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A Question of Empathy: Justin Bieber and the Difference Between Anti-Abortion and Anti-Choice

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This is the first, and hopefully last, article I'll be writing about Mr. Bieber that doesn't involve his present and future film projects. I have nothing against the kid, but I have no more business discussing Bieber's worth as a musician than I do discussing LeBron James's first year on the Miami Heat. But there is much huffing and/or puffing about released excerpts of his Rolling Stone interview, including one bit that deserves a bit of analysis. First off, kudos to him for his defense of Canada's single-payer, government-run, health-care system. It's what we damn well should have gotten last year, as it's the right moral thing to do (health should be classified under "commons") and it would have solved the unemployment crisis in a heartbeat (quick, how many older people do you know who are still working purely for the health insurance?). But his thoughts on abortion are a little trickier, and the condemnation that followed is yet another example of how hard it is to express a nuanced opinion in the era of the one-sentence soundbite.

On the topic of abortion, he stated "I really don't believe in abortion. It's like killing a baby?" The reporter brought up the question of rape, to which Bieber stated, "Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that." Most of the commentary has focused on his general disapproval with abortion, and his apparent belief that rape victims shouldn't be an exception to an anti-abortion stance. But notice that last sentence: "I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that."

That, ladies and gentlemen, is called empathy. It's what separates "us" from "them." Mr. Bieber may in fact be opposed to abortion, and he very well may believe that life begins at conception. But unlike the folks who are trying to redefine rape or those who want to give citizens the right to murder abortion doctors, Bieber is not trying to impose his personal opinions about a (currently legal) medical procedure on anyone else. If we are to take that last sentence at face value, then Bieber, however much I may disagree with his core values on abortion (and predestination - 'everything happens for a reason'), shows a willingness to concede that not all things are black and white, and one cannot condemn what you do not understand. It's a sign of maturity that isn't so much wise beyond his years as it is far behind the likes of those currently feverishly at work to revoke a woman's right to choose.

Justin Bieber being against abortion and casual sex doesn't make him an iron-clad conservative anymore than being for single-payer healthcare and homosexual rights make him a flaming liberal. It doesn't make Justin Bieber a hero or a genius, but it makes him a thinking and feeling human being who is willing to acknowledge that his opinions are not set in stone and perhaps not meant to be inflicted on others as a matter of public policy.