The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal

In 1979, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal.

Sometime after that, it was decided that the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception.

Ask any American evangelical, today, what the Bible says about abortion and they will insist that this is what it says. (Many don’t actually believe this, but they know it is the only answer that won’t get them in trouble.) They’ll be a little fuzzy on where, exactly, the Bible says this, but they’ll insist that it does.

That’s new. If you had asked American evangelicals that same question the year I was born you would not have gotten the same answer.

That year, Christianity Today — edited by Harold Lindsell, champion of “inerrancy” and author of The Battle for the Bible — published a special issue devoted to the topics of contraception and abortion. That issue included many articles that today would get their authors, editors — probably even their readers — fired from almost any evangelical institution. For example, one article by a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary criticized the Roman Catholic position on abortion as unbiblical. Jonathan Dudley quotes from the article in his book Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics. Keep in mind that this is from a conservative evangelical seminary professor, writing in Billy Graham’s magazine for editor Harold Lindsell:

God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Christianity Today would not publish that article in 2012. They might not even let you write that in comments on their website. If you applied for a job in 2012 with Christianity Today or Dallas Theological Seminary and they found out that you had written something like that, ever, you would not be hired.

At some point between 1968 and 2012, the Bible began to say something different. That’s interesting.

Even more interesting is how thoroughly the record has been rewritten. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Click over to Dr. Norman L. Geisler’s website and you’ll find all the hallmarks of a respected figure in the evangelical establishment. You’ll see that Geisler has taught at Trinity Evangelical Seminary, Dallas Seminary and Southern Evangelical Seminary. You’ll see a promotion for his newest book, Defending Inerrancy, with recommendations from such evangelical stalwarts as Al Mohler and J.I. Packer, as well as a link to an online store offering some of the other dozens of books written by Geisler. And you’ll see a big promo for the anti-abortion movie October Baby, because Geisler is, of course, anti-abortion, just like Mohler and Packer and every other respected figure in the evangelical establishment is and, of course, must be.

But back in the day, Dudley notes, Geisler “argued for the permissibility of abortion in a 1971 book, stating ‘The embryo is not fully human — it is an undeveloped person.’” That was in Ethics: Alternatives and Issues, published by Zondervan. It’s still in print, kind of, as Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Options. And now it says something different. Now it’s unambiguously anti-abortion.

I don’t mean to pick on Geisler. He’s no different from Packer or Graham or any other leading evangelical figure who’s been around as long as those guys have. They all now believe that the Bible teaches that life begins at conception. They believe this absolutely, unambiguously, firmly, resolutely and loudly. That’s what they believed 10 years ago, and that’s what they believed 20 years ago.

But it wasn’t what they believed 30 years ago. Thirty years ago they all believed quite the opposite.

Again, that’s interesting.

I heartily recommend Dudley’s book for his discussion of this switch and the main figures who brought it about — Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, Richard Viguerie, etc. But here I just want to quote one section about the strangeness of this 180-degree turn, and how it caught many evangelicals off-guard:

By the mid-1980s, the evangelical right was so successful with this strategy that the popular evangelical community would no longer tolerate any alternative position. Hence, the outrage over a book titled Brave New People published by InterVarsity Press in 1984. In addition to discussing a number of new biotechnologies, including genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization, the author, an evangelical professor living in New Zealand, also devoted a chapter to abortion. His position was similar to that of most evangelicals 15 years prior. Although he did not believe the fetus was a full-fledged person from conception, he did believe that because it was a potential person, it should be treated with respect. Abortion was only permissible to protect the health and well-being of the mother, to preclude a severely deformed child, and in a few other hard cases, such as rape and incest.

Although this would have been an unremarkable book in 1970, the popular evangelical community was outraged. Evangelical magazines and popular leaders across the country decried the book and its author, and evangelicals picketed outside the publisher’s office and urged booksellers to boycott the publisher. One writer called it a “monstrous book.” … The popular response to the book — despite its endorsements from Carl F.H. Henry, the first editor of Christianity Today, and Lew Smedes, an evangelical professor of ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary — was so overwhelmingly hostile that the book became the first ever withdrawn by InterVarsity Press over the course of nearly half a century in business.

The book was republished a year later by Eerdmans Press. In a preface, the author noted, “The heresy of which I appear to be guilty is that I cannot state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation. This, it seems, is being made a basic affirmation of evangelicalism, from which there can be no deviation. … No longer is it sufficient to hold classic evangelical affirmations on the nature of biblical revelation, the person and work of Christ, or justification by faith alone. In order to be labeled an evangelical, it is now essential to hold a particular view of the status of the embryo and fetus.”

The poor folks at InterVarsity Press, Carl Henry, Lewis Smedes and everyone else who was surprised by the totality of this reversal, by its suddenness and the vehemence with which it came to be an “essential” and “basic affirmation of evangelicalism” quickly got on board with the new rules.

By the time of the 1988 elections, no one any longer spoke sarcastically of “the heresy” of failing to “state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation.” By that time, it was simply viewed as an actual heresy. By the time of the 1988 elections, no one was aghast that a strict anti-abortion position was viewed as of equal — or greater — importance than one’s views of biblical revelation or the work of Christ. That was just a given.

By the time of the 1988 elections, everyone in American evangelicalism was wholly opposed to legal abortion and everyone in American evangelicalism was pretending that this had always been the case.

We have always been at war with Eastasia. Everyone knows that.

 

  • Lori

     
    Does this mean it is wrong to have tamper resistant packaging for over-the-counter medications?  

     

    Actually, the costs of tamper resistant packaging outweigh the benefits so those laws can reasonably be considered wrong, at least for some values of “wrong”.

     
    Or we could look at how likely a person is to be shot in school by a deranged classmate. Also vanishingly small. Is it wrong to have procedures in place to respond if this does happen?  

    As a nation we’ve already decided that having a procedure in place to respond to school shootings is wrong if that response involves keeping people from exercising their 2nd Amendment right to own firearms. 

    IOW, these non-abortion examples don’t provide any more clear-cut support for your position than babies in trash cans did. 

    Setting aside the problem of getting worked up over the practical difference between “absolutely none” and “an incredibly small number”, there is no way to craft a law against the incredibly rare abortions that you’re inexplicably focused on that wouldn’t do more harm than good. I can’t even figure out what you want the law to do about these supposed late term abortions for “no good reason”. Do you want to provide a list of reasons that are acceptable to you and force women and their doctors to certify that they’re in compliance? Do you want to cut out the middleman and have them come straight to you for permission?

  • Lyra

    I feel like you didn’t read my posts.

    “You’re arguing that some women wait until the 8th month of pregnancy and then decide they want an abortion.”
    If women didn’t decide during the 8th month that they wanted an abortion for some reason, women wouldn’t have abortions in the 8th month. However, I think that misses the point of your question. Do I think that a woman sits down at month 2 and says, “I’ll wait until month 8 to have an abortion?” No. Do I think that some people have abortions in the 8th month for unacceptable reasons? Yes. Given that people seem to REALLY want a specific example, I’ll give one: sex selective abortions. The sex of the fetus is often determined late in pregnancy, and some individuals really, really don’t want a baby of a specific sex (usually female).

    “You’re claiming that they can get one in secret.”
    No. I am claiming that legal medical procedures can be done in secret, assuming that you don’t define “secret” so narrowly that it must be “not even one other person knows.” Which I think is a strange definition of secret. For example, let’s say that a man went in and got a vasectomy, but did not tell his wife or friends or coworkers. I think one could count this as a ‘secret.’ Perhaps you do not.

    “You’re claiming that this happens often enough to be a problem.”
    Do you think enough people died from the Chicago Tylenol murders for it to be a problem?

    “They both want to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us, to avoid having their consciences offended.”
    Ah, this is an interesting one. Tell me, what are my religious beliefs?

  • http://thetalkingllama.wordpress.com/ SketchesbyBoze

    The next verse actually makes it clear that He knew perfectly well where Abel was.

  • Lyra

     Alright then. You say that there is no way to limit third trimester abortions in a way that doesn’t do more harm than good. Are you saying that all our current laws regarding third trimester abortions do more harm than good?

  • FangsFirst

     Or building. Digging. Carving. Chopping things down. Massacring millions of germs by breathing…

    damn, can’t find the relevant Bloom County.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BVI6EALGH7XM2R7PGBQ2OG4MDU tom

    That IS vry interesting.  But perhaps not surprising.  Allow me to lay out some thoughts for anyone’s comment/consideration. 

    I wonder if the apparent “180 degree turn” is, in fact, a response to a similar 180 degree turn from without the Church.  Go back to the early 1960s, when I was in high school, and before and, in this country, at least, I think there was pretty uniform social mores and agreement, regardless of religious persuasion or participation, that abortion was wrong.  It happened, of course, but only to bad girls who lived without sexual standards and who were so utterly lost that they opted for an abortion rather than going to live with their aunt in another city for a year or so.

    But something happened.  The sexual revolution.  The Pill.  And, all too often, sex without the Pill.  So, if the libertines wanted to further their revolution they needed to get rid of those “old, tired morals.”  So, in a sudden, 180 degree turn, liberals began a staunch assault on sexual morals, as well as other associated license.  The assault prompted a response: What do we think about this?

    A response of this sort is not the least bit surprising, when you think about it.  An unexamined, assumed social good was under attack.  Since it was hitherto unexamined due to its general assumption, whether and how to respond required an examination.  I was too young to have been a part of those discussions, and the lack of an internet in those days would have precluded it.  but it is easy for me to imagine conservative christian scholars needing to go no further than a word study on the word “womb” to discover that the Biblical writers understood God to be involved in our lives from before birth.  Psalm 139:13-14, is merely the most familiar of 63 references.

    If God is clearly involved with us on a personal level in the womb, who is wise enough to draw the line before which God has no concern for us?  And so, conception is the logical place to start.  And thus, the “battle is joined” and the lines are drawn.  But drawn in response to a challenge both to society and to the Church as the earthly defender of God’s purposes in society.

    If this seems like too generous an interpretation of history, it is one that at least some others find credible in a more general sense.  James Taranto, no churchman he, writing in the WSJ on economist, Jeffrey Bell’s forthcoming book, “The Case for Polarized Politics,” makes this comment:
    In Mr. Bell’s telling, social conservatism is both relatively new and uniquely American, and it is a response to aggression, not an initiation of it. The left has had “its center of gravity in social issues” since the French Revolution, he says. “Yes, the left at that time, with people like Robespierre, was interested in overthrowing the monarchy and the French aristocracy. But they were even more vehemently in favor of bringing down institutions like the family and organized religion. In that regard, the left has never changed. . . . I think we’ve had a good illustration of it in the last month or so.”
    He means the ObamaCare mandate that religious institutions must provide employee insurance for contraceptive services, including abortifacient drugs and sterilization procedures, even if doing so would violate their moral teachings. “You would think that once the economy started looking a little better, Obama would want to take a bow . . . but instead all of a sudden you have this contraception flap. From what I can find out about it, it wasn’t a miscalculation. They knew that the Catholic Church and other believers were going to push back against this thing. . . . They were determined to push it through, because it’s their irreplaceable ideological core. . . . The left keeps putting these issues into the mix, and they do it very deliberately, and I think they do it as a matter of principle.”

    The wloe article is very good and available at: http://tinyurl.com/7zhq4so

    I suggest that Mr. bell is correct, and that the “change” in the Evangelical position on abortion is merely a specific example of a general trend that has taken place broadly over time.  The change, itself, is neither remarkable nor a guide to the worthiness of the position.  That must be determined on its own merit.  And I suggest that the evangelical and Catholic position is the correct one.

    Tom Lindholtz

  • Lori

    You’re the one who is arguing that current law is in some way inadequate, not me. What changes do you feel are needed and how do you propose to craft those changes such that they do not do more harm than good?

    And again, why are you so obsessed with this one class of abortions for which you have provided no actual evidence save your personal conviction that of course they’re an issue?

  • Lyra

    People really AREN’T reading my posts . . .

    Lyra said on the previous page:

     
    [b]I’m not arguing for additional regulations on third
    trimester abortions (I actually think we have too many; see the partial birth
    abortion ban).[/b] I’m arguing that it is reasonable to have regulations.

  • Lunch Meat

    I am a liberal. I have a family and an organized religion. I am married in the eyes of God and the church and have very strong sexual morals. I desperately want children when I can afford them. I am not assaulting anything, and I don’t hate God or men or children or morals. The fact that I want the right to live my life as I want–which happens to be as a moral, family-oriented Christian, how about that?–does not mean that I am assaulting you or challenging your beliefs, except your belief that I have to live the way you want me to. I utterly reject that belief.

    He means the ObamaCare mandate that religious institutions must provide employee insurance for contraceptive services, including abortifacient drugs and sterilization procedures, even if doing so would violate their moral teachings.

    You are factually incorrect. 1) The mandate does not and has never included abortifacient drugs. (http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2010/07/preventive-services-list.html) 2) Churches are and have always been exempt from this mandate. 3) The administration is now saying that the employers do not even have to be involved in the transaction at all, although the insurers still have to provide it. and 4) Any employer can always choose not to provide insurance and just pay a tax penalty to cover those employees that now rely on the government for health care.

  • Lori

    So why are you so obsessed with this one small class of abortions that we’ve been bogged down in discussing it for multiple pages of thread? What is the point of this conversation? 

    The odds of a woman aborting a healthy pregnancy in the 8th month simply because she doesn’t want to be pregnant are ridiculously small. If a woman makes that choice something is going on and that something is bad. It might not be medical 100% of the time, but there is still going to be a reason why a woman makes it through 7+ months of pregnancy, gets past the point of being able to safely and easily terminate the pregnancy and then decides she wants an abortion. Why are you so stuck on the idea of women who just decide to do something so difficult?

  • Lyra

    I don’t think I am “obsessed” with it. Someone directed a post at me putting forth the position that it didn’t matter if the embryo/fetus/etc was a person, because abortion should be allowed regardless on the basis that a woman cannot be obligated to support a human being with her organs. I said only that I was not comfortable with this line of reasoning because it provided NO ability to restrict third trimester abortions (for example, sex-selective abortions done in the third trimester). To me, whether or not the embryo is a person DOES matter, because if an embryo is not a person, then abortion cannot be restricted AT ALL, but if a fetus is a person at a certain point, then abortion might be restricted in certain ways in certain circumstances. From there, I have merely been addressing posts that you and others directed my way. If that counts as “obsessed,” then any conversation at all on the internet is going to have trouble avoiding the “obsessed” category.

    I will admit that I have no idea why so many people have been reacting so strongly to my post. I expected it to be a toss-away post, to be honest. I had thought a viewpoint where things like third trimester sex-selective abortions could be made illegal would be incredibly non-controversial. However, it seems to be a statement that is controversial in ways I hadn’t expected, and for reasons that I do not understand. So perhaps someone could explain to me what is so wrong with saying, “You may not legally kill a viable, healthy fetus because you don’t want a daughter.”? Maybe I am wrong in wanting to make such statements, but I fail to see how.

  • Lori

     
    I will admit that I have no idea why so many people have been reacting so strongly to my post. I expected it to be a toss-away post, to be honest. I had thought a viewpoint where things like third trimester sex-selective abortions could be made illegal would be incredibly non-controversial.  

    The reason it’s controversial is that you keep tossing out things that either don’t exist at all or are incredibly rare as if if obviously they do exist and need to be controlled.  Third trimester sex-selective abortions? Who are all these people terminating viable 8 month pregnancies because they don’t want daughters? 

     
    So perhaps someone could explain to me what is so wrong with saying, “You may not legally kill a viable, healthy fetus because you don’t want a daughter.”? Maybe I am wrong in wanting to make such statements, but I fail to see how. 

    One thing that’s wrong with it is that it requires the law to read people’s minds. Exactly how do you plan to determine that someone is seeking an abortion for sex selection? Exactly how much investigation are you prepared to have the state do in order to determine if a woman’s stated reason for wishing to terminate her pregnancy is in fact her “real” reason? 

     

  • Lyra

    The reason it’s controversial is that you keep tossing out things that
    either don’t exist at all or are incredibly rare as if if obviously they
    do exist and need to be controlled.  Third trimester sex-selective
    abortions? Who are all these people terminating viable 8 month
    pregnancies because they don’t want daughters? 
    Sex-selective abortions and infanticide:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1728-4457.2001.00259.x/abstract
    http://iussp2005.princeton.edu/abstractViewer.aspx?submissionId=50261
    http://cgi.unc.edu/uploads/media_items/the-practice-of-sex-selective-abortion-in-india-may-you-be-the-mother-of-a-hundred-sons.original.pdf

    In case you weren’t aware, part of the reason that sex-selective abortions end up happening late in pregnancy is that determination of a fetus’s sex can be difficult to do early in pregnancy, assuming you don’t have access to more complicated procedures that can tell earlier in pregnancy.

    “One thing that’s wrong with it is that it requires the law to read
    people’s minds. Exactly how do you plan to determine that someone is
    seeking an abortion for sex selection? Exactly how much investigation
    are you prepared to have the state do in order to determine if a woman’s
    stated reason for wishing to terminate her pregnancy is in fact her
    “real” reason?”
    Alright then. Just what unverifiable situations do you think that abortion of a viable fetus should be allowed? Because I would think that the acceptable reasons (like “I’m going to die if I don’t”) would be relatively easy to verify, and in fact would be things that the person providing the abortion should be aware of.

  • Lori

    So your reason for justification for concern about US law is a practice happening in China and India? 

     
    Just what unverifiable situations do you think that abortion of a viable fetus should be allowed? Because I would think that the acceptable reasons (like “I’m going to die if I don’t”) would be relatively easy to verify, and in fact would be things that the person providing the abortion should be aware of.  

     

    So I’m asking again, do you just want the law to enforce a list of reasons that are acceptable to you or do you want to cut our the middleman and how women and their doctors come directly to you for permission? 
     

  • Lyra

    “So your reason for justification for concern about US law is a practice happening in China and India? ”
    Are you saying that people who are of Chinese and Indian culture are not the concern of US law, even if they have moved to the USA? Or are you saying that once people from China or India move to the USA, they no longer hold on to their cultural roots? Or are you saying that only Chinese people in China and only Indian people in India do this?

    “So I’m asking again, do you just want the law to enforce a list of
    reasons that are acceptable to you or do you want to cut our the
    middleman and how women and their doctors come directly to you for
    permission?”
    You haven’t answered my question.

    You said my proposal involved mind reading, because it would not be possible to determine if the woman was giving the correct reason for her abortion. I am asking you for examples of where mind reading would be involved, because a woman would come in for a third trimester abortion, give a reason that you view as acceptable, and that reason would be unverifiable.

    Three common reasons that are given for third trimester abortion are health of the mother, life of the mother, and fetal abnormality. However, every last one of these things not only CAN be verified, they SHOULD be verified. Anyone who is performing a medical procedure (whether it be an abortion, breast implants, or open heart surgery) on a woman without caring to know her health status should get in serious trouble.

  • http://twitter.com/IDisposable Marc Brooks

    I would see it as an argument for INCARNATION, there is no “re” involved.

  • http://twitter.com/IDisposable Marc Brooks

    and sadly, there’s no proscription for what is to be done to that untrusting husband…

  • http://twitter.com/IDisposable Marc Brooks

    YES!

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I’m okay with the laws that say it has to be performed by a trained medical practitioner. Those are good ones.

    Most of the other ones are pretty bad though.

    I have two basic problems with your position:

    1. How do you mean to determine why a woman had an abortion? How do you know that what you thought was a fickle 8th-month-change of heart wasn’t, say, clinical depression, a serious, life-threatening illness, many of the treatments for which can’t be administered during pregnancy?  How do you know that the woman decided to abort because the fetus was the wrong gender, and not because the sonogram revealed a serious birth defect incompatible with life? How would you do that without having people who aren’t the woman and her doctor inspect her medical records?

    2. Who the fuck are you to make the decision for someone else about whether or not their reason is good enough?

  • Anonymous

     You can’t commit homicide against a non-person, so the entire idea of
    fetal homicide laws that don’t confer personhood is at best shaky. If
    the fetus isn’t a person then the critical injury is not to the fetus,
    it’s to the mother. That makes fetal homicide laws unnecessary since
    there are already laws to punish injury to the mother.

    Point.

  • http://twitter.com/IDisposable Marc Brooks

    It seems to me that this whole argument about when life begin, or when a person is “ensouled” gets it all backwards.  Human life began A LONG TIME before any of us prideful, reasoning people were here, and we’re merely the byproducts of that origin.

    What the discussion should be about is WHY we want to abort a blob/fetus/baby/child. Are we doing it to save the mother’s life, or its progenitors life-style? Are we doing it because there is something wrong with it, or us? Are we doing it because it was forced on us, or because we forced that life upon ourselves?

    Talk about freedoms all you want, meanwhile I’ll be talking about responsibilities and repercussions.

  • Shallot

    Someone directed a post at me putting forth the position that it didn’t
    matter if the embryo/fetus/etc was a person, because abortion should be
    allowed regardless on the basis that a woman cannot be obligated to
    support a human being with her organs. I said only that I was not
    comfortable with this line of reasoning because it provided NO ability
    to restrict third trimester abortions (for example, sex-selective
    abortions done in the third trimester). To me, whether or not the embryo
    is a person DOES matter, because if an embryo is not a person, then
    abortion cannot be restricted AT ALL, but if a fetus is a person at a
    certain point, then abortion might be restricted in certain ways in
    certain circumstances.

    Ohhh.  I’m so glad I refreshed the page, because this clears up a lot of my confusion.  (And I hope you don’t think I’m ganging up on you–I’d fully intended this to be a separate conversation, but there’s a lot of parallel lines.)  I think our opinions are a lot closer than I initially thought.  I scrapped a lot of what I wrote before, so if the next paragraph doesn’t make sense, let me know and I can elaborate.

    A lot of my opinion of abortion policy solidified this year when my brother-in-law underwent cancer treatment.  (Weird, but bear with me.)  He needed a bone marrow transplant, so my husband was the first one tested as a possible donor.  He has a massive hospital phobia, so while he was lying down white-faced to get his blood drawn, they explained that he did not have to go through with the procedure even if he was a match.  They would not even tell the rest of the family without our permission, because he could not be coerced in any way.  It had to be his choice.  They might have been extra explicit because they took pity on him, or they have to tell that to everyone.  But if that’s how the law is for everything else–that you cannot be forced to donate your organs, even if you’re on death row and you could be saving an adorable child or the President–then it should be the same everywhere.

  • Lori

     
    Are you saying that people who are of Chinese and Indian culture are not the concern of US law, even if they have moved to the USA? Or are you saying that once people from China or India move to the USA, they no longer hold on to their cultural roots? Or are you saying that only Chinese people in China and only Indian people in India do this?  

    The studies you linked to are not about “people who are of Chinese and Indian culture ” living in the US. If you have studies which show that Chinese and/or Indian immigrants to the US practice sex selective abortion with such intensity that they are having significant numbers of  3rd trimester abortions here then do link to them. If you do not, then what exactly is your point? Do you assume that Those People will of course bring their horrible female-hating ways here to the US because that’s just what they’re like? 

    People in China and India don’t practice sex selective abortions simply because they hate girls. Why do you assume that, having separated themselves from the One Child policy and economic systems that so heavily favor male children, they will go so far to make the same decisions they would have made in China or India? 

     
    I am asking you for examples of where mind reading would be involved, because a woman would come in for a third trimester abortion, give a reason that you view as acceptable, and that reason would be unverifiable. 

    What I do or do not consider acceptable is not the issue. You seem pretty determined to put this is the most stark possible terms, so let’s go there and work the counter-factual. 

    If the choice is between legally enforcing Lyra’s List of Good Reasons To Have An Abortion or having no restrictions on abortion save the ability of a woman to find a doctor willing to perform the procedure I’m going to go with option B. Will that mean that some women have abortions of which I do not personally approve? Yes, virtually certainly. However, unlike you, I don’t expect to have approval power over other people’s decisions. If I did have a chit to use on that I’d spend it on taking children away from people I think shouldn’t be parents long before I’d spend it on forcing women to carry pregnancies because I don’t like their reason for deciding not to. 

  • Lyra

    “1. How do you mean to determine why a woman had an abortion? How do you
    know that what you thought was a fickle 8th-month-change of heart
    wasn’t, say, clinical depression, a serious, life-threatening illness,
    many of the treatments for which can’t be administered during
    pregnancy?  How do you know that the woman decided to abort because the
    fetus was the wrong gender, and not because the sonogram revealed a
    serious birth defect incompatible with life? How would you do that
    without having people who aren’t the woman and her doctor inspect her
    medical records?”

    Are you telling me that people provide third trimester abortions without
    having information on the woman’s medical state? That third trimester
    abortions are  done by people without access to the woman’s medical
    records, and without the go ahead of someone with access to her medical
    records? Because if this is so, I have severely misunderstood the nature
    of third trimester abortions. I had assumed that when pro-lifers said that women could walk into an abortion clinics and get an abortion in the third trimester with no questions or regulations, that they were lying. I thought this in part because the pro-choice organizations that I have worked with said it was a lie. Are you saying that the pro-lifers are telling the truth, that this whole “abortion on demand of babies that could live outside the womb” DOES happen legally in the USA?

    “2. Who the fuck are you to make the decision for someone else about whether or not their reason is good enough?”

    Unless you have no opinion on laws at all, then I am the same person as you are in regards to making decisions as to the law.

  • Lunch Meat

    You can go have your own little high-minded judgmental conversation about responsibility by yourself. No one cares, because irresponsibility is not a crime. We are having this conversation because people do want to take away my freedoms and make it a crime for me to take action to protect my health.

    You do not get to unilaterally decide what this conversation “should” be about. If you want to give me input on my “responsibilities” and the repercussions reproductive choices, here is what you should do:
    A) Become a woman with a uterus, and have been one all your life.B) Have the same experiences that I had that led me to my choices.
    C) Know me.
    D) Be a close friend whom I trust to give good counsel.
    E) Be ASKED for your advice. By me.

  • Lyra

    “What I do or do not consider acceptable is not the issue.”
    Yes, it is, because you are saying that what you consider to be acceptable is far preferable to what I consider acceptable. You are saying that I am wrong and you are right, but you won’t tell me what you think is right.

    If you want me to agree with you, then you have to, at a bare minimum, tell me what you are advocating. It is not reasonable to say, “You are wrong, and I am right, but it doesn’t matter what I think.”

    There are two options. The first is that you think it is acceptable to provide some regulations on abortion. If so, then you and I are not different in that we want to provide some manner of regulation (although we might disagree as to the specifics). If this is where you stand, then I don’t understand why you would start going off about “I … expect to have approval power over other people’s decisions.”

    The second option is that you think that there should be no regulations in regards to abortion, that abortion should be legal for all reasons in all circumstances at all stages of pregnancy. If this is what you are saying, then we would indeed be in disagreement as to whether or not there should be regulation. But if that is the case, then please say that, so that I can address your actual point. The situation would not be (as you put it), “Lyra’s List of Good Reasons To Have An Abortion or having no
    restrictions on abortion save the ability of a woman to find a doctor
    willing to perform the procedure,” It would be a choice between “Any regulation at all of abortion” versus “no restrictions at all.” If this is the case, it isn’t about whether or not I am correctly regulating abortion, it’s about us disagreeing as to whether or not abortion is something we have the right to regulate. And that would be a different discussion than the one I thought we were having.

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

    Canada has no law regarding abortions at all; for all intents and purposes, until the fetus exits his or her mother, the fetus may be aborted without criminal penalty.

    That said, however, abortion rates have been rather steady (PDF in link) for a decade-plus now.

    If you want more data Statistics Canada has a collection of such statistics.

    Surprise, women aren’t running out in ever greater numbers to abort their fetuses just because it’s totes legal in Canada! In fact, given population growth over the last decade you can argue that as a fraction of the total number of women, the abortion rate is actually dropping.

  • Lori

     
    Talk about freedoms all you want, meanwhile I’ll be talking about responsibilities and repercussions.  

     

    Spoken like a person who does not have bear the responsibility and can walk away from the repercussions.

  • wendy

    I truly don’t understand how it makes sense to assert that while people may unjustly kill children after birth, women would never have a third trimester abortion without good cause. I don’t see the logic.

    Because a third trimester abortion takes longer, costs more, and is more physically painful than a normal birth. It’s not something one can do accidentally, or in a fit of temper. *Nobody* would ever choose it frivolously. 

  • Bruce Geerdes

    Who cares about 1968, Christians have been speaking against abortion since the 1st century. See The Didache.

  • Lyra

     Actually, I have a question about this part:

    “having no restrictions on abortion save the ability of a woman to find a doctor willing to perform the procedure.”

    Is this one of those, “It’s fine if X is the result of individual
    citizens deciding not to do X, but X is not fine if X is the result of
    the government.”?

    As in, “It is fine if a woman with severe clinical depression cannot get
    a third trimester abortion because no individual doctors are willing to
    provide said abortion, but it is wrong if a woman with severe clinical
    depression cannot get a third trimester abortion because it is against
    the law for doctors to provide it,”?

    I ask because I tend to be a results oriented person. I feel that either
    a woman with severe clinical depression either has a right to a third
    trimester abortion or she does not. I do not feel that her ability to
    get said abortion should be determined by the personal moral beliefs of
    doctors in her area. This is why I get so persnickety about pharmacists
    refusing to give out Plan B; I feel that because women have a right to
    Plan B, said pharmacists should only be able to refuse to give out Plan B
    if there is another pharmacist to dispense it.

  • Lori

     
    Yes, it is, because you are saying that what you consider to be acceptable is far preferable to what I consider acceptable. You are saying that I am wrong and you are right, but you won’t tell me what you think is right. 

     

    Talk about not reading the post. What I said is that I don’t think my opinions about what is and is not acceptable ought to be legally imposed on women who are not me. It is entirely possible that my list of bad reasons to have an abortion and yours have 100% overlap. The only sense in which I think I’m right and you’re wrong is that you seem to want to make your list legally binding and I very definitely do not. 

     
    The second option is that you think that there should be no regulations in regards to abortion, that abortion should be legal for all reasons in all circumstances at all stages of pregnancy. If this is what you are saying, then we would indeed be in disagreement as to whether or not there should be regulation. But if that is the case, then please say that, so that I can address your actual point. 

    As I already said, I would prefer that women, in consultation with their doctors, make their own choices about what to do with their own bodies. 

    The situation would not be (as you put it), “Lyra’s List of Good Reasons To Have An Abortion or having no restrictions on abortion save the ability of a woman to find a doctor willing to perform the procedure,” It would be a choice between “Any regulation at all of abortion” versus “no restrictions at all.”

    Unless there is a reason for having an abortion which you consider unacceptable, but which you do not want to have included in regulation of abortion then yes, it is the same thing. 

     
     If this is the case, it isn’t about whether or not I am correctly regulating abortion, it’s about us disagreeing as to whether or not abortion is something we have the right to regulate. And that would be a different discussion than the one I thought we were having. 

    Yes, apparently we are in significant disagreement and we are having a different conversation that either of us thought we were. I guess I got distracted by all the talk of 3rd trimester sex-selection. 

  • Anonymous

     I didn’t say it justifies abortion; I said it mentions abortion.  And the context of the text infers that abortion is a punishment for infidelity.  Reading comprehension is your friend.

  • Anonymous

    With modern technology, accurate sex determination can be made at the 12-week point.  So, no.

  • Lyra

    Regarding this post, I feel that I should bring up some of my background with this issue.

    I have been active within the pro-choice community for a long time. I have
    (rarely) encountered people on the internet who felt that women should be able
    to kill their viable fetuses for any reason at all. The argument was that it
    was the woman’s body, and if she decided she didn’t want the fetus to use it
    anymore, than she should be able to do that. And they DID hold that the woman
    should be able to kill the viable fetus rather than inducing early labor. This
    came from the assertion that abortions were less physically traumatic to the woman than life birth, and that said individuals felt that women should not be legally
    obligated to go through a more physically traumatic experience (giving birth) instead of a less physically traumatic one (abortion) for
    the sake of another human being (the fetus). They based this on the fact that (as Shallot points out) there isn’t another parallel
    situation where non-pregnant people are forced against their will to endure
    unnecessarily physically traumatic experiences for the sake of another.

    I suppose it is possible that these people are incorrect, and that a third trimester abortion is actually more risky, damaging, painful, expensive, longer, (etc) procedure than giving birth. However, I am uncertain as to why people would then choose to have a third trimester abortion than to give birth. I was under the impression that people had third trimester abortions because it was LESS physically traumatic. 

  • Lori

    To clarify, I’m in favor of regulating abortion providers to ensure that women are receiving treatment from qualified medical professionals in safe circumstances, the same way we regulate all doctors for the protection of their patients. (I am not in favor of bogus attempts to use safety concerns to make it impossible for women to exercise their right to chose, for example by demanding that abortion clinics meet all the same standards as hospitals.) 

    That addresses this issue:

    Are you telling me that people provide third trimester abortions withouthaving information on the woman’s medical state? That third trimester abortions are  done by people without access to the woman’s medical records, and without the go ahead of someone with access to her medical records? 

     

    None of this has anything to do with regulating or limiting a woman’s choice. The examples you’ve been bringing up of late term abortion for “no good reason” are not about safety or good medical practice. They’re about limiting a woman’s ability to legally make choices of which you do not approve. 

      Are you saying that the pro-lifers are telling the truth, that this whole “abortion on demand of babies that could live outside the womb” DOES happen legally in the USA?  

    Would you like to tell me again that you’re not obsessed with late term abortions of viable fetuses? 

  • Lori

     
    I suppose it is possible that these people are incorrect, and that a third trimester abortion is actually more risky, damaging, painful, expensive, longer, (etc) procedure than giving birth. However, I am uncertain as to why people would then choose to have a third trimester abortion than to give birth. I was under the impression that people had third trimester abortions because it was LESS physically traumatic.  

    The question I keep coming back to is, “Who are these people who are supposedly having late term abortions of viable fetuses”? It’s one thing to say, as a matter of principle, a woman should have the right to do that because no matter how far along the pregnancy is, it’s still the woman’s body. It’s another thing to assert that this is a real, pressing issue that needs to be addressed by the law or women will be having late term abortions willy-nilly. 

    As a statement of principle I stand by the notion that a woman has a right, in consultation with her doctor, to determine what happens to her body. That’s partially because I think it’s true and partially because I have learned from decades of bitter, bitter experience that if we concede that tiniest little thing to the anti-choicers they take it and run with it.  

    As a practical matter I still don’t believe this is a meaningful issue. I’m sure that if we had access to perfect information about every abortion performed we would find some people who had late term abortions for sex selection or because they freaked out or because their circumstances changed late in the pregnancy. I do not think it would be a number that comes close to justifying all this angst. 

    Edited to clean up some weird typos.

  • Lyra

     “Unless there is a reason for having an abortion which you consider
    unacceptable, but which you do not want to have included in regulation
    of abortion then yes, it is the same thing.”

    There is a difference between what I consider to be immoral and what I
    think should be illegal. To use the sex-selection we have been
    discussing I think first trimester sex-selective abortions are immoral. I
    think it is wrong to make the decision that sex is so important in a
    child that it is worth terminating a pregnancy over it. I think it
    demonstrates terrible bigotry. However, I feel that sex-selective
    abortions in the first trimester should be legal, despite my distaste
    for them. I would hold the same thing for race-selective abortions, but I can’t think of many other instances where I would condemn a first trimester abortion as immoral.

    However, once we hit the third trimester, we are no longer just talking
    about “What Lyra Prefers versus what Pregnant Woman Prefers.” At the
    third trimester, we also have a fetus that is developmentally the same as a born infant. As such, I don’t see how one can refuse to take the fetus into account. I do believe that the
    rights of the woman should generally supersede the fetus’s rights (a
    woman’s right to her health should trump the fetus’s right to life), but
    I do not see a fetus inside the womb as materially different than that same fetus if it were taken outside the womb. To shrug at third trimester abortions but condemn infanticide confuses me, because the organism we are talking about killing is functionally the same.

    “None of this has anything to do with regulating or limiting a woman’s
    choice. The examples you’ve been bringing up of late term abortion for
    “no good reason” are not about safety or good medical practice. They’re
    about limiting a woman’s ability to legally make choices of which you do
    not approve.

    Would you like to tell me again that you’re not obsessed with late term abortions of viable fetuses?”
    No. I am currently of the belief that third trimester abortions are only performed by people who have access to the woman’s medical records. However, the person I was responding to seems to be saying that there is no way for the person who is performing the abortion to determine why the woman is having an abortion because she or she will not have access to the woman’s medical records. Thus, the abortion provider would not be able to tell if the woman was having a sex-selection abortion or if the woman was having an abortion because she was dying. To be blunt, I don’t believe this because (as I said) it sounds like a pro-life talking point, and everything that I’ve ever encountered in regards to this issue indicates that this is not the case. I could be wrong about this, but I remain skeptical. I am hoping that the person will answer my question with a “No, that wasn’t what I meant, I meant X instead.” However, I do not have personal experience with third trimester abortions, so I am not really qualified to say if third trimester abortions happen without access to the woman’s medical records (although I certainly hope they don’t.”

  • Lyra

    “The question I keep coming back to is, “Who are these people who are
    supposedly having late term abortions of viable fetuses”? It’s one thing
    to say, as a matter of principle, a woman should have the right to do
    that because no matter how far along the pregnancy is, it’s still the
    woman’s body. It’s another thing to assert that this is a real, pressing
    issue that needs to be addressed by the law or women will be having
    late term abortions willy-nilly.”

    I would hope that the answer is “No one, because it’s illegal.” However, you seem to be saying that abortion without regulation should be made legal, that current restrictions should be removed because we don’t have a right to regulate abortion. The only place that I’m aware of that doesn’t regulate abortion at all is Canada, and they have de-facto (rather than de jure) regulation on abortion, such as some providences not having hospitals to provide abortion along with doctors that refuse to perform  abortions. This does not seem more free to me, unless “free from governmental regulations” is the important part, rather than “free to get an abortion.”

  • Lori

     
    As in, “It is fine if a woman with severe clinical depression cannot get

    a third trimester abortion because no individual doctors are willing to
    provide said abortion, but it is wrong if a woman with severe clinical 
    depression cannot get a third trimester abortion because it is against 
    the law for doctors to provide it,”?

    I ask because I tend to be a results oriented person. I feel that either
    a woman with severe clinical depression either has a right to a third 
    trimester abortion or she does not. I do not feel that her ability to 
    get said abortion should be determined by the personal moral beliefs of 
    doctors in her area.  

     
    Why are you acting as if abortion is somehow different than every other kind of medical treatment and doctors therefore have no ability to exercise medical discretion? Doctors have no right to impose their moral beliefs on their patients about any procedure. That has nothing whatsoever to do with making a professional determination that a patient is clinically depressed and it’s effecting his or her judgement about treatment. 

    I’ve never known of a legitimate abortion provider who did not have a pre-abortion screening procedure designed to alert them to things like depression or to patients who simply aren’t sure about having the procedure. I have also never known anyone who thought that should not be the case. If you’re saying that you have known pro-choice people that believe a doctor should be forced to forgo that kind of screening or to provide an abortion against his/her medical judgement I’m going to need names. 

    None of this has anything whatsoever to do with a pharmacist refusing to fill legal prescription. A pharmacist has a responsibly to be alert for things like forged scripts and potentially harmful drug interactions and to provide information about things like cheaper alternatives to the particular drug prescribed. Aside from that their job is to fill the prescription and keep their personal opinions to themselves. 

  • hagsrus

     But others have seen it as an argument for “re”incarnation. Just an observation.

  • Lyra

    You missed my point entirely. You said that a woman’s right to abortion should only be limited by her ability to find a doctor that is willing to perform said an abortion. I’m asking if you see a difference between a woman not being able to get an abortion because no doctors will agree and a woman not being able to get an abortion because it is illegal.

    I’ll rephrase the clinical depression. Let’s say that there was a law saying that women with severe clinical depression could not get an abortion. I feel that I am safe in saying you would oppose this, but do you feel that it is materially different than if there was no formal law, but all the doctors in the woman’s area refused to perform third trimester abortions on the basis of her having clinical depression? You said it should only be limited by the woman’s ability to find a doctor who would do it, but do you feel that a doctor’s unwillingness should be allowed to determine her ability to do an abortion?

    Because many women in many areas of this country (and Canada, whose abortion policy I’m reading up on now), who have a de jure right to abortion, but de facto cannot find a doctor to perform it. I see this as being very little different than abortion being illegal, but I know some people (like libertarians) see it as profoundly different.

  • Lori

     
    To shrug at third trimester abortions but condemn infanticide confuses me, because the organism we are talking about killing is functionally the same. 

    I’m not shrugging at it. At least not in the way that you’re implying. I’m saying that it doesn’t happen often enough to warrant focusing on it the way that you are and I have serious doubts that the law needs to forbid it or should do so. 

     
    The only place that I’m aware of that doesn’t regulate abortion at all is Canada, and they have de-facto (rather than de jure) regulation on abortion, such as some providences not having hospitals to provide abortion along with doctors that refuse to perform  abortions. This does not seem more free to me, unless “free from governmental regulations” is the important part, rather than “free to get an abortion.”  

    I do not understand what point you are trying to make. In addition to the legal regulation of abortion the US also has de facto limits. Are you operating under the misapprehension that any woman in the US who wants an abortion that is legal under current law, is actually able to get one? That is definitely not the case.

    The difference between the US and Canada is that Canada only has de facto limits on abortion and the US has both de jure and de facto limits. Unless things have changed a great deal in Canada that situation does not result in Canadian women having less access to abortion than women in the US. 

  • P J Evans

    we’re reading them and wondering WTF you have this obsession with third-trimester abortions.

  • P J Evans

     YOU’RE the one doing that. Not the rest of us. WE’RE trying to figure out WTF you’re going on about it.

  • Lyra

    You’re going to have to explain to me how “talking about third-trimester abortions with people who are asking you questions about and making statements about about third trimester abortions” makes me obsessed.

  • P J Evans

     TRY: talking about it in comment after comment for four effing pages of comments. And refusing to accept that (a) it isn’t at all common and (b) it’s none of your fucking business if it isn’t your body.

  • Lyra

     “I’m saying that it doesn’t happen often enough to warrant focusing on it
    the way that you are”
    You don’t think it happens often enough to warrant an internet conversation?

    “and I have serious doubts that the law needs to
    forbid it or should do so.”
    Well, then we disagree.

    “Are you operating under the misapprehension that any woman in the US who
    wants an abortion that is legal under current law, is actually able to
    get one?”
    No. In fact, that is the exact opposite of what I’m saying. However, if my point still isn’t clear after you read my next post (I attempted to clarify there), I will attempt to do so again.

  • Lyra

     Ah, I see. So we’re all obsessed, then, as I didn’t make up the comments on my own. Plus, I do accept (a), and have stated such repeatedly in these last pages. Also, I have always felt like (b) is a terrible argument, just on it’s face. Infanticide doesn’t involve my body, either, but no one argues that infanticide is none of my business. When I worked in the domestic violence shelter, none of the acts of violence against the women staying there involved my body, but I still felt is was my business. When I donate money to feed starving children, it’s not my body, but it’s still my business.

  • Lori

     
    You said that a woman’s right to abortion should only be limited by her ability to find a doctor that is willing to perform said an abortion. I’m asking if you see a difference between a woman not being able to get an abortion because no doctors will agree and a woman not being able to get an abortion because it is illegal.  

     

    Yes. 

    As a philosophical matter there’s an enormous difference between trained medical practitioners who know the patient refusing to perform a particular procedure and legislators, most of whom have no medical training and none of whom know the woman, deciding that she can not have a particular procedure.

    As a practical matter, if I’m seeking a medical procedure and no doctor will perform it I’m going to take quite a different view of the situation than if an impersonal, misogynist law says that the states controls my body. 

    If your point is that doctors can refuse to perform medical procedures because of their own personal beliefs then again I have to ask what that has to do with this conversation about what the law should be. It is a doctor’s job to set aside personal moral issues and serve the best interests of the patient. Those who are unable to do that in the case of abortion do not offer abortion services. I do not favor forcing doctors to perform abortions because nothing good is going to come from that. I do think medical schools should be required to teach the procedure as part of all OB/GYN training, but ultimately the only way to increase the number of doctors willing to perform abortions is to destigmatize it and  protect them from anti-choice fanatics. Placing legal restrictions on abortion doesn’t accomplish either of those goals so I don’t see that it has anything to do with the issue at hand.


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