Why Women Should Stay Out of the Abortion Debate

The Reconquista Initiative


Why Women Should Stay Out of the Abortion Debate

It has been sometimes said that men, being men, and thus being unable to get pregnant, should not have a say concerning the issue of abortion for the very reason that since they are not directly affected by it, and since they do not suffer the direct consequences of it, then they should keep their mouths shut about the whole matter—and just google this general theme to find several articles from feminists and others which argues for this point-of-view. However, in this essay, what I wish to argue is that far from men needing to be silent about assessing the morality and legality of abortion, it is, in fact, women who should butt out of the abortion debate, at least in an official or formal capacity. Indeed, if anyone should be ignored concerning the issue of abortion and concerning the assessed strength of the arguments for or against it, it is women, not men. And while such an idea, given the times that we live in, might seem radical, there is actually a very good reason for it.

Now, to understand the reason why women, rather than men, should stay out of the debate about the moral and/or legal permissibility of abortion, consider the matter of jury selection during a criminal or civil trial, specifically noting the fact that a jury’s goal and purpose is to seek the truth and follow the evidence in the most objective and fair manner possible. So, with all this in mind, imagine that we have a criminal trial where a male defendant has been accused of raping a woman. Now, in such a situation, and given that, as mentioned, the goal of a jury is to seek the truth as objectively as possible, we all understand that it would be unsound, unjust, and irrational to allow a woman on the jury for that particular trial if the woman in question had also previously been raped by a man in the same way that is alleged to have happened in the trial presently under consideration. And we know that this would be a bad and irrational idea precisely because the potential female juror who had been previously raped, due to her past history, would, understandably, not be as objective and impartial as would be required to serve on a jury where the goal is to seek the truth and to assess evidence and arguments in the most fair and objective way possible. Indeed, we all understand that the woman’s emotional and psychological proximity to the type of trial under consideration would cloud her objectivity and render her a partial, rather than an impartial, jury member. Furthermore, we all understand why this is the case, for an emotionally and psychologically clouded mind is a mind that is more susceptible to motivated reasoning and cognitive biases. In fact, the same even holds true for a trial judge, who must recuse himself if he has a conflict of interest with a case under consideration. And lest you would object to these claims, I dare say that were you or I ever accused of a crime, neither one of us would want someone on our jury, or a judge, who had suffered from the crime that we had been accused of committing for the very reason that we both realize that there would simply be too much of a chance that that person would not be fair in their assessment of the evidence at our trial.

But the examples do not end there, for we also understand that, for example, a jury member would not be allowed to be a family member of an accused individual given that no one would expect or could sufficiently guarantee that a family member would be objective in their assessment of the evidence against their relative. Or, for a different type of example, consider that we all understand that, on average, we would be quite rational to trust the assessment of a genuine political independent concerning a highly politicized and volatile topic more so than we would trust the  assessment of a lifelong partisan hack concerning the same matter; we realize that the latter’s emotional attachment, psychological investment, and direct personal consequences to the issue at hand makes his opinion less immediately trustworthy than the opinion of a person who is not so closely connected or invested in the political issue under consideration. Indeed, we understand that the political partisan, given his greater personal connection to the issue under consideration, makes him more susceptible to cognitive bias and motivated reasoning, thereby very likely making his assessment of the issue under consideration less objective than that of a more neutral party. And so we can see, via these examples, how a person’s emotional and psychological proximity to a certain situation or event actually renders them less objective about the evidence or arguments that they are considering, and it actually gives us a solid reason to be more leery of their assessment of a certain matter rather than being more trusting of their assessment.

Note as well that social science also supports the above examples. For example, in his book Righteous Minds, and specifically in his chapter “Vote for Me (Here’s Why)”, popular social psychologist Johnathan Haidt notes that when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play, people are very good at finding evidence which supports a position that they already hold, most likely for intuitive reasons. What this means is that when self-interest is involved, as well as when discussing emotionally charged topics, people are very good at confirmation bias and motivated reasoning.

Now, with the above points from Haidt in mind, and with the earlier examples in mind as well, the connection with the abortion issue should be clear. In the debate over abortion, we are seeking to objectively and fairly assess the status of the unborn human being, both in a moral and a legal sense. We are also seeking to assess, as objectively as possible, whether abortion is murder, thus establishing whether it is permissible or not. We are even assessing whether abortion is a social and cultural good or not. So these are damn serious issues, and so we should all wish that the individuals assessing these topics concerning abortion are as objective as possible. But, in all these debates, a woman is like the compromised juror who would be rejected as a jury member in a trial precisely because the juror could not be counted on to be as objective as possible about the evidence under consideration, for it is the woman’s very emotional, psychological, and self-interested proximity to these issues which makes her assessment of them less trustworthy rather than more trustworthy. And this is precisely because there would be a very good chance that a woman would be suffering from serious cognitive bias in her assessment of the evidence concerning abortion and the status of the unborn. After all, women themselves admit that they are the ones who are directly influenced by the emotional, psychological, and physical effects of pregnancy and abortion, and so, whether knowingly or not, they themselves are the ones who are tacitly acknowledging that they would have an increased susceptibility to cognitive bias and motivated reasoning concerning this topic.

By contrast to women, men are not directly affected by the issue of abortion, and they are most definitely less emotionally, psychologically, and personally invested in it, as many women themselves admit; after all, that is often why women argue that men should have no say about abortion to begin with. But because of all this, a very strong case can be made that men are actually more objective evidence assessors concerning the issue of abortion and its potential morality or immorality than women are. Indeed, men, given their ability to remain more detached about the issue of abortion, can actually be more trusted to give an impartial assessment of the evidence concerning the humanity of the unborn, and thus men can give a fairer assessment of whether abortion is murder or not. So again, far from a women’s proximity and direct personal contact with the abortion issue being an asset, it is actually the very thing which gives us a sound reason to be more skeptical concerning what women say about abortion given that their emotional and psychological investment in the issue increases their cognitive biases and motivated reasoning.

Now women will no doubt scream contemptuously concerning this argument, and they will no doubt object to the idea that they should not be listened to about the issue of abortion. And, in fact, they should be listened to. But here is the key point: if we are going to listen to women about abortion and take their arguments seriously, then men should be listened to as well. In fact, men should be listened to as much or even more so than women are! Indeed, if we are going to consider the views of a group, namely women, who we have good reason to believe are more compromised in terms of their objectivity than men are when it comes to assessing the arguments for or against abortion, then we have no rational reason to deny men the grounds to weigh in on the abortion issue as well.

And so, the long and short of it is this:  although men are sometimes told that their views about abortion should not count because they are not directly affected by it, it is actually a woman’s very emotional and psychological proximity to the issue of abortion which makes her cognitive-bias-prone opinion about abortion less objective and less trustworthy than that of a man. And so, if anyone should be ignored concerning the matter of abortion, it is women; but if they are to be listened to, as they should be, then no one should dare say that the arguments from men should not be listened to as well.

Anno Domini 2016 11 17

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam