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The Tomiknockers

I despise abortion. Even though I’m a libertarian and most libertarians are pro-choice, I am not a fan. I’ve spent over two decades cringing inwardly every time one of my fellow libertarians spouted the overly enthusiastic “We’re pro choice on EVERYTHING” catchphrase, and hours of time trying to sort out my beliefs in my mind. Do I think abortion should be illegal? Even if I do, does that give me the right to impose my morality onto others? And how can I reconcile this with my belief in limited government?

As a result, I find the recent firing of Tomi Lahren to be of some interest.

A lot of my conservative friends were ecstatic about this (as was I, if perhaps for different reasons) because as they said, abortion was a litmus test for them. If a person is pro-choice, they cannot be a conservative. Those two beliefs are mutually exclusive, a person can’t hold them both. But during those many hours I spent thinking about my ethical quandary over abortion, I came to realize it’s actually impossible for me to hold the view that abortion should be illegal. I cannot hold that position in good conscience. I suppose that’s at least in part why I consider myself libertarian; it’s why I can’t make the leap to conservatism even though I share most of the same personal values as conservatives do. What it boils down to is this: If you believe in limited government as a good and noble thing, it means you don’t get to use it to impose your own set of moral beliefs onto others..

A government with minimal power to regulate morality guarantees that a minority group of any philosophical bent could never seize the reins of power and inflict their beliefs onto everyone else. Even if that minority is totally right, even if their moral compass is steering them true.  No matter how heartfelt your convictions, no matter how pure your motives, you just can’t do it. It’s against the rules. Only when most people agree that something is wrong, could it ever be made illegal (and oftentimes not even then, if it’s unconstitutional). It’s a check and balance; it may not be spelled out as clearly as other checks and balances are, but it’s still there, still working for us behind the scenes. Unless most voters agree on a law, it probably won’t be enacted. And if it is, if politicians act against the will of their constituents, it’s only good until the next election when the voters throw the bums out and send new legislators to do our bidding.

The idea that none of us have the right to dictate issues of morality to our neighbors is the foundation of not only libertarianism, but also small-government conservatism. Having a government powerless to legislate morality ensures that there could never be a theocracy of any flavor in the United States. Under no circumstances could a small group of cultural Marxists or religious extremists get into power and alter the law to control people’s personal lives and choices. The argument can be made that that situation has already come to pass and cultural Marxists already do hold a good deal of power over our lives, inflicting their values onto everyone else, forcing nuns to pay for birth control, forcing all Americans to fund Planned Parenthood and abortions overseas. But even they don’t have the kind of power over people’s lives that would be required to enforce abortion laws. Not even close. The kind of power that would be required to ban abortion in the United States would be unbelievably intrusive. The results would be horrific. No believer in small government, be they libertarian or conservative, should ever want to hand that kind of power to bureaucrats and law enforcement officials.

That is the fundamental argument as to why abortion must not be made illegal. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s not even about majority rule. It’s because making abortion illegal tomorrow would be a fricking disaster. It would place a terrible amount of power into the hands of an already-too-strong Federal government that in recent years has shown itself only too happy to abuse that power. The NSA would be listening to people’s phone calls to see if they’re pregnant. Police would be stopping and frisking people looking for morning-after pills. And in a few years when the Republican Party inepts themselves back out of power, then what? Will President Cory Booker or whichever SJW the Democrats thrust at the nation’s voters cautiously roll back that power grab? Of course not. S/he’d stop using it for abortion, though, and start using it for some other thing instead. And around and around we’d go until eventually we would have handed over so much power to the Feds that one party or the other would decide, “ya know, maybe we’re just not gonna give this up after 4 years”.

Some would argue that we already place this kind of power into the hands of the government in the name of criminal justice. No one would argue that because police officers sometimes go too far investigating murder, that homicide should therefore be stricken from the laws of the land. Law enforcement officers investigate murder, robbery, kidnappings, assault. We grant them power that civilians lack in order to do that. Power that could be abused, and sometimes is, but a price we are willing to pay, a chance we’re willing to take, because we need them to enforce the law. Some would argue that it is right and just to extend this power to prohibiting abortion, because abortion is wrong. Abortion robs a person of their right to life, and thus prohibiting it is a legitimate use of government force just as prohibiting murder of an older individual is. The problem is, abortion is much like a victimless crime. It’s not victimless, of course. But it’s victimless in the sense that there is no one who can come forth to report it.

Making victimless crimes illegal has never worked. They’ve never stopped bad behavior. Drug laws, prostitution, gambling laws, prohibition – none of these laws have worked and all of them have led to civil rights abuses that are arguably worse than the crimes themselves. Driving them underground puts the criminal activity associated with them beyond the reach of the law and leads to greater harm to individuals and society as a whole than if they had been legalized. Making victimless crimes illegal serves no purpose but to hand over abusable power to law enforcement and to empower actual bad guys by creating a class of victims who are too scared of prosecution to go to the police.

Murder and robbery are fundamentally different from abortion because someone can come forward to tell the police that something bad has occurred. A person can show up at the police station to report a missing person or that someone broke into their car. Even if it is the discovery of a corpse dumped in the woods, the police find out.  Victimless crimes, on the other hand, are hidden by all participants. Without that witness coming forward voluntarily to tell the police a crime has been committed, not only do people get away with committing victimless crimes often enough so the threat of arrest is far less of a disincentive, but police have to dance on the border of civil rights abuse just to investigate it. Police end up entrapping people into committing a crime in elaborate sting operations or going undercover and actually break laws themselves or stop drivers and search their car only to arrest them for doughnut crumbs.

If somebody steals your bike, you call the police to report it. But imagine if owning a bike itself was illegal. Not only could you not go to the police if your bike had been stolen, but the police would be constantly snooping around the neighborhood, looking into your yard, into your garage, even coming up onto your porch looking for bike paraphernalia like inner tubes and those squirty water bottles. Spandex would be seen as a gateway drug and it would only be a matter of time before it too was banned, much to the chagrin of middle aged women like me who are in desperate need of our Spanx. Soon we’d be breaking the law too, trading worn out body suits in dark alleys in the dead of night, assuring neighbors and co-workers that our svelte figures were a result of Yoplait Light and Piyo.

I’m obviously having a bit of fun here, but there would be nothing fun about trying to enforce laws about abortion. And I’m not talking about for women who wanted illegal abortions. I’m talking about for the rest of us. Abortion is very, very similar to something a woman’s body does naturally – losing a pregnancy. Instead of nosy neighbors and the cop on the beat peering into your garage looking for incriminating Lance Armstrong posters, they’d be peering into your bedroom, your bathroom, your doctor’s office. There would be police waiting to interrogate women at the emergency room after they’d suffered a miscarriage. It would be horrible and hellish and humiliating and women would start hiding their pregnancies till out of the first trimester and attempting to manage miscarriages at home, alone, without medical help. Women would die, not because of coat hangers or filthy doctor’s offices, but because they were too ashamed and afraid of potential prosecution to go to the ER.

You’d need a judge’s order to have a medical procedure if your baby had died in your uterus, which happens sometimes, or if a miscarriage had been incomplete, which happens quite frequently. Since many vitamins, herbs, and household substances can trigger a loss, any woman who had a miscarriage would find her life torn open for scrutiny, with the coffee on her shelf and the bottle of cooking wine in the cupboard under suspicion. She’d have to justify the amount of weight she’d gained (or not), the amount of exercise she’d done (or not), even the plants growing in the flower bed outside would be fair game for the investigation. Now imagine this happening at least a million times a year. Imagine the time and effort and resources this would require. We’d have to live in a police state to ban abortion, not because abortion would be widespread in a world where it was illegal – I do believe the number of abortions would decline greatly if it were banned – but because miscarriage is such a common occurrence. The cost to civil liberties would be astronomical. The cost would be astronomical, period. Divorcing the issue entirely from matters of right and wrong, the nation’s time, money, and energy would be so much better spent elsewhere.

The costs to civil liberties and to the nation’s bank account would be too high. And you know what, that’s the reason why Tomi Lahren should’ve been fired. If ya want to be a conservative mouthpiece, Tomi, be one. Don’t parrot liberal arguments to get the approval of Joy Behar in the hopes of parlaying that into a gig on The View – because come on, I think most people agree that’s what she was trying to do. She can’t make the right argument because I suspect she doesn’t even know or understand the philosophical underpinnings of small-government conservatism, she doesn’t understand that it is better, not for some pie-in-the-sky reason that gets people to subscribe to her YouTube vids, but because in practical application, having a limited government is superior to a big, bad, busybody one. We are better off with the Nosy Nannies of the world out of our business, even if they are totally right and we are all going to burn in Hell forevermore because of our sinfulness.

I hate abortion. But turning our nation into a police state and blowing up our national debt even more is not the solution. You can hate something with every fiber of your being, it can turn your stomach and make your skin crawl, but it doesn’t mean that it should be illegal. Government should not be in the position to legislate morality, not yours, not mine, not anyone’s.  And government has proven repeatedly that it is incapable of negotiating the gray areas without abusing its authority.  It is not a risk we can afford to take.  We’ve given them too much power already.

Safe, legal, rare. Let’s work towards that tangibly in a conservative way by making adoption easier and cheaper, by doing away with regulations that make birth control more expensive and harder to get than it needs to be, and by fixing the economy so that people can afford to raise their babies, instead of destroying civil liberties and setting fire to a trillion dollars pursuing an unenforceable law.

Image by Gage Skidmore


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Kristin is huge geek, a libertarian, and a mother of 4 sons and a daughter. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state and works with women around the world as a fertility counselor.

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452 thoughts on “The Tomiknockers

      • I disagree. I have many problems with the writing. My analytical approach will be to compare first sentences of each paragraph with the materials that follow.

        I despise abortion. Why? This most basic of questions is not answered in the materials that follow.

        para 3 — actually very well-written.

        A government with minimal power to regulate morality guarantees that a minority group of any philosophical bent could never seize the reins of power and inflict their beliefs onto everyone else. This sentence indicates that the paragraph is going to be about how courts should give a very broad construction to the 5th and 14th amendments as to limit the police powers of States. Anyone reading this post should know that the current state of the law is that States actually have very broad powers to regulate morality except in a very few narrowly-constrained exceptions arising from the US Supreme Court’s case law regarding the intersection of the Bill of Rights and state powers. But, oops, that analysis doesn’t exist.

        Also, minorities actually do regulate morality, all the time. There is a huge body of political science research as to how minorities with a concentrated interest in a policy issue can get their way over the diffuse objection of the majority. Witness, for example, the federal tax code.

        Finally, the argument (only when most people agree that something is wrong could it ever be made illegal) by the premise allegedly supports the conclusion is extremely tenuous. Most voters have little idea on what the law is. Perhaps a high-profile issue results in a seat being flipped and a law changed (Virginia comes to mind), but re-election rates are staggeringly high. People say that they hate their government, but act to re-elect their representatives.

        So the premise is wrong, the conclusion is wrong and the purported linkage between the two needs evidentiary support.

        The idea that none of us have the right to dictate issues of morality to our neighbors is the foundation of … small-government conservatism. Assumes the existence of a philosophy that is very much not in evidence. The number of consistent small-government conservatives at the federal level is the same as those that believe in federalism — i.e., the Minority Leader and a handful of true believers. Kristin goes on to say: The kind of power that would be required to ban abortion in the United States would be unbelievably intrusive. Texas, among other states, is discovering just how far they can go, by imposing ever-stricter regulation of suppliers. Unsatisfied demand? They can damn well give birth.

        That is the fundamental argument as to why abortion must not be made illegal. It’s not about right or wrong. Wait, what does “That” refer to. Is abortion an issue of morality or enforceability? Even a philosophical novice like myself understands that there is an enormous difference between those two.

        Some would argue that we already place this kind of power into the hands of the government in the name of criminal justice. … The problem is, abortion is much like a victimless crime. … Again, is the issue of one morality or one of enforceability? If you start from the basic premise that a fetus has personhood as of the day of conception, then it is entirely appropriate to place abortion in the criminal justice system, no matter how hard the cases are to prove. Victimless? Tell that to the dead fetus!

        (Personal note: The unwillingness of the anti-choice movement to admit that the logical conclusion of their point of view requires the criminal prosecution of both the woman and the service provider galls me no end. The way to end a hated practice is both to change minds and to punish harshly those who disobey.)

        I’m obviously having a bit of fun here, but there would be nothing fun about trying to enforce laws about abortion. What do you mean by “would be”? Under existing state laws, women face drastically different restrictions on the availability of abortion. After the failure of panty-sniffer laws, states are now just focusing on the supply side.

        I hate abortion. But turning our nation into a police state and blowing up our national debt even more is not the solution. Sure, change minds not laws. But including our national debt in this sentence is just bizarre. Abortion regulation is virtually entirely a state issue, and states have to balance their budgets.

        In conclusion: I don’t know why Kristin hates abortion. I don’t know why Kristin spent the first few paragraphs about morality when her main complaint appears to be about enforceability. I don’t see that Kristin has engaged at all with supply-side regulation of abortion. I don’t see that Kristin has engaged at all in the 40+ year legal history of abortion regulation, despite framing her analysis, in the beginning, as being based on limitations on state power. I see a substantial amount of strawman argument against liberal positions (“Cultural Marxists”, really?) and factual errors (the federal goverment funding of Planned Parenthood is not actually used for abortions).

        So, no, not a fan of the piece.

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        • I despise abortion. Why? This most basic of questions is not answered in the materials that follow.

          It may be interesting to know why but is it really relevant? Maybe so. Maybe she is one of the few liberals that can admit that abortion takes a life, who knows?

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          • notme,
            Abortion takes a potential life (until viability). Until the nascent life can survive on its own, it fits the functional definition of a parasite, not a life capable of living on its own.

            Your mitochondria are not alive — they depend on your cells to actually exist.

            I don’t really care if you want to say “we should preserve nascent life”– that’s fine and dandy. Just don’t try to put the EXACT same rights on a “not alive” thing as on a living woman. We do want to save the woman instead of the baby if the baby’s at nine weeks.

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            • Just don’t try to put the EXACT same rights on a “not alive” thing as on a living woman.

              No, this is incorrect. No living woman has any right to my (or anyone else’s) body, even if it’s lack will kill her.

              “Exact same rights” is very, VERY far away from where they want to be.

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          • Because there are so many different reasons to hate abortion, and the author’s opposition to the anti-choice movement oscillated wildly.

            What, you don’t think that authorial intent matters? Can we apply that reasoning to legislative / constitutional interpretation? Only the text matters and if the text is vague there is no basis to use authorial intent to resolve possible disputes?

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            • “Because there are so many different reasons to hate abortion”

              Sure!

              Why does it matter to you which one?

              “you don’t think that authorial intent matters?”

              When the authorial intent achieves your desired aim then why do you care?

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          • I have the funniest feeling it’s because by refusing to state my personal reasons (which I believe would have made the post heavy, unfocused, scattershot, and all over the place) it’s because I don’t give anything for people to pick apart.

            Just a theory.

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  1. I do have a big problem with this fragment

    forcing nuns to pay for birth control, forcing all Americans to fund Planned Parenthood and abortions overseas.

    The Little Sisters of the Poor were never required to pay for birth control, they were required to sign a form so that their female employees could receive birth control (their legal right) from their insurance provider without using the nuns money to pay for it. The nuns considered that signing the form that would release the birth control coverage was “contributing to a great evil” (a term of art) and refused to do so.

    Likewise, taxpayers do not fund abortions when they fund Planned Parenthood, they fund all the other services PP provides. You might believe withholding pap smears for other women is a worthy price to pay to decrease your direct contribution to a great evil, but that’s just shifting onto others the cost of your preferred policies.

    I understand your arguments, we don’t want the police investigating if you did something that could have contributed towards your “miscarriage” (scare quotes intentional). But I would be interested to see how you address, as a libertarian or a conservative, the argument that the woman should not be forced to become the host of another being, at great cost and a great risk to her health.

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      • Also the implied claim that a corporation has religious beliefs. When did Hobby Lobby convert to Christianity? Was Hobby Lobby at a revival, where it heard a stirring call to dedicate itself to Jesus, at which point Hobby Lobby went up the aisle and was saved?

        The whole point of a corporation is to create a wall of separation between a business and its owners. Were Hobby Lobby unable to pay its creditors, its stockholders were not be on the hook to pay these doubts out of their personal assets. The religious liberty argument smacks me as a strong desire to simultaneously eat and not eat cake.

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      • “for an employer to get tax benefits for providing their employees with health insurance.”

        uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh it’s kind of funny to describe not paying a penalty for failing to take an action as a benefit

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            • FTFMO:

              The companies could attempt to make up for the elimi- nation of a group health plan by increasing wages, but this would be costly. Group health insurance is generally less expensive than comparable individual coverage, so the amount of the salary increase needed to fully compensate for the termination of insurance coverage may well exceed the cost to the companies of providing the insurance. In addition, any salary increase would have to take into account the fact that employees must pay income taxes on wages but not on the value of employer-provided health insurance. 26 U. S. C. §106(a). Likewise, employers can deduct the cost of providing health insurance, see §162(a)(1), but apparently cannot deduct the amount of the penalty that they must pay if insurance is not pro- vided; that difference also must be taken into account. Given these economic incentives, it is far from clear that it would be financially advantageous for an employer to drop coverage and pay the penalty.

              Emphasis mine.

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              • Either way, you’re describing “avoiding a penalty” as a tax benefit.

                Also I love the implication that a group who would go to the Supreme Court over an issue of morality is actually just a bunch of money-seeking bastards out to squeeze any advantage they can out of society. (It fits with your insistence that there’s only one kind of antiabortion, and if you say that you’re any other kind then you’re lying.)

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                • No, because the deduction for employer-provided health insurance isn’t just avoiding a penalty. There’s a benefit and a penalty, and Alito appeals to both.

                  Also I love the implication that a group who would go to the Supreme Court over an issue of morality is actually just a bunch of money-seeking bastards out to squeeze any advantage they can out of society.

                  One should take joy where one finds it, I suppose.

                  (It fits with your insistence that there’s only one kind of antiabortion, and if you say that you’re any other kind then you’re lying.)

                  That’s certainly an interesting way of interpreting my argument. Not a remotely correct way, but an interesting way.

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    • First point – I’m saying that is the argument that SOME make. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with that (although I’m sure it’s fairly easy to extrapolate my position as a libertarian that government is probably better off doing none of those things)

      Second point – as someone who does actually kind of have a moral problem with ~many~ abortions, I feel a woman who has chosen to have unprotected sex may have to acknowledge that engaging unprotected sex carries with it a certain consequence. Just like drinking and driving may carry with it the consequence of prison time. Hence my moral dilemma.

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      • On the second point – not only have “cultural Marxists” not seized the reins of power so much that they fund abortions overseas – it’s the very opposite.

        Whatever the opposite of a “cultural Marxist” is (maybe the “cultural McCarthyists”?) have control of the reins of power to such an extent that no overseas entity receiving US funding is allowed to provide abortions, not only with the funds it receives from US sources (already been illegal without interruption since 1973 – same year as Roe v. Wade by tooootal coincidence), but now also with any of its funds from non-US sources. They’re not even allowed to provide accurate medical information – they can’t even mention the option of abortion.

        I see no sign that “cultural Marxists” exist within a hundred miles of power in the US, nor ever have since Karl Marx was born.

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      • atomickristin,
        I think we vastly overestimate how many women “choose” to have unprotected sex.
        (of course, we’re then taught to vastly overestimate odds of pregnancy, which doesn’t help in women choosing unprotected sex).

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    • Likewise, taxpayers do not fund abortions when they fund Planned Parenthood, they fund all the other services PP provides.

      My issue with it is more fundamental than simple accounting. There are a lot of people who don’t want to fund wars overseas or no-knock raids on pot growers or any number of other things they feel are immoral. If consensus on the moral correctness of each dollar is a litmus test, the government simply goes away. At some point, you take the good with the bad.

      I’m much more sympathetic to arguments against being compelled to do something directly that you find morally offensive than to arguments about where a dollar that comes out your pocket eventually goes somewhere down the line.

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      • If consensus on the moral correctness of each dollar is a litmus test, the government simply goes away. At some point, you take the good with the bad.

        You don’t have ot go so far as actual consensus. Some kind of rational agreement on the correctness of each dollar could get you some government without spending tax money on morally controversial stuff.

        This is basic Rawlsian public reason liberalism folks. It cannot just be public reason for thee but not for me.

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        • Some kind of rational agreement on the correctness of each dollar could get you some government without spending tax money on morally controversial stuff.

          Yeah, but in the absence of that–and we very much have the absence of that what with the drone strikes and the rest–what we actually get is special treatment for “pro-lifers”. Their “moral controversies” are real, but when anybody else objects to things they think are moral controversial they can go screw.

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          • Government doesn’t care about morality, especially it’s own. Government cares about having enough votes to swing elections.

            As for other “moral issues”, get enough people to vote on it and government will pay attention; Get a workable platform and it will probably be implemented. That last is what the Pro-life movement is really missing.

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        • We do seem to have “some kind of rational agreement,” though. It’s not as though government policies are created by a hereditary monarch these days. There are elections, multiple branches of government and a whole bunch of veto points involved.

          Given that, the fact that a losing subset of that polity finds some uses of their money objectionable becomes sort of a, “So what else is new?” kind of thing rather than a shocking violation of basic decency. I mean, one could argue that it should be even harder to make policy in the US than it currently is, but that’s just quibbling over how large the offended minority needs to be before their outrage is enough to set policy.

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      • Personally, I’m one of those people that don’t want to fund wars overseas, or raids on pot growers, or any number of things that I find immoral. But that’s a different piece, really.

        My argument was mostly addressing the conservative viewpoint which is (whether I agree with it or not, whether it’s fully true or not) that their tax money shouldn’t go to Planned Parenthood, abortions overseas, whatever. Many conservatives do make that argument. It’s a hypocrisy case – the old “you want government out of your bedroom, then don’t make me pay for it” argument. I was trying to anticipate and preempt that argument by comparing the difference between the governmental power required to force funding for PP (minimal) and to enforce abortion laws (intrusive, invasive, and massive).

        For those people ESPECIALLY (I mean, those who resent governmental overreach forcing them to fund PP) then it’s really quite insane to think that handing over more power to government is a grand idea. That’s why I mentioned it, felt remiss not to point that angle out.

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  2. This doesn’t strike me as an argument that will convince anyone not already convinced. The underlying argument is whether or not a zygote is fully human, with all the appurtenances thereto. To someone who believes that this is the case, the argument that abortion is “like” a victimless crime is unpersuasive. The similarity is that there is no one complaining an no obvious evidence. By this logic, killing a homeless guy in the woods and making it look like an accident also qualifies.

    I don’t buy the “pro-life” argument because I don’t buy the claim that a zygote is fully human. Furthermore, I don’t believe that the vast majority of people making the “pro-life” argument believe it either. They rarely-to-never act like they do, outside of the narrow confines of debating abortion. The claim essentially is that zygotes-are-humans is hugely important with respect to abortion, but has no other implications whatsoever. Yeah, right. Combine this with the strong correlation of right-to-lifers with anti-approved-sex arguments on other pelvic issues and the conclusion that suggests itself is that these pelvic issues are the real issues, and that zygotes-are-human is mere window dressing.

    Once we get past zygotes-are-human, the game is up. No one has come up with any other argument for banning abortion that doesn’t amount to the government meddling in people’s sex lives. In reality, many people are perfectly OK with–even enthusiastic about–the government meddling in people’s sex lives. But this clearly isn’t a winning argument, hence the need for window dressing.

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    • I would like to expand this a bit by noting that in religious terms, the salient point is when the zygote gets a soul. In the 60’s most Protestants felt that this corresponded to viability. Other peoples have felt this corresponded with the first breath of the child, and I can’t say they are wrong.

      They felt also that they had the backing of scripture, which mandated the penalty when a man struck a woman and caused her to miscarry to be a monetary fine, as opposed to the penalty for murder, which is stoning.

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    • But, by that same token, the “they” you’re referring to also make distinctions between “abortion as birth control” and “in the case of (deep breath) rapeincestmotherslifeindanger”.

      “They” make distinctions between abortions in the first trimester and abortions in the third.

      “They” are allowing for a surprising amount of nuance in “their” thinking.

      Though, I’ll grant, “they” don’t all agree with each other.

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      • Yeah but once “they” are talking about abortion as birth control vs. r/I/mild then they’re no longer debating the status of the alleged life inside the woman and are instead talking about the woman in question at which point they’ve ceded the point and are just being moralizing busybodies who can be very casually dismissed and be told to fish off.

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        • I’ve rarely been persuaded by an argument similar to the above.

          If anything, it seems like a formula for “nope, not even when there are extreme extenuating circumstances.”

          (Which, I suppose, allows for people to paint the opposition as monsters who can’t even allow for X under extreme extenuating circumstances. “Okay, we’ll allow it under extreme extenuating circumstances.” “HA! YOU DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT THE THING YOU SAID YOU CARED ABOUT!”)

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          • If anything, it seems like a formula for “nope, not even when there are extreme extenuating circumstances.”

            Given the way the modal anti-abortion activist describes the modal abortion, any other position seems pretty bizarre.

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          • Look, Jay, the fact is that by and large pro lifers don’t care about the alleged lives inside them. Fertility clinics mass produce fertilized zygotes like jellybeans rolling off a conveyer belt and most pro-lifers don’t give a rip (there is an consistent minority faction who do but they are TINY).

            Is the fertilized zygote morally equivalent to a breathing living baby or a 3 year old or a 20 year old? The question as to the circumstances of its conception are incidental to that question.

            So if someone is complaining about abortion as birth control or parrying with r/I/mild (or vice versa) then they’re no longer talking about protecting the life of the fetus; they’re talking about controlling the life of the mother. That’s an arena that the pro-choice positions can survive pretty well in but the pro-life ones implode on exposure with.

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            • Fertility clinics mass produce fertilized zygotes like jellybeans rolling off a conveyer belt and most pro-lifers don’t give a rip (there is an consistent minority faction who do but they are TINY).

              What would count as “giving a rip”?
              Would it be okay to use these zygotes for medical testing? If we ask that question, we quickly come to the conclusion that they do, indeed, give rips. Remember when John Edwards said “If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again”?

              Good times.

              That’s an arena that the pro-choice positions can survive pretty well in but the pro-life ones implode on exposure with.

              Well, this is always the interesting part of the framing.
              We define “pro-life” as “NO ABORTION EVER!” (which, by definition, is crazy nutball) and “pro-choice” as “not pro-life”.

              As if the victory is to be found in getting people with heavy “pro-life” sympathies to admit that they think that there are some circumstances in which abortion shouldn’t be illegal. “HA! YOU’RE PRO-CHOICE!”

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              • Giving a rip as in substantively fighting it. There are seven hundred some abortion clinics in the US. that destroy fertilized zygotes- 1-2 zygotes per client. They are besieged, assailed and subject to attacks both legal, protest and in some foul cases violent.

                There are many times more IVF clinics than that which purposefully fertilize and produce dozens and dozens (sometimes hundreds) of zygotes for each client. One or two of those zygotes are used. The rest are left in frozen limbo for a time and are then disposed of. They are not attacked, not besieged nor are they particularly harassed legally. Yes, you have picked one of the few times that the pro-lifers have gotten a bit scaly about IVF as a counter example but it is glaring in its rarity. Are the IVF zygotes somehow less dead than the abortion clinic zygotes? Nope. If the pro-life movement actually did take a run at IVF would they have much success? Probably about as much success as a toddler licking an electrified train rail.

                Which generally supports the basic point that it does not appear that the pro-life movement’s priority is zygote life preservation first or foremost.

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                • Which generally supports the basic point that it does not appear that the pro-life movement’s priority is zygote life preservation first or foremost.

                  They now not only need to be focused enough to oppose abortion, they have to now oppose IVF.

                  Do they have to bomb IVF clinics before we allow them the honor of having a position worth taking seriously? Have their own martyrs willing to shoot the countless IVF versions of Tiller out there?

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                  • They have to signal that they’re genuinely committed to the lives of zygotes by pushing policies that will seriously damage their own coalition before we’ll make concessions that will damage our coalition.

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                      • Yes, because the costs associated with that opposition are so diffuse (potential future benefits to healthcare of inherently speculative basic research). Indeed, the speculative nature of the research, and the uncertainty surrounding its benefits, have long formed a key talking point that anti-abortion advocates against embryonic stem cell research.

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                        • So what’s the bare level of opposition to IVF they need to demonstrate before you’re willing to listen to them talk about abortion?

                          Would them saying “life begins at implantation” be sufficient for them to do so?

                          Because it seems like a bit of a shell game if we insist that they all have to say “life begins when the sperm enters the egg” just because some of them say that.

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                          • Introducing legislation to criminalize IVF in states where there are pro-life majorities in the legislature and pro-life governments, passing that legislation, and defending that legislation in the ensuing court challenges.

                            You understand the whole point is that they incur significant costs here, right? If they just give the idea lip service, it’s not going to be an effective signal.

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                            • If they just give the idea lip service, it’s not going to be an effective signal.

                              It seems like an additional cost for an unrelated procedure that you’re imposing on them and demanding they pay before you refuse to have your mind changed about the first thing that they were talking about.

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                  • Have to oppose IVF? They don’t have to do anything. But it does tend to make it look like controlling the bodies and behavior of women is a higher priority for pro-lifers than preserving the lives of fertilized zygotes is if they don’t.

                    I wouldn’t require that they bomb IVF clinics for me to consider them consistence but in that both IVF clinics and abortion clinics destroy zygotes I would expect them to do the various non-illegal actions they do to abortion clinics: picket them, heckle IVF patients, harass IVF doctors and employees etc… Otherwise pro-choicers could continue to make a pretty solid point that pro-lifers actions do not match their stated intentions.

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                        • What if they argue something like “IVF is a medical procedure designed to create a child and has the unfortunate side-effect of destroying unimplanted zygotes while abortion is a medical procedure designed to destroy an implanted baby.”

                          Hypocritical?

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                          • If, as the pro-life side alleges, a fertilized zygote is a real human person with moral weight equal or very near equal to that of any other human in the world then your rationalization doesn’t work at all. Not so much hypocritical as simply doesn’t parse.

                            Abortion is a process where a couple unintentionally create one (or very rarely more) zygote and then terminate it. IVF is a process where a couple intentionally creates dozens of zygotes, choose one to live then destroy all the rest. If the zygotes carry the value pro-life rhetoric assigns them then a woman getting an abortion is something like a 2nd degree murderess while a couple getting IVF are first degree mass murderers.

                            Hmm though I grant the IVF couple can say “but look we made a baby” while the abortion recipient can’t, so there’s that.

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                            • Hmm though I grant the IVF couple can say “but look we made a baby” while the abortion recipient can’t, so there’s that.

                              Some might argue that that is enough for the so-called “pro-life” people to focus their ire elsewhere.

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                            • Do you think we’d win that debate? I don’t. If I thought we would, I’d gladly have it. If the hope is to move public opinion toward the pro-life position, I think that’s got to be done gradually. But for some people, the consistency of opposing abortion and IVF would be persuasive. We need both, the intellectuals making the consistent argument and the pragmatists advancing the cause at the margins.

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                              • Both sides put their strongest case forward. The pro-choicers always talk about the 14-year-old girl who was raped by her father, and that gains sympathy. The pro-lifers talk about late-term abortions for convenience, and that gains sympathy. Surgical abortion is more visceral, both figuratively and literally, than the morning-after pill. Back to the gun control analogy, anti-gun activists aren’t going to show pictures of adult men who look like gang members in the gutter if they’ve got pictures of innocent-looking teens.

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                              • Oh sure, I get the strategy argument all the way down to my bones. But it sure is easy, if you’re not a committed pro-lifer, to look at that and say “it sure seems like controlling women is a lot more important to a lot of pro-lifers than the welfare of those wee zygotes.” If you’re the cynical sort anyhow.

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                                  • Neither is “we won’t protest IVF clinics because it’d make us look bad and we have to be strategic”. Waving signs and screaming at frightened pregnant women outside abortion clinics isn’t exactly telegenic either yet zygotes matter so pro-lifers do it. Yet the IVF clinic down the way which does basically the same thing only in much greater volume per client gets a pass?

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                                • Dunno .

                                  I am a pretty committed pro-choicer, but never have I heard the Pro-L argument and thought it was about controlling women. That always came across as a really ugly strawman. In fact, that line of thought always came across as a justification for not liking pro-lifers post hoc.

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                                      • Sure, if one morally equates a zygote to a three year old that parses subjectively. If their society equates the same then it parses logically. But subjectives are different for different people and our society does not currently consider three year olds and zygotes morally equivalent.

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                                    • I think you spot light the difficulty with this idea, in calling it ancillary. Its a straw man argument at best as it is one that I have never heard from the pro-life side*. I use the example of someone actually killing someone and how society deals with that for a reason, as the pro-life movement tends to consider abortion murder. And as we don’t consider such an action if performed by a woman to be “attempting to control women” for a reason. Nor do we call enforcement of child support “attempting to control men.”

                                      *Will happily admit that I don’t know that many pro-lifers, outside my ex-wife’s family, but this would show up a lot in quotes, messages, etc. Someone could make the dog-whistle argument, but that holds very little water with me. YMMV.

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                                      • It’s a straw man argument, I suspect, to the extent that it does or does not effect you.

                                        To take guns as a corollary, there is a bi chunk of the left that very much wants to eliminate all handguns, all semi-automiotic firearms, or all firearms period. 2A advocates, therefore, are concerned when those same people pen laws that merely make it more difficult to obtain firearms. Their “they want to outlaw guns” arguments might be a straw man to many, but not to them, because they (correctly) surmise that each law is one step in a larger strategy to eliminate some/all firearms.

                                        Abortion is similar situation with most women I know, because the Venn diagram of people pushing pro-life legislation very hard and people proposing other actions that certainly seem to be wanting to control women’s rights and economic/healthcare choices are pretty close to a circle.

                                        So yeah, it’s a straw man, but it also isn’t.

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                                        • I think your causallity would work better if the pro-life side was making the argument that controlling women was the goal. In the 2nd ammendment issues, there are many who directly state that they want to get the camels nose in. But as far as I am aware, no one of the pro-life side has said that the goal is to control women. Now, one can reasonably make the argument that this will control women unreasonably, but if you consider abortion murder, that is an OK side affect, ancillary. But not the reason for doing this to start with.

                                          And that is what makes it a straw man.The intention. With your example of the second amendment, the intention is to remove the firearms. And is so stated by many advocates of this action.

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                                          • I respectfully disagree.

                                            In fact, I have long held that if abortion was really just about aborting fetuses, a compromise could be made that both sides could (largely) live with. But it isn’t just about aborting fetuses, on either side of the fence. It’s about bigger issues, most of which relate pretty directly to women.

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                                            • Well, respectfully, you are going to have to show me something to make your case. If you believe that a compromise would have been reached if the pro-life was arguing in good faith, you need to show something to that effect.

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                                              • Lots of countries have reached stable-seeming policies on abortion that are pretty… well, compromise-y, by US standards. AFAIK, abortion doesn’t have anything like the same sort of culture war raging over it that it does here, in any of those countries.

                                                It’s not conclusive or anything, but it may constitute evidence supporting ‘s point.

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                                                • I want to say that “some level” certainly includes politicians.

                                                  They treat abortion the same way they treat the repeal of the PPACA. When there is no risk of anything changing, it’s all “WE NEED TO ABOLISH IT!”

                                                  When there’s a guy in the White House who might actually abolish it?

                                                  “Well, you have to understand… reality is complicated and we don’t want to hurt anyone who might be hurt if we made some sort of sweeping change…”

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                                              • As evidence, let me offer the following quote:

                                                I feel a woman who has chosen to have unprotected sex may have to acknowledge that engaging unprotected sex carries with it a certain consequence

                                                the source being the very author of this post.

                                                the form of the forced acknowledgment is, notably, not proposed. [hyperbole] Scarlet Letters are so tacky, you know.

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                                    • A lot of stuff that reads very heavily like controlling women to social liberals looks like nothing of the sort to social conservatives [1], at least partly because of the different ways in which liberals and conservatives react to policies and preferences that have a disparate impact on the sexes. Social conservatism overlaps heavily with the pro-life movement, and social liberalism overlaps heavily with the pro-choice movement [1], and it’s pretty hard to argue that abortion prohibitions don’t have a disparate impact on the sexes, so here we are.

                                      Now, sometimes this goes further, and someone will argue that the whole abortion thing is a pretext, and the real goal is controlling women. I’m not saying that’s never a thing [2], but it’s way rarer and the accusation is much more likely to be dirty pool.

                                      [1] To the extent that a position on abortion is probably the first or second thing that comes to my mind when I encounter the phrase “social conservative” or “social liberal”

                                      [2] I’ve seen it from some weirdo MRAs over the years.

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                                      • A lot of stuff that reads very heavily like controlling women to social liberals looks like nothing of the sort to social conservatives

                                        A lot of it does, yes. But a lot of it is stated pretty categorically as a way to control women.

                                        For example, I am remembering a couple of years ago when we had a long conversation on this very site about a Fox News show where the three anchors stated pretty emphatically that women should not be allowed to earn the same or more than a man because it was “anti-science” and made them less dependent on men, which was the natural scientific order of things. And a lot of cons online defended them by saying, yeah, they’re right, that’s what needs to happen.

                                        I’m guessing that if you’re a woman and you see stuff like that coming out of the party that wants to dictate your birth control/birth car options, you are likely not to see “controlling women” as a straw man.

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                                        • I absolutely agree that a certain element of opposition to abortion and social conservatism writ large is about controlling other people’s behavior. Most political arguments are about controlling people’s behavior. Why would this be any different?

                                          That said, you see some interesting things when you look into opinions on abortion. For instance, women who are pro-choice tend to hold stronger pro-choice opinions than men who are pro-choice. That makes sense, right? But women who are pro-life also tend to hold stronger pro-life opinions than men who are pro-life. What to make of that? We can probably come up with lots of stories to explain that.

                                          The more interesting question, though, isn’t whether social conservatism is about controlling people’s behavior (it is), but about who is trying to exercise that control.

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                                  • ,

                                    Aaron David

                                    “I am a pretty committed pro-choicer, but never have I heard the Pro-L argument and thought it was about controlling women. That always came across as a really ugly strawman. In fact, that line of thought always came across as a justification for not liking pro-lifers post hoc

                                    North, answering

                                    Guess we read in different circles. The “they should have thought of this before they did the things that got em pregnant” is a pretty common sentiment in plenty of pro life conversations I’ve had.

                                    We don’t need to go far to find an example of what North is quoting. In this same thread, from the author herself

                                    Atomickristen, above

                                    Second point – as someone who does actually kind of have a moral problem with ~many~ abortions, I feel a woman who has chosen to have unprotected sex may have to acknowledge that engaging unprotected sex carries with it a certain consequence. Just like drinking and driving may carry with it the consequence of prison time. Hence my moral dilemma.

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                                    • How does that attempt to control women? It simply states that there are consequences to actions. What should be the most uncontroversial fact of all time.

                                      Babies spring from sex. I think this is pretty basic knowledge at this point.

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                                      • I was responding to the “I have never heard abortion opponents claim that abortion is just birth control for lazy people” or abortion opponents say “if you don’t want to get pregnant, don’t have sex”, or “an aspirin is a guaranteed form of birth control. Just hold it between your knees”.

                                        Me, personally, I would have a lot of issues if a woman I had sex with became pregnant and wanted to abort the fetus. But I’d try to solve it between her and me, and I understand that she has the tie breaking vote.

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                                      • Babies spring from sex… unless you have an abortion or use birth control. A great deal of disgust is expressed by conservatives, especially by social conservatives, that said linkage has been severed. Now your anecdotal experience seems primarily based on personal face to face debate while mine is primarily based on debate/reading stuff by pro lifers online so it’s entirely understandable that our experiences are different. That said I do not think it’s out there at all to note that pro-lifers and social cons lament* that abortion (and for the more extreme ones contraception) has reduced or eliminated womens incentive to be conservative with doling out sexual favors to men. Indeed this is often labelled as modern original sin with regards to the “degredation” of culture. The baby as the ball and chain so to speak. You can see that as merely consequentialism but I see it as a pretty naked appeal to control women. Our biology once had these iron rules that technology softened leading to freedoms AB&C for women that social cons decry and it would be nice (to them) if that softening of the iron rule of procreation were removed so that maybe things would go back the way they were.

                                        And I’d like to clarify that I do believe that a genuine religious belief that fertilized fetus’s are morally somewhat close to babies is the dominant rationale in pro-lifers thought processes. I just do not believe it’s their only one or that it’s even the only major one.

                                        *Though modern pro-life movements have very wisely muted their complaints in these areas down as the years have passed for obvious reasons.

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                                      • The bitter irony of this chain of comments is that men actually use abortions and threat of abortion to control women all the time.

                                        There are many, many women who are forced to have abortions against their will, or are pressured into it, or who have it held over their head for their entire pregnancy. Get in an argument? “Well, maybe you better just have that abortion after all because this isn’t working out.” and it doesn’t take long before you learn very quickly that you had better toe the line.

                                        Men controlling women’s reproductive rights is something that exists entirely separately from abortion. It gets wrapped up into a lot of different things, but it cannot be pinned down as an exclusively Republican, pro-life position at all. Because reproductive rights can also be taken to mean having children when one wishes to and not only the right to birth control and abortion.

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                                        • I disagree pretty strongly with this message for the simple reason that EVERYONE believes what you’re describing is wrong. I think forcing someone to have an undesired abortion would fit pretty comfortably in a reasonable definition of domestic violence and therefore be criminal under any scheme related to abortions.

                                          “But some people are criminals” seems like both an irrelevant objection to how much control women should have over their bodies and like a truism used to falsely inject a BSDI-deflection against the claim that to be “pro-life” is to believe you should control how others use their bodies.

                                          Do I agree that “Men controlling women’s reproductive rights is something that exists entirely separately from abortion”? Sure, some men do. We call that a crime. Do I think that has any connection to the fact that a bunch of men in Washington (and states across the country) pass laws seeking to explicitly control women’s reproductive rights, while people on my side seek to allow women to control their own reproductive rights? Not in the slightest.

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                                      • I would have a much easier time with this argument — consequences to actions — if the consequences were as close to equal for the two people involved as practical. That is, if the same states were passing laws that said “If you don’t want to be on the hook for the time and money for maternity care, child birth, and child raising, keep your dick in your pants.” This is largely the advice that my dad and both my grandfathers gave me.

                                        We have the tech to identify the father within acceptable error rates. Almost certainly with smaller error rates than we seem to have in handing out the death sentence for adults.

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                • North, I’m going to need a citation on these fertility clinics producing dozens and hundreds of zygotes per client. Because I actually work with women who are doing IVF and they have to put their bodies through hell to make a handful of zygotes if that even.

                  Doctors are VERY careful not to overstim women’s ovaries because if they do, it can cause a situation known as OHSS that can be fatal. And additionally many times when the ovaries pump out a lot of eggs, those eggs are low quality and aren’t fertilizable. They don’t all go on to make babies. Most successful women that I work with come out of egg retrieval with 6-8 zygotes to choose from (and they are happy to get them). No woman in her right mind would put herself through that process again and again to accumulate hundreds of zygotes, because those women want to be pregnant.

                  So, I freely admit you may have access to some information that I am lacking but I’d really like to see where your info is coming from.

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      • Does anyone who self-identifies as being “right to life” allow for abortions in the first trimester? Yes, there are people who allow for abortions in the first trimester but not the third, but these seem to be a pretty distinct group from the “right to life” crowd.

        “Abortion as birth control” is more window dressing. Of course abortion is birth control. That is trivially obvious. This is where we come to the strong correlation between the “right to life” stance and opposition to birth control, or to birth control for the wrong people. Abortion is terrible as a first-line birth control strategy. Some people, recognizing this, work to make the various other forms of birth control widely available. Others work to prevent the various other forms of birth control from being widely available. There is a strong tendency for that latter group to also identify as “right to life.” If you don’t think a woman should have access to birth control, the “abortion as birth control” critique is merely a thinly disguised critique of that woman for having sex: for being a slutty slut sluttily slutting around. Shame on her!

        “Rapeincestmotherslifeindanger” is directed at people who don’t really care about the issue and haven’t thought about it, and who want to strike a “sensible center” position. If a zygote is fully human, then a “but we can murder him or her if his or her mother was raped” is obvious nonsense. If a zygote is not fully human, then “the government can regulate a woman’s body, unless she was raped” also makes no sense. This is not nuance. It is dodging the issue.

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          • A poorly phrased question.

            Is there room for a consistent-enough-to-take-seriously position that says something like that?

            I mean, now that we’ve established that if a position has any measure of inconsistency we no longer have to take it seriously.

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            • Is there room for a consistent-enough-to-take-seriously position that says something like that?

              It depends on what you’re trying to do to operationalize it. All the carefully constructed, internally consistent ethical reasoning in the world isn’t going to make abortion rights advocates interested in compromising with a movement that’s demonstrated, time and again, that it’s really interested in, “NO ABORTIONS EVER!” and isn’t terribly interested in coloring inside procedural lines in order to achieve those ends.

              And you know, in a way it’s hard to fault them for that if they take the basic “Abortion is murder,” premise seriously. But it still makes negotiation virtually impossible.

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              • And you know, in a way it’s hard to fault them for that if they take the basic “Abortion is murder,” premise seriously. But it still makes negotiation virtually impossible.

                The best part is that if they’re willing to move to a “negotiation is possible” position, we can dismiss them for being inconsistent!

                Win-win!

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                    • It’s only a Catch-22 if the only possible rationale for the anti-abortion movement is, “Abortion is murder!” and the only way to secure its political allegiance is to elevate the least compromising members of it to high political office.

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                      • Are there other ones? “Human life is something that ought to be taken seriously and held as sacred. Abortion treats human life as something inconvenient and something that can just be tossed away.”

                        “AH-HA! WHAT ABOUT (deep breath) RAPEINCESTMOTHERSLIFEINDANGER?”

                        “There are a great many things being weighed against many other things in those. To jump ahead to the least icky of those examples, when we weigh the life of the mother against the life of the fetus, it seems somewhat obvious that the mother’s life would weigh heavier on the scale…”

                        And, at this point, what happens? We’ve seen these arguments given a thousand times. We all know the litany by heart.

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                        • And, at this point, what happens?

                          What happens is it becomes obvious that the person making those rhetorical concessions can’t back them up with policy concessions because too much of the anti-abortion coalition rejects them.

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                      • If the rationale is not “abortion is murder” then what is it? Really, that is even the rationale for banning third trimester abortions, the argument being that viability is the criterion, and the third trimester standing in as an objective proxy for viability.

                        For the record, I think the third trimester crowd has a very good argument. But it is also obvious that there is another crowd willing to use third trimester as a stalking horse for the zygotes-are-human position.

                        As I said earlier, without the abortion-is-murder argument, what we have is government interference in women’s bodies. If anyone wants to make an argument in favor of this, let them.

                        The irony is not lost on me that the crowd that usually is open to government regulation is opposed to it in this instance, while the crowd that is usually adamantly opposed to government regulation is enthusiastic about it when the topic turns to the pelvic issues. Only one side is being inconsistent, however, Being open to government regulation is not the same thing as advocating government regulation in every particular instance.

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                    • If we pick and choose from uncharitable comments of wingnuts on any given mass movement’s side we can manufacture a catch-22 easily. That doesn’t yield us any valuable information or any salient point.

                      Is the pro-choice movements’ ultimate goal the forcible abortion of every pregnancy? No of course not. Can we say the same in reverse, no of course not. The two sides are not equivalent. Indeed in most of the industrial world the pro-choice side has accepted compromise positions and abides by them.

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                      • Is the pro-choice movements’ ultimate goal the forcible abortion of every pregnancy? No of course not.

                        Are there any abortions that allow us to feel nausea?

                        “I found out that the father is 1/16th negro.”
                        “The baby tested positive for the gay gene.”
                        “The baby tested positive for having two X chromosomes and we wanted a real baby.”
                        “The baby’s eyes will end up being hazel and we wanted a baby with green eyes.”

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                              • Concession?

                                I’m not trying to force anybody to concede anything.

                                I suppose I’d like them to come to a similar conclusion to the one I’ve reached, but I understand that they might not feel like they can admit having done so in public, given that their concession might be used against them to create public policy.

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                                  • It’s weird, I see a difference between “if I don’t get an abortion, I will die” and “if I don’t get an abortion, I’ll have to change majors” and “if I don’t get an abortion, my child will be degenerate”.

                                    And some of those I have no problem with. Some of them make me say “none of my beeswax”. Some of them make me nauseous.

                                    Though I’m not sure that last one should count because it’s not a deeply enough held position that I am willing to have the cops show up at someone’s home and shoot their dogs over it.

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                                      • A lot fewer Trisomy-21 children walking around today than there seemed to be when I was a kid.

                                        Hard to argue that we, as a society, aren’t better off because of this one simple trick.

                                        I mean, unless you have significantly different priors.

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                                        • Jay,
                                          Ah, but trisomy-21 isn’t what I’m thinking about. It is possible to create a brain so… mentally unstable, that it degenerates back to being inhuman fairly quickly (so, chimplike intelligence, maybe). Lack of speech, lack of empathy, lack of basic toilet functions.

                                          Now, the fun part: it’s the parent’s responsibility to sink as much resources into the kid as nearly humanly possible, unless they’d rather go to jail. People lose marriages over this sort of bullshit.

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                                    • It’s not that I don’t see why you might think there’s a difference, it’s just that I don’t think there’s any particularly straightforward way to do anything about the difference, except maybe saying, “Don’t have abortions to select for sex (eye color, et c.)”

                                      That’s even before we get to cops showing up and shooting dogs.

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                                      • it’s just that I don’t think there’s any particularly straightforward way to do anything about the difference

                                        We can say “it’s wrong”.

                                        Sure, it inspires the followup question “but do you think it should be *ILLEGAL*?” as if it were a knockout punch and then guffaws when the answer comes “no”.

                                        I mean, assuming “right” and “wrong”.

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                                        • I don’t think it’s a knockout punch, except that if you want to say, “I don’t think it should be illegal, but I think it’s wrong to have an abortion because you don’t like the child’s eye color,” you can, well, knock yourself out.

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                                      • “It’s not that I don’t see why you might think there’s a difference, it’s just that I don’t think there’s any particularly straightforward way to do anything about the difference”

                                        Oh, I get it now! This is one of those things where you aren’t actually disagreeing with anyone here, you’re just pointing to fake people that aren’t around and claiming that whatever we decide here won’t matter because those fake people are so horrible.

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                        • Sure, everyone’s allowed to have various nauseous reactions. I think sex selective abortion is pretty nose wrinkly myself. That said it’s meaningless, I mean hell, you and I are both pro-choice. Pro-choice principles can very solidly survive abortion making people feel uncomfortable. The “abortion is the same as skin-tag removal” line of hectoring is not even remotely central to the pro-choice position (which, being pro-choice yourself you know perfectly well).

                          But the point was you were snarking. The same catch-22 can be inverted against pro-choicers and still tells us nothing.

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                          • Do we care more about this being an abortion than if we had a magic birth control that would allow only girls to get made?

                            It exists, google “Microsort”. And “no” because Microsort got kicked out of the country (the other methods of sperm sorting don’t work).

                            This technology only exists to gender select, we can ban it without too many side effects. But trying to prevent gender selection abortions if we’re going to allow “choice” requires… what? Lie detectors?

                            Then we’re faced with what to do with a woman who wants an abortion for a reason we’re trying to prevent… do we strap her to a bed and make her stay pregnant? Didn’t we outlaw slavery?

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                    • I don’t get this catch-22 argument at all. Really it just seems like an argument against certain forms of the pro-choice position, which isn’t really an argument about abortion. It’s a meta-argument about identity.

                      There are a number of coherent positions:
                      – Abortion is morally wrong; therefore I’m going to oppose allowing it to be legal
                      – Abortion is morally neutral or morally right; therefore I’m going to fight to keep it legal
                      – Abortion is morally wrong, but outlawing abortion would result in an even greater moral wrong; therefore I reluctantly support keeping it legal

                      Maybe what you’re claiming is some form of the third choice, but it sounds more like you’re saying, abortion is morally neutral or morally right, but only so long as we are sufficiently concerned about it and don’t do it for certain unapproved reasons. Sounds a bit Puritanical, like sex is fine as long as we only do it for procreation and don’t do it too much.

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                      • The catch-22 seems to be something like the following:

                        1. People who are consistently pro-life are waaaaay outside of the overton window and their arguments need not be seen as serious because their position is crazy
                        2. People who are pro-lifers who make concessions about abortion are inconsistent in their position and their arguments need not be seen as serious because they are hypocrites

                        Therefore: since the only possible ways to be pro-life lead us to the conclusion that pro-life arguments need not be seen as serious, the only conclusions that are serious are the pro-choice ones.

                        Q.
                        E.
                        D.

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                        • 1. People who are consistently pro-life are waaaaay outside of the overton window and their arguments need not be seen as serious because their position is crazy

                          I’m not sure why you equate, “This position is not serious,” and, “This position is not amenable to compromise.”

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                        • But we can invert this effortlessly and it carries the exact same (none) weight:
                          1. People who are consistently pro-choice are waaaaay outside of the overton window and their arguments need not be seen as serious because their position is crazy
                          2. People who are pro-choicers who make concessions about abortion are inconsistent in their position and their arguments need not be seen as serious because they are hypocrites.

                          It’s the same assertion, it has the same heft (none), which is why the original point was snark rather than argument. It certainly says nothing at all about pro-lifers or pro-choicers.

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                          • 1. People who are consistently pro-choice are waaaaay outside of the overton window and their arguments need not be seen as serious because their position is crazy

                            But this is false. “Abortion on Demand” is a mainstream position. It’s not outside the window at all.

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                            • Odd, that’s not what pro-lifers say. Abortion as birth control, for instance, is a hideous aberration that no one in society wants to think about. Partial birth abortions are abominations that no one in society tolerates if it’s brought to their attention.

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                          • The issue that people in group (2), when they offer compromises, have no way of binding people in group (1) to those compromises. Their beliefs can be totally serious, or totally frivolous; neither changes the extent to which they can make commitments on the part of the anti-abortion movement as a whole.

                            This is hardly unique to abortion–you do, as noted, see a similar issue with gun control. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen arguments of the form, “You may be willing to stop with this particular gun control measure, but DiFi/HCI/et c. won’t!”

                            And you know what? Even when it comes to areas where I think a gun control measure is Constitutional and has benefits that outweighs the costs, I won’t bother advocating for them because I don’t have any way of showing that yes, it really will stop there, because I know there are some very relevant players who have no interest in stopping there.

                            Sometimes you really can’t have nice things.

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                • To use the gun control analogy, an opponent of firearms could propose a law for handgun safety. His opponents would say “you really want to get rid of all guns”. He could reply, “Yes, I do. I hope to one day. But this is a position that 50% +1 people can agree upon, and I’m supporting this reform right now.”

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                  • “He could reply, “Yes, I do. I hope to one day. But this is a position that 50% +1 people can agree upon, and I’m supporting this reform right now.””

                    To continue the analogy, you come along and say “I don’t believe you, because the only way that gun control as a philosophy makes sense is if you want all guns banned forever. Therefore I think you’re either lying that you support the reform, or you have some nefarious reason other than public safety for wanting to restrict gun ownership”.

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                      • it’s easier to get some middle-ground abortion bill signed into law than the equivalent gun control reform.

                        There are states where you can be arrested for driving through them with legally owned firearms. (See, for example, New Jersey.) Massachusetts has a mandatory one-year-in-jail for possession of an illegal firearm law.

                        There are other states that have “Constitutional Carry” laws or exceptionally different attitudes about registration. (For example, when I brought my inherited firearms to Colorado, I stopped by the police station to register them. I was told that I didn’t have to.)

                        There are more parallels to be drawn with abortion, of course.

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    • I don’t buy the “pro-life” argument because I don’t buy the claim that a zygote is fully human. Furthermore, I don’t believe that the vast majority of people making the “pro-life” argument believe it either. They rarely-to-never act like they do, outside of the narrow confines of debating abortion.

      The pro-life position exists whether you believe it or not. It’s a real thing. People believe in it. People vote based on it. People take action – march, protest, etc. – on it. Once you have established that you disagree, pointing out that you don’t believe the argument strikes me as an exercise in question-begging.

      I could go up to a PETA member and say, “come on, you don’t really believe meat is murder. If you did, you’d be marching on farms and liberating as many animals you can instead of standing here handing out flyers.” I could do that, but I doubt that person is going to suddenly put down their flyers and go have a Big Mac. I doubt that they’re even going to stop handing out flyers or doing whatever bizarre, and inane form of street theater that PETA members like to do.

      Let’s be honest. Most people don’t come to their positions based on logically constructed arguments. Most people have a set of moral intuitions that come from some combination of genetics, upbringing, and life experience that gets translated into a world view. The likelihood of changing someone’s view on abortion is related to how foundational their position on abortion is to their worldview. And that should lead us to realize that the bet way to change someone’s mind is to ask them for the least amount of change, which by the way, tends to be the exact opposite of how most political conversations play out.

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      • I believe that people who haven’t given much thought to the proposition that zygotes are fully human believe this proposition to the extent that they will repeat it without thinking about it. Why do they do this? In most cases I expect that the proximate cause is their social environment. But ultimately? I cannot help but notice that the only implication of “zygotes are humans” that finds any practical application is one that also include slut shaming.

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        • I don’t think that argument really holds up. There are people who oppose euthanasia, but whose actions imply that they don’t exactly equate it with gunning down a healthy person. Does that mean that those people don’t really believe that the very old or the terminally ill aren’t really human?

          There are a lot of people who oppose the death penalty, but very few who do everything in their power to stop the state from taking the life of a condemned man. Does that mean those people don’t really oppose the death penalty?

          No, it means that epistemological and ethical frameworks are complicated things that defy our efforts to game people out of their beliefs.

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        • But you can be a slut and not have abortions. You can trust me on that. ;)

          Seriously – most conservative people really admire single moms and birth moms that gave babies up for adoption. Not much shaming going on there, at least not that I’ve seen. To be honest some of the things I saw liberals saying about Bristol Palin about her pregnancy were a lot more slut-shamy than anything I’ve ever seen a conservative say to any woman pregnant out of wedlock.

          I think it’s just the teensiest bit of an assumption to assume that conservatives are not down with abortion because they don’t like the sex. I get why people say that, but I just don’t think that’s the reality and hasn’t been for a looong time.

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          • Maybe it’s changed a lot in recent years (stranger things have happened, and there have been substantial social shifts that would explain it) but back in the day I saw a lot of, “Just keep your knees shut!” and complaints about sexual license from anti-abortion activists.

            Not to mention the ongoing preoccupation with “illegitimacy” as the source of all other social ills, weird hangups about homosexuality, insistence on “abstinence only” education, and so on.

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            • First of all, a good number of them are Catholics. Next, there are a few methods of birth control which may inhibit a fertilized egg from implanting and developing. Then, many conservatives don’t want government to have any say in birth control because they don’t believe it’s the government’s job. Additionally, you have many people who may oppose pre-marital sex but respect the willingness of a pregnant single woman to carry her child to term.

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              • Right, but Catholics also rather explicitly don’t like (most kinds of) sex, so I assumed that wasn’t what meant when she said “I think it’s just the teensiest bit of an assumption to assume that conservatives are not down with abortion because they don’t like the sex.”

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            • I’m not sure that they are, unless you are speaking of some sort of disagreement on when birth-control should be introduced/taught/used? And then just labeling them anti-birth control?

              Most all of the Protestant churches have left contraception up to individual conscience (in short form)… with a few groups reevaluating contraception piecemeal. The end result is broad support for contraception within Marriage.

              The Catholic Church, of course, has widely published and just as widely ignored prohibition against artificial contraception. {The end result is broad support for contraception within Marriage}.

              Even Hobby Lobby’s restrictions were to certain forms of contraception… not to contraception in toto. In fact, last time I quoted here from Guttmacher, the “approved” Hobby Lobby contraception methods are the methods used by ~89% of all women.

              It is a strange meme that is going around leftist circles that is rather baffling to me, one of the rare unicorns who actually doesn’t use contraception, but is surrounded by oceans of Christians who do so licitly within their church’s teachings.

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                • “In addition to being anti-choice, he’s also opposed to free birth control”

                  Being against *free* birth control is a very expansive interpretation of anti-birth control; but that’s what I expected was probably the case.

                  It would seem you have a class/economic/policy issue with Mr. Price. I can’t see any evidence that he wishes birth control were not available at all, or that he’s leading a campaign ban it.

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                  • If a statist thinks something is beneficial, he thinks it should be given away for free. If a statist hears that a conservative doesn’t want to give something away for free, he assumes that the conservative doesn’t think it’s beneficial.

                    And it’s even worse than that. If a statist thinks something isn’t beneficial, he will want to ban it. So if a liberal says that something shouldn’t be for free, it’s as good as saying it should be banned. They have no framework for understanding the middle ground.

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                    • The language is a bit sweeping (though goodness knows that happens here often enough in the other direction), but it’s certainly a tendency or trap for folks on the left. There was similar confusion about the “ban” on embryonic stem cell research in the Bush administration that was really just a stop on federal funding for that research.

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                    • The bigger problem with the statist is they assume they have authority to give things away as an ideology principle. It is a logical fallacy, yet when any other ideology pushes back against the legitimacy of the ideology, the statists typical frame the ‘other’ as question begging. It took me awhile to see that they were assuming they had ownership of social objectivity, when in fact, they don’t.

                      Then there is the problem in vantage point. From a particular vantage a person can produce the logic/rationality that a vantage point is wholesome like bread, and the other vantage points can be logically/rationally shown to be toxic/poison, depending on the parameters taken into consideration.

                      The middle ground is really no longer viable, and this is a real put off about centrist or middle grounders, is they are constantly telling people with bread/poison rationality that they should like a vantage point of half bread mixed with half poison.

                      Whats worse is that when several factions work to alter ‘truth/fact’ to prove their social objectivity is the true one, then societies die of poisoned bread syndrome.

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                  • In this case “free” meaning “covered by ACA-compliant policies”

                    Anti-birth control doesn’t mean “bombing Trojan HQ” it means restricting access. I’m not sure you can express “restricting access” more clearly than staking out a position that IUDs and other forms of birth control shouldn’t be covered by healthcare policies.

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                    • In this case “free” meaning “covered by ACA-compliant policies”

                      In what way is it free? If your health plan must include the cost of covering birth control, then that’s figured into your premium. Either you’re paying it directly as part of your contribution or indirectly as part of your overall compensation package. It’s bizarre to equate this in any way with “free”.

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                      • I’m undecided on whether I feel this is a fair quibble or not.

                        If you are paying a premium for something, well, you’re paying for it. And odds are you’re paying some sort of co-pay to actually access the service. But I venture to guess the inclusion of birth control coverage has a pretty negligible influence on premium costs (and even seen it argued that it lowers premiums because the use of birth control lessens the likelihood of other, far more expensive services). So if someone is looking at the difference between an unnoticeable decrease in their take home pay plus a $5 copay a month as compared to paying out of pocket can make the former feel like “free”.

                        It’s like people with Amazon Prime who talk about their free shipping. No, they don’t have free shipping. But it feels like free to them and seeing as how they’re actually footing the bill, letting them call it as such doesn’t seem to be harmful.

                        Now, if people are calling for free birth control and meaning they want it provided by the government and funded by tax dollars, well, that is both not free and a different ball of wax.

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                        • But it feels like free to them and seeing as how they’re actually footing the bill, letting them call it as such doesn’t seem to be harmful.

                          People can think of their own choices however they want, but at the point where one is accusing politicians of opposing “free” X when the policy being opposed is actually forcing people to pay for X, that to me doesn’t seem particularly benign.

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                  • Here’s an example of a major pro-life leader coming out strongly against exactly this sort of access to birth control. Franklin Graham responds to UC Davis putting Plan B in vending machines by saying:
                    “This is just promoting sin and the acceptance of it–bad idea.”

                    And of course the way he phrases the objection is redolent of the idea that his sexual morality should be enforced on others, which is not surprising if you’ve heard anything else the dude has ever said about anything.

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                    • Billy Graham is/was famously pro-Contraception. Nothing by his son suggests any sort of change (that I’ve seen). Again… this is an argument among supporters of Birth Control over what lines can be drawn and where.

                      Rhetorically you can call them “Anti-” all you want, but that’s all it is, a rhetorical attempt to “other” people who broadly agree with you… they are just not sufficiently zealous in ways in which you would prefer.

                      I’m mostly surprised that all these pro-Birth Control Protestants somehow get tripped up by 8th grade rhetorical tactics. Or maybe they aren’t, but the fact that the argument is over a marginal difference of opinion is not what is being reported.

                      Its certainly true that some Protestants are reevaluating their thoughts on artificial contraception, but so are Liberal Feminists… and I’ve even heard that some of the 97% of Catholics who use (or have used) contraception are revisiting it as well.

                      But, ultimately this started with a comment that there was an Anti-Contraception movement as part of the Pro-Life movement. There isn’t… even among the very few of us who don’t practice artificial contraception. Not everything that is immoral must be illegal.

                      Finally, Franklin Graham as a Major Pro-Life leader? Meh, the Pro-Life movement is so diffuse that I’m not sure you can call anyone a Major leader… even the people who ostensibly work full time as Pro-Life Major Leaders (TM) – whose names I could not even begin to give you (even as a “member”). We make people like Debbie Wasserman Schultz look positively autocratic in their control over constituents (ok, maybe a bad example after the 2016 primaries… but you get the picture).

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                      • Nothing by his son suggests any sort of change (that I’ve seen).

                        How is, “Making birth control easier to purchase is bad because it promotes sin,” not an anti-birth control statement? This isn’t an opposition to “free” birth control, which was the distinction a lot of people are making in this thread.

                        Also, while anti-abortion activists may not want to ban contraception, I’ve seen that quite a few want to make it possible to ban, in that they don’t just want to overturn Roe v. Wade and other decisions recgonizing a right to abortion, but want to uproot the whole concept of a right to privacy all the way back to Griswold v. Connecticut.

                        “We don’t think states should ban birth control, but we do think that states should be able to ban birth control,” is opposed to birth control, because whatever you think those states should do, we have a ton of evidence of legislatures doing completely preposterous things in the name of “sexual morality”.

                        Including, you know, banning contraception–which is why we even have Griswold in the first place!

                        Meh, the Pro-Life movement is so diffuse that I’m not sure you can call anyone a Major leader… even the people who ostensibly work full time as Pro-Life Major Leaders (TM) – whose names I could not even begin to give you (even as a “member”).

                        Perhaps that means that there are no leaders who can make commitments on behalf of the anti-abortion movement, which is one of the things I’ve been arguing all along.

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                            • I won’t pretend to speak for Marchmaine, but my reactions to your first comment were:

                              * one doesn’t have to be a fundamentalist Christian to express concern about passing out morning-after pills on a college campus like candy. Plenty of people would be concerned about that messaging, even people on the left.
                              * objecting to distributing morning-after pills from a college vending machine is a far cry from what most people would consider “restricting access to birth control”.
                              * it’s probably not worth engaging you on this, because you’re clearly approaching the issue from deep within your ideological bubble.

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                                • The Catholics I’ve talked to seem to hoe a broad line between accepting/admitting that the Church’s Official View prohibits the use of contraceptives and accepting/admitting that most Catholics actually use those dang things anyway. Which, I gotta admit – being the rabid atheist that I am – is a bit whiplash inducing. Nevertheless, it’s a real thing. So when March says that christians, and in particular Catholics, aren’t opposed to birth control, he may be making a distinction between theory and practice.

                                  And you know the difference between theory and practice.*

                                  *Part of me wonders if that’s why so many Trump defenders rely on the distinction between taking his words literally and taking them seriously: they have an in-built, culturally reinforced predisposition to literally not take anything anyone says literally.

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                              • KenB:

                                *1 — It’s a little jarring to read on this heavily libertarian website people advocating for increased regulation of OTC non-scrip medication. The FDA, an agency not know for wacky liberalism, has decided that PlanB is about as dangerous as Claritin-D. And I’m not sure what messaging is being conveyed that you’re concerned about — sex has no consequences?

                                Yes, I’m sure that someone somewhere has had an imprudent one-night stand knowing that PlanB was available. But personally I’m a long way from persuaded that the secondary-level message on easy availability of PlanB — Sex Is Without Risk, or something along those lines — is worse than the primary effect of reducing unwanted pregnancies / increasing the need for later-term abortions.

                                What did you think of Rev. Graham’s rationale for taking PlanB out of vending machines? If you are not persuaded, what are the compelling arguments as to why some people who are not fundamentalist Christians are concerned about easy access to PlanB?

                                *2 — taking PlanB out of a vending machine is explicitly restricting access to family planning medication. What else would you call it?

                                *3 — I believe that it is in the interest of every participant at this site to eliminate all use of ad hominem** arguments against fellow participants. “[I]t’s probably not worth engaging you on this, because you’re clearly approaching the issue from deep within your ideological bubble.” But it’s still worth trying.

                                ** There may be a better term than ‘ad hominem’ for describing your rhetorical move, but I can’t think of it at the moment.

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                                • I believe that it is in the interest of every participant at this site to eliminate all use of ad hominem** arguments against fellow participants.

                                  The way I see it is that I asked a question and was kind enough to answer it. No fallacies involved.

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                                • I don’t think that’s ad hom at all. My sense from reading Pillsy’s comment was that ze was looking at the issue from within hir set of assumptions, where ze already had the right answer and was arguing for it as opposed to considering how others might approach it and being open to multiple possible views. Whether I was right or wrong about that in this particular case, it’s not my thing to engage people who are advocating for the rightness of their own views.

                                  By the way, you’re making some incorrect assumptions about my personal opinions based just on my pushing back on other people’s arguments. I’m not arguing for a particular set of views in this case, I’m arguing against any particular set being the only correct one.

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          • Seriously – most conservative people really admire single moms and birth moms that gave babies up for adoption. Not much shaming going on there, at least not that I’ve seen. To be honest some of the things I saw liberals saying about Bristol Palin about her pregnancy were a lot more slut-shamy than anything I’ve ever seen a conservative say to any woman pregnant out of wedlock.

            The two points in that paragraph track pretty closely with my own observations (especially the Bristol Palin comments), except that I have seen conservative people engage in slut-shaming, etc..

            About your first point, I’ll also say I’ve known people who are (almost definitely) pro-life in more than just how they vote. They adopt children. They help single parents in substantive ways–not just money, but in devoting their time. One family, who were probably just about as Catholic as you can imagine and who probably personally opposed abortion, stayed overnight with my mother in law while her husband was dying in a hospital and waiting for my spouse and me to arrive in town.

            Maybe, like says, these people are not in the “vast majority” and the “vast majority” “rarely-to-never” act that way. But enough of them do in my own experience to show that a lot (maybe not a majority, but no one here is offering more than anecdata to back up their claims) take it seriously.

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          • most conservative people really admire single moms

            To a point. A single mom, who has a job, and only one, maybe two kids from a single failed relationship is fine. Once the working hours decrease, the welfare assistance increases, the number of kids &/or father’s goes up, the admiration drops off a cliff.

            Ergo, the admiration is for a subset of single moms who satisfy a lot of priors.

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      • Chris,
        Actually, there is plenty of debate on when an organism becomes human. How much life experience before it can functionally be “a person”. If you really want to stretch, you say that it’s when they are capable of moral decisions.
        Most rational people will say that a kid becomes human at something around age two or so.

        Still homo sapiens before that of course.

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        • My sense is that the convention these days (which presumably is what Christopher is following) is to use the term “human” for the biological classification and “person” as a stand-in for the entitlement to the bundle of rights we’re all on the same page about granting to the fully-formed.

          It’s a little silly, these terminological games. The real issue isn’t what to call it, the issue is why we grant those rights in the first place. If we could settle on the underlying reasons, then we could see to what extent they apply to fetuses at various points during gestation. But absent a coherent explicit philosophical or religious basis for privileging human life, we argue over words, or try to use analogies to rare edge cases among adults to apply to the common case of pregnancy.

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          • If we could settle on the underlying reasons, then we could see to what extent they apply to fetuses at various points during gestation.

            Jump to the absurd extreme and give *all* of the rights of an adult to a single cell fertilized egg.

            We have a vast body of medical ethics with laws backing them up. Not only did Terri Schiavo not have a right to life, or to some else’s organs, I don’t either. I have no right to force someone to give me their blood, even if they’re my parent, even if they’ve agreed to it, even if they’ve done it before, even if I’m going to die without it. We let many thousands of people die every year for want of an organ donor.

            And after we’re done looking at medical ethics, we could examine the 13th amendment to the Constitution. Then we could examine separation of church and state. Then we could examine the level of interference we want to let the state put on people’s sex lives and their reproduction.

            It’s possible to build a society compatible with where the pro-life movement wants to go, but it’s amazingly ugly and we’ve moved away from that for good reason.

            To their credit they don’t seem to want that, to their discredit they don’t seem to understand it. IMHO the pro-life movement doesn’t want to restructure society so it’s compatible with preventing abortion, it just wants everyone to voluntarily choose to not have one… and for that it really shouldn’t be trying to change laws.

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    • I actually think there is a not-small group of conservatives who might listen to this argument and respond to it. I think a lot of conservatives are more willing to bend on this than many think.

      Obviously there are many murders, robberies, etc that are able to be covered up. Just like there could be a woman turning tricks on the corner outside somebody’s house in front of a witness who dials 911 (a victimless crime that’s reported). But the lion’s share of abortions would take place privately with no witnesses, no one to report them, and thus that invites all the problems described in the piece.

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    • I don’t buy the “pro-life” argument because I don’t buy the claim that a zygote is fully human. Furthermore, I don’t believe that the vast majority of people making the “pro-life” argument believe it either.

      A couple points. First, there’s a middle ground claim. One doesn’t have to believe the zygote to be “fully human” to claim that it is an object of moral concern with its own interest in realizing its full potential and that preventing that full potential from being realized is something that needs to be justified in moral terms. I realize that vocal pro-lifers tend not to make that argument (and perhaps a majority wouldn’t buy it), but looking at the issue that way is not as extreme-sounding.

      Second, the “they don’t really believe it” argument seems to falter. I think a lot of pro-choice people actually believe it. One pro-choice argument I’ve heard is that most women who get abortions don’t look at the procedure merely as birth control by other means. According to that argument, for most women, it’s a personally somber choice. It’s somber probably because it’s an invasive medical procedure with whatever complications that can come with even the most routine procedures. But it’s probably also somber because the person has some sense that they are ending a life. Maybe not a human life, but some kind of life.

      For the record, I consider myself pro-choice: I want it to be legal to any woman who chooses one, I don’t believe any woman should have to justify her decision to the state, and I am willing to help poorer people pay for it. But I also believe the zygote is an actual human life and that the decision to abort is the ending of a human life. I don’t believe I have any personal standing to condemn it, but neither do I have any right to ignore my own moral sensibilities.

      All that said, the “they don’t really believe what they say they believe” is something that pro-lifers should ponder over. Perhaps too many pro-lifers (though, I suspect, not a “vast majority” as you say) really are too uncaring about the life of the born than about the life of the unborn. Maybe that argument is a chance for introspection, even though the gist of the “they don’t really believe….” argument seems to preclude any respect for the pro-lifer’s moral agency.

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  3. I see the abortion topic as a dual issue.

    The first as most folks look at it, killing is bad. Killing something that has done nothing ‘wrong’ is even more bad. I hold this as a individual construct.

    In working through how I look at abortion, I also look at the natural condition. In hunter gatherer times if a woman didn’t want a child, she could leave it to the elements, which was almost certain death for the child. Any child between the ages of 0-5 years. All the parameters contributing to the abandonment I hold to be none of anyones business. I hold the awareness of this natural condition as a individual construct.

    There is some internal conflict of the existance of these two, but the conflict is within individual constructs of my own making.

    I see it as possible to be a religious/moral person and still hold these as individual constructs that don’t precipitate into social constructs. I meet a few conservatives like this, so not all conservatives are the same.

    That is somewhat a dividing line. In the right there is a demarcation between the tendency to precipitate individual constructs into social constructs. The slow movement into authoritarianism versus the struggle to remain anti-authoritarian. I must say this doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

    Social constructs are largely promoted and used as leverage by a particular faction. The law is one of the most weaponized of those tools. The legality of things has become about tactical comfort/discomfort.

    Good work on this one Kristin.

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    • Thanks!

      I completely agree with your larger point with one small quibble.

      RE the natural condition, my take on that is that people did all kinds of effed up stuff in nature that we no longer allow. It’s not my most favoritist argument ever (and I’m not saying this is the argument you’re making but I have seen many make it) when people justify abortion 2017 because hunter gatherers did X, Y, Z in a totally different world, in horrible circumstances we cannot comprehend.

      People used to beat their wives, marry 12 year olds, owned slaves, did human sacrifice, all kinds of things we’d find abhorrent now. We don’t just throw up our hands and say, “Welp, that’s just the way things are in nature so we have to accept these things happen now and then” (again, not saying that is your implication but I have seen others make it.) We acknowledge that it’s a different world now, and our morals and values are different.

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      • I agree and that’s why I used it in the context of my own personal construct. The reason why I look at the natural condition of that time, is it had the fewest formal social constructs that impinged on individual freedoms.

        There wasn’t a official law against child abandonment, there wasn’t a official law/fee/permit against picking up an abandoned child.

        Say what you will about the natural condition, it didn’t have mechanised warfare, proliferation of nuclear arms, or the nanny state. Social constructs these days practice human sacrifice of a different flavor with a higher magnitude or of a different kind.

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  4. You said this:

    I suppose that’s at least in part why I consider myself libertarian; it’s why I can’t make the leap to conservatism even though I share most of the same personal values as conservatives do.

    As far as I can tell, I share most of the same personal values as conservatives do. I certainly align with all my relatives that are conservative, for instance. Where we differ is on how to put those values into policy. And abortion. In some sense they are right, it’s a litmus test, and that litmus test is harming the country, since there’s a good fraction of voters who would support a lot of the things I support, but have been taught that people like me are evil because they are pro-choice.

    In fact, as best I can tell Kristin, you have many of the same values as those SJWs you seem to dislike so much. You don’t like the same things that they don’t like, but you don’t like the way they protest it, or the details they promote and propagate, or the language they use. That’s not really a difference in values, or at least not a big one.

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    • I absolutely have many of the same personal values as SJW but if ya had to put me into a category I think the vast majority of people would file me under “conservative”.

      I don’t think I’m the only person who feels the SJW movement has taken a turn that is highly concerning. I may share the same values in many ways but that’s kinda like saying, “We are all in agreement, we don’t like mice in the barn” and then they want to set the barn on fire to get rid of the mice. Setting the barn on fire is a bad and dangerous idea; it also wouldn’t work because all the mice would just run out and then we’d have no barn either.

      I don’t like mice in the barn, but just because I agree that the mice are bad, doesn’t mean that I would then have to agree with any solution no matter how extreme or wrongheaded just to get rid of the things. There are better solutions to most problems than burning down the entire barn, even if that means that there are still a few mice skittering around the dark corners.

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    • “In fact, as best I can tell Kristin, you have many of the same values as those SJWs you seem to dislike so much.”

      Well, it’s the litmus test again, only with a different strip. “I think that people should be free to say whatever they please” has become as big a litmus test as “I think that people should be free to get abortions whenever they please”.

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  5. Kristin – Do you have any problem with persuading others that abortion is wrong? If a majority could be persuaded in a state that a particular restriction is just, would you support its being written into law?

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    • No, because the costs to civil liberties would be too high.

      The only possible scenario I could see where I’d support the idea was in a world with much higher level of technology and understanding of pregnancy loss and why it happens. As it is now, most women have no idea why a pregnancy ends, doctors know very little about the mechanisms involved and it would be an absolute disaster trying to differentiate between miscarriage and abortion (in addition to the many, many other problems that making abortion illegal would cause)

      I would hope that in that world, we’d also have advanced technology to such a point where the entire thing was no longer necessary. Better birth control, and so on.

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      • But doesn’t that negate the self-rule aspect of your argument? I ask because it seemed like a feint. If you believe that the mechanics of enforcement would make an abortion law untenable, then your argument doesn’t hinge on the rights of the minority or majority to make such a law. I’m also struck that you wouldn’t entertain any restriction.

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        • Pinky,
          By making abortions easily obtainable, we can actually put some limits on “how” they’re done.
          Say, by making it illegal to do a surgical one without anesthesia. (Yes, I posted about a movie that got into that. Mindless Diversions maybe not so mindless…)

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        • Sorry I was on my way out the door as I wrote that.

          To answer your question, not everything that the majority agrees upon as being “moral” should be made into law. Of course not. It’s a good jumping off point, possibly, but at the end of the day minority and individual rights have to enter into the equation. My point in mentioning it in the piece was not as a feint but to point out that in order to have a government that could ever have the strength to inflict the moral will of a minority, even a large and vocal minority, would be so utterly strong that it could then be misused by whoever happened to come along next.

          There are really two issues – first is that a huge group of people don’t agree abortion should be made illegal and thus it probably shouldn’t be since we don’t want to hand over the ability for any moral minority to be able to inflict their morality upon the rest of us, and secondly, the enforcement would be impossible anyway. So both are issues that I think any libertarian/small-government conservative should take quite seriously.

          RE restrictions, I took that to mean banning outright. I do support some restrictions on abortion as I think most people (even those who are otherwise prochoice) do.

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          • Maybe this conversation is too broad, then, because I don’t see why your “some restrictions” would necessarily be free of minority coercion and enforcement issues. If you’re saying that you’d only favor the restrictions that are relatively free of undue pressure on those who disagree and require comparatively small government activity to enforce, then…well, that sounds good, but I’m not sure if it means anything. I’d have to see where you think we’re crossing the line.

            If there’s a restriction on late-term abortions, you could argue that it could only be enforced by spy satellites and undercover agents. But would it? That might be true for 100% perfect enforcement, but we don’t enforce any law with 100% effectiveness. Perfect parking enforcement requires spy satellites and undercover agents.

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            • Well, it’s glaringly obvious that a pregnancy loss at 6 weeks is very different than at 6 months and so without delving into a lot of rather gross details, I’ll just say that yeah, I think it would be infinitely harder to enforce a ban on first trimester abortion than third.

              I do not expect any law to be enforced perfectly. I mentioned above, yes, people do get away with “the perfect crime” sometimes even with things like robbery, murder, etc. But it just seems a sensible position to take the idea of reasonable ability to enforce into consideration before passing a law. Actually wish they’d do it a little bit more often.

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          • “I do support some restrictions on abortion as I think most people (even those who are otherwise prochoice) do.”

            The problem with “supporting some restrictions on abortion” is that those restrictions are still going to grab people who you don’t actually want.

            See, late-term abortion is not something that you do for reasons of convenience. If you are using abortion for birth control, that happens at 8 weeks, not 26. Abortion at 26 weeks is something that happens because of a fetus with defects incompatible with life; like, “organs did not develop” defects, things that won’t kill the fetus prior to term but the baby’s “life” will be two weeks in NICU, full of tubes, with no human contact or comfort.

            And, to pull from the OP’s reasoning, the things you’ll have to do to stop the rare instance of late-term abortion-of-convenience are things that will cause a lot more pain, to many people you don’t know about, than it will save you.

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            • DD,
              I support having the doctors do their best to keep the lady alive. Child optional, but obviously very desired.

              My restrictions on abortion go along the lines of “please use anesthetic if it’s a surgery! Make that a law!”

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  6. Good essay.

    My take on the whole abortion thing is that, assuming the existence of morality, abortion is an act with moral content.

    I’m 100% down with saying that, on a pragmatic level, it’s not really something that can be made illegal without causing greater harm than the act of abortion.

    I’m 100% down with saying that, on a pragmatic level, it’s not really something that falls under the jurisdiction of government to punish.

    It’s the “and another thing!” argument that points out that feti are like skin tags that gets me to clear my throat and say “well, the act of abortion contains moral content”.

    Which, in the past anyway, has inspired people with whom I was arguing to engage in some light psychoanalysis and question whether I really believed it contained moral content because I was hoping to get the nose of the camel into the tent and start making certain acts that weren’t under the jurisdiction of the government illegal (even though enforcement would be nigh-impossible).

    There’s this weird assumption made by huge swaths of the society that if something is immoral then, therefore, it ought to be illegal. And, by modus tollens, if something ought not be illegal, then, therefore, it is not immoral.

    This assumption strikes me as being a bad assumption.

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