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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Rights: A reply to The Abortion Post comments

I get lost in my blog posts/comments. I don't know how the rest of you manage. (I know I know...the recent comments hack... It is sitting in a file awaiting me learning javascript and then further hacking it. It doesn't work the way I want it to, so I want to fix it before throwing it into the template. At the moment it doesn't include comments on archived posts).

Anyway, back to the topic. This is my reply to Zen's latest comment on The Abortion Post.

To summarise:
Suze: I don't care about abortion. Other people can do what they like.
David: Yes, it all comes down to "Other people are not your property."
Suze: But that could be an argument for both sides.
David: Reasonable people can disagree about whether/when the foetus is a person but most people agree the woman is a person. Therefore it is up to the woman to do what she wants with her own body.
Zen: People don't have rights. Rights are just a concept.
Suze: Huh? When did we start talking about rights?
David: People often confuse negative and positive rights.

Then Zen said:
People often get confused that they think they have rights. Agreeing to have rights and make them come into existence is a great concept, and then we argue about how to protect or enforce them.

Your point David about negative rights requiring some-one to do nothing.

Is that like the mother doing nothing and letting nature take its course? Or is doing nothing the act of going to a doctor and asserting they have the right to do something to terminate the life growing inside them?

This is why abortion is so hotly contested I think. It challenges the very "right" to life over the "right" for a mother to intervene and change a natural outcome, from the moment of conception.
Wow. I think this is over my head and outside of my ideology. In Suze-land people don't have rights. There is no right to life. The mother does as she pleases, as does everyone else.

But back to other-people-land.

I'd never thought about the abortion debate in terms of "rights" before. I suppose abortion is one of those things that people will never agree on. Why do people fight for the rights of other people? What is the motivation? What do they get out of it?

If we are going to agree to have rights, it only works if we agree to enforce or protect them. We need to test the boundaries to see how they work.
Boundary tests are good. The program always seems to crash or do unexpected things at the boundaries.

But who are you protecting people from with this enforcement? Those people who disagree with/have a different perception of/don't even want the rights agreement? Presumably the people who are agreeing to have rights believe in the rights and would respect those rights without need for policing.

Ultimately, I don't think we have any rights and at the time you might need them most, they may well desert you.
Quite. I'd rather not rely on something as abstract, ephemeral and diversely perceived as "rights."

Hah! Thanks for the comments. I've been meaning to do a post on "rights" and some of these points touch on what I'd say, but hopefully my post will provide more order and depth. I've just been sooo busy.
BTW: Yes, the recent comment thingy on my blog site got me so annoyed I finally sorted it out. Now every-one knows I don't get many comments ... :-)
This is why I rely on morals rather than rights.
Zen: You are so hard to disagree with that it makes commenting rather pointless! ;)

Lucyna: Do you mean you rely on your morals, or on other people having morals? Or both?

I guess I rely on my morals to guide my behaviour, but I suspect that other people would disagree with some of my morals.

I think people disagree about morals almost as much as they do about rights.
I rely on my morals, Suze. The abortion debate is a case in point. It's very easy to argue a case for abortion as a case for women to do with their own bodies as they see fit. But is it moral? I think it's incredibly immoral to kill, and that killing extends to life inside you. Sometimes, of course, morality can be put aside, like in war. But moreso my point really is that when you use logic to create rights, you can get lost, you don't know where to stop. Like I read some stuff from the Nazi era where they were very concerned with killing people humanely. They had gotten to a point where they logically classified a group of people as having no rights - the subhumans - and they wanted to make sure they got rid of them without causing suffering. Now, if they had morals, they would have known that it was wrong to kill people, however they classified them.
Is it moral to kill a human? I don't think it is moral for me to kill another human (disregarding the messy self-defence issue for the moment). But that is where I draw the line at deciding whether something is moral or not. I am not comfortable about expecting/enforcing other to people to have the same morals as I do. Every person and every situation is different. I think this is what prompted my abortion post in the first place.

For example, some people believe that abortion is OK and other people believe that war/getting rid of a class of humans is OK and others believe that it is OK to put aside morals in the case of war. Currently I disagree with these things but I accept (idealistically) that other people are doing what is best for them.

I really like your point about relying on more than logic and created rights. I agree that relying on morals makes more sense. However, I am happy to have women use their personal morals and do with their bodies as they see fit.

I guess where I annoy people is that I believe that morals are a personal and individual thing that evolves. So I only really use right and wrong in terms of what is right and wrong for me.

"Now, if they had morals, they would have known that it was wrong to kill people, however they classified them"
Do you mean, if they had morals that were the same as ours?
Yes, I do mean if they had morals that were the same as ours.

I think it's a little easier for me to think of morals as they relate to others as well as myself, because I have children. I have to impart morals to them - I can't leave them to decide what is and isn't moral. In a sense, that's what our parents have done with us, as well as what our communities have done with us. Imparted morals, because we all have to live together.

The abortion one is very sticky, because it's more tied up in rights rather than morals. I read a quote from someone who used to be pro-choice and swapped sides (I used to be pro-choice too, you know).

"With the advent of the abortion license, women have relinquished much of the sexual power they once had over the pursuing male, the power to say no and wait until he actually committed," asserted Bachiochi. "For many women, the pro-abortion euphemism 'reproductive freedom' has meant that women continue to negotiate all that comes with reproduction, while men enjoy the freedom of sex without consequences."

From Attorney-author discusses impact of abortion on women
The idea of passing morals on to children is very interesting (you can probably tell I don't have children). I think my morals are different from my parent's morals, but maybe they used to be the same. I guess that someone must have instilled certain morals/values in me at some point.

I am not exactly pro-choice or pro-life. If someone asked my opinion/advice I would argue against having an abortion. But I am not pro-life enough to go out of my way to convince all women wanting an abortion that they are wrong. Especially when I am not convinced that they are wrong. I think my stance is partly due to my attitude towards life and death.

The quote is interesting, and thanks for the link. I will read it and think about it when I have more time and when my brain is functioning better.

I can't think any more today. My head hurts too much.
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