A very slightly less ‘fake’ argument from Mark Galli in Christianity Today

At Christianity Today, Mark Galli’s voice isn’t always this high-pitched. That’s just the Doppler effect on account of his back-tracking so fast from his earlier post attacking Jonathan Dudley for supposedly “fake history.” It’s only a half-baked correction, but at least Galli acknowledges that his earlier post was misleading twaddle.

Galli’s latest is also misleading. He qualifies the sweeping nonsense and historical errors of his earlier post, but still clings to it with weasel-words like “some” and “don’t necessarily.” Yet these grudging qualifiers can’t be reconciled with the logic of his position or the coherence — such as it is — of his argument. Galli writes:

Dudley is correct is suggesting that some pro-choice advocates do indeed believe that the fetus has moral value, and that they don’t necessarily think abortion is the principal answer to the control of human reproduction. … The problem is that a large part of the pro-choice community — which includes millions beyond the U.S. — do indeed fail to see that the fetus has moral value, and do indeed champion abortion as just another method of birth control.

A qualification and concession, then a false bit of maliciously dickish hogwash — “just another method of birth control” — and then Galli is off to the races, dismissing those few “some” who “don’t necessarily” fit his bogus caricature of the international sisterhood of the pro-choice conspiracy and returning to the same false binary choice of his previous post.

Does a zygote have no moral value at all? Or does it have greater moral value than an adult woman? Those are your only possible options.

Galli’s official, tribally sanctioned “stance” on abortion requires him to dismiss any consideration of pro-choice views that “do indeed believe that the fetus has moral value.” In doing so, as Galli reluctantly concedes Dudley is correct to say, he must therefore dismiss the view that the majority of evangelicals held just 40 years ago — and the view that more than a third of us hold today.

Everything Galli argues after dispensing with the “some … do indeed” qualifier above is based on this binary view that every zygote is either: A) morally indistinguishable from a human adult, and therefore legally more significant than the women who carries it; or else B) of zero value and zero moral significance. Allowing for those two — and only those two — options, Galli concludes that “A” is the only acceptable position for real, true Christians.

That’s not a coherent argument, but it’s a smart one for Galli. If he wants to keep his job at Christianity Today, then “A” is the only acceptable position.

The problem with constructing the question in this binary way, however, is that it prevents Galli from hearing, understanding or even imagining the actual view of the actual people who disagree with him. And thus it also prevents Galli from understanding or even imagining the actual view of American law. That law is based on the idea excluded by Galli’s binary framework — the idea that a zygote or fetus has great value and moral significance, but that it’s value is less than that of the adult person who carries it. Her rights therefore carry greater weight than its rights — her humanity counts for more, legally and morally, than its potential humanity.

This is not an obscure idea — it’s embodied by and embedded in all of our cultural traditions and rituals, including our religious rituals, from birthdays to baptisms. This is why we mourn for a lost pregnancy, but not in the same way that we mourn for the death of a child. This is why when the tragedy of a miscarriage occurs, we wonder, “How far along?” — gauging our response by the answer, the further along, the deeper the tragedy.

We know this. All of us, including people like Mark Galli, know this.

So why exclude this possibility? Why pretend our only choices are the binary options of zero value or greater-than-a-woman value?

One reason to pretend such a thing might be hinted at by Galli’s insistence that legal abortion is the province mainly of cavalier sluts for whom it is “just another form of birth control.” No, he didn’t explicitly say “cavalier sluts.” He didn’t need to say it explicitly. One can’t wind up where he winds up — with this glib, nasty garbage about “just another form of birth control” — without starting from the presumption that women are cavalier sluts who cannot be trusted with the fetuses in their own bodies.

I’d urge Galli to read a recent post at the dead authors club (via Abi at Making Light) in which Chris discusses “Fetal personhood and criminalizing abortion: a prosecutor’s perspective.” Chris writes:

First off, I want to talk about an abortion ban that leaves exceptions in place only for instances of rape, incest or life of the mother. The first thing that I want to say about this policy is this: this is a pro-choice position. The proponents can call it whatever the hell they want, but the bottom line is that this position is pro-choice. A person who takes this position is acknowledging that a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy. What we are actually quibbling about here is who gets to decide when the woman’s reason is good enough. With the classic pro-choice position, the person who gets to decide if the woman’s reason is good enough is the woman. Herself. The rape/incest exception people – their position is that they get to decide if someone else’s (i.e., some other woman’s) reason is good enough. I am pro-her-choice. They are pro-their-choice.

In addition, however, to the extraordinary presumption and paternalism inherent in the position that you – whoever you are – should have more control than the pregnant woman over her reproductive future, is the absolutely, unequivocally impossible enforcement situation that this policy would create.

I’m skipping quite a bit here, and no one should skip any of Chris’ post — read the whole thing — but I want to highlight one other part, in which she walks through much of what Galli refuses to think about, what he is unable to think about due to his embrace of a binary view based on a slanderous lie about those with whom he disagrees:

So, personhood for a cluster of cells means that abortion could equal aggravated murder. Really, do Republicans want us prosecuting girls and women for the aggravated homicide of their zygotes? Is that the plan here? Do they actually want to impose the death penalty, or will life in prison be sufficient to satisfy their pathological need to punish women for the crime of being sexually active? …

But if that isn’t their goal, if they would say “of course we don’t want that,” well, then, I have to ask, “what the hell do you want?” Because if you actually believe that a zygote is a person, then how can you demand anything less than justice for the murder victim? Acceptance of less than full accountability means that the zygote has less meaningful protection for its personhood than other persons. And if you can accept this, then it must mean that you don’t actually think it is a person, because we don’t have degrees of personhood in this country. If it is a person, then it absolutely must enjoy the same rights and protections of every other person. So, if you aren’t actually prepared to deal with the consequences that flow from granting it those rights and protections, then you cannot justify calling it a person. Words have power and meaning, and if even you don’t really think it is a person, then what the f–k are we all having this discussion for?

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Tangent:

    …because we don’t have degrees of personhood in this country.

    Tell that to the people in Gitmo.  (Who, granted, aren’t exactly in this country, but are under our country’s jurisdiction, sort of, which is the whole point to Gitmo.)  Or those who can’t marry the person they love yet, or….

  • CoolHandLNC

    I recently realized that the impassioned anti-abortion diatribes are almost always either in the passive voice, e.g. “millions of babies are being murdered”; or those being termed baby-killers are either unspecified or are in fact not directly involved. You never hear “millions of women are killing their babies”. It makes me wonder who they do intend to enforce laws against. My guess is doctors that perform abortions, because they presume doctors to be male, and therefore to have moral agency, while there is seldom any hint of belief that the mothers have such moral agency. This is reflected in the “informed consent” laws that seem to rest on a presumption that a woman seeking an abortion must not have had appropriate (male) guidance or at least has difficulty understanding the situation without legislative help. Mind you, I don’t assume that any of this is rationally considered, but rather derives from unconscious assumptions.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You never hear “millions of women are killing their babies”. It makes me wonder who they do intend to enforce laws against.

    I think I’ve asked our latest anti-legal-abortion troll what the penalty should be for a woman who gets an abortion in an abortion-is-legally-murder jurisdiction over a hundred times. I can’t be bothered counting, but it’s certainly lots, since I’ve been asking in every reply I make to her for some time, and she’s pretending she doesn’t see those parts of my comments.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’ve been curious what your expected answer is/are (I’m still subscribed to that thread, but haven’t had much to say that you’re not already saying). It’s rather aggravating that she won’t acknowledge the question, since I want to see what argument you have in mind.

    I suppose if I were on that side of the argument, the only logical answer to me would be to treat it like a murder and prosecute as voluntary manslaughter… but then the part of my brain which says “Think! Other people have feelings too!” kicks in and I find myself arguing that even if it were illegal and considered murder, it would count as justifiable homicide. And then I’d be fighting to make it legal again.

    I make a really terrible devil’s advocate. I’m not used to speaking on my own behalf.

  • Left Coast Bernard

    Backtracking rapidly would cause your voice to appear lower in pitch to a listener due to the Doppler effect.
    Running towards a listener would cause your voice to appear higher in pitch.

  • MikeJ

    This is why when the tragedy of a miscarriage occurs, we wonder, “How
    far along?” — gauging our response by the answer, the further along, the
    deeper the tragedy.

    8 out of 10 fertilized eggs self-deport.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Where it goes once she answers the question does rather depend on how she answers it. If a woman who got an abortion should be prosecuted for murder, how does she mean to keep from stomping all over people who have miscarried a wanted pregnancy but who must be investigated as potential murderers because there’s no way to tell miscarriage from sloppy-dangerous abortion? (for example, pregnant woman falls down stairs, loses baby–did she want that baby or is she just saying she did in order to dodge the murder charge she’s facing if someone thinks she threw herself down the stairs?) If a woman who got an abortion should not be prosecuted but the abortion provider should, why is this a different scenario from a murder for hire, where the person paying gets the same charges and if convicted the same punishment as the person paid? If abortion should be illegal but not punishable, what is the reasoning for making it illegal?

    I think there’s a few more possible scenarios, but I’m brainded. You’re lucky you’re getting this much coherence from me, there will be even less coherence this weekend, seeing as I’m working overtime tomorrow and then falling straight into bed and going right back to work the moment I wake up, for eight hours when previous experience says Saturday overtime is never more than six hours and usually only four or five. I may just sleep from Saturday dinner straight till Monday noon.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    This reminds me how I often think about different attitudes are in the US and the UK. In the US states use “Child Destruction” Acts to criminalise miscarriage.

    We’ve had a child destruction act in the UK since the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 was passed and it’s used very rarely.Usually for cases like http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-17112380 And personally I approve of that. The book needed throwing at him. (There was another case where a guy battered his heavily pregnant girlfriend making her miscarry, the child was born alive but died of their injuries a few days later – he got done for attempted child destruction and manslaughter (of the child the mother survived) both as well as for the attack on the mother).Also degrees of personhood? We have degrees of personhood in the UK. People are not considered full persons until they achieve 18 years of age and can legally enter into contracts. (Which effects compensation payouts in case of negligence but not criminal sanction). So saying it can’t happen is plain wrong.All of which is only tangential to this piece but I thought it was interesting and probably explains why my response to the way US states use such laws isn’t “Argh, stupid evil law” but “Argh, stupid evil way to use that law”.

  • Matthias

    I have to disagree with the statment that we don’t have degrees of personhood, we clearly have, people below a certain age are not able to do certain things, e.g vote before you turn 18 you cannot vote, before you turn 21 you cannot drink …

  • Will Hennessy

    Had a conversation in regards to this subject yesterday with the (surprisingly female) worship singer at our church. Unlike the discussion in the link above, this woman believes that the only acceptable circumstance for an abortion is in the event that the life of the woman carrying the child is being threatened. She contended that even in cases of rape and incest, “God can make wonderful things out of horrible circumstances.”

    I never thought, in my life, I would hear a WOMAN argue that RAPE was an ACCEPTABLE WAY TO GET PREGNANT. Goes to show how ultra-conservative a town I live in.

  • ELizabeth

    The enforceability problem is a very real one. Here in Australia for a while we had abortion “in case of harm to the mother” law. Recently it became obvious that this was stupid, and it was fairly quietly changed to abortion on request. The sky didn’t fall in and I don’t think most people noticed – the major difference was in the paperwork on the surgical consent forms and I don’t think anyone reads those anyway. Now the woman signs and the doctor agrees, instead of the other way around.

  • Readerofprey

    Part of the problem with this binary thinking is that it fails to distinguish between stages of development – a position that makes sense on the side where you claim to believe* that full human life starts at conception, but not from the other side. I do indeed assign zero moral value to a zygote – the same as I do to an unfertilized ovum – but great moral value to a fetus in the third trimester, an by the time a fetus is viable, I feel it has the same moral value as an infant outside the whom. By pretending that development is as unimportant to everyone on the pro-choice side as it should be to them if they believe what they claim, they get to pretend that their enemies act with great callousness even to infants moments from birth – which is important, because on an emotional level, they do not assign the same weight to a zygote that they do to a developed fetus or an infant. There was no response in their community to the information that 50% of pregnancies end in early miscarriages or clamor for funding to find out why and stop it, nor do they put pictures of single-cell life on their heart wrenching signs.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    I mean, he’s got a point, that is why progressives oppose access to birth control & sex ed.  They just want more abortions.  

    Oh wait, I’m sorry, I need to issue a retraction on that, I’m being told that it is anti-abortion advocates that oppose birth control & sex ed.  Because THAT is sure logically consistant!

  • Guest

    Being prohibited from doing certain things doesn’t make you less a person. It’s not as if killing an 18-year-old is murder but killing a 17-year-old is only manslaughter in the eyes of the law.

  • Jake

    @twitter-8264122:disqus  I actually disagree even with those kinds of child destruction laws. Murder, battery, and poison (the three ways I can think of to induce an abortion on someone against their will) are already illegal. And even if you feel like forcing someone to abort is worse than “just” beating/killing/drugging them, it should be a further crime against the pregnant person, not against the fetus.

  • fraser

     Some of it’s quite conscious. The idea that all pregnant women want their babies but are being led to kill children by the abortion-clinic “industyr” or their evil seducers is quite common. It’s why Louisiana requires abortion clinics to have posters up saying that women have the right not to have abortions and cannot be coerced, for instance.

  • fraser

     At least two state legislators have introduced bills calling for miscarriage investigations.

  • http://www.dreamwidth.org/thecosmicdance SB

    I have to disagree with the statment that we don’t have degrees of
    personhood, we clearly have, people below a certain age are not able to
    do certain things, e.g vote before you turn 18 you cannot vote, before
    you turn 21 you cannot drink ..

    But conservatives are lauding the fact that children are throwing the vegetables out of their lunches at school, because apparently, children have the right to kill themselves with obesity and heart disease. 

  • Jim Roberts

    Here’s the thing. Talk to most Christians and they will say that it CAN. I certainly think that it’s possible for a woman to be sexually assaulted, become pregnant from it, and love the child that results from it because I have seen it happen. It’s the evidence of my senses, not the tugging of my heart that tells me this.

    The question isn’t, “Can God make wonderful things out of horrible circumstances?”, the question is, “Should we pass laws legislating human behaviour that force God into a situation where He has to make wonderful things out of horrible circumstances?” The answer, BTW, is, “No.

  • histrogeek

    An effective, if obscure, mockumentary is “Rain without Thunder.” It was a 1992 film about America a generation or so after Roe v. Wade is overturned. Ugly and dystopic, but it definitely follows the vile logic of anti-abortion to its logical conclusion (criminal trials and mental institutions-prisons for women). Saw it on Netflix a few months ago and damn it was nasty.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    It’s more than that. When the women come up in situations like this, pro-lifers usually launch into “Oh, the poor dear” rhetoric – she didn’t know what she was doing, clearly not in her right mind, that kind of thing. They routinely frame women who get abortions as victims as well, which is probably what leads to this particular blind spot where abortion is “murder” but one of the killers receives no punishment.

    The one way you could swing this is by arguing that the woman was impaired and incapable of mens rea, but the question then is who gets that presumption? It would be absurd if you declared all women incompetent (although I’m sure at least some of these folks believe that), so is it just pregnant women? Does that mean pregnant woman are not competent for any crime, or just this one? Or is it more like emotional disturbance, where it’s decided on a case-by-case basis? Many pro-lifers seem to believe that wanting to get an abortion is de facto evidence of disturbance, which would make this a crime that was designed to be impossible to prosecute.

  • The_L1985

    But is it treated like a unique crime, or is it like hate-crime laws, where the motivation (forcing abortion in one case, domestic terrorism in the other) is treated as an additional charge compounded to the original crime?

  • SororAyin

    No, Matthias, you’re confusing personhood with citizenship.  I did not become any more of a person on October 25th, 2000 (my 18th birthday) than I had been on the 24th.  What changed was that I was granted access to a fuller measure of citizenship than I had previously enjoyed.  That’s a big difference. 

    We have had degrees of personhood in this country before.  Think of the plight of blacks before the Civil War.  To the slavery supporters of the South, blacks were not fully people, and the slave owners treated them accordingly.  A slave is by definition someone who must work at the bidding of another.  A slave has no choice in who his/her master is, no choice in what work is to be done unless the master chooses to grant such choice, and no hope of compensation for the work performed.  A slave is not considered to be fully a person and yet must labor on behalf of a master who is considered more human than the slave.  The master is not obligated to care for the dignity or even the safety of the slaves. Lastly, a slave has no expectation that his/her status will improve unless the master chooses to free the slave, a rare event indeed.

    Contrast all of that with the way I was treated as a juvenile in modern America.  My mother and father divorced when I was two, and my father was granted only very limited visitation rights because he had a history of violence and had been abusive toward my mother.  The courts, because they acknowledged my full personhood, granted me the dignity and respect that is due a person by protecting me from a potential abuser.  My mother and grandmother raised me with respect and kindness.  They acknowledged my full personhood, thus they treated my thoughts and feelings, needs and longings as just as significant and worthy of consideration as those of an adult.  At no point did they treat me as an inferior.  When I held summer jobs, I was the one to profit from the work I did because, as a person, I was entitled to the fruits of my labors.  The law even provided legal protections to ensure that no employer could take advantage of me because of my youth.  Those legal privileges that were withheld from me (voting, consuming alcohol, etc.) were things that I knew would be granted to me in time.  I at no time felt that my delayed access to the full rights of citizenship was intended as a sign that I was inferior, or less of a person.  My society simply regarded me as young and vulnerable and therefore in need of protection for a time.  Until that time, I was to be nurtured, guided, and prepared for the day when I would become an adult in the eyes of the law.

    Differing degrees of personhood is a concept no longer enshrined in our laws.  We simply grant children an abbreviated form of citizenship.  It’s not even remotely the same thing.

  • Carstonio

    Do they actually want to impose the death penalty, or will life in
    prison be sufficient to satisfy their pathological need to punish women
    for the crime of being sexually active? …But if that isn’t their
    goal, if they would say “of course we don’t want that,” well, then, I
    have to ask, “what the hell do you want?”

    Although the end result of what they propose is control of females, they aren’t simply James Bond villains hatching diabolical schemes to keep the world’s women toiling in the baby mines. That wouldn’t explain why many women seek to make abortion illegal. Sure, numerous male opponents do see wives and children as husbandly property. But many others, both men and women, seem to fetishize not just motherhood but procreation in general.

    As a father who cried when I saw my newborn child for the first time, I understand completely how procreation can seem magical or even godlike. But these folks treat the lack of desire for motherhood as the whole problem, as something vile and repulsive. This attitude seems to go deeper than “be fruitful and multiply,” almost a belief that not wanting motherhood is “anti-God.” They refuse to see this as anything but selfishness. For some men in this group, their fervor could be simple existential fear, a subconscious belief that women are more important to procreation than men.

  • AnonymousSam

    I hope you get through your weekend well. I’m still struggling to adjust to daylight savings time myself and far from getting another hour of sleep, I’m simply tired an hour earlier and wake up feeling like I got to bed an hour too late.

    You make a good argument about intentionally bringing about a miscarriage. It would wind up being investigated the same way domestic violence is investigated, I think… which is usually “ineffectually, with a lot of accusations, lack of cooperation, and no one leaving satisfied.”

  • Carstonio

     

    If abortion should be illegal but not punishable, what is the reasoning for making it illegal?

    I’ve heard this defended as symbolizing “respect for life,” as if passing criminal laws were no different from issuing proclamations. Never mind that this would make very little difference in the abortion rate, if at all.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I wonder if safe abortions would be available if abortion were illegal but not punishable.

  • AnonymousSam

    (Making this a second reply since I can’t remember if you use e-mail subscription, so you might not see an edit to the previous post.)

    On second thought, if the ultraconservatives had their way, I could see even an unintentional miscarriage being prosecuted as murder by negligence. After all, we’re not supposed to be having sex until God (meaning an ordained priest of specific Christian denominations) tells us we’re ready to have children, by which time we should be married, wealthy, living away from the nasty black people, so any loss of pregnancy is clearly due to the woman doing something wrong.

    Okay, I feel dirty now. And not in the good way.

  • EllieMurasaki

    (Emails, yes. Edits do not come through. Thank you.)

    That is terrifyingly plausible. And what’s the betting that women sufficiently white, Christian, and married would get a pass?

  • AnonymousSam

    Pretty bad. After all, she’s a W-Word, which means she has a V-Word, which means she’s dirtyfilthy by default and a miscarriage is a punishment by God for doing something wrong.

    Isn’t it scary to think how easily we could sink straight back into the dark ages if certain portions of our populace got into control somehow?

  • Tricksterson

    You should ask her if she would feel the same way if it was her who was raped and pregnant.  While she might answer a straight yes, I’d be willing to bet that she will somehow fudge, either with some version of the “real rape can’t result in pregnancy” argument or an implication that anyone who was raped was “somehow” inviting it.

  • banancat

    Wow, not eating vegetables is not a moral failing, and disease is not punishment for obesity. I thought a blog this progressive would not engage in food shaming.

  • AnonymousSam

    If they have the opportunity to eat healthy food and intentionally throw it away, I’m not sure that’s behavior to encourage. It’s one thing when you eat unhealthy food because it’s cheaper, more accessible, etc… but that’s not what’s happening. The vegetables are there, but the parents are praising unhealthy eating habits taking priority because NANNY STATE NAZIS NOT GONNA TELL MY KIDS WHAT TO DO.

  • Lunch Meat

    (CW: Disability, accidents)

    She contended that even in cases of rape and incest, “God can make wonderful things out of horrible circumstances.”

    Wonderful things can happen to people who are in horrible accidents or disabled. They can become wise and inspiring, they can discover a deeper level of joy or contentment than they had before. Should we not heal people who have been injured, so that they have the chance to be disabled and learn how to be wise and inspiring?

  • WalterC

    Food shaming is not a bad thing. If someone is throwing away perfectly healthy, edible food solely for the purpose of hypothetically spiting Michelle Obama, they should feel ashamed. That’s ridiculous. Though I wouldn’t take it out on the kids; it’s the full-grown adults who hear about and encourage this who should be ashamed.

  • MaryKaye

    One of the things that the fetishization of motherhood ignores is that one’s parenthood might be one’s REASON for needing an abortion.

    I’ve written before about the couple whose accidental second child made them incapable of providing the care they needed to their adopted first child, who ended up institutionalized for life after an attempted murder of the baby.  I spent a terrifying couple of days thinking I was in that scenario myself, and I think I would have had an abortion *because* I am a parent and my child’s needs are very important to me.

    If you are having trouble feeding your current children, and then someone rapes you, that “precious gift from God” is going to mean hunger for the rest of the family.  And if you die in childbirth…?  Who is going to take care of your children then?  For some women in some circumstances, having an abortion is the correct choice *as a mother*.

  • Dean

    Honestly, I don’t think these kinds of posts are that productive either, it’s easy to take pot shots at extreme positions, it’s a lot harder to advance the debate in a productive way that will resonate with moderates on both sides.  I also thought the blog post by the prosecutor was compelling, though I think the tone was a little off-putting and undermined it a little bit, and the tone of the abortion debate is actually a big part of what makes it so intractable.  I actually think most people in America believe what I believe, which is abortion is bad thing, we should try to minimize it, but it probably shouldn’t be illegal.  The problem a lot of evangelicals have with some pro-choice advocates is that they don’t believe that pro-choicers think abortion is a bad societal thing, they think that pro-choicers think it’s neutral or even a societal good.  Frankly, I think that’s a misconception, but I have had discussions with some pro-choice advocates who have left me with the feeling that they think society has no say at all on abortion and doesn’t even have a right to impose a moral judgement on it.  I don’t believe that either, society absolutely has the right to say that from a moral standpoint, abortion is not a good thing and we want fewer abortions, but not necessarily make it illegal.  I just don’t think in the general discourse, that voice ever gets heard.  On the flip side, you have pro-life fringe who is talking about rape and incest and the holocaust, etc., it’s a given that these people are crazy and you’re never going to change what they think, but I suspect the vast majority of the country is pretty moderately pro-choice/pro-life and are actually not that far apart.  It’s easy to pick on the crazies, but what good does that really do?  It just further polarizes the debate. 

    I’m pro-choice precisely because of the reasons in Chris’s post, while I find abortion to be a terrible thing, it’s the byproduct of a free society and I accept that.  But I really think what pro-choice advocates need to do to challenge the pro-life fringe is not to entrench in a more extreme “abortion on demand” position or talk about zygotes, but to engage them and challenge them by saying yes, let’s work together to reduce the number of abortions overall.  I actually really liked the position in the Dem’s platform about abortion being “safe, legal and rare”.   They’ve since dropped that, and the tone in this election cycle has become more aggressive as well, partly in response to Romney/Ryan’s extreme positions, I get that.  I just think that’s unfortunate and isn’t helpful in the long run.

  • WalterC

     I just think that’s unfortunate and isn’t helpful in the long run.

    That may be so, but the other way wasn’t working too well either. The most powerful leaders of the pro-life movement are not interested in compromise. At first, they seemed reasonable at first. But we’ve seen in the past that they are willing to chip away at every theoretical point of compromise. 

    They acknowledged that abortion should be permitted in the cases of rape, incest, and in cases that endanger the life of the mother; then they tried to redefine “rape” in as narrow a way as possible, and tried to dismiss the idea of medically-necessary abortions completely. 

    They took the abortion should be “safe legal and rare” thing and tried to shred that by taking pot shots at contraception; not only did they try to give employers an unprecedented level of power over the interaction between an employee, their health care provider, and their insurance provider, they argued that contraception itself was a form of abortion and should be restricted on that ground as well. They tried to defund family planning services like Planned Parenthood, which are probably the most successful “anti-abortion” groups in America if your goal is to minimize the number of abortions that are needed by providing options and interventions before planned pregnancies and supplying prenatal care to the poorest, reducing the risk of involuntary miscarriages.

    And in cases where they could not legally prohibit abortion, they have tried to run any providers out of business, imposing needlessly strict health regulations. It wasn’t that long ago in my state of Virginia that our GOP-controlled legislature tried to order doctors to go after women seeking  abortions with speculums. That proposal was defeated, but they still passed other ordnances intended to make abortion clinics unable to operate in state. 

    Even if you accept the notion that compromising on reproductive freedom for women is reasonable, it’s not reasonable to come to the table with people who are willing to behave like this. Compromise is a two-way street, but with some pro-life politicians the “compromise” is that liberals should accept stringent restrictions on abortion access today while conservatives get to chip away at contraception rights, plot to investigate women who have miscarriages for homicide, and make even legal, accepted abortions so hard to get that they might as well be illegal for the working poor. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    The problem a lot of evangelicals have with some pro-choice advocates is that they don’t believe that pro-choicers think abortion is a bad societal thing, they think that pro-choicers think it’s neutral or even a societal good.

    Isn’t it, though? At least in comparison to making a family of three start going hungry because the household income is insufficient for a family of four, or in comparison to letting a woman die of complications of pregnancy, or in comparison to letting both twin fetuses die because they’re conjoined in such a way that leaving them that way will kill them both and there’s no way to separate them without killing one, or in comparison to making a woman go through months of body horror when she doesn’t even want the end result?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Isn’t it, though? At least in comparison to…

    Well, someone might believe that abortion is a societal good in comparison to making a woman go through months of body horror when she doesn’t even want the end result, but not a societal good in comparison to that same woman not getting pregnant in the first place (e.g., through access to birth control).

    If I believe that, my answer to “is abortion a social good?” depends a lot on what choices are available to women in the society under discussion and how much freedom and power they have to exercise those choices. It might be a social good when those choices are restricted, for example, and become less of one as women gain more freedom and power and social ability to make their own choices.

  • Carstonio

    I would say that having safe, legal abortions available as a choice is a societal good. Only the individual woman should decide whether abortion is best in her specific circumstances. Your point seems to imply that there are circumstances where a woman should have an abortion, and that raises ethical questions about individual self-determination even in the abstract.

  • Aiwhelan

     That is a very prevalent undercurrent in pro-life thinking- I still remember the shock I felt when I read an article on the statistics of forced pregnancies and sabotaged birth control by abusive partners. I could see I’d been thinking back-to-front, in terms of these guys making a woman get rid of her pregnancy and realised that my ideas were pure fiction (mostly from too many Lifetime movies).

  • Dean

    There are absolutely good reasons for why abortion should be an option for women in whatever unfortunate circumstances they might find themselves in, but I think saying that elective abortion is a society good in general is a pretty tough sell.  You are free to take that position of course, I just don’t think most people in this country, even most people who are pro-choice, would agree with you.   I think people should be encouraged to use contraception and abortion should be something that’s discouraged.  I’m pretty sure if you framed the issue in that way and advanced policies that reflected that position, a supermajority of the country would be on board.  The problem is this has become a discussion among folks on the extremes on both sides and everyone else is just left out of it.   It’s not really a debate anymore, just a shouting match.  

    I used to think that Roe v. Wade was one of the worst decisions ever made by the Supreme Court, but the older I get, the more I think it was actually pretty darn good.  I think it really does try to balance the rights of the unborn with the rights of the mother and give some direction on how a free society might try to work out that tension.  I think this country just needs to get out of the ideological debates that have hobbled us for so many years now and try to focus on policies that get most of what we all want.  Is there really any other alternative if we want to move “Forward”?  

  • Dean

     Agreed, that’s what I meant to say. 

  • BC

    My thinking on abortion:  trust the woman to make the best decision for herself.  You do not have a say in every pregnant woman’s decision whether to carry the child to term or whether to abort.  It is no one’s business – which is what Roe v Wade pretty much says, this is a privacy issue and no one else has any input that must be respected by the woman.  So – trust women.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    It’s more than that. When the women come up in situations like this, pro-lifers usually launch into “Oh, the poor dear” rhetoric – she didn’t know what she was doing, clearly not in her right mind, that kind of thing. They routinely frame women who get abortions as victims as well, which is probably what leads to this particular blind spot where abortion is “murder” but one of the killers receives no punishment.

    There is an abortion clinic in the town where I live.  During the warmer months, I have seen a small group of protesters by an intersection near my primary bus stop.  I never engaged with them, but have walked close enough by to notice that they are all older women plus one older man in a priest’s collar.  One of their protest signs said “Women do regret abortions!”  

    I have sometimes considered asking them about the situation where someone very close to me went to get an abortion at age fourteen so she would not be forced to be both a biological mother and a biological sister to a child of rape, let alone as a teenager.  Should she have regretted that?  

  • banancat

    Food shaming to make people healthier is about as effective as slut shaming to reduce unwanted pregnancy. Maybe we should consider why people don’t eat enough vegetables and then use that to figure out an effective way to get people to eat more of them. But I can assure you that whatever those effective methods are, shaming isn’t one of them. We also need to de-link healthy eating and weight. Even thin people need nutrients from vegetables. Vegetables aren’t a punishment for being fat.

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

    But conservatives are lauding the fact that children are throwing the vegetables out of their lunches at school

    And how many of them love telling down-home bromides about their mommies making them eat their veggies, and then wagging their fingers at everybody else and sanctimoniously admonishing them to feed their kids right?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Wonderful things can happen to people who are in horrible accidents or
    disabled. They can become wise and inspiring, they can discover a deeper
    level of joy or contentment than they had before. Should we not heal
    people who have been injured, so that they have the chance to be
    disabled and learn how to be wise and inspiring?

    Not bad, but you’re not taking it far enough.

    Logically speaking, we should kneecap all citizens, so they too can have the chance to learn how to be wise and inspiring.  9_9

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    If you want to read a interesting, thoughtful and (in Canadian law) legal discussion of abortion rights you should look at the writings of various justices of the Supreme Court of Canada in their ruling on R. v. Morgentaler in 1988. At that time the decision as to whether a Canadian woman could have an abortion lay with a “therapeutic” committee comprised of three medical doctors.

    The Court struck down that law as unconstitutional, finding that it violated the constitutional rights of Canadian women. Right now Canada does really have any law about abortion, the procedure falls under provincial health care regulations (as in, will the system pay) and last I checked we had an abortion rate lower than that in the United States.

    All of the following quotes are taken from the relevant page of the Centre for Constitutional Studies at the University of Alberta (http://www.law.ualberta.ca/centres/ccs/rulings/rvmorgentaler.php)

    Judges Dickson and Lamer wrote: “Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus an infringement of security of the person.”

    Judge Wilson wrote that the relevant section of the Criminal code: “takes a personal and private decision away from the woman and gives it to a committee which bases its decision on ‘criteria entirely unrelated to [the pregnant woman's] own priorities and aspirations.’…Section 251 is more deeply flawed than just subjecting women to considerable emotional stress and unnecessary physical risk. It asserts that the woman’s capacity to reproduce is to be subject, not to her own control but to that of the state. This is direct interference with a woman’s physical “person.”


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