Join 3,432 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"I am done making excuses for the pro-life movement."
November 7, 2012 2:01 PM   Subscribe

How I Lost Faith In The Pro-Life Movement: "What I want to share here is how I came to this realization. And if you, reader, are one of those who opposes abortion because you believe it is murder and you want to save the lives of unborn babies, well, I hope to persuade you that the pro-life movement is not actually your ally in this, that you have been misled, and that you would be more effective in decreasing the number of abortions that occur if you were to side with pro-choice progressives. If this is you, please hear me out before shaking your head."

The author, Libby Anne:
"As a brief introduction, I was raised in a large homeschooling family influenced by the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements. I grew up an evangelical Christian, though with some fundamentalist aspects. I found my beliefs challenged in college and am today an atheist and a feminist...

...If you’re just here because you liked my article on the pro-life movement, I’d invite you to stick around because I have several followup posts already planned and in the works, including posts tentatively called “Pro-Life, Anti-Abortion, or Anti-Choice? Sorting through the Labels,” “What Being Pro-Life Would Look Like,” and “Science, Young Earth Creationism, and the Pro-Life Movement.”"
These are her follow-up posts since this piece "went viral" a week and a half ago:
*A Response to Objections on My Pro-Life Movement Post
*Seven Recent Articles on Abortion Worth Reading
*More on Laws and Abortion: A Response to Marc of "Bad Catholic" (another blog on Patheos)
*If You Don’t Want a Baby, Just Don’t Have Sex?
*Okay Then, Let's Talk About Natural Family Planning

The rebuttals so far on Bad Catholic:
*How I Lost Faith In The Pro-life Movement: Rebuttal Up In Hurrrrr (Part 1)
*All Banning Abortion Does Is Make It Unsafe (Rebuttal Part 2)
*Does Contraception Reduce the Abortion Rate? (Rebuttal Part 3)
posted by flex (544 comments total) 140 users marked this as a favorite

 
I come from a very conservative Evangelical background and have been sharing this article in probably far too many places since it was published. The author's journey mirrors my own in a lot of ways-- not only on the issue of abortion, but a number of others as well. The initial embitterment and gradual moving away from an ideological label, acknowledgement of complexity, far too much benefit-of-the-doubt giving, and eventual anger and disgust, with each step precipitated by big ol' heaps of information too compelling to overlook. It's a hard thing to give up a strongly-held belief, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:10 PM on November 7, 2012 [24 favorites]


Yeah, but the problem is, a lot of pro-life people don't just want people to not kill babies. A lot of pro-life people also don't want women to have sex unless they're married.
posted by nushustu at 2:12 PM on November 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


(That wasn't directed at shakespeherian. It was meant for the author of the article in the first link.)
posted by nushustu at 2:14 PM on November 7, 2012


Er, yes, that seems to agree with what the author is saying...
posted by maryr at 2:14 PM on November 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


nushustu, did you read the whole thing?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:15 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Banning Abortion Does Not Decrease Abortion Rates

Does this matter to a lot of anti-abortion folks, though? When you're coming from an absolutist moral perspective, the important thing isn't the result but whether the society you live in officially condones the behavior in question or not.
posted by invitapriore at 2:17 PM on November 7, 2012 [19 favorites]


oh ha. Apparently the page only half-loaded when I read it, because it stopped just before the 5K to save the zygotes section. So never mind me. Carry on.
posted by nushustu at 2:19 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


When you're coming from an absolutist moral perspective, the important thing isn't the result but whether the society you live in officially condones the behavior in question or not.

Yeah I do think there's a lot more of an interesting argument to be had there, but I never hear it made. All I ever hear is '1.5 million babies killed each year' (or whatever the number is). So while definitely there could be a lot of difficult ethical wrangling to do between ethical aims and ethical results, no one in the pro-life camp-- that I've come across-- ever even tries to get there.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:21 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]



Am I the only one who's laughing at how gullible this chick was? How freaking SHOCKED she is that once she started reading things OTHER than those published by her Pro-Life group, that the scientific evidence was mind-blowing.

Kee-ryst.

Yes dear, I know that when you learn things, that your world can change over-night.

"And furthermore a housewife isn't married to a house!"
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:21 PM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'd recommend reading The Bad Catholic's other article, Why Contraception is a Bad Idea: Natural Law, which elucidates why bulimia is bad:
Think about bulimia. We reject bulimia as disordered because it seeks to have only half of eating’s natural end — the pleasure of eating — while rejecting the other — being full. When the act of eating is not allowed to achieve its natural end, the act is detrimental to the organism.
Thus explaining the Catholic opposition to artificial sweeteners.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:22 PM on November 7, 2012 [48 favorites]


There is an interesting rift that often develops between two sides of a debate. It applies to debates about abortion, about nuclear power, about organic food, about the death penalty, about drug use. This rift is not one of disagreement, but of orthogonality. One side makes an argument that their position has the following advantages, and then proceeds to use data and reasoning to show why that position has the advantages they claim it does. This data might be faulty and cherry picked, and the arguments might be fallacious or specious, but they are data and arguments none the less. The other side makes an argument that their position is Right, or that the alternative position is Wrong. They don't care about data, and often not even about reasoned arguments. Excluded middle aside, they are Right, the opposition is Wrong, and the world must now be made to look the way they want it to look. A consequence of this is that the former side thinks that the latter is arguing they same way they are, and vice versa. This means that the former side frames their arguments in terms of consequences and utility and real world effects, which the latter side doesn't care about in the least (no matter what they might claim). The latter side fails just as much in making their position understood, because they want to make appeals to emotion and moral outrage which fall on deaf ears in the former camp.

The entire point of that was, people who oppose abortion because it's against God's will, or it's baby murder, or just because they hate women, don't care about any of the arguments she makes in her article. On preview, an extremely long and pretentious version of what invitapriore said.
posted by cthuljew at 2:22 PM on November 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


Am I the only one who's laughing at how gullible this chick was?

Christ, I hope so.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:23 PM on November 7, 2012 [165 favorites]


David Cross's comment "I'm all for murdering babies, but I just can't can't stand for women to have control over their own bodies" pretty much sums up the pro-life agenda if you count only its proponents' actions and not their rhetoric.
posted by clarknova at 2:24 PM on November 7, 2012 [25 favorites]


Am I the only one who's laughing at how gullible this chick was?

So far, yeah. I'm sure that for everyone here there are ideas they haven't questioned yet that they received from their parents. And most of us didn't grow up in the same kind of environment (where the flow of information is more tightly controlled by the parents) that she did.
posted by Jpfed at 2:25 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Christ, I hope so.

Nobody enjoys a good schadenfreude anymore.
posted by clarknova at 2:26 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hey, remember when evangelicals were pro-choice because of the Bible?

(one of the problems with being my age is remembering when certain "traditional biblical-based truths" didn't even EXIST)
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:28 PM on November 7, 2012 [44 favorites]


Christ, I hope so.

Nobody enjoys a good schadenfreude anymore.


Hah, go read the election threads.

To me her feelings over the issue read as genuine both in the past and the present, not much point in taking pleasure in someone suffering because they care about lost lives.

We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of lives. I cried about this as a child, cried about all the deaths. I felt guilty that I was one who had survived the abortion “holocaust.”

I got the same brainwashing in Catholic school and shrugged it off.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:35 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't laugh at her, laugh at the situation. A modern, civilized nation in which a large minority cannot or will not think for themselves when given access to the accumulated knowledge of all mankind. It turns that frown upside-down.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:36 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Am I the only one who's laughing at how gullible this chick was?

Yes?

I guess you've never been around people so worried about religion that they shelter their kids from the real world and leave many of them hopelessly unable to cope when the real world gets in anyway?
posted by MissySedai at 2:37 PM on November 7, 2012 [33 favorites]


As I perused the study over a taco bowl in the student union later that day I wondered

This extraneous detail made me laugh. "As I read the article while sucking the meat off a chicken wing with blue cheese and satanic hot sauce, I realized..."
posted by brain_drain at 2:43 PM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


How freaking SHOCKED she is that once she started reading things OTHER than those published by her Pro-Life group, that the scientific evidence was mind-blowing.

Did you miss the part where she "was raised in a large homeschooling family influenced by the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements"? I had the same kind of upbringing, and let me tell you, it is an all-encompassing world which strongly discourages you from stepping outside to look for your own information. There is the truth, and there is everything else, and if you know the truth, there's something suspicious about choosing voluntarily to soil yourself with the lies and deceptions of the enemy. Have some sympathy. It's not easy to break out of that world.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:46 PM on November 7, 2012 [78 favorites]


Am I the only one who's laughing at how gullible this chick was? How freaking SHOCKED she is that once she started reading things OTHER than those published by her Pro-Life group, that the scientific evidence was mind-blowing.

Yeah, I don't think you understand the totality of the worldview that people who grow up in extremist evangelicalism are immersed in. It's every bit as insular and controlling as a cult, and that goes double for people who are homeschooled.

I grew up in this subculture, and my parents were relatively more tolerant and liberal than those of my peers in certain ways. But if they hadn't (naively) allowed me to indulge my curiosities at the public library next town over, I'm sure I would have been a carbon copy of them in a lot of ways.
posted by Rykey at 2:48 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Relatedly, apparently Evangelicals were on whole pro-choice until around 30 years ago? (also here.)
posted by nobody at 2:49 PM on November 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


I remember as a teenager having friends who had been raised in fundagelical families who were SHOCKED to see some of the books I was allowed to read. Catcher in the Rye. Kurt Vonnegut. Judy Blume. OMNI magazine. These were BAD, BAD, BAD books to them, that literally contained satanic thoughts and words.

They weren't stupid. They were smart. Some of them were even street smart. But their access to certain kinds of information and philosophy had been so sharply curtailed, talking to them was sometimes like talking to a person from another culture.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:54 PM on November 7, 2012 [18 favorites]


Nobody enjoys a good schadenfreude anymore.

Hah, go read the election threads.


Decaff.

I guess you've never been around people so worried about religion that they shelter their kids from the real world and leave many of them hopelessly unable to cope when the real world gets in anyway?

Pro-life parrots and religious zealots are the worst sort of fools. Sincerity and numbers don't magically make them sympathetic. Ignorance about back alley abortions and the basic tenants of geology isn't some accident of circumstance. If you're a U.S. citizen above the age of six you have to work at that kind of ignorance. This woman was actively participating in a social movement that wished harm on the weakest among us, for the vilest motives. I don't buy the innocence betrayed origin story. Mere confession is too low a price for redemption. Mocking her with laughter is the absolute kindest thing I can think of.
posted by clarknova at 2:54 PM on November 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


clarknova, as I said at the top of the thread, my personal political history is very like the author's. I am not lying when I tell you that I sincerely believed all of those things, and I believed them for good reasons-- reasons based on lies and distortions, yes, but lies and distortions from a variety of authority figures and institutions that I respected. Yeah, I was wrong. I know that now. But the author of the linked article isn't around in this thread, as far as I know, so it seems shitty to laugh at her. If you need to mock someone, I'm right here for you.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:58 PM on November 7, 2012 [83 favorites]


Thus explaining the Catholic opposition to artificial sweeteners.

And bulimia.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:58 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mocking her with laughter is the absolute kindest thing I can think of.

Well, then. I think that finding sympathy for you is going to be a substantial challenge.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:59 PM on November 7, 2012 [33 favorites]


clarknova: I, uh, you do know that she's no longer ignorant about these issues right?
posted by whittaker at 2:59 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pro-life parrots and religious zealots are the worst sort of fools. Sincerity and numbers don't magically make them sympathetic. Ignorance about back alley abortions and the basic tenants of geology isn't some accident of circumstance. If you're a U.S. citizen above the age of six you have to work at that kind of ignorance. This woman was actively participating in a social movement that wished harm on the weakest among us, for the vilest motives. I don't buy the innocence betrayed origin story. Mere confession is too low a price for redemption. Mocking her with laughter is the absolute kindest thing I can think of.

posted by clarknova at 5:54 PM on November 7


It must be so nice to be perfect.
posted by magstheaxe at 3:01 PM on November 7, 2012 [18 favorites]


clarknova: Sorry, I have to categorically disagree with you. Education and enlightenment ought to be welcomed with open arms at any age, at any time.
posted by Freen at 3:01 PM on November 7, 2012 [69 favorites]


Mocking her with laughter is the absolute kindest thing I can think of.

Wow. That's really gross.
posted by MissySedai at 3:01 PM on November 7, 2012 [28 favorites]


If you're a U.S. citizen above the age of six you have to work at that kind of ignorance.

Not in a lot of places. This isn't about sympathizing with somebody who's dead wrong, or making excuses for the harm they cause. It's very much like dealing with a person of a different culture, akin to understanding that somebody brought up in a strict Muslim household in Pakistan might not have the same values on, say, women's rights as the average American does.
posted by Rykey at 3:01 PM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hell, I've followed the debate from both sides (fairly closely, I thought), and hadn't seen the math on spontaneous miscarriage vs. birth control 'abortion.' Color me gobsmacked, and I'm pro-choice.

Thanks for the post, as well as the follow up links.

Education's the key, folks. That's where you put your chips.
posted by Mooski at 3:03 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


[Mocking her with laughter is the absolute kindest thing I can think of.

Just to be clear, that may be okay for your personal moral calculus, but on MetaFilter it's not. We don't play "look at these assholes" here, either discuss this civilly or go to MetaTalk. Thanks]

posted by jessamyn at 3:03 PM on November 7, 2012 [33 favorites]


Mocking her with laughter is the absolute kindest thing I can think of.

I...I'm not sure you realize you seem like a much worse person than she is (was).
posted by the bricabrac man at 3:04 PM on November 7, 2012 [20 favorites]


They weren't stupid. They were smart. Some of them were even street smart. But their access to certain kinds of information and philosophy had been so sharply curtailed, talking to them was sometimes like talking to a person from another culture.

They really ARE from a different culture, one that is so alien to me that I sometimes have a hard time believing it exists. I mean, I was brought up by my grandparents, and while they were pretty strict with me, they were total hippies compared to the way some of my schoolmates were being raised.
posted by MissySedai at 3:04 PM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you need to mock someone, I'm right here for you.

only if monkey pants are somehow involved.
posted by elizardbits at 3:07 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


And yet the end result of this will just be that evangelicals will be that much more ardently opposed to allowing their children access to the outside world.

I don't like Margaret Atwood's books at all but I think she got that aspect of the future of America correct, unfortunately.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 3:09 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nobody enjoys a good schadenfreude anymore.

Save schadenfreude for the people that deserve it.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:09 PM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, that's the sort of mean minded enmity that I associate with the people who duped her, clarknova.

I was raised in a very open minded household, but it is hard to overstate how insular and echo-chamber like the world of many conservative folks is. Many get all their news and information from only those echo chamber sources. That world is full of myths like the greedy dependent 47% (Mitt) or 30% (Ryan), and the ability of a woman's body to reject fertilization in cases of "legitimate rape" (Akin). I'm not sure why it is the fault of their trusting children that they accept these alleged "facts."

On the merits, this is a very thoughtful piece. And although I have been pro-choice for a long time, I learned quite a bit from it. For example, I suspected but did not know:

[A]lmost 50,000 women worldwide die each year from unsafe abortions, and that many more experience serious injury or infertility. These deaths happen almost entirely in countries where abortion is illegal – and thus clandestine.
posted by bearwife at 3:09 PM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sure, it's easy to talk about how the author was being brainwashed by the evangelicals, but I notice nobody is engaging with her original view that fetuses are just as much people as newborns. While this may not be a view that you hold, and while she makes a very good point that if you hold this view, the pro-life movement isn't for you, I think those on the pro-choice side could be doing a much better job of addressing people who think this way.

Remember, her message here is that people who think life begins at conception should be pro-choice progressives. Why isn't the pro-choice movement shouting this from the rooftops? Why do people consistently dismiss pro-lifers even though we know some of them hold this very creditable and defensible viewpoint?

You can blame this on evangelical brainwashing, but I think the pro-choice movement really has itself to blame as well.
posted by goingonit at 3:10 PM on November 7, 2012 [26 favorites]


I'm kind of tempted to haphazardly mix together some flour, sugar, and milk in a bowl, bring it to a church bake sale, and try to sell it as a cake.
posted by Riki tiki at 3:10 PM on November 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


the cake is a life
posted by Riki tiki at 3:10 PM on November 7, 2012 [35 favorites]


Hypothesis: People do not accuse others of being “baby killers” because they oppose abortion. They oppose abortion because they want to believe they are heroes fighting against monstrous “baby killers.”
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:10 PM on November 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yeah I do think there's a lot more of an interesting argument to be had there, but I never hear it made. All I ever hear is '1.5 million babies killed each year' (or whatever the number is). So while definitely there could be a lot of difficult ethical wrangling to do between ethical aims and ethical results, no one in the pro-life camp-- that I've come across-- ever even tries to get there.

Huh? Christians have spent two thousand years arguing about ethical aims and ethical results. You can read their books, their public documents, attend their Churches, and enroll in their universities. You can read all about it in the continuing public discussion on the internet.
posted by Jahaza at 3:12 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


clarknova, Ruthless Bunny, not that either of you give a shit about people whose life experiences kept them from knowing the sorts of things you two were apparently born knowing, but you might want to take a look at this article:

How did a card-carrying, aura-wearing, chakra-toting leader of the New Age become able to understand and eventually embrace the skeptical culture? Well, it took quite a while, so let me start at the beginning. (Metafilter thread)


...and this comment about that article from a Mefite:

...the reason I might never have found my way out of that cult is explained exactly by Karla McLaren in this essay. There IS a chasm between the world of skeptics and the new-agers, and it is generally unbridged...I was immune to every tactic used by skeptic organizations because fundamentally, skeptic organizations treat New-Agers as if a war has been declared...Please, Metafilter, do not be quick to dismiss this woman. You are the rational, skeptical intellectuals to whom she pleads. I'm just a 24-year old cult-survivor who made it over to your side accidentally. One of my most fervent wishes is that someday the path from New-Age to Rationality may be a path less full of pain and loneliness. It's worth it to be on this side, but hell if it wasn't a terrible way to get here.

Then decide if you want to be the sort of pro-choicer who helps people like this, or who makes it a liviing hell for them to come over to your side. 'Cause so far, it seems like you're choosing the latter.
posted by magstheaxe at 3:14 PM on November 7, 2012 [31 favorites]


Huh? Christians have spent two thousand years arguing about ethical aims and ethical results. You can read their books, their public documents, attend their Churches, and enroll in their universities. You can read all about it in the continuing public discussion on the internet.

I'm talking specifically w/r/t abortion, here, though. In the pro-life Evangelical bubble from whence I come, there was no wrangling of ethics. I did read their books, attend their churches, and I even graduated from Wheaton College, the top Evangelical college in the US. Never heard it brought up once.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:16 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article is ridiculous.

Obama has already done more to reduce the number of abortions than any other president ever has or ever will.

Oh really! And that's knowable how? The level of reasoning in the article is almost entirely on that level.
posted by Jahaza at 3:19 PM on November 7, 2012


Fantastic article, lucid and well written. Damn, but I admire people who can change their minds in public.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:25 PM on November 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


zealots are the worst sort of fools.

Well, at least you've admitted your problem. That's step 1.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:25 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh really! And that's knowable how?

Well, not knowable, but easily predicted.

Women have less abortions who use birth control.

Women have a greater probability of using birth control when it is freely (or cheaply available).

Women on birth control have a lower probability of ovulating eggs that have been fertilized.

If you math'ed it out in the patented Nate Silver Bayesian style, you got some really strong priors.

It's not iron clad, but I'd bet. It also helps that places that have high usage of birth control (Western Europe) have a low rate of abortions.
posted by zabuni at 3:28 PM on November 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


If you need to mock someone, I'm right here for you.
posted by shakespeherian


That seems like a very christian offer to make. I say that as a non-christian, and I sincerely mean it as a compliment.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:33 PM on November 7, 2012 [25 favorites]


I've only read the first rebuttal from Bad Catholic before I gave up in disgust, but it makes two faulty assumptions right off the bat in comparing abortion rates between US states with differing levels of restrictions on abortion.

The first is that the study used in the rebuttal only appears to examine legal abortions. All it proves, at best, is that making legal abortions harder to get means less women have legal abortions. Without also studying illegal ones alongside it, it proves nothing either way about whether restrictions upon abortion decreases abortion in toto.

The second is that moving between states in the US is considerably easier than crossing an international border; given that it is quite possible to temporarily move from a state that has strong restrictions upon abortion to one that is less restrictive (same language, same currency, land border, no border controls) it is not difficult to assume that women who need an abortion but can't get one near home will get one in a neighbouring more 'liberal' state - which will of course increase the number of legal abortions in that state by one. Without controlling for that, it again makes the numbers basically worthless to prove what he tries to claim they prove.

From the meta-studies* I've seen in the past, it's a fairly settled scientific fact that the legality of abortion has little to no impact upon actual abortion rates. It does however correlate very strongly with the death and injury rate of women - places with illegal abortion have much higher rates, even after controlling for other factors such as poverty and access to post-abortion healthcare.

It's also worth pointing out that pregnancy has its own risks, greater than those of an abortion - so forcing women to carry babies to term they don't want will increase the risk to both mother AND potential baby.

While I admire Mrs Anne's attempt to argue the case that pro-lifers have for decades - that banning abortion only puts women's lives at much greater risk without reducing actual abortions, and that good sex education and above all good access to cheap or free contraception drastically reduces abortion, I fear it's pretty pointless.

Pro-choice is above all anti-sex. And often anti-women either by accident or sometimes, design.

It's about controlling women's sexuality, and 'punishing them with the consequences of their sluttiness'. If they gave two shits about the life of the (potential) child, they'd care a hell of a lot more for what happened to the baby's life once it was outside the womb.

It's easy enough to spot. Do they allow for an exemption allowing abortions only in the case of rape or incest? Do they allow an exemption for cuts to welfare (for stealing money from taxpayers because she's a slut, and shouldn't be a burden upon the state) for an extra child if the child is the product of rape?

Then they're anti-sex. Plain and simple. If you're against abortion because you truly believe full human life begins at conception, you're against it no matter how the child was conceived. If you're anti-woman, then one who was raped can be 'forgiven' for sex out of wedlock and no longer needs to be punished by being forced to carry the fetus to term.
And they probably also think that women fearing injury or death from an illegal abortion will have less sex - ergo, a desired result.

Banning legal abortion, restricting access to contraception and restricting access to healthcare for the poor kills women, without reducing actual abortions. In the case of restricting contraception, it has the exact opposite effect. And no, contraceptives are not abortifactants.

There are other arguments for those things (just not very good ones) but they sure as hell are not effective at reaching their stated goal of saving the lives of unborn babies. Alas, saying that is pointless, because for that point to be accepted, the 'pro-life' movement would need to care about actually accepting the science instead of cherry picking 'science' that fitted their pre-existing view. And actually care about reducing abortions, instead of punishing women, even married ones, for daring to want to live their own lives, instead of being dictated to as to what is acceptable behaviour, and punishing them with threats of death, injury or having to raise an unwanted child if they don't toe the line.

While I wish Mrs Anne the best of luck, I really do, you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:33 PM on November 7, 2012 [30 favorites]


They oppose abortion because they want to believe they are heroes fighting against monstrous “baby killers.”

And when those monstrous baby killers are physicians and thirteen year old girls, what does that make the people who paint them as monsters.

Then decide if you want to be the sort of pro-choicer who helps people like this, or who makes it a living hell for them to come over to your side. 'Cause so far, it seems like you're choosing the latter.

It's the redemption narrative I find laughable. There's all sorts of things you (the collective 'you' here. You personally may be lilly white) won't go telling strangers because they're embarrassing. Things you've done that may in fact be shameful. You wouldn't do them again, but you're not going to announce the new leaf you've turned over. If for no other reason than statute of limitations. This is one of those things.

The notion that "they're from another culture" also doesn't cut it when it comes to certain behaviors. Childfucking. Murder. Genocide. Dumping sulfuric acid on the face of a raped woman. We don't care about how somebody's culture justifies those. This is also one of those things.
posted by clarknova at 3:35 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm talking specifically w/r/t abortion, here, though. In the pro-life Evangelical bubble from whence I come, there was no wrangling of ethics. I did read their books, attend their churches, and I even graduated from Wheaton College, the top Evangelical college in the US. Never heard it brought up once.

I mean... basically you're just saying that your ignorant of a massive debate that's been ongoing in the Catholic Church in particular and in the pro-life movement in general ever since there's been a pro-life movement.

Mario Cuomo's famous 1984 lecture at Notre Dame for instance
Must I, having heard the Pope renew the Church's ban on birth control devices, veto the funding of contraceptive programs for non-Catholics or dissenting Catholics in my State? I accept the Church's teaching on abortion. Must I insist you do? By law? By denying you Medicaid funding? By a constitutional amendment? If so, which one? Would that be the best way to avoid abortions or to prevent them?
Or the debate from September here.

I mean, there's no reason for you to have to know this stuff, but "no one in the pro-life camp-- that I've come across-- ever even tries to get there." Well... I mean this stuff is pretty famous and the places it's discussed are public. America magazine where that second link comes from is famous enough as a voice of American Catholicism that when its editor got fired a few years ago it made the front page of the New York Times.
posted by Jahaza at 3:36 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a Catholic who is similarly frustrated with the Pro-Life movement. Their short-sightedness, their lack of perspective, their unproductive strident tactics, and so on. Sigh.

That said, I am still pro-life. I read with interest to find out how she came to the philosophical conclusion that the fetus was not a person. I think that is the central question. She abandoned this belief because she lost trust in people, not because she had a good philosophical, scientific, or even theological argument.

The whole enchilada for me, the Big Question that needs to be discussed first and foremost before *any* productive conversation on abortion can take place, is at what point a pregnant woman has two people in her body.

As a Catholic, I believe life is the first and foremost right anyone gets. Once you reach personhood, you have inalienable rights and to deliberately take away that right is an intrinsic evil. Social Justice in my faith means that the stronger people of faith are morally bound to protect the weak. The weaker they are, the stronger the obligation.

So, if the fetus is a person, then I can't imagine a weaker person in more need of defense.

(Cue the typical derail of examples of Pro-Lifers failing to defend other lives, ignoring social justice in other areas, etc. Yeah, I've heard it. I said I was frustrated with the Pro-life movement didn't I?)

So that's the key question. My Church's answer is that, well, we just don't know. Science cannot tell us when the soul enters the body exactly. (St. Thomas Aquinas proposed early on that abortion was okay until such time as the "Quickening" of the fetus. Kind of a vague idea which has been long since discredited.) What science can tell us is that fertilization starts a natural chain of events starts that, unimpeded, will result in a person. Since life is a grave matter and a fundamental right, we need to be as cautious as possible in protecting life.

So out of reverence for life *and* an admission that we just don't scientifically know when a person starts, we draw the most cautious possible line -- the start of the process that leads to a person.

So if you do believe the fetus is a person. then there is a dilemma. We have two people whose rights in conflict, occupying the same body. Giving the bigger stronger person the right to kill the other is intrinsically evil and fundamentally unjust.

But that's IF you believe that the fetus growing inside a mother's womb is a person with inherent dignity and a right to live. And, inexplicably, the debate about abortion that rages so ineffectively in this country rarely addresses this fundamental assumption. And Pro-lifers wasted yet another election cycle babbling on about rape and incest, missing the point entirely.

If there is even the possibility that there may be an innocent person inside that pregnant woman who just needs a chance and some time to live, shouldn't we do what we can to give that person a chance? And doesn't that mean so much more than simply making abortion illegal (ahem, Pro-lifers)?

I have adopted three children: two drug babies and one micro-preemie. I have seen the beautiful people they have become. I have shed blood, tears, and most of my lifetime disposable income to keep them in this world. I am grateful for the women who, in spite of all hardship, brought these people to term. And I am frustrated as hell that more Pro-lifers do not sacrifice their self-interest in order to enable more women to have their children but instead are satisfied for voting "Pro-Life" and posting slogans on Facebook.

Whew.
posted by cross_impact at 3:37 PM on November 7, 2012 [56 favorites]


Ignorance about back alley abortions and the basic tenants of geology isn't some accident of circumstance. If you're a U.S. citizen above the age of six you have to work at that kind of ignorance.

It wasn't an accident, it was what she was intentionally taught to believe in her home school bubble. This was all out fundamentalist, women's place is in the home, purity rings, etc. She questioned and began to change her views almost immediately upon leaving that bubble and going to college according to her site.

I'm not at all against mocking people with terrible views who refuse to try see the world as it is, but this is just stone cold obviously not that type of person.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:38 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh really! And that's knowable how?

Well, not knowable, but easily predicted.
Well the claim is that:

Obama has already done more to reduce the number of abortions than any other president ever has or ever will.

Seems pretty hard to know even with "Nate Silver" math.
posted by Jahaza at 3:41 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


clarknova: the basic tenants of geology

well, if we're mocking people, then idiots who picked up slogans and haphazardly transcribed them into some semblance of words are a great target!
Seriously, 'tenants' of geology? Does that include the people who live under rocks?
posted by jacalata at 3:50 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Touche!
posted by clarknova at 3:51 PM on November 7, 2012


I'd also say, that parents have incredible amounts of control over what their child sees and hears. The state gives that to them. If a person was raised in such an environment, they would probably realize this the first time they were placed in an environment that did not have that control. Like college, which is where she figured this out.

Shame she couldn't see the contradictions in what she was taught through sheer logic along, but we can't all be Randian supergods.

Seems pretty hard to know even with "Nate Silver" math.


I see your point, but I don't think you would like to see the contenders. It wouldn't be people who created larger or greater bans on abortion; those have specifically been shown to not lower the number of abortions! You have to look at people who either increased the number of people who had access to abortions, or did something else that similarly lowered them. None have been shown, although you might say Augustus Hand's appointment by Calvin Coolidge might have been, since he was part of a major ruling that made contraceptives, (in this case a diaphram) not subject to obscenity laws. Although I think the "free" or low cost would outweight that, given some of the information given in the article.

Given that banning abortion has shown low correlation with lowering the rate of abortions, what would you say that a president can do to lower abortions that does not expand birth control?
posted by zabuni at 3:54 PM on November 7, 2012


"So if you do believe the fetus is a person. then there is a dilemma. We have two people whose rights in conflict, occupying the same body. Giving the bigger stronger person the right to kill the other is intrinsically evil and fundamentally unjust."

Do you believe I have the right to defend myself against rape, other serious bodily harm, and attempted murder?

If so, even you think a fetus is a person, don't I still have the right to defend myself against a person who at a minimum is going to tear up my vagina worse than the vast majority of rapists, will likely cause permanent damage to my body, and might even kill me?

That's why I don't think it matters if a fetus is a person or not. I still have a right to self defense regardless.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:54 PM on November 7, 2012 [46 favorites]


My goodness, what a fantastic post.

Not just because it requires a tremendous effort to doubt your own beliefs, to understand the arguments of your critics, and to finally admit that you're wrong. What makes this fantastic is that the author reenacts every step her doubt took. Turned years of personal crisis into a concise story that cites itself at every step.

If you don't think such stories impact others, well, you're probably new to MetaFilter. I don't think anything has changed my worldview more thoroughly than reading the numerous patient and lengthy explanations of why people here think differently than I do, of why I might be wrong. Narratives are literally how we think. A story tucks itself more neatly and more thoroughly into our brains than an argument alone ever could.

As to the scorn for somebody who committed the crime of believing an authority she shouldn't have: We all like to think that we're rational, that we respect other people's opinions, and that we know which authorities are worth our time. Do you read every novel by Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity? Do you listen to every lengthy fundamentalist argument about the evils of abortion? Or do you just decide in advance that those people aren't worth your time, or that their arguments won't hold up to rational explanation?

Well, other people do the same thing in advance. They think our "role models" are crazy and their "crazy people" are role models. We've all only got 24 hours in a day, and about 700 years worth of content to consume it in. We all filter ourselves. Do you imagine that your filter's the most efficient, the most accurate, the most perfect at finding only that which will make your life somehow better? And I mean, if you do, then how did you stumble upon this stupid argument by a stupid person?
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:55 PM on November 7, 2012 [26 favorites]


I mean... basically you're just saying that your ignorant of a massive debate that's been ongoing in the Catholic Church in particular and in the pro-life movement in general ever since there's been a pro-life movement.

I think the point is that shakespeherian was kept ignorant, in a deliberate manner, by those in authority over him. It's sounding kind of like you don't believe he could be recounting his own past accurately.
posted by rtha at 3:57 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


My Church's answer is that, well, we just don't know. Science cannot tell us when the soul enters the body exactly. (St. Thomas Aquinas proposed early on that abortion was okay until such time as the "Quickening" of the fetus. Kind of a vague idea which has been long since discredited.) What science can tell us is that fertilization starts a natural chain of events starts that, unimpeded, will result in a person. Since life is a grave matter and a fundamental right, we need to be as cautious as possible in protecting life.

'We just don't know' isn't the Church's positon, though. They don't claim to err on the side of caution, they claim to be right (as you would expect of most religions). As far as I know, the Church consistently claims that recognisable, ensouled human life begins at the second a sperm and egg encounter each other. Never mind if they fail to successfully implant or any of the other things that might happen to 'impede' your 'natural chain of events' that are equally as 'natural' as a pregnancy that makes it to term.
posted by hoyland at 3:58 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


The adults of the anti-abortion movement, though, and certainly the leaders, they surely must know these things.

I think this is the least plausible sentence in an excellent article. Lots of adults are painfully ignorant of even the most basic facts about science, politics, philosophy, and well, most everything else.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 3:59 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pro-Life isn't about saving zygotes. Check! Now that we've gotten that out of the way:

Pro-Choice isn't about whether abortion is legal or not, but whether women are full members of and equal participants in society, with the same rights and powers as men.

The whole thing is sort of disingenuous going in and out. Notice that once she realizes the truth about zygotes her views on "other things" start to change as well... she's trying to spread her revelation about zygotes but her conversion is a bit deeper than that and she feels, rightly, that these other issues might distract from her point about the zygotes.

The issue has always been about what kind of society we want to live in and also a reaction to the society we actually do live in.

Bonus discussion question: Why is "pro-choice" sometimes a bad way to frame the issue?

(answer: because it appeals directly to women who have choices in their life, in an America where the choices we can make in our lives are increasingly constrained by poverty and lack of opportunity, the idea of 'choice' becomes a luxury for people who can afford it.)
posted by ennui.bz at 4:01 PM on November 7, 2012 [20 favorites]


I would just like to distance myself from The Bad Catholic. I am simply a bad Catholic.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 4:02 PM on November 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


( because what fact coincides with the sea change in evangelical thought about abortion: the collapse of industrial employment and associated social collapse across the "heartland" of america increasingly a landscape of towns where no one has any choices about their lives except to stay in town or leave.)
posted by ennui.bz at 4:03 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


This was a delightful post and I really enjoyed reading it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:04 PM on November 7, 2012


Science cannot tell us when the soul enters the body exactly.

I don't even... yeah, this is not going to work out.
posted by Cosine at 4:06 PM on November 7, 2012 [39 favorites]


The whole enchilada for me, the Big Question that needs to be discussed first and foremost before *any* productive conversation on abortion can take place, is at what point a pregnant woman has two people in her body.

I fully respect your views. I fundamentally disagree with them, though. But I do respect someone who is genuinely pro-life, and fully support your right to your own beliefs.

An alternative question is - what makes killing wrong? And can those reason be applied to a zygote or fetus?

The only one that really applies is 'they have a human soul, and deserve a chance to live'.

And that is fundamentally, a personal choice. We are not God, nor can we speak for Him. We can only follow what we believe to be His will. And if you believe in God, if you believe in judgement after death, then fundamentally, that is a choice for your own moral compass and beliefs to make. If God does exist, and does require an accounting for that act, then it is up to God to make it, not us.

In society, we have various rules about when and when not killing is acceptable - murder vs self-defence, a soldier at war vs a war-crime, for the well-being of us all. None of them that I can think of, bar the moral argument, apply to abortion.

Obviously no-one should be forced or required to have an abortion - even through poverty. But fundamentally, I think that is a moral decision that lies between the woman, her belief in God, and her doctor.

Even if you accept a zygote is a person, it's weighing up the rights of two people, and I don't believe, as a society, we have the right to make that choice for a woman one way or another for her.

But even if you think that making that decision is the right and obligation of society, and not an individual one, then banning contraception and restricting abortions runs counter to the very goal of reducing rates of abortion.

The pro-life movement isn't about reducing abortion, even if some (many?) people who support it are genuinely pro-life. That much is clear.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:08 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


A note on the Wheaton/Catholic history front: Catholic dogma != Evangelical dogma, even when they agree. Catholics and Evangelicals would generally be a bit offended if you mistook one for the other.

BTW, where does Mormon doctrine come in here?
posted by maryr at 4:08 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


BTW, where does Mormon doctrine come in here?

Let a Bishop of the Mormon church answer that for you

posted by clarknova at 4:11 PM on November 7, 2012


As far as I know, the Church consistently claims that recognisable, ensouled human life begins at the second a sperm and egg encounter each other.

The Catholic Church, sure, but according to the links I posted upthread the Evangelical churches specifically thought of abortion as a Catholic issue, and took it on faith (via the Old Testament) that human life begins at birth -- until 30 or so years ago when they were politically encouraged/manipulated into taking their current position.

(Interestingly, compare that translation to the New King James retranslation from 1982. Between those two versions the text is made to take the complete opposite position.)
posted by nobody at 4:11 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


As a Catholic, I believe life is the first and foremost right anyone gets.

The author says that the best way to ensure that the "lives" of the unborn are respected is by reducing abortion, which does not happen when abortion is made illegal. Fewer abortions happen with better access to birth control and sex education. Would you disagree?
posted by stinker at 4:12 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


As a Catholic, I believe life is the first and foremost right anyone gets.

The author says that the best way to ensure that the "lives" of the unborn are respected is by reducing abortion, which does not happen when abortion is made illegal. Fewer abortions happen with better access to birth control and sex education. Would you disagree?


Their argument is going to be the same as the war on drugs, it's bad, keep it illegal, spend energy on stopping it.

It won't work but they will sleep better at night with the knowledge that their society does not condone the thing they cannot abide. The fact that their society will contain more deaths and more pain is easily forgotten.
posted by Cosine at 4:15 PM on November 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


I really think it is folly to mindread the pro-lifers as desiring to control women's bodies. While the ability to control one's body is the correct justification for pro-choice, it doesn't necessarily follow that the desire to control other women's bodies is their "true" motivation. It's the same flawed logic as "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

Taking them at their word is much clearer: They simply don't like the idea of abortion (in varying illogical degrees, of course) and are too pig headed to understand or care about the real consequences of their advocacy and are too authoritarian to understand that not everyone has to agree with them.

Assigning motivations that they wouldn't agree with just muddies the waters of defending one's right to their own bodies.
posted by gjc at 4:18 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


The whole enchilada for me, the Big Question that needs to be discussed first and foremost before *any* productive conversation on abortion can take place, is at what point a pregnant woman has two people in her body.

It's hard to see how this question could be meaningfully discussed outside of a religious context. If you are a religious person, and you believe in a soul, you can speculate about when the soul might enter the body, and use your belief about that process to inform your treatment of a fetus. In a legal context, however, the point at which a fetus has rights separate from those of its mother is precisely that point at which our laws prevent the mother from aborting. When we talk, in a secular context, about the "point a pregnant woman has two people in her body", we are talking about no more and no less than the precise point at which the law forbids a woman from aborting her pregnancy.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:19 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


cross_impact, thanks for telling your story.

But before we go any further, I think it's really important to make one thing clear: Do you think your beliefs about the start of life should be imposed on all other people in the United States, with the force of government law?

It makes a huge difference in evaluating your arguments. The government of the United States is explicitly non-religious. Your religious beliefs can lead you to make moral arguments and set moral examples for people to follow — more power to you. But if you want the government to impose rules on everyone, you need to make an argument that does not appeal to religious claims.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:20 PM on November 7, 2012 [41 favorites]


Slightly different take, but stories and ideas like this are precisely why the printing press was so important so long ago and why the internet is so important now.

Anyone sharing a road map of how to escape the intellectual prison of religion is a hero in my book.
posted by snsranch at 4:20 PM on November 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


Stinker, I think the majority of Catholics world wide would agree with you there.
posted by fshgrl at 4:23 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then why would they want to make abortion illegal and oppose sex education and better access to birth control? It's a serious question the author poses and I think it deserves a well-reasoned answer.
posted by stinker at 4:26 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, Catholics widely ignore the positions of the Church on reproductive issues. It's not a Democracy.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:28 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's sounding kind of like you don't believe he could be recounting his own past accurately.

Which, let's face it, is not the most Christian of attitudes.
posted by elizardbits at 4:30 PM on November 7, 2012


Most Catholics don't oppose sex ed and most of them USE birth control and regard the official line as something antiquated like the Popes funny hat. I went to Catholic school and we put condoms on bananas in our year long sex ed class.

I'm not a practicing Catholic and I'm firmly pro-choice but please dont mix all religions together here. The way the author of the OP was raised couldn't be further from the way most Catholics are.
posted by fshgrl at 4:31 PM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Right, but it still begs the question why people who consider themselves to be pro-life (Catholic or otherwise) don't support legal abortions and sex education. I suppose the Catholic issue arose because of earlier comments, but it would be great if there were a pro-life presence in this argument that actually addressed the issues raised in the article.
posted by stinker at 4:37 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Very interesting thread and some great posts - as far as I remember jesus didnt wander around handing out pamphlets and saying how nasty everything was, he would have torn up the falwells and repubs.

So thats my own rather idiosyncratic take on some aspects.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:46 PM on November 7, 2012


If you volunteer for women's groups you meet tons of people who are pro-life on a deeply personal level and do support organizations like Planned Parenthood though. I personally know probably a dozen women who've carried an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy to term for moral/ religious reasons, half of them alone, who also support sex education and the availability of birth control and are totally aware of the link. They don't call themselves pro-life because it has such a negative connotation but they do exist. Overwhelmingly female and overwhelmingly have been pregnant themselves at some point but a few guys here and there.
posted by fshgrl at 4:53 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Pro-life" got co-opted long ago so it no longer referred to an ideology per se, but a faction. That's not weird, that's what tends to happen to ideological labels when you have to organize people around them. It seems to be an especially convenient label for those who want to regulate sex, but without publicly admitting that as their objective. Sort of like what happened with homophobes and "states' rights".
posted by LogicalDash at 4:54 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


The notion that "they're from another culture" also doesn't cut it when it comes to certain behaviors.

We don't care about how somebody's culture justifies those.


Again, I think you're confusing "understanding where something comes from" with "justifying."
posted by Rykey at 4:57 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Conservative politics are focused on aiding the conservative vision of a moral life.

Removing control of women's bodies is a way of requiring conservative choices. Causing financial hardship is a way of enforcing conservative choices. Punishing people instead of aiding them is a way of creating conservative choices.

Hardship is what makes conservatives tick and makes the philosophy stick.

It's all biblical in the sense that the people in the bible had to survive through hard times. Therefore, conservative morals. Also known as Donner Party Conservatism.
posted by tychotesla at 5:03 PM on November 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


No, guys, you see - the only reason she is an atheist & feminist is because she is rebelling against her upbringing. Of course, that goes for anyone who has views which conflict with my own, and I want them to look childish and silly. Also, Bill O' Reilly is a soothsayer of the impending gaymageddon. Anyway, I'm going to go hang out at the local cracker-barrel and make snide remarks about what the teenagers are wearing these days.
posted by Evernix at 5:08 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, benito.strauss. A very good and legitimate question. Our government already imposes one standard on everybody, regardless of various beliefs, about when killing a person is murder. The line drawn by our criminal code reflects the kind of society we want to have. At what point does the law protect a person from intentional harm? Who do we want to exclude from that very basic protection? Right now the law prevents me and the citizens in my state from deciding what our local standards should be. We must accept the secular humanist standard.

What makes me exasperated is that a Pro-Life Christian in America cannot speak believably to a Pro-Life person in America about compassion for all life and protecting the weak with much if any credibility. And that's our fault.
posted by cross_impact at 5:09 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the article: Due to hormone imbalances, genetic anomalies, and a number of unknown factors, between 50 percent and 75 percent of embryos fail to implant in the uterus and are passed with the monthly menstrual flow.

It's fun to see the look on a pro-lifer's face when I bring this up: "You know who the biggest abortionist of them all is? GOD!"
posted by Rykey at 5:11 PM on November 7, 2012 [24 favorites]


Boy, that was a really outstanding article, possibly the best thing I've read on the internet in months.

While reading, I kept thinking "This girl is so smart. So smart." As she describes her family background, it's miraculous to me that those smarts were able to survive intact until they could pop up and make her question everything she had been taught. Good for her.

I lurk on a homeschooling forum that has a large minority of evangelicals, so I sometimes see little slivers of their worldview in a way that blows my mind. Infighting among Young Earth Creationists: Adam harnessed the dinosaurs vs. that is ridiculous, they were dragons. Infighting about whether it's okay to tell your child about Greek mythology. Crazy sex-panic crap. Someone's teenager wanted her to strike out all the "bad words" and sex references in a novel so they wouldn't be exposed to evil thoughts, what to do? And so on and so forth.

In general I am really open-minded about different styles of families and different religious beliefs and different types of education. But it's harder for me to be relaxed about very conservative Evangelicals in America. Some of these people are teaching their children things I feel to be basically educational neglect, and not of the benign type. Straight-up lies, lies that will dog and confuse that child and make them think crazy bullshit things for the rest of their life.

(Not that I know what the solution to this is.)

Also, in the comments to the article, a guy mentions having endowed a local Planned Parenthood with a vasectomy fund, which is now my new life goal.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:17 PM on November 7, 2012 [20 favorites]


Right, but it still begs the question why people who consider themselves to be pro-life (Catholic or otherwise) don't support legal abortions and sex education. I suppose the Catholic issue arose because of earlier comments, but it would be great if there were a pro-life presence in this argument that actually addressed the issues raised in the article.

People who consider themselves pro-life do support sex education, they differ on what it should contain and who should carry it out. Here's 20-thousand words on sex education from the Pontifical Council for the Family. They have some thoughts other than "We don't support ... sex education."

Addressing the issues raised in the article is tough to do in this format.

Here's another problematic spot:

I believed that the pro-life movement’s opposition to birth control stemmed not from a desire to control women’s sex lives but rather from the belief that the pill was an “abortifacient.” This meant that the pro-life movement could oppose abortion as murder and yet also oppose birth control without actually being inconsistent.

Well, no. Hormonal birth control is hardly the only form of birth control and many pro-lifers are opposed to all forms of birth control, even those that are uncontroversially not abortifacient. It's particularly ironic that someone who grew up associated with the Quiverfull movement... which promotes as a moral good having lots of children can't see that there would be other possible arguments against using birth control (even if she doesn't agree with them and even if I don't think arguments of the sort the Quiverfull movement uses are particularly good.) You can't just point to one reason, call it the reason that someone does something and then dismiss their entire view based on one hypothetical reason for their argument being wrong.

I realized, then, that if the goal is to cut the abortion rate, the pro-life movement should be working to make sure that women can afford to have and care for children. After all, a full three quarters of women who have abortions say they could not afford a child. If we found a way to offer more aid to parents, if we mandated things like paid maternity leave, subsidized childcare, and universal health insurance for pregnant women and for children, some women who would otherwise abort would almost certainly decide to carry their pregnancies to term. But the odd thing is, those who identify as “pro-life” are most adamant in opposing these kind of reforms. I knew this back in 2007, because I grew up in one of those families. I grew up believing that welfare should be abolished, that Head Start needed to be eliminated, that medicaid just enabled people to be lazy. I grew up in a family that wanted to abolish some of the very programs with the potential to decrease the number of abortions. When I shifted my position on this issue, I was in many ways simply becoming consistent.

Well what's the "pro-life movement." Because lots of parts of what are arguably the the pro-life movement are arguing for these things, are "working to make sure that women can afford to have and care for children." Even those people who oppose things like paid maternity leave, subsidized childcare etc, are often "working to make sure that women can afford to have and care for children" in the way they think is best, they just disagree about the best way to make that happen on a society-wide basis.

Rykey: It's fun to see the look on a pro-lifer's face when I bring this up: "You know who the biggest abortionist of them all is? GOD!"

Most people who die die of natural causes. That doesn't make homicide OK. External intervention to cause something to happen can be morally problematic even when the thing might have happened on its own anyways. It's not as obvious as the author of the article seems to think.
posted by Jahaza at 5:20 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just before I read this, I was reading this NYT article: The Criminalization of Bad Mothers, about attempts to criminalize (for instance) drug use during pregnancy. It's pretty interesting. And alarming.

“We’re heading toward this Margaret Atwood-like society,” Ketteringham says. “The idea that the state needs to threaten and punish women so that they do the right thing during pregnancy is appalling. Everyone talks about the personhood of the fetus, but what’s really at stake is the personhood of women. It starts with the use of an illegal drug, but what happens as a consequence of that precedent is that everything a woman does while she’s pregnant becomes subject to state regulation.

“It starts with cocaine, and then it’s cigarettes and alcohol. How much alcohol? And when? It’s only a matter of time until it comes to refusing a bed-rest order because you need to work and take care of your other children and then you have a miscarriage. What if you stay at a job where you’re exposed to toxic chemicals, as at a dry cleaner? What if you keep taking your S.S.R.I.’s during pregnancy? If a woman is told that sex during her pregnancy could be a risk to the fetus, and the woman has sex anyway and miscarries, are you going to prosecute the woman — and the man too?”

posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:22 PM on November 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


I really think it is folly to mindread the pro-lifers as desiring to control women's bodies. While the ability to control one's body is the correct justification for pro-choice, it doesn't necessarily follow that the desire to control other women's bodies is their "true" motivation. It's the same flawed logic as "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

Bullshit. It's not mind reading, it's the inescapable implication of their policies and actions.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:32 PM on November 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


but before we go any further, I think it's really important to make one thing clear: Do you think your beliefs about the start of life should be imposed on all other people in the United States, with the force of government law

I know that this question was directed to cross impact, but I can't help but chime in here. I do think that my belief about the start of life should be imposed on all other people in the US simply because I believe that it is the only just thing to do. I think that ANYONE who believes in speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves has a belief worth seriously considering.

We are all adults and can speak for ourselves-after all, we are all here sharing our opinions. A fetus, which I believe to be a living being, cannot speak. Someone has to speak for the unborn child. There are people who obviously do not care about or believe in the rights of the child, so there MUST be legislation to make sure that the child is protected regardless.

And please, not all pro-lifers are against welfare programs and programs designed to help the child once they are born. We can judge our society by the way that we treat the weakest among us. It honestly makes me so sad and mad to see that our society cares so little for the ones who are most unable to speak.
posted by lovelygirl at 5:41 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lovelygirl, can I have your kidney? I need it to live. I have the same right to live as any fetus; therefore according to your beliefs, I can commandeer any of your body organs to stay alive. Just drop it off in a cooler. Thanks.
posted by jfwlucy at 5:49 PM on November 7, 2012 [37 favorites]


Bullshit. It's not mind reading, it's the inescapable implication of their policies and actions.

Implications are not motivations. The results of their worldview does end up controlling women's bodies. But that isn't what they set out to do. You can't have an honest exchange of ideas if you argue motivations they don't (believe they) have.
posted by gjc at 5:50 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


It makes a huge difference in evaluating your arguments.

Benito.strauss, isn't this an example of the genetic fallacy? A person's motivations don't make any difference whatever in terms of whether what they say is true or not. If a person says "Fetuses are people, and I'm a bible-believerTM", this in no way invalidates the potential truth-value of their statement. It will most-likely just influence how many people continue listening to them.
posted by klausman at 5:53 PM on November 7, 2012


gjc, you are so very wrong.
posted by futz at 5:53 PM on November 7, 2012


In my evangelical days the abortion debate did not even come up. I guess it was assumed we were all on the same page. The sex shaming abstinence insistence on the other hand... hoo boy. We went to weekend retreats and seminars and lock ins where the entire point of the trip was to be talked at about the not having sex thing until you a) cried and b) agreed and c) signed a pledge. GOOD TIMES.

The page I was on at the time:
Life itself never seemed the point. Life was an exercise in forming a relationship with God such that you got to spend eternity with him, and to facilitate this same relationship forming for as many other people as possible. I assumed that abortion was a result of sex out of wedlock (because who else would have one I guess) and this made it sinful, but the baby itself was just kind of fast tracked to getting to be in heaven with God and that just didn't really seem like the part to get upset about.

I think that is still where I'm at, minus believing in heaven/God. Women have so much to lose, and I do not see how you can cause actual harm to a person before they are able to cognitively experience being alive.

Like this whole we have to protect the weakest among us thing... how is the baby being harmed? If the soul sheds the tiniest of bodies and gets to go to heaven sin free... what is the harm? (Sincere question)
posted by skrozidile at 5:53 PM on November 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


There is no need to be a wise guy about this. Perhaps we could have more of a discussion here if more conservative leaning members of Metafilter felt as though we could comment here without smart remarks.

But my comment was speaking to legislation that would protect fetuses who cannot speak and have no agency. Obviously you can defend yourself- you commented to me here! Lovelygirl, can I have your kidney? I need it to live. I have the same right to live as any fetus; therefore according to your beliefs, I can commandeer any of your body organs to stay alive. Just drop it off in a cooler. Thanks.
posted by lovelygirl at 5:55 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember the exact moment I went from being pro-life to pro-choice.

I was in the shower thinking about stuff, as you do. I had grown up in a pretty evangelical church and school (Lutheran - Missouri synod) where, of course, I was taught and truly believed that life began at conception and that abortion was murder and up until that moment I simply could not understand how any good-hearted person could be pro-choice, though I knew many who claimed they were. Anyway, back to shower - I was thinking how if it was wrong to kill a fetus because of its human potential, it followed that it was also wrong to kill a zygote and it followed even further that it was wrong to even let a sperm die or an egg die so by that logic if people weren't constantly getting, being, or getting others pregnant they were letting little human souls die. And I realized that was just ridiculous and was pro-choice forever after. Ah, my brilliant little fifteen year old mind.

Because of my upbringing though, I am able to understand that most pro-life people aren't doing it to be evil. They're doing it because they truly believe it's the right thing to do. I feel sorry for them, as it must be such a heavy weight to carry and one that is ultimately for nothing and serves no purpose other than to alienate them from other good people.
posted by Jess the Mess at 5:57 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


I have adopted three children: two drug babies and one micro-preemie.

I probably disagree with you on a lot of things, but I give you mad respect for putting your money (and time and love) where your mouth is.
posted by desjardins at 5:57 PM on November 7, 2012 [27 favorites]


A fetus may be a living being, but until it can breathe on its own it is nothing more than a parasite on the mother with the potential to be a human. Until it can survive outside the body the very suggestion that the fetus's rights might be anywhere near as important as the mother's and might cause her to be legally impelled to take any action whatsoever is nothing less than the endorsement of chattel slavery.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:58 PM on November 7, 2012 [27 favorites]


But, lovelygirl. I'm quite serious.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that fetuses have a right to life. Regardless of whether they can speak or not.

You are also saying that that particular right to life is more important than a woman's right to control her own body.

I'm saying that if a fetus gets to control another person's body, why shouldn't _I_ get to control another person's body?

This is in fact the logical conclusion of your argument.
posted by jfwlucy at 5:59 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


how is the baby being harmed? If the soul sheds the tiniest of bodies and gets to go to heaven sin free... what is the harm? (Sincere question)

Enter: Discussion of "late term" abortion, which the author of the article says can seem morally troubling. I think the suggestion is that the late-term fetus does feel pain.
posted by klausman at 6:02 PM on November 7, 2012


Because of my upbringing though, I am able to understand that most pro-life people aren't doing it to be evil. They're doing it because they truly believe it's the right thing to do.

I agree with you that they're not evil, but I don't know how much they truly believe. If they really, truly believe that there's an abortion holocaust, then why are they not spending every spare moment attempting to stop it? If someone was going around to their houses and killing their firstborn children, there would be an armed insurrection in about 15 minutes.
posted by desjardins at 6:03 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm saying that if a fetus gets to control another person's body, why shouldn't _I_ get to control another person's body?

Because taking lovelygirl's kidney is an external intervention into her body. Forbidding abortion is not making an external intervention into someone's body. This is just one possible moral distinction.
posted by Jahaza at 6:04 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fertilization? Conception? Fuck that. I believe life starts in my balls. The shitty thing is, I guess I should be locked up for being the most ruthless mass murderer in the universe. In fact, I went on yet another rampage this morning. The victims never knew what was coming.
posted by ReeMonster at 6:05 PM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Forbidding abortion is not making an external intervention into someone's body.

Forcing someone to carry a child she does not want to carry is indeed an intervention into her body.
posted by Miko at 6:06 PM on November 7, 2012 [58 favorites]


Yes, a foreign, separate organism implanted in my body is indeed an intervention from the outside.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:08 PM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


[Seriously folks, making this about someone's personal (lack of) kidney donation is not cool - keep it general or go to MetaTalk]
posted by jessamyn at 6:08 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jfwlucy, damned straight I'm saying that the fetus' right to life is more important that the woman's right to control her own body. A woman has agency. All day long. A fetus has no agency. Obviously they did not make a pros and cons lists and finally say "hey, I'll set up camp here". But they're there, for whatever reason. And once they're there, they have rights.

Yes, it sucks for the woman if she feels as though the child is a parasite in her own body, it does. Even for the baby, since it can be harmful to be exposed to stress in the womb. It's not ideal for anyone in that situation. With that being said, there would be no need for the government to intrude if the fetus' rights would be respected. Not everyone respects the fetus' rights, so those of us who can speak must encourage and vote for legislation that supports that.

You have options and do not need legislation commandeering someone else's kidney. You can get on an organ transplant lists and you can ask friends and relatives. Note that I said "you can"- you have a voice.
posted by lovelygirl at 6:10 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, Miko, but that's simply not true. We can debate various other things the state or individuals might do to stop someone from carrying out an abortion (or to compel someone to give up a kidney). Those things might be external interventions into someone's body, but the moral distinction in the rightness or wrongness of actions doesn't depend in the first place on interventions that might be used to enact that morality. The giving up of the kidney and the not having an abortion are still substantially morally different in the way I describe: one is an external intervention into another person and the other is not.
posted by Jahaza at 6:10 PM on November 7, 2012


George Carlin summed it up quite nicely in this bit.
posted by ReeMonster at 6:14 PM on November 7, 2012


Jessamyn, the kidney thing is just an analogy to illustrate what it means to have one person control another person's body. I could just as easily have asked to borrow a lung, or a heart, or a brain.

The point is that no being, sentient or not, can require another person to relinquish bodily autonomy for any reason. I can't make someone carry a baby in her uterus. I can't make someone give me a kidney or cornea.

That's all -- I don't mean it as a personal slight to anyone at all.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:14 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Fine, make it about kidneys in general don't make it personal, otherwise go to MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn at 6:16 PM on November 7, 2012


I'm sorry, Miko, but that's simply not true.

Yes, it is. If I want to do something with my body, and you restrain me by force of law, you've intervened. If that force of law requires me to undergo a procedure I don't elect to undergo - childbirth - you've intervened in the functions of my body.
posted by Miko at 6:21 PM on November 7, 2012 [27 favorites]


Is it generally considered "external intervention" if a given fetus was the product of a rape? I'm not trying to be argumentative, I'm sincerely asking.
posted by davejay at 6:22 PM on November 7, 2012


If they really, truly believe that there's an abortion holocaust, then why are they not spending every spare moment attempting to stop it?

Probably, the same reason we all don't going running off to Africa every time there's a genocide.
posted by Jess the Mess at 6:23 PM on November 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Look, even if a fetus can be said to have a right to life, this does not include the right to use the body of another human being.

A complete, living woman, has absolute rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You cannot require her to sacrifice these rights for any other person.

A fetus exists at the cost of the mother. She may choose to surrender her values, her effort and energy, to mature this fetus and bring it to term and deliver it, or she may choose to discontinue the support.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:23 PM on November 7, 2012 [24 favorites]


Yes, it sucks for the woman if she feels as though the child is a parasite in her own body, it does.

It "sucks"? "If she feels"? I just went in for a round of what is probably the first of many of medical tests. Pregnancy is the first question asked, at every go round. Am I pregnant. Could I be pregnant. What if I was? Well, no chest x-ray, I guess. So yes, that would "suck." Thankfully, it is not an issue. I have the ability to buy hormonal control (for a variety of medical concerns) on a regular basis. My employer, through whom I get my ability to pay for birth control, and the doctors' visits alongside it, has no say in my medical concerns. I have the ability to look at my situation, and say that no, this wouldn't be a safe time for a child. I have the right to say that no, my body is not a safe place in this moment. This is not a thing I "feel." It is a thing I know, that I have looked at the facts as they are, and how they could play out. I need my body to get better. To be well. That is a right that everyone should have, regardless of their reasons.

I am not a huge fan of the parasite metaphor, but the idea that pregnancy is somehow an untraumatic, unproblematic experience is one rarely raised when talking about the reasons why women have abortions. I am in awe of the fact that I could help create a child. It is an incredible thing, and not something I take lightly. But I take my life and my own health very seriously. Every woman has the right to judge that. You do not, regardless of how you think they "feel."
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:25 PM on November 7, 2012 [35 favorites]



If a wild bear is attempting to kill me, and I think it's safe to say that it lacks "agency" in the same way that you're speaking of a zygote, I'm going to shoot it, regardless of that status.

It's also life, in the same way that sperm and eggs are both alive too, but that doesn't seem to be the distinction your making.

The only difference I see is this alleged "soul", which is strictly a religious notion, and which is why it's damn-near-impossible to make a secular argument against abortion stick.

A woman has agency. All day long.

Not when it comes to pregnancy, according to your beliefs.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:25 PM on November 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


You were talking past each on other in the kidney example anyway. lovelygirl is solely talking about the rights of the fetus, and you are solely talking about the rights of the mother. I guess because the fetus is the weakest of the two? I don't think she's grasping your point about the rights of the mother as a human person. A person whose rights are being taken away in favor of this "weakest member".
posted by Glinn at 6:28 PM on November 7, 2012


Y'know, I don't like abortion. I think we should have fewer abortions in this country. I think abortion is a shitty choice that represents a failure of society. We are a first world nation and we should be doing a better job at this.

I want a country where EVERY PERSON PAST KINDERGARTEN is able to explain how babies are made, with scientifically accurate descriptions. I want this to be a requirement in schools, all schools. I want everybody to have to know (with science) how new little humans are made. The school is not a place for discussions of "should you have sex or not" -- that's a matter for the home, for the parents. The school is a place for "penis, vagina. sperm meets ovum, conception happens, new little person inside of the female -- HERE ARE WAYS TO DO PENIS IN VAGINA WITHOUT MAKING NEW LITTLE PEOPLE!!!" talking. I don't give a shit if the church or the parents don't think young people need to know this. They do need to know it, to SAVE THE UNBORN.

I want a country with free, accessible, RELIABLE birth control (in a variety of flavors, options, and choices) for all females past the age of menarche and all males able to ejaculate, regardless of their "parental consent" or their ability to pay. Ideally, said birth control would be available in schools, on street corners, at the post office, in vending machines. EVERYWHERE. All over the place. ANYONE of baby-making age should repeatedly be quizzed by health care professionals about their methodology of preventing baby-making. (My friend's daughter is ten and a half. She had her first period in August of this year. In my ideal world, she would have access to birth control, probably something that lasts at least five years. No, nobody thinks she should be having sex. But, she's fertile. She could be raped, maybe even by a family member. In order to prevent abortions, she should be on semi-permanent birth control. NOBODY who is of an age to make babies should be without a birth control solution at the ready.) Do they have a plan to prevent baby-making? Are they ready for unexpected or surprise sex? Obviously, since this is a free country, "abstinence" would be allowed as a "birth control method" but failure rates for it, as practiced by real humans, should be pushed pretty firmly. AND it should be noted that being on the pill or carrying around condoms does not MAKE people have sex, legions of teenaged boys with wallet condoms notwithstanding.

While I'm at it, I'd like societal disapproval of being unexpectedly or "accidentally" pregnant. (Single parenthood would be OK, but SURPRISE! pregnancy would NOT be ok, more of an "Oh, my SFM, how irresponsible!!! Why didn't they PLAN? What was he THINKING? Why didn't she just GO TO THE CLINIC FIRST?) In this world, every baby would be a planned, wanted baby and people who failed to plan their babies would be social outcasts, like people who pick their noses in public.

You hook me up with a world like that, where FIVE YEAR OLDS know, pretty solidly, how babies are made and where everyone of an age to be "making babies" has cost-free, nonjudgmental and unrestricted access to reliable ways of PREVENTING the making of babies, where people nationwide agree that babies should be carefully PLANNED and that the default modality for responsible sexual intercourse is that it is a decidedly non-reproductive activity and I will go for the "ABORTION IS MURDER OF THE WEE, WEE ONES!!!" argument.

If you have some sort of problem with any of those goals, then I suspect you are more about "controlling women" or "pushing your personal religious beliefs or moral agendas on people who don't give two hoots for them" than stopping the murder of unborn babies.
posted by which_chick at 6:29 PM on November 7, 2012 [58 favorites]


Glinn, whatever rights the fetus might possess, they cannot possibly exceed those of any other human, and no human on earth has the right to make me grow an extra organ for them, donate blood, etc. You can't force someone to get a vaccination or tattoo. I can't even sell my own kidney if I want to. Rights to bodily autonomy are absolute.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:31 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


Yes, I'm on your side. I just didn't think you and lovelygirl were talking about the same thing.
posted by Glinn at 6:32 PM on November 7, 2012


I have not read all the comments but can attest from personal anecdata that, well... purposeful miscarriages are caused by easily obtained herbs among the poorer members of our society.
posted by _paegan_ at 6:34 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, we'd need science to cooperate to end surprise pregnancies, because we don't have any perfect birth control yet; perfect users can still get pregant, and most people aren't perfect users, even if they think they are very good and usually are. I wouldn't insist that every pregnancy be planned; that seems to lean a bit toward controlling women itself.
posted by Miko at 6:36 PM on November 7, 2012 [15 favorites]


You were talking past each on other in the kidney example anyway. lovelygirl is solely talking about the rights of the fetus, and you are solely talking about the rights of the mother. I guess because the fetus is the weakest of the two?

That is correct. And I do undestand that the mother is a human being. I recognize that since I am also a human being. I am having no issue comprehending that. But yes, I am speaking about the weaker of the two, which is also a human being.

I recognize that it can be a dangerous or unfair proposition to ask or legislate a woman to carry a child that she does not want. But I also recognize that it can be a dangerous and unfair proposition to both the fetus and to society if we ignore the fact that they are also humans with a right to life and a right to dignity as well.
posted by lovelygirl at 6:37 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pro-lifers who know the biology in question are apparently okay with God killing unborn babies if that is His will.

Theists generally tend to consider it ethical to do God's will, insofar as you can tell what that is, perhaps through personal revelation, perhaps theology.

There are some actual pacifists in the pro-life movement, I'm sure, and for them it makes sense that human agency should never be involved in killing, neither for abortion nor military action nor law enforcement nor self-defense.

The rest of them have drawn some kind of line around the fetus such that doing God's will, when He wants an unborn baby to die, still counts as murder if you do it on purpose. I think they're okay with accidental miscarriages, although I imagine there's a lot of room for argument over what counts for accidental.

I wonder where that line comes from, if not from a desire to control sex, or perhaps a vaguer antisexualism.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:38 PM on November 7, 2012


If we hypothetically accept your scenario, lovelygirl, we have two human beings. In order to secure the rights of one, you have to rescind the rights of the other. You can't satisfy the interests of both parties here to preserve their lives and freedoms.

Why choose the woman - who has a fully developed life in the world - and not the fetus?
posted by Miko at 6:40 PM on November 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Gotcha, Glinn. Thanks.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:43 PM on November 7, 2012


I'm sorry, but I'm a little confused by your last sentence Miko. Just to clarify, you want me to hypothesize that I am pro choice, or was that a rhetorical statement?
posted by lovelygirl at 6:45 PM on November 7, 2012


No, I want you to answer the question: what are your reasons for prioritizing one human being's interests over another, and rescinding the rights of the other?
posted by Miko at 6:46 PM on November 7, 2012


Miko is asking you to justify your position that the rights of the fetus trump the rights of the woman.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:46 PM on November 7, 2012


Right, on what grounds are the rights of the fetus presumed to be superior.
posted by Miko at 6:47 PM on November 7, 2012


I took a philosophy course in which the issues of abortion were analyzed through a range of philosophical perspectives. This led me by logic to conclude that abortion is indeed the taking of a human life and not to be taken lightly. However, as others have said, we rationalize the taking of human life all the time (warfare, self-protection, capital punishment). In these examples, we make value judgements that prioritize some human lives over others.

A scenario that puts the issues in practical perspective for me is this: there is a fire in a neonatal clinic holding both newborns and frozen embryos waiting for implant. You can grab a baby or a tray of frozen embryos but not both. Which will you save and why? I doubt that even those who truly believe that a fetus is an individual with full human rights of being protected will sacrifice a living baby for this theory.
posted by binturong at 6:47 PM on November 7, 2012 [32 favorites]


[Folks, the public interrogation of one user thing really isn't okay. Please don't do that here, you are welcome to go to MeMail with your personal questions.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:48 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can I explain where I see the disconnect being?


There are a lot of us for which our stance of abortion-as-murder comes from a more general place of our theological standpoint. Now I do happen to know that there are other folks out there who are against abortion who aren't Christians or maybe don't believe in a god at all, whatever.

But for those of us with theological reasons to be against the practice, we can't approve of some things that would theoretically cause fewer abortions because, hey, God. God is the author of life, He has the right to give life and He has the right to take it. Many of us believe that there are very few instances where it is ok or appropriate for someone human to take the life of another. Just war, or capital punishment (not all believe capital punishment is in that category but I throw that in there.) Or, the life of the mother when it comes to a pregnancy.

It is ideologically unfair to castigate someone for not agreeing with you if it would mean that to agree with you they would have to violate their conscience on a separate point. That's all.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:50 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is slightly tangential, but I have been re-reading (yet again!) some of the Vorkosigan books. In it, young women on Beta Colony are given a contraceptive implant after their first period. They can get it removed in order to have a child after taking a class and pooling sufficient credits with a co-parent. (I really like the term co-parent also.)

I am not agreeing with this idea, however, that sort of plan creates a world with a near zero abortion rate. The only abortions would be for the health of the mother or life-ending birth defects.

Thinking about it, this could be argued to be the ultimate conclusion to the idea that every fertilized egg is a human or potential human and must be saved. Universal forced, reversible contraceptives for all. How's that for big government?
posted by Hactar at 6:50 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm asking about the philosophical position, not intending an interrogation. But if it's best to leave it alone, so be it.
posted by Miko at 6:51 PM on November 7, 2012


Universal forced, reversible contraceptives for all.

Interesting idea. They'd have to be 100% effective and have minimal side effects.

Not sure I'm into the forcing part even then, though.
posted by Miko at 6:53 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


St. Alia,
I can understand your viewpoint as a rejection of the 50% of fertilized eggs don't implant argument, and while I disagree, I respect that view. However, given the number of abortions decreases when birth control is supplied, do you object to the widespread dissemination of contraceptives? I remember from some of your comments that you are more socially conservative than I am, but I cannot remember which denomination/sect/movement/flavor/etc. you draw your beliefs from.

Miko,
It's an SF series (a rather good one, I think) where of course they have ironed out those kinks. Most of the series takes place on a far less progressive planet with a semi-feudal power structure. However, there is one thing that they do have which I always wondered about how it would effect abortion rates and that is artificial wombs. If you could, instead of having an abortion, have the embryo removed, frozen and then gestated in an artificial womb when someone wanted to adopt it, would that more or less take care of the abortion issue?
posted by Hactar at 6:58 PM on November 7, 2012


Ok. I was confused since you asked "why choose the woman?"

But I would say that it's not ideal to have to choose period. But obviously one individual has to trump another. So I reiterate my previous statement that the fetus deserves life because they are innocent. They never chose to be brought into this world. They have no agency. They have no say in the matter whatsoever. Unless the woman was raped, she had a choice and a say in using multiple forms of contraception (For the purposes of this discussion, i am only speaking to women in the US). It's not slut shaming or being anti sex. The fact of the matter is that the fetus did not create itself (and yes I realize that there are men involved in this as well!)

The fetus should not be deprived of life simply because they cannot speak up to say "hey! Don't put me in here!". Just because the fetus did not get there first or is smaller and weaker doesn't mean that they should have their human rights stripped away as well.
posted by lovelygirl at 6:58 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


In order to secure the rights of one, you have to rescind the rights of the other. You can't satisfy the interests of both parties here to preserve their lives and freedoms.

Why choose the woman - who has a fully developed life in the world - and not the fetus?


To illustrate the mindset, one could conceivable choose to rescind the rights of the woman because one believes that for all pairs X and Y, X's right to life is more important than Y's right to control their body (which is consistent with exceptions for when the mother's life is threatened). Or because the woman has some power to cope with the situation if their rights are rescinded, but the fetus does not; when the fetus's right to life is rescinded, that's kinda it for them.
posted by Jpfed at 7:01 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have two reasonable people here coming an agreement that two lives are at stake here, and we can't agree to place a value on one of those lives above the other. Some people believe the mother's life is fully realized and that she should choose what to do with it. Some people believe that the fetus has no control, no agency, and that it's life should be protected over all.

Miko and lovelygirl are both making reasonable arguments. That is exactly why I am pro-choice. I believe that Miko should be able to act based on her values and lovelygirl should be able to act based on hers. I can understand them both. I respect them both. I believe that abortion remains a values argument and should remain safe and legal and up to the individual. I don't believe I have any more right to make that decision for someone else than I have to decide who they sleep with in the first place.
posted by maryr at 7:01 PM on November 7, 2012 [47 favorites]


If you could, instead of having an abortion, have the embryo removed, frozen and then gestated in an artificial womb when someone wanted to adopt it, would that more or less take care of the abortion issue?

Depends on the nature of the procedure that would do it, I guess.

Also, there would need to be some very lock-tight legal arrangements about parental responsibility there.
posted by Miko at 7:02 PM on November 7, 2012


X's right to life is more important than Y's right to control their body (which is consistent with exceptions for when the mother's life is threatened

But pregnancy itself carries a risk to life. There's also no guarantee that X will live.
posted by Miko at 7:03 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder if artificial wombs (along with some sort of 100% effective universal contraceptive) is the inevitable solution to this moral dilemma. Techno-triumphalism strikes again!
posted by Apocryphon at 7:04 PM on November 7, 2012


Say what you like about the "inescapable implication of their policies and actions", but most people who call themselves pro-life genuinely believe it's all about saving innocent lives. Most feel real, visceral horror about abortion. I know because I grew up in that world. My feelings at the time were real, no matter how I've changed in the decades since.

Argue that they're ignoring facts, fine. Argue that the term "Pro-Life" is inconsistent with their other beliefs, fine. Argue that they they're naive for not seeing the motivations of some of their leaders, fine.

But if you want pro-life people to double down on their beliefs and shut their eyes even harder to the consequences, then by all means keep telling them that you know their motives and feelings better than they do.
posted by Zimboe Metamonkey at 7:05 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


I wonder if artificial wombs (along with some sort of 100% effective universal contraceptive) is the inevitable solution to this moral dilemma.

It's going to be a long time before we can build a placenta.
posted by Miko at 7:06 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


But pregnancy itself carries a risk to life.

Sure. The risk of pregnancy as a whole to the woman (around 1% mortality, give or take) compares pretty favorably to the risk of abortion to the fetus (100% mortality).
posted by Jpfed at 7:07 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


As far as I know, the Church consistently claims that recognisable, ensouled human life begins at the second a sperm and egg encounter each other.

The Catholic Church, sure, but according to the links I posted upthread the Evangelical churches specifically thought of abortion as a Catholic issue, and took it on faith (via the Old Testament) that human life begins at birth -- until 30 or so years ago when they were politically encouraged/manipulated into taking their current position.

(Interestingly, compare that translation to the New King James re-translation from 1982. Between those two versions the text is made to take the complete opposite position.)
posted by nobody at 4:11 PM on November 7 [2 favorites −] [!]


I was raised in the Evangelical Baptist church and reading the New International Version of the Bible. I went to look up the same verse in the NIV (1984 version), and they seemed to have gotten around this "translation" problem by putting: “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely [a] ", in the text with a footnote that says: "Or she has a miscarriage". So, somehow they managed to make this verse mean both at the same time? Now there's something that's going to cause some serious cognitive dissonance! I'm an atheist now, so luckily I don't have to try and defend this kind of thing anymore.
posted by smartypantz at 7:08 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where there's been no crime committed, I don't view innocence (or guilt) as an important factor in decisions about who deserves to live or doesn't. I often wonder about this construction of the idea of innocence; if the fetus is innocent, and the innocence gives it the power to prevail over the rights of the woman carrying it, the woman carrying it must therefore be guilty. If they were equally innocent there would be no superior claim.

It just seems there's no way to do this without ascribing guilt to the woman, and using that presumed moral failing as the reason to rescind her rights.
posted by Miko at 7:09 PM on November 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


St. Alia,
I can understand your viewpoint as a rejection of the 50% of fertilized eggs don't implant argument, and while I disagree, I respect that view. However, given the number of abortions decreases when birth control is supplied, do you object to the widespread dissemination of contraceptives? I remember from some of your comments that you are more socially conservative than I am, but I cannot remember which denomination/sect/movement/flavor/etc. you draw your beliefs from.


I have no problem with most forms of birth control, to include sterilization. I personally would not use The Pill but I personally wouldn't make a big fuss about it being covered under someone else's insurance (since I understand there isn't total consensus on it being a possible abortifacient) but then I am not Catholic. (nondenominational charismatic, if anyone cares.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:11 PM on November 7, 2012


Chapter 2. The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden. And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born. You shall not covet the things of your neighbor, you shall not swear, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is a snare of death. Your speech shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed. You shall not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor evil disposed, nor haughty. You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbor. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.

The first century Christians, who wrote the Didache, were already anti-abortion.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:11 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chances of mortality aside, I think it's worth considering what else a pregnancy can mean for a woman. Your body becomes unwieldy. You may not die, but you could develop a condition like gestational diabetes, take on weight, suffer from lots of complications or just plain side effects. You're going to have to buy a maternity wardrobe. You're going to have to take time off of work (and deal with the ramifications of being a visibly pregnant woman in the workplace). You're going to take on the cost of prenatal care and delivery. And there are countless emotional and societal tolls, too.

All of this makes it very hard for me to consider this not a sacrifice of another person, even if it's not the sacrifice of a life per se.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:18 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The first century Christians, who wrote the Didache, were already anti-abortion.

They wrote it in english? And we still have the original?
posted by gjc at 7:22 PM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


There's a reason this is not a pro/anti argument. Pro-life believes that "abortion is murder" is a fact. Pro-choice believes that "abortion is murder" is a belief. There's just no way to reconcile the two, at least, that I can see.

FWIW, I've just sat here typing out the logical conclusion of my own beliefs on being pro-choice and have made myself imagine my father dying. So now I'm crying. So yay for that.
posted by maryr at 7:24 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Didache isn't part of the canon and if you're going to start assuming that early Christians believed a thing based on extra-canonical writings, well, a lot of it would make contemporary Christians uncomfortable.
posted by chrchr at 7:24 PM on November 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


(So... eponysterical, then?)
posted by maryr at 7:26 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I'm not saying the early Christians were anti-abortion because of the Didache, I'm saying that they were anti-abortion as evidenced by them having written the Didache. Certainly a closer examination is in order to see what cultural or theological beliefs of the era might have caused them to hold such a position, but surely this must indicate that Christians prior to recent decades had some qualms about abortion.

They wrote it in english? And we still have the original?

We got it in Greek.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:29 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pro-life believes that "abortion is murder" is a fact. Pro-choice believes that "abortion is murder" is a belief.

I do think there's more middle ground than that. Binturong had a good comment upthread that didn't get picked up by anyone. I took a similar course in college and have a sort of a similar position. The point that while abortion may constitute "killing" as in ending life, it may at the same time not constitute "murder," is an important one. If we can navigate in any of that ground we may get somewhere. It's the same ground we have to navigate to talk about voluntary euthanisia, war, mass vaccination, hostage situations, and capital punishment, to name a few.

The use of the hyperbolic nomenclature of "murder," when usually there is no malice present at all in an abortion, doesn't help the discussion go forward in a reasonable manner.
posted by Miko at 7:30 PM on November 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


"So that's the key question. My Church's answer is that, well, we just don't know. Science cannot tell us when the soul enters the body exactly. (St. Thomas Aquinas proposed early on that abortion was okay until such time as the "Quickening" of the fetus. Kind of a vague idea which has been long since discredited.) What science can tell us is that fertilization starts a natural chain of events starts that, unimpeded, will result in a person. Since life is a grave matter and a fundamental right, we need to be as cautious as possible in protecting life.

So out of reverence for life *and* an admission that we just don't scientifically know when a person starts, we draw the most cautious possible line -- the start of the process that leads to a person.
"

All due respect, but this is incredibly sloppy thinking and leads to an argument from ignorance.

First, your Church's answer isn't that they don't know. But leaving that aside, you're arguing that the basis for when a person becomes a person is when their soul adheres to their body, then complaining that science can't answer that.

That's because it's a profoundly unscientific question. That doesn't mean that scientific and rational arguments can't be made around the relative "humanity" grade of a fetus/zygote. However, you're not making them — you're claiming that because we just don't know, we can't adjudicate this, and that's nonsense.

And that's all letting alone the underlying fact that you're trying to legislate other people's religious practice for them. If someone disagrees with you, or thinks that souls impart at quickening (the idea that this is "long since discredited" is nonsense too; no evidence of souls precludes reaching a rational conclusion based on that premise), you're forcing them to adopt your religious practice.

I have no problem with people following their own religions, up until they want to require that others do too. Just like how the right to swing your arms ends at my nose.
posted by klangklangston at 7:41 PM on November 7, 2012 [19 favorites]


I just wanted to bring up again what a great article this is. It takes a bit of courage to not only say "I was wrong" but also "I was duped". And then to lay out the process of realising that you've been fooled and have been working against your own beliefs and values, allowing people to disagree with you or mock you because it's more important to you to be honest than to save face. That's true humility and gumption.
posted by harriet vane at 7:57 PM on November 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I do think there is an important discussion to be had on the value of a zygote. Does the mere fact that it is alive make a zygote equal in importance to a pregnant woman? Obviously not, because we would not hesitate to squash a tick sucking our blood. So it is the potential to be a human being that gives the zygote value, but is it equal in value to a fully grown human?

I contend that a potential human being is not valuable enough to trump the rights of a fully realized human being. Think of all that society has invested in this grown female: the amount of food she has consumed, the hours of education she has received, the sheer effort her parents and society as a whole to keep her alive. I cannot agree to the idea that this fully conscious being, aware, and experienced is of an equal value to an unconscious, unaware, inexperienced zygote. What you tell a woman when you tell her she is not allowed to obtain an abortion is that she is equal in value to a clump of cells.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:59 PM on November 7, 2012 [29 favorites]


Pro-lifers who know the biology in question are apparently okay with God killing unborn babies if that is His will.

This is a ridiculous argument.

I hope you wouldn't point to people dying of heart attacks and say, "People who think murder should be illegal are apparently okay with God killing people if that is His will."

Also, many Christians do not believe that a heart attack or a miscarriage is something that God "does."
posted by straight at 8:02 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


The simple fact is that if you want to reduce the number of abortions, the only method that has worked so far in the history of the world is to make birth control freely available. Banning doesn't change the number. It's possible there'll be other methods in the far-off future of artificial wombs or whatever, but for now this is all we've got.

So if you support freely available birth control for anyone who wants it, then I don't mind how you feel about zygotes or what label you choose for yourself: you're ok by me. Well, I might get in a heated discussion with you about bodily autonomy and the intersection of legal and moral transgressions, but that's just because I like a good heated discussion about important issues, not because I think you're a bad person.
posted by harriet vane at 8:09 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


What I don't understand, and this is coming from having been raised with the belief myself, is how to separate "I theologically believe that this is murder" and "I non-theologically believe that this is murder".

If I actually, really thought that babies were being murdered in a building down the block, even that *a* baby was being murdered in a building down the block, I would be down there before even thinking about it. I would take prison for that. I would take death, for that. Put me in a room with the next Andrea Yates, in the act, and I will put every fiber of my being into putting a stop to it, immediately. And as I grew up, I realized that not only did I not actually feel that way about abortion, neither did any of the people around me who allegedly believed it was the same.

My beliefs as I reached adulthood and learned more about life, as now, are more like: A potential human being is an extremely valuable thing. Pregnancy is something to be congratulated, even when it's unexpected. Children are amazing. The Bible backs all this up. But it also backs up the idea that abortion is not the same kind of evil as murder, if you elect to read it that way. And this seems to match more closely with the way virtually all Americans actually feel about it. Yet the murder thing gets thrown around because... why? To get the moral high ground? I find it revolting. And I feel revolted, even now, that this was the tactic that was used by people trying to get my own support when I was barely old enough to know what sex even was. The only way I can find to equate abortion and murder without going to prison is to think that maybe murder isn't that big a deal after all, and that disturbs me. But the pain and betrayal of being raised like this and then realizing the world doesn't work the way you were led to believe... it's hard.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:09 PM on November 7, 2012 [26 favorites]


But for those of us with theological reasons to be against the practice, we can't approve of some things that would theoretically cause fewer abortions because, hey, God. God is the author of life, He has the right to give life and He has the right to take it. Many of us believe that there are very few instances where it is ok or appropriate for someone human to take the life of another. Just war, or capital punishment (not all believe capital punishment is in that category but I throw that in there.) Or, the life of the mother when it comes to a pregnancy.

This argument still depends upon knowing that the developing fetus is equivalent to a human life, though, right?

(Also this only tangentially relates, but in the Catholic school I went to, the case of a pregnancy that would kill the mother before delivery [and thus also the infant] came up, and our religion teacher said something to the effect of, "well, with modern technology we can sometimes keep the baby alive even after the mother is dead, long enough to rescue it." So that happened.)
posted by en forme de poire at 8:27 PM on November 7, 2012


Pro-lifers who know the biology in question are apparently okay with God killing unborn babies if that is His will.
This is a ridiculous argument.

I hope you wouldn't point to people dying of heart attacks and say, "People who think murder should be illegal are apparently okay with God killing people if that is His will."

Also, many Christians do not believe that a heart attack or a miscarriage is something that God "does."


The argument made in the article is a more subtle, which is that if we really believed that adult and zygote deaths were equivalent, we would be working tirelessly to attempt to prevent spontaneous abortion in the same way that we are studying cancer, heart disease, etc. - walks and fund drives, research grants to scientists from the Fund To Cure Spontaneous Abortion, observational studies about sociological factors that can mitigate spontaneous abortion, etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:34 PM on November 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


It has also happened that otherwise dead women have been kept alive through artificial means long enough for their children to be delivered by C-section.

I assume that's a decision usually made by the next of kin under the advice of doctors and am totally good with that.
posted by Miko at 8:35 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


we can't approve of some things that would theoretically cause fewer abortions

It's not theoretical. Freely available birth control reduces the number of abortions. There are many proofs of this, some of which are in the FPP article. Approve or not, them's the facts.
posted by harriet vane at 8:39 PM on November 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


We authorize the police to prevent would-be murderers from killing innocent people by force if necessary, even killing them if necessary. We also deter murder by punishing murderers with long prison sentences. So, here's a question for people who want to make abortion illegal: exactly what are you willing to do to pregnant women to stop them from having abortions?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:43 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Charmaine Yoest’s Cheerful War on Abortion: The head of Americans United for Life isn’t a moderate, but she plays one on TV.
posted by homunculus at 8:44 PM on November 7, 2012


exactly what are you willing to do to pregnant women to stop them from having abortions?

Create a just society where no law-abiding person would have a valid reason to have an abortion, with the usual exceptions.

Unfortunately, this is not the aim of the ostensibly pro-life party, in the U.S.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:46 PM on November 7, 2012


we can't approve of some things that would theoretically cause fewer abortions

I'm not sure this comment was referring to birth control? But now I'm a little confused re-reading it.
posted by maryr at 8:47 PM on November 7, 2012


Create a just society where no law-abiding person would have a valid reason to have an abortion, with the usual exceptions

What exactly would make such a society "just" in such a way as to remove all reason for abortion?

What reasons would be considered illegal or invalid?

I mean, I'm certainly for a society that supports women, children, families better all around. It's one of the main necessary things, shameful we don't live those values now.

But I think that even in a perfect society there could still be reasons to have an abortion.
posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Consider this: a female wolf, when under significant stress (food deprivation in the area, etc.), can re-absorb a fetus. She can then get on with survival in trying circumstances.

Unlike a stressed female wolf, I cannot reabsorb a fetus due to my biology.
I would personally appreciate the right to engage in the same moderation of my female body through abortion, as needed for my economic/emotional/social survival, and to ensure no harm to any EXISTING dependents.

Obviously, preventative birth control methods are the first choice, but should they fail, a woman deserves a reprieve from the burden/responsibility of another life that she is not equipped to handle (for whatever reason). The right to have an abortion would put me on about equal footing with a wolf, which I think is both just and fair in this society.


Glad the writer worked out the faulty logic before she started to impact others' choices.

(Presbyterian here... Funny, you'd think that the soul argument would have been discarded in place of the argument against willynilly human reproduction in face of human impact on the Earth's carrying capacity...Every extra person adds to the burden of the world, especially those raised in consumer-driven Western culture. Taking a larger portion of planetary resources for an unborn, unplanned, unwanted future iPod toter, is a moral and ethical smack in the face to the wanted unborn kids elsewhere. Betcha God would be more impressed if we restrained both our resource control and reproduction for the sake of His other beings... )
posted by NorthernAutumn at 9:03 PM on November 7, 2012 [15 favorites]


So if you do believe the fetus is a person. then there is a dilemma. We have two people whose rights in conflict, occupying the same body.

Since we live in the real world and not a theoretical framework, one party's interests will take precedence over the other's. The question is who trumps who.

Giving the bigger stronger person the right to kill the other is intrinsically evil and fundamentally unjust.

The alternative is to consign me to biological slavery and forced birth, which is infinitely more evil and unjust, so I'm OK with that.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:13 PM on November 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


But I think that even in a perfect society there could still be reasons to have an abortion.
posted by Miko at 10:50 PM on November 7


Anencephaly, for example. An impending natural miscarriage. Trisomy 13. Etc. There are lots of ways pregnancies can go wrong that have little or nothing to do with society.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:24 PM on November 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's why I mentioned "exceptions". In general, these abortion debates aren't about medical exceptions or health of the mother.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:35 PM on November 7, 2012


First of all, thank you to the OP for posting this article.

Justsomebody's question actually reminded me of an AskMe I've been meaning to put up: Have there been any sort of comprehensive policies proposed by pro-lifers for what happens after abortion is outlawed? How are women (either who have had abortions or who are caught planning to abort) to be punished? Or, just in general, is there any kind of consensus among pro-lifers about what that punishment should be?
posted by imalaowai at 9:53 PM on November 7, 2012


Have there been any sort of comprehensive policies proposed by pro-lifers for what happens after abortion is outlawed? How are women (either who have had abortions or who are caught planning to abort) to be punished? Or, just in general, is there any kind of consensus among pro-lifers about what that punishment should be?

There was a video awhile back that asked pro-lifers that question. While I know there are activists on the extreme fringe who want to prosecute women for murder, that was a million miles from what I think the general consensus is, which is that... nothing should happen to women who have illegal abortions. Folks seem to be a lot more comfortable criminally prosecuting the people who provide abortions rather than the people who undergo them.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:00 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interesting. I mean, it's good many do not want to prosecute the women, though there is something a little off-putting about that 'policy'; it's probably a poor word choice for this discussion, but it seems almost infantalizing that the woman not be held accountable if one considers this murder. I feel really weird saying that, because I am terrified of the idea of women being prosecuted for such a thing (or doctors, for that matter). But it does seem inconsistent and hypocritical.
posted by imalaowai at 10:30 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have there been any sort of comprehensive policies proposed by pro-lifers for what happens after abortion is outlawed? How are women (either who have had abortions or who are caught planning to abort) to be punished?

It's pretty well understood that outlawing abortion doesn't end it. What it does do, is make it much more dangerous. So women will (and do today, where it is illegal) risk their lives and often die due to botched abortions. So there's that.
posted by ambrosia at 10:55 PM on November 7, 2012


To be clear, I do not advocate that position. I am fervently, militantly pro-choice, a position that has been only deepened by bearing children myself.
posted by ambrosia at 10:56 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


binturong: there is a fire in a neonatal clinic holding both newborns and frozen embryos waiting for implant. You can grab a baby or a tray of frozen embryos but not both. Which will you save and why? I doubt that even those who truly believe that a fetus is an individual with full human rights of being protected will sacrifice a living baby for this theory.

I would have thought that too. From my notes on Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefson's Embryo:

they acknowledge that a 5-year-old girl has prior bonds of affection with her family which means greater grief if she dies, and that such factors play a "legitimate role in determining how to allocate scarce resources and whom to rescue" -- but they argue that by contrast, there is no legitimate role for actively killing early-stage humans, ever. On the other hand, they hypothesize a situation where most people could agree it's reasonable for somebody to save the embryos "even if other people with no embryo attachments would choose to rescue the girl"...eg, a "mother, father, or grandparent" of the embryos at risk of burning, "might well choose to rescue them [instead of the 5 year old girl] and most people would not regard this as immoral."

Most people would not think this was immoral?? I read this book about 6 months ago. I still think about this passage. Because, Holy shit.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:03 AM on November 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


But for those of us with theological reasons to be against the practice, we can't approve of some things that would theoretically cause fewer abortions because, hey, God.

Genuinely curious here, as I'm a humanist personally, and not just addressed to yourself, St Alia of the Bunnies as you've said you're not personally opposed - but I'm wondering if you may know the arguments of those who are.

Does the prohibition of contraceptive use by a religion outweigh the right to life of a fetus?

Because easy access to cheap (or even better, free) effective contraceptives absolutely means there are fewer abortions - it's not theoretical, it's absolutely proven. It's a huge difference. Putting aside the pill as sometimes an abortifacient (it's been proven that it isn't, but we'll put it aside anyway)

Condoms, spermicide, diaphragm, hormone implants are all examples of (moderately) effective contraceptive methods that prevent fertilization in the first place; no fertilization, no 'hidden' abortion. Functionally, they're no different than the calendar method, which IS acceptable.

Widespread access to them for everyone (only USED those who want them, obviously) would drastically reduces unwanted pregnancies, and therefore abortions. I honestly don't get why the pro-life movement in general is opposed to public access to non-pill contraception, when the stated goal is less abortions. You'd think the pro-life movement would be shouting for greater contraceptive access from the rooftops.

If we take the religious argument at face value, that intentionally killing an unprotected fetus is no different than intentionally killing a baby, and its our duty to stop that where possible - then surely increased contraceptive use meaning many more fetus' that come into being will be wanted and carried to term is a good thing?

Basically - what am I missing?
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:11 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


But I also recognize that it can be a dangerous and unfair proposition to both the fetus and to society if we ignore the fact that they are also humans with a right to life and a right to dignity as well.

Another question. How far do we go in involving the government in religious beliefs?

Society has various rules, that can be argued from a secular basis, that killing people is a bad thing. Not least the 'self-interest' doctrine, in that if we allow people to be killed, I myself as a concious being am at risk.

We also have various exemptions to those rules (such as self-defence), and those can also be argued from a secular basis on one of least harm.

I do not know of a secular argument against killing that can be extended to a zygote or early-stage fetus, i.e. one that cannot survive outside the womb. Any secular definition of human life that should be protected requires, a priori, a sentient being. A zygote or early-stage fetus is, from a secular view, a bundle of cells that is not legally different from any other bundle of human cells, otherwise you end up with ludicrous end-points such as chemotherapy being murder.

(A late-stage fetus that has an active brain and capability for independent sustaining of life though is another matter, and many of the secular rules that apply to protecting sentient human life start to kick in, and it takes truly exceptional circumstances for late-stage abortions to be legal, and it's a rare pro-choicer that argues otherwise.)

The only argument for a fetus, as a potential life is that it has a soul since conception, and is thus sacred - that as a potential human, it deserves the same rights as an actualised human - so much so, that it deserves equal or greater protection to that of the mother.

But that, fundamentally, is a religious belief. I get that as part of the religion, protecting that life is important, and therefore pressuring the government to enact this belief into law - outlawing abortion - is the conclusion.

For me though, that is the dangerous step. It's one thing to believe that a zygote is a human life and should not be killed - I've never encountered a pro-choice advocate who thinks that belief should be banned, or in any way restricted. ACTING upon that belief, and getting the government to enforce that religious belief by law is another though.

What we're basically saying, is that the government should arbite which religion is correct. Put one party who does not have that belief, under the constraint of people who do on no basis other than religious belief.

How far does that go? Is it majority rule? Because a (slim) majority do not agree with the belief that a fetus is a full human life worth as much protection or more than the mother. If a minority belief should still be enacted in law, and imposed on all - because it's Right - how small a minority is allowed to impose the result of a religious belief upon everyone else?

It's not hard to posit a near future where a religion other than Christianity is the majority religion in the US; for example, Islam. The same argument for allowing a Christian belief, that of life beginning at conception, to be imposed upon all in society equally leads to a circumstance where the christian faith itself comes under threat - should there be a time when radical islam is a majority religion in the US, should Sharia law, negative portrayals of the Prophet, and the banning of all other religious worship be acceptable - because we've already decided that the government should be in the business of arbiting and imposing religious beliefs upon those who do not share them.

The same could be said of non-belief - if a majority of the population were to become atheist, how much should they be able to enact in law their own restrictions upon religion.

Freedom of religion - the right to believe what you will, and argue that belief with others without government stepping in and enforcing which side is Right by law - seems to be a fundamental expression of the right to self-determination. Allowing one religious belief to be enacted into law without secular basis, even on people who do not share it, seems to me to be an incredibly dangerous path to go down if you value your own right to religious self-determination.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:04 AM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


St. Thomas Aquinas proposed early on that abortion was okay until such time as the "Quickening" of the fetus. Kind of a vague idea which has been long since discredited.

So that's how Catholics disguise the fact that one of their (canonized) own gave them a perfectly rational rule around the permissibility and necessity of abortions! Given that quickening (the first time a pregnant woman can feel the fetus moving) generally happens at the three month mark (thereabouts and roughly), which of course is the same point up until which abortion as a service is currently legal in the United States (among other places), I'd say this rule has only been discredited in the religious camp from whence it came. Why on earth is it too "vague"? Can women not be trusted to know or admit when it's happened, since it's based on what women can feel, and not on what priests can verify? The history of considering quickening "kind of vague" is surely an interesting one, given how loath the Catholic church is to tell a saint he's wrong about something. Especially a major one.
posted by Hildegarde at 1:37 AM on November 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


only if monkey pants are somehow involved.

Pants made by monkeys, made of monkeys or worn by monkeys? I'm uh asking for a friend.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:24 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


But for those of us with theological reasons to be against the practice, we can't approve of some things that would theoretically cause fewer abortions because, hey, God.

I'm afraid you're demonstrating there that you genuinely don't care about abortion. You aren't against abortion or even killing or you'd be in favour of compromises that will do what you claim you want "because, hey, God." You are demonstrating very clearly that your goal is purely about religious purity. You don't have a rational position that can be negotiated with "because, hey, God." You have a position that is 'my way or the highway' "because, hey, God."

And with all due respect I don't give a damn what your God says. And your arguments that abortion is wrong because it is murder are shown to be post-hoc rationalisation of "because, hey, God." You are openly saying that you don't care about the things you claim about "because, hey, God."

This means that we can not find common ground. A process of logic that just says "because, hey, God" is one that can not be negotiated with or even understood. It forces everything to come down to a matter of might makes right as "because, hey, God" is utterly indistinguishable from "because I say so and I am never going to change my mind under any circumstance". If your logic is simply "because, hey, God" rather than actually trying to understand why God has said things then we can not have a useful discussion. You are declaring war. And some of us are going to return fire.
posted by Francis at 4:36 AM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


This means that we can not find common ground.

You are right. That is exactly what that means. I serve a Person, not a principle. But the discussion that would entail is probably way beyond the scope of this thread, or maybe even Metafilter itself.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:44 AM on November 8, 2012


I thought this article was sincere and hit all the high points of why helping women get affordable birth control and programs to help families and children once they are born are key to cutting down the number of abortions. There are those of us who are very uncomfortable with the idea of casual abortion or abortion as birth control, and we are not all ignorant right wing religious nutters, nor are we all about punishing women for sex as the author successfully proves the leaders of Right To Life are.

I was sorry to see the snark descend on this author for ever having been pro-life, without giving her a chance to explain how she got to the place she is now. I am "more or less Catholic" more culturally than doctrinally, and am disgusted and horrified at the anti-birth control and anti- Obamacare stance of the Catholic church, and its support of candidates like Romney who would gut our social welfare system for the poor. As my devout Irish Catholic father once said, the rich could always do anything they wanted, including get abortions, but they enforced their hypocritical "moral" laws like prohibition on the poor. I cannot speak for Evangelicals, but most of the practicing everyday liberal Catholics I know feel as I do and are very upset with the direction the church is going in.

I too have come around to a pro-choice stand as the one that actually does care about women and children, and also prevents abortions by providing birth control and decent medical care to poor women. Like the author, I now see the Right to Life movement, but not every individual who identifies as pro-life, as destructive and woman-hating, and the cause of more abortions than it prevents. Real pro-choice means women really do have a choice, and that choice includes both abortion and birthing and raising the child without outside pressures to go either way. In a small number of cases surrender to adoption might also be considered, but that is NOT an alternative to abortion but a whole other complex and often heartbreaking life choice that should never be coerced or made light of. And it has been proven that access to birth control is the biggest factor in cutting down on abortions. One can no longer be pro-life and anti-birth control.
posted by mermayd at 4:59 AM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm learning a lot about the nuances of pro-life advocates who aren't "Pro-Life Advocates", so thank you for the going back and forth. I hope any pro-lifers continue the conversation because I honestly want to hear their side!
posted by evening at 5:40 AM on November 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


In general, these abortion debates aren't about medical exceptions or health of the mother.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:35 PM on November 7


Yes, and actually that's one of the really frustrating things about the pro-life position, because they seem to regard all pregnancies as risk-free propositions for the mother. If "health of the mother" were a real, pressing concern then we'd be having a national discussion about things like gestational diabetes, which is reasonably common, and whether or not a person can be compelled to develop a medical condition to save the life of the fetus. Generally when pro-lifers say they are fine with an exception for the health of the mother, they have something in mind like "otherwise the mother dies" not "otherwise the mother's health is impacted" or "any woman with a chronic condition that would be exacerbated by pregnancy should be permitted an abortion."

In real life, there's a whole spectrum of ways that the health of a woman is affected by pregnancy, and we don't tend to have many conversations about which of those actually constitute an "exception." I've had pro-lifers get quite irritated with me when I've raised this point, because they think I'm being, I don't know, silly or something, but it seems to me to be actually quite an important plank in their policy proposal: under what circumstances is my health prioritized over the life of the fetus? And conversely, under what circumstances do they want me to sacrifice my health for the life of the fetus?
posted by joannemerriam at 5:45 AM on November 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


Just wanted to jump in and say how wonderful it is when people have the courage, space, and time to consider the beliefs they have been taught. It is not an easy thing to consider that you may have been wrong your whole life about something.

I also want to thank Metafilter for shutting down the "laugh at the rube" vibe going on at the beginning of this thread. I love you people.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 5:54 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's why I mentioned "exceptions". In general, these abortion debates aren't about medical exceptions or health of the mother.

WEll, I'll set that aside as true and still say that there is nothing a society can do, however just it is, to make me want to endure pregnancy and bear a child if I don't want to do that.

One thing about the original article that exasperated me, I'll admit, is that not a thing in there is an idea unavailable to people, or not discussed. Every single argument there has been aired even here on MetaFilter multiple times. The only difference is the angle of 'personal journey' and 'intended audience.' I suppose I take that for what it is, but as you can see, until they take that personal journey themselves, people continue to find rationalizations for holding the prohibition position. Is it convincing anyone it's designed to convince? Or is it all written off, as it would seem in this thread, as just apostasy?
posted by Miko at 6:41 AM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into

Pretty late in the thread, but I didn't want this to go unchallenged. Thank you very much, Jonathan Swift, for this extremely pithy statement, but good lord am I irritated that this seems to have become one of those internet platitudes, a stock truth trotted out constantly, because it is just not true. YES YOU CAN, IF THEY ARE AMENABLE TO REASON. IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:45 AM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


All support for the empowerment and autonomy of women will reduce abortion. If women are empowered to say no to unwelcome sex and to feel that their personal worth is not defined by their sexual or marital role. And if women who choose to have sex are respected and allowed that choice. If women have access to the resources they need to raise children. if single mothers are not denigrated. And of course if women are educated and supported in the use of contraception. All of these things will reduce abortion.

The issue of ensoulment is a complete red herring. If you think an invisible soul enters the foetus at some point - great - support women's autonomy and empowerment. If you believe there is no such thing as a soul - great - support women's autonomy and empowerment.

But a legal ban on abortion is never a responsible approach.
posted by communicator at 6:59 AM on November 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


YES YOU CAN, IF THEY ARE AMENABLE TO REASON. IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME

This is a really excellent point. I think people who are more self conscious about their use of reason underestimate the number of non-reasoned beliefs people have. I had a set of beliefs when I was ten, and I didn't reason myself into any of them because I was ten. The fact that I have any new beliefs now that I have reasoned myself into means that I was capable of reasoning myself out of non-reasoned beliefs.

I also think that generally the secular Left (or whatever you want to call it), over estimates the extent to which they rely on reason and the extent to which their opponents don't. Most people support their beliefs with a mixture of reason and unreason, and while generally those mixtures do vary in the way you'd expect (more unreasoned beliefs on the part of religious people) to treat religious people as if reason was never a factor in their lives is wrong.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:00 AM on November 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


I just came back in the thread to say that there has been more productive focus on the central critical question of abortion in this forum than in all of my years of being Catholic and Pro-Life. I love Metafilter.

I also approve of the shift the tone has taken. I like the fact that the pro-choicers seem to be regarding the pro-lifers with intellectual respect (and vice versa). Increases my faith that abortion can be discussed in a way that sheds more light than heat.

I will say that the right conflict I want us to consider is not a zero sum thing. In most abortion situations, it's not the mother or the fetus. It's the mother's rights to privacy, bodily autonomy, quality of life, self-determination, and to mitigate health risks and other harm vs. the fetus' basic right of existence. Pro-Life does not say the fetus is more important than the mother. But in the case of abortion, the fetus' harm is more dire, permanent and certain. The mother's can be made less so by her own agency and the help of others.

What is disappointing is that most Pro-Life activity does not address the fact that the mother is still at risk of great hardship when she chooses to have her baby. Going the pure prohibition route is lazy and irresponsible. We have to have a society where women do not feel they have to make that choice. My thinking is that, when a woman has reached the conclusion she needs to have an abortion, Christians everywhere have failed.
posted by cross_impact at 7:05 AM on November 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Also, for the sake of argument, let's say there is no soul. I am not asserting that you should believe the fetus has a soul if you don't believe in stuff like souls.

But at some point society draws a line that says "this developing human being has reached the point where it has the right to survive." Infanticide is illegal and nobody seriously demands that infanticide be left as a personal choice between the mother, the father, her doctor or any subset of individuals. Society draws the line where personal choice ends and the protection of the law begins.

So where do we draw the line where personal choice ends and legal protection begins. The fact that there needs to be a line (hopefully) isn't in question. Pro-Life says that reverence for our own humanity (leaving God's will out of it for now) says that we show deference to drawing that line as cautiously as we can.

(St. Irenaeus said that "The glory of God is Humanity fully alive." Pope John Paul II reasserted that statement hundreds of years later. Catholics and Humanists have, in practical human terms, a lot in common. So instead of arguing over God's will, we can argue over "What is best for all humans, especially the weakest and most vulnerable?" and that is a pretty good stand-in for the question 'What is God's Will?"

My youngest was born very early weighing just 17 ounces. She was certainly not viable at the time. A decade ago the technology wouldn't have been around to keep her alive. Now she bounces around and would rather do cartwheels than walk anywhere. She exhausts me, frankly. So at what point should our society draw a line and say, "Okay, *now* she's worth protecting?

Those who would draw the line at conception need also to work for a world where a whole lot more mothers who choose to have their bouncy little kids can make a life for themselves without undue hardship.
posted by cross_impact at 7:33 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


it takes truly exceptional circumstances for late-stage abortions to be legal, and it's a rare pro-choicer that argues otherwise.

Well, late-stage abortions are legal here, and I support that. I don't think there are many women who, at 8 months, suddenly say "fuck this" and end their pregnancies. I think there are even fewer doctors who would, upon seeing this woman as a patient, say "yes, let's schedule this abortion of a healthy fetus in a healthy woman today". It doesn't really strike me as a problem that needs solving, and making laws about exceptional circumstances just makes it harder for women in those exceptional circumstances to get the abortions they need.

(If I find out that there are lots of third trimester women who suddenly want abortions with no medical need, I'll reconsider.)

Now, I understand in the US that it is a political dead end, and it's probably just as well to not have people argue it, but I don't think my position is vanishingly rare.
posted by jeather at 8:05 AM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


I also recognize that it can be a dangerous and unfair proposition to both the fetus and to society if we ignore the fact that they are also humans with a right to life and a right to dignity as well.

Please explain how it is dangerous to society (I am uninterested in how it is dangerous to the fetus, as I do not consider them persons).
posted by adamdschneider at 8:18 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I will say that the right conflict I want us to consider is not a zero sum thing. In most abortion situations, it's not the mother or the fetus. It's the mother's rights to privacy, bodily autonomy, quality of life, self-determination, and to mitigate health risks and other harm vs. the fetus' basic right of existence. Pro-Life does not say the fetus is more important than the mother. But in the case of abortion, the fetus' harm is more dire, permanent and certain. The mother's can be made less so by her own agency and the help of others.

That's an excellent point. If it were an issue of a mother's literal life, as in not alive, as in TWO ENTER ONE LEAVES, versus a fetal life, then that's a different conversation--and the Blue's not the best forum for hashing out the infinite details of the role of very rare medical exceptions in life ethics, must less the broader abortion issue (though this has been, by far, one of the more respectful discussions of the issue in my ten years of reading this site). But where we're talking about the >99%-of-the-time issue, that of a mother's autonomy and quality of life versus actual fetal life, that's the conversation we all need to be having.
posted by resurrexit at 8:19 AM on November 8, 2012


Please explain how it is dangerous to society (I am uninterested in how it is dangerous to the fetus, as I do not consider them persons).

Of course you must be aware that there would be no harm to society if you deny her other proposition, that of fetal life being life.
posted by resurrexit at 8:21 AM on November 8, 2012


Of course you must be aware that there would be no harm to society if you deny her other proposition, that of fetal life being life.

If someone argues that something should not be done because it will harm society, the onus is on that person to prove (or at least support) that statement, not on everyone else to disprove it.
posted by randomnity at 8:31 AM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


So instead of arguing over God's will, we can argue over "What is best for all humans, especially the weakest and most vulnerable?" and that is a pretty good stand-in for the question 'What is God's Will?"

This gets back to the thing where all the pro-choice people are saying that what is best for humans is for the people who are responsible for carrying new life to have as much control as possible over the process.

The what is best argument takes this out of the weeds of individual fetuses and puts the focus back on the health of the population. What is best for the population is for women to be enabled to make the healthiest decisions they can for themselves, and making abortion legal and safe means that there are less abortions. The greater good is served, etc etc.
posted by skrozidile at 8:36 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Of course you must be aware that there would be no harm to society if you deny her other proposition, that of fetal life being life.

Even if I grant it...how is society harmed?
posted by adamdschneider at 8:37 AM on November 8, 2012


My thinking is that, when a woman has reached the conclusion she needs to have an abortion, Christians everywhere have failed.

I would like to encourage you to think more charitably toward your fellow Christians, in those circumstances. For the overwhelming majority of us, we didn't know, and it was none of our business.
posted by wobh at 8:37 AM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just came back in the thread to say that there has been more productive focus on the central critical question of abortion in this forum than in all of my years of being Catholic and Pro-Life. I love Metafilter.

So while I agree this has been a great discussion about abortion and when life begins, I think many of you missed the whole point of the post.

The author was trying to say that endless debates about when life begins and whose life is more valuable are beside the point. None of that matters, and frankly isn't going to be resolved. It doesn't matter because everyone agrees abortions are bad, and if you want to decrease them you should advocate for contraception and education not legislation.

So if you are pro-life, why not contraception and education?
posted by spaceviking at 8:44 AM on November 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Because a whole fucking lot of Americans believe that allowing contraception is literally rewarding sluts for being dirty slutty sluts.
posted by elizardbits at 9:02 AM on November 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


Even if I grant it...how is society harmed?

Because then it's murder, and you won't deny a society made up of humans is harmed by homicide.
posted by resurrexit at 9:05 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


elizardbits, that's already been responded to above.
posted by resurrexit at 9:06 AM on November 8, 2012


That is not a response to the question that spaceviking asked.
posted by elizardbits at 9:08 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


My thinking is that, when a woman has reached the conclusion she needs to have an abortion, Christians everywhere have failed.

Hi there. I'm pregnant, so the SO and I have had a lot of discussions about the circumstances in which I might seek an abortion. Christians' actions or lack thereof have never been a factor in these hypothetical scenarios. It seems somewhat condescending to me to even consider that the opinions of Christians would necessarily have any weight.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:08 AM on November 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


Because then it's murder, and you won't deny a society made up of humans is harmed by homicide.

We outlaw murder because of its specific and observable negative effects on society as a whole. You can't just equate the two things and say, "Well, this is murder, therefore it damages society." No, what we call murder damages society. Tell me how this damages society and that will tell you whether or not we should legally consider it murder.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:16 AM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have never once considered the opinions of any Christian when making any personal decision throughout my entire life, nor will I ever do so. And since this country is not yet a totalitarian theocracy, I see no reason why any woman should ever have to do so.
posted by elizardbits at 9:18 AM on November 8, 2012 [14 favorites]


Spaceviking: Because "Pro-Life" is sometimes used to describe a position that doesn't have much at all to do with stopping the killing of unborn babies. That's, like, what the links up top were all about.

Pro-Life CAN mean "I believe all human life is precious and valuable. I believe that killing unborn babies or allowing the killing of unborn babies diminishes us all, cheapens human life, and makes for a less compassionate world. I personally refrain from killing unborn babies and also would like other people to stop killing unborn babies.

I may or may not feel that sexual intercourse is best enjoyed in a heterosexual, penis-in-vagina, procreative format, as may or may not have been intended by God, whom I may or may not believe in. No matter how I feel about sexual intercourse, I recognize my reverence for human life, all human life, as a higher good than my personal beliefs about sexual relationships among consenting persons. I feel that my personal beliefs about sexual relationships are NOT AS IMPORTANT as ensuring that unborn babies are not killed.

To help create a world where nobody feels moved to kill unborn babies, I am willing to fund cogent and useful sex education for everyone and free contraception for all persons of baby-making age who would like to not-make-babies while still enjoying penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse."

Pro-Life can mean that, and for some people, some very ethical and moral people who are decent sorts all around, it DOES mean that and exactly that. And more power to them, say I. (I've found that persons who take the above approach to Pro-Life are not particularly welcome in "most" Pro-Life circles.)

In my limited personal experience, though, Pro-Life usually doesn't mean that.
posted by which_chick at 9:20 AM on November 8, 2012


Kitty Stardust, as a recently pregnant non-Christian person myself, I'm sympathetic to your grarry reaction, but I think cross-impact's meaning was more generous than you're allowing.

Think of it this way: She feels it is the duty of Christians to make society a welcoming place for single mothers, mothers of more than one child who are worried about stretching thin resources for another, women who lack health insurance or financial stability, women who cannot care for a disabled child, women who cannot or do not want to take a hit to their careers, women who don't want to be tied to a questionable partner. If any of those are reasons why a woman might have an abortion, Christians should be focused on fixing that shit, not on barring the door if your doctor's office.

I find that a noble outlook. Restore the social safety net! Provide help for people with disabled children! Eliminate workplace discrimination for maternity leave! Institute affordable child care! Yes! Do that!

I say that as someone for whom having a baby (adored, wanted) has meant that I am more pro-choice than ever.
posted by purpleclover at 9:22 AM on November 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


If I might interject another religious viewpoint...

I am Orthodox Jewish. my religion's take on the personhood of a fetus is fairly straightforward: An embryo is not considered to be viable until heartbeat (or roughly 40 days). A fetus is not considered to be a person until its head or the majority of its body is delivered. Until that time, a fetus is not considered to be a bunch of cells (and even before 40 days it is not something to be cavalier about), but until that time it is only seen as a potential person, not a person.

What that means is, if the life of the mother - who is (it shouldn't have to be stated) a living person - is in danger, she is religiously obligated to abort. If her health is at risk (and many rabbis consider mental health in this equation), abortion is also considered as a potentially necessary option.

The soul of the potential person does not come into the discussion. Only the soul of the actual person, the mother.

I mention this because if (G-d forbid) I should become pregnant and the pregnancy endangers my life or severely threatens my health, any rabbi would say it was my religious duty to have an abortion - even in the third trimester. This has nothing to do with what Catholics believe about the soul, or protecting the innocent, and nothing to do with what Christians believe about all abortion being murder. It doesn't even apply to everyone - that abortion would be considered as something that was only relevant between myself (and my husband), and my rabbi, and G-d. There is no one decision fits all. Because all pregnancies are different, and all health risks are different, and all mothers are different. It is a personal, religious decision and not one to be weighed lightly. But purely on a separation of Church and State basis, no priest or minister has the right to tell me that his interpretation of the same scriptures trumps my rabbi's.* And he certainly has no right to tell me that his interpretation of scriptures that I do not consider holy or even divinely inspired forbids me from following my religion. That I should die for Jesus, basically. And that's me - a religious person. It should be far more evident that therefore they have no right to dictate to people who have no belief in any G-d, or whose own similarly religious interpretation of personhood differs from theirs.

Abortion is deeply personal and deeply specific. Women who abort are often mothers, and often become mothers later on. This fetus, at this moment, for this reason, is not an option. And that includes religious reasons. To take one yardstick and say that it works for all pregnancies, because you believe that you have the only true faith, may make perfect sense to you: after all, you're right and everyone else is wrong. But that's not how America's legal system works. This country was founded on the notion that there is not one religious group that governs over everyone, and so long as that's the case, any argument of personhood that depends on your specific faith is only valid within your church and your family and your womb.


* And it might be worth noting that, assuming Jesus was a rabbi (as many Christian denominations teach), Jesus's views would have been identical to my own rabbi's today. The concept of life beginning at conception only came about in 1896 when Pope Pius IX declared it.
posted by Mchelly at 9:24 AM on November 8, 2012 [51 favorites]


Well, I can see that, but it's essentially telling women to wait for the cross-wielding saviors, isn't it? I fully applaud the idea of improving society so that these support systems are there, but even in the perfect society, some women will still want to terminate their pregnancies, not matter how much free support they're offered and there should be no stigma attached to that.

And yes, being pregnant has also pushed me further into pro-choice territory even though I am not planning to abort. No woman should ever have to do this if she doesn't want to. Period.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:28 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hope my comment wasn't a derail. A couple of former Evangelicals posted this on their facebook walls over this past week and I really think it's a great piece and worth wider attention. But it still comes down to a faith argument about the personhood of a fetus, and I didn't want to lose sight of the fact that all religious faiths are not in agreement when it comes to this point. If someone doesn't care what Science teaches because GOD, well, G-d's will is also a matter of debate.
posted by Mchelly at 9:29 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


cross_impact, as someone who as mentioned above comes from a position of having been raised an absolutist on this, I have a very clear answer as to when the fetus has the right to live undisturbed: when it can do so without the woman's assistance. That point is definitely not pre-implantation. Something that cannot live without one particular being's body is, to my thinking, fairly clearly not a separate life. It may be immensely valuable. My arm is immensely valuable! Cutting it off will lead to the death of lots of human cells and plus it would just be awful because I like having two arms. Those cells might not even have the same DNA as the rest of me. But I'm not obligated to provide it support, or to justify to anyone else but my doctor why it needs to go.

Which is Biblically born out by the Old Testament consequences for causing a woman to miscarry in Exodus 21:22, for example. And also by taking verses such as Jeremiah 1:5 in their entirety: it cannot possibly refer to a quality of life in the fetus if that quality existed before conception. If the soul exists before conception, it can also exist before birth without being bound to that particular collection of cells. So it's not just Science vs. God, it's Dogma vs. Everything. It's about what you've been told the Bible says about this and whether you believe the authority figure who told you that. Reading the Old Testament, in a lot of ways, shattered me as much as learning anything else, on these things. Which is not to say that the Bible would be a legitimate basis for legislation even if it said ABORTION IS EVIL in big letters, but it doesn't, and there are lots of valid ways to make the determination about what should be okay without resorting to religious texts of any flavor.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:36 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hope my comment wasn't a derail.

I absolutely do not think it was a derail. I think it's important that people realize that not all religious beliefs about women's reproductive rights are automatically harmful to women, and that belief in a god does not necessarily mean that your beliefs are intolerant of the rights of others.
posted by elizardbits at 9:36 AM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


purpleclover got me right. Thanks!

There is already a point at which the decision to kill your unborn child is no longer a personal decision. And I am saying that society as a whole should set that point much earlier in the child's development in deference to Human Rights. Orthodox Jews may advocate a different point, right up to the crowning of the head, apparently. But it is worth the discussion about when these little defenseless people should be considered persons and enjoy protections under the law.

Christians fail when we do not present a credible example when it comes to asking people to sacrifice their own interests to protect the lives of the powerless. So when we say we want people to revere life and sacrifice to preserve it, our lives and society do not reflect the standards we support.
posted by cross_impact at 9:36 AM on November 8, 2012


There is already a point at which the decision to kill your unborn child is no longer a personal decision.

Actually, no, there is not. It is always a personal decision.
posted by elizardbits at 9:39 AM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


You're begging the question when you use phrases like "little defenseless people", cross_impact. You haven't established yet whether that is a person. If it were a person, I guess it obviously would be little, and it arguably would be defenseless. But it's not about "does this person deserve protection from being murdered". All people deserve protection from being murdered. Not every collection of biological material with human DNA is a person.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:42 AM on November 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


My thinking is that, when a woman has reached the conclusion she needs to have an abortion, Christians everywhere have failed.

But not if there is absolutely nothing anyone could do or say to convince me to bear a baby I don't want to bear.

Also, I am a Christian; I am anti-prohibition, and I have not failed myself.

The fact that there needs to be a line (hopefully) isn't in question.

I do question this. I honestly don't believe there needs to be a line in the law. I believe the line is in medical ethics, medical protocol, and personal ethics. Though that sounds crazy to some, and I point to this all the time, that is the way things are in Canada - no restrictions on access to abortion in the law - and yet they have fewer abortions at all stages, and fewer unwanted pregnancies, than the US does.

So at what point should our society draw a line and say, "Okay, *now* she's worth protecting?

My conviction is that people should receive legal rights under the law when they are born.

(If I find out that there are lots of third trimester women who suddenly want abortions with no medical need, I'll reconsider.)

It's a total canard; it doesn't happen. There are medical reasons for 100% of late term abortions.
posted by Miko at 9:50 AM on November 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Also, for the sake of argument, let's say there is no soul. I am not asserting that you should believe the fetus has a soul if you don't believe in stuff like souls.

But at some point society draws a line that says "this developing human being has reached the point where it has the right to survive." Infanticide is illegal and nobody seriously demands that infanticide be left as a personal choice between the mother, the father, her doctor or any subset of individuals. Society draws the line where personal choice ends and the protection of the law begins.

So where do we draw the line where personal choice ends and legal protection begins. The fact that there needs to be a line (hopefully) isn't in question. Pro-Life says that reverence for our own humanity (leaving God's will out of it for now) says that we show deference to drawing that line as cautiously as we can.
"

Again, this is sloppy thinking. It's based on assumed notions about humanity, ignores the idea of grades of development and the notion of justice as a balance, and easily reduces to absurdity.

Let's take the absurdity first. If the line was drawn as cautiously as possible, the US would have a prenatal system more like Cuba's, absent the abortions (which are available in Cuba). In Cuba, pregnant women are taken to compounds and basically required to live there for the term of their pregnancy; it has the effect of wildly decreasing the complicating factors and plays into Cuba's excellent infant death rates. If we're drawing the line as cautiously as possible, women would be sequestered, prohibited from riding in cars or eating fish, or even legally prohibited from smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. It would be an enormous imposition on women's autonomy, and is clearly not the actual position taken by pro-life advocates, so arguing that the line should be drawn as cautiously as possible is relying on an intentionally ambiguous reading of "possible."

Second, let's look at how we decide who is human. Clearly, frozen embryos for fertility treatments aren't treated as human, and as far as I know, very little pro-life activism revolves around preventing said embryos from being disposed of. There's some hand-waving about stem cell research, but since the position clearly isn't consistent, it's demonstrated that we do, indeed, conclude based on reasons whether humanity may vest in any given embryo.

Third, let's look at how society actually does draw the line now, based on Roe v. Wade (which has an excellent discussion of historical views on when a fetus was found to vest with rights). We choose basically the first trimester, a line that's arbitrary (as 18 being the age of majority arbitrary), but it's chosen because that reflects a time when the fetus a) isn't viable, b) hasn't assumed any real cognitive function, and c) balances the right to autonomy and independence with the assumed rights of the potential human.

So, a reasonable compromise already exists, your argument for extending it to all possible caution is absurd, and I fear you're still laboring under some dualist confusions.

(Though you'd probably abhor him and his conclusions, Peter Singer would be a great person to read on this.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 AM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Since we are talking about belief, I believe that if, ceteris paribus, men were pregnant instead of women, there would be less fervor to restrict men's agency in favor of an unborn fetus.
posted by ersatz at 10:43 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jesus's views would have been identical to my own rabbi's today.

That's very very difficult for you to show. "Judaism" as a modern practice and "Judaism" as in Jesus day are quite different.

The concept of life beginning at conception only came about in 1896 when Pope Pius IX declared it.

Pius IX wasn't even the Pope in 1896, he had died in 1878. If this is a reference to Pope Pius IX defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, it has basically zero to do with the "concept of life beginning at conception only com[ing] about" when he defined that dogma. That claim is complete nonsense.

Second, let's look at how we decide who is human. Clearly, frozen embryos for fertility treatments aren't treated as human, and as far as I know, very little pro-life activism revolves around preventing said embryos from being disposed of.

There's actually a huge amount of pro-life activism based around not having embryos created for fertility treatments or for destruction in research. Among pro-lifers who are not opposed to these kinds of fertility treatments, there is in fact activism around preventing such embryos being destroyed by "adopting" them (e.g. here, or here from 2005. Major conservative Christian leaders like Dr. James Dobson, the former head of Focus on the Family, have been involved in this.

This "as far as I know" X, therefore pro-lifers are hyprocrites, way of arguing, which appears earlier in the thread and in the original article is rather unhelpful.

There's some hand-waving about stem cell research, but since the position clearly isn't consistent, it's demonstrated that we do, indeed, conclude based on reasons whether humanity may vest in any given embryo.

I can't parse this sentence.
posted by Jahaza at 10:44 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ersatz, so true. Men are not expected to give up their agency for others.
posted by agregoli at 10:45 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ersatz, so true. Men are not expected to give up their agency for others.

You're familiar with the history of the military draft in the United States?
posted by Jahaza at 10:47 AM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


That is a foolish comparison.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:50 AM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


That is a foolish comparison.

No, it's actually pretty much a direct counterexample of the idea that, " Men are not expected to give up their agency for others."

Is it precisely the same as the effect of laws forbidding abortion, no, but I didn't say it was.
posted by Jahaza at 10:54 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fine - I'll give you one (now defunct) example. But women have ALWAYS been expected to do this, in a thousand everyday ways.
posted by agregoli at 11:11 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


lovelygirl et al: Another scenario, you wake up one morning in the hospital. Next to you is the greatest violin player in the world. The violin player is unconscious and has been hooked up to your blood stream and will die immediately if disconnected in any way. It is explained to you that an accident has happened, and that through no fault or agency of the violin player or yourself, you must remain connected to the violin player for 9 months and suffer a dangerous and painful procedure to disconnect from the violin player. The violin player did not choose to be connected to you and is blameless and unconscious.

Should the law require you to remain connected to the violin player?
posted by Freen at 11:28 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh man not that damn violin player again
posted by agregoli at 11:37 AM on November 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


Additionally, not only does ready access to contraceptives reduce abortions, but making abortions illegal also does not reduce abortions. Beyond that, taking contraceptives reduces the total number of fertilized zygotes that do not come to term due to failure to implant on the uterine wall.

As mentioned in the article, if you really believe that the zygote is a full fledged human with all of the rights of a citizen/human etc. you should be all about contraception because it radically reduces the net total number of zygotes that are lost or "aborted".

This is the bit that totally blew my mind from the article, even as someone who is staunchly pro-choice. It illustrates clearly the fundamental dissonance between the traditional pro life movements tactics and their justifications for those tactics.
posted by Freen at 11:39 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Next to you is the greatest violin player in the world.

You stay hooked up to them because at the end of those 9 months you present this wealthy and successful star of the international arts community with a huge glorious bill for your unwilling services, which they pay promptly because this is a made up fantasy.
posted by elizardbits at 11:43 AM on November 8, 2012 [20 favorites]


Beyond that, taking contraceptives reduces the total number of fertilized zygotes that do not come to term due to failure to implant on the uterine wall.

As mentioned in the article, if you really believe that the zygote is a full fledged human with all of the rights of a citizen/human etc. you should be all about contraception because it radically reduces the net total number of zygotes that are lost or "aborted".


Doesn't this argue for just the opposite, though? If the zygote is a full fledged human being, etc., then doesn't interfering with its implantation through contraceptives argue against using contraceptives?
posted by adamdschneider at 11:46 AM on November 8, 2012


"This "as far as I know" X, therefore pro-lifers are hyprocrites, way of arguing, which appears earlier in the thread and in the original article is rather unhelpful."

The point wasn't that they were hypocrites, it was that they are inconsistent. And comparing activism around fertility treatments to activism around abortion — in scope or depth — is special pleading nonsense.

There's some hand-waving about stem cell research, but since the position clearly isn't consistent, it's demonstrated that we do, indeed, conclude based on reasons whether humanity may vest in any given embryo.

I can't parse this sentence.


Her argument was that because we don't have a scientific bright line, we were unable to reason outside of the extremes. I pointed out that this clearly wasn't true — that we are able to reason compromises, and that her reasoning was fallacious.

And hey, I know that you're legally required to be the Catholic apologist any time this comes up, but if you're going to ding me on "as far as I know," I'm going to complain about your repeated refusal to engage with the stronger, broader points.
posted by klangklangston at 11:47 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a total canard; it doesn't happen. There are medical reasons for 100% of late term abortions.

Which is my belief as well, which is why I support there being no legal restrictions on late-term abortions, because all it will do is catch pregnant sick women in its net. I trust the woman and the medical professionals doing the medical procedure.
posted by jeather at 11:48 AM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


This thread is part of what the author of the post was talking about. Rather than actually focus on how to reduce the number of abortions, the anti-abortion side seems to be caught up in the belief that if only its rhetoric can finally convince women of the fetus' personhood, then the law/morality will compel an end to abortion. Sorry, no. Or, rather, I don't think this point is provable or convincing. It seems that the people who oppose abortion on the grounds that a fetus at some point gains "a soul" are battling for an indefensible proposition. There is no proof that such an entity as a soul exists to begin with, so attempting to pinpoint when it moves into a fetus is pointless. Also, frankly, no amount of religious thought is going to persuade me and lots of other heathens like me that a fetus is morally or legally equivalent to an adult or even a newborn.

Personally, I have no investment in how many abortions take place. Those choices don't have to be justified to me, only to the women making them. But contraceptive access and better sexual education are net gains socially and should be readily available.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:12 PM on November 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


Great observation, KittyStardust, about the placement of focus.
posted by Miko at 12:13 PM on November 8, 2012


As mentioned in the article, if you really believe that the zygote is a full fledged human with all of the rights of a citizen/human etc. you should be all about contraception because it radically reduces the net total number of zygotes that are lost or "aborted".

As previously discussed at length on Metafilter, you can view more than one practice as immoral. To say, well if they're against thing x they should be for thing y that prevents thing x when they also consider thing y immoral and then declaring that they don't really believe that thing x is immoral is not arguing in good faith. They have a developed moral reasoning why they can't do y to prevent x: that you cannot do evil so that good may come from it. You may disagree with them, but you're basically ignoring their argument, not arguing against and in the meantime accusing them of not "really believ[ing]" what they say, which is hostile and annoying.
"This "as far as I know" X, therefore pro-lifers are hyprocrites, way of arguing, which appears earlier in the thread and in the original article is rather unhelpful."
The point wasn't that they were hypocrites, it was that they are inconsistent. And comparing activism around fertility treatments to activism around abortion — in scope or depth — is special pleading nonsense.


Whether it's "hypocrites" or "inconsistent" it's still unhelpful, because your knowledge it turns out is quite limited. I don't see how it's "special pleading" to point out that you've just got the facts wrong. The question of embryo adoption has been much discussed. Claiming that the activism around fertility treatments (broadly speaking) is somehow obscure or inconsequential is bizarre. Stem cell research? It's been a major political issue for years.
posted by Jahaza at 12:16 PM on November 8, 2012


Is the violin player playing the world's saddest, tiniest violin?
posted by maryr at 12:35 PM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


If 100% of late term abortions are for serious medical reasons, then a law against late term abortions which includes exceptions for serious medical reasons does no one any harm.

I'm eight months pregnant at the moment, and reading less Metafilter lately in favor of reading a message board for other women who are also due in December. Since mid October there've been birth announcements on that message board roughly once every two or three days. The earliest birth announcements for living babies actually started in September. The idea that I could legally decide to "terminate my pregnancy" now for non-medical reasons, even though my baby is more developed at this point than many others from this "due in December" cohort who have already been born (but had original due dates later than mine) is pretty appalling to me. But I think I could, in some states?

I think that if the pro-choice movement would acknowledge that eight-month fetuses are physically and morally indistinguishable from babies, it would go a long ways toward helping the debate progress beyond the current stalemate. I mean, it invites a caricature of the pro-choice position -- if we can't even admit that babies that far developed are indeed babies, then how can pro-life people take our other arguments seriously? And as I mentioned, while allowing abortion without restriction all the way up to the point of birth may not, in practice, result in many (or even any) late term abortions happening for non-medical reasons, neither would restricting late term abortions to medical reasons cause any harm, by the same argument.

I find it pro-life people who insist that a fertilized egg is a person, and pro-choice people who insist that baby a day away from being born is not a person, equally ridiculous.
posted by OnceUponATime at 12:38 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


But I think I could, in some states?

The likelihood of you finding a doctor who would be willing able to perform an abortion at this stage "just cuz" is so small as to be non-existent.

If anyone can link to a document case here in the U.S. of a woman getting an abortion at that stage from a licensed physician for reasons other than to save her life or protect her reproductive health, I would be interested to read that link.

Women who have abortions at 8 months or later are not having them for the lulz. They're having them because the fetus has died. Or because they themselves are at risk of dying. I have read no case where this happens where the woman and her partner were not devastated to have to do this.

I think that if the pro-choice movement would acknowledge that eight-month fetuses are physically and morally indistinguishable from babies

You're going to have a hard time with the "morally" part. The pro-choice movement is made up of many people who would not ever choose to have an abortion; it's made up of many people who believe fetuses have souls; it's made up of many people who believe the fetus is a person; it's made up of many people who do not believe anything has a soul, and it's made up of people who do not think it's a person until it's born.

What's it's totally made up of is people who believe the deciders in that situation should be the pregnant woman and her doctor.
posted by rtha at 12:50 PM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


It does cause harm. It sets a bad precedent. Show me the societal harm that says why it should be banned. I am not saying you are a small-government conservative, but it does amuse me that most people who are "pro-life" in America probably are small government conservatives, but they support laws and the attendant legal apparatus to stop...what, exactly? What is the societal harm we are trying to prevent? How would society be better off if every possible fetus was delivered?
posted by adamdschneider at 12:51 PM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


And as I mentioned, while allowing abortion without restriction all the way up to the point of birth may not, in practice, result in many (or even any) late term abortions happening for non-medical reasons, neither would restricting late term abortions to medical reasons cause any harm, by the same argument.

Well, no. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that this law is passed for pregnancies after some date. Let's assume that this date is late enough in the pregnancy that people who discover they are pregnant a bit late can still manage to get abortions, so we're not catching up women who just cannot save the money and take the time off for the abortion (and, possibly, the waiting period) fast enough.

Now we have Jane, who finds herself needing an abortion for medical reasons. If there are no restrictions, the doctor can perform this abortion and not worry about getting caught up in a court case about how the medical reasons weren't bad enough, or have to go to some legal committee and spend excess time and money (on both the doctor and the patient's part) convincing them the need is great enough. Does it need to be life-threatening? What does the minimum risk of death have to be? Permanent other injury?

If there are restrictions, then we need to weigh the medical necessity against what the law says is an acceptable reason. At the very least, you inconvenience women who are late in their pregnancies and also in some kind of major medical problem and delay the abortion; at the worst, this (accidentally or deliberately) excludes some women with this medical need from getting their appropriate medical care.

Sure, an 8-month fetus is in a lot of ways indistinguishable from a newborn. But the fact that, in Canada, you're legally allowed to abort it (though I doubt you could find a doctor who would help) -- so what? No one is trying to force you to do so. There are lots of things that are legal that people find personally appalling. That doesn't mean they should necessarily be illegal.
posted by jeather at 12:53 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Of COURSE it could cause harm. Who decides what medical reason is reason enough for what you consider a necessary late-term abortion? What if its likely you'll only be crippled, not likely to die? What if the baby has died in utero? Can they "abort" it then? Some states already say no. No thanks.
posted by agregoli at 12:54 PM on November 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


you can view more than one practice as immoral. To say, well if they're against thing x they should be for thing y that prevents thing x when they also consider thing y immoral and then declaring that they don't really believe that thing x is immoral is not arguing in good faith. They have a developed moral reasoning why they can't do y to prevent x: that you cannot do evil so that good may come from it. You may disagree with them, but you're basically ignoring their argument, not arguing against and in the meantime accusing them of not "really believ[ing]" what they say, which is hostile and annoying.

Is there a framework for considering both abortion and contraception to be immoral that is not based on religion? Are there not practices that could be encouraged, actions to be taken to reduce abortion that agree with your moral code? I can respect that some belief systems do not support the use of contraceptives. But teaching people actual biology, giving people correct information about how reproductive systems work, is that immoral? Advocating for pre-natal care, affordable child care, maternity leave should not be controversial. The United States is alone among industrialized countries without mandated parental leave.

And yet, so often, so many of the people who oppose abortion rights, who oppose access to contraception, also oppose those very things that women need to have a healthy baby and put food on the table and a roof over their heads. I am not saying everyone does, but many of them do.
posted by ambrosia at 12:56 PM on November 8, 2012


If 100% of late term abortions are for serious medical reasons, then a law against late term abortions which includes exceptions for serious medical reasons does no one any harm.

Except that it necessarily takes the decision out of the hands of the woman carrying the fetus and her doctor, and puts it into the hands of lawmakers. How, legally, do we decide what is "serious" enough for an abortion to be allowed? Are we going to potentially force a woman carrying an inviable eighth-trimester fetus to enter into a legal battle in order to have an abortion? If a law isn't necessary, then why do we need to pass one?
posted by en forme de poire at 12:57 PM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


If 100% of late term abortions are for serious medical reasons, then a law against late term abortions which includes exceptions for serious medical reasons does no one any harm.

Oh okay, so women whose fetuses have died in utero should, of course, be required by law to go through the presumably terrible process of continuing to carry and deliver a baby that they already know is dead? Yes, I can see how that would benefit society.
posted by elizardbits at 1:01 PM on November 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


What a ridiculous load of fucking horseshit.
posted by elizardbits at 1:01 PM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


>>Obama has already done more to reduce the number of abortions than any other president ever has or ever will.

>Oh really! And that's knowable how? The level of reasoning in the article is almost entirely on that level.


Well, the reasoning is pretty well explained as it is talked about extensively in the article, and also there is a link provided that explores the issue in even greater length. Basically, providing free contraceptives reduces the number of abortions by 75% and that is pretty much the single most effective known way to reduce the number of abortions in a large population.

>Seems pretty hard to know even with "Nate Silver" math.

If you eliminate 75% of something then no future person can beat that number because only 25% is left to eliminate.

Yeah, there is a potential logical hole or two in that argument--because free contraception could be eliminated in the future, leaving some future Obama to reinstate it and again eliminate the 75%, or maybe some future president would be able to apply this (or some other) 75% solution to huge swaths of Asia and Africa or something, resulting in raw number much larger. And because there is some question whether the technique that reduced abortions 75% in one study will scale up to quite that level when applied to the entire population.

But her essential point remains true: This appears to be the single most effective step that ever has been taken to reduce the number of abortions in America, and once it is in place no other step can ever be larger, because this step is so effective that it actually eliminates the vast majority of abortions.

And her even more basic point is even more true: If you're truly serious about reducing the number of abortions, you'd better take a look at this idea because it has the potentially to massively reduce the number of abortions and is far, far more effective in actually reducing the number of abortions than anything else that has been tried, and certainly far, far, far more effective than the solutions the current 'pro-life' advocates are promoting, which don't actually reduce the number of abortions at all.
posted by flug at 1:03 PM on November 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


"Whether it's "hypocrites" or "inconsistent" it's still unhelpful, because your knowledge it turns out is quite limited. I don't see how it's "special pleading" to point out that you've just got the facts wrong. The question of embryo adoption has been much discussed. Claiming that the activism around fertility treatments (broadly speaking) is somehow obscure or inconsequential is bizarre. Stem cell research? It's been a major political issue for years."

Well, no. I actually have a pretty good knowledge of mainstream political rhetoric, and the point was that there really are no serious efforts to restrict fertility treatments despite those also requiring the disposal of fertilized embryos. Like I said, and you ignored, comparing this activism to the depth or breadth is farcical. We routinely have mainstream politicians give opinions on Roe v. Wade; it was a major issue in the most recent campaign. Fertility treatments are not. Again, pretending that it has been discussed in the mainstream rhetoric of pro-life positioning, especially with respect to laws prohibiting it, relative to abortion is nonsense. It has not been a major political issue at all — literally zero elections have been decided based on this.

This is why I made the snide remark about apologia: There is literally no way that you can present yourself as a credible opinion on pro-life politics neither acknowledging that fertility treatments have not generally had attempts at proscribing them written into law nor that attempts to restrict abortion access are a routine part of national politics. It is simply incredible nonsense, and when that nonsense is combined with your cherry-picking quibbles to respond to rather than broader points, you cannot be treated like an honest interlocutor as opposed to an apologist for an ideology.

While the ethics of sending LGBT Americans to camps have been debated, my knowledge of mainstream political rhetoric is sufficient to refer to those positions as inconsequential, if not obscure.

And complaining that you only choose to engage with opinions as you have time makes it all the more disappointing that you'd choose to belabor your special pleading's claim at mainstream credentials.
posted by klangklangston at 1:03 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The idea that I could legally decide to "terminate my pregnancy" now for non-medical reasons, even though my baby is more developed at this point than many others from this "due in December" cohort who have already been born (but had original due dates later than mine) is pretty appalling to me. But I think I could, in some states?"

Appalling for you. However, others find mixing stripes with plaids or blues with browns appalling. Personal morality here must take a back seat to public policy; if it is appalling to you, don't get a late term abortion.

"And as I mentioned, while allowing abortion without restriction all the way up to the point of birth may not, in practice, result in many (or even any) late term abortions happening for non-medical reasons, neither would restricting late term abortions to medical reasons cause any harm, by the same argument."

This is not true, logically, in that it ignores that there may be significant and valid non-medical reasons, as well as imposing an extra step of justification for those who do have valid medical reasons.

While I realize that it makes me come across sometimes as a conservative crank (or so I've been told on MetaFilter), in general, involving the state in decisions over which personal decisions are legitimate is a poor choice. It wastes resources of both the government and the individual.
posted by klangklangston at 1:11 PM on November 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


If 100% of late term abortions are for serious medical reasons, then a law against late term abortions which includes exceptions for serious medical reasons does no one any harm.

Unless you're a good Republican like me who believes that government regulations about and interference in personal, private, complex medical decisions are a Bad Thing (tm) per se.

I'd prefer such decisions to be between me, my family, and my doctor--not me, my family, my doctor, and Government Bureaucrat #293195.
posted by flug at 1:11 PM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Unless you're a good Republican like me who believes that government regulations about and interference in personal, private, complex medical decisions are a Bad Thing (tm) per se.

Yes, this has long been a source of vast amounts of confusion for me. THANK YOU FOR MAKING SENSE, RANDOM INTERNETS REPUBLICAN.
posted by elizardbits at 1:13 PM on November 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


lovelygirl et al: Another scenario, you wake up one morning in the hospital. Next to you is the greatest violin player in the world. The violin player is unconscious and has been hooked up to your blood stream and will die immediately if disconnected in any way. It is explained to you that an accident has happened, and that through no fault or agency of the violin player or yourself, you must remain connected to the violin player for 9 months and suffer a dangerous and painful procedure to disconnect from the violin player. The violin player did not choose to be connected to you and is blameless and unconscious.

well if pressed i guess i'd say that i would kiss him a little
posted by Greg Nog at 1:15 PM on November 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Laws can be nuanced and specific. If you are writing a law forbidding late term abortions except in certain cicrumstances, it is not hard to include language to the effect that "if the fetus is already dead, or is not capable of surviving outside the womb, this law does not apply" along with other exceptions, such as, for instance, "if a licensed doctor deems it medically necessary, this law does not apply" (though I'm not sure that's my preferred formulation -- that puts a lot of pressure on doctors.)

But yes, I'm an eight-months pregnant woman who believes that the decision should not, at this point, be entirely in my hands. If I had non-medical reasons for not wanting to have this child, I've had plenty of time before now to do something about it. And just as I am not allowed to just abandon my child after it is born, however unreasonable I find the demands of motherhood, I should not be allowed to destroy it at this point.

As for If a law isn't necessary, then why do we need to pass one?

I think that unreasonably assumes that absolutely no one ever has a late term abortion for a bad reason. I'm sure it is indeed very, very rare -- just as it is also very, very rare for mothers to kill their children after they are born. However, I don't think that means it doesn't or won't ever happen.

And if a man wants to press charges against the mother of his child for aborting that child at eight or nine months without medical justification, for instance (I imagine the reasons would be similar to the reasons that people commit other crimes against children: domestic problems, fear, desperation, spite, a spectrum from sad but understandable to totally incomprehensible), I don't have a problem with her serving years in prison if found guilty. (Maybe fewer years than for killing a child already born -- I think the demands of pregnancy and labor might be considered a mitigating circumstances. The law often takesn into account mitigating circumstances.) Because I think that is a crime.

As for it's a personal decision that argument only works if you don't believe that the fetus is a person at that point. If more than one person is involved, it's not just a personal decision. The law has to weigh the rights of one against the other. The pro-choice arguments about kidney donations and so on take this into account. I find those convincing. The "it's a personal decision" argument does not. It simply makes pro-choice people look ridiculous in the eyes of the many people for whom there obviously is a second person by that point. I think pro-choice people would have a lot more success convincing their opposition if they would stop making that argument.
posted by OnceUponATime at 1:19 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


OnceUponATime, the "serious medical reasons" that are enshrined in law usually boil down to "serious risk to the life or physical health of the mother". Which is rare, but happens. "The incompatibility of the fetus with life" is not, to my knowledge, an actual written exception in any US abortion law, although there are still places in the US where it's allowed. There are vanishingly few providers who even offer procedures like that; this is why it was a Very Big Deal when George Tiller was murdered.

At the time, he was only one of three practitioners in the whole country who did anything after 24 weeks. Three. In the country. Do you think any of those practitioners would seriously have touched a completely medically unnecessary case at 32+ weeks? The fact that things might technically be legal under one set of laws doesn't mean that they actually happen. Physicians also have to worry about their own internal rules for professional responsibility and the giant specter of malpractice suits. Not to mention people like Scott Roeder.

Which leaves just the "you have a medical reason but the legislature and/or random members of the public don't think it's good enough" cases. And, well, at that point? I don't want that decision to be in the hands of the legislature or the public. Medical decisions are for doctors.
posted by gracedissolved at 1:19 PM on November 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, no. I actually have a pretty good knowledge of mainstream political rhetoric, and the point was that there really are no serious efforts to restrict fertility treatments

In-vitro fertilization was banned in Costa Rica in 2000 under pressure from the Catholic Church.

Like I said, and you ignored, comparing this activism to the depth or breadth is farcical. We routinely have mainstream politicians give opinions on Roe v. Wade; it was a major issue in the most recent campaign. Fertility treatments are not.

Again, pretending that it has been discussed in the mainstream rhetoric of pro-life positioning, especially with respect to laws prohibiting it, relative to abortion is nonsense. It has not been a major political issue at all — literally zero elections have been decided based on this.

Elections are decided on a variety of issues. But prohibitions or limitations on the destruction of human embryos have been a major political issue in the U.S.
posted by Jahaza at 1:20 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


THANK YOU FOR MAKING SENSE, RANDOM INTERNETS REPUBLICAN.

Er, rats, forgot the /HAMBURGER, but that is indeed the principle of Republicanism/conservatism that genuinely attracts me--if only they didn't betray it at every single convenient opportunity.
posted by flug at 1:22 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If we take the religious argument at face value, that intentionally killing an unprotected fetus is no different than intentionally killing a baby, and its our duty to stop that where possible - then surely increased contraceptive use meaning many more fetus' that come into being will be wanted and carried to term is a good thing?

Basically - what am I missing?


In short, that people making religious arguments on these issues are likely to believe abstinence is a reasonable third choice to avoid both scenarios.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:30 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If more than one person is involved, it's not just a personal decision. The law has to weigh the rights of one against the other.

Yes, and the rights of the person who actually exists out in the real world is the person whose rights are the most important.
posted by elizardbits at 1:31 PM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fertility treatments are not. Again, pretending that it has been discussed in the mainstream rhetoric of pro-life positioning, especially with respect to laws prohibiting it, relative to abortion is nonsense.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is pretty much the bullseye of "mainstream rhetoric of pro-life positioning." I'm not pretending that they've discussed it. Here's their 2009 document on assisted reproductive technology. Would they support a ban if they thought the lobbying effort wasn't a waste of time? I bet they would. The Costa Rican Bishops did... and won.
posted by Jahaza at 1:31 PM on November 8, 2012


flug, you charlatan. how dare you make me think there was a logical republican making logical arguments!
posted by elizardbits at 1:32 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


But yes, I'm an eight-months pregnant woman who believes that the decision should not, at this point, be entirely in my hands.

It would also be in the hands of your medical provider.

Who else should be involved? I mean, who else, legally and not morally, should be required to have a say in your decisions as a pregnant woman, and be able to overrule them?

There was a law passed on OK a few years ago that made it okay for doctors to lie to their pregnant patients about the health of the fetus if the doctor thought the woman might have an abortion if she was told the fetus had physical or mental defects.

You're 8 months pregnant. I want you to imagine that all this time, your doc has been "Yep, looks good! Get some rest!" and when you deliver, you find out your kid has a bunch of scary physical problems, which your doctor has known about for months. Months you could have used to prepare for the birth of a very sick child. Would you be okay with this?
posted by rtha at 1:34 PM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Another scenario, you wake up one morning in the hospital. Next to you is the greatest violin player in the world.

Well this is a pretty old and worn out example, but if you really want to think about it you could do worse than carefully reading this wikipedia article on "duty to rescue". (Or just skip straight to this.)

Basically, no one has any legal duty to risk their life to save another person. Even a fully grown, wonderful-violin-playing person.*

Now would many people choose to save another person, even at risk to their own life? Would many people feel a moral duty to do so? An ethical duty? A civic duty? A religious duty? A human duty?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Of course.

But there is no legal duty to do so and that is as it should be.
posted by flug at 1:34 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


TWIST: the violin is actually a pipe bomb
posted by shakespeherian at 1:41 PM on November 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Laws can be nuanced and specific. If you are writing a law forbidding late term abortions except in certain cicrumstances, it is not hard to include language to the effect that "if the fetus is already dead, or is not capable of surviving outside the womb, this law does not apply" along with other exceptions, such as, for instance, "if a licensed doctor deems it medically necessary, this law does not apply" (though I'm not sure that's my preferred formulation -- that puts a lot of pressure on doctors.)

So what are these circumstances? Fetus is dead, fetus won't survive outside the womb, mother will die. What about mother will probably die? What about mother won't die, but will lose her legs? What about fetus will survive, but not for very long?

Furthermore, how will the "well, I-the-doctor think this is a fair exception, but I am worried I might be prosecuted later" concern not have a significant effect on medical care?

And just as I am not allowed to just abandon my child after it is born, however unreasonable I find the demands of motherhood, I should not be allowed to destroy it at this point.

In general, actually, there are ways to legally abandon your child.

But -- and I have asked this before -- if you think that after a certain point, you are legally obliged to let your child use your body, do you also agree that you are legally obliged to donate blood/marrow/a kidney to your child, should your child need one?

If not, what is the difference?

I think that unreasonably assumes that absolutely no one ever has a late term abortion for a bad reason. I'm sure it is indeed very, very rare -- just as it is also very, very rare for mothers to kill their children after they are born. However, I don't think that means it doesn't or won't ever happen.

My assumption is that this argument is put forth so often that, if it existed, we'd hear stories about when it happened. (I assume that it probably does happen with self-induced abortions, which are orthogonal to this discussion.)
posted by jeather at 1:43 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why are self-induced abortions orthogonal to this discussion? I think self-induced abortions at eight or nine months are just as bad as medical ones, and maybe more likely to be attempted for bad reasons (though I don't think they're easy to achieve!)

As for the kidney donor argument -- I find that quite a bit more convincing than any other pro-choice argument. So convincing that it actually persuaded me away from my once strongly held pro-life position, so that these days I find myself arguing about restrictions in the final trimester rather than making the arguments that lovelygirl and cross_impact make above.

But there's still a distinction between NOT donating a kidney -- ie, passively allowing someone to die -- and actively causing a death, by destroying the brain or other organs of another being -- which is what abortion at this point would mean. Though this passive-vs.-active stuff is a knotty ethical problem in many contexts, over which people legitimately disagree -- the law does typically make the distinction. Manslaughter is different than murder is different from failure-to-rescue.
posted by OnceUponATime at 1:53 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that unreasonably assumes that absolutely no one ever has a late term abortion for a bad reason. I'm sure it is indeed very, very rare -- just as it is also very, very rare for mothers to kill their children after they are born. However, I don't think that means it doesn't or won't ever happen.

And if a man wants to press charges against the mother of his child for aborting that child at eight or nine months without medical justification, for instance (I imagine the reasons would be similar to the reasons that people commit other crimes against children: domestic problems, fear, desperation, spite, a spectrum from sad but understandable to totally incomprehensible), I don't have a problem with her serving years in prison if found guilty. (Maybe fewer years than for killing a child already born -- I think the demands of pregnancy and labor might be considered a mitigating circumstances. The law often takesn into account mitigating circumstances.) Because I think that is a crime.


Hoo boy, where to begin. Who cares what reason someone has for having a late term abortion? You may care, personally, but why should we care as a society? That's what laws are for. You make laws to prevent things that are harmful for society (within generally prevailing norms). A law that doesn't pass this test is a bad law.

As for your later statement, what you think is a crime doesn't matter. You are using crime metaphorically, but that won't cut it in this discussion. A crime is an action counter to law. No law, no crime. Plenty of people do plenty of things that plenty of other people find abhorrent, but if there is no established harm to society, there should be no law.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:13 PM on November 8, 2012


This is a totally serious, non-trolling question that I almost never see addressed:

Why do people on the pro-choice side often say they would prefer there were fewer abortions? For example, the "safe, legal, rare" part of the 2004 Democratic platform. If it's just a medical procedure, and you're not killing a person or a soul or anything, who cares how many are performed? I mean, I don't care how many people get LASIK or liposuction. There are some risks and costs to both, but it's not a moral issue. Why should I care how many women get abortions if it's both safe and legal?
posted by desjardins at 2:26 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bokanovsky's Process really can't come soon enough, can it?
posted by Apocryphon at 2:29 PM on November 8, 2012


"The idea that I could legally decide to "terminate my pregnancy" now for non-medical reasons, even though my baby is more developed at this point than many others from this "due in December" cohort who have already been born (but had original due dates later than mine) is pretty appalling to me. But I think I could, in some states?"

No, you could not legally do this. I know you're interested in late-term issues, but you could read up on them first.

I'm an eight-months pregnant woman who believes that the decision should not, at this point, be entirely in my hands.

Then you'd be OK with, under a different political leadership, concerned say about national population, the government decided it was OK to terminate your pregnancy because the annual birth quota had been filled by December?

Do you really want government to have that power over your body and your family?

Because that's exactly the power you're about to hand over.

If I had non-medical reasons for not wanting to have this child, I've had plenty of time before now to do something about it.

You may have a life that is so smooth, lucky, and wonderful that you are never faced with any non-medical reasons to end a pregnancy late. But not everyone does. Sometimes, rarely, women are faced with sudden events that can cause them and their doctors to need to reconsider giving birth. Psychological trauma.Suicidal ideation or attempts. Not being sane enough to be trusted with the safety of the baby. An assault or attack. A developmental disability or extreme conditions of abuse that have made it impossible for the person in question to fully understand or act on issues related to pregnancy until now. individual Sudden loss/shock/grief causing an emotional breakdown/incapacity. A relapse into substance abuse and its complications.

This kind of thing is not common. But this kind of thing is exactly why the Supreme Court has upheld that "even after fetal viability, states may not prohibit abortions “necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother" and that “health” in this context includes both physical and mental health."

You may not be able to imagine the kinds of situations that can give rise to a legitimate need for a late-term abortion, but that doesn't mean you should be able to make someone else's decisions about that for them, in advance, with no knowledge of the situation and no medical knowledge. If you think you can, it's really a failure of imagination, or a lack of information.

There are vanishingly few providers who even offer procedures like that

This is quite true. It's incredibly rare, it's tightly controlled, and it's handled in a context of medical ethics and protocol. This is more than good enough for me. I want to be able to make life, death, and health decisions with my doctor - whether that's about pregnancy, child-raising, euthanasia at end of life. I don't want anyone from the government being involved in these personal decisions, for any reason. It's simply not possible for laws to be aware of all the potential wise reasons why someone might need to end a pregnancy. However, doctors and people who are directly impacted in those situations, and have all the pertinent information, can be trusted with that decision, just as we trust them to raise their eventual families and make other personal decisions.

To argue that women can't be trusted to make their decisions in these cases is to argue that they aren't full people under the law, and that their decisions must be handed over to some other entity - as if they were minors or had been declared incompetent.
posted by Miko at 2:32 PM on November 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


> Why do people on the pro-choice side often say they would prefer there were fewer abortions?

Well, I care on a personal level because the fact that the U.S. has such a high abortion rate is a sign that we have shitty sex education and many too many barriers to decent, accessible health care. Societies that provide affordable, accessible family planning have better socioeconomic and educational outcomes for its people as a whole.
posted by rtha at 2:36 PM on November 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Flug: that is exactly my point. I also don't think anyone ought to have a moral obligation as well, and moreover, codifying that obligation into law would be a horrible thing.

For everyone else, lets perhaps change the scenario: it's the world worst violin player. Absolutely abysmally bad at violin. What then eh?
posted by Freen at 2:37 PM on November 8, 2012


Why do people on the pro-choice side often say they would prefer there were fewer abortions?

Because a lot of people on the pro-choice side also have moral concerns about abortion. They aren't a bloc of people who all believe the same thing about fetal development, religion, the idea of a soul, etc. They are a bloc of people who want to retain the right for women to make the decisions about their own reproduction, and it starts and ends there.

I mean, I don't care how many people get LASIK or liposuction. There are some risks and costs to both, but it's not a moral issue. Why should I care how many women get abortions if it's both safe and legal?

You don't have to care if you don't have any of the religious, moral, or ethical concerns that have been raised. And you're within reason not to have those concerns. I've certainly seen this view aired on MetaFilter, that there's no reason to consider abortion a negative thing if you don't place any special value, legal, emotional, religious, humanistic - on the fetus. But there's far from a consensus on that.

As maryr said eloquently and efficiently just above, there are a variety of points of view on the nature of the fetus. And there are plenty of pro-choice people who seriously deplore abortion. Plenty. And plenty more who have serious reservations about them, and plenty who would never elect one for themselves, in any situation they can envision. What they all have in common is just one thing: the view that the person who is carrying the fetus is the one who should be able to make the decisions about it.

It's a pretty giant tent.
posted by Miko at 2:38 PM on November 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


lets perhaps change the scenario: it's the world worst violin player. Absolutely abysmally bad at violin. What then eh?

Let's change it even more. It's a BANJO player.
posted by Miko at 2:39 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Listen, it's one thing to be given, unbidden, an expensive banjo. It's a completely different thing to be given a banjo player.
posted by Jpfed at 2:41 PM on November 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Also the banjo makes grilled cheese sandwiches.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:43 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


adamdschneider: Who cares what reason someone has for having a late term abortion? You may care, personally, but why should we care as a society?

Who cares what reason someone has for infanticide? Why should we care as a society?

We care because we believe that it is in our interest to protect human beings from death at the hands of other human beings, and because we believe that infants are humans.

My entire point is that arguments like yours make the pro-choice movement look bad, because the implicit assumption of the argument that we shouldn't care, is that the fetus/baby that has not been delivered by the gestational age of eight months is not a person, though the fetus/baby that has been delivered is. This is such a difficult-to-swallow proposition that it taints the whole pro-choice position, I think. It makes it hard for people to hear and listen to the other, much more reasonable arguments that the pro-choice movement is making.

Miko: First you say: No, you could not legally do this. I know you're interested in late-term issues, but you could read up on them first. Then you say: Do you really want government to have that power over your body and your family? Because that's exactly the power you're about to hand over. But doesn't your first sentence imply that they already have that power?

Sometimes, rarely, women are faced with sudden events that can cause them and their doctors to need to reconsider giving birth. Psychological trauma.Suicidal ideation or attempts. Not being sane enough to be trusted with the safety of the baby. An assault or attack. A developmental disability or extreme conditions of abuse that have made it impossible for the person in question to fully understand or act on issues related to pregnancy until now. individual Sudden loss/shock/grief causing an emotional breakdown/incapacity. A relapse into substance abuse and its complications.

All of those apply after birth as well, and are reasons why mothers might abandon or neglect or even kill their infants, and while we might consider them mitigating circumstances at sentencing, child abandonment and neglect and murder are still against the law, and few people would argue that they should not be.

And again, rtha: I want you to imagine that all this time, your doc has been "Yep, looks good! Get some rest!" and when you deliver, you find out your kid has a bunch of scary physical problems, which your doctor has known about for months. Months you could have used to prepare for the birth of a very sick child. Would you be okay with this?

I would very much not be okay with that, and I would be trying to get the doctor's license removed and suing for malpractice, and pursuing criminal charges if possible. However. What if the same thing had happened, but I didn't find out about it until after the baby was born? Would it be okay for me to kill the baby? No? Well, I don't think it would be okay at eight months pregnant either, and for the same reasons. It's too late.
posted by OnceUponATime at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also the banjo makes grilled cheese sandwiches.

American, or cheddar? It matters to the American people!
posted by Miko at 2:47 PM on November 8, 2012


A very brief perusal of Wikipedia says there are studies suggesting the practice of infanticide leading to psychological harm for the children who are not killed. That sounds like a societal harm to me. Do you have any evidence of a similar effect for abortion?
posted by adamdschneider at 2:51 PM on November 8, 2012


Who cares what reason someone has for infanticide? Why should we care as a society?

Infanticide is not the same thing as abortion, sorry.
posted by elizardbits at 2:53 PM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


"In-vitro fertilization was banned in Costa Rica in 2000 under pressure from the Catholic Church. "

Like I said, special pleading. If you have to go to Costa Rica to assert this is mainstream, it is not.

"Elections are decided on a variety of issues. But prohibitions or limitations on the destruction of human embryos have been a major political issue in the U.S."

Moving the goalposts. U.S. bans on fertility treatments? Nope.

"The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is pretty much the bullseye of "mainstream rhetoric of pro-life positioning." I'm not pretending that they've discussed it. Here's their 2009 document on assisted reproductive technology. Would they support a ban if they thought the lobbying effort wasn't a waste of time? I bet they would. The Costa Rican Bishops did... and won."

Well, first off, they're not so much — while Catholic bishops are certainly part of the mainstream pro-life discussion, they're pretty vastly outnumbered by Protestants.

But let's pretend for a moment that you're actually having a moment of honest confusion here and not a simple inability or unwillingness to engage with what I actually wrote. Why, as you say, would lobbying for a ban on fertility treatments be a waste of time? Because it's outside of the mainstream. This is especially true relative to abortion, where banning abortion is indisputably part of the mainstream pro-life rhetoric.

Again, when you continue to move the goalposts, engage in special pleading, ignore important inconvenient arguments against your position, and repeatedly cite only your own sect's positions as representative of all, it is entirely reasonable to call you an apologist and point out that you're arguing dishonestly. If you don't like that, well, your salvation will come through works, not my faith alone.
posted by klangklangston at 2:54 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


But doesn't your first sentence imply that they already have that power?

They do, but I'm not in favor of that. It is, however, the law of the land right now.

This is such a difficult-to-swallow proposition that it taints the whole pro-choice position, I think

But the idea that the fetus becomes worthy of protection at Day 30 or Day 60 is just as "difficult to swallow," just as arbitrary, as that. More arbitrary, in fact, because it's just a number, whereas birth begins an independent physical existence.

All of those apply after birth as well, and are reasons why mothers might abandon or neglect or even kill their infants, and while we might consider them mitigating circumstances at sentencing, child abandonment and neglect and murder are still against the law, and few people would argue that they should not be.

I don't argue that. They should be illegal (though the better way to handle most of these things is through treatment, not punishment). But I believe that because it happened after birth, and a legal person is involved. When it happens before birth, it may often be preventing these outcomes which you are suggesting are worse.

I would be trying to get the doctor's license removed and suing for malpractice, and pursuing criminal charges if possible.

Are you doing that for cases where doctors are lying to pregnant women?
posted by Miko at 2:54 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I would be trying to get the doctor's license removed and suing for malpractice, and pursuing criminal charges if possible."

Are you doing that for cases where doctors are lying to pregnant women?

Absolutely one billion percent yes. I am a pregnant woman!
posted by OnceUponATime at 2:59 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Absolutely one billion percent yes. I am a pregnant woman!

So you're opposing these gag rules that prevent physicians from telling women who still have time for an elective abortion about conditions which may compromise the health of their fetus? I don't want to be arguing with you directly as we were cautioned about that, but I'm not sure whether you're saying you've been an activist on this issue.
posted by Miko at 3:01 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would very much not be okay with that, and I would be trying to get the doctor's license removed and suing for malpractice, and pursuing criminal charges if possible.

If you lived in Oklahoma, you would not be able to do that. Seriously. Pregnant women in OK cannot sue doctors who lie to them about the health of the child they're carrying. The law protects the lying doctors.
posted by rtha at 3:05 PM on November 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


But the idea that the fetus becomes worthy of protection at Day 30 or Day 60 is just as "difficult to swallow," just as arbitrary, as that. More arbitrary, in fact, because it's just a number, whereas birth begins an independent physical existence.

Well, that's where we disagree. I think that almost any date you choose in between conception and birth is likely to be, while arbitrary, much more reasonable than either "conception" or "birth" is. To be sure there is a gray area in the middle, but the extremes are much clearer, and I think that the pro-choice position, by insisting on defining even that that extreme of "due to be born the next day" or even "due last week, but not born yet" as "not a person, not my business" drives away people who would otherwise be open to persuasion.
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:05 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you lived in Oklahoma, you would not be able to do that. Seriously. Pregnant women in OK cannot sue doctors who lie to them about the health of the child they're carrying. The law protects the lying doctors.

Yeah -- that's a terrible law.

Am I an activist? Not on any of this. I mean, I argue on the internet. But mainly just on metafilter, because that's what I read. And usually other people are very capable of presenting the reasons why a law like that is a bad idea, and I just favorite their comments. But I don't see anyone in this thread making the point that I want to make (the all-the-way-until-birth position is too extreme and drives people away) so I can't just favorite something. I have to make it myself.
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:05 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is an example of the kind of law we're talking about:
Don’t gag doctors. That’s the heart of a letter from the Texas Medical Association (TMA) to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). TMA President Michael E. Speer, MD, points out DSHS’s proposed rules would impose a “gag order” on physicians who participate in the Texas Women’s Health Program (TWHP), barring them from discussing elective abortion with their patients even if the patient asked about it or if the standard of care indicated it should be discussed as an option.

“If the state indeed wants doctors to participate in the program, this is a step in the opposite direction,” added Dr. Speer. Many Texas physicians may leave the program because these rules, if enacted, would force them to choose between practicing medicine in accordance with the standard of care and medical ethics, or in accordance with a rule created to serve a political ideology.
posted by Miko at 3:07 PM on November 8, 2012


I think that almost any date you choose in between conception and birth is likely to be, while arbitrary, much more reasonable than either "conception" or "birth" is.

So, Day 2 after conception, no possibility of legal abortion? Too late?
posted by Miko at 3:07 PM on November 8, 2012


"Laws can be nuanced and specific. If you are writing a law forbidding late term abortions except in certain cicrumstances, it is not hard to include language to the effect that "if the fetus is already dead, or is not capable of surviving outside the womb, this law does not apply" along with other exceptions, such as, for instance, "if a licensed doctor deems it medically necessary, this law does not apply" (though I'm not sure that's my preferred formulation -- that puts a lot of pressure on doctors.)"

Hard cases make bad law. Creating a law that covers all possible legitimate exemptions while not harming the ability of women to utilize those exemptions is much, much harder than realizing that just because you have an emotional reaction to something, it should be illegal.

"And just as I am not allowed to just abandon my child after it is born, however unreasonable I find the demands of motherhood, I should not be allowed to destroy it at this point."

In some states, you can actually abandon a child with no repercussions. While no one's ideal situation, this has the public policy effect of saving some kids from abuse and neglect.

"I think that unreasonably assumes that absolutely no one ever has a late term abortion for a bad reason. I'm sure it is indeed very, very rare -- just as it is also very, very rare for mothers to kill their children after they are born. However, I don't think that means it doesn't or won't ever happen. "

Again, hard cases make bad law. But that some mothers may commit infanticide is not a reason to expand the definition of "child" as an end run to expand the definition of infanticide.

"And if a man wants to press charges against the mother of his child for aborting that child at eight or nine months without medical justification, for instance (I imagine the reasons would be similar to the reasons that people commit other crimes against children: domestic problems, fear, desperation, spite, a spectrum from sad but understandable to totally incomprehensible), I don't have a problem with her serving years in prison if found guilty. (Maybe fewer years than for killing a child already born -- I think the demands of pregnancy and labor might be considered a mitigating circumstances. The law often takesn into account mitigating circumstances.) Because I think that is a crime."

That's entirely circular.

"As for it's a personal decision that argument only works if you don't believe that the fetus is a person at that point. If more than one person is involved, it's not just a personal decision. The law has to weigh the rights of one against the other. The pro-choice arguments about kidney donations and so on take this into account. I find those convincing. The "it's a personal decision" argument does not. It simply makes pro-choice people look ridiculous in the eyes of the many people for whom there obviously is a second person by that point. I think pro-choice people would have a lot more success convincing their opposition if they would stop making that argument."

First off, your claims of looking ridiculous aren't really well supported and lead me to believe that you don't understand the argument. Secondly, while you think it should be a crime, that doesn't mean that other people do. Thirdly, we recognize gradients of rights — a child has many fewer rights than an adult, for example. Fourth, given the extremely personal nature of the decision and the legitimate disagreements, and that the state does not have a direct interest without asserting citizenship for fetuses, and defending their "rights" in loco parentis, that means that yes, it is a personal decision to decide how much the "interests" of the fetus are applicable to the current situation.

Finally, all of your arguments all start with begging the question of whether a fetus deserves full protection. As this has not been demonstrated without appeals to metaphysics and circular reasoning, it's not a premise that can be rationally reasoned from as stated.
posted by klangklangston at 3:08 PM on November 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


"Well, that's where we disagree. I think that almost any date you choose in between conception and birth is likely to be, while arbitrary, much more reasonable than either "conception" or "birth" is."

You may believe that, but you have not supported it, and the public is not well served by unsupported beliefs masquerading as policy.
posted by klangklangston at 3:10 PM on November 8, 2012


So, Day 2 after conception, no possibility of legal abortion? Too late?

Well, I don't find that more unreasonable than "day 2 before birth," anyway.

If it were up to me, I'd probably put some graduated restrictions in, increasely restrictive and with increasing penalties, probably starting around week 20. But I'm willing to discuss and negotiate the details. As I said -- it's the extreme positions that I find unreasonable.
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:10 PM on November 8, 2012


You may believe that, but you have not supported it, and the public is not well served by unsupported beliefs masquerading as policy.

I think the medical fact that at eight months gestation a "fetus" is physically indistinguishable from a "baby" and quite capable of surving outside the womb (they usually do, when delivered early) is a very strong, rational argument for treating them the same under the law.
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, that's where we disagree. I think that almost any date you choose in between conception and birth is likely to be, while arbitrary, much more reasonable than either "conception" or "birth" is.

Would it have to be a set date? The date would merely be a proxy for developmental progress, which could be measured on a case-by-case basis as appropriate. But to use that to determine legality would require some sort of physiological criteria that distinguish between "worthy of protection" and not (e.g. differentiation of the neural tube or whatever). And good luck finding agreement on that.

On preview: yes, an argument could be made for the philosophical consistency of a graded system.
posted by Jpfed at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2012


the pro-choice position, by insisting on defining even that that extreme of "due to be born the next day" or even "due last week, but not born yet" as "not a person, not my business" drives away people who would otherwise be open to persuasion.

Well, first: I'm really not sure that's "the pro-choice position." I'm really not. That's my position - actually my position is that there should be no laws restricting abortion - but I'm under no illusion that most pro-choice people agree with me on that. All we agree on is that we should advocate for women to make their own decisions. A lot of pro-choice people are actually really happy with the Roe v. Wade compromise. So I wouldn't say that you've identified the "pro-choice position" here; to think that all pro-choice people believe a fetus is an unimportant clump of cells the day before delivery is to trivialize their position and accept a bunch of unfounded propaganda about them.

I'm not happy with the Roe v. Wade compromise, but that's not because I think fetuses are that unimportant. My position, instead, comes from my profound conviction that there should be no involvement of law at all in an intimate, body-bound process which is, and should be, entirely a medical concern. I don't fear that there would be any sudden uptick in late-term elective abortion if that were the case. The reason I don't fear that is that there's zero evidence that it would happen. Doctors would not do it; it violates medical ethics. And we can see an entire nation to our north where, despite having no legal prohibition, they actually have less late term abortion. Not to mention less risk of even having the need for late-term abortions, because they prevent more pregnancies.

So I think that even dithering over birth vs. day-before-birth is a big waste of time. Even if you could demand that there be no 3rd-trimester abortions at all, and there never were again, the legal distinction of personhood applying to people outside wombs would still exist. And that's necessary. There has to be a point at which we recognize a legal life beginning: a birthdate is the only one which has the incontrovertible evidence that the person is here and is now going to need some rights.

I can imagine a lot of negatives if you could start claiming fetal rights for babies not yet born. There's big potential for fraud and manipulation there. Maybe we need some laws against that, to require regular proof of pregnancy testing before receiving any services or special provisions, like getting a seat on the bus...I mean, how do I really know someone is pregnant. Maybe they've just figured out an awesome Social Security Number-mining scheme.
posted by Miko at 3:16 PM on November 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


If it were up to me, I'd probably put some graduated restrictions in, increasely restrictive and with increasing penalties, probably starting around week 20

Aand that is what our existing Constitutional law actually does. You knew that?

You know that a great many pro-choice people agree with you on this?

Well, I don't find that more unreasonable than "day 2 before birth," anyway.

That's....pretty extreme. You just said you would prefer a system that kicks in at 20 weeks.
posted by Miko at 3:17 PM on November 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Public policy, and health policy - they're hard. There's a reason why public health policies are not just made up by random people based on how they "feel" about something. When you're sitting around bullshitting about how *you* would personally do thing, you're free to hand-wave all you want.

When you're someone who's responsible for coming up with policy that will affect hundreds of millions of people, you better have better reasons (not to mention actual evidence) for why you think the policy should be A and not B. Unfortunately, most lawmakers who make these kinds of laws don't do that either.
posted by rtha at 3:19 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Like I said, special pleading. If you have to go to Costa Rica to assert this is mainstream, it is not.

Or Poland, or Italy, or on and on... the article is about the "pro-life movement" and that doesn't somehow stop at the waters edge.

Moving the goalposts. U.S. bans on fertility treatments? Nope

I don't have to agree with you about exactly where the goalposts are.

Here's what this line of argument about embryos is responding to that you wrote:

Second, let's look at how we decide who is human. Clearly, frozen embryos for fertility treatments aren't treated as human, and as far as I know, very little pro-life activism revolves around preventing said embryos from being disposed of. There's some hand-waving about stem cell research, but since the position clearly isn't consistent, it's demonstrated that we do, indeed, conclude based on reasons whether humanity may vest in any given embryo.

The "fertility treatments" part is not really relevant to the argument you're making, it's the "frozen embryos" part that's key. I've pointed to both legal efforts to stop the destruction of human embryos (through restricting federal funding for such research) and at attempts to "adopt" those embryos to prevent their destruction. Your simply wrong that there's not mainstream concern in the pro-life movement about this issue and that there has been massive mainstream political controversy about it.

Well, first off, they're not so much — while Catholic bishops are certainly part of the mainstream pro-life discussion, they're pretty vastly outnumbered by Protestants.

Whether they're "vastly outnumbered" by Protestants is irrelevant (and you have statistics to back that up? What percentage of pro-life activists are Protestants, klangklangston, and how do you define "activist" anyways?) They Catholics weighing in on the embryo issue are still not fringe in their anti-IVF, anti-embryo destructive research activisim and the Protestant embryo adoption movement are real. There's not "very little pro-life activism" around issues relating to embryos, for fertility purposes or non-fertility purporses. It's simply not true.

Why, as you say, would lobbying for a ban on fertility treatments be a waste of time? Because it's outside of the mainstream.

Because in a country with deeply divided government, there's an incremental approach based on what is most likely to be succesful in the short run?

This is especially true relative to abortion, where banning abortion is indisputably part of the mainstream pro-life rhetoric.

You just basically don't understand the current focus of the pro-life movement at all, which focused on incremental change and changing the culture.
posted by Jahaza at 3:24 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


You just basically don't understand the current focus of the pro-life movement at all, which focused on incremental change and changing the culture.

I think he does understand. Incremental change toward what? What are the increments adding up to? In what way will the culture be changing?
posted by Miko at 3:27 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if the same thing had happened, but I didn't find out about it until after the baby was born? Would it be okay for me to kill the baby? No?

Probably a derail but I might actually find myself in favor of euthanasia for an infant that was so broken and damaged that it would certainly suffer for weeks and then die -- if of course the parent(s) could bring themselves to make that decision.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:34 PM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Without a doubt, such things already happen. Especially because our life support technologies have evolved to the point where we can long keep an infant's body alive beyond the point where there is any hope for a pain-free existence or future development or significant length of life.Thank goodness the law isn't inserting itself into that conversation, which remains a medical and ethical one...so far.
posted by Miko at 3:48 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just dropped in to see if the subject of abortion had created the thread I expected. It has.

Our sides continue to talk past one another, because we don't speak the same language on this topic. And because the languages sound so similiar, we don't realize it. Take the word "life." Consider how many ways that can be used, with or without the modifier "human." Because we usually talk in shorthand, one side says "life" and means "life with full human rights as we understand them." Whereas the other side says "life" and means biologically living, full stop. The worst happens when the word plays both roles simultaneously, as in the claim that life begins at conception is a biological fact.

And so it goes.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:14 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Many of us believe that there are very few instances where it is ok or appropriate for someone human to take the life of another. Just war, or capital punishment...

How terribly convenient for the Republican party.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:19 PM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


We're talking past each other in large part because some of us are talking about how public health policy should work without regard to anyone's specific religious beliefs. Others are approaching it as something grounded in specific religious principles.
posted by rtha at 5:42 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually Mental Wimp, I think the thread has surprised me. It has been way more civil and productive than I expected. And with hypothetical violin players as a bonus.

But you are right in that we need to agree on the basic language. What makes a fetus "human?" What is "alive?"

(That is not a religious question, rtha. It is basic to our civil society. When do developing people become entitled to protection under the law? When does stopping life cease to be a private matter?)

What I draw from this thread is that Pro-Lifers have utterly failed to effectively convince anybody that the people they are trying to save are people at all. We desperately need to have this conversation because it is the only hope for any real solution.
posted by cross_impact at 5:59 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The "fertility treatments" part is not really relevant to the argument you're making, it's the "frozen embryos" part that's key."

Actually, it's part of the point. In fact, that stem cell research and fertility treatments have the underlying connection of frozen embryos but are treated differently under the law and in mainstream discourse is evidence that we can make distinctions between different "abortions" of embryos and that we do, generally. Because of this, the point that we should "draw the line as cautiously as possible" is inconsistent with how we actually practice. That there have been no laws in the US proposed against these fertility treatments, versus abortion and stem cells, is extremely relevant.

"There's not "very little pro-life activism" around issues relating to embryos, for fertility purposes or non-fertility purporses. It's simply not true."

Relative to abortion, there certainly is. I don't know why you keep eliding that clause, but, again, that's why I treat you like a dishonest ideologue. Because you act like one.

"Because in a country with deeply divided government, there's an incremental approach based on what is most likely to be succesful in the short run? "

Fine. Show me one poll that says that a majority of Americans support a ban on fertility treatments that result in discarded embryos. Because clearly, it's a totally mainstream opinion outside of the diocese and it's only our partisan government that keeps it from happening.

"You just basically don't understand the current focus of the pro-life movement at all, which focused on incremental change and changing the culture."

Bullshit. I think that there's a powerful incentive for ideologues to disguise their absolutist positions because they know they're unpalatable to the democratic public. But personhood amendments keep going to the ballot, and the "incremental" tactics belie absolutist goals.
posted by klangklangston at 6:13 PM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the medical fact that at eight months gestation a "fetus" is physically indistinguishable from a "baby" and quite capable of surving outside the womb (they usually do, when delivered early) is a very strong, rational argument for treating them the same under the law."

A 17-year-old and an 18-year-old are physically indistinguishable, yet only one of them gets to vote.
posted by klangklangston at 6:15 PM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


(That is not a religious question, rtha. It is basic to our civil society. When do developing people become entitled to protection under the law? When does stopping life cease to be a private matter?)

But how we approach that question is informed by our religious beliefs, or lack of them. Some people say that life begins at fertilization because that's what [religious authority] says. Others say no, it begins at quickening, because that's what [other religious authority] says. Others will argue that it begins at some other time because of [scientific evidence]. And here we are.
posted by rtha at 6:56 PM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the medical fact that at eight months gestation a "fetus" is physically indistinguishable from a "baby" and quite capable of surving outside the womb (they usually do, when delivered early) is a very strong, rational argument for treating them the same under the law.

It may mean that they could be treated more similarly. But remember that if we are to balance the rights of the mother and fetus, the distinction between "in mother's body" and "outside of mother's body" is still significant, because it affects the mother.

There are several points in time that may be of interest in determining the legal considerations surrounding abortion, because there are several points in time during which the (for lack of a better word) calculus of maternal and fetal rights changes. The fetus achieving viability may be one of those points.
posted by Jpfed at 6:57 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


But how we approach that question is informed by our religious beliefs, or lack of them. Some people say that life begins at fertilization because that's what [religious authority] says. Others say no, it begins at quickening, because that's what [other religious authority] says. Others will argue that it begins at some other time because of [scientific evidence]. And here we are.

Any biologists around, feel free to correct me, but the basic chemical apparatus that drives all eukaryotic cells is continuously operating in the egg before, during, and after fertilization. So I'd say the egg is alive the entire time. No religion required. Once fertilized, cells start dividing, there's plenty of metabolism going on, and all that. I don't know how it could not be called "alive".

But "alive" and "having human genetic material" isn't a sufficient condition for warranting legal protection, or every month we'd try to capture menses and incubate whatever cells might still be alive in them or something really weird like that.

So another prerequisite question becomes "what are the additional criteria that must be met for warranting legal protection?".

My intuition suggests that some criterion related to distinct identities must enter the picture. My arm doesn't have legal protection if I want to cut it off, because it doesn't have an identity distinct from the rest of me. What function relates time to the distinctness of the fetus from the mother?
posted by Jpfed at 7:21 PM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the medical fact that at eight months gestation a 'fetus' is physically indistinguishable from a 'baby' and quite capable of surving outside the womb (they usually do, when delivered early) is a very strong, rational argument for treating them the same under the law.

According to Fox News statistics from 2003, 91 percent are of abortions in the US are performed during the first trimester, 9 percent are performed in the second trimester, and approximately .01 percent of all abortions are performed in the third trimester.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:25 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I draw from this thread is that Pro-Lifers have utterly failed to effectively convince anybody that the people they are trying to save are people at all.

Well, yes, that is true. And maybe that's a futile errand. Perhaps others never will be convinced, because sufficient argument from evidence has not emerged. What then?
posted by Miko at 7:31 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know how it could not be called "alive".

You originally posed two questions:

But you are right in that we need to agree on the basic language. What makes a fetus "human?" What is "alive?"

(That is not a religious question, rtha. It is basic to our civil society. When do developing people become entitled to protection under the law? When does stopping life cease to be a private matter?)


How we approach "What makes a fetus 'human'?" is certainly informed by religious/lack of it perspective. I must have been unclear if you think I was addressing only the second question. I apologize.
posted by rtha at 7:43 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


"What makes a fetus 'human'?"

There's a scientific answer: what makes a fetus 'human' is that it's human tissue, so it belongs to the category of 'human' rather than the category of 'canine' or 'bovine' or anything else.

But that doesn't differentiate it from the example above of the severed arm. That's human tissue, but the nature of the tissue isn't enough to entitle it to legal rights.

And its being alive doesn't differentiate it either, as living human tissue exists in labs - they're even working on being able to build organs with a 3D printer.
posted by Miko at 8:33 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


You could stipulate "human tissue with a unique complement of DNA" or "human tissue that descended from the same zygote" but then identical twins wouldn't be separate humans either.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:25 PM on November 8, 2012


What I draw from this thread is that Pro-Lifers have utterly failed to effectively convince anybody that the people they are trying to save are people at all. We desperately need to have this conversation because it is the only hope for any real solution.

I think this will fail. Many good, moral people do not accept your definitions/privileges of souls and innocence, and so they will never find your reasoning compelling. You are not objectively correct. It is not merely a matter of walking others through your proof.

You know, I can see now why the pro-life cause appeals to the far right, to those people who fetishize choice so much, to those who can never believe that someone is downtrodden but that they brought it open themselves through their bad choices. A fetus is the perfect thing to champion. A fetus can't make choices that imperil its innocence. Furthermore, a fetus can't be seen, is already being taken care of by someone else (who apparently doesn't get a lot of say in the matter). It doesn't ask to borrow money or even need money. It doesn't even know you exist so it's not going to expect anything else from you. To champion someone else's fetus is like the ultimate moral high with no messy worldly responsibility required at all. You don't have to work hard to implement any kind of social program. Just force your values on other people through the law and make it their problem. Best souls-saved/effort ratio you can find.
posted by fleacircus at 11:07 PM on November 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


I forgot the most important thing: a fetus can't speak up to tell you that its beliefs are different than yours, that it is not a member of your philosophy, your tribe, and that it would, by default, like to yield to its mother's judgment.
posted by fleacircus at 11:36 PM on November 8, 2012


What I draw from this thread is that Pro-Lifers have utterly failed to effectively convince anybody that the people they are trying to save are people at all. We desperately need to have this conversation because it is the only hope for any real solution.

I agree utterly with your first sentence. And I disagree intensely with the second. I'm now to argue the following without a single reference to religion.

A simple definition of a human being (as opposed to human life) is
1) genetically human
2) sentience
3) largely self-sustaining of life

Though they all start to get tricky when you start looking at them in detail, and it's not hard to find grey areas. Note, I use 'life' in the scientific sense; with the self-sustaining chemical and signaling characteristics that distinguish alive from inanimate, or dead.

If you got by cell count, most of what's walking around thinking it's 'you' isn't even human, genetically. We are populated by vast quantities of bacteria, and other things. Some of thus, such as benign gut flora are actually pretty important, as we start suffering all sorts of nasty problems without them. (take Fecal bacteriotherapy for an icky, but very interesting medical procedure, for example)

If you go by mass though, we are mostly human, genetically.

Self-sustaining is important, because without it, it won't be alive very long. If you chop off someone's head, nobody is going to seriously argue the remaining torso and limbs is an independent human being worth protecting and keeping alive. Respect it for cultural reasons, preserve it in the hope that it may be used for organ donation. Reconnecting the head and body is well beyond our current medical technology, but even if we could I find it hard to imagine even the most fervent pro-lifer would say to keep it alive because its a life worth saving without the head.

On the other hand, we don't object to medical technology keeping a whole person alive - whether temporarily such as a heart-lung machine, or dialysis, or more permanently through say a pacemaker. But then the technology is only assisting.

So what about the head then? Would we treat a disconnected human head differently? If we could keep it alive in a jar, would we? Should we? I think quite a few, if not most, probably would, under some circumstances anyway.

So why the difference? Why would a human head be different from the torso, why do we not keep brain-dead patients alive in ICU the same way we do as non-brain dead ones?

Obviously, we're now at step 3 - sentience. A being of complex thought, emotions, pain, subjective experience, consciousness.

Take that away and we're just human tissue, even if chemically alive.

It's only a simple definition and not terribly hard to poke holes in, but its still useful.

A living disabled person? Still ticks all three.
A corpse? Fails on number 2 and 3.
A separated body part? fails on 2, probably on 3.
A healthy baby? ticks all 3.
A sperm cell? ticks one, definitely fails 2 and mostly 3.
An 8 month fetus? Passes 1 and 2, partial fail on 3 (self-sustaining outside the womb with hefty technology, but still reliant upon the mother until actually born)
A 1-day zygote? passes on 1, fails 2 and mostly 3.

Scientifically? A zygote is no different by these criteria to a sperm cell, or an unfertilized human egg. Or indeed, any other individual cluster of living human cells. Going from unfertilized to fertilized doesn't make it sentient. Under the right circumstances, with a willing host, with a good heft of luck (most fertilized eggs don't implant), and getting a billion times more complex through cell-division and specialization, it might become a fetus. And that fetus after getting a whole bunch more complex might also, with a willing host, become eventually sentient and self-sustaining of chemical life.

When it does, we give it the same rights as those of us who ARE definitely human, alive, and sentient - such as the mother. When it's getting close, we give it a lot of the protections we give to humans.

You want a line to draw? When the fetus starts to become sentient seems a pretty good one. When it has brain activity. When it has developed substantial self-sustaining chemical life. It's a grey fuzzy line because you can't point at a fetus and say *that minute* is when it became sentient. But you can have a period of time when it's definitely not, and a period of time when it definitely is.

But in all of this, there is one person who is definitely genetically human, sentient, and self-sustaining of life. The mother. She has the rights we give to human beings. She has a right to bodily integrity, to her own life amongst many others.

Banning abortion is saying we are taking away the rights of a living, breathing, thinking human being, in a desire to give more rights to a non human being that doesn't pass the test.

Many women choose to become pregnant. Some become that way by accident, and want to carry on the pregnancy anyway. They're prepared to take the risks, suffer the pain and discomfort and consequences of developing a cluster of cells over the course of 9 months, with a hefty dose of luck into something far more complex - another living, sentient human being.

But you can't point to a zygote and say THIS is of the same value, is of the same character as the mother from day one, scientifically. Because it's NOT.

You can of course point at it and go this little bundle of cells is special. Not because of what it is scientifically, but because one day it will be human (we'll just gloss over miscarriage, and developmental failure, and genetic disease, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and the other hundreds of things that can and do go wrong). And it's special because it has a soul, unlike the sperm and egg cells that joined to form it. Other cells join together all the time for all sorts of reasons, but this one is special. This cluster is a human life, and we're going to take away the rights of the mother. Because God says so.

What I draw from this thread is that Pro-Lifers have utterly failed to effectively convince anybody that the people they are trying to save are people at all. We desperately need to have this conversation because it is the only hope for any real solution.

So yes. pro-lifers have failed to convince those who do not hold the same religious views that a human being comes into existance at the moment of conception. That that human being is worth protecting, so much so we discard the rights of the mother like used tissue paper.

I fundamentally disagree that we NEED to find a 'real solution'. For those of us who do not follow your beliefs, we already have one.

Abortion can be a good thing. It can save the life of the mother. It can drastically impact upon the life of her existing living, human being children. It can drastically improve her own health.

It can also be a terrible thing. When a woman is desperate for a child, and she has a fetus that will never survive. Or is already dead inside her. It is a painful, intrusive surgery. She will be cursed and attacked by a large percentage of the population who see her as shameful, a slut, a murderer - who are hateful, anti-woman hypocrites using an anti-abortion stance to conceal a lot of other nastier attitudes to women and sex in general. Who oppose contraceptives while simultaneously crying out for less abortions.

It's usually both things at the same time.

That choice is not, should not be yours or mine to make. We can draw a fuzzy line where sentience, self-sustaining life begins, and say beyond this point you need a good medical reason to abort. And everywhere I know of that abortion is legal, that is the case. Late stage abortions are a tiny, tiny fraction of abortions, and they happen because of harsh medical realities.

Before that point though? What right have I, do you, to dictate to a woman what happens inside her body to a cluster of non-sentient cells? None that is justifiable by science or logic.

Just because you believe something, doesn't make it true. Nor should be it enacted in law to restrict the rights of other human beings. And that's just much a foundation of a functional society as respecting the life of sentient, living human beings.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:51 PM on November 8, 2012 [18 favorites]


It doesn't matter because everyone agrees abortions are bad

I don't.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:07 AM on November 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


I don't think abortion is bad, either.

I am also indifferent to the moral implications of tonsillectomy or appendectomy.
posted by winna at 4:10 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


rtha, you are right that individual answers to the question of when personhood begins is informed by religious beliefs. But still our society draws one legal line regardless of the diversity of beliefs. When does my personal choice to let my child live or kill it before (or after?) it is born end and protections under the law begin?

As a pro-lifer I am convinced that we need to keep religion out of this conversation (directly, anyway). This should be a civic discussion, not a religious one. When do we as a society want to make killing illegal? What are the terms under which our society picks one set of criteria from the many diverse views and says "Okay, after this point of development, killing this (child, person, developing life, whatever term you want to use) is a criminal offense in our society, based on what we want our society to be?"

I have a sneaking feeling that this will all come down to philosophy. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, I bet it will ultimately depend on what the meaning of 'is' is.
posted by cross_impact at 5:42 AM on November 9, 2012


I think it's bad to have more surgeries (or any medical procedure) than necessary, as they're not without risk or cost, so I approve of doing things to reduce the number of such surgeries needed. This includes abortion.
posted by jeather at 5:48 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


When do we as a society want to make killing illegal?

The fact that you are relentlessly continuing to refer to abortion as KILLING BABIES makes it extremely clear that you do not at all want to keep religion out of this conversation. Perhaps you might wish to stop and think for the briefest of seconds just how many people with whom you are attempting to converse that you are casually calling murderers, how many of us have friends or partners or family members you are so casually condemning as vile killers. It makes people less likely to want to engage with you, since you are apparently incapable of discussing this in good faith.
posted by elizardbits at 6:03 AM on November 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


When do we as a society want to make killing illegal?

Right around the time we get around to making reproductive slavery and forced birth illegal. Because when you force women who do not want to have babies to have babies, that's what you get.

So when you get to this Nirvana where there are no unplanned or non-viable or life-of-the-mother pregnancies, you let me know and then we can discuss removing abortion as an option.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:13 AM on November 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Okay, sorry for the indelicate use of a prejudicial term. I was not (intending to) call people murderers. I was using the term "killing" to refer to the effect on the developing human, not the moral culpability or the intent of the person making the choice.

Feel free to suggest another term for what happens to the developing life that is stopped by an abortion. I'll be happy to use that.
posted by cross_impact at 6:30 AM on November 9, 2012


I'm surprised some people have a problem with the term "killing" when they're quite fine referring to an unborn child as a "parasite":

A fetus may be a living being, but until it can breathe on its own it is nothing more than a parasite on the mother with the potential to be a human.

Maybe if you had said "When does my personal choice to let my parasite live or kill it", you wouldn't have raised as much ire.
posted by foot at 6:51 AM on November 9, 2012


Do we want to criminalize abortion in the U.S.? What would that mean?

In countries where it has been criminalized, women with ectopic pregnancies die. Women who miscarry have been charged with negligent homicide and imprisoned. Maternity death rates go up.

Of course, wealthy, politically connected women leave the country for their abortions, or have excellent, discreet medical services available to them in-country.

NB: All "you"s in the following paragraphs are general "you"s, not directed a specific person here.

Are you willing to sentence a 14-year-old rape victim to juvenile hall (or have her charged as an adult) - and do you want to consider that her rapist may serve less time than she does, if he's even caught? Are you willing to sentence a doctor who, rather than see her patient die from an ectopic pregnancy, performed an abortion?

Are you willing to see maternity care rates drop, because both pregnant women and doctors are afraid of triggering the criminal process?

These are all real things that really happen in countries where abortion has been criminalized.

Like I said above, we can bullshit and hand-wave all we want here on the internets, but these are real policy questions that need to be addressed.
posted by rtha at 6:52 AM on November 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am not particularly personally offended when someone making these kinds of ill-conceived arguments calls me a killer or a murderer for having had an abortion, tbh. I think I might actually prefer it, upon further reflection, as it just marks them to me as someone with whom genuinely productive discourse will likely be difficult. But I imagine it is plenty offensive to other people.

It is also a sort of hilarious argument because so then what, abortion becomes illegal and everyone who has ever had one is now retroactively a murderer who must go to jail? No? Why not? Surely we're all murderers who have killed human beings and must pay for our crimes, right? It's not quite as inclusively ridiculous as that assface blowhard calling every woman who ever used birth control a filthy whore, but it's reasonably close.

Perhaps you might also wonder why no nondenominational international organizations working hard to defend human rights across the globe ever attack any country for allowing abortion to be safe and legal, you know. I am reasonably sure, for example, that it has never once occurred to Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International to suggest the imposition of sanctions against pretty much all of Europe for legalizing publicly funded "child murder".
posted by elizardbits at 7:15 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, sorry for the indelicate use of a prejudicial term. I was not (intending to) call people murderers.

I don't have a problem with the term killing. I don't think there are many people who argue an embryo isn't alive - there it is, dividing cells and growing, and then after an abortion, it is no longer living. Therefore, I am fine with abortion as lawful killing, in the same way that the death penalty is lawful killing and defending yourself against attack is lawful killing. Neither of those meets the definition of murder, which is "with no legal excuse or authority." As long as abortion is legal, it isn't murder, though I understand many people think it is morally. Happily we are not yet at the point where we enshrine the moral viewpoint of individual religions as law.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:21 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ersatz, so true. Men are not expected to give up their agency for others.

>You're familiar with the history of the military draft in the United States?

I'm sorry, but this is a bad example. First, even when they are in the military, society invests men with power against women (191 convictions out of 3192 sexual assault reports). Second, the draft has been discontinued since 1973. That's the same year as Roe v. Wade, but one of these two has not been a matter of serious contention since. Third, the current nature of the military and family planning rights imposes on poor people because more affluent people can choose whether to enlist or not or whether to cross state/country lines. Finally, for the past forty years American youth has had no need to worry about the draft, but still has to worry about family planning. I don't want to overshare here, but IME these two are not equal at all.
posted by ersatz at 7:33 AM on November 9, 2012


Feel free to suggest another term for what happens to the developing life that is stopped by an abortion. I'll be happy to use that.

Aborted is already the most accurate term for it, actually ("to stop something before completion"). Words like killing and murdering tend to be brought in when someone wants to make a moral judgement.
posted by randomnity at 7:49 AM on November 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


ArkhanJG: While I admire Mrs Anne's attempt to argue the case that pro-lifers have for decades - that banning abortion only puts women's lives at much greater risk without reducing actual abortions, and that good sex education and above all good access to cheap or free contraception drastically reduces abortion, I fear it's pretty pointless.

Pro-choice is above all anti-sex. And often anti-women either by accident or sometimes, design.
ArkhanJG, judging from the entire rest of your post, I am forced to presume you confused the phrases "pro-life" and "pro-choice" in these two paragraphs. True?
posted by IAmBroom at 7:56 AM on November 9, 2012


Jahaza: Forbidding abortion is not making an external intervention into someone's body.
So...
Forbidding haircutting is not making an external intervention into someone's body.
Forbidding hernia surgery is not making an external intervention into someone's body.
Forbidding tumor-treatments is not making an external intervention into someone's body.

Do you really believe that?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:18 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


This was raised earlier, but not fully discussed:

Let us assume that the technology exists or could exist for artificial wombs, and "abortions" could, very simply, be transformed into "womb transfers" for those who would like to adopt the eventual babies.

Pro-choicers: assuming that the woman was not held to any kind of responsibility for the baby afterwards, would this satisfy your needs?

Pro-lifers: would this satisfy your needs?

If so, why the heck aren't we all out working veryveryhard on this technology?
Or, on a broader scale, why aren't both camps working towards what they jointly agree on?

I was recently in a crowd of extremely conservative Republican women, talking about politics. We had a really long conversation about how great birth control is, in terms of the right to life. (I'm pro-choice, but was really curious as to the opinions.) And they all generally agreed with a lot of the same conclusions as here: that "family planning" is one of the greatest gifts to responsible childrearing, that birth control helps stop abortions, etc.

The fact that we have two "camps" of associated principles, where both like to revile each other, means that (as far as I know) we have no one pro-contraception organization made up of both women who hate abortion and women who love it, who are agreeing to put their personal beliefs aside for bringing together what they both want.

And I think that's a real shame.
posted by corb at 8:21 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pro-choicers: assuming that the woman was not held to any kind of responsibility for the baby afterwards, would this satisfy your needs?

It depends on whether or not using this technological solution would be mandated by law or left up to the personal choice of the women involved, since the legal protection of personal reproductive choice is the entire point of the pro-choice movement.
posted by elizardbits at 8:32 AM on November 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


Asking those whose views on the matter are rooted in dogmatic belief to justify themselves in scientific terms is just whistling in the wind.

The relevant discussion is instead whether dogmatic belief should, or should not, be the driving force behind legislation.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:39 AM on November 9, 2012


(as far as I know) we have no one pro-contraception organization made up of both women who hate abortion and women who love it, who are agreeing to put their personal beliefs aside for bringing together what they both want.

Um, this description could be applied to Planned Parenthood, depending on how you define "hates abortion" and "loves it." Which is, really, a weird way to frame it.

I know people who are personally opposed to abortion who support Planned Parenthood. Like Mitt Romney, back in the day.
posted by rtha at 8:40 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


If so, why the heck aren't we all out working veryveryhard on this technology?

Oh shit, you're right, I've been working on this Free Money Rifle (shoots a wad of free money from nowhere, to me, so I can spend it), but I guess I could put this aside for a moment to work on this Artificial Magic Womb instead. That should take, like, a week or two to create? Maybe three?
posted by Greg Nog at 8:40 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


flug, you charlatan. how dare you make me think there was a logical republican making logical arguments!

I'm not exactly Republican, but I've voted them on occasion, and I totally endorse flug's statement. Abortion is not the province of the government - either restricting or providing it should not, in my opinion, be any of their area.

Though I do find it interesting, the names people have chosen for this discussion and the way the sides have flipped. "Pro-choice" is generally affiliated with Democrats, while "Pro-life" is generally affiliated with Republicans. Meanwhile, the Democrats are the ones who tend to be most in favor of large governmental regulation in order to protect life (except for abortions), while Republicans tend to be most in favor of personal choices and responsibility (except for abortions).

It depends on whether or not using this technological solution would be mandated by law or left up to the personal choice of the women involved, since the legal protection of personal reproductive choice is the entire point of the pro-choice movement.

Hmmm. How about, not mandated by law, but serious resources were put into ensuring that this was the popular method of abortion- removal of the fetus in such a way that it was still viable and could be put into a womb. Because the choice aspect is really just "get that out of my body", not, as far as I've ever heard, "Get that out of my body and make sure it's cut into tiny pieces."
posted by corb at 8:42 AM on November 9, 2012


But still our society draws one legal line regardless of the diversity of beliefs. When does my personal choice to let my child live or kill it before (or after?) it is born end and protections under the law begin?

Yes, exactly.

When do we as a society want to make killing illegal? What are the terms under which our society picks one set of criteria from the many diverse views and says "Okay, after this point of development, killing this (child, person, developing life, whatever term you want to use) is a criminal offense in our society, based on what we want our society to be?"

At birth.
posted by Miko at 8:42 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


And for the curious, my own personal beliefs on this tend to be that potential parents should be given all information about the tiny growing person inside them, including whether or not the tiny half-person will have a deformity and major disease. They should have all options to abort, and the ability to safely give up any born child immediately with no negative consequences to them if it turns out to be something they were not aware of previously (ie deformed or majorly diseased).
posted by corb at 8:45 AM on November 9, 2012


"When does my personal choice to let my child live or kill it before (or after?) it is born end and protections under the law begin?"

Hey look it's wikipedia time!
posted by klangklangston at 8:47 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Republicans tend to be most in favor of personal choices and responsibility (except for abortions).

...and gay marriage, and immigration, and recreational drug use, and and and.

The GOP doesn't really, honestly care about personal choice and responsibility. Its power structure just talks this talk as they grow government and spend like crazy. They talk of being anti-abortion in order to promote interest among social/religious conservatives. IT's a coalition party, stitching together people with disparate interests to support the bigger agenda, which is essentially using government to push industrial growth. It does deploy a lot of rhetoric about enforcing a narrow vision of how Americans "should" behave, but that's to keep social conservatives in the party. Remove the abortion issue as a plank, and many Christians would rightly desert the party in droves, free to concentrate on the economic issues that concern them more. If they were ideologically consistent, of course they'd be pro-choice. They're not.
posted by Miko at 8:51 AM on November 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yes, corb, but I also believe I have a right to decide not to be the biological mother of anyone.
posted by agregoli at 8:53 AM on November 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


It strikes me that again, by raising the question of "but when does life begin?" and "what should our law say" we're moving away from the point of the post and getting bogged down in this same values/philosophy disagreement.

It's exactly the point of the post that if you have deep concerns about the morality of abortion, then you should be supporting the systems that are shown to reduce abortion. Not trying to change the minds of people whose worldview is fundamentally different from yours. Not trying to "convince" people to adopt your religion. Not trying to enshrine your religion in civil law. It doesn't work.

If you're really concerned - about abortion, rather than abstract principles - then you would be aligning with pro-Choice people to promote family planning, access to contraception, better contraception, social policies more favorable to mothers and children and families, and legal and safe abortion.

We strayed from the point again. This isn't a hearts-and-minds battle to get everyone to see things you're way. It's a pragmatic civil issue with concrete, real-world solutions. And if it troubles you that people are having abortions, then work to reduce them by enacting policies shown to reduce them. Have those moral discussions in your private life or internally or with people you know. But don't waste your time trying to convert people to your religion.

Funny that it keeps ending up back here. This, more than anything, is what makes me distrust people in the "pro-life" camp. They say they want a thing, that it's so so important to them and such a serious matter of morality that it trumps many other issues for them, but their actions produce the opposite effects. It's hard to take anyone who acts like that as an honest interlocutor.
posted by Miko at 9:00 AM on November 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


How about, not mandated by law, but serious resources were put into ensuring that this was the popular method of abortion- removal of the fetus in such a way that it was still viable and could be put into a womb.

As long as the rights of the individual pregnant woman to choose or not choose this procedure are legally protected, then I agree that this could be an interesting option. However, there are far more valuable things for this kind of vast funding to support.
posted by elizardbits at 9:02 AM on November 9, 2012


ArkhanJG, judging from the entire rest of your post, I am forced to presume you confused the phrases "pro-life" and "pro-choice" in these two paragraphs. True?

Yes, both should be the other way round, alas. I missed it until well after the edit window. Sorry! I did think about a follow-up, but the thread was well away by that point, and figured they'd be fairly easy to spot as mistakes in context. Neither term is in common use in the UK; especially given the anti-abortion lobby is pretty small and ineffective this side of the pond, though it is getting more vocal of late.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:04 AM on November 9, 2012


I agree that individual control over choices about the body must be central to any such plan. And it's still far in the future. It's a hypothetical. Maybe one day if we don't totally destroy the planet and still have things like federal research budgets, that'll happen. In the intervening, oh, 20 to 500 years, we are going to have to identify other solutions.
posted by Miko at 9:04 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


As long as the rights of the individual pregnant woman to choose or not choose this procedure are legally protected, then I agree that this could be an interesting option. However, there are far more valuable things for this kind of vast funding to support.

I think I tend to favor this option because then both sides would be spending money into SCIENCE instead of into ad campaigns designed to influence the other side which is unlikely to change their mind. So, in the long run, even if they grow to hate each other, we still have science.

Also, Republicans finding science the answer for thorny moral issues? Come on, tell me that wouldn't be awesome on all levels. :)
posted by corb at 9:05 AM on November 9, 2012


However, there are far more valuable things for this kind of vast funding to support.

Such as free contraception for everyone, which would be both far cheaper and far more effective at cutting abortions...
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:05 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


you're way

Talk about the edit window closing. That's like acid in my eyes. Yikes, sorry. Your.
posted by Miko at 9:06 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think I tend to favor this option

Right. Awesome. Except it's not an actual option.
posted by Miko at 9:07 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, a lot of fetuses are going to have to die in the experimentation to create womb-to-womb embryo transplatation and artificial wombs...a hurdle.

But here's the bigger issue. Since 1973 there have been about 50 million abortions in the US. Had they all been carried to term and delivered, even though some would die of other causes, the US population now would be closer to 365 million than its current 315 million.

If we're concerned at all about global overpopulation, and given the water and food situations as well as climate change impacts, I certainly am, this is concerning. Even given projections for the US, do we want to grow population that rapidly? That would mean adding 15 million new Americans in the next 10 years, or at a flat rate 150 million over the next 100 years, in addition to our already projected population growth of double the present population in 2100, but of course it would progress in a Malthusian manner after 15 or so years pass and more of those additional people also reproduce.

I suggest we just couldn't make a good argument to sustain support for all these unplanned conceived fetuses, even with artificial wombs. It's not a responsible use of resources, and it would also have an as-yet-unconsidered impact on family and social structures. Who would be the parents for artificial-womb babies? Would they be raised in state-sponsored facilities? Who pays? Faith-based ones?

Really, wouldn't it be a lot better - cheaper, not just in the short term but for the entire lifetimes of the public and private resource costs for all those individuals, and thus more responsible - to prevent all this conception in the first place?
posted by Miko at 9:19 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


TBH I think convincing the most vocal and motivated members of the antichoice movement to turn their efforts towards promoting research into a highly advanced scientific solution would be just as difficult in the long run as it would be to get them to simply change their minds about abortion.

Furthermore, it certainly wouldn't be a 100% successful procedure; a nonzero number of attempts would surely end in the death of the fetus, the donor, or the recipient. I can't imagine that people who purportedly concern themselves with "God's will" in the case of miscarriages would be at all amenable to human intervention in a pregnancy where there was a chance of the death of one or more parties, especially where potential fetal death is involved.
posted by elizardbits at 9:23 AM on November 9, 2012


TBH I think the best solution is dragons, which we should be researching a lot more than current levels.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:23 AM on November 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


that the fetus deserves life because they are innocent

Ah yes, because women who abort a pregnancy are slutty sluts that are not innocent?

I have such a disdain for the so-called "pro-life" movement attempting to justify infringing on reproductive rights, because they believe women are somehow not innocent. When you consent to have sex - you consent to have sex. Consenting to having sex does not mean consenting to get pregnant and carry that pregnancy to term, any more than consenting to driving means you consent to being injured in a car accident - and not doing anything to remedy the situation. Or getting an STD, or diabetes, or cancer, or the flu, or assault, or any other medical situation - and then never do anything about it to intervene to alter the biological course of our circumstances.

Let me repeat - consenting to having sex means you consent to have sex. That's it. It does not mean you consent to anything else.

Furthermore, I know several people who have had abortions, while married, and AFTER they already had children. Including one couple, who had an infant with special needs. They terminated their second, unexpected pregnancy, so that they could better provide and care for the child they already had, that already exists in this world. Their decision was made with respect to both reproductive rights, and the best interest of their baby son's life. They were pro-choice AND pro-life.

Many women have sex. They have sex when they're single, they have sex with they're married, and they have sex when they're engaged. Many women like sex. Sometimes, women in many different circumstances, unexpectedly get pregnant, and cannot carry out that pregnancy. I get that some people think fertilized eggs and zygotes and blastocysts and fetuses are "people," and with that, "innocent people" - but having sex does not make a woman not innocent. It is not her fault that she was born with the reproductive bits that she has. It is not her fault that her contraception failed. It is not her fault that something happened in her body, that she did not consent to occur. Women who have abortions and terminate pregnancies are not guilty - they are also innocent.
posted by raztaj at 9:29 AM on November 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


Really, wouldn't it be a lot better - cheaper, not just in the short term but for the entire lifetimes of the public and private resource costs for all those individuals, and thus more responsible - to prevent all this conception in the first place?

In a word, yes. But it wouldn't solve the problem of half the country tearing themselves apart over it, or what kind of contraception you'll be offering, or how you'd make sure it was actually effective, or how it's funded.

I do support (both in internet arguments and financially) institutions that want to provide more low-cost or broader-access birth control, but I am hardly representative of the average Christian just because someone sprinkled water on me as a wee thing. I am not sure how I'd feel about the government offering free long-term birth control, like implants. I might be for it - small expense, lasts a long time, highly effective.

I think a lot of the arguments over broader access to contraception revolves around "Who's going to have to pay for it/who will carry it out?" rather than any other, though. That's a question I'd love to see the pro-choice movement come up with some better ways of resolving.
posted by corb at 9:34 AM on November 9, 2012


I think a lot of the arguments over broader access to contraception revolves around "Who's going to have to pay for it/who will carry it out?" rather than any other, though.

Insurance providers, which everyone is now required to have, and which are required to cover contraception.

Boom, done, drop the mic.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:36 AM on November 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Furthermore, I know several people who have had abortions, while married, and AFTER they already had children.

In 2008, Guttmacher found that 61% of abortions are by women who already have children. A more recent analysis - after the economic crash had had some of its nasty effects - shows that rate has gone to 72%. Half of women in the 2008 study were living with their fulltime partners, and 15% were married. 16% were separated, divorced, or widowed.

The stereotypical image of the slutty teen or incontinent, selfish twentysomething is not an accurate picture of the women who have abortions.
posted by Miko at 9:37 AM on November 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I am not sure you mean incontinent unless it means something else aside from pants peeing n pooping that I am unaware of
posted by elizardbits at 9:43 AM on November 9, 2012


No, I mean incontinent. One of its meanings is an inability to control oneself sexually (definition 3). I suppose the first definitions are more common and familiar, but I've heard and seen the accusations often enough that that's the word that came to mind.
posted by Miko at 9:46 AM on November 9, 2012


resurrexit: Because then it's murder, and you won't deny a society made up of humans is harmed by homicide.
Unless you support the mandatory sentencing of a woman convicted of having an abortion to either life in prison, or the death penalty, you don't actually intend to treat abortion as a premeditated murder.

I'm sick and tired of Christians who love to frame abortion as "murder", right up until I ask them if they'd really advocate sentencing their daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers to life in prison or the chair for abortions they've had.

If you really believe it's murder, then surely you support convicting women (and teenage girls!) for felony murder. If you don't, then somehow in your mind it must be different from murder - and calling it "murder" is propagandist hypocrisy.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:47 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


TODAY I HAVE LEARNED A THING!
posted by elizardbits at 9:47 AM on November 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm sick and tired of Christians who love to frame abortion as "murder", right up until I ask them if they'd really advocate sentencing their daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers to life in prison or the chair for abortions they've had.

One of my links above noted that of people who have abortions, 13% identify themselves as Evangelical Christian, and 27% as Catholic. I think most people are very much unaware of how many women around them have had abortions, because many people keep it very private; and if they did know who has, I imagine their sensibilities would undergo some change.
posted by Miko at 9:49 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


the choice aspect is really just "get that out of my body", not, as far as I've ever heard, "Get that out of my body and make sure it's cut into tiny pieces."

Some people choose not to have children for environmental reasons. Having a child is one of the most environmentally destructive actions available to your average person. Also, how would "serious resources" ensure anything about the popularity of your hypothetical method?
posted by adamdschneider at 9:56 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom, we did that in this thread, it got crazy. Historically mothers weren't prosecuted, the abortionists were. I think we got into it pretty deeply on that post before some of the more militant folks just got all pro-choice-version-of-abortion-clinic-bombers and kind of shut it down.
posted by resurrexit at 9:58 AM on November 9, 2012


winna: I don't think abortion is bad, either.

I am also indifferent to the moral implications of tonsillectomy or appendectomy.
I am opposed to all three operations, but agree that they are sometimes necessary. And this is not some idle hypothetical for me, either - I've had two of those, and I don't recommend them to anyone "just for kicks". But, to save my own, developed, clearly independent life, I was willing to sacrifice some growing tissue inside of me that was my own flesh & blood. I know: shockingly immoral to those of you who are Christian Scientists. Too bad; stay the fuck out of my hospital room.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:03 AM on November 9, 2012


One woman's experience:
Having an abortion would get this miscarriage over with quickly. That’s important, as I’m leaving for a speaking engagement this weekend and am rather apprehensive about the risk of miscarrying, all by myself, in Aspen, Colorado, in an environment where I am supposed to be on professional behavior. (Uncontrollable sobbing doesn’t really fit with the image of competent journalist.) Most likely, there would be less pain and less bleeding. That’s also a big deal. My last miscarriage happened at 4 weeks along. I woke up in the middle of the night wanting to scream and almost vomiting from the pain. I bled for nearly two weeks after that. My guess is that these effects are not weaker for a 7-week miscarriage. Finally, even if I wait this out, there’s still a pretty decent chance that I end up having to get an abortion after all. It’s not uncommon for miscarriages like this to take too long to start, or not finish completely on their own. With just enough bad luck, I might get to experience both options.

Another woman's experience:
My opinion on abortion changed dramatically at 37. I was dealing with a failing marriage, a lot of debt, and 4 kids that kept me extremely busy. Still, I knew I would not be able to keep this baby.

And another woman's:
"I'm 22 years old and had an abortion this past year. I love children and always was pro-choice but never thought I would actually have my own abortion. I found out I was pregnant this year 2 weeks after my then boyfriend domestically assaulted me and then left town. At first I had every intention of giving the baby up for adoption but as the first few weeks progressed the father of the child decided he wanted to be a part of the child's life, and would not take no for an answer.

Lots more here.
posted by rtha at 10:06 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


"While I'm at it, I'd like societal disapproval of being unexpectedly or "accidentally" pregnant. (Single parenthood would be OK, but SURPRISE! pregnancy would NOT be ok, more of an "Oh, my SFM, how irresponsible!!! Why didn't they PLAN? What was he THINKING? Why didn't she just GO TO THE CLINIC FIRST?) In this world, every baby would be a planned, wanted baby and people who failed to plan their babies would be social outcasts, like people who pick their noses in public."

To be perfectly honest, I find it bizarre that this is an attitude I encounter so frequently by people who claim to be anti-mysogeny, pro-sex, or pro-woman.

It's absurd to shame women for not using hormonal birth control from the moment they start mentruating. Why do we not shame men for refusing to get a vastectomy after the first wet dream? Vasectomies are reversible, so what's the big deal? Oh, we care about possible negative consequences to men but not of the consequences of hormonal birth control being used in women for the entirety of their fertile lives?

Quite frankly I'm sick of liberals claiming to be "pro-sex" and "pro woman" and then shaming women for being concerned about the effects of hormonal birth control and being raped and then carrying the child to term.

I've already been sexually abused in horrific ways, and I'm sick of the people who are supposed to "have women's backs" continuing the assault on my psyche while I'm rather busy surviving the aftermath of sexual abuse and forced pregnancy.

I believe that a fetus can feel and deserves protection. I think animals and plants can feel do and if possible deserve protection. I respect that we all have to make decisions as a society about what life shold be legally protected and what not and I support women's legal right to choose when that preservation should kick in when an embryo/fetus isin highly debatable states of existing and being defined as a living human worthy of protection.

But I'm tried of a culture that glorifies casual sex in which people pressume to fuck each other without caring who they hurt and without any intention to love or care for children who may result. I am the child of an unplanned pregnancy and I was given up and I personally find it to be a sadistic ideology to uphold. The rights of adults to have sex with no responsability for the children who result? That doesn't sound like the ideology of a movement that has any sort of heart whatsoever, let alone "bleeding heart". Of course accidents happen for which I have a deep compassion, but that doesn't mean the kids who result should be thrown under a bus. Ultimately if you choose to have sex you ARE signing up to potentially create a human. It is your doing if a child happens. It's totally understable that people want sex sometimes and don't plan it well. But the children who might result deserve both parents to put forth their best effort to look out for them and society shold encourage parents to do their best to uphold duties to any children who may result from consensual sex they might have.

Also- DUH I am in favor of financial, social, emotional, psycological resources to make it more possible for parents to do this successfully and access to legal abortion for people who feel that a fetus does not deserve protection or life.


I'm also really tired of women being shamed for submitting to extrememly forceful manipulative pressure to have unprotected sex from men. Assange? Still celebrated? And then women shamed if they don't want an abortion after being forcibly impregnated by these evil fucks who are still accepted in communities while women like me tend to get the shaft?


I think there should be a lot more social stigma against men pressuring women into sex, particularly unprotected sex. And a lot more pressure for men to get vasectomies if they don't want to be responsable for children rather than pressuming they have the right to put a woman at risk of pregnancy and then shame her for not getting an abortion to fulfil his child free needs.
posted by xarnop at 10:10 AM on November 9, 2012


ersatz: Ersatz, so true. Men are not expected to give up their agency for others.

>You're familiar with the history of the military draft in the United States?

I'm sorry, but this is a bad example. First, even when they are in the military, society invests men with power against women (191 convictions out of 3192 sexual assault reports). Second, the draft has been discontinued since 1973. That's the same year as Roe v. Wade, but one of these two has not been a matter of serious contention since. Third, the current nature of the military and family planning rights imposes on poor people because more affluent people can choose whether to enlist or not or whether to cross state/country lines. Finally, for the past forty years American youth has had no need to worry about the draft, but still has to worry about family planning. I don't want to overshare here, but IME these two are not equal at all.
ersatz didn't say they were equal. In fact, a couple posts down ersatz specifically points this out.

Further, the draft was only suspended in 1972, not outlawed. Men still have to register for the draft; the obvious message is that the government may at their option appropriate young men's bodies for its purposes. And its implications for rich versus poor is another red herring.

Finally, your counterargument about sexual assault convictions has absolutely nothing to do with military drafts, so... the point that men are sometimes asked to give up their agency for others still stands.

Attempts to illegalize abortions are about million times more common than advocates petitioning the government to reinstitute the draft, of course. And I'm opposed to both, of course.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:20 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, um. Sorry if I am misinterpreting your comment - it sounds like you think it's wrong to shame women for not wanting to use hormonal birth control because of unpleasant medical side effects, but it's okay for you to shame women who want to give up their children for adoption? You think that giving up children for adoption is a sadistic ideology and that society should encourage parents not to do so?

what
posted by elizardbits at 10:21 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I think we got into it pretty deeply on that post before some of the more militant folks just got all pro-choice-version-of-abortion-clinic-bombers and kind of shut it down."

Oh, they killed a bunch of people and bombed the Olympics? No? Then maybe that's a pretty poorly considered analogy that minimizes actual murder and demonizes people that disagree with you.
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 AM on November 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well, adoption is a matter that effects a living child-- who I believe deserves the honor of having a soceity that encourage parental responsability. Placing a child for adoption when incapable of parenting can be an act of ensuring provisions are made for the child-- meaning adoption is not the same as child abandonment-- which yes, I believe there should be a stigma against. And yes, I think giving up a child because you don't care about their well being can cause real harm to real people and shouldn't be see as an assumed moral right of adults wanting orgasms but not to care about people they harm.
posted by xarnop at 10:26 AM on November 9, 2012


One of the reasons I'm pro-choice is that sex does carry the risk of conceiving, even if you use birth control. I'm not at all comfortable telling people when and when they shouldn't have sex. That's part of being an independent person. There's lots of room for individuals to choose their own path within that. But because I don't want more children "thrown under the bus," I don't want people who don't want and maybe can't handle children appropriately to have them.

Adoption and abandonment aren't perfect solutions, as you say, so it's reasonable to give people the choice not to use those strategies.

I think you've got to give people the opportunity to make good decisions for them.
posted by Miko at 10:30 AM on November 9, 2012


So unwanted children should instead be forcibly kept with the parents or parent who does not want them? This is your solution? That children who could otherwise have loving homes with infertile couples who would do anything on earth to be able to care for a child should instead be with people who wish they'd never been born, potentially subjecting them to a lifetime of abuse?

Please also note that wanting to create a social stigma against adoptions has serious, serious repercussions towards the LGBT community.
posted by elizardbits at 10:30 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


resurrexit: IAmBroom, we did that in this thread, it got crazy. Historically mothers weren't prosecuted, the abortionists were. I think we got into it pretty deeply on that post before some of the more militant folks just got all pro-choice-version-of-abortion-clinic-bombers and kind of shut it down.
Don't really give a shit that we've discussed it before, nor how it went. It's still a completely relevant point.

If you think it's murder, act like it.

If you don't support murder punishments, but that women who "commit" abortions to the fetuses inside them are still doing wrong, use a different fucking word. It's that simple.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:31 AM on November 9, 2012


rtha, one of the most affecting films I've seen on abortion is Vera Drake - it's a drama set in 1950's England mainly about a middle aged mother who is a secret back-street abortionist - when abortion was effectively illegal - the 1929 Infant Life Act criminalised the deliberate destruction of a child "capable of being born alive", and prior laws also made supplying for, assisting with or having an induced miscarriage criminal offences carrying up to a life term. The one exception was a doctor causing an abortion for the sole reason of saving the life of the mother.

There's also a sub-plot about another woman who goes through utter hell to try an obtain an incredibly expensive but legal abortion.

Abortion didn't become widely legal up until 28 weeks (later reduced to 24) until 1967. It's a damned harrowing look at a world not very far back at all, and the impact heavily restricted abortion had on women - and would do again.
posted by ArkhanJG at 10:35 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


At birth.

Miko, your answer, again, is helpful. My question (purely appreciative inquiry here, I promise) is why that line is sufficient to secure legal protections for a child? I can't see it. The child still cannot survive without significant sacrifices from the mother. Some children who are "born", like my little Olivia who weighed just 17 ounces, cannot survive without expensive medical assistance.

In spite of my past adolescent aspirations, I do not assume a vagina is somehow a mystical portal that confers personhood on all who pass through. :) Yes, I jest, but I assume that there is a really good scientific, legal, philosophical basis for why birth is where we draw that line.

Again, not arguing here. Seeking to understand. Pleading ignorance. Educate me.
posted by cross_impact at 10:36 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess I'll put it another way, liberals tend to see convservative judgement of sexual freedom as mysogenystic, but yet still support judging and shaming of free spirited sex. And really, free spirited sex that harms real people probably should have some social stigma against it. Most liberals do have some sexual behaviors they would shame/judge others for such as rape, statutory rape, abusive behavior. If you extend the compassion liberals have for people being forced into sex-- onto children who are forced into existence by free spirited sex by people who don't care about them--- you could see the conservative shaming for sex without preperations in place and willingness to care for any suprise children who may result as making perfect sense. Conservative call it marriage, but take the word marriage out-- the concept is pretty sound.

elizardbits-- I never said adoption should be illegal. I said it has consequences for many/some adoptees who do have feelings about it. I believe adoptees deserve the right to be acknowledged as sometimes having complicated and deeply difficult feelings about having a society that sees their creation and abandonment as a non-issue. This doesn't mean staying with abusive hateful parents is a good solution, it means we should encourage anyone who cares about children to NOT assume sex with no responsability to children is an ethical moral.
posted by xarnop at 10:38 AM on November 9, 2012


is why that line is sufficient to secure legal protections for a child? I can't see it. The child still cannot survive without significant sacrifices from the mother.

The already-born child does not require the care of its mother in the way it did before birth. After birth, care can be provided literally by any fairly competent person, no genetic connection needed. Also no biological one: it can be fed by someone else. It can breathe by itself or with assistance of technology. Etc.

And again, if you're going argue for, or even consider as an intellectual exercise, that abortion should be criminalized and that having an abortion is the same as killing your kindergartner, the you also need to consider what the societal impacts would be. A number of countries have criminalized it, links about them have been posted here or you can google for them, so it's not like we are forced to imagine some thing that hasn't happened. It has, it is. Please go read and contemplate.
posted by rtha at 10:48 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Um yeah...having to register for the draft is not at all the same as the societal expectations that women regularly sacrifice their agency for others, sorry.
posted by agregoli at 10:50 AM on November 9, 2012


it means we should encourage anyone who cares about children to NOT assume sex with no responsability to children is an ethical moral.

What is the solution to this issue, then? That people who don't ever want to have children should not have sex because it would be unethical for them to do so, knowing that children could potentially result? What about these women you are defending who do not want to use hormonal birth control because of health concerns? They should only have sex if they want to have children some day?
posted by elizardbits at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


And really, free spirited sex that harms real people probably should have some social stigma against it. Most liberals do have some sexual behaviors they would shame/judge others for such as rape, statutory rape, abusive behavior.

Where you are going with your (false) analogy does not make any sense at all. Rape and sexual abuse are primarily NOT about sex - they are behaviors that are primarily motivated by power and control. They are not "sexual behaviors."

And sure, "liberals" are usually consistently adamant about standing up for people that are victims of power and control - whether we're talking about rape, abuse, or those that want to assert control over the reproductive rights of others.
posted by raztaj at 10:56 AM on November 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's funny because abstinance is the requirement if no one is willing to have sex with you. We assume that harming others with non-consensual sex is ultimately to harmful to allow even if it means some people will not have sexual relations with anyone.

I think it's prefectly reasonable to assume that anyone deciding to have sex should take all measures to avoid a pregnancy if unwanted, but should assume responsability for the creation ofa child that may accidentally happen. If the best the parent can do isgive the child up then that's the best they can do, but ultimately the child is not at fault for their creation and if they abandoned to the state and live in painful conditions because a parent felt like having sex without caring who they harm-- then yes the parent is the cause of that suffering. I find a lot of compassion for the fact people have accidents-- that doesn't mean we need to create a culture where we literally pressume every adult has the right to sex over the well being of children.

So my solution is, people who choose to have sex have a plan in place of some kind to do their best by the child. Adoption could be their plan, parenting to the best of their ability could be that plan-- but throwing your hands up and saying, "who cares" should not be a socially endorsed assumed right of adults who chose to have sex.
posted by xarnop at 11:00 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Xarnop, no offense, but I don't understand your point.
posted by agregoli at 11:06 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just want to quote Miko's comment above ("for truth"):

We strayed from the point again. This isn't a hearts-and-minds battle to get everyone to see things you're way. It's a pragmatic civil issue with concrete, real-world solutions. And if it troubles you that people are having abortions, then work to reduce them by enacting policies shown to reduce them. Have those moral discussions in your private life or internally or with people you know.

It's true that to a large extent these philosophical issues don't matter. In practice, those who believe in women's rights and those who believe abortion is bad should actually be allied in promoting sex education, easy access to contraception, good prenatal care, and support for working mothers and poor women who don't necessarily have the resources required to raise a child. (Though I do think we'd have a better chance of getting there if I could convince everyone to moderate their positions and their rhetoric, which is why I stuck my nose in this thread.)

It's actually very convient that the policies which empower women also tend to reduce abortions, as well as bringing with them a whole host of other social goods related to child welfare, environmentalism (or at least population growth) etc. So it doesn't matter if we agree on the reasons for those policies -- we can all agree on what we should do.
posted by OnceUponATime at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


...that doesn't mean we need to create a culture where we literally pressume every adult has the right to sex over the well being of children.

Um, good to know that
a) children pop out fully formed mere moments after unprotected sex
b) it's a straight up either/or between sex and the wellbeing of children.

On b), you should look into the fallacy of the excluded middle. To whit, it's entirely possible to have sex that doesn't result in pregnancy, or even the suffering of children.

On a) you do realise a lot of people don't agree with that a zygote or fetus is equivalent in any way to an actual child? That abortion isn't causing suffering or harm to children, as they're not a child yet? And that just because you believe something to be so with zero evidence, doesn't mean everyone should be bound by that restriction or face criminal sanctions?

I don't even dare ask what you think of the rights of women to bodily autonomy.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:13 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


We assume that harming others with non-consensual sex is ultimately to harmful to allow even if it means some people will not have sexual relations with anyone.

You need to stop.
posted by rtha at 11:15 AM on November 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


I guess in these debates people often use "No one should be forced to parent" as a defense of abortion. Abortion should be defended because there isn't a child involved by many people's standards,not because children should be disposed of in the case their parents don't feel like dealing with them. Yes, people who create children should-- morally-- do their best by their children to ensure they are provided for. So yes I do think in choosing to have sex you assume the responsability for a person who might accidentally be created. If you get an abortion before a person is created, then there is no person to worry about.

It just concerns me creating a culture where people assumethey have theright to have sex even when they don't careabout children created and anbandon chidren to any fate as part of "sexual liberation". I feel that's a terrible value and should not be used as the reason for abortion to be legal.
posted by xarnop at 11:15 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It just concerns me creating a culture where people assume they have the right to have sex even when they don't care about children created and abandon children to any fate as part of "sexual liberation".

I just don't even know where to go with this statement. I don't.
posted by elizardbits at 11:23 AM on November 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think it's prefectly reasonable to assume that anyone deciding to have sex should take all measures to avoid a pregnancy if unwanted, but should assume responsability for the creation ofa child that may accidentally happen...So my solution is, people who choose to have sex have a plan in place of some kind to do their best by the child.

Not everyone thinks that is perfectly reasonable, and your solution sucks. The real solution (or one of them, anyway) is, for now, legally protected in the United States.

Next.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


So yes I do think in choosing to have sex you assume the responsability for a person who might accidentally be created.

Which puts us right back into the argument/discussion of "when is this collection of cells considered a "person.""
posted by soundguy99 at 11:28 AM on November 9, 2012


adam-- my use of the word child refers to children who are born-- not toembryos/fetus. I support legal abortion access and am only refering to the fact that parents should do their best by born children.
posted by xarnop at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2012


It just concerns me creating a culture where people assume they have the right to have sex even when they don't care about children created and abandon children to any fate as part of "sexual liberation".

It doesn't really concern me. Sexual liberation was the term used for a set of medical advances (contraception and safe abortion) that really do allow us to pretty much decouple sex from childbirth. What concerns me is the number of people who think that these medical advances should not be used, thus increasing the number of children who are born unwanted. Even in tightly controlled societies, sex is viewed as separate from childbirth for powerful people, mostly males. I don't believe it is possible to have a reasonable society that manages to make people abstain from having sex unless they intend to have and keep any resulting children.

(adamdschneider, I think you're jumping on xarnops a little harshly: he said that he does think abortion is one of the solutions, he seems to be talking about kids that brought to term and then abandoned/mistreated by their parents).
posted by jacalata at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point is that no one has unilateral right to sex that disregards an accidental born child that might result.
posted by xarnop at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2012


(she)
posted by elizardbits at 11:30 AM on November 9, 2012


I would love an artificial womb if anybody could use it, and they weren't reserved (as this thread seems to be envisioning) for unwanted (by the biological mother) festuses. How awesome would it be to be able to choose to reproduce without having to worry about the medical complications that might arise? Presumably you could intervene in fetal development as well, and/or do some gene sequencing or something so you could avoid eg neural tube disorders, Down's syndrome, etc. When we wanted children, we could all have healthy babies with no maternal risks. Sounds pretty great to me.

I wouldn't want to mandate its use or anything, but this technology would solve a lot of problems.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:36 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes I do. Have that kind of sex all the time, actually, because I will never be a parent, never intend to conceive or give birth. So yeah, I'm disregarding the nonfuture "child."
posted by agregoli at 11:38 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If a child were ACTUALLY BORN, then legally, yes you would need to arrange for the care of the child. If you found suitable adoptive parents that could be a solution, but morally, it'd be right crappy of you to dump the child in a bad situation without caring.

Morally, I think it's a crappy societal value to assume that accidental children don't automatically deserve the right to acutal parents and family- and if no one else is available that falls to the people who cause their creation.
posted by xarnop at 11:46 AM on November 9, 2012


my use of the word child refers to children who are born-- not toembryos/fetus. I support legal abortion access and am only refering to the fact that parents should do their best by born children.

Whoops, sorry, I did not get that part. I even read it a few times! My mistake.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:47 AM on November 9, 2012


xarnop, I think you're arguing that the most important point is to avoid having kids born into undesirable situations. I can't quite tell why, but something about the way you're stating your position seems to be making people feel like you're arguing against a general pro-choice position (I had to re-read your posts a couple of times to figure out that you don't seem to be). Possibly because it seems like you're arguing that individuals should avoid having sex to prevent accidental births, whereas most people are arguing that society should be making more of an effort to make the above-mentioned education/contraception/abortion options more available.
posted by jacalata at 11:54 AM on November 9, 2012


While I can see their practical use, I don't see artificial wombs as solving any of the legal or moral problems discussed. I expect they would even complicate them.

The device will still need support and protection. What if there's a fire, flood, or even just a power outage? What procedure of triage should emergency workers take? What are the legal liabilities if something happens to it?

Lets say it's nearly as autonomous as a pet cat or dog. You'll still have to feed and exercise it. What if the custodians are negligent? What if something happens to the custodians? Who makes choices for it or what to do about it? If it passes into the hands of the state, what is the state's obligations to care and maintain it?

Let's say you can push "pause" on the fetal development somehow. How long should we keep a developing human in stasis? If you never grow and birth them, that's pretty much the same end as an abortion, isn't it?

Entropy gets us all in the end, one way or another.

Please contact me if you are interested in my blockbuster sci-fi novel/movie script featuring a ragtag team of womb-beasts that escape from a brutal concentration camp for abandoned wombs and overthrow the tyrannical government/corporation.
posted by wobh at 12:00 PM on November 9, 2012


Lets say it's nearly as autonomous as a pet cat or dog. You'll still have to feed and exercise it.

Exercise...a womb? I am having some very strange mental images right now.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2012


So you're saying that parents should not be allowed to legally abandon a child, or legally put a child up for adoption if there aren't adoptive parents waiting to take that child immediately? Hello higher rates of dead and abused children.
posted by agregoli at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would love an artificial womb if anybody could use it, and they weren't reserved (as this thread seems to be envisioning) for unwanted (by the biological mother) festuses. How awesome would it be to be able to choose to reproduce without having to worry about the medical complications that might arise? Presumably you could intervene in fetal development as well, and/or do some gene sequencing or something so you could avoid eg neural tube disorders, Down's syndrome, etc. When we wanted children, we could all have healthy babies with no maternal risks. Sounds pretty great to me.

I wouldn't want to mandate its use or anything, but this technology would solve a lot of problems.


Yeah, I suppose I should have said that my fantasy idea is that this technology is developed through funding for saving the aborted babies, and then is used for everyone, because science is awesome like that! yay, science!

Please contact me if you are interested in my blockbuster sci-fi novel/movie script featuring a ragtag team of womb-beasts that escape from a brutal concentration camp for abandoned wombs and overthrow the tyrannical government/corporation.

Womb-beasts! Whee!
posted by corb at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


30 year old spoiler alert: those are just axlotl tanks.
posted by elizardbits at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


My question (purely appreciative inquiry here, I promise) is why that line is sufficient to secure legal protections for a child?

Because it's empirical that a child at birth can have an existence totally independent of its mother. As rtha said, any competetent person can care appropriately for it. Before that time, we don't have an independent person. A physical change in status has occurred. It doesn't matter much to me whether they're born prematurely, born late, born with defects, born through the vaginal canal, born through c-section; if a child is born alive, it becomes a legal person. Even if dies minutes later, it has had a legal identity. That's why they say the time of birth out loud and write it down. The legal record, and legal personhood, begin then.

(Though I do think we'd have a better chance of getting there if I could convince everyone to moderate their positions and their rhetoric, which is why I stuck my nose in this thread.)

That's basically the tone argument. The way I feel about that is: if this is the right thing to do, you don't have to like everyone else who does it. You don't have to like their rhetoric or their stance. You do it because it is right. I don't need to moderate my position to agree with you that women need better access to birth control. You don't have to change your position, I don't have to change yours, but we both do what is right because it is right.

My point is that no one has unilateral right to sex that disregards an accidental born child that might result.

xarnop, all due respect, but what you're talking about here doesn't seem to relate to abortion. I think nobody disagrees that children should be loved and cared for. IF that does relate to abortion somehow, maybe you could make it clearer. To me, legal and safe abortion vastly increases the chances that children born will be loved and adequately cared for. I study the 19th century, and one thing I often describe to people is how very common it was for dead abandoned babies to be found. In one review of a year's newspapers in one small town, there were babies found dead of exposure about every 2-3 weeks. There was no libertine culture then. Human beings do and will have sex; 'twas ever thus; because of that they need all the mechanisms we can give them to responsibly manage reproduction and families. That includes sex and relationship education, contraception, and legal abortion. And, of course, a decent climate for family support for children and families.
posted by Miko at 2:03 PM on November 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


"If the best the parent can do isgive the child up then that's the best they can do, but ultimately the child is not at fault for their creation and if they abandoned to the state and live in painful conditions because a parent felt like having sex without caring who they harm-- then yes the parent is the cause of that suffering."

Uh, it really sounds like you're maybe working through some personal stuff here and that this isn't a great basis for a discussion about abortion or the pro-life movement.
posted by klangklangston at 3:21 PM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Uh-- yeah when people are talking about the rights of people who would toss babies to the state to do so with a clear conscience and social approval-- I think it's relevant. Then you get into men wanting paper abortion to make every fair since all adults have a unilateral right to sex without regard for children that result- and it all seems to prioritize the rights of adults who could simply choose not to have sex over children who were created and deserve family.

Abortion is a solution to that-- but yes in abortion discussions it's often mentioned that adults have no responsability for a child just because they have sex--

I totally disagree and attempting to explain why. Sorry if convoluded but I think it's a fair thing to point out. Abusive parents can report themselves to CPS and get a removal if desired and adoption is easily accessible and over advertised to pregnant women interested. I'm just saying, why dopro-choicers so oftenmake remarks about how much they deserve sex without having to care about children who might result? It's an awful lot of suffering to assume a child deserves to go through just so parents can have carefree sex and never care about children they create.

Yeah, I am allabout getting birth control accessible, sex education, and abortion access--- but if a pregnancy results in birth anyway, having used birthed control doesn't suddenly mean that child deserves to be abandoned to the state with no real parents. I don't want to support a movement that claims this is some universal right people should have over the well being of children abandoned as a result of this kind of practice.
posted by xarnop at 3:53 PM on November 9, 2012


Uh-- yeah when people are talking about the rights of people who would toss babies to the state to do so with a clear conscience and social approval-- I think it's relevant.

That really doesn't have anything to do with abortion. Do you think that if abortion were totally illegal, that would never happen again?

in abortion discussions it's often mentioned that adults have no responsability for a child just because they have sex--

If there's an abortion, there is no child to be responsible for. This is what I am finding so confusing about your comments.

why dopro-choicers so oftenmake remarks about how much they deserve sex without having to care about children who might result?

Because they don't plan to have any children?

Yeah, I am allabout getting birth control accessible, sex education, and abortion access---

So, great!

but if a pregnancy results in birth anyway, having used birthed control doesn't suddenly mean that child deserves to be abandoned to the state with no real parents

Nobody deserves something like that. In those cases maybe abortion is a better choice, hard to say since I'm not making that choice. But it still has zip all to do with birth control what people do with babies after they're born, except that I bet outcomes like this are a lot rarer when people have access to birth control and abortion.

I don't want to support a movement that claims this is some universal right people should have over the well being of children abandoned as a result of this kind of practice.

But the right to your own body is kind of a universal right (life, liberty, and security of person; No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.). I don't see any logical or necessary connection between people having sex and people abandoning children to the state. I don't see people and children in competition here. People don't have these rights "over" children; people have rights, period.

Anyway, you don't have to support a movement for lots more sex. I don't even know of such a movement, though there probably is one. I can tell you that I've had sex all my adult life, have enjoyed it, do have a right to it, and haven't abandoned any children to the state, so I still really don't see the connection, or how telling me not to have sex would prevent babies being abandoned to the state.

Here's the thought I'll leave you with. Since it looks like when we let women make their own informed choices about sex, there are not only less abortions but less unwanted pregnancies, then having the culture of women making their own informed choices about sex - even if their choice is to have it when you don't approve - is likely to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, so you should definitely be supporting it.
posted by Miko at 4:07 PM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Idon't disapprove of people having sex, I dissaprove of people planning to abandon children as if it's not a devastating thing to hurl on a child just for an orgasm. Some of these abandoned children are FEMALE and really, their well being ought to at least be on the radar of feminism? As should the welfare of all children be on the radar of human rights issues?

I agree with you completely on almost every point but the idea that prefering abandoning children over re-examining yourself and considering making even the slightest effort to find love in your heart for the being you created is some sort of human right we need to be fighting for adults to have. The unilateral right to sex EVEN IF a child happens to be created with no responsability to children created is not a pro-human rights position.

I think people should be able to get it on. And I think babies can happen, even when birth control is used. Abortions can help prevent that, which is why I support access, but I also think if we created a family friendly society for lower classes then having a surprise baby wouldn't always be the disaster it often is in terms pf plunging into poverty and poor quality of life. I fundamentally disagree with creating a society in which ultimately adults pressume the right to have sex and abandon any accidental children to terrible circumstances as a moral behavior. Legal? Depending on outcomes for children, potentially. But moral? No way. That's not my movement.

Basically if push comes to shove, I'm saying I don't support child abandonment as a parental right. Legal? As I said, safe haven laws are debatable in terms of outcomes and legality should be based on the welfare of children.

Really if accessto sex education, birth control, and men who use condoms and don't force unprotected sex on ladies life doodooheads were the norm-- then this would be a very rare issue indeed so it is a technicality, but one that I think carries deep meaning for how society treats abandoned children andsees their worth and right to love and belonging.
posted by xarnop at 4:40 PM on November 9, 2012


Where, in this thread, are people claiming that they have a moral right to abandon already born children ???

Really, I think I agree with most of your points, but you're making some kind of connection between "legal right to abortion" and "creating a society in which ultimately adults pressume the right to have sex and abandon any accidental children to terrible circumstances as a moral behavior" that I'm just not getting.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:50 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds like you're saying, "Don't have sex unless you're ready for an abortion or to parent - but don't plan on giving the kid up for adoption just to keep a clear conscience while you bang?"
posted by agregoli at 5:05 PM on November 9, 2012


Basically if push comes to shove, I'm saying I don't support child abandonment as a parental right.

OK, fine, but that is just s different subject than the subject of this thread, which is why someone who doesn't like abortion promote pro-choice policies.
posted by Miko at 5:40 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then you get into men wanting paper abortion to make every fair since all adults have a unilateral right to sex

This sentence doesn't actually make sense. What are the words 'paper' and 'fair' supposed to be?
posted by jacalata at 6:27 PM on November 9, 2012


I think it is referring to men who want the right to walk away from their parental responsibilities during pregnancy. Viewed as "fair" because women can do it via abortion.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:40 PM on November 9, 2012


Where, in this thread, are people claiming that they have a moral right to abandon already born children ???

That may have been me, upthread, saying that I absolutely support people being able to walk away from born children with deformities that would have been obvious in utero if their doctor hadn't lied to them out of some weird "pro-life" ethics.

So, if I'm the cause of this, sorry.
posted by corb at 12:06 AM on November 10, 2012


I think I get where xarnop is coming from now. First off, I do want to apologise xarnop for jumping down your throat earlier - I misunderstood your point entirely.

It is a bit of an unusual combination of anti-sex arguments and pro-choice ones, which is what I think is throwing people.

If I understand correctly this time, you're arguing that all born children should be loved and wanted; that responsible sex includes contraception, and that parents, even accidental ones, should care for the child if they do carry to term. That sex education and contraception should be widely available to help prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place; but women should not be forced into hormonal birth control as the only one to care about birth control. That abortion is preferable to parents having a child they don't want and abandoning them on a doorstop? Which are all broadly pro-choice arguments.

In addition though, you think pro-choicers, or at least liberals in general promote irresponsible sexual promiscuity; that liberals arguments in favour of women's sexual freedom promote consequence free sex, and a general disregard for the possibility of having children. (sexual freedom is my phrase for women's right to control their own sex lives, to have sexual agency, including having sex on their terms - yes means yes, as well as no meaning no, women are not sluts for liking sex etc)

With a tangent off into that we don't think sexual freedom extends to forcing someone to have sex with you, which is true (in fact, one of defining arguments of sexual freedom is that you shouldn't be coerced or forced to have sex with anyone); therefore we should also say to men and women they shouldn't have sex if they're not prepared to deal with having a child if they don't use contraception, it fails, or they don't have an abortion?

In effect, that liberal promotion of sexual freedom leads to people thinking they can have consequence-free sex, and thus leads to dead beat dads and child abandonment in the long run; and men thinking that they can have sex, and just tell the woman it's her fault for not being on the pill and should just get an abortion. All of which are generally arguments used by the anti-sex brigade, and also used to justify banning abortion and promoting abstinence outside marriage; and inside marriage, sex should primarily be about procreation- but that's not what I think you are saying.

The combination of the two into one set of arguments did confuse me, I'll admit.

But going back to re-read your first post, and your personal history, your subsequent ones do make a lot more sense.

I think there should be a lot more social stigma against men pressuring women into sex, particularly unprotected sex. And a lot more pressure for men to get vasectomies if they don't want to be responsable for children rather than pressuming they have the right to put a woman at risk of pregnancy and then shame her for not getting an abortion to fulfil his child free needs.

It just concerns me creating a culture where people assume they have the right to have sex even when they don't care about children created and anbandon chidren to any fate as part of "sexual liberation". I feel that's a terrible value and should not be used as the reason for abortion to be legal.

For me, sexual liberation is both the freedom to have sex, and the freedom to NOT have sex. Women have the right to control their own body - and they sure as hell shouldn't be pressured into sex when they don't want it. And men having sex, then telling the women when she gets pregnant that it's her problem to deal with is a symptom of a lack of sexual freedom, not caused by it.

It's certainly the case that in the world we live in, men enjoy far more sexual agency than women - that women are shamed and pressured or physically forced into having sex they don't want, and constantly subsumed in a culture that tells them that their bodies are for the gratification of men - they they do not control their own fate, and they should just suck it up when men take control of their bodies. And that some men will toss off 'well, just have an abortion then' if the girl ends up pregnant. And then she gets blamed for it, and is a slut for having sex...

And I totally agree that that is a huge ongoing problem that should be addressed much more than it is in society. I think I disagree though that it's pro-sexual liberation people that are behind it, or making the problem worse. If anything, sexual freedom advocates are advocating sexual freedom for women, not men - that women are subject to the whims of men far too much, and promoting sexual freedom is also promoting the right of women to be free from unwanted sex - to give them control of their own sex-lives and bodies, instead of having men dictate it to them.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:35 AM on November 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


[Comment deleted; feel free to join the conversation and engage by discussing any of the arguments presented here, but joining just to say that you didn't quite read all the comments, but want to say that people are disgusting and hypocritical isn't going to cut it.]
posted by taz at 4:43 AM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Further, the draft was only suspended in 1972, not outlawed. Men still have to register for the draft; the obvious message is that the government may at their option appropriate young men's bodies for its purposes. And its implications for rich versus poor is another red herring.

Finally, your counterargument about sexual assault convictions has absolutely nothing to do with military drafts, so... the point that men are sometimes asked to give up their agency for others still stands.

Attempts to illegalize abortions are about million times more common than advocates petitioning the government to reinstitute the draft, of course. And I'm opposed to both, of course.


I'm slightly confused because the last comment you quote is mine. Let me clarify my position.

My original comment was that there is a double standard when it comes to societal expectations about men and women. The draft might be suspended rather than abolished, but that is a technicality compared to the GOP using abortion as a wedge issue during the past few cycles.

If you look at the wealth gap in the U.S., women get the short end of the stick. Since the median man is wealthier than the median woman, saying that the poor are less able to evade the negative consequences of restrictive abortion laws and the (suspended) draft means that women are hurt disproportionately when a law can be sidestepped with sufficient money. Similarly, pointing out that, in an environment where men and women surrender some of their agency, women are still treated worse than men, seems germane to my point.
posted by ersatz at 6:03 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Idon't disapprove of people having sex, I dissaprove of people planning to abandon children as if it's not a devastating thing to hurl on a child just for an orgasm.

These people of whom you disapprove simply do not exist in any realistic sense. No one who is about to have sex, about to have an orgasm, laughs cruelly to themselves and says HAHA I AM GOING TO ABANDON THE CHILD THAT MAY POTENTIALLY OCCUR IN THIS SITUATION. This is not a real and legitimate thing to concern yourself with because this does not happen in the real world.
posted by elizardbits at 9:11 AM on November 10, 2012 [6 favorites]



Actually, they do. I've met them. And in general, many people DO say exactly that, that they have sex and use birth control but don't feel accountable to any children that happen on accident. As the discussion here turned to babies being dumped in state care, yes I feel it's saying that adults have unlimted right to have sex with no responsability for the suffering their actions cause to children.

To me, being responsable for a child doesn't mean being shamed for having sex. Sex is pretty normal. It means-- taking responsability for the child as best as possible. I.e. not assuming there is some right to create babies and dumpt them on the state OR the other parent.

I know MANY men, and who are liberals, who do in fact believe abortion means they have the right to sex without obligation to children created "by the woman's choice".

I'm saying, we should empower individuals who feel this way to take precaustions to be sterilized as close to 100% as possible AND to be accountable to children created even by accident if it were to happen.
posted by xarnop at 10:23 AM on November 10, 2012


People who aren't prepared to have a child every single time they have sex should be sterilized? Your logic is not the earth logic, sorry.
posted by elizardbits at 10:28 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, no one should be forcibly sterilized. People who choose to have sex should be accountable to their children if a child happens. Socially we shold encourage people who choose to have sex to assume that if any accident happens and a child is born the people who had the sex and caused the child to be created should do what they can to make sure the child is well cared for.
posted by xarnop at 10:31 AM on November 10, 2012


How did we get this far off-topic?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:16 AM on November 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Maybe what we should have is mandatory, science-based sex education. Maybe what we should have is affordable, accessible family planning - especially for young people who are still dependent on their parents. Maybe what we should have is excellent, accessible family support - housing assistance, job assistance, childcare assistance, legal assistance.

Ranting on the internet about some alleged huge cohort of carefree sex-having people who want nothing more than to drop unwanted babies off at the fire station is, I'm sorry, pointlessly foolish. What are you doing, concretely, to create a world where this doesn't have to ever happen? Do you volunteer time or money to groups that work to provide sex education? Do you volunteer time or money to groups that work to create better support networks for families under stress? Do you volunteer time or money to groups that provide low-cost childcare? That help parents learn parenting skills?

There's a million other things I can think of that are SO MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE than what you're doing here. You can "people should!" all you like on the internet. God knows I do it myself. It's also not the only thing I do.
posted by rtha at 11:27 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


[xarnop and people responding to xarnop, you've made your points, please let that topic drop now. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:36 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


How did we get this far off-topic?

Because the taproots of this topic reach down to the core of who we are. Our very interpretation of reality itself. It brings so much else into question. And it is well that it should.
posted by cross_impact at 2:41 PM on November 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Our neighbor has a giant, 100+ year old oak tree. Walking down my driveway this time of year, I inevitably crush dozens of acorns. Every single one of those acorns is an embryo, an egg fertilized by a sperm, that, if left to its own devices, will develop into an oak tree. Every time I walk down my driveway, am I destroying an entire oak forest? Or, is there a fundamental difference between the potential life contained in an acorn and my neighbor's beautiful 100 year old oak tree?
posted by hydropsyche at 5:10 PM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's why teleology is wrong.
posted by klangklangston at 5:27 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not a perfect example. Humans don't randomly drop off fetuses along the driveway for a reason, we are really different lifeforms with very different reproductive strategies.

A pro-lifer might say yeah, you did kill oak trees, but so what? You're gonna compare that to killing people?
posted by Drinky Die at 6:02 PM on November 10, 2012


is there a fundamental difference between the potential life contained in an acorn and my neighbor's beautiful 100 year old oak tree?

Just fyi, George and Tollefsen's book that I mentioned earlier addresses this acorn / oak tree analogy. They probably address your specific question, but all I can remember of the acorn / oak tree section is, IIRC, something like "we do not value the oak tree for the kind of thing that it is. We honour it for being beautiful, giving us shade, for lending grandeur to our outdoor spaces." Therefore, they argue, it's a poor analogy to abortion because "we" value the embryo for the kind of thing it is, ie, human.

I have to say despite the many problems I had with that book, I found it illuminated for me many features of pro-life ideology that I had previously found utterly nonsensical. (I still find them nonsensical, but now I have better context for understanding why they think it makes sense.) In fact I would recommend the book to other pro-choicers who want to exercise their pro-choice argumentation. The authors have carefully avoided "cuz, hey, [my version of] God," in their rationales, because of course among people of widely ranging religious and philosophical beliefs, that's just a dead end as far as rational debate and exchange of ideas goes.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:07 PM on November 10, 2012


Humans don't randomly drop off fetuses along the driveway for a reason'

Yeah, but we do; as noted above, our bodies generate more fertilized zygotes than will ever be carried to term, in a probability game that doesn't result in birth a lot of the time.

Because the taproots of this topic reach down to the core of who we are. Our very interpretation of reality itself. It brings so much else into question. And it is well that it should.

That all sounds nice but I'm really not sure what it means. I'm not sure these discussions "reach down to the core of who we are." I'm basically just aware that some people want to control what I find to be very personal decisions. I'm not sure that's "the core of who I am," but it's certainly important to my self-determination and ability to build a life I find valuable and meaningful.
posted by Miko at 6:57 PM on November 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


As a biologist, I value an acorn (oak tree embryo) and a human embryo exactly the same. They both derive their value from their potential to develop into adult beings. They are actually likely evolutionarily homologous--we probably share a common ancestor with plants that had embryos created by the fertilization of an egg by a sperm.

In particular, as a carbon biogeochemist with a serious concern about climate change, I especially value the ability of that potential forest to take up a large quantity of carbon. Other important ecological functions include producing acorns to feed wildlife and of course the important role of decaying leaves as the base of aquatic and terrestrial detrital foodwebs. I don't really care that much about how pretty it is or whether it gives people shade.

It is not shocking that the men who wrote an anti-abortion book might place a different value on oak tree embryos from mine, just as they place a different value on human embryos from mine. To me, human embryos are a potential, no more than an acorn, and fetuses aren't much more. They are also a threat to my life. Just as you might consider my perspective about trees more useful than that of the authors of that book, because I accept modern science, you might consider my perspective about human embryos to be more useful, since I am a woman whose life would be ruined by being forced to let one develop inside my body.

An acorn is not a perfect metaphor for a human embryo, but people's responses to that metaphor are very illuminating.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:18 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


And then, from mine and very many other people's viewpoints that human embryo is made in the image of God and deserves respect for that reason as well.

I really do not think this discussion can ever truly be had without dragging faith into it, really.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:15 PM on November 11, 2012


And then, from mine and very many other people's viewpoints that human embryo is made in the image of God and deserves respect for that reason as well.

Back-construction. Embryos were unknown when your religion was invented.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:43 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really do not think this discussion can ever truly be had without dragging faith into it, really.

Of course it can. That's what a discussion of a civil issue is; setting aside the various faiths people observe in order to define a middle ground where the common good is recognized and promoted.

I think what you mean is something more like that there's no way you can maintain your own point of view on this issue without bringing religion into it; if you don't bring the religion in, you can't prevail in the argument. Because all it is is a religious point of view; there are no empirical arguments for this point of view that others can recognize are promoting the good. That's the inherent difficulty religious arguments for prohibition will always face.
posted by Miko at 5:02 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I really do not think this discussion can ever truly be had without dragging faith into it, really.

Maybe not, but the articles in the FPP certainly raise some questions regarding the intersection of what you could call the "faith-based pro-life movement" with Western (especially US) society as a whole. To wit:

1) How does your faith prevent you from supporting more widespread and comprehensive public sex education as a way to reduce the number of unplanned & unwanted pregnancies, and therefore the number of abortions?

2) How does your faith prevent you from supporting more widespread & comprehensive distribution of various forms of birth control, especially publicly financed free or low-cost options, resulting in fewer abortions?

3) How does your faith prevent you from supporting a deep and wide public safety net for women, so that children that are a result of an unplanned pregnancy have a better chance of being raised in a healthy environment, resulting in fewer abortions?

4) How does your faith take precedence over one of the founding principles of the US - separation of church & state?

(Please note, St. Alia, that I'm not asking these questions of you directly. I'm pointing out that the author of the original article began asking these questions, and the answers she got caused her to question the honesty and sincerity of the current pro-life movement.)
posted by soundguy99 at 5:23 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which is to say, I'm not trying to interrogate you. I'm attempting to draw the focus back a bit more towards the original article.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:26 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"And then, from mine and very many other people's viewpoints that human embryo is made in the image of God and deserves respect for that reason as well.

I really do not think this discussion can ever truly be had without dragging faith into it, really.
"

The other problem, past soundguy's rhetorical questions, is that your faith is not universal. It's irrational, even arational, and using that to make policy decisions for other people is deeply problematic.

To wit, arguing that a human embryo is made in the image of God doesn't actually justify that respect if someone else doesn't share your interpretation of faith. Thus, it isn't fair to them to insist on your fundamentally unprovable intuition about the world, especially in the face of actual facts that the secular world and secular policy are based on.
posted by klangklangston at 7:53 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, the original article showed that it's possible to be anti-abortion and religious, without wanting to restrict sex education or birth control.

If people who are anti-abortion want to have any success with reducing the number of abortions, then they need to change tactics ASAP because:

- laws against abortion do not reduce the number of abortions.
- freely available birth control and sex education drastically reduce the number of abortions.
- you cannot impose your religious beliefs on other people.
- it's highly unlikely you will be able to convert everyone to sharing your religious beliefs.

Pro-choicers (myself included) should also reach out to the many anti-abortion people who acknowledge the truth of the statements above. We already accomodate a variety of beliefs on abortion because our simple goal is to have pregnancy decisions made by a woman and her doctor without interference from the government of the day, and we leave the rest up to individual belief. But we could show more support to people who are initially uncomfortable with aligning themselves with such an (unfairly) maligned group as pro-choicers, or who will face social disapproval for doing so.
posted by harriet vane at 8:21 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really do not think this discussion can ever truly be had without dragging faith into it, really.

Yes, it can. But it would require people of faith to acknowledge that they have no right to enshrine their beliefs in legislation. They can try to persuade, they can act according to their faith in their own lives. But they do not have the right to compel a woman to incubate new life by force of law.

And really, you'd think religious people of all types would be more wary of allowing governments to legislate faith-based behaviour. What if some time in the future a government supports a faith that is anathema to your own? Do you want legislation forcing you to obey the tenets of a religion you don't believe in? No? Then you can't make your beliefs the law of the land either. It's the only protection you have for your freedom of religion.

And if religious people would acknowledge these truths, then we could talk about laws that allow people to practice their religion without imposing it on others. Until then, we'll keep getting into useless discussions about hypothetical violin players and comparative theology (no insult intended towards people who brought up those topics - they're just highly attractive tangents, is all).
posted by harriet vane at 8:39 PM on November 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Then you can't make your beliefs the law of the land either. It's the only protection you have for your freedom of religion.

Yes. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

That second clause is crucial. Leaving aside any hypothetical future scenarios, it's simply a core tenet of the U.S. Passing legislation based on one branch of Christian beliefs, no matter how popular or widespread, is inherently prohibiting other religions from the free exercise of their beliefs.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:40 PM on November 11, 2012


All those arguments aside-if my faith is true, God trumps every single one of those points.


The fact that many of you would not see things from that perspective is why we have this thread, and why there is this discussion out there in the world at large. Because the view that "abortion is wrong" is not disconnectable at all from God's view of the purpose and boundaries of sexuality. (I know that Catholics and most Protestants draw the lines a bit differently on the topic of birth control but I am taking a wider view here.)

You don't have to post "But your faith is WRONG or not applicable or yaddayaddayadda" because I already know from your vantage point that is how you'd have to see it. But from where I stand I have to see it, well, differently."
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:57 AM on November 12, 2012


All those arguments aside-if my faith is true, God trumps every single one of those points.

Well and that's a big "if" and one that needs to be considered alongside the Constitution that says "It doesn't matter what your faith says, we govern the country for people of all faiths." I'm not arguing that you can't personally feel whatever you want in your heart of hearts, but you need to be willing to be citizens alongside people from different faith traditions or no faith tradition according to the governing documents of the country you live in.
posted by jessamyn at 6:53 AM on November 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


All those arguments aside-if my faith is true, God trumps every single one of those points.

Yes, we all have heard the doors of the minds of "pro-lifers" slamming shut on a regular basis.

But consider this. The Bible (or, with few exceptions, whatever holy book you rely on) does not help you sort this out, since it is a) inconsistent on this topic, and b) was written before anyone knew about the details of sexual reproduction, so couldn't weigh in on the value of embryos/fetuses. So, you either you allow exceptions for the life and health of the mother (or for rape and incest) or you don't. If you do, that means you acknowledge that there is a moral trade-off between the value of the mother's life and that of the embryo/fetus and then we're not talking about any absolute right to life but rather under what circumstances the rights of the mother trump the rights of the embryo/fetus. If you don't, then you are completely ignoring the right to life of the mother, in which case you really have admitted you aren't pro-life, you're pro-embryo/fetus, which is not really all that defensible morally or ethically and certainly has no fundamental origin in any religion, but rather is a relatively new phenomenon born as much by politics as by religion.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:43 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm pro-choice, but anyone who thinks that religion and faith has no impact on the laws of this country should take a good, hard look at our current legal system. I do not agree that faith should have an impact on the laws of our country, but people who think that faith should are not coming from out of nowhere on this. They're coming from a country that has spent 200 years enshrining laws that are about religion or the result of religion or religious or spiritual values. Many people here are talking about their wish to have their spiritual values towards human rights encoded in law.

We can't talk about laws without talking about morality, because laws are just codified morality.
posted by corb at 7:54 AM on November 12, 2012


laws are just codified morality

But some of the moral assumptions of our law include the fact that there is reasonable debate about morality. As people who lived under religious tests under the English crown, the founders were very careful to allow for differing points of view, which is exactly why they rejected the idea of establishing a state religion. It strikes me as usual that some of the general moral predilections of US law are founded in Western European Judeo-Christian law, since the founders grew up with that orientation, and the legal tradition was dominated by that perspective for a couple of centuries at least, and it's still very influential if no longer quite dominant. But that there is reasonable debate among people of goodwill is enshrined in our national philosophy, and meant to account for differences in worldview which will inevitably arise.

Outcomes and utilitarian approaches also suggest a morality, and most of the arguments here about outcomes for women, families, babies and the society are utilitarian in nature: we can control outcomes, not beliefs; so perhaps we should seek to control the outcomes we believe together may be negative or at least not ideal.
posted by Miko at 8:41 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"You don't have to post "But your faith is WRONG or not applicable or yaddayaddayadda" because I already know from your vantage point that is how you'd have to see it. But from where I stand I have to see it, well, differently.""

Yes, which is why attitudes like yours are dangerous, close-minded and should be given no weight in policy decisions.

Whether God exists is fundamentally unprovable. Because of that, while it's fine to conduct your own life according to your own beliefs, a bulwark is needed in public policy to prevent those beliefs from becoming the de facto policy without other, more important justifications.

"I'm pro-choice, but anyone who thinks that religion and faith has no impact on the laws of this country should take a good, hard look at our current legal system"

That's a fair point, but one, I dont think anyone is saying that religion and faith haven't had an impact — rather, people are saying they shouldn't — and two, that only works when everyone shares a religion. Now, more than any time in our nation's past, that's not true.
posted by klangklangston at 9:09 AM on November 12, 2012


The other thing I don't always see the argument is why God's perceived demands on any individual follower of a faith need to be enshrined in politics. Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's, God what is God's. The civic sphere really shouldn't matter to that sort of conception of God.

If this one issue deserves to be enshrined in law, why not all religiously informed issues? Why not a totalitarian religious government that enshrines all the beliefs of your favorite religion in law?

Is that what those who have a religious belief about abortion really do want and support, and this abortion issue is just one example?
posted by Miko at 9:31 AM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


My comment was more geared, I guess with the folks who would say "well, you are against abortion, and this such and such thing (for example making contraceptives available in high schools) would cause fewer abortions, so you are a hypocrite if you are not in favor of such and such a Thing." So, in my line of belief/thought, one cannot separate the right to life part from the other moral issues. They are all part of one interconnected whole. This is why what would seem on some people's parts as a very reasonable compromise would be seen by me as unacceptable. Because, hey, God.

Maybe a worthy thought experiment for some of you would be this. Let's say that you are an atheist-well, for the purpose of the thought experiment, think of an omnipresent omnipotent good and wise Supreme Being. Think of Him inspiring a Book with His thoughts in it, directions on the proper way of being in relation to Him. Think of Him actually being the creator and sustainer of all you see and all you are. Now, in this thought experiment (and relax, I am only asking you to have a thought experiment here, not a conversion or religious experience) think of how if this was all really true, and your actions and thoughts were accountable to this thought experiment Supreme Being....how would that change your thoughts, opinions, and actions?


Totally different, huh?

I know most still won't agree with me and my more conservative ilk on things like abortion and such, but at least your experiment might make it easier to understand why we act and believe as we do.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:45 AM on November 12, 2012


Miko, I don't want a theocratic government UNTIL Jesus comes back and institutes it Himself with Him on the throne. There are groups out there I consider wackadoo and unfortunately I don't trust them with governance.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:46 AM on November 12, 2012


"how would that change your thoughts, opinions, and actions? "

Really? Very, very little.

As Hobbes said, the time of miracles is clearly over, and it's entirely possible to be a pro-choice Christian — there's a pretty sizable Christian Left in this country that manages to support all sorts of stuff I believe in.

But the problem of evil is still there, and the problem of mutually contradictory beliefs, and (on this issue), it's not like the Bible nor Judeo-Christian faith traditions are all of one mind.

You can believe in all of those things you listed and still come to the conclusions that animate my position — many people have done so — so the problem isn't so much the general belief in God and faith as the interpretation and application that I disagree with, and that particular brand of faith that is corrosive to reason and compromise.
posted by klangklangston at 11:57 AM on November 12, 2012


Let's say that you are an atheist-well, for the purpose of the thought experiment, think of an omnipresent omnipotent good and wise Supreme Being. Think of Him inspiring a Book with His thoughts in it, directions on the proper way of being in relation to Him. Think of Him actually being the creator and sustainer of all you see and all you are. Now, in this thought experiment (and relax, I am only asking you to have a thought experiment here, not a conversion or religious experience) think of how if this was all really true, and your actions and thoughts were accountable to this thought experiment Supreme Being....how would that change your thoughts, opinions, and actions?

I am a Christian. I believe in all of those things except the Him part (I'm pretty comfortable with God not being a dude), and I'm sure we totally disagree on what the word creator means. I disagree with you on what God is telling us through that Book, and on pretty much everything else. I would rather live in a country where our beliefs are equally respected, and that respect is equal to the respect paid to the beliefs of everybody else.

It's not a failure of imagination on my part, or on the part of Libby Anne in the original post, to understand where you're coming from. We just think you're wrong.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:17 PM on November 12, 2012


You can think I am wrong. I just am defending myself against prior charges of hypocrisy.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:18 PM on November 12, 2012


Miko, I don't want a theocratic government UNTIL Jesus comes back and institutes it Himself with Him on the throne.

Then why are you pushing to create His government here on earth now?

Totally different, huh?

Er, no, not really. My positions are also informed by my Christian faith - it's just not the same as your faith (and there are as many Biblical interpretations as Baskin-Robbins flavors, so pointing to "book!" tends to fall flat in these discussions).

Regardless of faith, I accept that civil law must be used to achieve civil ends. If faith informs you about which ends are good to aim for, you must still use the means provided by the civil law process, working with others on the common ground you can define, to achieve civil ends. Religious ends require religious means; and we all tend to go to town on those, right to associate and all. Civil ends, though, require using civil means.

I just am defending myself against prior charges of hypocrisy.

I haven't thought you were a hypocrite since I learned that saving your own soul by adhering to the doctrine you believe in is actually more important to you than saving fetal lives. I think it's just fair to be honest about that.

Even for people who believe that, the focus on the supposed sins of others that drives people to push for law on these matters always strikes me as suspicious, something that doesn't sit too well with my definition of Christian.
posted by Miko at 12:33 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Standards of hypocrisy differ, but I don't see "God said so," as a good defense against very many of them.

It would be better to say something like, "I know that social policies like these can cause a great deal of harm, but I and everyone is my community is able willing to do the very hard work of mitigating those harms. Here's how we would do so..."
posted by wobh at 12:37 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are just a number of people who believe that policies that seek to fully control reproductive decisions best uphold their standards of religious behavior.

These are people who are pretty much never going to be pro-choice; they're the people about whom we say "you're more interested in controlling women then you are in preventing unwanted pregnancy or abortion."

It is true for some people that the issues around the fetus are totally secondary to issues around using a particular religious standard to enforce behavior. What becomes confusing is when they start talking about how important fetuses are when that's not really their focus. That's exactly what confounds the discussion and exactly what the post is about: separating the sheet from the goats on the moral concerns related to this issue.

So it's up to the rest of us, religious and non-religious, who want to do something about improving reproductive outcomes to discard the resentment, get together and define those outcomes, and then produce them. We can find a lot of common ground, regardless of religious-moral concerns, if what we're focused on is reducing harm.
posted by Miko at 12:51 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Outcomes and utilitarian approaches also suggest a morality, and most of the arguments here about outcomes for women, families, babies and the society are utilitarian in nature: we can control outcomes, not beliefs; so perhaps we should seek to control the outcomes we believe together may be negative or at least not ideal.

I mostly agree. I'm definitely of the opinion that we should work together on outcomes regardless of the paths we take to get there. But agreeing as I do that utilitarian approaches are definitely a morality, it might be easier to get to those outcomes without using the utilitarian approach (That might ping against different moralities). Instead, it might work better if we simply said, "I want this. Do you want this? Okay, are we both willing to give up Y to get this?"
posted by corb at 1:37 PM on November 12, 2012


It isn't about my eternal destination; that is already settled. It is about my quest to love what He loves, hate what He hates, and follow His will to the best of my ability, knowing that that ability will grow as He works in me to will and to do all His will. So, I endeavor to do everything, to include vote, according to how I believe He would do it in my place. Because in a sense that is exactly what is happening, spiritually. For a lot of people, not just me, our faith IS our life, to include its totality. By default then our political views and/or activity (or lack thereof) has to be an outgrowth of our faith, because that's all that there is.


For those that do not subscribe to my brand of spirituality, you can have categories of life. Political, social, even for some, spiritual. Me, I really can't.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:40 PM on November 12, 2012


Why do you believe Jesus would vote against safe, legal abortion?

it might work better if we simply said, "I want this. Do you want this? Okay, are we both willing to give up Y to get this?"

I don't disagree; in practice, that's exactly how it does work, and it's consistent with what I described. When we say "I want this, do you want this?" the word "this" signifies "these outcomes." Working backward from the outcomes, we arrive at policy proposals.
posted by Miko at 1:43 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Emerging Pro-Choice Majority
posted by homunculus at 2:08 PM on November 12, 2012


It isn't about my eternal destination; that is already settled.

!!!!

It is about my quest to love what He loves, hate what He hates, and follow His will to the best of my ability, knowing that that ability will grow as He works in me to will and to do all His will.

Well, to do that you need to know, in each instance, what the will, love, and hate entail. You have a few choices, near as I can tell. You can read the Bible, but as I pointed out above, it is a very problematic to obtain direct guidance by that book from any objective point of view. For example, nowhere in that book does it say that terminating a pregnancy in the embryonic stage is a no-no. Jesus never addresses the issue at all. Those that claim the Bible addresses the issue have had to do some creative interpretation of a lot of ambiguous or not-quite-relevant passages, and have ignored others. Another option is to take general principles that seem to be espoused by the Founder and apply them intelligently to current issues. Yet another would be to listen to the leaders of a particular brand of Christianity and accept on faith what they have said the proper interpretation of the Bible is in regard to a particular issue, but see the first option. Finally, God may be speaking directly to you in English using exact phrasing to let you know you are right. But if this were really important to the creator of the universe, I'm pretty sure it would be clear to every one of us, not just to a select minority, unless, of course, this is a trickster creator who enjoys making things difficult.

In any event, however you came to your belief that abortions are forbidden under certain circumstances, you have to do better than "God told me," because you are masking the process by which you came to believe that whatever "voice" you're hearing is genuine and not just one of the many false prophets we all have to deal with from day-to-day. In other words, your faith doesn't give you a bye on actual discourse if you want to participate in the discussion. It's only effective if you want to somehow seize control and force other people to follow your beliefs without any effort to convince them it is a valuable and moral thing to do.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:10 PM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are groups out there I consider wackadoo and unfortunately I don't trust them with governance.

Everyone has groups they don't trust. It's not unique to you, every denomination, every individual feels that way. But we have to find a way to govern anyway, and the only way that doesn't lead to a messy war of 72 different sets of beliefs vying for power is for everyone to agree to leave their religion out of the laws of the nation.

Breaking the separation of church and state seems like a good idea when you're in the majority. But no-one will be able to help you when later on you're the minority, and no-one will have much sympathy for your troubles either. Separation of church and state protects us all, but some religious people are so keen to abandon it without understanding the consequences to their own lives.
posted by harriet vane at 9:46 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Irish Times: Woman Denied a 'Termination' Dies in Hospital.
posted by Miko at 7:15 PM on November 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Savita Halappanavar and the Long Shadow of the X-Case
posted by homunculus at 7:30 PM on November 13, 2012


Denying Women Abortion Access Increases Their Risk Of Falling Into Poverty
posted by homunculus at 8:26 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Extending homonculus' last link: What Happens to Women Denied Abortions, a longitudinal analysis by the Global Turnaway Study of the group Advancing New Standards in REproductive Health.
posted by Miko at 5:48 AM on November 14, 2012


United Nations Declares Access To Contraception A ‘Universal Human Right’
posted by homunculus at 11:37 AM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


“Religion” keeps a woman from getting a lifesaving abortion: A Galway hospital is under investigation for refusing to offer necessary treatment to a woman having a miscarriage
posted by homunculus at 11:41 AM on November 14, 2012


1,000 demonstrate outside Leinster House over lack of abortion legislation
posted by homunculus at 11:43 AM on November 14, 2012


From the io9 article:
To prevent women from having to rely on public assistance, abortions should be made more widely available. In addition, there is strong evidence that making abortions available will allow women to be healthier, with brighter economic outlooks. By turning women away when they seek abortions, we risk keeping both women and their children in poverty — and, possibly, in harm's way from domestic violence.
As always, it's society's most vulnerable who are harmed by moral crusades.
posted by harriet vane at 9:09 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rachel Maddow: How long can GOP continue to ignore the will of women?
posted by homunculus at 2:09 AM on November 15, 2012


Savita Halappanavar's medically unnecessary death

Did Irish Catholic law or malpractice kill Savita Halappanavar?
posted by rory at 3:30 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ohio House Committee Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood
posted by homunculus at 1:20 PM on November 15, 2012


I just don't see Jesus voting for this stuff.
posted by Miko at 2:48 PM on November 15, 2012


If you are thinking the Lord Jesus Christ approves of abortion I must tell you we are in total disagreement on that particular point of theology.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:21 PM on November 15, 2012


Death in Ireland is a Wake Up Call to Fight Bans on Later Abortion Here at Home
posted by homunculus at 6:55 PM on November 15, 2012


Savita Halapannavar, ‘Twilight’s Bella Swan, Abortion, And Valuing Our Own Lives
posted by homunculus at 7:03 PM on November 15, 2012


If you are thinking the Lord Jesus Christ approves of abortion I must tell you we are in total disagreement on that particular point of theology.

So in your estimation Christ's solution was that Savita Halappanavar should die? Really?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:00 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the Lord Jesus Christ disapproves of abortion he would vote for the policies that actually reduce it, not bans.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:12 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Since I rarely get a chance to talk to people who oppose abortion rights, I would really appreciate an honest answer to the following:

Any one who has posted in this thread (or has been lurking in it up to now) who says they draw their position on abortion from God, Jesus Christ, or the Bible, what would be your advice to the doctor in the case of Savita Halappanavar? (If you haven't heard about the case, here's a quick link, though googling her name will certainly give you more links than you can read.) It would help me understand you position(s) to hear how they play out in this particular concrete case.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:15 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


He certainly wouldn't approve of promoting increased child poverty, neglect, and abuse, or unreasoning and pointless death, and I suspect would want us to do whatever we can to reduce those conditions from happening and also to reduce the number of abortions overall, most likely. So he would support our efforts to make those things happen, knowing as he would that they come from compassion and a serious interest in the health and care of mothers and children.

He also wouldn't want or expect us to sit in judgment of others.
posted by Miko at 8:17 PM on November 15, 2012


At this point arguments from TFA waaaaay up at the top of the thread are being presented as though they have not been seen yet. Which, yeah, it does seem like they've been forgotten, but it makes me wonder what the point is of bringing them up again?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:27 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Jesus didn't want people to have abortions, he should have said something specific about it. Once again we get back to so much of religion being based on opinion. If we've got data on the harm done by abortion vs the harm done by forced pregnancy, let's use that. If all we've got is opinions, then let's go with mine.

Oh wait, we've got proof that forced pregnancy is worse than abortion? Well then, that's settled. No-one is allowed to force someone else to go through with a pregnancy, you can only choose for yourself and no-one else.
posted by harriet vane at 8:45 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


So Miko, your reading is that

1) the death of Savita was "unreasoning and pointless", and
2) (I'm inferring here) the doctor should have aborted the fetus in an attempt to prevent the death.

Do I have that right? And is it possible for you to say to what extent each of those views are influenced by your Christian faith?

/I'd also still like to hear from others.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:59 PM on November 15, 2012


If God's omnipotent and really didn't want people to have abortions, they wouldn't exist. If our Lord Jesus Christ, Peace Be Upon Him, wanted to never have a woman die from not getting an abortion, he would use magic. Or a miracle.

But He didn't, so He doesn't and Jesus can't vote because he's got no ID.
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know how much we all want to get into the sort of useless debate of what Jesus/God thinks but let's please try not to get all up into the Magic Sky Wizard thing? Again? This post actually has a very specific point, which is asking whether a principled position (in this case religious, but it could just as well be a moral position that doesn't rely on religion) against abortion that in itself functionally promotes more abortion is supportable. To me it's similar to a Trolley Problem, in that such an exercise can be discussed without devolving into a dissection of the mind of God or another atheism/theism/flavor-of-theism showdown. I think the central question remains the same whether the moral position against abortion under any circumstances is a fixed nonreligious personal belief, or a belief taught in church. Is it more important to do right, in terms of what you view as morally right, even if successfully promoting that position directly leads to more of what you view as evil?
posted by taz at 12:22 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


That poor woman was a victim of medical malpractice, in my opinion. Has nothing to do with the greater question, or SHOULD have nothing to do with it, except for her doctors' misinterpretation of the facts.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:23 AM on November 16, 2012


If the Lord Jesus Christ disapproves of abortion he would vote for the policies that actually reduce it, not bans


If someone follows the tenets of Jesus the only reason ever to terminate a pregnancy would be an ectopic pregnancy or any other rare case where the woman would die if the pregnancy did not end (see Cecily Kellogg's experience, for those of you who follow that blogger. She and I discussed it a few years back via private email).

You may not like His guidance, but don't say it wasn't given.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:25 AM on November 16, 2012


I'm not so sure it's a "useless debate" if someone is sincerely interested in discovering a religiously based rationale for supporting pro-choice legislation that they had not considered before. And I would really be happy to never see the term "Sky Wizard" again; I'm not sure if someone used it and got deleted or what, but I try not to minimize non-theist points of view and I don't like minimizing theist ones.

It goes to the heart of your question: how can you hold a principled position when that position is exactly promotes more evil? The answer for some people is clearly that it's more important to hold the position than to produce less evil. This is an answer concerned mostly with the individual's standing and pledges of behavior and not with outcomes. For others, it's more important to look at what we're promoting - what outcomes result from our positions, what we can be held responsible for as our legacy in the world. These are equally viable positions in a religious or a secular context.

But, just as with the Trolley problem, there are no clear and absolute answers, so answers have to be built upon an assumed principle at some point. For the first group, the assumed principle is "It's most important to obey the teachings of my church, regardless of the outcomes they produce. Therefore, to do right, it is only necessary to know what the church teaches." For the second group, the assumed principle may be "It's most important to act in the world to bring about [set of outcomes] that my religion collectively promotes as good. To do right, it is only necessary to ask "How do we best produce those outcomes."

When we're in a realm in which much religion has become obsessed with this question of managing pregnancy and birth, to engage this debate is to deal with those religiously influenced first principles of reasoning. I don't personally have any truck with dogmas that are more about obedience than about work in the world, but many do, and if you ask them which is more important, as we've seen, they'll of course say their principled standing is just more important. That's where the reasoning begins for them.

Obedient to what? is the next question, since today's pro-life stance has a pretty tenuous connection to anything in any version of the Bible and is pretty much a result of modern and contemporary church leaders' thinking. Mental Wimp's commentwas a powerful one in that light.
posted by Miko at 6:26 AM on November 16, 2012


If someone follows the tenets of Jesus the only reason ever to terminate a pregnancy would be an ectopic pregnancy or any other rare case where the woman would die if the pregnancy did not end

If this is so transparently obvious I wonder why so many people disagreed with it forty years ago.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:08 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


If someone follows the tenets of Jesus the only reason ever to terminate a pregnancy would be an ectopic pregnancy or any other rare case where the woman would die if the pregnancy did not end (see Cecily Kellogg's experience, for those of you who follow that blogger. She and I discussed it a few years back via private email).

You may not like His guidance, but don't say it wasn't given.


And if you follow the tenets of Jesus there is no reason for you ever to have sex out of wedlock, but he wouldn't vote to ban that either.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:44 AM on November 16, 2012


Jesus or any other god or goddess doesn't have any bearing in this discussion. Confused about the turn here.
posted by agregoli at 8:29 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you are thinking the Lord Jesus Christ approves of abortion I must tell you we are in total disagreement on that particular point of theology.

And you know this how?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:59 AM on November 16, 2012


And if you follow the tenets of Jesus there is no reason for you ever to have sex out of wedlock

When and where exactly did he say this?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:06 AM on November 16, 2012


17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

posted by Drinky Die at 9:12 AM on November 16, 2012


That poor woman was a victim of medical malpractice, in my opinion.

I'm not sure how you can assert this when the exact reason the malpractice occurred was the nation's legal prohibition on abortion. Under this law, it would have been considered to remove the miscarrying fetus.

You may not like His guidance, but don't say it wasn't given.

But it wasn't given. There are only a few oblique discussions of miscarriage and abortion in the Bible, and no direct prohibitions. To use the Bible to construct an argument against abortion, you need to rely on the teachings and interpretations of human beings. Whether you believe those particular human beings are properly divinely guided is a matter of your personal choice in selecting faith leaders and a matter of reasonable skepticism on the part of other people and other, dissenting faith leaders. There is simply no clear directive in the Bible.

Thou shalt do no murder

Sure. I'm sure everyone here has encountered the Ten Commandments. But what hasn't been demonstrated - not even in the Bible - is that abortion qualifies murder. There is at least one passage that suggests it does not.
posted by Miko at 9:19 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was quoted for the adultery part. And yeah that doesn't cover all extramarital sex, but the point there is that Jesus can disapprove of something without that implying a legal prohibition is necessary.

The best way to express disapproval with abortion is to follow the policies that reduce it and not casting the first stone at sinners.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:23 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, sorry to get all snarky and dangerously close to the Invisible Sky Wizard, but the pronouncements about God's plan and Jesus's will strike me as such obtuse nonsense that they essentially feel like an intentional abnegation of the idea of a rational conversation about this. They're ahistorical, Scripturally dubious and rationally risible. They're not an argument, they're an assertion from faith and fingers jammed in ears accompanied by chanting na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-can't-hear-you.
posted by klangklangston at 10:08 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Klangklangston, the trouble with your argument is I would have absolutely agreed with you....until I met Him. Things cleared up remarkably after that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:20 PM on November 16, 2012


Klangklangston, the trouble with your argument is I would have absolutely agreed with you....until I met Him.

I am totally fine with your personal beliefs, but I fail to see how your personal experience of religion can be the rationale for a law.
posted by chrchr at 12:24 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that's nice and all, but doesn't have anything to do with making law that applies to everyone. Good for personal background, pointless for discussion about allowing or disallowing abortion.
posted by agregoli at 12:30 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die: the point there is that Jesus can disapprove of something without that implying a legal prohibition is necessary.
So the only arbiter (of any real & lasting consequence) of morality in the entire universe ... sometimes disapproves of things, but doesn't bother going so far as to tell his worshipers he does so?

Your god is tricksy. I don't like him.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:39 PM on November 16, 2012


I did not say that, no. What I am saying is he does not necessarily endorse theocratic lawmaking.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:46 PM on November 16, 2012


17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,


Hmmm. Nothing about premarital sex or abortion you can point to?
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2012


You seem to be missing my point.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:49 PM on November 16, 2012


You seem to be missing my point.

Sorry, I thought you were responding to me. And, yes, it seems to be a very select set of wedge-issue "sins" that the religious right wants to turn into laws. The supporters of these initiatives don't seem to be aware that they are being used for purely political ends having nothing to do with the issues themselves.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:58 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


the trouble with your argument is I would have absolutely agreed with you....until I met Him.

On what basis would you convince people who haven't met this same entity to follow your recommendations on this issue?

From the outside, your account of having a direct experience with someone or something you perceive as divine is indistinguishable from any other account of anyone else's direct experience of that kind, whether it's with God, Jesus, Mohammed, a extraterrestial being, Haile Selassie, Jim Jones, Our Lady of Fatima, or whomever. You had a personal encounter with someone or something that convinced you its pronouncements were right, and you understand it to have pronounced something about abortion. Given that you have to live in a world in which a majority of people have not shared your encounter and no one else knows its specifics, how would you argue to them that your view should hold sway?
posted by Miko at 2:17 PM on November 16, 2012


"Klangklangston, the trouble with your argument is I would have absolutely agreed with you....until I met Him. Things cleared up remarkably after that."

So what? That you met "Him" isn't troubling to my argument at all. That you think it is rather supports my argument.
posted by klangklangston at 2:55 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Savita Halappanavar: Rallies held in Dublin and Galway. Several thousand people have attended rallies in the Republic of Ireland in memory of Savita Halappanavar, calling for changes to Irish abortion law.

Savita Halappanavar's death may stir Ireland to change over abortion: The young Indian dentist's tragic miscarriage may provide ammunition for those seeking action on a political taboo
posted by homunculus at 3:46 PM on November 17, 2012


No-one's religion gives them the right to force someone else to grow another human being inside them. If anyone can show me a religious text that says its followers are supposed to make non-believers comply by force of law, I'd be gobsmacked. It's just hubris and arrogance dressed up as obedience, blaming God for your own opinions and actions.
posted by harriet vane at 4:02 AM on November 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


That's true, and pronouncements supposedly informed by God are treated as if they were a checkmate, a QED, when in fact they're of course no such thing. They amount to an entirely personal perception that begins and ends with one individual and have no immediate demonstrable value for any other individual. As a gambit, it's just a neat sidestep around having to argue your case with evidence in the civil sphere.
posted by Miko at 7:26 AM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Exactly Miko. And I think this is why atheists are so feared, because once you remove god from the equation, moral imperatives have to be argued on their own merits rather than using god as a crutch to bolster one's feelings about a situation.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:40 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I think this is why atheists are so feared, because once you remove god from the equation, moral imperatives have to be argued on their own merits rather than using god as a crutch to bolster one's feelings about a situation.

This gets to the whole reason religions were invented and have been perpetuated. They really started out as quasi-governments to enforce, well, basically public health initiatives developed over long periods of time (here's what to eat, don't eat this, wear this, help each other, don't prepare this with this, and only have sex with one other person and don't let it be your child, sister, mother, father, or brother) to populations that were not educated enough to understand reasons. It was easier to attribute the recommendations to a scary sky monster who couldn't be reasoned with, was omnipotent and omniscient, and would be very upset if you didn't follow the rules.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:23 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, I think the reasons they've been perpetuated are a little more complicated than that. There is a lot of value to find, personally and in a community sense, in some aspects of religion. I just don't believe anyone's religious persuasion exempts them from dealing with the requirements of a civil democracy, and so arguments from personal religious experience can hold no sway. They just have no power whatsoever in a civic discussion other than to allow some people to stake out an immovable position that is not up for debate.

The point of the article in the FPP is to introduce a reasonable debate with people who are not of that way of thinking, and who are more of the opinion that outcomes matter.
posted by Miko at 7:20 PM on November 18, 2012


There is a lot of value to find,...

Oh, I agree. It can even help you at border crossings.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:53 PM on November 20, 2012


It can even help you at border crossings.

I cannot believe I know this, but that's a checkpoint within the US, not a border crossing. I've been waved through them (at the other end of the US, granted) for having cats in the car.
posted by jeather at 7:49 PM on November 20, 2012


To be fair, I've had similar "go on through" border crossings without doing the Bible rigmarole.

And I've also been stopped because I was totally freaked out from driving across the bridge to Detroit, and turns out hands shaking and warbly voice will make them ask you a lot of extra questions.
posted by Miko at 7:56 PM on November 20, 2012


Answering Christian Questions For Pro-Choicers and Questions for Pro-Lifers
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:18 AM on November 21, 2012


Savita's abortion request 'goes missing' from Irish hospital's medical records

Husband wants answers over wife whose death sparked abortion debate
posted by homunculus at 12:57 PM on November 23, 2012


Former Komen exec. who pushed to defund Planned Parenthood weighing Senate bid
posted by homunculus at 1:08 PM on November 23, 2012


New CDC Report Shows That Abortion Is on the Decline Thanks to More People (Correctly) Using Birth Control
posted by homunculus at 1:13 PM on November 23, 2012


OB/GYNs call for the pill to be available over-the-counter
posted by homunculus at 1:58 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


OB/GYNs call for the pill to be available over-the-counter

Good luck with that, we aren't leaving contraception to the rational medical experts even under Obama.

In an unprecedented step, the Obama administration's top health official on Wednesday overruled the Food and Drug commissioner to block the Plan B emergency contraceptive pill from becoming available to young teens without a prescription.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:59 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older 50 State Stereotypes (in 2 minutes)...  |  The Gulf protection racket is ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments