Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why we celebrate women who choose life

Pro-choice advocate Amanda Marcotte writes:
[Pro-lifers have] fallen into the habit of celebrating women who made the choice they approve of, and by accident, this puts them in the position of celebrating choice. But it really goes deeper than that. This strategy of celebrating women who have babies when others might not really points out how the dignity of all women -- including anti-abortion women -- requires the right to choose. ... The common denominator in all these stories is that the woman at the center is being celebrated for her bravery in making a specific choice -- and that if she didn't have the right to choose, then she wouldn't be a hero at all.
But imagine someone inherited a 19th century southern plantation, and he decided to free all the slaves. We would call him a hero for doing the right thing, even though the law and culture permitted him to do otherwise. True, he wouldn't be much of a hero if slavery were illegal, since he would just be following the law.

But that doesn't mean we should give people back the right to own slaves, in order to make heroes of people who opt out of slavery! And it doesn't follow that when we celebrate the man's heroism, we are "celebrating choice" with regard to whether or not to own a slave (on the contrary!). Nor does it infringe on a man's dignity -- or deny his status as a moral agent -- if we do not permit him to enslave other people.

The same is true when we applaud women who courageously choose life, even though the law and culture (wrongly) allow them to do otherwise.