Questions about abortion become less complicated as long as you refuse to recognize that they’re complicated

While I don’t consider the legal debate over abortion rights to be particularly interesting — though it will infringe on women’s rights and freedom, outlawing abortions won’t make them go away — I had long thought that the individual ethical questions of abortion were complicated and fraught with moral ambiguity.

But then I read James Joyner and learned how it all really boils down to irrational, ignorant women being irresponsible and deserving of punishment.

What set Joyner off was a recent article from Michelle Goldberg titled “The Return of Back-Alley Abortions” which chronicles how, in response to many states whittling down abortion rights as close to the bone of Roe v. Wade as possible, more and more women have been forced to turn to the black market to rid themselves of pregnancies. In the cases where these women survive these at times dehumanizing “procedures,” many have then found themselves in the cross-hairs of law enforcement. Goldberg writes:

Underground abortions have returned to the United States, just as pro-choice activists have warned for years. And women have started going to jail for the crime of ending their own pregnancies, or trying to.

This week Jennie L. McCormack, a 32-year-old mother of three from eastern Idaho, was arrested for self-inducing an abortion. According to the Associated Press, McCormack couldn’t afford a legal procedure, and so took pills that her sister had ordered online. For some reason, she kept the fetus, which police found after they were called by a disapproving acquaintance. She now faces up to five years in prison, as well as a $5,000 fine.

Idaho recently banned abortions after 20 weeks, and McCormack’s fetus was reportedly between five and six months old. But according to Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, under Idaho law, McCormack could have been arrested even if she’d been in her first trimester because self-induced abortion is illegal in all circumstances. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an 8- or 10- or 12-week abortion,” says Kolbi-Molinas. “If you do what you could get lawfully in a doctor’s office—what you have a constitutional right to access in a doctor’s office—they can throw you in jail and make you a convicted felon.”

While horrific, McCormack’s case is not unique.

My reaction to reading this section of the piece is to shake my head at the prospect of someone having to go to such lengths to practice their Constitutional right, and to be reminded of the maxim of rich and poor alike being proscribed by law from sleeping under bridges. Joyner, on the other hand, has a different set of ethical priorities:

If ever there was a misplaced adjective, this is it. While I’m squishy on very early term abortions–and even later term abortions in cases of severe fetal malformity–killing a viable fetus by ingesting some shit you bought on the Internet is what’s horrific, not the prospect of being punished for so doing.

OK, well, besides stoking feelings of self-righteousness and outrage, I’m not sure Joyner’s response has much to offer in this example. It doesn’t really grapple with the fact that this woman was forced to make an impossible choice due to inadequate policy. It certainly doesn’t offer a possible solution to this flaw in policy; or an idea as to how elected officials could ensure that the law in Idaho adequately reflects the fact that abortion is legal in this country even if you’re poor.

He does reduce this tragic situation that he could not possibly understand to the vulgar and facile depiction of someone “ingesting some shit [she] bought on the Internet,” though. I suppose we could thank him for ridding us of all that bothersome nuance.

It turns out that, on this issue, Joyner is quite skilled at such reductionism. Back to Goldberg:

In 2005, Gabriela Flores, a 22-year-old Mexican migrant worker, was arrested in South Carolina. Like McCormack, she had three children and said she couldn’t afford a fourth, and so she turned to clandestinely acquired pills. (The drug she took, Misoprostol, is an ulcer medicine that also works as an abortifacient and is widely used in Latin American countries where abortion is illegal.) Initially facing two years in prison, she ended up being sentenced to 90 days.

In 2009, a 17-year-old Utah girl known in court filings as J.M.S. found herself pregnant by an older man who is now facing charges of using her in child pornography. J.M.S. lived in house without electricity or running water in a remote part of the state, several hours’ drive from the nearest clinic, which was in Salt Lake City. Getting there would have required not just a car—her area had no public transportation—but money for a hotel in order to comply with Utah’s 24-hour-waiting period, as well as for the cost of the abortion itself.

According to prosecutors, when J.M.S. was in her third trimester, she paid a man $150 to beat her in the hopes of inducing a miscarriage. The fetus survived, but she was charged with criminal solicitation to commit murder. When her case was thrown out on the grounds that her actions weren’t illegal under the state’s definition of abortion, legislators changed the law so they would be able to punish women like her in the future. Meanwhile, prosecutors have appealed J.M.S.’ case to the Supreme Court, and observers expect it to rule against her. She could still face a trial and prison time.

Again, one could respond to the above by recognizing that, just as pro-choice advocates have long claimed, anti-choice legislation falls disproportionately on the underprivileged. Policy designed in theory to prevent women from seeking abortion has instead resulted not only in their doing so anyway, but doing so through means that are even more dangerous and beneficial to the state’s criminal market. One could determine that a system of law that results in a 17-year-old paying someone to brutally assault her because she’d determined this to be her best option is not exactly sound policy.

Joyner himself could even recognize that, as he writes later, “[p]eople do unspeakable things,” and that gritting our teeth and pounding our keyboards in judgment as a response won’t change one way or the other whether or not minors end up in situations like this in the future (which they undoubtedly will). He could further recognize that people like these two would not put themselves through such an ordeal if they felt any more desirable options were available.

Or he could wave off these unwieldy concerns and chalk it up to women’s irrationality (but not without a pat-sounding and rather insufficient recognition of poverty’s role in all of this):

Granting that these women were not in the best position to make rational choices, one can be sympathetic to their plights and still repulsed at their actions. One doesn’t “find” themselves six months pregnant. And the inability to afford to raise the child doesn’t confer the right to kill it or do it irreparable harm. Having a thug murder your baby* is simply unconscionable. Being inconveniently distant from an abortion facility doesn’t change that.

Joyner throws an asterisk on the word baby there so he can recognize at the bottom of the piece what a biased word-choice it is. Not that that causes him to ditch it for another, though, because that’s how he and his wife have viewed the latter’s pregnancies — as well as their doctors — and, after all, that minuscule amount of anecdotal evidence is just about enough to put that to rest, right?

I suppose that, in general, things are easier for Joyner than they may be for the rest of us. Unlike the women above, he’s capable of making rational choices. Indeed, Joyner understands that what one woman saw as destitution and isolation was actually just being “inconveniently distant” from an abortion facility. Having been beaten to the point of miscarriage may have seemed like an awful, viscerally personal experience to that 17-year-old; in actuality, she simply had “a thug murder [her] baby.” In Joyner’s telling, it almost sounds as if she were somewhere else at the time. Perhaps she was once again at an inconvenient distance.

To be fair, Joyner is actually quite capable of accepting that this is an often imperfect world that places people in unjust circumstances. It’s just that he finds this all much more bearable when it’s the government — not the individual — making questionable decisions:

This case is somewhat different:

A woman doesn’t even have to be trying to abort to find herself under arrest. Last year, a pregnant 22-year-old in Iowa named Christine Taylor ended up in the hospital after falling down a flight of stairs. A mother of two, she told a nurse she’d tripped after an upsetting phone conversation with her estranged husband. Though she’d gone to the hospital to make sure her fetus was OK, she confessed that she’d been ambivalent about the pregnancy and unsure whether she was ready to become a single mother of three.

Suspecting Taylor had hurled herself down the stairs on purpose, the nurse called a doctor, and at some point the police were brought in. Taylor was arrested on charges of attempted feticide. She spent two days in jail before the charges were dropped because she was in her second trimester, and Iowa’s feticide laws don’t kick in until the third.

People do some unspeakable things. Consequently, we’ve implemented procedures when red flags are raised. Woman and children who show at the hospital claiming to have fallen down stairs are often screened for abuse. Apparently, when they’re pregnant and express ambivalence about whether their baby survives, they’re sometimes screened for feticide. As with any other criminal justice matter, innocents are sometimes falsely accused.

Hey, “mistakes were made,” right? People do unspeakable things. Not things like subjecting a young woman who’d fallen down a flight of stairs to the ordeal of being arrested on thinly-based and legally tenuous grounds, though. Rather, things like sharing with your nurse your ambivalence about having another child. You know, really terrible stuff. This is still America, after all; it’s not like you can just go around saying these kinds of things in public.

In response to Goldberg’s noting that criminalizing abortion turns women into criminals, Joyner blithely retorts:

Well . . . no. Or, at least, not any more than criminalizing any activity turns the people who engage in that activity into criminals. Abortion is legal, at least in the first 20 weeks or so of pregnancy, because we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s a clinical procedure conducted by highly trained medical professionals. It’s quite another thing when people take matters into their own hands.

The first part of his argument reminds me of that put forth by opponents of marriage equality — the ones that argue that bans of gay marriage aren’t bigoted because straight and gay people both are barred from marrying someone of the same gender. Prop 8 doesn’t strip gay men and women of their right to marry! Criminalizing abortion doesn’t turn women into criminals! And all that stuff prior about these women being completely unable to procure legal abortions? Well, “abortion is legal, at least in the first 20 weeks or so of pregnancy.” So there! Problem solved! (Provided none of them go off like vigilantes taking  the matter of what happens to their own bodies into their own hands, of course.)

In the end, Joyner comes to recognize that the real problem is women’s ignorance alongside a “bizarre” — in the same way a jelly-fish, a two-headed snake or any other such non-man-made occurrence is “bizarre” — “disconnect between abortion being both legal and supported by a majority of Americans and yet not readily available in many places.” There seems to be little recognition on Joyner’s part of this “disconnect” being the consequence of willful human choices manifested in policy that purposefully makes it near-impossible for many women to practice their rights. It’s as if he’s unaware that there’s a whole side of the debate — a lot of people, really; many of them women! — that could tell Joyner in great detail exactly how and why this “bizarre disconnect” came to exist.

But maybe that’s because Joyner’s got his eyes on bigger issues, as he closes with this circular and incoherent bit of wisdom:

But not as bizarre as the notion that back alley abortions–the very thing that pro-abortion rights people have been touting all these years as the horrific alternative to legal abortion–is being portrayed as a legitimate alternative that society shouldn’t seek to punish.

Where Goldberg portrays back alley abortions as “a legitimate alternative that society shouldn’t seek to punish” I cannot say. I thought I read an article describing how “the very thing that pro-abortion rights people have been touting all these years as the horrific alternative to legal abortion” was occurring, was horrific, and was chosen as an alternative when women could not find legal abortions. Joyner seems to have read something else. Apparently what these women really needed was to be punished. Only then, I suppose, will terrible events like these cease occur and trouble us all with their lack of easy answers.

[Author’s Note: it occurs to me that my previous front-page post was also a somewhat lengthy criticism of a Joyner piece. I want to make it clear that I hold no personal enmity towards Joyner and that this back-to-back is complete serendipity.]

[Cross-posted at Flower & Thistle]

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216 thoughts on “Questions about abortion become less complicated as long as you refuse to recognize that they’re complicated

  1. The whole abortion debate would go away and there would be no need for abortions if these scumbag low life women would take responsibility for their own actions. What ever happened to birth control ? There are several different kinds of birth control for women available. What about the men. Have they not ever heard of a damn rubber ?
    How bout just closing their damn legs and men keep their damn junk in their pants !
    The morals of people in this country have gone to hell. People are sorry as hell and don’t give a crap about consequences of their actions.
    If a women’s life in jeapordy if she gives birth to a child or if a women is raped by an unknown or family member, I think that is the only exception that should be made.
    There are so many decent and moral women in the world that are longing to have a child but can’t. Why can’t these unwanted babies be given up for adoption to loving and wanting parents. Couples in this country are having to turn to other countries to adopt. There is something wrong with that. Bad wrong.
    I just do not see a right in all these women killing babies. How hard could it be to have the child and give it up for adoption. There are many organizations out there that help women who are pregnant with an unwanted baby. Why are they not be utilized. WHY ? Why so much killing ?

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    • I struggle to find the one part of this post for which you should be most ashamed; I suppose that, in general, you should think seriously about whether or not you really want to be such a hateful, bilious person.

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          • Such would also solve the crime problem in general.

            A forthright appeal to morality, consequences, and the way the world ought to be is usually something fairly straightforward.

            I suppose this makes it easier to argue against by appeals to shame (an attempt to work the judges rather than change the mind of Mrs. Martha) than to actually address the (fairly common) moral foundation she’s standing on.

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            • I think it’s far too charitable to call it a “moral foundation.” An angry, ill-considered and invective-laced tantrum might be a more accurate description.

              But as to the question of whether or not it’s evil to terminate a pregnancy, that’s an obviously subjective and impossible to resolve issue. I for one am certainly less interested in wandering down that dead-end road with someone prone to this kind of hateful ranting against strawmen and the world’s bothersome insistence on being different from the place of Martha’s dreams.

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                    • I imagine that that thought must be more comforting than the thought that I am being serious.

                      Because, from my perspective, Mrs. Martha wrote an opinion that is fairly representative of a great many folks in not only this country but most of the ones that qualify as either “Christian” or “Post-Christian”.

                      Her opinion isn’t particularly novel. It’s one that is held by huge swaths of folks and, until very recently, was the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the country (now, I suspect, it’s merely the opinion of the majority of it).

                      Instead of being taken on as a representative opinion that needs to be dealt with, she was told that she should be ashamed of her position and that she, personally, had negative personality traits.

                      It reminds me of how “those people” treat Muslims.

                      Try to be more open-minded.

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                    • I can honestly say that when I wrote this post I did not expect to be told that pushing back against slut-shaming was morally equivalent to religious discrimination against Muslims.

                      But in general I’ve noticed that you never know where a conversation with JB will take you — all that you can be sure of is that no matter the topic (and doubtless the conversation will suddenly be composed of many oft-changing topics), your disagreement will be a product of a failure of intellect, character, or both.

                      But, yeah, duly noted. Western civilization has long engaged in slut-shaming; it is therefore a serious intellectual position which must be engaged with earnestly and without judgment. Responding otherwise is to engage in bigotry. Got it.

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                    • You’re working the judges instead of dealing with arguments.

                      Again.

                      What you did was not “pushing back against slut-shaming” but pushed back against a person who slut shamed without mentioning, until now, that that was was she was doing.

                      I’m pretty sure that if you had written a post on slut-shaming, pointing out that that was what Mrs. Martha was doing, and written a comment about that instead of writing a comment about Mrs. Martha personally, we would have seen a different string of comments.

                      Western civilization has long engaged in slut-shaming; it is therefore a serious intellectual position which must be engaged with earnestly and without judgment.

                      What is your goal?

                      Changing minds or making an earnest declaration of the superiority of your position to hers?

                      If it’s the latter, let me get out of your way.

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      • I thought it was parody.

        Joyner, on the other hand, seems quite content to punish women for being poor and disobeying (insert appropriate patriarchal figure here)’s orders. Of course, he’s never going to have to deal with an unwanted pregnancy.

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    • How hard could it be to have the child and give it up for adoption?

      It’s ten thousand dollars worth of hard, that’s how ‘hard’ it is.

      Um, duh.

      Couples in this country are having to turn to other countries to adopt.

      That has almost nothing to do with the amount of babies, and everything to do with idiotic rules about adoption in this country.

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  2. To Mr. Isquith’s post, it’s not yet American canon law that Roe establishes an unlimited right to abort for any reason at any time. At 20 weeks, it’s still arguable that there is a human being there in the womb with human rights.

    There does seem to be an illogicality in the pre-20 week ban on self-induced abortion. But that would be a separate issue.

    _____________

    As for “morality,” Ms. Martha has quite a well-defined idea of what is and isn’t. That’s why I shy away from using the word “morality” in fora like these. Ms. Martha made a coherent case for hers.

    If successfully arguable morally on some level, it’s arguable legally as well, unless the Constitution or the 14th Amendment or a penumbra of “privacy” abolishes morality altogether. But perhaps it does, see Casey [1992], Justice Kennedy:

    “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of life.”

    Ah, the “mystery of life.” Did she kill her baby, or the equivalent of what you can grow in a Petri Dish?

    Damn, it’s hard to write any of this without putting scare quotes on virtually every term. “Morality” is even by etymology conventional, as in Montesquieu’s “mores and manners.” Everybody claims a universality for their moral claims, but in the end it’s a consensus among us humans, a “convention.” But the other extreme is that everybody makes up their own morality, that what is moral is subjective. Which makes “moral” meaningless for all practical purposes in the lingua franca.

    No, you can’t define what is merely a blastocyst and what is a human person for yourself, at least not yet. And you can’t have sex on the sidewalk, at least not yet. You can’t sell horsemeat or torture your puppies, even though those horses and puppies are your legal property. We legislate morality all the time. Yes, morality is by definition “conventional.” But no society can survive without its conventions.

    Although “libertarians” and anarchists tend to argue otherwise, having dispensed with the Decalogue except for the essential “Do not murder” and “Do not steal.”

    But as we see here, even “Do not murder” remains up for grabs. You can murder a baby, but not a blastocyst; one woman’s baby is another’s blastocyst.

    This does not compute. At least not yet, even under Roe.

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    • I find Justice Kennedy to be in error.
      I would say that his concept of liberty has a severe heart condition.
      It’s irrelevant at any rate.
      If you buy in to the idea that abortion is a medical procedure, then the state has the right to regulate that. They regulate who can do it, how they can do it, what they can do it with, etc. That is the preferable state of affairs.
      Were this woman to have removed her child’s appendix in a lab she built in the garage, there would have been legal issues. Were this an illegal immigrant performing an abortion in front of the Home Depot, there would have been legal issues.
      That the abortion clinic is not open from 7pm to 6am is not a matter of preventing abortions, even for women who are night owls.
      “I had to rob the pharmacy to support my drug habit, because the rehab wouldn’t accept my insurance card” is not a viable defense.
      Well, maybe.
      Depends on how many liberals who base their rationality on some odd concept called “feewings” you could get seated in the jury box.
      I believe it’s proper that the law should trump “feewings;” and so, I believe that Justice Kennedy is in error (as well as a complete d!ck).
      That’s my 2¢.

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  3. This is one of the topics that strikes me as being topsy-turvy.

    Arguments that you’ve seen this side use for years suddenly get dropped like a hot potato and they scramble to grab at the arguments used by the other side for years… luckily, the other side has ceased using them.

    It makes absolute sense to me to say “it’s none of my business what a woman does with her body: her property”. Even if I find it personally morally distasteful, it doesn’t have a direct affect upon me and she has no obligation to overcome any particular squeamish feelings that I might have (and I do have them). As immoral as abortion may be, it would be even more immoral for me to force her property out from her agency for the benefit of my own sense of justice.

    Get your government out of my nethers, if you will.

    But no!, I hear the cry. We, as a society, have a responsibility!, I hear. Conservatives who, moments ago, were arguing for a limited government are now arguing for the responsibility of having a government that goes so far as into a doctor’s office. This is human life we’re talking about!, they explain. How can you be so selfish?, they ask.

    The Left suddenly turn into dopplegangers of libertarians and start talking about the importance of personal liberty in the face of troublesome social questions and wave away questions of responsibility for others, including the responsibility of those who cannot take responsibility for themselves yet. There is even discussion of the Constitutional Rights to access a doctor’s office. (I am 100% down with the idea of peaceful assembly and my reading of the Ninth Amendment is broad to the point where I am regularly told that it’s completely unworkable and so I applaud whenever I see appeals to Constitutional Liberty made… but this one strikes me as… well, one would think that a broad reading of the Constitution when it comes to Liberty would result in further broad readings of the Constitution when it comes to Liberty and, sadly, that’s not the case. I’m not going to begrudge a broad reading of the Constitution, though. I think that we, as a society, owe broad readings to ourselves and, maybe, we as a society can get used to them again.)

    In any case, holding arguments they’re unfamiliar with, everybody spends a few minutes hitting each other with arguments they aren’t used to using.

    Time passes and we change topics and we start talking about, oh, socialized medicine.

    Conservatives start talking about how the government shouldn’t be telling us what to buy or not buy, Liberals start talking about how selfish those who oppose helping the helpless are. We, as a society, have a responsibility and besides, the property of “the rich” was made possible by civil society in the first place, they can give up a chunk because they wouldn’t have what they have without all of us making their accrual of it possible… and, somehow, a Constitutional Right to access a doctor’s office (peaceful assembly!) becomes a Constitutional Right to the doctor’s time and property even if the individual in question cannot pay for the doctor’s time and property… and so, we, as a society, become beholden for the medical care of others and we, as a society, are asked to pony up even for procedures that many of us have moral problems with.

    It’s as if Groucho yells “change partners!” because we see “the right” arguing for the importance of imposed morality and the right of us, as a society, to put our nose wherever we, as a society, want to put it and “the left” starts arguing about privacy and property.

    It’s enough to give a person whiplash.

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    • Funny, JB, I don’t see all this as a contradiction atall. We’re all communitarian in our way, outside the particulars of this issue or that.

      That man is a social animal is an essential and inescapable truth. Except for Ayn Rand. Talk about an unsocial animal. Polar bears have more morality than she.

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        • I’ve often struggled to explain how I can tell that I’m not a libertarian. One way is that I am much less interested in the psychological motivations of non-libertarians than most libertarians are.

          [Note: I meant that as a joke, although it doesn’t quite succeed as such.]

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          • No, it was good. For the record, I find psychological motivations important because if I don’t agree with a particular viewpoint, I want to at least *UNDERSTAND* it.

            When it comes to the abortion debate, I understand the arguments being given by both sides. This makes me feel better about the debate. What I don’t understand is the whole “oh, we’re talking about something else now? I need completely new first principles” thing that happens once the debate is tabled for the umpteenth time.

            If I could understand that, I could understand everything.

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    • It depends on how you look at “restricted” rights. Are the restrictions put on getting your constitutionally-approved abortion in any way analogous to restricting your free-speech to a cage about 400 yards from the main action? Little difference that I can see — in both cases the government (not federal, btw) does its best to impede the exercise of your rights.

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    • The Left suddenly turn into dopplegangers of libertarians and start talking about the importance of personal liberty in the face of troublesome social questions.

      It never ceases to amuse me that libertarians’ views of liberals are as off base as liberals’ are of them. I remember thinking, at one point, that Amanda Marcotte’s views of libertarians were so completely divorced from reality that one would think she’d never actually encountered one, even in text. Then I see libertarians, who’ve encountered many a liberal, act like liberals are all radical statists who are convinced that the government can and should solve every problem, and I realize it has nothing to do with contact. It’s simply an unwillingness to understand those with whom you disagree, likely because arguing against straw targets is much easier and more fulfilling.

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      • You probably wanted to quote something else of mine, then.

        The section you quoted was the section where I was talking about how I completely understood where Liberals were coming from.

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        • Oh, you mean you weren’t the one who wrote, “The Left suddenly turn into dopplegangers of libertarians?”

          Oh wait, you were the one who wrote that. I stand by what I said. You can say you understand where liberals are coming from on a particularly issue. Hell, you may actually understand where they’re coming from on a particular issue. But if you think it’s somehow out of character for them to come from that place on that issue, when they come from somewhere else on every (or most) other issues, which the “suddenly turn into” seems to imply, then you sure as hell don’t understand liberals.

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          • I did write that. I stand by it.

            I do think that if you wanted to give an example of me not understanding Liberals at all, you would have been better to quote something I wrote where I was explicitly not understanding Liberals (or completely misunderstanding them!) instead of something where I completely understood where they were coming from.

            I’m just trying to help, dude. If you think that you’re going to best make your point about libertarians not understanding Liberals by quoting one of them talking about agreeing with Liberals, go nuts.

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  4. Of course, the question is grounded on the value of human life. Modern man has been educated to believe that that value is limited by the will of the mother carrying the child to term. Many Christians and Jews and others believe they are adhereing to the Word of God when they argue that human life is sacrosanct, that humans possess a soul, and as such they are unique in the eyes of God, and loved by God as they are made in the ‘imago Dei.’

    The State as envisioned by the founders, has limited rights and obligations. One of these obligations is to protect the lives (and property) of human beings. The State is not intruding on our God given rights and liberties when it arrests and detains robbers, pedophiles, bandetti, rapists, and murderers. The State is acting to maintain order in accordance with established law.

    The modern, at least the American version, in demanding and obtaining the legalization of abortion rights for women seeks to obviate the divine order of the founding principles and replace them with a foreign and immanest construct where the social ordering force is the often corrupt ‘amor sui’ (see EV’s, From Political Ideas to Symbols of Experience).

    The modern has freely chosen to live in a condition of egophanic revolt. As such he is divorced in one degree or another from reality (the divine ground of existence) because he isn’t existing in the condition for which he was created. He has developed a strange and alienated consciousness, and in many cases he is no longer ‘human’. Consequently, as Voegelin tells us, his interpretation of reality are predicated on a deformed, immanest, and metastatic existence. The modern’s demand for and support of, ‘abortion rights’ falls in that category.

    Abortion then is symptomatic of the modern state of alienation. When a society participates in the slaughter of its unborn its in serious trouble and it becomes time to follow Voegelin, in his call to recapture reality in the face of ‘contemporay deformations.’ In the face of language corruption, where good becomes evil, we are forced to return to the experiences (Voegelin tells us) that engender reality.

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    • Going beyond the issue of fetal viability, at 20 weeks it is getting very close to the time when a young girl of my acquaintance was born prematurely, and has now graduated college and is well on her way to a PhD. Even given the health issues she faced, her intelligence is off the charts. It would have been a shame for humanity to have lost her potential talents.

      Meanwhile, knowing Idaho’s demographics and the fact that this woman was in eastern Idaho tells me within a fairly high degree of accuracy that she’s Mormon (or at least married to one). Furthermore since the Mormon missionary business has some pretty horrible conversion rates, the best way to get your own planet to rule is to have lots and lots of children (hence the reason you’d want lots and lots of wives).

      I don’t think “Martha” is from a foreign land since she said, “Couples in this country are having to turn to other countries to adopt”. I can’t think of any non-western land where this is so. In fact given that she wrote in English and some other verbal clues I’d say the odds are 98% or better that she’s American.

      As for the rest, I have to agree with Jaybird. There are compelling arguments for both sides here not to mention adding in the Freakonomics idea about declining crime rates relative to abortions.

      If only there were some absolute moral imperative we could all turn to? Some all-knowing higher power?

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  5. The problem I have with the abortion debate is that both sides in it are absolutely and totally right. They are. They’re not talking about the same subject and, in fact, refuse to ever talk about the same subject. But they’re totally right. The fetus is developing into a unique and unrepeatable human life, which poses a special ethical demand on the parents. And if you think the state is allowed to make family planning/reproductive decisions for the individual by lgal ecompulsion, you have little ground to say you want to “limit the state” in any way whatsoever. So, I agree with both of them. More’s the pity because, if they just decided to agree on, say, improving the situation and options of poor women, they’d probably be able to reduce the number of abortions and, you know, improve the lot of poor women, which would seemingly give both sides some common ground. But, it’s probably easier to keep yelling about the issue that you’re totally and absolutely right about than to put your ideas into practice.

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    • > More’s the pity because, if they just decided to agree on, say, improving the situation and options of poor women, they’d probably be able to reduce the number of abortions and, you know, improve the lot of poor women, which would seemingly give both sides some common ground.

      Yes, if only some organization would go around providing health care services to poor women, giving them medical aid and screenings, providing information about contraceptives to help stop unwanted pregnancies, and then, sometimes, abortions. If only such an organization existed to help poor women.

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          • You flatter me, Elias.
            Had you simply said, “Will, you’re an ass,” I might have agreed with you.
            But the tone does not negate the message.
            I was trying to point out that the pro-choicers also want restrictions on abortion. Some manner of regulation is preferable.
            It’s a matter of what type of regulation we can agree to.
            But it seems to me that the argument that it should not be regulated at all is dead in the water.

            I can be arrested for steroids that I purchase over the internet, regardless of whether or not I perform an abortion with them. So the abortion in the story is more or less a decoration.

            But I really don’t like the idea of, “Let’s get a group together and provide _____!” More often than not, that type of thing provides less-than-desirable results.
            To paraphrase an old saw, slack-jawed morons will be slack-jawed morons.
            Buying them a new shirt will give you well-dressed slack-jawed morons.

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            • Whm, I’m sorry I snapped at you initially in response to this comment. I hope you understand why I found the end of your comment bothersome, but you’re right to say I responded to whom I assumed you were rather than who you actually are — because I don’t know, and should keep that in mind. Next time I’ll ask you if I understand you correctly when I think you’ve written something I find especially problematic.

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              • Not necessary, although I do see why you would say that.
                I think that people of libertarian bent are somewhat accustomed to being misunderstood; there being basically two types: the ones who seem wildly liberal, but whose motivations are ultra-conservative, and those who appear to be indoctrinated conservatives, but whose motivations are decidedly leftist.
                So, it’s quite ordinary.
                But I wouldn’t have stuck around for long if I had been a true died-in-the-wool conservative.
                True, I haven’t been that active (online) for some time, but that’s because of my work schedule.

                On a larger scale…
                There’s a feral cat that had kittens, and I’m trying to catch her to take her in to get her spayed, and to take the little ones to a no-kill shelter. She had let me touch her once before. She let me touch her twice last night. She also took a swat at me, with claws. She didn’t break the skin, but the message she was sending was that she could have if she wanted to.

                I think that’s very similar to what happened here.

                And before you think that sounds too bleeding-heart leftist:
                Animals I care for. I call that “good stewardship.”
                People I help. They have a responsibility to care for themselves.

                The whole concept of social Darwinism reminds me of all about the Left that makes me want to puke: that Little Johnny needs his butt kissed three times a day so he won’t grow up to be such a punk, and everyone else around him is responsible for his problems, but certainly not him.

                However, some good has come out of this.
                It has inspired me to write again.
                I am currently in the outline stage of a post, where there is a ballot initiative in the fictional town of Isquith that would prohibit bucktoothed prostitutes from having acts of bucktoothed sex within ten feet of a school. Of course, that’s when all the citizen’s groups come out.
                I would hope you enjoy it.

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      • David, that’s not my point at all. If you have women taking pills they got over the internet because they can’t afford to get an abortion, it stands to reason that they couldn’t afford the expenses involved with bringing a child to term either or, if they wanted, to actually raise a child. All of which suggests that they really didn’t have much in the way of “choices”. And, given that a large percentage of the women who had abortions, when asked, said they did so because they “couldn’t afford” a child, we’re clearly talking about a pro-choice movement that is struggling to secure options, but not choices. If your economic situation forces you to abort when you would have rather carried the child to term, you didn’t make a choice. It’s not that the pro-choice movement doesn’t know this, but that they’re focused on the last resort option, instead of improving the lot of women on the whole so that they have actual choices in their lives. This would be if the left, as such, still gave a fish about the poor, aside from making sure they have the option to abort.

        Conversely (and this is a big part of my point here), if the “pro-life” movement actually gave a fish about reducing the number of abortions that are performed, they would be working to improve the economic situation of low income women too, since there clearly are plenty of them who would carry the child to term, if they thought they could afford it. Instead of working so hard to get women arrested for aborting, which incidentally happens no matter what the laws are, these groups could, oh, provide free day care in the slums, establish scholarships for young people whose mothers made what they see as the right choice, fight for a higher minimum wage- any number of things really that would, it seems, reduce the actual number of abortions more surely than working to change the laws- especially given the fact that abortion rates are about the same in countries where the procedure is illegal. Instead, they seem to care a lot less about the actual abortion rate than whether or not society and the state give abortion their imprimatur.

        Maybe the issue here is that quite often abortion is a social issue, but both sides insist on treating it as a cultural issue.

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        • Excellent comments, Bob!

          Is there not an inherent contradiction in the law, a law, that makes murdering a pregnant woman double murder? It doesn’t matter if she’s murdered on her way to abortion clinic, the fetus is considered a full, viable, complete genetic entity.

          I’m sure most at the League think it’s a damnable shame that Judge Bork got railroaded out of consideration for Supreme Court Justice. Especially by the late, insufferable, bellowing, blowhard of all time, Fat Teddy and his deranged “back alley abortions” hysteria. Hey, I’ll take a back alley abortion any day over a 4-5 hour torturous death by drowning in his ’67 Olds. What a man. He somehow was able to extricate his blubbering, bloated fat ass out of his ’67 Olds, WALK PASS A FIRE STATION and get back to the party that he had just left! Even had a few shots of Rivas to calm his agitated nerves. He doesn’t even call the cops until the next day!! Wow. What kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome was he suffering from? Probably better for Mary Jo do die a very horrible death than him facing rape and DWI charges.

          Oh yeah, the “Lion” of the Senate!! Try, the “Cowardly Lion”–works much better. Any chance that Olds is buried somewhere in the Smithsonian? Now THAT would be an exhibit I’d love to see!

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            • Well Rufus, it appears my plead for leniency has fallen on deaf ears.

              All the comments I’ve submitted today are kaputt. Gone, forever.

              Another attempt. Here’s a photo of me rescuing Cubans who desperately were thirsting for freedom and Margueritas.

              Well Rufus, it appears my plead for leniency has fallen on deaf ears.

              All the comments I’ve submitted today are kaputt. Gone, forever.

              Another attempt. Here’s a photo of me rescuing Cubans who desperately were thirsting for freedom and Margueritas.

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              • Hey, maybe a reprieve?! If so, THANK YOU E.D.!!

                Liberals literally killed thousands of Cubans. The least I could do is airlift every single Cuban dying to get off Castro’s brutal gulag.

                Image Sizes: Small Medium Large Original

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                • Look, I don’t have a lot of say in this matter, but I’m guessing that this, right here, is your problem dude. You’ve now changed the topic of this thread twice. And not in a way like, “Hey, what you’re talking about makes me think of this somewhat related topic”; but more like, “No, screw you- I’m going to ignore what you’re saying and just randomly start talking about this other topic that interests me more.” It’s a bit irritating. I mean, I thought what I said above was prettyinteresting, but apparently you did not and thought we should be talking about Cuba instead. It sort of rubs me the wrong way to be ignored; it’s insulting. Maybe your tendency to do that on every thread is what’s turning people off to you. Or, maybe not. But it’s a suggestion.

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                  • You’re right, Rufus. It’s a damn bad habit to mentally wandering the wards of consciouness while in the middle of a conversation. I never reread any of my comments, and just hit, “Submit” and then I cringe.

                    So I understand, my friend, and thank you for bringing it to my atention.

                    No about those Baltimore Orioles/Cincinatti Reds in the World Series 1970….whoops.

                    Just kidding, but seriously, thanks. I agree with you entirely. I mean, here you are taking the time to read and respond to a comment of mine and I’m off on Nutzo Sreet–well, that’s just disrespectful and inexcusable.

                    Point taken, honorable sir! I sort of had this idea that the protocol for this type of site was posters post, and commenters comment and each, pretty much stay out of each others hair.

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                    • Sure, but part of staying out of each other’s hair is to not respond directly to someone else’s comment by changing the subject entirely. You do that a lot. And they made the comment in the first place because they want to hear what people think about their thoughts. Imagine if you’re at a party and you’re telling a story about something interesting that happened in your life and I walk in and respond directly to your story by saying, “Hey, isn’t Castro terrible! Let me tell you what he did in 1970!” and then go on and on and on about that. The obvious implication would be that I don’t care what you just said and am pointedly ignoring you. In fact, it almost comes across like the real point I’m trying to make is that what you said did not interest me. So that probably rubs people the wrong way.

                      Add to that your tendency to accuse half the people you’re talking to of supporting mass murder, or to just periodically insult certain commenters here for no clear reason, and the Muslim-bashing that bothers nearly everyone else on the site and you can see where, maybe next time you create a new profile and post here, you should try not to come across as if you have some problem with half of the other people here and want to insult them? Yes?

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          • Have you read “The Tempting of America”?

            I’m thrilled that Bork didn’t get on the court. Kennedy, as weak a justice as he is, has never argued that anything in the Bill of Rights is indeterminable.

            Bork would have been another justice who, when given a choice between Authority and the Citizenry, would have picked Authority every time.

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        • One must cure poverty before opposing abortion-on-demand, Rufus, and implement the laundry list of lefty “cures at that? I’m not seeing this one.

          Further, there is already a laundry list of “cures” in place already. The mother and child are not thrown on the street to fend for themselves, despite the prevailing concern troll malography of America.

          Further, the premise is that “poor” women are hitting the internet for abortifacients. On their computers? Do they get gov’t supported Wi-Fi? Further, there is the implicit premise that poor women should abort their pregnancies. The only life worth living is one not on welfare?

          Further, you argue that “reducing” the abortion rate is a satisfactory good. This is the “compromise” offered by only one side in this thing under guise of reasonableness. But this is the same as “only a little bit pregnant.” Half a loaf is the same as none.

          I’m definitely having a premise problem here. Your mention of “slums” presents a further implicit connotation, one that perhaps escaped your notice…

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          • Tom, I’m going to come back to this. What you’re calling “implicit premises” is a lot of stuff that you’re reading into what I wrote, I’m guessing because you’ve got me pegged in your mind as a stereotypical “lefty”. The “implicit premise that poor women should abort” in particular is utter nonsense. That’s not what I’m saying at all, and it’s not what I’m implicitly saying either.

            Let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that where I’m starting from in this whole discussion is the reasons that women give for having had an abortion, after the fact, and not what I think women should do before the fact, okay? And then see where that takes us.

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            • Well, Rufus, you did attack yr opponents instead of making an affirmative defense of abortion rights. And you attacked them on left-leaning policy grounds:

              Instead of working so hard to get women arrested for aborting, which incidentally happens no matter what the laws are, these groups could, oh, provide free day care in the slums, establish scholarships for young people whose mothers made what they see as the right choice, fight for a higher minimum wage- any number of things really that would, it seems, reduce the actual number of abortions more surely than working to change the laws…

              I don’t think I read you unfairly.

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                • Surely a life without a college scholarship is still worth living, Mr. I. It was a materialist/utilitarian argument, gov’t policy and largesse, etc. Yes, these are colored “left.”

                  But my main point is that the central premise is materialistic, and really irrelevant to the core question of life and death.

                  If the baby were in danger of starving to death, there might be pertinence, but college scholarships are off the map. Day care and the rest, also, unless one wishes to argue that a life without day care isn’t worth living.

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                  • Tom, since I’m the one whose premises are being questioned here and I really seriously don’t think that my “central premise is materialistic”, why don’t you tell me what you think my central premise is? Okay, then, if it’s not that, I can correct you? Yes? And, if you’re right, I will ponder whether it really is a materialist premise. Okay?

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                    • Why not just disabuse me and say what you have to say, Rufus? Aaaargh. These backwards discussions are getting to be the rule. Speak your mind.

                      I already replied once, my demurrals unaddressed, that “fewer” abortions is not a satisfactory good for those who oppose abortion-on-demand.

                      Further, that scholarships and day care and other mundane issues do not belong in the same undifferentiated soup as questions of life and death. Throwing in stuff like that implies “better off dead,” or that be too strong, better they had never been born. Even if you insist they don’t imply that, they are still irrelevant, a cudgel against abortion foes.

                      To cut to the chase, since this has been and is all sophistic sparring, the 20-24 week limit is probably the consensus “centrist” position in this country if we take the issue away from the absolutists on either edge.

                      As for the abortifacient law, that requires more unpacking, but that’s some traumatic drug therapy to be self-medicating with. I would expect deaths.

                      And for the record, a bit of lost [buried?] history: Dr. Bernard Nathanson on “back-alley abortions”:

                      In Aborting America (1979) Nathanson writes: “In NARAL we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always ‘5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.’ I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?” (Emphasis is his.)

                      http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2510/before-em-roe-em-v-em-wade-em-did-10-000-women-a-year-die-from-illegal-abortions

                      [It was very difficult to find a source that would be considered acceptable. The best I could do, since acceptably mainstream sources didn’t come up in the first few google pages.]

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                    • @tom: If you’re going to make a “just one is too many” argument about permitting abortions, then it’s valid to make the same argument about botched ones.

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                • Since Rufus is better able than I to defend his own argument, I’ll just turn to this:

                  I asked, Is doing anything at all, then, to aid the poor axiomatically “lefty”?

                  You didn’t answer the question directly, but indirectly — implicitly, even — it would appear that you’d propose a resounding “Yes.”

                  How so many conservatives can hold this view and then deign to weigh in on how morality of all things should be the guiding light of policy is beyond me.

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                  • I’m not interested in playing defense in a conservative-bash, Mr. I. The Rx for helping the poor given by Rufus was leftish.

                    One would think there are still some abortion opponents left on the left: they would simply say we should ban inducing abortion [at some point, which is what we’re discussing here, 20 weeks], plus do all those nice Rx’s for the poor. They would not say we can’t ban these abortions until we have scholarships and day care.

                    “Conservative” policy has nothing to do with the core issue.

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                    • One would think there are still some abortion opponents left on the left: they would simply say we should ban inducing abortion [at some point, which is what we’re discussing here, 20 weeks], plus do all those nice Rx’s for the poor. They would not say we can’t ban these abortions until we have scholarships and day care.

                      This is such a straw-man of an argument, I struggle to work up the requisite sympathy for your being forced into “playing defense” in response to such a brutal, vicious, bloodthirsty “conservative-bash.”

                      It’s as if you have completely no idea what self-described members of the left — as well as those you’ve unilaterally determined to be so — are attempting to enact/preserve in their activism regarding abortion. One could almost think you’re unaware that what you’re describing is the absolutely orthodox center-left position.

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                    • I keep trying to get this out of the left-right BS, Mr. I. Yes, the sides tend one way or the other, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be discussed in its own right.

                      Why, you’re telling me that restricting abortion c. 20 weeks is the center-left position. Good. I rather floated that, that it’s the consensus position of the country once we grab the issue out of the hands of the absolutists.

                      Now, then, to your “slut-shaming” rhetoric. I’m afraid I must assign that along with “baby-killer” to the discussion-ender pile.

                      In fact, I’ve already questioned one of your pillars of argument, the Michelle Goldberg “back-alley” argument, which relates. First, NARAL co-founder Bernard Nathanson, who manned the barricades back in the 70s:

                      “Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. (Prior to Roe v. Wade) the number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans, convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law.”

                      Add to that the fact that “slut-shaming” is hardly what it was back in the day. Bristol Palin, daughter of a very churchy family, was praised for keeping the baby. Attitudes that were routinely used as a defense for abortion have significantly changed.

                      So instead of 10,000 back-alley deaths and a culture of slut-shaming, the reality is far fewer deaths than that [and perhaps as many as we’d get with self-medicated abortifacients] and a society far more accepting of the reality that you can’t have it both ways, shame and bringing unintended pregnancies to term.

                      Them’s the facts as I see them in 2011, Elias. I don’t think the “back-alley” argument holds much water these days, and according to Nathanson, it was an exaggeration to the point of being a lie even back in the day.

                      What we have in 2011 is a consensus that after 20 [24 is not unreasonable], the life that is being snuffed is more than Petri Dish level. You’re quite right that politics is the realm of opinion. As I argued from the first—and why I did—is that “morality” is also in the realm of opinion. But I argue that the Constitution or the various amendments did not abolish morality altogether, at least not yet.

                      My arguments are not original, but I believe they vary from the usual fare, esp the usual left-right fare. I write them not to fight, or in hopes of changing your or any interlocutor’s mind. But perhaps a gentle reader or two may find some value, or at least novelty, in them. I doubt few have heard Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s confession of downright fabricating the “back-alley” states. At least, judging by the conspicuous lack of hits I got on Google from anything but pro-life advocacy websites.

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                    • It took me about .5 seconds to find a bevy of statistics about the high rates of death prior to Roe from back-alley abortions. I don’t find a single quote from a figure I’d not heard of before today to put the issue of back-alley abortion death to rest. I think it’s rather bizarre that you do, especially since you yourself acknowledge how profoundly esoteric an anecdotal point it is.

                      As to your finding the word “slut-shaming” to be equivalent to “baby-killing,” I’d have to say that that seems to be a bizarre kind of moral equivalence. The latter is tantamount to accusing someone of murder, the former of insensitivity on the low-end, misogyny on the high. I understand that no one likes being called a misogynist, but I think we can agree it’s worse to be a murderer than a misogynist.

                      And as to Bristol Palin’s choice to carry her baby to term being celebrated by the anti-choice community: I confess that I find this small point — and the larger argument — to be rather absurd on its face.

                      If you’re content to use two pieces of anecdotal evidence to determine that 1. female sexuality is no longer a highly politicized and irrational topic in American society and 2. there’s no need to worry about women dying from lack of access to abortion — and, what’s more, it never was much of a problem anyway — well, I don’t think there’s much ground for us to share on this one. Not until we agree to base our discussion on somewhat empirical grounds, at least.

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                    • , for a moment I thought my Google-Fu was being challenged, then I realized I hadn’t posted a number, then thought I ought to help out the outnumbered TVD on this. Here’s a pretty balanced view from 2003 that corroborates TVD’s number and seems to be a reputable source. I’ll try and see if this site lets me post an img.

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          • Okay, well, here goes:
            “One must cure poverty before opposing abortion-on-demand, Rufus, and implement the laundry list of lefty “cures at that? I’m not seeing this one.”

            I’m not saying that one either. Oppose whatever kind of abortion you want, or hell, ban whatever kind of abortion you want. I just don’t think that greatly reduces the number of abortions that occur. My first “core premise” here is that abortion is a fairly easy procedure to do. A bit like setting a broken bone, you wouldn’t want to do it yourself, but if you had to, you could. So, I don’t think that changing the laws will greatly reduce the number of abortions that happen. Instead, I think pro-choicers and pro-lifers are arguing about what happens after the fact: do we condemn the woman or condone her? You seem to think that I’m both ignoring that question and staking out a position on it. I’m just not addressing it.

            “Further, there is already a laundry list of “cures” in place already. The mother and child are not thrown on the street to fend for themselves, despite the prevailing concern troll malography of America.”

            Here’s my second “core premise”: the percentage of women who, when polled about why they had an abortion said they did so because they had no other economic options,
            simply were not lying. You seem to think this is a left wing position, and okay. But, it’s sure not the same as saying, “thrown out on the street to fend for themselves” etc. It might help to mention that I live, currently, in what amounts to a flophouse in a very poor American city. So, I’m maybe biased. And I get that programs that seek to address poverty through social services are “left wing” in your estimation, but am I to believe that simply acknowledging class and its effects is now “left wing” too? Because that’s really just a US thing, if so.

            “Further, the premise is that “poor” women are hitting the internet for abortifacients. On their computers? Do they get gov’t supported Wi-Fi?”
            No. They go to the public library and use the computers there, just like everyone else in my neighborhood.

            “Further, there is the implicit premise that poor women should abort their pregnancies. The only life worth living is one not on welfare?”
            This is what I struggle to understand: how exactly am I implying that poor women should abort their pregnancies? It would be different if I was addressing the moral issue, which I’m not. And even there, you say that by not addressing that issue, I’m both saying something that’s irrelevant to that core issue and staking out an abhorrent position in terms of that issue. So, I can’t win. But, here, I’m not saying what people should do. All I’m saying is that here’s why a certain percentage said they did that and, therefore, it stands to reason that we could address the issue that way.

            “Further, you argue that “reducing” the abortion rate is a satisfactory good. This is the “compromise” offered by only one side in this thing under guise of reasonableness. But this is the same as “only a little bit pregnant.” Half a loaf is the same as none.”
            Yeah, I see what you’re saying here. I don’t know. It seems to me that, if pro-lifers could reduce abortion by even 10% through economic means, they’d want to. Again, I’m assuming that changing the laws wouldn’t even accomplish that. Again, it’s hard to believe that pro-lifers are as interested in what leads up to an abortion as they are with what society says afterwards.

            I do have a problem with your “sides” here. My post was pretty insulting to both pro-lifers and pro-choicers, as David Cheatham has caught on to; but you see that as my attack on my “opponents” in the name of “abortion rights”. So, again, where I live, there’s no sign that pro-choicers give a shit about women, except when it comes to abortion.

            “I’m definitely having a premise problem here. Your mention of “slums” presents a further implicit connotation, one that perhaps escaped your notice…”
            Yeah, well, I live in a slum, so you can explain the connotations. What I see here is a great nothingness from the left and the right in terms of social issues, and a heated debate (held elsewhere) in terms of cultural issues.

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            • It might help to mention that I live, currently, in what amounts to a flophouse in a very poor American city. So, I’m maybe biased.

              The fact that personal familiarity/true knowledge of an issue is so often confused for “bias” — or treated as less than a clearly superior means of understanding than abstract philosophizing — is, to me, a symptom of a seriously dysfunctional and blinkered “debate.”

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            • Thx for the considered reply, Rufus. Reducing any ill by 10% [or half] is good, but not a satisfactory good. Perhaps the Holocaust is an unfair touchstone here, but there it is. How about the capital punishment of innocents, if the former is too much? Merely reducing the number of innocents executed is good, but not a satisfactory good for those who argue for its abolition.

              My first “core premise” here is that abortion is a fairly easy procedure to do.

              So is capital punishment. Is that a cheap shot?

              “A large longitudinal, methodologically robust study from New Zealand has set a new landmark and led to the American Psychological Association withdrawing an official statement which denied a link between abortion and psychological harm.”

              Is that better? Does that matter? The study was ignored, if not suppressed. But not a ‘simple” procedure atall, unless we’re speaking only of the physical world.

              Here’s my second “core premise”: the percentage of women who, when polled about why they had an abortion said they did so because they had no other economic options, simply were not lying.

              No disagreement there. But where did the premise arise that abortion was the best solution, an agreeable solution, an acceptable solution? Planned Parenthood? WHO? WHY?

              [Sorry, didn’t mean to shout. Italics didn’t swing it.]

              At heart of the premise is still that somebody [we?”] will be better off if that baby isn’t born.

              Social programs for pregnant mothers, then, leading to adoption. The “right” would probably go for that Rx, I make it. Did you know Mr. & Mrs. Tom Delay, the demon Republican, ran a home for unwed mothers? True story. Hard to know who pro-lifers are helping, what good they may be doing.

              You say you live in a “flophouse,” i.e., “slum.” If you say it’s a Rainbow Coalition thing, I’ll take yr word for it. I do not think “slum” in America brings the United Colors of Benetton to mind for most folks, but that’s admittedly subjective.

              So, I don’t think that changing the laws will greatly reduce the number of abortions that happen.

              Oh, it will, has and does. Esp the post-20 week ones, the ones that I submit there’s a national consensus against.

              Early-term abortion isn’t going anywhere, between the Supreme Court and the lack of consensus in America for banning it.

              I myself don’t know what to think. Roe went down fairly easily because it removed that deep and troubling moral/metaphysical question from all our hands, politician and citizen alike. Sort of like an Act of God, y’know?

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              • Tom, I just want to point out that, in this post, you both compared abortion to the Shoah & implied that it’s the result of a (vast, we can assume) conspiracy on part of Planned Parenthood.

                If this is your idea of trending away from right-wing absolutism, I shudder to think what your rhetoric must be like when you, in your own mind, hold an extreme position.

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                • Elias, if you want to keep this at grenade-toss level, I’m disappointed.

                  Yes, I floated the Shoah, but leaned my argument and comparison more on the capital punishment of innocents. If you want to call “straw man” one minute yet turn around and protest what you consider the less reasonable argument instead of engaging the less extravagant one, I’m just getting the feeling you want to fight and front more than discuss.

                  A corollary of the “straw man argument” is to engage the weakest point of the other side, not its strongest.

                  “Right-wing absolutism,” as it might be used fairly—you drag the left-right paradigm in again—is banning abortion completely, that “life begins at conception.” This isn’t even on the table, not in your original post, not in reality either.

                  Let’s take a breath, shall we? I only engaged this discussion in hopes to get past the cannon-fodder level. I did present much more than “right-wing absolutism” to chew on and reply to. So far, you have passed. Your OP title allows that the issue is complicated; I have put addition complications on the table that are seldom addressed or discussed.

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                    • No, I didn’t take what Tom’s saying as comparing anyone to a Nazi. I take it as saying that pro-lifers aren’t going to be happy with a 10% solution because it’s an issue of a moral absolute for them, and yeah, I get that.

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                    • If the babies are the Jews, Roma, homosexuals, handicapped, etc., and abortion is the holocaust then what does that make abortion providers? and what does it make those who support them?

                      You’re obviously entitled to take Tom’s claim any way you’d like, but there are plenty of ways of discussing moral absolutes without going Godwin on everybody. For example, I find that using the words “moral absolutes” is often quite effective.

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                    • Okay, well look, I’ve drank a good seven or eight beers this evening because there was a parade outside the house I’m sitting and I figured why not. So this probably won’t be much help.

                      To my mind, what I’m saying is that anti-abortion people should be happy if we can find a way to reduce abortions by even 10 percent. What Tom is saying is that, if you’re an anti-abortion person, and thus see abortion as the killing of an innocent, 10% less doesn’t make much difference to you.

                      I don’t see this as invoking Goodwin’s so much as saying let’s be realistic about how the respective sides actually see this issue. I agree that that’s really focusing on just one side’s perspective, but I don’t see that as pushing the argument into the realm of who’s a Nazi.

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              • Tom, as someone who’s deeply, deeply concerned, to the point of paranoia, about ideological bias, one would think you’d look up the study and the APA’s position on it before quoting an anti-choice (or pro-life, whatever) site. The APA has never changed their tune on abortion and psychological harm, because they’ve reviewed all of the literature:

                http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/abortion/index.aspx

                Anyway, I always enjoy when you show that your concerns for bias go only one way. Thanks.

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                • Ah, Chris. I count on you to rise from the depths to bite my balls on epistemological grounds at the appropriate time.

                  I reviewed the original David Fergusson argument for myself quite awhile back. Sorry if I was lazy enough to grab a pro-life reference to it. Footnoting is a thankless job in fora like these.

                  See, I write for the unconvinced, not the ball-biters. I didn’t even go into David Fergusson’s [righteous] accusation that a leading pro-choice advocate/professor used the same study to argue for her ideology. I reviewed hers, as well.

                  Furgusson is pro-choice himself, but was scandalized by the intellectual dishonesty. There appears to be palpable, measurable and lifelong psychological damage to approximately 1/4 of the women who abort their pregnancies.

                  So, when you accuse me of intellectual dishonesty, Chris—Deal with the study, the data, the facts, or kindly get out of the way.

                  You want the reference? Look it up yrself, brother, and don’t play yr epistemology game with me. Keywords New Zealand, abortion, Furgusson.

                  Do you care that abortion has a devastating psychological effect on a provable and significant minority of women who have them?

                  I make it you’d rather bite my balls. Feh. Get in line.

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                  • Tom, I provided you with a link that summarizes the entire literature. It finds something quite different than what your one source does. But because your one source agrees with you, you’re going to stick with it, through thick and thin, because you couldn’t handle the literature saying anything else. Good on ya, man. We each have to get by as best we can. It’s just a shame that the truth gets trampled so often in the process.

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                    • You provided nothing except ball-biting, Chris. Argue affirmatively, let the gentle reader decide, or get out of the way. This is a forum and these are colloquies. It ain’t about me and it ain’t about you.

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                    • Tom, apparently you don’t know how to follow a link. Since it debunks both of your claims, namely that the research shows harm and that the APA removed its claim to the contrary, I think I’ve done quite enough.

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                  • Tom, I’m taking your side on the Goodwin’s charge, but not on the “easy” charge against myself. When I said that abortion is a “fairly easy procedure to do” what I meant, and what I think should be clear, is that a woman who wants to get rid of a pregnancy badly enough will be able to do so regardless of the medical facilities available, and that’s because it’s a fairly straightforward procedure- not that it’s emotionally or psychologically easy to have an abortion. If brain surgery was illegal, I’d imagine there would be a lot less brain surgeries. But, I don’t think the same holds true with abortion. I was not making an argument about the psychological effects of having an abortion. You say “There appears to be palpable, measurable and lifelong psychological damage to approximately 1/4 of the women who abort their pregnancies” and that’s an interesting point to take into consideration for sure. But it’s not the case that I was saying abortion is “easy” to go through psychologically.

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                    • Rufus, I think we’re OK w/each other as gentlepersons of good will. If I got sophistic or quarrelsome—and I did—these are habits I’m still trying to break.

                      I got addicted to my own cleverness at a very early age. I hope to someday outgrow it now that I’m in my dotage.

                      I gave this question a fresh look during the past year and have been sharing what I found here today. I tend to spend Sundays like that, reading or writing. Mileage will vary.

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                  • Tom,
                    You’re making a lot of interesting points in this discussion, but you’re misled regarding the literature, and Chris is trying to show you that fact. I followed Chris’s link. Here’s the important bit.

                    A critical evaluation of the published literature revealed that the majority of studies suffered from methodological problems, often severe in nature. Given the state of the literature, a simple calculation of effect sizes or count of the number of studies that showed an effect in one direction versus another was considered inappropriate. The quality of the evidence that produced those effects must be considered to avoid misleading conclusions. Accordingly, the TFMHA emphasized the studies it judged to be most methodologically rigorous to arrive at its conclusions.

                    The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy. The evidence regarding the relative mental health risks associated with multiple abortions is more equivocal. Positive associations observed between multiple abortions and poorer mental health may be linked to co-occurring risks that predispose a woman to both multiple unwanted pregnancies and mental health problems.

                    It says, basically, that you and I (as a non-psychologists) are unlikely to gain any real knowledge from reading any single study on the mental health effects of abortion, because careful review of the whole body of work has revealed methodological problems in most studies. It further says that the APA has reviewed the whole body of work, and these are the conclusions that are warranted. First-trimester abortions do not cause mental health risks any more than carrying a pregnancy to term causes. This contradicts the conclusions in the single paper you quote.

                    So, any thinking you’ve based on that paper being unequivocally correct should be re-examined, not shielded by accusing Chris of merely seeking to attack you personally.

                    Note that I’m not going into my out-of-the-mainstream ideas on abortion here–I’m more interested in yours and Rufus’s exchange. But still, Chris seems to have attempted to assist you here in avoiding errors in making your arguments.

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                    • Mr. Boegiboe, I’m not “misled” on any of this, but thank you. I’m quite familiar with the academic/advocate’s tactic of attacking inconvenient arguments on methodological grounds.

                      We are ertain anecdotally that some women ore psychologically scarred for life by abortion [Patricial Neal, Jennifer O’Neill]. The question is only how many. As we see here, no attempt is made to pursue the question.

                      I’d go into it deeper, Furgusson’s complate how the advocate-academy surpressed and dismissed his findings [Furgusson is pro-choice], but there really is no point arguing against someone’s religious beliefs, in this case, faith in the “academy, and its reliable indifference to pursuing questions uncongenial to its orthodoxies.

                      However, I shouldn’t have used that assertion about the APA from a pro-life source, so thank you. It was laziness, and I grabbed it as a pointer, not an argument. I withdraw it, but not what it pointed to.

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                    • What I love about this, Tom, is that you dismiss any other possible conclusion out of hand as biased, but are convinced that your one study, regardless of its merits, is right!

                      By the way, Tom, that APA article isn’t the only lit review, and the lit reviews do, in fact, consider Fergusson’s study (contrary to your implication, if not assertion). Anyway, I enjoy when you make your biases so apparent precisely in your claim that everyone else is biased. It never ceases to amuse, particularly since you never cease to do it.

                      http://www.jhsph.edu/bin/o/a/Charles_2008_Contraception.pdf

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                    • Untrue, Chris. It’s I who question your fealty to scholarly authority.

                      Academics are wrong all the time. Add in an ideological bias, and I don’t see why we should truth them any more than we trust any other institution.

                      We know anecdotally that abortion scars some women for life; the question is how many. I do not know, and I assert that nobody does, many because they don’t want to know.

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                    • Tom, the question is not whether abortion causes mental illness – it does, in some cases. The question is, does it cause more (or worse, or different) mental illness than women would otherwise experience without pregnancy, and does it cause more (or worse, or different) mental illness illness than carrying a pregnancy to term. The answer to both those questions, according to the full body of research, is no. But you’ve chosen one study, and decided that since it fits with your prejudices, it must be right, and anyone who disagrees with you is acting purely on faith in academics. There’s nothing at all rational about your position, and the more you defend it, the more irrational it sounds. And that’s not bias: if I were to say that one study in a body of research, and not even the most recent one, trumps the results of a full review of the literature, because that study fits with my prejudices, then I’d be acting irrationally too, regardless of the issue in question.

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                    • I’m not the one with “epistemological closure” on this. I don’t know, and the question cannot be closed or waved away by a couple dozen studies [and a meta-analysis you pointed to].

                      From the internet:

                      Perhaps you should take the time to speak to the countless women who would substantiate post abortion syndrome. All the research in the world can say it does not exist but those of us who have suffered from it say other wise.

                      Posted by: Theresa

                      This is real. This is a human being, not numbers on a page.

                      The culture war aspect of the epistemological battle leaves me unsatisfied that anyone can be trusted to play it straight. “Researchers” say stuff like “Antiabortion activists have relied on questionable science in their efforts to push inclusion of the concept of ‘post-abortion syndrome’ in both clinical practice and law.”

                      Uh huh. This is advocacy: what anti-abortion activists do or say is of zero concern to the unbiased researcher. These dudes have an agenda, and there many more activist-academics. There is a substantive overlap between abortion advocacy and the researchers involved.

                      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Virtually nobody, except a handful of pro-life advocates who can be summarily dismissed, outmanned, and outgunned.

                      And there are additional studies since the 2008 meta-analysis that “prove” the existence of a post-abortion syndrome. Are those researchers playing it straight? I have no idea. I do know that the predictable methodological counterattacks came, and round and round it goes.

                      This is a mug’s game, and why I won’t play it with you. Neither you or I or the gentle reader will or can be satisfied except to confirm existing opinions and biases. The best I can do is leave the question open despite the advocate-academy’s best attempts to close it. There is simply not enough data, and again anecdotally, we know this syndrome is real [see above] and no amount of numbers on a page can prove otherwise.

                      And, to get out of this epistemology morass, the studies set the threshold at clinically diagnosable “mental illness,” a bar that is set far too high. “Scarred for life” is what I’ve been discussing. This means nothing to statisticians and clinicians, but it means everything in a human being sense. I will not be ruled by social scientists and their “value-free” values.

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                    • Tom, just saying you’re not blinded by your biases doesn’t make it so. What makes is to is refusing to accept empirical evidence because you’re convinced the researchers are biased, unless they come to the same conclusion you do, in which case they’re obviously not biased. I can’t believe you can’t see the irrationality of that line of reasoning, but you clearly can’t, so I won’t beat you over the head with it any more.

                      Also, I’m not saying abortion never leads to mental illness. I’m saying what the research says, namely that it doesn’t lead to any more, or any worse, or any different mental illness than pregnancy, or perhaps even than simply not getting pregnant in the first place.

                      Finally, can you point to your post-2008 studies? I’d be happy to see them.

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                    • Jonathan Haidt could barely find any “conservative” social psychologists*. And who conducts these studies? Ta-da.

                      You trust these guys, I do not, esp when some of them are spouting advocacy rhetoric.
                      ___________
                      *”[Haidt] polled his audience at the San Antonio Convention Center, starting by asking how many considered themselves politically liberal. A sea of hands appeared, and Dr. Haidt estimated that liberals made up 80 percent of the 1,000 psychologists in the ballroom. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he spotted fewer than three dozen hands. And then, when he asked for conservatives, he counted a grand total of three.

                      “This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal. In his speech and in an interview, Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.”

                      Uh huh. Whatever. As for more studies, there’s no point, for reasons given. The studies can at best medicalize this, and I’m not strictly arguing that.

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                    • Tom, you know I’m a psychologist, right? I actually know Haidt. And I’ve had plenty to say about social psychology and the quality of that field.

                      You know who doesn’t do research on abortion and mental illness? Social psychologists.

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                    • Well, I stand corrected, Chris. You got me.

                      I’ve had my say. Corollary to Haidt’s argument is still that the researchers may not be asking the right questions, even if we concede non-bias, which I don’t. Peace.

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                    • > We know anecdotally that abortion
                      > scars some women for life; the
                      > question is how many.

                      Pardon pedanticity: we don’t actually know that. It’s very likely, of course, but we don’t know it.

                      It’s entirely possible, for example, that those people who say that abortion scarred them for life are people who were looking for a trauma to hang their disaffection with their life on top of. Pardon my grammar.

                      Countering anecdote with anecdote: I know someone who blames their current state of affairs on the death of their life partner (certainly a trauma) while in my estimation their current state of affairs is much more likely caused by their omnipresent alcoholism and inability to stay on their psych meds, which they exhibited both before and after the death of said life partner.

                      Now, it’s also entirely very likely that some people *are* scarred for life by undergoing an abortion. But people are scarred for life by undergoing a lot of things, including (bad) marriages, crippling (fill in your favorite sport) injuries, accidental firearm discharges… I can go on.

                      That doesn’t mean we ought to disband marriage, forbid skiing, or ban guns.

                      The question is, at what point do we acknowledge the blastocyst/embryo/fetus/child as an individual citizen with all the rights thereto pertaining?

                      And right now, the answer for that is still “21 years of age”, and everything younger than that comes with something of a codicil attached. One at 18. Several riders in place from 15 and above regarding parental consent when it comes to marriage depending upon state. A definite set at birth (citizenry, for one – gonna give citizenry to anyone conceived in the U.S., even if they weren’t born here?)

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                    • A fair objection on the grounds of scorch-the-earth epistemological skepticism, Mr. Cahalan. But I rather get you don’t believe that either, and are willing to take Jennifer O’Neill at her word. From the heart.

                      The question is, at what point do we acknowledge the blastocyst/embryo/fetus/child as an individual citizen with all the rights thereto pertaining?

                      I think there is a point. I think we just don’t know what it is, having surrendered this moral dilemma to the courts, the absolutists on either side [abortion-is-murder vs. abortion-on-demand], shrugged our shoulders, and with a great sense of relief.

                      We lack clarity, and are relieved there’s no clarity: we prefer the muddle and the blur. What is a murdered child in the Peterson case is a “choice” and a “medical procedure” in another.

                      We know that “what is a person” cannot be objective and subjective at the same time. Even if it’s a matter of opinion, “morality.” It’s gotta be this or that.

                      “It.” The “blastocyst/embryo/fetus/child.”

                      “It” begs the question. That’s why they called “it” Baby Conner. He. Scott Peterson murdered him.

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        • All of which suggests that they really didn’t have much in the way of “choices”. And, given that a large percentage of the women who had abortions, when asked, said they did so because they “couldn’t afford” a child, we’re clearly talking about a pro-choice movement that is struggling to secure options, but not choices.

          Yes, let’s pretend that thing you described has the slightest relationship to the left, which hasn’t constantly argued for day care, maternity leave, contraceptive access, adoption services, aid for poor women and their children, head start, etc, etc.

          If your economic situation forces you to abort when you would have rather carried the child to term, you didn’t make a choice.

          I forget, which political party is it that supports WIC? Free prenatal care? Welfare? Maternity leave?

          It’s not that the pro-choice movement doesn’t know this, but that they’re focused on the last resort option, instead of improving the lot of women on the whole so that they have actual choices in their lives. This would be if the left, as such, still gave a fish about the poor, aside from making sure they have the option to abort.

          Yes, the entire left is lined up to make sure that people can get abortions, and only abortions. Why, look at Planned Parenthood, well over 90% of their activity is dedicated to abortion. (Statement not intended to be a factual statement.) They don’t provide any sort of contraceptives or anything.

          Seriously. Someone please point to any help the right has given poor pregnant women at all. A single dime of money sent their way as some sort of policy of the right, to encourage them to not have an abortion.

          The only thing anyone could possibly point to is Catholic charities that help with adoption. Which I have to point out is not really the ‘right’.

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          • “Yes, let’s pretend that thing you described has the slightest relationship to the left, which hasn’t constantly argued for day care, maternity leave, contraceptive access, adoption services, aid for poor women and their children, head start, etc, etc.”

            At what point do the failures of the left cease to be the fault of the right? Where I live, the left is absolutely arguing for those things, while not actually delivering any of them. At some point, the argument that we’d love to do those things for you, but they won’t let us, just doesn’t fly.

            “Yes, the entire left is lined up to make sure that people can get abortions, and only abortions. Why, look at Planned Parenthood, well over 90% of their activity is dedicated to abortion. (Statement not intended to be a factual statement.) They don’t provide any sort of contraceptives or anything.”

            So the work that Planned Parenthood does- does that make up for what the rest of the left fails to do? Or not? Because, again, where I live, there’s not much in the way of any of those things. But, clearly, that’s the fault of the right. I mean, let’s ask this: if tomorrow the government stops funding Planned Parenthood altogether (not so hypothetical), does the entire left step up and pitch in, send money, and volunteer? Or do they stand behind something only in the sense that they’re okay with their taxes going there?

            “Seriously. Someone please point to any help the right has given poor pregnant women at all. A single dime of money sent their way as some sort of policy of the right, to encourage them to not have an abortion.”
            Yeah, I already pointed out that this makes them look bad on the abortion issue, which Tom took as me saying they weren’t allowed to oppose abortion. But, again, on the ground, I’m not seeing all of the support for poor pregnant women flowing from the left that you are. And there are a lot of poor and pregnant women where I live.

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            • Where I live, the left is absolutely arguing for those things, while not actually delivering any of them. At some point, the argument that we’d love to do those things for you, but they won’t let us, just doesn’t fly.

              Erm, I have no idea what’s going on ‘where you, but perhaps you should actually look at the voting records. Perhaps they are lying, or perhaps the right is, in fact, stopping them. I have no idea. It is entirely possible they are lying, or your ‘left’ is more ‘center right’.

              But the fact is that at the Federal level, we have people on the right who attempting to cut those things, and people on the left attempting to stop them.

              Or do they stand behind something only in the sense that they’re okay with their taxes going there?

              I have no idea what you mean by ‘only’. The ‘left’ is a political position. Hence, it attempts to do things via ‘the government’. Which, as we know, actually means via taxes.

              The ‘left’ is not some group of people that actually exist in some objective sense. If you’re asking why they don’t all give up their jobs and, I dunno, follow poor women around and hand them condoms, um, that’s why they’re funding Planned Parenthood. Most of whom the staff, are, of course, members of the left.

              ‘The left’ cannot show up and help. Plenty of people on the left volunteer or donate or whatever, though. (As do plenty of people on the right.)

              The right has political position hypocrisy, in that they demand, as policy, no abortions, but then demand, as policy, that no poor pregnant women get any help.

              The left, OTOH, demands, as policy, both those things, which is not hypocritical.

              If you want to call out individuals on either side for being hypocrites in their political position vs. their own action, fine, but that’s not an issue of ‘the left’.

              But, clearly, that’s the fault of the right. I mean, let’s ask this: if tomorrow the government stops funding Planned Parenthood altogether (not so hypothetical), does the entire left step up and pitch in, send money, and volunteer?

              Planned Parenthood is already funded by donations. About quarter of its funding is donations! We’re talking 250 million dollars donated. It has 700,000 active donors.

              I have no idea how much of that is from ‘the left’, but I suspect at least 9/10ths of it is from pro-choice people.

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        • My wife was taught how to perform them as part of her obstetrical training. No hands-on training and she doesn’t want to perform them. But yeah, if you were looking to mainstream abortions, you’d primarily do so with Ob/Gyn.

          (This is, incidentally, a fear within some circles of the medical community. Someone saying that doctors that have training to do it ought not have the choice not to do it.)

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    • “But, it’s probably easier…”

      I dunno. This would seem to identify the problem as laziness. I know quite a few people who take extreme positions on both sides of this debate, and I think laziness is the least of their worries.

      I think is has more to do with the fact that the question at hand doesn’t much lend itsef to compromise. If you think a few million babies are getting tortured and murdered every year be, say, a gang of motorcycle-riding nuns, I doubt you’d be stoked for a compromise that eneded with them torturing and murdering 200,000 babies instead.

      Would opponents of waterboarding accept a compromise whereby 20 percent fewer people were waterboarded, or the torturer used delicions Tang instead of water? Neither would seem to deal with the real trouble at hand.

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  6. Policy designed in theory to prevent women from seeking abortion has instead resulted not only in their doing so anyway, but doing so through means that are even more dangerous and beneficial to the state’s criminal market.

    I consider myself pro-choice and I am very sympathetic to this particular claim I quote above. But I often hear this claim, or similar ones, to mean “exactly the same number of abortions will happen anyway if abortion is made illegal.” I imagine that at least some abortions are prevented when they are outlawed or made more difficult.

    What really disturbs me about the way this argument / claim is advanced is that it is usually done so sloppily and comes off as dishonest. I’m not saying that Mr. Isquith is being dishonest or sloppy, only that there is a danger when we take a true claim like this and use it as a blunt, almost question-begging instrument.

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    • Just to be clear: I wouldn’t say that the numbers are the same. I haven’t done the research in the aggregate, but I, too, would imagine that the absolute number could very well decrease. However, the amount human suffering most certainly (and unnecessarily) increases.

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        • Mike, I’m sure I could find various laws that were designed to erect barriers towards women procuring abortions. It would seem to be a bit of a waste of time, though, if your response will be to consistently decide — based off criteria not disclosed prior — that I’ll “have to do better than that.”

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            • Ahhh. Pardon me.

              Well, it’s a hard question to answer in the sense that any idea will be very controversial since it has more and more become an article of faith among many that the government is simply NOT ALLOWED to do *anything* which would have the impact of making safe abortion more affordable. I would imagine that subsidizing medical students to go into OBGYN etc. would have a positive impact, as well as ridding us of laws which proscribe a certain # of clinics in the state/county etc. Just throwing some ideas out there. It’s a discussion I wish we could have more often but from my experience there isn’t nearly as much time/energy devoted to formulating policy vis-a-vis choice as there is towards simply fighting a rearguard action.

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                • I’m not sure I can think of governmental responses to the problem that don’t involve the use of money. I’m not trying to be flippant or glib. If you’re wondering what civil society can do to solve these problems, I’d say that in the face of so many of these negative laws — with Planned Parenthood fighting for its very existence in many states — the answer is: not enough.

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                  • Well, I think you should probablt have something in mind. The main story linked to above highlights the story of a woman who did not get an abortion because “she could not afford a legal procedure.” Not because it was banned.

                    Later, you wrote quite confidently that: “this woman was forced to make an impossible choice due to inadequate policy.”

                    Well, she wasn’t forced to do anything. But apart from that, which policy was inadequate? The only policy that would seem to make this act illegal would be a law that said, “Any effort to induce an abortion, no matter what the means or the cost, will be considered legal. Because poor women need abortions, and no matter how or where they choose to do so should be legal. So unlike every single other medical procedure in the country, abortions will now be completely unregulated.”

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                    • Not having the government aid those too poor to afford abortions is a policy. My point was that rather axiomatically anything the government could do to make situations like this happen less frequently would involve money, and thus it would be rather difficult to envision a policy that did not involve the expenditure of funds.

                      The only policy that would seem to make this act illegal would be a law that said, “Any effort to induce an abortion, no matter what the means or the cost, will be considered legal. Because poor women need abortions, and no matter how or where they choose to do so should be legal. So unlike every single other medical procedure in the country, abortions will now be completely unregulated.”

                      This misrepresents my position quite dramatically. You either know this and don’t care or did not read my post and the ensuing thread with much focus.

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                    • Elias – As a matter of policy if you’re only solution is government funding of abortion, this whole conversation is moot. It’s the equivelant of the other side hoping to see RvW overturned. I still believe that private funding would be your best bet. Perhaps a shuttle service staffed by volunteer from the pro-choice side?

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                    • Yeah; I’m not a libertarian and I don’t think enormous social ills can be solved through volunteerism alone.

                      I struggle to see how advocating greater government support for a procedure — provided it’s first-trimester and well-regulated — that is already federal law is equivalent to wanting to see the most controversial SCOTUS ruling of our lifetime overturned.

                      But I make no pretense of believing that there’s a way we can all just get along and compromise over an issue this tied-up in concepts of the meaning of life itself.

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                    • I don’t see why government funding of abortion would be necessary. I do think government enforcement of laws is necessary, and that it’s necessary to combat systematic intimidation, to the point of terrorism, against abortion providers. The problem of access, right now, has little to do with funding, and a great deal to do with the fact that it’s difficult to build clinics that perform abortions, much less to find doctors and nurses who are brave enough to perform them. Hell, if you’ve ever been to an abortion clinic in a conservative area of the country, you know it’s difficult to even get into an abortion clinic without being harassed and threatened. The solution is to protect providers, not to fund them. Well, that and to make laws like the one just passed in Texas requiring a sonogram and a waiting period (that’s small government conservatism for you, eh?) go away.

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                    • Chris, just so I can try to be more clear in what I meant: I envision enforcing those laws — and incentivizing doctors and nurses to work in areas where they feel unsafe — would cost money. Almost anything the government does costs money. That’s all I mean when I say funding.

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                    • Elias, I don’t see a need for “incentivizing” doctors and nurses to learn and perform abortions, if doing so is both safe for the practitioners and not a form of career suicide. And I see it being both safe and not a form of career suicide if the laws are enforced and the government actually targets anti-abortion violence.

                      That last bit does require money, and if that’s what you mean by the government funding, or subsidizing, abortion, then I’m all for it.

                      This only applies in or current system, of course. I’m actually for a single-payer system, in which the government would of course pay for abortion services. But I don’t think that’s the conversation we’re having.

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                    • Elias – I agree with Chris on this one. If you want more abortion doctors, figure out a way to convince more doctors to get the training or go into that line of work or more medical schools to teach it. If there’s a safety issue, enforce existing laws regarding abortion clinic violence (which, BTW is not as bad as many liberals think). If the only way you can get people to provide more abortions is to throw money at the problem, it seems like momentum is against the procedure.

                      The government allows abortion but almost since the day RvW passed the attitude has been to allow but never encourage. Your path of incentivizing the procedure on the provider side does just that which directly contradicts the moral attitude in this country towards abortion. As of 2009 51% of Americans identified as pro-life while 42% identified as pro-choice. Additionally, between 58-55% of Americans oppose public funding for abortion. So that means probably even some pro-choice folks don’t want to see it funded.

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                    • That’s a somewhat imperfect/misleading statistic to cite considering that when people are asked more specifically their thoughts on first trimester abortion the numbers swing dramatically in favor of what we could call the “pro-choice” position. Beyond that, you’ve probably heard the famous Twain quote about lies, damned lies and statistics; it’s no less true today.

                      Beyond beyond that that, in a question of civil rights — which access to abortion is — arguments based upon majority opinion are rather worthless. It seems unlikely to me that this is a novel argument to you.

                      And, again, when I said funding I referred to enforcement of existing law, primarily. The idea of incentivizing doctors and nurses to go into the field is not the hill I need to die on; though your unsubstantiated argument that the murder of abortion providers is somehow not as much of a problem as liberals think (as if there’s no such thing as a chilling effect) is, despite being completely unsubstantiated, unconvincing.

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                    • Mike, if anti-abortion violence is less common than many liberals think, it is certainly much more common than the vast majority of conservatives think:

                      http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/1998/summer/anti-abortion-violence

                      It’s not a coincidence that most clinics that provide abortion require escorts for employees and patients, to go along with expensive security. Threats are pretty much constant, and violence is all too common.

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                    • Elias,

                      I’ll grant you that a majority of Americans would allow first-trimester abortions but a majority also opposes funding them. Yes, it is legal right currently but I still think you are confusing ‘allow’ with ‘encourage’. The government has no obligations towards the latter.

                      As for abortion-related violence, please see two spreadsheets I’ve compiled here:

                      http://progressconservative.com/2007/01/01/abortion-statistics/

                      The first is all abortion-clinic incidents from 1993-2008. It’s a bit up-and-down. When you control for non-violent incidents like gluing locks shut and a brief spell of fake anthrax threats right after 9/11, you get dramatically different results (see graph #2). The truth is that actual abortion-related violence has been declining for years and is a red herring when trotted out as a factor in why less people are providing abortions.

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                    • Well thank goodness we’re ruling out such insignificant occurrences like anthrax threats after 9/11! Certainly that’s on the same level as gluing locks.

                      Likewise, I wonder if perhaps the numbers have been on the decline because the earlier decades of violence worked? Once again, you’re ignoring the chilling effect.

                      Of course, it’s for reasons like these that I’d advocate some government incentive is necessary as a counter-balance. But considering you’ve thus far refused to even recognize the problem exists, I’m not surprised that you’re opposed to any attempt to fix it.

                      ETA: And, again, I never proposed as a solution in this thread that the government get further into the business of direct funding abortion. It’s kind of tedious to have to repeat this over and over.

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                    • Chris – I count 293 actual or attempted acts of violence in 20 years. At the same time roughly 20 million abortions have been carried out. Expressed as a percentage that means of violence rate of .001% of the actual number of abortions. And given the number of firearms in this country and the reality that a significant number of Americans view abortion as something akin to mass murder, I find that rate to be amazingly low.

                      To be clear, I’m not making light of abortion-related violence and yes, non-violent harassment plays a role. But to suggest real violence is a major factor is exaggerating the problem greatly IMHO.

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                    • To your argument to Chris earlier: we’re talking about abortion in areas where it’s unpopular. Then in service of your side in the discussion, you want to switch the debate to looking at the number of abortions that occur throughout the entire United States. You can probably figure out why I might consider that a patently tendentious metric-switch.

                      1. I fail to see how it all being from one person in any way makes the threats less scary or chilling to their receivers or those who might consider going into such a line of work.

                      2. If that were my position it would indeed be ludicrous.

                      In general, Mike, I think I’ve spent enough time batting down your arguments to reasonably conclude that you’ve little to no interest in engaging on a good-faith level. I’m tired of reminding you why the stance you’re so valiantly fighting against is not one I’ve taken; and you seem to be a pretty smart guy, so I can’t help but conclude that the frequency with which you trot out misleading data points and ignore completely the central premises of my arguments is not a mere, unfortunate coincidence.

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                    • Elias,

                      When people talk about ‘abortion-related violence’ it’s usually a discussion of it as a national problem. If your suggestion is that the ratio of violence to abortions gets smaller in some states, you’re probably right. So let’s say that yes,, abortion violence coupled with a lack of funding and providers makes abortion less accessible in certain parts of the country. We then circle back around to my initial question to you which is how do you fix it?

                      All of your suggestions reference funding. I keep saying that govt funding is non-starter and you keep saying, “Yeah, but it all comes back to funding.” So we’re certainly going to keep talking past each other with those stances. Additionally though I’m willing to acknowledge that enforcement of existing laws concerning abortion-related violence would help. I’m also willing to listen to any non-funding related suggestions you have about new policies that would encourage more abortion providers to open shop in these areas. But as of yet, unless I missed something in your comments, you have yet to suggest a single thing that wouldn’t involve Uncle Sam financially supporting abortion in a fairly direct way.

                      You say I am missing your central premise. I think this is basically it:

                      “..anti-choice legislation falls disproportionately on the underprivileged. “

                      But isn’t that also a misleading data point? Doesn’t unwanted pregnancy itself occur disproportionately among the underprivileged? So of course any law concerning abortion, whether pro or anti-choice, is going to affect them the most. If Congress passed a law tomorrow that gave $500, an armed military escort and a suite at the Hyatt to every woman seeking an abortion, wouldn’t the benefits of that law still ‘fall disproportionately on the underprivileged’? So it seems your entire premise is a bit skewed.

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                    • Even if the violence and threatmaking were completely eradicated, how many abortion doctors would want to practice in a place where they are going to be reviled for it? Where they will be pariahs? More to the point, if you’re the type of person that believes abortion to be a good, would you want to live in eastern Idaho, which is over 50% Mormon with catholics and conservative protestants making up much of the balance?

                      Or would you rather live in a place where you won’t be reviled? Where you have people that will defend you. In public. And alternately, if you were the type of person that wanted to live in eastern Idaho or a culturally conservative part of the community, what are the chances that you would be enthusiastic about performing abortions, considering the social costs?

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                    • I can’t for the life of me figure out what point you’re trying to make.

                      Is it that in a nation of 310 million with a vibrant civil society we would be unable to supply poor, rural communities in conservative regions with doctors because they would be upset about not being invited to the Church’s potluck dinner?

                      Further, no one is ever “enthusiastic” about performing abortions. Sweet lord.

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                    • I’m saying if you want to perform abortions, you probably don’t want to live in Mormon Idaho. If you want to live in Mormon Idaho, you probably don’t want to perform abortions. Among the reasons for this is that most people do not want to live in communities where they are unwelcome or won’t fit in.

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                    • @Sam: “The main story linked to above highlights the story of a woman who did not get an abortion because “she could not afford a legal procedure.” Not because it was banned.”

                      Actually, it was banned, both by fetal age (more than 20 weeks) and by specifics of procedure (self-induced abortion).

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                  • Yes. I think it’s unquestionably much more dangerous in Idaho than it is in the Congo. It’s actually a fundamental tenet of my political philosophy to consider Idaho the most dangerous piece of human-inhabited land in the known universe. Hell is Boise.

                    As to why people are not in a place where they’re not because conditions are unfavorable even though conditions have not yet changed — I can’t say I have an answer to that one, Mike. As a question, it’s a bit like what the sound of one hand clapping or a solitary tree falling in the forest is like, I imagine.

                    My only hope is that through continued good-faith discussion with you we might one day stumble upon the answers to these eternal mysteries.

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                    • Elias,

                      Your whole post was premised on a complaint about difficult access to abortion in certain areas because of draconian legislation. Now you say, “Considering we can find people from Nebraska who want to go risk life & limb to secure access to abortion to women in Congo, I think we could probably do the same in dreaded “Mormon Idaho.”

                      So then – doesn’t that completely negate your original complaint? These missionary abortionists will no doubt tilt the balance back in favor of abortion seekers.

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                    • Mike, I think from now on I’m just going to outsource my posting to you.

                      Because when I consider all of the times you’ve informed me that I was holding positions and putting forth arguments that seemed to me to be not at all what I’d written, I’ve just got to conclude that you’ve got a much better grasp on what I think than I do myself.

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                    • Elias – While I respect the fact that you are keeping up with the comments on your own post, which is something some of the League writers have been historically bad about, I think your skin is going to have to get a LOT thicker if you want to survive for any length of time.

                      Maybe instead of snark you could just explain your positions in a way that makes sense?

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                    • Trumwill, I’d say that at times in this thread my patience has worn thin and I’ve been snarky or dismissive. But I don’t think at any point I’ve shifted the goal posts or engaged in straw-man argumentation (at least not more so than is inevitable when debating with people you don’t know through an imperfect medium). I don’t know if we’ve the same definition of good faith. To me, it means you’re honestly willing to engage with the other person’s arguments rather than treat them as volleys to be defended and then counter-attacked.

                      And, Mike, my eventual sense that you’re engaging in the above-described sophistry is why you’re getting snark. You can go back and look through our discussion: there’s a marked point at which I began to find you tedious. But point taken; in truth I know better and that I’d be best served ignoring argumentation like you’ve practiced here rather than going all Mean Girls.

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                    • Elias – By my count I think you have accused three commentors of misrepresentign your opinion. Isn’t it conceivable that you misrepresented it yourself by poorly explaining it? Or is it just us being obtuse?

                      Let’s take one example here. First you say:

                      “I’m not sure I can think of governmental responses to the problem that don’t involve the use of money. “

                      and

                      “I would imagine that subsidizing medical students to go into OBGYN etc. would have a positive impact..”

                      and

                      “My point was that rather axiomatically anything the government could do to make situations like this happen less frequently would involve money, and thus it would be rather difficult to envision a policy that did not involve the expenditure of funds.”

                      and

                      “I envision enforcing those laws — and incentivizing doctors and nurses to work in areas where they feel unsafe — would cost money. Almost anything the government does costs money. That’s all I mean when I say funding.”

                      Then you say,

                      ” And, again, when I said funding I referred to enforcement of existing law, primarily. The idea of incentivizing doctors and nurses to go into the field is not the hill I need to die on.”

                      Can you not see how those statements could seem contradictory? Yes, we all know that anytime the government does anything it costs money. But we’re talking about direct funding and I think you know that. So why not be clear right now: Do you believe there is any way to solve the problem outlined in your post without the government using direct funding to create more access to abortion?

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                    • In all honesty I can’t for the life of me see how you could read those statements and determine inconsistency unless you were looking for it to begin with.

                      I never was talking about direct funding. I said multiple times I wasn’t talking about direct funding. When you say “we,” you could be referring to everyone but me; otherwise it’s not true.

                      And I’ve ignored the framework you’ve set up and kept trying to return to — I offer a libertarian solution to the problem outlined in the post — because, as I said at the very start: I am not a libertarian. That means I think libertarians are often wrong. So asking me to solve the problem on libertarian grounds is a bit like me asking you to solve a problem without relying on volunteerism and the genius of the unfettered free market.

                      Considering the only people I’ve accused of misrepresenting my argument were those who waded into the comment thread already knowing they believed me to be wrong, I think it’s eminently possible for three moments of obtusity to occur.

                      I’m done now, Mike. My lunch is ready and I’ve engaged in enough masochism to last me until this Sunday.

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    • Actually arresting people for outright criminal behavior and conspiracy would be a good start.

      There’s a _reason_ abortion is the only medical service hard to find. It’s because abortion providers get driven out of business by constant attacks.

      Of course, all this is moot when, as the article said, the government adds _waiting periods_ on top of that, again, the only medical service with government mandated waiting periods. The waiting periods are explicitly to make it inaccessible to poor people. (Although, to be fair, they’re trying to make it inaccessible to everyone. But moderately wealthy people can take two days off work and stay in a hotel.)

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      • There’s a _reason_ abortion is the only medical service hard to find. It’s because abortion providers get driven out of business by constant attacks.

        I suspect that it’s overdetermined. There’s probably more to it than that.

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        • There is also a problem that medical students are not being taught abortion/women’s health issues and procedures in medical schools. The number of doctors knowledgable/willing to open up clinics is limited to individuals who seek out this training through groups like MSFC based in Philadelphia.

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        • I don’t generally ascribe great personal bravery to doctors and scientists.

          Not that they’re not selfless, or that they’re cowards, mind you. But doctors and scientists have the same sort of embedded bad risk analysis wiring that everybody else does. Here on campus there are web sites for almost every research group. The groups that do animal research don’t post their pictures on their web page.

          The actual *risk* of being singled out by a nutter with a fetish for freeing hamsters from The Man is really, really small. But when you bump into someone at a conference and then a few months later you hear that someone firebombed their house, you tend to elevate that severely in your “AUGH!” category. It turns all the random hate mail you get in your mailbox into actual *threat* mail, even though it’s all just random hate mail.

          Doctors who will perform abortions are afraid of anti-abortion nuts the same way scientists who perform brain experiments on monkeys are afraid of armed PETA nutbars.

          Tiller was shot, and that’s a tragedy. But the actual rate of getting killed for performing abortions is less than, say, the actual rate of getting killed for being a fireman or a police officer.

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  7. It is entirely possible, and ultimately not even intellectually contradictory, to be supportive of a Constitutional right and simultaneously repelled by its exercise. To pick an example from another arena, one can strongly support the right of the Nazis to have a parade but be really, really offended by that same parade when it is actually held. Or, supporting the exclusionary rule limiting the way police conduct searches does not mean that one is particularly glad when apparently guilty people do not receive prison sentences for their crimes.

    So too with abortion — one can say, “Yes, a woman has a right to have this procedure, and damn, is it an icky and morally ambiguous procedure to have — which is why neither I nor the government have the authority to make that awful choice for the woman in question.”

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  8. My reaction to reading this section of the piece is to shake my head at the prospect of someone having to go to such lengths to practice their Constitutional right, and to be reminded of the maxim of rich and poor alike being proscribed by law from sleeping under bridges

    I keep coming back to this. My problem with this paragraph is the intuition that I have that if I were to ask questions about other Constitutional Rights that I have, that I could expect “well, you have to understand” kinda answers… and if not from you personally, from fellow travelers. I suspect that, at the end of asking the questions, that I’d have my motives and my moral framework questioned and perhaps even have it questioned what kind of person would ask such a question.

    And these suspicions/intuitions make me see the Constitutional Right to visit a Doctor’s Office as a clunky appeal to the supposed ideals of the other side rather than as an appeal to deeply held ideals of one’s own.

    Even odds that all of that is mostly a personal issue on my part, though.

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    • I’m wondering what it would be like were the 2nd Amendment viewed in such broad terms as this right to an abortion.
      I require the government to purchase a gun for me? I get to shoot it wherever I please?

      Hey, move yer ass, buddy! I’m trying to practice my constitutional right over here!
      Sorry about your dog, mister. But I do have rights under the constitution, you know.
      Dammit! I wanted a .45! This is a .22!

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      • Whether or not that particular analogy holds, one of my questions was “do I have a Constitutional Right to own a gun?”

        I would expect as an answer (if not from Elias himself) some amount of hedging.

        From the “you can have a front-loading musket or breech-loading rifle” kind of answers (which I have seen given earnestly) to the “you can own hunting equipment but not a handgun, those are designed to kill *PEOPLE*” kind of answers (which I have seen given earnestly) to the “the 2nd Amendment isn’t an individual right, it’s a right for *MILITIAS*” kind of answer (which I have seen given earnestly), I’ve only rarely seen people who argue for broad privacy rights with regards to abortion argue for broad privacy rights anywhere else (well, until the gay marriage debate).

        Don’t get me wrong! I support, fully and wholly, the right of women to control their own bodies in the name of a broad reading of privacy rights!

        I’m just asking those making such arguments to keep going.

        (And, again, I don’t know that Elias is one of those who would answer anything but “of course gun ownership is a Constitutionally Protected right. (Please note the period at the end of that sentence.)” in response to my question. I do know that many who share his opinion on the Constitutional Right to go to a doctor’s office would not.)

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        • Doesn’t your position need to assume that every issue is exactly the same, that there are no differences at all in any constitutional issue, that all the facts are the same in every case and all the principles apply in exactly the same way in every situation?

          You do have a right to own a gun but the gov can limit some places you can fire it.

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          • No, my position assumes that a Constitutional Right to visit a doctor’s office assumes, at least, a broad reading of the Bill of Rights as well as the assumption that an appeal to Constitutionality is a non-fallacious appeal in its own right.

            (I’m cool with both of these for the sake of argument, by the way.)

            My problem comes when people start arguing that it’s pretty much self-evident that we have a Constitutional Right to something that is not made perfectly explicit while, at the same time, arguing that, technically, what the other parts of the Constitution say aren’t exactly meant the way they have been misinterpreted to be worded.

            It’s also my problem with the whole shellfish/homosexuality abomination thing.

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            • FWIW, I think the Second Amendment is there and can’t be argued away even if I’d prefer we lived in a society with higher levels of gun control. But it would be a hypocrisy for me to advocate a “living” Constitution in many regards while simultaneously saying that a narrow and “strict constructionist” (bleh) reading of the Second Amendment is the only one allowable. The debate on gun control is one that needs to be better argued in the political sphere.

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              • even if I’d prefer we lived in a society with higher levels of gun control

                That’s where I find the interesting part to be.

                There is obviously a higher morality at play here than “Constitionality”. Why not appeal to that, instead, when it comes to the morality involved in Doctor visits?

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                • In this case simply because I know that would be a lost cause with someone as conservative as J.J. I figure that when dealing with someone who ostensibly defines their politics at least in part through fealty to the Constitution, I had a better shot pointing out that the Constitution for the time being also protects rights they’re not necessarily thrilled about personally.

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                  • I figure that when dealing with someone who ostensibly defines their politics at least in part through fealty to the Constitution, I had a better shot pointing out that the Constitution for the time being also protects rights they’re not necessarily thrilled about personally.

                    So this is about an ideal that neither of you share but you think that he, at least, should have it?

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    • From this site: Q113. “What is the right to privacy and where can I find it in the Constitution?”

      A. The right to privacy is not a part of the Constitution, at least not in so many words. The right to privacy would best be seen in the 9th Amendment, which basically says that just because a right is not in the Constitution, does not necessarily mean that it does not exist. The justices of the Supreme Court, in several cases over the past half century, have found that a right to privacy does exist in the Constitution, to a degree. The cases that started the process of the “finding” of this new right began with cases like Loving v Virginia, where it was ruled that the state cannot prevent mixed-race marriages; and like Griswold v Connecticut, where it was ruled that a state cannot prevent a married couple from buying and using condoms. The first mention of a right to privacy was in a dissenting opinion in Olmstead v US in 1928, in which Justice Brandeis argued that the Framers had created a framework for the greatest right of all: “the right to be left alone.”

      The Supreme Court has found that this right to privacy appears in the Constitution in several pre-existing forms. For example, the police are not allowed to search your home or papers without a warrant, which is a direct protection of privacy. The majority of the justices found a right to privacy in some form, a right which could be expanded. Some justices argued that since there is no right to privacy directly enumerated in the Constitution, such a right does not exist. With all due respect, however, this is exactly the sort of argument that the 9th was designed to counter. The right is far from absolute, and many invasions of privacy, such as drug tests and the census, have been upheld by the Supreme Court.

      RoevWade played pretty fast and loose with Constitutional interpretation any way you slice it. It also greatly expanded the ability of the court to legislate from the bench, which we have been dealing with ever since. Balance of powers became very unbalanced ever since with each of the “powers” playing every game they could to try and grab more. All of which has created consternation for the Libertarians – at least the ones who understand the term.

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      • How do you see the text you quoted as supporting the idea that Roe v Wade was “playing fast and loose” with constitutional interpretation? To me it seems to say quite the opposite – that Row was well within the mainstream at the time, following Griswold, and that that trend has continued (eg. with Lawrence)

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        • , I was quoting from multiple sources on the matter over the past 35 years. Can’t possibly put all the comment links on that ruling here or my post will never leave moderator purgatory. If you can’t see a difference between a married couple having the “privacy” to buy and use condoms and taking the life of an unborn child because that is your “private” right, then nothing I type will add more to the discussion.

          Roe V. Wade opened a huge gaping wound in the American psyche that has never healed. Rather than have an opportunity to deal with it on a case by case or state by state basis – debate the pro and con, 46 states got it shoved up their collective… code with nary a dissenting opinion allowed.

          They knew what they were doing, they knew the magnitude of their act and they knew they were over reaching. However, they were also enamored of the idea of extending judicial reach in such a manner. This would have been a radically different decision if it had been a 5v4 vote, if the state’s case would have been more competently argued and if Weddington had not been allowed a “retry” after losing the first round (ie, the court allowed arguments twice). Historically this was a very pivotal moment and it could well be said that they’d already made up their minds to do what they did for the reasons that multiple commentators over the years have said. Here’s the text of the original ruling written by the majority and the dissent.

          That dissent is precisely where the phrase “legislating from the bench” began although Rehnquist worded it differently: While the Court’s opinion quotes from the dissent of Mr. Justice Holmes in Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 74 (1905), the result it reaches is more closely attuned to the majority opinion of Mr. Justice Peckham in that case. As in Lochner and similar cases applying substantive due process standards to economic and social welfare legislation, the adoption of the compelling state interest standard will inevitably require this Court to examine the legislative policies and pass on the wisdom of these policies in the very process of deciding whether a particular state interest put forward may or may not be “compelling.” The decision here to break pregnancy into three distinct terms and to outline the permissible restrictions the State may impose in each one, for example, partakes more of judicial legislation than it does of a determination of the intent of the drafters of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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          • Ward, I’m not really interested in discussing whether or not abortion is killing and I quite deliberately have not taken a position on the question here. Its not very productive to discuss such things, and quite possible to discuss the legal position without doing so.

            Which brings us the question I asked you, which you haven’t really answered, choosing instead to despair of my presumed moral depravity and then quote some more text whose relevance is hard to discern. I’ll generalize slightly to make it easier for you – what specific legal feature makes the actual decision in Roe such a break with conventional jurisprudence at the time?

            You appear to be saying its different because abortion is just obviously baby killing. As I said, I’m not interested in discussing whether or not that is true. Regardless of its truth or otherwise, the point is not particularly relevant to the question of whether Roe was or was not “playing fast and loose with constitutional interpretation”. The constitution says nothing whatsoever about what is or isn’t killing or about when killing is or isn’t punishable. It might be valid t0 challenge the particular scheme that Roe or Casey endorsed based on more recent evidence about fetal development and viability, or on changing societal standards, but that hardly means the decision was out-of-bounds. Given that, as I’m sure you’re aware, all constitutional discussion of Roe, even from the anti-abortion side, centers on the right to privacy and not on whether or not whether abortion is killing or whether fetuses are persons.

            So how exactly is the application of the right to privacy in Roe playing “fast and loose”? The closest you come to answering this is in quoting Rehnquist saying that the court’s endorsement of the trimester scheme is “legislating from the bench”. This particular question doesn’t really have anything to do with constitution interpretation, and indeed it seems far from unique. The court regularly sets out schemes for what does and does not constitute compliance with the law for the obvious reason that it doesn’t want to endlessly review slightly different variants of the same state legislation to say whether or not they are okay, most famously of course in Carolene Products where they invented an entire new area of jurisprudence out of thin air in a footnote.

            I’m bothering to argue with you about this, because your assertion that Roe was somehow a bad or unusual decision on technical grounds is one often made by Libertarians and centrists trying to make common cause with – or at least avoid offending – social conservatives. Its bullshit. You can argue about Roe regarding the correctness or otherwise of the first trimester cut-off (which is moot anyway) but arguing about it from a technical standpoint is either misinformed or disingenuous.

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  9. Isquith believes that abortion is a morally ambiguous act (one thinks, trending towards morally neutral) or at least a question of individual rather than universal morality. Joyner finds much, much less ambiguity in the act. Everything else is mostly words and ideas that flow naturally from those respective core beliefs. Having been on each side of the debate, I can pretty much attest that both Isquith’s and Joyner’s are pretty much the logical conclusions that follow. But change the core belief and everything else changes, also. Unless you’re a libertarian.

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  10. I’ve dealt with this issue in just about every way possible for a man to deal with it.

    My wife and I spent nearly two years trying to have a baby. After several miscarriages, we finally succeeded with the help of a really good reproductive doctor. When she was wheeled into the procedure room, I was sitting there looking at a picture of four blastomeres – each one a bundle of eight cells that could, possibly, develop into a human being.

    It is impossible for me to explain all of the emotions that I experienced at that point. But I do remember blinking away tears and promising that picture (which I still have) that if any of them made it, I would take care of them to the best of my ability. I loved each and every one of them.

    There was less than a one percent chance that all four would implant. They did. Each and every one. However, by the eighth week, one stopped developing and her body discharged it. (Forgive me if I speak in clinical terms, it is still difficult for me to speak about.) Six weeks later, we faced another complication – her uterus was unable to spread quickly enough to hold three fetuses. We faced a choice – decide which one to abort or wait around for God and nature to see if any of them survived. We sacrificed one to make sure the other two had a chance.

    It wasn’t easy. But we did it, and I have no regrets.

    I also had to talk to my daughter after she got home from the emergency room after being raped. It’s no one’s business what we said or what she did. And if anyone here, or elsewhere, has a problem with that, then I suggest they consider what that conversation might be like in their own life.

    I’m sure there are some people who are callous about the decision to abort a pregnancy. So what. There are people who are callous about an old lady getting run over by a bus. Life is not sacrosanct. If it were; then we would not be talking about the personal responsibility of health care. We’d be talking about how easily we could expand Medicare to cover everyone and make sure no one ever dies again.

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    • I’ve come to a great many conclusions where I conclude something to the effect of “I should avert my eyes, this is none of my business.”

      This is one of them.

      I wish the world were not this way, for what it’s worth.

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      • “Life is not sacrosanct.” Ouch. I respect this assertion as sincerely generated by this person’s life-history, psychology and intellect.

        I also respect Jaybird’s “I should avert my eyes, this is none of my business.” And

        I wish the world were not this way, for what it’s worth.

        As do I. The nature of almost everything important is gray area. Yes, I’ve paid some dues here too, if you’re keeping score at home.

        Should we be satisfied with shrugging our shoulders at the gray, that “Life is not sacrosanct?”

        Is anything sacrosanct, then? No? How gray…

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        • What does it mean to be sacrosanct?

          I think that life is a good, but I’m still toughing my way through the “unqualified” addendum and I’m having a hard time getting to sacrosanct. There is also the troubling bit that most folks who tell me that life is sacrosanct… then turn around and start talking about all sorts of occasions when it ain’t so.

          I’m okay with, “abortion is a bad thing”, though.

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      • Yeah, there’s that. I suppose I really didn’t need reminding. There was a lag between the post and responses, and I thought of a zillion of them, but not a one that wasn’t going to appeal to anyone that didn’t share my non-provable judgments on the core questions of what a fetus is and what a woman’s obligation is to one that is growing inside of her body.

        The most intractable debates are always the ones that involve (a) different, non-provable judgments at their core and (b) real-world consequences.

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  11. Well, I’m very late to the conversation, as is usual for me. For what it’s worth, I don’t know if Martha’s comment above was satire or not, but there are not hundreds of babies just sitting around waiting to be adopted. Adopting from other countries is usually more expensive but a much quicker process than a domestic adoption. A domestic adoption of an infant can take years. I know because MrM and I are in the process of adopting a child from foster care. There’s where your hundreds of children waiting for homes are. And I get so angry at that pro-life/anti-choice argument. Some of the children of the mothers who wanted to abort but couldn’t will end up in the foster care system. And by arresting the mothers for attempted “feticide”, we’ve now ensured all of her children will. Well, done!

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    • MrsM,

      This statement…

      “Some of the children of the mothers who wanted to abort but couldn’t will end up in the foster care system. And by arresting the mothers for attempted “feticide”, we’ve now ensured all of her children will. “

      …sounds a lot like you are saying that abortion is a better alternative than foster care. I wonder, how many current or former foster children would say they wish they had been aborted instead?

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  12. That’s not what I’m saying at all. Earlier in my post, I mention that I am in the process of adopting a child *from foster care*. So, clearly, I’d rather my child be alive. What I was saying is that the argument that instead of exercising her constitutionally given right to choose to have an abortion if she so wishes, many pro-life/anti-choice advocates use the flimsy, not based in reality excuse “but there are so many parents waiting to adopt babies! She could just give it up for adoption!” My argument is that women who live in areas where abortion has become so difficult to obtain and/or it has become criminalized and have attempted other “back alley” methods of terminating their pregnancies but were unsuccessful (for example, the 17 y/o in the story above) that will now be forced to carry to term will have their child taken into state custody at birth and placed in the foster care system without a family member to take custody. In the specific case of the 17 y/o, she should have been removed from her abuser years ago and put into foster care home that was experienced at dealing with sexual trauma, but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. The women that already have children and are being prosecuted, if no family member can take their children, those children then end up in foster care. Now, that doesn’t sound like “family values” to me, but that’s supposed to be the mantra of the pro-lifers. In short, I’m saying this is bullshit; these women and their families don’t deserve this.

    I hope this clarifies my position for you.

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    • It still just sounds like you’re making the same point. You are saying that there are a lot of barriers to adoption and foster care is bad for reasons X,Y and Z. You also point out that without abortion the 17 year old will be ‘forced’ (your word) to carry her child to term.

      I don’t see how anyone could draw any other conclusion other than you saying that access to abortion would really help the girl out. So… why don’t we just be blunt? Given a choice under the curent system we have, would you prefer unwanted children be aborted or placed into foster care? Would you ever say, “That child was treated so poorly in foster care that they would have been better off never being born”?

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  13. Mike, she’s the one who wanted to have the abortion. She didn’t have access to one, so she attempted to end her pregnancy by having someone beat her! Can you deny that access to abortion would help her? She was having the baby of a man who abused her and put her in child pornography. What I’m saying is that putting her in jail and her child in foster care is not the answer.

    No, I don’t think anyone else would read my statement and automatically assume that I’m saying that abortion is a better option than foster care. First of all, most children don’t go into foster care right out of the womb. What, exactly, do you know about foster care, Mike? What do I think about the foster care system? I think that in general, it’s pretty damn good! But to take a woman’s child from her because the pro-lifers in her state have made it impossible for her to get an abortion which is still her constitutional right, Mike, whether you like it or not, is wrong.

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    • How does this:

      “And I get so angry at that pro-life/anti-choice argument. Some of the children of the mothers who wanted to abort but couldn’t will end up in the foster care system.”

      …jive with this:

      “What do I think about the foster care system? I think that in general, it’s pretty damn good! “

      Remind me again why you are so angry about that pro-life argument when you later admit foster care is ‘pretty damned good’? Isn’t foster care a better alternative than death?

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    • No, I don’t think anyone else would read my statement and automatically assume that I’m saying that abortion is a better option than foster care.

      I might not automatically assume it, but it really sounds that way.

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  14. Wow, Mike, you’re really willing to take my words out of context in order to continue this discussion, aren’t you? No, thanks.

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  15. Okay, Mike. How about you take some ownership to. Yes or no. Have you adopted any children? Have you ever fostered any children? Or, are you not yet having children and if so, do you plan to do either?

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    • Elias / MrsM,

      My knowledge of the foster system has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of my questions. Obviously I don’t have to be a subject matter expert in order to spot a contradiction between two broad statements. But, if it makes you feel better, for the purpose of forward progress let’s assume I know absolutely nothing about the foster-care system. In light of my lack of knowledge wouldn’t it be prudent to seek out an informed opinion? Given her knowledge of the system I would be wise to choose MrsM as my ‘expert’.

      She says foster care is a ‘pretty damn good’ system and I’m inclined to believe her, but I’m also still confused about her previously-stated anger with pro-lifers. I thought that anger was predicated on the horrors of the foster care system (which is why I asked if she was advocating abortion over the option of being a foster child). Now knowing that she actually gives the foster system them a ‘damn good’ rating, I have to ask for the THIRD time: Why then is she angry with pro-lifers who advocate children being given up?

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      • OK, so: you don’t know anything about the foster system, or carrying a child to term; and you would prefer we talk about this issue in airy abstract terms of your choosing within parameters of your making, rather than with any specificity or relation to the world as it actually exists.

        Got it. Good talk.

        Bless ya, MrsM, if you’re going to continue. I wouldn’t recommend it.

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        • Elias – tell me how my lack of knowledge of those things would prevent me from noticing the contradiction in those statements? Or is that just sort of your M.O. that you like to constantly claim people are taking things out of context rather than offer an intelligent defense?

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  16. I don’t think anyone is advocating adoption as the perfect solution. It’s ONE of a couple of solutions that would hopefully prevent some abortions. And since you yourself suggest foster care is pretty good, how is that not infinitely better than death?

    You keep asking what knowledge I have, even though it still seems to be a diversionary tactic. I will assume in advance that any answer other than, ” I adopted a child from foster care,” will be met with hand-waving and a statement that I also make you angry because I am advocating an alternative to abortion that I know nothing about. But what the hell, I’ll play along…

    What I know about the system is taken from four different couples I am close to that have all adopted. 2 international adoptions and 2 domestic. I watched the whole process, heard updates and in one case I was interviewed by the case worker. Of the two children adopted domestically one was from a foster home and one was from the birth mother. Both international adoptions came from orphanages (Russia and Vietnam). I’m familiar with the red tape in the system both here and abroad. The couple that adopted from Russia were previously going to go to China but after the earthquake this fell through. They also lost an infant that they already begun buying clothes for because a Russian family got him at the last minute. I’m also married to a social worker that deals with foster kids in our school system so I think I gain some knowledge there.

    What I ALSO know about unwanted pregnancies is from personal experience. I became a father at 19. It wasn’t planned and I never married my daughter’s mother. We never considered abortion. It was hard at times. It took me 10 years to finish college. I sacrificed a lot. This year my daughter is 16 and I am teaching her to drive. When people ask I tell them the truth which is that I became pro-life the day my daughter was born.

    But go ahead, point out how I don’t have enough intimate knowledge of these situations and how advocating giving up a child makes me ignorant (your words) because I am touting a system I have never personally navigated. As if that has ANYTHING to do with preferring life to death.

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    • This explains why you, personally, are pro-life.

      It does not explain how you reached the position that women who try to get abortions should be put in jail, and it does not explain how you reached the conclusion that everyone else in society should be forced under the power of the state to make the same decision you did.

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      • Elias,

        No one has to make the decision I did, which is why I also advocate adoption. I also wouldn’t, under current law, prosecute the women in the cases you originally referenced. Obviously their situations were tragic and they showed very poor judgement but I don’t think they committed any crimes.

        As for any other feelings, if someone is pro-life then generally-speaking they believe abortion = murder. But I also am okay with abortion in cases of rape, incest or health of the mother (1% or less of all abortions today). So if at some point in the future abortion was made illegal for anything other than those, wouldn’t that logically mean jail time?

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        • I actually misspoke. You didn’t make any decision — your girlfriend at the time did.

          But your answer was a dodge, either way. The tension in this discussion is not between raising a child and putting it up for adoption. It’s between carrying a pregnancy to term and not. And I think you knew that.

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          • I’m not actually sure what answer you believe is a dodge. You and Mrs.M both asked about my experience with foster care (despite its irrelevance) and I explained the experience I had. My additional experience of a father of child born out of wedlock was just ancillary detail.

            I also don’t see how anything I have said is less relevant to the ‘tension’ of this conversation. I see the discussion as one about alternatives to abortion, whatever they may be. One option is keeping the child, another is giving it up. Both are non-lethal options and should be discussed equally.

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            • The dodge in my mind is to frame the conversation as one about alternatives to abortion. I never thought that was the conversation we were having, having assumed we were in a much more orthodox discussion as to whether or not regulated abortion should be made illegal.

              Maybe we never actually were talking about the same thing. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened on this topic and through this medium…

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              • I started out by saying that I thought putting women in jail. For having an abortion was wrong and that TH POSSIBILITY OF HER ALREADY BORN CHILDREN GOING TO FOSTER CARE AS A CONSEQUENCE WAS TERRIBLE. My original post worded this poorly. As we wnt down Mik’s rabbit hole, I asked him if he had adopted or fostered a child or intended to, as he believes it to be a “solution”. His non-response shows me he’s a hypocrite. But I agree with Elias, this is all so very off topc.

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                • MrsM,

                  I concur that your comment was worded poorly which is why I pointed out that it sounded like you were advocating abortion over foster care. Glad we agree on that point.

                  As for my alleged hypocrisy, please elaborate. Surely you aren’t going dow the very tired old internet road of telling someone they aren’t allowed to have an opinion on an issue or institution unless they themselves have direct experience with that issue or institution? If so, that’s soooo 2003. But just in case you are, I’ll dust off my old response to those kinds of non-arguments:

                  Do you have an opinion on how this country is run? If so, have you ever held elected office?

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              • Elias,

                If your post premise was as simple as you are now implying then it could have been one simple sentence:

                Should abortion be illegal?

                …but I think you intended for a more robust conversation than that, right? Most of your post barriers to abortion, not its legality. So to address that specific point, yes, I believe it is okay for the state to erect certain barriers to abortion so long as they are implemented equitably across all protected classes. For more detail allow me to just second Will H’s comment here:

                http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2011/06/04/questions-about-abortion-become-less-complicated-as-long-as-you-refuse-to-recognize-that-theyre-complicated/#comment-151446

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                • Elias,

                  Your original post was filled with stories about women who were not denied access to abortion because it was illegal but because there wasn’t full government support for unliited abortions in all locales (thus your later suggestion that the best way for the government to fix the problem was to incentivize more abortion providers).

                  Now you claim the whole conversation was really just about whether or not abortion should be legal.

                  And I’m the one changing topics?

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              • MrsM, if you had just said that you do not advocate abortion over foster care (and that it was just a case of poor wording) after Mike’s initial question, a lot of this would have avoided.

                And really, trolling? That’s not Mike’s, er, schtick, if you will.

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              • Tom – I was just reading your comments here:

                http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2011/06/04/questions-about-abortion-become-less-complicated-as-long-as-you-refuse-to-recognize-that-theyre-complicated/#comment-151586

                …and here:

                http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2011/06/04/questions-about-abortion-become-less-complicated-as-long-as-you-refuse-to-recognize-that-theyre-complicated/#comment-151588

                Good stuff. I don’t want to ‘misrepresent your position’ but if I agree that foster care shouldn’t really be part of the discussion ( I do) would you say this is along the same lines of scholarships and daycare also not being a valid counter-argument to prohibiting abortions?

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              • Yes, Mr. Stick. The question here is merely one of clarity and focus. The rights and utility arguments are separate, and attacking the messenger is out of bounds regardless.

                In hockey, there’s the 3rd man in rule, he who inserts himself into a fight gets a game misconduct, whereas the litigants only get a 5-minute major.

                Which is to say I thought you were ill-used and unfairly attacked in all this, but stayed out in the interest of not escalating this into a full-fledged blog war.

                Plus I thought one of you vs. two attackers was a fair fight. ;-)

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              • Thanks Tom.

                I’ve come across this logic before on the abortion issue. Someone says that it’s unfair to ban abortions because of A, B or C but those things never reach the moral gravity to supercede the premise that abortion is murder (which is generally the way the pro-lifer feels). It seems like the counter-argument would have to be, as you point out, that all unwanted babies would have to be dying of starvation in the streets in order for abortion to gain the upper hand as morally preferable (and only then if we accept the euthanasia tact).

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              • Mr. Stick, I tried to steer toward the 20-week limit, as that’s what’s on the table.

                The “centrist” position is that earlier than that, it’s much more unknowable about the nature—the essence—of the life that’s being ended. Only one extreme holds that a first-month abortion is “murder,” and for the rest of us, such rhetoric is a non-starter.

                After 20-weeks, and leading up to 36 weeks [9 months], it starts to look a lot more like murder to people, not just extremists. Only the other absolutist extreme sees no moral dilemma, under the “rights” rubric. The mother’s rights come first, and last.

                Yet California law sentenced Scott Peterson to death for, along with his mother Laci, “feloniously and with malice aforethought murder[ing] Baby Conner Peterson.”

                In a political philosophy sense, I stipulate that all these moral determinations are “conventional”—in the end no more than consensus opinion. Roe has complicated that, and even some [many?] pro-choicers question Roe on taking “who is a person and who is not a person” out of the realm of the moral consensus and democratic process, under a questionable constitutional theory.

                [Not that Roe is taken as absolute on this. Yet. There are still restrictions on abortion passing constitutional muster.]

                But the court case for the ages would be the Supreme Court deciding—decreeing—whether or not a “Baby Conner Peterson” could be murdered atall.

                Now that would be clarity.

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              • Then my apologies to you, Mike, and the forum in general, for my inappropriate behavior in calling you a troll. I’m sorry that I let my passions get the better of me and allowed myself to act in an unkind way towards you, sir.

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              • Tom,

                I’ve made the same point about Baby Peterson myself – it seems to be a real legal contradiction where a fetus being killed without consent and/or by a non-medical professional is murder, but with consent (and done by a doctor) it is a medical procedure.

                My personal feelings, which I admit are based in my own morality and not necessarily in cold reason is that it’s from the moment a pregnancy test comes up positive. But I also acknowledge that position is based is extreme in a diverse society like ours. In lieu of that I think the 12 week mark (start of the 2nd trimester) is a more realistic and fair goal for the pro-life side. That would still allow roughly 90% of all abortions using today’s statistics.

                I also think that abortion has very much become a geographic phenomenon, with it being more popular in blue states and increasingly unpopular in red states. My side may just have to accept that victory and call it a day.

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              • No worries MrsM. I’m actually a pretty nice guy (or so my wife says). For future reference please assume I am never trying to troll you. I just don’t do that. It’s entirely conceivable that I might misunderstand your position – and even misrepresent it by accident, but I assure you there is no malice in that. If you’ll be patient and re-explain yourself I promise I’ll do my best to understand you.

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              • I definitely lost my temper there, for which I apologize. FWIW, I’ve not been around here as long as many, and am not familiar with many of the regulars. What I mean to say is that I did not intend to use “troll” as cudgel to silence you, Mike; I sincerely thought you were trolling me. It won’t happen again.

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              • Mr. Stick, arguing for a moral consensus on your position is fine and worthy and the correct way to go about things. Chesterton comes to mind, an admonition I meself don’t heed nearly often enough:

                “Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of ‘touching’ a man’s heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it.”

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              • Me too, Mike.

                To just add a word — that will probably be a fine enough ending point — about a point you raised earlier: the issue of abortion is, of course, at heart a moral one. And we do end up lost in the weeds and the muck when we try to skirt or avoid that and approach it from a supposedly reason-based perspective. I suppose we do this because we know that in issues of moral divergence, there’s generally not much left to be said.

                I respect that those who hold pro-life positions consider it murder. As you can probably guess, there are reasons I don’t agree; but I understand it and can appreciate the intensity with which such a feeling is held. I think your proposed middle-ground — first trimester, then rape/incest/life threatening otherwise — is a very reasonable starting point. The best we can do is to acknowledge, as you have, that we can’t make everyone agree with us, and this policy would seem to me to come the closest to that end.

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