Thursday, June 09, 2005

Bauer on Abortion....

I was poking around in the China Post and ran across this essay by Fujen University's Daniel Bauer, a Catholic cleric who writes a regular column for the China Post, the pro-KMT rag. I am using this for my second years. as a writing assignment for their final. Bauer's position on abortion is dictated, of course, by his institutional affiliation with the Church, so there is a certain irony in his praise of "spiritual convictions" of others, when he is simply a cypher for someone else's authority values on so many key issues.

Bauer quickly describes the proposed law.
Proposed abortion law opens window to talk on sex, values By Daniel J. Bauer
Taiwan would clearly benefit by a hefty dose of political harmony. That is one reason I was pleased to learn this week of a dramatic bi-partisan effort by leaders of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Law-makers Lin Tai-hua of the DPP and Yang Li-huan of the KMT spoke as a team in support of a revision in the Genetic Health Law which would mandate a six-day waiting period before a woman could obtain an abortion.
I am guessing that various women's groups are making life miserable at the moment for legislators Lin and Yang, charging that a six-day wait for an abortion constitutes an unreasonable attack on a so called right to an abortion. Fidelity to spiritual convictions on this question while under public pressure from members of one's own gender is surely a tough challenge. Lin and Yang deserve our praise for their courage, as does independent legislator Chang Li-san. She also favors the proposal.

Believe it or not, Dan, opponents of this rule also have spiritual convictions. And practical ones as well...

Although I hope the suggested revision will win approval, I do not support abortion. I believe life in the womb is a whole human life, and society has an ethical and spiritual responsibility to protect it. The legislators say, however, that Belgium discovered a 60 percent drop in its abortion rate after its laws required a similar waiting period.

The problem lies right here -- importing things from another culture without any similar infrastructure in one's own. Six day waiting periods are also found in Europe, where abortion rates are much lower than the US or Canada or Taiwan. Why? Because in European countries, where the neurotic, anti-human sexual doctrine of Christianity has long since been dispensed with, there is a rich infrastructure of family planning, sex education, information, national health insurance, and so on. None of that is available in Taiwan.

Bauer rightly notes that abortion statistics in Taiwan are a joke -- far too low -- but then comes to the wrong conclusion. He thinks that we ought to have another 150,000 babies on the island every year, because, as we all know, Taiwan needs more people. Everywhere you go -- the streets are empty of vehicles, the night markets lack for customers, the sidewalks are barren of life -- there just aren't enough people in Taiwan. Everyone I know complains about how hard it is to find other people in Taiwan. Good move, Dan!

Abortion restrictions punish women, and here in Taiwan women have already been punished enough. We should note that the big month for abortions in Taiwan is September as women go back to school. A six day waiting period means that a lot more girls would go back pregnant. In a more enlightened country, that would not be an issue, but here, pregnant girls are stigmatized and often forced to drop out of school. Bauer's policy in effect calls for the creation of more single mothers who are school dropouts. Good move, Dan.

Further, Taiwan, like many nations with double standards on sexuality, has a vibrant back alley abortion industry. It's not as bad as nations where the Church has been a success, as in Latin America and Africa, where young women are maimed and killed in botched abortions every year (and abortion rates are multiples of countries where abortion is safe and legal). In Kenya, where I used to live, at any one time, more than half the beds in the obstetrics and gynecology ward of Nairobi’s major state-funded Kenyatta hospital are occupied by women admitted with abortion-related complaints. Every year in Kenya alone about 2,000 women die from complications from abortion. Good thing they value life there, eh? If abortion were legal, Kenya would have fewer abortion deaths, and fewer abortions as well. But what is life-affirming logic in the face of an implacable hatred of women and sex?

In any case, a six day waiting period will have little effect in Taiwan for the simple reason that anyone who doesn't want to wait can get an abortion without one off the street, an option many will choose. Not only does Bauer on one hand call for an increase in the number of single mothers in Taiwan, on the other, he proposes that we increase the number of illegal abortions as well. Good move, Dan!

Bauer may not realize this, as an asexual priest without wife or child, but babies do cost money, and so do health complications. Orphans and single mothers drive up social welfare costs. Someone has to pay for medical care for victims of botched back street abortions. Us taxpayers, of course.

To his credit, Bauer, who has lived in Taiwan many years, is not entirely clueless about the complete lack of sexual knowledge among the young. He knows....

Those words may be of help in a far away culture, but what works here at home? When it comes to knowing how our local parents talk of sex with their teens, we are sitting in great darkness. Most of my students tell me their parents have NEVER spoken deeply with them about sex, babies or birth control. Don't you too feel we have a little problem here?
Yes, we have a problem here, Dan. The problem is that you can't introduce measures that depend on a certain level of social infrastructure, in countries where that infrastructure does not exist. You've seen the problem, but refuse to think it through to the end. Bauer at one point calls for the island to take a shot, saying;

Well then, why not try it here in Taiwan? Let us do all we can to confirm the value of human life.
By all means, Dan. Let's do that. Let's confirm human life, in a broad and progressive way. Let's have your authoritarian Pope resign, consign the pedophiles your Church protects to prison, apologize for your close ties to Mussolini, Franco, Peron, and other facists, and let's see promotion of a truly life-embracing culture in your Church that values people like Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day, instead of hopeless rightists like Escriva of Spain and Cardinal Stepanic of Yugoslavia. But in the meantime, keep your nose out of Taiwan's ethical business, because when it comes to ethics, your Church doesn't have a moral leg to stand on.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Believe it or not, Dan, opponents of this rule also have spiritual convictions. And practical ones as well..."

First, you pretend he is against abortion because he wants to increase the population, then you go through a list of practical reasons you oppose the law. Where are the spiritual convictions? Although it didn't convince me, it's a valid ethical argument to say that a six-day waiting period will cause great harm, but that still doesn't sound like a spiritual conviction. For a closer look at the moral issue, first consider the problem without the practical considerations. If abortion rights supporters want to argue against the reasons that anti-abortionist give, there needs to be more consideration than "sure it's not ideal, but..." After that is clear, weigh in the practicalities. Laws are a mixture of the two, and people put different weights on the moral and the practical.

Michael Turton said...

then you go through a list of practical reasons you oppose the law. Where are the spiritual convictions?

I never said I personally had any, but many supporters of abortion do. Typically, in English, when you make a general statement such as "Americans talk loudly" or "Astronauts are brave" both speaker and hearer understand that such generalizations do not apply to each member of the class.

Laws are a mixture of the two, and people put different weights on the moral and the practical.

Actually, all "practical" arguments are moral ones as well. There's no escaping values in arguments. It's a fact that fewer abortions coupled with the lack of social service infrastructure will mean more single mothers and in the future, more broken families and more criminals and other welfare costs, but our dislike of such outcomes is a value, not a fact. By calling such arguments "practical" I am both disguising my own appeal to values, and implying that Bauer's ethics are ill-considered.

For a closer look at the moral issue, first consider the problem without the practical considerations.

Why should I adopt those values over my own values? There's no escape from "practical considerations." Bauer lives and works in a self-contained community sheltered from the problems his politics will engender. He will never be a single mother, or face the question of having to marry one. He is protected for the most part from the kind of violent gangsterism his policies will increase. Not having sex, he will never have to worry about birth control and make those difficult choices. To consider the "practical" side of things is the ultimate in humanistic ethics. Anything else is anti-human -- pure nihilism.

Divorcing reality from ethical considerations, even initially, the position you call for, is morally empty. There are no gods, so Bauer's position amounts to yelling "Shut up and listen to me!" The purpose of such moral absolutism is self-evident: power and control, in this case over the minds and bodies of women. The claim to a "spiritual" position is really a rhetorical device for gaining the moral upper hand over the people one has to dialogue with in the real world. All you do is provide cheerleading for this device to shut me up. And of course, if I don't shut up, behind every claim of ethical authoritarianism is a sword itching to come out.

Focusing on "practicalities" has two powerful benefits: (1) itis one way to restore the human to the ethical conversation, and the human has precedence over the fictitious divine any day, and (2) it heads off any attempt by Ethical Absolutists to gain control of the conversation by rhetorical devices and make everyone else shut up.

Michael

Ras said...

Mike,
Nice post and your comments are all well-placed.
Even so, we're still left with the ongoing and pervasive problem (based on my longtime Taipei residency, as always, down south YMMV) of abortion-as-birth control, and, even more reprehensible, abortion-as-gender preselection. God knows, I don't have a clue as to a feasible solution, and I certainly don't consider imposition of the waiting period to be one.
(off topic, just spitballing here, but isn't getting sex/procreation/OB-GYN counsel from a Catholic priest kind of like getting Taipei taxi drivers to direct traffic?? Oh right, sorry, never mind)
Irrespective of one's stand on the issue, and I admit to being quite torn myself, the idea of thirtysomething married women who've had 7, 10, or more abortions, as is common here, well, that's pretty buggered up.
Again, I'm at a loss, what do you see as a workable remedy?
Keep up the great work.

Red A said...

There may be other factors behind Belgium's lower rate of abortion than their lack of religious conviction.

Generous maternity and welfare benefits could be one, for example, since in my mind the most compelling reason to have an abortion would be lack of resources to raise the child.

I guess we could check with places like Singapore or Hsinchu where they pay you to have kids.

Anonymous said...

There may be other factors behind Belgium's lower rate of abortion than their lack of religious conviction.

Not to get OT, but the recent Economist rankings said Ireland was the best country to live in the world, partly because of their strong society. It turns out this measure is based on divorce rate. So Ireland has a low divorce rate. Is that because everyone is happy? Or is it because the authoritarian Papists force people to stay in unhappy marriages. Incidentally, Ireland scores very high on child abuse. Economists know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

The other patriarchal crime against women here in Taiwan is the immigration policy that brings in 100,000 Southeast Asian brides. I know so many fine women here will die spinsters because of this policy.

Anonymous said...

Your argument addressed the negative effects of restricting abortion. I was asking you to weigh the good effects resulting from abortion (which you partially described) versus the bad of killing/terminating a fetus (which you didn't describe, and which is difficult to make concrete). But you're right, why should you adopt my values? Why you should you believe that the act of abortion is wrong? Why should you do my moral thinking for me? Let's just stick with our own values and our own arguments and our own conclusions...

Michael Turton said...

But you're right, why should you adopt my values? Why you should you believe that the act of abortion is wrong? Why should you do my moral thinking for me? Let's just stick with our own values and our own arguments and our own conclusions.

I agree, so long as you agree that those who want an abortion can get one when they want one. YOU don't have to have an abortion.

Michael

Anonymous said...

I'll never have to have an abortion, but if my votes for elected officials and political actions cause there to be more abortions, then I'll have to have that on my conscience. (And as I implied earlier, that weighs on my conscience more than the negative results of restricting abortion.) Maybe I'm missing some special reason why, in this case, I shouldn't use my own value system.

Michael Turton said...

I didn't say you shouldn't use your own value system. If you do not wish to have an abortion, no one is forcing you. I merely ask why you feel the urgent need to bring the bodies of others under the control of your value system. What's under discussion is not the validity of your values, but their will-to-power.

Anonymous said...

There is more going on than just a woman making a personal decision. Restricting abortion also means protecting fetuses (from a germ of a human to an amphibian-like creature to a literally unborn baby). Of course, you may not believe they deserve to be protected. Some people (I'm not implying you) even think that minors don't need to be protected. I saw an article about that today. http://www.townhall.com/columnists/calthomas/ct20031125.shtml

Michael Turton said...

LOL. I had to laugh at the link. Cal Thomas is a sick theocrat. It's very easy to see the problem with the pedophilia, and the pedophiliac and the anti-abortionist are exactly alike in the perverse way they wish to control the bodies of others because of their own sexual insecurities and inabilities. Of course, by making the issue one of consent, where any progressive would place it, Thomas would undermine his own sick desire for power and control over others. So he papers over the problem with rhetoric, because any attempt at reasoned argument would expose' Thomas second-rate powers of argument for all to see. The real reason he is so irate over pedophilia is that he has exactly the same urgent needs to control others -- like fulminates against like. You want to worry about destruction? Focus on Thomas. His ilk is out to destroy democracy in the US, and he has made no bones about it.

We're back to the main issue,that of power and control, which you keep dodging. You say There is more going on than just a woman making a personal decision. a statement that no one has denied here. But the existence of larger social issues (a point that I have made a centerpiece of my response to Bauer) seems, at least from your perspective, to legitimate almost anything in response. Where does your desire to control women's bodies stop? Should we also get rid of birth control? What about cohabitation? Hysterectomies and vasectomies?

Note that I do not believe in abortion either. The difference is that I do not think that others should be compelled to accept my morals as the only possible way to live.

Michael

Anonymous said...

"Where does your desire to control women's bodies stop? Should we also get rid of birth control? What about cohabitation? Hysterectomies and vasectomies?"

What I was trying to express is that in abortion, there are two individuals, the women and the fetus. A woman can't abort without exerting her control over the fetus. To protect the fetus, we have to exert control over her. Cohabitation, vasectomies, hysterectomies--these don't involve a defenseless being.

I posted the Thomas essay not because I found his views interesting, but just to show a more obvious case of the same problem of protecting those who can't protect themselves.

Michael Turton said...

Fetuses do not need protection; women's bodies do. They need protection from exponents of a sex-hating, neurotic religion. A women who gets an abortion asserts her right to control her own body.

And as experiences from all over the world show, criminalizing abortion won't reduce the number of abortions; all it will do is increase the number of maternal deaths and injuries. Here's a glimpse of the future you advocate. More about Kenya where I used to live. Further, we all know that one goal of many anti-abortion types is the elimination of birth control. And of course, a roll-back of women's rights. Examine your allies, my friend, because they are evil. The same evil infects your own position:

To protect the fetus, we have to exert control over her.

Exactly my point. You people think only in terms of power and control. No other solution is available -- and I suspect, deep down, that many of you enjoy the idea of gaining power over the bodies of women, and of pregnancy as punishment for sex. Certainly Bauer's Church, which distinguishes between fetuses based on how they are conceived (it's OK to abort a fetus resulting from rape) is clear that they regard pregnancy as a punishment for sex. But we all know what the Church's real position on life is, as it has proved again and again over the years that it cares nothing for human beings.

The issue for anti-abortion types is not "protecting fetuses", but controlling women. The purpose of power is power, and if you really loved life, the first thing you'd renounce is your power over others. Including over the bodies of women.

Michael

Anonymous said...

"'To protect the fetus, we have to exert control over her.'

Exactly my point. You people think only in terms of power and control."

Actually, I was putting it in the terms that you described. I preferred the "protecting the defenseless" view.

"The issue for anti-abortion types is not "protecting fetuses", but controlling women."

Thanks for telling me my motives. I can see where this argument (isn't) going.

"But we all know what the Church's real position on life is"

Yes, it's easier to attack institutions than to address the argument.

"Fetuses do not need protection; women's bodies do. "

That seems to be a value judgement. For me, it also seems to be the crux of the debate. Would I be right if I described your view of a fetus as a woman's fleshy sub-human posession?

"And as experiences from all over the world show, criminalizing abortion won't reduce the number of abortions; all it will do is increase the number of maternal deaths and injuries."

It may surprise you to know that I'm actually open to this type of argument. I wouldn't support a law that does only harm. So, to restate your positions: a 6-day wait-period will reduce the number of abortions, but banning abortions will not. Now we're getting somewhere.

Michael Turton said...

Actually, I was putting it in the terms that you described. I preferred the "protecting the defenseless" view.

A fetus has a protector, its mother. And also the State. You can' terminate a fetus against the mother's will.

Thanks for telling me my motives. I can see where this argument (isn't) going.

There's nothing I can do about your allies, Anonymous. You lie down with dogs....and you refuse to face the larger implications of your political stance. Being anti-abortion is just a power game for your allies. You play into their hands. Why do you support people who hate reason and rationality?

Yes, it's easier to attack institutions than to address the argument.

Institutions have to be attacked, when they claim to one thing but are actually another. I detest hypocrites who sleep with dictators but claim to be supporting life. When the Church becomes a life-affirming institution, then I'll be happy to support its views. I've been a Church volunteer here, you know, although I am an atheist. I am willing to work with anyone who loves life and looks forward. But the Catholic Church is simply an impediment to a loving world. Hence, it must be opposed.

That seems to be a value judgement.

It is!

For me, it also seems to be the crux of the debate. Would I be right if I described your view of a fetus as a woman's fleshy sub-human posession?

Actually, it's a fetus. But you can describe it that way if you like.

It may surprise you to know that I'm actually open to this type of argument.

Not really surprising. You seem like a nice guy, you just support a position that is essentially evil, and support allies like the Christian Right and the Catholic Church who, if given actual power, would crush the rationality you espouse. Why do you work for your own destruction? (and mine too). Do you think this argument is only about abortion?

I'd be open to restrictions on abortion if the only people advocating it were motivated by love. But the Right wants only power, and abortion is one lever to split decent people from each other. As you said, there's more at stake here than just a fetus and the mother. I'd be more open to your position, if it did not entail, in the long run, the ascendancy of a theocratic power that will brook no rights at all, much less abortion rights.

I wouldn't support a law that does only harm. So, to restate your positions: a 6-day wait-period will reduce the number of abortions, but banning abortions will not. Now we're getting somewhere.

A six-day waiting period will reduce the number of legal abortions in Taiwan. I suspect it will simply push up the number of illegal ones in the long run. Without cultural change, sex education and abundant resources for family planning, the law will simply backfire. Look how low abortion rates are in Western Europe -- a very good thing, I might add. I'd like to see some solid statistics on abortions in Taiwan, though.

In any case, people like Bauer need to be strongly responded to, if we want to build a forward-looking, loving society. People like Bauer who do not have to face the possibility of rape, pressure to have sex, marriage to a man they don't like, raising children in poverty, death during delivery or death terminating a pregnancy, and so on, should keep their mouths shut, and reach out in love, instead of extending the mailed fist of power, dominance, and control, however velvet the glove.

Michael

Anonymous said...

"you just support a position that is essentially evil, and support allies like the Christian Right and the Catholic Church who, if given actual power, would crush the rationality you espouse."

I try to support the position rationally, but in my mind, the main force in this issue isn't reason, it's that unreliable yet unignorable conscience that is moved by seeing a premature baby. On the other hand, I probably lack some of the sensitivity you have for pregnant mothers.

"and reach out in love, instead of extending the mailed fist of power, dominance, and control, however velvet the glove"

Well, I think we agree on a lot. For the church to prevail in moral war, reaching out in love is far superior to anti-gay-marriage laws, etc.

Michael Turton said...

There's just no good answer to the question of abortion.

Charles Phipps said...

"Fetuses do not need protection; women's bodies do."


That's absolutely absurd. No doubt in my mind that the author of that statement is one who has lost a certain amount of courage and conviction along the path of life. No matter how you justify it, the aborting of an unborn fetus is still aborting an unborn fetus (even if someone is given the right to do so).

Michael Turton said...

No matter how you justify it, the aborting of an unborn fetus is still aborting an unborn fetus (even if someone is given the right to do so).

Wow! A tautology! Brilliant. Look, it's obvious from the above that you're not very capable of argument, and you don't know much about either me or Mormonism. So why don't you cease the flow of pointless, insipid insults, and go post somewhere among the acne-and-Jesus crowd, where they will ooh and aah at your ability to make statements like: "killing a fetus is killing a fetus." What next? "Driving a car is driving a car?" "Cutting sugar cane is cutting sugar cane?" "Failing a test is failing a test?"

Michael

Charles Phipps said...

Just calm down and respond to the subject at hand, buddy. My comment mentioned nothing of Mormonism or Jesus. Listen, you said "Fetuses don't need protection". I simply responded to what you said, and I took nothing out of its proper context.

It's funny that you would accuse me of being incapable of argument, seeing as how your 'argument' consisted of nothing more than a load about tautology and acne-Jesus-Mormon-blah blah.....

You're right, I don't know much about you. But I have found your work to be very interesting, and very enjoyable at times. We have many things in common. I have posted (anonymously) positive and negative feedback in the past, and I will in the future. When a subject as fragile as abortion comes up, convictions are brought out immediately. I have never been shy about sharing mine, and that won't change.

Oh, and by the way, I know plenty about Mormonism. Much more than you, in fact.

Michael Turton said...

t's funny that you would accuse me of being incapable of argument, seeing as how your 'argument' consisted of nothing more than a load about tautology and acne-Jesus-Mormon-blah blah.....

If you start by flinging insults, you'll get them back.

Michael

K said...

It's a load of codswallop (godswallop?) that the religious are more moral; "good xian" is a coincidence, not a redundancy. Add to that the hypocrisy of many xians, it's clear their motivations are not human lives ethics but power and control.

I lived in Korea for several years; half the population is xian, and many of them are baptists or catholics (both strongly anti-choice), and yet, they have a massive number of abortions annually.

The reason? Males are preferred, so in some/many cases, female feotuses are aborted. Selective abortion is illegal, as is the use of ultrasound for this purpose, but it still goes on. I'm not that knowledgable about Taiwan, but in my limited time and experience here, it seems such attitudes toward males and females don't prevail.

Abortion is not, nor has it ever been, the problem. The issue is unwanted pregnancy: if there are no unwanted pregnancies, there will be no abortions. And what are the causes of unwanted pregnancy? Rape. Incest. Poverty. Threat to the mother's health. Birth defects. When the catholic crutch - sorry, church - is willing to deal with these issues, then they can talk.