The second of three essays on Grasping the Nettle, Cases of Intractable Conflict (2005) — Crocker, Hampson, Aall.
“Intractability is a quality of particular social conflicts.”
The recent reproductive rights conflict feels intractable, though technically it may not be. The authors state that the five characteristics identifying an intractable conflict (each of them not causal but processual) include 1). A protracted amount of time — how about, abortion debates for over a century. Reproductive rights arguments have gone on without resolution for a time longer than the book’s example of the Turkish-Cypress invasion in 1974, which took place following the British, Greek, and Turkish-Cypriot resolution of independence in 1960. 2). Identity designation — women are the only afflicted party, though the argument institutes a second designation representing symbiotic growth. 3). Conflict profitability — perhaps not fully known, though there is undoubtedly a profit to be gained from tax payments, work for hire, and from other such subjected persons. 4). Absence of ripeness/stalemates — perhaps this is the way there is no gray area between discontinuing a pregnancy and carrying it to term (at this time). Both seem to be absolute.
Heartbeat laws are basically conception as the basis for illegalizing abortion in all cases, and to put things bluntly, subjects women to whatever is to come from the simple combination of bodily fluids. Non-viable fertilization is a substance made up of mostly cells and electrical conductivity up until about nine weeks. It is here that I must insert a bit of the female/mother-wisdom of the Walking Egg, whose conscious understanding extends into the nether regions and beyond this eggshell planet housing our mysterious existence, lending her to the intuitive knowledge of the heartbeat as the essential existence of a thing. So as to say, what is pumping within the bloodstream of both men and women is itself a heartbeat that when combined, will eventually take the form of a conceptus: a heartbeat (obviously) before the actual heart. Next, we would need to add to this notion what the doctors have said about detectable pulses; that heartbeat activity in the early stages is a grouping of electrified cells, precisely, three to four millimeters long (Dr.Keats-UCSF as cited in Wikipedia, 2019). Correspondingly, a woman may also have the sense, through her own experience of a monthly menstrual period, that life itself is a constant heartbeat, and that what is detectable at six weeks is a fertilized grouping of conductive cells without a circulatory system drawing upon the bodily functions of the mother. According to Dr. Kerns “using the word heartbeat here is an intentional obfuscation (Wired, 2019).”
Aristotle is said to be a relativist, who considered that a right decision for one person might be the wrong decision for another. For example, a severely impoverished woman living in today’s Yemen, whose children lack the nutrition needed for normal development, and where over 85,000 children under five, have died of starvation since the bombing in 2015 (TNYT, 2018), might be scrutinized differently by certain moralists. On the other hand, absolutism, as opposed to relativism, may be the predominant philosophy among many anti-prochoice persons. For example, if a woman does not wish to carry a particular pregnancy to term, is it actually true that she’s an enemy of life as we all know it? That the woman hates and despises life, has a personal problem with it, or does not value the lives of the other human beings around her? That whatever she does in her life should be terminated in such a fashion because she did not want to be pregnant? A soldier who decides not to grow a baby in her womb, is she a coward? Is a woman a horribly insensitive person because she decided not to reproduce? Should a woman be mistreated in daily life because she did not follow through with conception? Should your parents disown you because they did not want to have children in the first place and were just doing you a favor? That she should be shunned away from certain work environments because she doesn’t deserve to be there? Should everything she owns be ‘taken’ away from her because she ‘took’ something away from society? Should a woman walk down the street and be regarded as a murderess by people in the street? Many “pro-lifers” believe the answer is yes to all of these questions. The aforementioned conflicts would certainly seem intractable, since the conceptus in question could not be recovered and reinserted back into the mother to develop. In such cases there may be various social outcomes, and acknowledged or not, none of them seem to be very good. How then is one if four women to regard these particular persons, who consider them (or their doctors) to be criminals at large?
Many absolutist arguments supporting forced pregnancies resound within rape culture, due to the if-then logic and reasoning. For example, a rapist may have been aware that his victim once had sex with someone he knew, which to him might mean that the woman is the ‘the type of person’ who has sex, as opposed to the type of person who once had sex when she ‘was aroused.’ There may be no difference between these two concepts for a moral -rapist. It doesn’t qualify that a woman who has had several sexual partners could say NO to a rapist, and mean it, because it has already been established that she is bad person who ‘does that.’ A woman who has sex is ‘already known’ for sex, and ‘everyone knows.’ In fact, laws criminalizing contraceptives during the 19th century may have been brought about by the non-marital sexual activities of women, which had begun to spring up mid-century. It seems though that the ever-increasing advancement of humanitarian consciousness among the consensus could certainly be used to explain the latter, but perhaps not the former. As recently as 1965, a Supreme Court case, Griswold v. Connecticut, in which administrators and medical personnel of Planned Parenthood had received felony convictions for the crime of prescribing birth control to married couples during a statewide ban, was overturned due to the law’s infringement on marital privacy and its apparent aspersion of the fourteenth amendment concerning fundamental human rights. In the end, it does seem that sexual behavior that perpetually results in unwanted pregnancy would have a desensitizing effect for women towards their libidinous proclivities.
As advances in science (discontinue) ~continue, abortion may or may not remain a generational conflict, and since arguments for abortion may fail to ‘transform’ — transformation being the solution to an intractable conflict. Is it the goal of pro-choice advocates to transform “pro-lifers’ into people who are less spiritual, (insect -sparing) individuals? Furthermore, just about everyone loves babies as it’s only natural; so should people change their minds about that? On the other hand, should the development of a non-viable organism take legal precedence over the will and potentially the life of its mother? Should women go through life without the emotional companionship of a male sexual partner because it may affect a not-yet-existent person ‘incapable of defending’ them-(selves)?’
Finally, if reproductive freedom is an intractable conflict, it is women without enough agency, as compared with those living in other states, who will experience the greatest number of hindrances, since there are various structural factors, which can influence ‘the course of a conflict.’ Eco-development, cultural patterns, capacity for fighting, and decision-making institutions, influence individual identity, self-concept, and the way goals are attained; all of which are indicators of the way grievances are dealt with (Crocker, Hampson, Aall, 2005). The conundrum thus begs the question, is a “total victory” for women even possible? Total victory concerning reproductive rights only really means that a woman has the freedom to go through the very emotional experience of an unplanned pregnancy with a small amount of privacy; some basic dignity, and perhaps a little peace.