Sunday, November 14, 2004

Philosophy Sunday: Why Conservatives Should Not Ban Abortion,

Part of the most fundamental heart of the conservative moral philosophy is not the sanctity of life but instead responsibility. It is liberals with their interventionist state that declare life to be sacred, and that state management of the quality of life should be exalted. Instead a conservative fundamentally beleives in personal responsibility and taking responsibility for one's own quality of life rather than relying upon the state. To a conservative life is not sacred but responsibility and consequence are. This is why conservatives support the reasonable use of military force and the death penalty, because international conflicts will have irreconciliable differences that cannot be ignored through diplomacy and "making nice" and personal lives will have consequences that cannot be forgiven merely through saying sorry.

Let me relate to you a story, here as told by the Guardian (UK):

Boris Johnson sacked by Tories over private life

Gaby Hinsliff, chief political correspondent
Sunday November 14, 2004
The Observer

Tory MP Boris Johnson was sacked from his party's front bench last night over lurid claims about his love life.

His fate was sealed by the mother of his alleged mistress, Petronella Wyatt, who said her daughter had become pregnant by him and had an abortion last month.

Johnson, who is married with four children, had categorically dismissed the allegations only last week as an 'inverted pyramid of piffle'- and, crucially, he had assured Tory leader Michael Howard they were untrue.

Last night Howard said his colourful arts spokesman and party vice-chairman had been 'relieved of his responsibilities'. He is said to have been unable to forgive Johnson for having apparently misled both newspapers to whom he had earlier denied the allegations and Howard, who publicly backed him.

'This is nothing to do with personal morality. Last weekend when all this came up Michael stood by him and said shadow ministers can live their lives as they want, it was not a matter for him,' said one. But 'it is a matter for him when shadow ministers don't tell the truth'.

Howard offered him the chance to resign, but Johnson insisted on being fired.

The episode brings an end to an unlikely but uniquely engaging political career. Johnson, 40, who is also editor of the Spectator magazine, became one of the few modern Tories able to capture the public imagination, even provoking speculation he could be a future leader.

He had already survived the now infamous Spectator editorial accusing Liverpool of wallowing in its grief over the death of hostage Kenneth Bigley, after visiting the city to apologise.

But the saga of his alleged relationship with Spectator columnist Wyatt was the last straw. Reports first emerged last weekend that Johnson, married to barrister Marina Wheeler, had had an affair and that his mistress subsequently had an abortion.

While he denied it, when Petronella's mother Lady Wyatt was asked if the two were having an affair, she said tellingly: 'Not any more.'

Today's Mail on Sunday claims Wyatt had two abortions, the last one paid for by Johnson, and that he had offered to leave his wife. Asked about the abortion claims, Lady Wyatt reportedly said it had been 'just one'. She confirmed the relationship to the News of the World, saying her daughter had realised it was 'going nowhere'.

What are we to make of this story? It is the same reason that I believe led Moses to allow divorce and for Jesus ever the heavenly perfection(ist) to state it should not be allowed. In heaven there is no divorce. Neither according to Jesus is their marrying and giving in marriage. That neatly solves that problem.

However on earth where people are imperfect divorce is a necessary evil. Yes, we would all like to think that people should fall in love and work out their problems and stay together forever. It is what we would all like to hope for in our own lives. However while it takes two to make a relationship work, it only takes one to call it quits.

Now in practice I am against divorce, just as I am against the financial situation that makes divorce being tantamount to poverty for most women and children of divorced families, but the question isn't whether it should be available it is merely a question of making it pragmatically reasonable.

In a similar way, the death penalty is a necessary evil. It would be nice if life in imprisonment were sufficient punishment or deterrence. However in extreme cases it is not, and the prosecuting attourney may need the threat of the death penalty to get that life sentence. I understand that in many cases the death penalty is not fair or just, either in the trial phase or the penalty phase. I do understand the need, quite desperate, to reform that system so that at the very least death penalty defendants get a fair trial. I think it would be good if prosecuting attourneys knew that if they prosecuted on the death penalty that they couldn't just steamroll an exhausted overstretched public defender. I am not for dubiously putting men to death.

Additionally, I am against abortion personally. I do think that killing babies is wrong. However I am also for war when warrented even though I know that military actions or even sanctions which are nothing less than modern seige kill many children. I am also unwilling to send US soldiers to Somalia so that women may not be raped there and babies not killed in the genocide that is happening. This is the real world and we cannot fix all problems in it though we should not make them worse if we possibly can avoid it.

Is there really a moral difference between me supporting military action that I know will end in the deaths of little children, whatever the rational, and approving of abortion? In the end it is an issue of individual as opposed to social responsibility. Society has the role of ensuring that I do not have my life deprived without due process, where due process means it has not been arbitrary, unpredictable, or unwarrented. However the rule always has to be that if it is my life at stake or society's interest then the responsibility of my life has to be on my own shoulders as long as society has given me a fair shake.

In cases where persons are not ready to be responsible for themselves, we have an imperfect system that appoints those close to that person to make the decision for themselves. This is true even when there might be a conflict of interest as long as it is not extreme. This is the fundamental justification behind the concept of parental notification of abortions. Personally I think that it should be passed, because the practical reality is that most of those parents when confronted by that choice might if anything pressure their kids to have abortions when they might want to keep the baby. That has been the historical case. Conservatives should not kid themselves otherwise.

Extending this legal rationale I argue that the adult therefore who is pregnant has the same rights to terminate a pregnancy as the adult whose child has become pregnant has the right to be notified.

As a matter of fact, I have helped three women obtain abortions. All three were mothers. All three had boyfriends or husbands. In one case, the boyfriend proved incapable of handling the responsibility on his end. In the other two cases the women wanted to hide the abortion from their partners since they were already at the edge of true poverty but also realized the emotional impact that the abortion would have on their partners.

One could argue that I didn't have to help them at all. I didn't of course have any legal responsibility. I did personally think it was wrong. However there was a stark choice for these women. Abandonment by their partners and poverty or maybe both, because sometimes in the real world the guy doesn't stick around and acts like the stand-up dad. The reason why I assisted them is simply that they were employees or associates of mine, and I take a strong attitude of responsibility toward those working for me.

At any case, afterwards I ensured that each woman would have the means for a better life and eventually learned to be more responsible. One married her partner, one ended up divorcing him for infidelity, and the last improved her life without her partner. I thought their dillemmas were foolish but that is the nature of people. I thought my duty best served by helping these women obtain a new status in life that would make sure that they did not have to ever have an abortion and sufficient wisdom not to have an unreliable partner ever again.

Life is messy. Stuff happens. People let other people down. People kill each other, and sometimes it is the only reasonable solution. Sometimes people get blown to bits because the alternative is to cede control of a nation to another country that will make things for yet other people worse. It's not very morally clear or black and white. People who think they can make it that way aren't being very honest, because history has shown that ideologoues actually end up causing more harm and more unnecessary evil than realists do.

The way I show my disapproval of these things is creating conditions that in the long run lower their incidence rate while addressing the underlying concerns. However as the above drama in England shows sometimes people just fuck up. People both men and women just sometimes make bad or unwise decisions. And then you have to clean up the mess. It is cleaning up our messes and learning not in the future to make them that defines adulthood. This is why the conservative movement has always been known as the "party of grown-ups".

The problem is that this is no longer the case. Now conservatives are screwing up as much as liberals and overextending just as far. While this may be motivated by the best intentions, we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Good intentions aren't enough. One also has to be a grown up and that means cleaning up and admitting our failures.

It doesn't matter how good a rationale, and it wasn't all that good, it sounded to invade Iraq. It's a clusterfuck over there right now. And no amount of feel-good propaganda should convince people otherwise. It is not the cost of war that is most troublesome, though that is mounting, it is the lack of direction and a plan for success that is troubling. The grown-ups are not in charge.

We just have to pray that somebody in Washington pulls their head out of the sand and appoints some grown-ups because otherwise Americans will begin to discover just how bad things can really get and why taking responsibility isn't a moral virtue but a pragmatic one.


11 Comments:

At November 15, 2004 at 9:21 AM, Blogger Mickslam said...

"It doesn't matter how good a rationale, and it wasn't all that good, it sounded to invade Iraq. It's a clusterfuck over there right now. And no amount of feel-good propaganda should convince people otherwise. It is not the cost of war that is most troublesome, though that is mounting, it is the lack of direction and a plan for success that is troubling. The grown-ups are not in charge.

We just have to pray that somebody in Washington pulls their head out of the sand and appoints some grown-ups because otherwise Americans will begin to discover just how bad things can really get and why taking responsibility isn't a moral virtue but a pragmatic one."


Yep.

 
At November 15, 2004 at 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doom.
That is the future of America. Not real growth, not real economic progress, just doom.
Do we deserve it? Undoubtedly. Can we aviod it?
Surely not. For countries have arcs of history and ours is now on the downstroke. Now comes the fall of darkness, and for the children anger and humiliation at our failures.
Fear shall cause us to eat our future and burn the past.

 
At November 15, 2004 at 5:34 PM, Blogger Floss said...

I am also unwilling to send US soldiers to Somalia so that women may not be raped there and babies not killed in the genocide that is happening.You mean Sudan right?

 
At November 15, 2004 at 7:36 PM, Blogger Oldman said...

Right. Sudan. Thanks for the correction.

 
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