Why I am pro-choice

Over at the main page, both Mike and Will have been discussing abortion rates and the impact of various factors on the different rates from state to state.  They have already presented plenty of data, and I have no numbers to throw into the mix.  For the negligible number of you who read this blog but not the main page, I recommend both posts, which are thoughtful and thorough.

I do, however, think it’s important to make sure we’re asking the right question.  Mike, jumping off from a column by Ross Douthat, questions the connection between easy access to contraception and legal abortion and a reduction in abortion rates overall.  I agree that this connection is often made as an argument for the former, and certain data make that argument more challenging.  But as Will points out, it’s difficult to pin down exactly why some areas have higher abortion rates than others, even in areas where the various influencing factors would seem similar.

Personally, I’ve been all over the map with regard to the abortion question, both literally and figuratively.  I was raised in a very, very conservative evangelical church in the Midwest, where a great deal of emphasis was placed on abstinence from sex until marriage, period.  It was the central message of my adolescence, followed closely by exhortations to be aware of the works of Satan in popular culture (an utterly sincere, unironic concern).  Over time, three members of the youth group went on to get pregnant/get someone pregnant out of wedlock, including both of the minister’s daughters.  And despite the injunctions to refrain from sexual activity, I was well-aware of how ardently it was pursued by other members of the group.

By the time I started my fellowship in adolescent medicine in New York City, I had swung all the way to the other end of the spectrum.  For three years I worked at a large, well-funded adolescent health center that was straight from the most fevered dreams of my youth minister.  We dispensed contraceptives free of charge to all who asked for it.  We had a battalion of health educators to teach or review the correct use of methods both barrier and hormonal in detail.  And still there were girls who came in for abortion number two or three.  It was immensely frustrating.

Having seen the various failures (and yes, I consider serial abortions a particular kind of failure) of both approaches, I am wary of any kind of absolute prescription.  I chafe at both the moralistic strictures of the Santorum set and the almost celebratory attitudes regarding abortion of their adversaries.  (Having attended this event, I do not think that is a mischaracterization.)  But when faced with a choice between more freedom and less, I am generally inclined to give people more.

If the goal of providing contraception is to lower abortion rates overall, then it will be inadequate.  If, however, the goal is to give the women who use it the option of having sex with a much lower risk of unintended pregnancy on their own terms, then it is worthwhile to provide it.  Bluntly, women should have the same access to minimally-risky sex that men do.  That is justification enough.  Yes, many adolescent girls and women will use it incorrectly or not at all.  I fail to see why that should limit access for those thousands of women who would use it correctly, teenagers included.

As for abortion, it remains a thorny question.  If I were to be fully honest, I would admit that both my stridently anti-abortion and pro-choice phases were largely informed by the social attitudes of my peers.  Sitting here now, the best way to describe my feelings about abortion is that I think it is tragic.  Always.  That is not to say that I think it is always wrong, but it is always grave and sad, even if it is not always treated as such.  But for women who are pregnant and don’t wish to be, I do not see an option.  One thing that I passionately wish were different, particularly as the adoptive parent of a son I adore, is that there is barely any mention at all of adoption in many (most?) adolescent health centers.  (I would be thrilled to be wrong about this, so anyone is free to enlighten me if this perception is incorrect or incomplete.)  However, it is preferable that women who do not wish to be pregnant have access to safe, legal abortion than seek recourse through dangerous back-alley procedures.  Those outcomes are no less tragic, and are frequently more so.  After meeting so many young women who recognized their own unreadiness to parent a child and who were unwilling to carry a child to term, I fear what would happen to them if they did not have access to legal abortions.

It is a question that, to me, has no good answer.  But the pro-choice position seems the least bad answer to me now, after all these years and all the places I’ve been.  I wish no woman ever sought an abortion, but I am unwilling to tell those who seek them that they cannot do so.  This untidy position lacks the comforting clarity of the extremes I have previously inhabited, but I’m afraid it’s the best I can do.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I would think that one place where we tragic pro-choicers (and I gather we are a silent majority of pro-choicers) and pro-lifers can get together is the encouragement of adoption as an option.

    Not sure how this would work. Government or charitable funding for the process? Accommodations made at schools? But it seems with some ingenuity, it could be done, perhaps with more success than access to birth control.

    • I think the key is to make “I got pregnant and had a baby” not a “life-ender” for girls and young women.
      “accomodations” made at school are too often used to create a “separate but equal” arrangement where girls who get pregnant are shuffled into the “mommy track” — which is a deadend.

      If we could, as a society, agree to just say “she went overseas for a year” (or treat it like that…) we’d be doing better.

      Also, one needs to make the adoption idea better… I wouldn’t want to give my kid up to a fundie family — I’d have strong moral objections to that.

      Addtl’y, we see “foster kids” and the adoption system as broken — as I understand it, it mostly works for white children given up at birth. It doesn’t work for black kids, or for kids taken from their parents (admittedly the second often have Big Problems)

    • I used to think this, but after I met my birth mother (disclosure: adopted in ’77), I found that there’s a real anti-adoption movement out there made up of women who had opted for adoption and seem at least as emotionally scarred by the experience as I’ve seen from those had abortions and regretted it and now advocate against infant adoption.
      Now I feel the issue is a lot more complicated, their position seems not fully considered if you ask me, but I have learned that it’s not a magic win-win situation.

      I highly recommend reading The Girls Who Went Away. Thankfully that era is largely past us now, but

      • I’m going to go out on a limb and state that pregnancy is a fairly significant state in which to be, and the exit from that state (if you didn’t want to be pregnant in the first place), is incredibly likely to be emotionally scarring.

        No matter what you do.

        In that sense, feeling like adoption is something you have to advocate against because you did it and it was scarring to you seems like a bad reason to advocate against adoption.

        It does seem to be a great reason to argue for contraception though.

        • If you had a bad experience, shouldn’t you talk about it? Maybe you can help someone else have a better one!

          • Sure.

            But this seems to be a particular problem space where “I had a bad experience” needs to come loaded with a lot of context for it to be useful, and in practice I’m not sure that the person with the bad experience and the person seeking to find stuff out about that thing that turned out to be a bad experience for the first person are going to be transferring that context back and forth very well.

            It is very hard for me to participate in this conversation, as I won’t ever be one of those two people. Here’s the closest thing I can think of, off the top of my head, that resembles an example to which I have a connection.

            Someone comes back from the war and tells me that on day one, he decided not to shoot his rifle at the enemy because he couldn’t face killing another person and that enemy shot his childhood buddy in the face, and that experience sucked.

            I’m pretty sure that experience did suck. I’m not so sure that for that particular dude, shooting that enemy first would not have sucked just as much. I say this, because I know guys of both types, and they both come down pretty hard on, “this experience sucked”.

            Now, it’s valuable to me to know why this experienced sucked, because I was already inclined to be a C.O. (I filled out a draft card at 18, and still find that experience to be disquieting).

            But in my experience usually people are trying to figure out what to do with a pregnancy when they’re pregnant, and they’re talking to people who aren’t but were 10 years ago.

            This is kind of like trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do with that rifle while people are shooting at you and your buddy is standing next to you and someone is sending you SMS messages saying “shoot or you’ll hate yourself!” and someone else is sending you SMS messages saying, “don’t shoot, you’ll hate yourself!”

            Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone is honestly trying to do their best and talk about their experiences and try to prevent pain.

            But I think that there is a nontrivial probability that “my experience with adoption sucked” can turn into “I’m advocating against adoption” instead of “I’m not advocating anything, because I didn’t abort and I didn’t keep the baby, so all I know is that I chose adoption and it sucked and here’s why”.

            But what the hell do I know? I can’t get drafted in this fight.

        • Patrick,

          Plinko’s phrase was “advocate against infant abortion,” but just to be clear, if what they are in fact doing is going out and making their experience known along the lines of, ” I didn’t abort and I didn’t keep the baby, so all I know is that I chose adoption and it sucked and here’s why,” then can we understand you to be saying that’s cool? ‘Cuz i really think we should think that’s cool. That’s someone’s experience, and it’s highly likely to be valuable to somebody. And it’s the somebody’s responsibility to keep in context, caveat emptor and all that, and not go around assuming some one or a few particular peoples’ experience or advice is going to be the perfect advice for them in their particular situation. It seems like that universal injunction should never be a reason to say that people with stories they have strong feelings about whose lessons they think can be valuable to others should not let those stories be heard. I want to say that goes up through advocacy. Caveat emptor applies all the way through. We shouldn’t go around telling people they should muzzle their best, most earnest advice that is based on personal experience just because that experience doesn’t take into account a lot of other different experiences and the advice that results from that, or because it doesn’t take a broader, quasi-universal, even quasi-policy perspective. I mean this is what people do: have experiences, draw lessons, offer those lessons to others. It’s the responsibility of the advice-taker to be sure she is hearing from people a broad enough range of experiences to help her decide which or what combination of them offer the best insight into her own choices. I see no reason to chill the offering of earnestly-given experience-based advice simply because it by necessity can’t compare the road taken to the road not taken. That’s exactly what advice-seekers can do by talking to multiple people who have made each of the possible choices they face in their particular situation.

          • Actually, the phrase was ‘infant adoption’.

            The advocacy point seems to me to be (and I’m stepping in it big time because I’m trying to articulate a position I do not hold), that infant adoption is a terrible thing that we, as a society, ought not to be doing because it’s emotionally and physically damaging to both the mother and the child.
            Now, the point is not that abortion is preferable (though I’m sure I could find you some women who would say early-term abortion would be better), it’s that adoption is a lesser moral crime that ought to be discouraged – it’s sort of saying that theft is better than murder but that doesn’t mean discouraging murder should encourage theft.

          • J.H.C., that’s a bad mistake by me. Of course I meant adoption, the thing you wrote.

            That sounds like a pretty extreme position. I should look into it more before spouting off about it. But ITTT if someone is advocating an extreme position, that puts people’s guard against it all the more up. The more reasonable-sounding, the less we might expect someone’s guard to be up against it, but at the same time presumably the less we have to worry about that advice being really bad. I still come down in favor of people offering the wisdom they think in good faith they’ve gleaned from experience.

            I wonder if Pat would (does) have the same problem with the people who say that they regret their abortions (and this time I do mean that word) and counsel people on emotional grounds not to have them. I give him the benefit of the doubt that he does. I don’t have such a problem. I think that’s important testimonial if anecdotal information. The way to counter it if you think it gives an incomplete picture is not to say people should not offer that viewpoint, but to offer what you believe to be more complete/fully contextualized information for people to consider. But I think the testimonial aspect of it is important in a way that is different from the way that the more contextualized, clinical information is also important. What I have some problem with is people who have never had the experience themselves who glom onto the testimony of others in order to push the agenda given by that testimony, without considering the broader, contextualized information that is available, and which is the only thing those without experience ought really to use to make any arguments about these things. (I would say that it is legitimate for people without the experience to help those with it get their story out, but that must be the focus of their advocacy, not merely using the existence of such people to advance their own arguments and agenda. Perhaps that’s all Patrick has been saying from the start, in which case this has been something of a misunderstanding, and I’m at least partial agreement with him.

          • I agree mostly with you, Michael. My main purpose was to quibble with the contention of adoption as a universally-loved ‘win-win’. Lindsay below makes a much better point of it below, with a different focus than the way my birth mother or other adoption-discouragers would frame the issue (it’s one closer to the way I see things).

    • I would think that providing after-care would be a point where both sides could find agreement.
      I guess not.

    • Abortion isn’t always a tragedy. Aborting a much-wanted late term pregnancy because the fetus has lethal birth defects is a tragedy.

      An elective abortion in the first trimester is what the woman makes of it. For some women, it’s a very difficult and sad decision–though I’d still stop short of calling it a tragedy. For some, it’s just an inconvenience.

      At this point in development, no pro-choicer is going to credit the embryo/fetus with personhood or even awareness. So, where does the tragedy come into it?

      You can say that the embryo is a potential life, but that’s not enough to raise abortion to the status of tragedy in itself. A surprisingly large percentage of pregnancies spontaneously miscarry before the woman even knows she’s pregnant. Nobody thinks that’s intrinsically tragic. Why is it tragic to get the same result by design rather than by chance?

      I don’t see why abortion is intrinsically less tragic than adoption from the mother’s point of view. Carrying a child for 9 months and giving it up, even to an open adoption, has got to be a wrenching decision for most women.

      Naturally, the sorrow of the woman and her family is offset by the joy of the adoptive family. Adoption can be a wonderful thing. Women who give babies up for adoption are heroes. They are going above and beyond what anyone should expect of them. They should be celebrated. But it’s not a tragedy when someone decides they’d rather just live their life and not be a hero.

  2. I think one aspect of this that we continue to whole-heartedly ignore are the various reasons that abortions are procured. The baseline assumption of many anti-choice advocates is that women (sluts) are simply trying to fix mistakes made during promiscuous sex. That is gallingly offensive on its own, but it also ignores the more complicated cases that populate the real world.

    -like victims of rape/incest
    -like women who cannot or should not be pregnant for various health reasons
    -like pregnancies that are specifically dangerous

    Perhaps these occurrences are vanishingly small. Perhaps they’re not. But they do have to be accounted for. Treating this thoroughly complicated issue as if it is just one of irresponsible/immoral women is an absurdity. This is an excellent piece that accounts for some of these subtleties, at least by acknowledging the fact that although perhaps some women take advantage of the system, that’s hardly justification for eliminating the accessibility for everyone.

    • A couple more:
      “I thought I had a stable job and could afford a kid… but now I don’t…”
      “My life partner just left me…”
      “I thought by getting pregnant I could keep my significant other…”

      Granted, the last is a stupid reason to get pregnant. But, I think society is served better by having women decide whether they are able to take care of their kids, rather than have the government do it for them.

    • “I don’t want a gay child. I support homosexuality, of course, I just don’t want *MY* baby to be gay.”

      “I found out that the father’s great-grandfather was Inuit. I don’t want any child of mine to be a darky.”

      “It’s going to be a girl. My husband said he’d leave me if I brought it to term and he’s very important to me.”

      • One day it’s possible that legal abortion will cause the gay populace to simply dissappear like downs syndrome children have (as a population). I acknowledge the danger of that and say that it lends urgency to the gay cause of normalizing and assimilating into the prevelant culture.
        But despite the threat of extinction I do not think that the right of women to choose abortion should be constrained because of it.

        • When people argue against abortion, they fall too quickly and easily to the arguments the camel used to get his nose in the tent.

          I find it much more interesting and illuminating to find if there is *ANY* reason that an abortion ought to be declined. Any at all.

          (Similar to the Death Penalty arguments… anyone can argue against the Death Penalty using Troy Davis as a main example… it’s much more interesting to argue against the Death Penalty using Lawrence Brewer.)

          • Assuming an adult woman making the choice alone without others coercing her I’m having trouble thinking of a reason she could give for her abortion that I could consider unacceptable legally for denying her it.

            Morally, of course, it’d be easy even for a person as amoral as me.

      • If “I don’t want to be a parent right now” is fine, and it is, then any of that is fine, too.

        You’ve made the argument that these reasons indicate the person shouldn’t be a parent at the present time and thus perhaps shouldn’t have been having the sex they were having when they were having it, and fair enough, but that’s not a reason that having an abortion for such reasons is wrong, indeed it’s an argument it may be a good choice.

        • …The racist one is, of course, racist, and that makes it not fine for that reason, but it’s not more not fine that it’s a reason to have an abortion than it is to be a reason to give the child up for adoption. In other words, it says nothing about the morality of the choice of abortion over some other choice.

          • I am actually pretty close with you on this one. If “I don’t want to be a parent right now” is a valid reason, then the more specific reason you don’t want to be a parent right now (or a parent to this this kid) is immaterial, from a moral perspective.

          • If “I don’t want to be a parent right now” is a valid reason, then the more specific reason you don’t want to be a parent right now (or a parent to this this kid) is immaterial, from a moral perspective.

            Change “moral” to “legal” and I’m 100% with you.

  3. If I were to be fully honest, I would admit that both my stridently anti-abortion and pro-choice phases were largely informed by the social attitudes of my peers.

    Even now, I suspect that my own (moderate, along the same lines as yours) pro-choice position is informed by the fact that my peer group tends to be more pro-choice than not. It’s also informed by the fact that pro-choice policies serve to advance what I perceive to be my own short term, arguably even selfish, interests. Therefore, I find being pro-choice, when its more than just a question of which public policy I prefer, to be very problematic and difficult for me.

    • I think it’s not only OK that our attitudes and opinions in general tend to be informed by what we believe our friends, family and acquaintances believe; inevitable even. After all, why do we have any attitudes and opinions at all, if not as a way of orienting ourselves in our social environment?

      I’d be interested to read how you find being pro-choice problematic for you, though I think that in a way being either pro-choice or anti-abortion can’t help but be problematic since on the one hand we’d be condoning the ending of at least the possibility of a life and on the other we’d be insisting on abrogating an important part of a woman’s autonomy, forcing likely horrendous unnecessary risk on a woman for exercising her autonomy, and leperizing her for it. Myself, I feel that the worst thing about having abortion illegal is the outcast status imposed on a woman who chooses to abort and anyone who supports, aids or abets her. Though I often find I can’t fully live this value, I believe that it’s wrong to withhold compassion for anyone, hard as that sometimes makes it to do and live with what’s necessary. I’ve known women who had abortions, even one who had more than one. I don’t think of it every time I see them, and when I do the experience of thinking of it is murky, complicated, and inarticulate.

      I can also see how you’re preferred pro-choice public policy could be in your own and everyone’s long-term and selfless interest. Personally, I think that legal abortion and some of the ongoing debate about the limitations of that legality make us a more open, morally-engaged and stable society.

      It seems to me that there are only a few ways that the issue can be more than just a question of public policy preference: You yourself could be faced with the choice of having or performing an abortion; a loved one could be faced with that choice; your advice could be sought as to the choice; you could have the power of allowing or denying someone’s choice. I have a daughter who’s fertile (in all likelihood); if she became pregnant unintentionally I would support whatever choice she made; were she to seek my advice, though I’d have to try to help her with the fact that it’s her choice, I hope it would be early enough that I could advise her to abort — I’m pretty sure that at some point I’d be unable to advise abortion, and honestly maybe I actually wouldn’t be able to even in the second week, but at this point in her life I’d see motherhood, or even having a baby and putting it up for adoption, as a horrible thing for her.

      Most of the time I’m neither pro-choice nor pro-life because most of the time I don’t think of abortion at all.

      • You yourself could be faced with the choice of having or performing an abortion; a loved one could be faced with that choice; your advice could be sought as to the choice; you could have the power of allowing or denying someone’s choice.

        You are the father or sperm donor to a fetus that could be aborted or could become a child. This will often fall into line with “a love one…” but not always.

        I took Pierre’s comment to mean that he was uncomfortable with the convergence between his policy preference and what benefits him personally. When one runs into this, one should always be suspicious.

        • Doesn’t one always run into this on at least one level and maybe multiple ones? I don’t think personal sacrifice guarantees rightness, and it’s hard to see how we can be willing to make personal sacrifices or take on personal suffering if we don’t see some higher or larger good that we’re supporting. That said, I agree that we should always be wary of the distorting influence of our own motives, even if such distortion is inevitable one way or another.

      • @Just John

        Sorry I haven’t responded sooner; I left for work right after I wrote my comment and just now came home.

        As a policy preference, I find my pro-choice position not very problematic, as I can justify it, at least to myself, with the belief that it’s better that the state not make categorical restrictions about what a woman may do when she considers abortion.

        As a personal matter, I also find that I am somewhat pro-choice in the sense that I am willing to acquiesce in the assertion that the decision on whether to abort or not is the woman’s moral prerogative and not solely a rights claim she has against the state.

        I am conflicted at this personal level because I believe, deep down, that the zygote/embryo/fetus is either a person or otherwise an entity that is an end in itself and that deserves our moral consideration. Yet, I am willing to say that the woman’s prerogative trumps this entity’s personhood (or whatever I’ll call it).

        This point of view fits neatly with what I and my partner, who have decided for medical and other reasons that we do not want to have children, see as our own short-term and selfish interests. It may also fit with some longer term, arguably selfless, interest, although such an interest is hard for me to reconcile with my suspicion that the unborn is an end in itself.

        • I think I see. At first blush, your position seems to me an outstandingly principled one, staunchly recognizing both a woman’s moral autonomy and the validity of her rights claim balanced against what you feel to be a real rights claim of literally any existing unborn.

          From my own perspective, it is difficult to grasp just what “an entity that is an end in itself” is, but I do try and I guess we all do. Of course an “entity” is a distinct thing that exists somehow, whether corporeally, conceptually or spiritually (if one allows of spirit as something that is both real and more real than mere concept). An “end in itself” is the part that’s more problematic for me.

          We almost all recognize that sentient entities like us have ends, or that we formulate goals or purposes, and that we use or employ other entities both sentient and non-sentient as means toward our ends. Those of us who are somehow or other theistic also mostly seem to believe that a “supreme entity” has its own ends toward which we and all other things are means, and it seems that a subset of theists also believe that in some critical way each of us (humans? sentient entities?) is also ourselves and end of the “supreme entity.” To be honest, I don’t truly understand this position or belief (even though I do find that I can feel it, so perhaps I do understand it in a way) because I do not believe in the existence of a supreme entity for/to whom one can be an end in oneself.

          From another angle, I can see how even a zygote could be seen as an entity as an end in itself in that it (properly formed) “contains” within itself the drive/motive energy/purpose/ability to develop, grow, become. But of course that is true of any zygote, not just human ones, and also true of things like “baby stars” — at what point does a dense gas cloud in space become the type of entity we call a “star”? — so it can be true of entities that we believe never become sentient (unless we happen to believe that all things are somehow sentient, feeling and having subjective experience).

          So that brings us around to sentience, which is what those who point to observable things like fetuses appearing to move away from irritants infer. I do not believe that our ability to elicit responses from something demonstrates sentience. I believe that sentience is a production of the sufficiently developed brain. This leaves me in a difficult position when it comes to asserting or justifying any “natural rights” at all (or, for that matter, any concretely existing as opposed to conceptual entity to be sentient, which leaves me with each of us being our own idea, which baffles me into a sort of intuitive monism), which is often really troubling (do I have a right to complain about that?), but leaves me in a much easier position in refusing to assert that a zygote/blastocyst/embryo/early fetus needn’t be accorded rights.

          The rabbit hole goes deep, into an endless rabbit warren.

          • Just John,

            Thanks for your thoughtful reply, and, again, my apologies for the late response.

            I think you’re attributing to me a more principle position than I have. I do think, when it comes to my pro-choice position, as a matter of policy, I am “principled” in that I see criminalization as a very bad thing that solves almost nothing and that offends my sense, as a policy matter, of a woman’s autonomy over what happens to her body, which is not to say that her body is necessarily the only moral being at issue here. Here, when it comes to policy, I can follow the principle someone else on this thread (I think it was Michael Drew, but I forget) mentioned: I would prefer to err on the side of assuming the woman’s interest trumps the possible life interest of the unborn.

            Where my position is less principled is my personal acceptance–endorsement, even–of abortion. The chief problem is that I seize on what seems, to me, an ad hoc justification: that the woman has a special relationship with the unborn that gives her the prerogative to terminate that life. Again, the problem I have with this justification is that it seems ad hoc: I cannot help but think that I came up with it (or perhaps borrowed it unwittingly from someone else….I’m sure I’m not the first or only one who’s thought of it) primarily to justify my a priori position. In that sense, I don’t see my position as principled.

            Now, you also bring up a quite good critique of my “entity that is an end in itself.” Your critique is not unfair–I brought up the issue and it’s entirely fair to challenge my philosophical assumptions here. My only plea is that I’m not philosopher, and that I chose “entity that’s an end to itself” as sort of a catch all phrase to mean “a life that ought not be terminated without a very good reason.” In other words, I did not want to get into the debate over the personhood or humanity of the unborn. I suppose that “person” does not necessarily imply “human”–I think of the “hnau” in C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy–and that an “entity that’s an end to itself” could be any living thing.

            Perhaps I should just ‘fess up and say I believe that the unborn is a person. I will only add that I have no proof to demonstrate this: sentience, in the way you define it, would not in my view be sufficient (although perhaps it’s necessary?) for determining the type of personhood I have in mind. My belief in the unborn’s personhood more of an intuition on my part; my sensibility leads me to that conclusion and I lack either the philosophical skills or the philosophical will to interrogate that question further. Of course, it’s only fair for me to add that if I take this position, and refuse to elaborate on it, I abrogate any hope of convincing someone who doesn’t already agree with me, outside of some emotional appeal or trying to convince them that they already agree with me and just don’t know/acknowledge it.

            In short, I don’t really have an answer to the important points you raise up. But thanks for engaging my comment.

          • Pierre,

            I don’t think anyone has any final answers to any of these questions. But from my own perspective, I don’t think that the zygote or the fetus in early stages of development should be regarded as a person. I do believe as you do that a woman has a special relationship with her unborn, but I feel — and this will probably sound callous — that the privileged relationship that a woman has with her implanted embryo or the early fetus is more akin to the relationship she has with her bone marrow or her thyroid than to the relationship she would have to her child. Some might say that my attitude is a cop out considering that I do feel that at some point the unborn child does get to qualify for the kind of consideration we give to persons, and if that’s so at one stage then why isn’t it so at the previous one. I can’t give a precise answer because I can’t precisely say where the line is, but I do think that we can say that the line is certainly later than the zygote or blastocyst and even later than that. I think that it’s ok to abort very early even for casual reasons, and that the reasons have to be more compelling later in the pregnancy.

            Let me take this from yet another angle, this time a very personal one. When I was 31 my wife and I decided to have a second child and in short order we were happily nursing along a pregnancy. Her first pregnancy had presented no problems and we had no reason to fear the second would. She was much sicker though, than the first time, and at about the 12-week point one night I heard her cry out for me in real distress from our bedroom. I rushed to her and found her on our bed more terrified and agonized than I’d ever seen her, and she told me that she’d been going to the bathroom and she thought she’d miscarried. I rushed into the bathroom and looked in the toilet but couldn’t see anything in the water because it was too soiled. I ran to the kitchen and got a long spoon, and with that I was able to retrieve the fetus from the bottom of the toilet bowl. I quickly put it in a paper bag. We rushed to the hospital. My brother-in-law, who lived up the street, drove because my wife and I were far to upset. At the hospital the doctor and the nurses took care of my wife. When my father-in-law got there I cried on his shoulder like a baby. Later we would learn that it was a boy, and the doctor told us that there’d probably been a problem with the fetus that made it unviable. I can’t remember if he was more specific than that. I was still too upset to focus. I don’t know whether they tell you there was a problem just to make you feel better.

            I report this rather matter-of-factly, but it was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. Perhaps the most traumatic. We really wanted that baby, and we mourned its loss as if we’d lost a child. But we didn’t lose a child, we lost an undeveloped fetus. Our grief was due to the hopes and plans we’d invested in that pregnancy, and if the pregnancy had gone to term and we’d lost a baby I have no doubt our grief would have much greater and of a wholly different kind.

            A friend of mine who’d had kidney and thyroid problems all her life wanted to have a baby, and she and her husband decided to risk it. She died in childbirth at the age of 30, and I miss her and her husband still grieves, though not, I think, to an unhealthy extent. That baby is now a happy healthy little girl, and there really is no way anyone could see her and experience her and wish she hadn’t come to be. They chose this path, she died and he and his daughter live with that. If things had been different though, and she’d become pregnant accidentally and decided to abort, that would not have been wrong in the least.

            I know women who’ve had abortions as well. It’s not an easy thing, but it’s not like losing a child.

            I can understand the vehemence of those who believe that by stridently objecting to abortion they make a stand for helpless little humans, but they are wrong about that. What I believe they’re doing is insisting that unrealized potential be treated with the same reverence and respect that fully formed and present persons receive. But its impossible to do that because sometimes to bring that germ of a future all the way to reality would do too much violence to what we are right now.

            So I hope you won’t change your mind about being pro-choice even if you feel conflicted because it gives you and your wife an option that you’ve decided you’ll exercise. You do actually deserve to have that option.

          • Just John:

            I’m sorry to hear about your experiences, both with your wife and with your friend. But thanks for sharing them.

            For the records, aside from where I draw the starting point for “personhood,” I don’t think we disagree on all that much.

          • Yes, I don’t think we’re in disagreement. I think we all tend to want some sort of comfort from our conclusions about things, some comfortable resting place. But the abortion issue just can’t afford any comfortable conclusions; it’s a part of life that’s just too fraught.

  4. I fall into the category of “reluctantly pro-choice”, at least politically. I had been planning to write a post on the nuances of my position so that I can refer to it later. I see the sheer number of abortions, and that the vast majority are not for the big three justifications (rape/incest/health), and my heart sinks. At the same time, I lack the conviction to tell a woman who does fall within the 1 or so percent of women who abort due to rape that they should not abort. And once you allow that exception, you simply cannot enforce the law.

    • I’m not sure it’s 1%… i’d say its likely higher… I mean, unless forced to, who wants to admit that you were the victim of a sexual predator? Particularly in the cases where a woman was unable to say no (due to whatever pressure used)?

    • What is the basis for your feeling that you do have the conviction to tell a woman who doesn’t fall within the 1 or so percent that they should not abort?

      It can’t be that abortion is the killing of a legal and moral person, because that is equally true of the fetus of a rape victim.

      I’ve got no problem waiting for your post for the answer, but I think the question is one that should be unavoidable for a person attempting to convincingly argue for the position you’ve stated here.

      • I can’t answer for WT of course. But I think that we cherish potential. We think about the possibilities, and we value them now. So it’s possible to be more supportive of a raped woman’s need to not have the child of her rapist than the need of a woman who’s accidentally pregnant to not have a child without holding that destroying an embryo or fetus is destroying an existing legal and moral person.

        • Just to be clear, when we say “tell a woman not to abort” here, we’re talking about telling her not to do it by making it illegal for her to do it. Not sure if this valuing of potential gets you to that place or not. Your other comments suggest not.

          It just feels incredibly presumptuous to me to tell people they aren’t valuing their own children’s potential enough, though I suppose we do it all the time with child-neglect laws. From my perspective, the added condition that we are telling a woman that she is not valuing the potential of the non-child that is essentially a part of her body makes that concern not even register sufficiently to get me to judge her in my own mind, much less enough to get me to be vocal about it directly to her face.

          • I think I’m agreement with you. It’s really really up to her.

      • You can make a logically coherent moral distinction between the victim of a fetus that is the product of rape and a fetus that is the product of consensual sex by arguing:

        1. Everyone (including every fetus) has a right to life.
        2. One’s right to life does not include the right that someone else use their body to sustain your life (so someone in need of a kidney may have a right to her life, but cannot demand that someone else donate it to her).
        3. Someone who has had consensual sex, by knowing pregnancy to be a possible outcome, has waived her right not to use her body to sustain someone else’s life.
        4. Someone who has been raped has not waived her right not to have her body used to sustain someone else’s life.
        5. So someone who has been raped can permissibly abort, while someone who was not raped cannot.

        I’m not saying this is right, but it’s not illogical or a crazy view.

        • It’s #3 that leads people to argue that people who argue this way actually argue that women in fact do not have equal rights to exercise their sexuality as men do, meaning that the right to an abortion in cases other than rape is necessary to establish equal rights between the sexes.

          • This is technically true, but in the sense that men are currently put-upon because they can’t terminate their obligations that are associated with a pregnancy the same way that a woman can. It’s not false, but it’s a view from a particular angle. It’s trying to make equal people who are not in a position where they can be made exactly equal. Men can’t carry a child. Not only does that mean they don’t ever have to, but it also means they can’t. If a man can’t find a willing woman, he cannot have (biological) children. Unfair, maybe, but there’s no way to really equalize that.

          • I don’t think those two unfairnesses are remotely equal – one amounts essentially to the failure to satisfy a positive rights claim (the right to actually have a child, rather than the right to potentially have a child), while the other amounts to the denial of a negative rights claim (the right to be free from being compelled to use one’s body to sustain the life of another person) – and in only one case is there any suggestion that the law should proscribe a readily available means to ameliorate the inequity.

          • I am inclined to agree that the unfairness is not equal (at least to the positive rights claim). The degree to which it seems unfair, though, depends in good part on who you are and what your priorities are. Are you a man that wants a child versus a woman who does? A woman who doesn’t versus a man who doesn’t? A man who wants to be able to completely terminate his parental obligations versus a woman who wants the same?

            None of these things are fair. Now, we can try to make it as fair as possible, if we disregard all other considerations. But to do so, we would have to disregard all other considerations (such as the material well-being of a child, or a fetus in a mother’s womb). Now, maybe because we can wave away the fetus as a consideration, we should, and we can’t wave away the material needs of a child as a consideration, we shouldn’t. I understand that point of view (and, as a policy matter, that’s ultimately where I come down), but it is itself not exactly fair, either. Fairness isn’t possible.

          • I think you’re significantly off-track here, Will. Does the fetus have rights? What are they? How much do they trump a woman’s right to determine what will happen to her body? How do we know this? These are the basic questions.

          • Moral rights less than a human, greater than a dog. They are their own category. You want a solid, concrete answer and there is none. Just like children have a right to child support from their biological father in some circumstances, but not others. You’re looking not just at the rights of the (would-be) recipient, but also the obligations of the (might-be) giver.

          • Well yes, I do happen to think we need a solidly convincing reason to think the fetus has a right to be sustained to birth and then beyond as an infant and child that trump the right of the woman to determine whether her body will be used to achieve that end while the fetus is still a fetus and not a a child, in order to go around saying it is wrong for her to decide that it won’t be used to that end, and certainly to go around saying the law should take that choice away from her, or working to make that the law. You’re right, I think that. I think that because there is only one entity in that equation whom I am sure has (or as sure s I am that anyone else anywhere has) any rights, and it is the woman. In my view, 100% sure rights trump maybe rights.

          • I don’t know. I worry about #3, too. Not for fairness reasons (some responsibilities may well not be equally distributed) so much as whether consensual sex (especially when precautions are taken) amounts to a waiving of that right.

            I also worry that for all cases, rape and consensual, that abortion is more a matter of killing than letting die. So the right-not-to-use-your-body argument less clearly trumps a right to life. But I don’t think it’s absolutely clear whether abortion amounts to killing or letting die.

            I also don’t see what the necessary and sufficient conditions for personhood are, so I’m not moved by various personhood arguments (whether conception or viability).

            So I come down as reluctantly, hesitantly pro-choice.

          • I agree with all of this (though it is one thing to say that responsibilities may not be equally distributed, and it is another to argue that, in a case where means exist to more equally distribute responsibilities as defined by societal expectation that are set unequally by nature, that this should not be done and that the unequal distribution should be supported by law or social approbation).

            It seems to me that it is certainly killing if the fetus is viable outside the mother. But if we required pregnant women to deliver prematurely in order to give every fetus the chance to survive on its own while freeing the mother of its claim on her body, then we would still be requiring her to undergo procedures of non-zero danger to her for the sake of sustaining the fetus’ chance of life. It also seems to depend on whether the fetus in fact has a claim on the woman’s body such that it has the right to reside therw until it can be born alive (or even until it has had a full gestation period!) that would make the act of removing it before that time, even if not intentionally killing it in so doing, an act of violence against it that it had a right to be protected. if that were the case, then killing is really an incidental question, because removal is an abrogation of the fetus’ right to the nourishment that the mother’s womb can provide it regardless of whether such removal is fatal, or intended to be so. We then also face the problem that freeing the mother of the obligation to sustain the fetus with he body does not free her from the obligation to sustain an infant that may survive her move to free herself from having to support it bodily.

            But, prior to all this, it seems to me that to simply be agnostic about the moral status of the fetus at various stages of pregnancy will confound any effort to determine what rights it has at any point. It may not have personhood rights, but what status does it have that leads us to think it has any rights that trump the mere wishes of the mother wrt to her own body? What are the intersticial moral states between nothingness (pre-conception) and personhood that are reached by a developing fetus? I don’t think we can answer any questions about the significance of our determinations above about killing versus letting die without having a clear sense of these moral states.

          • …I’d add that doubt about these rights is what leads me to favor the rights, even the mere wishes, of the woman over the entity of uncertain status she will be bound to give painful birth to and then support financially or else secure a legal adoption and give up any right to, however attached she will be it the infant when this happens. Which is to say, agnosticism about the rights of the entity inside a pregnant woman (that is, a failure to identify and describe them and and account for their provenance) will confound any attempt to claim that they override the woman’s rightto self-determination, which cannot be in doubt as to her status as a carrier of rights, though one can deny such a right exists for a woman. This shouldn’t even be a close call: if you can’t make a clear statement about the extent and provenance of those rights, you have no business saying they trump those of an undoubted full-fledged human person.

        • “3. Someone who has had consensual sex, by knowing pregnancy to be a possible outcome, has waived her right not to use her body to sustain someone else’s life.”

          Whenever I hear this argument, I hear “sluts”.

    • Assuming you don’t mean that in a ghoulish way, I’d have to say the same. I just can’t see supporting the complete banning of abortion. I’m not even sure I could support anything short of abortion on demand up to the point of viability.

      • I don’t mean it ghoulishly. I mean that as somebody who has absolutely no clue what it means to be pregnant, I can’t imagine having the nerve to tell women what they should and shouldn’t do with their bodies, especially in cases of health concern or rape or incest, but also in cases of precautions taken than didn’t work and also in cases of no precautions not taken. Those aren’t decisions for me to make. They aren’t decisions for governments to make. They’re decisions for individual women to make.

  5. I’m personally pro-choice and while I try and understand the revulsion of pro-lifers to abortion and believe I can grasp it on an intellectual level I simply lack the emotional or visceral reaction they have. I attribute this likely to the same area where I am lacking in the ability to feel religious faith.

    My support for women having the option to choose abortion on the other hand is both intellectually and emotionally very strong; I wish for women to be treated as equally in our society as possible. Nature, red in tooth and claw, has made this a hurdle biologically by distributing the burden of reproduction and sex very unevenly between the sexes. Since I have a realistic (cynical) view of the efficacy of birth control when used by the masses (people can be dumb, hurried, lazy); it simply cannot be 100% effective so that leaves abortion as the final option for women who choose not to live cloistered sexually stunted lives but have a run of bad luck(or decisions).

    I also have a cynical and toweringly jaundiced view of sexual moralist’s positions. Women cannot be expected to “keep their legs closed” when surrounded constantly by an entire population (straight men) who are dedicating a significant amount of their every thought and action to bypassing women’s collective reluctance to have sex. Some hearken back to days of older morality where women were sheltered. I look back and see a historical record of middle and upper class women kept like hothouse flowers while a meat grinder churned up lower class women to slake the lusts of men of all classes when they felt like stepping out from the strictures of marriage.

    I also have a utilitarian and practical view of the practice; abortion is as old as pregnancy. Once it was a bundle of herbs from the shaman or midwife; the Romans drove Silphium to extinction harvesting its abortificant properties; then it was the crooked doctor or the ad hoc poison or the tumble down the stairs. What pro-lifers always seem to gloss over is that abortion will go on, legal or not, the only question is whether the women who have them are sentenced to die or be maimed by the procedure or not. Pro-lifers say yes(implicitly usually); pro-choicers say no.

    Thus, my support for abortion. Women should be able to control what happens to their bodies and within them. This is the basis of the sexual revolution, the equalization of the sexes and the foundation of the liberalization of society that (on a selfish note) midwifed the rise of the gay rights movement that allows me to live a happy and comfortable life.

    I respect the pro-life arguments and believe that they should have the unlimited ability to advocate it outside of the use of force (whether private of government based). If they can create a society where every woman freely chooses to carry her pregnancies to term then power to them. But if they wish to force that choice upon my sisters, nieces and mother by government force and power then I’ll see em on the barricades.

    • It’s not just that men seek sex from women using all their limited masculine wiles, it’s that they created a society (which they are only now beginning to try to fix) that systematically denied women equal access to the means of self-sufficiency, and then sought sex from them, frequently in exchange for an offer (then frequently reneged upon) of improved material and social standing – all in situations in which they (the men) had also erected social mores that would render the women morally worthless (or at least worth less) were they to “consent” to sex in those situations. These structures are still more intact than dismantled still to this moment. That is the context in which male, and much female, opposition to abortion (in particular the claim that engaging in consensual sex changes the calculus of the moral rights of the fetus vis-a-vis those of the pregnant woman) must be considered.

        • Indeed, very well said, and indisputable. Though while reading this the thought popped into my head that if I actually believed that embryos and fetuses were persons this would make them sort of the victims of affirmative action.

      • Yes agreed very much so. Just didn’t want to go into all that in what was already an overly long pro-choice screed.

        • Understood. I figured you saw the same things; I just wanted to put them to words.

  6. I fall decidedly into the anti-abortion camp, but I’ll be the first to admit that the moral issues related to abortion are not limited to the rightness or wrongness of killing nascent life. As Sam says above, other occurrences have to be accounted for. The prohibition against abortion, even in limited cases, has consequences for women that any serious moral analysis has to consider and adequately address.

    • I applaud you for that Kyle. While I don’t “feel” the significant I understand that many people do feel strongly about how horrible abortion is and I do understand and acknowledge intellectually that there are serious questions regarding the value of the nascent life that is destroyed in an abortion.

  7. I’m pro-choice (perhaps even “super enthusiastically so”) because I don’t believe that the government should have the power to interfere with this particular decision.

    Now, I’m of the opinion that it’s a, for lack of a better term, “morally wrong” decision… but there are a lot of “morally wrong” decisions out there that I think that I don’t have any right to interfere with.

    The question isn’t “should a woman have the Right to an abortion?” but “Do I have the right to prevent an abortion?” and the answer to that second question is a resounding “No.” Perhaps even a “Hell, no.”

    Which makes the first question one that doesn’t even need to be asked.

    • We’re kind of talking about all three questions questions (Should it be legal? Should (does) she have the right? Is it wrong for her to exercise the right, or if you prefer, just to do it? [The further question presents itself: what is the nature of a right which it is wrong to exercise? {Though I realize your claim is merely that the government should not interfere, not that she has a Right.}])

      I’d certainly be interested in hearing from you on each of these questions.

      • Should it be legal?

        It should not be illegal.

        Should (does) she have the right?

        I believe that there are different answers for the different stages. Does a woman have the right to tell a fertilized egg “sorry, you shouldn’t implant”, of course she does.

        Does a woman have the right to tell an implanted blastocyst or whatever the hell that clump of cells is that there is a full moon (if you know what I mean)? Of course she does.

        Does a woman have the right to evacuate a perfectly healthy 8-months gestated baby because, hey, stuff has changed?

        Well…. we’ve got competing rights at this point and implied contracts and other options and so on and so forth and I am torn to say “absolutely yes” the way I did back when we were discussing inducing a period like clockwork.

        (I still don’t have the right to prevent it, though.)

        Is it wrong for her to exercise the right, or if you prefer, just to do it?

        Again, my answer changes depending on where we are. Telling a fertilized egg “sorry, look somewhere else for housing” doesn’t seem to me to have any moral content whatsoever. I wouldn’t think that inducing a period like clockwork would contain any moral content either.

        When it comes to evacuation (that is seriously one of the creepiest euphemisms) of a perfectly healthy 8-months gestated baby because, hey, stuff has changed?

        That seems to me to have moral content.

          • Pat, just curious – do you mean, “This” in the usual sense of, “Really any reasonable person without an idiosyncratic approach to moral problem-solving should agree to this,” or “This” in the sense of “This is my view as well”?

            Cuz I think the “This” response tends to have a bit more of an outward normative oomph to it than merely, “Hey, I, 1/(7×10^9)-th of humanity, happen to agree with this statement,” but that could be me not being fully aware of all internet traditions.

        • Or maybe the distinction between #2 and #3. When you say “should have that right”, do you mean legally (which seems like the first question) or morally (which seems like the third question)? Or is #2 in reference to a positive right to have one supplied for you on demand?

          • It was trying to suss out what Jay meant by “Should she have the right?”, since he raise both that and the question of whether the government should intervene as separate questions, and then also said it is a morally wrong choice. I tend to agree: to say she has the right (which is not a guarantee it is a right protected by law) means that it is not morally wrong for her to exercise the right.

          • Too many times, there is a binary setup.

            “Does Michael Drew have the Right to X?”

            If the answer is “yes”, then Michael Drew can X.
            If, however, the answer is “no”, many times people assume that, therefore, they have the Right to prevent Michael Drew from Xing.

            And when you ask “why are you being a buttinski”, the answer usually comes “what, do you think you have a *RIGHT* to X?”

            For me, there are two dynamics at play.

            Do you have the Right to X?
            If not, do I have the Right to prevent X from happening?

            The great thing about the second question is that while there are legion situations where I waver on the answer to the first question, there are precious few situations where I waver on the first but not the second.

        • JB –

          I tend to agree. My only moral qualm with abortion – the only argument that has any persuasive power for me – is the simple claim that a late-stage fetus is a moral and legal person, or in any case that at some point in development a fetus becomes a person. Period, full stop. Short of that, I think the certainly-existing rights of the mother must rump the uncertainly-existing maybe-rights of the fetus, even to life.

          I still have doubts enough about this claim to not favor it and the rights it would establish over that of the mother. (Even if it is a person, I’m not sure how to cash out its rights vis-a-vis the mother given how it (he/she) is situated relative to her body. it seems she still has a right to get it out of her at that point, even if that would be a premature birth. But do we accept she has that right? and then thereafter, her right to not sustain the child does not reinstantiate for 18 years.) And I certainly have enough doubt to doubt my position on that, but again, it being only doubt, I think the conflict goes to the one with certain rather than in-doubt rights.

          But in any case, I agree that a stage-of-development account of rights formation is crucial for any claim that the fetus’ rights at any point trump the pregnant woman’s. It also challenges my view that to say someone has a right means that it is not immoral for her to exercise it, but I’m quite willing to bite that bullet. On the other hand, as I say, I certainly have enough doubt that she has the right, because I am not certain that it is not a person at 8 months. But still, I think the right goes to the undoubted.

          The issue is that people will not let go of the belief that early-stage abortion is morally wrong, and i find that to be an unacceptable abridgment of a right to determine what happens medically to oneself that we accord to every person not in that particular condition on account of a certain non-person’s “rights.”

  8. I think it is a good question to put to skeptics of positive rights claims generally: to what extent is the claim that a fetus has a right to be brought to term more than merely a claim of a negative right from being killed, but in fact a claim of a positive right to aid in development from the pregnant woman’s body? Even if we grant that by engaging (say) in consensual unprotected sex, a woman waives the right ot be free of the obligation created by this positive right of the fetus (if we say that is what it is), the question still remains: where did such a positive right come from? How do we know when positive rights come into existence, and how do they?

  9. Growing up in a religious (though non-evangelical) household, and among similar peers, I was “pro-life” growing up, or at least I thought I was. My basic view was that we couldn’t know for sure when “life” or “personhood” began (whatever those terms mean), and so we should err on the side of not aborting. This led me to conclude that government-funded abortions were a bad thing, because the government should try to avoid doing evil in as much as possible.

    But the flip side of my belief was that we can’t put a woman in prison for having an abortion if our best argument is that the fetus “might be a person”. We don’t punish people in our legal system for crimes they “might” have committed.

    So my naive view (and that of my friends) was that abortion should be illegal, but no one should be punished for having one. Which basically makes no sense. Because to outlaw something is to say that we are willing to use extreme, and sometimes even deadly, force to ensure it doesn’t happen and in meting out punishments to those who have transgressed that law. And I didn’t really appreciate this until I attend a pro-life rally one time and met people who basically argued that I wasn’t really pro-life unless I was willing to see murder charges brought against doctors and women who had performed or had an abortion.

    I knew immediately that I would never be anywhere close to that view. And with more thought I realized that there is a name for my position: pro-choice. That is not to say that every pro-choice person would agree with my whole line of argumentation, but those that do agree are actually in the pro-choice camp, whether they know it or not. Since that time, the increased incivility of the pro-life movement, coupled with an ever-expanding lifetime of experiences, has pushed me even farther in that direction. Still, when my wife had a high-risk pregnancy in her late 30’s, we decided we would keep the baby even if the pre-natal tests indicated some serious (though non-life threatening) genetic defect. Luckily, this wasn’t a problem for us, but I can’t criticize a woman, or a couple, who feel otherwise.

    • This is extremely well-said, Christopher.

      I would note that you drive home the evolution you have undergone in your thinking with the very last line you offer: that you “can’t criticize” someone who would make a different choice from you (or your wife) in the situation of a pregnancy in which the child will be significantly affected by genetic anomalies. That is a significantly more meaningful statement than merely saying that such abortions should not be illegal.

      For my part, I’d note that this statement points up something that is important to be clear about: it isn’t the case that people who wouldn’t criticize the choice to have an abortion even when that is not the situation are saying that the person can’t be criticized: we can criticize a person for having insufficiently protected sex at a time when she is not interested in getting pregnant. But we do not have to judge the choice to have an abortion to be a morally wrong one in order to level that criticism.

      • It’s funny that you should pick up on the word “criticize” since it had been “condemn” originally, but that was too strong a word. It seems that I’ve turned into one of those damned liberals that Charles Murray likes to criticize, who hold themselves to a “higher” moral standard in their own private lives that they aren’t willing to impose on others.

        But now the key word is “impose”, because I’m perfectly happy to criticize people for making unwise decisions (like unprotected sex), but I also understand that those “unwise” decisions actually exist on a wide spectrum, and it’s impossible for me to judge the internal lives of the women (and men) who make these “unwise” decisions with enough clarity that I can play Solomon and permit abortions in some cases, while forbidding them in others.

  10. 1. Should it be legal: yes.

    2. Should she have the right: yes. (But I don’t believe in rights – another conversation for another day – so the first answer takes care of the second in my mind.)

    3. Is it wrong for her to exercise the right: no.

  11. Hey everyone – Will, Rose, North & JB in particular (and Russell, of course) – thanks for letting me work out my thoughts on this with you. I didn’t mean to monopolize the thread the way I ended up doing.

  12. What I find odd is that you & I look at the same data, come to pretty much the same conclusion, but call it different things.
    I think it’s appropriate that the matter be regulated.
    Just like anything else, too much regulation is undesirable.
    Something like a football field: It’s good that the refs are there, but too many and they get in the way.

  13. I understand the “pro-life” position of “this is what I believe, but I ain’t gonna tell you what to believe.” (advise, counsel — these are persuasion, and that’s different…).
    I LIKE those people, because they’re more situated to change this world.

  14. Alternate take:

    “I wouldn’t have terminated the pregnancy.”
    “Then you would have delivered Hitler.”

    These things can go either way and, more importantly, are simply unknown ahead of time. I don’t find this a convincing argument.

    [This comment was in response to a comment by a banned commenter, which has been deleted. — RS]

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