Monday, November 30, 2015

Why is a blastocyst like a slave?

Republicans abolished both of them? No, that can't be right...

I think Marcelo Garcia means, "This only makes sense to those who are actually on drugs." I think Ben Shapiro is mistakenly under the impression that being pregnant is similar to being a white man in the antebellum South, in that um what? Pregnant women can lawfully terminate their pregnancies in all states through the first semester and white men in the antebellum South could force their slaves to work without pay in appalling conditions, buy and sell them separating their families, and treat them with extreme cruelty in many ways, and there is some kind of analogy between these two situations...

Opposing slavery back in the day was hardly an attack on white men, because few white men had an opportunity to own a slave in the first place; 26% of Southern families (including at least some men of color) owned any slaves in 1860, nearly all of them fewer than 10, fewer than 10,000 plantation aristocrats owning 50 or more; abolitionism was an "attack" on relatively wealthy white men, especially plantation owners, who depended on slave labor for their profits. Many relatively poor white men, especially in the North, believed that they would benefit from the abolition of slavery, in that slave owners without slaves would be forced to pay wages to get their work done, and this would increase employment opportunities; this was the basis of the Free Labor movement, which played an enormous role on the (mostly Northern) white people's anti-slavery team, Whigs and Republicans.

Threatening the availability of abortion, in contrast, is an attack on all women in principle, because practically all women are capable of ending up pregnant with a fetus they don't want to deliver at some point in their lives; and an attack on poorer women in particular, because better-off women have access to abortion that doesn't depend on state law, if it comes to that (they can go to a clinic in the Swiss Alps, as the rich girls of the 1930s used to do), and because they have better access to birth control so they needn't get pregnant in the first place, and better defenses, I suppose, against rapists, though as everybody knows the threat of rape exists in all classes.

Having an abortion is not exactly analogous to having a slave, because the purpose of owning a slave is to have a person you can force to do whatever you want, for your profit or pleasure, though you have to feed and clothe and house them, and the purpose of having an abortion is to not have a person you would otherwise need to feed and clothe and house alongside your other children (as you know, some 60% of women having an abortion in the US have a child already, and more than 30% have more than one), who will not be in a position to do any work for you for many years, if ever.

Uncredited photo via Adweek.

What interests me, though, is really the analogy between pregnancy itself and slave ownership, such that giving women permission to have abortions is similar to allowing masters to murder their slaves, as Dr. Ben Carson has frequently suggested (and Erich Erichssohn recapitulated, right on wingnut schedule, as Edroso notes):
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson compared abortion to slavery in an interview on Sunday, insisting women who are raped or victims of incest should not be allowed to terminate their pregnancies. “Think about this,” Carson said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “During slavery -- and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say but I’m saying it -- during slavery, a lot of slave-owners thought they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave, anything that they chose." (ThinkProgress)
What's in the mind of somebody who sees carrying a fetus as like owning a worker?

I think in the first place it's somebody who doesn't see why slavery is wrong: it's only those irresponsible masters who "thought they had the right to do whatever they wanted" who were a problem, just as pregnancy, as we all understand, is in most cases a beautiful and happy situation, but if women abuse their fetuses by, say, drinking a lot of alcohol and putting the future child at risk, that's bad.

And then it's someone with a very peculiar idea of pregnancy: it's not physically possible to "do anything you want" with a fetus, to give it unpleasant jobs, for instance, or sell it sight unseen (your buyer won't want to make a commitment until he can inspect it, and give its tires a kick), or beat it into submission, or rape it, or starve it other than by starving yourself—although some libertarians have argued that once one's children are born the parents should feel free to exploit them economically in any way they can, because freedom:
The libertarian US economist Murray Rothbard (1926-1995) wrote in his book 'Ethics of Liberty', that parents should have the right to put a child out for adoption or sell the rights to the child in a voluntary contract. Rothbard suggested selling children as consumer goods in accordance with market forces, would benefit "everyone" involved in the market: "the natural parents, the children, and the foster parents.[32] In Rothbard's view, "the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights." Thus, parents should have the legal right to let any infant die by starvation. However, since "the purely free society will have a flourishing free market in children" he wrote, "the existence of a free baby market will bring such 'neglect' down to a minimum".[32] 
But there's an alternative analogy that does make some obvious sense: between the situation of the slave owner and the husband in a traditional patriarchal society, who can plausibly "do anything he wants" with his woman including selling her, but shouldn't, because in the immortal words of Richard Nixon "it would be wrong" and at least somewhat illegal, like mistreating or killing a slave in the antebellum South. Indeed, in a traditional patriarchal society you can force your woman to carry her fetus to term against her will.

And with the argument that abortion is a wicked act of murder, you can detach that particular case from the varieties of spouse abuse like beating, verbal cruelty, rape, confinement indoors, all the same things that masters can do to slaves. Patriarchal marriage is like slavery, bad only when especially bad people, Simon Legrees of husbandry, get involved with it, and forbidding abortion isn't a cruelty, by this logic, but a compliance with the will of God.

This, then, is what the abortion-slavery analogy is really about: it is there not because it makes any sense, because it doesn't, but because it covers the semantic space of the other analogy, of the treatment of women by men in exact parallel with the treatment of slaves by masters. It's meant to prevent people from noticing that abortion restrictions specifically put women in the position of the slave. I think I'm about to go quiet and sad.

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