Gulp and get over it?

“Essence signifies something common to all natures through which the various beings are placed in the various genera and species, as humanity is the essence of man, and so on.” — (On Being and Essence, St. Thomas Aquinas)

“Nobody will ever win the Battle of the Sexes. There’s just too much fraternizing with the enemy.” — Henry Kissinger

Truth be told, I do not read The Atlantic for the good writing but for Jeffrey Goldberg’s advice column, What’s Your Problem?, at back of the magazine. I suspect I am not alone there. However, the recent cover story Why Women Still Can’t Have It All by Anne-Marie Slaughter on “work-family balance” and the professional woman was a very good read.

In another missive (different publication), Allison Benedikt offers the following advice for the protection of the “right” to kill another human being for virtually any reason, including if they just happen to be female.

“No matter how many ultrasound pics get posted to Facebook,” she writes, “these are fetuses with female genitals or male genitals — not little girls and little boys. If pro-choicers object to aborting because of the sex of the fetus, aren’t we then saying that abortion is ‘murdering’ girls? Aren’t we basically arguing that a fetus is not a blank slate but a future possibility?

“That is not the case to make if your goal is to protect abortion rights. Gulp for a second if you must, then get over it.”

In other words, even though your support of “choice” means death for some (solely on the basis of gender), suck it up and look at the bigger picture; at least it’s not you, right?

This is a prime example of ignoring the one key issue on this matter, namely, What is it? For the sake of space and time, we will ignore the fact that she is wrong about the fetus. Granted however, her “gulp and get over it” conclusion follows logically from her idea about the fetus. It is possible to state a valid argument and still be wrong. The fact that an argument is structurally valid does not necessarily guarantee the truth of its statements. If the unborn is not a human being then no justification (or gulping) would be needed; now would it?

Furthermore, if unqualified “choice” were something to be enshrined and protected at all costs, why do we not protect the “choice” some people make to murder or maim? Could it be that the result of certain choices could potentially harm other people and should therefore be prohibited or not go unpunished? Shouldn’t we be asking what is it that will be affected by the gender-specific abortion of females? Would we just “gulp then get over it”, if we were to add another accidental characteristic, like race, to that of gender?

Would we be fine with killing unborn children just because they were female and white? I would like to think not. I would also like to think that the reason we are not fine with it is because we have considered the essential, not accidental, properties that make us human. We should therefore be equally appalled if we were killing unborn black males, just because they were, well, black and male.

“Properties like race and gender are accidental as opposed to essential (these are not properties that affect the basic essence of what it means to be human). We probably wouldn’t be equally concerned if we were talking about killing female rabbits. It is sex-selective killing but, when we answer the “What is it?” question, we might not share the same level of concern as if it were a female human being. I say “might not” because nowadays you might probably hear more of an outcry over the destruction of rabbits, whales, buildings or trees.

— Adrian Sobers

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