Blog for Choice Day: On being a pro-choice vegan.

January 22nd, 2010 11:06 am by Kelly Garbato

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Blog for Choice Day 2010:
Trusting Women, Honoring Dr. Tiller

I wrote the bulk of this post last June, in the days and weeks following the murder of Dr. George Tiller. Initially – and still – intended as part of a series called “Killing in the Name of,” this piece attempts to reconcile my pro-choice and vegan beliefs, which as it turns out, isn’t a difficult task at all. Harder still is defending some of the “terrorist” tactics employed by the animal rights movement while condemning similar tactics when used in service a “pro-life” agenda. It’s an emotional and confusing endeavor, and one I’m still working on. If ever I do figure it all out, I’ll post Part 2 of this series.

In the meantime, I’d like to share my thoughts “On being a pro-choice vegan” as part of today’s Blog for Choice Day (5th annual, bitches!). It doesn’t exactly fit with this year’s theme, but seeing as “Trusting Women” was chosen in honor of Dr. Tiller, I think it’s appropriate anyhow. If you disagree, hop on over to Animal Rights & Anti-Oppression; my post there follows the assignment to a “t” (“v”?).

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“Killing in the Name of”: Introduction

My apologies for the brief blogular absence. I’ve got a ton of posts lined up in the queue, but my attention has turned elsewhere – from animal rights to reproductive rights (which aren’t completely unrelated) – since the murder of Dr. George Tiller on Sunday.

News of Dr. Tiller’s death came like a kick in the gut. The last time an abortion doctor was murdered was in 1998; I was only 20 at the time, and somewhat apolitical. Even though Dr. Barnett Slepian’s murder occurred not far from my hometown, I really can’t recall what I felt – if anything – at the news. But now – now I know better. Dr. Tiller’s murder, far from an isolated crime committed against a single individual, was intended to terrorize abortion providers and reproductive health clinics all over the United States. Doctors and clinics that provide vital health care, primarily to women. Scared women, marginalized women, women in need, women with nowhere else to go. To this end, it was an atrocity perpetrated against women everywhere, women who want nothing more than control over their own lives – and bodies. Women who simply want to be regarded and treated as fully human.

Dr. Tiller was one of a handful of doctors who perform abortions in the later term of pregnancy (whereas “late term” defies definition, and may mean anything from 3 to 6 months on). He saved countless women’s lives, even in the face of unrelenting threats and danger, including an assassination attempt and the bombing of his clinic. Dr. Tiller was a hero – a hero who became a martyr. It’s difficult to describe, but Dr. Tiller’s murder – and all the anti-choice rhetoric that’s littered the media since – well, it’s hit me. Hard. It feels like women are under siege, our very bodily sovereignty up for grabs.* We’re so, so much worse off without him.

Of course, our collective loss pales in comparison to the loss suffered by his family, which includes his wife, 4 children and 10 grandchildren. My heart bleeds for them.

Naturally, many on the left have labeled this an act of domestic terrorism, and criticized the media and government for not doing so. They also point to the extreme right wing rhetoric that inflamed passions against abortion providers, implicating it in the murder. Scott Roeder may have pulled the trigger, the reasoning goes, but pundits and anti-abortion crusaders put the gun in his hand.

All of which has brought to the fore related issues with which I’ve been grappling for quite some time, particularly those involving parallels between the animal rights and anti-choice movements. For example, while animal rights “terrorists” have never killed a human, they do engage in campaigns of harassment and intimidation against individuals involved in animal exploitation – campaigns that are uncomfortably similar to the forms of “protest” carried out by “pro-lifers” against abortion providers. While animal rights activists are deemed the #1 domestic terrorist threat, anti-abortion groups (not-so-)curiously slip under the radar. And yet, is the answer to label them “terrorists” – or to rethink the very definition of “terrorism”?

Fetal Rights vs. Animal Rights

While it may escape the layperson, at their core, the animal rights and anti-abortion movements share little in common. “Pro-lifers,” who purport to be “pro-life,” are nothing of the sort, while the animal rights philosophy elucidates an ethic that’s truly respectful of all life.

As Ryan notes in “Anti-Abortion and Animal Rights Terrorists,” the anti-abortion movement is largely rooted in religion – including its patriarchal dominance of women. We mustn’t “kill babies,” say “pro-lifers,” because they have “souls,” are “gifts from God” (or an “irresponsible” – read: slutty – woman’s punishment for having sex/being raped; take your pick), and/or miniature humans. To anti-choicers, a seven-day-old blastocyst – or even the day-old fertilized but not-yet implanted egg – deserves the same – nay, greater! – rights than the fully formed, adult woman in which it exists, simply by virtue of its parentage.

While an embryo or fetus does possess human DNA, it doesn’t start to resemble a “little person” until well into the pregnancy; we begin as tiny clumps of 70-100 cells called blastocysts, spend 8 weeks as embryos, and then undergo six more months of fetal development prior to birth. During much of this time, we lack many of the brain functions that make us…well, functioning humans. PZ Myers points out that fetuses cannot even feel (sense) pain until at least the 25th week of gestation, for example.

Thus, anti-choicers have a difficult time pointing to one single criteria which marks an embryo as “human” (what ishuman,” anyway?) and thus deserving of basic human rights. Sentience – the ability to feel pain and suffer – is often cited as an argument against “late term abortion,” yet the lack of sentience in earlier stages certainly doesn’t prevent anti-choicers from railing against all abortions. (And indeed, even birth control, including but not limited to that which might prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.) A “soul” is necessarily a religious concept – therefore, “ensoulment” might prohibit you from having an abortion, but as a religious belief, it’s not something you can push on the rest of us via legislation. Remember, we live in a secular country that guarantees freedom of – and from – religion; just as I cannot prohibit you from believing in ensoulment at conception, no matter how stupid a concept I find it, you cannot force me to abide by it.

But what of sentience? As an animal rights advocate, certainly a fetus’s capacity to suffer and feel pain means that I must include it in my sphere of compassion and afford it the same right to life I extend to nonhuman animals? In order to avoid hypocrisy, shouldn’t I support a ban on abortion after the 25th week or so? Well, no. Here’s why.

For lack of a better term, I believe that all sentient beings – not just humans – have a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – as long as one being’s pursuit of happiness does not infringe on another being’s right to life or liberty. And no, this doesn’t mean that I want to extend suffrage to dogs, any more than I want to extend it to three-year-old children. One’s (civil) liberties rely upon one’s ability to exercise them, and thus are species-dependent. An entirely different matter are (human) rights – those most basic of rights which we extend to all humans, regardless of age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, ability, etc. Animal rights advocates wish to extend certain basic protections – e.g., the right to live free from enslavement and exploitation – currently enjoyed by humans to nonhuman animals. A chimp has no interest in voting, however, she does have an interest in not being kidnapped from her family, shipped to a research facility overseas, subjected to gruesome experiments, and “retired” to a roadside zoo once she’s no longer needed. In short, all beings have a right to live, and to live free from exploitation. (Or, to phrase this in less masculine terms, we should treat our fellow earth-dwellers with respect and compassion – the way we’d like to be treated. Causing another being to suffer unnecessarily is not compassionate.) “My” cat is no more my property, or a means to an end, than “my” child.

Mine not yours

Pregnancies present a unique case wherein the “right” of the fetus to live is diametrically opposed to the woman’s right to bodily sovereignty. Frankly, I can’t think of a more basic freedom than the ability to decide what – if anything – resides in one’s own body. In this case, the woman’s right trumps any “rights” the fetus or embryo may have; doubly so when you consider that, in the early stages of pregnancy, the blastocyst/embryo/fetus hardly resembles a human baby, is lacking in cognitive function, and would die outside the mother’s womb. Strictly speaking, the embryo/fetus is a parasite, wholly dependent on the mother’s organs and life force for survival. I’d no more force a woman to carry and birth a fetus against her will, than I’d force a man to live with a six-pound tapeworm in his intestine.

Nor would I force parents to donate blood, bone marrow, organs or other “expendable” body parts to children in need. While I may believe that it’s morally incumbent upon them do so, legislation requiring that they do so would strip them of sovereignty over their very bodies; and to this heathen vegan feminist, if you can’t control your body, your very being – you are anything but “free.” Put another way, parents shouldn’t have less of a right to bodily autonomy than non-parents, simply because they engaged in sex resulting in offspring. One doesn’t sign away control over one’s own body upon parenting children. It matters not if the offspring is a developing fetus or a 19-year-old kid.

cuffed fallopians

Interestingly, I’ve yet to hear a “pro-lifer” advocate for forced organ donation, even though their arguments in favor of forced birth logically lead to this conclusion, namely, that by having sex and creating a fetus (which grows into a baby which grows into a child), parents are responsible for sustaining that being’s physical well-being, no matter how much this may encroach on the parent’s body. (Not-so-) curiously, this logic is only employed when it’s the bodies of women/mothers which are being hijacked. But why should relinquishing one’s body and its organs – so long as it does not kill you** – end with birth? “You created this child,” the logic goes, “now it’s your responsibility to sustain it.” And yet, this burden is only hoisted on the bodies of those carrying would-be babies – a population which is necessarily 100% female. At its core, the movement to legislate pro-life beliefs is misogynist.***

Furthermore, for all their wailing about THE BAYBEEZ!, anti-choicers do little to actually, practically reduce the need for/number of abortions – the most effective method being to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. Such strategies include comprehensive sexual education and affordable and widely available contraception, including Plan B. Yet, anti-choicers usually stand opposed to each of these: they tend to support abstinence-only education, agitate for their “right” to deny women contraception via conscience clauses, and mischaracterize Plan B (which prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg, thus preventing pregnancy) as an “abortifacient.” In fact, the extreme, vocal religious right faction of the “pro-life” movement is intent on outlawing not just abortion, but contraception as well, in order to force today’s “liberated” women back where they belong – in the home, barefoot, pregnant and uneducated, subservient to God and their Husbands.

If “pro-lifers” were really as pro-life as they claim to be then, in cases where women do find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy, certainly the pro-lifers, being so pro-life and all, help her to obtain an abortion as early as possible in the pregnancy, so that the being she’s aborting is less likely to feel pain and suffer…right? Rhetorical question, natch. (Lol ur nayevetay!)

Which brings us to cases of “late term” abortion – the kind provided by the late Dr. Tiller. Most of these abortions are performed out of medical necessity, when the life or health of the mother and/or fetus is endangered. Many of these pregnancies were planned and wanted, and it’s only with great despair and desperation – and at the urging of a physician – that the mother turns to abortion. Few women carry a fetus for five or six months and then “suddenly” decide that they no longer wish to have a baby.

Anti-abortion Leaders

On the contrary; the seemingly “reasonable” roadblocks thrown in front of women seeking abortions (such as mandatory counseling and ultrasounds and spousal and parental consent), not to mention the dearth of abortion providers, mean that women, encountering difficulty in obtaining an abortion, must push the date further and further back. Of the relatively small percentage of women who seek medically unnecessary late(r)-term abortions, many do so because they were unable – vs. unwilling – to obtain abortions earlier in their pregnancies. The simplest way to reduce the number of late-term abortions, again, is to make contraception and abortion affordable and available. The “pro-life” movement’s failure – nay, active opposition – to do so makes them anything but. In the case of late-term abortions, where they’d rather see both mother and fetus suffer – and possibly die – together, it makes them absolutely anti-woman, anti-child, anti-human – anti-life. (And, um, that’s not even taking into account their dietary habits.)

On being a pro-choice vegan.

Animal abolitionists, in contrast, tend to be a more ethically consistent lot (emphasis on tend to). While animal rights philosophy is both nuanced and diverse (and given that this is an animal rights blog, aimed at animal rights activists, I don’t think it’s necessary to delve into the details), for me it boils down to the following:

Is unnecessary suffering bad?
Can nonhuman animals suffer?
Does my immediate survival directly depend on using or harming an animal?

As the answers almost always amount to “yes,” “yes,” and “no,” I believe that it’s almost always unacceptable to “use” nonhuman animals as if they are resources or a means to an end. An animal’s species membership is no more relevant to this discussion that his sex, gender, color, breed, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, etc. What counts is sentience, and if an animal is sentient, he has the same interest in avoiding suffering as you and I. As the supposedly “evolved” and “superior” species, we should recognize and abide by this.

In granting nonhuman animals the right to live free from human exploitation, I’m not taking rights (or compassion) from humans, rather, I’m extending rights to animals. (Animal advocates are no more about subjugating humans than feminists are about subjugating men.) Again returning to Ryan’s post, a human has a right to eat what she needs to survive – she doesn’t, however, have a right to kill and eat another animal (human or non) if there’s a non-sentient alternative food source available.

Admittedly, individual animal advocates (and I have been one) differ in their application of this philosophy to both human and nonhuman animals. For instance, the above argument seems to me to rule out the death penalty, as executing a criminal, no matter his crime, is not necessary to my survival (or the survival of society as a whole). He’s already been caught and imprisoned; his execution amounts to retribution, not self-defense, and is therefore inconsistent with the animal rights ethic laid out above.

With few exceptions, you’ll also find that animal rights philosophy rests largely on reason, logic, compassion and justness, as opposed to the religious fanaticism and misogyny that drives the anti-choice movement. Animal exploiters may not agree with our conclusions, but we do base them on evidence and observation, something which cannot be said of “pro-lifers.”

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Of course, there’s also the issue of “killing” fetuses, which I’ve tackled above. In a perfect world, abortions would be safe, legal, rare – and performed as early as possible in the pregnancy. But absent that, I still don’t believe that whatever “right to life” a fetus may have trumps the right of a woman to live free of exploitation – and yes, the unwanted use of her body is tantamount to exploitation. When two very basic rights are in conflict, it’s every animal for herself. For what it’s worth, I also support the reproductive rights of cows, gorillas, pigs, mice, chickens, and bats. If a chimpanzee was capable of self-inducing an abortion – or of expressing her desire for one – I’d be the first to march on Capital Hill for her right to abort her nonhuman fetus.

As many animal advocates fall on the liberal end of the spectrum, no doubt a large segment of us support sex ed, contraception, higher education, religious freedom, women’s equality – and all the other shiny stuff that helps to make abortion as safe, legal, rare and early as is possible. Do you?
 
 
I am pro-choice, and a vegan.

These values are not mutually exclusive.

Only a meat-eating misogynist would argue otherwise.


 
 
Notes

While the bulk of this post was written quickly, off-the-cuff and without referring to any specific books, articles, etc., I relied heavily upon Cristina Page’s How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex (which I recently read and reviewed) for the sections on the anti-choice movement and reproductive rights. Much of my general knowledge vis-à-vis reproductive rights and religion comes from years spent consuming feminist media and lurking on feminist and atheist blogs. Likewise, my views on terrorism have been shaped by years spent engaged in animal rights activism, as well as Steve Best and Anthony J. Nocella II’s introductory chapter in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals.
 
 
Footnotes

* I tried to describe the feeling of knowing that a sizable and vocal minority wants to subjugate your body and will to that of another being to my husband by referencing the Alien franchise: try to imagine, if you will, the idea of an alien squatting in your body, of not wanting it there but being unable to eject it, and of knowing that, in time, it’ll rip right through your guts and burst out your chest. Now imagine that there’s a cure, but scientists refuse to administer it, as they’ve fetishized the alien to such a degree that they’ve granted him more rights than you. And btw, did I mention that this indignity is only visited upon men, simply because they had the misfortune of being born men? And oh yeah, something like 80% of the scientists are women – howdya like them apples?

** That said, some extreme anti-choicers think women should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, even if it does kill her.

*** Please note that I refer specifically to those who would force their pro-life beliefs on others (i.e., are pro-life and anti-choice), as opposed to those who consider themselves pro-life but believe that abortion should remain legal and with few restrictions for others (pro-choice pro-lifers).
 
 
Photo credits, top to bottom

Trust Women: Blog for Choice Day 2010 logo courtesy NARAL.

George Tiller: Pro-choice Martyr – CC image via Flickr user Liza Sabater.

Mine not yours – CC image via Flickr user internets_dairy. (Background on the 24 weeks placards here.)

cuffed fallopians – CC image via Flickr user arimoore.

Anti-abortion Leaders: 77% of anti-abortion leaders are men. 100% of them will never be pregnancy. CC image via Flicr user smiteme.

Pregnant Toque Macaque: Pregnant macaque in the Berlin Zoo. She seemed so heavy that she could barely move. CC image via Flickr user Sebastian Niedlich.

Brave survivors of the Midwest floods: A mother and her piglets find refuge at Farm Sanctuary. Image via Farm Sanctuary on Flickr.

Brave survivors of the Midwest floods: A mother pig peers beyond the camera. She and her babies are safe from the dinner plate at Farm Sanctuary. Image via Farm Sanctuary on Flickr.

Rows of farrowing crates: Breeding sows live in metal crates which are lined up in rows. CC image via Farm Sanctuary on Flickr.
 
 
Update, 2/21/11:

Since reproductive rights doesn’t seem to be a topic that’s commonly addressed in the vegan/animal advocacy community, I’ve decided to start a list of further reading on the topic. Pro-choice vegans? Fuck yeah!

Send me your pro-choice, pro-vegan links! Leave ‘em in the comments, email them to me at easyvegan [at] gmail.com, or tweet me @easyvegan. Please and thank you!
 
 

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24 Responses to “Blog for Choice Day: On being a pro-choice vegan.”

  1. Stephanie E. Says:

    So… I have to admit that this is the one single issue I never write or talk about — in large part because it seems to be the one single hot-button issue where my feelings are mixed and tangled up. I think this will be the first time, ever, I’ve commented at all on it publicly. Anyway, I’d be lying if I said that the idea of not-medically-necessary late-term abortions in particular doesn’t make me terribly uncomfortable, not because of any holdover religious beliefs (god no), but indeed because of the more legitimately “pro-life” ways I now look at the world. And I struggle to look at a five-month fetus the same way I would look at a parasite or a non-sentient organ. Of course, that said, among everything else we know about trying to force women to carry pregnancies to term or illegalize abortion, we also know that late-term abortions make up only a tiny percentage of abortions overall, even if they are what seem to get the most attention for and from the anti-abortion movement. And I appreciate your pointing out how some late-term abortions become late-term only because of the roadblocks put in the woman’s way at earlier stages.

    But this — “Harder still is defending some of the ‘terrorist’ tactics employed by the animal rights movement while condemning similar tactics when used in service a ‘pro-life’ agenda” — is another interesting area of exploration. I do have a hard time understanding how folks can decry certain tactics for one group that at least thinks its goal is defending innocent beings but vehemently support almost identical tactics for another group whose goal is defending innocent beings. I don’t see how either group can too strongly disagree with the other’s tactics without risking hypocrisy. And I know we’re (probably?) talking about home demos and the like here, but at AR last year, I actually listened as a couple people, certainly a fringe minority, pointed out how “effective” the killing of abortion doctors has been for that movement, and I (like clearly most others in the room) couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

  2. Kelly G. Says:

    I think I understand (somewhat) how you feel. My knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss any compassion I might have for an 8-month-old fetus. Otherwise, it feels like I’m making the anti-choicers’ job easy for them, since they distort this natural feeling of compassion in order to fetishize the fetus at the expense of the woman it’s living inside. (Really, not even living/”post-born” humans are allowed to “borrow” another person’s organs against their will.) Better not to give them that inch.

    But of course an 8-month-old fetus *is* different than an 8-week-old embryo. The more developed the fetus, the greater its potential for suffering during an abortion.

    A classic pro-choice slogan is that abortion should be “cheap, legal and rare.” Some women object to the “rare” part, since it implies that abortion is somehow a moral evil. Necessary, but evil. But abortion sucks; at the very least, it’s an uncomfortable medical procedure. No woman enjoys it. Fewer abortions = good. And if older fetuses are sentient – and I wish to reduce/eliminate unnecessary suffering – then early abortions = good, too. So instead of making abortion “cheap, legal and rare,” better still are abortions that are “affordable, accessible, a human right, rare, and early.”

    The home demos, the publishing of home addresses, and all that stuff…yeah. That’s hard for me to reconcile. But the outright murder of humans, be they abortion providers or vivisectionists? It boggles the mind that anyone would speak out publicly in support of that at an AR conference. Just thinking about it puts my stomach into knots.

  3. Michael A. Weber Says:

    Hey, even though I don’t agree with every single word said, this is maybe the best blog post I’ve ever read on any topic. This really floored me. Thanks a bunch for writing this…I hope people beyond just other pro-choice vegans read it!

  4. Alex Says:

    My first thought is that both sides of this debate seem to confuse a philosophical concept with a biological designation. “Human”, strictly speaking, is short-hand for a member of the species Homo sapiens. “Pro lifers” and “pro choices”, however, rely on a slide from this designation to a conception of personhood.

    In this latter sense (personhood), the question, “What is a human,” makes sense. In the former sense, however, the question is nonsensical, as Peter Singer cogently argues. Of course the fetus, etc. is human, biologically. What else could it be?

    The Right uses emolument to designate personhood. But it follows, for them, because all humans have souls. Therefore, the concept of personhood perfectly correlates with the biological designation “human”. The Left, however, doesn’t rely on this move; personhood and biological designations are often distinct. But this is where the sophism on the Left shows itself. They won’t admit what they’re doing; under the pretense of “neutrality”, we actually implicitly argue that the Right has the concept of personhood wrong.

    Now, that said, and invoking the hypothetical of Judith Jarvis Thomson, your argument is the most reasonable attempt to bring ethical veganism in line with “pro choice” arguments. It is a parasitic relationship; however, ethical vegan premises would extend personhood (thus rights or respect or consideration of interests, etc.) to the parasite (in this hypothetical).

    So, it seems reasonable to argue that in my realization of interests, I don’t have the additional right to use your body (as Thomson argues). This means that it would be supererogatory to bring the fetus to term. I can see some Aristotelian arguments against abortion post-25 weeks, but I can’t think of an argument that would ground it as an ethical obligation.

  5. Kelly G. Says:

    @ Michael – Thanks, I appreciate it! By the way, it’s likely *I* won’t agree with everything I wrote, should I revisit this post in a year or two. Funny how that works :)

    @ Alex – Did you happen to see Royce’s series of posts on the human/nonhuman binary? http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/ Interesting stuff.

    @ Stephanie – BTW, you flatter me by “coming out” on my humble lil’ blog. Probably your views will remain safe here!

  6. Eco-feminism? « Elizabeth Nolan Brown Says:

    [...] … In the next weeks, I’ll be looking at a variety of intersecting issues including the human cost of chocolate, the use of fur in northern climates and indigenous cultures, soy and soybean farming, nuclear power’s environmental effects, ideas for carbon-free transit, the links between racism and animal oppression, and how you can be a pro-choice vegan. [...]

  7. Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 15: BEEF!, Bitches & “Bruised Feelings” » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    [...] ideas for carbon-free transit, the links between racism and animal oppression, and how you can be a pro-choice vegan. I’ll deconstruct and highlight ecofeminist issues in the news, like today’s New York Times [...]

  8. Weekly Wednesday Wrap-Up #8 « The Voracious Vegan Says:

    [...] more info about being a pro-choice vegan please check out this post from Easy Vegan. I encourage you to read this article before asking me to explain my [...]

  9. Allysia K Says:

    I used to be about as pro-choice as could be, and a year-ish ago I would have agreed with you. Now, after experiencing pregnancy and the death of my child a week before she was due, not from my choice but through reasons unknown to me and everyone else, I just can’t share the same stance anymore. To me, it’s not so black and white. While I agree that women shouldn’t be “forced” to bear children, at the same time, the thought of a woman killing her developing fetus WILLINGLY is so gut-wrenchingly painful to me that I can barely think about it without screaming.

    Of course, many religious, pro-life zealots do stupid shit that I don’t agree with at all, killing this guy being no exception. However, because of my emotional entanglement in this issue, I find killing a mid-to late term fetus equally awful. It’s not just some robot that exists in your womb until it magically turns into a baby when you give birth. It doesn’t matter at what point we can prove her to feel pain. It’s still death, it’s still terrible. Just because she can’t exist outside of your body yet doesn’t change that.

    And yeah, this is a total 180 from what I would have said before all of this, but experiencing an issue from an emotional perspective, instead of just an intellectual one, really changes everything.

  10. V Says:

    I would have had the same opinion about 3 years ago until I myself experience a pregnancy. I’m sorry. Whatever is in there, it is a developing child. We cannot help it we can’t just magically start off being full grown and having a working brain. Nature doesn’t work like that. If you can sit well with yourself by say your killing a parasite or a “clump of cells” that is fine. I couldn’t do it anymore. I know what the potential is for those clumps of cells. It is a life, a human life, and it is being destroyed. Having said that, I think abortion should be available but it should be rare and always a huge tragedy.

    Really, how sentient is a newborn? They can’t really “think” or “understand” or formulate opinions. They just can react and they’re brains and nervous system are still not fully developed. They are also parasitic and serve no purpose other than having someone else take care of them. Your arguments for abortion could be applied to infantcide.

    Your are seeming to base your argument on somethings ability to feel pain. If an infant is born with congenital analgia and cannot feel pain then is it okay to kill it? This infant would not be able to feel pain, nor understand a concept of death or being killed, and its “parents are responsible for sustaining that being’s physical well-being, no matter how much this may encroach on the parent’s body”

  11. Kelly Garbato Says:

    V – The main thrust of my argument is that the body in which a fetus exists belongs to a living being as well, and it’s never okay to hijack a person’s body against her will. I don’t care if a fetus is a mini-baby from the get-go – s/he has no right to use my body without my consent. No such conflict exists with an actual one-year-old child, so no, my argument for choice* cannot be applied to infanticide as well.

    * I deliberately use the word “choice” because that’s what I’m really arguing in favor of; I don’t want [the government] to force a woman to have an abortion any more than I want [the government] to force her to carry a pregnancy to term against her will.

  12. Jeff Says:

    This was a very interesting post indeed, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, very well thought out and presented arguments, bravo!

    I think pro-choice/life (though I detest both terms, as few “pro-choicers” are really interested in freedom of choice, and few “pro-lifers” are really interested in guaranteeing right to life) arguments really devolve down to when you consider whatever it is within a woman’s womb to be “human” and thus a recipient of “human rights”. In my opinion, that’s from conception, but others’ (obviously) see it somewhat differently. Honestly, that point of contention makes all other discussion on the topic relatively futile, as there is no argument that can “trump” that. But I digress

    I see a lot of people arguing similar things to the following:

    “(Really, not even living/”post-born” humans are allowed to “borrow” another person’s organs against their will.) ”

    “it’s never okay to hijack a person’s body against her will. I don’t care if a fetus is a mini-baby from the get-go – s/he has no right to use my body without my consent.”

    That goes with this argument:

    “Interestingly, I’ve yet to hear a “pro-lifer” advocate for forced organ donation, even though their arguments in favor of forced birth logically lead to this conclusion”

    In my opinion, having sex with the knowledge that what you are doing could very well (contraception or not) result in pregnancy ipso facto grants permission to that foetus (or whatever it’s called) to use your body. An abortion is not, therefore, about stopping the “forced” donation of an organ, it’s far closer to donating that organ and then forcing the other person to give it back, despite knowing that you’ll kill them in the process.

    Obviously, that scenario does not apply to situations such as rape. If you havn’t guessed so far, my prevalent attitude is rather anti-abortion, but there are situations, such as pregnancy resulting from rape, or a threat to the womans life, in which I would not object to an abortion. Whilst I would value a foetus’ life more than a woman’s desire not to have a baby at an inconvenient time or something, I wouldn’t value it over her life, or over the anguish that would be caused from continuing a rape-induced pregnancy.

    On the other hand, any change in the law now with the intention of making abortions harder to get, or shortening the time limit within which they can be permormed would, in my opinion, probably lead to an increase in dangerous “Alleyway” abortions that could kill a lot of people, so I am by no means in favour of changing the law at all. I would be unhappy if it were to get any more “liberal”, and I think it would be seriously dangerous, and highly irresponsible of the government, if it were to get any more “restrictive”

    In regards to footnote number 1 (*), the analogy amused me, but it doesn’t really apply. Most aborted pregnancies are not induced by rape (as the Alien “pregnancy” is) and nor are most babies born by eating their way out of the chest, killing their mother (or “host”) in the process.

    Anyways, I’m done with abortion. Feel free to go ahead and vent your dissaproval, but please be polite, I love debates, but hate flame wars.

    As to veganism and being pro-choice, I really don’t see any contradiction there. I do not believe that all humans are of equal value, far from it, so I wouldn’t impose upon somebody to say that their taking an animals life to be of more value than a humans in foetus form is any sort of contradiction.

    In regards to animals rights, I’m really neither here nor there. I vehemently oppose animal cruelty, and have rescued (and now care for) several mistreated animals (including a pig, which is bloody annoying, though the thing is remarkably clever). I am also opposed to hunting for sport. This extends to battery farming and similar practices. On the other hand, I greatly enjoy eating meat and would not consider an animals life as of greater value than that enjoyment. I have also myself hunted, though only for the express purpose of feeding myself.

    Think I’m done, sorry if this seems disjointed.

  13. Weekly Wednesday Wrap-Up #9 « The Voracious Vegan Says:

    [...] more on being a pro-choice vegan please read this post before sending me your enraged hate-mail. And remember, no misogyny allowed on my blog so think [...]

  14. V Says:

    Kelly,

    I don’t see how baby can “hijack” your body.

    It didn’t ask to be there or actively do anything to get there. That makes absolutely no sense and in essence seems more of an argument to dehumanize and create a monster out of something so that it is easier to destroy it without guilt.

    That is why people that are vehemently for abortion use terms such as parasite, germ, creature, thing, to describe what is essentially a baby in its earliest and most vulnerable state.

    Again, these same arguments can be used for infantcide. An infant is essentially a parasite albeit an external one.

  15. Kelly Garbato Says:

    V – You’re right, a fetus can’t hijack a woman’s body, as it cannot actively prevent her from obtaining an abortion. Via anti-choice legislation, the state hijacks women’s bodies, ostensibly on behalf of the fetuses that/who exist inside them.

    Again, these same arguments can be used for infantcide. An infant is essentially a parasite albeit an external one.

    The key word being external. Demanding that women give up control of their very bodies is a far cry from demanding that women and men provide food, shelter, etc. for their babies and children. (Bodily autonomy > money.) Furthermore, many countries have foster and adoption systems set up such that parents who cannot or do not want to care for their children can transfer guardianship to adults who do want them. Pregnant women have no such options.

    Additionally – and as I argue above – parents are not forced to donate bone marrow, kidneys, and other expendable body parts to their own infants and children when the need arises. We recognize that, even though parents may have a moral responsibility to try to save their children, it would be a gross infringement on individual liberty and bodily autonomy to legally compel parents to give up pieces of their bodies, even when in their children’s best interests. I don’t see how pregnancy is any different. Even the “sex represents an agreement to let a fetus use your body” line of reasoning can equally be applied to forced organ donation, and still I’ve yet to encounter an anti-choicer who can satisfactorily address this argument.

    That is why people that are vehemently for abortion use terms such as parasite, germ, creature, thing, to describe what is essentially a baby in its earliest and most vulnerable state.

    You say “baby” as if it’s an established fact, rather than a matter of (scientific, religious, etc.) opinion. Is an unfertilized egg equivalent to a “baby”? (If so, certain methods of birth control are murder!) A blastocyst? An embryo? Are any of these deserving of greater rights than babies, infants, children and adults? Because none of these post-born humans can seize control of another human’s body in order to borrow pieces of it against the owner’s will.

    Along these lines, @ Jeff -

    An abortion is not, therefore, about stopping the “forced” donation of an organ, it’s far closer to donating that organ and then forcing the other person to give it back, despite knowing that you’ll kill them in the process.

    Not really. After you’ve donated an organ, it’s no longer a part of your body; it’s inside someone else’s. You can ask for its return if you’d like, but to take it back by force would require invading its new owner’s body.

    A woman’s womb stays inside her body for the duration of a pregnancy. Forcing her to continue a pregnancy and give birth = the invasion of her body. (i.e., it’s not so much about the organ as it is about violating the sanctity of one’s bodily boundaries)

  16. Kelly Garbato Says:

    Also, @ no one in particular: I find the attitude that sex = consent to pregnancy and childbirth (and the reduced legal rights, health risks including death, etc. that come with these) incredibly disturbing and, frankly, anti-sex.

    Sex isn’t just about procreation; in fact, a majority of sex that takes place between human animals isn’t meant to result in a pregnancy. Sex has a number of benefits and functions aside from the propagation of the species, such as enhancing emotional ties and the quality of the relationship between partners; increased physical health, including a lengthened life span; enhanced mental health, e.g., elevated emotional well-being, positive self-esteem, lower rates of depression, and the like; etc., etc., etc. Amongst both human and nonhuman animals, one can find numerous examples of non-procreative sex.

    The idea that women who engage in sex are forever consenting to giving their bodies up to another being for nine months both overlooks sex’s other purposes and provides a rather significant disincentive to ever having sex (or at least one type of sex, i.e., vaginal intercourse) without the express purpose of procreation. Sex is part of the human experience; making the “price” of sex one’s very bodily autonomy is both anti-sex and anti-human. It’s also misogynist, as it’s a consequence that only women are expected to bear (again, returning to the argument re: parents having a responsibility to donate organs to their born children). Furthermore, the idea that consent can never be revoked (as with another type of bodily invasion, i.e., sex/rape) is…well, mind-boggling.

    Finally, to carry this argument through to its logical conclusion: what proponents of the sex = consent line of reasoning are suggesting is, essentially, that women who engage in vaginal intercourse even just once every 9 to 12 months are agreeing to spend the entirety of their childbearing years pregnant, à la Michelle Duggar. That’s just preposterous (not to mention, economically and environmentally unsustainable).

    Look, I’ve no issue with those who are personally pro-life; I may disagree with your rationale, but I support your right to do what you want with your own body, whether that’s terminating a pregnancy or carrying it to term. Rather, it’s legislating your beliefs on other women, thus stripping them of their own human rights, that is unacceptable to me. If you believe that abortion is A Bad Thing, then the best way to prevent abortions without reducing women to a lesser class of humans is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, e.g., by supporting universal access to contraception and sex ed, as well as a social safety net for impoverished women and their children. Additionally, rather than throwing up roadblocks to abortion, the truly pro-life approach is to support universal access to abortion so that pregnancies can be terminated early, before the tiny clump of cells develops into a late-term fetus which actually does start to resemble a mini-baby. Restricting access to abortion only pushes the date back, while outlawing it altogether results in dangerous, illegal abortions that cost the lives of both woman and fetus.

    And I am seriously tired of arguing about abortion, at least for now. For further reading, I highly recommend:

    http://www.rhrealitycheck.org

    http://www.prochoice.org/blog/

    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com

    http://pandagon.net

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com

    How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America by Cristina Page (2006)

    Really, there’s a lot more to the issue than I can ever hope to cover here, on an animal rights blog, so homework is a necessity. Google, for example: medical rape; PTSD triggered by childbirth; the criminalization of miscarriages; forced sterilization vs. forced childbirth; the controversy surrounding home birth; the criminalization of drug addiction among pregnant women; and pro-life attempts to restrict/criminalize contraception and sex ed., for starters. The restriction/criminalization of abortion isn’t just about THE BABIES! – it’s also a matter of curbing women’s rights and controlling their sexuality.

  17. Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 21: Campaign WIN/FAIL edition » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    [...] of abortion (So fun, it is! I never get testy when defending my basic humanity, nosiree!), PETA does it again! Capitalizing on [...]

  18. Jeff Says:

    Kelly,

    “Even the “sex represents an agreement to let a fetus use your body” line of reasoning can equally be applied to forced organ donation, and still I’ve yet to encounter an anti-choicer who can satisfactorily address this argument. ”

    I’m very curious as to how the “sex represents an agreement to allow a foetus to use your body” argument can possibly, possibly be applied to forced organ donation. Would you mind elaborating, please?

    “Not really. After you’ve donated an organ, it’s no longer a part of your body; it’s inside someone else’s. You can ask for its return if you’d like, but to take it back by force would require invading its new owner’s body. ”

    Pregnancy, is not organ donation, it is merely the use of a body’s organs. The comparison of it to organ donation is flawed for that reason, but the implication of “forced organ donation”; I.E. that consent was not given, is false. In my opinion, having sex represents that consent, and therefore abortion is effectively just forcibly taking back an organ you freely donated, if you want to continue that analogy.

    As to your other points; You are perfectly correct in your assertions that sex has a number of uses other than procreation. But unless you are seriously, seriously misinformed you know full well that one possible result of sex is pregnancy. Clearly, since people continue to have sex, they are willing to accept that risk. The embryo shouldn’t have to pay with its life because people are beefed that this time, the risk came true. This stance isn’t anti-sex in the slightest, I’m not saying people should stop having sex at all, I’m saying they should be prepared to accept the consequences of it. And frankly, to say it’s anti-Human is the funniest argument I’ve heard in a long time. How one earth you could possibly conceive saving a Human life as “anti-Human” is beyond me.

    I wouldn’t call it mysoginist either. True, the burden for that call falls heavily on women, but that doesn’t mean that I, or indeed any anti-abortionist, hates women in the least. I just don’t think abortion is fair, or even morally acceptable, except in specific circumstances.

    Regarding your concern that this stance amounts to an inability to withdraw consent, that’s pretty much what abortion today is. The argument is basically whether you think it morally acceptable to withdraw that consent, knowing full well that in doing so you will end another human life.

    As to your point about this stance meaning that women are essentially consenting to spend their lives pregnant, whilst technically true the fact that not all sex ends in pregnancy and the miracle of contraception means that, despite a lot of people having sex a damn sight more often than every nine months, they aren’t perpetually pregnant.

    From your last paragraph, I’d like to correct two of your points. Firstly, there is literally nothing “pro-life” about supporting early abortions, to reduce the late ones. The majority of people who oppose abortion think life begins at conception, so early rather than late is frankly just as bad. Second, you make the point about anti-abortion legislation stripping women of their human rights, but I’d like to point out that pro-abortion legislation strips the foetus’ of their human rights. So really, you don’t have a moral high ground on that basis.

    Finally, I’d like to stress that despite my anti-abortion stance, I am opposed to any further legislation restricting abortion do to the risk, as you say, of women resorting to highly dangerous “coathanger” abortions. In fact, I specifically voted against my MP (Nadine Dorries) because of her attempts to legislate abortion.

  19. julie Says:

    I still cannot reconcile how it is not hypocrtical for a vegan to have an abortion. I can see a vegan being pro-choice as far as not wanting it to be outlawed so other women can make their own choices; but if you think that eating a non-fertilized chicken egg is wrong- how can aborting a fertilized human egg be allright? For the record I am a pro-choice; meat eating aetheist (and not at all a misogynist and resented the implication).

    If you are a vegan/vegetarian fine- but trying to bully other people about it and acting superior and self-righteous isn’t going to make anyone sympathetic to your cause

  20. Elizabeth Nolan Brown › Eco-feminism? Says:

    [...] … In the next weeks, I’ll be looking at a variety of intersecting issues including the human cost of chocolate, the use of fur in northern climates and indigenous cultures, soy and soybean farming, nuclear power’s environmental effects, ideas for carbon-free transit, the links between racism and animal oppression, and how you can be a pro-choice vegan. [...]

  21. ananymous Says:

    so killing an animal is no no but killing a baby O.K. ha! interesting…

  22. Ecofem26 Says:

    I don’t think it was mentioned anywhere that killing a baby is okay. Human babies, like animals, are sentient beings. Now, if we are talking about about abortion, well, I am sorry but even if zygotes/embryos/fetuses were babies – which they are not, they still wouldn’t have the right to use a person’s body against hir will.

  23. James Baker-taylor Says:

    I must say it is very interesting. I feel a great deal of though was placed into this argument. That is commendable. Usually people state “facts” without explaining why they feel they are “facts”.

    This is a summary of my thoughts… I have other thoughts on this, but no time to formulate them. I will admit that I disagree with a large part of this stance, but by degree, and not design. I find merit in the practise of abstaining from animal matter.

    In a nutshell, my biggest issue is the idea (as you had put) “…a human has a right to eat what she needs to survive – she doesn’t, however, have a right to kill and eat another animal (human or non) if there’s a non-sentient alternative food source available…”

    Although the practise of killing within the species is not a common thing in nature, I feel that including that is the above statement is “over-equating” to the ears of many, and ultimately weakens a rather good point.

    Regardless, I feel that having non-sentient alternative food does not obligate veganism or vegetarianism, in any way. However lessening one’s consumption is good for many reasons. People simply eat unbalanced diets, meat is over consumed and has created a terrible industry where food livestock is raised without or at least with little compassion.

    To be more on topic:

    I find a pro-choice vegetarian concept more logical than a vegan. For this simple reason. Many vegetarians (myself included) will consume animal products that do not result in harming animals (I am not going to argue about all methods in cheese making etcetera, at this time)…

    … But, my more simple wonder is that about eggs. Free range chicken eggs. These are non sentient, come out once a day from a hen no matter what. And having grown up on a farm I can assure you there are a lot of good eggs (those from caring farmers… These hens get royal treatment and love life… My mum adores her chickens).

    So, I would say you cannot claim that eating eggs is “wrong” if abortion is not “wrong”. I am not saying you should or must eat eggs. I am only saying that the issue is not so cut and dry. There is some common ground in the vegan Vs pro-choice question.

    I really hate the industrial “meat machine”. I would rather people who wanted to consume meat hunted their own. Regardless, I prefer the kinder treatment of animals even if they will ultimately be used for food… So giving open living ranges and good care may raise prices, and that it should. I never like the packing in close quarters mass produced beef and chicken BS. But I never have agreed telling people thye a morally wrong to consume animals. Humans are omnivores, and to be fully vegan we rely on technology, which is in effect unnatural. It may be good practise, but it is not natural for humans. Therefore I cannot in good conscience call not being a vegan “wrong”. Thus cannot agree that a human does not have the right, simply due to alternative options.

    Anyway, this was a great post. It was full and explanatory. A real insight into the thought process.

    Cheers,

    JBt

  24. Bob Says:

    If the answer was “yes” to “Does my immediate survival directly depend on using or harming an animal?”, then would it be OK? To the fetus or embryo the answer is yes.

    On late term abortions should everything medically possible be done to try and keep the baby alive?

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