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December 31, 2007

Comments

I think the reasons why your argument will likely fall on deaf ears varies from pro-lifer to pro-lifer. Many do really believe that abortion is murder; for those, a goal of persuading some people of this fact and thereby reducing (but by no means eliminating) the number of abortions would be a hollow victory. It would (from their perspective) be a bit like telling an abolitionist that they should use moral suasion to convince slaveholders to release ther slaves, rather than opposing the institution.

On the other hand, for many opponents of abortion, it really is all about controlling women and limiting their choices. Obviously for them convincing a few (or even a lot of) women to voluntarily forgo an abortion advances their agenda not at all.

Finally, I suspect that some Rebublicans probably believe that, given the current dynamics of the issue, the current anti Roe position of the Republican party is a net benefit electorily. And they are probably correct, though that might change if Roe was in fact repealed. Which means that pro business and low tax wings of the party need to walk a tightrope - advocate for Roe to be overturned, prevent it from really hapepning.

An excerpt from the review that Douthat quotes:

Here [Diablo] Cody's politics (presumably pro-choice) are at odds with her plot needs (a birth)

This is the usual libel that "pro-choice" means "pro-abortion", and Douthat's column does nothing to question it.

I know this is almost certainly a lack of personal empathy on my part, but I've never really understood things like this:

"My “pro-life” friends have often asked why Roe supporters appear so inflexible. Why, they ask, won’t people at least admit that abortion is a tough issue. One reason is that some people simply don’t think it’s a tough question – they disagree with the premise that the embryo is “life” in a morally or legally relevant sense.

But I suspect most Roe supporters privately concede that abortion is a tough question (that camp includes me). The reason, though, that they hesitate to acknowledge it is because – within the current penalty-focused Roe debate – acknowledging moral complexity gives political ammunition to a political movement that seeks to ban and criminalize abortion. The potential penalties are so abhorrent that they are unwilling to give ground."

I totally get that some people don't believe that the embryo is morally relevant life. I totally get that other people disagree on when it becomes morally relevant life. (Though I don't get how anyone can think it isn't morally relevant life at say 8 or 9 months). What I don't get is what is so 'tough' about abortion when it is at a stage that you don't consider morally relevant. I'm not at all trying to be snarky. I really don't get it. The only thing that resonates with me is that you think it isn't morally relevant life at some stage or other, but *worry* that maybe it really is. But I've been repeatedly assured that isn't it, so I'm really just very confused about it.

"Once progressives are convinced that teenagers will not be coerced by threat of prosecution to give birth against their will, I think pro-life advocates would be surprised how dramatically progressive attitudes would shift."

I worry to ask questions about this, since I think my previous part is much more interesting. But what does this mean? If progressives ALREADY have reservations about abortions, what would a shift in attitudes (but absolutely definitely not shifting in law of course) mean on a practical level?

Great post, Publius. I think you're spot on about the pro-choice camp being worried about giving political ammunition to the other side.

I've been thinking for a long time about how persuadable both sides are, and it's hard not to be pessimistic, especially in light of the "abolitionist" analogy that LarryM mentions above. But there is cause for hope. As evidence, I'll cite a comment I made on Redstate about the Roe issue. Notice who gave a "5" to my comment.

I'm interested to know, Publius, what you think of the Roe decision, reliance/stare decisis aside.

as for roe - i hesitate to derail the thread, but the nickel version goes something like this.

1 - Roe can't be viewed in isolation. It's part of a larger privacy right/substantive due process cluster of cases that includes Griswold (contraception) and even way back to Meyer and Pierce (private school rights).

2 - These cases rise or fall together. Thus, if you think Roe is wrong, you also think must necessarilly think that ALL these cases are wrong. Thus, states could prohibit contraception, ban private schools, etc.

3 - I think the right to privacy underlying this cluster of cases has no textual basis in the Constitution.

4 - I think that this right has been recognized long enough that society has come to rely on it. Thus, we should keep it, but stop expanding it in new areas (i disagree with lawrence, for instance).

But again - the key here is that Roe cannot be viewed in isolation. You can't overturn it without overturning a century's worth of other precedent.

I did a longer post at Legal Fiction on this if you want more detail.

Wait... you disagree with the reasoning in Lawrence... do you disagree with the law being challenged or is it an acceptable law in your mind? If not, why would the law not be OK?

the law falls into the category of stupid, bad, detestable but constitutional.

well, let's not go that far. it might well be unconstitutional on a narrower equal protection ground. but it's the reasoning of lawrence that gives me pause. it's so incredibly broad that it gives the federal judiciary the power to strike down anything. it's just bland, limitless abstraction dressed up as legal reasoning.

And let’s face it. The political efforts have achieved very little.

Not true--they've raised a crapload of money for Republican candidates and gotten a lot of people to vote against their economic self-interest for decades now. They've raised a lot of money for Democratic candidates as well, but this is an issue that most Democrats would rather just went away as opposed to re-fighting it every stinking year.

I surmise that one problem many abortion rights opponents have with focusing on the demand side--dissuading already pregnant women from aborting--rather than the supply side of the question--punishing abortion providers--is that, by the time the need for an individual decision on abortion occurs, the woman has in all likelihood already had sex.

As publius recognizes, the debate is more about personal autonomy than about a particular outcome.

FWIW, the Austrian law regarding abortion was hashed out in the 70's and has been more or less a non-issue over the last two decades.

It simply states that abortion is a crime, but penalties are waived during the first trimester. (later only for clear medical indications)

One tricky bit about the "Embryos are protected life with full legal rights"-stance is the natural frequency of accidental deaths of the fetus. I don't have the numbers at hand, but I remember that it's surprisingly high if you include anything after the first week.

So, *if* you take the hard-core stance that the a death of fetus has the same legal implications as a death of born child, then these deaths need

* death certificates
* investigations regarding the cause
* a trial if the parents are suspected of negligence (accidental manslaughter)

And don't get me started with respect to passports, social security numbers, ...

otmar,

I'm not sure whether you mean "after [fertilisation]" or "after [implantation]": the latter can take place more than a week after the former.

Sorry to give you a wikipedia source, but this article does have citations and *might* be a starting point. "Current research suggests that fertilized embryos naturally fail to implant some 30% to 60% of the time. Of those that do implant, about 25% are miscarried by the sixth week [after the last menstrual period, ie appox four weeks after fertilisation and about three after implantation assuming a standard cycle]".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beginning_of_pregnancy_controversy#Viability_and_established_pregnancy

I'm an occasional reader of the infertility blogs. Some of the authors have miscarried multiple pregnancies, and therefore there has been a great deal of discussion of occasional attempts at US State levels to do just what you suggest (I know that you're not suggesting it seriously, rather the reverse!): reporting all miscarriages (or more commonly all late miscarriages) to the police and having them investigated with a view to establishing whether the pregnant woman was responsible for it. Generally speaking these have been put forward by politicians who seemingly believe that late (here I mean after about eight weeks from the last period) miscarriages are a very rare event compared to abortions.

The Wikipedia article also points out that, if you want to insist that parents be as responsible for the life of an implanted (or possibly a fertilised) zygote as they would be for that of a newborn infant there's a lot of stuff that women can't do, up to, potentially, breastfeeding. I've seen mention elsewhere that since most women between 10 and 50 *could* be in the very early stages of pregnancy at any time it would be a rather effective way of corralling women's behaviour: they could be commiting manslaughter in the post ovulation phase of every menstrual cycle if they don't observe all pregnancy-related activity restrictions every single month.

The figures I'd seen for miscarriages in books on pregnancy (sorry, don't have any cites to hand) is about 20-30% of pregnancies miscarrying in the first trimester (e.g. within 13 weeks). That probably means that most women who try for a family will have a miscarriage at some point. With those kind of odds, I personally find it hard to maintain that a first-trimester fetus is sacred life. (Miscarriages later are a lot rarer, though again, I don't have figures to hand).

publius, you wrote: "And given the number of parents longing for a child, I wish that more people would opt for adoption, so that others can experience what I have."

You do mean the couples who want children who are not opting to adopt? Because there are far more children in the US who need parents than there are people willing to adopt them. (You would not, I hope, be wishing to go back to the pre-Roe days where more women suffered lifelong because they had given up their babies for adoption.)

But getting back to the point, the pro-life movement would be more effective – i.e., it would persuade those inclined to be hostile to it – by turning from the political arena and instead focusing on individuals. The challenge should be not to bully people through draconian laws, but to persuade people on an individual level

That would require the pro-life movement to become pro-choice. I doubt that's ever going to happen.

Sebastian: What I don't get is what is so 'tough' about abortion when it is at a stage that you don't consider morally relevant. I'm not at all trying to be snarky. I really don't get it.

It's a matter of respect for women. Believing that women are human beings. If you believe that a pregnant woman has a right to make all medical decisions about her own body, then the pregnant woman is the only person who can get to decide on any issues about her fetus. Nothing can be done to or with her fetus without involving her, including, of course, forcing her to continue her pregnancy against her will.

The fear pro-lifers have whipped up of abortions at eight or nine months is frankly absurd. As I and others have noted to you every time we have this discussion, there is no evidence at all for any abortions at eight or nine months, no reason to suppose they are occurring, and are medically nonsense: at eight or nine months, the only way to get the fetus out would be c-sec or induced delivery, whether the fetus is alive or dead. Either way, if the fetus is alive, this wouldn't be abortion: it would be termination of the pregnancy, yes, but it would be by early delivery, not abortion.

Perhaps if you considered the individual rights issue and looked at the plain facts of the matter you would find it easier to "get"?

Adoption is a new can of worms to be opened.
Over here the "supply" is much lower than the "demand" and the hurdles are extremly high. Being an official candidate for sainthood seems to be the minimum requirement* (while on the other hand you could be the chosen mother of the Antichrist and not be denied to have a child of your own**). The result is a "grey import" of foreign children with all the possible negative side effects(see the current French/Chad scandal).

*Former Chancellor Schröder adopted a Russian child and now is regularly visited by the youth welfare office to check that she is treated well (as required by law, nobody assumes that the child is actually abused).
**And currently the papers are full of cases of parents abusing their own biological children.

The debate about abortion is not about abortion. We live in an age of political theater, in which all discourse is couched in terms of allegories and the debate about X is never really about X. That kind of playing field is intrinsically tilted in favor of the less-honest side. We may not be able to level the field but we can at the very least point out the tilt. Substantive debate is unfortunately out of the question and attempting it merely shows that we do not understand our surroundings.

"Sebastian: What I don't get is what is so 'tough' about abortion when it is at a stage that you don't consider morally relevant. I'm not at all trying to be snarky. I really don't get it.

It's a matter of respect for women. Believing that women are human beings. If you believe that a pregnant woman has a right to make all medical decisions about her own body, then the pregnant woman is the only person who can get to decide on any issues about her fetus. Nothing can be done to or with her fetus without involving her, including, of course, forcing her to continue her pregnancy against her will."

That doesn't answer my question about what is allegedly 'tough' about abortion if you don't believe the fetus has any rights. You are saying why the issue should always be in the hands of women, not explaining what is supposed to be tough about it.

"As I and others have noted to you every time we have this discussion, there is no evidence at all for any abortions at eight or nine months, no reason to suppose they are occurring"

What? First, I'm shocked to hear you say that there are no abortions going on at 8 or 9 months. Second, I'm shocked to hear you say that you have repeatedly said that before. The first statement is wrong. The second one can be easily checked. Can you please provide me say two examples from two separate threads (though even one would be a shock). What are you talking about?

Discussions of adoption are complex because the type of children put up for adoption has changes so much, at least in the UK. Before abortion was allowed, there was a steady stream of 'healthy white babies', who were quite easy to place. Nowadays, with relatively easy abortion and the social services trying to keep birth families together, almost all the children offered for adoption will be 'difficult' in some way: potential adoptive parents need to belong to a specific ethnic group (there is a lot of wariness about transracial adoptions now, after bad results previously) or they will be asked to take on older children or children with physical or mental difficulties or several children who need to be kept together. All this makes the job of being an adopted parent more difficult and means (in my view rightly) that there is a lot more cautious inspection of potential adoptive parents.

In the US situation, meanwhile, if you encourage more pregnant women towards adoption rather than abortion, you are also likely to end up with more single mothers. If you encourage women to maintain an emotional commitment to a fetus for a number of months, many are then going to find it very hard to hand over their baby to someone else and may change their mind and keep the child themselves. Those who are really pro-life need to become a lot more supportive of single mothers if they're going to win the argument.

Sebastian:

Abortion is a tough decision once it's moved into the area of an actual medical procedure, in the way that *all* life-determining medical procedures are tough. I do not believe that the decision to take Plan B should be a tough one, though it is certainly deliberately *made* tough by people who don't want women to have that choice.

Eight and nine month "abortions" are a strawwoman.

I think publius' suggestion is painfully, possibly willfully, naive. As Frank said, The debate about abortion is not about abortion. The organized "pro-life" side has made it very clear that their deepest concern is to punish women for having sex. They have categorically resisted policies that are known to reduce the abortion rate, because those policies (knowledge of and easy access to contraception, support for single mothers and poor families) increase women's autonomy.

This is why those of us on the pro-choice side are so stubborn and mean, not giving an inch on our views: we realize, as publius apparently does not, that "pro-life" really is anti-choice. "Pro-lifers" *cannot* agree to give individual women more autonomy over our own bodies and our own actions (especially sexuality), because that is precisely the point -- abortion itself is a stalking horse.

People like their freedom. Rather than fearing it and attempting to eliminate it, maybe the pro-life camp should try embracing it for a change.

To which I can only say: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Good one, publius. You really had me going for a while. But asking me to believe that social cons give a rat's ass about freedom? Next time you pull a prank, pick one that's believeable.

Interesting fact brought up on feministing: Money raised through Florida's "Choose Life" plates can be used to help single mothers who decide against abortion ... but only if they give the baby up for adoption.

I couldn't have said it better myself. However, I'm not very hopeful. From a pro-life frind, who offered his opinion of the movie:

I'm struggling to find the appeal of this movie. It appears to be a "you can get pregnant young and things will still turn out perfect" type story. She doesn't have to go through some sort of hell, but it could almost give off the impression to people that it's ok.

Abortion is in part about saving a life. But an issue that goes just as deel for many pro-lifers is the idea of escaping consequences. Girls who make Bad Decisions(tm) shouldn't be able to escape the consequences, or everyone would start making Bad Decisions(tm).

3 - I think the right to privacy underlying this cluster of cases has no textual basis in the Constitution.

Ditto for "Freedom of Association" (used to protect discrimination) and our current interpretation of the 1st Amendment generally (i.e. "no law" becomes "some laws").

This list could go on. "Textual basis" arguments are like state's rights and originalist arguments -- people just use them when it is convenient, which is why they don't really persuade me.

3 - I think the right to privacy underlying this cluster of cases has no textual basis in the Constitution.

4 - I think that this right has been recognized long enough that society has come to rely on it. Thus, we should keep it, but stop expanding it in new areas (i disagree with lawrence, for instance).

I always thought I was the only one who was pro-choice and thought Roe was wrongly decided...

But I think that you may be far too strict about the textual basis. I would be far more comfortable if the Supreme Court had been using the Ninth Amendment to acknowledge unenumerated rights - a woman's right to medical self-determination (or something like that) for Roe - or the right of consenting adults to engage in sexual behavior in private in Lawrence.

But such declarations would be controversial - and would seem even more radical to the public, which is probably why the Court did what it did. But throwing all of these rights under "privacy" is completely untenable - when I read the Lawrence decision it seems the court has made it seem like any victimless crime (some sexual acts, drugs, etc.) would be allowable on private property. Which would be fine by me given my libertarian sympathies, but they are going to have to twist themselves in disingenious knots to make arguments to prevent that from happening in other circumstances.

Anyone want to bring a Lawrence-based defense case to court to absolve a pot smoker? It's a dream of mine to help that happen.

The debate is not about abortion. It's about the sin of pride verse the virtue of humility. This is why it PISSES ME OFF when those who have the virtue of humility support the anit-choice peoplein their sin of pride by using theor self-aggrandizing product label.

The reason why the Republican party designed the "pro-life" label and marketed it is, as the poster authread noted, in order to get the votes of people who might otherwise vote Democratic or not vote at all. The appeal isn't to people who have genuine moral qualms about abortion--nearly everyonne has those, even secular humanists without kids like me. The appeal is to peole who like the feeling of moral superiorty they get from calling themsleves "pro-life" (which means everyone else is pro-death or at least not as pro-life as they are). After all if a person was really pro-life they would be anti-death penalty, anti-torture, anti-Iraq war, pro [policies that would actually help families like the Democratic health care plans, concerned abouut global warming, concerned about cruelty to animals, concerned abouut the decline in the middle class and the increasing economic polarization in the US and between the First Worldand everyone else....but they aren't. To so-called "pro-lifers", being "pro-life" means nothing more than the ego thrill derived from the feeling of membership in a crusade based on the egotistical claim of moral superiority.

The other purpose of the term "prolife" is to distort the debate inot to warring camps. Most people are in the middle- more comfortable with abortion early in the pregnancy and less compfratable later on, more comfratable with banning abortions late , but not comfratable banning them early, comfratable with abortions for the very young or the victims of abuse, less confratable when abortion is just used as birthcontrol. "Pro-life" is a term that is designed to remove commonsense from the discussion, force everyone inot one camp or the other and demonize the other.


They should have been called on this shit decades ago. Especially since most "pro-lifers" turn out to be prochoice under a wide range of circumstances, as the elelction results in South Dakota proved.

But I suspect most Roe supporters privately concede that abortion is a tough question (that camp includes me). The reason, though, that they hesitate to acknowledge it is because – within the current penalty-focused Roe debate – acknowledging moral complexity gives political ammunition to a political movement that seeks to ban and criminalize abortion. The potential penalties are so abhorrent that they are unwilling to give ground.

Not unlike the reaction of 2nd amendment advocates/gun nuts to any hint of registration, licensing, required training, control, etc.

The solution that springs to mind for both of these dilemmas is to require that pregnant women be heavily armed.

What could possibly go wrong?

Sebastian: First, I'm shocked to hear you say that there are no abortions going on at 8 or 9 months. .... [This] statement is wrong.

You have claimed this before, have been repeatedly asked to prove it, and have as repeatedly failed to do so. Evidence of abortions taking place at 35+ weeks, or just quit trying to claim as fact what for you is evidently an article of faith.

Of course, you have also been repeatedly invited to quit claiming as fact what you merely have faith is so, and you have evidently no intention of doing so. Can I ask what you think you're accomplishing, as a pro-lifer, in producing as an argument of fact what is merely a claim of faith?

Fraser: Interesting fact brought up on feministing: Money raised through Florida's "Choose Life" plates can be used to help single mothers who decide against abortion ... but only if they give the baby up for adoption.

Figures. It's not about giving a woman who's pregnant and knows she can't afford another a child a choice: it's about trying to get low-income women to have babies for wealthier people to adopt.

Sincere pro-lifers, who really, really loathed the idea that a woman might have to abort, wouldn't ever be conservatives politically: they'd have to support mandatory paid maternity leave, free health care for pregnant women, new mothers, and children: they'd have to support good work-life legislation, free day care. But in fact, being pro-life strongly correlates with political views opposing all of the above.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Roe v. Wade just isn't that bad a piece of law. It is, yes, lumpy and unnecessarily convoluted in places, but so is a lot of constitutional law. That's how it goes when matters of law, underlying principles, and application in light of existing social and technological conditions must be addressed. Its weaknesses are of a piece with weaknesses in rulings that are never attacked with anything like the same ferocity and its strengths are vastly neglected. The real problems with it have nothing to do with its actual text at all: anything other than a thorough ban on abortion would have been unacceptable to the anti-abortion activism scene, and any ruling other than such a ban would have been attacked and undercut in precisely the way Roe v. Wade has.

I'm sure some people are tired of me saying this :), but...this is something where the Bush years have changed my mind. Can you really imagine the people who gave us Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Justice Department's handling of torture being fair, even-handed, or respectful to any ruling protecting access to abortion? Getting tied up in knots over defects in a particular ruling misses the point, because the text is not actually at issue. Power is.

SH: "What I don't get is what is so 'tough' about abortion when it is at a stage that you don't consider morally relevant. I'm not at all trying to be snarky. I really don't get it. The only thing that resonates with me is that you think it isn't morally relevant life at some stage or other, but *worry* that maybe it really is."

I'm in the "abortion rights are fundamental and non-negotiable but 'abortion is icky' is a stupid slogan" crowd, which I think is the majority liberal position. Your "morally relevant" is doing too much. A 16-week-old fetus doesn't from my perspective have rights that trump the mother's right to autonomy, but that's because of a balancing test. I'd say the fetus at that stage deserves more protection than an adult chimpanzee (consider e.g. a heart-transplant hypothetical), a grave standard.

Of course most reproductive-rights supporters have to deal with the usual sorites problem - or rather the opposite: when does a heap of cells become a person? But the viability threshold and increasing personhood with time seem pretty natural to me, much more so than the blastocyte=four-year-old position.

H'mmm. I must be an outlier indeed: I feel no moral quandry about abortion at all. A fetus is not a human being. Period.

I know there are people who sincerely believe otherwise. But depth and sincerity of emotion should not be allowed to trump medical and scientific fact: if it doesn't have a fully-formed brain, it ain't a human being. If it's not viable, it ain't a human being. Potential does not equal actual.

The issue of 3rd trimester abortions is a red herring. No woman who's carried a fetus through 2 trimesters is suddenly going to decide to end the pregnancy on a whim, or because it's convenient. 3rd trimester abortions happen when there's compelling reason for them.

What I don't get is what is so 'tough' about abortion when it is at a stage that you don't consider morally relevant.

I can't speak for anyone else, and I certainly can't speak for any woman other than my partner, who has shared her views with me. But I can offer at least this much. The "toughness" of abortion when you do not believe it amounts to taking a human life has at least two possible components, and probably more depending on the person.

One is that it is still (in most cases) an invasive medical procedure, and like all such procedures entails risks and should not be undertaken thoughtlessly. I know I would agonize over submitting to any invasive medical procedure even if I was told it was absolutely safe and medically necessary; I can't imagine most women think less of their own bodies.

The other side to it is emotional. Even if you do not think what is currently inside of you is a distinct human being, that doesn't stop you from potentially having an irrational emotional attachment to it. Hell, I get animistic about throwing away inanimate objects; you going to tell me that someone couldn't get reasonably get emotional about a potential future baby growing inside of them? Regardless of what they intellectually believe its moral standing is? Furthermore, even if you don't believe it's a baby right now, if you have even the slightest inclination to have children at some point in the future it can still be a very weighty matter to decide whether or not to have this one, now that you've been given the opportunity. Pregnancy is unpredictable. Who can say that you will ever conceive again?

While it's not my place to say whether or not all of these things go through the mind of a woman with the beliefs you describe, I think it's safe to say they're common enough.

I worry to ask questions about this, since I think my previous part is much more interesting. But what does this mean? If progressives ALREADY have reservations about abortions, what would a shift in attitudes (but absolutely definitely not shifting in law of course) mean on a practical level?

On a practical level, it would hopefully enable more cooperation between pro-life and pro-choice camps in taking practical, non-punitive measures to reduce abortions. Most pro-choice people I know (myself included) would like to reduce abortions--not because we necessarily think they are morally wrong, but because it is less risky, less emotionally trying, and less expensive for a woman to prevent a pregnancy from happening in the first place, or prevent conception/implantation, than to have an abortion. Many of us (though not me, for various reasons) believe that it is always better to give birth and offer it up for adoption than terminate the pregnancy. Frankly, both sides need to compromise more if the real goal is reducing abortions. I'm going to generalize here a bit, so if you don't resemble these descriptions, don't own them.

Pro-choicers need to give ground on acknowledging that there are actual risks involved with abortion (just like with any medical procedure), and on other measures which do not actually threaten a woman's right to choose. Pro-choicers also need to back off on the denial and absolutism that causes them to oppose any attempts by pro-life groups to "educate" women about their alternatives, which they (sometimes rightly) view as back-door attempts to coerce, scare, indimidate, or outright lie to women.

Pro-life groups need to stop exaggerating about the risks of abortion, which only undermines their case. They need to stop rejecting science and medicine as authorities on what is ultimately a medical matter. It doesn't matter how much they complain that it's murder and not a medical decision--when they align themselves with the medieval anti-science crowd, they make themselves look like loons to an unassailable majority of the country, and completely delegitimize their argument to anyone who doesn't already agree with them. They need to completely uncouple themselves from the hardcore social con opposition to birth control and sex education--the ready availability of both is the only proven way to reduce the rate of abortions, and when they say they want to reduce abortions out of one side of their mouth, and oppose birth control and sex ed out of the other, it demonstrates that their priority isn't really stopping abortions, it's controlling women and imposing their own narrow view of sexuality on others.

But frankly, pro-choicers are not going to compromise on these points until pro-lifers stop lying to and intimidating women, and until they have assurances that pro-lifers aren't simply going to use any good-faith concession as a bad-faith wedge to criminalize abortion. And I doubt the pro-life movement as a whole is going to uncouple itself from the social conservative lunacy about birth control and sexuality anytime soon, or give one iota of ground on conceding that abortion isn't going anywhere when a nontrivial number of them really do think that abortion in America is morally equivalent to the Holocaust.

Catsy, I agree with most of this, but:

Pro-choicers need to give ground on acknowledging that there are actual risks involved with abortion (just like with any medical procedure)

Why should we do this? The known risks of abortion are far less than the known risks of pregnancy. An early (first-trimester) abortion, carried out by a qualified medical practicioner, has virtually no known risks. Later abortions are medically more risky, but are still statistically safer than carrying a fetus to term and giving birth.

Pro-lifers are fond of talking up the health hazards of abortion, in general basing their arguments either on the statistics that show illegal abortion is less safe than legal abortion, or else on an invented post-abortion trauma syndrome, or are just outright lies. There is no reason to "give ground" when the pro-lifers are, as usual, lying their asses off trying to make abortion sound unsafe.

Pro-choicers also need to back off on the denial and absolutism that causes them to oppose any attempts by pro-life groups to "educate" women about their alternatives, which they (sometimes rightly) view as back-door attempts to coerce, scare, indimidate, or outright lie to women.

Given that pro-life groups are almost never in the business of providing actual alternatives to abortion (free supplies of Plan B, for example, or paid maternity leave) I think "sometimes" is rather accepting the pro-life claims about what their groups do at face value.

For example, a few years ago, a woman who was a teacher at a Catholic school got pregnant, and instead of having an abortion (she wasn't married) she decided to have the baby. The school sacked her. How many pro-life groups condemned the school for encouraging the next unmarried teacher working for a Catholic school to have an early abortion rather than lose her job?

One. (The "feminists for life" group, very quietly. This group admits somewhere on its website that the reason it doesn't advocate contraception as a means of preventing abortions is that some of its membership disagree: no other pro-life group even considers that this is an issue worth mentioning.) No other pro-life group thought that woman's brave decision to stay pregnant and risk losing her job was worth celebrating: those that mentioned it, were supportive of the school's decision.

The more I read these comments, the more I wonder what common ground the two camps can possibly have. It's clear, based on the anti-choice movement's hostility toward birth control and sex education (and I mean real sex ed, not abstinence only) that they're not really interested in slowing the rate of abortions except as a side benefit to controlling female sexuality. When they're ready to talk about reducing abortion numbers without making control of sexuality an inherent part if it, then pro-choice people will be more than willing to work with them, but not before. And that doesn't make us unreasonable.

Two brief comments.

To Catsy's excellent post on why abortion is tough for pro-choicers, I'll add this:

In every case involving anyone I've known, the decision to end a pregnancy occurred as part of a larger personal crisis. Poverty, failed relationships, abandonment by a partner. I'm sure it's not universal, but I think it's damned common.

I really don't think anyone makes the decision lightly, regardless of their opinion on the choice / no choice issue.

Which brings me to this:

My “pro-life” friends have often asked why Roe supporters appear so inflexible. Why, they ask, won’t people at least admit that abortion is a tough issue.

This bears no resemblance to the world I live in. I can think of no person I know or have ever known who supported Roe who did not also recognize and openly acknowledge the complexity and difficulty of the question of abortion.

The only folks I know who find the topic simple are in the other camp, and there are damned few of those as well.

Anecdota, to be sure, but they're my anecdota.

Thanks -

1. I would not be surprised to discover that there has been, since the passage of Roe, the occurrence of at least one abortion that could legitimately be described as infanticide. But proving it is going to be a bitch.

2. Given that the woman has already carried the fetus for, say, 25 weeks, we as a society can be pretty comfortable that the fetus is wanted. We can also be pretty comfortable that developing legal solutions to prevent the "killing" of a viable fetus is hard. Personally, I don't want any district attorney anywhere near the decision.

I could probably stomach legislation which requires that a ob/gyn unaffiliated with the ob/gyn who will be performing the procedure be required to give a second opinion on medical alternatives that would result in a live baby at the end.

3. Frankly, I think that those who claim to represent the interests of the minuscule number of post-viability aborted fetuses need to do a much better job of describing the world they want to live in, and what the secondary consequences would be of creating a legal structure that allows law enforcement to protect the rights of those few fetuses.

What rights should women have after 25 weeks? What level of state involvement in her personal autonomy is acceptable? No drinking? No travel to states or countries where late-term abortions are performed? Prosecution for extra-jurisdictional murder?

Absolutism is much easier because it draws such nice bright lines. It's kinda funny to see conservatives who normally argue so vociferously against O'Connerian balancing tests to want the law to head in that direction.


2. Given that the woman has already carried the fetus for, say, 25 weeks, we as a society can be pretty comfortable that the fetus is wanted.

You can't make that assumption, Francis, because there are plenty of scenarios where the woman carrying the fetus may not have been able to terminate it earlier--perhaps there were institutional obstacles (she's a minor and a judge won't waive the parental notification law) or the woman's significant other or parents have physically restrained her from terminating the pregnancy. Those are the women who need the most protecting, and yet they're the ones that are having those assumptions made about their desire to carry the pregnancy to term. It's those women I'm most concerned about, and it's those women who should have the greatest access to abortion.

Francis: Given that the woman has already carried the fetus for, say, 25 weeks, we as a society can be pretty comfortable that the fetus is wanted.

Only if the woman lived somewhere she had access to a hospital or clinic that would perform abortions on demand, either for free or at affordable fees. There are multiple states in the US where pro-lifers have ensured that women on a low income may end up having to travel to New York to get a late abortion performed - not because she initially wanted the baby and changed her mind, but because she had to first find the money for the abortion somewhere - and then had to find the money to travel out of state after she failed to get the sum needed before 15 weeks.

Plus, what Incertus says about coercion preventing an earlier termination.

Incertus: Fair enough. Your point, however, strengthens my desire to keep the local DA as far away as possible from the woman's decision-making process.

Can I ask what you think you're accomplishing, as a pro-lifer, in producing as an argument of fact what is merely a claim of faith?

Jesu, as you note, Sebastian's Secret Abortions Conspiracy Theory is an article of faith, a belief which is held on a deep emotional level, and for which there is no actual evidence. That being the case, Sebastian can no more resist raising this talking point than he can resist breathing.

In future, I think you should append a statement to your comments, along these lines: "I note in passing that Sebastian has once again brought forth his Secret Abortions Conspiracy Theory. As this point is not amenable to rational discourse, I will not attempt to reason with him about it." and just leave it at that.

Johnny Pez: In future, I think you should append a statement to your comments, along these lines: "I note in passing that Sebastian has once again brought forth his Secret Abortions Conspiracy Theory. As this point is not amenable to rational discourse, I will not attempt to reason with him about it." and just leave it at that.

Excellent advice. I shall attempt to bear it in mind for the next time. ;-)

"You have claimed this before, have been repeatedly asked to prove it, and have as repeatedly failed to do so."

You are DEEPLY misremembering the previous discussions. In previous discussions you have claimed that there were no medically unnecessary late term abortions--which is an article of faith either way because the pro-choice lobby has systematically destroyed anyone's ability investigate the issue by making it (in direct contradiction to medical practice for any other major procedure) difficult or unnecessary to record whether or not such procedures have a medical justification and by removing any checks on such. I have always said that systematic obstruction of evidence gathering was similar in concept to letting prison guards set all the rules on how to report prisoner abuse. Does that work well in the torture cases? Hmmm....

Your current claim is vastly different. You are NOW saying that no such abortions ever take place. You have not raised that claim to me in the past. If you believe you have, we have an EXTENSIVE record here. Please produce the comments you believe support your amazing non-new claim, or withdraw the vicious snarkiness.

"It's clear, based on the anti-choice movement's hostility toward birth control and sex education (and I mean real sex ed, not abstinence only) that they're not really interested in slowing the rate of abortions except as a side benefit to controlling female sexuality."

And yet when I, an actual pro-life movement supporter who is all for free freaking condoms being available in high schools, offer the slightest qualm about late term abortions, I get the rather nasty dismissals which are already in evidence in here.

This suggests that the "birth control and sex education" part of your objection either isn't really a big deal, or that you aren't listening.

Sebastian: And yet when I, an actual pro-life movement supporter who is all for free freaking condoms being available in high schools, offer the slightest qualm about late term abortions, I get the rather nasty dismissals which are already in evidence in here.

I note in passing that Sebastian has once again brought forth his Secret Abortions Conspiracy Theory. As this point is not amenable to rational discourse, I will not attempt to reason with him about it.

(Thank you, Johnny.)

Sebastian, I'll admit that not much is publically known about 3rd trimester abortions. Let's put aside the question of whose fault that might be.

I believe that there are somewhere between very very few and no 3rd-trimester abortions that aren't medically necessary. I believe this because:

a) 3rd-trimester abortions are extremely rare. Do you agree that this is the case?

b) I have personal knowledge of a very few women who had abortions as late as month 5-6. In all cases, it was a life-or-death decision: the mother was dying, or the fetus was dying and abortion was the only way to save the other twin, or the fetus had no brain. In most cases the decision had to be made very quickly, within a few hours at most.

Do you have personal knowledge of arbitrary & capricious second-semester abortions? What makes you think they occur? If they do occur, what makes you think they are worth creating delays for women in life-and-death situations?

You are DEEPLY misremembering the previous discussions. In previous discussions you have claimed that there were no medically unnecessary late term abortions--which is an article of faith either way because the pro-choice lobby has systematically destroyed anyone's ability investigate the issue by making it (in direct contradiction to medical practice for any other major procedure) difficult or unnecessary to record whether or not such procedures have a medical justification and by removing any checks on such. I have always said that systematic obstruction of evidence gathering was similar in concept to letting prison guards set all the rules on how to report prisoner abuse

Which is still not a useful contribution, IMHO. Absence of evidence is not evidence and all that...and discouragement of data collection does not mean data collection is not possible or that the data is non-existent (particularly since the process is far more amenable to third party observation....)

I, an actual pro-life movement supporter who is all for free freaking condoms being available in high schools

But are you part of an organization? Do people who share your views have a place in the public discourse? I suspect that up to one-third of the USan public shares your views -- the "pro-life pro-condom" platform, as it were -- but why don't you-all have a place in the public debate, given that there are so many of you?

On the public level, the "pro-life" movement is anti-condom; the pro-condom people are all on the pro-choice side. This is not the fault of pro-choicers -- we have not forced our opponents to be the Anti-Sex League.

Doctor Science: "Do you have personal knowledge of arbitrary & capricious second-semester abortions? What makes you think they occur?"

The last go-round here I recall, news reports about a few cases of late-term abortions due to cleft palate were cited. IIRC there were also some cites about limited studies in NY and NJ which gave a somewhat surprisingly high rate.

SH, I'd argue that the lack of data collection is probably more reasonably attributable to the hard-line pro-lifers than hard-line pro-choicers, plus the natural reluctance of doctors (if there are any such) to publicly acknowledge doing something that even most of us pro-choicers would find abhorrent.

"I note in passing that Sebastian has once again brought forth his Secret Abortions Conspiracy Theory. As this point is not amenable to rational discourse, I will not attempt to reason with him about it."


I note explicitly, rather than passive-agressively pretending to note in passing, that your typically obnoxious response doesn't even address what I raise. What you rudely term the Secret Abortions Conspiracy Theory is not even what I'm talking about. I raised it ONLY for the purposes of properly noting what our previous discussions have been about in correction to your distortion about previous discussions. I also note that the reasoning employed in the "Secret Abortions Conspiracy Theory" is reasoning you are perfectly happy to use in other contexts.

To bring it back. Are you standing by your rather surprising assertion that 8th and 9th abortions DO NOT OCCUR?

"Absence of evidence is not evidence and all that...and discouragement of data collection does not mean data collection is not possible or that the data is non-existent (particularly since the process is far more amenable to third party observation....)"

What does your parenthetical mean? Determining whether or not an abortion is medically necessary is not particularly amenable to third party observation absent doctor or procedure level data collection.

"Do people who share your views have a place in the public discourse? I suspect that up to one-third of the USan public shares your views -- the "pro-life pro-condom" platform, as it were -- but why don't you-all have a place in the public debate, given that there are so many of you?"

We do. You are surely aware that there actually is sex education in most public schools and that condoms generally are very available throughout the US.

Rilkefan: The last go-round here I recall, news reports about a few cases of late-term abortions due to cleft palate were cited.

Yes: the specific case (when I looked it up) was of an unnamed woman who had an abortion after 24 weeks, which a Church of England curate found out about by studying the national statistics, and then the curate attempted to have the two doctors who had approved the abortion prosecuted for unlawful killing. (Crown Prosecution Service) The attempt failed: the Abortion Act of 1967 leaves the decision of whether to allow a requested termination after 24 weeks if, in the medical judgement of the doctors, there is "grave risk to the life of the woman; evidence of severe foetal abnormality; or risk of grave physical and mental injury to the woman". A cleft palate can be a minor disability or a severe one. the final decision of the court was to respect the personal judgement of the woman and the two doctors involved, which the law permits them to do.

No one apart from pro-lifers thinks it would be useful to make judges/legislators empowered to make sweeping judgements about when a late-term abortion can take place (let alone what method may be used) given how few late-term abortions do take place (in England and Wales, 363 abortions took place after 20 weeks in 2006, cite), and that each instance will be a different case with different circumstances.

There are times when if Sebastian weren't a conservative gay man in CA and Jesurgislac weren't a liberal gay woman in the UK, I'd swear they were married.

Sebastian, I understand you're currently busy fending off the ravening hordes, but can I beg from you a moment's acknowledgment of whether or not my comment satisfactorily answered the two questions you raised in your comment upthread?

We do. You are surely aware that there actually is sex education in most public schools and that condoms generally are very available throughout the US.

I don't think that was quite the point he was driving at, Sebastian. It should be self-evident that the position of supporting sex education and contraceptive availability as a means of reducing abortions has considerable public support and visibility. I think it's laudable that you're on board with that. What is not clear is that this position has a nontrivial amount of traction within the pro-life movement, outside of a handful of smarter folk like you. Virtually all of the pro-contraception, pro-sex education noise comes from the pro-choice side.

Without trying to speak for anyone else, I believe the point is that if you want to strengthen the pro-life movement and noticeable reduce abortions, you should work within that movement to shift /their/ views on contraception and sex ed. The rest of the country is already with you on that.

It is primarily the aggressively anti-sex, anti-contraception, anti-science positions of most social conservatives that turn off regular folks, undermine their ostensible goal of reducing abortions, engrave them with the well-deserved reputation of being more interested in controlling sexuality than reducing abortions, and delegitimize them in the eyes of anyone who doesn't already agree with them.

Sebastian: You are surely aware that there actually is sex education in most public schools and that condoms generally are very available throughout the US.

However, according to this study (via Susie Bright) an alarming proportion of American teenagers don't use condoms, and only 50% know that condoms usually prevent pregnancy.

A study in the UK (from years ago: I'll try to find it) found that the most effective method of lowering the teen pregnancy rate in any area was to make absolutely certain that all the teenagers in a given area knew where they could go to get contraception and health advice, and knew that it would be free of charge, completely confidential, regardless of whether they were over or under the legal age of consent.

Pro-lifers are the group most guaranteed to complain when, for example, a high school nurse is able to provide contraceptive pills and advice, confidentially, to all high school students. They were also the group most likely to support pharmacists claiming a "right" to deny contraception to a woman with a prescription for it.

Sorry Catsy, I didn't mean to ignore you. I got caught up in the later comments when I read the thread.

The medical complications of abortion issue seems like an odd answer to me. Maybe I'm overinterpreting, but that doesn't seem like the kind of 'tough' publius is talking about in the context where it came up. I'm hesitant to bring it up because I don't want the analogy to purely elective surgery to get us going in the wrong direction, but I rarely hear of the decision to say get a nose job or a breast implant as 'tough' in what I thought of as the same sense publius used and they have a similar risk of serious complications.

The irrational emotional attachment explanation makes sense for the women that actually are pregnant. Again I'm not sure how it applies to someone like publius though (because he can't really have the irrational emotional attachment to something in his body for something that can't be in his body.

But that is a perfectly good answer for you. And two answers I had never heard before in this context.

The answer to the second question is fine, though reveals deeply annoying habits of the current political dialectic. It certainly seems true that in many cases, in many different issues, people with obvious similarities of views in broad areas won't work together with people who disagree in other areas. (Interestingly the pro-life movement only gained its success when the evangelical groups, Catholics and Mormons all got over their mutual dislike for each other's other policies got over that for the purposes of opposing abortion--which led to some of the things you don't like such as the mostly Catholic opposition to birth control--most of the protestant groups don't really care).

I'm not sure it plays out the way you outline though. Let us say that you believe late term abortions to be infanticide unless the mother is risking more serious injury than a regular pregnancy. Which group allows for that belief to be expressed and worked on. If I could work with pro-choice groups to deal with that, I happily would. But they aren't willing to deal with that issue. Condoms aren't tightly linked to the pro-choice/pro-life divide as late term abortions. There is certainly political overlap, but they aren't identical or nearly identical. You can be pro-life and believe that condoms are fine. The pro-lifers won't scream at you for that. If you are willing to express concern about late term abortions, pro-choicers will indeed scream at you about that. See for example the treatment of dutchmarbel at the hands of Jesurgislac on a regular basis here for example. I (representative of the pro-life side) end up defending her even though we don't share identical positions, typically not commenters from the pro-choice side. Maybe that doesn't mean anything. But I suspect it does.

The irrational emotional attachment explanation makes sense for the women that actually are pregnant. Again I'm not sure how it applies to someone like publius though (because he can't really have the irrational emotional attachment to something in his body for something that can't be in his body.

No, but providing he knows his partner/spouse is pregnant, he can certainly have an irrational emotional attachment to something in her body. This isn't even a difficult concept, Sebastian -- men, just as much as women, start mentally decorating the nursery and picking out baseball gloves just as soon as they find out their partner is pregnant.

. . . the mostly Catholic opposition to birth control--most of the protestant groups don't really care

You've got to be effing kidding me.

"You can be pro-life and believe that condoms are fine. The pro-lifers won't scream at you for that. "

Well, according to Christina Page in How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, the pro-life person who co-wrote a NY Times Op-Ed with her calling for both sides to work together to reduce abortion - using actually productive techniques like sound sex-ed, contraception, etc. - got absolutely hammered by the movement.

But anyway, as I have New Years Eving to do, let me link to - for exampleScott over at LGM, from this summer, writing "More on the Impossibiity of "De-Politicizing" Reproductive Freedom . . . (and click through the "is opposed" bit, etc.)

Ack, missing hyphen.

More to the point, I'd think that one answer to "Why, they ask, won’t people at least admit that abortion is a tough issue" is that by definition the pro-choice movement admits that abortion is a tough issue. In fact, it insists on it. That's why it's the pro-choice movement, and why people who stand up for reproductive rights - and who in some cases may also be pro-life - are pro-choicers. It's so tough an issue that the decision ultimately can't be handed off to legislators or cops or preachers or husbands or parents, but must be made by the woman herself.

Remember, despite what the anti-abortion movement wants folks to think, we're not actually pro-abortion (except in the way that doctors are pro-heart-surgery, perhaps), let alone pro-fetus-death. We're not forcing women to have abortions - rather, we're for women being able to choose, for reproductive freedom. We're for a couple who had a condom break and is trying to get emergency contraception, because they already have two kids, and for Catholic schoolteachers who get sacked because they 'choose life', as well as all the other people who make some folks feel icky.

Granted, there's always more that could be done, but of course, that's largely because most of the movement's energy gets sucked into fighting against abstinence-only 'education', and keeping clinics open, and etc., y'know?

The medical complications of abortion issue seems like an odd answer to me. Maybe I'm overinterpreting, but that doesn't seem like the kind of 'tough' publius is talking about in the context where it came up. I'm hesitant to bring it up because I don't want the analogy to purely elective surgery to get us going in the wrong direction, but I rarely hear of the decision to say get a nose job or a breast implant as 'tough' in what I thought of as the same sense publius used and they have a similar risk of serious complications.

Those really aren't good procedures to compare abortion to, in this context. Think of it more like this: you were in an accident and unknowingly got a small piece of something stuck inside your abdomen, which is now healed. It is causing you some discomfort, but is not life-threatening. The doctor tells you that they can safely operate to remove it, although he warns you that like any surgery it does carry with it some risks. He also tells you that in less than a year your body will probably break down the material and absorb it anyway, although doing so would require regular and expensive follow-up care to ensure it stays low-risk, and a small chance of long-term health issues from some of the chemicals your body would absorb.

(Yes, I realize that this is a highly contrived hypothetical. My aim here is to construct a gender-blind, nonsexual scenario that is as close as possible to abortion in terms of potential risks and tradeoffs for the purpose of discussion.)

This would be a "tough" decision for me. I know I would be highly conflicted as to whether to take the risk of surgery, or the chance of my body working things out on its own.

Moreover, it would be perfectly understandable for an uninvolved third party to empathize with someone in that situation, be concerned for that person, and worry about whether or not they should have the surgery.

I suspect this isn't the kind of "tough" he's referring to either. I think it's more likely closer to the second example I gave. But there is no question that this is part of the equation for many people.

The irrational emotional attachment explanation makes sense for the women that actually are pregnant. Again I'm not sure how it applies to someone like publius though (because he can't really have the irrational emotional attachment to something in his body for something that can't be in his body.

Why not? He helped create it, and he has a stake in whether or not it comes to term. It's ultimately not his body or his decision, but the result of that decision most definitely impacts his life and likely his emotions.

And as for third parties, even if you have a rational, intellectual opinion about whether or not a fetus is morally equivalent to a child, that doesn't stop you from being conflicted about it on an irrational gut level. I suspect that this is the level on which the "abortion is icky" feeling that most people have operates. Even if they don't think it's a child and don't believe terminating it is murder, they can still find it distasteful for any number of reasons.

which led to some of the things you don't like such as the mostly Catholic opposition to birth control--most of the protestant groups don't really care

I'm sorry, but this is not even close to being accurate. It may well be that dogmatically, most protestant groups don't have anything against contraception. But they have cast their lot with those who do, vote for candidates who do, support policies that do, and the end result of all of this is that socially conservative groups and politicians can be counted on to oppose access to contraception almost every time. The best that can be said is that they simply don't care enough about the issue to go head-to-head with those in the pro-life movement who do.

I'm not sure it plays out the way you outline though. Let us say that you believe late term abortions to be infanticide unless the mother is risking more serious injury than a regular pregnancy. Which group allows for that belief to be expressed and worked on.

That's the problem: pro-lifers who think that abortion is infanticide have no room to maneuver. Any compromise short of outlawing abortion entirely is tantamount to being an accessory to murder. And this is a big part of why pro-choicers have absolutely no reason to think that any compromise on their part will be used by the pro-life movement as a whole as anything other than a slippery slope towards criminalization. There is no rational basis whatsoever to think that a pro-life group who thinks abortion is murder would compromise on the subject in good faith.

Why not? He helped create it, and he has a stake in whether or not it comes to term. It's ultimately not his body or his decision, but the result of that decision most definitely impacts his life and likely his emotions.

The difference, obviously, is that if he isn't told about it--for example, if the woman involved terminates the pregnancy without ever informing him or if it was a one-off and they never see each other again--then he'll never have the chance to create that "irrational emotional attachment." The woman doesn't have an option in the matter--the man isn't as committed, biologically speaking.

You've got to be effing kidding me.

Posted by: Phil | December 31, 2007 at 05:49 PM

Most mainline Protestant churches are either pro-choice or "agnostic" on abortion. The fundementalist sects and within American Protestantism are the rabidly anti-abortion. The Southern Baptist switched their view in the 80's.

Looking for information.

This article gives a quick overview: Aborting Churches

Here's his assesment: Though Greeley et al. did not address it directly, mainline Protestant hierarchs long championed legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade, culminating in their founding of RCRC in 1973. Undoubtedly this had some impact on abortion rates among their own flocks. The lower birth rate among mainline Protestants can probably be explained, at least partly, by some level of increased moral ease with and resort to abortion (the "Roe Effect").

So perhaps unrestricted abortion is fueling the decline of the very same churches who have most championed it. The irony is a sad one.

Some one who really does not get it. Breeders for pew filling seems very seemly, but popular within certain circles.

There is certainly political overlap, but they aren't identical or nearly identical. You can be pro-life and believe that condoms are fine. The pro-lifers won't scream at you for that.

Some will. There is a definite faction in the pro-life movement which is anti-contraceptive of any type. They will scream at you for being pro-condom.

If you are willing to express concern about late term abortions, pro-choicers will indeed scream at you about that.

Some will. Some won't. I'm pro-choice, but I would have no problem with a law restricting access to abortion in the third trimester IF (and only if) the following criteria were met:
1. Contraceptives were readily available (including available to teenagers), cheap or free, and education about their use was widespread.
2. Early abortion was readily available to all women and girls (even those who live in rural South Dakota), cheap or free, and provided without harassment from strangers or judgement from doctors or pharmacists.
3. Exceptions were made for severe fetal abnormalities or danger to the life or health of the pregnant woman. And for extra-legal coercion. If a woman were kidnapped by crazed pro-lifers and held until she was 25 weeks pregnant, it isn't her fault she missed the deadline and she can't be said to have given implied consent for the pregnancy to continue. I would expect this situation to arise rarely if ever.
4. Resources to help women (and men) raising small children alone were available so that in the rare instance of a pregnancy truly being discovered only very late it wouldn't be a disaster at least economically for the mother.

Meet those criteria and I'd be ok with a law prohibiting purely elective abortion after 24 weeks. It's really giving more rights to the fetus than are given to any living human being and the number of abortions such a law would prevent would be vanishingly small, but if it would make you happy...

Are we talking about abortion in any trimester, or abortion in the last trimester? Or are there still people claiming that that does not make a difference?

Sebastian: in the early pregnancy I really truelly believed that the fetus was not a seperate human being. I *did* feel that it had the potential to be one, it was the early stage of our very beloved child. I was emotionally attached to that potential and if I had aborted at that stage it would have been MY decision (and thus my responsibility) to terminate that potential. When parents loose a child after birth they also mourn the potential, the life the child now misses.

I really don't understand the people who feel that a baby only has rights once it is born. I also don't understand people who say thinks along the lines of 'when a woman has carried the child into the third trimester she will only have her kids intrests at heart'. Yes, that will be true for most women, but unfortunately there are *also* women (and men) who abuse and even kill their kids. Unless you feel that child protection should be eliminated for the newborns, you agree with that. And though there is not a lot of documentation there *are* late term abortions for reasons that seem rather trivial to me (like cleft palate).

We currently have a trial against a woman who went to Spain and had a perfectly healthy fetus/baby aborted. She claims it was at 24 weeks, the father (who alerted the autorities) and doctors here say it was 27 weeks. 24 weeks would not make it punishable in both involved countries, which is essential for the right of the Dutch government to prosecute.

Yes a women should be in total control of het body and decide about it. Having sex is healty and knowing how to protect yourself should be well known to everybody. Frankly, if any of my boys would come home with a virgin and would want to marry her (or him, but there's less risc of pregnancy in that case) I'd be scared to death and seriously try to talk them out of it.

I agree that a lot of the US right-wing reli-nuts try to control the right of a women to decide for herself about her body and her sexuality. Just like they try to decide Sebastians love-live for him since he doesn't fit their nice 'proper' pattern either.

At the same time, as is noted before, most people don't have a problem with first term abortion. They may not like it, but they agree that the woman should decide about wether she wants to continue this pregnancy. It's the later abortions that cause the discussions.

Sebastian said in earlier discussions that he only wanted to limit late abortions, and that they ought to be allowed when the proper procedure was followed (I think he said that two doctors should agree that it was the best option). That is how it works in the Netherlands and I am perfectly fine with our system. I am also fine with the fact that *if* you have a severly handicapped baby that will have a very short life filled with pain and misery you can decide for euthanatia - which is probabely where Sebastian and I differ.

Yes, a child born after 24 weeks of pregnancy is seen as a person here. If it is dead it doesn't need a passport or a social security number, but it has to be entered into the civil community register and it has to be burried in accordence with our burial laws and such. If a pregnancy is terminated that late, it will be a still birth and will be reported (like any other unexpected death) to the proper inspectorate.

At the same time I think Sebastian should make a difference between how aborion should be regarded in a percect society and how it should be regarded in the US. There is a real risc that any common sense restrictions/limitations on abortions will be abused to make it really hard for women. Just like it is appearently is normal to have pharmacists refusing to sell women anticonception or day-after pills, or like it is normal to prevent women from having early abortions. In that climate one might be inclined to err in favor or the womans rights.

3. Exceptions were made for severe fetal abnormalities or danger to the life or health of the pregnant woman. And for extra-legal coercion. If a woman were kidnapped by crazed pro-lifers and held until she was 25 weeks pregnant, it isn't her fault she missed the deadline and she can't be said to have given implied consent for the pregnancy to continue. I would expect this situation to arise rarely if ever.

Wouldn't it fit the American system better to have the kidnappers pay for the cost of upbringing? Pay allowence for the next twenty years? Otherwise they might decide to keep her till after the birth.

Great comment from dutchmarbel at 10:14. If (as discussed in the post) I trusted the leadership of the other side farther than I could accelerate them, I might accept a more European system. Given reality though, no thanks.

It seems to me this talk about making contraception widely available or why would a woman continue a pregnancy into the third trimester and onl then have an abortion ignores an important factor - denial. The denial of a teenage girl who doesn't use contraception because that would be admitting she is regularly sexually active (i.e., "loose") but regularly has "impulsive" sex which she can deny responsibility for. Or the woman who can't admit even to herself that she is pregnant until it gets too obvious to deny and then desparately wants out. (This is also the type of woman who abandons babies in the trash).

There has been a recent study done in the UK on reasons for 'late' abortion (by which they mean 13-24 weeks). Such abortions are legal in the UK, provided you get the support of two doctors. The press release also gives statistics for the frequency of abortions: 89% in first trimester, 9% in weeks 13-19, only 1.4% week 20 or later. After 24 weeks (i.e. towards the end of the second trimester), the figures are even lower, less than 1% (just over one hundred actual cases) and abortion is allowed only in the case of grave risk to the life or health of the mother or serious handicap for the child. There are still arguments about whether all of these very late abortions are medically justified (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3252350.stm, but at least in a country with reasonable access to abortion and contraception, such cases are very rare, and discussion of them should not really be more than a side issue.

IMV, precisely because it is (often) a hard decision, it should not be made by the state, in gross, but by the affected individuals, in full knowledge of the context. That's not hard at all.

I guess I'm in the minority having no problem with the constitutional foundation of Roe et al. Really. But then I also think that bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional under Loving, so I'm used to being in the minority.

Publius is obviously right about the link between Roe and Griswold etc. I'd go a step further: if Roe is bad law, it's only because liberty in the Fourteenth Amendment isn't big enough to include this aspect of control over personal destiny. OK, well, that isn't just about privacy. It's also about everything else that gets brought in through incorporation. That is, I don't just think you have to kill Lawrence. I think you have to drop New York Times v. Sullivan, for example.

(Actually, I just thought of that example, and might well be talked out of it, in particular, some day when I'm not more than a little hung over. I think my point, though, is clear enough.)

I'm an older woman, and I can tell you there is no chance in the world that I would even consider a pregnancy unless I knew I would be not forced to give birth to a severely disabled child.

Prolifers need to do more to address the forced pregnancy issue in the case of Down syndrome, spina bifida, and severe disabilities. Do they really think in this era of easy and relatively inexpensive genetic tests that it is going to be possible to force women of any means at all to give birth to babies who will never have independent lives, babies who parents will have to give up on most of their hopes for the future from the moment they are born?

Sure, it's fine for some people to make the choice to give birth under these circumstances, but it is deeply morally repugnant to force people to do it.

Why, when abortion rates in the presence of genetic disabilities are so high, are these issues so rarely discussed in the debate over abortion?

Most mainline Protestant churches are either pro-choice or "agnostic" on abortion. The fundementalist sects and within American Protestantism are the rabidly anti-abortion. The Southern Baptist switched their view in the 80's.

I'm pretty sure that Sebastian was speaking in terms of organized abortion opposition groups, not of churches qua churches, but I'll let him answer for himself. If it is the former, I'll bet him a dollar that the five most prominent non-Catholic anti-abortion groups he can think of also oppose condom use.

I recall a survey that Doctor Science once did of all the pro-life organizations in the US: she established that not one of them actually supports contraceptive use to prevent abortions - and certainly not one of them is actively involved in any program to provide free contraception. The organisation most responsible for preventing abortion by preventing unwanted/unplanned pregnancy is Planned Parenthood.

This is, all by itself, sufficient evidence that while these groups may claim they view abortion as infanticide, that's not what the people who decide what pro-life organizations are going to campaign on think: nor is it what the pro-life demonstrators who picket Planned Parenthood clinics think. If they actually believed abortion was infanticide, they would want to prevent abortions: they don't.

I really don't understand the people who feel that a baby only has rights once it is born. I also don't understand people who say thinks along the lines of 'when a woman has carried the child into the third trimester she will only have her kids intrests at heart'. Yes, that will be true for most women, but unfortunately there are *also* women (and men) who abuse and even kill their kids. Unless you feel that child protection should be eliminated for the newborns, you agree with that

Nothing personal, but what's there to disagree with in your sentence? People abuse kids all the time, and it has nothing to do with abortion. Look, here's the reason I fall on the side that says "let's give women as many options as possible." There will no doubt be circumstances where some women will have abortions that most people would find morally repugnant--my attitude is that they will likely be the exception, especially if we live in a society that has fully embraced the idea that women ought to have control over their bodies and their sexuality. But here's the thing: I don't want my government deciding what's moral and immoral, because morality is a personal issue, and cannot be imposed by an outside source. Would you want government investigators snooping around to determine if your abortion met the criteria that they felt was acceptable? What if you're a male and the government said you had to meet certain moral criteria before getting a vasectomy, and that if you're doing it because you want to have lots of promiscuous sex, then you can't have one? We'd tell the government to get out of our faces, and rightly so.

So why should women demand any less? Because of a fetus? I'm not convinced, and even if someone else made a choice about a fetus that outraged me, it's their choice, not mine. And the religious who use their faith as a reason to stand against abortion are showing a real lack of it, as though their God is unable to exact proper punishment in the afterlife.

Marbel: I really don't understand the people who feel that a baby only has rights once it is born.

Because you can give a fetus rights only by removing rights from the pregnant woman. In particular, by removing her right to make medical decisions for herself.

I really don't understand the people who think that a pregnant woman deserves less rights than a man or a woman who isn't pregnant.

I really don't understand the people who think that a pregnant woman deserves less rights than a man or a woman who isn't pregnant.

I can understand them--I just happen to think they're wrong. There was a period in human existence where the preservation of a pregnancy was important enough that one might make an argument that the cost to a class's rights would be understandable. But we're not there, and we haven't been for many, many millennia, and I don't see us returning to such a situation any time soon.

wanttohear: Why, when abortion rates in the presence of genetic disabilities are so high, are these issues so rarely discussed in the debate over abortion?

I was so staying out of this thread…

Context here is Down Syndrome, not more serious disorders. Genetic testing can’t be done until the second trimester. And even then it only indicates a higher risk for certain diseases, and it’s only 60-80% accurate. If this is your criteria, should people choose abortion based on a 40% chance that the baby is normal?

If you don’t support second trimester abortions to begin with then I don’t think this should change your mind.

The risk of losing the baby getting the test (amniocentesis, CVS) is four times higher than the risk of Down Syndrome to start with (younger women).

And “never have independent lives” is simply false, at least in terms of Down Syndrome.

Now I’m pro-choice to a point. But I believe that if you have a higher risk of having a baby with genetic abnormalities the answer is simply not to get pregnant to begin with. The concept of “roll the dice” and just abort it if it might come out wrong doesn’t work for me. (That’s why my wife and I never had children.)

OCSteve: If this is your criteria, should people choose abortion based on a 40% chance that the baby is normal?

Give the pregnant woman all the available information, and let her decide. What exactly is your problem with this?

If you don’t support second trimester abortions to begin with then I don’t think this should change your mind.

I suppose if you support forcing women to stay pregnant, no matter what, it won't make any difference to you whether she is being forced to bear a healthy baby or a disabled baby or a baby that will die within hours of birth. It's the ability to force her that matters.

It's the ability to force her that matters.

Yup. That’s exactly what I said…

But I believe that if you have a higher risk of having a baby with genetic abnormalities the answer is simply not to get pregnant to begin with. The concept of “roll the dice” and just abort it if it might come out wrong doesn’t work for me.

But who are you to determine that for other couples? That's at the crux of this debate--who gets to choose? Do women get to choose for themselves, or does the state? Freedom of choice means--just as freedom of speech does--that sometimes people are going to make choices that you disagree with, perhaps even violently. But it's their choice--at least it should be--not yours.

Yup. That’s exactly what I said…

It's always worth remembering, OCSteve, that every abortion you decide you won't permit means one woman forced through pregnancy and childbirth against her will. That pro-lifers try to make you think of the fetus as if it floated in mid-air in a golden mist of light, is a particularly insidious piece of mind-control. Works, too, didn't it?

What is your problem with giving the pregnant woman all available information and letting her decide for herself?

Steve, I'm sure you're familiar with the principle of local knowledge from the principles of market operation, even if you haven't picked up that particular label for it (from Hayek, I believe). It's not that the people involved in a transaction will always make what can in some sense be called the best decision, it's just that nobody else is likely to reliably make it better on their behalf, so long as some basic conditions are secured. The pro-choice position on abortion says that's what true of un-coerced economic decision-making is true of decision-making about children, too - that in uncertain circumstances, it is on the whole very much best to leave the decision to those who have to deal with it. Anti-choice positions are all grounded on the idea that there are key truths available to outside observers but not to participants - a direct contradiction of one of the most basic assumptions in economic choice, and more often asserted than demonstrated. :)

dutchmarbel: As it happens, I think that the Dutch system is basically fine and I have no real problem with limiting third trimester abortions to cases of severe fetal anomalies or risk to the mother's life as it does. However, I don't think that it is the open and shut moral/legal case that you appear to be claiming either for several reasons.

1. 24 weeks is pretty early and the fetus is still pretty undeveloped. Premature infants don't show signs of being able to feel pain until about 29-30 weeks (though primitive nocioception appears earlier). A 24 week premie needs essentially a complete life support system to survive: its lungs don't work, it can't maintain its body temperature, its heart doesn't even beat reliably. The brain, along with the lungs, develops very late. The 27 week abortion is probably no big deal in terms of the likelihood of killing a sentient being.
2. A fetus isn't a premature infant. Fetal circulation, oxygen levels, and stimuli are very different from those of a newborn. In particular, the partial pressure of oxygen in the fetal circulation is at a level that would not allow for cortical activity in an adult. It is, theoretically, possible that the cortex of a fetus can work at lower oxygen levels, but I've never seen any evidence to suggest this.
3. Even assuming that the above is wrong or irrelevant, in no other circumstance is one person allowed to use the body of another against the second person's will, even if it is necessary for survival. Parents are not forced to give blood, bone marrow, or organs to their children even if they would die without them. If you volunteered to give bone marrow to another person but decided just before the needle was inserted that you didn't want to donate, you would not be forced to, even if you were the only compatible donor and the person would die without a transplant. Why should a fetus be given more rights than any other person including a newborn?

One potential counterargument is that by not having an abortion for 24 weeks, even though the option is readily available, the pregnant woman gives implicit consent for the fetus to occupy her uterus for as long as it needs to. This, of course, is a legitimate argument only if the decision was made without coercion and in a situation in which abortion was available. These criteria are, if I understand correctly, met in the Netherlands, but they are not met in the US. Thus, I am much happier with a third trimester ban in the Netherlands than I would be with a similar ban in the US.

BTW: I included the "pro-life kidnappers" scenario just for completeness. I would expect such events to be about as common as the mythical woman who has an abortion at 36 weeks because she can't fit into her prom dress. But if it did happen she would certainly have the right to sue for damages including 18 years of child support and would probably win, depending on the judge. A more common situation might be a doctor or U/S tech telling a woman that her pregnancy was too far advanced to have an abortion when it really wasn't (i.e. telling her it was 24 weeks when it was really only 22). Maybe the declaration that a pregnancy is too far advanced should have to be confirmed by 2 doctors or something to prevent that sort of fraud.

The risk of losing the baby getting the test (amniocentesis, CVS) is four times higher than the risk of Down Syndrome to start with (younger women).

That is highly dependent on the age of the woman and other factors. The risk of amnio is flat whereas the risk of DS and other anomalies rises steadily with age. The point at which the risks are about equal is around 35 years of age. Additionally, if either partner has a first degree relative with DS or who has had a child with DS then the risk is higher (i.e. risk of balanced translocation).

Amnio/CVS is near to 100% accurate when the results are analyzed by a competent geneticist. The 60% number is for the safer non-invasive screening tests such as alpha fetoprotein measurement. But abortions based on these tests are rare--the normal procedure would be to get an amnio if the test turns up a possible problem. So some fetuses may be lost to miscarriage after amnio for false positive triple screens, for example, but induced abortions based on false positives would likely be quite rare. Definitely a reason to look for ways to make the tests safer and more accurate, but I don't see the argument against the legality of abortion.

publius, I agree with you about the reason for keeping Roe intact. However, I think there should be discussion of a compromise: a constitutional amendment that explicitly defines the right to privacy in exchange for striking down Roe. That way there would be no chain reaction, and no more tortured logic by "activist" judges. Plus it would be very entertaining how the two camps played it out.

My response on the textualism question here.

"Nothing personal, but what's there to disagree with in your sentence? People abuse kids all the time, and it has nothing to do with abortion."

The assertion both above and in recent threads is that women would never or almost never capriciously decide to do something like just abort a child after viability if there weren't life-threatening medical reasons. In that context, the abuse of children was raised to point out that women do in fact abuse their children even after they are born, so it isn't shocking at all to think that they would make similar ranges of decisions before birth.

But perhaps we shouldn't investigate child abuse since a woman would *obviously* never allow anything bad to happen to her own children.

I find the alleged reliance on Griswold a bit hard to stomach. That whole right was based on the super-douper-deep respect for the ancient history of marriage and the inability of the state to meddle in those sacred bonds. One year later, oops we were just kidding about all that. It kind of makes the game a bit obvious.

I really don't understand the people who think that a pregnant woman deserves less rights than a man or a woman who isn't pregnant.

That's because you have trouble with the concept 'weighting the intrests against each other' since you feel that the fetus/baby does not have any till it is born. Or till it is 32 weeks, I'm not sure anymore what your exact position is.

Dianne: The 27 week abortion is probably no big deal in terms of the likelihood of killing a sentient being.

My niece was born at 27 weeks gestation. She was operated that same day because her guts were not properly attached to her stomach. If you click the link and go to 2006, oktober, you see the her picks right after birth. Are you seriously telling me that if someone killed her that first day, or that first week, it would be no big deal because she wasn't a sentient being? Or are you telling me that you'd not have minded the doctors operating on her without painmedication?

in no other circumstance is one person allowed to use the body of another against the second person's will, even if it is necessary for survival Of course there are circumstances where that would be allowed. But I doubt that the discussion would be helped if we discussed possible and likely contrived examples. Because this is a rather unique circumstance, pregnancy, and all comparisons are contrived.

Parents are not forced to give blood, bone marrow, or organs to their children even if they would die without them. But they are forced to give them food, cloths and protection - or rather they are punished if they don't. And the ways to provide a fetus with those are limited.

It all depends on when you feel the fetus is entitled to protection of it's own, when it is seen as a person in it's own right. Which imho is a gliding scale, there is no real cut-off point - but for me it is earlier than birth.

Of course that doesn't mean that the intrests of the fetus/baby suddenly outweights those of the mother. It's not a relay batton that can be hold by only one person. In the Netherlands, with cheap and easily available anti-conception & free medical care & free pre-natal tests and ultrasounds & with free abortions & with euthanatia-options after birth I think it is very reasonable to have a third trimester prohibition.

In the US I don't think the fetus/baby is less entitled to protection but I think the mother is entitled to more protection so when you weigh the intrests of the pregnant woman against those of the fetus/baby there should be more rights given to the mother.

Comparisons with forced organ transplants don't really resonate with me. That is actively changing the status quo, but with pregnancy it is about maintaining the status quo. Also, it denies the fact that the fetus/baby had any rights at physical integrity since you allow the pregnant woman to actively kill it (is there a less loaded term than kill that I could use?).

Marbel: That's because you have trouble with the concept 'weighting the intrests against each other' since you feel that the fetus/baby does not have any till it is born.

The concept I have trouble with - or rather, reject absolutely - is that anyone but the pregnant woman can "weigh the interests against each other".

What pro-lifers appear to swallow without question is that it's okay to tell a pregnant woman that she can't be permitted to make decisions about her own body, because that entails making decisions about the fetus she is carrying, and she can't be allowed to do that because she might decide that her life or her health, or the well-being of herself and her family, is more important than deciding to have another child.

I repeat: if the pro-life movement was actually concerned about preventing abortions, pro-life organizations would rival Planned Parenthood in providing free or low-cost contraception and sex education to all: and the pro-life movement would be the strongest advocate for mandatory paid maternity leave and free health care in the US. Neither is true. Ergo, the pro-life movement is indifferent to preventing abortions.

But they are forced to give them food, cloths and protection - or rather they are punished if they don't. And the ways to provide a fetus with those are limited.

Given that a fetus does not require food, clothing, or protection, it's hard to see why a parent should be "punished" for not providing it with any of the above. A fetus requires the use of a woman's body to survive.

It all depends on when you feel the fetus is entitled to protection of it's own, when it is seen as a person in it's own right.

Well, it doesn't need protection of it's own till it's born, and it can't be a person in it's own right till it's born. When the woman's pregnancy reaches the stage when early labor could be induced without harm to the fetus (32 weeks, the BMA reckons) you can certainly argue that if the woman has a need not to be pregnant any more, she must terminate the pregnancy by c-sec or induced labor if she wants to (there's no other way to get the fetus at that point, anyway, short of a teleport) but still, the woman's the only person who can make the final decision, given all the medical information available. The fetus can't, and giving another person than the pregnant woman the right to "decide on behalf of the fetus" merely means giving another person the right to decide, overriding the pregnant woman's decision, when and how she is to give birth. Why argue for that?

My niece was born at 27 weeks gestation...Or are you telling me that you'd not have minded the doctors operating on her without pain medication?

I won't comment on your niece. In fact, I'm sorry that I hit that particular time point and brought up painful associations. If it were my kid, I'd want the doctors to use the minimum possible medication to suppress the stress reflexes associated with nocioception and not suppress the already low functioning cortex with unnecessary medications unless compelling evidence is found that there is a pain response in a 27 week premie. Anesthesia is dangerous and I would see using unnecessary anesthesia to relieve my anxiety as a bad idea. A 27 week old newborn is not a 27 week fetus is not a 40 week newborn is not an adult and treating them all as though they were the same is asking for trouble.

Of course there are circumstances where that [forcing one person to allow another to parasitize their body] would be allowed. But I doubt that the discussion would be helped if we discussed possible and likely contrived examples.

It's probably wise of you to refuse to discuss it since you're going to come up with a blank. At least, I can't think of a single instance in which one person can be legally forced to use their body to sustain another person. At least not in the US or Europe. I have the vague idea that people in the military can be ordered to donate blood, but I'm not sure that's even true. So go ahead, give an example, no matter how contrived.

But they are forced to give them food, cloths and protection - or rather they are punished if they don't.

Actually, no. A person can surrender parental rights to a child and no longer have any responsibility toward that child and so will not be punished for failing to provide food, etc. In some circumstances, this is even considered an admirable thing to do.

Comparisons with forced organ transplants don't really resonate with me. That is actively changing the status quo, but with pregnancy it is about maintaining the status quo.

Not really. One method of late abortion is simply induction of labor and allowing nature to take its course after birth. How is that different from refusing to donate an organ? Or bone marrow, which is about 10X safer than completing a pregnancy?

As I said, I don't really have any problem with restricting elective abortion in the third trimester if earlier mentioned prerequisites are met. Six months is long enough to decide. I just think that it should be done with the acknowledgement that it is giving fetuses special rights that we never give to any person who has been born (unless you can name an example in which one person can requisition another's body or bodily resources). It is probably best-more likely to provide good social outcomes in general--to allow these special rights to late fetuses, but let's not get sentimental about it.

it's

Psst, everyone, its--no apostrophe. "It's" is a contraction for it is, not indicative of the possessive as the apostrophe usually is. Sorry, just a little grammar interlude. Please correct my spelling, grammar, or word usage in any way that you like.

"I just think that it should be done with the acknowledgement that it is giving fetuses special rights that we never give to any person who has been born"

There's the sick violinist example, of course, but it famously doesn't prove anything. Considering hypotheticals like "Aliens handcuff you to a stranger for nine months unless you kill him" aren't going to help much either.

It seems to me that something is considered a right or isn't, and qualifying it with "be grateful you're getting this because it's a special case and nobody else benefits from it" is asking for trouble.

Dianne: At least, I can't think of a single instance in which one person can be legally forced to use their body to sustain another person. At least not in the US or Europe.

In China, criminals condemned to death can "volunteer" to have their body parts used after death for transplants. Amnesty International (among other organizations) questions how "voluntary" that usage is. That's the only parallel I can think of, where a person is (almost certainly) forced to give up parts of their body to sustain others: but even the Chinese government recognizes that they have to at least claim it's voluntary.

I know of no other group but pro-lifers that claim it's OK to force use of a human body against that person's will: and I know of no group but pregnant woman of whom it's claimed that it's OK they should be so forced.

The decision of the International Criminal Court, in 1999, was that forced pregnancy is a crime against humanity.

Rilke: It seems to me that something is considered a right or isn't, and qualifying it with "be grateful you're getting this because it's a special case and nobody else benefits from it" is asking for trouble.

Fine. Regardless of what restrictions are placed on third trimester abortions, let us by all means not demand that fetuses express their gratitude.

*wanders off, shaking head*

Incertus (Brian): But who are you to determine that for other couples?

No one at all and my opinion means zip. I’m defining the limits of my abortion support. As I noted I’m pro-choice to a point. Accidental pregnancy, rape, etc. it’s the woman’s choice.

But if you try to get pregnant and you are high risk for Downs and you then decide to abort in the second trimester based on the test – I do not support that at all. If you are high risk and want to get pregnant but then want a “do-over” I do not support it.


Jes: What is your problem with giving the pregnant woman all available information and letting her decide for herself?

See above…

Bruce: Again, just defining my boundaries when I say I am pro-choice.

There's the sick violinist example, of course, but it famously doesn't prove anything. Considering hypotheticals like "Aliens handcuff you to a stranger for nine months unless you kill him" aren't going to help much either.

I can give you a much more down to earth example, one that happens and happens relatively frequently. There are a number of diseases for which the only cure is a bone marrow transplant using bone marrow (or, more often these days, peripheral blood stem cells) from another person. The best donor is a sibling whose cell antigens closely match your own ("HLA matched"). But not everyone has sibs and not all sibs are HLA matched. So there is an organization that takes blood from volunteers, determines their HLA haplotype, and keeps the data on record. If someone needs a BMT and doesn't have a sib donor, they can go to this registry and see if there are any stranger HLA matches available. Note that participation in this registry is entirely voluntary. No one anywhere is required to participate and if there was a question about whether a volunteer was coerced they would be removed from the pool immediately.

Now, stranger matches are relatively rare and matches from more than one stranger even more so. So if a match is found, the sick person is entirely dependent for their survival on one particular volunteer following through. If the volunteer refuses to donate their marrow or PBSC, the sick person will die. And sometimes they do refuse. They are not compelled to donate after refusal. Should volunteers be compelled to give their marrow/PBSC if they volunteer in the first place? Should all people be compelled to participate?

And if a sibling is HLA matched and refuses to donate, should the sibling be prosecuted for not doing so?

"A 27 week old newborn is not a 27 week fetus "

Locationally yes. But intrinsically no. It turns out that the 27 week gestated preemie is exactly the same as a 27 week gestated fetus. And that is precisely the point dutchmarbel is making.

"But they are forced to give them food, cloths and protection - or rather they are punished if they don't.

Actually, no. A person can surrender parental rights to a child and no longer have any responsibility toward that child and so will not be punished for failing to provide food, etc."

Actually a woman can do that. For the most part if by 'person' you include men, they can't give up parental rights to avoid having welfare responsibilities. If you are a man you can totally disclaim parental rights and still be prosecuted if you don't support the child. Which really is a whole different debate, I point it out not because I have some sort of men's rights concern but only because your dismissal of dutchmarbel's point is only accurate for half the population.

"One method of late abortion is simply induction of labor and allowing nature to take its course after birth."

Not in the US it isn't. If you induce labor, deliver the baby completely and just let it die you are seriously risking murder charges or at the very least manslaughter. That is why partial-birth abortions exist at all. The abortionist has to be sure to kill the 'fetus' before it becomes a 'baby' by exiting the womb. If for some reason you fail to kill it before it exits the womb, you aren't performing an abortion, you are performing clear infanticide. This is true even under Jesurgislac's definitions--the mother no longer has any danger associated with the now born baby, and no physical 'forced support'. There are cases where the late term abortion has failed, and there is now a good child wandering around in the world. If there are indeed 'abortions' happening like you describe, I'm appalled.

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