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January 21, 2012

Comments

Hi Sebastian,
You may want to put your byline at the top, though from the title, I could have guessed it was you...

I would point out that those restrictive conditions exist side by side with national health care programs that are very difficult to get outside. So I don't think it is that Europeans are happy with the system because it guarantees fetal protections, but because it is part of an organized effort for pre-natal care and and overall approach to the health of the population that is sorely lacking in the US.

Also, it seems to me (I'm American) that it is much easier for women and men of all income levels to obtain contraception inside these national health care programs, and that young people in these nations receive comprehensive sex education and so can make more educated decisions about sex.

What is being described here--lots of sex ed, lots of birthcontrol, legal early abortion--sounds an awful lot like Clinton's "safe, legal, rare" formula.

Sebastian's argument could be right, but in order to tell we need some polling data on how Americans feel about abortion.I mean some detailed polling like how they feel about it at 12 weeks, 18 weeks, to save the mother's life etc.


Also of significance in the US is the poisonous effect on our discourse of cynical Republican framing (pro-life!) which is intended to mire the discussion in emotion and moral smugness for partisan political purposes.

"Also of significance in the US is the poisonous effect on our discourse of cynical Republican framing (pro-life!) which is intended to mire the discussion in emotion and moral smugness for partisan political purposes."

I actually think this is of less significance than popularly though, at least on this issue. The harder pro-choice advocates portray a world where any movement toward limiting abortion in cases where the public overwhelmingly doesn't like abortion is moving toward limiting abortion in cases where the public overwhelmingly doesn't have a problem with abortion. They picture it like rolling down a hill with bans on all abortion at the bottom.

I believe that moving toward public opinion actually means that you are less likely to get more extreme laws in counter-reaction. I think of it as rolling down into a valley. The extreme ban case is well up the other side of the valley wall. Once the ball is sitting in the valley, it isn't likely to get up that hill.

Moving toward public opinion on abortion matters (through the democratic process) doesn't make it any more likely that we will move well past it in the other direction. That kind of thing is much more likely to happen through sudden judicial surprises.

Moving toward public opinion reduces the political valence of abortion as a topic at all.

Now you can argue that you shouldn't move toward public opinion because it is just wrong. But that is different from the panicky stuff you'll get from NARAL every time you get movement toward laws that would still seem crazily indifferent to the rights of the fetus from a European perspective.

Sebastian:

"With a stricter abortion regime that nevertheless allows for access in the first trimester, abortion politics doesn't get much traction."

This is right. Thank you.

I'm yet I'm told by the usual suspects that Europeans spend most of their time f8cking, while they are multi-tasking by providing universal healthcare, enjoying the four-day workweek and extravagant number of vacation days, and taxpayer access to numerous, well-staffed medical clinics, with birth control prominently featured in the waiting rooms.

I don't really know that anything I say is true (I should be a Republican Presidential candidate), but it occurs to me that the characters played by Marcello Mastrianni, who often spelt his name wrong his name to maintain the anonymity of a SuperPac, probably wore a universal health care supplied condom at all hours of the day and never caused an abortion beyond the first trimester, because the women who seduced him knew their own interests (see Constance Reader's evocation of sex education).

Also, anti-abortion Europeans of all political stripes love their bambinos for themselves, while anti-abortion Americans view children as either or both as a tax-deduction or as an eye-poke at their imaginary caricatures of liberals.

God, I'm a cynic.

O.K. that last was a little harsh even for me.

There was a lovely family with, I believe, twelve wonderful home-schooled kids who were by law provided access to my son's high school's sports programs.

I'm fairly certain about these good people's negative views regarding abortion.

Which is why I know they didn't show up along with the dozens of ghoulish upper-middle aged, beer-bellied, masturbating men and their fat, sex-deprived, frigid wives to festoon my son's and his classmates' joyful (like they were thinking about sex, with the exception of a few of the boys) senior high-school outdoor activity day with lurid, four color posters of drawn and quartered fetuses -- or corporations -- it was hard to tell, given the garishness -- up and down the entrances to the school.

Right. They don't have that in Europe, where taste decided to remain in the Old World and pay their f*cking taxes.

I honestly have to admit that I have absolutely no idea what you are trying to say.

Seb, the Count's essays are like Italian opera. You might not understand the words, but the music is glorious.

--TP

Sebastian, your honesty is appreciated.

Listen a little closer to the aria, which started with "this is right. thank you", and realize there is always a little something in there for you, until Hunter Thompson wannabees crash the production and molest the fat lady.

And interrupt the voices in my head.

A main difference I see is that in Europe there is no tradition of violence or even terrorism against abortion providers (this may exclude Poland though). Also the access to the mandatory counselling is not restricted. In Germany there has to be a counselling opportunity within reasonable reach for everyone and women have a right to go there during work hours (i.e. their employer cannot prevent it or dicriminate against them for it). The counselling also has to meet certain standards and is banned from using practices like the infamous Crisis Pregnancy Centers in the US. The German Catholic church tried to follow that until Rome intervened. Since it was impossible to follow the Roman guidelines and to conform to the German law the counselling bureaus had to close.
The German Supreme Court was extremly clear on that it would not tolerate any attempts at backdoor restrictions. The law situation we have now is the result of a long and painful process. The traditional solution was ban with exceptions for 'need'. But it became obvious that this standard was not applied consistently everywhere, liberal in the North, restrictive in the South. The bare 12-week-solution was considered to be too far on the other side, so the current situation is the compromise that curbs the worst abuse ('convenience abortions') while also blocking the state from enforcing conservative social values by legal means.
In general there is a German consensus that the abortion question is one of balance with those that hold an extreme position on either hand a small minority. So the debate was primarily about the details not the fundamentals. The debate was always hot and acerbic but (to my knowledge) never violent. We had our Bavarian versions of Cuccinelli but no murderous Operation Rescue (and to the NRA* readers tuning in: not just because pro-lifers could not obtain the necessary means).

*What gets me up in arms is the neverending NRA lie campaign (ab)using Germany and German history to further their goals relying on the inability of their audience to check the original sources. So please excuse the snark.

If Republican politicians were sincere about moving abortion restrictions to match public opinion then the starting point would be to stop the crap about "pro-life" and admit to being pro-choice themselves. Then we Americans could have a discussion about when that choice could be made and when it couldn't. If the goals was to match the laws to public opinion then some serious detailed polling data would be needed.

If you ask Americans if they are "pro-choice" or "prolife" an awful lot of people are thoughtless and prideful enought to pick the "pro-life" label even if they actuall think abortion should be a choice under some circumstances. . If you ask people including the so-called prolife ones if they think a female should be able to choose abortion if the fetus was concieved by rape or incest or if the female i question is a child herself or if the female's life is in danger ...all of a sudden those pro-lifers think the female should get a choice after all.

The vast majority of Republican politicians think that the females should get the choice under some circumstances which makes their pretense of being prolife a self aggrandizig dishonest cynical partisan ploy.

I'm all in favor of ending the hysteria over abortion but as long as there is no genuiine interest in changing the laws to match pulbic opinion it won't happen. And the genuine interest isn't there on the politcal right.

I think it's difficult to generalize about what "most people's intuitions" are across different countries.

There are the Central American countries that already had blanket abortion bans far stricter than any of these, and nevertheless, in the wake of a papal visit, somehow generated a broad public consensus in favor of making them even stricter to the point where the exception for saving the life of the mother was removed and ectopic pregnancies couldn't be treated until the fallopian tube burst. I don't think it's easy to guess where the natural political equilibrium is.

"A main difference I see is that in Europe there is no tradition of violence or even terrorism against abortion providers (this may exclude Poland though)."

Cause or effect? After all, we have in America a judicially enforced status quo very far from political equilibrium. This means that abortion providers are regularly doing things which are widely despised.

If we had more European abortion laws, many of the acts which motivate that violence would be illegal. People wouldn't be taking justice into their own hands, because they'd see it being done by the state.

Now, I understand some of that violence is motivated by acts which would be illegal even in repressive states like Sweden. But I believe part of what's going on in the US is that the anti-abortion movement is vastly enlarged by people whose attitudes towards abortion are really quite moderate, but who still find objectionable the legal status quo. (Because the courts keep it from reaching political equilibrium.) This provides the genuine extremists with a degree of support they would not otherwise have.

Extremists will always feel more comfortable about committing violence if they think they have popular support.

I wonder if Swedes feel repressed.

Also, thanks for a very interesting post, Sebastian.

I'm sure some of them do; There's always going to be somebody feeling repressed under any legal regime at all. Heck, there are people here who are pissed that infanticide isn't legal.

But we know that most Swedes don't feel repressed, because the subject is, in Sweden, an ordinary topic subject to democratic forces, unlike the US.

There's always going to be somebody feeling repressed under any legal regime at all.

That's called "noise".

But we know that most Swedes don't feel repressed, because the subject is, in Sweden, an ordinary topic subject to democratic forces, unlike the US.

Leaving the US situation aside, yes, I agree.

The issue is not how large the state is, or how involved it is in the daily lives of people.

The issue, on this topic or more others, is whether the size and role of the state reflects what the folks living with and under it want.

My guess is that the reason the "noise" level here rises above the noise level is that there is, straight up, less consensus here about what we want.

Per Sebastian's original post, I appreciate that late(r) term abortions are significantly more offensive / morally problematic than earlier term ones. It may be that the legal impediment to later term abortions in Europe contribute to making folks generally more supportive of having earlier term abortions available.

But as a practical matter, and legal restrictions and requirements aside, I wonder how different the actual incidence of abortions is here, as compared to in Europe.

In other words, I'm not sure the procedures that folks object to most strongly are particularly common. Especially if those performed for purely health-of-the-mother reasons are factored out. IIRC something like 85-90% of abortions here are in the first 12 weeks.

So, I wonder if the actual *practice* of the procedure is that different here, than there.

And if not so different, I wonder if the strength of the opposition here is based on the reality of the situation, or on ideology.

Also, abortion requirements here vary quite a bit state by state. For folks who are interested, here is a pretty good synopsis of state law, courtesy of the Guttmacher Institute.

Russell,

The Guttmacher Institute has http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/25s3099.html> this data.

russell,

Also at Guttmacher is a report that addresses some of your comparison questions. Find Table 3 for some summary chart comparison but the report is important to read for context on the tables.

Leave it to Bellmore to defend murder and terrorism. I would expect nothing less.

Then we can get into the LOLs of two ultra conservatives suddenly wishing the US were more like Europe. This is what is commonly known as "sophistry."

"And if not so different, I wonder if the strength of the opposition here is based on the reality of the situation, or on ideology."

Really? You wonder? I sure don't. Let's ask Rick Santorum!

I mean, here's a guy (Bellmore) who just days ago was accusing "liberals" of wanting to "forge government into a sword to slay its enemies," now claiming that, hey, if you can't get the world to conform to what you want it to be, then of course a few doctors are going to get gunned down in their driveways and churches.

Must be "liberals" killing those doctors, right?

Why anyone here treats him as anything more than an occasionally amusing special-needs child, I will never understand.

Phil, you appear to have made 3 comments in a row that amount to nothing more than personal attacks. Please contribute to actual discussion at hand. If you feel you only have personal attacks available, please refrain.

OK, here's a contribution:

1) Unless you're willing to take a lot of other things that Europe has, too, as others have alluded to above, including much better healthcare systems and better pre-natal care and a better maternity leave policy all around, this argument is a nonstarter and I suspect you know it. That's why I'm calling it sophistry.

2) Once again, there is exactly one (1) woman posting on an ObWi abortion thread whilst all the men try to decide what's best for her. Stunning.

Heck, there are people here who are pissed that infanticide isn't legal.

Name ten, including at least one who posts here. I'll spot you Peter Singer. Otherwise, I'm calling bullshit.

Weird. Yesterday, While I was searching through the archives for some stuff we had all talked about a few years ago on abortion polling (I wanted to include it in the post, but I couldn't find it so I decided to save it for later) I came across this comment:

Anyway, since apparently nobody else is as evil as I am, I'll be the guy to go on record and say that, in my opinion, a baby delivered alive in the course of a botched abortion should be quietly euthanized.

Posted by: Phil | August 12, 2008 at 06:49 PM

I'm for taxpayer-financed prenatal care and well-baby checkups for all American women and their children, (including immigrants), either through the current HCR or a much more universal insurance regime.

That my view will be termed "infanticide" or a "death panel", or worse, "European" every day between now and the November elections, and apparently forever afterwards, qualifies me as "one who posts here", so yes, according to the usual suspects (out there, in reality) projectile vomiting all over the American political scenery, heck, yeah, I guess that makes me pissed that infanticide isn't legal, under my practice of becoming what others accuse me of being (well, it seemed like they were at least looking in my direction, but I'm a sensitive type).

As to "a judicially-enforced status quo very far from political equilibrium", I'm all for arming to the teeth the 50 million or so Americans who will have their access to barely affordable life-saving health care nipped in the bud if the judiciary reinforces the previous status quo by striking down Obamacare.

Let's throw Citizens United in that hopper too, since the last time I looked, guns are available (again with the judicial status quo) to everyone, not just conservatives and libertarians.

That some sizable subset of the previously mentioned 50 million find themselves still unreconciled to the ever-fluid American, judicial status quo regarding, say, Roe vs Wade, or Brown vs Board of Education, is a complicating feature, but that will be dealt with in good time.

"I wonder if Swedes feel repressed"

Garrison Keillor would say the Norwegians of Minnesota feel deeply repressed, but they wouldn't express it in those exact words. In fact, they are so repressed they wouldn't express it at all.

Now, the Swedes of Sweden shouldn't feel repressed, seeing as how they grew up while Americans have not, and were permitted to watch porn way before we were, as an iffy bonus for maturity.

I've never thought of the Swedes I've met as feeling repressed, given that most of my blonde, blue-eyed friends of Swedish descent seem to shoot their mouths off with impunity.

Well, I tried.

A main difference I see is that in Europe there is no tradition of violence or even terrorism against abortion providers

Hartmut, I would be interested to know how the European laws on the subject came about. (OK, "European" is a super generalization. But in general....)

As Brett notes, American law got preempted by a Supreme Court decision. Without that, I suspect that America would have similar laws (not to mention MUCH less toxic politics). After all, that was the clear trend at the time of Roe v Wade -- local laws were being gradually but steadily changed to allow abortions in varying circumstances. After another decades, we would likely be about where we are today on alcohol sales: it's flat illegal in a few counties, and generally legal (and regulated in different ways) everywhere else. And not a political issue anywhere.

Too bad more movements don't figure out that legislating what they want is slower, but in the long run it keeps the changes you want more securely. And nobody will talk about amending the Constitution to reverse you.

When I review the European restrictions and the tenor of the majority of US state restrictions, I find no basis for the claim asserted by Sebastian. Quite the opposite, actually.

This appears even more apparent when the fetus is deemed "viable". Many states ban the procedure (rape, incest excluded) altogether. Having to go to a government board to ask for an abortion at viability hardly strikes me as more restrictive. It would be much more useful to have data as to how many such requests are made, and what proportion of them are turned down.

The larger question is this.....what's the point? This comparison brings absolutely nothing to our ongoing national debate on this issue.

"Many states ban the procedure (rape, incest excluded) altogether. Having to go to a government board to ask for an abortion at viability hardly strikes me as more restrictive."

I'm not certain which states you are talking about. To my knowledge there isn't a single state in which for example: After twelve weeks, two physicians must separately certify that the abortion will be done to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; a risk to the life of the pregnant woman; or that the child will suffer from a particularly severe illness recognized as incurable. A multi-disciplinary diagnostic center is required to certify if relying on the birth defect exemption. [the French standard]

And even if you substitute 24 weeks for 12 in that standard I'm still not aware of any state in the US which is that restrictive.

Which many states are you talking about? Are there even 10? 1?

If you can extrapolate from what I think it would be all right to do in the extremely rare event of an unsuccessful post-viability abortion to a generalized defense of "infanticide," Sebastian, you are even more dishonest and sophistic than even I could have imagined. And, in the words of Han Solo, I can imagine quite a lot. But hey, give it your best shot.

I will never understand your obsession with this topic. It's even more academic for you than it is for me.

Some of you people should read the comments on the thread I linked to above, where people with actual functioning uteruses describe their real experiences with rape, pregnancy, adoption and abortion. Those are the people whose opinions on this topic I value.

As Brett notes, American law got preempted by a Supreme Court decision.

I find the discussion of what mode of law would be less "toxic" beside the point. The point is this: Is it a fundamental Constitutional right for a woman to decide what happens in her own uterus?

Whether or not you agree with the reasoning of Roe (a decision that I admire very much), it's a fair question for the Supreme Court to decide, since there are obviously many Constitutional values at stake, namely, liberty, privacy, equal protection, even property (for all you people who value this one above the others). It's certainly as fair for the Court to decide that question as whether someone can be required to purchase health care (with the penalty of a small fine if s/he doesn't).

This idea that the issue just HAS to be decided by a legislative body is pretty ridiculous.

American law got preempted by a Supreme Court decision.

Slightly off topic, perhaps, but I just wanted to say that I find this statement kind of puzzling.

First, it was not "American" law that was pre-empted, it was Texas state law. As you note, different states had different laws.

Second, how is a SCOTUS decision not part of "American law"? Isn't judicial review part of the deal in this country? At least, since Marbury v Madison?

I appreciate the genuine emotional charge that abortion carries, but do we really want to remove judicial review?

American law got preempted by a Supreme Court decision...Too bad more movements don't figure out that legislating what they want is slower, but in the long run it keeps the changes you want more securely. And nobody will talk about amending the Constitution to reverse you.

wj, you've said this before and I've pointed out: there is ZERO evidence to support this theory. Moreover, when actual political scientists have investigated the matter, they've concluded that the opposite is true. Yet you still persist in repeating this theory, again and again, blissfully ignorant and yearning to spread that ignorance to others.

It is easier to make a big political thing out of abortion if the laws are out of step with most people's moral intuitions about abortion.
I can only agree with this partway. It's easier to make a political thing out of issues of women's rights if the laws are out of step with people's sense of what is icky.
With a stricter abortion regime that nevertheless allows for access in the first trimester, abortion politics doesn't get much traction.
I think the issue doesn't get much traction because Western Europeans actually believe that women deserve comprehensive health care, including contraception. Their abortion laws may be stricter on paper, but their systems doesn't have as many extralegal barriers: you don't have to pay out of pocket, travel long distances, or run a gantlet to get an abortion.

It's also easy and unremarkable for a woman to get effective contraception, which is the single most important factor in the abortion rate worldwide. And there's none of this nonsense about abstinence education, either.

I'm probably one of those pro-choice absolutists Sebastian is talking about, partly because I've actually been pregnant and have opinions based on something more than "feelings" about what other people should or should not have no choice about.

Rephrase all these restrictions this way: "A woman has no choice about staying pregnant if she's already X weeks pregnant." "A woman has no choice about staying pregnant even if the fetus is grossly malformed." And so on. The question is not, "when should abortion be permitted?", it's about "when should women have no choice?"

Thanks Doc.

Could you just do me one favor? Can you tell me at what point a woman has made a choice?

I am not being difficult or snarky. It seems to me that giving a woman a choice, but setting a time limit on it is different than not giving her a choice.

In your construct "A woman has no more choice(except under X circumstances) after she has chosen to remain pregnant past X weeks" seems more like how all these laws read.

X weeks being long enough to ensure she is aware, has time to choose etc. 12 may be too short, 20 seems more than enough in that construct.

"I'm probably one of those pro-choice absolutists Sebastian is talking about, partly because I've actually been pregnant and have opinions based on something more than "feelings" about what other people should or should not have no choice about."

I'm not at all critiquing how you personally came to your decisions, but it just isn't true that being a woman is a reliable indicator of where you decide on abortion questions. Take this utterly typical poll.

In it we find the following:

40% of Men and 37% of Women think that abortion should be generally available.

40% of Men and 37% of Women think that abortion should be available, but with stricter limits than now.

20% of Men and 24% of Women think that abortion should not be permitted.

Within a very very few percentage points this is how it has polled for decades: a few more men than women strongly support abortion, a few more men than women support it with stricter limits (and these people about equal the first group), and a few more women than men support something very close to abortion bans (with this group being significant but smaller than the first two groups).

As the poll shows, varying for the age of the woman is not demonstrative.

So for the most part, you can't predict how people will think on abortion by gender.

Or rather, to a slight extent you can, but the effect runs exactly opposite of what the people saying you can assert.

"Leave it to Bellmore to defend murder and terrorism. I would expect nothing less."

Phil, terrorism is subject to causation. Noting some of the causal factors in no way represents approval. It would be equally accurate to note that were a high court to abruptly extend protection to apostates in any of a number of Islamic nations, the result would probably be terrorism directed at apostates.

Does observing this imply I think converts from Islam should be killed?

Within a very very few percentage points this is how it has polled for decades: a few more men than women strongly support abortion, a few more men than women support it with stricter limits (and these people about equal the first group), and a few more women than men support something very close to abortion bans (with this group being significant but smaller than the first two groups).

Interesting, but it is estimated that 30% of all women have abortions during their lifetime. That's a very popular medical procedure, since some women are infertile, and some women haven't had an unwanted pregnancy. I'd prefer to trust individual women with the decision. The women I know are fully equipped to make that decision themselves. Despite my occasional quibbles with Doctor Science, for example, I'm pretty sure she has the capacity to think thoughtfully and ethically about whether or not to bring a pregnancy to term.

As sapient points out, Sebastian, many women have opinions about abortion for polling or voting purposes that are contrary to their real-life decisions. Something about the way abortion is thought about in the US encourages the mindset where "The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion". This is American exceptionalism, all right: "except for rape, incest, and mine".

I do not blame this kind of hard-core hypocrisy on Roe v. Wade. This is slut-shaming masquerading as religion, and it is, as you say, almost as strong a force among women as among men.

I also believe that without Roe, women in about 1/3 of US states would still be dying from illegal abortions. Not the rich women, of course.

Sapient has demonstrated nothing of the sort.

From Sebastian:

"40% of Men and 37% of Women think that abortion should be generally available.

40% of Men and 37% of Women think that abortion should be available, but with stricter limits than now."

From you: (Sapient does not make this assertion.)

"As sapient points out, Sebastian, many women have opinions about abortion for polling or voting purposes that are contrary to their real-life decisions."

37% + 37% = 74% of women thinking abortion is sometimes justified. Which is a heck of a lot more than the 30% we're told are having them. Although you would expect on basic principles some degree of hypocrisy (From both sides!) the actual number don't remotely require it.

"Their abortion laws may be stricter on paper, but their systems doesn't have as many extralegal barriers: you don't have to pay out of pocket, travel long distances, or run a gantlet to get an abortion. "

Actually, you DO have to run a gantlet, unless it's a quite early abortion. How you pay for the abortion doesn't enter into it if the abortion is illegal to begin with.

Over half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion. Keep in mind that "unintended" includes "unwelcome" and "unintended but welcome."

In other words, most women who have an unintended pregnancy choose abortion.

Sure, it's fine to moralize and demonize. But most of the women you know (if you know a cross-section) would choose abortion in some circumstances. Maybe even most women you know have had them. Thank goodness, they don't have to blab their choices to everyone around them.

Dr Science: It's also easy and unremarkable for a woman to get effective contraception, which is the single most important factor in the abortion rate worldwide.

This is true. I'd like to point out that the Christian Democrats here in Norway (which are pro-life in American parlance) embrace this fact, and advocate extending the provision of free contraception to women from 18 to 25.

sapient and Dr. Science, you make a lot out of the fact that attitudes to abortion don't seem to match up with use of abortion. I think it's quite uncharitable to women who have abortions to chalk this up to hypocrisy. There are at least two other things which should be taken into account: regret and pressure.

Many people who have an abortion come to regret it. You may chalk that up to religious indoctrination if you wish; it doesn't matter for these purposes. It may still explain much of the attitudes-prevalence gap.

Here, there was also much controversy about a study which indicated that a high number of those who took abortions felt pressured to do so, by family/boyfriends or society. That's in Norway, where there is a social safety net, and a baby isn't necessarily a show stopper to get a good education and job. How much worse mustn't the pressure be in the US.

"sapient and Dr. Science, you make a lot out of the fact that attitudes to abortion don't seem to match up with use of abortion."

Was my math above futile? While that may well be the case in some instances, the number of women who do not oppose abortion in all cases is entirely sufficient to account for the number who are having abortions. No evidence has been presented above to show that attitudes and actions don't match up about as well with abortion as any other moral stance.

I will never understand your obsession with this topic. It's even more academic for you than it is for me.

And I will never understand your aversion to Sebastian's wanting to talk about this topic. Also: I will never understand your obsession with insisting that Sebastian's inquisitiveness amounts to obsession.

people with actual functioning uteruses

As a side note, and not necessarily arguing Phil's point directly, here, it'd be interesting to see hilzoy's take on whether possession of specific internal organs have any bearing whatever in a discussion of morality, or whether lack thereof automatically ought to mute conversation in certain areas.

Also, whether the relevance of given discussion of morality is fundamentally changed by whether the people discussing those questions are equipped with said organs. And of course whether women who have undergone a hysterectomy should be hushed by Phil in the same way as Sebastian is being hushed.

The German history is tricky here, as is the current legal situation. The modern debate started in 1872 with the first penal code applying to the whole of Germany. Formally the current penal code is a direct descendant from that, even most §§ numbers have stayed the same. There are three §§ that are (or at least were) generally known, so the mere mentioning of the number will be understood. §166 (blasphmey, now 'disturbance of religious peace'), §175 (male homosexual conduct, now abolished), and most importantly §218 (abortion). All three have been regular topics of legal and public discussion from inception till today. Slightly oversimplified it has always been a fight between the SPD (Social Democrats = moderate left, today supplemented by the Green Party) and the conservative incarnation of the day (always including the RCC). Despite fringe attempts to stir up a new §166 debate (§175 has been essentially dead since 1973 when it got limited to homosexual pedophilia and got finally buried in 1994 after the German reunion) only §218 remains as a potential battlefield. Since 1925/6, when medical exceptions to the total ban became legal, the fronts and arguments have stayed almost exactly the same, as are the proposed solutions. The conservative position since then has been: ban with exceptions with intra-conservative debates about what exceptions were acceptable and how a woman should prove her 'need'. This has been the law until the early/mid 1990ies with a short interruption in 1974/5. The Left/moderate position has been the 12-week model (first trimester no restrictions, after that the exceptions as in the old law). This became law in 1974 but got struck down in 1975 by the supreme court for not sufficiently taking into account the competing rights of the unborn. The legal reality was that in Northern Germany the courts were liberal in their interpretation of the exception clauses (=> de facto no ban) while in the South the courts were often extremly restrictive (at times de facto total ban). After the German reunion Eastern Germany kept its liberal abortion law (similar to the one struck down in the West) while the West kept its ban with exceptions. Because this could not stand forever the early nineties saw a renewed and oopen political/legal debate including the supreme court that ended with the current compromise. Pro forma abortion is an unlawful act (rechtswidrig) unless there are certain circumstances (übergesetzlicher Notstand) that outrank it (cf. legal killing in self-defense despite killing people being a crime under normal circumstances). In the first 12 weeks after nidation (prior to that it is not considered an abortion in the legal sense) the act is unlawful but not punishable provided the pregnant women has received counsel from a certified institution 3 days before the act.
Implementing regulations also state that the state has to provide counsel should no private service be available in an area (=guaranteed access), that it is treated like a normal visit to the doctor (=guaranteed shielding from potential employer discrimination) and that the counsel should be pro-life in tendency but not allowed to put pressure on the woman. In particular a counsel certificate cannot be denied even if the woman is not cooperative and e.g. only bodily present. That latter part led the Vatican to forbid German catholics from participating in the counsel process putting an end to the quite successful church-run councelling centres.
The legal construction of 'unlawful but not punishable' is a deliberate tightrope (not to say a conjuror's trick) to avoid answering some legal questions where no consent can be found while still providing a workable solution. So, few love the solution but most can live with it, and those that can't lack the means and numbers to change it. I might say, Germany has learned and mastered the art of 'the eternal provisional solution'* and successfully applied it here once again.

*most famous example: the Constitution that will not name itself that. It's the Grundgesetz (Basic Law) not the Verfassung (Constitution), although there is a Verfassungsgericht (=Supreme Court). Originally it was the provisional ersatz for a constitution in Western Germany to be replaced by the real thing after reunion with the East (which turned out similarly to the second coming of Christ, officially expected any day but considered extremly unlikely to happen in our lifetime). When Eastern Germany collapsed after the fall of communism, chancellor Kohl used a special clause that formally made the reunion an accession. That allowed to simply keep the 'provisional' constitution without formal need for a new one. He feared (with very good reason) that the Allies (who still had the final word) would come up sooner rather than later with spanners in the works unless the process got finished without delay. We now know that all four had a 'how the hell did we let that happen' moment later when it was too late. But the 'normative power of the factual' should by now have silenced the wish to undo.

No evidence has been presented above to show that attitudes and actions don't match up about as well with abortion as any other moral stance.

Ample evidence has been provided here previously of women who are regular protesters at clinics later showing up to have abortions at those same clinics. It's so common as to be taken for granted by now.

it'd be interesting to see hilzoy's take on whether possession of specific internal organs have any bearing whatever in a discussion of morality,

Is this a discussion about morality? I thought it was a discussion about abortion laws.

I'm probably one of those pro-choice absolutists Sebastian is talking about, partly because I've actually been pregnant and have opinions based on something more than "feelings" about what other people should or should not have no choice about.

Lived experience 1; silly, abstract sophistry nil.

Is this a discussion about morality? I thought it was a discussion about abortion laws.

But this is one of the cases where ideas about morality shape the laws from both sides (not as usual one side pushing its own morals on an indifferent populus).

Ample evidence has been provided here previously of women who are regular protesters at clinics later showing up to have abortions at those same clinics.

Ample anecdotes. But this still does not adress the issue of pressure. Yes, it's common to take for granted that people you disagree vehemently with are hypocrites, but I don't think it's as simple as that in this case.

I thought it was libertarians who were supposed to be masters of dubious revealed preference arguments, not nice liberals like us... If women are indeed so willing to discard their stated principles as you seem to think, then I see that more as a reflection of inhumane pressure than of hypocrisy.

Wait, pressure to protest, or pressure to have abortions? Either way, the claim requires some evidence, I think.

Is this a discussion about morality? I thought it was a discussion about abortion laws.

From Sebastian's post:

It is easier to make a big political thing out of abortion if the laws are out of step with most people's moral intuitions about abortion.

I hope that answers the mail, somewhat.

Nonetheless, what we're discussing is what the state of the law should be, no?

(Which, in any case, I agree with Doctor Science that "moral intuition" shouldn't be in play here anyway, since it has little to do with what the facts on the ground often are or what really happens when the rubber hits the road. So to speak.)

CCDG: the difference between an outright ban and restrictions on abortions past X-weeks is that one is an absolutist position that doesn't make any sense and the other recognizes what ought to be fairly obvious to anyone who has any experience with the matter at all: pregnancy is a process.

While I remain very uncomfortable supporting legal restrictions, I look at it like this (remember, personal views only, not intended as a blueprint for legislation!):

Early on, what you have is a clump of cells that is on its way (hopefully, barring a number of possible pitfalls) becoming a human baby. Measured against the rights of an actual human being, human being wins. To be non-scientific about it for a moment, the 7-week ultrasound picture of my daughter most resembles a tadpole.

As the fetus develops, I see its rights expanding. At some point - and I admit I'm squishy on exactly where (I'd say roughly ~20 weeks) - its right to live starts to seriously compete with the right of an adult human being to be rid of it.

Still, there are a number of maternal health complications that would still allow the woman's rights to trump. That's not the only case for late-term abortion... sometimes big-time defects are found late. I'm not talking about downs, even: I mean chhromosonal defects that are a death sentence. So yeah, carry the baby to term so it can die a few hours after birth. Your choice, IMO. Requiring that? Horrific.

But in cases where there is no particular health threat* and things are past the halfway point... really? Especially in a society that didn't go out of its way to keep people ignorant, I have trouble seeing that as a morally correct choice. Again, I'm not seeking to legislate here.

Safe, legal, rare and early would be my preference.

Nonetheless, what we're discussing is what the state of the law should be, no?

I'm not sure what your point is, here. You seem to be saying that discussions of morality are mutually exclusive of discussions of law, or that discussions of law should be completely outside of moral considerations, or suchlike.

I have to conclude that I'm not getting your point, Phil.

Quite frankly, I can't imagine a more mentally, emotionally, and physically disturbing state than be forced for months to remain pregnant and then go through child birth against one's wishes.

It's this minimization of the ordeal of pregnancy and childbirth that I find particularly galling in some of these discussions - as if a woman gets pregnant and poof nine months later there's a baby. This is also minimized, it seems to me, by the framing of pro-choice vs. pro-life.

That's fine by me, Slarti. It won't be the first time, and I'm not particularly interested in convincing you of anything.

Crap, I left a random * in my last post.

I was going to include this:

* - pregnancy itself can be seen as a health threat of sorts, even if everything seems to be going smoothly.

Phil, are you of the opinion that the pro-choice side doesn't state a moral case? Or do you want moral considerations only to be kept from your opponent's side of the discussion?

I would think that any discussion having women have a *right* to "......" or should be *free* to "....." is obviously a discussion about morality for almost anything you want to put between the quotes.

As I demonstrated before, abortion opinions do not appear to be largely correlated by gender, and the hypocrisy argument doesn't match the numbers. Further, women are more represented in the hard core pro-life side, so even if you successfully censored men from the debate, you would only end up shifting it more to the pro-life side.

I'm of the opinion that it's nobody's business but the individual pregnant woman's and her doctor's, and everybody else should stay the heck out of it.

I should no more have the power to prevent you from having an abortion than I should have the power to prevent you from taking heroin, piercing your nipples, or anything else.

I'm not particularly interested in convincing you of anything.

I'm not asking you to convince me of anything, just communicate a little.

But of course there's no obligation for you to do so.

Sebastian I'm going to repeat some of the same questions I had when you posted something similar on Crookedtimber.



It seemed to me that it was because European restrictions on abortion tend to be much more restrictive than those in the US, and thus much more in line with most people's intuitions about a fetus having a protectable interest as it became close to becoming a separate child.

How do you explain what happens in the UK if this is your stance? In the UK restrictions on abortion don't kick in until week 24 and abortion is paid for by the NHS (although you can go private if you want to).

Before you quote the Abortion Act back at me I know it requires two doctors to be of the opinion that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family. But the way this is interpreted over here means that any woman who wants an abortion can get one up to week 24. Remember that this situation was brought about not by a court decision but by parliament. So if a majority of MPs wanted to they could put as many restrictions as they want on abortion.

Compare that to the situation in the US where several states would ban abortion outright except in very limited circumstances given the chance. As it is federal dollars can't fund abortions (in most cases), several states have now have banned abortions past week 20 (with exceptions for medical complications), several states have only one or a handful of providers and several barriers to surmount before a women can get an abortion.

I'd argue that in reality the UK regime is more permissive than the US and it has got that way despite the fact it would be easy to move to a less permissive regime. Yet abortion issues have nowhere near the traction in the UK as they do in the US, which seems to argue directly against your thesis.

it requires two doctors to be of the opinion that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman

Isn't that condition trivially satisfied for almost all pregnancies? Statistically, abortion has much lower mortality rates than childbirth....

I suspect part of the issue in the UK is that its laws are in line with people's intuitions, but the enforcement isn't. So it is easier to rally against laws that are obviously (to those who oppose them) wrong than to rally against laws that are right but whose enforcement undercuts them.

Or alternatively, it could be because the US is still even more permissive than the UK. Even with lax enforcement, the UK's legal situation is comparable to the middle of the road US state, but much more restrictive than some of the big states (like California). The UK is pretty much the extreme of permissiveness of the European countries, while it wouldn't come close in the US.

I suspect part of the issue in the UK is that its laws are in line with people's intuitions, but the enforcement isn't.

I -- like bexley? -- live in the UK; I have lived here all my life. I was born in 1946. I have followed the changes in abortion laws here with the interest natural to a woman who, pre-1967, thought she faced a back street abortion, and who later managed to save another woman from one and procure her a medical one. I took part in the ALRA campaigns to uphold the 1967 Act and defeat attempts to repeal it or amend it so as radically to reduce women's rights. I still follow discussions of abortion in the media across the poltical spectrum. I know how aware people here are of the way the law is implemented.

And I have over the years taken part in more discussions about the Act than I can even attempt to remember, with people from all walks of life.

You, Sebastian, do not know what you are talking about. Certainly there is some concern here, perhaps, considerable concern, about the 24-week limit (reduced, for most cases, from 28 in 1999). And certainly, there is concern among some that the NHS carries out what some people call "partial birth" abortions. (The NHS does indeed carry out such abortions.) But abortion's political valence is so low that, compared to the US, it might as well be zero.



Just to add that I agree with hartmut's comments on German political culture (and with faustusnotes' contast between Australia etc. and the US, in comment 450, CT thread).

Also

"Is this a discussion about morality? I thought it was a discussion about abortion laws."

From Sebastian's post:

"It is easier to make a big political thing out of abortion if the laws are out of step with most people's moral intuitions about abortion."

I hope that answers the mail, somewhat.

No, it doesn't. Sebastian's argument here is an empirical one. It is an argument about what the laws are (were, anyway; Spain's law has changed), and about what "most people's moral intuitions" are, and about the probable consequences of a mismatch between them.

(Yes it is also something else. But Sebastian should say so.)


Even with lax enforcement, the UK's legal situation is comparable to the middle of the road US state, but much more restrictive than some of the big states (like California). The UK is pretty much the extreme of permissiveness of the European countries, while it wouldn't come close in the US.

Not sure what you mean. Taking my points one by one:

1. "Lax enforcement"
Umm the wording of the law means that every single pregnancy satisfies the requirements up to 24 weeks (as Turbulence pointed out). Childbirth carries risks and being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy is mentally stressful. It isn't lax enforcement that allows abortion under those grounds.

2. "Much more restrictive than some of the big states"

In what way is it more restrictive in the UK? Every pregnancy satisfies the conditions up to 24 weeks therefore those conditions are not restrictive at all (as is shown by the way they are applied).

Moreover the NHS does provide abortions unlike the US where the Hyde amendment pretty much blocks federal dollars from funding abortions. This I would argue is one fewer retriction (ability to stump up the cash).

This is an example of why the discussion of abortion in the US does not lead to anything but acrimony and polarization. As long as Republican politicians use the the issue for self-aggrandizing hatemongering there will never be a good faith effort to make laws that are in line with public attitudes.

GOP Rep: Obama Is 'The Enemy Of Life,' Appoints Pro-Abortion 'Death Peddlers' To Cabinet
www.huffingtonpost.com

"As long as Republican politicians use the the issue for self-aggrandizing hatemongering there will never be a good faith effort to make laws that are in line with public attitudes."

Huh? The Supreme Court has made it impossible to make laws that are in line with public attitudes.

I doubt that the situation would improve, if SCOTUS overturned its own decision. One might argue (I do not!) that the situation would be less polarized, if there never had been a Roe vs. Wade but in this world and this US were it exists there is no easy way out. Personally I think that SCOTUS actually overturning Roe vs. Wade would make the polarization even worse than it is now. Blood in the water for those that see Roe vs. Wade as just the tiny first step on the way. Just a few years ago anyone would have been laughed out of the room for wanting to start a war on contraception and making that a focal point of a preseidential campaign. But look at the GOP field today. Even "Women are not supposed to lead men" has become an acceptable stance again.

I think in America the real abortion argument tends to be more about controlling female sexuality, the fetus is secondary. In Europe, even on the right, there is a lot more acceptance of the idea that young women are allowed to enjoy sex and there is far less stigma about young women being sexually active. I think that makes the abortion debate a little more rational over here (writing from Vienna).

I'm with Vanya. In Europe sex is seen as natural, we expect our adolescents & adults to have sexual relationships in order to have a good time. Having a kid is serious business and a lot of responsability - it should not be an unwelcome consequence of bad luck when you had sex. So protecting against pregnancy and STD's is the norm and unplanned pregnancies never judged as something preventable by not having sex.

this guy (http://www.roa.unimaas.nl/cv/Levels/nw_levels.htm) wrote a dissertation last year that showed that countries with a liberal abortion policy have slightly more abortions than countries with a restrictive policy. But countries with a liberal anti-conception policy had way lower abortion figures.

People who are very anti-abortion but are also very anti-conception are imho just very anti-sex. At least for women.

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

Given that 1.5% of abortions in the US happen past the 20-week point...

The whole idea here is that abortion is more regulated in Europe, with restrictions on when. Ok. If that were to happen here, it would result in... almost no change.

People who are very anti-abortion but are also very anti-conception are imho just very anti-sex.

Well yes, that describes the US "pro-life" movement quite well. Not every individual American who has qualms about abortion, mind, but the movement types. They're generally very religious, and their holy book is, well, pretty much what you'd expect from something written when/where it was when it comes to the topic of sex.

I think in America the real abortion argument tends to be more about controlling female sexuality

We try to respect all belief systems, here.

Vanya: I think in America the real abortion argument tends to be more about controlling female sexuality.

Slarti: We try to respect all belief systems, here.

Well let's unpack this a bit. Certainly there must be a group of people in the U.S. who both (i) are in favor strict restrictions on abortion, maybe even outright bans w/the usual exceptions, and yet (ii) are in favor of female sexuality and easy access to birth control. How big is this group? Well, it's hard to say, though they appear to not be big enough to have any sway on the national political scene.

Instead, we seem to have a group that both (i) is in favor of strict restrictions on abortion, maybe even outright bans w/the usual exceptions (or w/o), and (ii) are opposed to easy access to birth control, especially things like Plan B, despite that allowing (ii) would greatly reduce (i). And are not big fans of female sexuality, to say the least. How big is this group? Well, again it's hard to say, but it does seem to have a great deal of sway on the national political scene, big enough to get the Obama Administration to reverse the FDA's Plan B decision on naked political grounds.

On the opposing side we have a group in favor of abortion and female sexuality (perhaps with third trimester restrictions) and easy access to birth control. This group also seems to have a fair bit of sway on the national political scene, and the support of SCOTUS, at least for now. (I know of no group who is in favor of abortion but opposes birth control, the absence of which might be telling).

Where am I going with this? I forget, but I guess the "pro-life/contraception alliance" just ain't there in the U.S., and thus people go where Vanya went.

third trimester restrictions of abortion that is, not female sexuality (however that might work)


Easy access to contraception isn't already here? That giant rack of condoms in the drugstore disagrees.

The fact that some people don't agree that it's absolutely fabulous for people to tell their kids that it's fine to have sex outside of a committed relationship has nothing to do with controlling female sexuality and everything to do with encouraging responsible sexual behavior.

I say that not because I believe it's absolutely the case that people opposed to this kind of exposure to sexuality in public school think that way, but in order to show what the flipside of Vanya's absolute could look like.

Come to think of it, how you control female sexuality in general without controlling male sexuality in general is something that needs explaining.

Well, the control part is that the male decides if, when, where, and how the female has sex. And some with influence [insert name of e.g. conservative candidates for office or televangelists] are open about their opinion that this control includes forcing sex on unwilling females if the (legal and moral) controller feels that way. What else can one call vocal opposition to the mere idea of intra-marital rape with the reasoning that the wife by marriage vow has automtically consented to sex whenever the husband desires it (but not the other way around)?
Control does not mean no sex but that decisions are made by another person.

Well, the control part is that the male decides if, when, where, and how the female has sex. And some with influence [insert name of e.g. conservative candidates for office or televangelists] are open about their opinion that this control includes forcing sex on unwilling females if the (legal and moral) controller feels that way. What else can one call vocal opposition to the mere idea of intra-marital rape with the reasoning that the wife by marriage vow has automtically consented to sex whenever the husband desires it (but not the other way around)?
Control does not mean no sex but that decisions are made by another person.

Who has said the man gets to choose when the woman has sex?

Contraception is easily available in the United States.

WIth 2 daughters, the oldest of which has started listening to heartbreak song after heartbreak song, the question of availability of contraception piques my interest. Since we have folks from various places, I'm interested about how female contraception availability works. Here are some links about it in Japan.
http://www.prochoiceforum.org.uk/comm13.php

and

http://www.survivingnjapan.com/2010/12/guide-to-birth-control-pills-in-japan.html

I'm especially curious about to what extent national health insurance pays for it.

What McKTx said.

There may be some fringe sects (!) where the man gets to decide as a matter of course, but...well, mine is quite conservative,and that is very far from doctrinal. It's abnormal, I think.

Interesting what pictures people paint inside their heads, though.

I'm especially curious about to what extent national health insurance pays for it.

In the UK, most forms of contraception are basically free. They're available from most GP surgeries, from various types of clinic, and, apparently, from some young people's services. The services (dispensing/advice) are free and confidential. Standard emergency contraception pills are available at pharmacists and clinics; they're free under the NHS, but most pharmacies charge for them.

Of course, there are private clinics too.


Who has said the man gets to choose when the woman has sex?

I know some clerics and politicians around here (or at least within the country, not the godless city I live in) that do.

There may be some fringe sects (!) where the man gets to decide as a matter of course, but...well, mine is quite conservative,and that is very far from doctrinal. It's abnormal, I think.

When I went to school (I finished in 1992) the German parliament discussed the topic of intra-marital rape repeatedly. It took several attempts over several years to get that passed and the opposition from certain political quarters supported by a certain religious institution was significant. Although rarely put that bluntly, it was often obvious that the (male) opponents followed the doctrine that a woman forfeits her right to decide against sex by marrying. While I do not remember any prominent politician quoting Ephesians 5 in this context, it could be heard from their clerical supporters.
Btw, nice that you share my view that the RCC is a fringe sect ;-)
The protestant fringe stayed mainly out of the public dicussion but our family has enough contacts there to know that they are into female submission (and still occasionally rant against the mainline protestant church(es) for allowing women on the pulpit).

Contraception is easily available in the United States.

Yes. But isn't the point that if you look at the US pro-life movement you see several leading players combining an anti-abortion position with an opposition to contraception. The leading players in the movement don't seem to want to make it easy to get contraception.

For example Rick Santorum combines his opposition to abortion with opposition to contraception and has said he thinks States should have the right to ban contraception. The hierarchy of the Catholic church is also anti abortion and anti contraception.

The Republican controlled House voted to defund, the largest provider of reproductive health services in the US, Planned Parenthood (with the vote almost precisely splitting down party lines). That's despite the fact that 35% of its services are contraception related and 3% are abortion (and the abortions aren't funded by federal dollars anyway). Newt Gingrich is on record as saying he would like to defund Planned Parenthood.

So it seems pretty clear that the pro-lifers want to both ban abortions as well as make it harder to get contraception.

And some with influence [insert name of e.g. conservative candidates for office or televangelists] are open about their opinion that this control includes forcing sex on unwilling females if the (legal and moral) controller feels that way.

Again, I would like to see names (more than one) who have either openly condemned contraception or who have linked opposition to abortion with opposition to contraception. Finally, I would like to see names of influential conservatives/televangelists who have stated or implied that men drive the "when" of sex and women have no say.

But isn't the point that if you look at the US pro-life movement you see several leading players combining an anti-abortion position with an opposition to contraception.

Santorum is an outlier, even if he has a following. Is there any evidence that Santorum's following agrees with his views on contraception? Or is it more the case of their buying into his generally hyper-conservative social views?

I'm pro-life as are many other Americans who practice birth control without any moral qualms whatsoever. I know of no mainline Protestant or Evangelical church that opposes birth control. Official RCC doctrine does, as it opposes divorce, yet the rank and file freely disregard these injunctions. Official Southern Baptist doctrine, if there is such a thing anymore, does recognize the husband as the head of house, so to speak, and enjoins to wife to submit. However, the majority of Southern Baptist ministers qualify this injunction in so many ways that it is substantively indistinguishable from say, the Anglican/Episcopal take, which is both partners are equal and should support each other and respect each other in every way.

It is the pro-choice movement that repeatedly seeks to validate its views on abortion by attempting to link pro-lifers with a broad spectrum attack on women's sexuality and birth control.

So, name names, please.

Finally, I would like to see names of influential conservatives/televangelists who have stated or implied that men drive the "when" of sex and women have no say.

In 1980, in every state of the union, martial rape was legal. Husbands could rape their wives without legal consequence. Over the next decade or two, that state of affairs slowly changed. But changing law on the books is a lot easier than changing minds.

I must ask: why was marital rape legal until recently? Isn't martial rape one of the legal traditions that forms the bedrock of our legal system? Shouldn't conservatives seek to conserve such grand traditions?

@ McKinney

You've ignored the fact the House Repubs have taken a stance which would reduce access to contraception by defunding PP. It shows that anti-contraception action isnt just restricted to outliers like Mr Frothy.

I'd argue that your pro-life pro contraception stance doesn't seem to be influencing the debate right now.

I'd say the "pro-life" (to an extent) + pro-contraception is a pretty strong but "silent" chunk (I won't say silent majority, because I think that's overstating it).

But I might say that because I've grown up and lived my life in Connecticut, where even relatively conservative people think birth control is just fine. YMMV.

...

Again: given that 1.5% of abortions occur past 20 weeks, shouldn't we note that if we snapped our figures and became more like Europe (much more restricted), the change in # of abortions would be minimal. Unless, of course, we also magically became more like Europe in other views on sex and this, in turn, lowered the unwanted pregnancy rate...

Hmm, to be fair, I was looking at the 18 week countries, but there are also a lot of 12 week ones. That would impact things more.

Still, it seems to me that restrictions on abortions are coming at the problem from the wrong end (wrong not as in morally wrong, as in less productive. Prevention of unwanted pregnancy in the first place seems an obviously superior method. Of course, that involves cultural change more than anything, so it's hard.

The fact is that Sebastian, Slarty and McTex are right: contraception is generally easily available in the USA. But it's not being used at nearly a high enough rate. I personally mark this down to poor/non-existant sex ed. But then even in my state, which I think teaches reasonably good sex ed classes in school, has lots of unwanted pregnancies (though less than other states). I think it needs to be escalated beyond a class period or two. I think there should be a steady drumbeat about it (a public health campaign, not unlike ads about the dangers of smoking).

You've ignored the fact the House Repubs have taken a stance which would reduce access to contraception by defunding PP.

The repubs defunded PP because PP is the largest abortion provider in the country and they don't like federally funded abortions or bookkeeping gimmicks. This is a big stretch. As big as the one's above I'm trying to call out.

I personally mark this down to poor/non-existant sex ed.

Is there really a kid under the age of 13 in this day and age that doesn't know what a condom is for, and how to use one?

I'd hypothesize that it's not so much lack of knowledge in using contraceptives as much lack of planning in having them handy combined with aw WTF let's just ride bareback this time. And doubtless, other factors. It's the vector sum of ignorance and enjoying the moment.

Condoms aren't really your single-stop birth control devices, so there's that. I'd be just fine giving every kid under the age of (say) 18 a contraceptive implant, which they can disable if they really, really want to get pregnant. If you could do that, it'd take a lot of the operator-error-induced-pregnancies out of the equation.

We're staying away from discussing STDs at this point.

I'd argue that your pro-life pro contraception stance doesn't seem to be influencing the debate right now.

I'd guess that birth control and abortion are seen as linearly independent issues. I don't know ANYONE that wants teenagers to have babies, that's not in some kind of fringe-Mormon(ish) sect.

Most religious antiabortion advocates are also for abstinence, which if Jesurgislac were still commenting here she'd pop in with abstinence doesn't work. But it does, if you do it correctly. It's that last part that's the trick.

I am not one of those people, I want to note, that just prays really hard that their kids will just abstain until they get married and think that the praying will be the same as having it turn out that way. Also: just because you're married doesn't mean that you don't want to use contraception. That whole myopic way of looking at things is something I've never understood.

...she'd pop in with abstinence doesn't work.

I'm just guessing that she'd say abstinence-only education doesn't work, rather than properly practiced abstinence (which is what I would say, too).

There is a difference, no?

I'd hypothesize that it's not so much lack of knowledge in using contraceptives as much lack of planning in having them handy combined with aw WTF let's just ride bareback this time. And doubtless, other factors. It's the vector sum of ignorance and enjoying the moment.

Isn't that sort of the point, though? It's one thing to know something, and it's another to internalize it so that you're more likely to act on that knowledge.

Most people know that fire is dangerous, but fail to take proper precautions unless fire safety is drilled into their heads, (which is just one of countless other examples of what it means to truly educate people in a way that has meaning beyond the abstraction of knowledge.)

"But isn't the point that if you look at the US pro-life movement you see several leading players combining an anti-abortion position with an opposition to contraception."

and

"I'd argue that your pro-life pro contraception stance doesn't seem to be influencing the debate right now."


Even if that were true, it is politically irrelevant. Early term abortions aren't going anywhere and contraception isn't going anywhere with even more certainty than that. They don't need to 'influence the debate' because from a political perspective the contraception debate is pretty much over except at the very fringes.

"I'm just guessing that she'd say abstinence-only education doesn't work, rather than properly practiced abstinence (which is what I would say, too)."

The studies show that abstinence only education doesn't work *any better than condoms and birth control sex education*. Which puts an entirely different color on the whole thing.

"The Republican controlled House voted to defund, the largest provider of reproductive health services in the US, Planned Parenthood (with the vote almost precisely splitting down party lines). That's despite the fact that 35% of its services are contraception related and 3% are abortion (and the abortions aren't funded by federal dollars anyway)."

Come on, that sounds like a talking point from Planned Parenthood rather than an argument for this discussion. Planned Parenthood is a target because of its abortions and the fact that it is incredibly politically active regarding abortions. If it was only a contraception place it wouldn't have been a target because contraception enjoys a huge amount of support in the population. Abortion is much more mixed.

it's another to internalize it so that you're more likely to act on that knowledge

Yes, practice makes perfect. And of course we all learn from our mistakes, or so one hopes.

The problem comes from the mistake-making, I think. But I'm not going to come out for adult-supervised teen sex just yet.

Insert kidding emoticons if needed.

I'm just guessing that she'd say abstinence-only education doesn't work

That's possible. She certainly said that on a number of occasions.

The studies show that abstinence only education doesn't work *any better than condoms and birth control sex education*.

That's a cite-worthy assertion, since that's what "the studies" show.

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