Push Back Protesting
March 30, 2012 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Back in September of 2011, a group of protesters from Defend Life, held a demonstration in front of Robert Frost Middle School in Rockville, MD. The daughter of Todd Stave, the landlord for Reproductive Health Services in Germantown, attends this school. Todd Stave, no stranger to having protests targeted at him, decided to fight back. He founded the group Voice of Choice, to calmy call the people who call the homes of abortion providers and those with other connections to clinics. Their stated goal is to "[use] peaceful methods to neutralize those who use bullying tactics."
posted by Hactar (107 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good for him. I'm tired of rolling over and letting the anti-choice groups control the conversation. Maybe this gets them to stop the harassment. Maybe it starts a dialogue. But it needs to be done.
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:47 PM on March 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


I approve.
posted by New England Cultist at 1:49 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wish I had the patience to do something like this.

Maybe this will help rehumanize them to the "pro-lifers". I doubt it. I mean, some are reachable (people like my mother who had a huge heart), but the angry white men involved in the movement out of hate (the kind who do the violent actions) I fear are unreachable. But, if it sticks a thorn in their side in the process, I'm all for it!
posted by symbioid at 1:54 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


brilliant
posted by photoslob at 1:57 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would be down to participate if 01) I was even remotely capable of calm, rational conversation about abortion rights and 02) I could actually stand to talk on the phone to anyone ever. I guess I will just stick to my plan of visualizing antichoicers being eaten by rabid wildebeests.
posted by elizardbits at 2:01 PM on March 30, 2012 [24 favorites]


even remotely capable of calm, rational conversation about abortion rights

Man, that just about sums up the whole problem with this issue on both sides.
posted by snottydick at 2:10 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was totally going to post this (but I'm at work and I actually had to work today) so here he is on Maddow.
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:10 PM on March 30, 2012


Anti-Family-Planning.

They're not anti-choice, or pro-lifers. When you peel away all their thin-edge rhetoric about abortion, they just don't think women are smart enough to control their own lives. They're at best wards of the state, at worst breeding stock. But it's all about taking away the freedom and control which family planning gives women.
posted by mikelieman at 2:12 PM on March 30, 2012 [39 favorites]


visualizing antichoicers being eaten by rabid wildebeests.

Aren't wildebeest ruminants? That would be really, really, slow and painful...

Oh.

Carry On.
posted by pupdog at 2:14 PM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


I just want to make sure I'm understanding this correctly. Defend Life is apparently upset that Reproductive Health Services offers abortions. So, rather than protest RHS directly, Defend Life, a Catholic organization, in a stunning display of Christian love, instead targets RHS's landlord's middle school-aged daughter by demonstrating outside the school she attends?

Do I have all the pieces? Or have I failed to fully appreciate the monumental level of douchebaggery here?
posted by xedrik at 2:15 PM on March 30, 2012 [49 favorites]


Man, that just about sums up the whole problem with this issue on both sides.

No, it doesn't. The day pro-choice protesters protest outside the school of the child of a landlord of a antiabortion group with signs that have gory pictures of women who died in childbirth and the landlord's name and phone number is day when the two sides will be equivalent.

Today is not that day.
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:15 PM on March 30, 2012 [98 favorites]


Bonus question, because I'm curious: Does anyone know if Defend Life began their demonstration at the middle school with a rousing chorus of They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love?
posted by xedrik at 2:17 PM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


1. They picketed his daughter's middle school? Implicitly targeting a preteen girl? How does one even begin to address this?
which is a nice segue into
2. Elizardbits, me too. I had to stop doing clinic escorts because I just wanted to assault the protestors.
3. On a lighter note, there's a lot of eponysteria in this thread.


On preview, Xedrick stole my italics.
posted by scratch at 2:18 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]



Man, I really admire this approach. Especially when they offer blessing for the offender's home at 1717 Mockingbird Lane (or wherever).

In this case, turning the other cheek is so very, very sweet.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:19 PM on March 30, 2012


I would tell them I was praying that they get exactly what they deserve.
posted by shothotbot at 2:24 PM on March 30, 2012


On preview, Xedrick stole my italics.

On the other hand, you gave him 'c', so I think you're even.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:29 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would be down to participate if 01) I was even remotely capable of calm, rational conversation about abortion rights

Don't. "Abortion Rights" is their framing of a thin wedge in their Anti-Family-Planning campaign. Abortion services is a small, small part of family planning, but it's where they're attacking.

So, don't let them use it. Get all meta, and call them what they are. Anti Family Planning, and make them defend THEIR position of being against Family Planning.

We're not Pro Choice. We're PRO FAMILY PLANNING.

They're not Pro Life ( who is Anti-Life? Darkseid, I guess... ), they're ANTI FAMILY PLANNING.

Stop playing their game and make them answer the hard questions.
posted by mikelieman at 2:31 PM on March 30, 2012 [26 favorites]


You know as well as I do that the people who show up at the kids' middle schools with the pictures of the aborted fetuses get all taken aback by this. And feel that it's monumentally unfair, that they're being uniquely oppressed for their faith.
posted by kgasmart at 2:34 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


To the extent that I endorse the release of information about Prop 8 voters, I support this. Freedom of speech doesn't absolve the speaker of non-violent consequences. If the worst that happens is that an anti-choicer has to hear viewpoints as odious to them as their own are to the rest of the country, then welcome to America.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:36 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just want to make sure I'm understanding this correctly. Defend Life is apparently upset that Reproductive Health Services offers abortions. So, rather than protest RHS directly, Defend Life, a Catholic organization, in a stunning display of Christian love, instead targets RHS's landlord's middle school-aged daughter by demonstrating outside the school she attends?

I don't understand this either. Although I'm a godless heathen, I've read the bible cover to cover and can't for the life of me remember JC implicitly or explicitly endorse this behavior. Or is this a Catholic thing? Is this grounded in real scripture or some bastardization about interpretation of a very contradictory book.

I've always held the belief that as Clinton said, abortion should be "safe, legal and rare." You reduce abortion by having fewer unwanted pregnancies. And I've always believed that women have the ultimate decision in this. As a man, my say stops the moment I put my penis in her vagina. I would like to think that the women I have sex with might consult with me about what to do about an unplanned pregnancy, but she has veto power.

The most heartbreaking part of these militant antiabortion people is how they recruit their small children to hold the aborted fetus posters. Talking to a little kid about such a heavy subject with those visuals could really fuck them up. Of course they're going to have some deep feeling about choice.

To the extent that I endorse the release of information about Prop 8 voters, I support this. Freedom of speech doesn't absolve the speaker of non-violent consequences.

I endorse the release of information on prop 8 financial supporters (and any and all politicians, propositions, etc) but not the individual voter info. For one thing, it supposed to be a secret ballot. I'm sure that's what you meant, right?
posted by birdherder at 2:41 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


For one thing, it supposed to be a secret ballot. I'm sure that's what you meant, right?

The vote itself is a secret ballot, of course, but petition signatures for putting an issue on the ballot are not secret in some states.
posted by kmz at 3:09 PM on March 30, 2012


The vote itself is a secret ballot, of course, but petition signatures for putting an issue on the ballot are not secret in some states.

That's fair game.
posted by birdherder at 3:25 PM on March 30, 2012


Stop playing their game and make them answer the hard questions.

UNfortunately, changing the terminology is not going to solve the problem. We've gone from pro-abortion/anti-abortion to pro-choice/anti-choice and pro-life/anti-life - it doesn't address the underlying problem. Though I agree that we should ask the hard questions which, in fact, have always been at the foundations of all legislation against abortion: that women and their doctors can't be trusted to manage reproduction.
posted by Miko at 3:29 PM on March 30, 2012


How does that school justify naming itself after Robert Frost? Did he pass through Rockville on his excursion to the Great Dismal Swamp?
posted by A dead Quaker at 3:31 PM on March 30, 2012


Republicans aren't pro-life they're pro-birth. Once you're out of the vagina you're on your own, buddy.
posted by Talez at 3:52 PM on March 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


Bad me thinks about telling the employers of picketers of middleschools about their employee's actions.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:04 PM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have to wonder just what these people think they're accomplishing. This has to alienate WAY more people than it'd attract.
posted by jonmc at 4:21 PM on March 30, 2012


They're not pro-life, they're "slut" haters, where slut is any woman who has sex but doesn't want to be pregnant, including those who are raped.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:33 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, the most hardcore anti-abortion person I ever met was a black woman (from a rich family) that I had a low level flirtation thing happening with back in college. In general, her politics were so far to the left as to make most mefites look like republican bankers. I visited her dorm room one night and on her wall was an anti-abortion poster so graphic it made my stomach turn.

Years later she was a contestant on a major reality show. Outlier? Perhaps, but this issue does weird shit to people.
posted by jonmc at 4:54 PM on March 30, 2012


Bad me thinks about telling the employers of picketers of middleschools about their employee's actions.

I mean, essentially what's happened is this – That they (the protestors) have such little respect for boundaries, that, when they are angry at someone/something, they will go after their children. I've known career criminals with more moral fiber than that.

I think that telling their employers how low they'd stoop isn't too bad of an idea.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 4:58 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


they just don't think women are smart enough to control their own lives

they're pro-birth. Once you're out of the vagina you're on your own

they're "slut" haters

they're ANTI FAMILY PLANNING


As one of "them," it's fascinating to me that after all these years "you" are still not able to identify what makes the pro-life movement tick. All the effort wasted on underestimating and mischaracterizing your opponents--perhaps it's one of the reasons you're slowly losing ground.
posted by Cortes at 5:01 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I dunno, if you're one of 'them' does that mean you are against sex education and widely available contraception? Because I think 'anti-Family Planning' is pretty accurate then. Are you for accessible, actually liveable welfare payments for anyone with children? If not, then you're really abandoning the kid once it's out of the vagina. I hope you at least support a strong and transparent CPS.

As for 'think they're not smart enough to control their own lives', that accusation gets levelled at me when I argue for compulsory education/health insurance, and I basically think it's true, so it doesn't bother me. People are going to make bad decisions sometimes, society should attempt to direct them away from those decisions for some cases, and people draw the line for which choices fall under that 'some cases' option differently.
posted by jacalata at 5:08 PM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


As one of "them," it's fascinating to me that after all these years "you" are still not able to identify what makes the pro-life movement tick.

Maybe as one of "them" you can explain to "us" what makes the pro-life movement tick?
posted by birdherder at 5:22 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe as one of "them" you can explain to "us" what makes the pro-life movement tick?

Just stick with "they hate sluts." Easier for everyone.
posted by Cortes at 5:29 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


As one of "them," it's fascinating to me that after all these years "you" are still not able to identify what makes the pro-life movement tick.

Your position isn't "Pro-Life". EVERYONE IS "Pro-Life". Your position is Anti-Family-Planning.

And what makes the Anti-Family-Planning movement tick is a rejection of the idea that Women are competent to direct their own reproductive decisions. This is, of course, antithetical to our founding democratic principles.
posted by mikelieman at 5:34 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think that having calm conversations with one's political opponents is a good idea. It will definitely be well-received by the abortion protestors. It's been successfully done in a few places and initiated by both sides. At this point there might even be a good model to follow.
posted by michaelh at 5:40 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


George Carlin said it best (NSFW) .
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:53 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just stick with "they hate sluts." Easier for everyone.

Based on this answer, for you I'm going to go with 'they don't know but they've been arguing it for so long they can't just back out now'.
posted by jacalata at 6:14 PM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Just stick with "they hate sluts." Easier for everyone.

No. It's distinctly easier for you...because then you don't have to elucidate your position. I second a request to explain 'what makes the pro-life movement tick' because I am genuinely curious. I also wouldn't mind a citation for your comment that the pro-choice crowd is losing ground...which I wouldn't necessarily find surprising, but i'd like to know how you came to that conclusion.
posted by jnnla at 6:35 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe as one of "them" you can explain to "us" what makes the pro-life movement tick?

Just stick with "they hate sluts." Easier for everyone.


Don't be childish. If you disagree with someone's contention, rebut it. But don't complain that nobody understands your position, and then refuse even polite requests to actually explain it. That's now how debate between rational adults works.

So, let's try this again. Cortes, I would be very interested in your thoughts on what makes the 'pro-life/anti-choice' movement tick.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:37 PM on March 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


As a clinic escort, I was told not to engage the protesters, but this is a great alternate form of engagement. It lets someone who is not immediately involved (and therefore less likely to be het up) engage. Also, sauce for the goose on that address stuff.

What makes the radical pro-life movement tick, as far as I can tell, is getting some variety of $DEITY in my peanut butter (they do not taste great together, sorry) and a fundamental contempt for women's ability to make moral decisions. But I guess that's fair, since I've got some contempt for people who picket a school with bloody fetus posters because a child related to someone connected to a family planning or abortion clinic attends it.
posted by immlass at 6:43 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't care what delusion someone uses to justify their wish to interfere with my bodily autonomy and the right to make decisions about my own medical care. The basic human right to plan the role of reproduction in one's life isn't - and should never be - a voting matter.

I love what Voice of Choice is doing - more power to them.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:01 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cortes, I'll assume you consider a fetus a person, and as such consider abortion murder. I disagree but I'll at least grant you that. But what I don't get and can't forgive/justify is this showing up at the daughter's school business with full color abortion pictures - I would love to hear your moral justification for that
posted by kgasmart at 7:25 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pro-choice (or pro-family planning or pro whatever term you like for access to abortions and women having full rights over their bodies). One of my friends is Catholic and she is also pro-choice; it isn't always a religious divide. I like what "Voice for Choice" is doing, but the trick will be ensuring they don't become that which they despise.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:35 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would be very interested in your thoughts on what makes the 'pro-life/anti-choice' movement tick.

I really don't think it's that hard to get inside the heads of pro-lifers, to the point that I kind of feel like I'm being baited, actually. You don't grant their premise, of course, but it's not hard to see why people who believe that a human being is created at conception would be against abortion, and would feel it their moral responsibility to fight it vehemently. It really is a display of the most willful ignorance, in my opinion, to claim that the pro-life movement is at its heart about subjugating women or hating sluts or what have you. I know hundreds and hundreds of staunch pro-lifers, almost all of whom are far more active than I am, and not one comes even close to the silly labels that get floated around here. A lot of young, college-educated kids. More women than men. If you're really curious about what makes the pro-life movement tick, spend a couple minutes on a any of the notable pro-life sites. I think you'll at least see that you can't disregard it as some WASP-y chauvinism.

I also wouldn't mind a citation for your comment that the pro-choice crowd is losing ground

Sure, here are a couple: Since 2009, Gallup polls started showing a majority of Americans identifying as pro-life.

Last year, Catholic pro-choice activist Frances Kissling wrote an interesting piece about what she sees as the erosion of the "pro-choice brand" and the need to change tactics in face of "increasingly sophisticated arguments" from the other side.

And of course, there is the recent push by many states to defund Planned Parenthood.
posted by Cortes at 7:52 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Some forms of birth control prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Is that murder, Cortes?

And the original point, is protesting at a middle school targeting the child of an abortion provider a legitimate protest action?

Is there any way the standard of life begins at conception would not require you to physically obstruct drug stores to save human lives?

Tell me what would be allowed by groups that self identify as pro-life?
posted by dglynn at 8:15 PM on March 30, 2012


Quote: George Carlin said it best (NSFW) .George Carlin said it best (NSFW) .

YouTube is blocked here at work, so I can't watch the video. I assume here he talks about how his mother was sitting in the abortion clinic waiting room, about to abort the fetus that would later become him, and she had a vision of her own mother that convinced her not to abort. His quote in his "sortabiography" Last Words was, "I'm in favor of abortion, just not my abortion."

Back on topic, I'm a big fan of Stave's position and tactics here. The Public Debate needs more grown-ups.
posted by themanwho at 8:19 PM on March 30, 2012


but it's not hard to see why people who believe that a human being is created at conception would be against abortion...

I don't know on what grounds you believe that or expect anyone else to believe that, but let's say it's an appropriate belief. IF so that's a fine thing for you to believe and a fine rubric on which make personal moral decisions.

and would feel it their moral responsibility to fight it vehemently

Here's where I part ways. Why is this your moral responsibility? "Vehemently?" What other moral responsibilities do have to fight things "vehemently"? Where else does this "vehemence" direct itself? Are you protesting outside of prisons whenever someone is electrocuted? What's your antiwar activism like? Your pro-healthcare activism?

This is where it tends to break down. There are a few people who are consistently anti-all-death at all times. But very, very few self-identified pro-lifers are in this camp. Their attention, their interest, their activism starts and ends with women and embryos inside those women. IT's absolutely fair to ask why this, of all activities they might see as injurious to life, is singled out. And please be honest enough to recgonize that it is singled out.

Which means this isn't really about "life".

Once we make that clear, there aren't that many things left for it to be about. Shaming and controlling women is pretty much what's left.
posted by Miko at 8:31 PM on March 30, 2012 [32 favorites]


Also, better update your Gallup data.
posted by Miko at 8:36 PM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


You don't grant their premise, of course, but it's not hard to see why people who believe that a human being is created at conception would be against abortion, and would feel it their moral responsibility to fight it vehemently. It really is a display of the most willful ignorance, in my opinion, to claim that the pro-life movement is at its heart about subjugating women or hating sluts or what have you.

These words are lovely and all, but they aren't about the "pro-life" movement (even the name of which is constructed of a lie). The "pro-life" movement wants to deny access to contraception. The "pro-life" movement wants to rely on abstinence-only sex education, which significantly increases rates of both STI transmission and, more importantly, unwanted pregnancy, which turns out to be the cause of most abortions.

That's the salient point here. The "pro-life" movement doesn't actually want to take actions that will reduce the number of abortions. If they did, they would be all FOR Planned Parenthood, because it is our best defense against the circumstances which lead to abortions. The "pro-life" movement wants to deny women access to the ability to control their own reproductive health, which only leads to increased abortion rates (because history has shown that abortions WILL still happen, regardless of their legality or safety).

So what's the gain from the "pro-life" position? No contraception leads to more unwanted pregnancies leads to... what, exactly?

Also, if you're going to participate in this conversation, do so in good faith. Stop with that "It's so obvious you must be baiting me" crap. People don't understand your position because it DOESN'T MAKE SENSE and your rhetoric is at cross purposes with your actions.
posted by IAmUnaware at 8:41 PM on March 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Vehemently?" What other moral responsibilities do have to fight things "vehemently"?

If you believe that the fetus is a defenseless human being, and if you believe that murder is one of the most disruptive acts that can occur within the fabric of human society, then 50 million legal abortions in the US and counting is probably going to place near the top of your list of "bad things that need to be stopped."
posted by Cortes at 8:47 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


YouTube is blocked here at work, so I can't watch the video. I assume here he talks about how his mother was sitting in the abortion clinic waiting room, about to abort the fetus that would later become him, and she had a vision of her own mother that convinced her not to abort."

Yeah, no, that's not what he talks about at all.

It's a lot more stuff like "Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers...They're not pro-life...they're anti-woman. They don't like women. They believe women's primarily role is to function as a brood mare for the state...Just looking for a little consistency here in these anti-abortion arguments."
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on March 30, 2012


If you believe that the fetus is a defenseless human being, and if you believe that murder is one of the most disruptive acts that can occur within the fabric of human society, then 50 million legal abortions in the US and counting is probably going to place near the top of your list of "bad things that need to be stopped."

OK, so can you answer the questions about how vehemently you, personally, fight against the other forms of murder - the kinds done on actual, living, adult human beings - that are sanctioned by our society?
posted by Miko at 8:49 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


"bad things that need to be stopped."

Also, can you answer the other questions about why if it's "bad and needs to be stopped," you actually oppose the exact things that make it more likely to stop?
posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Cortes, the notable pro-life sites that you link all advocate for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Given that Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of family planning services, of which abortions are a very small part, it's not a long bow to draw when people in this thread suggest that the 'movement' is anti-family planning.

The latter two sites also advocate against contraception. Personally, I can't see a rational reason why anyone who cares about reducing abortion rates would be against against contraception. That position also suggests that the 'movement' is about more than just protecting the lives of fetuses.

The last link has a lot of stuff speaking out against homosexuality. Again, nothing to do with protecting life, or abortions, at all.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't buy your argument that it's only about saving human life created at conception. There is a great deal more to it, and you are being disingenuous or oblivious if you claim otherwise.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:55 PM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


To assist you in answering the last question:
"While it may seem paradoxical, a country's abortion rate is not closely correlated with whether abortion is legal there. For example, abortion levels are quite high in Latin American countries, where abortion is highly restricted. (In fact, 20 million of the 46 million abortions performed annually worldwide occur in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws.) At the same time, abortion rates are quite low throughout Western Europe, where the procedure is legal and widely available...

Abortion levels are high in countries where the desire for small families is strong but contraceptive use is low or ineffective. For example, in most of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, where desired family size has been small for many years, modern contraceptive methods were not generally available until recently. As a result, women relied on abortion—which was legal, safe and easily accessible—to regulate births. However, as contraceptives have become much easier to obtain in recent years, the situation has begun to change rapidly, and abortion rates in some of these countries fell by as much as 50% between 1990 and 1996.

In sharp contrast, even in countries where abortion is legal and widely available, abortion rates are low if couples practice contraception effectively to limit or space births. In the Netherlands, for example, where abortion has been legal and widely accessible for many years, abortion and unintended pregnancy rates are low because of widespread contraceptive use."
Basically, to reduce numbers of abortions you need to (a) make them legal and safe and (b) promote and support contraceptive use.

Check out the chart. It's become particularly interesting to me to compare Canada, which is so incredibly similar to the US in population, wealth level, religious breakdown and so on, and yet has so many fewer abortions than we do. And think of it - Canada makes no laws respecting abortion other than the usual medical safety provisions that apply to any procedures. Abortion is not outlawed at any point. All decisions relating to the outcome of a pregnancy are between patients and doctors.

Something to learn from.

For those that say "gee, we keep having the same old argument all the time, it must be because those obstinate pro-choicers won't listen," I reject the idea that it's because it's people on the pro-choise side that can't get beyond the same old argument. We keep trying to advance the argument, and we keep facing a consistent refusal to deal with reality on the part of people embracing the "pro-life" agenda. If they dodge questions and refuse to be honest, what can you do? They're going to keep making the same romantic, vague, ideological, fuzzy, and inadequate arguments and we're not going to see any improvement in conditions for women, children, and families.

I see one group of people dealing with longitudinal and cross-cultural data, one group who has become concerned about the role reproductive control, choice and planning has in family structure and outcomes for education, health, and income for the entire lifetimes of women and children, and one group of people working consistently to bring resources, factual reproductive education, and assistance to women to give them the tools to reproduce only when they want to and are ready to. There is one group of people using empirical information to make public health decisions. The other is using wishful thinking, and the patently obvious disconnect between strategy and outcome belies their stated interest in "life," which is why it's absolutely fair to press them on what, exactly, this interest really is.
posted by Miko at 9:05 PM on March 30, 2012 [20 favorites]


For clarity, I put 'movement' in quotes because I am aware that no movement is a monolith - the views of Cortes may not be representative of all 'pro-life/anti-choice' people, and I suggest that peeps in this thread hold Cortes accountable for his own statements, rather than all other stuff they've heard coming out of that side of the debate.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:08 PM on March 30, 2012


you actually oppose the exact things that make it more likely to stop?

I can't see a rational reason why anyone who cares about reducing abortion rates would be against against contraception.

I'm not sure that the underlying assumption is even accurate. Recent studies have shown that the availability of contraception does not necessarily result in a decrease in abortion: in Spain and Sweden, abortion rates actually increased alongside contraception use.
posted by Cortes at 9:10 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you believe that the fetus is a defenseless human being, and if you believe that murder is one of the most disruptive acts that can occur within the fabric of human society, then 50 million legal abortions in the US and counting is probably going to place near the top of your list of "bad things that need to be stopped."

Explain, using logic, why picketing the school of the child of a landlord of an abortion clinic is a more effective way to prevent abortions than say, effective sex education and distribution of condoms.

If you so-called "pro-lifers" really believed in saving the lives of "defenseless human beings" then the place to start would be in education of those conceiving, before they conceive.

Considering that that's not how you self-identified "pro-lifers"--or actually, as others have pointed out, more accurately called "anti-family-planners"--behave, one can only conclude that your argument and preaching is the most tiresome, despicable form of disingenuous sophistry meant to hide your true objective, which would be to...wait for it...subjugate women.
posted by dubitable at 9:12 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suggest that peeps in this thread hold Cortes accountable for his own statements, rather than all other stuff they've heard coming out of that side of the debate.

In the absence of statements, though, it's fair. If we make a mistake in attributing a statement to Cortes that s/he doesn't believe, s/he can clarify.

Spain - apparently it's due to the increased use of the morning after pill, classfied as an abortion even though it's functionally no different than the BCP I take to keep getting my period every month. The increased availability of this form of contraception without a prescription obviously reduces rates of surgical abortion. In Sweden, the same uptick associated with increasing availability of simple contraception seems to be occuring, along with a dropoff in rates of effective sex education. Besides, your data on Sweden is from 2002 and it looks like the trend has seen abortion dropping significantly again.
posted by Miko at 9:16 PM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Cortes, your first cited made no conclusions other than 'further study needed', and the second noted a correlation of a rise in abortions with a reduction in sex education in schools.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:18 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Correlation does not equal causation. The abstract from the Spain study you linked to describes nothing in terms of how education of proper usage of contraception has grown or fallen proportionally to the usage of contraception.

Furthermore, the abstract from the Sweden study clearly states:

During the 1990s, a period of economic stagnation in Sweden, schools have suffered budget cut backs. Sex education is taught less.

Back to critical-thinking school for you, Cortes.
posted by dubitable at 9:18 PM on March 30, 2012


Also, if you're going to participate in this conversation, do so in good faith. Stop with that "It's so obvious you must be baiting me" crap.

To be fair, it was totally bait.
posted by michaelh at 9:32 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The annual number of abortions in Spain has nearly doubled in the last decade, prompting calls for improved sex education in schools.

"We have to get rid of the taboos about sexual education," said Pilar Triguero of Ceapa, a national federation of 12,500 parent-teacher associations. "The state-funded schools tiptoe around the subject, and they don't even have an established curriculum. What is taught depends on the discretion of each teacher."

The abortion rate among women between the ages of 20 and 29... had also doubled.... Many were married or had stable partners... the rise in abortions among these women was partly due to precarious economic conditions. Female workers hold the bulk of temporary contracts, and many wait until they have a permanent post to have children for fear that a pregnancy will dash their chances of a job or promotion, she said. Spain's late business hours make it hard for women to juggle jobs and family and few businesses offer part-time positions. State support for families is among the lowest in the EU, Ms Delgado said.
A little more complex. A society isn't supporting its women - lack of sex education, lack of economic structures, inadequate state support for workers with families. Interesting how these social policies can affect the abortion rate, isn't it?

Doesn't that argue for improving social policies to support women and families?

Wouldn't that be a great way to get that abortion rate moving down again?
posted by Miko at 9:34 PM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


No surprise it's wicked hard to find information on Spain and Sweden that's not on a propaganda site. These are apparently two serious workhorse talking points on the "lifey" sites.
posted by Miko at 9:36 PM on March 30, 2012


The "pro-life" movement doesn't actually want to take actions that will reduce the number of abortions.

And here I shall be playing the role of Advocate of the Devil.

In a practical sense, in the culture we have now, access to family planning leads to a reduction in unwanted pregnancies and abortions. It is also a culture that accepts premarital, recreational sex, and abortion.

In the culture we should have, sex is purely procreative and limited to stable married relationships. The less children know about it the better, because it is something that should only be experienced within the confines of a marriage, and it leads to babies. Without contraception (putting aside the issues of homosexuality and sterility), all sex becomes potentially procreative. Accidental pregnancies are brought to full term and the parents are compelled to marry, or if the mother is incapable of raising the child, the child is adopted by a loving couple who wants a child. If everything goes according to plan, we end up with zero unwanted pregnancies. People who believe that there is nothing wrong with premarital and recreation sex are converted. It is an uncomfortable fact that if this conversion doesn't happen quickly, more abortions might result; so, the rate of conversion must be high. As a fail-safe, legislation is advocated that makes getting an abortion increasingly difficult, and in the best case scenario it becomes unavailable as an option.

/strawman
posted by eddydamascene at 9:45 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, my girlfriend is personally anti-abortion, and would not end her own pregnancy (except maybe in the case of rape, etc.) Her reasons basically align with Cortes' -- that the fetus is a live human being and should not be "killed." I think it would be fair to at least take Cortes' explanation for his/her own position at face value, especially considering it's not especially unique.

On the other hand, I'm all for abortion under just about any circumstances, up to and including whimsy. However, my way of respecting my woman's dominion over her body is to accept that, even though we have no desire whatsoever to have children, should she become pregnant, it's her decision that the pregnancy not be terminated, and I will honour it. The fetus may be a living human, or it may be an undifferentiated ball of splooge, but it'd be inside of her and therefore out of bounds.

This issue is never going to be resolved, but whatever gains are made for safe access to abortions won't come from simplistic generalizations about misogyny or slut-shaming (true as they might be in some cases).
posted by klanawa at 9:54 PM on March 30, 2012


Appreciate the attempt to channel the worldview, but I'd like to hear that actually, directly articulated by people who believe it, because they're usually very much afraid to state it outright.

And that's a pity, because it's pretty trivial to explain why all that isn't a good idea in a civil, pluralistic democracy with equal rights for all, why the conversions are never going to happen, and how there's zero evidence that this all would lead to happy families and healthy children where no one is unwanted. It's not a position one can defend outside of narrow, religiously and socially conservative groups who share extreme views and share the sense that they have the liberty and power to dictate how others should live and use their bodies.

That's why we end up with all the handwaving.
posted by Miko at 9:54 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


They're not anti-choice, or pro-lifers. When you peel away all their thin-edge rhetoric about abortion, they just don't think women are smart enough to control their own lives. They're at best wards of the state, at worst breeding stock. But it's all about taking away the freedom and control which family planning gives women.

The "extreme pro-life position" -- ie the one that regards interfering with the process of fertilization and conception as murder -- is not explicitly anti-woman. It's effectively anti-woman because women bear the primary burden of pregnancy and child rearing, but contraception of any kind, including condoms, is generally unacceptable in that framework. The only example in Scripture of someone being punished for something remotely involving contraception? Yeah, that was a man who pulled out early because he didn't want to take care of kids. Totally smited.

I think it's very, very important to distinguish between the inevitable outcome of a position -- the harm that comes to women, say -- and the intent/motivation of those that advocate that position. It's totally kosher to say, "You're deliberately deluding yourself and pretending that harm doesn't come to women because of your actions." Even, "You're ignoring this harm that comes to women, and you clearly believe it's less important than your ideology." But I've never met a pro-lifer who was motivated by harming women or treating them as "breeding stock."

Statistically, those people are certainly out there, but they're not a functional part of the national debate and most people just get angry if they're lumped in with the straw men.


Here's where I part ways. Why is this your moral responsibility? "Vehemently?" What other moral responsibilities do have to fight things "vehemently"? Where else does this "vehemence" direct itself? Are you protesting outside of prisons whenever someone is electrocuted? What's your antiwar activism like? Your pro-healthcare activism?

Legal executions are punishment for crimes committed; in almost all cases, fetuses are not guilty of crimes. War (ostensibly) is the defensive act of a nation-state, and the only casualties are volunteer soldiers. Pro-healthcare activism isn't about health care per se, it's about who pays for it. I'm not saying that I disagree with your accusations of hypocrisy, but if you believe that abortion is the murder of a human being, then the sheer scale of the issue would be a compelling call to action. Roughly 3000 abortions are performed per day in the US; that's roughly equal to the total number of US combar casualties over the decade we were occupying Iraq. So, again, if you believe that abortion is murder -- and that fetuses are morally innocent -- abortion is a much more pressing issue than war.

I'm no longer a pro-lifer, but there's a log of ignorance about the internal moral and ethical frameworks that are held by most pro-lifers. The first step of change is figuring out how the hell to communicate, at least in my opinion.
posted by verb at 9:13 AM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Roughly 3000 abortions are performed per day in the US; that's roughly equal to the total number of US combar casualties over the decade we were occupying Iraq.

Just going to say that from an anti-killing-of-innocents position, the number of casualties in Iraq that should matter and/or be compared to abortion statistics is probably not US combat casualties. And if it is, perhaps people who are concerned about the killing of innocents should be rethinking their definitions.

I understand the moral framework that says innocent fetuses are more important than the rights and bodily integrity of adult women; I also get that it's generally informed by religious sentiment (although as someone pointed out upthread, there are plenty of believers who have more nuanced positions or don't believe abortion is murder at all). I simply reject that moral framework, particularly as informed by religion, as something that has a place in American law or the public square in America, and particularly I reject the shaming and threatening tactics used on women, providers, and anyone even loosely associated with providing reproductive health care and abortion. Why this project is so great is that it turns those naming and shaming tactics back on the people who are already using them against people who aren't even involved, like schoolchildren.
posted by immlass at 9:40 AM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just going to say that from an anti-killing-of-innocents position, the number of casualties in Iraq that should matter and/or be compared to abortion statistics is probably not US combat casualties. And if it is, perhaps people who are concerned about the killing of innocents should be rethinking their definitions.

That's just a number I grabbed to put it in relation to other statistics often used to motivate those who oppose something like the invasion and occupation of Iraq. 1.3 million abortions a year is still about 100x higher than the numbers for civilian casualties provided by http://www.iraqbodycount.org/.


I understand the moral framework that says innocent fetuses are more important than the rights and bodily integrity of adult women

Pro-lifers tend to look at the "bodily integrity" claim as something similar to the Libertarian "My home is my castle" position. Both are important but neither justify murder. This is problematic in a lot of ways, but it's not simply a matter of saying "Fetus trumps woman." They feel that the fetus' right to life trumps a woman's right to a better life.
posted by verb at 9:49 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


War (ostensibly) is the defensive act of a nation-state, and the only casualties are volunteer soldiers.

That may be the single most wrong statement on the Internet. Good work.If you don't see why it is wrong, I suggest investigating "collateral damage" and "conscript."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:01 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


That may be the single most wrong statement on the Internet. Good work.If you don't see why it is wrong, I suggest investigating "collateral damage" and "conscript."

I didn't say that I thought it was correct, I was describing the rationalizations that separate 'War' from 'The voluntary killing of an innocent.'
posted by verb at 10:35 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


@Cortes - I thought someone should thank you for being willing to answer some of the follow-up questions about your position. I read some of the articles you've linked to, and I'm usually willing to read such articles offered as evidence during a civil debate. While the issue may come down to base premises, this kind of exchange makes for a much better discussion than just strawmanning back-and-forth.
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 10:45 AM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


it's not hard to see why people who believe that a human being is created at conception would be against abortion, and would feel it their moral responsibility to fight it vehemently.

Cortes, I really appreciate your participation in this thread. But I'd really like to understand better why people believe that a human being is created at conception. Because many, many pregnancies end in miscarriage, with estimates of between 31% and 50% of all pregnancies ending in miscarriage. Biology determined that particular cluster of cells was not viable, for any number of reasons. But I can't square the idea that human life begins at conception with the sheer number of miscarriages that take place. If you can explain why you believe life begins at conception, I would really be interested to understand that.
posted by ambrosia at 11:35 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is one simple fact that brands the entire "life begins at conception" movement as liars, hypocrites or just self-deceiving fools. It is that almost none of them would ever consider punishing women for killing their first-trimester fetuses in the same way a woman would be punished for killing her born baby. The only times potential illegality is ever suggested is for the doctors, doing what the women ask of them. If the million-plus abortions a year in the US are murders, then those million-plus women should be in prison, or even on death row, right? There are few countries in the world where that is done. Why is there no Christian nation doing the same thing? Because you 'pro-lifers' know in your heart that it really isn't about the 'life' of the unborn, no matter how you may argue? Or maybe there are more who consider that their 'endgame' than are willing to admit it, because they know it would lose them the support of the many who are 'soft' supporters. Because when you can't see a woman getting an abortion as a premeditated murderer (and the new restrictions are making them premeditate it even more), you can't honestly be "Pro-Life".
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:29 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


They feel that the fetus' right to life trumps a woman's right to a better life.

The number of proposed and enacted laws and regulations I've seen that offer no exemption for the life of the mother (or her health) lead me to view that claim with skepticism. What really comes across--and oneswellfoop's point about not jailing women who abort as murderers reinforces--is that women's moral judgement and right to make the decision about when terminating a pregnancy for healt or quality of life reasons is insufficient.

But I don't agree with many of the basic precepts of the "pro-life" movement and I've known that for years. Refusal to accept their framing doesn't mean I don't get it; in my case, it means I think "pro-life' premises are prima facie wrong.
posted by immlass at 1:03 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I have noticed is that the anti-planning cult consistently lies about things. We've seen it in this thread: claims made of studies that show the exact opposite, claims made that are readily disproven by looking at results in other nations, even flat out lying in creating legislation that demands doctors lie to their patients.

It's fucking gross and it needs to stop.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:03 PM on March 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


There is one simple fact that brands the entire "life begins at conception" movement as liars, hypocrites or just self-deceiving fools. It is that almost none of them would ever consider punishing women for killing their first-trimester fetuses in the same way a woman would be punished for killing her born baby.

I don't think it is simple. There is already a broad range of legal responses to the ending of human life. If fetuses were considered human then the breadth of responses would probably increase. Additionally, widespread equal treatment of a formerly oppressed class of people takes time and specific laws might change over time to reflect that.

Just as with anything else, a group of people who believe something will have a lot of different ideas about how to act on it. Cautious, radical, draconian, libertarian, ignorant, researched and a lot of stuff in the middle are all represented.
posted by michaelh at 2:08 PM on March 31, 2012


The first step of change is figuring out how the hell to communicate, at least in my opinion.

I wish I could agree with this, but it's not been my experience that pro-lifers are interested in communication. They're interested in winning. They're interested in stopping abortion - stopping the murder, in their parlance.

If I respect them more, try to empathize or at least understand their position - are they going to want to achieve that goal less? Will we come to some "understanding" where abortion remains legal?

Or do I simply need to let the pro-life side win, cede everything it wants, agree that abortion should be re-criminalized - and that will be the "understanding."

What other concession will mollify them?

My experience is that pro-lifers see any incremental measure restricting abortion - the ultrasound bills that are making the rounds of the states, for example - as a stepping stone. A way station on the way to the final destination.

I don't know how better communication changes that in the least.
posted by kgasmart at 2:10 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Until you can show me birth certificates dated from conception, I'm not buying into the "fetuses have rights too!" argument.
posted by mikelieman at 2:31 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh, maybe we could argue that if I conceived here then the fetus is American? Then the parents won't even have to put up with American healthcare for the birth!
posted by jacalata at 3:00 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Legal executions are punishment for crimes committed

And what moral framework makes the taking of human life acceptable as a punishment?

War (ostensibly) is the defensive act of a nation-state, and the only casualties are volunteer soldiers

Dealt with already.

I was describing the rationalizations

Why? Are we arguing about ways to rationalize totally inconsistent things? Does anyone accept these rationalizations and actually believe them? If so, please step up and plunk down your quarter. I'd like to hear why it's OK to kill noncombatants - babies, children, teens, the elderly - or to kill people whom a human, fault-ridden and locality-dependent justice system has condemned to a violent death. Why it's acceptable not to take basic steps to prevent entirely preventable life-threatening disease.

It's not like I'm not familiar with these hackneyed rationalizations. It's that we never get beyond the rationalizations; we don't often enough hold people accountable for these assertions which are built on misinformation - and, when pushed, the extremes of these positions are of course untenable for someone who claims to revere life.

The "extreme pro-life position" -- ie the one that regards interfering with the process of fertilization and conception as murder -- is not explicitly anti-woman. It's effectively anti-woman because women bear the primary burden of pregnancy and child rearing, but contraception of any kind, including condoms, is generally unacceptable in that framework.

I'm not so sure I take it as given. When I see the abstinence campaigns aimed at boys rather than girls, when I see legislation allowing pharmacists to use moral objections to deny the sale of condoms or require a prescription for them, when I see boys called out for shame at premarital sex - I might agree with you then. That's not how it is now.

Rationalizations. It's not like I've never heard the rationalizations. It's not like someone needs to splain more about the rationalizations. I've just never gotten beyond the rationalizations - that's all they are, reflections of quite shallow thinking that allows itself limitless hypocritical exceptions. I have a decent amount of respect for some of the lefty Quakers and Catholics I know that actually take the hard line across the board, that no step to end life should ever, ever be taken. But if you try to walk the line where it's OK to let some lives be taken, you've pretty much ceded the ground over to weighing lives and/or potential lives against each other, and from there the reasons why abortion should or shouldn't be allowed have everything to do with your opinion of how people "should" behave and nothing to do with your attitude that life is a God-given gift that no human has the right to interfere with.

I think it's very, very important to distinguish between the inevitable outcome of a position -- the harm that comes to women, say -- and the intent/motivation of those that advocate that position.....

I don't think it's very important, because outcome is what matters. Outcome is what makes girls suffer through unplanned pregnancies, makes them try to self-abort, makes women give up working , makes them travel across state lines to run the gauntlet at clinics. Outcome is what establishes the parameters of our freedoms and equal rights in a democracy. I don't give anybody credit for "intent." Intent is all well and good, but when you say "my intent is good and nice!" and yet you can be clearly shown that the effects of your positions are empirically quite negative, it's time to revise your approach - your intent isn't producing the desired result. Intent doesn't save lives, intent doesn't help families and children, intent doesn't prevent miscarriages, intent doesn't treat me as equal under the law. Outcome does. I can respect good intent, but in the end, people need to be accountable not for their intent, but for the outcomes of their actions and philosophies.

But I've never met a pro-lifer who was motivated by harming women or treating them as "breeding stock."

I sure have. They won't use these words directly, but in fact, it's there. You don't even have to read very far in abortion-related news or history before you find it - this isn't some chimera, it's foundational to a certain powerful strain of anti-abortion rhetoric, and it can easily be discerned to underlie most of the rest once you actually get someone to sit down and talk about why women can't be trusted to make the right choices all by themselves.
posted by Miko at 3:12 PM on March 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


oh, maybe we could argue that if I conceived here then the fetus is American?

Awesome, I look forward to our opportunity to try that immigration case! Should be damned interesting.
posted by Miko at 3:13 PM on March 31, 2012


jacalata, here's the statute you're thinking of. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1401

Most likely the legal definition of human life would change, not the meaning of the word birth.
posted by michaelh at 3:15 PM on March 31, 2012


I'll disclose my position: basically pro-choice but sometimes I'm not entirely convinced that the pro-lifers are wrong. I can see where they are coming from. I doubt I'll ever change camps, but I've thought about it.

Two things.

One:

For what it's worth, my girlfriend is personally anti-abortion, and would not end her own pregnancy (except maybe in the case of rape, etc.)


I absolutely, totally don't understand the logic of this position. I've heard it before, and I really don't get it. If a person is a person from the moment that they are conceived, then this is just straight-up discrimination. It's not the fetus's fault that it was conceived via rape, just as it's not the fetus's fault if it was conceived while unwanted in any other situation. Destroying this fetus is purely about the comfort of the woman who was victimized, and just really makes no sense. I'd love if someone could shed some light on this.


Two: I have a couple of extreme hypotheticals. I'd like the opinions of pro-lifers. The hypotheticals are deliberately extreme, but I really genuinely want to know the pro-life answers and why you answer that way.

How do pro-lifers feel about abortion/carrying to term in an instance where

a)having the baby will kill the mother. The baby may live for a few hours, but certainly not more than that, due to a defect or disease or environmental factors. It is absolutely certain that having the baby will cause her death.

b)having the baby when the baby is guaranteed to have a torturous or unlivable quality of life (for example, you're a woman. You're starving to death in a place that has been stricken by famine and disease. You know that your baby will live for a few years, hungry, diseased and miserable, before starving to death).

Aren't both of those cases instances where carrying the fetus to term is actually murder? What would you do in situations like that?
posted by windykites at 3:24 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


>> The first step of change is figuring out how the hell to communicate, at least in my opinion.

I wish I could agree with this, but it's not been my experience that pro-lifers are interested in communication. They're interested in winning. They're interested in stopping abortion - stopping the murder, in their parlance.


I changed. I know others who have. I know people who were pro-choice and became pro-life, too. The fact that treating "the other" like human beings forces one to stretch one's imagination is a feature, not a bug. That seems like the point of the article that spawned this post, doesn't it?



I'm not so sure I take it as given. When I see the abstinence campaigns aimed at boys rather than girls--

As a guy who grew up in the pro-life movement, I can say with 100% certainty that you're ignorant on this count. Boys are indoctrinated with messages of abstinence to exactly the same degree that girls are. You can argue that women suffer disproportionately under the framing of sexual issues, but that's a separate argument. To suggest that abstinence campaigns are aimed only at women is utterly disconnected from reality.



Outcome is what establishes the parameters of our freedoms and equal rights in a democracy. I don't give anybody credit for "intent." Intent is all well and good, but when you say "my intent is good and nice!" and yet you can be clearly shown that the effects of your positions are empirically quite negative, it's time to revise your approach

That's precisely what I was getting at. Now, if you have no interest in dialog with anyone and are happy to simply demonize The Other and wage a total war an anyone who lacks sufficient support for reproductive rights, carry on -- anyone who isn't with us is against us, and all that. If you are interested in basic human communication, or feel any responsibility to speak the truth, I would suggest that conflating outcome with intent is counter-productive.

The vast majority of pro-lifers -- literally every one I have ever known, worked with, met, or dialogued with -- are uncomfortable with the negative impact on women but believe that other means (community support for unwed mothers, gun laws allowing women to better defend themselves from attack, whatever free-market BS is popular at the moment) are solutions to those problems. They do not desire the negative impact on women. The number of people in this thread who've boldly stated that the negative outcomes are the actual goal of pro-lifers strikes me as no different than pro-life rhetoric about pro-choicers who "literally desire to see babies killed." It's no more true, and no more useful at solving the real problem.

This issue depresses me more than almost any other issue, in part because the vocal people on both side are 100% convinced that "their opponents" are monsters beyond reason, empathy, or basic human decency. The entire story that launched this post is about an attempt to transcend that gap by treating "The Other" as human beings worthy of dialogue -- and treating that gesture as worthwhile even if it does not produce immediate "conversion."
posted by verb at 4:05 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


verb, I just wanted to say that while I'm about as pro-choice as they get, I've really appreciated your comments in this thread. I just had an argument on Facebook with the very Christian, pro-life wife of a friend, and the whole thing was pretty civil, and did a lot to convince me of what you're trying to argue here: that a lot of pro-lifers are totally sincere in their beliefs. They may not be absolutely rock-solid consistent, but her questions to me (and I think she did most of the asking) showed me that I myself didn't have an extremely detailed understanding of the hazy territory of the woman's vs. the fetus's rights between conception and birth. It was really hard to defend myself without saying something that would probably sound really callous and amoral to someone who believed as she did! And for her part, she did an admirable job of arguing without making appeals to Christian morality that she knows I don't subscribe to. She's also indicated that she's pro-birth control (though my only evidence is a "Like" on another post of mine), and since she's kind of now, for me, the human face on the pro-life (or whatever) movement, it makes me feel like there's a lot of straw men in here.

Anyway, I'd be really interested to know what got you to come around. MeMail me, maybe, if this thread isn't the place for it.
posted by valrus at 4:23 PM on March 31, 2012


They may mean no disrespect for women, but when someone declares that the fertilized egg inside you has equal human rights to you, they are, in practice, cutting your human rights exactly in half. And even if you don't give 'full humanity' to the zygote/fetus/human-under-construction, whatever status you give it must take away from her, as long as it cannot be removed from her. And if that is how you view the process of 'childbearing' (an interestingly loaded term), you can not possibly treat those who can give birth equally to those who cannot.

Also, I am not going to say that every "Pro-Life" person is equal to those who are the most radical, anti-family-planning, woman-haters... they are just their enablers.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:05 PM on March 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


michaelh, yea, looks covered. OK then - all these fetuses aren't even American! And they don't have visas! Doesn't that make them here illegally?
posted by jacalata at 5:42 PM on March 31, 2012


Currently? I think currently fetuses have no legal recognition except as tissue for trafficking restriction purposes. Correct me if I am wrong. It's no more an illegal immigrant than an arm.

Should fetuses be considered humans they could not be charged with crimes, just like an infant. The difference between an infant and a fetus is that an infant can be separated from its mother, can be fingerprinted etc. so its fate can be decided independently. There are already laws to deal with ex utero immigrant children and the legal status of a fetus would not affect any of those.
posted by michaelh at 6:36 PM on March 31, 2012


are uncomfortable with the negative impact on women but believe that other means (community support for unwed mothers, gun laws allowing women to better defend themselves from attack, whatever free-market BS is popular at the moment) are solutions to those problems.

Maybe so, but the thing is that as long as they advocate for a system in women are not trusted to make their own healthcare decisions, they are advocating for law that bases rights upon gender. That should damn well make them "uncomfortable," because it's profoundly un-American.

Also, they may have this belief that there are these "other means," but when asked for evidence they can't produce it. The solutions you point to are laughable. Community support? Do you mean welfare programs, which might actually be helpful? That I could get behind. But when people say "community" they're usually imagining the benevolent charitable volunteer, and that is pretty fucking scarce on the ground when you're a poor, minority single mother with two or three kids already, let alone people who might be considered less untouchable by the moralizers. Gun laws to allow women to better defend themselves? I mean, are you serious in offering this as a solution? We get raped because we're not packing heat, so we failed to defend ourselves and the solution is gun laws? If you can't see the enormous logical flaws in this argument, the counterfactual nature of it, and the inherent problematics of assuming that there is something special about a woman's decision on pregnancy after rapeas opposed to in a situation where consensual sex ends in a choice not to carry to term -- then you really aren't arguing on the same level as your opponents, so we're back to that same problem again.

They do not desire the negative impact on women.

But they don't mind it when it comes, and they're prepared to sacrifice the fully human, legal woman to the hoped-for and far-from-guaranteed idea of a baby. I don't see a functional difference between tolerating this and desiring it. Because there isn't one.

As a guy who grew up in the pro-life movement, I can say with 100% certainty that you're ignorant on this count. Boys are indoctrinated with messages of abstinence to exactly the same degree that girls are

"Exactly the same degree?" That's not accurate and if you're as familiar as you say, then you know it. Here's a start. Googled in quotes "Abstinence program for girls", got 736 results. Googled "abstinence program for boys", got....7. Most of those are jokes. Even major websites like Conservapedia have the "girls" in their metadata, but apparently not the word "boys" because it won't show up in search. Across the country, certain abstinence education curricula are delivered to segregated groups of girls. Look at some of the content these curricula feature. Or how about reading the Waxman Report to Congress, which found that some of the programs receiving the most federal funding contained things like this:

“Women gauge their happiness and judge their success by their relationships. Men’s happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments." This curriculum also teaches: Men tend to be more tuned in to what is happening today and what needs to be done for a secure future. When women began to enter the worforce at an equal pace with men, companies noticed that women were not as concerned about preparing for retirement. This stems from the priority men and women place on the past, present, and future.

Another curriculum lists “Financial Support” as one of the “5 Major Needs of Women,” and “Domestic Support” as one of the “5 Major Needs of Men.” The curriculum states:

Just as a woman needs to feel a man’s devotion to her, a man has a primary need to feel a woman’s admiration. To admire a man is to regard him with wonder, delight, and approval. A man feels admired when his unique characteristics and talents happily amaze her.

A third curriculum depicts emotions as limiting girls’ ability to focus. It states: “Generally, guys are able to focus better on one activity at a time and may not connect feelings with actions. Girls access both sides of the brain at once, so they often experience feelings and emotions as part of every situation.”

Some of... the curricula describe girls as helpless or dependent upon men. In a discussion of wedding traditions, one curriculum writes: “Tell the class that the Bride price is actually an honor to the bride. It says she is valuable to the groom and he is willing to give something valuable for her.”

The curriculum also teaches: “The father gives the bride to the groom because he is the one man who has had the responsibility of protecting her throughout her life. He is now giving his daughter to the only other man who will take over this protective role.”One curriculum teaches that men are sexually aggressive and lack deep emotions.

In a chart of the top five women’s and men’s basic needs, the curriculum lists “sexual fulfillment” and “physical attractiveness” as two of the top five “needs” in the men’s section. “Affection,” “Conversation,” “Honesty and Openness,” and “Family Commitment” are listed only as women’s needs.

The curriculum teaches: “A male is usually less discriminating about those to whom he is sexually attracted. . . . Women usually have greater intuitive awareness of how to develop a loving relationship.”

The same curriculum tells participants: “While a man needs little or no preparation for sex, a woman often needs hours of emotional and mental preparation.”
I think this all puts paid to the notion that abstinence is preached to boys and girls to "exactly the same degree."

If you'd like to dig deeper, it looks like we could go on all day. To me there are only two possible responses to this folderol: to say these are reasonable characterizations of men and woman and then to claim there is no special onus placed on women to be responsible not only for their own, but their partner's "purity," or to recognize that these characterizations of women and their sexuality are part of a pattern of limiting, repressing, and controlling women's and girls sexuality while extending a more permissive attitude to boys' and men's.


The number of people in this thread who've boldly stated that the negative outcomes are the actual goal of pro-lifers strikes me as no different than pro-life rhetoric about pro-choicers who "literally desire to see babies killed." It's no more true, and no more useful at solving the real problem.

Sorry, what's "the real problem?" Because I think it's one group of people deciding it has the power to make reproductive decisons for another group.

Pro-lifers are just spouting BS as long as they continue choosing to ignore that the negativeoutcomes of their recommend policies are real, and as long as they refuse to honestly acknowledge that their preferred policies are actually ineffective. IT's not just a nice group of people who don't have the same view - it's people who are asking us all to play with a different deck. There's only one deck - collectively, we do better and has better outcomes when people can plan and manage all their own reproductive decisions without interference from the state - and we don't have to create a group of second-class citizens to accomplish it.

Basically, I can't argue fairly with people I feel are failing to be honest. Be honest. Admit the facts. Then perhaps we can get somewhere; but I'm not going to back down in the face of a bunch of propaganda articles and claims of gender-blindness and support for full equality for women and the pitiful regret of the sad unfortunate byproduct that anti-reproductive-choice policies make women into less than full citizens, when that's just plain not what you get under policies proposed, supported, advocated for and in fact thugged for by the pro-life movement.
posted by Miko at 6:46 PM on March 31, 2012 [12 favorites]


many, many pregnancies end in miscarriage, with estimates of between 31% and 50% of all pregnancies ending in miscarriage.

If abortion is murder, then you would certainly also propose that these be investigated as possible involuntary, criminally negligent manslaughter, right?
posted by Miko at 6:58 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a guy, my fundamental belief is that I will never have the experience of pregnancy. I will never have a fucking clue.

If there is a reason to disallow individual personal choice to access a safe medical procedure, it is one for women of our culture (read: nation) to determine.

Note that it is impossible to outlaw birth control choice: the safety of the burden is beyond our control. A cup of herbal tea and day of feeling poisoned, and whoopsie, miscarriage.

I don't recall any reports of numerous sociopathic women getting their jollies off aborting. There is no need for restrictions of any sort.

There is need for better sex ed and better (read: male) contraceptive choices.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:59 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This issue depresses me more than almost any other issue

And it depresses me more than any other issue because it reminds me that there are a lot of people willing to nominate themselves to make decisions for me - it reminds me that after all this time, women are still the unhealthy focus of strangers' obsessions over their own private and family lives, and that despite everything I'm not considered a full citizen and full human being by my own countrymates.
posted by Miko at 7:05 PM on March 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


Punctuation would have helped my meaning. I trust y'all get the gist.

Re: The number of people in this thread who've boldly stated that the negative outcomes are the actual goal of pro-lifers strikes me as no different than pro-life rhetoric about pro-choicers who "literally desire to see babies killed."

One group goes around not only predatorily bullying women seeking a safe medical alternative, but go ahead and kill the very doctors who provide protection against the monstrous underground or diy alternatives that always fill the vacuum left in their demise.

Denial of an at-will safe medical option is sociopathic. Denial of quality sex education is sociopathic. Society suffers when safety and education are denied. Anti-planner behaviours and broad ideals are factually, quantifiably sociopathic.

Provide education. Provide easy contraceptive alternatives. Provide the choice of safety.

The more you provide the former, the fewer women are maimed or killed in desperate attempts to make a choice you ultimately can not prevent.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:23 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


In Texas, if a woman wants to get an abortion she has no choice but to get an ultrasound. In the cases of first trimester abortions, when the embryo is tiny, this means sticking a large probe up the woman's vagina against her will. Forced penetration with a foreign object is also known as rape. Right now, in Texas, in order for a woman to get an abortion she will most likely be raped by her doctor beforehand.

In Arizona, doctors can now lie to women about birth defects in their fetuses so as to ensure they don't get an abortion.

Both of these laws are "pro-life".

Hel, in the second case, "pro-life" isn't even pro-CHILD! Infants with birth defects often need different care, and a woman who was to carry such a child to term might want to seek out a hospital with a good neonatal program to ensure her baby might actually survive! But it's more important to lie to a woman than to give her the information she needs to make a good decision for herself and the fetus she's carrying!

What was that again about "pro-life" not being anti-woman? Talk to me again when that movement isn't passing laws for state-mandated rape.
posted by Deoridhe at 10:35 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


a)having the baby will kill the mother. The baby may live for a few hours, but certainly not more than that, due to a defect or disease or environmental factors. It is absolutely certain that having the baby will cause her death.

Even the Santorum family, ultimately will tell you the life of the mother comes first.

In an interview, the Santorums said they would have authorized an abortion had there been no other choice.

``If that had to be the call, we would have induced labor if we had to,'' the senator said as he sat in his Washington office. ``I consider it a blessing that we didn't have to make that decision.''

An abortion under the circumstances described in this case would not have been a partial-birth abortion - known to physicians as ``intact dilation and extraction'' - nor would it have conflicted with the senator's position.


many, many pregnancies end in miscarriage, with estimates of between 31% and 50% of all pregnancies ending in miscarriage.

The infant mortality rate in Afghanistan is 121.63/1000. Does that make you more or less likely to think of those babies as human?

Life is cruel and fucked up and murders us all eventually. Some sooner rather than later. If you want to get tricky with this question though, you ask if we should fund miscarriage prevention like we do cancer research since miscarriages kill so many people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:05 AM on April 1, 2012


If there is a reason to disallow individual personal choice to access a safe medical procedure, it is one for women of our culture (read: nation) to determine.

While I appreciate the sentiment of your post, it's absolutely crucial that men stand shoulder to shoulder with women on the issue of choice. I don't want my daughter or my sister bleeding to death after a botched backyard abortion. This is a human rights issue.
posted by smithsmith at 8:36 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


talk to me again when that movement isn't passing laws for state-mandated rape.

I don't want to seem obstinate. I understand that pro-life people want to be perceived as people motivated purely by their opposition to "murder," or the intentional ending of life by another human being.

So in the spirit of conciliation, I'll even make them a deal. I'll treat them that way on the day they prove that is their true motivation. Therefore, I will dialogue in mutual respect with pro-lifers when they:

- end capital punishment in all US states and territories.
- end the current war, and resolutely oppose and vote against all future wars. If of draft age, they'll of course seek to register and serve with CO status.
- successfully end all voluntary euthanasia and hospice care, and enact legislation forcing terminal patient and their families to endure lifesaving measures regardless of their own will.
- reduce the suicide rate by at least 50% - I'd say 100% but I'm willing to allow some of this may be beyond anyone's control. Still, by working hard to establish meaningful supports and interventions I feel confident we could get the deaths of these innocent victims down to at least half what they are today.
-pass a healthcare program that ensures that no one must forego treatment for potentially life-threatening conditions regardless of ability to pay.
-put in place a welfare agenda that ensures full support for parents and children in all dimensions: health care, nutrition, child care, education, and income support.
-probably a few more logical extensions of "concern for life" I haven't thought of tonight.

If I see that agenda come into existence, I'll know that "pro-lifers" are serious and honest about what they say they care about. On that day I'll finally buy that they revere life and oppose, vehemently, any conditions which threaten to end life. On that day I will recognize a committed, serious, consistent, honest, and effective opponent whose views I need to regard with the same seriousness I take my own. I will believe, finally, that it's "life" they care about, rather than "women's behavior."

Until that day, my responsibility is to mind the inconsistencies - they are telling indeed - and to remain unconvinced.
posted by Miko at 8:52 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Gun laws. I forgot, repeal gun ownership laws.
posted by Miko at 8:54 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


it's absolutely crucial that men stand shoulder to shoulder with women on the issue of choice

Fair enough, when by invite.

I live where there are no limits. It ain't a person until it's out of the woman. The anti-planners have conniptions. In practice, this amount of freedom doesn't result in outrageous numbers of crazy wimmin getting their jollies by getting abortions.

There are rational countries which do do have limits and while I don't trust right(eous) men to change our current oddball law, I do give more trust to women. If there should be change, let them look to what not-insane countries are doing.

Canadian women meed to lead, though. Don't let male politicians lead.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:27 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think I've already rejected the idiotic premise of your argument. I also happen to find the second paragraph of your post incredibly offensive.
posted by smithsmith at 9:41 PM on April 1, 2012


The fuck?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:01 PM on April 1, 2012


[A couple comments removed, I know this isn't a fun topic but maybe hold off with the super-sarcastic multi-commenting action if you don't want to help make threads about it go even worse.]
posted by cortex at 10:57 AM on April 2, 2012


Sorry, cortex. I hope the following passes the audition. If not, feel free to delete.

1. The claim of being "pro-life" or "anti-abortion" is disingenuous at best. Everyone is pro-life and anti-abortion, save a small number of total miscreants. The use of the title is argumentative and insulting to begin with, so polls showing a majority claim to be pro-life really doesn't say much.

2. The claim that fertilized eggs are held in the same moral regard as a newborn infant is belied by the fact that the "pro-life" movement makes no extraordinary attempts to recover the "bodies" that are lost by the 10s of millions every year through menstruation, attempts which certainly would be made for murdered newborns.

3. The "anti-abortion" or "pro-life", if you will, movement has its share of those who would kill life that we all agree is deserving of full human rights. Although "pro-life" leaders are quick to condemn their actions, they are also quick to deny that the inflammatory rhetoric they use (e.g., "baby killing", "holocaust") serves to motivate and support those violent elements. If they were really "pro-life" they would be much more circumspect about their public stance.

4. Denying that an individual in the "pro-life" movement doesn't hate women who have sex but don't want to become pregnant does not disprove that the underlying motivation for the mass movement to deny women access to elective abortions for unwanted pregnancies stems from a desire to punish women who want to have sex and not get pregnant. This is supported by the eerie absence of any recognition by that movement that the fetuses they seek to protect are firmly ensconced inside the skin of adult, fully articulated, endowed-by-their-Creator human beings who have rights to their own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Add to this the scant evidence that the movement has any plan (beyond "you conceived it, you care for it") in place to care for the "50 million" additional births their claimed aims would create and that women, in general, who seek abortion probably feel unable to handle motherhood at the time, and it is very tempting to draw the conclusions that the movement, as a whole, neither cares that much for the eventual product of the fetus nor does it not hold their potential mothers in high esteem. Once those conclusions are made, there is little left to conclude other than they want to punish that reluctant mother and the punishment is the child.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:43 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Abortion options fade in South
posted by homunculus at 1:01 PM on April 12, 2012


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