A New York Times Op-Ed on Illegal Abortion

Last week the New York Times published an op-ed on the history and reality of illegal abortion. Here’s an excerpt:

Leeches, Lye and Spanish Fly

By KATE MANNING

WHY would a woman put a leech inside her body, in the most private of female places? Why would she put cayenne pepper there?

Why might a woman swallow lye? Gunpowder? Why would a woman hit herself about the abdomen with a meat pulverizer? A brickbat? Throw herself down the stairs?

Why would she syringe herself, internally, with turpentine? Gin? Drink laundry bluing?

Why might she probe herself with a piece of whalebone? A turkey feather? A knitting needle?

Why would she consume medicine made of pulverized Spanish fly? How about powdered ergot, a poisonous fungus? Or strychnine, a poison?

Why would she take a bath in scalding water? Or spend the night in the snow?

Because she wanted to end a pregnancy. Historically, women have chosen all those methods to induce abortion.

Women’s historical willingness to endure horrible dangers, to submit to extreme and prolonged pain, to risk grave injury and death rather than remain pregnant, tells us something important about female desperation and determination, and the price women were — and still are — willing to pay to control their own bodies. What it tells us is that women will always find ways to end an unwanted pregnancy, no matter what the law says, no matter the risks to themselves.

If the Supreme Court were ever to overturn Roe v. Wade, or if anti-abortion forces continue to successfully chisel away at a woman’s access to safe abortion, many women will still choose abortion — by their own hands. Leeches, lye and Spanish fly are still among the many tools available to the self-abortionist. So are knitting needles, with predictable, disastrous consequences. There is no law that will end the practice of abortion, only laws that can protect a woman’s right to choose it, or not, and to keep it the safe and private procedure still available to us in 2013, 40 years after the Supreme Court made it legal.

This article brought two thoughts to mind. First, as a child and teen I saw abortion as a relatively new phenomenon, a result of the sexual revolution or of modern selfishness. Along that line, I think abortion opponents have a rather ahistorical view of abortion — a view articles like this aim to set straight. Second, it seems like abortion opponents generally tend to see abortion like any other crime, as though it’s something you can just ban and have it over with. The thing is, trying to prevent abortion is a bit like trying to prevent starving people from stealing food. For one thing, abortion springs from a place of absolute desperation. And for another thing, the consequences of not obtaining an abortion are life-altering in a way the consequences of not committing murder or burglary are not. This puts abortion in a very different category from most of the things we tend to slap a legal ban on, and this has consequences when it comes to things like enforcement.

In the end, I think we don’t talk enough about the history of abortion or about the reality of illegal abortion.

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.

  • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

    Second, it seems like abortion opponents generally tend to see abortion like any other crime, as though it’s something you can just ban and have it over with.

    Yes, because any other crime just disappears when it is banned. Oh wait.

    In the end, I think we don’t talk enough about the history of abortion or about the reality of illegal abortion.

    I think pro-choicers talk about illegal abortion pretty much non-stop. What they hardly talk about is the reality of abortion.

    • The_L

      The reality of abortion is that if more women were taught the actual facts about contraception, and had access to contraceptives, there would be a lot fewer abortions.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        According to Guttmacher Institute research “access to contraceptives” is way down the list for reasons women have unintended pregnancies. The top reason is typically contraceptives were used inconsistently followed by others like woman didn’t think she could get pregnant or had unexpected sex.

      • Michael Busch

        @JivinJ:

        The solution to that problem is to educate people on the proper use of effective contraceptives (implants, and IUDs for people who ovulate, Vasalgel for those who produce sperm – if it gets approved by the FDA), and to make them readily available to everyone. When educated on the options and not limited by cost, people almost always chose the most effective methods of contraception, for obvious reasons.

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

      The reality of abortion being that women who are desperate will try a lot of really dangerous things to end their pregnancies. The reality of abortion being that some women grieve and some women just feel relieved. The reality of abortion being that sex education and contraception prevent abortions, but ignorance does not.

      That reality?

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        The reality that abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.

        The reality that making abortion legal doesn’t necessarily make it safe for women.

        http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2013/01/muskegon_city_documents_detail.html

        The reality that if abortion is harder to obtain, fewer women will get them.

      • ako

        JivnJ, I was just reading a study by the Guttmacher institute (here: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html), you know, the organization you mentioned as a source of evidence in an earlier comment?

        Some quoted you might find interesting:

        “Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates.”

        “Where abortion is permitted on broad legal grounds, it is generally safe, and where it is highly restricted, it is typically unsafe.”

        And, lest you think it’s purely a matter of medical care being safer in developed countries, which tend to have fewer restrictions on abortions: “In developing countries, relatively liberal abortion laws are associated with fewer negative health consequences from unsafe abortion than are highly restrictive laws.”

        If you read the study, they have statistics and everything showing that legal abortion is, on average, significantly safer, and restricting abortion doesn’t actually lead to fewer abortions. Your facts are wrong.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Ako,
        I don’t believe everything the Guttmacher Institute has to say is true. If I did, then I’d be pro-choice. That’s not an actual study. It’s a web page which list a bunch of things from various studies. I’ve read the actual Guttmacher “study” regarding worldwide abortion rates. It’s a complete joke. They way they get abortion rates for countries where abortion is illegal is through guessestimates. What’s the abortion rate in Ireland, Malta, and Poland?

      • ako

        Okay, I was wrong about it being a study. I was mistaken there.

        It’s still actual evidence showing that your facts are wrong, and you haven’t presented better.

        Also, if you don’t believe the Guttmacher Institute on worldwide abortion rates, why do you believe them on why women have abortions?

      • Tracey

        @jivin: a zygote isn’t innocent. A zygote isn’t guilty. It’s life, but not a human being; not yet. A tablespoon of cake batter is not a cake. When 99% of all abortions are done, the embryo is smaller than a tablespoon of cake batter.

      • phantomreader42

        ako, JivinJ doesn’t believe things based on whether they’re true or supported by evidence. He only believes what is immediately convenient for his ideology, and denies ever believing it the instant it ceases to be convenient. Fetus-fetishists don’t care about reality, and telling the truth is against their religion.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Phantomreader,
        No, I can differentiate between things which are actual studies (for example – where abortion providers asked women why this or why that) vs. things which aren’t actual studies (for example – where abortion advocates attempt to guessestimate how many abortions are performed in a developing countries where abortion in illegal and there is an incredibly limited amount of actual evidence).

        What’s interesting is that it’s the readers of this blog who are so willing to believe things based on their ideology as opposed to evidence. The continual use of “zygote,” the belief that nothing stops women from having abortions, the belief that access to contraceptives is the key to reducing abortions in America, that Libby Anne was actually a SFL president when she lacks the basic knowledge that someone with that background would have, Tracey’s absurd belief that 99% of aborted children are ” smaller than a tablespoon”….. etc.

        This is an echo chamber of ignorance.

      • Anonymouse

        @Jivin: what’s absurd is that you’ve been caught out in a number of lies, and yet you continue with the same tired, debunked old stereotypes. Really, once your lies were exposed, and your biases revealed (you believe what you want to believe), then it just became a masturbatory exercise for you to keep posting more of the same.

    • Skjaere

      I have certainly not noticed any lack of people on the pro-choice side of things discussing the reality of abortion. There is plenty of it, from article analysing statistics to personal accounts of women who have undergone the procedure. I recently helped a friend through one, seeing firsthand her fear and frantic scramble to rearrange all her normal responsibilities so that she could get it taken care of as quickly as possible, and I saw her palpable relief when it was all over with. That’s the reality I know.

      • phantomreader42

        By “the reality of abortion”, JivinJ means “long-debunked fetus-fetishist lies and misleading or fabricated pictures manipulated for shock value”. He knows the delusions of his death cult can only be promoted by constant, shameless lying, but he has to pretend to value “reality” even though he’d never willingly look in the general direction of the truth under any circumstances.

    • Lucia Mora

      We do discuss the reality of abortion. We aren’t ignorant or uncaring. We aren’t turning a blind eye to anyone’s suffering. I am genuinely confused why you think we wouldn’t discuss the reality of something so important, unless you think anyone who disagrees with you isn’t in touch with reality. That simply isn’t the case. Many of us have lived with the reality of it in a more real and visceral way than most anti-choice people ever will. If you talk to pro-choice people sometime without attacking them, without derailing them, and actually listen, I think you’ll find that we are very much in touch with reality, and we are very willing to discuss the reality of abortion with someone who will listen in turn, instead of waiting for their next chance to attack. I’ve had a number of civilized and productive conversations with pro-life people, though some did leave a bad taste in my mouth — it is hard, when someone would deny you a choice that would literally save your life, not to be hurt by that. These were people who were willing to ask real questions, and honestly listen to the answers.

      You may also be confusing “refusing to discuss the reality of abortion” with “being unwilling to debate what they consider to be a fundamental part of their human rights.” That is actually a perfectly reasonable position. Asking gay people to defend their right to love as they will, asking people of color to prove that prejudice against them exists, asking invisibly disabled people to prove that their disability is real when it cannot be measured in a lab (depression, chronic pain, etc.), asking a woman to defend her right to own and control her own body, all of these things are actually quite offensive to the people involved, because they are essentially asking a human being to justify their worthiness for equal and fair treatment. Whether you agree with them or not, if you want to talk to people about these things, it is a good first step to accept that nobody is obligated to educate you, debate with you, or engage with you in any way over any subject, let alone one so desperately important. Find someone receptive, and be polite about it.

      • sara maimon

        The pro-choice folks sometimes minimize the very real grief and emotional aftereffects that are commonly experienced by women undergoing abortion. I find it on this blog a lot.
        My own experience was traumatic. Yes, I experienced relief. The two things are not contradictory.
        I think it’s important that we acknowledge this so as to provide support to women experiencing these feelings.
        I have worked in planned parenthood and as I and those who worked with me know very well, most our patients are in deep, obvious sorrow. our patients our informed of the possibility of depression and resources to get help.
        It’s important not to fall into the polarized rhetoric surrounding this aspect of abortion. on the so-called pro-life side abortion will inevitably cause lifelong trauma and regret, (or at least if it doesn’t, it means you’re a bad person.) Clearly this is false propaganda. But swinging to the other side, declaring “I’m not sorry” stories as the only and final word on things, does not match the experiences of many women and alienates them.
        It also misses the point of the pro-choice movement.
        What’s important is that whatever a particular woman may feel about her abortion, it’s no one else’s business to force her what to choose. A WOMAN’S FEELINGS ARE HER OWN BUSINESS, NOT THE GOVERNMENT.
        In counseling a woman who was trying to decide to have an abortion I would definitely inform her that many women experience deep grief, and some for an extended period. But that does not mean that would be so for her, and even if it does, the presence of grief does not automatically indicate whether something is the right decision or not.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        I find pro-choicers are often unwilling to discuss what happens to the unborn during abortion or the results of abortion. Mary Elizabeth Williams recently had a piece in Salon where as a pro-choice individual she admitted the unborn are living human beings but she didn’t care if they were killed. It was noteworthy because it’s so rare for an abortion advocate to be honest about the reality that abortion kills a human being.

        Too often at blogs like this I see pro-choicers attempt to dehumanize the unborn by using terms like zygote when no zygote is ever aborted (thye have a few more cells than one when they’re attached to the uterine wall).

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

        The unborn, as you put it, are not people. They’re alive, and they’re human, but they’re not sentient. People call them zygotes, fetii/fetuses, or embryos because that’s what they are. And even if “the unborn” were fully developed, sentient people, I’d *still* think abortion should be legal and protected. No person has the right to feed off someone and do them bodily harm for any reason, even if that person would die otherwise.

        Abortion kills a potential human being. That potential human being has some moral weight. However, I care much more about the actual human being who has much greater moral weight and who is being asked to give her time and her body to nurture another. If she wants to- great! In ~9 months and assuming nothing goes wrong, she has a baby. If she doesn’t- she shouldn’t have to.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        M,
        So they’re living and human but they’re only “potential human being(s)”? That doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. If they’re potential human beings, what are they actually or currently?

        I have two children (neither of whom are “fully developed”). I don’t believe that either of them were sentient (though I’m not sure what definition of sentient you’re using) until months after they were born. Were they not “persons” by your definition of personhood? Also, why should anyone accept your arbitrary definition of personhood over someone else’s arbitrary definition of personhood? My wife and I use our bodies in various ways to support the lives of our children. By your criteria, it seems that it should be okay for us to kill them.

      • Anat

        JivinJ, something can be alive and human but not a person. Human cancer is alive and human but not a person. A human embryo or fetus are alive, human, but not yet persons. There are many philosophical positions about when we should consider a living human entity a person, based on the developing capacities of said entity.

        And while I don’t know M’s position, I personally have no problem accepting a position that personhood develops sometime well past birth.

      • Anat

        JivinJ, adding to my previous post: That something isn’t a person is not in itself enough to give people permission to kill it. If I killed your pet I’d be wrong and you could at the very least sue me for damages, and the state could probably charge me for whatever the legalese is for cruelty to animals.

        I am comfortable with philosophical approaches that see personhood requiring a certain level of mental development that is only achieved months after birth. For instance one could argue that to be a person one must possess a perception of a future. The ethical standards for the treatment of such preperson human are based on the capacity for suffering such a preperson can have and the value the preperson has for others rather than self-value which is the basis for the rights of persons. However to be on the safe side, to avoid harming someone who may have become a person without us noticing, I’d rather keep the law as it is, treating all humans as persons from birth.

        However it would be wrong to extend such legal protection to the preborn state, because then it infringes on the rights and freedoms of a person – the pregnant woman.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Anat,

        However to be on the safe side, to avoid harming someone who may have become a person without us noticing, I’d rather keep the law as it is, treating all humans as persons from birth.

        To me that seems awfully convenient. You’re saying – It’s okay to kill the unborn because they’re not persons and their mother’s don’t want to care for them. Newborns aren’t persons but “to be safe,” we shouldn’t make it legal for their mother’s to kill them if they don’t want to care for them. Caring for born children infringes on freedoms as well. Birth doesn’t magically make a child non-dependent.

        Your position isn’t at all principled. It’s totally arbitrary. Instead of actual coming to a position based on reasoning, you’re attempting to reason into a position you’re comfortable with.

        I see pro-choicers do this all the time. If you’re going to use the personhood argument, at least try to be principled like Peter Singer and favor the legal killing newborns even if you’re uncomfortable with it. Or else you’re just creating an argument and then abandoning it once it’s logical implications become uncomfortable for you.

      • Anat

        JivinJ, the pregnant woman is a person. The fetus isn’t even close to being one (as opposed to a several months old infant who is starting to develop whatever mental traits one requires for personhood). By forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy against her wishes you are enslaving her. Slavery is wrong. How hard is it to understand?

        Birth doesn’t magically make a child non-dependent.

        But it does make it non-dependent on a specific person. Even if a newborn isn’t a person, its continued existence does not infringe on the rights of any person – if the mother does not wish to care for it she can put it up for adoption and sign away her rights. A pregnant woman cannot stop supporting the fetus without ending the pregnancy one way or another, be it by abortion or giving birth, naturally or induced or via C-section.

        So yes, my position is principled. There is a difference between avoiding a known harm, avoiding a possible harm and avoiding what is certainly not a harm. Also, when harm is unavoidable, it is better to cause less harm than more harm.

        Clearly the case from organ transplants shows that in our culture we value body autonomy over life. It is considered a worse harm to make use of a person’s body against their wishes than to let a person die. Applying this principle to a woman who is pregnant but does not wish to donate the use of her body to the embryo or fetus means abortion is permissible, regardless of whether an embryo or fetus is a person or not.

        This principle does not apply to an infant who is born and therefore is not requiring such donation. At that point we can quibble as to whether an infant’s life should be protected for its own sake (as the law currently stands) or only for the sake of persons who want to assume responsibility for said infant’s life. In an imaginary society where the latter alternative applies, parents who do not wish to assume such a responsibility would be required within a short enough interval from birth to put the child for adoption and if there are no takers it would be up to the state to decide whether to care for the infant or execute it – as long as the procedure was finalized before the developmental criteria for personhood were met. And that’s where it becomes sticky – I can imagine bureaucratic complications and people’s indecision dragging things along until the infant is in a gray area – zie might be showing some personhood traits according to some observers but not others, do we have a person with a right to their own life or not? So while I can see such a solution being morally consistent I don’t see it working in practice. Nor do I see any advantage compared to the current situation where we grant the rights of personhood at birth before the infant actually ‘earned’ those rights.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Anat, “the pregnant woman is a person. The newborn isn’t even close to being one. By forcing a woman to care for this newborn (for any period of time) against her wishes you are enslaving her. Slavery is wrong. How hard is it to understand?” Are you starting to see how bad of an argument this is?

        What I find interesting is that you haven’t provided an actual definition for personhood. You’ve asserted women are, the unborn and newborns aren’t. Why should I accept your undefined “personhood” over someone who wants to discriminate against a different group of human beings? You’re simply choosing to discriminate against one group of human beings using the term “personhood” which you want to discriminate against without providing an argument for why your arbitrary and at this time undefined criteria should be used.

        But it does make it non-dependent on a specific person. Even if a newborn isn’t a person, its continued existence does not infringe on the rights of any person – if the mother does not wish to care for it she can put it up for adoption and sign away her rights.

        That requires her to do something, which maybe she doesn’t want to do. Maybe she doesn’t want to go through the hassle of getting the authorities involved and signing away her rights as a parent and finding adoptive parents. Maybe she doesn’t like the idea of her child being adopted? Why would you force her to use body against her will because of a “non-person” newborn? Isn’t that slavery?

        Your position isn’t principled at all. You try to weasel out of things your position directly leads to because you’re not comfortable with the idea of killing newborns. But if newborn’s aren’t persons, why shouldn’t their mothers be allowed to kill them in a way that’s painless to them? If they’re not persons then why should their parents or the state take the time to find adoptive parents, especially if they don’t want her to be adopted? It seems that if newborns have the same value (or maybe less since they have less cognitive abilities) than a family pet, then why shouldn’t the parents be allowed to take their child to hospital to be euthanized?

      • Anat

        JivinJ, the specific definition for personhood doesn’t matter to me, because once we apply the primacy of body autonomy to life it is irrelevant to unborn human entities of all kinds, and once we recognize the impracticality when applied to infants it becomes irrelevant to the question of infanticide.

        I like the approach of James Park where he examines criteria for loss of personhood at end-of-life situations and derives the emergence of personhood with the appearance of these traits. People who lose their memory gradually become former persons. So having lasting memory is one criterion for personhood. IIRC autonomy and language are his other criteria. But as you see these aren’t sharp boundaries. They are good for describing the principle of what being a person could mean, not for devising a definite test – today child X is not yet a person, maybe next week zie may be one. (How do you determine when a child is first forming lasting memories? You can tell in retrospect that a memory formed some time in the past was retained, but if you haven’t seen evidence for such retention, how do you know if a memory formed today will or will not be retained, and if so for how long?)

        But I am not married to this approach. There are others that are as illuminating. For instance Peter Singer’s main criterion for personhood is the perception of future. When an infant behaves in ways that show they are aware that actions now have an effect in the future (even a very near future) it is wrong to take that future from them.

        That requires her to do something, which maybe she doesn’t want to do. Maybe she doesn’t want to go through the hassle of getting the authorities involved and signing away her rights as a parent and finding adoptive parents. Maybe she doesn’t like the idea of her child being adopted? Why would you force her to use body against her will because of a “non-person” newborn? Isn’t that slavery?

        The woman in question has choices. She can choose the option she dislikes less. A pregnant woman who is denied abortion lacks choices whatsoever. And neither of the choices are as intrusive as forcing her to risk her life and short and long-term health for the benefit of another.

        If you haven’t understood how I think about moral issues, my morality is predominantly consequentionalist. It is based on weighing harms and benefits – who is harmed, by how much, who benefits and how much, which scenario leads to the more desirable outcome based on such information. And I place more emphasis on avoiding major harm and more even redistribution of harm than on maximizing benefit. This is the higher principle that guides all others. Because the purpose of morality is to make the world overall a better place. Moral systems that don’t do that are probably not worth having.

        In the case of the woman who wishes to not be pregnant, she suffers harms from the various complications of pregnancy, risks to her physical and mental health, sometimes her life, as well as assorted economical and social risks, life plans she is putting on hold etc. The embryo lacks the ability to suffer, so it can’t be harmed in any way. A very late fetus has some capacity for suffering – and this is one reason to prefer early abortions to late ones -( which is what women do, if given a chance). The harm to the fetus would be whatever it can experience until it dies. The benefit to the woman in the case she chooses abortion includes her autonomy, avoidance of further health risks, avoidance of further health complications.

        While the capacity of a newborn may not be much beyond that of a very late fetus the harm to a woman who is pregnant against her wishes much exceeds the harm to a woman who is forbidden to kill her newborn, because there are no alternatives for the former, whereas there is at least one to the latter.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Anat,
        I’m glad you’re no longer using the overheated “slavery” rhetoric but it seems to me you’re using two bottomless buckets (the personhood argument and the bodily autonomy argument) in an attempt to hold water. They don’t hold water separately and they don’t hold water when used together.

        The woman in question has choices. She can choose the option she dislikes less.

        Can you not recognize that many prolifers would make this same argument for the pregnant woman? They would say she can keep the child or make an adoption plan.

        I could just as easily argue the woman with a newborn child doesn’t have choices. Your preferred policy of not allowing her to kill the child means she has no choice. See how that works. Your making judgements of which choices should be legal based on the choices you’re comfortable with (based not on reason, but emotion) and then trying to reason away the actual emotion behind it.

        Using anesthetics you can completely reduce the harm or pained caused to the newborn child, so it makes no sense to me why your ethical system would have any problem with women killing their newborns especially if the woman feels she would be harmed emotionally by making an adoption plan. Maybe if your conscience is uncomfortable with something yet your ethical system is completely unable to provide a reason as to why killing a newborn would be wrong, you might want to rethink your ethical system.

        You continually mention health risks but the reality is that most women don’t choose abortion for health risks. The vast majority are for elective reasons, many based on finances, timing, etc. Just like the hypothetical woman with a newborn who wants to kill the child for autonomy reasons.

      • Anat

        JivinJ, I have not abandoned the slavery claim, forced pregnancy is a form of slavery for the duration. Or it is rape. Both are about one’s body being used against one’s will. My post was not a retraction but a clarification. While a pregnant woman can choose to raise the baby once it is born or to make adoption plans for when that happens, neither choice addresses the weeks and months until the birth. Without abortion she has no choice but to be pregnant, whether she wants it or not. And pregnancy is no small thing. My pregnancy was very wanted and relatively uncomplicated as such things go, but it left me with what appears to be some life-long tendency to edema in my feet and other feet problems that interfere with my enjoyment of my job. Other women develop diabetes and blood pressure problems that don’t go away (or go away for a while after birth but still leave them with heightened lifelong risk). This kind of risk is not solved by adoption. It is the pregnancy itself that is the threat to women’s rights over their bodies, not necessarily the child, if one is born. My pro-choice stand isn’t about the right to kill the embryo/fetus per se but about a woman’s right to not be pregnant if she doesn’t want to. If the pregnancy is so advanced that the fetus could survive on its own, early induction of birth is an acceptable solution. That the choice is almost always made long before fetal viability makes this alternative irrelevant to most situations.

        I know the health risk to women isn’t the primary reason for individual women to seek abortion. But it should be easy to understand why ‘just hang on until birth and put the baby for adoption’ is not the answer to the problems of finances, bad timing and other reasons – because this ‘solution’ forces the women to take a health risk (that can sometimes be serious). And by that I prove that demanding continued pregnancy is an unreasonable infringement on women’s rights to their bodies. It is more than we demand of people who volunteer to possibly donate organs that may save lives of persons who would otherwise surely die. And we have no right to make such a demand.

        As for the rights of newborns, as I said, in principle newborns who have yet to develop those levels of awareness for which we consider people more worthy of consideration than dogs have not ‘earned’ the right to have their lives protected by the law. Their moral value is not in themselves but in what they mean to others. (Which is why I brought up the dog comparison – a stray dog may be killed with impunity, but not a dog that is someone’s pet.) For most infants there is someone who would stand in for them, and once they are not connected to one person’s body there is no harm in letting them live so that such a person can care for them. I wouldn’t mind systems that would support more creative ways for people who are willing to take part in caring for otherwise unwanted infants to have such a chance if it can be done without increasing the risk of placing infants in what would become abusive situations. If we could identify those infants that nobody (neither as individuals or part of a group) truly wants to raise perhaps euthanasia would be best – but only if we are not risking infants who are wanted (not necessarily by their biological parents).

    • Kate

      Abortion is not a crime. It is is a medical procedure.
      But please, do explain to us how well-acquainted you are with the “reality of abortion”.

      • Norm

        You could say the same thing to the Jews in Germany.That was legal then as well.Oh there has been 55million children in America so far very well acquainted with the “reality of abortion”.

      • Norm

        Ask the Jews if what they suffered was a crime,it wasnt under nazi law

      • Anonymouse

        @Norm: How absolutely disgusting of you to conflate nonsentient, non-formed embryos with actual living, sentient, suffering people. The Jews do not thank you for that. I guess it’s true that anti-choicers will stoop to the most degraded positions to lie their “point”.

      • phantomreader42

        Well, don’t be so hard on Norm, his cult has taught him that embryos are people, but women, children, and non-christians aren’t. So Norm doesn’t actually think of jews as ” living, sentient, suffering people”, any more than embryos, to him they’re just scoring tokens in the win-souls-and-spread-misery-for-jeebus game.

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

        Whoa, Norm, as a culturally and ethnically Jewish person who lost distant relatives in the Holocaust (my late grandfather remembered when the letters stopped coming), you can’t get much more offensive than that. There is no way you can equate genocide and abortion.

        Genocide: Trying to wipe out an entire cultural or ethnic group of people. Can include one or more of the following: mass murder, mass rape, and ethnic cleansing.
        Abortion: A woman removing a parasite from her body. Possibly life- or sanity-saving.

        Do you note the subtle differences between the actions?

    • Beutelratti

      The reality of (most) abortions: http://www.thisismyabortion.com/

      Now excuse me while I go bury my tampons because they might include a dead zygote. RIP.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        You show your ignorance of fetal development. No “zygote” could be aborted. By the time unborn human beings reaches the uterus they’re composed of many more than one cell. But if attempting to dehumanized I wonder why thisismyabortion doesn’t include images of children before they’re torn apart?

        http://visualembryo.com/

      • Beutelratti

        I’m in no way ignorant of fetal development. For many pro-life advocats a zygote is as much a person as a 1-year-old.
        Almost all abortions happen in the first trimester. Using medically necessary third trimester abortions to somehow make a medical procedure look like murder is not only morally wrong, it is actually sickening and indeed ignorant to the core.

      • Beutelratti

        And before I get called ignorant again: In no way does my last comment mean that I think first trimester abortions include the abortion of zygotes. I’m well aware that a 10-week-old foetus is further in its development than a zygote. Yet the only reason it is further developed is because it is feeding of a woman.

      • Beutelratti

        @JivinJ: I didn’t speak of implantation at all. Please have a look at my comments again. Maybe I simply let the stereotyping part of my brain take over and put you in the “Life begins at conception”-drawer. If you do not actually think that a zygote is a person, then I’m sorry for causing confusion.

        However, it still doesn’t make any sense to me how you keep on arguing about “cutting apart” a foetus. Selective abortion is illegal after 14 weeks where I live. In those 14 weeks it happens via suction. I don’t see how there is any cutting a foetus involved there. Please explain.
        I also wonder how you’d go about piecing a foetus that small back together.
        98% of all abortions here happen within the first trimester. The remaining 2% are indeed medically induced.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Beutelratti,
        Where do you live? Because the stats you are using certainly aren’t from the U.S. (and likely not from anywhere else) as far as I can tell.

        Your evidence that 98% of abortions are performed in the first trimester? And that all the other 2% are medically induced? The Guttmacher Institute notes that 9 in 10 U.S. abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks, approximately 90%, not 98%.

        http://www.guttmacher.org/media/presskits/abortion-US/statsandfacts.html

        I also strongly doubt that all abortions performed after the 1st trimester are medically induced. Medical induction isn’t really a popular abortion method (especially in the early second trimester). From my understanding, the most popular 2nd trimester abortion method in the U.S. is D and E in which the child is removed from the womb, piece by piece.

        http://www.ucsfhealth.org/treatments/surgical_abortion_second_trimester/index.html

    • Custador

      I’ve scrubbed-in for a couple of medical terminations of pregnancy. I’ve nursed women before, during and after the procedure. And I can tell you with absolute certainty the the caricature painted by pro-forced-birthers bears absolutely no similarity whatsoever to the experiences I’ve had, nor more importantly to the thoughts and feelings my patients have shared with me. Frankly, if you feel guilty after having a termination, the fault lies with your scial circles for making it a guilt-worthy act.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        How far along were the abortions? Did you have to go through the remains and piece them back together to make sure the abortionists got all of child out? Or was that someone else’s responsibility?

      • Saraquill

        Is there any need to be this graphic JivinJ? From what I can tell, it helps no one and derails from the important things. No one gets an abortion for the fun of it.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        So then you don’t want to discuss the reality of abortion? Wasn’t that my original point? You assume that the horror of having to put back together the bodies of little human beings isn’t an important point. I disagree.

      • Rosa

        Why would they be put back together? As if that’s even possible.

        I do feel for the staff sometimes. After I was treated with methotrexate for ectopic pregnancy, for some reason the doctor said I should have a vacuum procedure as well, to check the contents of my uterus “just to make sure” (I found out later this is not at all typical, so I have literally no idea why the doc put me through this extra procedure -ideology, curiosity, idiocy, thoroughness?) Since I was likely about 5 weeks along, some poor lab tech had to comb through a bunch of blood & clots with a microscope looking for something “the size of the tip of a pen” (that’s from the Mayo clinic site). Poor lab tech, what a pointless and tedious job.

      • Beutelratti

        Putting them back together? What kind of abortion are you talking about? This is an honest question.

        Late term abortions here are under strong regulations (i.e. risk for the mother or a foetus that would not be viable). No foetus is getting cut apart inside the womb. The woman takes a pill that induces labour and eventually has a miscarriage. There is no cutting apart and piecing back together involved.

      • Nathaniel

        The result of autopsies can be gruesome too. Does this mean they are immoral?

      • Custador

        JivinJ, I have never even heard of that happening. Hell, most terminations don’t even require a procedure, just two tablets. And honestly, a uterus is not a big space – It’s pretty easy to be sure there’s nothing left in there, without having to root through a vacuum bottle for microscopic limbs. That’s the kind of nonsense that makes pro-forced-birth arguments so easily dismissed. You appeal to emotion as if that’s a valid argument. It’s just silly.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Beutelratti,
        If you not ignorant about fetal development, then why were you using the term “zygote” with regards to the chance that an unborn child didn’t implant?

        For abortion at certain gestation periods, abortion clinic staff have to go through the blood and remains of the child and identify the various pieces of the child to make sure there aren’t any parts of the child still left inside the mother. Incomplete abortion is a possible complication of abortion.

        I’m not sure where you’re from but I find it highly unlikely all the abortions in your area are medical (RU-486) abortions. Those type of abortions can be quite dangerous after a certain gestational period.

        Custador,
        Most abortions performed in the U.S. are surgical abortions. While RU-486 abortions have increased in percentage of abortions performed, they are nowhere near “the most.” If you think I’m wrong, please provide evidence to contrary.

      • Niemand

        Hey, Jivin. I once participated in a surgery in which tissue was removed from a uterus. This tissue included hair and teeth and, yes, the contents had to be carefully examined to make sure that nothing was left behind. Was it murder?

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Niemand,
        My guess is you’re referring to a hydatiform mole. If so, then no.

      • Niemand

        But why not, Jivin? It had unique human DNA, was formed from an egg and a sperm, and had more adult neural tissue than the average aborted embryo. (And the average abortion does occur in the embryonic phase.)

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Niemand,
        A hydatiform mole isn’t a living human being. If you can’t differentiate between something that is basically a cancerous growth and a developing human being then I’m not going to be much help.

      • phantomreader42

        By the criteria fetus-fetishists use to declare embryos and fetuses human beings, a cancerous growth also qualifies as a human being. A cancerous growth is of human origin, is alive, and has unique DNA, and when it’s convenient for them fetus-fetishists claim that these characteristics are what make a fetus a human being with the god-given right to parasitize its host regardless of her wishes or the threat to her life, health, and well-being. But, the instant those criteria become inconvenient, they abandon them, without admitting it, only to dust them off and use them again as soon as they think they can get away with it.

        A person with some interest in the truth would consider the possibility that this indicates a flaw in the criteria fetus-fetishists use to determine what is and is not a human being (or possibly that fetus-fetishists are actually using a different set of criteria and lying about it).

        But, of course, fetus-fetishists are not interested in the truth. They’re only interested in making life harder and more miserable for women.

      • piny

        It isn’t the reality of having an abortion: over half of all abortions take place around eight weeks, and the overwhelming majority before twelve, when there’s nothing to dismember. You’re being dishonest by discussing “cutting apart fetuses” as though it’s remotely normal–that procedure occurs only in a tiny minority of cases, and usually for reasons unrelated to the woman’s desire to continue the pregnancy. And when women do delay abortion, it’s not out of sadism.

        But dishonesty is all you could expect from an anti-choicer who asks what the abortion rate is IN THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND, as though the abortion rate WITHIN THE BORDERS OF THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND is a meaningful statistic at all. Not many abortions in my county, either–that doesn’t mean women in my county don’t get them. You’re a liar, and no one should trust what you say about abortion.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Phantom Reader,
        When did I assert that the only criteria for being a human being were being “alive” and having “unique DNA”? By that criteria (which is an obvious strawman) identical twins wouldn’t be people because they don’t have unique DNA. It would also seem to make my body parts (like hair or skin) as much a human being as I am.

        Maybe you should take some time to learn what prolifers actually believe before creating arguments for them.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Piny,
        What do you think happens to the unborn’s body in a suction curettage abortion? Is it not cut up? Does the body of a 8-week unborn child just magically disappear?

        Do you have evidence for your assertion that D and E abortions are “usually for reasons unrelated to the woman’s desire to continue the pregnancy”? Or are you just making stuff up and then claiming I’m being dishonest?

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Here’s a resource for the various individuals who don’t seem to understand the main abortion method used in the U.S. or understand why the clinic staff would examine the remains post-abortion.

        http://women.webmd.com/manual-and-vacuum-aspiration-for-abortion

        “The tissue removed from the uterus during a vacuum aspiration procedure is examined to make sure that all of the tissue has been removed and the abortion is complete.”

      • Anat

        JivinJ, why should it matter to me what happens to an embryo or fetus during abortion? What matters to me is what the woman wants, how she is affected one way or the other. (BTW I have training in developmental biology. During my graduate studies I worked with mouse embryos and have seen them in all kinds of states. If you are trying to gross me out you need to try harder.)

      • phantomreader42

        I’ve heard those criteria from your fellow fetus-fetishists many times, LyinJ. They regularly assert that an embryo, being alive and having human DNA, is a human being with a right to suck the life out of a living, breathing woman with no regard whatsoever for her wishes or well-being. When it’s pointed out that skin cells are also alive and have human DNA, they weasel around and add an extra qualifier, requiring DNA different from the host. But tumors meet those criteria too.

        If you have criteria for what constitutes a human being that include fetuses and embryos, but not sperm, eggs, skin cells, or tumors, (or the WOMEN whose rights and autonomy your cult is so eager to deny) then by all means SAY WHAT THE FUCK THEY ARE! It should be fun to watch you try to weasel out of them when someone tries to apply your standards in a way you find inconvenient.

      • phantomreader42

        And, even in the astonishingly unlikely event that LyinJ is capable of articulating a coherent, consistent set of criteria by which an embryo or fetus qualifies as a human being, it STILL wouldn’t make any real difference. Because human beings do not have the right to hijack the organs of other human beings without consent.

        I don’t believe the fetus-fetishist bullshit that an embryo is somehow magically a human being at the instant of conception, and I see no reason to take that delusion seriously, especially given the fetus-fetishists dismal failure at being honest or consistent about it. But when it gets right down to it, I don’t really give a flying fuck if a fetus is a person or a parasite or a magical unicorn. Because an actual, living, breathing WOMAN is UNAMBIGUOUSLY A PERSON WITH FULL HUMAN RIGHTS! If a woman is not a person, then the term has no meaning or relevance. And as a person, she has the right to decide who uses her organs, and whether or not she wants to spend nine months risking her life and health for a parasite. That is HER decision, not something a pack of delusional old men and their imaginary god get to choose for her. There is no way for the fetus-fetishists to get their way other than erasing the rights of the WOMAN. And no, they don’t get to do that.

        BTW, any fetus-fetishists who think human beings have the right to hijack the organs of other human beings without consent, please feel free to post your location and blood type. I know some people who could use a kidney. :P

    • Anonymouse

      You mean the reality that women have a legal and safe option to not have to risk their health and their very life?

  • anon

    Why doesn’t anyone suggest an even better solution to the “problem” of unwanted pregnancies? Sure, go ahead and ban abortion, but then if a woman somehow does have sex outside marriage (because in this paradigm all babies in marriage are wanted and healthy, of course) and she has an illegal abortion, then the guy who got her pregnant has to get sterilized. The old fashioned way, since we’re doing abortions the old fashioned way, now. This sort of harsh punishment works great for keeping people from going against primal impulses – worked well in the Middle Ages! I mean, threatening to chop hands off for stealing a piece of bread made sure no one ever stole anything, right?

    • baal

      Point well taken that men need to be tied to the consequences of unwanted pregnancies. This is somewhat available via court paternity suit and demand for support. I’m assuming the rest of your point is hyperbole.

      • Niemand

        How about prosecuting men who sabotage birth control with assault and attempted murder? They are putting an unwilling person at high risk of death.

      • Christine

        Just because it’s considered sexual assault doesn’t mean it’s not assault.

      • Christine

        To clarify: Canada’s criminal code doesn’t have rape as a separate offense*, so of course it’s “just” sexual assault when a man sabotages b/c.

        *This isn’t necessarily as enlightened as it sounds, AFAIK it was due to the weight which is attached to the word “rape”, which affected reporting rates.

  • “Rebecca”

    I saw this quote on Facebook, don’t know the source: “No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

    I never understood the desperation that some women feel to not be pregnant until I actually started reading the stories of women who had gotten abortions. Some of them were in situations where they would rather have killed themselves than go through with the pregnancy. The Pro-Life movement needs a wake-up call, this is not something that can be fixed through legislation or giving pregnant women baby clothes.

    • Erika

      The quote is from Frederica Mathewes Green. She quotes herself in the introduction of her book, _Real Choices_ (a book that was interesting, but should have been so much better than it actually was). It was originally in an article, but I can’t find the name right now, and my copy of the book is at home.

      (For the interested, my review of _Real Choices_: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/473211276)

    • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

      Frederica Mathewes Green is prolife. Odd how you think the prolife movement needs to wake-up after quoting a prolife advocate.

      • Rosa

        You should read Erika’s review, it’s very thoughtful, encouraging yet critical and explains why she quotes Green and also thinks her work is misleading and has sampling and bias errors.

      • “Rebecca”

        Maybe they need to look at that quote more often and quit lying about women, then.

      • phantomreader42

        Rosa, Rebecca, don’t you know by now that telling the truth and reading for comprehension are mortal sins for a fetus-fetishist like JivinJ? He would sooner set himself on fire than learn what he’s talking about or stop lying.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Phantomreader,
        So I’m somehow in the wrong for pointing out that Rebecca had no clue she was using the quote of a prolifer to tell prolifers they need to wake up? Prolifers, or at least the ones I read and know, don’t really believe that women who are having abortions are doing so for fun, etc. That Rebecca seems to think prolifers believe this, leads me to believe she hasn’t really interacted that much with prolifers.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        “So I’m somehow in the wrong for pointing out that Rebecca had no clue she was using the quote of a prolifer to tell prolifers they need to wake up? ”

        They do need to wake up. They need to wake up to the fact that trying to ban abortion doesn’t address the underlying reasons for those abortions. Maybe they do know that no women really wants an abortion, I don’t know as I don’t spend a lot of time talking to them. But they–or at least the most vocal and active ones–sure as hell don’t ACT like they know this, because they do nothing to prevent those underlying issues that cause women to get abortions. Some of them even use the desperation women feel as a way of supplying babies for adoption.

        I don’t know if the woman who first said this quote is among the minority or majority of pro-lifers. I don’t really care when attempts to address the sentiment behind it are being blocked primarily by the same people who are against abortion in the first place.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Maybe they do know that no women really wants an abortion, I don’t know as I don’t spend a lot of time talking to them.

        (Hand hits head). It’s amazing how prejudicial pro-choice people can be. They continually espouse tolerance, etc. yet have a plethora of opinions about prolifers and what prolifers believe despite not talking to them and knowing basically next to nothing about them or what they believe or why they believe it.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        JivinJ, my primary concern is not what pro-lifers believe (although I am always willing to listen, at least until the point that I start getting a headache). It’s what they do. And what they do doesn’t line up very well with the idea that ‘a woman wants an abortion like an animal in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg’. I’m willing to believe that they do think that, but if that’s the case I want to see them act on that belief. Too few do.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        Too few do? And you would know that how? By all the time you say you don’t interact with them?

        Do you have any clue how many resources prolifers put into providing aid to women in unplanned pregnancies? My local pregnancy center sent out a request for donations of more diapers -size 5. My son is nearly 2 and wears size 4.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        By watching the laws that get promoted, passed, or blocked. By seeing the common ground that should exist between people trying to reduce abortion on both sides of the issue keep shrinking. The social safety net is constantly under attack–welfare is chipped away at, the healthcare system is a joke, and our parental leave policies are worse than any other developed nation. These are things that would make it easier for women to have and take care of children, and they’re shot down mostly by people who claim to want to stop abortion. Contraception, same thing. There should be common ground between the pro- and anti-abortion groups on this, and there isn’t. Private donations are great, but they’re not the systemic support that is needed to ensure that all women have access to the resources they require to freely choose in this area of life.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        So prolifers don’t act like they believe “a woman wants an abortion like an animal in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg” because some of them don’t agree with your political positions?

        What’s the “common-ground?” Because most of the time I hear pro-choicers talk about “common-ground” they mean things they want.

        Planned Parenthood gets 1/2 a billion dollars a year from the government. How is it the fault of prolifers (who spend their time and effort helping women in unplanned pregnancies) that women don’t use contraceptives regularly?

        Welfare is chipped away at? Where have you been? In the last four years, the number of people on welfare has grown dramatically. Around 1/6 of the country’s families are on food stamps.

      • Nea

        The government pays for Planned Parenthood to provide well woman care, birth control, and yes, even prenatal services for poor women, as you well know J-J. So your next slut-shaming sentence doesn’t follow at all from your anti Planned Parenthood assertion.

        Of course, none of that matters to pro-lifers, does it? I’ve watched the “pro-life” people scream at, harass, follow, photograph, and try to body-block many a woman from going into Planned Parenthood. Ones who are there for mammograms. Ones who are there for pap smears. And ones who are so very obviously pregnant that they are equally obviously there for pre-natal care, not abortions.

        And that harassment IS the fault of pro-lifers, every single bit of it. Every lie, every shout, every pamphlet.

        D0n’t whine to me about pro-choicers wanting it all our way. I put on an orange vest and deal with what happens when you lot don’t get it all your way all the time.

      • http://jivinjehoshaphat.blogspot.com JivinJ

        It’s “slut-shaming” to point out that one of the leading causes of unintended pregnancy is using contraceptives irregularly? My point was that Planned Parenthood get boatloads of money from the government to help prevent unintended pregnancies. I don’t understand how prolifers (who don’t get millions upon millions) from the government are supposedly at fault.

        And ones who are so very obviously pregnant that they are equally obviously there for pre-natal care, not abortions.

        And you know this for a fact? I’ve seen women who are visibly pregnant enter an abortion clinic (which doesn’t provide prenatal care) for an abortion. Many Planned Parenthoods provide late second trimester abortions.

        I’m struggling to see how prolifers protesting outside a clinic (some of them probably offering to help the woman if she doesn’t have an abortion) means that prolifers don’t understand that a woman “wants an abortion like an animal in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

  • Aimee

    See how well banning abortion works in South Korea (hint: it does not)

  • pagansister

    Banning abortions again would be as effective as Prohibition was in the US.

  • luckyducky

    I remember the first of my “aha” moments. I was reading a historical novel — not a particularly good or well known one because I can’t remember what it is it — it was definitely pre-modern and the main character was a teen bride in an arranged married to a much older man. Her aunt pulled her aside and gave her some plant to insert in her vagina to prevent pregnancy and then also explained what plants to use if she ended up pregnant despite that. It was a light bulb because it has never occurred to me — at a pretty tender age, I think very early teens — that birth control and abortion were anything other than a modern phenomena.

    I only now appreciate what an agenda that novel had regarding women controlling their fertility as a means of claiming and protecting their independence.

    • pagansister

      Your story points out what many “pro-life” better known to me as “anti-abortion” or “anti-choice” folks don’t want to admit. They would have one believe that abortions were very rare before Roe V Wade. They have been happening since time began.

      • Skjaere

        Agreed. There’s a big difference between something being rare and something being a taboo that no one speaks about in public or above a whisper.

      • sara maimon

        I think they were much rarer then because natural abortificants are less effective and more dangerous.
        One could say the same about any medical procedure though.

    • saraquill

      Was it “Shabanu” by Susanne Fisher Staples? If not, that scene in your book is really similar to the one in there.

    • Rosa

      You might like this book – “Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance” by John Riddle. I found it really mindblowing. He has another book about how so much of this knowledge was lost, but it kind of begs the question of whether/how well pre-modern contraceptives worked – Contraception & Abortion just documents that people used and wrote about them.

    • luckyducky

      saraquill, it could be, I am not sure. The amazon cover didn’t look familiar but that doesn’t mean much as updating the cover art sometime in the last 15-20 years would not have been out of the question. I thought it was pre-modern though and “Shabanu” is about modern day Pakistan although a traditional community.

      Rosa, I will have to look into it. I don’t remember where I heard it but I somewhere someone that the Romans “f*cked [a certain plant with contraceptive properties indigenous to the Mediterranean area] into extinction.” Of course, pointing out the Romans knew and quite frequently used a contraceptive plant doesn’t do much for convincing the anti-choice crowd of any of the merits.

      • luckyducky

        Wow, I am pretty bad about typos in general… but that was bad. I will try again:

        *I don’t remember where I heard it, but somewhere someone said

      • Christine

        I have heard from multiple sources that the Romans used silphium into extinction. I don’t bother remembering where I heard it anymore, because I’ve heard it from enough places to just assume it’s commonly known.

      • luckyducky

        Thanks, I couldn’t come up with the name! Nah, it wasn’t that I hadn’t come across the information more than once. It was the particular bluntness with which is was delivered. However, you’d think that is it notable enough that they used it to the point of extinction would make it and the historic use of birth control and abortifacients a little more common knowledge than they are.

        Also, it does shed further light on the fall of the Roman empire. I mean, if they over use *this* plant and failed to develop reliable, sustainable cultivation… no wonder.

      • Rosa

        Yeah, Riddle has a lot to say about silphium.

        One of the problems with the historical record is we mostly know about ancient birth control methods from the writing of pro-natalists complaining about women not wanting to have enough babies because they’re bad, unwomenly, lazy women. Patriarchy hasn’t changed that much since the Roman Republic, to judge by the whining.

      • Christine

        luckyducky, I believe I have heard a twist of your comment that over-use of silphium sheds light on the fall of the Empire by those who say that contraception is a horrible thing. They just skipped the “too bloody short sighted to cultivate” part (I think it might have actually been difficult to cultivate, it wasn’t just the “shame” aspect).

      • luckyducky

        Ahh, I wouldn’t characterize it as “shame” or “too bloody short sighted” but another instance of them running up against an outer limit of their technological and/or organizational capacity — capacity that determined the upper limit of the size/complexity/longevity of the society. Not to be deterministic, but advances in technology and organization allow for larger, more durable communities (though the Roman Empire is nothing to sniff at by any means). A slightly more value neutral interpretation.

        Isn’t always the moral failing of women that is the root of all problems? Really, it as if only women are interested in managing reproduction… And the Romans, they are a very convenient hedonistic cautionary tale… so Roman women, whew.

      • Christine

        Oh, my apologies luckyducky, I read yours as a critique of them not valuing it enough. I completely agree with your evaluation of why it would be bad. They did have a lot of impressive technology, but it’s important to remember that a lot of what they did they did with brute force instead of how we would do it now – slave labour makes a lot of big impressive projects feasible.

        And come to think of it, I don’t know if there was actually any shame associated with using silphium .

      • Rosa

        @Christine – next time you hear people say the empire fell because of contraception, remind them that they also practiced quite a bit of infanticide, and it was legal. The issue Roman moralists had with contraception was that it was (they claimed) practiced by women, unlike the proper judge of an infant’s worth by a paterfamilias.

      • Anat

        The Romans collapsed because their economy was unsustainable. It was based on conquering other countries and using taxes raised there to fund the army in order to conquer more countries. At some point they ran out of countries worth conquering that they could conquer – they had a choice between the areas of northern and northeastern Europe that were conquerable but poor or Persia which was rich but too strong. Additionally their agricultural methods were unsustainable – the land was becoming eroded and less productive. The decreased agricultural output forced them to reduce the population one way or another, resulting in fewer soldiers. So a declining spiral became inevitable. Reduced population was one intermediate factor in the decline of Rome, it wasn’t an independent cause all on its own.

        See Peak Civilization

      • Christine

        @Rosa – I’m not sure I want to link contraception & infanticide like that, especially not to the people who argue that contraception is part of what brought down the Roman empire.

        @Anat – The other reason that the economy was unstable is that their culture considered showy displays of wealth good (large parts of their infrastructure was based on this idea), so the input of slavery had to be higher than it did in other cultures.

  • jose

    “the consequences of not obtaining an abortion are life-altering in a way the consequences of not committing murder or burglary are not.”

    Please, everybody on the internet who has ever said: “well you can just have it and give it up for adoption”, like a child is a pair of old boots… pay attention.

    • Anon

      Another part of why that is wrong is that the ‘have it and give it up’ crowd seem to forget the nine months or so you have to spend incubating this apparently unwanted child. The unasked for and unwanted changes that women’s bodies go through while pregnant.

      And even in the modern world, actually giving birth is neither a pleasant nor entirely safe activity whether you do so naturally or via caesarean.

    • Niemand

      To the “pro-lifer”, babies are commodities. They want fewer abortions because they want to make sure that they have their pick of healthy, white babies to buy. One “pro-lifer” on a thread on Cross Examined admitted that he thought it a tragedy that straight people had to go to other countries to adopt.

      • Gail

        I think this is so true. While I was home for Christmas, my grandmother (a Southern Baptist pro-lifer) was lamenting about the ban on adoption from Russia “because it is one of the only places you can go to get white babies anymore.” I was speechless.

      • Alypius

        It’s really not fair to paint a whole group of people with such a broad brush…. I can think of several examples (in just my small circle of aquaintances) where families that are fervently pro-life have adopted several children of varying races. Each one of those children is loved for their own sake, and none are a commodity.

      • Anonymouse

        @Niemand “To the “pro-lifer”, babies are commodities. ” Absolutely. Where I live, the “crisis pregnancy centers” are also adoption agencies. They make their money by convincing poor white teen girls to give up their babies to the CPCs, so they can sell them to white families.

  • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

    In “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and “Gone With The Wind” (both written decades before Roe v. Wade), abortions are hinted at. Scarlett considers an abortion when she’s pregnant with Bonnie, and Rhett refuses because he saw a prostitute die from an abortion. And Katie’s midwife offered her an abortifacient when she was pregnant with Neeley.

  • http://fidesquaerens.org/ Marta L.

    It absolutely boggles my mind that such a large group of people believe two facts:

    (1) If we make abortions illegal, those abortions will not happen.
    (2) If we make guns illegal, then gun sales and gun ownership will stall happen, just among criminals.

    I’m not arguing that either of these situations would be good or bad. But if you think making abortions illegal would wipe them all out but making guns illegal wouldn’t do the same for gun ownership, well… you’ve got some ‘splaining to do. (Said in my best Ricky Ricardo voice.)

    • ako

      And, of course, reality is that neither abortions nor gun violence can be completely wiped out by banning them. However, countries with more restrictive gun laws tend, for the most part, to have lower rates of gun violence*, while countries with more restrictions on abortion, tend, for the most part, to have higher abortion rates**, so from a pragmatic view, the situations are very different.

      *http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/homicide.html

      **http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html
      (I’m not sure how to make good links.

      • Rosie

        I think that may be because, while you can’t exactly build an assault weapon in your garage, any woman with a bit of knowledge and determination (or the internet) can attempt a home abortion.

        And the consequences of failing to build a functioning assault rifle are (in the vast majority of cases) significantly better than the consequences of failing to fully or properly terminate a pregnancy.

    • Niemand

      I’d be extremely pleased if guns were regulated as heavily as access to abortions in the US.

  • Kate

    sara maimon: I acknowledge that abortion can be an extremely difficult and sad decision for some people. I don’t want to minimize your experience or the experiences of other people who feel grief following an abortion, and neither do the majority of other pro-choicers I know (of).

    I think the reason we regularly bring up the relief many people feel afterwards, as well as websites like I’m Not Sorry, is to counteract the notion that abortion is /always/ a devastating, life-altering decision for /everybody/; a notion that prevails even outside of anti-choice circles and their insistence that “post-abortion traumatic disorder” is a legitimate condition. The point isn’t to erase those who have negative experiences (though I understand how it can come across that way), but to help eliminate the stigma that hovers over basically every mention of abortion ever.

    • Christine

      The problem is that you can’t counter people only giving half the facts by only giving half the facts, and then claim that you’re giving the full story. It might make for a good argument, but it won’t help convince people that you’re more in touch with reality. I know a lot of people who are moderately pro-life (i.e. they’re opposed to abortion, but think that the pro-life movement is a bunch of crazies who are out of touch) who insist that they couldn’t be pro-choice, because the pro-choice arguments are crazy extreme too.

      What it comes down to is who the narrative is designed to reach: Do you want to talk to people who don’t think about stuff, and just believe what they’re told (the ones who just need to hear that it’s not something that you regret painfully every day for the rest of your life, and who are most likely to fall for “see, even pro-choicers admit that it’s horrible”), or the people who look at things a little more analytically (the ones who will go “well both sides are telling only half the story, so I’m sticking with mine)?

  • Anonymouse

    @Christine: what pro-choice arguments are crazy and extreme? The one that women should have control over what happens to their own bodies? The one that women should have access to contraception and education in its use? The one that health decisions should be handled between the women and their doctors, not women and a bunch of screaming, violent misogynists? Please let me know which of these arguments you find crazy and extreme.

    • Alypius

      How about the “Abortion kills a human being, and I’m ok with that” argument:
      http://www.salon.com/2013/01/23/so_what_if_abortion_ends_life/

      • Anat

        What about it? We do not require people to give others the use of their bodies against the body-owner’s will. We let people die rather than force other people to make live-donations (blood, one marrow, kidney) to them. Why treat a fetus better than we treat a child with leukemia? Why treat a pregnant woman worse than we’d treat the same woman a few years later if her child needed a transplant and she were a matching potential donor, but refusing to actually donate?

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        We don’t even require people to make dead donations. They’re literally treating woman with less respect than they would give a dead body.

      • phantomreader42

        So, Alypius, do you believe that a “human being” (which an embryo or fetus isn’t really) should be allowed to forcibly hijack the organs of another human being for its own use, against the will of the owner of said organs, in a way that subjects said owner to great pain and life-threatening risk?

        And while you’re thinking about that question, here’s another: What’s your blood type? I know a couple of people who could use a kidney.

    • Christine

      Anonymouse, you’re nit picking about my wording again. Please read the full comment, and notice the context I give of ignoring half the story.

      • phantomreader42

        Claiming that “the pro-choice arguments are crazy extreme too”, without providing evidence or examples in support of that claim, is not giving the full story.

        Claiming that “both sides” use “crazy extreme” arguments, without addressing which arguments you’re talking about and the differences between them, isn’t even telling half of the story, it’s false equivalence at best and usually outright lying.

      • Christine

        Sorry, I glossed over lacks in my original post.

        The argument I was making (and yes, I was using rhetorical devices to do so) was that a lot of people are anti-abortion without really liking the pro-life movement, because of the fact that the pro-life movement is known to lie and twist the facts. If *they* are the people that a pro-life narrative is aimed at, it has to acknowledge the less pleasant aspects of abortion. Yes, a lot of people find it very stressful and unpleasant. Better doesn’t mean good. If that is acknowledged in a given pro-choice narrative, that narrative will reach the people who say “both sides lie, therefore both sides are extremists, therefore my side being an extremist doesn’t bother me as much as it would otherwise.”

        The current narrative is more effective at reaching the people who believe whatever they’re told. And yes, I know that they’re in the majority. And that’s why, as Kate mentioned, the pro-choice narrative focuses on just telling the side that doesn’t get told by the pro-life movement. I was just trying to illustrate the side effects of that that I have observed.

      • Anonymouse

        Yeah, that part wasn’t clear. It sounded as if you were saying that the pro-choicers tell crazy, outrageous lies…and in four decades as a pro-choicer, I’ve never heard any of them. That’s why I was asking you to be specific about what extreme, crazy lies you have heard.

  • Barbure

    “Just like the hypothetical woman with a newborn who wants to kill the child for autonomy reasons.”

    I think I can offer a perspective on this from a law enforcement standpoint. That woman (or man) isn’t hypothetical. What do you think SIDS really is? What do you think the rash of “forgetting” a child in a hot car really is? What we in law enforcement know, after all the knowledge gained in investigating far too many of these cases, is that many, if not most, of these cases ARE post-natal abortions. And we can’t really tell the truth about these deaths because no one wants to believe that parents can actually kill their children. We have to carefully skirt around the issue, be very circumspect in the way we interview families because ‘they’ve suffered enough.” It can be incredibly difficult to find direct evidence and somewhat less difficult to collect circumstantial evidence. But, ultimately, there really is no “smoking gun,” and we do get pressure to wrap it up quickly and let the grieving parents move on.

    Now, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that a couple of these cases I’ve investigated were NOT accidents. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Casey Anthony, Andrea Yates, and Susan Smith are the high profile stories that ended up far above the radar, and people were shocked that a mother could cold bloodedly kill her children. Infanticide happens far more frequently and quietly than anyone could imagine.
    People Do. Not. Want. to believe it, to face it, to put a mirror up to society and see all the banal, ugly things, especially the kind of things that go against everything we’re taught about nurturing and motherhood.

    I believe that a lot of these people simply were not equipped to parent, that they were overwhelmed by the work it takes to raise a child, that family life didn’t quite turn out to be the super fulfilling experience that they expected. So, here we are, with killers getting away with murder and they can’t be touched by the law because society has decreed that, for the most part, parents can’t really be guilty of that kind of crime. There are a lot of parents out there, just going along with life like nothing happened, and all I want to do is slap some cuffs on, throw them in a dark cell, and throw away the key

    • Anat

      The parent who wants to kill their newborn is a red herring for the question of abortion. A newborn does not infringe on the bodily autonomy of their parent(s). A fetus or embryo does infringe on the bodily autonomy of the woman carrying it. If there really are parents who deliberately kill their newborns then we need a better way to identify such people early, preferably before there is a child. People who are either too depressed or otherwise not mentally or emotionally equipped to care for a child shouldn’t become (or remain) in such responsibility until their mental state improves long-term. Abortion for maternal mental health is acceptable in many countries that restrict later stage abortion precisely for this reason. And we need a better system to remove infants from parents who can’t care for them – but we also need to avoid the paternalism driven by racism and other forms of bigotry that broke (and still break) families unjustly.

      However, as far as I know there is evidence that SIDS is caused by medical/physiological factors. Simply placing infants on their backs or sides caused a sharp drop. And I can believe that sleep-deprived parents will forget babies anywhere.

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  • Anat

    Dr Jen Gunter wrote about

    When abortion was illegal in Canada. Upon the death of Henry Morgentaler, a doctor who performed safe, albeit illegal, abortions, was tried and acquitted 3 times. In the end the Quebec government decided to not prosecute in such cases – as long as the procedures were safe.


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