Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Can Men Discuss Abortion?

"You're a man! You can't speak on abortion!"
This assertion is so laughably bad, I would prefer to ignore it. It is another example of the Ad Hominem fallacy that is commonplace in heated topics like abortion. However, I have heard a more sophisticated version of the idea, so I figure that it is time for another response.
In conversations about abortion, many have approached me and asked how exactly I am able to understand and oppose abortion, since I will never be pregnant. While it is true that I will never be pregnant, that doesn't mean that I am incapable of coming to the correct conclusion on the ethical and legal implications of the abortion issue, and that there is no good reason to oppose the practice. After all, arguments don't have reproductive organs. People do. Since having a certain set of organs does not cause someone to come to the wrong conclusion on any other issue, then this issue must be no different.

Furthermore, there are many women who oppose abortion, and will use the exact same arguments that men do. Are we going to have to assume that if a woman makes an argument against abortion(P1. It's wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. P2. Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. Therefore, abortion is wrong) then the argument is sound; but if a man makes the same exact argument, then the argument is unsound, simply because he will never become pregnant? What if a woman who cannot become pregnant made the same argument? Is it invalid, because she will never experience pregnancy?

Underlying the objection is a general belief that personal experience is what defines moral truth. I have been hearing this idea promoted more and more at my university. The concept seems to assume that unless I cannot experience a particular ethical dilemma(such as abortion), then I am not capable of reasoning on the issue. This recently was brought to my attention by an in-class discussion on the issue of abortion itself:
A student had made an observation that if men were capable of becoming pregnant, then the abortion debate would have been ended years ago. When I replied by pointing out that not being able to become pregnant does not immediately invalidate the argument that abortion is a moral wrong, the response was that since I am a male in a "patriarchal" society, then I am unable to understand the ethical issues surrounding abortion.

The first response would be: So what? Since when does being in a "patriarchal" society suddenly(almost magically) validate the intentional killing of innocent human beings? Furthermore, even if American society is radically opposed to the rights of women as human beings, why is the appropriate response to one injustice to simply add another injustice to the culture? Since sexism and gender discrimination are wrong, because they are intentionally denying a fundamental right to a human being(based on the sex organs they posess) then abortion is wrong if it denies a fundamental right to a human being(based on the differences outlined in the "SLED" acronym).

The second response would be:"Could the unborn still be human, and therefore bearing the same intrinsic dignity that you and I bear, regardless of who runs our society?" The underlying assumption behind objections of "patriarchy" is that men don't experience the same struggles as women, and are therefore unable to reason correctly about moral issues that may affect women generally more than men. Unfortunately, this is also flawed. Behaviors like discrimination or sexual harassment are wrong, regardless of who is experiencing the mistreatment. Likewise, as human beings, we are capable of reasoning on moral issues, regardless of what gender we happen to be. To conclude otherwise is to affirm that sexual prejudice is a non-issue, by only considering ideas valid if they are promoted by those of the same sex, and not based on the reasoning behind the ideas themselves.

1 comment:

  1. When you hear the "no man can speak on abortion", you can tell them that if that is true, then the Roe v Wade decision is invalid because that was made by men.


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