Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Dropping the A-Bomb

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  • Lilith __, in reply to B Jones,

    People who emphasise the implantation mechanism tend to be of the sort who think that preventing fertilisation is morally different in an important way to preventing implantation, ie, prolifers.

    Exactly my point.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    In case anyone wants to read Mr Uffindell’s calculated piece…
    An Open Letter, the one where I upset everybody

    I greatly prefer his satirical work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Lilith __,

    Then I've misunderstood you. The mechanism of action is explained more fully here: Emergency Contraception

    When late pregnancies endanger the life of the mother, babies are often induced as early as it's considered safe, then cared for in a neonatal ward. Late term abortions are more often about discovering an incurable condition that's incompatible with life for the baby - things that are only detectable after 20 weeks. Or they're about women who have been unable to access earlier medical care.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Actually, the more I read the footnotes, the less clear I am about the mechanism of the morning after pill.

    But on either side of the implantation line, an embryo is a small cluster of cells, a long way from being a person.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I greatly prefer his satirical work.

    Oof. Yeah, I reckon he's going to want to take that one back.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Great discussion. Don't really have time to engage at the moment. But I tried to explain my attitude at an ethics conference a couple of years ago in a session run by some people from Victoria where you can now legally have pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and choose a female embryo if you are worried about autism because females are statistically less likely than males to have autism (which is another story). Is the consequence of that attitude routine termination for minor impairments such as cleft palate?

    So, I'm 100% pro-choice for women unless the foetus has an impairment, when it gets more complicated, because at that point the foetus needs a little advocacy.

    On the other hand I'm fascinated - and heartened - by the time,expertise and resources put into keeping tiny prem babies alive. Having a teeny fragile member of the whanau, born before 24 weeks gestation, in NICU - as we do at the moment - can change your perspective on these things.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    But if you're going to be an advocate for a specific impaired foetus I think you enter a really tricky area. No matter how laudable a goal a more diverse society is, you're still interfering with the choice of an individual woman. Wouldn't it be better to deal with this issue - like the others Emma discusses - before the focus is narrowed down to one woman and one foetus?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Danielle,

    I guess it is about how people make decisions. So it is not about one foetus and one woman - it is about the how society, and various members of it, forms opinions about what is valued. And comes down again to society not valuing disabled people. That society could be personified in someone like Michael Laws saying, as happened earlier this year, that parents of children with Downs are as flawed as their children (for not aborting them).

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    That society could be personified in someone like Michael Laws saying, as happened earlier this year, that parents of children with Downs are as flawed as their children (for not aborting them).

    This sounds like a variation on Whatever Mums Do Is Wrong.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    All I know is that since I became involved in disability advocacy, research and ethics, everything has become much more complicated.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    So it is not about one foetus and one woman – it is about the how society, and various members of it, forms opinions about what is valued.

    But isn't that another way of saying a woman should not be in charge of her own body ... because, reasons.

    I am as uncomfortable with society saying you cannot have an abortion merely because the child will be differently abled as I am with a society that demands a woman has an abortion for the same reason.

    This must be a decision for the mother. It is her body that is being used, she will be responsible for the child for at least the next couple of decades. And every time society has interfered with that bad things happen.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I found working on Down screening policy really challenging and complex.

    Most of all, I want a well-informed choice for parents about the reality they are choosing for their family - and better supports for them either way.

    We could do a post..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    reasons

    we has them

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    every time society has interfered with that bad things happen

    sadly very true

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    This must be a decision for the mother. It is her body that is being used, she will be responsible for the child for at least the next couple of decades. And every time society has interfered with that bad things happen.

    Thanks Bart. My situations were granted relatively easily. I expressed my horror at the thought of being a Mother and I had occassion to admit a partner otherwise preoccupied at Her Majesty's request. That will tick the box pretty quickly, and admitting partaking in drugs is another. But I still hold firm that it was my choice to have an abortion and whatever it took was going to happen so it was inevitable that they agreed with me. It wasn't easy and consequences for ones actions should not always be, so I was ok with working with what was available. I don't begrudge any chance I have to use the state to help my quality of life but equality of the sexes could actually change perceptions and make these situations less stressfull.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    This must be a decision for the mother. It is her body that is being used, she will be responsible for the child for at least the next couple of decades. And every time society has interfered with that bad things happen.

    Yes I agree. I guess I am trying to say that wouldn't it be nice if all pregnancies were planned and welcomed, and society nurtured and supported all children and mothers, regardless. They aren't and we don't - and of course it is a decision for the woman to make.

    I read something recently critiquing that cliche 'so long as it is healthy' from a woman having a disabled child. Here it is

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Eeesh that's worse than I remember it.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Is abortion acceptable for gender selection, if that's what the mother wants?

    Since Mar 2010 • 379 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I've written a bit about abortion, and I've almost never gotten it perfect.

    When it comes to disabilities, then if we worry about the extent to which aborting a foetus with disabilities is problematic for the sorts of reasons that Hilary is referring to, then in effect, we are making an individual woman, or just one family, responsible for a solving a systemic problem, the problem of society not valuing disabled people. The long term answer lies in valuing disabled people as we value abled people. But I don't think that the short term answer is to force individual women, or individual families, to take on responsibility.

    In terms of gender selection, then I've only written about female foeticide, not gender selection per se. In respect of female foeticide, the problem is societies that don't value women.

    But the bottom line is: if we think that abortion is morally permissible, then it is morally permissible for any reason.

    So if it is morally permissible for a person to choose an abortion because she is 17 and she just can't take on responsibility for another human being, then it's also morally permissible for a person to abort because the foetus is disabled and the parent(s) just can't take on responsibility for another human being who is disabled.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to william blake,

    Is abortion acceptable for gender selection, if that’s what the mother wants?

    Yes. If it shows an imbalance then it should be examined. If it's practical, why not let the woman decide what happens to her health, her existence and her respect.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Deborah,

    Agree with all of that, and with the others who say that the right to choice involves not having to justify the choice. A reason need never be given.

    It's too hard, for starters - here we are spending hours on it on one of the million threads about it. This debate is not sorted and I doubt it ever will be. To expect someone to pick out a part of it that works for them and for us to judge if that is OK or not strikes me as every bit as unreasonable as not even giving a reason. Our own reasons for judging their reasons are in turn questionable. If they have to give some, then we do too. And on it goes.

    It's also impractical. You can't really know what a person's reasons are, you can only know what they tell you their reasons are. If you make a reason unacceptable, they can make another reason. So long as there is a default reason - I'm not ready to have a baby - then this can always happen. If you make certain reasoning unacceptable, it will become very difficult to know what people's real reasons actually are. I think that knowing the reason is a far more valuable thing than insisting that it be the right reason. It need not be given - but if there are no consequences attached to it, it would be very valuable data to inform the debate about what is even really going on in people's heads in this situation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • blindjackdog, in reply to Danielle,

    No matter how laudable a goal a more diverse society is, you’re still interfering with the choice of an individual woman.

    It's pretty astonishing that you simply assume that there's a self-evident hierarchy of interests here, coming down on the side of the individual woman. Doesn't that make you reflect on the levels of your own acculturation, even a little bit?

    Besides, it's not a "more" diverse society; it's a less less diverse society.

    To be clear: I'm not disagreeing with your position, which seems to be the prevailing one here, and I think that more restriction on abortions is no answer to anything.

    But I'm really pleased that Hilary's raised this issue, because I think it's a huge one, and a really tough one, and one that's causing a whole lot of silent pain.

    I also think that it's quite a distinct issue from those Emma raised -- despite the obvious common ground.

    If the traditional abortion debate involves our imagined understandings of the meaning of the fetus (which were largely pretty unsophisticated up until the "pro-lifers" forced us all to start articulating them), then this debate is one about our imagined understandings of the meaning of being human.

    It's profoundly confrontational.

    A woman close to me has said that she's pleased she's not having kids because this very thing would potentially put her in the position of making a decision that she would believe to be morally indefensible.

    It may be a woman's choice, but in making that choice, she's making a choice about what the species should look like. Or she's choosing to act on someone else's, or her society's, choice about what the species should look like.

    (And if dudes are guilty of coercive behaviours when it comes to your more garden-variety abortions, you can bet your life you've got hubbies up and down the country pulling out all the passive aggressive stops when they discover that according to the analysis of some scan there's a certain probability that little peanut might turn out to be a big old Downer... and pragmatic women are then "choosing" to keep the peace.)

    (There's so much talk about "choice" around here, it sounds more like a neoliberal think-tank than a supposedly left-leaning blog.

    Haven't simplistic, positivist notions of choice been given the old heave-ho by, oh, I don't know, a moment or two of critical reflection?)

    I'd say that folks from all over the political spectrum are discomfited by this business, not because of any individual woman's treatment of her individual fetus, but because they really don't like the idea that this is where we've come to as a society -- and because they know that in this neoliberal, conformist, shallow, unreligious and bottom-line-conscious society there is only one trajectory it can take.

    They might be coming from a place of ecological or religious consciousness; or from experiences of love through deep alterity; or from a sense of the fundamental unhealthiness of individuals being placed in such existential hotbeds, making "choices" as to what they feel can constitute an acceptable human life in the context of the exigencies that define their own.

    The answer is not more regulation, no, but a hell of a lot more conversation. The dominant, "pragmatic" consensus prevails (and it does) in large part, I suspect, because there's so much shame and silence surrounding these decisions -- which is in turn tied to the levels of actual uncertainty and ambivalence attaching to the "choices" they entail. For certain women to find some kind of choice that feels true, rather than one that feels already chosen for them, the possibilities for understanding this thing in its true profundity have to be explored in conscious discourses that offer alternatives to our imaginations beyond the platitudes of self-actualisation or the cruel puerility of some pathetic cunt like Michael Laws.

    Since Nov 2007 • 40 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to blindjackdog,

    It may be a woman’s choice, but in making that choice, she’s making a choice about what the species should look like. Or she’s choosing to act on someone else’s, or her society’s, choice about what the species should look like.

    This is true. It's also true when they choose who to have sex with in the first place. And it always has been something that's a choice, but in the case of sexual selection, it was often not up to the woman. And in many places it still is not.

    I don't think it's neoliberalism to strongly believe in choice. It's classical liberalism. The kind that first believed that all people had rights, and then got around to extending those to women and people of different races.

    This choice gets extended further when a procedure that was not really practical in the 19th Century is now quite routine. Women can now not only choose who they get pregnant to with some reliability, but they can also choose when. It's a step further that they could choose amongst some properties of the future child that they are particularly keen on, like it being not disabled, or being of a particular sex. Is it a step too far? Perhaps. But if so, it's not permanently coupled with whether abortion itself should be allowed. That particular step could be banned, the testing for those characteristics.

    I don't think it should be. Harsh though it is, I think we already select against traits we do not desire. We have done this since the dawn of time, with ruthlessness. And for any choices, random or otherwise that got made and were suboptimal survival wise, the outcome was usually extremely harsh. For a lot of conditions they are still incredibly harsh. There's nothing good about incurable disease in a child.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    a letter writer in yesterday’s Press – pointing out a pregnant woman’s rights to bodily autonomy, rather than being overridden by ‘pro-lifers’ insistence they act as incubators for an unwanted child.
    Ended succinctly, (and viscerally)…

    To paraphrase Frederica Mathewes-Green, no woman wants an abortion like she wants new shoes or a handbag. She wants an abortion like an animal in a trap wants to gnaw its own leg off.

    We may have all the trappings of civilisation,
    but individual survival is the core…

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to blindjackdog,

    Isn't it just a little confrontational to dismiss a woman wanting to be able to decide whether she's pregnant or not as neo-liberal acculturation? I'm sorry but you haven't exactly convinced me why we should put our bodies and families on the line to serve.some greater good.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

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