Notes on the Limits of Philosophical Discourse About Abortion

I suppose it was somewhat predictable that various so-called “analytic” philosophers would continue to uncritically accept and promulgate the arguments that liberal feminists (including liberal feminist philosophers) have made about “choice” and “personal autonomy” with respect to abortion.

These arguments are very friendly with neoliberal ideas about the mobility of capital which outstrips national borders in favour of de-regulation that culminates in a race to the bottom with respect to workers’ wages and other benefits. These ideas are in addition of a piece with the discourse of bioethics that circulates around “informed consent”.

I have critiqued all of these notions in various places, including my monograph, Foucault and Feminist Philosophy of Disability, and my article, “Reproductive Freedom, Self-Regulation, and the Government of Impairment In Utero.”

Analytic philosophy generally takes an ahistorical and Eurocentric approach to phenomena, including to social and political phenomena that are evidently historically and culturally specific.

A more astute approach to the philosophical, political, social, and moral questions of our time, including questions that surround the notions of “choice” and “personal autonomy” with respect to abortion and euthanasia, would be genealogical.

With respect to the matter of abortion, in particular, philosophers should not simply take recourse in claims about choice and reproductive autonomy but rather ask, for instance:

How have relations of power operated to delimit and form subjectivities in ways that produce people who believe that their values, actions, and practices are self-originating and self-motivated?

What (neoliberal and thus fascist) relations of classist, sexist, white supremacist power have colluded to inculcate and utilize this relatively recent kind of subjectivity, namely, the self-determining and self-governing individual?

How do claims about “choice,” “reproductive freedom,” and “personal autonomy” dovetail with the doctrines of the Christian right? That is, how can we trace the genealogies of these so-called progressive notions back to Christian ideas about Eve in the Garden of Eden, eating the forbidden fruit, God’s punishment, and freewill?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.