Jun 252011
 

Normally I have lot of time for Cranmer, and it’s not that I disagree with the thrusts of this post generally, but this sentence flabbered my gast:

If the sanctity of the uterus is to be guarded and preserved, the profanity of the EUterus must be abated and bound. The uterus brings forth life; the EUterus is the harbinger of death.

The sanctity of the uterus?

The uterus is an incubator for humans. In its capacity as bringer-forth of life, it is a muscular organ which, in tandem with the vagina, pushes something alive through a very tiny space and into the exterior world.

It is no more sacred than my colon, which also pushes forth something alive through a very tiny space and into the exterior world.

I’m quite happy to accept the argument that a human being is categorically different from poop, but at no point do I accept that this theorem confers any kind of sanctity on my incubation organ. Especially when that organ more frequently brings forth biological waste than human beings.

The uterus doesn’t even provide the biological matter that becomes a human; that would be the ovary and the testicle, which supply the egg and the sperm. It’s not even the uterus where sperm and egg join to create the zygote: that would be the fallopian tube.

As long as people continue in this way to fly in the face of both sense and biological fact, the abortion debate will never reach any meaningful decision. And as long as people persist in sanctifying a single female reproductive organ above and beyond the sanctity of full female self-ownership, women will never achieve true liberty in this world, let alone before God, for whom these people purport to speak.

Women have, since the Neolithic era, been accorded propertarian status by men because they happen to be the sex who incubate future offspring, despite the fact that the uterus is simply the place where the offspring grows, while the offspring itself is generated by the equal participation of both sexes. The offspring, while it grows in the uterus, is without question parasitic: it is a separate living thing that leeches nutrients from its host. Bringing it forth from the uterus is statistically the most dangerous thing most women will ever do. Women must then sustain this life by breast-feeding, further depleting the body’s resources. The evolutionary reward for this risk and ruination of one’s body is the propagation of a 50% share of one’s genetic material for, hopefully, at least a single generation.

Men, of course, are uniquely qualified to comment on the sanctity of the uterus, since their part in the bringing forth of that most sacred of human life is to shoot a broad fusillade of genetic ammunition into a hostile environment and hope some of it hits the bullseye. They are then free to go about their usual business, unbothered by parasitical leeching, physical mutilation, or the necessity of contributing further to the sustenance of that life through the provision of yet further nutrients. A not insignificant proportion of the time, they don’t even contribute to the offspring through their labour or material resources.

So by all means, let us have men debating the ownership of others’ internal organs by resorting to spurious arguments about sanctity. I’m sure that will guarantee a sensible resolution to the question of abortion. Women will surely realise that the imputed holiness of their uteri means they have no right to seek the termination of physically ruinous processes, let alone achieve unquestioned ownership of their uteri in the same way they own their colons or spleens, which don’t happen to incubate humans.

Good grief.

If men with moral and religious conscience are so determined to prevent abortion, let them turn their engineering genius (which, we are assured, is much more prevalent in men than in women) to perfecting the artificial uterus. It won’t be as sacred as a real one, obviously, but it would be a lot more effective at stopping abortions than using legislation to declare state ownership of female body parts.

  10 Responses to “The sanctity of the uterus”

  1. Cranmer’s choice of wording is bizarre. Not least because the issues he is writing about have only an incidental relationship with a uterus (and indeed, a EU-terus.. ugh, is this name supposed to be funny?).

    As you say, the uterus is just one organ amongst many, no more sacred than a colon or whatever, and similarly the “EU-terus” is just one more EU building/vanity project amongst many.

    The real matter of importance has nothing to do with a female’s body parts, and everything to do with the separate person living within her. The key to understanding the pro-life position is to appreciate that mother and child are two people even while the child is utterly dependent on the mother. So, when you write about “full female self-ownership”, do you really intend to say that the mother “owns” the child? For no-one would say such a thing about the child after birth.

    I hope this does not come across as a post from some pro-life religious nutter, as I may be a nutter and pro-life, but I’m not religious. I wanted to reply because you seem to have misunderstood what the pro-lifers are actually about, as you seem to think their views “fly in the face of both sense and biological fact” and are somehow against liberty. I don’t think you are right about this.

    After all, you can get to the pro-life position from basic principles without any religion at all. If all humans have a right to life, then in what way is the child not human? Or, when does the child become human? Etcetera. If we are going purely on “biological fact” then the answer is surely “conception”; not really the answer that a pro-choice advocate wishes to hear!

    I know this is an issue that people get very upset about, so I hope this comes across in the spirit that it is meant, namely a philosophical argument presented in the hope of reaching better understanding, rather than a “you must change your mind or go to Hell” non-argument. But at the risk of Godwinning the whole thing before it even starts, I’d also say that we should all be wary of any government that declares a certain class of people, such as the unborn, as inhuman!

    • I’m really not that fussed if you want to argue on those grounds, and in fact I wasn’t really trying to get at the pro-life vs pro-choice debate. I myself can think of good reasons for both sides.

      I was just trying to point out the stupidity of making a pro-life argument on the grounds that my uterus is imbued with some kind of sanctity. This isn’t the Middle Ages, and Cranmer should know that my uterus is no more sacred than my big toe or my freakin’ spleen.

      • “I was just trying to point out the stupidity of making a pro-life argument on the grounds that my uterus is imbued with some kind of sanctity”

        I agree, this is a stupid approach. I assume Cranmer was trying to make a joke about the EU building, which unfortunately led him into a particularly lame pro-life argument.

        However, I did think it justified to write a longer response to highlight what I consider a much stronger pro-life argument.

  2. The key to understanding the pro-life position is to appreciate that mother and child are two people even while the child is utterly dependent on the mother. So, when you write about “full female self-ownership”, do you really intend to say that the mother “owns” the child? For no-one would say such a thing about the child after birth.

    Err, actually, yes we do. Society, that is. There is a continuum between conception and full legal adulthood – from -9 months to 18ish. Otherwise, why would we jail parents for their children’s, non-criminal, misbehaviour?

    Where the line is drawn over that continuum depends on the seriousness of the case and, clearly, either parent having the ability to have the child killed is one of the most serious cases. But it is a line that societies draw. And most of them draw it somewhere between conception and birth. The extreme pro-life argument is that it should be drawn at conception (or before, if you are an Orthodox Catholic). You are right that even the extreme pro-female argument generally draws it somewhere around when the baby might survive absent the mother (except in either/or mother/baby but one will die cases, which is a wholly morally different issue).

    If we are going purely on “biological fact” then the answer is surely “conception”

    Err, this is scientific nonsense. Even the old religious position of “quickening” makes more sense than this. If you had said “implantation” then I would have had to give you the benefit of having thought about it. From a developmental point of view, you shouldn’t even start thinking about arbitrary cells, albeit potential human, rights until organogenisis is well established. Which is taking you quite late in the first trimester.

    It just shows that even committed atheists can be as blindly illogical as religious literalists when their pet fallacies are challenged.

    • I did try to avoid provoking that sort of reaction. I wonder if you are seriously interested in discussing the matter, or just in telling me what I should think. I will assume the former.

      Since the abolition of slavery it has been well established that people do not — cannot — own other people. Parents are responsible for their children, but they do not own them. They cannot do whatever they wish with the children, as the children are not property. Parents who neglect or abuse their children are prosecuted (at least in theory); mothers who deliberately kill their (born) babies end up in serious trouble. But unborn babies are a different matter.

      Strange that the responsibility of care should not only begin at an arbitrary point (a certain number of weeks), but also swing at that point from the extreme of “this thing isn’t human and you can kill it if you like” to “you must look after this baby human”. And yet the legal endorsement of such a transition is an inevitable consequence of a pro-choice policy.

      My suggestion of conception as that transition point is actually the only logical choice, as this is the earliest point where the baby human exists in any form. Does organogenesis or implantation really make you human? That is a philosophical question rather than a scientific one. It’s logically impossible to prove that something is human, but nevertheless possible to prove that something isn’t human if it doesn’t exist yet, so if we do not wish to kill a person through abortion, we must logically set the limit at exactly 0 weeks. QED.

      • I did try to avoid provoking that sort of reaction.

        You clearly failed then :) Try harder next time?

        Does organogenesis or implantation really make you human? That is a philosophical question rather than a scientific one.

        And exactly the same thing can be said about conception. This is why abortion is generally a political and moral issue, not a scientific or even medical one. My personal opinion (and, although you wouldn’t believe it, I’m opposed to abortion as a form of delayed contraception) is that up to the point where the baby is viable outside of the mother, it is a matter for society to choose.

        It’s logically impossible to prove that something is human, but nevertheless possible to prove that something isn’t human if it doesn’t exist yet, so if we do not wish to kill a person through abortion, we must logically set the limit at exactly 0 weeks. QED.

        Your logic simply isn’t. If something doesn’t exist, it doesn’t exist. Therefore it cannot be killed. If you believe (not prove, you have offered nothing except assertion) that a blastula is human de facto rather than in potentio – argue all you like for the banning of abortion. Just don’t expect the rest of the world to agree with you, simply because you claim to be a-religious.

        Never mind that much of the “pro-life” creed is taken up by people who seem to be very fundamentally “anti-women”.

        wonder if you are seriously interested in discussing the matter, or just in telling me what I should think

        I’m telling you that you haven’t justified your core assertions, particularly about the importance of conception. You think what you think – and you may even be writing what you think.

        Anyway. Your statements of “biological fact” are nothing of the sort. They are your opinion.

        Consider: what is the %age of conceptus that fail to implant? What are the causes of these failures? In fact, why did you choose conception over implantation? I chose organogenisis because it is the first stage at which we get any meaningful differentiation – it isn’t just a blob of cells – doesn’t make me correct (scientifically or morally) but it is, at least, a rational justification.

        In Vladimir-land, would, every time a woman has had unprotected sex, her liberty be restricted with the causes of these failures removed until she is a safe little child-support machine? Reductio ad absurdam, yes, but by elevating conception that is the logical extension of your argument.

        And there is some more to snipe at than this: “and you can kill it if you like” – very few countries have such a lassaiz-faire abortion system, etc, etc.

        • Greetings from Vladimir-land. I think my comment would have upset you no matter how it was written, since the idea you do not like is the suggestion that if something *might* be human, then killing it *might* be wrong, so the only moral course of action is not to kill it.

          Your pseudoscientific arguments do not really wash. The baby does not exist at all before conception; this is not true of any other point you might choose, where something exists even if you choose to believe that it is not actually a baby. And if we are to talk about the baby’s ability to survive independently as a criteria for a right to life, then I am forced to observe that children don’t become very good at this until some years after birth.

          Your emotive arguments about repression of women are also irrelevant to the actual issue at hand. Is it right to restrict the liberty of murderers? The same arguments apply here.

  3. /applause

    Can’t really add anything to that.

  4. Couple of points.

    Firstly, I agree with Vladimir’s general comments above. I used to take a naive “pro-choice” position; woman owns her body, lad de dah, but the more I argued in favour of that, the weaker I realised it was. This thing does come down to the existence of two individuals, and whether one has the right to kill the other for her own convenience. I can’t think of any other case in which that would be considered acceptable. So then it comes down to, when is a foetus a human? And the only logical answer to that appears to be, “at conception”. I really can’t see anything in the arguments that deny that which is more than vexatious argumentation.

    The second point is; I find the rhetoric in this article- rhetoric which is often used by pro-abortionists- frankly disturbing. Likening a child to excretia, and calling it a parasite. This is the kind of language, when used about other humans, that tends towards genocide. It is deliberate dehumanisation and likening of persons to disgusting things in order to elicit a disgust response and weaken their status as “human” in the minds of the reader/listener. Jews are like lice, you know. Etc.

    So, it is disturbing rhetoric, to me anyway. It also treats the baby as being there uninivted, as if it suddenly erupted into the woman’s body spontaneously, or arrived like a disease. The “parasite” is nearly always there due to a deliberate choice by the woman. She many not have “chosen” to have a baby, but she did choose to have sex, knowing that, even with contraception, there is a risk of pregnancy. This sort of rhetoric seems to be a delberate denial of responsibility, for taking actions which led to the generation of a responsibility- a dependent human.

    And, really, it is just silly to present gendered biological asymmetry as some kind of injustice. We are a gendered species. Sexual reproduction wasn’t a choice by male or female; it is just the way we are. You may as well complain about the injustice of having to carry breasts around, or having to sit down while pissing. Our biological distinctions as sexes give us different life experiences. We can equally argue that men are disadvantaged by being dependent on females for reproduction. Men, being burdened with the physical robustness, have had to march away to fight to protect those baby-makers, who stood there waving their hankies in the knowledge that their baby-making capacity kept them off the front lines.

    How many of my gender have died to protect your sacred uterus, Bella? And how much “parasitism”- from a five and a half foot tall parasite expecting us to work to keep her and the fruits of her womb in the style to which she is accustomed- have we uncomplainingly accepted? You see, you can look at it both ways.

    Sorry, I don’t mean to rant. But it’s first thing in the morning, and I find a casual metaphor comparing a living human being being born and a turd exiting the colon… as I said, disturbing.

    • Yeah, again, not really trying to make the case for abortion here. Why miss the point? My point is that the uterus is not sacred, and that such antiquated religious language is not a good way to argue against abortion. Equally, I think your argument that men are hard done by because they have to go off to war to protect baby-makers is utterly facile. I might just as well claim that, as the woman has “chosen” to have a baby by having sex, men have “chosen” to be the war-makers by denying women status as humans and debarring them from the political life of their nation for so many thousands of years.

      The number of your gender who have died to protect the uterus is nothing, I imagine, to the number of my gender who have died producing a child from that uterus. So no, I can’t really look at it both ways that easily. And frankly, discussing the uterus, birth, abortion, etc. in terms of what men feel they have to do, in totally unrelated circumstances, is exactly the kind of thing I was pissed off about when I first wrote this blog post. Especially when the person making the discussion has taken no trouble to “loot at it both ways” but has also called my thoughts “disturbing,” “tending toward genocide,” and has invoked Godwin’s law—all because I take exception to some churchy Anglican blogger calling one of my organs sacred to his Lord as a justification for making laws about what I do with it.

      I mean, essentially you’re calling me a Nazi because I find the idea of giving birth frightening, painful, and the beginning of a lifelong period of self-denial, and I can understand why women might prefer not to do that, and why they might have difficulty believing that it is as rewarding as so many people say. But hey, it’s completely fine to get on your soapbox and rant about how unreasonable women are.

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