Why Are LGBT Rights Thriving While Choice Suffers?

This article on the Daily Beast by Jay Michaelson spotlighted a trend that I’ve noticed and wondered about the reasons for: in America these past few years, LGBT rights are making great strides, while women’s rights continue to fall further and further behind. The contrast between the health of these two progressive causes is striking, and cries out for an explanation.

Same-sex marriage is winning victory after victory, including in red states like Kentucky and Utah, to the point where even the enemies of marriage equality concede it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a reality in all fifty states. Anti-gay marches are sputtering and fading, drawing immense frustration from the preachers of the religious right, and a slew of major corporations are deciding that it’s good business sense to endorse gay rights, even though anti-gay conservatives may scream and rage.

But at the same time, women’s rights and reproductive choice are suffering: as in the Supreme Court’s striking down buffer zones around abortion clinics, or the awful Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed corporations to deny birth control coverage to female employees based on religion. Even more outrageous, the court’s conservatives said that this ruling was no big deal because there was a compromise: the government could provide coverage separately, through the insurance companies, without involving a woman’s employer. Just a few days later, those very same justices ruled against the compromise which they themselves endorsed, granting an injunction to an evangelical college which found even that unacceptable. (As I’ve said many times, the real and unsubtle agenda of the religious right – Catholic and evangelical alike – is to prevent women from using birth control by any means necessary.)

And while even deep-red-state legislators and governors have balked at passing right-to-discriminate bills aimed at gay people, those same states have been stacking up hurdles in the path of women seeking abortion: from onerous waiting periods to invasive TRAP laws, regulations designed to be impossible to comply with, that are shutting down clinics at a frightening rate. Catholic hospitals are gobbling up secular chains and bluntly denying women reproductive care, even at the cost of their lives. Wide swaths of the country have no legal abortion access at all.

These clashing realities beg the question of what’s different. In both cases, the same religious fundamentalism is driving the opposition. The LGBT movement has found that people who know an out gay person are more likely to support gay rights; but everyone knows women. And women are more numerous than LGBT people and should be even better equipped to defend their rights. So what’s going on?

Michaelson’s article proposes ten explanations. Some I find plausible, others less so: for example, he proposes that interfaith leaders have been more involved in LGBT rights than in feminism. To the contrary, any honest appraisal would have to conclude that in the pews, the enemies of gay rights vastly outnumber its supporters in numbers and influence, possibly even more so than is the case for feminism.

I have a few thoughts of my own about this. One factor that might be relevant is the role of class: the women who are most harmed by barriers to access are the poor and disenfranchised, whereas wealthy women can always travel to places where the laws are less restrictive. But anti-gay discrimination cuts against people regardless of social class, which means there’s a more compelling reason for everyone affected to organize into a united front.

To be blunt, another major reason is Anthony Kennedy. The fact is that there are five votes on the Supreme Court for gay rights, but not for reproductive freedom. And that realization can’t help but trickle down into the lower courts that have to scrutinize every new law aimed at burdening women or closing clinics.

But I wonder if the biggest reason is that the LGBT rights movement has successfully crafted a clear, straightforward narrative: same-sex couples love and care for each other just like heterosexual couples, want to get married just like heterosexual couples, and they’re being arbitrarily prevented by government officials driven by religious bigotry. It’s obvious what the problem is and what to do about it.

By contrast, the pro-choice movement hasn’t created an equally compelling frame of the issue, at least not in the public’s eyes. And probably a big part of that stems from still-extant regressive, stigmatizing attitudes about sexual ethics. Although we hypocritically use sex to sell everything else, the idea of sex as an end in itself still makes many people intensely uneasy. Gay-rights advocates have had success framing marriage as about love and commitment, rather than sex (not that the religious right hasn’t tried to create the opposite impression); but abortion and contraception are intrinsically linked to sex in a way that’s harder to overcome, which may be why they’re both still treated as unfit for discussion in polite company.

Of course, as I’m a straight man, I don’t have a first-hand perspective on either of these issues, so I’m reluctant to make any definitive statement. And there are probably other reasons that I haven’t thought of. What do you think explains this?

Image credit: David Weekly

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • yewtree

    I think the lack of a simple message may be a big factor.

    Also, the religious right seems to want to stop women having sex, never mind denying us access to birth control.

  • BeaverTales

    Bringing down abortion rights is a laser focus of the religious right…when Roe v. Wade passed in 1973, both radical Protestants and Catholics made reversing it a priority, no matter how long it takes. Here we are 40 years later and they kept their promise.

    Now that people’s attention is being consumed by the LGBT debate, the xtians are trying to roll back Roe v. Wade again. They’re hoping their opponents don’t have enough attention, influence or passion for both causes.

  • http://www.calgarysecularchurch.org/ Korey Peters

    I’m deeply concerned with this issue as well, Adam. My personal guess is that “abortion” has been so successfully tied to the word “murder” that even reasonable, liberal-minded people can’t see past it to the deeper issues. I feel like we need to educate that women’s rights aren’t about abortion. Rather abortion is a necessary result of women being equal.

    Just my thoughts. I’m going to share this in the CSC Facebook page and solicit comment there as well.

  • katiehippie

    Part of it might be that the LGBT issues feature men. White men. So they still have the white male power working for them. You don’t see lesbian women featured as much. But women have been second class for a long time. We have to be “taken care of” because we are so stupid and frail. It’s infuriating.

  • GCT

    It’s like the only time women are considered to be full persons is when they are embryos.

  • katiehippie

    This is very true.

  • Christopher Stephens

    I’m also a straight man, so I’d like to hear the perspective of queer folks and women. But I’ve known several atheists and/or humanists that held perfectly secular ethical convictions, and who supported queer rights very easily, still had lots of hang-ups about abortion. Some secular atheists I know completely support queer rights, but still don’t support women’s rights on abortion (even after countless debates with me, friendly and otherwise, on the issue).

    The one consistent theme seems to be that it’s trivially easy to see how queer rights don’t harm straight folks in any way, while abortion kills a living thing, by definition. It’s still not a good reason to be anti-choice, … but I do have to admit that it’s not nearly as black and white as queer rights.

  • Science Avenger

    LGBT rights are making great strides, while women’s rights continue to fall further and further behind

    Are they? You say “women’s rights” but all the specifics you mentioned are abortion (the birth control in question is linked to abortion). From what I’ve seen women have made great strides in most other areas, although there is obviously much to be done. The wage gap is shrinking, and women have better access to sports and other areas of society that were completely off limits not too long ago.

    Abortion is one of the few social issues where polling has been fairly static over time. It’s probably due to the fact that so many form their opinion on this completely on life-begins-at-conception faith, which does’t get changed by meeting a real fetus/baby/prenant woman the same way getting to know gay people explodes the myths about them. It’s also an issue where a nonreligious person (not me) can make a somewhat reasonable case for some abortion restrictions (who doesn’t get a little uncomfortable when discussing 3rd trimester abortions), whereas there is no position against LGBT rights that isn’t completely moronic/ignorant.

    We really need to focus our energies on getting morning-after pills freely and easily available, then there will be no clinics to bomb, and no distraught women to harrass.

  • Doomedd

    11. Babies

    While someone could hate gays with a fierce passion, is it pretty hard to explain why gay can be a problem to other. In order to address this marketing obstacle, anti gay had to rely on imaginary treat. “Gay want to recruit your kids” pftt. “Gay threaten marriage” How so?

    On the other hand, is it easy to frame abortion as an act against a baby. While we can discuss when the embryo is a person or discuss how a woman can’t be forced to sacrifice her body like we can’t force anybody to give blood, anti-choice just scream BABY and any discussion is brutally derailed. The problem is that humans have a strong protection instinct when very young infants are concerned. This instinct kick in very early, as soon as pregnancy is believed to occur, even with no actual pregnancy occurring. Seriously, talk to any future parent about their (or their wive) pregnancy and they talk like is it a person even if the embryo is just a fey weeks old.

    It even works with contraception, a situation that don’t actually involve baby. Please notice how anti-choice blur the distinction with abortion and contraception in order to “protect the babies”.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani J. Sharmin

    It kind of depends on which specific rights for LGBT people and which specific rights for women we’re talking about (some rights have advanced more for each group than others) and which person or community we’re looking at (there are certainly people who favor rights for cisgender straight women but not LGBT people). But I agree the same-sex marriage vs. birth control comparison is a bit of a conundrum. I’ve often thought of this point that you made.

    The LGBT movement has found that people who know an out gay person are more likely to support gay rights; but everyone knows women. And women are more numerous than LGBT people and should be even better equipped to defend their rights. So what’s going on?

    Joan Walsh wrote a good article about this topic at Salon: “GOP’s culture war disaster: How this week highlighed a massive blind spot” http://www.salon.com/2014/07/03/gops_culture_war_disaster_how_this_week_highlighted_a_massive_blind_spot/

    I think she has an excellent point about marriage being a rather conservative proposition (just extending it to more people) whereas supporting increased access to birth control is seen as tied with accepting sex before marriage, multiple partners, etc. I think this is why same-sex marriage is moving forward, but not necessarily other things that would challenge the idea that every family has to be two married parents plus their kids. See also, the way that rights for transgender individuals have not received as much support as same-sex marriage.

    Walsh also provides some historical examples, such as court case Harris v. Quinn. Basically, the expectation for a long time has been that women have to be the subservient group, that our role is to do certain work (like childcare and housework) without expecting any kind of compensation or rights.

    By comparison, for a long time, people didn’t even understand what it meant for someone to be LGBT. Certainly, there have always been LGBT people, and we’ve always faced discrimination. But now, the culture is starting to change to the idea that there’s nothing wrong with being LGBT. People find out that people who they know are LGBT, and that makes them realize that their prejudices were wrong.

    In a way, everyone knowing women, though one would expect it would work in our favor, can also be a double edged sword. It means everyone has female relatives who they love, but it also means they’re used to discriminating against someone they love.

  • Tommykey69

    Part of it is that women who have abortions tend not to publicize it. It’s done in private with close family often not aware of it, so it is not the same as having a family member or friend who is openly gay. The abortion rights movement would need a similar coming out movement though it would be hard to do. A gay person will always be gay but a woman who has an abortion at 18 may feel she will never need another one again and see it as something to put behind her.

  • AndyT

    I don’t want to display too much cynicism, but probably LGBT rights are at least in some way more exploitable by the market (“gay-friendly” facilities, gay bars, etc.), whereas reproductive rights (specially abortion) still rise embarassment at best, if not open contempt and/or sense of guilt.

  • eyelessgame

    I’m going to suggest a counterintuitive one: AIDS.

    Conservatives craft demons to scare people. The Cadillac-driving welfare queen. The contraception-popping, repeat-aborting slut.

    The conservative-crafted gay demon (the San Francisco bathhouse-hopping thong-wearing boyslut) died of AIDS. Without that demon, there was nothing to be frightened by. No one was out there irresponsibly enjoying themselves in ways the rest of us aren’t “permitted” to.

    (Well, that and we’ve started meeting gay people who match the quadrifecta of special rights in this country: male, white, well-off, and elderly. When an old rich white dude isn’t getting a fair shake, people stand up and fix it.)

  • Azkyroth

    Similarly, a lot of nominal pro-choice advocates are fanatically devout about ducking into the punches – from accepting and using anti-choice advocates dishonest framing of their position as “Pro-Life” to all the handwringing, conciliatory rhetoric about how abortion IS a terrible, sad thing, but it’s unfortunately necessary, to spending more than 5 seconds talking about “third trimester abortions,” to frantically sidestabbing and concern-trolling anyone who stands up an advocates for bodily autonomy truly unapologetically, to insisting that anti-choicers are basically good people who are sincerely mistaken and not necessarily misogynistic, just sad about “babies being killed”, and on and on and on and fucking on.

    It reminds me of the memes I keep seeing about the recent World Cup game, frankly.

  • Sneezeguard

    I’m going to go with the obvious, resistance to change.

    Say what they will about opposing gay rights, in truth it’s a relatively recent fight (at least in the public perception.) So while the lost generation may have been hard on opposing LGBT equality it really isn’t this huge historic battle.
    But opposition to women goes back as far as civilization pretty much, so it’s got a lot more momentum going behind it to hamper efforts to equalize.

  • jflcroft

    AIDS set back the LGBTQ movement perhaps a decade. We lost so many amazing activists to the plague, and AIDS itself was used relentlessly to perpetuate the narrative (still used abroad) that gay people are filthy, disease-ridden, and under judgment for their sins. There is no way the AIDS epidemic sped up acceptance of LGBTQ people in America.

  • jflcroft

    I’ve thought a lot about this question too. My most persistent thought, which would require a lot of unpacking, is that women are not a minority in a numerical sense. My second thought is the widespread cultural assumption that women’s equality has already been achieved. Also, the comparison may not be apt: we have made perhaps as little progress on structural racism as we have on sexism. Why so?

  • http://teethofthebuzzsaw.blogspot.com/ Leo Buzalsky

    On a side note, “men” was part of the Daily Beast’s list.

    Edit: Actually, the author labeled it “sexism,” but the point was that men have more privilege and there are gay men, etc.

  • Izkata

    Probably because at that point it’s still ambiguous and they might be men…?

  • http://teethofthebuzzsaw.blogspot.com/ Leo Buzalsky

    I think I will have to disagree a bit with your claim about women having made great strides in most other areas. One, the wage gap doesn’t seem to be shrinking all too quickly (though, I’d be interested in seeing some statistics on that). Two, I also question the better access to sports. Again, yes, it may be improving, but it doesn’t seem to be all that quickly. (I’m not even really comparing to how quickly LGBT issues have improved.)
    Three, and perhaps most importantly, I would point out that women are also facing a lot of problems in the area of assault and rape. Actually, that problem would seem to fly in the face of some Adam’s ideas. It’s an issue across class, for one. Also, it’s an issue that can be addressed without focusing on the sex aspect of it. (However, the messaging in this area doesn’t seem to make much of an effort to redirect the focus.)

  • Anna

    I think part of it is that it’s easier to support love and beautiful weddings than it is to support women saying they don’t want to be parents, or don’t want another kid. It’s easier to fit in same-sex marriage to an otherwise conservative worldview (well, they just want a nice nuclear family like ours). Plus beautiful weddings and love makes for nicer optics than abortion, which doesn’t really have warm fuzzy love and pretty pictures to go with it. “Now I’m free to marry the one I love” gets an “Awwww” from almost everybody, while “Now my career won’t be ruined” is likely to be met with “Selfish b—ch.”

  • Shawn

    I wonder sometimes if this is somewhat related to the anti-vax folks, in that it’s easy to be dismissive of the effects of something if you’ve never really seen it. Case in point, my grandmother is the sweetest woman you’ll ever meet – but is absolutely callous about animals and babies. She grew up on a farm in the 20s and 30s, and she saw a lot of both die, lost a couple of kids herself, and although somewhat socially conservative doesn’t really care about abortion. But in the first world nowadays, contraception is so ubiquitous that people don’t really appreciate what it would be like to have no control over repeated pregnancies, and since you don’t see women dying left and right from childbirth or unsafe abortions, it’s easy to assume that it’s really not that big of a deal to have a child. Whereas the harms to LGBT people are openly visible and can be widely reported.

  • Indigo

    While it’s true that sexual assault can happen to anyone, of any race or class, I have to disagree that those things are irrelevant. Let’s take just the matter of economic class. A woman who is educated and financially secure is going to be more likely to know what her rights are under the law. Moreover, she also has greater freedom to act to both avoid and react to an assault. She’s more likely to be able to quit her job if her boss sexually harasses her (and to hire a lawyer to sue); she’s less likely to be forced to live with an abusive male partner because she relies on him financially. The police are probably more likely to believe her if she reports an assault, compared to her less privileged counterpart. So while anyone can be a victim of assault, the problem affects less privileged people more, I’d say.

  • Indigo

    Yup. I’ve always thought the slogan “every child a wanted child” was a good move PR-wise (as well as being, you know, true) – it promotes the idea that hey, we’re pro-child! We like kids! For the same reason, I think Planned Parenthood et al need to lean more heavily on the idea that abortions and contraception are used by married women to help them care for their families. It’s a cheap shot and beside the point, but I think it may be the only way to get a certain streak of conservative to ever reconsider the issue.

  • pl1224

    I think the problem is the simple issue of control. Many men realize that the patriarchal hegemony, which they have been raised to believe was their birthright, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. As women’s reproductive rights–and women’s rights in general–become an accepted part of our culture, hitherto-entitled men become defensive, hostile and resentful. They correctly understand that losing control of the female half of the population means losing control of their world as they know it.

  • Michelle D

    I think the biggest problem is women are not united. The LGBT community, in general, all support LGBT rights. However, there are millions of conservative, right wing women who fight tooth and nail to prevent access to abortions and contraception. This means that from the right-wing perspective it’s not “womens’ rights” it’s “feminists’ rights” (or in not so polite circles “sluts’ rights.”) It’s always been bizarre to me that in my life the biggest hurdle for me to jump to get the care I needed was my own mother.

  • onamission5

    My second thought is the widespread cultural assumption that women’s equality has already been achieved
    I think it’s this. All too many people believe that equality occurs when laws are passed, and that after a certain period of time those laws to level the playing field are no longer needed because things are equal now (or if not then that’s just the way things are naturally going to be forever because we passed laws what more do you want). A sort of apathy develops when an issue has been in the foreground for a long period of time but little actual movement occurs, and when that apathy takes hold, it allows for vocal opponents to re-enter then hog the conversation.
    See also: gutting of disenfranchised voter protections because apparently we don’t need them any more

  • Azkyroth

    [Reply-nesting not working, please delete]

  • Azkyroth

    “If you cannot force someone to donate a kidney, you cannot force someone to donate a uterus.”

  • yewtree

    Good slogan – I like it.

  • yewtree

    I read an article somewhere that said that originally, protestants were mostly not against abortion, and it only became a thing sometime in the 1970s.

  • yewtree

    If every man used a condom when having sex, instead of cajoling and coercing women into having unprotected sex, there would be a lot less need for abortions.

  • J-D

    Here where I am, in Australia, the way it seems to me (and I’d love to be corrected by anybody better informed than I am) we have not experienced in recent years the pattern you describe in the US. You’re talking about a pattern of lots of success for campaigns _against_ reproductive choice and lots of success for campaigns _for_ marriage equality. Here in Australia (again, as far as I know), the recent pattern is of little or no change in access to reproductive choice (long much better than in the US) and little or no success for the campaign for marriage equality (but rather, if anything, slightly the reverse).

    So, if I’m right, that makes me think you should be looking for an explanation which applies to the US but doesn’t apply to Australia (or other countries??). And I can’t see why the suggested explanatory factors (although some of them strike me as highly plausible on first principles) would have any less force in Australia than in the US — except, that is, for Anthony Kennedy. Could it really be that simple?

  • L.Long

    I think most of the comments as well as the post have hit on all the main points and that this issue will always be in tension because the synergy of all the points lines up with many people.of all dogmas. The fact that the xtian gawd is just fine with abortions is just another example of bigoted women hating hypocrisy. But the ‘killing’ thing lines up with too many various groups beliefs. And the totally BS ‘killing unborn babies’ is so bad that even atheists buy into it.

  • Janice Rael

    Hey, you stole my answer. LGBT rights matter to men, and men have more money. That’s why LGBT rights have advanced more than women’s rights. We don’t have the privilege or the purchasing power to advance our cause.

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    In a nutshell, the problem is that the pro-choice side casts this as a women’s issue, while the anti-abortion side casts it as a straightforward matter of preventing murder (I refuse to call them “pro-life;” too many of them are anything but!).

    And both sides are right, within the bounds of their beliefs!

    It all comes down to the question of “personhood.” If you believe that the essence of what makes humans “persons” is present from the moment of fertilization, then not only must you oppose abortion, you also have a moral imperative to actively work to prevent anyone else from getting one.

    The standard pro-choice argument goes: “well, that’s just your belief; there’s nothing scientific to back it up, and since I don’t believe the zygote/blastocyst/embryo/fetus is a ‘person,’ I should be free to do what fits my conscience.”

    That works just fine if you don’t believe in the “personhood” of the prenate, but it’s an entirely pointless argument to someone who does believe that the prenate is a “person!” In fact, they don’t believe that the prenate is a person; in their own minds, they know, with absolute certainty that it is an independent person with a “soul,” deserving of all of the protections that are afforded to all persons.

    In that context, there is no relevance whatsoever to the argument that women should have the right to control their own bodies; that right, as regards the prenate, doesn’t exist any more than one has the “right” to put a neonate to death because one is dissatisfied with its gender. The pregnant woman, whether she likes it or not, is morally bound to preserve the life of the “person” who has taken up residence in her uterus.

    Pro-choice arguments in general only make sense to those who are already pro-choice. Those who believe the prenate is a person can never be swayed by such arguments!

    This contrasts with the LGBT debate, where no lives are “at risk.” Anti-gay-marriage activists have tried, in vain, to suggest that same-sex marriage constitutes a threat to “traditional” marriage. But even those who believe that gay sex is “objectively disordered” (to use the Catholic terminology) can’t dispute the reality that, in places like Canada where gay marriage is legal, there has been no impact at all on heterosexual marriage. It truly is a case of no harm, no foul.

  • Theo

    LGBT rights have not been outpacing women’s rights, though. As a trans and queer man, I can tell you that only some ‘GLB’ rights have been more successful lately. The issues of marriage equality and employment nondiscrimination have been gaining some ground. But less states have marriage equality than those who don’t. Marriage equality is also framed as a gay issue, when in fact it was started and has since been stolen from trans people by calling it ‘same sex marriage’. Employment nondiscrimination bills have been more successful, but not when they include ‘gender identity and expression’. And people have been very willing to drop trans rights with the slightest breeze of opposition. Again, trans people don’t matter. And even when these NDAs are in place, there’s often not enough evidence about the cause of discrimination. This doesn’t even address other rights and issues. And racism and sexism are big parts of it. If you’re not a gay white man, or some non-white gay man with a committed white partner, and if your American dream doesn’t include a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence and 2.5 children, then you’re easily brushed aside as not mattering.

  • http://nycculturestyle.blogspot.com Miguel Dominguez

    I agree with you 100%, katiehippie

  • J-D
  • MersennePrimaDonna

    I like this idea. Once we’ve understood that the lack of progress on the abortion issue is the result of our deep-seated ideas about gender and women’s sexuality, we should work on that root issue rather than wasting energy only focusing on surface controversies. It’s like how, if you want to find the cure to a disease instead of just alleviating the patient’s suffering temporarily, you focus on the cause of the disease, not the symptoms.

  • Azkyroth

    And both sides are right, within the bounds of their beliefs!

    This is false; see my link above. The behavior and positions of the vast majority of anti-choicers are radically inconsistent with a sincere belief that abortion is morally equivalent to murdering a born person.

    It all comes down to the question of “personhood.” If you believe that the essence of what makes humans “persons” is present from the moment of fertilization, then not only must you oppose abortion, you also have a moral imperative to actively work to prevent anyone else from getting one.

    This is also false, and pernicious. A born person is unquestionably a person and yet has no right to use your body against your will. You cannot be forced to donate blood (which is really, really easy, over in 10 minutes, and your odds of medical complications are infinitesimal) if you refuse to do so voluntarily, even if the recipient will die without it, even if there are no other donors available, even if the need for it is in some way a result of something you did. The only reason anyone even contemplates applying a different standard to the vastly more invasive and risky state of forcing the donation one’s uterus, blood supply, and metabolism for a fetus is because it [per the understanding of right-ring regressives] can only be forced on women.

    In that context, there is no relevance whatsoever to the argument that women should have the right to control their own bodies; that right, as regards the prenate, doesn’t exist any more than one has the “right” to put a neonate to death because one is dissatisfied with its gender. The pregnant woman, whether she likes it or not, is morally bound to preserve the life of the “person” who has taken up residence in her uterus.

    This is not an appropriate comparison. One has every right to say “um, about that organ donation? Yeah, I…I can’t go through with it.” even if the party involved will die otherwise. The position you articulate can only be adopted by viewing women as non-people. I’m troubled that you find so little reason to question it….even granted that it doesn’t seem to affect YOU….

    *more accurately, on people with uteruses – irrespective of gender identity – but right-wing regressives invariably fail to recognize the identities of trans men or non-binary people and their rhetoric is overwhelmingly misogynistic.

  • SecularPatriot

    It all comes down to the question of “personhood.” If you believe that the essence of what makes humans “persons” is present from the moment of fertilization, then not only must you oppose abortion, you also have a moral imperative to actively work to prevent anyone else from getting one.

    There is more than personhood. For a moment, just for the sake of argument grant that the fetus is a person.

    We do not compel anyone to provide life support to another human being.People are not and should not be compelled to donate a kidney, marrow, or other organs to ensure the life of another. By what right then does the prolife crowd have to compel a women to undergo the risks of pregnancy and labor to save the life of a fetus?

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    Your example of allowing another person to die through one’s refusal to provide a blood donation is not an appropriate comparison to abortion. The former is an act of omission, and one which the individual is always free to decide upon, regardless of the circumstances (at least as far as I know; I’m not a lawyer). The latter, on the other hand, is a positive act whose specific intent is to terminate a life.

    What’s more, parents have specific legal responsibilities with regard to their children. Parents can be, and regularly are, prosecuted for failing to provide the necessities of life to their own children.

    But my point above is that abortion opponents sincerely believe, with no scientific support of any kind, that from the moment of fertilization, the resulting individual is a “person” who has his or her own right to legal protection independent of the woman in whose reproductive system it resides. Because of that belief (which is also at the core of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision), there is no possibility of making any contrary argument that will be convincing to them.

    Because of this, the only way to protect individual choice in reproductive matters is to use elected majorities to legislate in the face of the anti-abortion movement’s opposition. There is no possibility of finding middle ground on the issue.

    While misogyny undoubtedly does play some role in the attitudes of many in the anti-abortion movement, pointing that out will have no practical effect in advancing the debate. It serves only to encourage the Christian conservative “selfish-feminists-versus-compassionate-Christians” dynamic, which can easily be exploited by the abortion opponents to make their case look more palatable to the undecided.

    With regard to the Hobby Lobby case, I think the more productive route is to cast the opposition to so-called abortifacients for the complete absurdity that it is. The notion that a literally microscopic conglomeration of barely differentiated cells that hasn’t even implanted in the uterine wall should be considered to be equivalent to a person able to survive independently of its mother’s womb is idiotic at face value.

    Those with a near-obsessive need to be obedient to the dictates of their religious dogma will be unmoved. But I suspect that those of a more rational bent will see the point, including many regular churchgoers.

  • yewtree

    Yes, that was the article, thanks.

  • Azkyroth

    The former is an act of omission

    This is a distinction without a difference, and not an appropriate one to make. Refusing to provide nutrition and shelter with one’s body to another organism is no less an “omission” than refusing to provide blood. The fact that actualizing that refusal requires an action is irrelevant. By your “logic” it would be permissible to refuse to donate blood if requested, but not to pull the needle out of your arm if you woke up and found yourself hooked up to be a donor without having consented – or, for that matter, that starving oneself to induce a miscarriage should be permissible even if surgical abortion isn’t. Which is facially absurd.

    , and one which the individual is always free to decide upon, regardless of the circumstances

    This is the POINT.

    The latter, on the other hand, is a positive act whose specific intent is to terminate a life.

    No, its specific intent is to remove one organism from the body of another who does not consent to the former organism’s presence within her body and use of her organ systems to sustain itself.

    But my point above is that abortion opponents sincerely believe, with no scientific support of any kind, that from the moment of fertilization, the resulting individual is a “person”

    NO, THEY DON’T.

    Stop feeding this dishonest framing.

    While misogyny undoubtedly does play some role in the attitudes of many in the anti-abortion movement, pointing that out will have no practical effect in advancing the debate. It serves only to encourage the Christian conservative “selfish-feminists-versus-compassionate-Christians” dynamic, which can easily be exploited by the abortion opponents to make their case look more palatable to the undecided.

    …..this sounds familiar……

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    You’re the second person I’ve seen making that argument. I don’t follow the abortion debate all that closely (it hasn’t been an issue in Canada for over 20 years), so I’m not on top of all the current rhetoric. But if that’s intended to be a convincing argument on behalf of the pro-choice movement, I really think you should consider abandoning it.

    The comparison you’re making is between a passive act of omission (not donating an organ) versus an act of commission. To put it differently, you cannot be forced to donate a kidney, but you can be physically restrained to prevent you from killing someone.

    And abortion is a positive action to kill a human being. A woman doesn’t starve herself in an effort to withhold nutrients from the other life within her. She actively collaborates with a process to kill it.

    “Personhood” or, from a religious standpoint, the presence of a “soul,” is what the whole debate is about. If the prenate is a person, or has a soul, then it is an independent being with rights separate from those of the mother, and therefore deserving of civil protection from harm. To the extent that it is not a person or does not possess a soul, it is simply a mass of cells with human DNA, which has the potential to someday become a person.

    Not even Catholicism, after nearly 2,000 years, is able to define exactly what the soul is. The existence of something called a soul is merely a postulate based on a set of observable characteristics and behaviours that have no apparent specific physical source (i.e., everything that goes into making us individual persons, with self-awareness, emotions and intellect that give us the ability to make moral choices).

    But we do know that, whatever the soul or personhood might be, they require a fully functioning brain and, more specifically, a cerebral cortex. The neurological system doesn’t even begin to function until the 4th month of pregnancy, and the beginnings of the development of higher cerebral function don’t kick in until towards the end of the second trimester, around the same time that the fetus begins to have a capacity for viability independent of its mother.

    Since the overwhelming majority of abortions take place in the first trimester of pregnancy, it is clear that nothing that can objectively be considered a “person” is being affected. Abortion at that stage is killing a human (based on its DNA), but it’s not killing a person.

    If you want to convince people who are actually open to being convinced, I think that’s a stronger line of reasoning.

  • Science Avenger

    Absolutely. As far as I’m concerned there ought to be condom machines on every corner, and any abortion foe that resists this idea reveals their true colors.

  • Science Avenger

    One, the wage gap doesn’t seem to be shrinking all too quickly (though, I’d be interested in seeing some statistics on that).

    It was about 63 cents on the dollar about 20 years ago IIRC.

    Two, I also question the better access to sports. Again, yes, it may be improving, but it doesn’t seem to be all that quickly.

    I guess it depends on what one means by “quickly”. 20 years ago there was no WNBA, or anything like it, and high school girls didn’t have half the sports available to them that they do now: hockey, pole vaulting, etc.

  • Bdole

    It’s strange that you think this is strange. Outside of religious prohibition, the pro/con arguments pertaining to these two issues aren’t very closely related.

    Extending marriage to LGBT is an expansion of the family-values mindset and culture – minus the exclusivity which is not only unnecessary but actually a hindrance to their conservative agenda. They’re just too blind to see it.
    I can imagine a future where a proper conservative parent urges her promiscuous son to do the “moral” thing, find a decent man, and get married already.

  • popsiq

    Both are choices. The LGBTQ+ spectrum is, apparently, ‘natural’. The abortion choice isn’t.

  • Tova Rischi

    A newfound side of my cynicism is making me consider that LGBT rights are only women’s rights if women are involved. Otherwise – G and about half of the B – it’s a man’s issue, so it gets resolved.

  • Azkyroth

    So you admit you haven’t been following the debate, but you feel confident people who have what arguments we should or shouldn’t use. I think we’re done here.

    (Actually, I note that you’re also telling us that our philosophically strongest arguments are too controversial and alienating and we should abandon them. I think we’re really done here.)


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