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Reproductive Justice?

Regis Nicoll's The Tyranny of ‘Reproductive Justice'
Reproductive Justice?

Abortion is one of the few social topics about which there is somewhat widespread agreement among Evangelical Christians. While distinctions remain about the validity of abortions in the cases of rape and incest, and to a much less degree in the case of threat to the mother’s life, there is a broad consensus that a fetus is in fact a human being with many of the same rights as persons of any age, sex or economic or social standing.

The topic has not been front and center of the public discussion for some time, though everything from the debate about employer-financed birth control to the remarks made by two senatorial candidates in Missouri and Indiana during this last election season touched upon it. This blog serves two important functions for us. It discusses the language of the abortion debate as it is now sometimes framed, and it summarizes many of the arguments against the legalization of abortion and therefore gives us an excellent platform from which to discuss the topic.

The ostensible current purpose for the blog posting is the nomination of Sandra Fluke for the possibility of becoming TIME magazine’s person of the year. Fluke is the law student whom Rush Limbaugh brought to prominence last winter by calling her a “slut” after her testimony before Congress about having an abortion. She later addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

Regis Nicoll, author of the blog piece and a freelance writer, points out that at Georgetown Law School, Fluke is a past president of their chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice. He writes “[Reproductive Justice] strikes me as a rather strange pairing of words, for what does justice have to do with a basic biological function? And if reproductive justice exists, why not respirative, digestive, or cardiovascular justice?”

I share his curiosity. Justice is a term, it seems to me, that implies providing fair and equitable conditions for legal or moral—depending upon whether the discussion inhabits the legal or theological realm—behavior or, conversely, fair and equitable punishment for illegal or immoral behavior. Presumably, Fluke would argue that a society, which outlaws abortion, is not providing fair conditions for the sexually active.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing the outlawing of abortion provides is a situation in which one person who has made a choice to have sexual intercourse (leaving rape aside for the moment) now has to live with the consequences of her action because not to do so would be to violate the rights of the person she has helped create and who had no choice in the matter, i.e. the baby whose most basic right is taken away by abortion. This seems much more fair to me

Nicoll goes on to point out that the understanding of reproductive justice, which is most common, involves only women. The term originated in the context of concerns by women of color that reproductive health services (another controversial term to say the least) were unfairly distributed. But if there is going to be discussion of justice vis-à-vis reproduction, surely it should include both the male involved and the baby created. No such discussion is taking place.

Nicoll’s piece is not as good as it could be. It is sarcastic and polemical at points. But it does raise a good number of the questions those of us who believe a fetus is a baby want to see continuing to be raised.

This article can be found at

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