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Why I’m glad that abortion is not a political issue

I’m 21 years old, in my second year of university and I like to think that I have my whole life ahead of me. I’m also in a long-term, sexually active relationship, which means that pregnancy is something I have to think about.

If I were to become pregnant at this point in my life (which I take daily measures to prevent), I don’t know what I would do: I don’t think anyone can really know how they’d react to something like that until they’re faced with it.

What I do know, however, is that I’d have options, and that one of these options would be to have an abortion.

Further, I know (and am ever grateful) that what I chose to do with my body at this point is not at the heart of a mainstream political debate.

We live in a country where abortion is not an election issue.

This is not to say that there aren’t voters who care about a candidate’s abortion stance, but unless that stance was vehemently ‘pro-life’ (a term I detest – who is not pro-life?!), those voters would be in a minority.

In the UK being conservative, with a small or a capital C, does not equate to being against abortion. Sadly, this is not the case in the USA.

With the Republican base shifting further and further to the right, spurred on by the machine of Fox News and various evangelical Christian lobbies, today’s Republican presidential hopefuls need very careful how they handle the abortion debate.

Every single candidate in this race has declared themselves anti-abortion and most have also declared support of overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which federally protected a woman’s right to an abortion.

It is telling that Mitt Romney, the man who is most likely going to be running against Barack Obama later this year, has conducted one of his famous “flip-flops” on this issue. Romney once held a pro-choice position, but since 2005 has come out as strongly anti-abortion.

He claims to have experienced an ‘epiphany’ on abortion – this may well be true, but perhaps the epiphany was that a pro-choice Republican is probably never going to be President.

This is a complex issue, and I don’t want to proscribe views to anyone.

Personally, I believe that a woman should not be forced by law to go through pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood if she doesn’t want to, and that her preferences are more important than the unborn child (20-24 weeks being a seemingly sensible limit).

That said, there are people who think that abortion is murder, and that therefore it should evidently be illegal. This is why the two sides of the debate will never be able to reconcile, and I am not suggesting that they should try.

It just seems a shame that what should essentially be a private matter has become an election deal-breaker, and that candidates such as Romney, who held what I consider to be sensible, well-thought out views, are forced to pretend to be something they’re not.

The debate on abortion in America is full of rumours, slander and sensationalism.

Candidates’ stances are carefully scrutinised in the national press, and to be on the right generally means to be against abortion. Why is this? It’s not the economy, it’s not foreign policy, and it’s not crime and punishment.

Here, by contrast, no one makes that much of a fuss about it. Various members of the Conservative Party have tried to pass legislation restricting abortion, but they have consistently been voted down.

I suppose the crucial distinction comes down to religion. 80 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian, whereas in the UK the figure is less than 20 percent.

With a more religious population, it’s not surprising that emotive matters such as abortion get tangled up in politics. But I think it’s a dangerous way of handling the issue.

I hope that I never have an abortion; I imagine it must be an emotionally painful process that I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through.

But knowing that this option is available, and that whether it should be or not will never determine who governs this country is reassuring.

I hope that it will remain a non-political issue.

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One Comment

  1. I’m not sure that you take the anti-abortionists claim seriously enough here. At one point you glibly point out that “there are people who think that abortion is murder,” and then in the next breath you say that it is “essentially… a private matter.”

    Surely, you beg the question at this point by failing to take seriously the claim being put forward by your detractors. If it is, in fact, murder, then it’s certainly not a mere private matter: It is murder; and this is precisely the point at issue.

    More on this here: http://www.jamesarmstrong.org.uk/2012/04/13/a-philosophical-reflection-on-the-abortion-debate/

    You also assume that the anti-abortion debate is well represented in the US debate. In fact there are sensible non-religious philosophers who take anti-abortion positions, on the basis that what makes killing a person wrong is that it robs the person in question of his or her future.

    More on this here: http://www.jamesarmstrong.org.uk/2012/04/13/a-non-religious-argument-against-abortion/

    I agree with you, but I think there are two interesting questions here: (1) Is abortion morally permissible and (2) Is it permissible for the state to prevent people from having abortions.

    I think that your argument is best posed as a response to (2), but you muddy the waters by trying to answer (1).

    Reply

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