The Debate You Have

Andrew Norton at Catallaxy recently published a scathing review of Marion Maddox’ book God Under Howard. His scorn for this work by someone very loosely described by her publisher as “the leading authority on the intersection of religion and politics” in Australia is justified. God Under Howard is riddled with elementary factual errors (the timing of the Waterfront dispute, Hewson’s accession to the leadership in 1989, Reith as a small-l liberal), is sloppily argued, and contains much irrelevant material on economic thinktanks and the Hindmarsh Island affair. Maddox consistently transposes US trends to Australia, extrapolating without regard for different cultural, social and political contexts. Her key thesis – that Religious Right politicians use secular arguments to hide their religious motivations, is largely, as she herself admits “an argument from silence” which she herself calls “dangerous”. The poor quality of this work is a pity, because as Andrew acknowledges in another thread, this is a debate worth having. It’s also a pity as the author drew upon extensive interviews from her time as a Parliamentary Fellow, a rich vein of data which could have been put to better use by a more skilled analyst. Troppo contributed to this debate through a guest post by Michael Carden on Pentecostalism and politics, which I’d recommend revisiting.

But there’s one “debate” which is clearly an instance of religious motivations hiding behind (not too covertly) secular reasoning – the “debate” over abortion which has recently resurfaced.

NOTE: It’s the weekend so I’m taking some time out of my thesis for a quick blogging fix.

ELSEWHERE: Immanuel Rant thinks that raising the issue of late term abortions is a wedge designed to open a larger debate. I think he’s right. It’s straight out of the Republican Party manual. Gianna thinks the principle of reproductive freedom is self-evident and doesn’t require debate while Zoe is writing emails to pro-choice Liberal pollies. Flutey’s still waiting for a reply to his email to ALP MP John Murphy.

UPDATE: Andrew Norton at Catallaxy ponders the links between this debate and free speech. Miss Piss at Piss’n’Vinegar hopes Howard was making a core promise when he said there’d be no changes to medicare funding of terminations. Immanuel Rant looks at Julian McGauran’s position.

It’s very clear that there is a direct link between a recent meeting of church and other religious leaders and the revival of this issue by pollies like Ron Boswell and Alan Cadman. It’s certainly not because of any shift in Australians’ views on this issue – which are becoming more pro-choice over time, as Swinburne sociologist Katherine Betts demonstrated in The Australian.

What’s particularly disturbing about this debate is the lack of understanding of the seriousness of the choices made by women over reproduction being demonstrated by some male pollies, as Suki notes at Suki Has An Opinion. Writing in The Age, Amanda Dunn argues that the real questions about women’s lives are being entirely ignored:

For example, how do women make a decision to terminate or continue with a pregnancy? And what consequences, if any, does it have for them later in their lives? Were they using contraception, and if not, why not? If so, what went wrong?

For teenagers and young women, the level of sex education is also vitally important – not simply the mechanics of reproduction, but relationships, self-esteem, the kind of future they envisage for themselves, and where sex and parenthood might fit into all that. For older women, did they end their pregnancies because their partners were not ready for parenthood, and they felt they could not raise a child on their own? Or was it that they already had children and could not cope with another?

In the Sydney Morning Herald Adele Horin suggests some answers:

Yet new federally funded research, released by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, shows, if anything, Australian women have a heightened sense of responsibility about the decision to become a mother. Interviews with 3201 people aged 20-39, about half of them women, showed Australians want children. Women want children. But they also want to give their child the best possible start in life. They want to be the best mothers they can be. They want economic security, and they want to be in a stable relationship before they have children.

Decades of undermining “poor, single mothers” and “the disadvantaged children of divorce” have created a climate where, understandably, women want to bring children into the world only when the circumstances are right. A secure job and a reliable partner who is also good parent material are considered essential prerequisites. That is what the research showed. Conservative politicians and commentators, who have cast aspersions on single parents and their “problem” children, have reaped what they sowed. The message has got through. How can they now turn around and expect young, pregnant single women to embrace parenthood?

Maybe women have an inflated view of what is adequate, of what children need. But we live in the era of the private school, the coaching college, broadband internet access. Child-raising in the 21st century is not cheap.

Maybe a married women with two or three young children, and a lazy, no-good husband, can be persuaded to go through with an unwanted pregnancy. Maybe it will work out. But women want to give the children they already have the best chance in a highly competitive, consumerist society. Churchmen don’t know what is best for women, and their children. Women do.

But this debate is not about fertility, women and men’s interface with the paid workforce as parents, or about how people could find a better balance between life and work. It’s about a religious definition of “life”.

As Shaun Carney observes, this issue is only one front in the fights the Government is going to have with its own backbench in the wake of the sweeping Parliamentary victory of 2004. The other broad front is the tax and welfare agenda being pushed by the group led by Senator Mitch Fifield and Sophie Panopolous, not to mention the concerns of the Queensland Nationals. There are big dangers for the government in all three areas. Julia Gillard’s been quick to seize on this to attack Abbott, but the fact that Labor Federal policy supports reproductive choice and part of the charge is being led by ALP MP John Murphy suggests there are also dangers for the Opposition. It’s easy to see why both parties have tended to regard this issue as a settled one, and to avoid its politicisation in the past. It’s also of note that Ministers are probably egging on some of these backbench outfits (Ando and Abbott in the case of abortion), and increasingly tensions internal to the Coalition will come to be seen through a leadership succession lens (Fifield is a former Costello staffer and his agenda is probably closer to Costello’s position than Howard’s “tax and spend, elect and elect”).

We live in interesting political times. But it would be of benefit for everyone, no matter what their opinion, if the debate were held in terms of the actual motivations of its proponents.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

Mark, you are quite right that the entire debate is about how you define life (and you dont have to be religious to view abortion as murder, by the way).

If you hold that view, it’s very hard to be persuaded that abortion is okay, rather in the same way that its hard to be persuaded that capital punishment is okay.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

That’s true, Scott, but I think that most of the people doing the running on the issue have formed their view through their religious convictions.

Hence, as Adele Horin argues in the article I linked to they’re unlikely to support the sorts of easy access to contraception (ie the morning after pill) and condoms in schools, as well as the open sex education programmes which appear to have driven down the rate of terminations in the Netherlands.

My own take on this is a libertarian one: given that people disagree conscientiously over the issue, it’s best for the State to leave the decision up to the individual. You could also argue this from a classic liberal position – Locke’s notion of property over one’s person and thus a right to privacy.

The irony is also that the measures proposed (for instance changes to Medicare) would be unlikely to reduce the number of terminations, but rather to disadvantage those who are worse off. Abbott himself framed the issue in terms of his own conscience “presiding over” abortions. This is a strange view of the role of the Health Minister, and if he can’t reconcile his public duties with his private beliefs, he ought to do the honourable thing and resign or ask for another portfolio.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I’ll also note, as I was criticised for “condoning murder” or something along those lines last time I broached this issue by Julian O’Dea on his blog (and he never responded to my clarification) that I have been careful not to state my view on when life begins. Rather, I’m arguing in terms of the public policy position, the ethics of politicians relying on their religious views rather than their public role as representatives and legislators for the whole community, and my support for women to have reproductive rights.

Again, without disclosing what my personal beliefs are, I’d point out that the examples of John Kerry and Kim Beazley go to show that a politician can have a religious view as a private citizen and a different principled stand as a legislator.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

I’m not shy about stating a position. Once a foetus has a nervous system and heartbeat, it should be regarded as having rights independently of its mother. Before that, I agree it should be regarded as a matter of choice and the mother’s right to terminate if she wishes in consultation with her doctor should be essentially no business of the law. After that (which effetively means some time in the second trimester), however, it DOESN’T mean that abortion should never be permitted nor that it can be labelled “murder”. In situations where the mother’s life or psychiatric health are gravely threatened, there should still be a right to abortion in consultation with the doctor. But only if the situation is that grave and immediate. Outlawing late terminations absolutely is in essence to play Solomon and conclusively prefer one (unborn) life over another existing one, effectively sentencing the mother to compulsory suicide. Such a position would be disobeyed wholesale and bring the law into justified disdain.

The foregoing is roughly what the law ostensibly says in most parts of Australia, but I suspect in practice late term abortions are sometimes performed in circumstances less severe (in terms of the threat to the mother’s life) than that. Hence I agree with calls by Anderson and Boswell to ascertain the real facts, even though they’re clearly driven by an agenda that has little to do with the scale of the problem or whether the number of late term abortions is increasing (it appears that it isn’t).

I’m reticent about dancing to the tune of conservatives who seem to be adopting the agenda of America’s Religious Right, but late term abortion DOES raise real moral issues that I regard as important irrespective of day-to-day political machinations.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“Hence I agree with calls by Anderson and Boswell to ascertain the real facts, even though they’re clearly driven by an agenda that has little to do with the scale of the problem or whether the number of late term abortions is increasing (it appears that it isn’t).”

The problem of course, as the two articles I linked to suggest, is that Boswell and Anderson appear disinterested in the facts as to the real circumstances that inform women’s reproductive choices (a complex constellation which is nevertheless amenable to well designed research such as the AIFS study) but rather want a number they can point to as “too many”. Having said that, the attitude from some on the other side of the debate that “it doesn’t matter” is not helpful, and just serves to stoke the Boswell/Anderson bandwagon rather than defuse it as they are probably aiming to do. I’d argue we’d all be well served by a debate where the actual issues are aired.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Mark

Yes, I’m not disagreeing with any of the points you made, just stating a clear position of my own.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I didn’t think we were in disagreement, Ken, over the issue of research and openness about this issue but I take it you’d agree we need more than a headcount as Boswell appears to be suggesting?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Mark

Of course, we need to look in depth at the reasons for late term abortions and, as you say, the constellation of issues like birth control, adoption, financial support for single parents, social attitudes etc.

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

Mark, you mentioned – “the ethics of politicians relying on their religious views rather than their public role as representatives and legislators for the whole community,”

Would you care to explain this further?

For those of us of the atheist persuasion, it can be difficult to understand the impact of religious belief on the intellectual development and worldview of the believer. Yet we see in the news all the time how powerful this influence can be.

To my mind, it is no more illegitimate for a political figure to base his/her views on a political question on their religious beliefs then it is for them to draw on their idelogical beliefs.

It is true that allowing this means that policymakers may be creating policy based on religious beliefs that I do not share. However, I do not see how this is any different to policy based on idelogical views that I do not share either.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Scott

I can’t speak for Mark, however I’ll give my perspective. I don’t think it’s a matter of “ethics” as such. Instead I agree with John Quiggin, who suggests that there is nothing at all wrong with politicians (or anyone else) having beliefs about issues that are grounded in their religious faith. However, they can’t expect to have them accepted per se or given any degree of respect greater than their inherent rational weight merits, merely because the belief is faith-based. Thus, I don’t accept Chris Sheil’s apparent dismissal of Tony Abbott’s abortion obsession as being mere dog-whistling or shambolic; I accept that he’s sincere and that his beliefs are grounded in his religious faith. But he needs to make his case just like anyone else in the “marketplace of ideas”.

I’m not sure what Mark meant by his use of the word “ethics” in this context. No doubt he’ll tell us in due course.

C.L.
2022 years ago

Owing to a friend’s and a sibling’s simultaneous tragedies – I don’t think that’s too strong a word for it – I got myself into a disagreement about this issue a while back and I was largely to blame. It’s regretted.

That personal aspect points to the true nature of this whole matter: it’s inherently personal and, try as we might, we won’t ever convert others to our view. That’s not easy for me to admit because like Abbott I tend to see life as being about good fights – however quixotic.

This is why I’ve come to believe that the good that can come of the debate – and, to some extent, already has – is that we can all agree that abortion is something that is not good and which should be avoided. That means education, supporting women in their pregnancies (especially the least empowered and monied) and learning more about the whole phenomenon – in its social, economic, psychological and relational dimensions.

As I’ve indicated here in other debates, I’m no economic rationalist and don’t really care how much this worthwhile kind of welfare and medical revolution might cost. I DON’T believe welfare in and of itself is the answer. (Please, no Dalrympology).

Finally, I think that eventually men and women who have recourse to abortion will be choosing something that is regarded as verging on the socially inappropriate or even stigma-laden. Partially, at least, that may be a good thing – insofar as it has a preventative and responsibility-encouraging effect.

Senator Boswell’s inclination to force ultrasound viewings and otherwise harrass people is bumpkin nonsense and I wish he’d go back to his farm or the Senate benches and bang on about something less profound.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

CL

I got overheated too (although for different reasons). I’m sorry too.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Excuse me if I cut across, for I haven’t been forensic in my study of the earlier comments (but note KP’s less cynical take on the Monk, which I could never agree with, but concede only time will finally tell).

Fair dinkum, this debate is bizarre. This nation is undergoing a skills shortage and a fertility crisis and yet … housing affordability reduces, the size of houses grows, just as the number actually living in them shrinks. Houses are larger, less people are in them, and fewer people can afford them. Can you imagine what this looks like from Mars?

Debate over aborton intensifies, while children are behind razor wire. Everything is up for privatisation, except an individual woman’s right to determine absolutely and fucking forever whatever the fuck purpose her own goddamned fucking individual body is allocated toward. Give me a break. As Tim Dunlop would possibly say if his site was not under attack from a blizzard of spam metorites, they can just fuck off.

*apologises for strong language*

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

That ‘freedom’ stuff sure does stink, hey Chris.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Scott and Ken, I should have clarified that I’m talking about ethics in the Weberian sense. Weber argues in “Politics as a Vocation” that there is a difference between an “ethic of ultimate ends” and an “ethic of responsibility”. His argument is really directed against Kant’s universalist ethics. His basic argument is that a personal ethic where you seek not to do wrong is inappropriate for politics where instead there is a distinct ethic in which you act for the greater good, perhaps causing suffering in the process and perhaps violating your own personal code. This to Weber is the height of political responsibility – a responsibility not to the private domain of life but to the collectivity.

The text is online here:
http://oldweb.uwp.edu/academic/sociology/schutte/soca%20301/PolVoc.html

This to me remains the best and most classic statement of the problem of ethics in/and politics.

In other words, if as a person you might find yourself needing to make a choice about whether you have a child or have a termination, that is something that you should decide according to your own moral code. But a different ethics applies in your public decisionmaking as you are required to take into account the broad public good not just private decisions.

Chris, I largely agree with you. We live in bizarre times. The fact that what happened to that poor woman with schizophrenia has not re-opened the debate on detention per se is also troubling.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

C.L., by the way, Senator Boswell’s family lost their farm through bankruptcy or other economic misfortune which is why this particular scion of the squattocracy of graziers found himself making a living from politics.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I’m not sure it’s generally as cut and dried as “my religious beliefs don’t allow me to support abortion.” Clearly that’s the case for a number of people – and God help them if they can’t develop a philosophical position past blind, unquestioning faith – but ultimately it’s an issue on which most of us form a view, (or don’t form a view) based on a whole host of factors. There is, in practice, no uniform view on abortion amongst Australian Catholics any more than there’s a uniform view on birth control generally. Overwhelmingly, communicant Catholic couples do practise contraception and I’m sure that Tony Abbott has been no exception. I’d be surprised if he’s simply parroting Catechism here, independent of any other consideration.

I’ve absolutely no doubt that womens’ reproductive rights are just that and, like Ken, I wouldn’t seek to intervene prior to a final trimester scenario – where technological advances in respect of neonatal survivability have advanced tremendously. I shudder at the thought of a child being delivered to disposal but, equally, I know that such a scenario is far from being the reality that we’re dealing with.

The truth is that a woman’s right to choose is hardly ever exercised independently of a whole host of considerations, conflicts, grief, fears etc. It’s not just an either/or scenario.

It seems to me that the question here that needs to be answered is this: to what extent are the parliamentary arbiters of our national moral conscience prepared to accept that a decline in abortions is ultimately dependent on enhancing the ability of every woman to make the sort of informed reproductive choices that might reduce them? It’s that quid pro quo that provides the point of balance in our current legislative framework around the issue. A shift in the equilibrium can’t happen without consideration of the whole.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“To my mind, it is no more illegitimate for a political figure to base his/her views on a political question on their religious beliefs then it is for them to draw on their idelogical beliefs.”

Scott, I’d disagree with you because ideological beliefs are by definition beliefs about politics. When we vote for our local Liberal or Labor MP, because we know something of the ideological character of both parties, in a broad sense we know what we’re getting – which facilitates informed democratic choice and accountability. I don’t vote for my local Labor MP on the basis of his religious beliefs and thus I don’t give any credence to his taking a position (hypothetically – I don’t know where Bevis stands on this) based on those beliefs. I voted for Bevis on the basis that he supports the policy framework of the Labor Party, not because he is a Buddhist, or a Catholic, or an Anglican, or a Presbyterian or whatever. That should be irrelevant to his public decision-making role as a legislator because we are not asked to choose our representatives on those grounds but on political/ideological grounds.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“It seems to me that the question here that needs to be answered is this: to what extent are the parliamentary arbiters of our national moral conscience prepared to accept that a decline in abortions is ultimately dependent on enhancing the ability of every woman to make the sort of informed reproductive choices that might reduce them? It’s that quid pro quo that provides the point of balance in our current legislative framework around the issue. A shift in the equilibrium can’t happen without consideration of the whole.”

Hear hear, Geoff. I couldn’t agree more.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

“That ‘freedom’ stuff sure does stink, hey Chris.”

Giving full, and I mean full, full stop, ‘freedom’, to women probably does in certain circles, I agree.

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

it’s good to see the recognition that the choices women make about reproduction are serious ones. I’ve never been pregnant myself – but I know women who have wrestled in a state of personal and spiritual agony when faced with the necessity of terminating a pregnancy – sometimes changing the views they’ve had instilled in them from a Catholic upbringing as a consequence.

I would like to have kids, but like many women in the research cited, would like to give them the best upbringing they could possibly have, both in terms of the financial resources but more importantly in terms of a loving home with two loving parents. of course, if I were to want to have kids with a same-sex partner, that choice would be devalued instantly by the same old men who prattle on incessantly about the rights of children.

thx, Chris, you said it well and some anger on this issue is warranted indeed!

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I think you’ve made a strong point, yellowviny – what is needed from our pollies here, as the two columns in the Fairfax media I’ve linked to argue, is some recognition of the choices women face and the totality of the inputs that go into reproductive choices about pregnancy.

Irant
2022 years ago

I blogged today on some stats published in the SMH that show that late-term abortions make up only 1% of total abortions (by Medicare statistics -usual caveats apply). The indication was that such abortions are rare and only performed of infant is likely to die or the mother’s life is threatened. The true agenda is being hidden (not very well) behind this diversion.

The idea of a total ban on late-term abortions horrifies me. The grief such a law would cause would be tremendous.

Zoe
Zoe
2022 years ago

CL says Finally, I think that eventually men and women who have recourse to abortion will be choosing something that is regarded as verging on the socially inappropriate or even stigma-laden. Partially, at least, that may be a good thing – insofar as it has a preventative and responsibility-encouraging effect.

From my experience, that is already true. Many thousands of women have had abortions, but it’s not something that is widely spoken about. On the other hand, if it comes up in a group of women, many will disclose their personal history.

I wrote a report on late termination for the Qld (National) govt in the late 1990s and can tell you that the number of post 20 week terminations is minimal and almost exclusively done for strong medical reasons.

I have two friends who were induced at 20 and 24 weeks for such reasons. I feel for the resurgence of their grief that the labelling about late term abortions could bring.

I am glad that the term “abortion on demand” hasn’t been used in this discussion. Women may request abortion, but are dependent on medical professionals to provide it.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

That’s true, Zoe, and sadly, as Suki reports, the opinion of medical professionals is sometimes influenced by the “political climate”:

http://notanothertermplease.blogspot.com/2005/02/heading-towards-two-tiered-society-no.html

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

CS actualy it is the baby’s body that something happens to.

sometime ago I read a survey which I think was in the Medical journal, I could be wrong on that, which showed the major reason for over 10,000 woen having an abortion in Australia was essentially lifestyle reasons ie they didn’t want the baby.
Senator Ferris agrees with this when she stated that abortion is part of family planning!

I would only agree to anortion ehen it is a choice of either the mother or the baby surviving.
I would leave it to the mother in terms of a woman being raped however this is quite rare if the previous survey is any guide.

Perhaps a bit more thought and responsibility could be encouraged before engaging in sex. That is the major CHOICE in this matter.

Zoe
Zoe
2022 years ago

Homer, I agree that encouraging thoughtful and responsible choices is an excellent idea.

I have a real problem with the dismissive term “lifestyle reasons” because it trivialises the decisions women make about their lives. Ask your friends – some of them will have had abortions. Ask them why, and listen. It might help educate you about how seriously considered the decisions women make are.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

Why should I care about the choices women make?

Society doesn’t care about the choices men make. So let women put up with the same forced responsibility that men have to.

If women don’t want to bear children, then they should either use contraception, or avoid sex. That’s the same option men get.

Why should we give women special treatment and extra choices that are denied to men?

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

they are merely the results of the survey Zoe.

I might add that most ‘pro-choice’ people I hear usely use the term ‘family planning which is merely a euphemnism for lifestyle.

Zoe
Zoe
2022 years ago

Evil: no point discussing this as Chris Sheil is the only person smart enought to talk to you about it, as was established a long time ago at his blog. But I see your obvious pain, and I’m sorry that it burns you up.

Homer, fair enough on your first point. With the second, if “family planning” is a “lifestyle” matter what is the result after a “bit more thought and responsibility [is] encouraged before engaging in sex”?

When men say be responsible, it’s a great policy idea. When women take responsibility, it’s a different matter altogether.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

Chris Sheil doesn’t address the issues.

Why should women have a “right” to abortion, when men have no “right” to renounce an unwanted child?

How can abortion be an individual “right” when it is not something a woman can do herself by an act of will, but requires an external agency? There’s no “right to abort”, only a “right to solicit some suitably skilled person to artificially terminate a woman’s pregnancy”. Abortion is not an individual choice, it’s a social process inviolving numerous people, from becioming pregnant to termination. As a social process, it is rightly subject to social regulation.

When a woman can become pregnant all by herself, then reabsorb the fetus unaided, then we can talk about a woman’s “right” to abortion.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Homer, following on from Zoe’s comment, you should be aware that any survey is as good as its methodology and its sample only. The construct that the survey you refer to apparently proceeded on – “lifestyle choices” is only one way of framing women’s choices and I’d have thought as Zoe says a very loaded one. As I said above, the research from the AIFS revealed that women’s choices about fertility were invariably taken very seriously, and dependent on things like the ability of their partner to be a good parent, the cost of parenting, their own life circumstances etc. This particular study has been referred to by other writers as exploding the myth also that women don’t want to have kids because they think it would interfere with some lifestyle they’d prefer. I’ve had a quick look at the AIFS site and I can’t find it, but if anyone cares to have a bigger dig around, feel free to post the url here. The AIFS is at http://www.aifs.gov.au/index.html

I’ll email them and ask them for a copy and if I get time, post something about the research specifically outside the context of this issue.

wbb
wbb
2022 years ago

“Perhaps a bit more thought and responsibility could be encouraged before engaging in sex.” People end up with unwanted pregnancies even after having done the above. Believe me. When the majority believe that abortin is murder then it will be outlawed. Until then the individual will make up their own mind within the limits of the current law.

(EP – take what Zoe says seriously. Obsessing like this in a forum like this is masochistic and unlikely to help. You want to try to get on with things. Counselling? There is no shame.)

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

Mark’s point (which he also attributes to John Quiggin) about the need to justify laws and policies in the marketplace of ideas, resembles Peter Singer’s (it may not be Singer’s originally) concept of ‘public reason’. Whatever a politician’s motivation, her proposals need to be grounded in widely accepted values and rules of logical argument.

No one has yet designed a pro-forma for this puspose, but I think a minimum requirement ought to that the actual measures being proposed are explicitly stated.

If someone wants to nationalise the banks or abolish the Industrial Commission or something, they usually just come out and say it and argue the case. They don’t couch it in terms of the need for a ‘debate’. But proponents of anti-abortion measures have adopted this bit of spin with great success. It immediately puts their opponents on the back foot. Who could be so unreasonable as to refuse a debate?

This emphasis on constructive and amicable debate masks a certain caginess what is being advocated. When Currency Lad says ‘it’s inherently personal and, try as we might, we won’t ever convert others to our view.’ Is that all you want? An opportunity to persuade me not have an abortion or help you persuade others? Or would you, if you had the majority on your side, erect a regime in which women were physically restrained from having abortions and/or subject to criminal proceedings?

On the other hand, if it’s a just a matter of providing pregnant women with more support, more counselling (if they want it), more options, etc, who could possibly object? Being pro-choice never implied opposition to any of these things. If you really want a ‘debate’ in this case, then have it with the Treasurer and the Health Minister (what’s the guy’s name again?) and see if you can get them to pay for it.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I totally agree, James. The “debate” is to a degree, testing the water to see how far the proponents of legislative change can go, and at the same time, a political/rhetorical strategy to brand supporters of the current regime as “opponents of free speech”.

Howard apparently thinks it’s fine to allow a Private Members’ Bill time (taken from Government business) if people “want to debate the issue” but he showed no such consideration for MPs’ wish to have a debate when Private Members’ bills about rights for same-sex couples were introduced.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

The real question that is being ignored here is the fact that women have reproductive rights guaranteed by society, but men do not.

There should be a debate about the reproductive rights and responsibilities of both sexes, and how they might be fairly balanced. I don’t think there has ever been such a debate, merely a series of ad-hoc decisions catering to various lobbies.

The whole area needs to be re-thought and re-legislated.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Shorter Evil Pee: “I demand the Government do something about my penis.”

And how do you guarantee men’s “reproductive rights”? Free viagra? Wombs for blokes? “Where’s the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box? ”

You really are turning into a Monty Python sketch before our eyes.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

I see everyone is afraid of debating the issue — even Nabakov has to resort to straw-man nonsense.

No wonder the feminist Left wants to keep the lid on this. They know that any debate on the inequities surrounding reproducvtive rights will expose the privilege of women and the oppression of men.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Cheer up Evil Pee. It’s only a flesh wound.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

You give up too easily, Nabakov. I also note that you only seem to hang out in forums where you receive the luxury of majority support for your viewpoints.

A fair weather commenter.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

go on nabby. prove that you’re not a fair-weather commenter! go harrass tim blair and Stormtrooper Harris if they’ll let you.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Jeez, Evil Pee, you really are getting more and more petty and monomaniacal.

I notice too that I don’t see you commenting the other forums beyond this circle where I get down and dirty about Synchrotron beam line funding, Sam Fuller-autistic genius or what?, PPPs, bad sex and lovepiles, AI encounters, Cloneman!, UAV technology, OC takedowns, you too can build an acquatic elephant!, SF plotting pitfalls, 18th and 19th century naval history, “the Bear'”and Silver Valley, psuedocompendi and Charlotte Rampling.

Some of us do have an online life beyond wrestling with a flamboyantly self-inflicted martyr complex at a local antipodean online pub

Beside, as Jason pointed out, how long do you think I’d last at Spleenville, LGF or Free Republic? Would we be having this interchange there?

So shut up and enjoy yer freedom to speak out here.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

I don’t see you responding to any of the points I raised relating to the abortion debate, either. Just retreating into the lightweight verbal frippery you do so well.

Like I said, you give up too easily.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Oh for fuck’s sake Evil Pee. What points?

Look, here’s a portable battery-powered womb, some peni enlargment pills, a signed glossy of Germanine Greer (pre-pierced) and Tony Abbott’s email address is: Tony.Abbott.MP@aph.gov.au.

Knock yerself out.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

These points, to which you once again failed to respond (are you afraid of something?):

The real question that is being ignored here is the fact that women have reproductive rights guaranteed by society, but men do not.

There should be a debate about the reproductive rights and responsibilities of both sexes, and how they might be fairly balanced. I don’t think there has ever been such a debate, merely a series of ad-hoc decisions catering to various lobbies.

The whole area needs to be re-thought and re-legislated.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Yeah, but EP, at this stage these are assertions not arguments. What’s there to debate about?

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

“What’s there to debate about?”

In Evil Pee’s case, probably the social utility of parthenogenesis.

Evil Pundit
2022 years ago

What is there to debate about? Things like:

Is there a right to reproduce? Who has this right, and in what circumstances can it be exercised? Are there limits to this right? Does this right extend to state-supported interventions such as IVF and future technologies to be developed?

Is there a right not to reproduce? Who has this right, and under what circumstances can it be exercised? What does it mean for such a right to be violated? Can people be compensated for its violation?

Is there a right to rescind the consequences of a decision to reproduce? Who has this right, and under what circumstances can it be exercised?

Are there any rights that extend to some people and not others?

What obligations and responsibilities arise from the exercise of these rights?

There’s a whole wide area here, covering issues like abortion, paternity fraud, sperm theft, rape, child support, and many others. There should be a serious attempt to develop general principles which govern legislation in these areas, rather than a bunch of ad-hoc decisions at the behest of different lobby groups.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

“Is there a right not to reproduce?”

You had me until then.

Actually I can sorta see what yer on about here. You want to impose Government legislation on why and how we should, could and would breed.

Frankly that smacks of collectivism at best and eugenics at worst. There’s a bit of that now in terms of some of the IVF laws but you seem to want more, Evil Pee, you centralist control merchant, you. Y’know, I’m really starting to think yer kinda world government sleeper agent.

Personally, I’m pretty happy with the ad-hoc thing you mentioned. That’s how the human race got this far. By muddling through and making it up as we went along.

Zoe
Zoe
2022 years ago

… but do tell us more about the “sperm theft” angle, Evil.

Do they catch the culprits jizzy handed, or what?