Is it possible that liberal democracy frees us from an ethic of responsibility? I have been thinking about the abortion issue over the past two days, wondering what it might mean if I were to vote one way or the other according to a candidate’s stance on whether or not a woman can or cannot choose to terminate a pregnancy.
First of all, I want to make it clear that I don’t vote. Not on war, not on taxes, and not on abortion. Morally, I can’t make a decision for a woman who has not voluntarily joined herself to a community that has established an ethic concerning such an issue. Also, I’m not smart enough to know everything there is to know about anything, let alone abortion. But there lays the rub. It seems that there are quite a few people on both sides of the issue who are more concerned about establishing themselves as a morally victorious political force than they are about improving the lives of women.
I will not insist that I know all of the facts, but it is my observation that many middle class and educated women have fought tooth and nail for the issue of reproductive choice without taking an equally passionate stand concerning issues of justice for women who don’t really have such a choice despite the legal status of abortion. Most abortions are obtained by European-American women of some education and financial means. As for the poor, abortion is not in the financial cards. I would be disappointed if any reproductive rights advocate suggested that the answer to poverty pregnancies was state-funded abortions.
As such, while everyone is worried about reproductive rights being eliminated by conservative Supreme Court justices or draconian state laws in the Midwest, hardly anyone is protesting Clinton’s welfare reforms and the fact that those reforms have done more to keep poor women in bondage to wage slavery than the possibility that they might not be able to freely choose a medical procedure they cannot afford anyway. Folks, the Clinton administration took women for a ride, and it did as much damage to the welfare of women as the Bush judicial appointees might in the future.
It also seems as though poor and minority women are being punished by women of means because they choose to give birth over and against the possibility of terminating a pregnancy. Very little effort is spent on defending a woman’s right to spend the first three years of her child’s life establishing a solid parent-child relationship. Along with a right to choose an abortion, let’s demand the right to raise healthy children. And let’s start to help poor people raise healthy children. Many conservatives are willing to take in a pregnant woman who makes a decision to be a parent. How many liberal families are willing to do the same. While rightly working to empower women and make self-determination a reality, are we overlooking the fact that a woman whose ethic insists on giving birth regardless of circumstances needs to be empowered in a manner that celebrates her integrity.
Instead of making abortion rights the issue, perhaps we need to make the issues of patriarchy and the wage-slave status of women throughout the world the major issue. The fact that a 20 year old white college woman can have an abortion does not challenge patriarchy, it entrenches it by once again failing to hold men responsible for their actions, and allowing women to be objectified and then held solely responsible for addressing the results of patriarchy. It often seems as though women have less self-realization in their relationships with often dominating male counterparts than they do over their reproductive health.
The perceived sexual liberation of women is a lie, as the sexual revolution has benefited men. I daresay this has happened without a collateral wealth of orgasmic experience for our liberated mates. Liberation has meant quantity over quality for multiple partner males. Women are sexually exploited more than ever, or as much as ever, and it is done much more publicly than ever. The right to abortion has made that exploitation that much more enjoyable for males, who send their conquests to the clinic as if it is the most reasonable answer to this little problem of pregnancy. Abortion is not an answer to patriarchy, nor is it an answer to women’s economic struggles. It is simply an issue that, while important to many who are invested in elite status on both sides of the issue, overshadows the real issues of many women and families. It is time for a new ethic.