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June 14, 2006

Comments

As Amanda at Pandagon already pointed out, the argument that it's embryonic death that really, really matters - means that "pro-lifers" who claim that ought to be angrily, fervently, passionately in favor of all methods of contraception that prevent embryos being conceived - and furiously against the "rhythm method", which kills far more embryos than any method of barrier pr oral contraception.

But, as Amanda says: "pro-lifers", given a choice between "saving babies" and hurting women, will pick the latter, every time.

I suppose, however, that we could decide to turn all our children gay -- thereby eliminating any risk of embryonic death.

Not quite: after all, even though lesbians and gays will in general only attempt fertilization when they actually want a baby, thus eliminating all the messy embryo death that anti-choicers like to have happen in each woman's uterus on a monthly basis, any woman can be raped, and even lesbians can suffer miscarriages.

(Great. Now I'm going to get it from both ends in the gay rights debate as well.)

It's a lovely image, Von, but make sure they use condoms. :-)

(end bold) (retires with apologetic curses)

But, as Amanda says: "pro-lifers", given a choice between "saving babies" and hurting women, will pick the latter, every time.

Yes, every time I consider doing anything at all for a child, I instead smack my wife around. Just for fun, mind you.

I quit reading Pandagon when Marcotte signed up, she's awful.

Well, it does show how silly it is to equate embryo worship with "prolife" values.

What's with the last quoted professor, who believes that birth control pills or emergency contraception might harm a viable embryo? Is there any clinical evidence whatsoever for that statement?

Still, boldly into the breech and all that

A lively metaphor given the context, made downright gnomic by "breech" for "breach"--one can't shrug off the possibility that Von is making a pun that one doesn't quite get.

When it comes to the abortion debate, I'd much rather not argue from first principles, frankly.

Blast! If only Right Reason counted as a journal publication:

I'm not sure about this (please fact check me), but I think that the likelihood that a zygote will be flushed out of the uterus depends on the timing of fertilization, with fertilization later in the menstrual cycle more likely to lead to death due to a failure to implant in the uterus. Does anyone care? Concentrating intercourse at a slightly earlier part of the menstrual cycle might prevent hundreds of thousands of zygote deaths a year, without any drop in the birth rate. Does anyone consider it immorally negligent to ignore this impact of timing when deciding when to have intercourse? As far as I can tell, the answer is no.

That's me in October 2005, when I was making the argument that no one treats embryos as if they were objects of moral concern like any other person. Pretty much the only moral consideration anyone applies to them is "do not intentionally kill". As I put it there:

If a fertilized human ovum is a human being like any other, deserving of equal standing in our moral community, then that means that the number one cause of death, by far, is failure to implant in the uterus. Approximately 5 million of our fellow Americans die of this nasty biological problem each year (exact statistics are elusive, as careful records are not kept). Shouldn't one of our central societal goals be to develop ways of preventing or treating this condition so that these millions of lives can be saved?

In addition to timing methods, I brought up the possibilities of focusing on parents' health and having a massive research program on par with cancer research (or larger, since more lives are at stake). No one showed much interest.

I stopped reading Pandagon as well when Jesse left. Occasional doses of Amanda were a bit thought-provoking; regular doses much more banal.

Yes, every time I consider doing anything at all for a child, I instead smack my wife around. Just for fun, mind you.

Funny slart, I always suspected this abouyt you. Clearly, you are a man whose backhand is to be feared and whose concern for children is rises only barely above your concern for whether or not the milk has gone bad.

Argh, this meme drives me nuts. Even though I think you are on the wrong side of this issue (though I suspect I have a lot more in common with your views than those on either edge), I don't think you are bat$^*& insane. Why anyone thinks accusing you of being so furthers their argument is beyong me.

Yes, every time I consider doing anything at all for a child, I instead smack my wife around. Just for fun, mind you.

Funny slart, I always suspected this abouyt you. Clearly, you are a man whose backhand is to be feared and whose concern for children is rises only barely above your concern for whether or not the milk has gone bad.

Argh, this meme drives me nuts. Even though I think you are on the wrong side of this issue (though I suspect I have a lot more in common with your views than those on either edge), I don't think you are bat$^*& insane. Why anyone thinks accusing you of being so furthers their argument is beyond me.

...I brought up the possibilities of focusing on parents' health and having a massive research program on par with cancer research (or larger, since more lives are at stake). No one showed much interest.

I've brought up the same thing with various pro-lifers, with similar results. Heck, I've offered specific proposals for research programs that might result in lower rates of failed implantation and other early abortions...no one's offered to fund them yet, though. All of which indicates to me that either they don't really believe that pre-differentiation embryos are people or they really don't mind a lot of dead babies. Fifty percent is probably a conservative estimate: I've seen estimates as high as 80% and 50-70% is the number the text books tend to throw around. Can you imagine a situation in which 50% or more of people were dying of a particular disease, especially 50+% of babies, and people sort of looking around and saying "oh, well, it's natural, nothing to be done about it"?

There is a difference, he argued, between forming an embryo that is not viable — which may occur for couples using any form of family planning, including natural family planning — and taking an action, like using emergency contraception or birth control pills, that could prevent a viable embryo from developing.

Does that mean it's perfectly ok to create embryos for use in embryonic stem cell research as long as they are clearly non-viable for the purposes of implantation? I'm pretty sure that could be done fairly easily...maybe just knock out m-calpain or LIF or some similar gene.

Dianne: oddly enough, that has been proposed (see second proposal.)

Also: one way in which some stem cell researchers are trying to compromise with their opponents is by using less viable embryos from IVF. This is, I think, one of those compromises that's just bad, bad, bad. There's a lot of reason to think that less viable embryos will make much less good stem cells; so it's not at all a neutral concession. And while I favor trying to find common ground, I don't favor doing so at the expense of the benefits your research is trying to provide.

Why anyone thinks accusing you of being so furthers their argument is beyond me.

It's because it's much easier to paint with a paint roller than it is with a fine-point brush. One covers a lot more area in a short time, but one also makes a lot more mess, and the detail is severely diminished. Plus, there's the cleanup to consider.

This, by the way, is one of the many, many reasons I have for appreciating hilzoy. I don't agree with her much of the time, but her criticisms are fair, considered, pointed and specific, rather than propped up with invective, broad, and, well, oafish as the text Jesurgislac quoted above. If I were a cat, I'd give that one the butt direct. Those who are not cat owners may be confused by that one, admittedly.

Kind thoughts are, as always, appreciated, so: thanks for allowing for the notion that I'm not completely evil.

If I were a cat, I'd give that one the butt direct.

I've always taken this as a friendly gesture.

No, that's when they actually present the butt to you and await your attentions. The maneuver I speak of is when they present the butt, then walk rapidly away. It says: you are not worthy to scratch my hindquarters.

Why anyone thinks accusing you of being so furthers their argument is beyond me.

Slarti accused himself: why he thought that furthered his argument is beyond me, too.

"I stopped reading Pandagon as well when Jesse left."

Slightly uncomfortable with a pile-on, but ditto.

hilzoy: Eep! I wasn't serious...I don't believe in the personhood of morula stage embryos, but if I did, I think I'd see a proposal to produce unimplantable embryos to use therapeutically as a little like a proposal to raise children as veal substitute as long as they were pithed first. If embryos are babies how can it be right to intentionally damage them? Or ignore a disease that's killing half of them?

Slarti accused himself: why he thought that furthered his argument is beyond me, too.

Why, no.

Being pro-life and a male, I thought that must certainly lead to the conclusion that I must prefer hurting females. Certainly, if one takes the quote at face value, I must "choose" (and, really, is it a choice if I do that every single time, uncontrollably? If it were me, I'd say not) hurting a female over helping a child.

Of course, Ms. Marcotte could be being typically self-contradictory, in which case I withdraw my objection to the slur. It's almost not even a slur if it's made in such a way that it nearly erases itself with self-contradiction.

As for the "argument", I have none outside of that a) it was a stupid, inaccurate thing to say in the first place, and b) you compounded the error by quoting it here. You could retract your support for it, or you could continue your support for malevolent guilt-by-association travesties of illogic. Your choice.

Slartibartfast: Being pro-life and a male, I thought that must certainly lead to the conclusion that I must prefer hurting females.

Depends how you define being "pro-life", doesn't it? If you define it as: contraception is bad, abortion is wrong because aborting a blastocyte is the exact moral equivalent of killing a toddler, and neither mothers nor children deserve any support from the state, then yes, you do prefer hurting women to saving babies - and that's how "pro-lifers" argue. You will not find a single "pro-life" organization anywhere that supports free contraception - not even one that advocates easy access to contraception as the most useful method of preventing abortions.

But I'd always assumed that you were, in fact, pro-choice: that whatever your personal view on abortion, you would not prevent a woman who needed an abortion from getting one - nor presume to judge from the outside whether she needed one enough to justify getting one. I tend to assume that people I like have decent moral values, until they explicitly tell me otherwise. (Oh, and that you're smart enough to realize that the best way of preventing abortions is to make sure that everyone has access to contraception and knows how to use it - none of this abstinence-only/pharmacists rights crap.)

But, if your moral values are that you feel women deserve to die in illegal abortions or suffer through unwanted pregnancy/childbirth for the crime of having had sex, well...

If you define it as: contraception is bad, abortion is wrong because aborting a blastocyte is the exact moral equivalent of killing a toddler, and neither mothers nor children deserve any support from the state...

Nope! Awesome, I'm in the clear.

Depends how you define being "pro-life", doesn't it?

Yes, it does. Thanks for seeing that.

But I'd always assumed that you were, in fact, pro-choice: that whatever your personal view on abortion, you would not prevent a woman who needed an abortion from getting one - nor presume to judge from the outside whether she needed one enough to justify getting one.

Well, I don't see those as mutually incompatible ways of thinking. I think I've said some things to this effect over at HOCB; maybe you missed it. To condense a lot of words into a few: I'm pro-life, but I don't see any ethical way to legislate my preference in this matter, so I prefer that we accomplish the minimization of abortion through other means, which include sex education, access to birth control, etc.

So, it's not quite as black/white as you were thinking, perhaps.

If you define it as: contraception is bad, abortion is wrong because aborting a blastocyte is the exact moral equivalent of killing a toddler

No, I think that's your definition. Consider that there may be more than two positions to take on this; that perhaps there is a continuum of valuations between no value and equally valuable.

I'm pro-life, but I don't see any ethical way to legislate my preference in this matter, so I prefer that we accomplish the minimization of abortion through other means, which include sex education, access to birth control, etc.

Which makes you pro-choice.

As I've said repeatedly, here and on HoCB, being pro-choice/anti-choice is the real split - using "pro-life" as a label just confuses the issue, especially since most hard-line "pro-lifers" aren't especially pro-life. Decent people are pro-choice, regardless of their personal feelings about abortion.

No, I think that's your definition.

No, Slarti: if you think I made it up, it's because you've never read (for example) Niels Jackson's contributions to the debate. There are plenty of "pro-lifers" out there who claim they really do believe that aborting a fetus is exactly like killing a toddler. (I think most of them are lying, but that's certainly what they say they believe.)

A friend of mine (she blogs as Doctor Science) did a survey of "pro-life" websites, trying to find one or more which were actively pro-contraception. She couldn't find one. Not even the "Feminists for Life" organization was willing to advocate for access to contraception as a menas of preventing abortions.

By defining yourself as pro-life, rather than as pro-choice, you absolutely are associating yourself with people who don't believe women ought to have access to contraception.

I really started reading Pandagon regularly when Jesse left and Marcotte starting posting regularly. This, I suppose, marks my difference from many in the ObsWi community in that I value polemic over reasoned and evidenced argument. In my experience, people rarely reverse political or religious positions or tribal affiliations based on logic, and rhetoric is useful only as it increases the intensity with which opinions are held.

The pro-choice or pro-freedom or pro-women side of the abortion/contraception/etc debate has obviously not been served well over the last thirty years by attempting to be "reasonable." Not competitive. The foot on womens' neck has only been turned into a jackboot, grinding ever harder.

"...for appreciating hilzoy. I don't agree with her much of the time, but her criticisms are fair, considered, pointed and specific.."

I do value the Bouguereau's, Alma-Tademas and other academic realists: those with such skill at fine detail and almost photographic reproduction. They became rich and famous and were knighted

And the Turners and Van Goghs and Monets are fuzzy and weird and just crazy sometimes.

But I recognize the difference between sentimentality that takes refuge in reason and socially accepted discourse; and a passion and committment that is expressed from the heart without concern for popularity and approval.

The foot on womens' neck has only been turned into a jackboot, grinding ever harder.

And I still do have those VRWC jackboots, which hurt even more. They kept asking for them back, but I thought the sacrifice of deposit was totally worth it.

It's hard to see your point, Bob. Does hilzoy fall into the passion-and-commitment bin or in the reasoned-sentimentality bin?

As I've said repeatedly, here and on HoCB, being pro-choice/anti-choice is the real split - using "pro-life" as a label just confuses the issue, especially since most hard-line "pro-lifers" aren't especially pro-life. Decent people are pro-choice, regardless of their personal feelings about abortion.

You realize of course that one can just as easily say: "Being pro-life/anti-life is the real split. Using pro-choice as a label just confuses the issue, since most hard-line pro-choicers aren't especially pro-choice. Decent people are pro-life, regardless of their personal feelings about abortion."

Neither paragraph contains any meaningful text -- they are both mirrors into which a true believer can stare. This is why both "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are pointless designations. I support life. I also support people having choices. My, my, whatever shall I do?

Just as few ardent "pro-lifers" oppose the death penalty, so few ardent "pro-choicers" support an individual's right to stop paying taxes if they dislike the government. The two terms have everything to do with abortion and spin. Those who pretend otherwise -- on either side -- are simply propagandists desperate to grab the hearts of wafflers.

"Being pro-life/anti-life is the real split. Using pro-choice as a label just confuses the issue, since most hard-line pro-choicers aren't especially pro-choice. Decent people are pro-life, regardless of their personal feelings about abortion."

You could certainly very easily type that, of course, Jeff, but it wouldn't be true. Even if we ignore all the other issues - war, the death penalty - a hardline "pro-lifer" (one opposed to women ever having the choice for legal abortion) is straightforwardly for pregnant women dying. That's what being a "pro-lifer" - a hardline anti-choicer - is all about: women dying.

I support life. I also support people having choices. My, my, whatever shall I do?

Be pro-choice: that way, while you don't get to use the political label "pro-life", you do actually get to be on the side of saving lives.

The jackboot was a Marcottish joke, with irony.

"It's hard to see your point, Bob. Does hilzoy fall into the passion-and-commitment bin or in the reasoned-sentimentality bin?"

I fear a collision with the posting rules, because style, tactics, methods are so often considered part of identity. The question was Marcotte vs hilzoy, rhetoric vs dialectic, the value of polemic, etc. I am under-educated to really discuss post-Enlightenment strategies, though I suspect I am intuitively attracted to them.

But I have read me some Kant, consider Nietzsche and Kierkeggaard Kant de profundis, and the Enlightenment a sentimental escape from responsibility and authenticity. Sentimentality defined as emotion filtered and attenuated with reason.

We is lizards, not computers.

"Being pro-life/anti-life is the real split. Using pro-choice as a label just confuses the issue, since most hard-line pro-choicers aren't especially pro-choice. Decent people are pro-life, regardless of their personal feelings about abortion."

Ugh. The real split is about when we want to treat genetic human beings that are not fully developed as 'persons' for the sake of the law. The hard-core pro-choice position is "not a second before birth". The hard-core pro-life position is "every single second after conception". Most people aren't either. You, Jesurgislac, don't advocate a woman's right to choose to kill a person. You don't believe the fetus at any stage before birth is a person. The disagreement is not about choice, it is about the personhood of the fetus. You are not anti-life, I am not anti-choice (in fact in most other political arenas I am much more radically for choices than you are). Where we disagree on abortion is where legal personhood should attach to a homo sapiens which isn't fully developed.

The development in the post is interesting (mostly to Catholics engaged in the debate) because it suggests that one side or the other of their debating points have been wrong. If the rhythm method avoids pregnancy just like an IUD they either need to abandon making allowances for the rhythm method or they have to object to the IUD on grounds other than "it kills a baby".

I think their objection to contraceptive use is both stupid and not particularly grounded in the Bible, so I would hope they abanon it. But the way the Catholic Church works that won't happen for many years at a minimum.

You could certainly very easily type that, of course, Jeff, but it wouldn't be true.
A bold statement, Jes. It is, however, rhetorically and factually equivalent to your own characterization of pro-lifers. I will readily agree that the majority of pro-lifers are disingenuous in their arguments, counter-productive in their policy goals, and brutally naive in their unwillingness to examine ripple-effects should their goals be accomplished. But to say that they want women to die -- nay, that it is actually their primary goal, is about as close as it gets to Godwinizing without drawing funny little moustaches on Pat Robertson's picture.
Even if we ignore all the other issues - war, the death penalty - a hardline "pro-lifer" (one opposed to women ever having the choice for legal abortion) is straightforwardly for pregnant women dying. That's what being a "pro-lifer" - a hardline anti-choicer - is all about: women dying.
Being inclined to snarking, I'm forced to point out that if pro-lifers really prioritise 'woman-killing,' they are terribly inefficient at it. Simply killing women would be far more effective than attempting to outlaw an elective medical procedure and hoping that women will attempt to obtain the procedure in an unsafe manner and die from side effects. It's like genocide-by-bad-FDA-labelling. If pro-choicers are really all about "baby-killing," however, abortion is pretty efficient: it legalizes the act itself.

We both know, though, that both of the two characterizations are equally absurd. (Well. At least I do. You seem to only acknowledge the absurdity of mine.) I don't believe that you want babies to die, just as pro-lifers do not want women to die. Attempting to frame the debate in those terms is just a sign of strident, ideology-blinded othering. It certainly makes one feel better, holier, more righteous -- but accomplishes nothing else.

Be pro-choice: that way, while you don't get to use the political label "pro-life", you do actually get to be on the side of saving lives.
Nah. Be a pro-lifer, like me, who acknowledges the fundamental social necessity of legalized first-trimester abortion but works to promote and advance alternatives, like comprehensive sex education, contraception, and so on. Thay way, you get to be hated by everyone!
Ugh.
Apologies, by the way, to anyone who didn't or doesn't realize that my 'the real split is pro-life/anti-life' post was not a serious opinion being presented, rather an illustration that any arbitrary rallying cry can be used as a dividing line on which to slice the population. Much to the detriment of actual thought and constructive conclusions.

Jeff: not by me!

We is lizards, not computers

We is people, not lizards. Throw reason to the side, and we're just big hairless monkeys. Let reason slip too far, me foine bucko, and what's been happening in Iraq and Afghanistan will look like a day on the playground by comparison.

That, and hilzoy does what she does far more effectively than those predisposed to make use of invective to the near exclusion of all else. If effectiveness isn't the goal in those cases, the execution is flawless.

Nah. Be a pro-lifer, like me, who acknowledges the fundamental social necessity of legalized first-trimester abortion but works to promote and advance alternatives, like comprehensive sex education, contraception, and so on. Thay way, you get to be hated by everyone!

Jeff, just to acknowledge: I think you're making my point a great deal better than I did.

Ah, screwed up a tag a few posts back; that should have been a quote and not a link.

Carry on.

Jesurgislac:

That's what being a "pro-lifer" - a hardline anti-choicer - is all about: women dying.
And yet, when I pointed out awhile back that you had been attempting to draw a dichotomy where one either was pro-choice or believed that women should be punished for having sex, you accused me of making a strawman argument?

Jeff: Being inclined to snarking, I'm forced to point out that if pro-lifers really prioritise 'woman-killing,' they are terribly inefficient at it

True. They are, however, far more efficient at killing pregnant women than they are at "saving babies". So, if we measure priorities by efficiency, they may be inefficient fanatics, but their priority is that women should die, not that babies should live. (Especially, as was the point of Hilzoy's post, if they count as a baby every blastocyte conceived.)

I don't believe that you want babies to die, just as pro-lifers do not want women to die.

I'm glad you can't bring yourself to believe that I don't want babies to die: I don't. I want every baby born to grow up and live a happy, healthy life. "Pro-lifers", on the other hand, either actively want women to die or just haven't figured out that their policy of withholding essential health care from women who need it means women die.

Be a pro-lifer, like me, who acknowledges the fundamental social necessity of legalized first-trimester abortion but works to promote and advance alternatives, like comprehensive sex education, contraception, and so on. That way you get hated by everyone.

Especially by women who get pregnant because their "pro-life" doctor is allowed to refuse to prescribe them Plan B contraception, and who can't buy it over the counter because a "pro-life" Congress has delayed it, who can't afford access to the legal first-trimester abortion - because "pro-lifer" harassment has meant only one clinic in an entire state provides abortions, and because a "pro-life" law means that Medicaid won't pay for an abortion or because health insurance companies are allowed to say they won't pay for abortions, and because the law in her state mandates that she has to have a 48-hour "cooling off" period after her first clinic appointment - so she has to save up and plan for three days off work for what ought to be a 10-minute appointment. And then can't get a legal second-trimester abortion, and therefore goes for an illegal second-trimester abortion, and then when she goes for medical help afterwards the nearest pharmacy won't give her the antibiotics she's been prescribed because she's been referred by a clinic the pharmacy knows does abortion after-care... and if she does have the baby, a moral state government does not then permit her financial support to take care of it.

So, yes. Better just be pro-choice. At least that way you know you're helping people, rather than letting other people suffer for your morality.

I'm glad you can't bring yourself to believe that I don't want babies to die:

Sometimes typos are just embarrassing: sometimes they're lethal to the point of the sentence.

I'm glad you can't bring yourself to believe that I want babies to die:

Especially by women who get pregnant because their "pro-life" doctor is allowed to refuse to prescribe them Plan B contraception, and who can't buy it over the counter because a "pro-life" Congress has delayed it, who can't afford access to the legal first-trimester abortion - because "pro-lifer" harassment has meant only one clinic in an entire state provides abortions, and because a "pro-life" law means that Medicaid won't pay for an abortion or because health insurance companies are allowed to say they won't pay for abortions, and because the law in her state mandates that she has to have a 48-hour "cooling off" period after her first clinic appointment - so she has to save up and plan for three days off work for what ought to be a 10-minute appointment.
These are all points on which you would probably call me 'pro-choice' -- I think that they are onerous, repulsive planks in the pro-life 'platform' that are counterproductive and harmful to women. I vote for candidates who oppose the things you rail against in the above paragraph, because I agree with you. I do not, for example, support further restrictions on abortion (even second and third trimester abortions) because I understand that other puzzle pieces that must be in place for that to be a reasonable solution. My purpose in holding onto the word 'Pro-Life,' however, is simple: I want the nature of the pro-life movement to change.

I will CERTAINLY not argue that the majority of the pro-life movement shares my perspectives. On the other hand, I know far too many people who are in the 'mainstream' of the pro-life movement to pretend that your accusations of enthusiastic woman-killing are anything more than shrill invective.

I'm gratified, though, that you're willing to concede that pro-lifers might be just plain stupid and complicit in genocide rather than active, agressive, enthusiastic woman-murderers themselves. That sort of willingness to compromise really does make the difference.

"Let reason slip too far, me foine bucko, and what's been happening in Iraq and Afghanistan will look like a day on the playground by comparison."

See, this is what I mean by sentimentality. I am not so certain that the instincts and intuitions are uniformly malign, and that the species has been tamed by the Enlightenment. Certainly the French and Communist revolutions, which were direct products of the Enlightenment, provide some evidence that the Age of Reason is not an unqualified good.

As far as the effectiveness of styles in current politics, it sure looks to me like Limbaugh is more effective than his more moderate opposition. Polemic works.

provide some evidence that the Age of Reason is not an unqualified good

I submit that subtracting even more Reason might not be the way to improve things.

Polemic works.

Yes, it works especially well in making you become what you despise.

Polemic works.
It 'works' only if one's goal is conquest (ideological conquest, at least). I come from the idealistic 'do gooder' school of thought, where telling the truth, respecting others, and getting trounced for it can still be considered a moral victory.

Also: one way in which some stem cell researchers are trying to compromise with their opponents is by using less viable embryos from IVF. This is, I think, one of those compromises that's just bad, bad, bad. There's a lot of reason to think that less viable embryos will make much less good stem cells; so it's not at all a neutral concession. And while I favor trying to find common ground, I don't favor doing so at the expense of the benefits your research is trying to provide.

With embryo's created for IVF you only have two options: freeze them or use them. The best thing to do is use one or two (more only creates bigger chance at multiples) and freeze the ones that will probabely survive freezing. If there are more, you have to either chuck them away or do something usefull with them. I decided to have them use our remaining IVF embryo's for research, rather than having them thrashed.

Jeff: I always think of myself as pro-choice. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is the best thing, first trimester abortion is completely up to the women, second trimester there should be a bit of a reason, but the women decides, and third trimester the potential viable baby should have the same protection before birth as after birth.

For hardliners (like Jes), that makes me anti-choice. As Sebastian said: it is about when you feel the baby is seen as a person and should have protection.

dutchmarbel, that's pretty much equivalent to how I see things as well -- and (this comforts me) it tends to be how the vast majority of the country sees things, regardless of whether they call themselves pro-life or pro-choice.

Bob, I'm not sure how serious you meant all that, given your comments re the jackboot. I am not inherently opposed to polemic. Consider billmon, for example; I think he's closer to polemics than actually debating issues on his blog, but I look forward to new posts there (a matter of tone, focus, and presentation).

With regard to choice, and the point Sebastian and Dutchmarbel made: i think many pro-choice advocates have done a good job highlighting the extent to which at least some elements of the anti-abortion movement are concerned about "promiscous sex" rather than "protection of life". To name one example, the position of "pro-life" organizations such as the American Life League on the papilloma vaccine.

Thus, the choice issue inevitably brings in more than just "when does life begin" (no matter what is claimed); there's also an attack on sexual autonomy.

Throw reason to the side, and we're just big hairless monkeys.

Apes, not monkeys. Monkeys have tails. Humans are apes: tailless primates.

Humans are apes: tailless primates.

And here, I thought we were featherless bipeds ;^)

Regardless, I, for one, am Spartacus.

Jeff: These are all points on which you would probably call me 'pro-choice' -- I think that they are onerous, repulsive planks in the pro-life 'platform' that are counterproductive and harmful to women. I vote for candidates who oppose the things you rail against in the above paragraph, because I agree with you.

Then why identify yourself as pro-life? If you disagree with 95% pro-life platform but agree with 95% of the pro-choice platform, why do you identify yourself with the side you mostly disagree with? If you're really pro-choice, why claim to be "pro-life"?

On the other hand, I know far too many people who are in the 'mainstream' of the pro-life movement to pretend that your accusations of enthusiastic woman-killing are anything more than shrill invective.

Really? And yet, pro-lifers enthusiastically support policies that kill women. Every day about 186 women die due to complications from unsafe illegal abortions. "Pro-lifers" endorse these deaths because it's better that women should die in illegal abortions than all women should have immediate, easy access to safe abortions.

No pro-life organization campaigns against the Global Gag Rule. No pro-life organization campaigns against abstinence-only education. No pro-life organization campaigns for easy access to contraception for all. No pro-life organization condemns pharmacists who won't supply women with oral contraception. Pro-life organizations were not condemning Congress for its slowdown on allowing Plan B to be available as an over-the-counter medication.

So: pro-lifers, as far as anyone can find out from the organizations pro-lifers join and run to further their policies, are in favor of women dying. You may know people who carelessly identify themselves as "pro-life", but who, like you, are actually pro-choice but for some reason not wanting to say so.

Why don't you want to identify yourself as pro-choice, if that's what you truly believe is right? Why do you want to identify yourself with people who pursue a cause you say you don't believe in or support?

My purpose in holding onto the word 'Pro-Life,' however, is simple: I want the nature of the pro-life movement to change.

I thought that was worth repeating, since SOMEONE seems to be willing to elide it. Again: My purpose in holding onto the word 'Pro-Life,' however, is simple: I want the nature of the pro-life movement to change.

By the by, to sane people, individuals define categories, not the other way around.

" My purpose in holding onto the word 'Pro-Life,' however, is simple: I want the nature of the pro-life movement to change."

For the record, and before anyone jumps on Jeff, which maybe they wouldn't have anyways but who knows: this has been my reason for calling myself a feminist for some time. I am, according to me, a pretty serious feminist, by which I mean: someone who believes that men and women should be treated equally except when there's some really compelling reason not to (e.g., you are casting Romeo and Juliet and want the gender of your leads to reflect you aesthetic choice, not just "who are the two best actors?") I also believe that they are often not treated equally at present; and that since the reasons for this are complicated and (at times) deep in our culture and/or habits of mind, just resolving not to be prejudiced is not enough -- it takes careful observation, excavation, and reflection. And I believe that one should not just note these facts out of curiosity, but actively work to change them. That's what I take feminism to be.

During the 80s the actual feminist movement (at least in the US) began to change; during the early 90s it became almost unrecognizable (to me). Too bad, I said: I owe too much to feminism to give the word up without a fight, and if people want to go around talking as though it's something other than a fierce and pro-active and nuanced commitment to quality and the freedom of people of both genders to live the lives they want to live, tough.

"(e.g., you are casting Romeo and Juliet and want the gender of your leads to reflect you aesthetic choice, not just 'who are the two best actors?')"

Kind of ironic example, given the way casting was done in Shakespeare's day, and in his own productions. How compelling is the need to be inauthentic, anyway? :-)

Then why identify yourself as pro-life? If you disagree with 95% pro-life platform but agree with 95% of the pro-choice platform, why do you identify yourself with the side you mostly disagree with? If you're really pro-choice, why claim to be "pro-life"?

I wouldn't say 95%/95%. You're dwelling on particular isolated policy issues and fine points of a broader issue. If I were to step back, I'd say that I agree with the fundamental premise of the pro-life position: that fetuses, even before they are born, are human beings and should not be eliminated with impugnity simply because they reside in one place (the womb) rather than another (an incubator).

Obviously, a host of difficult questions follows that. When is that line crossed? At conception? The first kick? At an arbitrary 'trimester' mark? When brain activity can be measured? What are the exceptions to the rule? There is a second person to consider -- the mother -- and her fate is not at all a hypothetical, given the emotional, financial, psychological, physical, and social repercussions of 9 months of pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a child. If other alternatives are presented to abortion, are they sufficient to offset those repercussions to the same effect that abortion is? And so on and so on.

I suppose I'm drifting off topic, but my point is this: I agree with the fundamental philosophical premise of the pro-life movement, but disagree with almost every action taken from that point.

Really? And yet, pro-lifers enthusiastically support policies that kill women. Every day about 186 women die due to complications from unsafe illegal abortions. "Pro-lifers" endorse these deaths because it's better that women should die in illegal abortions than all women should have immediate, easy access to safe abortions.

This is rather disingenuous, Jes. If Pro-lifers didn't believe that each easy-to-access safe abortions was an act of murder, they wouldn't have any problem with it. As Sebastian has pointed out, when-and-whether a fetus should be considered human, and be treated like any other utterly-dependent-but-protected person, is the real center of gravity to this debate, as I noted above.

I agree that this is a debatable and nontrivial statement, with many more wrinkles than a soundbyte can capture. But the fundamental conviction of the pro-life movement is NOT, as you continually pretend, that 'women should die.' Rather, it is that fetuses are human and should not be killed. Ignoring that, as I've said before, means that you get to feel holier and righter and better than The Other Person. It does not, however, help you or anyone else accomplish your goals or communicate effectively with others.

No pro-life organization campaigns against the Global Gag Rule. No pro-life organization campaigns against abstinence-only education. No pro-life organization campaigns for easy access to contraception for all. No pro-life organization condemns pharmacists who won't supply women with oral contraception. Pro-life organizations were not condemning Congress for its slowdown on allowing Plan B to be available as an over-the-counter medication.

That's why I am not a member of any pro-life organization, even though my answer to the basic philosophical question at the heart of the abortion debate (when does a fetus become a 'human' to be protected as any other human would be?) puts me squarely in that camp. I actively oppose the policies and politics of many pro-life organizations inside and outside of the church, and attempt to convince other pro-lifers that they are being both counterproductive and destructive in the policies that they persue. Maybe you'd feel better if you treated me like a pro-choice sleeper agent in the pro-life movement, sowing discord and carefully wooing the faithful to your 'side.' That, at least, would be a point of agreement between you and some of the pro-life faithful that I know. It'd be nice to be a unifying force on some issue, I suppose.

I'll repeat it, again: I thought we'd established before that you don't dance a jig every time a baby dies. It sure would be nice if you were willing to admit that Pro-Lifers aren't sitting around hi-fiving each other every time a woman dies of complications from an illegal abortion.

And anyhow -- given your past statements, it seems that my core philosophical convictions would get me kicked out of your Pro-Choice crowd regardless of my feelings about specific policies or programs. So I'm back to being a wandering philosophy ronin anyways.

For the record, and before anyone jumps on Jeff, which maybe they wouldn't have anyways but who knows: this has been my reason for calling myself a feminist for some time.

Thanks, hilzoy. What you describe certainly is very similar to how I see myself relating to the pro-life movement.

It brings to mind the days when I maintained The Unofficial Underground Willow Creek Church Feminist Lending Library. Occasionally, someone (OK, one or two people repeatedly) asked me how I could say I was a feminist when 'those types' were all about punishing men for being men, defining all sex as rape, breaking up marriages, and so on. I simply replied that the fundamental premise of feminism -- that men and women should be treated equally -- was one no Christian could oppose in good conscience. The fact that I got almost the entire office to read The Beauty Myth is one of the small victories I smile back on.

I may disagree with specific ideas or policies that are considered 'central' to feminism at one point or another. For example, I do not believe that sexualizing one's self for money is 'empowering' to a woman, merely that it's cashing in on the one way that women have always had to move ahead, even in brutally misogynistic cultures. In the same way, I may disagree with ideas or policies considered 'central' to the pro-life movement. For example, I believe that focusing on abstinence-only education is a monstrous betrayal of responsibility, a profoundly ineffective and counterproductive decision that can only barely be defended with bad theology.

Again, though, at the point of fundamental presuppositions, 'founding principles' if you will, I consider myself both a feminist and a pro-lifer. I can imagine that will infuriate Jes, but it would also infuriate the handful of genuinely patriarchal folks I've known. Life is full of small pleasures.

If I were to step back, I'd say that I agree with the fundamental premise of the pro-life position: that fetuses, even before they are born, are human beings and should not be eliminated with impugnity simply because they reside in one place (the womb) rather than another (an incubator).

[...]I agree with the fundamental philosophical premise of the pro-life movement, but disagree with almost every action taken from that point.

Wow, that is a fabulous articulation of my own view on abortion. Nice to see.

Note: I emphatically do not believe that an embryo right after of conception can be called an individual human being.

Jeff: If I were to step back, I'd say that I agree with the fundamental premise of the pro-life position: that fetuses, even before they are born, are human beings and should not be eliminated with impugnity simply because they reside in one place (the womb) rather than another (an incubator).

"Eliminated with impunity"? (I did a swift google on "impugnity" and found enough references to convince me it may be in use as a word, though I'm not sure what it means.)

I am in no conflict with a position that says "I believe having an abortion is morally wrong, because a fetus is a human being even when it is a cluster of cells no bigger than the tip of my thumb, and therefore I will never have an abortion." I am also in no conflict with a position that says "I believe having an abortion is the wrong moral choice, and therefore I will do all I can to make sure as few women as possible end up making the choice to have an abortion."

Where I am in conflict is with those three words - which, to make the woman involved less invisible than in your phrasing, say not: that fetuses, even before they are born, are human beings and should not be eliminated with impunity simply because they reside in one place (the womb) rather than another (an incubator).

but: that a fetus, at any point in its development, is as much a human being as the woman who's pregnant with it, and she should not be allowed to choose to abort without being punished for doing so.

And - sorry, hit Post too soon - I think that that is the central tenet of the pro-life position as politically articulated in the US - that women who choose to abort mustn't do so "with impunity" - they must be punished.

Hence the lack of clinics where a woman can go in early pregnancy. Hence the unavailability of oral contraception/Plan B while fantastically unscientific claims were being made that they were "abortifacients" - though the source of those claims seems to have been the kind of "pro-lifers" who also virulently want to punish women for having sex.

(And to claim that they don't exist in the US "pro-life" movement ignores the whole triple-bind that US legislation in many states puts a low-income woman into - unable to get help either to access contraception, to access early abortion, or to support her child.)

Whereas a pro-choicer will say "Whatever my personal views on abortion, it would be obviously better that rather than seek to punish women for having abortions, as the pro-lifers do, I actually work to make sure as few women as possible need to choose to have abortions - since punishing them for making that choice is clearly not either a working strategy or a moral one."

As indeed we see from the record in the US...

I have to say that I'm in pretty close to that magic 95% level of agreement with Jeff Eaton. I'm also not a member of any pro-life group, just to be aboveboard here, nor am I a member of any pro-choice groups.

Nor am I a member of much at all outside church and a couple of professional societies. I don't make donations to either the RNC or the DNC (I know that latter is probably no big shock), and I don't subscribe to any magazines (except for Scientific American, which my wife got me for my birthday). I'm just about at the point where I'm willing to subscribe to perhaps two magazines that deal with politics and current events, preferably from two at least slightly different points of view.

There. I'm not sure if any of that was at all interesting, but I thought it might help clarify my affiliations, or lack thereof.

Slartibartfest: we read the economist and Harpers for that reason (in addition to the Dutch international Spectator by clingendael)

Jesurgislac: you ask Jeff why he calls himself pro-life, yet you tell met that I am not really pro-choice if I want restrictions on third trimester abortions. Currently these are the only two flavors though. I might join the philosophical ronin too :). Or call myself pro-pragmatism.

Hilzoy: I must admit that I call myself emancipated and not feminist because there are too many directives in the feminist movement (over here at least) I don't want to support. The whole idea of equal chances, for me, is that you are free enough to make your own adult choices. These days feminists want to put women just as hard in a role pattern as old fashioned sexists do, even if the pattern is more comfortable.

When feminists were the people who protested unequality I supported them whole heartedly. Economic independence is important, equal chances are important, equality for the law is important. Last wedenesday I actually celebrated the fact that it was 50 years (only 50 years....) since the law was cancelled that said that married women were not allowed to do anything accept pay for the daily groceries without written permission from the husband (no rental contract, no bank account, no visum, no insurance, no postorders... NOTHING).

Marbel: Jesurgislac: you ask Jeff why he calls himself pro-life, yet you tell met that I am not really pro-choice if I want restrictions on third trimester abortions.

Jeff claimed (briefly: upthread) to disagree with about 95% of what "pro-lifers" want, and then explained that he was in fact in favor of punishing women for choosing to abort, which would make him "pro-life" in the twisted sense in which that term is used in modern American politics.

Whereas in European politics (in the "old" EU countries at least) I think it's simply taken as read that of course women have a right to terminate a pregnancy and to have access to contraception - and as for the American abstinence-style sex ed... *shrug*

This is one of those areas where European and American politics is so widely split that while I disagree with you over your belief that if women are allowed to make decisions when in the third trimester of pregnancy, we'll make bad decisions, I nevertheless acknowledge that you and I are standing on the same platform, albeit at either end: whereas American "pro-lifers" are the other side of the canyon.

Jeff: It sure would be nice if you were willing to admit that Pro-Lifers aren't sitting around hi-fiving each other every time a woman dies of complications from an illegal abortion.

No, I don't believe that "pro-lifers" actually celebrate every time a woman dies because they'd made certain she couldn't get either contraception or a safe legal abortion. I don't believe "pro-lifers" care enough to either celebrate or mourn a woman's death: the women who die because of "pro-life" policies are invisible to "pro-lifers".

I was thinking about this because (in another thread) a right-winger's constant reiteration that Saddam Hussein "celebrated 9/11", as if that in itself justified invasion - while at the same time arguing that the deaths of Iraqis because of the US invasion were not really the US's responsibility, and in any case they were happening "half a world away".

It's irrelevant to me whether there are "pro-lifers" who celebrate every time a woman dies of an illegal abortion: what matters to me is that there are pro-lifers who work for more and more women dying, in the US and all over the world, because of illegal abortions - and who pretend to themselves that the deaths they cause by their work for "pro-life" are not there fault: they only want to stop women having access to safe effective contraception and safe legal abortion, and it's not their responsibility if a woman then has an unsafe illegal abortion and dies of it.

In a sense, the celebration of death by illegal abortion would at least mean that to "pro-lifers" these women are real people, and their deaths matter - rather than what actually happens: a bland polite pretense that these deaths are not really happening, or that "pro-lifers" are not really responsible.

Pregnant women are invisible to "pro-lifers" - the language used is a pretense that only and exclusively the fetus is a real human being whose life must be saved.

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