By David Christensen
In Jan Moir’s op-ed “I believe in the right to choose, but TV adverts for abortion are simply wrong,” she points out her pro-choice but attacks a new television ad campaign by Marie Stopes International, one of the Britain’s largest abortion providers (and a major proponent of and performer of elective abortion in third world countries). Jan states: “Whatever side of the divide you might be on, the idea of abortion and abortion services – whatever they might be – being advertised on television is a distasteful one.” Why? She explains: “It is the throwaway nonchalance that so offends; as if an abortion was just another lifestyle choice to be pondered over in the commercial breaks..”
I’m not sure if the Marie Stopes ad should be allowed to air, as it might lead to more abortions. In that case, it makes sense for pro-lifers to fight its airing. On the other hand, maybe such an ad might have the benefit of stirring more public debate in a country that is so pro-abortion.
But what struck me most about Jan’s oped is how purely muddled her thinking is. Forget her snide attack’s on pro-lifers and her general support for the great work of Marie Stopes International. Jan simply thinks that killing a human fetus is morally permissible. Moreover, she thinks it’s a woman’s choice and that there is nothing immoral about doing so. But then why is not OK air an ad on the matter? How is “distasteful” or trite? Jan sees more of a moral problem with airing an advertisement on something she thinks is moral. And she thinks the only moral concern here is the issue of taste. How charming.
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Jan thinks the moral issue of triteness gets at the fact that the advertisement belittles the seriousness of the choice a woman must make. Maybe it’s like belittling the seriousness of a choice to have sex. Culture may push for sex to be viewed as a lighthearted decision. Jan presumably would also think belittling the seriousness of the decision to have sex is also distasteful.
So what? Of course an abortion is a difficult choice for a woman (or most). But why should belittling this choice be immoral, or why if the advertisement causes young women to be more “trite” about having an abortion, as Jan claims, is that wrong? The question is why? I suppose one could say that putting your pet to sleep is a difficult choice that is not inherently immoral nor as easy as emptying your garbage. It can, and maybe should, be a difficult decision. But the extent to the difficulty in putting your pet to sleep stems from the emotional impact, the difficulty of the choice, for the person making it. It says nothing about the pet, its rights, dignity, worth, etc. This is the problem with her argument about abortion. A person has a difficult choice, and she says it should be difficult. But again why? Jan’s concerns are like the pet example, it’s OK to kill the fetus, just so the person is taking it seriously when making the choice. Obviously, we may find it distasteful for someone to enjoy killing their pets. Tisk tisk. But for most people, the seriousness of this decision stems from a relationship with their pet, and frankly, some idea of worth of their pet. I’m not proposing that animals have the same rights as human (sorry to those who think otherwise). Yet, the point is that if it’s OK to kill your pet, even that this would be considered “humane” in some cases, then the weight of the decision has less to do with the morality of the act and more to do with the emotional struggle with the act. So, killing your fetus is perfectly fine, just make sure you don’t make the decision lightly.
What Jan ignores in her op-ed, and even dismisses, is the fundamental moral question about the nature of the fetus, not just the woman making the choice. It’s not so much that she disagrees with pro-lifers on that question, as much as she despises them for even raising it. Now who is being trite?