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Why is it Always Men Advancing the Pro-Life Position?

Christian apologetics and atheism meet hereIt’s Blog for Choice Day!

On this, the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal in the U.S., Pro-Choice America (NARAL) asks, What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?

I will make it easier to be a pro-choice politician by spreading the word about the sensible arguments in favor of the pro-choice position. My approach has been to post this series of articles on this topic.

Today let’s ask why it’s always men advancing the pro-life position. It does seem unfair that the gender that isn’t personally inconvenienced by pregnancy is the one pushing the restrictions. (Okay—it’s not always men who are the vocal pro-life advocates, but it often seems that way.)

I remember a podcast by a popular Christian apologist during which a woman caller asked this question. The apologist (a man) seemed annoyed. He said that murder was murder. (I argue that abortion isn’t murder.)

More to the point, he said that his moral opinion was relevant regardless of his gender. I’ll agree with that, as far as it goes. But I think that the woman had an important point that is rarely acknowledged, since only a woman can have an abortion.

Let me try to create a symmetric male-only example. This apologist is of the age where he might have been in the draft pool during the Vietnam War. So let’s suppose it’s 1970, and this guy comes back from a tour fighting in Vietnam. Readjusting to life in America is tough, and he has nightmares and other symptoms of what we now call PTSD. His wife is sympathetic and, after some prodding, he shares the problem with her.

“Oh, you should go see Dr. Jones about that,” she says. “I’m part of a community of veterans’ wives, and I’ve heard all about that. He does wonders with returning soldiers, and he’ll fix you up in no time.”

Our hero hesitates, not comfortable discussing his demons with a stranger. “I don’t think so.”

“No, really. I’ve heard a lot about this, and that treatment should work for you.”

Tension increases as they go back and forth. Finally, he says, “Honey, I really appreciate your sympathy. I know you want to help. But you must understand that you will never, ever understand what I’ve been through. Put in 18 months in Vietnam and then we’ll have something to talk about. Until then, you really don’t get it.”

Similarly, our 60-something male apologist will never, ever completely understand what it’s like to be 15 and pregnant, faced with disapproving parents and ridicule from classmates and pro-lifers shouting “murder!” at the suggestion of an abortion, wondering how she’s ever going to get her life back on track.

If the male apologist wants to comment on the topic, that’s fine, but a big dose of humility (and sympathy) would make his position easier to take.

Next time: 16 Arguments Against Abortion, with Rebuttals (Part 2)

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About Bob Seidensticker
  • Rick T

    This idea is simply silly. I guess you’ve forgotten Michelle Bachman, Phyllis Schlafley, Sarah Palin, Eagle Forum (made up largely of women) Norma McCorvey (the original Roe, now pro life), thousands of pro-life organizations and crisis pregnancy center workers and volunteers who are mostly women, etc., etc. And that’s just off the top of my head without thinking about it much. Whether you agree with them or find them a lightning rod like Palin, they happen to be women and they are myriad.

    I could come up with a list of any number of names you would like to disprove this ridiculous notion. How many would you like?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      What’s there to disprove? I made clear that the title is hyperbole.

      What’s not hyperbole, of course, is that the pro-life movement is predominantly men, while the set of those who need abortion services is 100% composed of women.

      • Rick T

        How many crisis pregnancy centers have you visited? They are predominantly staffed by caring, involved, informed, and compassionate women. The fact you are only hearing men indicates you are listening only to politics at the headline macro level. I provided some names of outspoken women in the battle, showing your lead idea to be false. And in the trenches as well as many of the key leaders we find women. Your hyperbole title as well as your key point are incorrect.

        When women in a crisis pregnancy situation are tactfully and graciously provided with the information helping them to understand that they are carrying a baby, not a mass of tissue, they choose life.

        So why is it always men who read and respond to your blog? Maybe you are underserving the women atheists out there.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          The fact you are only hearing men indicates you are listening only to politics at the headline macro level.

          Yes. I was talking about men being the voice of the movement.

          I provided some names of outspoken women in the battle, showing your lead idea to be false.

          And I reminded you that the article itself makes clear that the title is hyperbole, though the basic point remains: a movement led predominantly by men is critiquing a situation that directly affects exclusively women.

          So why is it always men who read and respond to your blog? Maybe you are underserving the women atheists out there.

          I’d love to have more women of all stripes as readers. Perhaps this series on abortion will bring some (again, on both sides of the issue).

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

          Oh, you mean that crisis pregnancy centers lie to women. We knew that, actually.

          CPCs tell women false studies linking abortion to a list of ills, including breast cancer and depression (been totally debunked over and over). CPCs lie to women about how far along they are to make sure they don’t get abortions. They promise help with the baby and don’t provide it. Some small number of them function as adoption mills, bullying women into having a baby and then giving it up for adoption to a “good Christian family” without caring what the woman actually wants.

          CPCs are a blot on the pro-life movement, as they are full of women who are perfectly willing to “lie for Jesus”. One of my cousins, sadly, is one of these women and she has made it perfectly clear that they lie early and often to women who come in looking for help. She’s proud of it! Make your arguments as you will, but if you have to resort to lies you are NOT a moral, upstanding person and you are NOT working for a moral, upstanding cause.

      • http://www.benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com bmmg39

        “What’s not hyperbole, of course, is that the pro-life movement is predominantly men…”

        No, Bob, that’s not “hyperbole.” It’s just completely false. There are probably more pro-life women than pro-life men. The foremothers of the feminist movement were pro-life, too, as are many modern-day feminists. Of course, this causes irreparable harm to your straw-man argument, so I can see why you wouldn’t want to acknowledge it.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Is the point of the post unclear? I’m saying that the public face of the pro-life movement is largely men. I’m not talking about polls of faceless citizens but rather who the pundits and leaders are in this movement.

          Show me a ranking of the players in the pro-life movement. Is it mostly women? I doubt it.

        • http://www.benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com bmmg39

          “I’m saying that the public face of the pro-life movement is largely men.”

          That, too, is wrong. Judie Brown? Carol Tobias? They head up two of the most oft-quoted pro-life organizations, nationwide.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          That’s it? You name two women and that shows that the public face of the pro-life movement is mostly women?

          You do finally understand what I’m talking about, right? I’m not talking about the president of a pro-life organization or the founder or the worker bees. I’m not talking about polls of citizens. I’m talking about just the spokespeople, the people who are on TV, the public face of the pro-life movement.

          I made this statement because I thought it was widely acknowledged to be true, but I don’t have a poll or survey or ranking that would resolve this question. If you do, let me know.

        • http://www.benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com bmmg39

          Bob, those are perhaps the TWO MOST QUOTED pro-life organizations in the country. So, their spokespersons ARE the “public face(s)” of the pro-life movement.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I think it’s a little more complicated than that.

          Is Bill O’Reilly pro-life? Glen Beck? Greg Koukl? William Lane Craig? Rush Limbaugh? Pat Robertson? Every Republican candidate for president? Most pastors? Is the general tenor of Fox News pro-life?

          As I hoped I’d made clear, I’m not simply talking about pro-life organizations but rather the set of every talking head or blogger or pundit or commentator in America that speaks publicly in favor of the pro-life position. You’re saying that that face is predominantly female?

        • http://www.benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com bmmg39

          “Is Bill O’Reilly pro-life? Glen Beck? Greg Koukl? William Lane Craig? Rush Limbaugh? Pat Robertson?”

          Two of those people I’ve never heard of. There are probably more male hosts of programs on cable television and on radio than female. That’s true of both pro-lifers and pro-choicers. I notice you’re not saying anything about pro-choice men, such as yourself. If pro-life men should pipe down, then certainly you believe pro-choice men should do the same.

          “As I hoped I’d made clear, I’m not simply talking about pro-life organizations but rather the set of every talking head or blogger or pundit or commentator in America that speaks publicly in favor of the pro-life position.”

          No…you keep moving the goalposts.

          “You’re saying that that face is predominantly female?”

          I’m saying a vast number of women and men are pro-life. That includes people in the public eye. The numbers are quite similar.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          If pro-life men should pipe down, then certainly you believe pro-choice men should do the same.

          As I’ve made clear, I’m not trying to take away pro-lifers’ rights to speak (male or female); I’d simply like pro-life men to have a little humility and compassion about something that they will never endure and can never completely understand.

          No…you keep moving the goalposts.

          Oh? Show me how I’ve changed the subject.

          I’m saying a vast number of women and men are pro-life. That includes people in the public eye. The numbers are quite similar.

          I’m not sure what “a vast number” means. And if you’re saying that the public face of the pro-life movement is roughly equally male and female, I’d like to see the stats. It’s almost universally male from my perspective, but of course, that doesn’t count for much.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    Funny that this article came up in my feed the same day as yours: http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/mirandadevine/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/why_being_christian_gets_you_crucified/

    Maybe the reason you’re not hearing many female pro-life voices is that others have been successfully bullied into silence

    • Retro

      Karl wrote: Funny that this article came up in my feed the same day as yours:

      That was an amazingly interesting article Karl.

      The article claims that activist Melinda Tankard Reist is being crucified because she’s a Christian, however, she claims that religion is not that important to her position. Do you understand that Tankard Reist is suing Jennifer Wilson for calling her a “fundamentalist Christian”?

      All other issues aside, it simply doesn’t make any sense to sue someone for calling you a fundamentalist Christian, and then claim that you’re being persecuted because you’re a Christian.

      So which is it, is she being persecuted because she’s a Christian or not? If she’s a Christian, then why is she suing?

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        As I understood it, she is being persecuted because she is anti-abortion. Breaking the feminist ranks, so to speak.

        • Retro

          Karl wrote: As I understood it, she is being persecuted because she is anti-abortion.

          Well, the title of the article you linked to is “Why being Christian gets you crucified”.

          I’ll ask again, If she’s a Christian, then how is it religious persecution to call her a Christian? If she is a Christian, what logical sense does it make for her to hire a defamation lawyer to ask for a retraction and apology for being called a “fundamentalist Christian”?

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  • Rick T

    Reference your comment:

    “Is Bill O’Reilly pro-life? Glen Beck? Greg Koukl? William Lane Craig? Rush Limbaugh? Pat Robertson? Every Republican candidate for president? Most pastors? Is the general tenor of Fox News pro-life?

    “As I hoped I’d made clear, I’m not simply talking about pro-life organizations but rather the set of every talking head or blogger or pundit or commentator in America that speaks publicly in favor of the pro-life position. You’re saying that that face is predominantly female?”

    What you are really observing is that most commentators and politicians are male. As I said earlier, if you look at the folks in the trenches in the pro-life movement, most are women. So your question, “Why is it always men advancing the pro-life position,” in the title of this post, is simply wrong. Why can’t you simply say, “OK, I was wrong. Many if not most of those advancing the pro-life position are women.”

    You could also make the point that most of those advancing the pro-abortion position are men. They are politicians and commentators, too. One might ask, again, why YOU are making the case so vehemently. You never did commit on when life is far enough along to be protected. It is easy to take pot shots, and much harder to commit to a firm position.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      What you are really observing is that most commentators and politicians are male.

      Agreed.

      As I said earlier, if you look at the folks in the trenches in the pro-life movement, most are women.

      I’ll take your word for it, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

      Why can’t you simply say, “OK, I was wrong. Many if not most of those advancing the pro-life position are women.”

      Yeah, I should follow your lead. You’re always admitting errors when you make them. :-)

      In the post, I said: “Okay—it’s not always men who are the vocal pro-life advocates, but it often seems that way.” I thought that that made clear that (1) I was talking about pro-life advocates (that is, the public face of the movement, not the opinions of individual citizens or faceless workers in pro-life organizations) and (2) the title (“Why is it always men…”) was hyperbole. If this wasn’t clear enough, then I apologize for the confusion and hope that we’re on the same page now.

      You could also make the point that most of those advancing the pro-abortion position are men.

      In my mind, the face of the pro-choice position is predominantly female, while the anti-choice is mostly male. I thought this was obvious. I don’t have stats to back this up, so if this isn’t your impression, then I’ll just have to leave it at that.

      why YOU are making the case so vehemently.

      I see harm and I try to fix it. Surely that’s justifiable.

      You never did commit on when life is far enough along to be protected.

      Correct. I have no strong opinions and zero expertise in this area.

      It is easy to take pot shots, and much harder to commit to a firm position.

      You’ll have to educate me how this undercuts my main point, that personhood is a spectrum.

      • Rick T

        Your comment. Correct. I have no strong opinions and zero expertise in this area. … You’ll have to educate me how this undercuts my main point, that personhood is a spectrum.

        You’re making a claim that abortion is justifiable. When? One day before live birth? By not being wiling to commit on this , point but simply emphasizing the “spectrum,” you deny your responsibility to commit on when it is still OK and when, in your opinion, it is not. Come down firmly and we can discuss that starting point. Otherwise, it is an intellectual argument at best. We are talking about lives here, from the Christian perspective.

        Your comment, “Yeah, I should follow your lead. You’re always admitting errors when you make them.” I have indeed done that. Thanks for noticing.

        Your comment, “I see harm and I try to fix it. Surely that’s justifiable.” Surely it is. What harm are you trying to fight here? Too many live births?? Just say it clearly. You want to kill more fetuses and have more women go into post-abortion grief counseling. It is not a simple issue, and you can’t treat it without thinking about the victims—the women who abort, the fathers who lose their children and often grieve deeply later as well, and the generation who were never born because of this atrocity. That is why the social security system is having problems—too few in the younger generation who would be working and paying in. If you want to look simply financially, it has been a disaster, and this is the least important aspect. 50 Million plus not here in America alone. Tragic.

        What is that plus side again?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          You’re making a claim that abortion is justifiable.

          I’m making the claim that there is a spectrum of personhood. Let’s get agreement on that first. Why talk about tangential issues (except to focus on an area where you think you have traction rather than where you don’t)?

          I have indeed done that. Thanks for noticing.

          I remember a ve-e-e-ry long email discussion in mid-2008 where I was simply trying to get you to agree that evolution is the scientific consensus. What was it–60 back-and-forths? And I don’t think that “Yeah, you’re right–evolution is the consensus” ever came.

          If you’re someone who is quick to apologize, then I must myself apologize for missing that.

          What harm are you trying to fight here?

          Are you not paying attention? It harms pregnant women to not give them a choice. Additionally, bringing a baby into an abysmal home situation is not a good thing.

          That is why the social security system is having problems

          Irrelevant. Let’s stick with the moral issue and avoid financial ones for now.

  • Rick T

    Reference your comment: “I remember a ve-e-e-ry long email discussion in mid-2008 where I was simply trying to get you to agree that evolution is the scientific consensus. What was it–60 back-and-forths? And I don’t think that “Yeah, you’re right–evolution is the consensus” ever came.”

    As I recall, you never demonstrated that it was statistically verifiable that it was the consensus. And in any case, what matters is not what the high priests of “science” say (whoever “they” are.) What matters is what can be shown to be true. Evolution clearly can’t.

    Reference your comment: “”

    Reference your comment: “Are you not paying attention? It harms pregnant women to not give them a choice. Additionally, bringing a baby into an abysmal home situation is not a good thing.”

    You’re right. A less than optimal home situation is not great. Let’s just kill ‘em.

    And forget all of the negative ramifications I pointed out when she makes the choice to abort. Did you intend to address those, or did I miss that by not paying attention?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      As I recall, you never demonstrated that it was statistically verifiable that it was the consensus.

      I think the poll results of scientists are clear. That’s what “scientific consensus” is.

      But while I’m pretty dogged, I realize that this is an argument I won’t win. I’m throwing in the towel!

      Let’s just kill ‘em.

      I kill skin cells without a second thought, and I sleep like a baby. A single cell that you don’t want isn’t much to worry about, IMO.

      Did you intend to address those, or did I miss that by not paying attention?

      Perhaps you weren’t. I made clear that, while I noticed other arguments, but they were off topic in my mind. For example, “We gotta have lots of babies for Social Security to work!” You could well be right, but let’s focus on just the moral argument over the financial one. Isn’t that the more important issue?

      If there were other moral arguments in the mix that I missed, feel free to point them out.

  • Rick T

    Reference your comments ending in “If there were other moral arguments in the mix that I missed, feel free to point them out.”

    50 Million dead fetuses, many viable. Are even the viable ones excusable in your opinion?
    Post abortive depression for a huge number of women and some men who experience abortions ending their pregnancies. I don’t have numbers or percentages, but they are available if you doubt this.

    I can grant that the financial impact, while significant, is tangential. How about the other impacts? Those aren’t tangential. They ARE the issue.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      50 Million dead fetuses, many viable. Are even the viable ones excusable in your opinion?

      The regret is more or less proportionate to the age of the fetus. Beyond a certain point, society steps in and says “no more beyond this point.” Before that point, society says that it’s excusable (with many dissenters like you, of course).

      Yes, they’re excusable. And note that your making a distinction between one end of the spectrum and another is all that I’ve been doing with the spectrum argument.

      Post abortive depression for a huge number of women

      Post-partum depression is regrettable but simply a consequence of pregnancy. Is this much different?

      I can grant that the financial impact, while significant, is tangential.

      OK. Another that is intriguing but tangential to the primary moral argument is the one that I think of as the Freakonomics argument. This book notes a correlation between when the first cohort of children not born because of Roe would’ve reached the age of delinquency and a drop in violent crime (around 1990). I’ve seen some objections to this argument, so I don’t make it anymore, but it does seem clear that the children that aren’t being born are likelier than average to be criminals. “We should allow abortion because I don’t want those criminals” isn’t an argument I would make, but just know the baggage that would come along with a no-abortion society.

      Since you didn’t discuss it, I assume that you do remember that this isn’t a one-sided issue? Or, as your comment implied (“What is that plus side again?”) are you saying that it is?

  • Rick T

    Reference your comment, “Post-partum depression is regrettable but simply a consequence of pregnancy. Is this much different?”

    Yes, it is significantly different. Higher suicide rates, multiple ways it is more devastating and longer lasting. Post-partem depression is due to short term hormonal changes that do pass naturally over time, and while a significant event for those who experience it, is not to be compared with the life-long impact of abortion. If you know anyone who has been through an abortion experience, please refer them to this article, and encourage them to get some counseling. You may save their life. Please don’t quibble on this one. It is more serious than winning a blog discussion.

    http://spectator.org/archives/2005/07/19/post-abortion-depression

    There are many articles corroborating this issue and its seriousness.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I see correlation. But what causes what?

      This article didn’t ask: does society increase the depression? That is, if the pro-life crowd didn’t decry the process, maybe society would more supportive and welcoming to the woman who has an abortion.

      Also, the comparison shouldn’t be women who wanted children and then had a baby vs. women who had an abortion. Rather, both samples should start with women with unwanted pregnancies. Then look at the different outcomes for those who delivered vs. those who had an abortion.

      And I’ll end with a (futile) attempt to find common ground. Everyone agrees that abortions are regrettable. Everyone agrees that the overwhelming problem is unwanted pregnancies. Why aren’t we working together to reduce these?

      • Rick T

        DUDE. We are working at it. That is what crisis pregnancy centers do. That is why we support one locally in an active way.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Huh? Crisis pregnancy centers prevent unwanted pregnancies? I think we’re talking about two different things.

  • Rick T

    Reference Bob’s comment, “Huh? Crisis pregnancy centers prevent unwanted pregnancies? I think we’re talking about two different things.”

    Uh, … No. Sorry—I missed your change of topic there. I thought the topic was abortion, and crisis pregnancy centers deal with, well, CRISIS pregnancies, not UNWANTED pregnancies. I didn’t read your rhetorical question closely enough and thought you were asking why we weren’t doing anything about crisis pregnancies. What I was saying was that we were actively involved helping young women who are already in crisis. My bad.

    What we have been talking about in this blog post so far is what do do when the pregnancy has already been confirmed. Did you want to go off on that new tangent? We can talk about the pregnancy prevention process and how it works if you like, but it seems off topic. I was trying to discuss the main topic and how we are involved with a solution to the ABORTION part of the problem.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I’ll bring up the unwanted pregnancy issue in a future post. We can discuss it then.

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  • jejune

    All of your ‘abortion causes depression’ studies have been thoroughly debunked.

  • jejune
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