Category Archives: Reproductive Rights

Who Votes Over the Economy?

The following is a hypothesis. I don’t really have the background in sociology or any idea of the methodology required to confirm or refute it, but I want to put it out there any maybe someone with more of a clue than me can figure out if it’s true or not.

I read the following quote from Grimalkin on the Atheism+ forums today:

People who have their lives voted on and legislated by politicians tend to not care *too* much about the economy, because we’re too worried about whether some governer is going to declare him the right to our uterus or something equally fun.

It got me thinking. The economy is probably an important issue, and one that I admit I don’t really understand. Because of this I’ve always voted on social issues: stuff I can wrap my head around. Marriage equality is important because gay people deserve the same rights as anyone else. Marijuana should be legalized because we are imprisoning too many people for a “crime” that the vast majority of people commit; they just had the misfortune of getting caught. Education costs should not be prohibited. Homeless people deserve a place to live. Women should have the right to bodily autonomy. Transgender people should not have to worry about discrimination. Women who are coerced into prostitution should be protected and women who want to be sex workers should have that right. People should have access to healthcare regardless of how deep their pockets go.

These are all issues that our society is grappling with and for the most part they seem to be supported by the left and rejected by the right.

In the current US election campaign, I hear Republicans talking about the economy a lot more than Democrats. It’s similar in Canada: I hear a lot more from the conservatives about economic and business issues and a lot more from the NDP and Green Party about social issues.

So it makes me wonder, who actually casts their vote based on the economy?

It seems to me that if your primary concern is the economy, then you haven’t really had to deal with a government or society that seems intent on trampling your rights. If your biggest concern is whether your company can make more money with the Republican tax plan, or if your biggest problem is that you can’t afford the lifestyle you used to have then you are privileged in a lot of ways that allow you to ignore how the right is taking away the rights of the rest of us.

If you’re gay, you have to worry about bigots trying to pass constitutional amendments to prevent you from getting married. If you’re in prison for minor drug offenses, you’re probably concerned about the hypocrisy of the people who put you in there. If you can’t afford an education, you have to worry about how to get a good job in a society that increasingly requires a post-secondary education. If you’re homeless you probably have to worry about whether your local shelter has enough beds and food. If you’re a woman, you might have to worry about the long term consequences of if you have a child you’re not ready for. If you’re trans, you probably have to worry about whether the government will let you get on a plane or whether they’ll harass you because you don’t “look man/woman enough”. If you’re a sex worker you probably have to worry about your safety and ability to rely on law enforcement if you’re in danger. If you have cancer you need to worry about whether you can get the chemotherapy that you need to stay alive.

In my opinion, these issues are way more pressing than which candidate gives the best tax cuts.

I’m not saying that the economy is unrelated to these issues: clearly it is as government needs ways to fund a lot of these things (or in some cases is actively wasting money on suppressing the disadvantaged, for example money spent on imprisoning people for drug possession). But if your primary concern when you cast your ballot is which party will better stimulate the economy, then you probably haven’t had to spend any part of your life worrying about whether the party you were voting for was going to turn around and try to stomp you and people like you down and out of society once they’re in power.

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Abortion

This is an e-mail I sent to a friend whose official position on abortion I would hesitate to characterize, but leans towards the pro-life side. The actual conversation we had was via text messaging, so I don’t have a record of her questions but I basically wanted to hit all the points of what it is that I think actually makes killing wrong, why society needs to enforce that, why I don’t consider abortion murder, why I think that abortion is okay, and why it shouldn’t matter (from a legal point of view) if the mother wants an abortion and the father does not.

To put it in some context, she and I had already had a previous discussion where I had explained that I think killing is wrong because it severs the attachments that people have to the world around them, and vice-versa. Her hypothetical example that I mention in my opening is whether that makes it okay to kill a reclusive person who has no such ties. I’ve edited it to remove some personal stuff that I had in a preamble and ending.

If someone is a recluse then killing them is morally wrong. While true that nobody will care about the result (in the hypothetical), we don’t live in a vacuum. What we’re talking about is two different types of morality: legal and metaphysical. If truly nobody cares about the death of our hypothetical person (note that this must include himself), then you’re correct: there is no metaphysical moral issue with killing him. However the legal morality of this is problematic. We create our own society and then we all have to live in it. If we allow people to kill other recluses, then we are also subject to the lawlessness of being killed ourselves. Thus, from a legal moral perspective, it is wrong to kill the recluse.

However, in a very slightly less constrained hypothetical where nobody cares about the man, but the man still has attachments to the world around him (art, music, hobbies, whatever), the metaphysical moral issue reappears. In my opinion, it is once again subject to the premise that the reason killing is wrong is the severing of these attachments. Granted that the man won’t care after the fact, but there’s a difference between caring and being affected. While he won’t realize it, the loss of these attachments is an effect, and I do believe that when making a decision about morality, the opinions that matter are specifically the opinions of those affected (in this case, the man). You could argue that his opinion is voided by his death, but that’s not quite right because we are talking about the moral *decision*. A decision which, by necessity, precedes the action, thus his opinion at the time of the decision is what we base our moral choice on.

Furthermore, while I do believe that it’s severing these attachments that make killing wrong, not all killings are equally wrong. In the same way that snow and dry ice are both cold, one is certainly colder than the other. With this in mind, it is more wrong to kill a person with a lifetime of these attachments than it is to kill an infant whose only attachments may be the love of its parents. This runs counter to the intuition that evolution has programmed us with, but I think the reasoning is enough (for me at least) to trump the gut instinct of biology. Note again, that killing the infant is still wrong, but simply less so than the adult.

This brings us back to abortion. Everything I just said about killing being metaphysically morally wrong because it severs attachments then fails to apply (if one assumes the desire for an abortion on the part of the parents). The fetus has no such attachments. At the point where it is legally allowed to be aborted, it hasn’t developed sufficiently to even have these attachments. As such, even if abortion counts as killing, it is not a form of killing I find morally quarrelsome.

A quick aside: I will not be using the term “murder” because it confuses the issue. Murder is a legal distinction, and has nothing to do with morality. Furthermore, murder is illegal, and is distinct from merely “killing”. This is why killing someone in self defence or by accident is not called murder by our justice system, and since we live in a society where abortion is legal, it too cannot honestly be called “murder”.

Anyways, this whole argument deals with the premise that aborting a fetus is “killing”. I actually deny this premise as I don’t consider the fetus to be anything more than a cluster of cells that will develop into something to which the term “killing” can be applied. Unfertilized eggs and sperm share this description, but we don’t think of menstruation or male masturbation as “killing” any more than we ought to think the term applies to a fetus. There’s nothing magical about the moment of conception, it’s just one step along the way to creating a person. The line between fetus and person isn’t a clear cut one. It reminds me of the question “how many grains of sand does it take to have a pile”. There isn’t a concrete answer. At some point it just stops being a few grains and becomes a pile. While answers will differ in the intermediate stages, we can look at a couple of grains and come to a consensus that they don’t form a pile. We ought to be able to do the same with the early stages of fetal development.

As for father’s rights, I consider that an entirely separate issue. If the father wants to keep the child but the mother does not, it is a tragic situation but the final say should (and currently does) belong to the mother. This goes back to legal morality above. Should we create a society where one person can be forced to carry an unwanted child? Considering all of the risks and efforts involved on the side of the mother (with none being involved for the father) it is unfair for a man to be able to force this upon a woman against her will. Imagine a society where a rapist could force his victim to carry his child. I hope you’d agree that this is not a society we would want to live in. Perhaps you’d suggest building in an exception for rape, but now all of a sudden all a woman has to do to get out of a forced pregnancy is accuse a man of rape, which I think causes more problems than it solves. Even at the end of the day, if abortion services are made unavailable to these women, it won’t stop them from obtaining one; it will simply stop them from obtaining one safely.

I’m prepared to change my opinion on this if it ever becomes possible to bring a baby to term without having to incubate it inside of the mother (artificial wombs or surrogacy transplants, for example) depending on what’s involved with the process. But for the time being, situations such as these are tragic but must fall to the decision of the woman.