“Compulsory pregnancy is a form of slavery. . Prohibiting tax-funded abortions for the poor and requiring parental notification compounds violence against women.”
—John Swomley, Professor of Christian Social Ethics,
Saint Paul School of Theology, Missouri (1960-1984.)
In philosophy most of our discussions and debates on abortion focus on such issues as the status of fetus, the rights of the fetus in relation to the rights of the woman, the stage of pregnancy at which the abortion takes place, and whether destruction of the fetus amounts to the killing of an innocent person. However, such discussions, as stimulating and instructive as they may be, do not set the primary issue which preoccupies others (both in and outside the field of philosophy). They are primarily concerned about the rights and dignity of the women facing reproductive choices.
One of my regular lunch companions, CR, is a good example. CR is a retired science instructor at a local college, Emeritus in Life and Health Sciences. He makes a strong plea for the rights of women with regard to compulsory reproduction in the following remarks:
An investment in global reproductive health care (sex education, contraception and early safe abortions) would provide one of the greatest benefits to humanity in the history of civilization. Few other measures could make such a contribution to the health and well-being of women and children, reduce poverty and improve our chances of achieving a sustainable future, yet cost each of us in the affluent world only a few dollars a year in foreign aid.
But today, the uncompromising position of the Christian Right toward women with unwanted pregnancies puts an ugly face on social justice and on the religious spirit of love and compassion. It’s a position that demeans the intelligence and moral character of women and returns them to the Dark Ages of compulsory pregnancies and dangerous illegal abortions. How long will we continue to tolerate authoritarian pronouncements from popes, bishops, preachers, televangelists and born-again politicians—essentially all MEN—MEN who are primarily concerned with the maintenance of power and ancient religious dogmas in a modern scientific world they do not want to understand?
“Power is key to understanding the
cynical manipulation of faith and the assault on reason”
The United States has laws that protect us under normal circumstances from being forced to use our bodies against our will to keep other humans alive (such as being forced to give blood or bone marrow). Yet anti-abortion activists want to force women to use their bodies against their will to keep unwanted mindless embryos alive. How can any society ever expect its citizens to live in ways that are higher and nobler when it attempts to force women with unwanted pregnancies (a common reality throughout history) to stay pregnant against their will—to be unwilling embryo incubators?
Where is the social justice in forcing these women to be obligatory breeding machines? Where is the religious wisdom in placing women essentially in reproductive bondage to the state? When will all Americans finally step up to the plate and strongly endorse the right of women everywhere to be able to control their own reproductive futures—a right that is fundamental to female equality and human liberty?