an After abortion

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Thursday, October 30, 2003

The comedienne Margaret Cho has a blog and what's more, she posts there often--long, interesting posts with a political perspective that is very different from mine.

One of my readers brought Cho's blog to my attention, because Cho has written about her own abortion while reflecting on the execution of Paul Hill.

Cho writes:

"The protesters harass women outside of clinics, acting like there is some house party happening up in there. It's not Burke Williams you idiots. We are not going in the building for a 'Day of Beauty'. No oxygen facials, seaweed detox body wrap, hand and foot fantasy. No kicking back with your homies, bobbing your head to 'Nellyville' with a strawberry daquiri in your hand and an iv in your arm, talking 'bout,'"I just killed my fetus. How you like me now! Hooo . Hey Shorty - it's NOT your birthday, it's NOT your birthday…. Hooo…'

I had an abortion, and you know what? It fucking hurts like hell. The fact that the medical community has not made early termination easier and less painful is just another example of how sexist our country is. You lie in a big room, filled with crying teenage girls, pissed off women in their '20s, someone older like me, reading a Redbook from 1994 and beating myself up at the same time because the rubber broke and I didn't even fucking like that guy in the first place and then occasionally other random thoughts like 'wow, I am going to try to bake that at home', and countless others. We are collectively suffering, because pregnancy feels like there is somebody in there. And for whatever reason, and every reason is the right reason, you can't have a tenant. So you gotta evict. Nothing personal. The doctor sticks a Cuisinart into the upper reaches of your vagina and turns it on Puree. And then you see that the tenant has checked out, leaving you hollowed out and alone, and all you have to show for it is a bloody hole and a recipe for lemon poppy upside down cake. The secret is to shave lemon rind into the batter, but not too much. It will be bitter if you aren't careful. You come out, never wanting to have sex again, feeling sick, bleeding like Theresa Saldana after she got stabbed 52 times, and the protesters have the gall to call you a murderer. Fuck you. Seriously. Fucking fuck you."

This is about the most accurate description I've ever read of life in the abortion war zone.

Apart from the description, it sounds like Cho is saying, "It's already a nightmare and the pro-life community is just making it worse."

Do you think so? An alternative explanation is that it's a nightmare, and some people try to distract themselves from that pain and trauma by turning their anger outward and finding a target in the pro-life community.

It's not surprising that Cho would have a lot of anger because she recognizes that in an abortion, a fetus is killed.

Lots of women who aborted in the 70s and 80s are angry because they feel like they were lied to by those who told them, "It's just a blob of tissue."

This is partly what has fueled the drive to mandate that abortion clinics must show pictures of embryological development or sonograms from ultrasounds to women seeking abortion. In states that do mandate this, the abortion rates fall, typically by 20-30%.

I imagine that some members of the pro-life community thought that the abortion rate would fall much, much more than that. "If women fully realized what a 7-week old fetus looks like, they would see that it is a human being, not a blob of tissue, and they wouldn't abort it."

Margaret Cho speaks to the truth of the remaining 70-80%--the women who are aware that the fetus is not a blob of tissue but who feel that it is morally acceptable to kill it, anyway.

When Cho says, "You can't have a tenant. So you gotta evict" she is capturing a key part of the thought process in abortion.

What Cho is getting at is a rationale for abortion that was made famous (to the extent that philosophy arguments can be called famous) by Judith Jarvis Thomson's A Defense of Abortion, published in 1971.

Thomson argues that even if the fetus is an innocent human being with the identical right to life of a healthy adult, it is still morally permissible to kill it. The reason it is morally permissible to kill it is because we would all agree that it is sometimes morally permissible to kill innocent adult human beings who have encroached on our territory.

Thomson's violinist argument asks you to consider a hypothetical situation. Your blood, and your blood alone, is an exact match for the blood of the world's best violinist. He has been stricken by a rare and fatal kidney disease. The only way for him to recover is to be hooked up to your body for nine months while you lay on a bed next to him in a hospital room for that period. The Society of Music Lovers captures you one night and proceeds to hook you up to the violinist so that your blood can course through his veins, restoring him to health.

Thomson argues that given this situation, most people feel that they would be morally entitled to disconnect from the violinist and walk out of the room. They feel this way even though they agree that the violinist--who is in a coma and has no idea what is going on--is both innocent and possesses the same right to life that anyone else does.

I'm not going to go over what I think the flaws are in Thomson's argument. David Oderberg does that in this book.

Thomson's violinist analogy captures approximately what it feels like to be pregnant when you didn't intend to be pregnant. So does Cho.

The pro-life community needs to grasp that abortions often occur even when the woman has some sense of the humanity of the fetus. Showing pictures of 7-week-old fetuses isn't going to change that woman's mind.

One final observation. I know pro-lifers who would be angrily resentful if they woke up in a hospital bed to discover that their body, against their will and without their permission, was being used to support another human being. They would feel entirely within their rights to rip out the wires connecting them and leave the room.

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