The other day in my post on Politics without Philosophy, I mentioned in passing the philosophical inconsistencies on the National Organization for Women (NOW) website. Specifically, I referred to the premise that women should control the decision-making for their own body (a premise I accept) and noted the inconsistency of some of their positions, notably opposition to breast implants, with this position. As usual, I got several emails on "my attack on women", which is pretty normal nowadays: People tend to associate an attack on an organization purporting to represent a certain group with an attack on the group itself.
Anyway, this post was just going to be an update, to provide the specific links on NOW's seemingly conflicting positions on abortion and breast implants, but in the process, I discovered another very interesting inconsistency, which I will get to in a few moments (its in bold at the bottom if you really can't wait).
In posting on the breast implant - abortion conundrum, I should have linked to this post, where I explained in more detail:
When it comes to defending abortion, women's groups are great
libertarians. They will point out that abortion is about the right to
choose and about protecting the "fundamental civil and human right of
women to make the most intimate decisions about their bodies and their
lives". Its about not letting the government interfere with individual
decision-making or a "woman's right to privacy". Its about assuming
women are grown-up enough to make difficult choices about their fetus
and their own health and safety. Opponents of such choice are
"ultra-conservatives trying to deny women control over their own
bodies". (all quotes from the NOW web site).
So, women's groups seem to be good libertarians concerned with the primacy of women's decision-making over their own body. Except when they're not.
NOW has been feverishly campaigning to get the government to limit a
women's right to choose breast augmentation, despite the fact that the
science is overwhelmingly behind the safety of implants. Sure, as in
any medical procedure, there are some risks, but I defy anyone to tell
me that the risks associated with breast implants are greater than the
risks associated with abortion. Abortion is a much weightier and more
difficult decision, and, unlike breast implants, it is irreversible.
If women are mature enough to make abortion decisions, they certainly
are mature enough to weigh the risks of breast implants. Or take the
birth control pill -- the impact to a woman's body of silicone sacks in
their boobs is far less than that of trashing their entire hormone
balance. Sure, the pill makes sense for a lot of people and its great
that the option exists, but don't tell me that the the changes the pill
engenders in the body are OK but bags of silicone are not.
Note that if you accept the notion of a woman's right to choose for her own body, the risks of breast implants shouldn't matter. A good government might make sure these risks are revealed, but would leave decision making on the risks vs. rewards to the individual. For the sake of completeness, though, here is NOW's argument that breast implants are just too risky and here is the counter-argument, supported by most scientists and the medical profession, that there is nothing wrong with them. Note, however, the NOW would not tolerate casting the abortion debate around safety or risk, arguing in that case that it is up to the woman to make these informed trade-offs.
Anyway, here is what I learned from grabbing a few of the links above. Consistent with their position on breast implants (and their heavy funding from the tort bar) NOW also is criticizing the FDA for allowing the Vioxx painkiller on the market.
Whether it's Vioxx or Bextra or silicone implants, the rule now
is 'Buyer Beware, said [NOW President Kim] Gandy. The drug and device companies own
the FDA and it is the companies' profit potential that rules the
review and approval process - except when the profit motive is
overridden by the White House morality police, as with the
Yep, the FDA is apparently not doing a good job in limiting the number drugs or procedures women choose to put in their bodies (more on Vioxx on the NOW web site). But this is still not the really funny part, just another illustration of how NOW only seems to apply "Its her body" to abortion, rather than any other decision. What was really interesting was this (emphasis added):
An assisted suicide
bill (AB 654) passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly Judiciary
Committee on Tuesday, following two hours of debate. It now moves to
the full Assembly, where a vote may come in May.
officially supporting the bill include the pro-euthanasia group
Compassion & Choices; the American Civil Liberties Union, the
California Alliance for Consumer Protection, the California National Organization for Women; the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations; Drug Policy Alliance Network; and End-of-Life Choices.
I am OK with legal suicide as the last-ditch pain-relief strategy, though I am uncomfortable allowing doctors to help, given the inherent conflicts (maybe create a new suicide midwife profession?) Anyway, note from this that while NOW opposes women's access to legal Vioxx, they support legal access to assisted suicide. In case you are missing the full irony, I will restate it: NOW supports the legality of a pain-relief strategy (assisted suicide) with a 100% chance of death but opposes the legality of a pain-relief strategy (Vioxx) with a less than 1% chance of death.
I don't really mean to pick on NOW in particular. As I said before, nearly any organization on the right or left tends tends to espouse contradictory positions in the same manner. NOW is just a particularly easy target since it takes positions on so many things. Also, I must admit that they particularly piss me off some, articulating a fine libertarian point of view that women, and not the government, should control decision-making for their own body, and then abandoning this premise on nearly every non-abortion topic they address.
Anyway, you can read more on how the left really doesn't want to address the full implications of the Roe v Wade privacy right here. If you want to understand why NOW takes the positions it does, beyond the usual we-know-better-what-is-good-for-women-than-they-do-themselves elitism, you might look at the NOW relationship to the tort bar. NOW is usually prominently featured on the ATLA web site.