Tuesday, February 21, 2006

When Conservative Principles Clash

To extend the "what principles are conservative" debate a bit, let's take abortion. Now that you're done filling up that waste bin with your lunch because someone's talking about that crap again...

The usual assumption about abortion is that there are two positions: either you're for it or against it. Those that are for it are seen as liberal; those that are against it are seen as conservative.

There really are more than two positions on abortion.

Position 1: Women should have the choice whether or not to have one; the government doesn't have any right to force a woman to keep that baby or to abort that pregnancy. Seeing as the result of pregnancy is literally the result of nine months of work that she alone has to do, it follows pretty easily that the person who has to do all that work should make the decision whether to do the work at all.

Position 2: The choice is up to the woman, but they're strongly encouraged to make the choice not to abort the pregnancy. The rationale here is that the end result of the pregnancy is far more important than the work put into it.

Position 3: The choice is not up to the woman, because the woman can't be trusted to make that decision. That is, if you have sex, the woman has to deal with the consequences in only one possible way.

Position 4: A woman should be able to get pregnant just so she can abort it. This position is quite silly, held by no one, and only ascribed to pro-choicers by kooks like John Hostettler or Pat Robertson. It's also this intentional mischaracterization of pro-choicers that characterizes the anti-abortion movement. (NOTE: the anti-abortion movement is not the same as "pro-life".)

Let's expand on Position 3. It seems to hew most strongly to the conservative position; that only the "right people" should be entitled to any power, and that women are not the "right people" to make that kind of position. Those who fall under Position 3 tend to believe that sex is something to be punished, and that pregnancy is part of the punishment. Which leads us to Michelle McCusker.

Michelle McCusker is a 26-year-old teacher from Queens. She is unmarried, and she got pregnant. As a result, she was fired from her job as a preschool teacher at St. Rose of Lima in Queens. Why? Because she had out-of-wedlock sex. This is where it get interesting - The ACLU is involved for rather obvious reasons - since men can't get pregnant, men can't get punished by the Diocese of Brooklyn for out-of-wedlock sex (unless a man decides to bring in Mr. Slave as a classroom assistant). Also involved is the group Feminists for Life, which comes to the conclusion that because the diocese punishes women for getting pregnant out of wedlock, then in the future women will seek an abortion to prevent that punishment. To quote Serrin Foster, the president of Feminists for Life:

It is not pro-life to take away the resources and support that women need and deserve to bring children into this world. The appropriate response for the employer when they found out she was pregnant, is to say, 'Congratulations,' and, 'How can I help?'

So here we have one conservative principle (anti-abortion) clashing with another conservative principle (women are not the "right people" to decide such a thing). Here, one conservative principle could actually cause abortions. If you call yourself a conservative, what do you do? Do you reduce the number of abortions or do you punish the woman for having sex?

This is where pro-life is different from the anti-abortion movement: True pro-lifers would do the former; the movement would do the latter. As Nathan Newman (hat tip to him) points out:

This case is a good acid test for your pro-life friends. If they side with the teacher, their pro-life beliefs are probably heart-felt. If they side with the school, all of their talk about "life" is just a cover for reactionary views on women's place in the world.

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