Abortion, Murder, and Smokescreens

Many commenters on my most recent post dealing with abortion expressed skepticism that any anti-abortion activist actually believes the whole “abortion is murder” thing and argued instead that anti-abortion activists are simply anti-woman. While this may have once been the case, based on my experience I don’t think it is the case today.

It appears to me that opposition to abortion as the murder of babies is a sort of rhetorical bait and switch that has taken on a life of its own and acts as a smokescreen, blinding anti-abortion activists to the anti-woman results of their own opposition to abortion.

Crusades against abortion originated in an effort to control women, or more specifically in an effort to police sexuality and keep women within their role, raising children. Abortion was seen as an affront on the family and an affront on the natural God-given order. In fact, birth control and abortion were often linked and collectively condemned. See, for example, the chapter on abortion in the nineteenth century in Grossberg’s Governing the Hearth, or this excellent article by Sierra.

There was always a parallel rhetoric in anti-abortion crusades equating abortion with the murder of children, but this argument was generally subordinate to the emphasis put on keeping women within their God-given roles. Originally it was often applied in tandem with the other, to the effect that a woman murdering her unborn child was the most “unwomanly” thing imaginable. The woman who murdered her own child was a woman dangerously out of her role.

As opposition to Roe v. Wade grew in the years following 1973, the rhetorical emphasis shifted from keeping women from straying from their natural roles to saving the lives of unborn babies.As reader Naomi points out, early religious right leaders saw abortion as an issue they could use to rally their base. At the same time, though, they realized that with the successes of the feminist movement and the widespread adoption of birth control, arguing that abortion needed to be banned because it allowed women to to escape their natural role as mother would be a dead end. As Fred Clark of the Slactivist notes, it was during the 1980s that the idea that the soul entered the zygote at conception was first developed among evangelicals.

However it happened, shifting the rhetoric from controlling women to saving babies had a huge impact on the foot soldiers of the anti-abortion movement.

I was raised in an anti-abortion home, I campaigned against abortion as a teen, and I was involved in anti-abortion activism in college. I, like everyone I knew, especially other young people and college students, was motivated to fight abortion by the belief that it was the murder of unborn babies. I honestly and truly did not see it as about controlling women at all.

I think in some ways the abortion as murder rhetoric is a smokescreen that covers over the actual motivations of some (perhaps especially the leaders) and blinds ordinary well-meaning anti-abortion activists to the result of their own policies. By arguing that abortion should be opposed because it is the murder of innocent babies, anti-abortion activists can paper over or simply not even realize the way opposition to abortion results in controlling women.

The abortion as murder rhetoric also means that for those who hold to it it ultimately doesn’t matter whether restricting abortion results in diminishing women’s autonomy. In their conception, nothing – nothing – justifies taking an innocent life. The abortion as murder rhetoric thus makes an anti-abortion activist immune to claims that he or she is just trying to control women. For them, it’s about saving the lives of innocent babies, and nothing trumps that.

One thing we can do is point out inconsistencies in anti-abortion activism, inconsistencies that are likely born of its original purpose, keeping women in their proper place. The pasting of new rhetoric and a new goal onto an older movement has left rough edges and incongruities. Challenging anti-abortion activists with these inconsistencies can help reveal the extent to which opposition to abortion still is about controlling women, whether they realize it or not.

But even with challenging these inconsistencies, you’re still going to run into true believers. When someone asked me years ago whether I would save a case of embryos or a toddler from a burning building, the question bothered me but I still answered consistently: the embryos. Similarly, I was not okay with any exception for rape or incest. A baby was a baby, no matter how conceived. Pointing out inconsistencies only ever made me resolve to be consistent in my opposition to the murder of babies.

I think the other problem is that anti-abortion activists have so placed the focus on cute little babies that it’s almost possible for them to forget that women and their bodies are involved at all. They try to fix this problem with their anti-abortion resource centers for women and by portraying themselves as “pro-woman” as well as “pro-life.” But the reality is that anti-abortion activists focus so single-mindedly on “saving babies” that they can end up blind to understanding the reasons women seek abortions in the first place and blind to understanding what pro-choice advocates mean by “it’s my body.”

I don’t think the solution is to argue that all anti-abortion advocates are anti-woman, or that none of them actually believe that saving babies stuff. I also don’t think continually stating “but it’s my body” in response to “but it’s murdering an innocent child” will work on many or even most of the foot soldiers of the anti-abortion movement. At least, I know it wouldn’t have worked for me.

Note: Feel free to disagree with this assessment if you like. I am only trying to give my perspective, having been solidly 100% anti-abortion, and extremely involved in anti-abortion activism even into my undergraduate years, and then having become solidly 100% pro-choice in the years since. Perhaps in the future I’ll write a post or even a series on what changed my mind and my position, and a “how-to” guide for arguing with anti-abortion activists based on my own experiences. 

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Sqrat

    When someone asked me years ago whether I would save a case of embryos or a toddler from a burning building, the question bothered me but I still answered consistently: the embryos.

    Libby Anne:

    I’m curious: At that time, what did you think would have been the fate of those “unborn babies”/embryos in the afterlife? It seems to me that two obvious hypotheses would have been either: (a) they would all have gone to heaven, or (b) they would all have gone to hell. Would you have agreed with one or the other of those hypotheses?

    There is a third hypothesis possible: (c) Some of them might gone to heaven, and some of them might have gone to hell, depending on the embryo. Are you aware of Christians who have argued in favor of that third hypothesis?

    • Libby Anne

      I actually address that issue directly and in depth here, but I’ll go ahead and answer briefly.

      I have never encountered anyone who holds that all “unborn babies” who die go to hell. Almost everyone I knew growing up, including my parents, believed that anyone who dies before the “age of accountability” (around seven) goes directly to heaven. I did, however, encounter a theologian who told me that the Bible is unclear on what happens to those who die as infants or before, and I also know that Calvinists hold that those who die as children, infants, or before will be judged according to whether they would have accepted Christ or not (because God knows that since he knows everything).

      • dianne

        But doesn’t that make abortion a positive good? Your unborn child will go directly to heaven and never experience temptation, never risk hell, never experience pain. Just straight to eternal bliss. Sure, it’s a sin and you’d go to hell, but what parent wouldn’t take volunteer for hell if it meant guaranteeing heaven for their children?

        Yeah, yeah, I’ll go read your post where you probably address just this thinking.

      • Sqrat

        Thanks for the link. Your discussion of William Lane Craig was right on target as far as my question was concerned. Craig holds that an adult who dies having neither accepted nor rejecting God, because they never heard of the Christian God, will go to hell. That, he says, is because God, having perfect knowledge of hypotheticals, knows that such people would have rejected him had they known of him. Craig’s position on dead infants is 180 degrees from this, since he says he believes that they will all go to heaven. If he were consistent, he would say that they will all go to hell.

        You wrote:

        I also know that Calvinists hold that those who die as children, infants, or before will be judged according to whether they would have accepted Christ or not (because God knows that since he knows everything).

        I was not aware that Calvinists would apply their doctrine of predestination even to fetuses and actually hold that some might go to heaven and some might go to hell, though it certainly makes perfect sense (from their perspective) that they would.

      • http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/ Jadehawk, cascadeuse féministe

        But doesn’t that make abortion a positive good? Your unborn child will go directly to heaven and never experience temptation, never risk hell, never experience pain. Just straight to eternal bliss. Sure, it’s a sin and you’d go to hell, but what parent wouldn’t take volunteer for hell if it meant guaranteeing heaven for their children?

        I’m pretty sure this was the reasoning that convinced Vyckie from NLQ that hell didn’t exist, because otherwise all mothers would have a sort of moral duty to kill their children to save them from hell, even if it came at the price of their own soul.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1698151270 John-Henry Beck

    I know that the “it’s killing babies!” has an emotional tug at me despite no agreement at all about any of the religious ideas. That assessments sounds pretty good to me, for whatever that’s worth.

    I do wonder why the argument that there’s more effective ways to cut down on abortion than banning doesn’t gain more traction with those, however. They can’t all get hung up on “It’s murder!” and not listen to anything else, can they?

    But otherwise I can’t think of anything that’s likely to resolve the dispute. If we gained the ability to transplant embryos and fetuses from a woman in to an anti-abortionist (especially if it could be any gender…), that might make some progress…or at least reveal some hypocrisy and those underlying intents.

    • dianne

      If we gained the ability to transplant embryos and fetuses from a woman in to an anti-abortionist (especially if it could be any gender…), that might make some progress…or at least reveal some hypocrisy and those underlying intents.

      That’s probably doable. The “either gender” part is actually one of the easier bits to solve: Occasionally, an ectopic pregnancy will implant on the intestinal lining. The fetus can grow fine, it just needs a c-section to be born. Men have intestinal lining too. Start by trying to implant a “snowflake baby” (embryo left over after artificial insemination) in a few male volunteers and see if they can stand the physiologic strain of pregnancy. Might need to give some progestins too, just to help the process along…maybe a little immunosuppression since they’re not as well evolved to cope with the allograft…should be fine. But if it’s not, do we do an abortion to save the father or demand that he carry on regardless of risk of death?

      • Pteryxx

        An ectopic pregnancy on the intestinal surface or mesenteries is said to be very painful, and also dangerous, as the implantation site could interrupt blood supply to a segment of bowel.

        Again, these might not be worth considering to fetus-above-all proponents, though.

      • Libby Anne

        Not to be depressing, but here.

      • Pteryxx

        replying to Libby Anne’s link: O_o that’s depressing, and relevant rather more widely than just abortions.

        Per the ministry’s policy and the subscriber’s agreement, the group denies payment for treatment of any conditions resulting from sinful behavior (e.g., sexually transmitted disease, substance abuse recovery, etc.). Vulnerable subscribers may potentially be rendered without coverage if their physicians opt for early treatment.

        That could cover (or rather, deny coverage of) injuries from gay bullying, or abuse of women or children by their male authorities, or treatment of rape victims if they “deserved it” somehow… ugh. Ugh.

      • dianne

        Well, it would certainly be dangerous, but surely you’re not suggesting that pro-life men would shirk a little danger if they could save “babies” by it!

        Case reports of successful abdominal pregnancies do exist and that’s probably enough to argue for a phase I study…well, ok, maybe we should start with mice. But it’s fun to offer this experiment to “pro-life” men and watch them think up excuses for why they couldn’t possibly participate…even when I make it absolutely clear that this is a thought experiment only. The idea of men being pregnant seems to scare the pro-lifers so badly that they don’t want to consider the possibility or agree to it even in theory.

      • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

        Well, I remember that I once argued with a pro-dead-womener (I will not use the term “pro-life” for somebody like that, not in the widest possible sense) that, since there are case studies on successfull ectopic pregnancies, women should not be allowed to have abortions in that case untill they were finally bleeding to death.
        Never mention that an early abortion might save the tube and their ability to actually have future children…

      • Dianne

        Giliell: A woman I went to medical school with, who was a former nun (maybe still a nun-wasn’t clear to me) claimed that tubal pregnancies weren’t really a problem because women never presented before they burst so that there was no moral dilemma any more: the embryo was dead so the right thing to do was save the mother. I never could get her to admit to what she would do if a woman presented with a tubal pregnancy before rupture. She did not go into OB, fortunately.

        An “ectopic pregnancy” is just one implanting anywhere but the uterine corpus. Some are potentially survivable, others not. Tubal pregnancies are not. Again, my experience in talking about this with “pro-life” men (I use the term “pro-life” because it’s so obviously orwellian), many are happy to have women take on the risk of an ectopic pregnancy and would gladly ban abortion to save the mother’s life or fertility. Yet someone none of them are willing, even in theory, to take on the risk themselves. I’ve yet to have any of them say, “What? I could potentially carry a snowflake baby and save its life? Sign me up!” They all have excuses of why that experiment would be a bad idea.

    • http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/ Jadehawk, cascadeuse féministe

      I do wonder why the argument that there’s more effective ways to cut down on abortion than banning doesn’t gain more traction with those, however. They can’t all get hung up on “It’s murder!” and not listen to anything else, can they?

      well, as was discussed in the previous thread, it’s not just that they now have this belief, it’s also that this is part of the culture war, and you shouldn’t believe the opposition’s propaganda.
      I suspect that the degree of intellectual honesty displayed by former believers, which made them able and willing to take in new information and alter their beliefs accordingly, might not actually be present in those who stay believers their entire lives, so that they are not actually able to accommodate new, conflicting, and not-given-by-appropriate-authorities information into their worldviews.

  • http://momoelektra.blogspot.com/ Momo Elektra

    What changed your mind (I presume it changed, maybe I shouldn’t)?

  • Stacy

    Thanks for the useful historical perspective.

    When someone asked me years ago whether I would save a case of embryos or a toddler from a burning building, the question bothered me but I still answered consistently: the embryos.

    You were intellectually honest. I’ve seen anti-abortion folks try to rationalize saving the toddler.

    Perhaps in the future I’ll write a post or even a series on what changed my mind and my position, and a “how-to” guide for arguing with anti-abortion activists based on my own experiences

    That would be most excellent.

    • plunderb

      As the pro-choice mother of a toddler and a custodian of several potential babies, I find the idea that anyone would ever answer “embryos” to this question be physically sickening.

      It just reminds me that the issue is not that one side has morals/values and the other side doesn’t, but that our values are profoundly, perhaps irreconcilably, different. I can barely even imagine the mindset of someone who counts the value of life by counting the absolute number of lives created, rather than by focusing on the quality of life — of someone who would be glad to save a case of insensate potential babies while a nearby toddler screams and cries for its mother as it burns to death.

      • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

        I can’t help but think that anyone in that actual situation would save the child. They may say or even have convinced themselves otherwise, but I can’t imagine it.

  • http://momoelektra.blogspot.com/ Momo Elektra

    Stupid me didn’t read the note. -_-°

    Sorry.

  • unbound

    Actually, I think you are very accurate in your assessment. The masses that protest abortion have been fed a story, and, like many other aspects of religion, are not thinking critically or fully about the implications of what they’ve been told. I do think that leaders (as you hinted) fully understand that this will result in the enslavement of women.

    However, I’m not as certain that this is their ultimate goal (enslavement of women) as much as it is a controversy that helps keep their flocks together. It is always easier to keep a group together when it is “us” vs “them”. Atheism is digging into their numbers ever so slowly, so this may very well be a battle for survival (the religious leaders) from their perspective.

  • dianne

    My experience and impression of the debate is rather different. I’ve “always” (i.e. since I’ve been aware of the issue) been pro-choice. But I used to be much more willing to believe that the average pro-life person really was concerned about saving babies. I still do believe that “it’s all about saving babies” is what a typical pro-lifer tells him or herself. But I can’t believe that they believe it. Here’s why:

    I’ve debated pro-lifers a number of times, on the net and in person. One point I like to bring up and they like to ignore is the spontaneous abortion rate. Up to 80% of conceptions (sperm meets oocyte) end up as spontaneous abortions. This appears to bother the “pro-life” movement not at all. Most simply don’t know it. Fair enough, no one knows everything. But I’ve never had a pro-lifer, when told this fact, say, “That’s horrible! We need to do something to stop these deaths NOW! Call the president-write the NIH! We need a war on miscarriage RIGHT NOW!”

    Instead, they come up with various excuses: It’s natural. (Well, so is acute lymphoblastic leukemia and I bet 99% of them would donate to a fundraiser to save just one baby from ALL.) We don’t know how to save these babies. (Yeah, that’s what research is for. We don’t know how to stop all cases of SIDS either, but we’re working on it. Anyway, we do know how to prevent some miscarriages. For example, women with certain hypercoaguable states may miscarry in the second trimester. Simply screen every woman who is considering having children for hyper-coaguable states and treat those who do and you’ll save a number of fetuses. Why don’t we do that? Too expensive. Most pro-lifers are also anti-universal health insurance.) Murder is worse and a more immediate problem. (Ok, so no medical research until the murder rate is zero?)

    The pathos of the death of a real baby is extreme. A paramedic who taught me BLS last time I recertified told me that the only time he ever considered quitting, just not getting back in the ambulance ever again, was when he responded to a pediatric code-and failed to save the child. This from a guy who’d responded to both WTC attacks, including working 48 hours to try to save people buried in the rubble of downtown Manhattan. I can’t imagine any normal person, pro-life or pro-choice-just shrugging off the deaths of so many babies as unimportant. Therefore, I can only imagine that they don’t really believe that just conceived blastulocytes are babies. They just don’t act like they do. Maybe you can tell me what you might have thought if presented with this claim in your “pro-life” days?

    • Libby Anne

      I’ve debated pro-lifers a number of times, on the net and in person. One point I like to bring up and they like to ignore is the spontaneous abortion rate. Up to 80% of conceptions (sperm meets oocyte) end up as spontaneous abortions. This appears to bother the “pro-life” movement not at all.

      I address this question in this post, but the basic answer is that Christians see a difference between God taking a life and people taking a life. God created life, so he can take life when he likes. People, on the other hand, are commanded not to murder. This is why the Old Testament genocides were okay – they were commanded by God and it’s not immoral for God to take a life or order others to take lives. So basically, miscarriages are God taking a life, which is okay and part of God’s plan; abortion is people taking a life, which is not okay.

      And yes, as I explain in the post I linked to, the morality involved in this is incredibly effed up.

      • dianne

        So, then, the “pro-life” movement is actually just fine with death, plagues, and pandemics, they only find murder wrong? Again, I find that hard to believe. I’d really be surprised if the average pro-lifer wouldn’t, for example, save a toddler from a fire if there were no embryos confusing the issue. Or help raise money so that a sick child whose parents didn’t have insurance could get care. Maybe I’m appealing to a fallacy, but it just doesn’t seem natural to ignore a child in distress, even “natural” “god given” distress. If the typical “pro-lifer” really believes this then they are worse than anti-woman, they’re cold blooded killers, reveling in the death and destruction around them–as long as god caused it.

      • dianne

        In short, I’m afraid your explanation of why “pro-life” advocates don’t see themselves as anti-woman or insincere in their belief that abortion is murder only makes them scarier.

      • http://wonderingwanderingthoughts.blogspot.com OneSmallStep

        **So basically, miscarriages are God taking a life, which is okay and part of God’s plan; abortion is people taking a life, which is not okay.**

        I had this very conversation with an evangelical friend of mine, pointing out that the spontaneous miscarriages are much higher than abortion, so why wasn’t there an outcry over that? Her response was that God decided the miscarriage in that case, so it was okay.

        My response: “Then your position isn’t about the sanctity of life at all. Your position is about defying God’s authority.”

        The look on her face was interesting.

        Then, of course, if miscarriage is God’s natural way, then those who try and cure cancer or any other disease are also defying God’s authority, because aren’t they extending life longer than God supposedly plans?

      • dianne

        Then, of course, if miscarriage is God’s natural way, then those who try and cure cancer or any other disease are also defying God’s authority, because aren’t they extending life longer than God supposedly plans?

        Interestingly, people who are “pro-life” are also generally very big into continuing care, even when it’s obviously futile. ICU care is surely defying God at its most extreme! There is nothing so unnatural as surviving cardiovascular collapse.

      • http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/ Jadehawk, cascadeuse féministe

        So, then, the “pro-life” movement is actually just fine with death, plagues, and pandemics, they only find murder wrong?

        the only people I’ve seen consistently acting on the belief that “natural” death is god-given are Christian Scientists. The rest? Threw a fit over Terry Schiavo, who by all rights would have been “natually” dead years before that drama even came up. It’s not a consistent, intellectually honest worldview.

      • Lyra

        I have to agree that the whole, “Miscarriage is fine because it’s fine for God to take a life, but abortion is wrong because it’s wrong for humans to take a life,” is inconsistent and walking on thin ice.

        Let’s say we have an infant and a zygote. Both the infant and the zygote have a genetic condition that will kill them if there is no medical intervention.

        On the whole, Christians shrug at the dying zygote and cite God’s will. On the whole, Christians do NOT shrug at the dying infant and cite God’s will. There is no St. Jude’s Hospital for zygotes because, in the end, no one cares about zygotes the same way they care about infants and children. People may SAY they do, but their actions just don’t bear it out.

      • Twist

        **So basically, miscarriages are God taking a life, which is okay and part of God’s plan; abortion is people taking a life, which is not okay.**

        So if a person believes that god taking a life is ok, and part of some greater plan, isn’t it then wrong of them to seek cancer treatment for their children? Or organ transplants, antibiotics, insulin, heart surgery etc? Unless it’s only ok if there’s nothing we can do to prevent it happening?

        I realise that there are parents out there who would let their children die, or adults out there who would let themselves die, rather than seek medical intervention and interfere with their god’s plan, but there can’t be anywhere near as many of them as there are people who believe that abortion is murder, but miscarriage is natural and ok.

        Surely if letting a ‘baby’ die of natural causes in the womb is part of god’s plan and therefore ok, letting a two-year old die of an infection is just as much part of the plan, and therefore equally ok?

        Or does it matter that we can cure the two year old and we can’t at present time ‘cure’ the miscarrying fetus? Maybe there isn’t a lot we can do about miscarriage at the moment, but we couldn’t do much about children dying of infections a century or so ago. Shouldn’t anti-choicers, above all, be pushing for medical research into preventing miscarriage?

      • http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/ Jadehawk, cascadeuse féministe

        Unless it’s only ok if there’s nothing we can do to prevent it happening?

        you know, I’m starting to think that this is it. Maybe their really warped ideas about science and research mean that they do not have the concept of demanding research in a particular direction? That knowledge, like religion, is “revealed” and thus can’t be forced or directed or sped up.
        Alternatively, maybe, for lack of curiosity, they lack a concept of scientific progress at all? in the sense that they perceive the current state of knowledge to be kind of static, thus new insights into technologies don’t even occur to them?

        either way, the lack of concern for the mass-dying of fertilized eggs doesn’t gel well with how people behave towards living people; it actually reminds me more of the way cultures with very high infant-mortality rates develop these odd waiting periods in which a newborn isn’t a person yet, and the death of a baby is seen as normal and not as equally bad to a person dying.

      • Dianne

        Or does it matter that we can cure the two year old and we can’t at present time ‘cure’ the miscarrying fetus?

        Ah, but we can “cure” miscarriage-at least in some cases. To expand on a simple example I gave above: Women with certain thrombophilic conditions (conditions that make them more prone to have blood clots) have an increased risk for miscarriage in the second trimester. Giving these women anticoagulants during pregnancy reduces their risk of miscarriage.

        Currently, a woman with repeated miscarriage in mid pregnancy may be tested for thrombophilic states and treated if they are found (anticoagulants do nothing to prevent miscarriage if a thrombophilic state is not present.) If we seriously felt all fetuses/embryos were babies, we’d test every woman at the beginning of pregnancy and treat all who were positive-even if they’d never had a miscarriage. After all, we don’t wait until someone’s lost one or two babies to SIDS before recommending that babies sleep on their backs. The very fact that we don’t says that society does not, as a whole, consider even a second trimester fetus a baby.

        And I’ve yet to see a “pro-life” advocate agitating for increased funding for medical care for pregnant women, much less more money to research causes of miscarriage.

  • nemothederv

    My opinion on the morality of abortion has pitched to and fro for some time but my political opinion has remain unchanged:

    I do not trust the government to make this decision.

    Whether your pro-life or pro-choice, we should be agreeing on at least that.

    I might sound like some Libertarian nut with this stance but I’m not. I see Government as very important in other areas. Just not this one.

    It’s baffling to me that a group seething with hatred of any kind of government involvment would take the position they have. They want legal intrusion on this matter? They must be very certain that their right. I wish I could be that certain.

    Laws are for things we can be all be certain about.
    People who are faced with it must be allowed to make up their own minds.

    • Libby Anne

      I think you have an interesting point – that for things that go back and forth morally, the law shouldn’t get involved. When I was anti-abortion, though, I think I would have said that we did know for sure that abortion was murder, and therefore should ban it. I mean, murder of born people is illegal, after all.

      • Pteryxx

        It’s just that knowing “for sure” that zygotes are people comes from a (fairly recent) theological decision. The only ways to doubt that conclusion are either knowing the history of the discussion and how recent (and shaky) that interpretation of scripture actually is; or to take scientific discussion of what personhood means and give it serious consideration alongside believing in scripture. Neither of which are going to happen in these self-reinforcing religious groups. Bleargh.

      • http://thewelltimedperiod.blogspot.com ema

        When I was anti-abortion, though, I think I would have said that we did know for sure that abortion was murder, and therefore should ban it.

        But, at that time, would you have said that you know for sure that there is only god X, and therefore the State should ban all other religions/force people to worship god X? In other words, would you’ve considered relevant the fact that, just like religious belief, belief about abortion is a personal matter, different people have different beliefs, and the State has no business policing personal belief?

      • Libby Anne

        I would have answered that the government might have no business enforcing belief, but it does have business making murder illegal. And since abortion is murder…

      • LeftSidePositive

        On the other hand, killing in self-defense is perfectly legal–how does the forced-pregnancy brigade deal with the fact that no born person has a right to someone else’s body, even if they need it to live?

        (And, if the answer is, as I’ve heard from many a forced-birther and even many on-the-fencers, “Well, they agreed to it when they had sex…” then that brings us full-circle to the anti-woman thing, again!)

      • Pteryxx

        …But they DIDN’T agree to get pregnant if they were raped or used acceptable contraception methods that failed. Wouldn’t abortion (or emergency contraception) be self-defense in THOSE cases? Or is it only acceptable self-defense… if the woman performs the abortion on herself? So coat-hangers are MORE moral than…

        Gaaah, I can’t handle that image.

      • MadGastronomer

        I never agreed to get pregnant AT ALL. It happened, and I did not agree to REMAIN pregnant. It doesn’t matter if I was raped, or contraception failed, or anything else. I didn’t agree to become pregnant unless I actually agreed to it. It’s a conscious choice to be made, not something that is automatically assumed by another action. They are, once again, attempting to usurp our autonomy and agency.

  • Fredric Martin

    I’m confused by forced birth activists. The response seems so out of proportion to the claimed crime. Picketing, marches, etc as a response to the industrial-scale murder (for profit) of the most vulnerable people in our society? A group that cannot voice their own defense and are completely at the mercy of another human being.

    If you believe this then It seems like the murder of abortion providers is the only sane response to this alleged crime. Yet this is roundly condemned by the vast majority of forced birth activists. This seems like an admission that there is an obvious difference between the two.

    Idk.

    • Libby Anne

      See this post. The basic idea is that God can take life, but man cannot, ever. So even though an abortion doctor is regarded as a mass murderer, you can’t take his or her life because God said “do not murder.” Even given this, though, I think there have been seven abortion providers killed in the last few decades, and while anti-abortionists technically condemned these murders, you better believe there was some inner rejoicing.

      • Sqrat

        The basic idea is that God can take life, but man cannot, ever.

        With no exceptions even to save the lives of others, then?

      • Libby Anne

        This is where there is some disagreement. It’s generally agreed that the government can take life and the military can take life. Taking justice into your own hands is more problematic. That said, I can’t really think of someone who would have ethical problems with someone having murdered Hitler at the height of his realm, and that is the idea behind the murder of abortion clinic doctors. So do justify such murders as saving innocent lives. Some don’t. It varies.

    • John Horstman

      Not necessarily. When bands of thugs with machetes were slaughtering the population of Rwanda en masse, people around the world weren’t threatening to kill their representatives if their militaries didn’t intervene or jumping on planes to Rwanda to defend people themselves. Most people couldn’t even be bothered to call or write a letter, hence the total lack of political pressure for intervention. And that was actual genocide of actual people (of course, Black people, and especially Africans, continue to be treated as not-quite-people a disturbing amount even today).

      A lot of people seem to be surprisingly content with institutionalized mass-murder if it’s not themselves or their loved ones in the cross-hairs (or if not content, still very unwilling to risk anything to oppose it).

  • http://wonderingwanderingthoughts.blogspot.com OneSmallStep

    ** When someone asked me years ago whether I would save a case of embryos or a toddler from a burning building, the question bothered me but I still answered consistently: the embryos.**

    I’m curious … if I understand your position correctly, the case of embryos and the toddler are equal because they both have a soul. Though most pro-lifers, in order to argue from a scientific standpoint, say that it’s just as special because it has human DNA. But does it not resonate with pro-lifers that by taking this tactic in arguing, their reducing what humans are to simply DNA? That it’s biological reductionism?

    Even if one focuses on the soul route … it wouldn’t resonate with them that they are essentially saying — if one says that they would rescue the embryos instead — how callous and uncompassionate one sounds? Because they would leave a toddler who can feel that agony of his/her own death, and rescue unfeeling embryos instead.

    • Libby Anne

      The DNA thing is just a cover, because they can’t say the soul part and thing the DNA argument will resonate with a larger audience.

      As for sounding callous, yes, I think they realize. At least, I did. That’s why the question did bother me. I knew consistency meant saving the embryos – saving more people, as it were – but the thought of having to make that decision was still highly problematic. I think some of the anti-abortion crowd would choose the toddler for the exact reason you suggest, the pain that would be felt by the toddlers while the embryos would feel none.

      • kisekileia

        That’s probably true in a lot of cases, but I know I genuinely believed the DNA argument.

      • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

        Regarding the DNA argument, do you know how they reply to, say, cloning scenarios?

        Killing cloned human embryos would be murder according to them, right?
        So, why would it not be murder to kill a human cell that, under certain conditions, can result in a cloned human embryo?
        They can’t say it would be murder, and they can’t deny that the DNA was already there (the nuclear DNA, anyway; as for mitochondrial DNA, let’s just stipulate that the clone uses an ovum from the same person from which the nuclear material is taken).

        Alternatively, what about parthenogenesis?

        If a human ovum can, without a sperm cell and via parthenogenesis (under certain conditions) result in a human embryo, and killing the latter is murder, why not the former?

  • Cara

    I think that it’s important to keep in mind that the morality and beliefs of many people who oppose abortion are not consistent. (This is true of religious beliefs in general, of course.) When someone says that a zygote has a soul and is thus morally equivalent to a toddler, they don’t take seriously the implications of this point of view, and if you confront them, they might come up with an answer that makes sense at the time, but they won’t internalize the logic and follow it through. That’s a big part of the reason why they can ignore the impact of their proposed legal regime on women. While it’s possible to support restrictions on abortion in a consistent philosophical way, most of them don’t think it through and definitely don’t apply that thinking in the real world.

  • http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/ Jadehawk, cascadeuse féministe

    See, this more nuanced post makes significantly more sense than the previous one :-p

    I’d just like to add that you can still regularly find “true believers” in the original omen-controlling agenda (see Rick Santorum, assorted priests, and that dude who wrote the “what are women for” article); and also something that occurred to me after reading the previous post: how likely is it that those who were independent-minded enough to be able to leave these beliefs behind believed their previous beliefs in a different way from the way those who stick to them no matter the evidence do? Basically, I wonder if these ex-religious testimonies might not suffer from a selection bias for higher levels of intellectual honesty than are actually present.

    • Ace of Sevens

      I think the issue is more intellectual curiosity than honesty. It’s easy to just not not think about this stuff, especially if you aren’t challenged on it. Challenging people is a good way to keep them from dodging the issue.

      • http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/ Jadehawk, cascadeuse féministe

        not in my experience. in my experience, people cycle back to arguments formerly already challenged. they simply don’t get remembered, even after an initial acknowledgment. that’s more intellectual honesty than curiosity, since the denial is of arguments encountered, not just not encountering the arguments.

      • karmakin

        Yeah, I actually think this is the crux of where really the difference is. It seems to me that Libby was, even with first principles that I do think are wrong, thought long and hard about what those first principles truly meant and really struggled with that. However, I do not think that most people do this. I don’t mean this as an insult to religious people (I think irreligious people do it as well) and it’s not limited to religion or social belief systems. Most people simply spend their time thinking about other things. For example, I’m pretty ignorant about things such as sports and cultural/social news. They’re just not things that I follow. This isn’t actually to hold myself over people who do focus on those things. I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with it to be honest. It’s just the way that it is.

        I don’t think that most people who are anti-abortion or pro-choice or whatever think that deeply about their position. They do listen to the buzz words that make the most sense then close the book then go from there.

      • karmakin

        Bah WERE wrong. I don’t think that Libby’s principles are wrong any more, of course.

  • Pteryxx

    (off-topic) (test post)

    Somehow I ended up in moderation in this thread. What’d I do?

    • Pteryxx

      Whoops, it’s fine now, don’t mind me. *confused*

      • Libby Anne

        I currently have the word “rape” make a post move to comment moderation. I may change that, though, because of the frequency with which it ends up used in very legitimate ways on threads on topics like abortion.

      • Pteryxx

        Ah… thank you, and sorry about that.

  • http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/ Jadehawk, cascadeuse féministe

    Libby Anne seems to have a filter against certain words. But unlike on Pharyngula, moderated posts do show up after a little while, so I don’t worry too horribly about it

    • Pteryxx

      It’s not that, I’d rather avoid the words so she doesn’t have to go to the trouble of freeing up my pos–

      Did I just get all “myself last” there? *hides under something*

  • John Horstman

    Given this (and I agree with your assessment that plenty of people really do think that abortion is homicide should be murder, murder being a term for an illegal homicide), what do you think the most effective tactic for convincing people that abortion should be legal is? Arguing that abortion isn’t killing a human? Arguing that abortion isn’t a form of homicide we should consider bad? Arguing that even if we should consider abortion morally wrong, it shouldn’t be illegal? Something else, maybe arguing that it’s impossible for people to act against the plan of an all-knowing, all-powerful god, so therefore any abortion that is carried out must therefore be just as much part of Yahweh’s plan as any miscarriage?

    • Libby Anne

      This question has a long and complicated answer, but it is a good one. I’ve actually decided I’m going to put some thought into it and then try my hand at a series of posts on “how to argue with an anti-abortion activist” or something like that. So stay tuned!

    • Erin

      Several months ago, I came across a blog called Birth Without Fear. It’s meant to help educate future parents on how to have a better birth experience but it does cover a few other topics as well. On those other topics, it’s not as supportive to people who don’t believe the same things as the writer as it claims to be, but she does try (to an extent). Anyway, she once brought up the abortion question and admitted she was pro-life. She was basically asking why people believe it shouldn’t be illegal.

      The responses that got her thinking were the ones that pointed out that pro-choice is not pro-abortion. Several of the ladies who responded mentioned that making abortions illegal would not stop all abortions and that illegal abortions would have an increased risk of fatality for the mother. Of course, these were all worded politely. Eventually, this woman and several of her readers made the concession that banning abortions would be a bad idea.

      Personally, I believe in allowing every woman the chance to decide on her own what is best for her and her family. That being said,I would only choose abortion for myself if carrying the baby put unnecessary risk on my life – I’ve got other children who need me to stay alive more than they need another sibling.

  • Rosa

    Libby, I’m reading a book about the American politics around abortion (Abortion Wars, by Rickie Solinger) and there’s a timeline at the front of the book that made me think of this again – do pro-life people recognize the way the change in rhetoric affected violence against doctors and clinic workers?

    There’s a pretty clear link between the baby murder talk and violence breaking out – Roe was in 1973, but it’s not til the late ’80s (after the ensoulment/personhood talk starts) that you get a lot of clinic bombings (with Operation Rescue starting in 1987-1988, I don’t think incidentally) and the big Wichita Operation Rescue not til 1991. Then you get Dr. David Gunn murdered in ’93, and several murders after that (with a several-year lull before the murder of Dr. Tiller.)

  • Garrett

    Perhaps in the future I’ll write a post or even a series on what changed my mind and my position, and a “how-to” guide for arguing with anti-abortion activists based on my own experiences.

    Perhaps??? I need you to write such a post! I’m completely lost on how to talk about abortion with my mother (and sister), so to avoid conflict I just play the anti-abortion line.

    Though I’ve only been following your blog for the past couple of weeks, so I should probably trawl through the archives to look for some top tips.

  • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

    I remember once arguing with a “pro-lifer” on Youtube who really seemed to be the kind of honest, brainwashed naive kind of guy (guy, of course…)
    His knowledge about human reproduction seemed to be limited to “sperm goes in, baby comes out” (and more often than not a miss).
    I think that gross scientific iliteracy and ignorance on human development feature as well.
    He had made a video in which he just pasted some of the pro-life arguments together with dramatic music for dramatic effect.
    One of the claims was the breast-cancer claim and I asked him some basic questions like, how did they arrive at that data?
    How did they control for the fact that the medical abortion procedure is way more often performed on women who don’t want to end a pregnancy, but on women whose pregnancy ended via miscarriage?
    If their hypothesis were true you would see much clearer outcomes in that, much larger group.
    He was honestly puzzled and came up with a bunch of ideas why an abortion performed to end an intact pregnancy would lead to breast-cancer and why one performed after a miscarriage wouldn’t, like in case of an abortion-abortion the embryo would “fight back” and wound the uterus and thereby somehow cause cancer.
    I don’t know what happened to him later, he seemed to be at least thinking about the information he was given. Probably he came up with some perfect rationalisations, or he dropped the “breast cancer” argument and never thought that his other arguments might stand on equally bad foundations…

    • Twist

      Even if the breast cancer link wasn’t just a fantasy of the anti-choicers, I can’t be the only one who would rather risk a slight increase in my risk of developing one of the most treatable cancers around 20-30 years down the line than deal with an unwanted baby at the present.

  • http://outofthegdwaye.wordpress.com/ George W.

    Though adamantly pro-choice, I struggle with the belief that terminating a pregnancy is killing a baby.

    I remain strongly pro-choice primarily because I think that our society fuels abortion by taking away virtually every other choice available to women- where the bottom line for anti-abortion forces becomes “if you don’t want to be pregnant, don’t have sex”.

    If we were really “pro-life”, we would be funding pre-natal care, subsidized childcare, proper sex education, and contraception- among other things. If we were really “pro-life” we would be trying desperately to pass laws and fund programs that have the proven effect of lowering the number of unwanted or unmanageable pregnancies. We do little or nothing to invest in these human lives.

    Instead, I feel as though abortion is used as a pawn in the ongoing Culture Wars- that those who are most vocally ant-abortion are less concerned with human lives as they are with “othering” those who support a woman’s right to control her body. They could lower the abortion rate in America overnight- and make abortion a non-choice for countless women. Instead they swim against a tide of their own creation.

    • Garrett

      George, I think a lot of us who are pro-choice struggle with the belief that terminating a pregnancy may sometimes be immoral. I often wonder whether I’m able to truly think about the issue rationally or whether being a man and having been brought up a Catholic are clouding my view. I suspect that it may be the case. Of course, there’s pro-choice and there’s pro-choice. Just as I think society should aim to prevent people in general from doing literally whatever they want with their body (e.g. removing their right arm because they don’t like it), I think society has a role to play in saying when a woman can and cannot remove a fetus from her uterus.
      I don’t consider myself “pro-choice”. In fact, I dislike the term. I consider myself a rationalist who believes that an early fetus ( 6 months) is a human life-form, albeit a parasite of the female mother, and that in-between (months 4,5 and 6) it’s a horrible grey area that I have no idea how to discuss.
      I’m also a man who will never have to truly make that choice, other than as a potential father.

      • Garrett

        I used symbols which turned out to be HTML code in my reply above and so part of a paragraph ended up being deleted and making no sense. Here’s how my second paragraph should have read:
        I don’t consider myself “pro-choice”. In fact, I dislike the term. I consider myself a rationalist who believes that an early fetus (less than 3 months) is an agglomerate of cells, a late fetus (greater than 6 months) is a human life-form, albeit a parasite of the female mother, and that in-between (months 4, 5 and 6) it’s a horrible grey area that I have no idea how to discuss.

      • MadGastronomer

        You may have moral qualms about it, but it will never be your body, so they aren’t your moral qualms to have. The government does not have the right to seize control of my body and force me to give birth. Period. And if they try to claim that right, I will fight them with everything I have.

        And your qualms mean nothing to me, unless you intend to try to force them on me. And if you do, I will fight you with everything I have.

        My body is me, and it is mine, and no one has the right to tell me what to do with it. No one has the right to force me to carry a pregnancy to term. That’s slavery.

        And your qualms are based on your religion and beliefs. My certainty is based on my religion and beliefs. Your religion does not rule me, and it does not get to use the government to rule me.

      • LeftSidePositive

        I don’t consider myself “pro-choice”. In fact, I dislike the term.

        Do you have any idea how insensitive, self-entitled, and insulting this is?? Seriously, I don’t care if the thought of me making choices about my body displeases you, but the least you can do is keep your self-entitled attitude to yourself. I honestly don’t know what would possess people to “dislike” the very fundamental concept of bodily autonomy and self-determination. I would never hold it against YOU for wanting the medical care you need to have a quality life, and I would never condescendingly call your personal medical decisions “a horrible moral grey area” when I have no possibility of experiencing them myself.

      • http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/ Jadehawk, cascadeuse féministe

        (e.g. removing their right arm because they don’t like it)

        how exactly is it any business of yours if someone wants to do this? how does it affect you at all, how does it affect society at all, if people decide they like extreme body mods? and that’s not even mentioning the fact that there are legitimate mental conditions which cannot be treated in any other way than by performing an amputation of a limb the brain doesn’t recognize as part of its body?

        and I’m not even touching the shit about society getting a say in what a women should be allowed to do with her body. it doesn’t. it really, really doesn’t.

      • Dianne

        I think a lot of us who are pro-choice struggle with the belief that terminating a pregnancy may sometimes be immoral.

        I don’t struggle at all with the belief that terminating a pregnancy is sometimes immoral, I am very happy with my position that terminating a pregnancy is sometimes immoral. Specifically, it is immoral when the woman wants to remain pregnant and has no medical issues that make the pregnancy especially dangerous for her*. I’m no more in favor of forcing abortion than forcing childbirth. Which is why I’m ok with the label “pro-choice”.

        *If such issues are present then the right response is discussing the issue with the patient. Forcing an abortion is never right.

    • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

      If we were really “pro-life”, we would be funding pre-natal care, subsidized childcare, proper sex education, and contraception- among other things. If we were really “pro-life” we would be trying desperately to pass laws and fund programs that have the proven effect of lowering the number of unwanted or unmanageable pregnancies. We do little or nothing to invest in these human lives.

      Oh, but I do.
      And so did my mother, and my grandmother.
      We all fought for the right to chose at the same time.
      Because for us “pro-choice” means that “yes, I want to go on” needs to be a reasonable possibility, too.

      • Rosa

        And those programs have worked, to the extent they’ve been implemented – as have the general feminist changes to our culture, like destigmatizing unmarried motherhood and women having more financial resources of their own.

        Kinsey reported in 1953 that 9 out of 10 premarital pregnancies ended in abortion. That has completely changed.

      • http://outofthegdwaye.wordpress.com/ George W.

        My comment was not intended as an indictment of people who are pro-choice, as I thought I mentioned more than once- I myself am more than just marginally pro-choice.

        The comment was more of a stab at those who wave around the term “pro-life”, yet seem entirely uninterested in any actual investment in human life outside of forceful soapboxing. The social investment in human life is (or should be) something that unites both sides of the abortion issue. It serves the aims of both sides of the debate. Yet, as Giliell notes, it is a common aim of pro-choice advocates and all but absent in the anti-abortion platform.

        To be sure, none of these things will end abortion entirely- that should not even be the aim. The point is to address the realities that make abortion a reluctant choice for women, not to use bribery to outlaw abortion by subterfuge.

    • LeftSidePositive

      While I support all manner of programs to support women, children, and families, let’s not pretend that these are going to ENTIRELY eliminate the need for abortion. Pregnancy is still a huge burden on the body and mind, and caring for a child is a lifelong commitment (and, no, many people would never consider bringing a person into the world and not being responsible for it, so don’t suggest that’s even ethically acceptable, let alone praiseworthy, for many people). No amount of social programming is going to change the vast majority of what an individual woman is asked to go through to give birth. While social justice investment is totally great, let’s not use it as a cover to be less than completely pro-choice.

      • http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/ Jadehawk, cascadeuse féministe

        plus, no amount of social change is going to make life-threatening pregnancies and anencephalic fetuses stop existing. abortion will always be with us; or at least, for as long as human reproduction happens the natural way, instead of by designer-genetics in perfectly functioning artificial wombs.

      • Dianne

        Re anencephalic fetuses: If a baby is born anencephalic, it is considered dead and, if the parents agree, its organs will be removed for donation to children with the potential to live. If it is a dead body after birth, why should it be considered alive before birth?

      • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

        While social justice investment is totally great, let’s not use it as a cover to be less than completely pro-choice.

        Oh, please don’t think I do.
        I am completely pro-choice.
        It’s just that I never saw those things like contradictions ever.
        I want women to have the choice.
        That means I want them to be able to have the kid, too, if they want to, without ruining everybody’s life including theirs, that of the kid and those of siblings/family members by this.
        A quick look around tells me that not every unplanned pregnancy means an unwanted child, and I can well imagine that a woman who would want a child but who realizes that if she has that child now it would ruin everything for both of them will have a hard time with her decision because it might not be what she wishes, but what she realizes is the only sensible solution.
        I want those women to have a choice that is not between having an abortion and having a kid and becoming poor and homeless/dropping out of college/being shunned by society.
        I want them to have a choice between having a kid and not having a kid.
        I am completely fine with either choice. I don’t ask for their reasons. That is none of my business.
        In a socially perfect world, where you get all the medical care and support you could wish for, I would still be pro-choice.
        That whole topic doesn’t even touch the field of life-saing abortions.
        Yet, those are the women who would probably be the most happy if you could make their abortions unnecessary. They are in their large majority women who answered the question about whether or not to have a baby with “yes” and who are suffering on so many levels that it is hard to name them all:
        They lose what they would have loved the most, their pain is often not recognized by society and so-called pro-lifers attack them for having the audacity to survive.

      • http://outofthegdwaye.wordpress.com/ George W.

        While social justice investment is totally great, let’s not use it as a cover to be less than completely pro-choice.

        *totally misses my point*

        As Giliell already mentioned- more eloquently than I could- proactive social policy is not mutually exclusive of being pro-choice.

        I don’t believe that acknowledging our shortcomings undermines the philosophical reasons for being pro-choice. I don’t think that admitting that we aren’t doing as much as we could is giving up ground to anti-abortionists.

        The whole tone of your comment implies that a net increase in reasonable choices for women who might want to have a child if circumstances allowed somehow undermines a woman’s right to choose. I think that is wrong.

        You are correct that women often weigh factors that society has no control over (nor should we have- even if it were possible).
        That doesn’t mean that reducing unwanted pregnancies- either by having less pregnancies or supporting women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant- is a veiled assault on the sovereignty a woman has over her own body.

        If I gave you any other impression with my previous comments, it was unintended.

  • DebbieG

    The growing research on coerced abortion suggests that abortion is fast becoming the method of choice to control women nowadays. You won’t get a promotion in this job if you’re pregnant, so have an abortion, boyfriends don’t want responsibility, so have an abortion, men beat them up, so have an abortion… can’t get an education AND be pregnant, have an abortion.

    The fight against coerced abortion from a pro woman perspective is both valid and necessary. I came to my position from a feminist standpoint, not a religious one and certainly not a baby oriented one. As a health professional and counsellor I was seeing the devastation wreaked on women’s lives through unwanted, or uninformed abortions.

    Fighting against abortion may once have been held up as controlling women’s lives. Now it has become just a way to do the same thing. Are you convinced that asking a woman to continue a few months of a pregnancy and then choosing to parent or not is a worse outcome, than forcing a woman to abort a child she then grieves for a lifetime? Not one of my post abortive clients would have said so, nor for that matter would any of the women who chose to place their children for adoption.

    Surely those so strongly advocating for what they call ‘choice’ should be as strongly advocating for a woman’s absolute right to continue a pregnancy with all of the supports she feels are necessary? Yet interestingly, when a group of post abortive women speak at events to highlight their negative experiences, they are shouted down and harrassed by those loudly advocating ‘choice’. The women who express regret, who suffer psychologically in ways that they never recover from, or who want to educate about the harm of abortion in their own lives are not allowed to have a voice. How is that choice? How is that about women’s rights?

    • LeftSidePositive

      Um, maybe because they’re being transparently used as stooges to support the cause of those who want to eliminate women’s access to legal abortion?

    • Dianne

      The growing research on coerced abortion suggests that abortion is fast becoming the method of choice to control women nowadays.

      Evidence?

      There is a moderate amount of data on women who have been forced, coerced or convinced to continue a pregnancy that they did not desire and then give up the baby for adoption. It’s not pretty. They don’t do well Not really at all.

      Think it over before forcing, coercing or even encouraging a pregnant woman to continue a pregnancy if she can’t keep the baby after it’s born. She is likely to regret that decision for a very long time, possibly the rest of her life. Women who have abortions do much better.

      • Uly

        Not only might she regret that choice, but it’s going to affect the baby as well.

        Adoption is not a bad thing in and of itself, but that doesn’t mean adopted children don’t have their own special issues to deal with.

      • DebbieG

        Dianne, where is the evidence that women who abort do better than women who place for adoption? or parent? I have seen this kind of statement, particularly about teens, however the long term studies suppor the fact that teens who are supported to have their babies are more likely to create positive change in their lives and do better than those who abort.

      • Dianne

        where is the evidence that women who abort do better than women who place for adoption? or parent?

        Did you notice that some of the letters in my comment were in blue? Those are links. Click on them and you’ll find articles in Pubmed which back each statement made. If you’re a HCP as you claim, you should have no problem reading and evaluating the statements made.

        however the long term studies suppor the fact that teens who are supported to have their babies are more likely to create positive change in their lives and do better than those who abort.

        Want to back this statement up with, well, any evidence at all? Preferably something other than an anti-feminist web site contributing made up statistics.

      • DebbieG

        Dianne, your links are extraordinarily dated. Even the 2011 article references research that is more than a decade old. There has been substantial research on the mental health outcomes that demonstrate significant mental health risks to women after abortion. David Fergusson is particularly interesting as his intent in the study was to prove his own ‘pro choice’ view that there was no mental health risk. http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/193/6/444.abstract

        Dr Priscilla Coleman, internationally the most published researcher on the adverse impact of abortion, in mainstream, peer reviewed journals produced this: http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/199/3/180.abstract?sid=fe930403-9098-4e44-8b9f-c36c3f13d60a

        Of course, as with any research that points to a potential negative about abortion, however scientific and methodologically sound the research, the ‘pro abortion’ brigade can only resort to personal attack and marginalisation based on either religious grounds or personal philosophy.

        It becomes a circular argument whereby the facts are conveniently ignored in favour of a money making industry that has proven itself incapable of actually serving the real needs of women.

      • dianne

        Debbie, not bad. You managed to get two references from a medline listed journal with a decent impact factor. I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m moving the discussion to a new comment to avoid making it just ludicrously long and narrow. See below if interested.

    • Uly

      Aw, nice strawman!

      I think choice involves choice too. I think it’s terrible when some woman who wants that baby has to have an abortion because she can’t afford a child (or another child) or because her situation isn’t safe and stable.

      But the solution to this is a better social safety net, better welfare systems, free public daycare, better parental leave laws, better support for families with children.

      None of which seems to be policies supported by the anti-abortion crowd as a whole.

      • DebbieG

        There are a large number of groups who work toward the social changes necessary for women to freely parent. There are also growing numbers (thousands already exist in the US) of volunteer driven support centres which provide material and practical assistance free of charge in the absence of government funded services.

      • dianne

        There are also growing numbers (thousands already exist in the US) of volunteer driven support centres which provide material and practical assistance

        Ah, now we come to the real underlying motivation. “Practical assistance” like lying to pregnant girls and women and coercing them into bearing a child and giving it up to a “good Christian home”. Debbie wants more victims for her highly profitable slave trade.

      • DebbieG

        Ah, now we come to the real underlying motivation. “Practical assistance” like lying to pregnant girls and women and coercing them into bearing a child and giving it up to a “good Christian home”. Debbie wants more victims for her highly profitable slave trade.

        And yet another blog where contributors marginalise based on zero facts, rather then address the lived experiences of women.

      • dianne

        address the lived experiences of women.

        And which experiences would those be? I’ve repeatedly asked you for evidence to support your position and you’ve failed to come up with so much as an anecdote of one woman who regrets her decision. Face it, the facts aren’t with you. Studies consistently show better outcomes when women are given a choice as to how to deal with their pregnancies, women who choose abortion rarely regret their choice, and adoption is associated with very poor outcomes in the relinquishing mother. Sometimes the facts just don’t agree with your fantasies.

        And your retort, which boils down to “you’re mean!” is remarkably unpersuasive.

    • Palaverer

      Stop if I’m misreading your bullshit stance:

      Some people are pressured into having abortions against their will.
      This removes their choice.
      Therefore, no people should be able to have abortions, removing all choice.

      Helping women avoid forced abortions? Great! Preventing any abortions whatsoever? Boo! Or are you under the false and mendacious impression that anyone here (or in pro-choice movement in general) supports forced abortion?

  • dianne

    So, as I said above, Debbie did better than most “pro-lifers” when asked for evidence and came up with two articles from BJP that seemed to support her position.

    I don’t have access to the full text at the moment so can’t really give the articles the review they deserve, but a couple of things do present themselves even just reviewing the abstract and other available information.

    First, both papers come from a single journal. The BJP is a decent journal with an impact factor of more than 5, so I don’t consider this a major issue overall. However, given the fact that this is a very controversial topic, one really has to consider whether there might be editorial bias. An editor who wants to believe the findings might well be less stringent in his or her review than one who does not want to believe the results. This may or may not be relevant to this particular case.

    Second, I find no evidence of Debbie’s claim that Fergusson’s views are “pro-choice.” However, one of the people writing the accompanying editorial has an undisclosed conflict, namely, that she is a Catholic of strong “pro-life” views. Since she may also be a reviewer of this paper, that is quite relevant.

    Third, the relative risk for any adverse mental health outcome is 1.3. That’s not much of a RR and, traditionally, a RR of less than 2 is viewed with suspicion: a lot of them simply disappear on subsequent analysis.

    Fourth, a subsequent analysis by Fergusson found no correlation between abortion and mental health problems unless there were significant “negative reactions” to the abortion itself, i.e. guilt. In other words, if the anti-abortion brigade brainwashes a woman into believing that she has done something wrong by getting an abortion, she may develop mental health problems.

    Finally, both Fergusson articles rely on self-reporting of abortion. Self-reporting is notorious for over estimating correlations between events because people are more likely to recall an event if a subsequent negative event occurs. Recall bias is a major problem in this sort of retrospective study and it is quite likely that it accounts for some or all of the increased risk observed.

    Incidentally, while you’re correct that the links to studies of women who have relinquished children for adoption are quite old, the link to a study of women who have had abortions is actually newer than either study you link to. Not that age per se affects the validity of a study.

    Sorry, ran out of room and time for the second paper. Maybe later. Would welcome your thoughts on the analysis.

  • Dianne

    Ok, so I’m probably spending way too much time on something that no one will read, but, the Coleman paper. My goodness. Where to begin.

    First, it’s a meta-analysis. Meta-analyses are useful tools, but they’re difficult to do right and even the best researcher is hampered by having to compare trials that aren’t making exactly the same comparison, are using different control groups, etc. So, it’s best to read meta-analyses critically and I’d say that even if I were evaluating one of the numerous meta-analyses which come to the opposite conclusion.

    Second, the paper reads like a political tract. Coleman was really having a hard time keeping her biases under control…in fact, she was generally failing. To give one example: typically, at the end of a paper, one has a paragraph discussing the limitations of the study. Every study has limitations and it’s important not to make statements beyond what the data supports. Coleman couldn’t bring herself to discuss limitations and instead lists “strengths and limitations” and she concentrates on the putative strengths of her analysis.

    Third, she restricts her analysis to studies with comparison groups. That’s often a good idea, but in this case she does something a bit odd: She includes studies with comparison groups irrespective of what that comparison group is. So some studies compare pregnancy resolved through abortion versus resolved through delivery, others possibly even to never pregnant controls (this is a bit ambiguous in the paper and perhaps I’m misreading-I hope so). Not all the studies appear to concern themselves with questions like whether all the pregnancies in the “control” group were even undesired or unintended.

    Fourth, she only includes analysis of 22 papers, four of which she authored. Yet she includes several papers more than once in what is essentially a single measure. For example, she includes one of her own papers four times in a single measurement. This is not a standard way of performing a meta-analysis, but maybe there is some justification since it involves measurements of different outcomes which are then pooled, but it’s a bit suspicious.

    Fifth, no weighting at all, as far as I can tell, for studies of different sizes. However, it should be noted that larger studies tend to give smaller confidence intervals and she does include CI in her figures. In general, the studies with the smallest CI tend to have CI that cross 1 (i.e. show no effect.)

    Sixth, there is no discussion whatsoever as to whether the values shown are the adjusted values or if they are the non-adjusted values. Based on what she’s showing for Fergusson, it looks like it’s probably unadjusted.

    Seventh, I’m not at all sure how she selected studies and whether she was consistent in her selection. For example, it is puzzling that Fergusson 2008 made the cut but Fergusson 2009 didn’t.

    In short, it’s a fairly poorly conducted meta-analysis that finds what the author expected and wanted to find. I’m unimpressed.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I’ve actually come up against the Coleman study before, and if you look at the wikipedia article on her, you will find that it says the following:

      The statistical methods Coleman and her co-authors use have been criticized by the American Psychological Association (APA).[3] A panel convened by the APA found that the studies by Coleman, and her co-authors have “inadequate or inappropriate” controls and don’t adequately control “for women’s mental health prior to the pregnancy and abortion.” [3]
      Coleman, Cougle, Reardon and Rue have also been criticized by other researchers in the field.

      And this:

      According to a 2010 review of the group’s analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey, an analysis which claimed that women who had abortions suffered from higher rates of depression and substance abuse, Coleman and her colleagues failed to control for pre-existing mental health problems and for other risk factors for mental health problems, such as sexual or physical violence. . . .

      Regarding Coleman’s 2011 publication, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists responded that four previous reviews of all available material, three published and one by the RCOG guideline development group, had found that women who have abortions did not face an increased risk of mental health problems, and suggested that Coleman’s results were due to her failure to control for previously existing problems.

      Granted this is wikipedia, but it does site sources. It seems pretty clear that both Coleman and her studies are highly controversial and analytically questionable and do not represent the mainstream scholarly consensus or the consensus of the evidence on this topic.

      • Dianne

        I’m so embarrassed that I didn’t mention lack of control for confounding factors!

        Another potential confounder is the fact that “unintended pregnancy” and “unwanted pregnancy” are not necessarily the same thing. See, for example, this article which finds better outcomes for women who had abortions for unwanted pregnancies as compared to women who delivered. They make the point that this effect might not be seen if all unintended pregnancies were included since many unintended pregnancies are desired and therefore lower risk for adverse mental health outcomes if continued.

  • http://whoireallyaminside.blog.com/ Jenn

    Libby, I was also brought up in the same movement and abortion was, for me, a matter of murder. I think that’s why it took so long for me, even after I left my faith, to think of abortion differently (I explain it here: http://whoireallyaminside.blog.com/2012/02/02/beating-a-dead-horse/).

    Your post really clarified for me why I had such trouble, and sometimes still have trouble, with champion the choice of abortion. It’s not that I don’t agree with the right to choose, but that it was such an emotional response keyed on seeing pictures of fully formed fetuses in the womb. It’s almost the same way I feel now about animal rights. I’d never see justification for killing a pet, except for perhaps in the case of ending a painful existence.

    And I agree that insisting it’s an issue of women-hating isn’t going to win over anyone who believes abortion is murder. For me it was education on prenatal development and realizing those images I’d been brought up with were outright lies.

  • Brit

    I consider myself neither pro-choice nor pro-life. My friends coined my stance as “pro-health” meaning I believe that if a woman wants a baby and is physically capable to carry to term, then she should have it. BUT if she wasn’t able to care for the babe: physically, mentally, or financially; or if her health was significantly, negatively impacted then she should not have the child by either aborting (if early in the pregnacy) or put the child up for adoption if near the end of the pregnancy (last two months) if possible.

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  • Brian

    Yeah, that’s called pro-choice. Just FYI.

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