A Discourse on Morality
Women will retain their minority status in America as long as they are restricted from full access to reproductive health care. Reproductive health care infiltrates every aspect of a woman’s life and her ability to connect with opportunities in society. A woman’s capacity to fulfill her financial, educational and societal goals are limited when she does not possess full control over her body and reproductive choices. Legislation, such as mandated counseling, waiting periods, and refusal to perform abortions limit women’s access to healthcare and full reproductive rights. Restrictive legislation introduced by state and federal governments reduces opportunities for women to integrate into society as equals. Access to women’s health care should not depend on anyone’s moral beliefs.
Jurgen Habermas’ Discourse Theory of Morality, Politics, and Law, or Discourse Ethics, is the best solution to the conversation regarding women’s access to comprehensive health care. Habermas’ theory states, “A [moral norm] is valid just in case the foreseeable consequences, and side-effects of its general observance for the interests and value-orientations of each individual could be jointly accepted by all concerned without coercion” (i.e., in a sufficiently reasonable discourse) (1998a, 42; trans. amended)1.
Habermas’ discourse ethics encourages conversation which includes those who create legislation and those who are affected by the legislation. By including women who hold different moral beliefs concerning women’s access to reproductive health services, the conversation would include the needs both sides associate with reproductive services. Morality is not about imposing personal beliefs on another, but instead is recognizing another’s beliefs and creating legislation which allows each person affected to retain autonomous agency.
1. Bohman, James and Rehg, William, "Jürgen Habermas", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).