What do the purple people want in PRRI’s abortion poll?

This is the Public Religion Research Institute’s Graphic of the Week:

“In an exceedingly complex debate over abortion,” PRRI asks, “what do the labels ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ actually mean to average Americans?”

That’s not addressed in this graphic, but their data on “overlapping identities” points toward one possibility.

There’s a lot of purple in that graphic — the portion of each graph representing those who identify as both “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” White evangelicals and Catholics, unsurprisingly have the largest share of adherents who identify exclusively as pro-life. My guess is that this share — those who refuse any association with the identifier pro-choice — reflects those who want to see abortion criminalized, those who view abortion as immoral and also (or therefore) want to see it made illegal.

But more than half of Catholics and more than a third of white evangelicals identify as both pro-life and pro-choice. My guess — and this is only a guess — is that this suggests a moral opposition to abortion along with a perhaps-reluctant acknowledgement that it nonetheless ought to remain a legal option. My guess is that these purple people would be approximately in favor of the old Clinton formula: safe, legal and rare — perhaps with an emphasis on the “rare.” Some might prefer to pursue making abortion more rare by introducing an increasing number of legal hurdles, obstacles and hindrances, but others may prefer to pursue making abortion more rare by empowering women to have a wider menu of viable, meaningful choices (living wages, health care, day care, etc.).

Again, I’m just guessing — the graphic doesn’t actually tell us anything about what the purple people want or what it means, to them, to choose both of those identifiers of pro-life and pro-choice. It may only indicate that many Americans find these identifiers both to be inadequate on their own — as Taja Lindley recently wrote, the polarizing politics of abortion present a stark binary view that doesn’t capture many people’s actual experience:

In today’s binary political system, however, abortion has become oversimplified. Although fraught with social, economic, cultural, and political meaning, abortion has been reduced to a singular and isolated issue in the political arena. And yet, just below the surface of political silencing, those of us whose experiences with abortion do not fit neatly into didactic sound-bites and talking points for pundits and policymakers in their public debates about our bodies, the waters of human experience still run deep.

But if my guess above is correct — if the “pro-life only” category represents those who want to see abortion outlawed, while the purple people lean toward safe, legal and rare — then this graphic shows us something interesting: Earlier surveys have found that about a third of white evangelicals want abortion to be legally available in their communities. Yet this survey finds 48 percent of white evangelicals identifying themselves as pro-choice. This may indicate that allowing respondents to qualify their answers — to say they are pro-choice but also pro-life — resulted in a greater number of white evangelicals being willing to state that they do not wish to see abortion criminalized. And if my guess is correct about what this graphic is showing us, then it would suggest that a greater number of white evangelicals wish to see abortion remain a legal option than wish to see it banned completely.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    That’s all well and good, but the poll asked about how people self-identify, not their thoughts on specific legal questions. And on the matter of identity, Fred contributes to the polarised, stark binary view that excludes a hell of a lot of people.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Accurate if and only if, I’d like to point out, the pregnant person wants/plans to be a mother. And is a she. Not all people with functional uteruses are female.

  • banancat

     Again, I’m pretty sure this is a new phenomenon that has come about because anti-abortion activists were called on their hypocrisy and so they used their power to change the language use and therefore the perception of pregnancy.  There’s also some anti-feminist backlash that has led to a certain subset becoming baby-obsessed.  And of course, the internet will accumulate and magnify anything because everyone can find like-minded people.  But a pregnant woman still isn’t automatically a mother and we can challenge this change by using the better term.

  • Lori

    People’s self-view is the subject of the poll, but not really the main issue WRT abortion. The purple people aren’t automatically right because they’re in the middle or because they’re in some way excluded by the typical framing of the debate. The poll tells us something about how people feel about that framing or about themselves, but it tells us nothing about what constitutes a good, right or reasonable position on the issue of abortion. There are actually some issues where, to borrow from Jim Hightower, there really is nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos. Abortion is legal and therefore safe, or women die.

    Everything that people do to make it more difficult for a woman to get a safe, legal abortion should she want or need one results in women dying and there is no ethically coherent argument that justifies the state creating that situation.

  • Lori

    I know that the US has a history of abusing ‘counselling’ to manipulate
    people on behalf of the forced birth contingent but there is nothing fundamentally
    flawed with legitimate, fact based counselling for ensuring people have
    full information and preparation before making a life altering
    decision.  

    When you had counseling before your CF testing who mandated it and who conducted it? There is a huge difference between counseling mandated by your doctor or even your insurance company as part of generally excepted best medical practices, and counseling mandated by the state. There is also a huge difference between counseling conducted by your doctor or someone on the medical staff and counseling conducted by outside personnel.

    In practice I have never seen a requirement for (so-called) neutral counseling that wasn’t to abortion what “teach the controversy” is to biology. 

  • Carstonio

     

    In practice I have never seen a requirement for (so-called) neutral
    counseling that wasn’t to abortion what “teach the controversy” is to
    biology.

    Excellent analogy. The ostensible goals of the state-mandated counseling could be accomplished without that requirement. It doesn’t make sense unless one assumes a broader objective of discouraging women from having abortions.

  • Rowen

     Makes sense. I think I was thinking a long the lines of my HIV tests. It’s been a rough month and at the last one, during the “let’s talk about sex” part, I totally broke down and the doctor and I chatted for a bit, and he gave me a list of therapists to see.

    I do realize that most of the legislation we’re discussing was created by people who probably aren’t viewing the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center as a standard of operation, though.

  • Violet

    I’m in the purple zone. I think human life is a process of development which begins at conception and that all human life is valuable and should be protected. I can’t imagine ever having an abortion myself. I don’t like the idea of abortion and I find the way some pro-choice advocates talk about unborn humans to be disgusting and dishonest.

    On the other hand, I don’t think banning abortion will lead to less abortions, only unsafe illegal ones. I can’t call myself pro-choice because 1. I don’t want to be affiliated in any way with people who shoot abortion doctors and 2. I’m in favour of cheap, plentiful contraception for everyone.

    In an ideal world, no-one would abort their child. I think the best way to achieve that is better sex education, easy access to contraception, legal protections for working mothers, better childcare facilities and a system that makes sure fathers have to pay child support, from conception onwards.

  • Lori

     

    The ostensible goals of the state-mandated counseling could be accomplished without that requirement.  

    Exactly. It’s not as if, left to their own devices, abortion providers would just perform an abortion on anyone who walks through the door, with no discussion about it. Providers can and do refuse to perform abortions on women who don’t understand the procedure or who seem too unsure about their decision. The mustache twirling villain who hustles poor, vulnerable women through his abortion mill so that he can get rich off killing babies doesn’t actually exists in an environment where abortion is legal. Such people do exist where abortion is illegal. That’s what always happens when you have a black market focused on the desperate or a gray market exclusively serving the wealthy, which is what you get when abortion is illegal.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I can’t call myself pro-choice because 1. I don’t want to be affiliated in any way with people who shoot abortion doctors and 2. I’m in favour of cheap, plentiful contraception for everyone.

    Did you mean to say you can’t call yourself pro-life?

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

    I can’t call myself pro-choice because 1. I don’t want to be affiliated in any way with people who shoot abortion doctors

    Ehem, it’s not pro-choicers doing that.

  • Keromaru5

    I’m not normally a fan of Frederica Mathewes-Green (a very pro-life conservative columnist and prominent Orthodox Christian speaker), but the whole time I’ve been following this thread, I kept thinking back to this article, about the Common Ground group she was part of.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    People’s self-view is the subject of the poll, but not really the main issue WRT abortion.

    Once again, my comment is not about legality and it’s not about what the main issue might be. It’s not about any of the things you’ve mentioned in each reply to me. I’m not arguing with you on any of that.

    My comment is about the specific piece of text I first quoted, and that’s it. I’d appreciate not being talked at as if in response to a point that I haven’t made, and won’t be making.

  • Lori

    Fine. I’ll repeat my first point. To the extent that Fred is actually part of the polarizing of the abortion debate, good for him. The purple middle is not the moral high ground.

  • Dan Audy

    The genetic testing is mandated by the Alberta Health Services, our governmental health care provider.  Specifically, you get a referral from your family doctor to a genetic counsellor who meets with you to explain everything and ensure you understand how to deal with the results of your testing (either positive or negative) who in turn writes the lab request once they are comfortable that you understand what is going on.  Usually the meeting with the counsellor is mostly a formality and your testing is performed as part of the same visit.  In my case the genetic counsellor was an employee of the same hospital that performed my testing but people who live in smaller communities can either travel to a major centre or sometimes get their counselling done by phone and have a local lab take samples to be sent to a facility capable of doing genetic testing.

    When I got my vasectomy done I had a similar experience where the doctor performing the procedure discussed why I was getting the procedure done and ensured I understood the consequences and risks involved.  While that I believe was not governmentally mandated and was a combination of best practices and liability prevention I would have no problem with the government mandating that all providers follow best practices.

    I know that in the US that counselling is used as a backdoor attempt to increase barriers to abortions.  The problem however isn’t the idea of counselling but rather that your culture is sick with a religiously patriarchal sexual puritanism.  If your country had a significant population of Scientologists you’d have people pushing misleading counselling before people could take anti-depressants or if Jehovah’s Witness’ before people could have a blood transfusion.  The counselling is not inherently manipulative but rather the people pushing it to further their agenda.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Sounds like the explanation that William Saletan at Slate offers the rape and incest exceptions. He argues that these aren’t really about compromising with pro-choicers, but with soothing the consciences of pro-lifers bothered by making women give birth.

    Absolutely.  Not one of the people who says, “Oh, of course there should be exceptions for rape and incest” offers any ideas on just how such exceptions would actually work.  Would there have to be a rape kit?  A conviction?  Genetic testing?  What?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    On that we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  • The_L1985

    I was once that naive.  I can see it happening.  She’s basically saying a lot of the same stuff I said when I was in college and first trying to really wrap my head around the facts of the whole abortion thing.

    It took a combination of learning more about severe birth defects and maternal poverty, and the article “The Only Moral Abortion Is My Abortion,” to change my mind.  I did a complete 180 from “complete ban, no exceptions,” to “Who am I to decide whether a complete stranger’s reasons are ‘good enough’ to have an abortion?  It’s not my place to judge other women, especially women in a situation that they actually need this!”

  • The_L1985

    AO teachers are stuck in a weird bind because of the restriction on sex placed by extremist forms of Christianity.  Namely, that sex within marriage is very strongly encouraged, to the point that it’s almost creepy; whereas sex outside of marriage is very strongly discouraged, and girls* who engage in it are horrible filthy slut-whores.  (Some forms also go on and on about how filthy masturbation and homosexuality are, others prefer to pretend that they don’t exist at all.)

    This sort of doublethink naturally permeates into AO classes as well.

    ————————-
    * The boys that these girls presumably had sex with are, of course, completely ignored.  Because Boners Are Uncontrollable Werewolves, and it’s all the girl’s fault for getting one of those started instead of being as “chaste” and “modest” as the church told her to be.  Even if she was raped, this is the model used.  After all, she had to be doing something to entice her rapist, or it wouldn’t have happened, right? (Ew ew ew I actually typed that.  I feel filthy now.)

  • The_L1985

    Through the magic of matrimony!

    Seriously, this was never once pointed out.  There’s this strong expectation that married people will Just Know everything about sex, simply by virtue of having the magical token that is a wedding ring.  Nobody stops to question that a vehemently anti-witchcraft segment of the population is simultaneously suggesting that Weddings Are Magic.  Nobody even thinks that slightly weird? Really?

    And I like that you pointed out that kissing and cuddling are a “possible” exception.  The “no kissing or holding hands” folks make me quite uncomfortable.

  • The_L1985

    True, but  I’m so used to Invisible Transpeople that I try not to make the “transmen exist and are basically men with uteri” thing a huge deal.  Most people honestly don’t consider the fact that transpeople exist, until they’re confronted with one.  I know I didn’t until I made e-friends with some transfolks.

  • Carstonio

     

    The problem however isn’t the idea of counselling but rather that your
    culture is sick with a religiously patriarchal sexual puritanism.

    From my reading, the objection is not to counseling but to the statutory requirement. You’re probably right about the latter.

  • Carstonio

     

    The problem however isn’t the idea of counselling but rather that your
    culture is sick with a religiously patriarchal sexual puritanism.

    From my reading, the objection is not to counseling but to the statutory requirement. You’re probably right about the latter.

  • banancat

    I saw the last Twilight movie even though I never saw the preceding ones. And the creepiest part was how much emphasis there was on the wedding ring during the sex scene. The camera kept zooming in on it sparkling.

  • Amaryllis

    ‘Married sex’ or ‘wedding night’? Because I suspect the former is better
    than the latter, especially so for people who hadn’t had any sex before
    the wedding night.

    When I was a little girl, my mother had a book by, I think, Maria von Trapp about Catholic family life. In which she suggests that “wedding night” doesn’t have to mean “married sex” either, because wouldn’t it be nice if the new couple spent their first few nights in prayer?

    Even at ten, I thought that was a little odd.

    Not that Mrs von Trapp had anything against eventually getting around to married sex, judging by all those children.

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

     

    wouldn’t it be nice if the new couple spent their first few nights in prayer? Even at ten, I thought that was a little odd.

    (shrug) Different families are structured around different things at different times, and different people have different priorities. If what’s most new and special and exciting to me about my recent marriage is not at all related to sex, it makes sense that what I most want to spend my honeymoon doing won’t be having sex.

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

     

    Nobody stops to question that a vehemently anti-witchcraft segment of
    the population is simultaneously suggesting that Weddings Are Magic. 

    The first Catholic wedding I ever attended was as part of the wedding party for a couple of friends. As part of the ceremony, the priest invoked the power of God to transform wafers into the body of Christ and wine into the blood of Christ, which, y’know, OK.

    He then invoked the power of God to transform the bride into an obedient woman.

    If I had believed that his words had power to transform reality, I would have felt morally obligated to interrupt the ceremony right there. I mean, I knew the bride, I knew their relationship, and in the context of that relationship such a transformation would have been a deeply unethical violation of her personal integrity and their integrity as a couple.

    As it was, I felt a strong obligation to walk out of the ceremony rather than be seen as endorsing that sort of magic, even in principle. I didn’t, because that would have been hurtful, but I’m still ambivalent about that choice.

  • Isabel C.

    I didn’t ask, but comments from my married friends suggest that wedding night sex was not a thing.

    Of course, they all had gotten it on a lot prior to marriage, so it wasn’t a “yay, we can have sex now!” deal: from what I can tell, it was “yay, we can get some damn sleep!” that particular night. ;)

    Which might be why bridesmaids, the bride’s parents, etc, had a bigger role back when the wedding night was more widely the first occasion those particular people were supposed to have sex. 

  • other lori

    I always hoped they were straw people, too. I have a B.A. in women’s studies, and I a graduate certificate in women’s studies. I used to argue vehemently that no feminists actually believed stuff like that, or made fun of women for being stay-at-home moms, or viewed all men as potential rapists, or any of the stereotypes, because I’d never met any real-life feminists like that.

    And then I encountered the feminist blogosphere. Especially, but not exclusively, where it intersects with the “child-free” movement, it’s filled with some of the most  misanthropic people I’ve ever encountered. 

    But, pre-internet, I also thought all atheists were amazingly tolerant, open-minded, progressive people. 

    Of course, I’d also never met a young-earth creationist before the internet, and would have probably said that such people didn’t exist, either. My non-internet life has been pretty charmed, I guess.

    At first I hoped it was maybe all just performance art.

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

     I have not yet been 100% convinced that it isn’t performance art.
    Some people are very committed to their art.

  • other lori

    And if I’d said “equally awful,” that might be valid.

    I think a lot of people can be kind of blinded by the faults of their own side, especially as new converts, and that is true of both pro-lifers and pro-choicers. But, there are no perfect groups of people.

    There are racist, selfish, awful pro-choicers. There are people who are in favor of legal abortion access who would like to see the U.S. adopt a one-child policy (don’t believe me?–check out xojane, where awful pro-choicers love to gather).  There are pro-choicers who wish minorities would stop having so many babies. The pro-choice movement is not immune to awfulness.
     
    But, the whole point of the graph is to show that you can’t divide people neatly into “pro-lifers” and “pro-choicers”; most people don’t clearly identify as one or the other. I’d imagine that’s because most people see some problems with both movements or at least with some of the rhetoric of both movements. As somebody who has never been a part of the pro-life movement, I’m not super-interested in the problems with their movement; that’s their mess to clean up. I am, as a supporter of legal abortion access for as long as I can remember, interested in making sure the pro-choice movement grapples with the real complexities of the issue.

    Let’s face it, in the age of the ultrasound, “it’s just a blob of tissue” doesn’t ring true for many people, even those who think abortion should be legal. I have feminist friends who have confided to me after seeing a heartbeat on an ultrasound at 7 or 8 weeks that they don’t understand how people could have an abortion and that their unqualified support for abortion wavered a bit. 

    I have friends involved with the disability rights movement who can’t give their full support to the pro-choice movement because of how often “fetal abnormalities” are given as an unimpeachable rationale for abortion access, as if it were a given that a fetus with a disability should be aborted or that the presence of a disability somehow alters the value of that fetus. I know moms of children with Down Syndrome who think abortion should be legal but can’t identify with the pro-choice movement because they see it as at least partly complicit in a culture that leads to the vast majority of fetuses with a DS diagnosis being aborted.

    Any time people start trying to shut down conversation on a complex issue–either with “It’s murder!” or “It’s her body!”–I think there’s a problem. The vast majority of Americans of all backgrounds and viewpoints recognize that abortion is complicated, and not as simple as either the fetus having a right to life that trumps all else or the fetus being nothing but a parasite that society has absolutely no interest in protecting at any time. Most people recognize that there are two interests involved–the interest we have in protecting the bodily integrity of women and the interest we have as a society in protecting human life even at earlier stages–and that balancing those two interests is sometimes complicated.

  • other lori

    I’d give the “purple people” a bit more credit. I don’t think it’s that they think the pro-choice movement actively encourages abortion. But, in reality, there are pro-choicers, some very vocal ones, who really don’t think the current rate of abortion is a problem, who don’t think it would matter if there were more abortions, and believe that there is no difference of any moral import between preventing a pregnancy and terminating a pregnancy. And, that’s fine that they believe that, but I don’t think that’s where most people are, even most people who support legal abortion access.

    I wouldn’t identify as a “purple person,” because I use the labels to refer to legality alone, and so identify fully as pro-choice. But, I really, really don’t like abortion. I’m a pacifist, I think abortion is an act of violence, and I think that in nearly all cases (except for those where the life of the mother is at risk), it is preferable to continue the pregnancy. I also think forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy against her will is an act of violence, so I certainly wouldn’t ever support that. So, at the level of the law, I would always support women having access to safe, legal abortion. But, on a personal level, if somebody who was unexpectedly pregnant came to me, I’d encourage them to continue the pregnancy and do whatever I could to help them do so. If they decided not to, I’d support them and love them and not judge them, but I would think it was a loss.

    And I don’t think I’m the only person who feels that way, and I can see why many people who are in favor of abortion legally but opposed to abortion morally would identify as “purple.” Because, there are many pro-choicers who are not morally opposed to abortion, and, really, given the way abortion laws are decided (not by a popular vote), our views on the morality of abortion are probably more salient in our everyday lives than our views on the legality of abortion are. 

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

    I use the labels to refer to legality alone, and so identify fully as pro-choice.

    I like the succinctness of that.

    at the level of the law, I would always support women having access to
    safe, legal abortion. But, on a personal level, if somebody who was
    unexpectedly pregnant came to me, I’d encourage them to continue the
    pregnancy and do whatever I could to help them do so

    (nods) I was in that camp for a long time… indeed, that could have been a direct quote. And I think you’re right that a lot of “purple” people have basically that position, which gets expressed in various ways.

    I have since then moved to a less me-centric position on the personal level… now, I would say that if somebody who was unexpectedly pregnant came to me, I’d encourage them to talk through their thoughts and feelings about that pregnancy, and about their broader beliefs about morality and what was valuable in the world, and about their various options, and try to help them make a decision that best incorporated all of that stuff and best reconciled the tensions in it… and that my thoughts and feelings and morals and values would not even come up unless I specifically thought discussing them would be useful.

    Any time people start trying to shut down conversation on a complex issue–either with “It’s murder!” or “It’s her body!”–I think there’s a
    problem.

    I agree with this as far as it goes. That said, it’s worth thinking about what exactly the problem is.

    If a bunch of people are sitting around discussing whether or not, and on what terms and conditions, I ought to be permitted to access a medical procedure that I consider necessary to my continued health and well-being, and they are having that conversation in a way that doesn’t seem to pay any attention to me, or my experience, or my preferences, or my capabilities… yeah, I might very well start trying to shut down that conversation with “It’s my body!”

    And yes, in that situation there’s definitely a problem.

    But the problem is not with my attempt to shut down the conversation. The problem predates that attempt. And attempts to “solve the problem” by insisting that I calm down and let the conversation continue are… well, let’s just say I don’t necessarily endorse them.

    Not that I’m suggesting you’re doing that.

  • Carstonio

     

    But, on a personal level, if somebody who was unexpectedly pregnant came
    to me, I’d encourage them to continue the pregnancy and do whatever I
    could to help them do so.

    Why? Even if you support the person no matter what her decision, you’re still proceeding on the assumption that you know what decision she should make, as if you know what’s best for her. Not your call. Dave is exactly right that your thoughts and feelings and morals and values don’t necessarily belong in that  conversation. Someone who has never faced an unwanted pregnancy can truly understand what it’s like to be in that situation, and thus has no knowledge base to make a decision for someone in that situation. This applies even more to me because of my gender.

  • Carstonio

    Dumb joke – wouldn’t a von Trapp advocate that newlyweds spend their first new nights in song?

  • Isabel C.

    Right.

    If I got pregnant, I would get an abortion ASAP. No second thoughts involved, probably no guilt. (And part of why I take such a hard-line stance is that a lot of the rhetoric, especially in the US, suggests that people should feel guilt, and that it should be a tough decision for everyone that they have to justify. Which I resent, frankly.) For the most part, if pressed in a debate, I’d say that, as an abstract and general rule, abortion is the best way to respond to unplanned pregnancy. However, if a friend of mine came to me and said “I’m pregnant, and I’m not sure what to do,” I would try to avoid coming down on either side. I’d ask how they felt about the situation and offer help regardless. Maybe I’d say “Well, if it were *me*…” but I’d be sure to end with “…but that’s me.” It’s pretty much the same way I try to act when friends talk about taking jobs, potentially breaking things off with SOs, and so forth. Everyone’s different. What makes one person happy may well make their twin miserable, and abstract and general rules don’t often work very well in the specific. 

    So I’d try and keep my personal position out of things. I’d hope for the same courtesy from anyone who called themselves my friend. 

  • Isabel C.

    I would also hope for paragraph breaks, but apparently that’s not happening today.

  • EllieMurasaki

    When I was a little girl, my mother had a book by, I think, Maria von Trapp about Catholic family life. In which she suggests that “wedding night” doesn’t have to mean “married sex” either, because wouldn’t it be nice if the new couple spent their first few nights in prayer?

    Even at ten, I thought that was a little odd.

    That actually makes sense to me. It seems entirely plausible that someone knowing nothing of sex, or just the scary bits, who is now expected to have sex, would be scared of having sex. In that situation, please do spend as many nights doing prayer instead of sex as is necessary to stop being scared. It’s hard to enthusiastically consent (not that Maria von Trapp had ever heard the phrase, I expect) to something one is scared of.

  • Lori

     

    I’d imagine that’s because most people see some problems with both
    movements or at least with some of the rhetoric of both movements.   

    I imagine you’re correct about this. My point is that I don’t think this is a particularly admirable position. Sure you can find horrible people who identify as pro-choice. That has basically nothing to do with the validity of the position.

    We rightly make fun of people who use “Hitler was a vegetarian” to imply that vegetarianism is suspect or bad. How is “three are racist pro-choicers on the internet so the pro-choice position is unsavory” really different than that?

    This isn’t about being blind to the faults of “my” side. It’s about having priorities and a realistic sense of what is and is not a problem. There is zero possibility that the US will adopt a one child policy at any point in the foreseeable future. Zero. Any people talking about it on the internet are just talking to hear themselves talk. They have no real public platform and they aren’t actually part of anything that could logically be called the pro-choice movement.

    There is a very real possibility that Roe v Wade will be overturned and even if it’s not there will continue to be new laws passed that effectively prevent women from being able to get safe, legal abortions. In the case of the laws whittling away the legal right to chose it’s the purple people who make that possible.

    Let’s face it, in the age of the ultrasound, “it’s just a blob of
    tissue” doesn’t ring true for many people, even those who think abortion
    should be legal. I have feminist friends who have confided to me after seeing a
    heartbeat on an ultrasound at 7 or 8 weeks that they don’t understand
    how people could have an abortion and that their unqualified support for
    abortion wavered a bit.

    The issue is not “blob of tissue” vs “baby”. It’s person vs not person. The presence of a heartbeat at 7-8 weeks does not make a person. No one is trying to force these wavering feminists to have abortions. That doesn’t change the fact that their thinking on the issue is more than a bit muddled.

    Most people recognize that there are two interests involved–the
    interest we have in protecting the bodily integrity of women and the
    interest we have as a society in protecting human life even at earlier
    stages–and that balancing those two interests is sometimes complicated.  

    This phrasing is itself part of the problem. Saying that people “recognize” that there are two interests involved that society needs to balance assumes that this is a fact, which it is not. It’s a belief or an opinion. It also carries the implication that it’s appropriate to express this supposed need for balance through the debate about access to legal abortion. I strongly believe that it is not.

  • other lori

    I do think that, in general, it’s better to nurture human life than to end it. So, yes, I do think it would be better to continue a pregnancy than to have an abortion, assuming the mother’s life isn’t at risk. Do I make the call for somebody? No. But, it’s simply silly to imagine that we shouldn’t or can’t have opinions, especially when we’re talking about people we love. If a friend of mine is cheating on their spouse or gambling away their money or voting Republican, I’ll love them and support them, but it won’t change the fact that I don’t agree with their choices and, if approached for input, would give it.

    And, I have had an unplanned pregnancy. It was one of the scariest times of my life, and I was in the best possible situation for facing an unplanned pregnancy at the time (married, financially secure, finished with my education, supportive family and friends). So I can imagine how scary it would be for somebody in a less ideal situation, and that’s why I would NEVER support forcing women to carry pregnancies to term or laws that would attempt to do so.

    I think it’s this idea that we can’t have an opinion about abortion–that we can’t think abortion is morally problematic, that we can’t think that continuing a pregnancy is better than terminating in most cases, that we can’t, for example, treat abortion like adultery and think it’s wrong but something that is still a person’s personal business and not something to be legislated–that alienates people from the pro-choice position and causes people to attach to the pro-life label even if they do support legal abortion access.

  • Carstonio

    The advice would be more praiseworthy without the premise of sex being an obligation. Not your premise, but perhaps von Trapp’s.

  • Lori

     

    I have friends involved with the disability rights movement who can’t
    give their full support to the pro-choice movement because of how often
    “fetal abnormalities” are given as an unimpeachable rationale for
    abortion access, as if it were a given that a fetus with a disability
    should be aborted or that the presence of a disability somehow alters
    the value of that fetus. I know moms of children with Down Syndrome who
    think abortion should be legal but can’t identify with the pro-choice
    movement because they see it as at least partly complicit in a culture
    that leads to the vast majority of fetuses with a DS diagnosis being
    aborted.   

    I’m sympathetic to this position, but I don’t think the issue is really the pro-choice movement. The majority of fetuses with DS aren’t aborted because abortion is legal, they’re aborted because a very high percentage of people do not, for a variety of reason, wish to parent a child with DS. The pro-choice movement does leverage those feelings in order to create space in restrictive abortion rules . I don’t think that’s a good thing and I want to note that this is not an argument that I ever personally use and I don’t support it when other people use it. 

    That said I echo Dave’s comment by saying that the actual problem is with the restrictions that create the need for the leverage, and with the attitudes that make the leverage possible, far more than with the pro-choice movements tactics. The mushy middle contributes to that more than it fights it.

    The purple position basically boils down to the idea that some abortions are OK and others are not. That creates the need for women to come up with a “good enough” rational for their abortion. Negative feelings about disability create one such rational because a lot of people know full well that they wouldn’t want to raise a child with disability and therefore don’t quite have the hutzpah to openly condemn a woman for not wanting to either. And yes, that dynamic certainly does feed negative perceptions of disability. If purple people are uncomfortable with that they need to examine their own part in the dance, because the pro-choice movement is not the only place that people have trouble seeing the moral failings of their own group.

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

     

    it’s simply silly to imagine that we shouldn’t or can’t have opinions, especially when we’re talking about people we love. 

    Sure, that’s absolutely true. Has anyone in this discussion said that we shouldn’t or can’t have opinions?

     

    If a friend of mine is [doing things I disapprove of] I’ll love them and support them, but it
    won’t change the fact that I don’t agree with their choices and, if
    approached for input, would give it.

    Would that input always include telling them about your disagreement with their choices? If not, what kinds of situations would encourage you to provide that input in particular, and what kinds would encourage you to withhold it?

    Would that input only include telling them about your disagreement with their choices? If not, what  else would it include, besides that disagreement?
    Would you start with talking about that stuff, or start with talking about your disagreement with their choices, or would it depend?

    For my own part, I find that there are many relationships and many contexts in which, when I am approached for input, I have opinions and moral judgments, and I am perfectly free to have them, and I am not in the least apologetic about having them, and it is usually best to start by talking about things other than my opinions and moral judgments, and it is frequently best to never quite get around to mentioning them.

    They aren’t the most important thing.
    They rarely make the top three.

  • Isabel C.

    Hm. And conversely, I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on the other side, as I said, to feel that it’s problematic but necessary, to justify it (as Lori mentions above), to not think it’s the best choice under most circumstances. And that alienates people like me from the “moderate pro-life” or whatever we’re calling the purple group. 

    Which leads me to believe that most people are going to get or have gotten flak for their opinion, simply because there’s such a range of said opinions and people all feel very strongly about them. Which, in true New Englander fashion, leads me to believe that we should keep said opinions mostly to ourselves–unless specifically asked “What would you do?” or “What do you think about abortion?”–while leaving the law as open as possible. 

    I feel the same way about religion, adultery, and gambling, for that matter–and where voting’s concerned, I’ll campaign and be generally outspoken about being Democratic, but I do feel like it’s not okay for me to approach my Republican acquaintances and family directly. Keep yourself to yourself, and so forth.

  • Carstonio

     

    I do think that, in general, it’s better to nurture human life than to end it.

    As the original Lori pointed out, we’re talking about personhood, not life. Before advance directives were common, there were many instances of people being kept alive by machines after hope of recovery was gone. That’s another case were no one who hasn’t had a loved one in that situation can truly understand what it’s like to be in that situation. (The case of Terri Schiavo was really a family conflict that escalated into a political one.) The long-term solution wasn’t to debate over which course was the most moral in these cases, but to turn the decision over to the individual patient ahead of time.

    If a friend of mine is cheating on their spouse or gambling away their money or voting Republican,

    It’s defensible to have an opinion about the first and third situations, because they’re cases where actions are hurting others. I perceive the second as more problematic because any handling of that type of addiction by outsiders can very easily be paternalistic – ending the addiction involves the individual addressing the underlying psychological issues, which aren’t things that others can simply fix.

    This isn’t about having an opinion that abortion is wrong in the abstract. My point is about having an opinion that a specific woman shouldn’t have an abortion. Or that she should. The circumstances are different for every woman, and the consequences of carrying the pregnancy to term may arguably be worse in some cases for the woman and her family. Any opinion by an outsider about the best course in a specific circumstance of unwanted pregnancy is, by default, an uninformed one. That doesn’t mean that the woman automatically knows best, but that ultimately the decision has to rest with her.

  • Lori

     

    In that situation, please do spend as many nights doing prayer
    instead of sex as is necessary to stop being scared. It’s hard to
    enthusiastically consent (not that Maria von Trapp had ever heard the
    phrase, I expect) to something one is scared of.  

    People should absolutely do what works for them. A lot of couples I know didn’t have sex on their wedding night and I think that’s often for the best, especially when they couple is sexually inexperienced. Two virgins, especially of the more clueless variety, having sex for the first time on their wedding night is not going to work our particularly well in a lot of cases. Being tired from a long day + huge expectations + not much knowledge does not tend to equal a happy sexual experience, especially for the woman.

    That said, I’m not sure that most people are going to find nights of prayer all that helpful. Nights of talking to each other and getting comfortable, sure. Nights of talking to God, not so much I think. Delay that doesn’t actually, directly improve the situation can just lead to more dread. and dread is not the friend of good sex.

  • Fusina

    No one should be forced to do something they don’t want to.

    Other people’s rights end where my skin begins.

    Live and let live.

    And where is the new Left Behind Post???

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    I know moms of children with Down Syndrome who think abortion should be
    legal but can’t identify with the pro-choice movement because they see
    it as at least partly complicit in a culture that leads to the vast
    majority of fetuses with a DS diagnosis being aborted.

    And yet they don’t fear that by identifying as Down Syndrome advocates they should be promoting that women wait longer to have children in order to increase the number of children with Down Syndrome.

    No, of course not, because it would be unreasonable to assume that a Down Syndrome advocate is actually trying to make trisomy more common, while it;’s entirely reasonable to assume that being pro-choice implicates one in Down Syndrome eliminationism.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t like people aborting their Down’s fetuses. I don’t like people aborting their uterus-equipped fetuses either. The way to solve both those problems is by dealing with the problems of societal disapproval of Down’s people and/or women, not by placing restrictions on abortion.

  • Lori

    As I know you know, we also need to increase support for families of people with Down’s and other disabilities. It’s not fair to expect people to knowingly take that on and then just leave them to struggle on their own.

    One of my close family members has a child with serious developmental limitations, as well as other serious health problems. They have been able to get a decent amount of support, but for so many things it has been so much work. Especially as he’s gotten older and his needs for adaptive equipment have increased. Think about how shitty our medical system is for people not rich enough to pay out of pocket. The consider that getting medical care for C has been by far the easiest part. Even getting an appropriate educational placement wasn’t too terribly difficult. Getting help with things like the very expensive diapers that fit him (too big for children’s diapers, way too small for adult diapers) and a bed he can’t fall out of, but which his parents can put him in without breaking their backs, has been really tough.

    Down’s kids need less equipment, but they need far more services and they’re now living much longer than C is going to. Most kids with his condition die by age 6. C is now 10 and doing well, but it’s highly unlikely that he’ll live to 20. Average life expectancy for folks with Down’s is now up around 50, which means that many more of them will outlive their parents. We’re not set up to for that. There are provisions of the ACA that will help with this*, but of course the people most against abortion also tend to be the most dead set against the ACA.

    I understand that the availability of selective abortion for non-fatal fetal abnormalities complicated efforts to get needed services because there’s always going to be some asshole who says, “You could have aborted, but didn’t. Why should my money pay for your choice?” However, I don’t think attacking legal abortion is the way to deal with that.

    *Harold Pollack did a nice video about this during the presidential campaign. His wife became the guardian of her disabled brother when their mother died. Pollack is very clear about the fact that without government programs this would have broken them financially and his BIL would still have ended up in much worse circumstances than he now lives in.


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