t have wombs to get in the way of them thinking straight.
Writing in the Guardian yesterday, Daniel summed up the problems reasonable men have faced when the stupid, irrational masses have their traditional face-off regarding abortion:
Of course, for some, the answer was crystal clear: abortion is murder most foul of a helpless human being; for others, such as Professor Sally Sheldon, who wrote for Guardian Law last month, abortion is the denial of female autonomy “in this most personal of decisions” and to hell with doctors telling women what to do with their bodies.
The morons! Don’t they realise it’s all a bit more complicated than that? (“denial of female autonomy”! I ask you!). Thankfully, Daniel has chosen to ignore random anti-abortionists and, um, women with professorships, and asked some nameless students for their views instead:
For the majority of students, however, the issue was morally opaque. They felt uneasy at the woman who sought an abortion to maintain a svelte figure for a beach holiday or who aborted out of preference for a baby boy rather than baby girl; sympathetic to the 14-year-old rape victim; and protective of the mother whose life would be put at risk by the unborn child.
Ah yes, good abortion / bad abortion, with the usual cast of characters. The imaginary woman who wants to maintain her figure (and doesn’t, say, also CLEARLY NOT WANT A BABY). The sexist bitch who doesn’t want a girl (obviously the issue here is abortion law and not tackling gender prejudice, right?). The lovely, innocent rape victim (providing, one assumes, it wasn’t date rape or one of the countless other “grey area” rapes – let’s make sure these things are proved in a court of law. And let’s not include adult rape victims, either). And the mother whose life would be put at risk by the unborn child (er, not wishing to get too technical, but isn’t that, like, ALL PREGNANT WOMEN?). Sheesh, it’s complex. Particularly for women like me and Sally Sheldon. But not for the likes of Daniel Sokol:
The Abortion Act does not, in the words of Professor Sheldon, “deny female autonomy”, it restricts it. The key question is whether the restriction is justified.
Err…. No it isn’t?
Moral pluralism is a feature of British society. Reasonable people differ on the moral status of the foetus, the scope of the right to life, and the moral weight of women’s autonomy in abortion decisions. No position on abortion will satisfy all groups.
So why not have one which at least works on the assumption that the “moral weight of women’s autonomy” should hold final sway in abortion decisions? Given that said women are the ones facing the not remotely abstract challenges of an unwanted pregnancy? Why should we be satisfying “all groups”? (And actually satisfying none).
Battered, bruised, and covered in mud slung from all directions, the resilient Abortion Act has survived nearly half a century. It is, in my view, a wise piece of legislation on a divisive and complex issue. It has, with time, achieved a satisfactory equilibrium. Any plans to nudge it in one or other direction should be approached with caution.
Jesus Christ. So now we’re not just meant to think of the fetus as the equivalent of an independent person – the Abortion Act itself has to be anthropomorphised! Where next?
Anyhow, just ignore me. I don’t know what I’m on about. Back to Daniel Sokol. He’s studied things. He’s got a dick. He’s not as bad as Pope Benedict. Ladies, do whatever he says.