OK – this is a very contentious topic. Please, read my disclaimer first:
In this post, I do not wish to debate the morality of abortion or if it ought to be legal or illegal and anything else related to abortion itself. Let’s leave that for a later post focused specifically on that topic.
This post is about the inconsistencies in the ‘principled positions’ presently proposed (held) by many people who consider themselves as part of the ‘religious right’ and/or (because they do differ at times, but not always) ‘social conservatives’.
No, I am not taking the position that they are correct or incorrect, right or wrong. I am simply stating that they are inconsistent in their reasoning. As in, ‘if A, then you cannot logically argue for B; if B, then you cannot logically argue for A’!
Now that I have presented the disclaimer at such great length, let me present the two positions, as I understand them to be argued by the aforementioned factions within the conservative movement.
A person’s a person, no matter how small – or within a womb he/she is. Since the genetic material is set at conception, from zygote on, this is defined as a human being with full human rights and freedoms. Abortion is immoral and should be illegal because by intentionally killing this entity, one is killing a human being and thus violating his/her civil liberties.
In other words, ‘Position A’ holds that killing a fetus is murder because civil liberties and full human rights kick in at conception. The right of the child to his/her civil liberties is inviolable, regardless of what the parents’ views are.
Parents have a right to raise their child as they wish, without interference from the government.
In other words, parents should have the right to exclude information from their child’s education which they don’t like or agree with, they may discipline their child in any way they see fit, and so on. They could even subject them to plastic surgery for the hell of it, if they wanted to…
Please, don’t get me wrong – I do not know where the proper balance between the civil liberties of the child versus the civil liberties of the parents lies!
All I am saying is that if you think that the government has the right to interfere in in parental decisions from the very beginning – before the child is even born, it is logically inconsistent to then claim that the government has no right to interfere from that point on, whether it is sex ed in school or teaching children from a very young age that there are multiple religious beliefs (as well as disbeliefs).
After all, we do know from multiple, well documented studies that most children who receive religious indoctrination from their earliest childhood can never fully shake the effects of this early brainwashing. We also understand quite well how this works and that early childhood religious indoctrination actually changes the physiology of a child’s brain.
This clearly interferes not just with the civil liberty of freedom of religion, it actually interferes with the right to bodily integrity: the same right which is being violated by abortion if one were to extend civil liberties to the point of conception.
It seems to me that if one is arguing from a principled position, one can either argue that the parents have the exclusive right to make decision on behalf of their children or that children have their own civil liberties which nobody, not even the parent, can violate.
Both positions make very valid points. But, they are irreconcillable with each other because each stems from a set of principles which abrogates the other.
Either the civil libertis of the child – especially the right to bodily integrity – start at conception, as argued in ‘Position 1′: if this is so, the parents do not have the right to violate this bodily integrity, ever. Not to circumcize their children (of either sex), nor to corporally punish them, nor to rewire their brain through early childhood religious indoctrination!
Or the parents, as guardians, have the right to treat their children as they wish, as expressed in ‘Position 2′: they may subject them to non-medically necessary surgical procedures (religiously motivated or otherwise), they may spank them, they may deny them education and they may alter the natural structure of the brain through childhood religious indoctrination.
The problem comes in when the ‘religious right’/'social conservatives’ attempt to take both positions at once: abortion is murder and government must step in to stop it – and the government has no right to ban childhood circumcision, ban corporal punishment and to over-ride the parent’s interference with healthy brain development and education….
Again, I am not passing judgment on either set of principles.
All I am saying is that people need to choose one set of principles and stick with it, or they will not only open themselves to justified ridicule, they will continue to taint the ‘c’onservative movement as a whole.