Some thoughts on emotion, life, reason, and murder

A great deal of my friends list (and a great deal of my Twitter list, and a great deal of the Internet) is talking about the murder of Dr. George Tiller by a pro-life whacko formerly associated in some loose way with Operation Rescue.

Most of the people who are talking about it are asking how on Earth it’s possible for someone who identifies as “pro-life” to be okay with murder.

Honestly, I think that’s pretty easy to understand. Warped and twisted, yes, but easy to understand.

In fact, I would like to propose a simple thought experiment that I think would make almost anyone able to understand the mindset of a person who might decide that murder is a reasonable approach to the abortion debate.

First, though, it’s important to understand that “pro-life” does not, in fact, mean pro-life. Words are valuable as symbols, but in the case of the abortion debate, they are symbols more often chosen for their emotional connotations than for their clarity in communication.

“Pro-life” does not actually mean that the person who describes himself this way values life, at least not across the board. It’s an expression of emotional manipulation; we all like to think of ourselves as supporting life, and the phrase can become a blunt instrument in rhetoric (“if you’re not in favor of life, what does that make you? Pro-death?”). Once you understand that “pro-life” is not actually intended as a descriptor of a person who supports life across the board, other contradictions (such as the fact that people who identify as pro-life are statistically more likely to support the death penalty and the war in Iraq) disappear.

So don’t assume that “pro-life” (at least the way it’s used by a radical anti-abortion activist) means “being in favor of life.” That’s #1.

Once you’ve got hold of that idea, the rest is easy. I am about to propose a thought experiment that might take you into the emotional state of a violent pro-lifer.

Before I do that, though, a disclaimer. I want to make it absolutely clear that the analogy I am about to make is absolutely, positively not a valid analogy in the sense that it has any bearing on the real-world issue of abortion. The purpose of this analogy is only to create an emotional response that is analogous to the emotional response that radical pro-lifers have to abortion, and to show how the logic of murder fits into the framework of that emotional response.

Please, no flames about how I am “taking their side” or how I am trivializing the real struggles of people who have had to deal with discrimination and prejudice. That is missing the entire point of the thought experiment.

Ready? Okay.


Imagine something about yourself that puts you outside the mainstream of middle America. My friends list being what it is, I bet almost everyone reading this can do that.

Maybe it’s your race. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re kinky, or polyamorous. Maybe you’re gay. Maybe you’re trans. Maybe you have uncommon or unpopular religious, political, or social views. Maybe you have some sort of physical or psychological disability. Whatever.

Now, imagine that you live in a place exactly like the one that you live in, except that it is legal to kill people like you.

Not only is it legal, but people like you aren’t even considered human beings at all.

The reasons aren’t relevant for the purpose of the thought experiment. Just imagine that oyu live in a society in which it is absolutely accepted to kill, without cause or justification, anyone who’s gay. Or anyone who’s trans. Or anyone who’s black, or likes kinky sex, or whatever.

Imagine there are people who specialize in doing it. You go to a professional and pay a couple hundred dollars and he will detain and then execute someone.

Yes, I realize that there is a difference between an unborn fetus and, for example, a gay man. That’s not the point here; to a True Believer, there is no difference. Just think about living in that society, and imagine how you’d feel.

Imagine how you’d feel if time and time and time again, over a period of decades, every attempt to have this sort of killing outlawed met with “These people are not legally human at all. Killing (gays/trans folk/polyamorists/blacks/kinky folk/whatever) isn’t murder because you can only murder a human being.” Imagine if everyone you spoke to said “You don’t like killing gays? Fine, don’t kill any gays then!” Imagine that you live in this society, and the generally accepted premises for social dialog on the topic is that you simply aren’t talking about human beings at all.

Now imagine that you knew of a place where gays, or kinksters, or blacks, or transfolk, or whatever were taken to be killed, and that the owner of this place personally killed thousands of such people himself. How would you feel?


The thing you must understand, if you wish to comprehend why violent pro-life activists do what they do, is that to them, a fetus is a person just as surely as you are a person. To them, there is no difference between the organized, legally sanctioned practice of abortion and the organized, legally sanctioned killing of anyone with brown hair, or anyone who is Latino, or any other group. (In fact, in a supreme irony of the pro-life philosophy, many extremist Fundamentalist pro-lifers would say that a fetus is more human than you are, given that many such people advocate the death penalty for homosexuality.)

If you lived in this imaginary society suggested by this thought experiment, wouldn’t you be tempted to take action against what you saw as the wholesale dehumanization and slaughter of entire classes of people? Can you imagine how profoundly angry and alienated you would feel?

The premises of the radical pro-lifers may be fucked up, but the reasoning is not. If you start with their fucked-up premises, then you arrive logically at their fucked-up conclusion. There’s no hypocrisy or error in reasoning; in fact, if you start from their premises, then even the most overheated, ridiculous rhetoric of the pro-life side (such as “abortion clinics are just like the Nazi concentration camps”) begin to make a kind of sense.


Go back to that thought experiment. Imagine yourself living in a society in which any person who had $200 or so could have you killed for belonging to a class that was not legally human. (Remember, this is what pro-lifers sincerely believe–that you can pay to have a person put to death and the courts won’t even acknowledge that that person is a human being.)

Now imagine someone using on you the most common arguments that pro-choice people use. “It should be a choice whether or not to let a black person live.” “Gays are not even human beings.” “Every transsexual should be a wanted transsexual; there is nothing wrong with killing unwanted transsexuals.” “The law should not infringe on my right to choose whether or not I want to have a Latino around.”

Pretty fucked-up, isn’t it?

The pro-choice arguments do not succeed because they cannot succeed. They don’t start with the same basic view of the world. If you believe that a fetus is a person, then you absolutely, positively cannot accept any arguments about choice, or freedom; such arguments are as fucked up and nonsensical as an argument about whether Matthew Shepherd’s murder was an issue of choice or freedom.

Viewed through that particular lens, pro-life violence becomes, I think, horrifyingly understandable. These people are not insane, unless you count accepting a flawed premise as a form of insanity; once you get past that premise, the rest makes perfect sense.

Am I justifying this kind of violence? Absolutely, positively not. I am not pro-life–not in any way, shape, or form. I do not accept the premises of the pro-lifers, and I also find much of the behavior of organized pro-lifers to be not only counterproductive but also hypocritical. I think that someone who limits their pro-life activism to waving around signs in front of an abortion clinic or sticking a bumper sticker on their car or throwing a few rocks or broken bottles at women entering a clinic are fools at best and the lowest form of self-righteous hypocrite at worst, and I’d really like to see some of these folks–middle-class conservative whites, most of ’em–actually take in an infant Down’s syndrome or an abandoned inner-city baby born addicted to crack if they sincerely believe they have any right whatsoever to tell other people what to do.

No, I am not justifying it. But I do understand it. I get where the violence comes from. It makes sense to me. When examined from inside the premises of the pro-life movement, it is the logical and inevitable outcome of logical reasoning. With people, as with computers, garbage in means garbage out. If you start from an unreasonable premise, you will arrive logically at an unreasonable conclusion.

250 thoughts on “Some thoughts on emotion, life, reason, and murder

  1. Franklyn, what I really value about you is in your writing I’m able to peer into psyches that formerly were alien to me. Thank you for your clarity.

  2. Franklyn, what I really value about you is in your writing I’m able to peer into psyches that formerly were alien to me. Thank you for your clarity.

  3. It seems like the disagreement is pretty intractable. I have two other thoughts, though:

    1. I think some pro-lifers aren’t so much in favor of the sanctity of fetus life as penalizing promiscuity. If you look at the rhetoric, there’s plenty of it.

    2. Regardless! I have seen some very, very good stuff about things that pro-life and pro-choice folks can agree upon. Both sides would (presumably) like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. The number one way to do this? Career planning for young women. Women who have a plan for what they want to do as adults are statistically way, way less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. Massive reduction in abortions! Hurrah!

      • Or are against teaching sex ed. Abstinence Only programs have been shown to result in more unwanted pregnancies and STDs than in programs that teach sex ed. Why are people so against the idea of teaching kids how their body works and what kind of control they can have over its functioning?

    • Both sides would (presumably) like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies

      No, the pro-life movement would not – they think that if you have sex, and get pregnant, it’s your fault, you should be forced to have a child.

      • I’ve actually spoken with a Catholic theologian (pro-life) who agreed fully and had a lot to say thinking about the same things. She may have been exceptional, but I can say that more than zero agree on this point.

    • I think you are spot-on with #1. I think a lot of the pro-lifers really just want women to have to pay for “opening their legs.” That’s why methods for reducing unwanted pregnancies (which seem like an excellent goal from both sides) are not palatable to many pro-lifers. Career planning for young women is great…IF they have access to birth control. And most of the religious right who make up the pro-life movement are very opposed to birth control. Sure, it lowers the rate of abortions, but it also lets people enjoy sex without being punished for it!

    • Speaking as a former fundamentalist (who thankfully didn’t live around any abortion clinics during that phase) who is now an abortion clinic escort…
      Point 1 is it, Point 2 is a pipe dream. I’ve spoken with lots of protesters outside of abortion clinics. Even though they say they are against abortion, they will not change their “abstinence only, hope-based” pregnancy prevention idea.

      They (religiously motivated anti-abortion rights people) aren’t against abortion so much as they are the sex-only-in-marriage-or-it-should-be-guilt-ridden-and-painful group.

      BTW–ever since I read this article, I have had a hard time keeping the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels from meaning the same thing.

    • 1. I think some pro-lifers aren’t so much in favor of the sanctity of fetus life as penalizing promiscuity. If you look at the rhetoric, there’s plenty of it

      I think that functionally, that’s true, but it’s an incidental point to the fact that they do sincerely, genuinely consider a fetus to be a person, with all the rights and privileges that implies, and are genuinely as horrified by the idea of killing a fetus as you and I might be at killing a grown person.

      The hatred of promiscuity is definitely there, no doubt about it, and is probably a side effect of good old-fashioned Puritan mores, but that’s not the whole of the reason behind the opposition to abortion.

  4. It seems like the disagreement is pretty intractable. I have two other thoughts, though:

    1. I think some pro-lifers aren’t so much in favor of the sanctity of fetus life as penalizing promiscuity. If you look at the rhetoric, there’s plenty of it.

    2. Regardless! I have seen some very, very good stuff about things that pro-life and pro-choice folks can agree upon. Both sides would (presumably) like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. The number one way to do this? Career planning for young women. Women who have a plan for what they want to do as adults are statistically way, way less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy. Massive reduction in abortions! Hurrah!

  5. Now, imagine that you live in a place exactly like the one that you live in, except that it is legal to kill people like you.

    Not only is it legal, but people like you aren’t even considered human beings at all.

    Hoooo.  Depending on the race and given history, this isn’t exactly a hypothetical.  (I know you get that, just yowza, &c.)

    Anyways.  First: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/images/prolifebeliefchart.gif

    For them to be consistent with their own beliefs, they would also have to picket fertility clinics for not raising every single fertilised egg.  They would have to be “pro-life” for every possible pregnancy – no exceptions for rape, or health of the mother/child, or incest.  They wouldn’t need to lie so egregiously.  And that’s even before one gets into the contraception crap.

    Not to mention there needs to be a place in your analogy for those who would have their own totally human gay/trans/black/other folk killed, and then go right back to picketing the place.

    So yes, I get where anti-choicers are coming from.  They’re coming from a place of deep misogyny.  The abortions themselves are incidental.

    [eta] And if I consider the partial-birth abortion ban (which apparently is based on the idea that women get third-trimester abortions on a lark), I go all rage o’clock.  The analogy here would be “pro-lifers” refusing funereal services to remove a corpse from your house, because they’re real human beings and that’s an affront to God and man.

    *breathes*  I’m going to go not drink coffee now.  *wry*

    • The problem that I see with the “pro-life belief chart” is that it undermines its own argument in order to score points and engage in hyperbole.

      Do some people who oppose abortions want women to suffer for the sin of having sex? Yes, absolutely. But it’s a mistake to dismiss all of the arguments against abortion so easily; it’s no different from people who oppose abortion saying that abortion is simply for irresponsible women who don’t feel like using condoms.

      For example, the argument about banning late-term abortion doesn’t hold water, because you’re not going to find any radical “pro-life” activist who opposes that but doesn’t also oppose other forms of abortion. These people find that particular type of procedure to be particularly heinous and so single it out for special attention, but that doesn’t mean they don’t oppose abortion across the board.

      There are some strong arguments in that chart, but I think it undermines itself a little too much.

  6. Now, imagine that you live in a place exactly like the one that you live in, except that it is legal to kill people like you.

    Not only is it legal, but people like you aren’t even considered human beings at all.

    Hoooo.  Depending on the race and given history, this isn’t exactly a hypothetical.  (I know you get that, just yowza, &c.)

    Anyways.  First: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/images/prolifebeliefchart.gif

    For them to be consistent with their own beliefs, they would also have to picket fertility clinics for not raising every single fertilised egg.  They would have to be “pro-life” for every possible pregnancy – no exceptions for rape, or health of the mother/child, or incest.  They wouldn’t need to lie so egregiously.  And that’s even before one gets into the contraception crap.

    Not to mention there needs to be a place in your analogy for those who would have their own totally human gay/trans/black/other folk killed, and then go right back to picketing the place.

    So yes, I get where anti-choicers are coming from.  They’re coming from a place of deep misogyny.  The abortions themselves are incidental.

    [eta] And if I consider the partial-birth abortion ban (which apparently is based on the idea that women get third-trimester abortions on a lark), I go all rage o’clock.  The analogy here would be “pro-lifers” refusing funereal services to remove a corpse from your house, because they’re real human beings and that’s an affront to God and man.

    *breathes*  I’m going to go not drink coffee now.  *wry*

  7. You’ve perplexed my brow. Perhaps it is due to, once again, my general different application of labels. I call myself pro-life. I do so because I am truly such. I find the chopping down of Christmas Trees to be a mournful event. I am angered flying over the Rockies now and seeing so many snowy tracts of land, as opposed to doing so prior to Bush opening up more and more land for logging.
    Perhaps it is because I take ‘pro-life’ as a badge of mine that I have a hard time with your assertion that pro-lifers sincerely believe any one thing.
    I agree that a lot of folks that take the ‘pro-life’ label aren’t actually for life. They’re often for the death penalty. Or against ways in which others live their life. Or various other things that conflict with my conception of ‘pro-life.’ Pro-Lifers of the more right, more religious type are often more of a “pro-you-having-my-idea-of-the-good-life.” That idea I take issue with.
    I suppose the most easily understood distinction I make between being ‘my pro-life’ and ‘their pro-life’ is that I do not desire to run anyone else’s life. I cannot take on your choices, I have enough of my own to make. That, and I would be doing you a disservice in the practice of living your life if I attempted to live it for you.
    I don’t cut down the forests, or kill the caterpillars in my garden. That doesn’t mean I’m not saddened when others do. More on topic, just because I disagree with the practices of the strip logger, doesn’t mean I’m going to off him with a stick.

    • In the context of the abortion debate, and especially in the context of violent, radical anti-abortion activism, the label “pro-life” has a very specific and narrow meaning that, when you get right down to it, really has little to do with life at all.

      You may not fit the label, but in the realm of political activism, labels often don’t mean what they seem to say. (A great example, the “states rights” activists of the 1950s and 1960s. In the context of civil rights, the expression “states rights” had little to do with Constitutional law or governance philosophy, and everything to do with opposition to civil rights legislation and support of racial segregation.)

      Coded use of language has always been part of the American political landscape.

      • Poo on coded language use.

        I think my main point, more succinctly put, was that it often falls to the opponent to utilize clear language where the proponent would prefer codes.

        Proponent: Feminist. Opponent: Man-hater.
        Proponent: Pro-life. Opponent: Anti-choice.

        To do something to not only disagree, but to bring their false label claim to life. Calling those that do such awful things (as murdering someone, as is the case in this latest news story) ‘pro-life’ when one doesn’t believe them to be, only gives heft to their claim – not yours.

        Of course, one could argue semantics all day (and sometimes I enjoy doing so – all in good fun of course.)

        (So much for succinctly…)

        • To do something to not only disagree, but to bring their false label claim to life. Calling those that do such awful things (as murdering someone, as is the case in this latest news story) ‘pro-life’ when one doesn’t believe them to be, only gives heft to their claim – not yours.

          True. But my goal here is not to rebut their claims (even though I do find their claims to be false), but rather to make them comprehensible. Using language the way they use it is a tool for being able to crawl into, and hence understand, their mindset. One need not accept an idea in order to entertain it.

          There are many people who claim the label of “pro-life” and actually mean it, but a person who calls himself “pro-life” and then shoots someone has a very specific definition of what that label means…

    • Here’s what Marty Klein (who I think kicks ass) has to say on this matter:

      “The anti-choice side (we’re ALL pro-life, after all) says it takes a “moral” position–that abortion is wrong. The pro-choice side says it takes a “moral” position–that adults should have personal autonomy.

      So OK, everyone has a moral position on abortion. These positions may conflict, but they’re both based on a moral vision. Neither side can logically deny that–these positions are based on equally heartfelt, equally clear, moral visions.

      What is NOT equivalent, however, is the political relevance of these moral visions.

      The success of our country, our political system, and our way of life comes from a set of principles–unusual in the history of the world–that are NOT up for discussion.

      The most important one of those principles is this: Everyone is allowed to believe what they want. Adults are free to do what they want, as long as they don’t hurt other people. In exchange for this extraordinary freedom, adults are expected to tolerate other adults believing and doing what they want.

      While the pro-choice and anti-choice positions are equally based on morality, the difference between them politically is quite simple, and quite profound.

      The pro-choice position is “I’ll behave according to my morality, and you behave according to yours.” The anti-choice position is “I’ll behave according to my morality, and you must behave according to mine, too.”
      The above is (c)Marty Klein.

      Of course, it’s the very definition of “other people” that is under discussion here!

      The rest is at http://www.sexualintelligence.org/

  8. You’ve perplexed my brow. Perhaps it is due to, once again, my general different application of labels. I call myself pro-life. I do so because I am truly such. I find the chopping down of Christmas Trees to be a mournful event. I am angered flying over the Rockies now and seeing so many snowy tracts of land, as opposed to doing so prior to Bush opening up more and more land for logging.
    Perhaps it is because I take ‘pro-life’ as a badge of mine that I have a hard time with your assertion that pro-lifers sincerely believe any one thing.
    I agree that a lot of folks that take the ‘pro-life’ label aren’t actually for life. They’re often for the death penalty. Or against ways in which others live their life. Or various other things that conflict with my conception of ‘pro-life.’ Pro-Lifers of the more right, more religious type are often more of a “pro-you-having-my-idea-of-the-good-life.” That idea I take issue with.
    I suppose the most easily understood distinction I make between being ‘my pro-life’ and ‘their pro-life’ is that I do not desire to run anyone else’s life. I cannot take on your choices, I have enough of my own to make. That, and I would be doing you a disservice in the practice of living your life if I attempted to live it for you.
    I don’t cut down the forests, or kill the caterpillars in my garden. That doesn’t mean I’m not saddened when others do. More on topic, just because I disagree with the practices of the strip logger, doesn’t mean I’m going to off him with a stick.

  9. This is absolutely fascinating. I’ve never thought through the issue from that angle. My instinct has always been to argue against the personhood of the fetus, though, and I have noticed that ‘pro-lifers’ don’t have any solid answer to that other than a religious conviction. My favorite comparison is this: a packet of flower seeds is to a bouquet as a fetus is to a human.

      • Seed would at the very least have to be the zygote.. as a seed has all the requisite needs to develop into the adult version of the species and parthenogenesis is still quite rare.. πŸ™‚

        A sprout, to me would be a newborn, as in it has emerged fro the protective cover of the earth but is vulnerable and new..

        A seedling would be the age when a toddler knows how to open the refrigerator door or otherwise scavenger food for themselves and if alone in the world could scavenge to survive (though might not ever become what some would consider ‘human’).

  10. This is absolutely fascinating. I’ve never thought through the issue from that angle. My instinct has always been to argue against the personhood of the fetus, though, and I have noticed that ‘pro-lifers’ don’t have any solid answer to that other than a religious conviction. My favorite comparison is this: a packet of flower seeds is to a bouquet as a fetus is to a human.

  11. bravo~

    Thats actually the first time anyone has EVER explained the radical “Pro-Life” point of view in a way that I can Understand.

    It still fucked up, but thank you for that example.

  12. bravo~

    Thats actually the first time anyone has EVER explained the radical “Pro-Life” point of view in a way that I can Understand.

    It still fucked up, but thank you for that example.

  13. Just a couple points…

    First, some folks actually say they are “pro-life” and mean it–they are against the death penalty, war, abortion, etc. Granted they’re a small subset of those who claim to be “pro-life”, but I actually KNOW some of them, so I know they really can and do exist.

    Second, while you tapped into the polically correct/manipulative reasoning behind the phrase “pro-life”, you continue to use it. Which surprises me. I have never been able to call them anything but anti-abortionists, because that’s what most of them are.

    Thanks, as always, for a thought-provoking post! πŸ™‚

    • Generally speaking, when I’m talking about the abortion debate I use “pro-choice” and “anti-abortion.” The term “pro-life” is not really a description so much as a political tag and a rhetorical tool, and it’s often inaccurate (there are many self-professed “pro-life” people for whom the value of the sanctity of life doesn’t seem to apply to anyone they don’t like).

      In this post, I made a conscious choice to use the phrase “pro-life” because if you’re trying to understand the world from that point of view, it’s helpful, I think, to use the same language they do. As a thought experiment, getting behind the eyes of a pro-lifer means adopting the labels of the pro-lifer.

      • I think the generally accepted term for the opposition among pro-choicers is anti-choice. It’s a little pithier and harder to disagree with than anti-abortion.

          • The New York Times uses “anti-choice” fairly regularly, actually. Now, if they would just stop putting most of the articles about women’s issues in the Fashion & Style section…

          • I think most everybody in the mainstream media uses both sides’ preferred terms for themselves, which seems reasonable to me.

          • which seems reasonable to me

            Why, if the “pro-life” side supports the death penalty, war, and does nothing to help mothers and children AFTER the children are born?

          • You might like Cheryl Wheeler’s satirical song, “Makes Good Sense To Me”.

            “And if some pretty little lady gets herself knocked up real good
            She’ll have to have that baby just because we think she should.
            In whose sick mind did it ever occur
            that a choice like that should be up to her
            They’re a godless bunch, cross we bear
            but as soon as that little tyke draws air
            we can wash our hands of the whole affair
            Makes good sense to me!”

          • Because the point of news is to report events objectively, and the point of argument is to convince people who are currently unconvinced. Needlessly inflammatory language does neither any favors.

    • I’ve tried the term “anti-abortionists” too, but it isn’t like most “pro-choice” people are fond of abortions. The right to have one, yes. But pro-abortion? That’s not quite right.

      I like the term “anti-sex” myself.

      • See, that’s the thing. I am pro-choice. I feel it is up to the individuals involved to make the decision. They should have the option–the choice–of abortion…or adoption…or single-parenthood or “let’s get married now ’cause you’re preggers”…or whatever. I also feel it is an individual’s choice to do what they can to prevent unwanted pregnancy in the first place and that things such as the “morning after pill” should be legal alternatives as well.

        The anti-abortionists are simply against abortion and many (not all!) feel that even preventing conception goes against God’s Plan.

        So there’s my logic behind my phraseology. Pro-choice advocates all options being available, accessible, legal, and safe. Anti-abortion is just that–against abortion. They’re not against the choice to adopt or keep or whatever. They are simply against abortion.

        To pick a nit…they’re not anti-sex, either. Sex is fine as long as it is sanctioned (i.e., the participants are married to each other) and the intent is reproduction. Perhaps “sex-negative” is more appropriate? *wink*

  14. Just a couple points…

    First, some folks actually say they are “pro-life” and mean it–they are against the death penalty, war, abortion, etc. Granted they’re a small subset of those who claim to be “pro-life”, but I actually KNOW some of them, so I know they really can and do exist.

    Second, while you tapped into the polically correct/manipulative reasoning behind the phrase “pro-life”, you continue to use it. Which surprises me. I have never been able to call them anything but anti-abortionists, because that’s what most of them are.

    Thanks, as always, for a thought-provoking post! πŸ™‚

  15. In the context of the abortion debate, and especially in the context of violent, radical anti-abortion activism, the label “pro-life” has a very specific and narrow meaning that, when you get right down to it, really has little to do with life at all.

    You may not fit the label, but in the realm of political activism, labels often don’t mean what they seem to say. (A great example, the “states rights” activists of the 1950s and 1960s. In the context of civil rights, the expression “states rights” had little to do with Constitutional law or governance philosophy, and everything to do with opposition to civil rights legislation and support of racial segregation.)

    Coded use of language has always been part of the American political landscape.

  16. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine said that her crazy sister thought it was ok to murder gay people, but not ok to have an abortion. My suggestion was to say: “Would you still keep the baby if you knew he would turn out gay?”

    • I bet I can answer that: Yes, because the baby at that point is still innocent. It might choose to become gay later in life, but it is wrong to punish a helpless infant for the immoral choices it might make later on. As long as the person is alive, they can still choose to repent.

      In order for this argument to succeed, you must accept the idea that sexual orientation is a choice, which I personally don’t. If you do accept that notion, and also accept the idea of personal redemption through religious salvation, the answer becomes obvious.

      Well, for some value of “obvious,” I suppose.

      • Ectropy already stated that it was known how the baby would turn out. A much more interesting question, really.

        My first guess would be that the baby would be considered an abomination, the same as a gay person, so it should be ok to abort it. But then your response got me thinking, that if people knew that a baby was going to be born defective, couldn’t they take some action while it was still in the womb to cure it?

        I think that your preconception that sexual orientation is not a choice really colored your answer. To my way of thinking, it’s irrelevant if it’s a choice or not. But it is true that a “right-thinking Christian” would make every attempt to cure this poor soul. That, of course, would mean you still couldn’t abort. You’d have to find some way of curing the child…either while in the womb, or perhaps helping the child after it was born.

        Personally, I’m not any value of Christian, though I can say this: if my child develops a hare-lip while in the womb, I’m going to make every effort to fix it while it’s in the womb. If I can’t and it is born with that hare-lip, then I will see what surgery is required to fix that after it’s born. Mental illnesses are a far more insidious problem; how can you know if a birth defect will cause your child to grow up with a sexual dysfunction?

        The only hope you have is to be a good role model for your kids, and let them know what is normal and what is a sexual dysfunction.

  17. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine said that her crazy sister thought it was ok to murder gay people, but not ok to have an abortion. My suggestion was to say: “Would you still keep the baby if you knew he would turn out gay?”

  18. Generally speaking, when I’m talking about the abortion debate I use “pro-choice” and “anti-abortion.” The term “pro-life” is not really a description so much as a political tag and a rhetorical tool, and it’s often inaccurate (there are many self-professed “pro-life” people for whom the value of the sanctity of life doesn’t seem to apply to anyone they don’t like).

    In this post, I made a conscious choice to use the phrase “pro-life” because if you’re trying to understand the world from that point of view, it’s helpful, I think, to use the same language they do. As a thought experiment, getting behind the eyes of a pro-lifer means adopting the labels of the pro-lifer.

  19. I bet I can answer that: Yes, because the baby at that point is still innocent. It might choose to become gay later in life, but it is wrong to punish a helpless infant for the immoral choices it might make later on. As long as the person is alive, they can still choose to repent.

    In order for this argument to succeed, you must accept the idea that sexual orientation is a choice, which I personally don’t. If you do accept that notion, and also accept the idea of personal redemption through religious salvation, the answer becomes obvious.

    Well, for some value of “obvious,” I suppose.

  20. Or are against teaching sex ed. Abstinence Only programs have been shown to result in more unwanted pregnancies and STDs than in programs that teach sex ed. Why are people so against the idea of teaching kids how their body works and what kind of control they can have over its functioning?

  21. Poo on coded language use.

    I think my main point, more succinctly put, was that it often falls to the opponent to utilize clear language where the proponent would prefer codes.

    Proponent: Feminist. Opponent: Man-hater.
    Proponent: Pro-life. Opponent: Anti-choice.

    To do something to not only disagree, but to bring their false label claim to life. Calling those that do such awful things (as murdering someone, as is the case in this latest news story) ‘pro-life’ when one doesn’t believe them to be, only gives heft to their claim – not yours.

    Of course, one could argue semantics all day (and sometimes I enjoy doing so – all in good fun of course.)

    (So much for succinctly…)

  22. To do something to not only disagree, but to bring their false label claim to life. Calling those that do such awful things (as murdering someone, as is the case in this latest news story) ‘pro-life’ when one doesn’t believe them to be, only gives heft to their claim – not yours.

    True. But my goal here is not to rebut their claims (even though I do find their claims to be false), but rather to make them comprehensible. Using language the way they use it is a tool for being able to crawl into, and hence understand, their mindset. One need not accept an idea in order to entertain it.

    There are many people who claim the label of “pro-life” and actually mean it, but a person who calls himself “pro-life” and then shoots someone has a very specific definition of what that label means…

  23. Given that most of these folks start out operating from an irrational belief system (their religion) it’s an easy leap to the sort of warped view point you so accurately describe.

    What’s really sad about that is that until the mid 70’s abortion was NOT an issue for mainstream American protestants and it was a deliberate & cynical move by various leaders who wanted to mold those Christians in to a cohesive voting block to MAKE abortion an issue for precisely one of the reasons you outlined… who wants to be thought of as being “pro death” rather than “pro life”?

    The people who started it knew & understood the thought game you used and they used it as a tool to shape these masses. Not at all coincidentally the same people made attacking gays part of their agenda.

    In both cases they chose targets where it would be easy to take people with the underlying delusion (belief in Abrahamic faiths, primarily Christianity) and convince people that if they weren’t ACTIVELY OPPOSED to these “evil forces” that they were allowing an abnegation of their faith.

    Scary stuff.

    • It really is. Manipulation of masses is heart-stoppingly easy sometimes. Study a little history – it’s been done pretty damn often.

      But here’s the thing: Until we can start, from kindergarten, critical thinking, we’re doomed to see history repeated. I started with my kid, before kindergarten. He is often shocked at the misconceptions his fellow students have now. He’s 12.

      I like to think that all of us work to educate, clarify, focus those around us who show any capacity to accept better, healthier ideas and views. πŸ™‚

      • That’s one reason both the business interests & the Christian right that make up the Republican base SO hate public education in this country & why they work to make sure reasoning & critical thinking aren’t taught there.

    • The reason why this became an issue when it did was because of the Pill. All of a sudden, females were able to engage in sex without fear to a degree that was unprecedented in the modern world. Of course in the premodern world where females had authority over childbirth, birth control and first-trimester abortion or(basically an induced miscarriage or very late menstrual period) were quietly dealt with among women. It was under the catholic church that this branch of medicine was taken over from women. Violently. Sources abound, so I don’t need to cite.

      Homophobia, which you mention, is a branch of a particularly christian evolution of misogyny.

      • No, sorry, you’re largely mistaken. After Roe v. Wade several conservative political groups seized on the idea of using abortion as a rallying point to drive organization & registration of conservative Christians as a voting block.

        The Christian Dominionists actually published works explaining that they would use abortion, homosexuality, and pornography as their whipping boys to bring groups together to achieve secular power.

      • “Homophobia” is a nonsense word, created specifically to turn the homosexual’s sexual dysfunction back upon those who recognize it as such…kind of like, “I’m not the sick one! You are! You’re scared of homosexuals! You’re a…a…homophobe!”.

        Kind of the way that the word bi is actually a shortened form of ambi, which was short for “ambisexual”…in short, a person who was ambivalent about how or where they got sexual gratification, as long as they got it.

  24. Given that most of these folks start out operating from an irrational belief system (their religion) it’s an easy leap to the sort of warped view point you so accurately describe.

    What’s really sad about that is that until the mid 70’s abortion was NOT an issue for mainstream American protestants and it was a deliberate & cynical move by various leaders who wanted to mold those Christians in to a cohesive voting block to MAKE abortion an issue for precisely one of the reasons you outlined… who wants to be thought of as being “pro death” rather than “pro life”?

    The people who started it knew & understood the thought game you used and they used it as a tool to shape these masses. Not at all coincidentally the same people made attacking gays part of their agenda.

    In both cases they chose targets where it would be easy to take people with the underlying delusion (belief in Abrahamic faiths, primarily Christianity) and convince people that if they weren’t ACTIVELY OPPOSED to these “evil forces” that they were allowing an abnegation of their faith.

    Scary stuff.

  25. I think the generally accepted term for the opposition among pro-choicers is anti-choice. It’s a little pithier and harder to disagree with than anti-abortion.

  26. I can kinda see where you’re going with this, but I’m not sure theres a huge amount of evidence that all the anti abortion types genuinely do regard abortion as equivalent to murder. If you try asking them what penalties a woman who gets an abortion should face, its very rare for them to say that they should face the same ones people convicted of murder do.
    Somewhere on youtube theres a video about this, I’ll see if I can dig it out. Also, hi, random reader, I’ve never met you but your posts are interesting πŸ™‚

    • I can kinda see where you’re going with this, but I’m not sure theres a huge amount of evidence that all the anti abortion types genuinely do regard abortion as equivalent to murder. If you try asking them what penalties a woman who gets an abortion should face, its very rare for them to say that they should face the same ones people convicted of murder do.

      Yep, and that is a weakness in the arguments against abortion.

      There are some people who do believe that a woman who seeks an abortion should legally be treated the same way as a person who hires a contract killer, and their position is, at the very least, more ideologically consistent with the notion that abortion is murder.

      But for most folks, I think they genuinely have a sincere emotional reaction that is identical to the emotional reaction we might have if we lived in a society where killing blacks or gays or transsexuals was legal and socially sanctioned, and so they oppose abortion on the basis of that emotional response, but they don’t think it through beyond that.

      It follows from the premise that “abortion = murder” that a woman who has an abortion is a murderer, but that requires a logical step beyond that first emotional response.

  27. I can kinda see where you’re going with this, but I’m not sure theres a huge amount of evidence that all the anti abortion types genuinely do regard abortion as equivalent to murder. If you try asking them what penalties a woman who gets an abortion should face, its very rare for them to say that they should face the same ones people convicted of murder do.
    Somewhere on youtube theres a video about this, I’ll see if I can dig it out. Also, hi, random reader, I’ve never met you but your posts are interesting πŸ™‚

  28. I can also understand the pro-life abortion doctor murderer’s point of view (not that I agree with it) from the sense of that Ethics 101 dilemma: would you kill one person if it meant saving the lives of a thousand more? One could be pro-life, but consider killing one person to save the many lives of those he would kill/abort to be the lesser evil, and the greater win for ‘life’.

  29. I can also understand the pro-life abortion doctor murderer’s point of view (not that I agree with it) from the sense of that Ethics 101 dilemma: would you kill one person if it meant saving the lives of a thousand more? One could be pro-life, but consider killing one person to save the many lives of those he would kill/abort to be the lesser evil, and the greater win for ‘life’.

  30. killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

    I got through the first 25 paragraphs nodding my head, so far so good. But then when you start talking about the pro-choice side of things, you lost me entirely.

    I don’t think it’s really so much that living, breathing humans are being murdered in cold blood that gets the fundies up in arms so much- if you were talking about rounding up those aforementioned groups, they wouldn’t kick up the same kind of fuss. It’s that these people being murdered haven’t had a chance to commit sin yet. It’s that they are innocent little persons being murdered, it makes murdering an abortionist an act of guardianship.

    As far as the pro-choice argument being successful or not: pro-choice people are not trying to change anyone’s minds here, I know I’m not. I have nothing to say to the ‘anti-choice / pro – life’ lobby. My attention is focused on those who might need or want to have an abortion, and those who have already. But mostly my attention is focused on those who consider sex outside of procreation to be a good thing, worth pursuing on its own.

    This issue is not like slavery or prohibition, in that it’s not a single binary, flip the switch it’s legal or not legal…. Even if the opposition wants to paint it that way.

    Just like the ‘pro life’ lobby, I think there are way too many abortions being performed, and I’d like to see more steps taken to bring that number down. Safer streets for women to walk without being raped, more nuanced, more intelligent approaches to domestic violence, and easier access to birth control. Where women have more control of their bodies and lives, abortion is going to go down. But the same measures I want to see taken to reduce the actual numbers of women wanting or needing abortions, the opposition wants to clamp down on as much as the abortions themselves. “it sends the wrong message” and “harm reduction is unacceptable compromise”.

    If this kind of energy were being spent debating the kind of childhood that makes healthy adults, or the pros and cons of compulsary education… I’d have a lot more attention for it all. But this is more like the argument clinic in Monty Python than an honest-to-God debate over the issues. Once a baby makes it safely out of the womb into the cold cruel world, it falls off the radar of the pro-life lobby, anything that follows is Somebody Else’s Problem.

    It’s not necessary to out-argue them, it’s only necessary to have an attention span longer than 9 months.

    • Re: killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

      As far as the pro-choice argument being successful or not: pro-choice people are not trying to change anyone’s minds here, I know I’m not.

      I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about whether they personally think abortion is moral or whether they would actually have one. I am absolutely trying to change people’s minds in terms of how they vote. I’m not okay with making abortion illegal for the people who want/need them, but there are a lot of folks out there who want this. So I do feel like I have a responsibility to try to encourage people not to let that choice get taken away.

    • Re: killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

      If one happens to be female, it’s not about 9 months; it’s about every day. They aren’t interested in the circumstances leading to the abortion. Women exist to get knocked up. Woman is a receptacle for sperm, not a creature with independent volition. The number of women who become pregnant by random stranger rapes is miniscule compared with the number who become pregnant by intimate partners with whom for various reasons they have reasons not to want to gestate. Remember, the mainstream media still refers to most forms of rape as “sex.” This is because an alarming number of people seem not to understand the difference.

      Women choosing abortion reminds them that women might choose to have intercourse. OR NOT. But the given is that intercourse is supposed to happen to women regardless of their wish to gestate. That’s what women are there for. But then it becomes their problem. Early curfew is only the beginning of the agenda of control over the female reproductive system.

      I’m not really ranting at you personally, just the paragraph you posted about “too many abortions” “safer streets” birth control access and domestic violence made me have to respond. We’re on the same side, but there is more to the argument.

      • Re: killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

        The list of action items is so big that it’s daunting. Back when the ERA was on the table, you could point to that as a shorthand for everything else that also needs doing, besides merely altering the constitution.

        I’m concerned sometimes that because a complete list is so huge, the whole slate gets set aside as too messy to bother with.

    • Re: killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

      As far as the pro-choice argument being successful or not: pro-choice people are not trying to change anyone’s minds here,

      Oh, I definitely think people are trying to do just that, at least in the legal system. The debate often revolves around whether or not abortion should be legal, and in that regard we absolutely are trying to change each others’ minds–or at least the minds of legislators. I want to convince legislators that it must remain legal; those who oppose abortion want to convince legislators to outlaw it.

      If this kind of energy were being spent debating the kind of childhood that makes healthy adults, or the pros and cons of compulsary education… I’d have a lot more attention for it all. But this is more like the argument clinic in Monty Python than an honest-to-God debate over the issues. Once a baby makes it safely out of the womb into the cold cruel world, it falls off the radar of the pro-life lobby, anything that follows is Somebody Else’s Problem.

      Yes, but that also follows from the emotional premise that abortion is murder. If you lived in a society where it was legal to kill some class of people, you might think that was wrong without also thinking that you should personally be responsible for the financial support of every member of that class.

      • Re: killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

        I guess I’m still not on the same sheet of music as you are, with abortion = murder. If that were all it was, I don’t think these people would be the ones objecting. Real people getting killed are part of a messy story with lots of angles. Palestine comes to mind…

        Because the unborn are symbols of innocence, they don’t have any of that messy baggage that real people carry. They are pure potential, nothing but potential. (for good or ill)

        So when pro-choice lobbies against unwanted children, the fundies have a huge blind spot around that- once a child is born, it’s no longer free from original sin.

        The reasons that I think murder is bad, are not the same as the reasons that these guys think murder is bad. I don’t like what violence does for the people who commit it, above and beyond what it does to the victims. If these people had the same concern. they might be able to compare the burden of raising an unwanted child with the burden of having murdered a complicated human being.

        I think you’re given them more credit for moral analysis than I do. For them, it’s a holy war. Holy wars are not fought on the issues, they’re fought on an emotional battleground.

        I want to fight a larger struggle than my opponents, lest they limit my agenda.

  31. killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

    I got through the first 25 paragraphs nodding my head, so far so good. But then when you start talking about the pro-choice side of things, you lost me entirely.

    I don’t think it’s really so much that living, breathing humans are being murdered in cold blood that gets the fundies up in arms so much- if you were talking about rounding up those aforementioned groups, they wouldn’t kick up the same kind of fuss. It’s that these people being murdered haven’t had a chance to commit sin yet. It’s that they are innocent little persons being murdered, it makes murdering an abortionist an act of guardianship.

    As far as the pro-choice argument being successful or not: pro-choice people are not trying to change anyone’s minds here, I know I’m not. I have nothing to say to the ‘anti-choice / pro – life’ lobby. My attention is focused on those who might need or want to have an abortion, and those who have already. But mostly my attention is focused on those who consider sex outside of procreation to be a good thing, worth pursuing on its own.

    This issue is not like slavery or prohibition, in that it’s not a single binary, flip the switch it’s legal or not legal…. Even if the opposition wants to paint it that way.

    Just like the ‘pro life’ lobby, I think there are way too many abortions being performed, and I’d like to see more steps taken to bring that number down. Safer streets for women to walk without being raped, more nuanced, more intelligent approaches to domestic violence, and easier access to birth control. Where women have more control of their bodies and lives, abortion is going to go down. But the same measures I want to see taken to reduce the actual numbers of women wanting or needing abortions, the opposition wants to clamp down on as much as the abortions themselves. “it sends the wrong message” and “harm reduction is unacceptable compromise”.

    If this kind of energy were being spent debating the kind of childhood that makes healthy adults, or the pros and cons of compulsary education… I’d have a lot more attention for it all. But this is more like the argument clinic in Monty Python than an honest-to-God debate over the issues. Once a baby makes it safely out of the womb into the cold cruel world, it falls off the radar of the pro-life lobby, anything that follows is Somebody Else’s Problem.

    It’s not necessary to out-argue them, it’s only necessary to have an attention span longer than 9 months.

  32. The scary thing is that the violent, radical anti-choicers are actually behaving more logically than most members of the movement. The vast majority of the people who go around saying or waving signs that “abortion is murder” do not condone treating women who have abortions as murderers under the law. They’re more willing to send doctors to jail, but again, not to punish them as murderers. I guess we should be grateful for hypocrisy in this case.

    But the hypocrisy of anti-choice leaders like Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry, who tried to absolve his organization of any responsibility while simultaneously referring to Tiller as “a mass-murderer” who “reaped what he sowed,” is pretty much unforgivable.

    Terry’s appalling comments illustrate why it’s impossible to be simultaneously pro-life and anti-choice. Unless you think a woman’s life is worth less than her fetus’s, that is. For example, I don’t hear anyone in the pro-life movement acknowledging the scores of women’s lives that Tiller saved. Whether or not one thinks that a fetus ought to have the full rights of a person, there’s no getting around the fact that denying women access to abortion denies them their full rights as people.

    For further reading, Pandagon has a couple of excellent posts on why the anti-choice movement is partially culpable for Terry’s murder, and why there can be no common ground in the abortion debate.

  33. The scary thing is that the violent, radical anti-choicers are actually behaving more logically than most members of the movement. The vast majority of the people who go around saying or waving signs that “abortion is murder” do not condone treating women who have abortions as murderers under the law. They’re more willing to send doctors to jail, but again, not to punish them as murderers. I guess we should be grateful for hypocrisy in this case.

    But the hypocrisy of anti-choice leaders like Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry, who tried to absolve his organization of any responsibility while simultaneously referring to Tiller as “a mass-murderer” who “reaped what he sowed,” is pretty much unforgivable.

    Terry’s appalling comments illustrate why it’s impossible to be simultaneously pro-life and anti-choice. Unless you think a woman’s life is worth less than her fetus’s, that is. For example, I don’t hear anyone in the pro-life movement acknowledging the scores of women’s lives that Tiller saved. Whether or not one thinks that a fetus ought to have the full rights of a person, there’s no getting around the fact that denying women access to abortion denies them their full rights as people.

    For further reading, Pandagon has a couple of excellent posts on why the anti-choice movement is partially culpable for Terry’s murder, and why there can be no common ground in the abortion debate.

  34. Thanks for this post; lots to think about and some insight into why some of my arguments in this area appear to carry no weight at all with certain people.

    I recently came across the use of the term ‘forced birth lobby’ used in place of ‘pro-life lobby’.

    • I recently came across the use of the term ‘forced birth lobby’ used in place of ‘pro-life lobby’.

      That’s thought-provoking, but I think it’s too extreme. With the exception of rape, no one is forced to have sex, so technically no one can be forced to give birth against their will because they can prevent pregnancy from happening in the first place. If you really don’t want to have a baby, you don’t have to have sex. And this is exactly what the anti-choice folks will tell you.

      Personally, I think that abstaining from sex unless you want a baby is an unreasonable thing to ask of people, and that no one should be required to carry out a pregnancy they didn’t want to have. But I think calling it “forced birth” takes things a little too far. I don’t like implying that people have no choice about things when they really do have a choice, even if it’s an exceedingly unpleasant one.

      • Forced Birth

        I wanted to point out that with the lack of access to reproductive health education, the lack of safe sense of self.. and with other sorts of assorted miserable features about life – a lot of people had very LITTLE choice.. or at least informed consent.. in regards to sex.

        …but then I’ve worked with some of the more damaged population. I KNOW how many little teen girls currently getting abortions are being passed around by daddy and his drinking buddies.. even if THAT isn’t what gets them pregnant it sets up their sense of value is dependent on sex and providing it.

        There is no more ‘choice’ in sex than in procuring shelter and food. Sometimes as literal shelter and food.. sometimes as in the only place in their lives where they have any emotional worth or power

        • Re: Forced Birth

          You are right. Choice isn’t a cut-and-dried thing, and a lot of situations that may not technically be considered rape are still not freely chosen.

          I still think the term “forced birth lobby” takes things too far, because there still are plenty of fully informed women who choose to have sex, get pregnant, and choose to abort. And for the record, I don’t think it’s okay to deny them that choice any more than it’s okay to deny the unfortunate girls you mention above.

        • Re: Forced Birth

          I was just about to write something like this, but checked the comments first and saw you had. I’m still new to the term and thinking it through – wouldn’t necessarily apply it to all so-called pro-lifers, but feel that it’s a very accurate term for those who, say, even oppose abortion in rape cases. And even women who choose to be pregnant sometimes have reasons to abort – plenty of women out there who’ve been happy to conceive but have later found the fetus is severely deformed. Taking away those women’s choice to terminate a pregnancy seems to me to be a pretty clear cut case of forced birth.

          • Re: Forced Birth

            wouldn’t necessarily apply it to all so-called pro-lifers, but feel that it’s a very accurate term for those who, say, even oppose abortion in rape cases.

            I would agree with this. There are plenty of pro-lifers (I believe the majority, but I could be wrong) who do support abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. I don’t think these people would fit under the term “forced birth lobby,” but the extremists who wouldn’t allow abortion under any circumstances would.

      • The whole “she should have kept her legs closed” argument doesn’t hold water. Women are socially, economically and hormonally conditioned to preserve relationships, especially with male intimate partners. Women are not the ones clamoring for unprotected intercourse, by and large; men are. But the pregnancy becomes disproportionately the woman’s problem for the rest of her life.

        • Women are socially, economically and hormonally conditioned to preserve relationships, especially with male intimate partners.

          This is true, but being strongly predisposed to do something and being forced to do something are not the same.

          • I didn’t say physical force.

            But when you talk about people being “forced” to do something (which was the whole point of this thread, the term “forced birth”), there is an implication that no other choice is available. And I simply don’t believe that being strongly predisposed towards a particular action is the same thing as being forced to do it.

            I also think it’s demeaning to women to say that just because they are socially (or worse, hormonally) conditioned in a certain way, they no longer have any choices. There are some extreme cases in which this is true, but I think you have to be incredibly careful about declaring that other people didn’t really make their own choices freely. It can be patronizing and disempowering.

  35. Thanks for this post; lots to think about and some insight into why some of my arguments in this area appear to carry no weight at all with certain people.

    I recently came across the use of the term ‘forced birth lobby’ used in place of ‘pro-life lobby’.

  36. Both sides would (presumably) like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies

    No, the pro-life movement would not – they think that if you have sex, and get pregnant, it’s your fault, you should be forced to have a child.

    • My own tweak to his thought exercise of adding the next level of complexity – that the adults protecting the fetus’s rights are merely conduits to the future, not agents in their own right – I would think that the first step would be a solid education of the youth to instill a sense of ability and choice in their lives.. after that.. I think it gets a LOT more difficult. Almost every ‘pro-lifer’ I have talked with at reconciliation rallies or round tables – when faced with the hard choices of an individual – were compassionate people.. well, compassionate women.. not many men showed up at the events I was present at.

      As to (and sorry for the gender stereotyping) the male person out there who sputters and froths at the mouth about it.. it seems to come back to the argument of ownership of one’s own body. It’s the only argument I have seen work.. where the man themselves finally admits they shouldn’t be forced to do things to their own body for the morals of others.

      • Yes, if only those men could understand that women are humans like themselves.

        As we’ve seen in the current neo-con rage against the current SCOTUS nominee, the quality of empathy is not held in high regard in certain circles.

        • When the bat-sh!t crazy right starts questioning Sotomayor about her abortion views, her response should be: “it is longstanding US policy not to cooperate with terrorists.”

    • I don’t know that there is a logical counter. We’re talking about an inherently emotional response, here. People who oppose abortion feel that it is murdering a person just as surely as I feel that a society in which homosexuals were put to death would be guilty of murdering people. I don’t know that there exists any argument whatsoever capable of convincing a person who opposes abortion that a fetus is not a child.

  37. Having stood on the “abortion is murder” side of the debate for most of my life, and only coming to the “a fetus is only a potential life, but in the meantime is a parasite” point of view in the last few years, I can say that you pretty much nailed it.

    I know that I often found myself conflicted because I didn’t want to really be “anti-choice” because I didn’t think the government should tell folks what to do with their bodies, but at the same time, viewing abortion as baby killing (which I genuinely did) generated a lot of internal struggle for me. I was definitely not okay with allowing the murder of an innocent victim to be without legal consequence, I just didn’t know how to handle this contradiction.

    The only way I was able to come to terms with these conflicts was to accept that, if abortion really *is* murder, then God would sort it out in the end. I did not believe that God would be so cruel as to condemn the soul of an aborted infant, and therefore that soul would have an opportunity to live despite the actions of the mother the first time around. I wasn’t comfortable being judge and jury over all of the folks who chose abortion, but I genuinely felt that they would get the proper comeuppance in the afterlife.

    That was when I believed in God, and souls, and an afterlife. And strangely, now that I realize that these are constructs to justify behavior which otherwise has no justification at all, I’ve found that I value life more, because there is no reward waiting if it turns out that “we” were wrong and offed someone undeservedly. There is no afterlife in which everyone gets their just desserts, for good or ill. That means that our decisions here and now matter *so* much more.

    However, I’ve also done a lot more thinking about what I truly believe constitutes personhood, and I no longer believe that the *potential* to develop into a person implies an entity whose well-being should be put ahead of existing people. I’ve also done some research on fetal brain development recently, and from what I’ve found, the squawling ball of flesh that tears itself free from the mother at full term could be replicated by a similar system with nothing more than a brain stem, and no capacity for what I consider “personhood”.

    So, as I said on ‘s journal, at the point at which the fetus could survive outside the womb with no intervention from the mother, I think that the anti-abortionists should be given the option to take over the child if they don’t want it aborted, but no woman should ever be required to carry a fetus (parasite) against her will. If the fetus cannot be delivered without danger to the health of the mother, then its potential for personhood cannot be allowed to outweigh the mother’s existing personhood.

    I don’t “hate” pro-lifers any more than I “hate” the religious, because I get where they’re coming from. I just wish I could educate them. Really, I think ignorance is the biggest problem the world has ever had.

    • I feel a kinship to your reply. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself in a public space where I could see it and be impressed by it. *proffered affection*

      • Thanks. Nice to “meet” you. And your following story is fantastic!

        I have to admit that, as much as my views are recently adjusted, I know there are still aspects I haven’t adequately explored. I enjoy discussing difficult and ground-breaking topics like this so that I can challenge myself to really consider the ramifications of my ethics, and modify them where appropriate to reflect the person I choose to be.

    • I think your former position is very similar to that of a lot of individuals who identify as pro-life. Unfortunately, that kind of thoughtful confusion and search for understanding has fuck-all to do with the anti-choice movement as a political entity.

      I agree that “abortion is murder” is a basic tenet that many anti-choicers operate from. But I think another main one, though it’s not shared by all, is misogyny. If anti-choicers only concern were that there be fewer abortions, then they’d want to keep abortion legal. The countries with the highest abortion rates are the countries were abortion is illegal. A lot of places in South America fit this bill. The countries with the lowest abortion rates are the countries that offer legal, accessible abortion as well as lots of government-funded social programs (of the kind that the right wing hates). The Scandinavian countries are a case in point.

      One of my biggest problems with the anti-choice movement is its inability to accept the difference between morality and law. They insist that that their ideology be the law of the land. That’s their overall goal, and they seem willing to sacrifice the concrete results they want, such as fewer abortions, because they refuse to consider that their ideology might be faulty. Of course, their ideology does succeed in oppressing women, so if that’s one of their unstated goals, then they’re still one for two.

      • “One of my biggest problems with the anti-choice movement is its inability to accept the difference between morality and law. They insist that that their ideology be the law of the land.”

        I think the problem there is that, from their perspective, “murder of innocents is wrong” is not an “ideology”, it’s an absolute. In general, I agree.

        Arguing on the basis that “this” life is more important or valuable than “that” life will never get either side anywhere. The only hope for progress is when one side realizes that “this” is only a *potential* person, but isn’t an actual person yet, and the other side realizes that a potential person still deserves at least a modicum of consideration.

  38. Having stood on the “abortion is murder” side of the debate for most of my life, and only coming to the “a fetus is only a potential life, but in the meantime is a parasite” point of view in the last few years, I can say that you pretty much nailed it.

    I know that I often found myself conflicted because I didn’t want to really be “anti-choice” because I didn’t think the government should tell folks what to do with their bodies, but at the same time, viewing abortion as baby killing (which I genuinely did) generated a lot of internal struggle for me. I was definitely not okay with allowing the murder of an innocent victim to be without legal consequence, I just didn’t know how to handle this contradiction.

    The only way I was able to come to terms with these conflicts was to accept that, if abortion really *is* murder, then God would sort it out in the end. I did not believe that God would be so cruel as to condemn the soul of an aborted infant, and therefore that soul would have an opportunity to live despite the actions of the mother the first time around. I wasn’t comfortable being judge and jury over all of the folks who chose abortion, but I genuinely felt that they would get the proper comeuppance in the afterlife.

    That was when I believed in God, and souls, and an afterlife. And strangely, now that I realize that these are constructs to justify behavior which otherwise has no justification at all, I’ve found that I value life more, because there is no reward waiting if it turns out that “we” were wrong and offed someone undeservedly. There is no afterlife in which everyone gets their just desserts, for good or ill. That means that our decisions here and now matter *so* much more.

    However, I’ve also done a lot more thinking about what I truly believe constitutes personhood, and I no longer believe that the *potential* to develop into a person implies an entity whose well-being should be put ahead of existing people. I’ve also done some research on fetal brain development recently, and from what I’ve found, the squawling ball of flesh that tears itself free from the mother at full term could be replicated by a similar system with nothing more than a brain stem, and no capacity for what I consider “personhood”.

    So, as I said on ‘s journal, at the point at which the fetus could survive outside the womb with no intervention from the mother, I think that the anti-abortionists should be given the option to take over the child if they don’t want it aborted, but no woman should ever be required to carry a fetus (parasite) against her will. If the fetus cannot be delivered without danger to the health of the mother, then its potential for personhood cannot be allowed to outweigh the mother’s existing personhood.

    I don’t “hate” pro-lifers any more than I “hate” the religious, because I get where they’re coming from. I just wish I could educate them. Really, I think ignorance is the biggest problem the world has ever had.

  39. I think you are spot-on with #1. I think a lot of the pro-lifers really just want women to have to pay for “opening their legs.” That’s why methods for reducing unwanted pregnancies (which seem like an excellent goal from both sides) are not palatable to many pro-lifers. Career planning for young women is great…IF they have access to birth control. And most of the religious right who make up the pro-life movement are very opposed to birth control. Sure, it lowers the rate of abortions, but it also lets people enjoy sex without being punished for it!

  40. Re: killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

    As far as the pro-choice argument being successful or not: pro-choice people are not trying to change anyone’s minds here, I know I’m not.

    I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about whether they personally think abortion is moral or whether they would actually have one. I am absolutely trying to change people’s minds in terms of how they vote. I’m not okay with making abortion illegal for the people who want/need them, but there are a lot of folks out there who want this. So I do feel like I have a responsibility to try to encourage people not to let that choice get taken away.

  41. Seed would at the very least have to be the zygote.. as a seed has all the requisite needs to develop into the adult version of the species and parthenogenesis is still quite rare.. πŸ™‚

    A sprout, to me would be a newborn, as in it has emerged fro the protective cover of the earth but is vulnerable and new..

    A seedling would be the age when a toddler knows how to open the refrigerator door or otherwise scavenger food for themselves and if alone in the world could scavenge to survive (though might not ever become what some would consider ‘human’).

  42. The New York Times uses “anti-choice” fairly regularly, actually. Now, if they would just stop putting most of the articles about women’s issues in the Fashion & Style section…

  43. Some thoughts independent of the seed/bouquet debate.. πŸ™‚

    Daughterling and I were at OMSI recently admiring the circle of (real, embalmed, preserved) human embryos and fetuses from about 4 weeks to full term they have set up there.. and privately among ourselves looking at when we, personally, thought the parasitic infection became independent creature. As we walked around we looked not only at the exhibit, but talked about a theoretical teenage mother, or rape victim, or women who already had 2 or more other kids.. and what she would be aware of happening to her own body or perhaps thinking at each stage..

    Embryonic development was certainly NOT human. We both agreed right off that ending the pregnancy in the embryonic stage was not even a moral issue.. it was simply a parasitic infection at that point. Sadly, though, some woman (might/could) get through the whole embryonic stage without even realizing or confirming they were pregnant yet.. especially if they lacked access to heath care or proper reproductive education.

    We thought that the eyelashes and apparent dreaming and thumb sucking stage of about 13-15 weeks development was compelling.. but then talked about how the host mother (if of limited means or medical access) might have just gotten enough resources together to end the pregnancy at that stage.. just told her parents or boyfriend or partner.. just had enough irrefutable evidence that they MUST be pregnant and couldn’t write off as the flu.. and daughterling and I agreed that the freedom of the host mother to make the choice at that point to NOT become a parent was even more compelling and there should be no limits place there either.

    We found the proto-viability of the 22 week to 26 week old fetus was interesting! ..and talked about the amount of medical care and long term health concerns of treating these babies as viable.. basically going with the anti-abortionists could take over the medical cost and care at this point and leave the host mother to walk away (you know if any would put there money where their mouth was and would hospice a sick or damaged or dying child) argument.. but then daughterling broke into an interesting line of thought where the host mother shouldn’t need to be compromised to have flesh of her flesh essentially enslaved to other people’s morals.. who might want to forbid an abortion by this stage of development. She spoke about how a potential mother had to choose what was right for herself and for the proto-human, not only because it was her right to choose.. but it was her responsibility to choose. This might have spawned from the discussion that this was also the developmental stage when many profound disabilities might become known.

    After 30 weeks the exhibits were labeled as stillbirths and daughterling and I were both struck about how terribly painful that loss must be.. just in the amount of physical and hormonal toll on the body alone – not to mention any plans or hopes or dreams built up around the the existence of a potential human.. We really felt for ANY woman that might feel so trapped by her pregnancy and without resources that abortion seemed the best option at this later stage. That there would likely be profound grief over the decision even if it ended up being the right one.. and how much nurturance we hoped that person could get.

    Surprisingly, to me, at no point did my daughter speak up that she felt abortion was wrong or immoral by this point of development – I kind of expected her to. I kind of thought she would take the general stance that the ever-changing and untrustworthy ‘medical viability out of the womb’ stage should be a cut off point for no longer allowing abortions – I know she has heard that position spoken aloud around her before. She just spoke about how hard and painful so many of these decisions became as time progressed.. and how much harder it was the poor and under-educated had it because they were pushed to the margins of time and ability and access to choose.

    • I think you did a decent job portraying your thought exercise.. but I think you fell a little shy on some of the vehemence felt by these individuals of ‘pro-life’ conviction.

      The fetus is not just human – just like them – it is MORE human than they are. It is the untarnished potential of all that COULD be.. without the sin and waste they have made of their own life.

      I have never talked with a pro-life individual (or at least a pro-life woman of this variety) who did not also somehow believe in the own immorality and lack of right to the possibility of life – that was reserved for the next generation. They were valuable only as vehicles and conduits for the future.. not necessarily in and of/for themselves. ..but this might be that many of the ‘pro-life’ women I have had this meaningful or heartfelt a discussion with on this topic had had abortions of their own and profoundly regretted them.


      I have an interesting relationship to the legal right and access to abortion – I would not be here without it. My mother conceived a child before me, contracted rubella during the pregnancy, and made the decision not to carry that baby to term (also out of wedlock.. also to even younger parents than when they were when they had me.. also when there was still recreational drug use in her life). I was conceived in what would have been that fetus’s 6th or 7th month of development. I would, literally, not be here if my mother hadn’t had access and the right to make her own reproductive decisions about her body.

    • Re: Some thoughts independent of the seed/bouquet debate.. πŸ™‚

      It’s very cool that you had that conversation with your daughter. My daughter’s not quite five, so we mostly talk about things like why Donald Duck is always so angry.

      Just to clarify though, there’s actually no such thing in this country as an elective late-term abortion. “Third trimester abortions are less than 1% of all abortions and must be medically indicated.” This means either that the fetus isn’t viable or that the life or health of the mother is at serious risk. So most of the very small number of women who have late-term abortions, the kind provided by Dr. Tiller and only two or three other doctors in the entire country, are not having them because they don’t have access to a better option. They’re having a late-term abortion because it is their best option. And I’m sure it’s heartbreaking, because most of them probably aren’t conflicted at all. They want wholeheartedly to have their baby; they just can’t. These are the women Dr. Tiller served, whose lives he saved, whose lives, without him, will now be in greater danger due to lack of necessary medical services.

      • Daughterling will be 11 this summer! She still LIKES me. Heh. (Most of the time.)

        The point of our discussion wasn’t what was legal.. it was.. like an expedition to uncover a personal truth.. or at least to have SOMETHING to talk about to begin a longer-term discussion.

        Your legal clarification may be valid for the broader conversation – and welcome for it – but I don’t tend to look to laws to form or match my own ethics.

        I’d worked with a teenage girl at about 32 weeks.. who’d a ‘mental health’ late abortion. (Note: late abortion.. not late-term.. late and term are two separate things and late-term often gets used to inflame the argument.) She desperately did NOT want the child and had been locked up by her family to keep her from seeking any assistance or options. IT was a very painful process for all involved.

        I did not need to share that with the daughterling yet… but the amount of mental effort it all took to look to the mother and try to help her save HER life.. her future.. was quite a learning experience for me. This was a child already on the ground that needed more love and care and support than any theoretical child that could be.

  44. Some thoughts independent of the seed/bouquet debate.. πŸ™‚

    Daughterling and I were at OMSI recently admiring the circle of (real, embalmed, preserved) human embryos and fetuses from about 4 weeks to full term they have set up there.. and privately among ourselves looking at when we, personally, thought the parasitic infection became independent creature. As we walked around we looked not only at the exhibit, but talked about a theoretical teenage mother, or rape victim, or women who already had 2 or more other kids.. and what she would be aware of happening to her own body or perhaps thinking at each stage..

    Embryonic development was certainly NOT human. We both agreed right off that ending the pregnancy in the embryonic stage was not even a moral issue.. it was simply a parasitic infection at that point. Sadly, though, some woman (might/could) get through the whole embryonic stage without even realizing or confirming they were pregnant yet.. especially if they lacked access to heath care or proper reproductive education.

    We thought that the eyelashes and apparent dreaming and thumb sucking stage of about 13-15 weeks development was compelling.. but then talked about how the host mother (if of limited means or medical access) might have just gotten enough resources together to end the pregnancy at that stage.. just told her parents or boyfriend or partner.. just had enough irrefutable evidence that they MUST be pregnant and couldn’t write off as the flu.. and daughterling and I agreed that the freedom of the host mother to make the choice at that point to NOT become a parent was even more compelling and there should be no limits place there either.

    We found the proto-viability of the 22 week to 26 week old fetus was interesting! ..and talked about the amount of medical care and long term health concerns of treating these babies as viable.. basically going with the anti-abortionists could take over the medical cost and care at this point and leave the host mother to walk away (you know if any would put there money where their mouth was and would hospice a sick or damaged or dying child) argument.. but then daughterling broke into an interesting line of thought where the host mother shouldn’t need to be compromised to have flesh of her flesh essentially enslaved to other people’s morals.. who might want to forbid an abortion by this stage of development. She spoke about how a potential mother had to choose what was right for herself and for the proto-human, not only because it was her right to choose.. but it was her responsibility to choose. This might have spawned from the discussion that this was also the developmental stage when many profound disabilities might become known.

    After 30 weeks the exhibits were labeled as stillbirths and daughterling and I were both struck about how terribly painful that loss must be.. just in the amount of physical and hormonal toll on the body alone – not to mention any plans or hopes or dreams built up around the the existence of a potential human.. We really felt for ANY woman that might feel so trapped by her pregnancy and without resources that abortion seemed the best option at this later stage. That there would likely be profound grief over the decision even if it ended up being the right one.. and how much nurturance we hoped that person could get.

    Surprisingly, to me, at no point did my daughter speak up that she felt abortion was wrong or immoral by this point of development – I kind of expected her to. I kind of thought she would take the general stance that the ever-changing and untrustworthy ‘medical viability out of the womb’ stage should be a cut off point for no longer allowing abortions – I know she has heard that position spoken aloud around her before. She just spoke about how hard and painful so many of these decisions became as time progressed.. and how much harder it was the poor and under-educated had it because they were pushed to the margins of time and ability and access to choose.

  45. I recently came across the use of the term ‘forced birth lobby’ used in place of ‘pro-life lobby’.

    That’s thought-provoking, but I think it’s too extreme. With the exception of rape, no one is forced to have sex, so technically no one can be forced to give birth against their will because they can prevent pregnancy from happening in the first place. If you really don’t want to have a baby, you don’t have to have sex. And this is exactly what the anti-choice folks will tell you.

    Personally, I think that abstaining from sex unless you want a baby is an unreasonable thing to ask of people, and that no one should be required to carry out a pregnancy they didn’t want to have. But I think calling it “forced birth” takes things a little too far. I don’t like implying that people have no choice about things when they really do have a choice, even if it’s an exceedingly unpleasant one.

  46. I think the argument falls down at the point where he murdered a single man, of relative insignificance in the cause. It would be like a local ‘sympathizer’ killing a single Nazi soldier for marching Jews into death chambers. Noble, under some definitions. Pointless, under most.

    Fanatics are still fanatics, whether their cause is based on something we feel is a reasonable premise or not.

    The sad thing is that it only gained as much meaning, significance, and publicity as it has as a result of the outrage of the pro-choicers. By our blogs, rants, raves, interviews, etc., we have given this man martyrdom and the mainstream public forum he obviously so desperately craved.

    • Also, I would like to add that in the Catholic religion, which many of the pro-life who are also anti-death penalty and anti-war belong to, not only does a fetus have an immortal soul from the moment of conception, but that soul will be doomed to wander outside the gates of hell for eternity if it is not baptized before the death of its body.

      However, a stillborn child cannot be baptized, because there must be a ‘breath of life’ before baptism may be performed (traditionally speaking). So, until a child takes its first breath, it is not alive enough to receive baptism, but the unique immortal soul has been created.

      By this argument, it is much less cruel to let the child be born, to baptize it, and to then euthanize it. Better to kill a living being than to condemn an immortal soul.

      NOTE: I don’t subscribe to this theory.

        • That’s actually where the practice of infant baptism came from; parents were terrified during the dark ages that their infants wouldn’t go to heaven if they died in early childhood, as was all to common. There is even a different funeral rite for unbaptized infants.

          The precise current wording is “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism. ” (Catechism section 1261)

          The more recent ‘ruling’ does actually remove the existence of limbo (http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0702216.htm); however, most Catholics reflect the beliefs and views in which they were brought up, not the most recent off-the-press papal rulings on the subject.

          There is, however, an ‘exception clause’ as available at http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2008/10/unbaptized-babies-that-die-five.html (don’t have time to look up reputable sources, sorry) http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2008/10/unbaptized-babies-that-die-five.html for ‘baptism by blood’ saying that aborted fetuses qualify as martyrs, and are therefore given salvation upon death.

          Again, not what the mainstream Church teaches.

      • Also, I would like to add that in the Catholic religion, which many of the pro-life who are also anti-death penalty and anti-war belong to, not only does a fetus have an immortal soul from the moment of conception, but that soul will be doomed to wander outside the gates of hell for eternity if it is not baptized before the death of its body.

        Wow. I don’t know how it is that I can continue to be surprised by the cruelty of Catholic theology.

  47. I think the argument falls down at the point where he murdered a single man, of relative insignificance in the cause. It would be like a local ‘sympathizer’ killing a single Nazi soldier for marching Jews into death chambers. Noble, under some definitions. Pointless, under most.

    Fanatics are still fanatics, whether their cause is based on something we feel is a reasonable premise or not.

    The sad thing is that it only gained as much meaning, significance, and publicity as it has as a result of the outrage of the pro-choicers. By our blogs, rants, raves, interviews, etc., we have given this man martyrdom and the mainstream public forum he obviously so desperately craved.

  48. My own tweak to his thought exercise of adding the next level of complexity – that the adults protecting the fetus’s rights are merely conduits to the future, not agents in their own right – I would think that the first step would be a solid education of the youth to instill a sense of ability and choice in their lives.. after that.. I think it gets a LOT more difficult. Almost every ‘pro-lifer’ I have talked with at reconciliation rallies or round tables – when faced with the hard choices of an individual – were compassionate people.. well, compassionate women.. not many men showed up at the events I was present at.

    As to (and sorry for the gender stereotyping) the male person out there who sputters and froths at the mouth about it.. it seems to come back to the argument of ownership of one’s own body. It’s the only argument I have seen work.. where the man themselves finally admits they shouldn’t be forced to do things to their own body for the morals of others.

  49. Also, I would like to add that in the Catholic religion, which many of the pro-life who are also anti-death penalty and anti-war belong to, not only does a fetus have an immortal soul from the moment of conception, but that soul will be doomed to wander outside the gates of hell for eternity if it is not baptized before the death of its body.

    However, a stillborn child cannot be baptized, because there must be a ‘breath of life’ before baptism may be performed (traditionally speaking). So, until a child takes its first breath, it is not alive enough to receive baptism, but the unique immortal soul has been created.

    By this argument, it is much less cruel to let the child be born, to baptize it, and to then euthanize it. Better to kill a living being than to condemn an immortal soul.

    NOTE: I don’t subscribe to this theory.

  50. I feel a kinship to your reply. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself in a public space where I could see it and be impressed by it. *proffered affection*

  51. Ah, the synchronicity of LiveJournal! Earlier today I was ranting (to myself) about how people are rarely willing to truly get inside the heads of folks who disagree with them. And yet–how can you ever hope to persuade anyone to your viewpoint if you don’t really try to understand their beliefs? For that matter, how can you really be certain that your own viewpoint is the best one?

    I find myself often trying to explain other people’s viewpoints in discussions (much like you did here), only to find myself getting attacked for “agreeing with them” or “standing up for them,” which is not what I am trying to do. It’s aggravating that many people don’t see the point of trying to understand views that are abhorrent to them.

    I can only see this getting worse. Schools and even universities now are allowing students to opt out of reading books that espouse views they don’t agree with. I can’t even begin to express my anger and disgust over this. No one is asking you to agree with the books, but isn’t part of an education learning about how *other* people view the world?

    Anyway, I think you did an excellent job with this. I have tried to see things from the “pro-life” view before and it leaves me wondering if there is any way we’ll ever get resolution on this issue. Barring proof that a conceptus does not in fact possess a soul, I don’t think there is. (and really, would God himself spontaneously abort 20% of all fertilized eggs if they had souls? But I’m preaching to the choir here…)

  52. Ah, the synchronicity of LiveJournal! Earlier today I was ranting (to myself) about how people are rarely willing to truly get inside the heads of folks who disagree with them. And yet–how can you ever hope to persuade anyone to your viewpoint if you don’t really try to understand their beliefs? For that matter, how can you really be certain that your own viewpoint is the best one?

    I find myself often trying to explain other people’s viewpoints in discussions (much like you did here), only to find myself getting attacked for “agreeing with them” or “standing up for them,” which is not what I am trying to do. It’s aggravating that many people don’t see the point of trying to understand views that are abhorrent to them.

    I can only see this getting worse. Schools and even universities now are allowing students to opt out of reading books that espouse views they don’t agree with. I can’t even begin to express my anger and disgust over this. No one is asking you to agree with the books, but isn’t part of an education learning about how *other* people view the world?

    Anyway, I think you did an excellent job with this. I have tried to see things from the “pro-life” view before and it leaves me wondering if there is any way we’ll ever get resolution on this issue. Barring proof that a conceptus does not in fact possess a soul, I don’t think there is. (and really, would God himself spontaneously abort 20% of all fertilized eggs if they had souls? But I’m preaching to the choir here…)

  53. I think you did a decent job portraying your thought exercise.. but I think you fell a little shy on some of the vehemence felt by these individuals of ‘pro-life’ conviction.

    The fetus is not just human – just like them – it is MORE human than they are. It is the untarnished potential of all that COULD be.. without the sin and waste they have made of their own life.

    I have never talked with a pro-life individual (or at least a pro-life woman of this variety) who did not also somehow believe in the own immorality and lack of right to the possibility of life – that was reserved for the next generation. They were valuable only as vehicles and conduits for the future.. not necessarily in and of/for themselves. ..but this might be that many of the ‘pro-life’ women I have had this meaningful or heartfelt a discussion with on this topic had had abortions of their own and profoundly regretted them.


    I have an interesting relationship to the legal right and access to abortion – I would not be here without it. My mother conceived a child before me, contracted rubella during the pregnancy, and made the decision not to carry that baby to term (also out of wedlock.. also to even younger parents than when they were when they had me.. also when there was still recreational drug use in her life). I was conceived in what would have been that fetus’s 6th or 7th month of development. I would, literally, not be here if my mother hadn’t had access and the right to make her own reproductive decisions about her body.

  54. Thanks. Nice to “meet” you. And your following story is fantastic!

    I have to admit that, as much as my views are recently adjusted, I know there are still aspects I haven’t adequately explored. I enjoy discussing difficult and ground-breaking topics like this so that I can challenge myself to really consider the ramifications of my ethics, and modify them where appropriate to reflect the person I choose to be.

  55. Forced Birth

    I wanted to point out that with the lack of access to reproductive health education, the lack of safe sense of self.. and with other sorts of assorted miserable features about life – a lot of people had very LITTLE choice.. or at least informed consent.. in regards to sex.

    …but then I’ve worked with some of the more damaged population. I KNOW how many little teen girls currently getting abortions are being passed around by daddy and his drinking buddies.. even if THAT isn’t what gets them pregnant it sets up their sense of value is dependent on sex and providing it.

    There is no more ‘choice’ in sex than in procuring shelter and food. Sometimes as literal shelter and food.. sometimes as in the only place in their lives where they have any emotional worth or power

  56. I think your former position is very similar to that of a lot of individuals who identify as pro-life. Unfortunately, that kind of thoughtful confusion and search for understanding has fuck-all to do with the anti-choice movement as a political entity.

    I agree that “abortion is murder” is a basic tenet that many anti-choicers operate from. But I think another main one, though it’s not shared by all, is misogyny. If anti-choicers only concern were that there be fewer abortions, then they’d want to keep abortion legal. The countries with the highest abortion rates are the countries were abortion is illegal. A lot of places in South America fit this bill. The countries with the lowest abortion rates are the countries that offer legal, accessible abortion as well as lots of government-funded social programs (of the kind that the right wing hates). The Scandinavian countries are a case in point.

    One of my biggest problems with the anti-choice movement is its inability to accept the difference between morality and law. They insist that that their ideology be the law of the land. That’s their overall goal, and they seem willing to sacrifice the concrete results they want, such as fewer abortions, because they refuse to consider that their ideology might be faulty. Of course, their ideology does succeed in oppressing women, so if that’s one of their unstated goals, then they’re still one for two.

  57. It really is. Manipulation of masses is heart-stoppingly easy sometimes. Study a little history – it’s been done pretty damn often.

    But here’s the thing: Until we can start, from kindergarten, critical thinking, we’re doomed to see history repeated. I started with my kid, before kindergarten. He is often shocked at the misconceptions his fellow students have now. He’s 12.

    I like to think that all of us work to educate, clarify, focus those around us who show any capacity to accept better, healthier ideas and views. πŸ™‚

  58. Re: Some thoughts independent of the seed/bouquet debate.. πŸ™‚

    It’s very cool that you had that conversation with your daughter. My daughter’s not quite five, so we mostly talk about things like why Donald Duck is always so angry.

    Just to clarify though, there’s actually no such thing in this country as an elective late-term abortion. “Third trimester abortions are less than 1% of all abortions and must be medically indicated.” This means either that the fetus isn’t viable or that the life or health of the mother is at serious risk. So most of the very small number of women who have late-term abortions, the kind provided by Dr. Tiller and only two or three other doctors in the entire country, are not having them because they don’t have access to a better option. They’re having a late-term abortion because it is their best option. And I’m sure it’s heartbreaking, because most of them probably aren’t conflicted at all. They want wholeheartedly to have their baby; they just can’t. These are the women Dr. Tiller served, whose lives he saved, whose lives, without him, will now be in greater danger due to lack of necessary medical services.

  59. Daughterling will be 11 this summer! She still LIKES me. Heh. (Most of the time.)

    The point of our discussion wasn’t what was legal.. it was.. like an expedition to uncover a personal truth.. or at least to have SOMETHING to talk about to begin a longer-term discussion.

    Your legal clarification may be valid for the broader conversation – and welcome for it – but I don’t tend to look to laws to form or match my own ethics.

    I’d worked with a teenage girl at about 32 weeks.. who’d a ‘mental health’ late abortion. (Note: late abortion.. not late-term.. late and term are two separate things and late-term often gets used to inflame the argument.) She desperately did NOT want the child and had been locked up by her family to keep her from seeking any assistance or options. IT was a very painful process for all involved.

    I did not need to share that with the daughterling yet… but the amount of mental effort it all took to look to the mother and try to help her save HER life.. her future.. was quite a learning experience for me. This was a child already on the ground that needed more love and care and support than any theoretical child that could be.

  60. Re: Forced Birth

    You are right. Choice isn’t a cut-and-dried thing, and a lot of situations that may not technically be considered rape are still not freely chosen.

    I still think the term “forced birth lobby” takes things too far, because there still are plenty of fully informed women who choose to have sex, get pregnant, and choose to abort. And for the record, I don’t think it’s okay to deny them that choice any more than it’s okay to deny the unfortunate girls you mention above.

  61. I began writing a response to this but it ended up far too long for a comment post.

    The full entry is here http://subonfire.livejournal.com/386026.html

    I support abortion, for any reason.
    Yes, I think it’s killing. And yes, I think it’s justified.
    That is not a contradiction in my mind, any more than killing in self defense, revenge or patriotism would be to someone else.

    So, does that make me the same as the guy who killed the abortionist? Morally, yep.

    That makes me so uncomfortable I can’t begin to tell you, but there is no getting away from it.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on my detailed post.

  62. I began writing a response to this but it ended up far too long for a comment post.

    The full entry is here http://subonfire.livejournal.com/386026.html

    I support abortion, for any reason.
    Yes, I think it’s killing. And yes, I think it’s justified.
    That is not a contradiction in my mind, any more than killing in self defense, revenge or patriotism would be to someone else.

    So, does that make me the same as the guy who killed the abortionist? Morally, yep.

    That makes me so uncomfortable I can’t begin to tell you, but there is no getting away from it.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on my detailed post.

  63. That’s one reason both the business interests & the Christian right that make up the Republican base SO hate public education in this country & why they work to make sure reasoning & critical thinking aren’t taught there.

  64. “One of my biggest problems with the anti-choice movement is its inability to accept the difference between morality and law. They insist that that their ideology be the law of the land.”

    I think the problem there is that, from their perspective, “murder of innocents is wrong” is not an “ideology”, it’s an absolute. In general, I agree.

    Arguing on the basis that “this” life is more important or valuable than “that” life will never get either side anywhere. The only hope for progress is when one side realizes that “this” is only a *potential* person, but isn’t an actual person yet, and the other side realizes that a potential person still deserves at least a modicum of consideration.

  65. I think of it as a potential person, for sure, but its potential is as yet unrealized. (And I do know that the point at which that potential person/person bridge is crossed is highly subjective, and I don’t pretend to have a universal answer for it.)

  66. I think of it as a potential person, for sure, but its potential is as yet unrealized. (And I do know that the point at which that potential person/person bridge is crossed is highly subjective, and I don’t pretend to have a universal answer for it.)

  67. I can understand their sentimental passion the way I can understand that of a radical environmentalist who weeps (and lethally sabotages) against the slaughter of trees.

    Instead of saying these people are “pro life” I prefer to say that they are in favor of state mandated, compulsory childbirth, regardless of the volition, age or medical state of the woman or girl doing the gestating. According to their reading of the book of Genesis, painful childbirth is the female’s due punishment for the sin of Eve (basically, being female).

    Your genocide analogy is somewhat flawed (although I don’t claim you are buying it) in that you are comparing the humanity of a viable human with a will of its own to that of a fetus that would not be viable were it not for the volition (or enslavement, were it not voluntary) of the woman donating her bodily tissues for its survival.

    While we’re at it, I do believe that wilfully accepting a flawed premise is a kind of insanity.

    • Your genocide analogy is somewhat flawed (although I don’t claim you are buying it) in that you are comparing the humanity of a viable human with a will of its own to that of a fetus that would not be viable were it not for the volition (or enslavement, were it not voluntary) of the woman donating her bodily tissues for its survival.

      Yep. The analogy is weak for a number of reasons; the point of the thought experiment is to get inside the emotional state that might make someone a radical pro-lifer, rather than to create a strong parallel.

  68. I can understand their sentimental passion the way I can understand that of a radical environmentalist who weeps (and lethally sabotages) against the slaughter of trees.

    Instead of saying these people are “pro life” I prefer to say that they are in favor of state mandated, compulsory childbirth, regardless of the volition, age or medical state of the woman or girl doing the gestating. According to their reading of the book of Genesis, painful childbirth is the female’s due punishment for the sin of Eve (basically, being female).

    Your genocide analogy is somewhat flawed (although I don’t claim you are buying it) in that you are comparing the humanity of a viable human with a will of its own to that of a fetus that would not be viable were it not for the volition (or enslavement, were it not voluntary) of the woman donating her bodily tissues for its survival.

    While we’re at it, I do believe that wilfully accepting a flawed premise is a kind of insanity.

  69. I believe, that as with any creation myth in which mud is transformed into a human, the difference lies in the volition of the creator, who, biologically, would be the person doing the gestating, which is not a passive process.

  70. The reason why this became an issue when it did was because of the Pill. All of a sudden, females were able to engage in sex without fear to a degree that was unprecedented in the modern world. Of course in the premodern world where females had authority over childbirth, birth control and first-trimester abortion or(basically an induced miscarriage or very late menstrual period) were quietly dealt with among women. It was under the catholic church that this branch of medicine was taken over from women. Violently. Sources abound, so I don’t need to cite.

    Homophobia, which you mention, is a branch of a particularly christian evolution of misogyny.

  71. thing one and thing two and maybe thing three

    So: i’ve always considered myself pro-choice; when people point to my theological training and make an argument against that stance, my fall back is simple: who are you to say that an abortionist– or someone who has had an abortion– isn’t going to turn on the spot, after much agonizing, and go on to lead a life that in some way fundamentally makes the world a better place? In other words: in order to see the error of your ways, well, you have to go your ways. And if someone is forbidding you from doing that– they are denying you the full width and depth of your spiritual development. And that, to me, is more of a crime than scraping away a cluster of cells that is, at this point in the argument, a parasite (as so many of you have said).

    That being said– i find the way abortion is used today almost but not quite heinous. It should not be a form of birth control, which it often times is; it should also not be the first thing that crosses the mind of a sexually mature human before they engage in sex, ie, if i get knocked up or if she gets knocked up, abortion is available… however, i blame that mentality more on the way people are taught to think about abortion than on the existence of the act itself. Which is, at its heart, what the whole pro-life/pro-choice argument is about: we’re not arguing about whether we should or shouldn’t after the first salvos are tossed off– we’re arguing about whether or not abortion should exist.

    Now– here’s where it gets a bit more difficult to navigate. If you want to speak in terms of value of life– in my mind, the person on the outside, the living person who is pregnant, is always going to be more valuable than the gamble that’s going on in the uterus. If nothing else, you can ask that person if they are hungry and get an intelligible response as opposed to a shriekfest that goes on until you’re on the verge of killing the infant. And anyone who says that’s a ridiculous comparison has never been alone with a hungry infant.

    And thing three: all of this rhetoric that we’re tossing about flies out the window when it comes time to make the choice ourselves. Another story: for those of you who don’t me, i consider myself more than a bit of a pacifist. In high school, most people thought me a coward because i would rather run from a fight than engage in one; to me, physical violence proved little other than agility, speed, and the willingness to oppress another human being.

    So: here i am all growed up, an adult. And it’s three o’clock in the morning, and my wife wakes me up. And says, “Honey, there’s a noise in the baby’s room”. And despite all my rhetoric, all my years of saying things like suppose we threw a war and nobody came and all we are saying is give peace a chance, in an instant i was off the couch, heading down the hall with a cabinet maker’s hammer in my hand. Of course, it turned out to be rain on the roof, but the point was still made to me later: the woman i was married to knw, without a doubt, that if there had been anyone else in the room, there would have been bloodshed.

    And that, my friends, makes the whole argument moot.

    • Re: thing one and thing two and maybe thing three

      It should not be a form of birth control

      It is, by definition, birth control.  It controls whether there will be a birth.  I request clarification as to what you mean here.

      we’re arguing about whether or not abortion should exist

      I thought we were arguing about whether or not abortion should be legal.

    • Re: thing one and thing two and maybe thing three

      It should not be a form of birth control

      I don’t think people really understand what it’s like to go through an abortion. It’s not just nipping down to the local clinic, putting your feet in the stirrups for a few minutes, scrape scrape, then go home like nothing happened. An abortion is not like a pap smear, which is unpleasant enough in its own right.

      It’s an intrusive procedure, followed by weeks of recovery, all without anesthesia (and that’s for early-term with no complications).

      Any anti-choicer who thinks a pro-choice woman just flippantly and callously tosses around the idea of abortion as akin to taking her pill or no more than the inconvenience of remembering a condom or sponge, or even the relatively mild trauma of an IUD, has never actually talked to a pro-choice woman who has been educated on the procedure.

      *note* I don’t mean to imply that I think *you* have this opinion, but the rhetoric that pro-choicers view abortions as birth control really annoys me, knowing what I know about the procedure.

      I’m pro-choice and it’s most certainly not “birth control” in the sense of “just one more option” like the pill or a condom (yes, it’s technically birth control in that it controls whether there will be a birth). It’s a big fucking deal and if I can possibly avoid one, I will, but I want the choice if I can’t.

      I find hospitals generally unpleasant too, and I’ll avoid them as much as possible, but when I break my leg, you can bet I’ll have a doctor set it. If I were in a position that justified an abortion according to my own ethics, I want the option to have one, but that doesn’t mean that I want one or that I wouldn’t take precautions against the situation to require one. But, unless I never get out of my chair, there’s a possibility I might break my leg someday, so I’m glad of the option to visit a doctor when that happens.

      • Re: Abortions as birth control

        This. I was going to post something to this effect but much less eloquently than you did. I’ve always wondered where some people got the talking point that women shouldn’t use abortions as birth control–generally speaking, who does? It’s a costly, emotionally charged (for some women) medical procedure, with a higher risk of harm than using condoms or the pill (most likely).

  72. thing one and thing two and maybe thing three

    So: i’ve always considered myself pro-choice; when people point to my theological training and make an argument against that stance, my fall back is simple: who are you to say that an abortionist– or someone who has had an abortion– isn’t going to turn on the spot, after much agonizing, and go on to lead a life that in some way fundamentally makes the world a better place? In other words: in order to see the error of your ways, well, you have to go your ways. And if someone is forbidding you from doing that– they are denying you the full width and depth of your spiritual development. And that, to me, is more of a crime than scraping away a cluster of cells that is, at this point in the argument, a parasite (as so many of you have said).

    That being said– i find the way abortion is used today almost but not quite heinous. It should not be a form of birth control, which it often times is; it should also not be the first thing that crosses the mind of a sexually mature human before they engage in sex, ie, if i get knocked up or if she gets knocked up, abortion is available… however, i blame that mentality more on the way people are taught to think about abortion than on the existence of the act itself. Which is, at its heart, what the whole pro-life/pro-choice argument is about: we’re not arguing about whether we should or shouldn’t after the first salvos are tossed off– we’re arguing about whether or not abortion should exist.

    Now– here’s where it gets a bit more difficult to navigate. If you want to speak in terms of value of life– in my mind, the person on the outside, the living person who is pregnant, is always going to be more valuable than the gamble that’s going on in the uterus. If nothing else, you can ask that person if they are hungry and get an intelligible response as opposed to a shriekfest that goes on until you’re on the verge of killing the infant. And anyone who says that’s a ridiculous comparison has never been alone with a hungry infant.

    And thing three: all of this rhetoric that we’re tossing about flies out the window when it comes time to make the choice ourselves. Another story: for those of you who don’t me, i consider myself more than a bit of a pacifist. In high school, most people thought me a coward because i would rather run from a fight than engage in one; to me, physical violence proved little other than agility, speed, and the willingness to oppress another human being.

    So: here i am all growed up, an adult. And it’s three o’clock in the morning, and my wife wakes me up. And says, “Honey, there’s a noise in the baby’s room”. And despite all my rhetoric, all my years of saying things like suppose we threw a war and nobody came and all we are saying is give peace a chance, in an instant i was off the couch, heading down the hall with a cabinet maker’s hammer in my hand. Of course, it turned out to be rain on the roof, but the point was still made to me later: the woman i was married to knw, without a doubt, that if there had been anyone else in the room, there would have been bloodshed.

    And that, my friends, makes the whole argument moot.

  73. Re: thing one and thing two and maybe thing three

    It should not be a form of birth control

    It is, by definition, birth control.  It controls whether there will be a birth.  I request clarification as to what you mean here.

    we’re arguing about whether or not abortion should exist

    I thought we were arguing about whether or not abortion should be legal.

  74. Re: killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

    If one happens to be female, it’s not about 9 months; it’s about every day. They aren’t interested in the circumstances leading to the abortion. Women exist to get knocked up. Woman is a receptacle for sperm, not a creature with independent volition. The number of women who become pregnant by random stranger rapes is miniscule compared with the number who become pregnant by intimate partners with whom for various reasons they have reasons not to want to gestate. Remember, the mainstream media still refers to most forms of rape as “sex.” This is because an alarming number of people seem not to understand the difference.

    Women choosing abortion reminds them that women might choose to have intercourse. OR NOT. But the given is that intercourse is supposed to happen to women regardless of their wish to gestate. That’s what women are there for. But then it becomes their problem. Early curfew is only the beginning of the agenda of control over the female reproductive system.

    I’m not really ranting at you personally, just the paragraph you posted about “too many abortions” “safer streets” birth control access and domestic violence made me have to respond. We’re on the same side, but there is more to the argument.

  75. The whole “she should have kept her legs closed” argument doesn’t hold water. Women are socially, economically and hormonally conditioned to preserve relationships, especially with male intimate partners. Women are not the ones clamoring for unprotected intercourse, by and large; men are. But the pregnancy becomes disproportionately the woman’s problem for the rest of her life.

  76. Yes, if only those men could understand that women are humans like themselves.

    As we’ve seen in the current neo-con rage against the current SCOTUS nominee, the quality of empathy is not held in high regard in certain circles.

  77. Wait… wait wait wait. I know how to deal with the abortion debate once and for all! Granted, it involves technology that probably doesn’t quite exist yet, but… remove the fetus from the mother’s womb, still alive. And then preserve it cryonically or in some sort of stasis so it can be implanted later in someone who wants to adopt an unborn child. And since not all could be used that way, save the rest to help increase genetic diversity in a future off-world colony. This should appease most pro-choice folks, as well as genuine pro-lifers and moderate anti-abortionists, while marginalizing the wages-of-sin anti-choicers to the point where they have to shut up to avoid looking like an out-of-touch lunatic fringe. (Some of them probably won’t, but still…) Nearly everyone wins!

    Why yes, I’m crazy, why do you ask?

    • I DO like this idea – however there is a wrinkle – I should not be FORCED to have my fetus cryogenically preserved for someone else.

      I should have the option of NOT passing on my genes to anyone else. Maybe I’m selfish. Maybe I live with a chronic disease I think is immoral to pass on. Maybe I think that other people might not raise MY genetic child to my standards and should not be allowed. Maybe I know that my line are headstrong stubborn people and I will not inflict my Fey onto the unsuspecting world. It should still be my CHOICE.

      Granted.. as technology improved the potential father will/could have more and more choice options too – like whether any of his ejaculate contains living sperm or not.. that would also be really cool.

  78. Wait… wait wait wait. I know how to deal with the abortion debate once and for all! Granted, it involves technology that probably doesn’t quite exist yet, but… remove the fetus from the mother’s womb, still alive. And then preserve it cryonically or in some sort of stasis so it can be implanted later in someone who wants to adopt an unborn child. And since not all could be used that way, save the rest to help increase genetic diversity in a future off-world colony. This should appease most pro-choice folks, as well as genuine pro-lifers and moderate anti-abortionists, while marginalizing the wages-of-sin anti-choicers to the point where they have to shut up to avoid looking like an out-of-touch lunatic fringe. (Some of them probably won’t, but still…) Nearly everyone wins!

    Why yes, I’m crazy, why do you ask?

  79. No, sorry, you’re largely mistaken. After Roe v. Wade several conservative political groups seized on the idea of using abortion as a rallying point to drive organization & registration of conservative Christians as a voting block.

    The Christian Dominionists actually published works explaining that they would use abortion, homosexuality, and pornography as their whipping boys to bring groups together to achieve secular power.

  80. Yay – yet another viewpoint…

    As always, , your article was very well written. However, I think there were a couple of tangential points which were missed – and play directly into the il-logical viewpoint of the “Pro-Life” stance. These are the points I think should be added to the whole story:

    1. Abstinence Only Education & Evils of Birth Control – The same pro-lifers who are looking at abortion as murder, as the supporters of AO Education. Young men and women, as they age, have natural body functions and desires. These are apparently bad and should be repressed at all cost. For those children who have terrible home lives or children who have parents who don’t want to “talk about this stuff”, teaching AO Education is a direct cause to the number of abortions where children ARE using abortion as a form of birth control. So if their goal is REALLY to decrease the number of abortions, why not educate our growing children in how to prevent such a thing from happening? And for those of religious fervor, where birth control is evil (re: Catholic Church), I say THEY are responsible for our current climate of Faith Based Hate in this area.

    2. Lack of funding/campaigning for Adoption – As much as “Pro-Life” people find righteousness in standing on corners and yelling at people, what I want to know is – what Adoption causes are you working on? Last I heard, the religious conservatives were campaigning against allowing gay men and women from adopting children. So what positive steps are you taking for people so that they can find alternative options? Matching willing parents with pregnant teens? Not that I have heard about.

    So quick recap before we continue. Sex is bad, don’t do it. If you do it, we’re not going to tell you how NOT to get pregnant, and if you DO get pregnant, you have no other recourse than to either get an abortion or drop out of school and raise the child yourself because you obviously shouldn’t have a place in our society – and oh yes, only the girls get to do this because boys don’t have to take responsibility for what happens to your body such as dropping out of school with you.

    Now here’s what I don’t get. If abortion is SO bad, and SO awful – why aren’t these groups trying like HELL to make them as irrelevant as possible?? Why aren’t they frothing at the bit to make sure that birth control and the knowledge of it is everywhere? Why aren’t they making “unintended pregnancies” a REAL issue, not an issue of ignorance and turning a blind eye? So that abortion can be there for those women who have no other recourse, or who have been raped and cannot bear the weight of bringing a child into this world in those circumstances? And why, for the love of God, isn’t the Morning After Pill available everywhere? For those times when “Oh Gads, we screwed up!!!”

    I am not pro-abortion. I AM pro-choice. Personally, unless it was life threatening, abortion is not for me. But I’m not about to play God in someone else’s life and make their choices for them. Which leads me into my last point:

    3. Read your Bibles if you’re going to use it as a bludgeon: Using faith as a weapon makes a mockery of you AND your faith. Everything can be proved and disproved using the bible. Any bible scholar can tell you that. Miriam sending Moses off down the river in a reeds boat is a charming story because he gets picked up by the Egyptian Queen. But what if he didn’t? What if Moses drowned? Moses’s outcome doesn’t change what Miriam did… So if you’re going to use your faith as a weapon, go back to the words of Christ, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Put down the damn bloody babies and the ripped up pieces of meat that you throw on people – and start looking in the mirror for where the problems might have been all along. *whew* End of Rant

    • Re: Yay – yet another viewpoint…

      I feel it’s fundamentally wrong to lump all these viewpoints together and claim that refuting one refutes them all, or make arguments against one that presuppose another.

      Sure, a large proportion of people believing one will probably believe another. But there are arguments against abortion which aren’t necessarily theological, even if most of them are fairly weak, and there are theistic standpoints which don’t oppose abortion.

      The connection gets even more tenuous when you consider more radical positions like AO education — I don’t believe for a minute that every pro-lifer supports abstinence-only education and vice versa. I don’t particularly care what the lobbies believe; most of the people you need to convince don’t donate to a lobby, and as we all know party platforms are consensus-based hackjobs that do a terrible idea of reflecting actual people’s opinions.

      With all that in mind, I’d rather not do anyone a disservice that I don’t have do. I’ve always found that being considerate to my enemies pays off in the long run.

    • Re: Yay – yet another viewpoint…

      Now here’s what I don’t get. If abortion is SO bad, and SO awful – why aren’t these groups trying like HELL to make them as irrelevant as possible??

      That’s another fundamental difference between radical anti-abortion activists and people who aren’t.

      There are two different, competing ideas about morality here: moral absolutism and a moral idea called the principle of least harm.

      The principle of least harm holds that if you see something which you consider to be destructive, harmful, or morally wrong, the most moral thing to do is to reduce whatever it is you see, thereby reducing human suffering. People who advocate needle exchange programs for IV drug addicts in order to reduce AIDS among drug users are operating under the principle of least harm; if needle exchange programs save lives and reduce suffering, then they are good, even if you hold that using drugs is bad.

      Moral absolutism holds that certain things are simply wrong, period, and it is always under all circumstances and in all situations morally wrong to engage in any activity which is immoral–no exceptions. If you hold that using drugs is morally wrong, and you are a moral absolutist, then you must oppose needle exchange programs. It makes no difference that they save lives; it is a fundamental moral axiom that if you participate in any way in an immoral act, even if you participation is only incidental and regardless of your intentions or goals, you are guilty of immorality.

      From the outside, to a person who believes in the principle of least harm, it can look like a moral absolutist is seeking to “punish” people; it can seem that a person who opposes needle exchange programs is trying to “punish” drug users or believes that drug users should get AIDS, and it can look like a person who opposes comprehensive sex ed or birth control is seeking to “punish”people who have sex or believes that people who have sex deserve to have their lives ruined. But that’s overly simplistic.

  81. Yay – yet another viewpoint…

    As always, , your article was very well written. However, I think there were a couple of tangential points which were missed – and play directly into the il-logical viewpoint of the “Pro-Life” stance. These are the points I think should be added to the whole story:

    1. Abstinence Only Education & Evils of Birth Control – The same pro-lifers who are looking at abortion as murder, as the supporters of AO Education. Young men and women, as they age, have natural body functions and desires. These are apparently bad and should be repressed at all cost. For those children who have terrible home lives or children who have parents who don’t want to “talk about this stuff”, teaching AO Education is a direct cause to the number of abortions where children ARE using abortion as a form of birth control. So if their goal is REALLY to decrease the number of abortions, why not educate our growing children in how to prevent such a thing from happening? And for those of religious fervor, where birth control is evil (re: Catholic Church), I say THEY are responsible for our current climate of Faith Based Hate in this area.

    2. Lack of funding/campaigning for Adoption – As much as “Pro-Life” people find righteousness in standing on corners and yelling at people, what I want to know is – what Adoption causes are you working on? Last I heard, the religious conservatives were campaigning against allowing gay men and women from adopting children. So what positive steps are you taking for people so that they can find alternative options? Matching willing parents with pregnant teens? Not that I have heard about.

    So quick recap before we continue. Sex is bad, don’t do it. If you do it, we’re not going to tell you how NOT to get pregnant, and if you DO get pregnant, you have no other recourse than to either get an abortion or drop out of school and raise the child yourself because you obviously shouldn’t have a place in our society – and oh yes, only the girls get to do this because boys don’t have to take responsibility for what happens to your body such as dropping out of school with you.

    Now here’s what I don’t get. If abortion is SO bad, and SO awful – why aren’t these groups trying like HELL to make them as irrelevant as possible?? Why aren’t they frothing at the bit to make sure that birth control and the knowledge of it is everywhere? Why aren’t they making “unintended pregnancies” a REAL issue, not an issue of ignorance and turning a blind eye? So that abortion can be there for those women who have no other recourse, or who have been raped and cannot bear the weight of bringing a child into this world in those circumstances? And why, for the love of God, isn’t the Morning After Pill available everywhere? For those times when “Oh Gads, we screwed up!!!”

    I am not pro-abortion. I AM pro-choice. Personally, unless it was life threatening, abortion is not for me. But I’m not about to play God in someone else’s life and make their choices for them. Which leads me into my last point:

    3. Read your Bibles if you’re going to use it as a bludgeon: Using faith as a weapon makes a mockery of you AND your faith. Everything can be proved and disproved using the bible. Any bible scholar can tell you that. Miriam sending Moses off down the river in a reeds boat is a charming story because he gets picked up by the Egyptian Queen. But what if he didn’t? What if Moses drowned? Moses’s outcome doesn’t change what Miriam did… So if you’re going to use your faith as a weapon, go back to the words of Christ, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Put down the damn bloody babies and the ripped up pieces of meat that you throw on people – and start looking in the mirror for where the problems might have been all along. *whew* End of Rant

  82. Re: thing one and thing two and maybe thing three

    It should not be a form of birth control

    I don’t think people really understand what it’s like to go through an abortion. It’s not just nipping down to the local clinic, putting your feet in the stirrups for a few minutes, scrape scrape, then go home like nothing happened. An abortion is not like a pap smear, which is unpleasant enough in its own right.

    It’s an intrusive procedure, followed by weeks of recovery, all without anesthesia (and that’s for early-term with no complications).

    Any anti-choicer who thinks a pro-choice woman just flippantly and callously tosses around the idea of abortion as akin to taking her pill or no more than the inconvenience of remembering a condom or sponge, or even the relatively mild trauma of an IUD, has never actually talked to a pro-choice woman who has been educated on the procedure.

    *note* I don’t mean to imply that I think *you* have this opinion, but the rhetoric that pro-choicers view abortions as birth control really annoys me, knowing what I know about the procedure.

    I’m pro-choice and it’s most certainly not “birth control” in the sense of “just one more option” like the pill or a condom (yes, it’s technically birth control in that it controls whether there will be a birth). It’s a big fucking deal and if I can possibly avoid one, I will, but I want the choice if I can’t.

    I find hospitals generally unpleasant too, and I’ll avoid them as much as possible, but when I break my leg, you can bet I’ll have a doctor set it. If I were in a position that justified an abortion according to my own ethics, I want the option to have one, but that doesn’t mean that I want one or that I wouldn’t take precautions against the situation to require one. But, unless I never get out of my chair, there’s a possibility I might break my leg someday, so I’m glad of the option to visit a doctor when that happens.

  83. I’ve actually spoken with a Catholic theologian (pro-life) who agreed fully and had a lot to say thinking about the same things. She may have been exceptional, but I can say that more than zero agree on this point.

  84. Re: Yay – yet another viewpoint…

    I feel it’s fundamentally wrong to lump all these viewpoints together and claim that refuting one refutes them all, or make arguments against one that presuppose another.

    Sure, a large proportion of people believing one will probably believe another. But there are arguments against abortion which aren’t necessarily theological, even if most of them are fairly weak, and there are theistic standpoints which don’t oppose abortion.

    The connection gets even more tenuous when you consider more radical positions like AO education — I don’t believe for a minute that every pro-lifer supports abstinence-only education and vice versa. I don’t particularly care what the lobbies believe; most of the people you need to convince don’t donate to a lobby, and as we all know party platforms are consensus-based hackjobs that do a terrible idea of reflecting actual people’s opinions.

    With all that in mind, I’d rather not do anyone a disservice that I don’t have do. I’ve always found that being considerate to my enemies pays off in the long run.

  85. Re: Forced Birth

    I was just about to write something like this, but checked the comments first and saw you had. I’m still new to the term and thinking it through – wouldn’t necessarily apply it to all so-called pro-lifers, but feel that it’s a very accurate term for those who, say, even oppose abortion in rape cases. And even women who choose to be pregnant sometimes have reasons to abort – plenty of women out there who’ve been happy to conceive but have later found the fetus is severely deformed. Taking away those women’s choice to terminate a pregnancy seems to me to be a pretty clear cut case of forced birth.

  86. which seems reasonable to me

    Why, if the “pro-life” side supports the death penalty, war, and does nothing to help mothers and children AFTER the children are born?

  87. When the bat-sh!t crazy right starts questioning Sotomayor about her abortion views, her response should be: “it is longstanding US policy not to cooperate with terrorists.”

  88. That’s actually where the practice of infant baptism came from; parents were terrified during the dark ages that their infants wouldn’t go to heaven if they died in early childhood, as was all to common. There is even a different funeral rite for unbaptized infants.

    The precise current wording is “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism. ” (Catechism section 1261)

    The more recent ‘ruling’ does actually remove the existence of limbo (http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0702216.htm); however, most Catholics reflect the beliefs and views in which they were brought up, not the most recent off-the-press papal rulings on the subject.

    There is, however, an ‘exception clause’ as available at http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2008/10/unbaptized-babies-that-die-five.html (don’t have time to look up reputable sources, sorry) http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2008/10/unbaptized-babies-that-die-five.html for ‘baptism by blood’ saying that aborted fetuses qualify as martyrs, and are therefore given salvation upon death.

    Again, not what the mainstream Church teaches.

  89. Re: Abortions as birth control

    This. I was going to post something to this effect but much less eloquently than you did. I’ve always wondered where some people got the talking point that women shouldn’t use abortions as birth control–generally speaking, who does? It’s a costly, emotionally charged (for some women) medical procedure, with a higher risk of harm than using condoms or the pill (most likely).

  90. I DO like this idea – however there is a wrinkle – I should not be FORCED to have my fetus cryogenically preserved for someone else.

    I should have the option of NOT passing on my genes to anyone else. Maybe I’m selfish. Maybe I live with a chronic disease I think is immoral to pass on. Maybe I think that other people might not raise MY genetic child to my standards and should not be allowed. Maybe I know that my line are headstrong stubborn people and I will not inflict my Fey onto the unsuspecting world. It should still be my CHOICE.

    Granted.. as technology improved the potential father will/could have more and more choice options too – like whether any of his ejaculate contains living sperm or not.. that would also be really cool.

  91. Ectropy already stated that it was known how the baby would turn out. A much more interesting question, really.

    My first guess would be that the baby would be considered an abomination, the same as a gay person, so it should be ok to abort it. But then your response got me thinking, that if people knew that a baby was going to be born defective, couldn’t they take some action while it was still in the womb to cure it?

    I think that your preconception that sexual orientation is not a choice really colored your answer. To my way of thinking, it’s irrelevant if it’s a choice or not. But it is true that a “right-thinking Christian” would make every attempt to cure this poor soul. That, of course, would mean you still couldn’t abort. You’d have to find some way of curing the child…either while in the womb, or perhaps helping the child after it was born.

    Personally, I’m not any value of Christian, though I can say this: if my child develops a hare-lip while in the womb, I’m going to make every effort to fix it while it’s in the womb. If I can’t and it is born with that hare-lip, then I will see what surgery is required to fix that after it’s born. Mental illnesses are a far more insidious problem; how can you know if a birth defect will cause your child to grow up with a sexual dysfunction?

    The only hope you have is to be a good role model for your kids, and let them know what is normal and what is a sexual dysfunction.

  92. “Homophobia” is a nonsense word, created specifically to turn the homosexual’s sexual dysfunction back upon those who recognize it as such…kind of like, “I’m not the sick one! You are! You’re scared of homosexuals! You’re a…a…homophobe!”.

    Kind of the way that the word bi is actually a shortened form of ambi, which was short for “ambisexual”…in short, a person who was ambivalent about how or where they got sexual gratification, as long as they got it.

  93. Here’s what Marty Klein (who I think kicks ass) has to say on this matter:

    “The anti-choice side (we’re ALL pro-life, after all) says it takes a “moral” position–that abortion is wrong. The pro-choice side says it takes a “moral” position–that adults should have personal autonomy.

    So OK, everyone has a moral position on abortion. These positions may conflict, but they’re both based on a moral vision. Neither side can logically deny that–these positions are based on equally heartfelt, equally clear, moral visions.

    What is NOT equivalent, however, is the political relevance of these moral visions.

    The success of our country, our political system, and our way of life comes from a set of principles–unusual in the history of the world–that are NOT up for discussion.

    The most important one of those principles is this: Everyone is allowed to believe what they want. Adults are free to do what they want, as long as they don’t hurt other people. In exchange for this extraordinary freedom, adults are expected to tolerate other adults believing and doing what they want.

    While the pro-choice and anti-choice positions are equally based on morality, the difference between them politically is quite simple, and quite profound.

    The pro-choice position is “I’ll behave according to my morality, and you behave according to yours.” The anti-choice position is “I’ll behave according to my morality, and you must behave according to mine, too.”
    The above is (c)Marty Klein.

    Of course, it’s the very definition of “other people” that is under discussion here!

    The rest is at http://www.sexualintelligence.org/

  94. Women are socially, economically and hormonally conditioned to preserve relationships, especially with male intimate partners.

    This is true, but being strongly predisposed to do something and being forced to do something are not the same.

  95. You might like Cheryl Wheeler’s satirical song, “Makes Good Sense To Me”.

    “And if some pretty little lady gets herself knocked up real good
    She’ll have to have that baby just because we think she should.
    In whose sick mind did it ever occur
    that a choice like that should be up to her
    They’re a godless bunch, cross we bear
    but as soon as that little tyke draws air
    we can wash our hands of the whole affair
    Makes good sense to me!”

  96. Because the point of news is to report events objectively, and the point of argument is to convince people who are currently unconvinced. Needlessly inflammatory language does neither any favors.

  97. Speaking as a former fundamentalist (who thankfully didn’t live around any abortion clinics during that phase) who is now an abortion clinic escort…
    Point 1 is it, Point 2 is a pipe dream. I’ve spoken with lots of protesters outside of abortion clinics. Even though they say they are against abortion, they will not change their “abstinence only, hope-based” pregnancy prevention idea.

    They (religiously motivated anti-abortion rights people) aren’t against abortion so much as they are the sex-only-in-marriage-or-it-should-be-guilt-ridden-and-painful group.

    BTW–ever since I read this article, I have had a hard time keeping the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels from meaning the same thing.

  98. I’ve tried the term “anti-abortionists” too, but it isn’t like most “pro-choice” people are fond of abortions. The right to have one, yes. But pro-abortion? That’s not quite right.

    I like the term “anti-sex” myself.

  99. At the clinics I escort at, the protesters are mostly Catholic. Sometimes they are waving pictures of Mary.

    I think their goal is to convince *Catholics* not to have an abortion. The Church needs all the bodies it can.

  100. At the clinics I escort at, the protesters are mostly Catholic. Sometimes they are waving pictures of Mary.

    I think their goal is to convince *Catholics* not to have an abortion. The Church needs all the bodies it can.

  101. Commenting!

    When I was in High School, I had a psychology teacher named Couch Price, the soccer coach, a big, young, happy guy, of the type instantly loved by students. We had his class at the end of the day, from 2-3:30, and once or twice a month, his phone would ring in the classroom. That’s because every few weeks, he and his wife would pay a good 2/3 of their teachers’ income to go into the fertility clinic and attempt to have a baby. And every few weeks, his wife would get the results at 3 PM, and call him to tell him what the doctors said.

    Coach Price was a very happy fellow, and every time they went into the Clinic, about an hour and a half away from rural Southwest Virginia, he would be excited and upbeat, hoping to finally hear good news after so many expensive months of failure. And every single time, that phone would ring, and he would jump up from his desk and run to the phone to pick it up. And every single time, he would listen, and his smile would drop off his face, and he would nod, and grunt, and turn away from the class, and finally, very slowly, he would turn back around, smiling and happy as he always was.

    But we could tell. We could see it in his eyes, in his shoulders, in the way he didn’t move as well, the way his face would be stuck in that horrible rigor mortis smile. On those days, he would end class a few minutes early, and leave school immediately to go home to his wife.

    We asked him, once, why he paid out so much money when it didn’t seem to be working. Why can’t you just go adopt, we asked. He would smile at us, and shake his head, and say “There’s just no babies to adopt out here.”

    Now, whether there really were no babies to adopt, or whether he was just lying to us for whatever reason, I don’t know. But seeing him like that is one of the reasons why I still, personally, consider myself pro-life.

    But not in the rhetorical, jesus-y way. I’ve always said that if I ever conceive and grow large with child, I will carry it to term and give birth to it and give it up(on a side note, I’m physically and mentally male, so those of you know don’t know me get the humor there. XD)

    If someone I knew was pregnant and didn’t want the baby, I would go to them and say “Hey! Have you thought about having it and putting it up for adoption?” And they, being my friends, would say “NO! I’m goin’ down the clinic, getting this baby out, freeze drying it, and throwing it at someone!” And I would exercise my white male privilege to only permit this if I was allowed to join in.

    But for Coach Price, I’ll always ask first. I heard a little while ago that he and his wife finally had a baby, and everyone he had taught who could come, did, as well as most of the school faculty, and threw a big party for them, and that his wife showed up in a wheelchair covered in blankets, because there was, quote, “NO FUCKING WAY IN HELL” they were going to do anything that might hurt that baby. Or fetus, or what have you.

    On a side note, It’s always been a dream of mine to open up a children’s creche for smart people babies, so that smart people could either donate ovum and sperm, or have the babies themselves and then turn them over to the creche to raise, fully and completely, because fucking shit-tits, BREED, goddamn fuckass cunts! BREED! Fucking christ, do you know how few of you there are? BREED! WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY SMART BRAINED, FOUL MOUTHED BABIES, SUCKING IQ POINTS FROM THE TEETS OF MY ROBOT MOTHERS?! BREED, YOU FUCKS!

    On a side note to my side note, go watch Idiocracy. Learn it’s lesson. AND THEN BREED!

    • He’s both right and wrong.

      There is no shortage of babies to adopt. What there is a shortage of is healthy white babies to adopt.

      If he were wiling to adopt a baby with Down’s syndrome, or an inner-city black baby who was born addicted to crack, my suspicion is that he’d have little trouble at all. But if he wil only adopt a healthy white baby, then yes, it’s a very difficult road.

      In the US, roughly 67% of all women seeking abortions are not white; the majority of those are African-American (Boonstra HD et al., Abortion in Women’s Lives, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2006). Among Caucasions, 50% of all abortions occur in only 11% of the population–typically, young (under 25 years old) and poor (under the Federal poverty line) women who are poorly educated (Finer LB et al., Reasons U.S. women have abortions: quantitative and qualitative perspectives, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2005). Among women who seek an abortion generally, fetal deformities are a factor in about 13% of the cases, and health factors for the women are a factor in an additional 7% of cases (Family Planning Perspectives 20:169, July/August 1988).

      In practice, what that means is that the number of educated, affluent white women aborting healthy babies is comparatively small. These are the people that adoption agencies try to reach. Adoption is an alternative for some, but not most or all, women seeking an abortion.

  102. Commenting!

    When I was in High School, I had a psychology teacher named Couch Price, the soccer coach, a big, young, happy guy, of the type instantly loved by students. We had his class at the end of the day, from 2-3:30, and once or twice a month, his phone would ring in the classroom. That’s because every few weeks, he and his wife would pay a good 2/3 of their teachers’ income to go into the fertility clinic and attempt to have a baby. And every few weeks, his wife would get the results at 3 PM, and call him to tell him what the doctors said.

    Coach Price was a very happy fellow, and every time they went into the Clinic, about an hour and a half away from rural Southwest Virginia, he would be excited and upbeat, hoping to finally hear good news after so many expensive months of failure. And every single time, that phone would ring, and he would jump up from his desk and run to the phone to pick it up. And every single time, he would listen, and his smile would drop off his face, and he would nod, and grunt, and turn away from the class, and finally, very slowly, he would turn back around, smiling and happy as he always was.

    But we could tell. We could see it in his eyes, in his shoulders, in the way he didn’t move as well, the way his face would be stuck in that horrible rigor mortis smile. On those days, he would end class a few minutes early, and leave school immediately to go home to his wife.

    We asked him, once, why he paid out so much money when it didn’t seem to be working. Why can’t you just go adopt, we asked. He would smile at us, and shake his head, and say “There’s just no babies to adopt out here.”

    Now, whether there really were no babies to adopt, or whether he was just lying to us for whatever reason, I don’t know. But seeing him like that is one of the reasons why I still, personally, consider myself pro-life.

    But not in the rhetorical, jesus-y way. I’ve always said that if I ever conceive and grow large with child, I will carry it to term and give birth to it and give it up(on a side note, I’m physically and mentally male, so those of you know don’t know me get the humor there. XD)

    If someone I knew was pregnant and didn’t want the baby, I would go to them and say “Hey! Have you thought about having it and putting it up for adoption?” And they, being my friends, would say “NO! I’m goin’ down the clinic, getting this baby out, freeze drying it, and throwing it at someone!” And I would exercise my white male privilege to only permit this if I was allowed to join in.

    But for Coach Price, I’ll always ask first. I heard a little while ago that he and his wife finally had a baby, and everyone he had taught who could come, did, as well as most of the school faculty, and threw a big party for them, and that his wife showed up in a wheelchair covered in blankets, because there was, quote, “NO FUCKING WAY IN HELL” they were going to do anything that might hurt that baby. Or fetus, or what have you.

    On a side note, It’s always been a dream of mine to open up a children’s creche for smart people babies, so that smart people could either donate ovum and sperm, or have the babies themselves and then turn them over to the creche to raise, fully and completely, because fucking shit-tits, BREED, goddamn fuckass cunts! BREED! Fucking christ, do you know how few of you there are? BREED! WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY SMART BRAINED, FOUL MOUTHED BABIES, SUCKING IQ POINTS FROM THE TEETS OF MY ROBOT MOTHERS?! BREED, YOU FUCKS!

    On a side note to my side note, go watch Idiocracy. Learn it’s lesson. AND THEN BREED!

  103. I have a test tomorrow morning, and I’m super stressed about it, so I read and comment on livejournals at 4 am.

    I remember hearing an argument somewhere, probably back in my days in SWVA, that went something like this:

    The person postulated that what makes a thing sentient is a certain number of mental connections; that is, there is a ‘magic number’ of neural connections that makes something self-aware. His argument was that, if we could identify exactly how many connections it takes to make a sentient mind, we could then pinpoint the time at which a fetus turns into a person, though, as he pointed out, this could be after the first trimester or after a year outside the womb, as he had no idea what his ‘magic number’ could be; we we’re philosophizing (read: bullshitting) without the power of the internet.

    I bring it up due to Tacit’s Transhumanist bent; the same idea could be applied to computers, he said. At what point does a computer become self-aware? Why, at the same number of connections as an organic brain!

    He refined his argument later by saying that there probably is no ‘one all-powerful number’, but rather a range, depending on the type of connections, where they were, how they were connected, any number of various factors.

    I also reference this because my own philosophical question about abortion has always been: At what point does a fetus stop being a collection of, indeed, parasitic cells and start being a person, for which there are laws to protect it’s life?

    It would seem to me that there would have to be such a line, or else the crime labeled murder would lose all meaning and context. At which point is the death of an offspring the right of the carrier to decide, and at which point to we place that decision in a court of law?

    I don’t know. I’m just throwing out questions to I can spend time to relax the math-side of my brain before jumping back in again. Although I should probably throw in a ‘fuck’ or two to compete with my above post. Whatevs.

    DISCUSS!

  104. I have a test tomorrow morning, and I’m super stressed about it, so I read and comment on livejournals at 4 am.

    I remember hearing an argument somewhere, probably back in my days in SWVA, that went something like this:

    The person postulated that what makes a thing sentient is a certain number of mental connections; that is, there is a ‘magic number’ of neural connections that makes something self-aware. His argument was that, if we could identify exactly how many connections it takes to make a sentient mind, we could then pinpoint the time at which a fetus turns into a person, though, as he pointed out, this could be after the first trimester or after a year outside the womb, as he had no idea what his ‘magic number’ could be; we we’re philosophizing (read: bullshitting) without the power of the internet.

    I bring it up due to Tacit’s Transhumanist bent; the same idea could be applied to computers, he said. At what point does a computer become self-aware? Why, at the same number of connections as an organic brain!

    He refined his argument later by saying that there probably is no ‘one all-powerful number’, but rather a range, depending on the type of connections, where they were, how they were connected, any number of various factors.

    I also reference this because my own philosophical question about abortion has always been: At what point does a fetus stop being a collection of, indeed, parasitic cells and start being a person, for which there are laws to protect it’s life?

    It would seem to me that there would have to be such a line, or else the crime labeled murder would lose all meaning and context. At which point is the death of an offspring the right of the carrier to decide, and at which point to we place that decision in a court of law?

    I don’t know. I’m just throwing out questions to I can spend time to relax the math-side of my brain before jumping back in again. Although I should probably throw in a ‘fuck’ or two to compete with my above post. Whatevs.

    DISCUSS!

  105. Re: It’s a fetus

    Indeed, truth.

    Abortion vs murder has always seemed to me to be an argument of timing. At which point is it a fetus, a part of the mother, to be removed or kept as she would keep or remove a tumor, and at which point is it a person, protected by a person’s laws?

    Honestly, on this point, I can respect the philosophy of “Every sperm is sacred” over “Abortion is murder! Masturbation and/or ovulation is cool, though!”, in the way I respect someone with a silly philosophy they can’t fulfill over someone who’s hypocritical of their silly philosophy they can’t fulfill.

  106. Re: It’s a fetus

    Indeed, truth.

    Abortion vs murder has always seemed to me to be an argument of timing. At which point is it a fetus, a part of the mother, to be removed or kept as she would keep or remove a tumor, and at which point is it a person, protected by a person’s laws?

    Honestly, on this point, I can respect the philosophy of “Every sperm is sacred” over “Abortion is murder! Masturbation and/or ovulation is cool, though!”, in the way I respect someone with a silly philosophy they can’t fulfill over someone who’s hypocritical of their silly philosophy they can’t fulfill.

  107. See, that’s the thing. I am pro-choice. I feel it is up to the individuals involved to make the decision. They should have the option–the choice–of abortion…or adoption…or single-parenthood or “let’s get married now ’cause you’re preggers”…or whatever. I also feel it is an individual’s choice to do what they can to prevent unwanted pregnancy in the first place and that things such as the “morning after pill” should be legal alternatives as well.

    The anti-abortionists are simply against abortion and many (not all!) feel that even preventing conception goes against God’s Plan.

    So there’s my logic behind my phraseology. Pro-choice advocates all options being available, accessible, legal, and safe. Anti-abortion is just that–against abortion. They’re not against the choice to adopt or keep or whatever. They are simply against abortion.

    To pick a nit…they’re not anti-sex, either. Sex is fine as long as it is sanctioned (i.e., the participants are married to each other) and the intent is reproduction. Perhaps “sex-negative” is more appropriate? *wink*

  108. 1. I think some pro-lifers aren’t so much in favor of the sanctity of fetus life as penalizing promiscuity. If you look at the rhetoric, there’s plenty of it

    I think that functionally, that’s true, but it’s an incidental point to the fact that they do sincerely, genuinely consider a fetus to be a person, with all the rights and privileges that implies, and are genuinely as horrified by the idea of killing a fetus as you and I might be at killing a grown person.

    The hatred of promiscuity is definitely there, no doubt about it, and is probably a side effect of good old-fashioned Puritan mores, but that’s not the whole of the reason behind the opposition to abortion.

  109. The problem that I see with the “pro-life belief chart” is that it undermines its own argument in order to score points and engage in hyperbole.

    Do some people who oppose abortions want women to suffer for the sin of having sex? Yes, absolutely. But it’s a mistake to dismiss all of the arguments against abortion so easily; it’s no different from people who oppose abortion saying that abortion is simply for irresponsible women who don’t feel like using condoms.

    For example, the argument about banning late-term abortion doesn’t hold water, because you’re not going to find any radical “pro-life” activist who opposes that but doesn’t also oppose other forms of abortion. These people find that particular type of procedure to be particularly heinous and so single it out for special attention, but that doesn’t mean they don’t oppose abortion across the board.

    There are some strong arguments in that chart, but I think it undermines itself a little too much.

  110. Re: It’s a fetus

    As someone smarter than me said, I am a potential corpse, but you cannot treat me as one.

    I like that. I like that a LOT.

  111. Re: It’s a fetus

    As someone smarter than me said, I am a potential corpse, but you cannot treat me as one.

    I like that. I like that a LOT.

  112. I can kinda see where you’re going with this, but I’m not sure theres a huge amount of evidence that all the anti abortion types genuinely do regard abortion as equivalent to murder. If you try asking them what penalties a woman who gets an abortion should face, its very rare for them to say that they should face the same ones people convicted of murder do.

    Yep, and that is a weakness in the arguments against abortion.

    There are some people who do believe that a woman who seeks an abortion should legally be treated the same way as a person who hires a contract killer, and their position is, at the very least, more ideologically consistent with the notion that abortion is murder.

    But for most folks, I think they genuinely have a sincere emotional reaction that is identical to the emotional reaction we might have if we lived in a society where killing blacks or gays or transsexuals was legal and socially sanctioned, and so they oppose abortion on the basis of that emotional response, but they don’t think it through beyond that.

    It follows from the premise that “abortion = murder” that a woman who has an abortion is a murderer, but that requires a logical step beyond that first emotional response.

  113. Re: killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

    As far as the pro-choice argument being successful or not: pro-choice people are not trying to change anyone’s minds here,

    Oh, I definitely think people are trying to do just that, at least in the legal system. The debate often revolves around whether or not abortion should be legal, and in that regard we absolutely are trying to change each others’ minds–or at least the minds of legislators. I want to convince legislators that it must remain legal; those who oppose abortion want to convince legislators to outlaw it.

    If this kind of energy were being spent debating the kind of childhood that makes healthy adults, or the pros and cons of compulsary education… I’d have a lot more attention for it all. But this is more like the argument clinic in Monty Python than an honest-to-God debate over the issues. Once a baby makes it safely out of the womb into the cold cruel world, it falls off the radar of the pro-life lobby, anything that follows is Somebody Else’s Problem.

    Yes, but that also follows from the emotional premise that abortion is murder. If you lived in a society where it was legal to kill some class of people, you might think that was wrong without also thinking that you should personally be responsible for the financial support of every member of that class.

  114. I don’t know that there is a logical counter. We’re talking about an inherently emotional response, here. People who oppose abortion feel that it is murdering a person just as surely as I feel that a society in which homosexuals were put to death would be guilty of murdering people. I don’t know that there exists any argument whatsoever capable of convincing a person who opposes abortion that a fetus is not a child.

  115. Also, I would like to add that in the Catholic religion, which many of the pro-life who are also anti-death penalty and anti-war belong to, not only does a fetus have an immortal soul from the moment of conception, but that soul will be doomed to wander outside the gates of hell for eternity if it is not baptized before the death of its body.

    Wow. I don’t know how it is that I can continue to be surprised by the cruelty of Catholic theology.

  116. Your genocide analogy is somewhat flawed (although I don’t claim you are buying it) in that you are comparing the humanity of a viable human with a will of its own to that of a fetus that would not be viable were it not for the volition (or enslavement, were it not voluntary) of the woman donating her bodily tissues for its survival.

    Yep. The analogy is weak for a number of reasons; the point of the thought experiment is to get inside the emotional state that might make someone a radical pro-lifer, rather than to create a strong parallel.

  117. Re: Yay – yet another viewpoint…

    Now here’s what I don’t get. If abortion is SO bad, and SO awful – why aren’t these groups trying like HELL to make them as irrelevant as possible??

    That’s another fundamental difference between radical anti-abortion activists and people who aren’t.

    There are two different, competing ideas about morality here: moral absolutism and a moral idea called the principle of least harm.

    The principle of least harm holds that if you see something which you consider to be destructive, harmful, or morally wrong, the most moral thing to do is to reduce whatever it is you see, thereby reducing human suffering. People who advocate needle exchange programs for IV drug addicts in order to reduce AIDS among drug users are operating under the principle of least harm; if needle exchange programs save lives and reduce suffering, then they are good, even if you hold that using drugs is bad.

    Moral absolutism holds that certain things are simply wrong, period, and it is always under all circumstances and in all situations morally wrong to engage in any activity which is immoral–no exceptions. If you hold that using drugs is morally wrong, and you are a moral absolutist, then you must oppose needle exchange programs. It makes no difference that they save lives; it is a fundamental moral axiom that if you participate in any way in an immoral act, even if you participation is only incidental and regardless of your intentions or goals, you are guilty of immorality.

    From the outside, to a person who believes in the principle of least harm, it can look like a moral absolutist is seeking to “punish” people; it can seem that a person who opposes needle exchange programs is trying to “punish” drug users or believes that drug users should get AIDS, and it can look like a person who opposes comprehensive sex ed or birth control is seeking to “punish”people who have sex or believes that people who have sex deserve to have their lives ruined. But that’s overly simplistic.

  118. I’ve seen that page, and I think it’s really interesting, in a depressing and kind of hypocritical way.

    It reinforces, I think the lesson that my cognitive science teacher made back in my college days: when asked to explain motivations, people give situational explanations for their own behavior, but personal explanations for the behavior of others. “I cut that guy off in traffic because the sun was in my eyes and I couldn’t see him. That guy cut me off in traffic because he is a selfish, careless person who doesn’t have any concern for anyone else on the road.” “I am getting an abortion because I am trapped in a bad situation with no good way out. She is getting my abortion because she’s a filthy little whore who spreads her legs for anyone with no thought to the consequences.”

  119. I’ve seen that page, and I think it’s really interesting, in a depressing and kind of hypocritical way.

    It reinforces, I think the lesson that my cognitive science teacher made back in my college days: when asked to explain motivations, people give situational explanations for their own behavior, but personal explanations for the behavior of others. “I cut that guy off in traffic because the sun was in my eyes and I couldn’t see him. That guy cut me off in traffic because he is a selfish, careless person who doesn’t have any concern for anyone else on the road.” “I am getting an abortion because I am trapped in a bad situation with no good way out. She is getting my abortion because she’s a filthy little whore who spreads her legs for anyone with no thought to the consequences.”

  120. He’s both right and wrong.

    There is no shortage of babies to adopt. What there is a shortage of is healthy white babies to adopt.

    If he were wiling to adopt a baby with Down’s syndrome, or an inner-city black baby who was born addicted to crack, my suspicion is that he’d have little trouble at all. But if he wil only adopt a healthy white baby, then yes, it’s a very difficult road.

    In the US, roughly 67% of all women seeking abortions are not white; the majority of those are African-American (Boonstra HD et al., Abortion in Women’s Lives, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2006). Among Caucasions, 50% of all abortions occur in only 11% of the population–typically, young (under 25 years old) and poor (under the Federal poverty line) women who are poorly educated (Finer LB et al., Reasons U.S. women have abortions: quantitative and qualitative perspectives, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2005). Among women who seek an abortion generally, fetal deformities are a factor in about 13% of the cases, and health factors for the women are a factor in an additional 7% of cases (Family Planning Perspectives 20:169, July/August 1988).

    In practice, what that means is that the number of educated, affluent white women aborting healthy babies is comparatively small. These are the people that adoption agencies try to reach. Adoption is an alternative for some, but not most or all, women seeking an abortion.

  121. I didn’t say physical force.

    But when you talk about people being “forced” to do something (which was the whole point of this thread, the term “forced birth”), there is an implication that no other choice is available. And I simply don’t believe that being strongly predisposed towards a particular action is the same thing as being forced to do it.

    I also think it’s demeaning to women to say that just because they are socially (or worse, hormonally) conditioned in a certain way, they no longer have any choices. There are some extreme cases in which this is true, but I think you have to be incredibly careful about declaring that other people didn’t really make their own choices freely. It can be patronizing and disempowering.

  122. Re: Forced Birth

    wouldn’t necessarily apply it to all so-called pro-lifers, but feel that it’s a very accurate term for those who, say, even oppose abortion in rape cases.

    I would agree with this. There are plenty of pro-lifers (I believe the majority, but I could be wrong) who do support abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. I don’t think these people would fit under the term “forced birth lobby,” but the extremists who wouldn’t allow abortion under any circumstances would.

  123. Re: killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

    The list of action items is so big that it’s daunting. Back when the ERA was on the table, you could point to that as a shorthand for everything else that also needs doing, besides merely altering the constitution.

    I’m concerned sometimes that because a complete list is so huge, the whole slate gets set aside as too messy to bother with.

  124. Re: killing for peace, fucking for abstinance

    I guess I’m still not on the same sheet of music as you are, with abortion = murder. If that were all it was, I don’t think these people would be the ones objecting. Real people getting killed are part of a messy story with lots of angles. Palestine comes to mind…

    Because the unborn are symbols of innocence, they don’t have any of that messy baggage that real people carry. They are pure potential, nothing but potential. (for good or ill)

    So when pro-choice lobbies against unwanted children, the fundies have a huge blind spot around that- once a child is born, it’s no longer free from original sin.

    The reasons that I think murder is bad, are not the same as the reasons that these guys think murder is bad. I don’t like what violence does for the people who commit it, above and beyond what it does to the victims. If these people had the same concern. they might be able to compare the burden of raising an unwanted child with the burden of having murdered a complicated human being.

    I think you’re given them more credit for moral analysis than I do. For them, it’s a holy war. Holy wars are not fought on the issues, they’re fought on an emotional battleground.

    I want to fight a larger struggle than my opponents, lest they limit my agenda.

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