In Sally Markowitz's "A Feminist Defense of Abortion," she argues that abortion is an equal right for women, due to the fact that women currently do not have equal status and rights in society as compared to men. In her eyes, women are not given the rights they are entitled to (and which men enjoy), and therefore abortion is justified in order to help even out that imbalance. Markowitz's argument is, for the most part, extremely sound and strong, though there are a few logical fallacies that must be addressed in order to more fully understand her argument.
Markowitz lays out her argument by defending abortion through the right of bodily autonomy; "Ifthe move toward a sexually egalitarian society requires women's control of their reproductive lives, and if the permissibility of this control depends ultimately upon the status of the fetus, then the future of feminism rests upon how we resolve the personhood issue" (165). However, unlike many feminists, she is opposed to the idea that a fetus is not a person, as the autonomy defense seems to imply that "there's nothing special about being a woman - except, of course, for the inescapable fact that only women find themselves pregnant against their wills" (165). Furthermore, she believes that arguing for abortion through a lack of personhood creates a human ideal that is solely male-centric.
One of Markowitz's logical fallacies within her argument is a case of argument from fallacy in and of itself - in essence, she seems to claim that the argument for an autonomy defense for abortion is fallacious and problematic, therefore its conclusion (that women should have the right to abortion because a fetus may not be considered a person) is also false. This is somewhat disingenuous; Markowitz argues against this position because of a perceived view that the results of a successful argument on that front would be unearned and unethical. She argues that "we should not see the choice as between liberating women and saving fetuses, but between two ways of respecting the fetus' right to life" (170). In this way, it seems to be a fairly semantic argument that does not argue for the effectiveness of one over the other, but simply a discussion over the more ethical, moral way to argue for the right of abortion. This could also be seen as a Nirvana fallacy, or perfect solution fallacy; because the conclusion to a personhood defense is not perfect in pushing for a sexually egalitarian society, it should not be pursued. However, to be fair, Markowitz only points out the dangers of the argument itself, saying feminists should be "wary" of the argument itself (165).
Markowitz's argument itself is quite interesting; this defense of abortion urges us that it is a mistake to look at the practice independent of its patriarchal origins; the author shifts it away from the normal argument of independent bodily autonomy and looks at it from the perspective of a patriarchal institution that removes agency and independence from women. By looking at it from any other angle, Markowitz argues, one can "manage to skirt the issue of women's status, as a group, in a sexist society" and "obscure the relation of reproductive practices to women's oppression" (165). Markowitz's major strength is in pointing out this potential setback in feminist thinking, as her concern is primarily to make sure that feminist arguments for abortion yield the greatest results.
However, there are also some weaknesses in her thinking. First, there is nothing to suggest that, in taking these other arguments to defend abortion, in which no references to women's oppression are directly made, the evidence of patriarchy or women's oppression are ignored outright. Markowitz's argument implies that, in not directly mentioning these facts of the woman's experience in patriarchal society, it actively hurts women's rights - this is patently untrue. There is no reason to suggest that every single argument for abortion must include the active pursuit of a sexually egalitarian society; it may also be implicit in the argument itself. Furthermore, if the only complaint that the personhood argument or the good samaritan argument is flawed because it omits references to sexist society, then the solution is to include those into the good samaritan argument, not reject it outright. Markowitz's argument seems to figuratively throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the strengths of the good samaritan and personhood arguments are also strong, if incomplete in Markowitz's eyes.
Markowitz's rationale for allowing abortion is also problematic, as she primarily argues that it is permissible as long as women live in a sexist society. According to her, the moral permissibility of abortion has to invariably involve the practice as a recompense for living in this patriarchal society. Therefore, by extension, if society reached the point where they no longer lived in a sexist society, abortion would no longer be morally defensible. In the event that social arrangements were to improve, abortion could not be permitted anymore. At the same time, in the event men were to become pregnant, women would be able to have abortions but not men, because they are not part of an oppressed group of individuals. When one takes the good samaritan argument into account, these questions do not come into play, but they do for Markowitz's rejection of that argument.
In conclusion, Markowitz's argument is fairly strong, and explores issues of feminism and their right to have an abortion in a way that manages to skirt the personhood issue, which is often a major roadblock in abortion discussions. However, there are some major weaknesses to it that prevent it from being a truly compelling argument, including the lack of accountability for the role of abortion in a potentially sexually egalitarian society. Markowitz is correct in assuming the problems of a sexist society: "To point out how men gain from women's compulsory pregnancy is to steal the misplaced moral thunder from those male authoritieswho, exhorting women to do their duty, present themselves as the benevolent, disinterested protectors of fetuses against women's selfishness" (170).
However, her solution (to create an argument that is centered solely around sexual egalitarianism in society) is fairly flawed, as it fails to take into account the legality of abortion in the event of an equal society. Markowitz, in her argument, does not answer the question of "What Happens Now?" regarding abortion; if a woman in an equal society were to become pregnant, would she not be allowed to get an abortion? Would it no longer be an equal society in that case? These questions are not satisfactorily answered by Markowitz's arguments, and so it ultimately must be rejected.