One particular form of hypocrisy that really bothers me is the type where some person or group claims to favor or oppose X because of self-evident principle Y — but they don’t apply principle Y to everything else, and in severe cases they don’t apply principle Y to anything but issue X.
One example is the position of the National Organization for Women (NOW) (and lots of other people and organzations) on abortion. They and others claim to be in favor of abortion (or “abortion rights”) because of the principle that “a woman has a right to control her own body.”
Yet, on other issues, NOW specifically opposes a woman’s right to control her own body, and is in fact lobbying the federal government to infringe on that right. Specifically, they have an “action alert” on their website asking supporters to tell the FDA to deny approval for a certain type of silicone gel-filled breast implants. They claim the manufacturer has not provided enough data to show that the devices are safe. Presumably, the manufacturer disagrees and thinks their data does show the devices are safe.
Now NOW is entitled to their opinion about these devices, but if their concern were to protect the principle that “a woman has a right to control her own body,” then wouldn’t they want each woman to have to right to evaluate the risks and benefits and decide whether the tradeoff was worth it to her? After all, nothing is 100% safe, there are risks to everything, and no one is forcing anybody to get any kind of breast implants at all. So if a woman wants to get breast implants, and she has a right to control her own body, shouldn’t that mean she has the right to determine whether in her own judgement the risks are worth the benefits to her?
And if your answer to that question is “fine, but most women aren’t experts in these risks,” — well, they are implanted by a doctor; shouldn’t this be “a private decision between a woman and her doctor”? Isn’t that what they say should be the case for an abortion?
Furthermore, about four and a half years ago, NOW itself took the exact opposite approach to the FDA — they called on the FDA to expidite approval — without the safety testing normally required for new drugs — for RU-486 (mifepristone, the “abortion pill”). They cited approvingly the statement of the French Minister of Health that this drug is “the moral property of women,” with the clear implication that it’s the business of women, not the government, to determine whether it’s safe or not.
Of course, like breast implants, RU-486 is not without risk; unlike breast implants, at least four women in the US and Canada have died due to complications from the “abortion pill.”
If NOW acknowleges the risks of RU-486 (and I don’t know if they do or not), they could favor its approval and be consistent with their declared principle that “a woman has a right to control her own body” if they said that women should be allowed to make the their own decisions regarding risk-benefit tradeoff for themselves, and that it should “a private decision between a woman and her doctor.” But if they said that, they’d have to apply the same reasoning to the breast implants, and call on the FDA to approve those, too.
Now maybe I’m missing something here, but it certainly seems to me that NOW does not really believe that “a woman has a right to control her own body.” If they did, they’d be speaking out in favor of, not against, approving the breast implants, and they’d also be speaking out against the laws in Calfornia and North Carolina banning teenagers from tanning salons, and the laws requiring prescriptions for all prescription drugs, and parental permission for minors to get their wisdom teeth extracted, not just their fetuses.
It would be much less hypocritical if they’d just be honest and say “we believe in a woman’s right to an abortion — not necessarily a right for a women to do control anything about her body, just that one thing.”