Monday, March 12, 2012

Doonesbury on the new abortion laws

Worth a read here. Particularly interesting is Trudeau's argument:
Texas's HB-15 isn't hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand. The World Health Organization defines rape as "physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration — even if slight — of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object." You tell me the difference.

Coerced penetration? Seems like it. With an object? Check.

1 comment:

Michael said...

One complication which I haven't really thought through: in a typical case of rape the party doing the forcing/coercing and the party doing the penetrating are one and the same. But it's not clear that that is the case here, much less that it has to be. At any rate, it seems the setup could be such that the following were both be true:

1. The state coerces a woman to have a procedure.
2. The physician who performs the procedure does not coerce the woman to have the procedure.

If the latter is true, it seems at least somewhat difficult to say that the physician raped the woman. But equally, it isn't straightforward to say that she was raped by the state, both because of (1) and simply because the state doesn't seem like the kind of entity that could, literally, commit rape. But then one might say, if neither the physician nor the state raped the woman, who raped her? And if there is no individual such that that individual raped her, how could she have been raped?

Now, as I say I haven't really thought it through. My hunch though is that in such a case where the coercion is significant, the woman has in fact been raped, and that the physician and the state both participated in the rape. The latter, at any rate, seems obvious given the conjunction of the facts (if they are facts) that she was raped, and that the actions of both the physician and the actions of the physician and the state were individually necessary and jointly sufficient for that circumstance.

Beyond that I'm not sure what to say. Perhaps we could posit a 'composite' agent comprising the physician together with the state, which would be said to have caused or performed the rape, but it's not totally clear whether this is more than metaphor (for better or worse, I suppose it would also compel us to view the penetration and the rape as metaphysically distinct -- perhaps in a way not totally disanalogous from that in which some people draw a distinction between a rock's falling and its falling quickly.)

In any case, it does seem there are numerous more or less subtle complications to think through here; but intuitively, I wholeheartedly agree with Trudeau's point.