These are not bad arguments in favor of abortion--I think modern America is more right than not about most moral questions, and the right to bodily integrity is important. On the other hand, in the face of fetal personhood, they are not very good arguments either. My parents significantly restrict my autonomy by continuing to be alive--if they died, I would inherit some money, which would increase my choices. But I still shouldn't be allowed to kill them in order to collect my inheritance--a moral insight which seems to be much more obvious and fundamental, I might add, than the wrongness of slavery or the rightness of abortion. Every society I know of forbids slaughtering your parents.
(Not that I want to, I hasten to point out. Hi, Dad! We're pricing out a nice GPS for father's day!)
I am aware that I have constructed my beliefs about personhood in the face of these things--like any good undergrad, I know the answer I need to reason to in order to ensure both social comfort and maximum personal freedom. I like to think that I am too rigorous a thinker to be seduced by such ephemera. But I am also aware that a lot of very fine thinkers were seduced into reasoning that Africans weren't people. Whatever evidence they thought they had, we're pretty sure how they arrived at their conclusions: African personhood would have caused enormous personal and social upheaval. Thousands of their friends and family would have personally suffered enormously without their slave wealth. Ergo, slaves weren't people!
And if I look at my own reasoning, well, frankly, it's not even reasoning. I've never sat down and thought, "how do I know that Africans are human beings?" I know. And I'm enough of a Chestertonian to be okay with that way of knowing. But presumably if I'd been raised in 1840 Alabama, I'd know just as certainly that they weren't.
Perhaps I find the certainty of the pro-choice side so disturbing because it feels a lot like the certainty of the warbloggers in the run up to the Iraq invasion. As some of Hilzoy's commenters point out, I was myself too caught up in it, which makes me cautious of getting caught up again. The pro-choicers seem to be acting as if people who shoot abortion doctors are some weird species of moral alien, whose actions can only be understood in Satantic terms, and who cannot and should not be negotiated with, because they only understand raw displays of power. Yet it seems to me that if I were in a society that believed fervently in the personhood of a fetus, I would very possibly agree, and view Tiller's murderer the way I'd view someone who, say, assassinated Mengele.
I realize that this opens many other questions, like "What does it mean to have access to the political process?" and what constitutes personhood. But I remain stuck with a fundemantal problem: I can understand their moral logic. When someone whose moral logic I can understand, even endorse (without endorsing the underlying judgement about the personhood of the fetus) is driven by that moral logic to kill, I think there may be a problem that society needs to solve. When more than one kills for the same cause, I assume that there's a structural problem in the political process that needs to be fixed. I'm not saying the violence is okay--I think Tiller's murderer needs to go to jail. But like many contributors to Obsidian Wings, I can understand the structural forces that contribute to Palestinian terrorism without believing the terrorism is legitimate. Unlike them, apparently, I don't find it all that hard to transfer that understanding to the fringes of our own democratic system.
* Sadly, I'm not even joking--see my old vegan threads
** Go ahead. I triple-dog-dare you to quote me out of context