Monday, April 11, 2005

The Debate That Didn't Happen

Glancing through today's Guardian, I came across this article on the abortion debate that seems is not going to happen. It argues the debate should not be about whether abortion should be legal or illegal, but about why there are so many abortions each year.

Abortion is something we feel uncomfortable talking about and the debate is often so polarised in opinion between the pro-life and pro-choice lobbies that language suffers, but more importantly there is no room for dialogue and conversation.

Rowan Williams' article in The Sunday Times claimed, I think rightly, that 'the idea of raising the issues here is the first step towards a theocratic tyranny or a capitulation to some neanderthal Christian right (a jab at Christian Voice?) is alarmist nonsense.' He goes on to say that there is a 'seriousness of questions' and we should 'resist the pressure either to make them partisan or to shelve them respectully and indefinitely.' (Is the lack of desire for debate on this issue another sign of society numbs us from thinking?)

Stanley Hauerwas says, 'the irony of the abortion debate, as it now stands in our church and society, is that it frames the two groups, women and children, as enemies of one another' (The Hauerwas Reader, 2000, 605). He argues the Christian response to abortion is not about the rights of the foetus or the rights of the mother, but 'the responsibility of the whole Christian community to care for the "least of these"' (606). This reframes the debate into the kind of church to which we belong - that is, in the church we all belong to God, and perhaps more radical, we have no "rights" in a sense, rather we have "responsibilities" to every member of the church body. Hauerwas writes, 'as Christians ... we do not have the right to our bodies because when we are baptized we become members of one another; then we can tell one another what is we should and should not do with our bodies' (609).

He next points out 'the reason why people are pro-choice rather pro-abortion is that nobody really wants to be pro-abortion. The use of choice rather than abortion is a lingustic transformation that tries to avoid the reality of abortion' (610). Its a language thing (again!) - the language of 'choice' is favoured over abortion, because we know abortion is wrong.


ash said...

On what basis do you say abortion is wrong? By your logic, the unborn foetus is not a member of the church, it is unbaptised, and thus our duty is to the mother.

I am not pro-abortion; I think that when people get themselves into these situations they need to live up the the consequences.

I am not, however, anti-abortion, because there are circumstances in which I would favour it over the alternatives. Sometimes it is the lesser of several "evils".

So I do not think it is appropriate to say abortion is wrong: to do so is narrow-minded. But that is very different from saying it is right.

ash said...

also, linguistically, it would not be logical to say "pro-abortion" because it implies you want everyone to go out and have an abortion, and that is not what anyone wants. So pro-choice is a more logical turn of phrase.

andy goodliff said...

Ash, two things - 1. I feel like you completely missed the point of my post. 2. your replies are perfect examples of what I was posting about - an inability to re-frame the debate around a different argument. As a Christian I believe 'abortion' to be wrong, but my reason is because we belong to the body of Christ.

ash said...

mate belonging to the body of christ was an excuse for slavery. You need to defend your position a little better than that, i think, because you've actually failed to address the points. what do you think the debate IS about? Bioth my criticisms still stand from where i'm sitting.