I am not going to argue that Ashley’s parents are immoral or unjustified in what they did. I will argue that they are no longer Ashley’s parents. Regardless of their love and affection for their daughter their decision to remove her breasts and uterus and maintain her in a state of pre-puberty is not a parental decision. It is more the kind of control one might enforce on a pet to manage the relationship. It is something a farmer managing the productivity of his or her operation would naturally enforce on livestock. This would be done humanely, morally, and no-doubt with considerable tender affection and love for the subjects. There would be no outcry and no controversy, yet no one would confuse these acts of husbandry as parenthood.Of course, some cultural forces can produce pretty warped definitions of parenthood--the examples are well-known and numerous. I just finished reading Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan--it's set among women in 19c. China, among whom a "good mother" is the one who most skilfully breaks and deforms the bones in her daughter's feet with excruciating bindings. (I'm reading it as part of a book club attended entirely of mothers of young children--most of us have daughters just the age of the girls in the story, so it resonates and haunts at that level as well as other levels.) What warp in the cultural fabric makes the Ashley scenario seeming like a decent choice to so many people?
Friday, February 23, 2007
John Hockenberry's got a really strong essay on the "Ashley" controversy, just posted at his blog (thanks to Ruth at Wheelie Catholic for the tip). He's not hemming and hawing here....