"Well, I dunno. You have a crazy-ass job, sir."
January 18, 2015 12:50 PM   Subscribe

The Alabama legislature has introduced a unique dimension to the debate over reproductive rights in the United States: the allocation of state funds to provide lawyers to fetuses in abortion cases involving minors seeking an exemption from parental notification laws. The appointment of fetal guardians ad litem is enumerated in House bill HB 494, which went into effect on July 1, 2014.

Last week, Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams -- recently named one of TIME's 12 New Faces of Black Leadership -- sat down to interview one of the lawyers, Montgomery civil rights attorney Julian McPhillips, about some of the ramifications of HB 494: The Unborn Ultimatum.

[Alternate video link at Hulu.]

The clip also features excerpts from Williams' interview with ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Susan Watson:
The fetus' attorney can call in witnesses like the boyfriend, the boyfriend's mother, the employer, the basketball coach, her pastor, anyone they want to testify against [the pregnant minor]. And then, in the end, if the teen is allowed to access an abortion, the fetus' lawyer can appeal and run out the clock. And if they do that, we've got a parent.
Three months after the enactment of HB 494, the ACLU filed suit against Alabama on behalf of a Montgomery abortion clinic in Reproductive Health Services, et al. v. Luther Strange et al..

More information on the judicial bypass procedure:
A minor who does not or cannot obtain parental consent can petition the court for judicial waiver which will allow the minor to bypass the parental consent requirements. The minor must provide evidence that that she has been informed and understands the abortion procedure and its consequences. She also must provide evidence that she has been counseled about alternatives to abortion and that she is mature enough to make informed decisions.

The court must notify the district attorney that the minor has petitioned for a consent waiver and that the district attorney may participate in the proceedings as an advocate for the state, and may examine and question the minor in order to help the court make its decision as to whether to provide a waiver.

The law also states that the court may appoint a guardian ad litem for the interests of the "unborn child." The guardian ad litem shall assist the court in deciding whether or not to provide a waiver to the minor. In other words, the court can appoint a lawyer for the fetus, and may call witnesses to testify against the minor to help the court decide whether or not to grant the waiver.

The court is not permitted to make the parent or legal guardian aware of the judicial by-pass proceedings, but if the parent or legal guardian is made aware by some other means, they are entitled to notice of the proceedings and have a right to participate in the proceedings and to be represented by counsel.
Alabama was one of twenty-five (25) states to receive an F on NARAL's 2015 Report Card on Women's Reproductive Rights.

Reproductive rights in Alabama previously.
posted by divined by radio (105 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Canadians, the video is here, starts around 8:45.
posted by jeather at 1:01 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


All this translates to a backdoor way to ensure that the parents are made aware of the judicial bypass proceedings so they can make sure an abortion doesn't happen. After all, if the guardian ad litem can call in random witnesses, word will make it back to the parents in pretty short order.

Come to think of it, does anyone actually bother appoint an attorney to represent the minor, who is now participating in an adversarial system against a professional with extremely limited time?
posted by zachlipton at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


"The court is not permitted to make the parent or legal guardian aware of the judicial by-pass proceedings, but if the parent or legal guardian is made aware by some other means, they are entitled to notice of the proceedings..."

"The fetus' attorney can call in witnesses like the boyfriend, the boyfriend's mother, the employer, the basketball coach, her pastor..."

What a sick joke.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:16 PM on January 18, 2015 [50 favorites]


Every time I think I could not love Jessica Williams more than I already do, she proves me wrong.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:17 PM on January 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


What the ever loving fuck
posted by odinsdream at 1:19 PM on January 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


Alabama seems to be regularly doubling down on being a dreadful place to live.
posted by borges at 1:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


And, they don't fund public defenders in Alabama, as they just don't have the money for that...
posted by Windopaene at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2015 [38 favorites]


Of course the entire concept of the judicial bypass (beyond I guess an administrative rubber-stamp?) is unreasonable. A teenager has to prove that she's* mature enough to make an informed decision about her body and the responsibilities that come with it. And if she fails to prove that she's mature enough, that she's incompetent and incapable of making sound decisions...she now has a baby to raise. Yes. That makes sense.

*Or he, if it's a trans guy.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:38 PM on January 18, 2015 [69 favorites]


Hey, Alabama's the land of the free! They also stopped funding their weights and measures inspectors to actually inspect scales, so if John Galt wants to maximize his profit by putting his finger on the scale there's now nobody empowered to stop him. You've got to admit they have their priorities figured out over there.
posted by localroger at 1:42 PM on January 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


effective satire. even here in the United States.
posted by TMezz at 1:45 PM on January 18, 2015


Remember a few weeks ago in the thread about The Handmaid's Tale, when some people were saying they thought the novel didn't seem realistic because the villains were just too cartoonishly evil?

... Welp.
posted by kyrademon at 2:01 PM on January 18, 2015 [100 favorites]


And then, in the end, if the teen is allowed to access an abortion, the fetus' lawyer can appeal and run out the clock.

That seems to me to be their end game right there. If the threat to discourage the individual through the threat of airing their private business with everyone, you can sure as hell bet that they're just not going to be in any rush to hear those appeals.
posted by dances with hamsters at 2:06 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


So if the fetus is a legal individual, you get a gynecologist and a sheriff's marshal to serve trespassing papers on it, and then evict it. See, the law works!
posted by benito.strauss at 2:07 PM on January 18, 2015 [96 favorites]


The really, especially cruel, kicker is that the appointed guardian ad litem has APPEAL RIGHTS even in the unlikely event that access to an abortion is granted. Since Alabama ALSO has a strict 20-week abortion ban in place, how many of those appeals do you think will get resolved within the few week period from when the accused first becomes aware of her pregnancy (typically at least 6-8 weeks in) and the 20 week trigger?

That's exactly the point.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:10 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speaking as an attorney, any attorney that accepts the role of guardian ad litem for a fetus should be disbarred on ethical grounds.
posted by kafziel at 2:19 PM on January 18, 2015 [109 favorites]


It would be great if someone could set up some kind of fund to help girls in these shitty godforsaken states to get abortions in less restrictive states nearby (if any even exist, ugh) but I feel like they'd throw the Mann Act at any individual or organization who tried.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:26 PM on January 18, 2015


I just came from watching SELMA to read this.

Has anyone checked whether there's a gas leak in the Alabama governors' office or something?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:37 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Remember back in the dark ages when men owned women's bodies...
Never mind.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:50 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


A teenager has to prove that she's* mature enough to make an informed decision about her body and the responsibilities that come with it. And if she fails to prove that she's mature enough, that she's incompetent and incapable of making sound decisions...she now has a baby to raise.

If she drowns, she wasn't a witch, right?
posted by tzikeh at 2:56 PM on January 18, 2015 [38 favorites]


This kind of thing is going to go on for as long as America lasts, because there will always be a percentage of Americans who believe that Because Jesus Said So is sufficient justification for any law, action or chicanery. It's in the genetic code by now. At least they haven't made a point of murdering doctors lately.
posted by delfin at 2:58 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


This kind of thing is going to go on for as long as America lasts, because there will always be a percentage of Americans who believe that Because Jesus Said So is sufficient justification for any law, action or chicanery. It's in the genetic code by now. At least they haven't made a point of murdering doctors lately.

Jesus never said a single word about abortion.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:20 PM on January 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


Because Jesus Said So

Man, I'd like to see someone find a justification for pro-life stances in the Jefferson Bible.
posted by BungaDunga at 3:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Very true, but for some reason they have their own translation of Scripture that's made of magic ink that shifts and bends according to their needs.
posted by delfin at 3:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


If she drowns, she wasn't a witch, right?

No. But, if she drowns while pregnant, she will be found guilty of fetuscide.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:39 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It would be great if someone could set up some kind of fund to help girls in these shitty godforsaken states to get abortions in less restrictive states nearby (if any even exist, ugh) but I feel like they'd throw the Mann Act at any individual or organization who tried.

FundAbortionNow.org

..will let you do what you can, legally.
posted by emjaybee at 3:50 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would be interested to know exactly how many minors have prevailed at a judicial bypass hearing in Alabama in each calendar year in the past, say, ten years, or even how many such hearings are held. I suspect this is a solution in search of a problem. You could just as easily title it "A Law To Fuck Over Three Vulnerable Foster Children Each Year But Shit Did We Score Some BIIIIIG Points With Fox News."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:17 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


"And, they don't fund public defenders in Alabama, as they just don't have the money for that..."

This all is fucked enough but your statement isn't accurate. The Public Defenders are underfunded, and frequently contracted, not unfunded. http://www.eji.org/files/crisisofcounsel.pdf

http://aln.fd.org/
posted by vapidave at 4:19 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because Jesus Said So

Because I Said Jesus Said So

FTFY
posted by univac at 4:20 PM on January 18, 2015 [20 favorites]


I just can't wrap my head around the witness thing.

"Yes, judge, I am here to testify that little Kayla is totally not mature enough to make this kind of decision for herself. Instead, we need to make her in charge of making decisions for a vulnerable and helpless little baby."
posted by Foam Pants at 4:21 PM on January 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


The law is appalling for many of the reasons more seriously stated in this thread than in Jessica Williams' interview but mostly I want to say that I think Jessica Williams is brilliant. I look forward to her segments on The Daily Show in the same way I looked forward to Asif Monvi, Wyatt Cenac and John Oliver. She is fearless and very quick on her feet with pitch perfect delivery.
posted by bluesky43 at 4:32 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's Aasif Mandvi (not Asif Monvi), and I agree, I adore Jessica Williams. This one was totally genius!
posted by discopolo at 4:43 PM on January 18, 2015


"And, they don't fund public defenders in Alabama, as they just don't have the money for that..."

This all is fucked enough but your statement isn't accurate. The Public Defenders are underfunded, and frequently contracted, not unfunded. http://www.eji.org/files/crisisofcounsel.pdf

posted by vapidave

Money quote from this link:

"There is no statewide indigent defender system in Alabama."
posted by Windopaene at 5:08 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


What the actual fuck?
posted by K.P. at 5:21 PM on January 18, 2015


This law is blatantly (and mercifully) unlikely to ever take effect, which marks it as a particularly hateful maneuver. Those who passed it have to know it will never have any practical value, even in their own twisted moral universe. It's intended as a stink-bomb lobbed in the culture wars; it's intended to tell the women of Alabama, "This is what we'd do to you if they let us." It can't be about protecting the unborn, because it doesn't. What it does do is create fear and uncertainty, so that must be the intent.
posted by longtime_lurker at 5:26 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


The fetus' attorney can call in witnesses like the boyfriend

What if the "boyfriend" is her father, stepfather, coach, or other male authority figure who has legal/educational authority over her? Does he get a say before or after he's charged with statutory rape (if he's charged)?
posted by rtha at 5:32 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Fear and uncertainty?

Sounds like terrorism.

GITMO the lawmakers.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 5:33 PM on January 18, 2015


Any woman of age to conceive a fetus should have the totally unabridged right to go to her doctor and terminate said fetus, with the only response from the medical professionals being "Okay. Is there anything else we can help you with?"

Period. Anything else is anti-woman and, less importantly, anti-freedom.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:27 PM on January 18, 2015 [36 favorites]


If you want to know what variety of horror show these kinds of laws end up producing look at Ireland, where legally a foetus has the same right to life as the mother. There have already been a number of cases go to the High Court Ireland where the foetus has had legal representation. The most recent case regarded whether a dead pregnant woman should be kept on life support for the full term of the pregnancy. This is where laws like this end up. (The court eventually decided the woman could be allowed die.)
posted by coleboptera at 6:43 PM on January 18, 2015


I said 'should.' That was wrong.

The correct word is 'must.'
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:46 PM on January 18, 2015


Speaking as an attorney, any attorney that accepts the role of guardian ad litem for a fetus should be disbarred on ethical grounds.


I bet there's a large number of people, attorneys included, who would think they were on the right side of any sort of moral quandary here by representing the fetus.

Because you know, doing the lords work and such.
posted by emptythought at 6:57 PM on January 18, 2015


I now imagine a modification to the "It's a Child, not a Choice" bumper sticker for Alabama: "It's Your Child, You Have No Choice."

I really, really don't want fatal "self-administered" abortions to be the crux of all this turning around, but that's what I fear.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:01 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


the bigger problem is if, or when, those happen... how will we hear about them? that isn't the kind of thing that makes the news.

we may already be at that point in places where in practice it's essentially impossible to get an abortion, but how do we know those stories could even make it out? it would pretty much take someones parent or partner going big with it online.

all this shit is super depressing.
posted by emptythought at 7:10 PM on January 18, 2015


Any woman of age to conceive a fetus should have the totally unabridged right to go to her doctor and terminate said fetus

Honestly not even her doctor! Abortion clinics are a much better way of doing it, both medically and to get around problems of inadequate access to doctors and doctors being shitty. Gov't/insurance funded abortion clinics!

Small victory back home: after losing its abortion clinic in the summer due to funding/regulatory problems, New Brunswick has a private clinic again! And it's explicitly trans-friendly! And it's going to run a needle exchange! After two feminist groups raised like $125,000 to buy the building. The new liberal government gave a lot of words to this issue in the campaign, and to their credit has made it easier to get a hospital abortion, but told the clinic to fuck off in terms of funding.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:17 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Any woman of age to conceive a fetus should have the totally unabridged right to go to her doctor and terminate said fetus, with the only response from the medical professionals being "Okay. Is there anything else we can help you with?"

Period. Anything else is anti-woman and, less importantly, anti-freedom.


I get what you're saying and I agree in concept, but informed consent is a thing for a reason and should be part of the process like for any other medical procedure. That means receiving medically accurate information, as developed by medical professionals and not politicians, based on the best available research, about the risks and benefits of different types of abortion procedures.

So really, I'd say the only correct response should be "Okay. Let me tell you about how that works."

The problem is that politicians have inserted themselves into that process, requiring state-written language with inaccurate information to be read, ultrasounds to be shown to the patient and the fetus verbally described, and all kinds of other things that don't belong in a conversation between doctor and patient.
posted by zachlipton at 7:32 PM on January 18, 2015


Yeah. And that needs to end with "Is there anything else you would like us to help you with?"

Abortion, apart from the absolutely bare bones medical information (e.g. "this has an x% chance of ______) needs to have zero strings.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:40 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


So when the fetus emerges, can they still use that lawyer to sue for damages against the major socioeconomic hurdles in place that they are going to have to overcome in order to have a halfway decent childhood?

Or is this another one of those "once you're born, fuck off and pull yourself up by the bootstraps" conservative ploys?
posted by Renoroc at 8:12 PM on January 18, 2015


Or is this another one of those "once you're born, fuck off and pull yourself up by the bootstraps" conservative ploys?

What else could it be?
posted by lumensimus at 8:20 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do you really have to ask that question? We all know the answer.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:20 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


My rhetorical question bombed, apparently.
posted by lumensimus at 11:15 PM on January 18, 2015


Lemurrhea: "Of course the entire concept of the judicial bypass (beyond I guess an administrative rubber-stamp?) is unreasonable. A teenager has to prove that she's* mature enough to make an informed decision about her body and the responsibilities that come with it. And if she fails to prove that she's mature enough, that she's incompetent and incapable of making sound decisions...she now has a baby to raise. Yes. That makes sense.

*Or he, if it's a trans guy.
"

"Build a bridge out of her?"
posted by symbioid at 11:29 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


"There is no statewide indigent defender system in Alabama.
posted by Windopaene at 7:08 PM on January 18 [1 favorite +] [!] "

Statewide is correct.

"And, they don't fund public defenders in Alabama, as they just don't have the money for that...
posted by Windopaene at 3:28 PM on January 18 [28 favorites +] [!]"

Is a sadly favorited bullshit statement with no basis in reality. See my links above please.
posted by vapidave at 12:20 AM on January 19, 2015


Suppose Kermit Gosnell's victims had survived. Would they have been entitled to legal representation? Yes they would. Isn't it logical that if they were entitled to legal representation after surviving a botched abortion that they also were entitled to legal representation before they were born? How can one logically make the argument that essentially says your location (in this case) determines your right to legal representation? We already have several states that have fetal homicide laws where the unborn are considered "persons".
posted by republican at 4:48 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is a sadly favorited bullshit statement with no basis in reality. See my links above please.

Your second link applies only to "indigent defendants before the United States District Court of Northern Alabama, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court" so I can't see the relevancy to this fpp. The first one points out that AL underfunds its public defenders so badly in capital cases that they're in violation of ABA guidelines, which makes your point about how it's not totally unfunded seem awfully nitpicky.

Although I guess it's useful to know that Alabama is prepared to spend more money (it would be hard not to!) on attorneys for fetuses than it does for those facing death row.
posted by rtha at 5:25 AM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


We already have several states that have fetal homicide laws where the unborn are considered "persons".

And those laws are horseshit designed to destroy the agency of women. What's your point?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:49 AM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


And those laws are horseshit designed to destroy the agency of women. What's your point?

The point is that there is legal precedent for treating the unborn as a person.
posted by republican at 5:54 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


But...there's obviously also ample legal precedent for not treating the unborn as a person, so I'm not sure how your legal calculus is functioning here.

(But also -- and I can't tell quite how facetious I'm being here -- I'd be all for withholding personhood until at least some weeks or months after birth, treating infanticide before then as a crime against surviving relatives, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut on the topic.)
posted by nobody at 6:15 AM on January 19, 2015


How can one logically make the argument that essentially says your location (in this case) determines your right to legal representation?

When that "location" is inside my body and depending on me to keep you alive because you are not yet developed enough to be considered a human being, when you are in fact sucking nourishment from me to develop enough to be considered a human being, you better believe the "location" determines your right to legal representation.

Framing this as "location" is disingenuous at best and completely ignoring the role of a person's body in completely controlling the growth of a developing embryo or fetus and the effects that has on her life at worst.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:15 AM on January 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


The point is that there is legal precedent for treating the unborn as a person.

And that legal precedent is horseshit designed to etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:25 AM on January 19, 2015


The point is that there is legal precedent for treating the unborn as a person.
posted by republican


Do you believe the rights of an unborn child supercede the rights of the mother carrying that child?
posted by valkane at 6:28 AM on January 19, 2015


I'm talking about the legal aspect of this not the ethics or morality. Late term abortion bans have been upheld as constitutional. So under the law (in some cases) an unborn child has been granted certain rights and those rights are enforced by legal representation from a government entity.
posted by republican at 6:35 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


States with late-term abortion laws all have exceptions for the health of the pregnant woman (see this PDF).

If a pregnant woman is assaulted and her fetus is killed in the process, that is quite different from a woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy she doesn't want.
posted by rtha at 6:47 AM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay. There's legal precedent.
posted by valkane at 6:50 AM on January 19, 2015


... that is quite different from a woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy she doesn't want.

What is at issue here would not change that. This is the scope of the legislation:

(1) use state funds to provide legal representation
(2) only when the mother is minor
(3) only when the minor is seeking an exemption from parental notification laws
posted by republican at 7:02 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Under New York state law, it is illegal to kill a black tern. Is a black tern a person with human rights?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:07 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Under New York state law, it is illegal to kill a black tern. Is a black tern a person with human rights?

I read this in Cokie Roberts voice, the one she uses during her SCOTUS reports. I listen to too much NPR, I guess.
posted by valkane at 7:35 AM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


What is at issue here would not change that. This is the scope of the legislation:

(1) use state funds to provide legal representation
(2) only when the mother is minor
(3) only when the minor is seeking an exemption from parental notification laws


Do you understand that literally the only point of this legislation is to make it harder for a woman to access abortion services?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:47 AM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, ew. Guys, you know that it's a fool's errand trying to reason with someone whose first comment in this thread was the pointed invocation of Kermit Gosnell, yeah? If not, trust me: You can ignore anything that comes out of someone's mouth if they bring good ol' KG into a discussion about reproductive rights. Dude is like the dogwhistliest dogwhistle to've ever whistled; he's the bread and butter of the pro-forced birth auxiliary branch of the GOP. Whenever someone says "Kermit Gosnell" like his existence proves ANY kind of point WHATSOEVER aside from the fact that there are all kinds of crazy and awful people in the world, you can translate whatever they're trying to say as something like, "Checkmate, libtards!"

Another easy way to know that someone is just trying to get you to admit that women aren't actually fully human and that fetuses are more important than women up until the moment they're born is if they refer to a living, breathing, thinking, feeling woman's body simply as a "location," with "the interior of a person's womb" being made to seem akin to someplace like "down the pub" or "at the Starbucks."

So instead of trying to prove anything to someone whose only goal is to catch pro-choice people out on a technicality Because Kermit Gosnell, we can refocus on the real matter at hand, which is the fact that Jessica Williams is a national treasure. *starry eyes*
posted by divined by radio at 7:49 AM on January 19, 2015 [25 favorites]


Yeah, okay. I mean, once you take away ethics and morality (those do tend to get in the way, eh republican?) I really don't see the point in discussing the merits of this legislation.

In short, yayy Jessica Williams!
posted by valkane at 8:18 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll see republican's invocation of the limits on late-term abortion and raise the standard that laws about abortion not place an undue burden on the woman's right to an abortion.
posted by Gelatin at 8:43 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd add that dismissing the interests of pregnant women as a matter of the location of a fetus speaks volumes about the way the anti-choice crowd values women.
posted by Gelatin at 8:47 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gosnell's practice is a good example of what a return to illegal, unregulated abortion would look like. Pennsylvania completely failed in their oversight responsibilities and allowed it to go on much longer than it should have. The state does have an interest in abortion clinics, just like they do in any other medical practice. It isn't to convince women not to abort or provide lawyers for babies, it's to make sure the practice is safe and following the regulations.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be "putting a barrier up to women" seeking abortions.

"Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety," the report states. "Without regular inspections, providers like Gosnell continue to operate; unlawful and dangerous third-trimester abortions go undetected; and many women, especially poor women, suffer."

posted by Drinky Die at 9:21 AM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yay Jessica Williams.

There is no way that any discussion of abortion can reasonably be separated from morals or ethics. Comparing an abortion to the death penalty (for capital cases) is not a good match, because a legal finding (of guilt) is fallible, while the fetus is being terminated for reasons that have nothing to do with it's actions. Arguing when a fetus becomes a human being is likewise unproductive because any line drawn will ultimately be arbitrary.

The relevant moral issue is whether one person has a right to kill another. While it seems that some priority ought to be established, it's obvious that no priority will meet the needs of all those who (rightly or not) believe they have an interest. I have some difficulty coming up with a clear line of reason, but, if reason exists, it seems to me that the prospective mother, the father, and the immediate family ought to have some sort of input. The opinion of the woman carrying the child ought to be the final determiner. In cases of rape or incest, the father would be excluded from this process. If the state wants to have any input at all, it ought to be along the lines of offering to provide care for an infant that can't be raised by its natural mother. Medical people have no reason to be concerned with anything but the health of the mother and fetus, and their skills ought not to be based on any but medical issues. That's just my take.

When I had a serious medical procedure the hospital provided a staff, to include a social worker, who helped me and my wife deal it. How can we do less in the case of a prospective abortion?

Meanwhile, the political machinations using abortions to stir up a voter base are, to my mind, tragically cynical. Perhaps only those who cheer such shenanigans are lower than the dog-shit legislators who compose them (the laws)--well, maybe the ghoulish attorneys who prosecute these laws are lower than that, because they are supposed to have trained legal minds.
posted by mule98J at 12:33 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


The relevant moral issue is whether one person has a right to kill another.. Well, except that a clump of cells the size of my thumbnail is not a person.
posted by jfwlucy at 12:41 PM on January 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


The relevant moral issue is whether one person has a right to kill another.

You're making unwarranted assumptions there; a fetus isn't a person.

The opinion of the woman carrying the child ought to be the final determiner.

You mean the only determiner.

Medical people have no reason to be concerned with anything but the health of the mother and fetus, and their skills ought not to be based on any but medical issues.

And since abortion is a medical procedure, the only people who should be involved are the medical professionals.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:45 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


The relevant moral issue is whether one person has a right to kill another.. Well, except that a clump of cells the size of my thumbnail is not a person.

Obviously, an ongoing debate in political and religious circles. There is no only relevant moral question here, there are about 1000 very confusing ones. I still think a sensible person should end up on the pro-choice side, but I can understand why that isn't an easy path for a lot of reasonable people.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:52 PM on January 19, 2015


A fetus seems more like a person than a corporation does.

*takes off trollhat*
posted by ayedub at 11:11 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


The only understandable position for anti-abortionists that I can comprehend is people who have somehow misunderstood Children of Men and thought it was a non-fiction book. For all the problems the world has at the moment running out of people is really not one of them.

Your religion forbids abortions? Super, don't have one then. Rights of the unborn child? Somewhat trumped by the very much born woman. What it really comes down to is some seriously hundred or more years or so out of date desire to control womens' bodies.

Sometimes I think it might be helpful to sit down some of these people with women who have actually gone through the experience of having an abortion so that they might realise it's not something they do just for funsies.

Sometimes ethics are only as complicated as the amount of special pleading disingenuous fuckwits want to raise. As noted above, if people were actually serious about the rights of unborn children, those same people would be doing a hell of a lot more to improve healthcare, education, and welfare. Little bit strange that they don't tend to no? 'spose it's in God's hands once the child is born. Character building or something.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:30 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rights of the unborn child? Somewhat trumped by the very much born woman.

Yes, that is the opinion held by the majority of pro-choice people. It may be entirely settled in your mind, but some people think it's a child and has rights. You can debate them or call them fuckwits and move on with your day, but it's still going to be an issue because it's not actually simple to determine what is or is not a human.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:17 AM on January 20, 2015


Even if it were simple it's completely irrelevant, because the mother's body is required to support the fetus, so granting it any rights necessarily removes rights from the mother, which is not ethically viable unless you want to accept that women are simply breeders without rights.

SPOILER: The anti-choice position is that women are breeders without human rights over their bodily agency.
posted by odinsdream at 9:30 AM on January 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


You aren't even legally required to donate bone marrow or blood to your relatives, children included.
posted by domo at 9:34 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


The relevant moral issue is whether one person has a right to kill another.

You're making unwarranted assumptions there; a fetus isn't a person.


Yeah, thats' one of those detail, isn't it? I'm thinking you probably would decide that the fetus, if left to develop, becomes a baby at some point before it emerges from the mother. A baby is a person. The line drawn between a lump of flesh and a baby will be arbitrary, and even so, it's hardly the point. Medical issues trump that arbitrary line. For example, late term abortions may be more hazardous to the mother for any of a number of reasons, and if the fetus comes under someone's definition of a person, that should not be the final determiner. You may decide that any pregnancy that is the result of rape or incest ought to be terminated, regardless of the development of the fetus.

I can't imagine abortion being other than a serious decision, with enough potential heartache to go around. It does no one any good to try to lubricate the terms in any way that detracts from the awesome character of the event you are about to undertake.

The idea that the father should, in all cases, have no input is ridiculous, although I still hold that the mother makes the final decision. By that I mean that no woman ought to be required to take a survey of her family, her lover, or her church prior to having an abortion. The state has no business at all in this.
posted by mule98J at 9:42 AM on January 20, 2015


Even if it were simple it's completely irrelevant, because the mother's body is required to support the fetus, so granting it any rights necessarily removes rights from the mother, which is not ethically viable unless you want to accept that women are simply breeders without rights.

Generally, they will argue that women have already consented to the possibility of becoming a parent by having sex. They do not believe women have no rights, that's just absurd demonization. They don't believe in abortion as a right because they see it as killing a child a woman previously consented to raise. The consent issue is why even most pro-lifers single out rape as a justified reason for abortion. This is how the consent to be a parent works for men so it's easy to see how they get to that view. It just under appreciates the massive differences between the two situations.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:53 AM on January 20, 2015


I still don't understand why anti-abortion folks don't believe parents should be legally obliged to donate blood, marrow or organs for their children. Why is the rule of "parents must give up bodily autonomy for their children" given up after birth?
posted by jeather at 10:17 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


You may decide that any pregnancy that is the result of rape or incest ought to be terminated, regardless of the development of the fetus.

No. Any pregnancy ought to be carried or terminated as the person who is pregnant decides. Period. Nobody else gets a say, because nobody else can take over that pregnancy. A pregnant person can solicit opinions from others, if they want to; nobody but the pregnant person has any right to an opinion or a say in the decision.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:25 AM on January 20, 2015


Why is the rule of "parents must give up bodily autonomy for their children" given up after birth?

Because pro-lifers do not actually believe in that rule, or don't think they do anyway.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:27 AM on January 20, 2015


The idea that the father should, in all cases, have no input is ridiculous

Seriously, why? The father of any child can up and leave whenever he wants, from the moment the woman finds out she's pregnant to the day before the kid graduates high school. A pregnant woman can't really opt out of the process unless she gets an abortion. If dude bails, bam, it's incumbent upon the woman to track him down and drag his ass in front of a judge to extract child support, and she needs to do it all while ensuring that she can continue to meet all of the various and sundry demands that society requires of its single parents. I saw this a lot when I lived in the projects, men who whined about using any form of birth control getting women pregnant, then moving out of state, disconnecting their phones, etc. because they didn't want to deal with the hassle. And hey, as long as the mothers are hardscrabble enough that they can't devote time or energy to tracking the fathers down and taking them to court, they don't have to!

So the day that men are just as physically, psychologically, emotionally, hormonally, and socioeconomically affected by pregnancy as women are is the day I will start to believe that they deserve any input whatsoever when it comes to whether or not any woman on earth can or will be allowed to terminate her pregnancy. You probably don't feel this so acutely because you don't have a womb, but it's a really scary thing to even contemplate letting a dude have his say in whether or not I carry a pregnancy to term in my body.

Generally, they will argue... They do not believe... they see it... Because pro-lifers do not actually believe...

If there are people who believe these things here, they can speak for themselves. Otherwise, it looks a whole lot like you're just playing devil's advocate about an issue that does not personally affect you whatsoever, and that's not really a very cool thing to do.
posted by divined by radio at 10:37 AM on January 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


Because pro-lifers do not actually believe in that rule, or don't think they do anyway.

The hypocrisy just bothers me.

The idea that the father should, in all cases, have no input is ridiculous

No one is saying that the father should be locked away from the mother until she decides; she's perfectly able to decide whether she feels it is a good idea to discuss abortion with him, and that will remain entirely legal. What the "no input" means is that he has no legal impact -- he shouldn't be able to go to a clinic and prevent her from having one, or drag her to one and force her to have one.
posted by jeather at 10:41 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


SPOILER: The anti-choice position is that women are breeders without human rights over their bodily agency.

I'm pro-choice, but I think that this characterization is unnecessarily fighty.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


All things considered I think it's probably not fighty enough.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:16 AM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


All the mental gymnastics and legal discussions are just window dressing. Removing bodily agency is the outcome of the anti-choice positions, unquestionably. Those positions are dressed up heavily, but that's the practical on-the-ground effect: uterus-owners losing autonomy over their own bodies.
posted by odinsdream at 11:33 AM on January 20, 2015


I agree that most of this is window dressing. But to discuss a minor distinction, I've found that I can explain 99% of anti-abortionist's actions with "punish women for having sex (outside structures we approve of)" without having to go all the way to "removing bodily agency".
posted by benito.strauss at 11:59 AM on January 20, 2015


All things considered I think it's probably not fighty enough.

*shrug* If you wanna shut them down from listening to ya before you've even spoken, okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:36 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


They need to be crushed and routed, they ain't listening to shit.
posted by aydeejones at 1:18 PM on January 20, 2015


And by that I mean their paternalistic and moralistic positions are not something we can sway them from but we can assert that they are demographically and politically irrelevant real soon now, and we already won this once with Roe v. Wade. It's time to confront the children of these aging dinosaurs with the fact that these battles have already been waged and civilization won. Stop dragging us back in time, there is nothing in your bible that gives even the slightest hint that this should be a priority for conservatives. Stopping abortion definitely is the "mote in the eye" when America's "plank" or shtick if you will is "most powerful and wealthy and Christian dominant nation on earth. With the shittiest inequality in the civilized world and the largest prison population per capita."

The people who use abortion to win elections often don't give a fuck, they are using the wedge to win and continue serving the interests of corporate elites. Sadly their tools don't even have a freakin' cite in the bible to justify it
posted by aydeejones at 1:24 PM on January 20, 2015


I don't think it is the lack of kind words and patience from pro-choice advocates that has made reproductive rights measurably worse in the last 30 years.
posted by rtha at 2:26 PM on January 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


If there are people who believe these things here, they can speak for themselves. Otherwise, it looks a whole lot like you're just playing devil's advocate about an issue that does not personally affect you whatsoever, and that's not really a very cool thing to do.

I honestly don't believe pro-lifers are, in general, disingenuous fuckwits who don't think that women have any rights or that this is a simple and easy debate. It's a complicated ethical debate about government policy regarding ending human lives (or potential human lives) depending on your perspective. It's important for everyone to think about at times.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:51 PM on January 20, 2015


Well you know honestly, they might believe that, but it's a thing to believe in the same way an alcoholic saying "Well i can totally keep drinking if i only drink beer because..." is.

It's a long form rationalization to avoid directly thinking about the consequences of what they're really doing.

This, from the beginning, has been about punishment and control. The complicated ethical debate was built on top of that.

It's the ethics in gaming journalism.

"The juries still out on whether a fetus is a person or not, so lets deny half the population full agency as reasonable actors and human beings" doesn't really follow from complicated ethical debate. It takes some mental gymnastics to construct a version of this narrative that doesn't include "women are not reliable decision makers" in some way shape or form.
posted by emptythought at 3:30 PM on January 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


It takes some mental gymnastics to construct a version of this narrative that doesn't include "women are not reliable decision makers" in some way shape or form.

That's what they think of us when we tell them a man consents to parenthood as a part of consenting to sex but that women don't. They think it means women can't be trusted to have sex without having extra outlets we don't offer to men.

They don't understand that the matter has been passed on fully to the woman at that point as a matter of biological reality. It's her body. If a man could opt out of parenthood in such a way as to prevent the creation of a child that needed to be supported without violating the integrity of the women I'm pretty sure pro-choice people would all be for it. But that's not how human reproduction works.

In the end though, they think it's killing a human life or a potential human life. They think it's killing a child. They think it's killing a child the woman already consented to conceive. They think there are very few situations that would allow that. Generally, the health of the mother is one of those concerns. The thinking is very much like the thinking in justified self defense cases. If you are under serious threat, we will allow you to kill in self defense, but they are very wary of it. When people say that self defense laws need rigorous definitions and investigations they aren't saying it because they think people are generally morons who can't be trusted to make good decisions who should be stripped of agency. They are saying it because some people are morons and we need to make sure we aren't encouraging unnecessary deaths. They think the agency of one person has to be balanced against the agency of another, and they believe the fetus is a person who the mother willingly brought into existence.

Anyway, I think I've said enough on this. I'll stop talking at this point. They aren't in general evil fuckwit caricatures. Some certainly are. But also they are the friendly nun who teaches school and helps the poor or my late Grandmother. They are the Democratic Senator from my state. They are just people grappling with a tough issue.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:34 PM on January 20, 2015


At some point the "gee shucks" attitude comes up against biological reality. We've done the practical tests of what happens when you deny people agency over their bodies, and the results are horrific and inhumane. How many more decades do we all need to pretend this is an unsettled question? It's time to stop ceding ground to people who don't feel comfortable talking about reality, who prefer to think in abstract terms or euphemisms. Enough is enough.
posted by odinsdream at 4:41 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


In the end though, they think it's killing a human life or a potential human life. They think it's killing a child.

I have asked people who say they believe this and who think abortion should be illegal if the woman who gets an abortion should be charged with murder, the same way a woman who kills her five-year-old (or hires someone else to do it) would be charged with murder, and every one who didn't waffle back with a "well, I haven't really thought about that..." said no, because it was different.

Also, none of the otherwise anti-abortion advocates who themselves have abortions see "killing a child" as something that should be out of their reach when they need it because their abortion is the only moral abortion.
posted by rtha at 4:42 PM on January 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


If someone thinks an abortion is just like a murder, they would be flooding the world with birth control, and doing their best to make sure that everyone gets a good sex education and easy access to condoms. They almost never do, and that's why "controlling women's sexual activity" is usually a much better predictor of their actions than their proclaimed beliefs.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:53 PM on January 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


If they actually thought it was murder, they wouldn't make exceptions for rape and incest. It's about punishing sluts, nothing more.
posted by kafziel at 12:25 AM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Abortion bill dropped amid concerns of female GOP lawmakers
House Republican leaders will hold a vote on a watered-down antiabortion bill Thursday after abruptly dropping plans to pass another measure deemed too restrictive by some female GOP lawmakers who feared it would spoil the party’s chances of broadening its appeal to women and younger voters.
[...]
On the abortion measure, as many as two dozen lawmakers, led by Reps. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), raised concerns with Republican leaders about holding a vote on a restrictive abortion bill so early in the year.
[...]
With word of the opposition spreading, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) conferred nervously off the House floor after a midday vote. From there, Scalise headed to a meeting in his office suite with Ellmers, Walorski, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) — a lead co-sponsor of the bill — and several other women.

In a caucus dominated by men, a meeting with top leaders requested and attended almost exclusively by women is a rare sight. One by one they exited the meeting and remained tight-lipped.
posted by rtha at 9:32 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


One wonders if the Republicans have been hamstrung by their apparent success. As a minority in Congress they could rally behind a unified message of "Fuck the Obamacrats."

As a majority, there may be too many of them to present a cohesive message or strategy. To which I say hurrah!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:51 PM on January 22, 2015




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