ALL right, so we've all had our little fun with the Akin spectacle, with everyone in the Republican party (aside from the people whose votes keep it in power) from Mitt Romney (despised of the party not so long ago for, among other things, having changed his point of view on abortion rights) on down explaining, or "explaining", that Akin's comments on rape do not represent the more reasoned, nuanced view of abortion as murder all mainstream Republicans hold. The fact that this distinction has yet to be put into anything resembling a declarative sentence in modern English just demonstrates how nuanced it really is.
[And isn't this the perfect, and perfectly timed, example of what's gone on this entire election cycle with a party which is beyond its Sell By date, beyond its Use By date, and beyond the point where its stench not only fills the refrigerator but permeates the milk? Republicans reneged on the Jesus Crazies, they reneged on the Evil Deficit (with the Ryan Plan), then they reneged on the Ryan Plan. The party which has been in charge of Not Doing Business As Usual for the past thirty-five years nominated the poster boy for 'Conservative' Lip Service, on the grounds that he was the only thing they had approaching electability. Remember when Lisa points out that the engine warning light is on, and Homer fixes it by replacing the fallen piece of tape that covers it?]
Who better, really, to straighten all this out than Douthat, a man who is simultaneously an Ivy-League-educated Eastern establishment Republican and a reformed snake handler?
IN 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade, the philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson used an arresting thought experiment to make the case for legalized abortion.
First, as I understand it, Jarvis Thomson was actually making the case against the idea that "personhood" automatically confers an absolute protection to fetal tissue. Second, I'm not sure how "arresting" the argument is; apparently it did arrest Douthat's predecessors in the Right to Life movement, at least while they came up with a way to change the subject, and long enough they were still yammering about it when Young Ross (b. 1979) came to them to be educated. So, yet one more time, a Ross Douthat column consists of him contemplating someone else's navel, circa The Reagan Administration.
Finally, don't you feel a "I Refute This Metaphor With Some Literal-Minded Objection That Totally Misses The Point" moment coming on? I know I do.
Imagine, wrote Thomson, that you awoke to find yourself lashed to a famous violinist. The violinist suffers from a lethal kidney disease, and because only your blood type can save his life, his admirers have kidnapped you and looped your circulatory systems together. If you consent to remain thus entangled for nine months, he will make a full recovery. Disentangle yourself, however, and he dies….
Provocative as it is, there are obvious problems with this analogy. It implies that there’s no difference between declining to provide medical treatment and taking a life directly, and no difference between the moral obligations owed a stranger and the obligations owed one’s own child.
The biggest difficulty, though, is that most women considering an abortion were not kidnapped and impregnated against their will. They freely chose the act that brought the fetus into being, and analogizing their situation to a kidnap victim implies a peculiar, almost infantilizing attitude toward female moral agency.
Now, it seems to me in the first case that refuting the "experiment" because you have a moral objection to abortion by raising a moral objection to abortion is akin to answering the Queen's Gambit by "accidentally" kicking the corner of the board. The very point of the metaphor is that disengaging yourself from the contraption takes the violinist's life. The reverse is also so; a pregnant woman could terminate her pregnancy strictly by withholding "medical treatment". It seems like, in forty years, you might've either come up with a competing thought experiment, or learned to defend your answer to the original.
The second, of course, is more to our current point: pregnancy is God's punishment for you spreading your legs in the first place. (Oh, and don't look at me; the Democratic party is the real infantilizer of women. Sweetie.)
This, of course, is where Republicans collide with Akin (not, as Douthat will try to make it, with the "unique agony" of the rape victim, though let's give him points for admitting it may have a little something to do with "political impossibility", too).
We have no need of a thought experiment here. If you're going to make absolute moral pronouncements, then they're absolute. You can start trying to weasel out of Thou Shalt Not Kill ("It means murder" or "Except when ordered by your political superiors"), but ultimately you're stuck. The Bible doesn't enjoin anyone from abortion; the moral argument is all yours, and the moment you're pressed you withdraw like a doused cat. The simple fact is that Akin spoke the truth. Not with his words, which were totally batshit, but he was absolutely clear on the concept. In his "desire to escape from the dilemma" sez Ross, but there isn't any dilemma. At least there isn't one with regards to meaning. Either terminating a pregnancy is murder, or it isn't. That includes rape victims, and that includes the medically unviable, and that includes, Mr. and Mrs. Santorum, when the life of the mother is at stake. It can't be both. You can make a distinction in law, but you're doing so because it's the popular thing to do, not because it's morally justified.
So leave us not quote statistics about what percentage of the public agrees with whom. Or not until you come clean. It's you folks who are literally and metaphorically chained to a corpse. Telling us all that you don't like the looks of some of the links doesn't free you.