Friday, February 24, 2006

On moral "absolutism": arbitrary morality

Okay, so I posted Wednesday about moral absolutism and how it’s really just a conservative religious way of saying “I know it when I see it.” This embrace of arbitrary moralism and the far-right’s attempts to inject it into our legal system have the potential to screw up our country in so many ways. Currently at risk? Your uterus.

(Um, not you, sir. Next to you. Her. Right.)

Recall yesterday’s ridiculously protracted definition of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Religious conservatives are able to come up with plenty of reasons to justify the killing that they support while staying within the bounds of “thou shalt not deprive a person of life (by our definition of killing).” However, abortion never seems to make it onto the list, even if continuing the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, who apparently doesn’t qualify as a life as long as she’s housing a fetus.

A February 21 post at Feministing talks about the Supreme Court’s review of the federal law banning what opponents call partial-birth abortion and the medical community doesn’t because that’s not what it’s called. In 2000, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor acting as swing vote, the SCOTUS put down a state ban because it didn’t include a provision for the woman’s health. The 2003 federal law to the same effect was passed by Congress but never put into effect for that same reason. Now, with conservative justice Samuel Alito replacing O’Connor, the court has agreed to review the case.

What got to me about that post, though, wasn’t the post itself but the first comment. A woman named Cecily wrote that the very procedure under discussion saved her life. Twenty-two weeks into a very much planned and wanted pregnancy, she suffered from sever preeclampsia that put her in danger of life-threatening strokes, seizures and coma. Her doctor performed the procedure, she lost twin boys that she very much wanted, and she survived. Now, pregnant again with a single baby at 21 weeks, she hopes that she won’t have the same problem, or that it happens after viability. That’s a lovely concern to deal with while you’re basking in the happy glow of potential life within you.

Anti-choicers out there (and I hate to use that term, but there isn’t really a better one around) would characterize Cecily as a monster for terminating her pregnancy (and if you continue scrolling down the comments thread, you’ll see on of them). From their unyielding moralistic stance, her only option was to give up her life for her two fetuses, one of whom was already dead and the other of whom was too small to be viable. They feel that their sense of arbitrary morality qualifies them, more than the woman herself and her doctor, to make decisions about her future and her body.

I guess we can update our take on “thou shalt not kill”:
Thou shall not deprive a person of life
  • - unless he/she has been found guilty of a crime by a lawful court
    • - and none of the members of said court have committed any kind of misconduct or malpractice affecting the outcome of the trial
    • - and all appeals have been exhausted
    • - and all evidence available has been properly processed and presented to the jury
    • - and the jury is comprised of reasonably intelligent individuals who are able to process the evidence shown to them
    • - and the defendant is competent enough to contribute to his/her own defense
  • - or unless thou do so in self-defense (or defense of another)
    • - and thou art in immediate danger thyself
      • - and that danger is not the result of a pregnancy
        • - intended or otherwise
        • - wanted or otherwise
        • - through rape, incest, or consensual sex
        • - even if the mother is twelve years old
    • - and thou hast no other way of escaping and/or attaining personal safety through non-lethal means
  • - or unless thou art involved in a military conflict in a time of war
    • - and thou (and thy troops) art in immediate danger
    • - and/or a crucial target cannot be eliminated without some calculated collateral damage
    • - and/or it is unavoidable in the heat of combat

That’s right, choose life.

Choose life, that is, unless it sets a bad example. Like Michelle McCusker, a preschool teacher at St. Rose of Lima Catholic school in Queens. She found herself single and pregnant, and the school and the Diocese of Brooklyn, in their great wisdom and Christlike compassion, booted her. By having out-of-wedlock sex, she failed to “convey the teachings of the Catholic faith by his or her words and actions.”

Her case has been taken up by the ACLU, who claim sex discrimination because she was subject to a policy that obviously doesn’t apply to men. Her other unlikely ally? Feminists for Life.
"It is not pro-life to take away the resources and support that women need and deserve to bring children into this world," Feminists for Life President Serrin Foster says. "The appropriate response for the employer when they found out she was pregnant, is to say, 'Congratulations,' and, 'How can I help?' "

And here’s the weird part where I find myself agreeing with Feminists For Life.

And that’s where real, sincere concern for life comes into play. If you’re going to condemn the use of contraceptives and the teaching of sex education in schools, you’re going to have to be prepared for the swarm of unintended pregnancies that these things would have prevented. And if you want to discourage abortion, you’re going to have to be prepared for women to carry their pregnancies to term, whether or not you approve of their circumstances. Sure, the school had every right to fire McCusker for violating policy, but when they did so, the message they sent wasn’t, “We’re all for Biblical teachings,” it was, “We care more for our arbitrary morality than we do for life.”

So here’s to arbitrary moralists, the kings of your vagina, making decisions for you that a legal system based in logic, fact and cause and effect would leave up to you and your doctor. The next time you go in for a Pap smear, be sure to consult your Repblican senator beforehand, because he might just have plans for those cervical cells.

No comments: