Say anything to take us out of this gloom

Here’s Amanda Marcotte on “Why the Iowa Caucus Is About Abortion“:

If the Iowa caucus was regarded in the light it deserves — as a reflection of what Christian right extremists are thinking right now, instead of as a predictor of larger trends — it could be incredibly useful. It would be nice, for instance, if the nation at large was aware of how Christian conservatives are voting not because of reality or even realistic-sounding misinformation, but because they believe stories that are too fantastical on their surface to be true.

She’s talking about things like Ron Paul’s claim “that he saw doctors throwing a live baby away to let it die.”

I do not believe that story. I do not believe that story because I’ve heard this story many, many times before.

I’ve heard hundreds of variations of this story over the years from hucksters like Mike Warnke and Bob Larson. Sometimes renditions of that story include additional, fantastically lurid details — black robes, pentagrams, jeweled daggers, etc. But they never include the kinds of details that would make such stories believable — names or places that could be confirmed, or any other such evidence.

David Weigel reports that Paul was caught flat-footed when asked for such details — not by a skeptical journalist, but by religious right radio host Jan Mickelson, who sought those additional details because this was the kind of story his listeners love. He wasn’t trying to confirm the story, merely to savor it. And so Mickelson asked Paul why he didn’t try to rescue that baby in the bucket.

Paul was briefly taken aback. “I would have had to have … I don’t know,” he said. “It was probably a fleeting, two minute thing. I walked in, took a peek, saw what was happening, because I was visiting there for an operating room. But I didn’t have the facilities! What could I have done?”

As Marcotte notes, “The more elaborate fantasy of the radio host inadvertently exposed the giant plot hole in Paul’s story-spinning.”

In a follow-up post, Marcotte theorizes that Mitt Romney’s inability to sell the standard urban legends of satanic baby-killers is part of his problem in appealing to the religious right voting bloc:

One reason that Romney bores the right and causes them to dislike him so strongly is that he’s not very good at spinning fantastical [BS]. … It’s hard to imagine Romney busting out a whopper about doctors throwing a live baby in a bucket and leaving it there to die. Romney is mealy-mouthed about global warming, claiming (falsely) that we don’t know what causes it, which conservatives feel is a bare minimum requirement. But it’s not exciting, like suggesting that there’s an international conspiracy to invent global warming that scientists perpetuate because they’re all secretly communists.

“It’s not exciting.” That’s the key. These fantasies have to be thrilling — a dramatic struggle of good vs. evil in which we can imagine ourselves to be the heroes.

Michele Bachmann understands this. She avoids Paul’s misstep of invoking the old urban legends and appeals directly to this need to perceive oneself as a hero in an epic struggle.

This is not a check the box thing for me; this is the core of my conviction, this is what I would literally die for. We have a moral obligation to defend other people and the reason for that is because each human being is made in the image and likeness of a holy God.

Some of the most eloquent words about life came to us from the Declaration of Independence and it says that God has given us our right to life and we know that the President Obama has a war on the family.

What we need to do to upend Roe v. Wade and end that horrible holocaust in the United States of life is to pass the Personhood Amendment.

See, it’s just like the Holocaust — an epic moral cause for which we must be willing to literally die.

And by “literally die,” of course, we mean that we’ll vote for Republicans every two years, or at least every four years, and maybe send the occasional check to an anti-abortion lobbying group or candidate. And that will make us bigger heroes than Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Lt. Aldo Raine combined.

  • Anonymous

    My opinion should take a backseat to that of those who are directly affected but I remain morally compelled to act.

    @DanAudy:disqus
    You know, I think that’s the best way of saying what you’re saying that I’ve seen. That doesn’t mean that I agree with you – I am not at all sure that I do – but you’ve certainly given me food for thought.

  • Dan Audy

    Here is my take on the ‘pro-forced pregnancy’ thing.  It stretches the idea too far and implies that in a Handmaiden’s Tale-esque fashion that women are being impregnated against their will in a systematic fashion.  Yes, some women are raped and impregnated against their will but as a social tragedy not as part of any action being taken on the ‘pro-forced pregnancy’ groups part.  The vast majority of women become pregnant as a result of having sex because they didn’t use contraception, contraception failed, or because they were actively trying to get pregnant.  Nobody forced the pregnancy on them and as such the proper term is ‘anti-choice’ since that is what these groups are attempting to deny them.

    I think it is important to describe things with accurate terms both so as to not be portrayed as raving lunatics but also because it helps keep the focus on what is real and important.  There are a few anti-abortion groups that genuinely deserve the term ‘pro-life’ because they oppose the death penalty, support universal healthcare, promote pre-natal care and adoption, and also oppose abortion – all beliefs consistent with the pro-life term.  Most people opposed to abortion however only care about denying women agency over their own lives and bodies and thus merit the term ‘anti-choice’.

  • FangsFirst

    Didn’t take it as an actual *attack* anyway (and on whatever level I did, it’s more my own insecurities than your actions, mis-speaking or otherwise). I thought (and think) the concept behind that and your follow-up IS relevant. After all, if men are the only ones able to legislate–in the US and most countries this is, of course, still the case–then “I refuse to act,” doesn’t do much of anything at all, considering we’re the only ones (well, not you and I, unless you’re secretly a legislator, lord knows I’m not…) who can actually write/enact policy with a handful of exceptions.

    And I, too, learned the dangers of thinking I had a grasp on things and speaking “cleverly”: The story I relayed above about a brave person, well, my SGF¹ told me of it happening in a conversation about my newfound understanding of the idea of “forced pregnancy” as the cause to rail against. Throw in the fact that it was less than a year after she’d gotten that news, that she was raised to believe that the value of women in relationships was their ability to bear children, and that she was telling this to the man she’d decided was “actually willing” to be with her…well. There are no words for what I think of that kind of bravery and integrity. The whole issue was raw as a whole, but also became impossible for her to avoid when she saw me, both because it led to the fear I’d be walking out for someone “more biologically viable” and because of the pain of seeing the person she’d started imagining children with.

    She even said that if it had ever come to her or a child in a troubled pregnancy, she wouldn’t blame me for choosing her if the choice was left to me. But that she’d never do it herself.

    I have no earthly idea where she gets all of who she is. Never known a
    better person in my life. Nor more heart-breakingly self-loathing. Yet,
    filled with that kind of strength of will and presence of mind, to fight
    through all of that pain and not just lash out at people for doing
    something to stop what she wanted more than anything.

    ¹Yeah, “someone I know” almost always means her.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, some women are raped and impregnated against their will but as a social tragedy not as part of any action being taken on the ‘pro-forced pregnancy’ groups part.  The vast majority of women become pregnant as a result of having sex because they didn’t use contraception, contraception failed, or because they were actively trying to get pregnant.  Nobody forced the pregnancy on them….

    Er, literally, no. That’s why I don’t use “forced pregnancy”. I use “forced birthers”, because that’s a far better description.

    There are a few anti-abortion groups that genuinely deserve the term ‘pro-life’ because they oppose the death penalty, support universal healthcare, promote pre-natal care and adoption, and also oppose abortion – all beliefs consistent with the pro-life term.

    I’ll keep saying it until I’m blue in the face: I don’t care if you think an embryo is a person. Banning abortion results in dead women. Always has, always will. That means that if you’re in favor of banning abortion, you are, by definition, not pro-life.

    There’s also another crucial aspect of the whole attempt to eliminate abortion, and that’s the need for birth control. Planned Parenthood has probably prevented more abortions than every single ‘anti-abortion’ group in the country combined.

  • Anonymous

    I figured out what I don’t like about the argument that even with no horse in the metaphorical race, one has to say something about it.

    I am going to ignore entirely, here, the potential for a person to place their foot in their mouth and wiggle their toes through sheer ignorance of the full situation. I shouldn’t ignore that and neither should you, but that is only part of my objection. The impossibility of being sufficiently informed on all existing issues is also part of this – nobody I know is capable of that, through lack of time alone. That’s also important.

    The implications of “one must speak on everything,” taken to a larger level, is that each individual – in order to be moral – must have a stance on literally every issue and must speak to it when given a platform to do so, and that I simply cannot countenance. I do not have that level of energy, nor that much compassion to burn. Kudos to you if you do, but I can’t imagine that lasting for long on anyone I know.

    Also, the term I prefer for what you are terming “anti-choice” is “forced birth,” for all the reasons LMM22 states. Forced birth, not forced pregnancy – as in, that person became pregnant through whatever circumstance, and the people with the conviction that nobody may ever have abortions are, quite literally, wanting to force that person to give birth, generally regardless of circumstance (see here: the last several incarnations of the “personhood” amendment in my state, which have all barred health/rape/incest exemptions). That is, as others have pointed out with more grace and eloquence than I, an inherently violent ideology, stating that one person must go through an exhausting, potentially life-threatening process for the sake of some other person’s morals.

  • Hawker40

    Catch-22.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Here is my take on the ‘pro-forced pregnancy’ thing.

    Please don’t misquote. The term is not “pro-forced pregnancy”, it’s forced pregnancy. Language matters. By adding a “pro”, you’re changing the meaning. Look up “equivocation” as to why that’s a bad thing.

    Nobody forced the pregnancy on them

    Since the ability to separate “becoming pregnant” (unprotected sex or contraception fail) with “remaining pregnant” (voluntary abortion) is at the heart of the issue, it’s a bit disingenuous to focus only on one and not the other, now isn’t it?

    For many pregnant women, no one forced them to become pregnant, but the position is that if abortion were illegal, they would be forced to remain pregnant, even against their will, for a total of around 9 months, even though the overwhelming majority of abortions occur within the first 3. That’s “forced” part of “forced pregnancy”: not the “becoming”, but the “remaining”. To invoke “The Handmaid’s Tale” is moving the goalposts. While you’re reading up on why “equivocation” is bad, you should also look up “shifting the goalposts”. Then come back and argue in good faith.

    The vast majority of women become pregnant as a result of having sex
    because they didn’t use contraception, contraception failed, or because
    they were actively trying to get pregnant.

    You’re looking through the wrong end of the telescope, and pronouncing that the night sky is tiny.

    The vast majority of women aren’t pregnant. The vast majority of women will, at one point or more in their lives, make use of contraception, meaning that the vast majority of women do not wish to become pregnant for the vast majority of their child-bearing years. I’m too lazy tonight to Google the statistics for lifetime use of contraception, but the numbers are a majority. Most women, for most of their child-bearing years, do no wish to be pregnant. If the state uses the power of the law to coerce women to remain pregnant against their will, that’s what we’d call forced pregnancy, meaning “to remain pregnant against one’s will”. Not difficult at all.

    Most people opposed to abortion however only care about denying women agency over their own lives and bodies

    …which, in plain language understandable to everyone, means that they want the State to have the power and authority to coerce women to carry every pregnancy to term, regardless of the woman’s desires. AKA “forced pregnancy”. 

    Most people opposed to abortion don’t just want to ban abortion, they want to ban birth control. They want every sexual encounter to carry the risk of unwanted pregnancy, and they want every pregnancy, wanted or unwanted, to be carried to term regardless of the will of the woman involved.

    Sorry, but I’m really, really tired of trying to argue in good faith with people that want to outlaw abortion and outlaw contraception and outlaw teaching comprehensive sex education in public schools in favor of slut-shaming and misinformation, because those aren’t good-faith positions!

  • Dan Audy

    You are being a raging internet asshole Chris.

    Yes, I included a pro that hadn’t been in the original comment – my mistake.  However it doesn’t change the meaning in any significant manner.

    Words mean things and just because you want them to mean other things doesn’t change their actual meaning.  I am not equivocating when I suggest terms should be precise but rather the opposite. 

    Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they are arguing in
    bad faith and claiming that it is in fact is what you accuse them of
    doing – the typical republican strategy of painting your opponent with
    your worst flaws.  If you had taken the time to excercise some reading comprehension instead of working yourself up into a frothing righteous indignation you would notice that we aren’t arguing over abortion (and certainly not in good faith given your post) but rather I was explaining why I think your term is misleading (or equivocating even) and suggesting better language to actually describe what people believe rather painting them as kitten-burners simply because it lets you feel superior.

  • Caretaker of Cats

    They’re not kitten-burners, they’re advocating that I must have a risk of state-enforced torture (and subsequent sepsis or protest suicide depending on whether someone’s taken away my sock needles) for having a fulfilling, healthy adult experience of an active sex life.  Calling santorum perfume won’t make it smell any better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deankchang Dean Chang

    I just happen to think that’s an extreme position is all.  It begs the question as to why infanticide within the first few hours of birth shouldn’t be legal?  I have heard the argument (a serious argument), that since infants aren’t self-aware, it shouldn’t matter if we kill them.  I think on some level if you take your position to it’s natural conclusion, you have to be ok with that as well, because you give no weight to viability at all.  Am I right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/deankchang Dean Chang

    There is a difference between abortion being a “public good” and the right to an abortion being a “public good”.  I really doubt the former will ever be a mainstream position, at least I hope not.  I actually think you have hit on something even more fundamental, it’s that people sometimes conflate the right to do something with the thing you are allowed to do.  This goes for drug legalization as well.  It’s something that bothers me about the pro-choice camp (even though I belong in this camp).  I think it’s an overreaction to pro-lifers who want to outlaw abortion under all circumstances (think Rick Perry).  I have a theory that movements respond to extreme counter positions by taking an even more extreme position on the other side. I don’t happen to think that’s the right way to go.  When people start talking about abortion being a good thing for a society I think you have bigger problems. 

  • Termudgeon

    The only extreme position that in any way counters the anti-abortion position is an anti-birth position. The idea that everyone must abort, regardless of her own wishes, is exactly as extreme as the idea that no one must abort, regardless of her wishes. Failing that position (and I know of no one who argues it), to suggest that the positions of pro and anti-choicers are equally extreme (or ludicrously, that a pro-choice position is somehow MORE extreme) is not just incorrect, but nonsensical.

    Unwanted pregnancy is not a public good, for the pregnant woman, for the child that would be born, or for society as a whole. Having a safe, legal, available, and stipgma-free way to end it is.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Are you saying women should not be permitted to circumcise their male infants because they don’t have penises ?  :)

    At the risk of setting off an entirely different flamewar, I’d say they shouldn’t be permitted to circumcise male infants because childhood genital mutilation is a BAD THING.

  • Anonymous

    It begs the
    question as to why infanticide within the first few hours of birth
    shouldn’t be legal?

    Before birth, ending the pregnancy requires either killing the fetus or using an invasive surgical procedure on the mother. After birth, ending the pregnancy requires–oh wait.

    Also, please quote what you’re replying to, as it makes the conversation easier to follow.

  • Anonymous

    I have a theory that movements respond to extreme counter positions by taking an even more extreme position on the other side.

    Um, *what* more extreme position? We’ve got Romney — the so-called ‘moderate’ — claiming that rape and incest victims should be forced to give birth to the child of their rapist just because some (IMHO, egotistical) woman insisted that her ‘life has meaning’ [1]. We’ve got Santorum saying that *contraception* should be banned. What’s the more extreme position that anyone could take?

    But that’s beside the point — that theory of yours isn’t born out by political reality. The range of American discourse has been moving steadily rightwards over the past five or so decades. We’re not going to reverse that move by being moderates — we’re going to reverse it by being militant. The forced birthers fired the first shot — if you want to talk about extreme views to the people who have them, you’re on the wrong website.

    When people start talking about abortion being a good thing for a society I think you have bigger problems.

    We have a planet filled with seven billion people with a sustainable carrying capacity of maybe one billion. We have an atmosphere which contains levels of carbon dioxide that haven’t been seen since in the human era — levels which are fast approaching those deemed to be potentially catastrophic for us and the planet. That carbon dioxide is being created because we’re highly dependent upon a fuel source that’s being depleted (we probably hit peak oil around ’05: it’s all downhill from here).

    Damn right we have bigger problems. And none of those have to do with fuzzy concerns about fetuses.

    Abortion is a good thing for society because — among other things — it means that there are going to be fewer people in the next generation. And that’s a good thing because the population can’t continue growing.

    [1] Rule of thumb: When someone does you a favor and you respond by thinking that that favor should be *mandatory*, you’re being an asshole. Last time I checked, we don’t even require mandatory organ donation by dead people — even though there’s nobody harmed in that situation and the lives of the people on the organ transplant lists have at least as much value as the fetuses women want to abort.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Indeed, I think it is fair to say that in the event that some technology were invented to remove fetuses intact and store them for implantation into a volunteer at some point in the future, and if such a procedure were equally available and no more invasive or dangerous than the currently available methods of abortion, comparatively few people would take issue with that becoming the only medically approved *method* of terminating a viable pregnancy.

    And we would all have flying cars and jet packs.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Are there any government sponsored research programs into trying to make pregnancies themselves more comfortable for women – i.e. researching better and more effective prenatal care methods? One thing I think some members of the pro-life movement don’t realize is that pregnancy isn’t magic. It’s not some transcendent state of being that all women should aspire to. If more people realized how pregnancy might be made easier, at least some of the pro-lifers might quit picketing abortion clinics and devote themselves to actually helping currently pregnant women.


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