Abortion and the Left.


I have a question, and it’s been kicking around in my head for the best part of 10 years now:

Why is it that to be ‘pro-life’ in the abortion debate means you are right-wing?

I don’t know whether you read the story in today’s SMH about the new book Impossible Motherhood and the woman who had 15 terminated pregnancies in 17 years. While still ‘pro-choice,’ the woman speaks of the horrors of her ‘abortion addiction’.

But the line that got to me was a quote from Robin Morgan, who wrote the book’s forward, when defending the book to those in the pro-choice camp:

“There is a perfectly human tendency to say we can’t afford ambiguity, we can’t afford nuance. I am afraid it comes from years of being pummelled by the extreme, anti-choice right.”

Now, granted, I’m not doing much pummelling and so this comment may not be directed toward me, but I’m trying to understand how we came to the point where to be pro-life means you are ideologically conservative. Abortion seems to me to be an issue that transcends our left-right divides. Why can’t I be left-leaning and yet also a defender of the human rights of the unborn?

[I’m inviting rants, I want to get to the bottom of this one!]



Filed under Puzzlings

6 responses to “Abortion and the Left.

  1. Eric

    Depends whether you look at the mother or the baby.

    If you look at the mother, to lean left is to defend her right to choose, to lean right is to make her accept the consequences of her decisions.

    If you look at the baby, to lean left is to defend the defenceless and to lean right is to let other considerations more important.

    A lot of the trouble (from my lefty Christian perspective) comes from the US and the way their political system interacts with society.

    Christians in the against abort camp already because of the Bible’s hints at life beginning at conception. Christians were against porn, homosexuality and prostitution. Abortion, (being sex-related) seemed to fit this list of issues.

    If one was really “pro-life”, one would be saying no to guns, capital punishment, drugs and abortion, and “pro-choice” would lean towards allowing them more.

  2. –Abortion seems to me to be an issue that transcends our left-right divides. Why can’t I be left-leaning and yet also a defender of the human rights of the unborn?–
    One still can to a considerable extent in Australia, albeit perceptions to the contrary might unfortunately seem self-fulfilling should they get paid too much heed. While I’m politically on the other side of the fence myself, someone like John Murphy MP might be able to help get you or those of such views you’d like to assist in touch with other like-minded people on your side. Also, Frank Brennan SJ might have some connections.

  3. Ben

    Like yin and yang, preserver and destroyer, the right values stability and the left is open to new experience. The moral foundations of the left are fairness and care. The right has additional moral foundations of in-group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity. This is understandable as typical right voters have been occupied labouring for their wage or business (cue Marx’s opiate of the people) whilst left voters took luxury for education and literacy (accustoming to critically appreciating outside perspectives).

    The right opposes abortion religiously. Murder is a sin, which applies for foetuses (though not for lambs, Afghanis/Palestinians, etc). Their simple position has the absolutism of monotheism, and the rightist psyche doesn’t question church authority’s interpretation. Just as right voters are impugned by outsiders taking handouts, so they are intolerant of other’s sexual non-repression (let alone circumvention of its burdening consequence).

    Science (a fount of dissonance to the religious right) assails the conception of a dividing line to distinguish abortion from contraception, abstinence, and less. The human embryo has lower awareness/sentience, or less capacity to suffer, than an adult cow. There exist several environmental (e.g. population) concerns, which frequently conflict with the right’s interests. Also, availability of abortion reduces social pathology, and children of more mature parents are themselves more successful. Self interest and socially responsible policy (the concern of the left) are aligned with family planning.

  4. —Just as right voters are impugned by outsiders taking handouts—
    I’m not, for the record

  5. ..One of the issues not dealt with in the whole Pro-Life agenda is th equaltiy of life after the baby is born.

    Pro-lIfe is not merely the right to be born.

    What about the right to medical care?
    What about the right to a good education?
    What about the right to good child care?
    What about the right to have food on the table or shoes on your feet?
    What about the right to not be abused?
    What about the right to be loved?

    When we can guarentee (sp?) women that Pro-life includes all of the above there will probably be less abortions.

    • steveboxwell

      I absolutely agree… except to say that “the whole” pro-life agenda hasn’t forgotten the issues you raised.

      I for one am someone committed to the idea that life begins at conception. I think attempts to draw the line in other places are deeply flawed and given the way so many have been disenfranchised as humans in the past (I’m thinking women, the untouchable caste, modern slavery, etc.) and that this disenfranchisement has led to unspeakable horrors – I’d rather err on the side of caution and have a broader definition.

      But I also care deeply about the issues you raised, I want everyone to have access to those kinds of services and securities. But it’s a pretty strange utilitarian argument that runs, “we may not be able to provide care easily – so termination is better.” Surely a better argument would be “we may not be able to provide basic services so we’ll move heaven and earth to make sure we can.”

      What do you think?

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