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Compassion and Abortion

November 15th, 2006 · 1 Comment

Dana Goldstein has a post up in response to my piece from last week on the new Democratic enthusiasm for “moderation” on abortion. I think a lot of her objection is far more to my tone than the substance of what I was saying: If you’re focused on making the argument that there’s nothing morally wrong with abortion, it’s easy to come off as insensitive to how incredibly fraught and difficult the choice is for many women. (Maybe as a male I was not the ideal person to have offer this kind of argument; there are women writing substantiall similar stuff.) Obviously, you would never say to a female friend agonizing over the decision: “Oh, get over it, it’s no big deal!”

On the other hand, I think there’s a fine line here. If a gay friend who grew up surrounded by homophobia is starting to come out to his friends, you want to be sensitive to how hard the process can be. You also don’t want to react like they’ve just told you they have cancer: “Oh, God, how terrible for you!” Empathizing with someone’s subjectively difficult situation is one thing; implying that there’s something genuinely morally sketchy about what the’re doing is another. And I can’t help but think that this painful decision might not be quite so painful if we weren’t constantly talking about it in a way that suggests it ought to be.

Dana thinks you can split the difference and make some concessions to pro-life rhetoric without ceding any policy ground. For some of the reasons I outlined in the original piece, I’m dubious. I would like to believe she’s right and I’m wrong, because that sure seems to be the road Democrats are walking down regardless. I hope they’re seeing more clearly than I am where it leads.

Tags: Moral Philosophy



1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Nick Danger // Dec 2, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    Yes, Julian, we sure don’t want to make, say, serial killers feel bad by implying there is anything wrong with their hobby. Clearly, if everyone praised it, they be a lot less wracked by guilt.