Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Just Be Natural...Or don't
In this debate on abortion Pro-Lifer Ross Douthat doesn’t want to invoke nature, much less natural law, in it. One can sympathize with his reluctance because he wants to rely on arguments which will persuade his opponent and it unlikely the Pro-Choicer here, Michelle Goldberg, would be interested in what is ‘natural.’
Yet Goldberg repeatedly uses the term “de-humanizing” in the video. What does she have in mind when using such a term? She says it is de-humanizing to be forced to carry a pregnancy to term and humane when freely done (or not done). The guiding principle here is Autonomy or the Free Individual.
Really, the woman’s nature (her babymaking equipment or her motherhood) are presenting obstacles to her freedom. The woman’s nature has to be conquered through technology (contraception, abortion) so she can truly be liberated.
We might ask the following questions to this Lockean account of human beings. Are our bodies simply extrinsic to our very selves? If ultimately we are free individuals and nothing more, does that mean masculinity and femininity are irrelevant to who we are as persons? Does this Autonomy worldview account for or capture our experience?
To return to Douthat, you can see his reluctance about bringing up nature in his answer why the mother should “put up with the burden of pregnancy.” He answers that she is “uniquely situated” i.e. she and no one else is in a position to protect the unborn. This seems like a more complicated way of invoking nature. The woman is the MOTHER of the unborn and thus has obligations to the unborn that no one else, save the father (another nature term), has.