Human life is not too controversial

imageThe rhetorical case for protecting the unborn has succeeded. The debate is over.  It would be, that is, had the Supreme Court not issued – in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s own words – a “difficult to justify,” “heavy-handed judicial intervention” in Roe v. Wade 40 years ago.  Today, nearly two-thirds of Americans support making abortion generally illegal after the first three months of pregnancy.  A staggering four-fifths support bans in the last three months.  So if the pro-choice movement is just a paper tiger subsisting on the likes of distasteful “war on women” memes, how is it still so powerful?

Never underestimate the media as an ally.  True, people cannot justify the unjustifiable killing of a distinct, self-directing human life. But in this multimedia age, intellectual arguments simply do not carry the day.  Only pictures can tell a story and inspire people to action.  Without pictures, dizzying sophistry about zygotes and blastocysts lull readers into false complacency, while veiled accusations of waging “wars” on science and women cow them into silence. 

Pictures change all that.  No one knows that better than the media. 

LifeNews reported the other day that The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and the LA Times refused to run an advertisement showing a hand holding a 20- to 24-week-old baby, pictured above, created by Heroic Media.  The pro-life organization said they were told the ad was “too controversial.” 

Objectively speaking, there is nothing controversial about the picture in the ad.  It is a human fetus pictured during a stage of development an overwhelming majority of Americans believe ought to be protected by law.  The text of the ad asks for support to “stop abortions from being allowed after 20 weeks when a child feels pain” – again, something a vast majority already support. 

The only potentially objectionable content is, perhaps, the call to “Stop the War on Children.”  As a reason for not running the ad, however, this does not wash.  First, the Chicago Tribune, after refusing the initial ad, did accept an alternative ad, pictured below.  The alternative ad features the very same copy as the original, including the “War on Children” reference.  The only difference is the imagery. 


Moreover, the Tribune does not seem to have a problem with “war on” references.  The first four links that came up on a Google search for the phrase “war on women” at the Tribune were these: 

There were more Google results, as well as other examples of “war on” and “anti-women” references on the Tribune’s own site under “Related Articles” for the above linked pieces.  But there is no need to belabor the point.  If “war on” and “assault on” rhetoric is “controversial,” it is only disqualifyingly so when it comes to disfavored causes. 

But as I said, in the battle for minds, rhetoric has only won the abortion-rights camp between a fifth and a mere third of America.  In the battle for hearts, I’d wager their ranks are thinner still.  They are right to fear photos like these.  Their proliferation would lay waste to what remains of their cause.

Tim Kowal

Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. The views expressed on this blog are his own. You can follow this blog via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at


  1. Well no ad by a liberal group has ever been denied airing or publication so i can see part of your point. Or do you want me to googleate and find how ads have been turned down by liberal groups. What would that prove.

    I’m all for people putting whatever ads out there that they want. It’s the ultrasound wands in vaginas and such that seem slightly less heroic.

    • What if we compromise and say the pro-lifers can put out any ads they want, but people opposed to vaginal ultrasounds can show video of the women’s faces as they are violated? I watched the pain and discomfort on my wife’s face as she underwent one and that was for a child we planned for and wanted and a procedure she undertook voluntarily. I can only imagine how much worse it must be for women who are having the procedure done largely against their will for a pregnancy they didn’t want in pursuit of a medical procedure they are legally entitled to pursue.

      • Curious to know your response to this: The ultrasounds would be performed on women who otherwise are consenting to having other implements inserted to remove the fetus — obviously an intrusive and unpleasant thing. So why is the ultrasound such an unimaginable intrusion?

        • I was planning to have sex with him tomorrow, so the fact that he forced me to have sex with him today can’t be rape.

          I came in for botox, so why is the fact that you also gave me an unwanted colonoscopy such an unimaginable intrusion?

          I agreed to get the car’s emissions checked, so I can’t complain that you performed costly and time-consuming checks on the brake system.

          I agree that yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is a bad thing, and can be made illegal, so why are laws banning hate speech such unimaginable violations of my right to free speech?

          Less pithily, do you not see that an unwanted, medically unnecessary, uncomfortable, and invasive procedure is not justified simply by the fact that I’ve chosen to have an entirely different procedure? If there were even a slight medical justification, such as the ultrasound would present rare but potentially very harmful consequences of the procedure to which a woman has in fact consented, that would be different, so perhaps “unimaginable” is an exaggeration, but it is an intrusion, and one with no real precedent in contemporary medicine.

          • If there were even a slight medical justification, such as the ultrasound would present rare but potentially very harmful consequences of the procedure to which a woman has in fact consented, that would be different

            This is pretty much my take too. As it stands, the only justification offered is “see?!” And that’s nowhere near enough to put someone who doesn’t *want* to see through the discomfort and physical invasion (esp. when they can see other similar pictures online with no such physical invasion – can’t we just make them look at a few of those and check a box saying “My doctor has explained to me what a fetus is and shown me a picture of one”?)

            Tim, surely you can see why this is ugly? Requiring exterior/abdominal ultrasounds is *maybe* one thing and we can talk about that; but this is surely something else. You can’t go sticking medically-unnecessary things in me without my permission unless I have committed a crime. It’s not an arcane legal concept.

            I readily grant that this may not have occurred to many of the people pushing for this measure (they were either picturing exterior abdominal ultrasounds, or they didn’t give it much thought and arrived at, as you argue here, “what’s the big deal about one *more* medical device going in there?”)

            But once it was pointed out, it should be obvious to the most cursory analysis that doing this – almost by definition – would amount to cruel and unusual (pre-)punishment, for something that is not even (currently) a crime.

            To continue to argue for mandatory vaginal ultrasound sans clear medical justification, is to appear to countenance one evil while trying to stop what the proponent sees as another.

            It won’t win any converts.

            Not the kind you want and need, anyway.

        • My wife agrees to have sex with me. That still makes it rape when the guy down the street tries.

          Do you really not see the perverseness of that logic? And how that sort of logic can lead to claims of a “war on women”? It shows a real lack of understanding of what it means to be a woman and what it means to have your body penetrated, an experience most men will never have.

          • That’s a completely silly analogy. For a moment, assume with me and 4/5 of Americans that there is no unfettered right to have an abortion for any or no reason at any stage of fetal development, and that there is some interest in the fetus worth protecting. And further indulge me the premise of the OP — that is, that there is a troubling disconnect between what the vast majority of Americans (including women — they’re not so different from us, you know) believe about the importance of protecting the unborn and what they act on, and that this disconnect likely would be mitigated by making more fetal imagery available, especially to women considering abortions.

            Is a fetal ultrasound a further intrusion on the woman seeking an abortion. Of course. But is it unreasonable? If you’ve indulged me thus far, I think the answer is pretty clearly no. There is some interest in protecting that life, and a very powerful way of doing that entails a safe and simple procedure that is even less intrusive than the one to which the woman would consent in order to destroy that life. The woman can refuse her consent to both, though it is hard to imagine that she would do so because of the pain or discomfort of the ultrasound.

            But the ultrasound is only so clearly unreasonable as you suggest if you’ve already begged the question that the fetus has not a shred of value worth of protecting. And that’s ok. You’re one of the 20 percenters.

          • First off, vaginal ultrasounds are only done within the first trimester, so your 4/5 number is bunk in this case. After the first trimester, an external ultrasound is sufficient. So, get your facts straight.

            And the analogy is perfect. I believe that women ought to have complete control over what goes into their body, specifically their vagina. Choosing to take B, no matter how invasive B might be, does not necessitate that they accept A or C or D or XYZ. Full stop.

            If you want to stop abortions, you don’t do it by threatening to further invade the woman’s body.

          • Come on, Tim. Kazzy wasn’t responding to some nuanced comment about the reasonableness of certain laws. You wrote, essentially, she’s willing to have other stuff stuck up there, so we can shove an ultrasound wand up there also.

            Inserting something into a woman’s vagina because she’s willing to have something else inserted into her vagina is rape. It’s kind of slut-shaming, also.

          • Tim,
            it is unreasonable for a government to mandate invasive procedures.
            This is not persuasion, this is coercion.

            It falls slightly below the line of condoning child abuse that
            “parental consent” laws have. But only slightly.

            Should the government now mandate that men have reversible
            vasectomies before becoming unmarried?

          • Jonathan, that is exactly what I was asking Kazzy. I asked the question from my phone, so perhaps the brevity of the comment enticed you to interpret an opening for the ready-made attacks you brought with you (e.g., “slut-shaming”). But my hope was that Kazzy, as a contributor here, would take my question in good faith and give an answer in good faith. The “medical rape” rhetoric is totally ridiculous.

            “That’s just the medical standard,” said Adrienne Schreiber, an official at Planned Parenthood’s Washington, D.C., regional office. “To confirm the gestational age of the pregnancy, before any procedure is done, you do an ultrasound.”
            If the woman is uncomfortable with a transvaginal ultrasound, which is more invasive, she can wait until the fetus is large enough to opt for a transabdominal ultrasound.

            “But if she’s uncomfortable with a transvaginal ultrasound, then she’s not going to be comfortable with an equally invasive abortion procedure,” Schreiber told me.


          • Tim,

            I hate going to the dentist. HATE IT. But sometimes, I recognize that I have to go for my own health and submit to something I hate because I recognize it is necessary. However, I do all in my power, including speaking with the dentist, about limiting the number of visits I must make the number of times he must intrude into my mouth. Because even if getting a tooth yanked is absolutely painful but absolutely necessary, that doesn’t mean I’m going to shrug my shoulders at the pre-procedure exam. But if that exam isn’t absolutely necessary, I’m going to avoid it.

            Transvaginal ultrasounds do not appear absolutely necessary, given how many abortions are done without them. And given that those supporting the law insisted that the woman not only have the procedure done, but be forced to view the ultrasound images… it tells me this is less about medicine and more about making abortions as unpleasant as possible.

          • Also, Tim, I’d like to see you respond to the fact that your 4/5 number does not apply to women seeking early abortions. Given that it doesn’t, the concessions that your argument requires are too much for me to make, because they are based on a misapplication of the facts.

          • You see, Tim, I was quite surprised that you would make the comparison (and even if the problem was the limitation of using a phone, that doesn’t make my comment ridiculous or Kazzy’s analogy silly – it means you need to explain better). And the reason why I was surprised was that I don’t expect that sort of thing from you. Had it been some drive-by commenter, I would have just ignored it.

            Anyway, calling Kazzy’s analogy “silly” and complaining about my “ready-made attacks” doesn’t lead me to believe that you’re addressing things in good faith.

            (And if the procedure is medically necessary, why is there a need for a law? And if you know that later-term abortions (excuse the rough turn of phrase) can use non-vaginal ultrasounds, why throw out the 4/5th comment at Kazzy?)

          • Kazzy — 80% of Americans reject the premise that there is no protectable interest at any stage of development. That’s the principle I was referring to. I acknowledge that more people are ok with abortions in the first three months. Perhaps the discussion re transvaginal ultrasounds would change there. But as one Planned Parenthood official acknowledged, those ultrasounds are routine anyway. Seems to me the pro-abortion rights folks are just trying to cash in on “war on women”/”medical rape” rhetoric. Granted, it’s powerful stuff. But aside from being distasteful, it’s just off the mark.

          • Tim, you keep making that claim about 80% of people but have yet to justify it with any source.

          • Tim,

            If it is routine, we don’t need a law for it. Nor do we need to require that women be shown the ultrasound images. What medical purpose does that serve?

            There may well be medical justification for a vaginal ultrasound. But you certainly won’t find it in the logic you initially applied here, which seemed grounded in the, “Well, they’re going to get something bigger shoved up there, so what’s the harm?”

          • By the way, Tim, Planned Parenthood says an ultrasound may be performed. The Mortgentaler Clinic does not list an ultrasound as part of an in-clinic abortion, so I wouldn’t consider that column from Commentary a smoking gun.

          • I’m not saying there’s a medical justification. There’s a justification for making the woman aware of the human life that is about to be destroyed in the hopes she will change her mind and keep and protect that life, a good thing. Again, the assumption that everything has to be stuffed in terms of “medical” benefits for the woman assumes the very question of whether the separate, self-directing human life is worth protecting, and if so, what measures are reasonable to protect it. I say it is, and that ultrasounds that are already in standard, common medical use, are reasonable. I’ve yet to see a rebuttal that does not beg the question that there is no interest at stake other than the woman’s.

          • Tim: What’s the point of this ultrasound? It’s not medically necessary — otherwise doctors would routinely give it before abortions. It’s not necessary to determine legality — if it’s too small for a normal ultrasound, it’s well within any legal limit for abortion.

            So why, exactly, is it being performed at all in this circumstance? What’s the rationale behind mandating it via law?

          • Tim,

            Doesn’t your position there do just as much question begging?

            There is inherently a ton of question begging going on because there is a lot that we don’t (and perhaps can’t) know about the matter.

            You say, “We shouldn’t assume that the only interests are the mothers!” A fair point.
            But many opponents will say, “We shouldn’t assume that the fetus has interests!” Is that not an equally fair point? If not, what objective facts can you offer?

          • And perhaps we should remind those in favor of this law that the woman DOES have interests.

            If we want her to recognize the “life she is going to destroy”, perhaps we should probe everyone voting in favor of this law so they recognize the “orifice they are going to penetrate”. Fair compromise?

          • Tim (@4:53),

            If you’re not arguing that the vaginal ultrasound is medically necessary, why did you quote the section of the Commentary piece that argues that vaginal ultrasounds are medically necessary for abortions at certain stages of pregnancy?

            I’m confounded by what you’re trying to accomplish with the series of comments in this sub-thread.

          • I see you responded to me question right as I posted it. 🙂 Bad timing!

            So your point is: This procedure is SOMETIMES done, so it’s no problem REQUIRING it to be done (even when completely unnecessary), and the rationale is, basically, “So woman understand what’s going on”.

            A question: How many women, do you think, have an abortion and are unaware of exactly what’s happening? How many, do you feel — as a percentage — are unaware they’re pregnant, have a fetus growing in there, and are about to have it destroyed? How many, do you think, having just had a transvaginal ultrasound and shown the results, will change their minds?

            And as a followup: These sorts of ultrasounds are used prior to the 8th week — generally from 4th through 7th, mostly. By week 8 or 9 you can find the embryo or fetus (depending on whether it’s week 9 or not) with a regular ultrasound. You should go take a look at a 7 week fetus ultrasound before you answer the first question.

          • Kazzy: You are free to assume that. I’ve only asked you to assume with me and 80% of Americans that a fetus, at least at some point of development, has protectable interests. Even nearly a third believe abortions should be generally illegal during the first three months. The ultrasound position wouldn’t even disturb that — it only attempts to make the woman more aware of the life at stake before the abortion. Besides, as I now understand your position, you agree that abortion is unfortunate and thus, I think, that the fetus does have value and thus, I think, deserves some kind of protection.

            Which brings me, again, to respond to Jonathan: The fact that these ultrasounds are so common underscores the point that they are not so unimaginable or unreasonable to be used as a measure to help protect the unborn prior to an abortion. If they’re routine and reasonable in this setting for the sake of the mother, this tends to suggest they’re not unreasonable in the same setting for the sake of the unborn.

          • “I hate going to the dentist. HATE IT.”

            And so you perform the dental-hygiene equivalent of using birth-control pills and making the guy wear a condom.

          • The protections I’d ideally seek to offer fetuses:
            – comprehensive sexual education in all schools
            – accessible, affordable contraception covered by all insurers, including the “Plan B” pill or whatever it is called
            – stronger safety nets, such that would situate women to make better, more long term decisions about their reproductive health AND would better situate women who did become pregnant to carry their pregnancies to full term

            The rest would be dependent upon medical technology not yet developed.

            Do you support any of those protection measures?

            And do you recognize the interests of the woman? Do you recognize why she would want to limit the number of things she had to have shoved up her vagina? Would you accept shoving things up the vaginas or anuses of people pushing this bill so that they recognize this? I’m not being hyperbolic here; it seems like a fair compromise.

            “Look at the life you’re destroying!”
            “Feel the penetration you are inflicting!”

          • Yeah, this is when the pro-life movement is just getting waaaaaay too cute. Argue in favour of outlawing abortion, but these backdoor methods are shady and dishonest.

            I mean, your comment just takes for granted a whole lot of pro-life assumptions, which are really out of place when we’re discussing legal abortion, and just wishes away informed consent from the mother (coerced “consent” doesn’t really count).

          • Heffman,

            I eat very little sugar. Rarely, if ever, drink sodas. I brush and floss every day.

            Shit happens.

          • Kazzy — this might make a good symposium topic. The first half of that comment, not the “not hyperbolic” second part. There are very different approaches to improving the culture to reduce the need for abortions.

          • Eeek… if YOU want to propose a symposium on abortion, I’ll let you die on that hill. :-p

            I know “Safe, Legal, and Rare” or whatever it was has become a sticking point because the “rare” part is often ignored, but I firmly support that viewpoint. Again, I think the ideal number of abortions is 0 but would prefer that being achieved by eliminating the need for abortions, not eliminating the access.

            If it ever becomes possible to raise a baby in an artificial womb OR do some sort of transuterus transplant… that is the medical tech that I think could squash this debate.

            Though I would like you to see you engage my very non-hyperbolic point. If we want people to fully appreciate the actions they are undertaking, it seems a logical extension of the ultrasound.

          • @Jon,

            Well, this is a part of the legacy of Roe v Wade, for better or worse. They can argue for outlawed abortion, but the obstacles (a constitutional amendment, basically) make it impossible. So nipping around the edges and trying to work around the constitutional protection of abortion rights is really all they have from a practical standpoint. I am sympathetic on one level, though on another level it remains dishonest to a degree (not too much unlike “Since we cannot ban guns, let’s attach a prohibitive tax on bullets!”).

          • I agree, Will. I can sympathize that it must be quite frustrating (and I’m willing to believe there are problems with the Roe decision). I just don’t have much respect for the prohibitive-tax-on-bullets type of solution.*

            (*Which, by the way, is why despite my pro-gun control leanings, I understand that the forces for gun control in the U.S. really have their hands tied.)

          • Will, so far as I’ve seen, no one here has made the argument that the ultrasounds make abortions “prohibitive.” That argument could be made, of course, and has been made elsewhere. But I’ve not said anything here suggesting that I support seeking to prohibit abortion “rights” by other means. Thus, I resent the suggestion that the position I’ve taken here is “dishonest to a degree.”

            I also resented Jonathan’s similar accusation, but then again, he earlier accused me of being a “giant evil troll.” So I suppose I should be satisfied he’s elevated his estimation to merely “dishonest.”

          • Tim,I was referring more to the bill In Texas than ultrasounds per second. I am actually cool with non-vaginal ultrasound requirements.

          • So, Tim, why do you support (if you do in fact support, I can’t really tell anymore) forcing women to go through transvaginal ultrasounds in order to have an abortion? Is it some method to combat abortion? That’s always been the justification I’ve heard, but you haven’t explicitly stated that. Is there some other reason?

          • I will have no part of ultrasound requirements. If my wife and myself opt not to roll the dice a third time, on the recommendation of her doctor, then there is no reason some state-appointed religious entity with a shaming wand and a Chick Tract should be allowed to physically violate and emotionally abuse her before we get on with the procedure we have chosen to keep her safe, healthy, and able to live a full life while raising our children.

          • Really, Tim? You don’t know why the vaginal ultrasounds might be prohibitive?

            This is getting silly. Every time I think we make some headway, you go back to making ridiculous arguments that make me wonder if you even know any women.

          • ” “But if she’s uncomfortable with a transvaginal ultrasound, then she’s not going to be comfortable with an equally invasive abortion procedure,” Schreiber told me. “

          • So this Shcreiber person gets to define “informed consent” and “constitutional right” for everyone? Seriously, why are you so stuck on her? And what are you trying to prove? That women who get abortions should be ok with any other invasive procedure this Schreiber person deems ok?

          • There’s a justification for making the woman aware of the human life that is about to be destroyed in the hopes she will change her mind and keep and protect that life, a good thing

            Ugh, this is so intrinsically condescending. All those women out there who don’t understand what that thing inside them is, but we’ll make sure they’re properly educated, which is defined as “seeing things as we see them.”

            In no way do I think you are really a misogynist, Tim. But your explanation reveals the misogynistic nature of the mandatory ultrasound proposal–it is entirely based on a belief that the woman getting an abortion doesn’t know what she’s doing. It treats all abortion-seeking women as ill-informed, ignorant.

          • Tim:

            What part of “I’m willing to accept necessary pain/discomfort but not unnecessary discomfort” is confusing to you?

            To use a non-loaded example: I accept the unpleasantness of multiple injections into my mouth prior to a root canal, because those painful and unpleasant injections are an important part of the “fix my tooth” process.

            By your rationale, I could then NOT object to the dentist giving me another half-dozen painful injections randomly throughout my mouth, even though they’re numbing areas that won’t be worked on or areas that previous shots were already working to numb.

            Which is, you know, the POINT. The ultrasound is not medically necessary in this case. Wouldn’t YOU object to your doctor — or god forbid, some politician — mandating you undergo a bunch of pointless unpleasant tests and procedures BEFORE you could do the one that was medically necessary?

          • Tim, I’d like you to address my situation please. My wife and I have made a decision with input from her doctor. We have all agreed that the medically safest practice given past complications and difficulties and medical risk is for her not to roll the dice again.

            After all that which has already been emotional enough for us, why should she have to endure state-sponsored physical and mental abuse from some state-appointed religious entity armed with a shaming wand and a Chick Tract?

          • Maybe the ultrasounds won’t change any hearts. Sure, that’s a possibility. But it’s not the same thing as saying people are ignorant about the life. There’s an old hypothetical: Someone offers you $100 million to push a button that will kill a Chinese mandarin that you’ve never met or seen. Would you do it? Even if you decline the $100 million, did it take you longer to make the decision than if we substituted a loved one for the mandarin? The hypothetical does not suggest we are “ill-informed” or “ignorant” about what a Chinese mandarin is. It reveals that we are prone to elevate our personal interests above people we’ve never seen or met. This is a quite reasonable supposition, and it’s what underlies the ultrasound proposals.

          • No, Tim. The ultrasound provisions do no good at all. Please answer my situation. I’ve now asked twice and I would appreciate your answer. Why should my wife be forcibly subjected to physical and emotional abuse by a state-appointed religious entity armed with a shaming wand and a Chick Tract?

          • I prefer to ask the question here, Tim. It takes more than you know out of me to discuss this. I won’t entertain being asked to take it private because you’re uncomfortable facing the point I am making.

          • If asking you to send an email is an unreasonable request I can’t imagine what I could possibly hope to convince you is reasonable.

            Comment threads, especially lopsided ones like this, tend to draw out intemperate rhetoric that promotes neither civility nor clarity. The opposite, in fact.

          • Tim, you are free to answer as you choose or refuse to answer but I consider it inappropriate to request that we move the discussion away from the eyes of outside observers and those who have been participating in the discussion to this point.

          • tim,
            suggest moving cletus’ comment and your response to a new post?
            if things are too heated…

        • Holy shit. I can’t believe you’re even making the comparison.

          Can you not actually see the problem, or are you just being a giant evil troll?

          • I’m trying not to get angry about the comment, even though it sort of makes me want to throw up, because I know that Tim is usually better than this and that abortion gets everyone a little huffy but, yea, I’m really, really struggling with this and hope it was a momentary lapse and not indicative of his real views on the matter.

          • I’m pretty angry about this comment.

            Seriously, change ultrasound wand to any other object (or body part) and it’s pretty obviously rape. The comment was pretty fucking evil.

          • This is irritating as heck for me. I always assumed that people supported ultrasounds because they had thought that these would be the “over the belly” ultrasounds (which, I’m sure we’d all agree, ain’t *THAT* intrusive, all things considered) to be shocked, embarrassed, and otherwise horrified at the vagaries of medical care that women require due to their body parts that, seriously, polite people do not speak about in public.

            The “they just don’t care” theory just got a lot stronger.

          • Here is an illustration of what the procedure looks like:

            Here is the wand up close:

            Here is what it looks like with the condom on:

            I held my wife’s hand while it was performed. She squealed and squirmed in pain. And, again, this is for a much desired pregnancy and was a necessary procedure for her and the baby’s health.

          • Do they actively try to make it look like a phallus or is that just a case of convergent design?

          • Is there something especially bad about a transvaginal procedure as opposed to other intrusive procedures? If this requirement involved a different sort of uncomfortable or painful procedure, would y’all be OK with it then? From my POV, the analogy to rape seems like an emotional or rhetorical response, not a rationally defensible one.

          • KenB,

            There are few medical procedures that are mandated by law. I think that is the sticking point.

            If a doctor tells me I ought to get a procedure done or that he won’t perform a later procedure without first doing it because of health or safety reasons… okay, let’s talk.

            If a politician tells me I must get a procedure done in order to pursue a course of medical treatment with the Supreme Court has guaranteed I have a right to proceed… that is a whole ‘nother ballgame.

            And it surprises me that conservatives, they of “death panels” and “keep your government hands off my health care”, don’t recognize that.

          • I’m not really in support of laws that force anything into any of my or other people’s orifices. It’s pretty high bar to clear to get me on board with bypassing informed consent for pretty much any medical procedure.

          • Ken: It’s entirely medically unnecessary. It’s like going to the dentist to have a filling, and the dentist saying “Okay, but before we inject the Novocaine to numb the area we’re gonna be working on, we’re gonna jab a few other quadrants of your mouth that we won’t be working on”.

            There’s no medical reason for the ultrasound. You get that sort of ultrasound if your doctor is worried about an ectopic pregnancy, certain forms of severe birth defect, tumors, or other things. If you’re having an abortion, it’s entirely unnecessary.

            If there’s no medical reason, why is it being mandated by law? And should the law mandate entirely unnecessary, intrusive and unpleasant medical tests in the first place?

            If I go get a vasectomy, should the law mandate the doctor kick me in the nutsack first, just so I know that my testicles are a very sensitive area to work on?

          • [changes direction of leg cross, sweats, fidgets, tugs collar]

          • Kazzy and Jonathan, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable opinion to hold, but it militates against the validity of the “rape” analogy. Also, the opinion depends on a prior belief about the rights (or lack thereof) of the fetus as an independent entity, which is where Tim was going with his comment about question-begging.

          • KenB,

            The rape analogy came from Tim saying: “The ultrasounds would be performed on women who otherwise are consenting to having other implements inserted to remove the fetus — obviously an intrusive and unpleasant thing. So why is the ultrasound such an unimaginable intrusion?”

            If you consent to having sex with your husband, than why not have sex with that small penised man over there? I don’t think it is unfair, given what a gross form of logic his argument was derived from.

          • kenB, abortion is legal in the U.S., right? It’s some sort of constitutional right or sumpin’, right?

            Well, if you say to a woman, you can’t exercise your constitutional rights without letting us stick something in your vagina first, I’m really ok with calling that rape. Sure, yeah, maybe it’s more like “sexual assault”, but if we’re just arguing over definitions, then I’ll happily concede the point.

            Now, if abortion was illegal, and there was no constitutional protection, we could have a different discussion.

          • OK guys, you seem pretty committed to this idea, so I’ll take just one more shot at it and leave it at that:

            1) Presumably, the analogy to rape is made because this procedure involves putting an object in a woman’s vagina for some other reason than her own direct benefit (health or pleasure).
            2) However, you both said that what your real objection was not to this specific type of procedure but to the requirement of any sort of invasive medical procedure that’s not medically necessary.
            3) Thus, the aspect of this that’s most similar to rape is not the aspect that you’re really objecting to.

          • So, kenB, you just don’t like the use of the word “rape”? And you want to play some logic game to get me to stop saying it? (This kind of reminds me of the Conor Freidersdorf piece that Ethan linked to on the FP.)

            I can object both to forced medical procedures and to sticking things unwantedly in vaginas. And I can object to both these things at once. Multi-tasking!

          • Rape is a form of bodily assault specific to certain parts. Doing something to someone’s body against their will and without justification is assault, no?

            Would you rather we call it assault? Or sexual assault? I could call it sexual assault.

            But ignoring the uniqueness of sexual assault, of violating what many women consider to be their most sensitive and private part of their body, is what makes it so easy to propose such legislation.

            You don’t find it convenient that legislative bodies comprised primarily of men are so willing to mandate invasive procedures on vaginas and vaginas alone? And that ignoring the uniqueness of it allows that convenience to remain?


          • Kazzy, I’m getting lost, when you wrote “YOU YOURSELF POINTED OUT THEY WERE INTENDED TO BE PROHIBITIVE!!!”, to whom were you addressing? (Obviously not me, but I’m just trying to keep up.)

          • That was meant for the thread above, wherein Tim argued that no one demonstrated that ultrasounds were prohibitive after arguing specifically that they were intended to do just that.

        • Because it is medically unnecessary. All other reasons are moot.

        • The ultrasounds would be performed on women who otherwise are consenting to having other implements inserted to remove the fetus — obviously an intrusive and unpleasant thing. So why is the ultrasound such an unimaginable intrusion?

          I suspect there’s a strong emotional difference between having something put inside your vagina as a necessary part of a medical procedure and having something put inside your vagina out of spite.

          • It’s not out of spite. It’s because the dumb sluts need a picture to understand that’s a baby in there.

            Because obviously if they understood what ‘being pregnant’ meant, they wouldn’t be getting an abortion, would they?

            It’s an educational vaginal probing.

          • FWIW, the “baby” looks more like a Cheeto Puff at that point than anything remotely human.

          • Morat20, I know you’re being snide, but there’s some strong reality here, and I’d tell you a bit of my history to explain:

            My mother lived with her grandparents until she was 14, and was, from her telling, extremely naive. At 14 her grandmother got sick and died, and she moved back in with her parents, entered high school, and began dating. By the time she was 15, her mother was pregnant and ready to give birth to her youngest sibling. She told me she asked where the baby came from, and her mother told her the Indians brought it, but they broke her leg when the left it, so she’d have to stay in the hospital for a few weeks. (Remember: this is the 1950’s.)

            Her mother did stay in the hospital for a few weeks; and my mother’s parents paid my father, 18, and my mother’s first ‘boyfriend,’ to come and stay at their house to help with barn chores, etc. And my mother got pregnant. From the time she found out, her mother refused to speak to her except to call her names, my father refused to visit her. Her two younger sisters were not allowed to speak to her for fear they’d be morally contaminated. She says she basically lived in isolation in her bedroom until her forced wedding happened; and a few months later, six weeks after turning 16, she gave birth to my eldest sibling.

            I’ve tried, over the years, to get her and other family members to tell me about that time. It’s very painful for all of them to recall it. The most cutting, painful parts are the names she was called by her own family, by my father’s family. By her friends and their families. From my aunt, my father’s sister, I recently heard that everyone felt this was my mother’s fault; nobody held blame for my father. My aunt wept as she told me this, a burden of guilt from growing understanding of the world, one she’d carried for nearly 60 years.

            I know my father was a philanderer, unwilling to control his lust and wandering eye; my mother was just the first victim along his path of predation. But in the eyes of society at the time, she was the one who did wrong; that was the standard of morality, and it’s still the standard behind this nasty bit of slut shaming.

            Though it would mean my own undoing, if I could go back and change history, I’d make a safe, legal abortion available to my mother in 1952.

          • zic,
            oh, my god.
            I am glad for your sake, that your mother did not manage to kill herself trying to get an illegal abortion, as skeptical brotha has chronicled happened to a member of his family.

            But it’s a horrible situation.

    • “Well no ad by a liberal group has ever been denied airing or publication so i can see part of your point. Or do you want me to googleate and find how ads have been turned down by liberal groups. What would that prove. ”

      And the New York Times is quite willing to use the word ‘torture’ when the US government tortures.

  2. Somewhere in this world, there’s a woman. About age 14.
    Mousy, wears long skirts. Never looks at a guy.
    Often, she pees the bed — the smell of it lingers.
    Isn’t she a little old for peeing the bed?
    It’s her brother’s fault — for she likes to pretend
    he’s not going to fuck her. Her parents know about it —
    they don’t care.

    In a few years, she will be pregnant.

    Human nature is not a pretty thing, sometimes.

    I will not be a party to what you and yours want, I cannot.
    Because I must speak for the voiceless, for the people
    whose voices have been deliberately stolen.

    Eliminating abortion is only the first step,
    though your conscience might prick you
    if you bothered to look at where your steps lead.

  3. And you’re right, human life is not too controversial.
    But life is not a value, and if I must choose between
    the quality of life for a born and grown woman,
    and an as-yet-unconscious fetus, I know what I must choose.

    • And that’s not even what this post was addressing.

      The question is: why do you have the right to prevent other people from telling the truths about what abortion is, and what a fetus at three, or six, or eight months looks like? Why should people be forbidden from showing such things?

      If you wish to hold an absolute pro-choice position, then hold it. But people should be allowed to see, and to show, what they are supporting – the killing of a developed, and very visibly human, child.

      • Butthey can show it! Tim did right here! But they have no right to the pages of any newspaper. Aren’t conservatives all about the right of private institutions to discriminate? Or is that only for the Boy Scouts?

        • Not being a conservative, I won’t comment on what “conservatives” are for.

          But there are multiple occasions when organizations that are all for debate, or for impartiality, in other matters, deliberately refuse to publish truths shown by pro-lifers because they find those truths distasteful or “controversial”. My university banned pro-life groups from showing accurate pictures of abortion. My previous, undergrad university banned a pro-life group simply for being pro-life, saying that any statements in opposition to abortion – the group wasn’t even calling for legislation, just saying it was morally wrong – were hostile to women and thus contrary to university principles.

          Saying that everyone who’s pro-life hates women? A-OK. Showing that a fetus which it’s legal to abort looks like a human being? Beyond the pale. I do believe that’s something that worth noting, because it’s very common. One side of the debate is being systematically silenced.

          • They’re being silenced by a subset, albeit a large and powerful one, of private institutions. There are plenty of conservatives newspapers and conservative news shows… hell, an entire conservative news channel. Buy a billboard. Paint it on the side of your house. I’d support you right to seek any of those. But you’re not being silenced because a private newspaper wants no part of your emotional manipulation.

            And I say this as someone who, as a young teen (I might not even have been a teen… I might have been only 12), was forced to watch a 30 minute video showing such images and more… graphic videos of abortions being performed… all as part of “Confirmation preparation”.

          • This is a valid critique of the media (whether it’s true or not, I won’t comment on), but that’s not what Kazzy was responding to. You wrote:

            “The question is: why do you have the right to prevent other people from telling the truths about what abortion is, and what a fetus at three, or six, or eight months looks like? Why should people be forbidden from showing such things?”

            Who is preventing people from telling (so-called) truths? Has Tim been silenced?

          • Question.

            You say they “deliberately refuse to publish truths.”

            Why do you say they are truths? Do others agree they are truths? Or are they in fact assertions that may or may not be true?

          • AS JML points out, there is room to critique the Tribune for this. Hell, I wrote a post myself on the problem of liberal media bias. But no one’s rights are being curtailed as no one has a right to publish an ad in a private newspaper.

          • The “right” to publish ads is not the issue. The issue is that the media’s weighted discretion on such issues leads one to bring a weighted consideration of them. Was Gosnell a one-off? Given the media’s predilection towards not covering such stories, it’s reasonable to presume it has happened, is happening, and perhaps quite commonly. The media has ruined its own image of neutrality by taking sides.

          • Wild-eyed assertions do not make valid arguments.

          • Tim, you’re right to critique the media and whether or not they are taking sides. Most definitely. This sub-thread is really just dealing with whether pro-lifers are being prevented from telling “truths”.

            So, I can totally agree with your the first two sentences of your comment (I’m not touching the end of it), and disagree with Katherine’s.

          • Tim,
            Can I speak to you about the media’s desire to cover up things?
            Because, really, Gosnell didn’t get covered up.

            White Men treating an indian reservation as their own private rape preserve?
            That sure as sunday got covered up (and yes, lawmakers did eventually pay attention enough to pass some bills, I believe) due to “lack of interest”.

          • Cletus –

            Some things (“an unborn child is a person”) are personal beliefs. Other things – like photographs of what an unborn child looks like at a certain stage of development – are truths.

          • Kat,
            Truths belong in science/health class, no?
            I’d be willing to sign up for mandatory embryology in bio/health class.
            better than the scare tactics on drugs/pregnancy

          • Apropos of nothing, I went to see Body Worlds II way back when it was in Denver. If you’re not familiar, you should google it when you’re at home (it’s not exactly NSFW, but it’s not exactly SFW either). The general concept is this: people who donated their bodies to science had their bodies preserved in such a way that their skin could be removed to show the musculature underneath… and there were a lot of kinds of people who donated their bodies. Athletes, morbidly obese, lifetime smokers, pregnant women… and women who didn’t yet know they were pregnant.

            There was a section devoted to fetal development at Body Worlds II.

            Walk through and you could see them from barely visible through a magnifying glass and then from every couple of weeks through viability.

            We went with friends and friends of friends. One of our friends of friends said, as we left, “that was too pro-life.”

          • i>The issue is that the media’s weighted discretion on such issues leads one to bring a weighted consideration of them.

            This right here is an important issue, I think. The argument seems to be that the liberals are winning the propaganda war. Not that liberals are winning the argumentative war. That’s a dangerous road to go down, it seems to me, since it implies that whoever has the better propaganda deserves to win.

      • Can I ask that we teach this in high school?
        Because it seems reasonable… just more as a science
        lesson, less as ad copy.

      • Nobody’s forbidden that bit of free speech, Katherine. The problem here is that bit of speech being mandated.

  4. This piece seems like appeal to popularity followed by appeal to emotion followed by blaming the liberal media. Is there an argument here beyond the media is the reason abortion remains as legal as it is?

    • There is the other proximate cause in that wing of the cultural elite residing in the universities and legal academy, but no, I’m not talking about them here. Other than, that is, to cite their admissions that the Roe decision badly skewed the debate.

      • Not truly. For the debate is not about abortion,
        but about how our country shall continue on.

  5. I have to agree with Kim. Different cultures have different viewpoints on which life is more important when asked to make a value judgment. Judaism believes that the life of living mother is more important than the life of the unborn child:

  6. The anti-women crusaders do a lot with cherry-picked or misleading statistics. You’ve got several in your own article that you don’t bother sourcing and I know that your first one, “Today, nearly two-thirds of Americans support making abortion generally illegal after the first three months of pregnancy”, is incorrect.

    Dilation & Extraction is 0.17% (2,232 of 1,313,000) of all abortions in the USA and is only used in the case of malformed fetuses or other syndromes that will kill the mother if the pregnancy is not terminated.

    If you are trying to argue against the rights of women to make their own choice by claiming every abortion is a D&X, you are not being honest about the facts.

  7. I’m one of those nuts who thinks that women should be allowed to terminate their pregnancies for trivial reasons.

    If a woman says “I’m not ready to be a mother, I’m not going to be a good one, therefore I do not wish to be pregnant one second longer even if it means killing the baby”, why in the hell shouldn’t we believe her and let her make that decision?

    • Here’s my take… I don’t like abortion. Not one bit. I’d rather there were no abortions, but I’d prefer this come about via eliminating the need for abortions, not the access to abortions. Because something I like even less than abortion are the restrictions unwanted pregnancies put uniquely on women and the strains it puts on the eventual product of those pregnancies.

      On a scale of 1-10 on Kazzy’s Outrage Meter, abortion might rate an 8… very high! But banning abortions is probably an 8.5… and likely creeps ever higher when it is coupled (as it so typically is) with other policies that are likely to increase the frequency of unwanted pregnancies.

      Now, I can possibly be moved to adjust these positions, possibly enough that my outrage over abortion would exceed that of a ban on abortion. But you know what isn’t going to do it? Pictures of fetuses.

    • Because the baby is a human being, its life has worth, and we do not normally permit one person to murder another for their own convenience.

      • as it is unable to function or reproduce outside of it’s mother at the time, I’d say it’s a potential life, as it’s failing to meet much of the criterion.

        I mean, are you going to call killing mitochondria murder next?

      • The problem is that not permitting one person to murder another in this particular case entails having the woman carry the baby in her tummy for X more months.

        Which is a different dynamic than a murder of a person that is not in one’s tummy.

        • Yes. That is precisely where the conflict between the rights of the woman and the rights of the child lies. I can understand that position far better than Kazzy’s, which strikes me as either deliberately dense or intensely immoral; a child is not a mitochondrion.

          I believe that, since abortion entails one party dying and taking the pregnancy to term does not (or, in modern society, very, very rarely does; and I am willing to accept abortion in situations where there is a significant threat of serious harm to the mother), requiring the mother to take the pregnancy to term is the ethically better option. It’s the entire life of one person set against nine months’ life of the other.

          I much, much prefer debating with pro-choice people who acknowledge that the conflict exists than ones who do not.

          • requiring the mother to take the pregnancy to term is the ethically better option

            Yeah, but what does this entail *IN PRACTICE*?

            Just passing a law ain’t enough. It wasn’t enough for prohibition, it’s not enough for the war on drugs, and it won’t be enough for abortion either.

            You’re going to have to have law enforcement involved on some level and that means that we’re eventually have some stupid cop shoot a pregnant woman dead in order to prevent her from getting an abortion (and the war on drugs informs me that that ain’t hyperbole).

            I’m all for coming to an ethical conclusion that *THIS* is better than *THAT* (and, hell, even coming out and saying “abortion is morally wrong”, that’s cool too).

            My problem comes when you start passing laws.

          • This says to me that you do not want to debate the underlying assumptions of your opinion. That’s fine, but it doesn’t seem like you want to get into a full and honest debate with pro choicers (which, again, is fine; I don’t particularly like abortion debates, myself).

          • Jonathan – I find that getting into debates with people who don’t acknowledge that all human life has a fundamental worth just makes me mad. It makes me mad when it’s hawks talking about terrorists, death penalty folks talking about criminals, or radical pro-choicers talking about the unborn. And I don’t find that discussing it is productive, for me, in any way; it just leads to yelling.

          • That’s cool. I completely agree. I generally don’t get into discussions about abortion (discussion about discussions about abortion, though, I’m all up in that junk).

          • KMW,

            I thought I acknowledged pretty clearly that there is indeed a conflict. However, on balance, I side, slightly, with the mother.

          • Kazzy,

            Yes, you did acknowledge the conflict. I think I confused you with Kim. I’m sorry.

          • Kat,
            … you sure you didn’t mean to be talking to me, not Kazzy?
            I acknowledge that an unborn child has a worth, as does a born child.
            So too does a person that will never breathe again, but who is not yet dead.

            Taking the pregnancy to term may very well be the more morally correct option…
            (you’ll forgive my temperance, I trust, as I mentioned incest above).

            But, at least for me, you must pass a MUCH higher bar before the state can intervene.

          • No worries. As I thought about making that comment, I had initially framed it otherwise.

            Someone (Hanley? Tod? Maybe both…) often says that most of our disagreements are not between the virtuous and the tyrant… but between competing rights or interests or wants or needs. I fully recognize that their is a strong argument on behalf of the fetus. I just think their is a slightly stronger argument on behalf of the mother. But there is indeed a conflict. And one reason I generally don’t wade into abortion debates is because it is really, really hard to offer an objective answer to that question. Pro-lifers aren’t arguing that 2+2=5. The reason I jumped in here was because I was bothered with the way that Tim went about constructing his argument… and it just snowballed from there.

          • Kim & Katherine, I’d like to ask a question. Having been through in vitro and the sleepless nights and all.

            You use the word “unborn child” to describe a potentiality. Something that is absolutely a die roll. It is a cast of luck to determine whether or not there will be a child at the end of the process. It is absolutely not a certainty and for many couples it’s lousy odds. People going in for fertility treatment and in vitro are trying to play the long odds and pay a lot of money to do so.

            I’m not willing to tell them that every attempt of theirs was murder for trying, simply by putting a potentiality in play and rolling the dice. What you describe as an “unborn child” has worse odds than the slot machines in Vegas. If someone else decides they do not want to play that game, I’m not going to pass some sort of judgement on them for walking away from the slot machine and I’d like to ask why you are so willing to do so.

          • Cletus,
            yeah, sure, it’s not alive yet. It may be. But it’s human genetic tissue, and thus “human” is appropriate.

            To be technically correct, I ought to go with “unborn, possibly malformed enough to spontaneously abort, human being”

            I’ll not criticize others for rolling the dice, or for when it fails to come up boxcars.

          • Kim, you are missing my point.

            My wife and I have 2 children conceived through in vitro. We spent a lot of money rolling the dice and going through a lot of medical treatment and hard work and very careful months to manage this. She had the worst of it but I can’t count how many sleepless nights I had wondering if I’d be waking up at any moment to drive her to a hospital due to miscarriage.

            If she were somehow to become pregnant again, we have discussed among ourselves and with her doctor and I have no doubt that we would have to say “no.” We have discussed my having a vasectomy once we can manage to scrape together the money. If she were to be pregnant we would take that roll of the dice and say “no”, in order to ensure her health to raise our two children. Her being pregnant would be an extreme health risk. We would step back and choose not to roll the dice a third time.

            That is what I am asking. Do you condemn us as murderers by describing that potentiality and our decision not to roll the dice as the “murder of an unborn child?”

          • Cletus,
            nope, not at all.
            You see, I’ve looked into my heart, and I’m willing to say, in unusual circumstances, that I’d condone the death of a child up to the age of six months as morally acceptable (if still undoubtedly tragic). And not even for “sake of the mother” reasons. If you can’t raise a child, then it’s your responsibility to find someone else to care for it. If that can’t be done, well, then we get into some pretty… esoteric circumstances.

            … naturally, they’re just everyday life for some folks.
            Blind by the age of five, dead by the age of ten?
            Maybe better off dead in the first place.

          • Jaybird,

            We already know what the practice would be like with illegal abortion. Women from wealthy (or at least middle class) families would be able to fly oversees to get abortions or have a doctor do one illegally but safely.

            Women who are not from that background would undergo various “back ally” remedies that were medically dangerous.

      • “Because the baby is a human being…”

        Therein lies the rub. Not everyone accepts that as truth.

        • Out of curiosity, if it could be demonstrated that the parasitic fetal clump of cells was, in fact, a human being, would that change anything?


          • For me, yes, on the moral calculus. That’s not going to change my legal calculus for all the things that you and I already see as problematic when it comes to legal calculus.

          • Ditto what Patrick said. I have no qualms about admitting to having serious moral qualms about abortion, but I also have moral qualms about dictating control over other people’s life choices, and those have to be weighed against each other. Someone coming down on weighting their moral qualms about abortion more? I can understand that; I just don’t come down firmly on that side. And when it comes to writing rules I’m sort of a utilitarian pragmatist–what will the total set of effects be? As I’ve pompously promulgated many times before, Hanley’s first rule of making public policy is to not focus on the outcome you want to achieve, but on the incentives you actually create.

          • This is one of the things that is wacky to me:

            It’s not obvious to me that “what we call it” changes anything at all.

            As such, it seems like a rhetorical trick to define it as being a parasitic clump of cells. A transparent to the point of being silly trick.

          • Jaybird,

            The “parasitic clump of cells” and the “it’s a real live person” definitions are two sides of a coin, which is the power of emotion-triggering. Both sides recognize how emotionally powerful seeing the fetus as just the same as a newborn snuggled up in a cute onesie and a grandma blanket is, so the one side pushes that image while the other side pushes against that image with an image that strips the emotion away or even (“parasitic”) tries to evoke an opposing emotion.

            Both are making use of an effective rhetorical tactic (although I think the “it’s a baby” crowd have a clear advantage). The goal for each side, after all, is not to win points for the the pure logic of their position, but to persuade people, and logic can’t hold a candle to emotional for persuasive power.

          • Part of the problem is that I know several folks who went through the “let’s get pregnant and have a baby!” thing and, sadly, there were a non-zero number of miscarriages. Some were, like, dreadfully late. Some were (from here) early enough to make me wonder “what’s the difference between that and a skipped period?”

            You show up. You sit in a room with the men as the women sit in the room with the women, you get drunk with the not-a-dad, your wife drives you home. You don’t talk about it the next day.

            Then you hear someone advocating for the right of women to control their own sexual destiny refer to a parasitic clump of cells.

            Calling it a “baby” doesn’t seem like someone playing fast and loose with definitions.

            Certainly not when we get to 5-6 months.

            (Is anyone on this website, anyone at all, opposed to abortions that take place at 6 weeks?)

          • (Is anyone on this website, anyone at all, opposed to abortions that take place at 6 weeks?)

            I’d imagine there is at least one. However, it’s not exactly an uncommon pro-life position. (In fact, it’s the position of the Catholics Church, IIRC, so there’s technically tens of millions of US citizens who hold it as a religious belief, although how much weight they put on that is unknown).

            I’m still trying to get past the “You can have your six-weeks abortion, but only if we get to probe you first” which is, as noted, the actual stated rationale is women are too dumb to know what an abortion is unless they can see pictures.

            Unlike men and, apparently, every women NOT having an abortion at that moment. I guess being in an abortion clinic just means you’re dumb.

          • “Life begins at conception” is a belief that goes far beyond Catholicism these days. Wasn’t it part of the GOP platform last time? Certainly drugs are now being called “abortificants”, and there’s lobbying to outlaw them, because they might, possibly, somehow interfere with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.

          • Dude, *I* believe that life begins at conception.

            I just also believe that the state should have limits on where it ought to be able to interfere.

          • Dude, *I* believe that life begins at conception.

            I’ve had a post marinating about that for about a year now (not whether life begins at conception, but what it means to believe that). I’m waiting until I feel like getting banned for life.

        • No, Kazzy. Not everyone accepts that the baby is a person prior to birth. But it’s unquestionably a human being. If it’s not, then what species is it? A chimpanzee? A bumblebee? The claim is nonsensical.

          • That’s fair, KMW. I was conflating “human being” and “person”. But then, you stating it is a human being is sort of meaningless, at least in the case of the law, right? Does the law deal with human beings or persons?

          • The difference between a human being and a potential human being is a totality. Ask anyone who’s desperately tried to conceive through in vitro. That collection of 6-12 cells in a petri dish? That’s a potential. It’s a roll of the dice. It’s NOT a human being. That slowly growing mass in a womb? It’s a roll of the dice too. There is a point where it changes but the claim that it is “unquestionably a human being” is an assertion unfounded and unjustifiable by fact.

          • Is there a level of physical handicapableness/differently abledness under which we can say “yeah, this human being isn’t a person”?

            I’m asking for a friend.

          • Jaybird, I haven’t thought about that remotely enough to make an intelligent judgement.

            That said, my gut is going with “no”, though, except perhaps if a person is brain-dead to the point where they’re incapable of thought and there’s no medical possibility of restoring cognitive function.

            (To answer the almost-inevitable response, even a fetus which hasn’t yet developed cognitive abilities is in the process of developing them, which is quite different from a person who’s permanently brain-dead.)

          • JB,

            We deny people rights all the time based on a number of factors, including their ability.

            We also deny some murderers the right to life, via the death penalty. Now, I’m not comparing fetuses/unborn babies/whatever you want to call them to murderers. They are quite obviously categorically different. But the death penalty is one place where we say one person’s right to life is overwhelmed by other people’s right to safety or right to seek justice or vengeance or whatever justification is offered for capital punishment. Furthermore, we often go to war, killing innocents, in the name of ensuring our safety. And while these people aren’t citizens entailed to our legal rights, surely they are persons entitled to natural rights, including the right to life, yes? Yet, again, we decide that the right to life isn’t absolute and can be denied if it serves some purpose we think is worthwhile.

            The question then becomes do we think that ensuring autonomy and agency over her body is worthwhile enough to deny a fetus/unborn baby life? Well, that is where we disagree. Or so it would seem. But if you don’t think that is a question we can even ask, then I’ll ask you to reconcile that with what we, as a society, do when that question comes up in other places.

          • JB,
            in medicine, there’s the concept of triage. There is ALWAYS a rank-ordering of “who is most worthwhile.” Note: in combat, you often save the least hurt folks first, because they can protect your tail while you’re fixing the other guys.

          • Kazzy, I support the right of women to terminate their own pregnancies for trivial reasons.

            I just don’t define the baby away.

            Out of curiosity, if you agreed that the definition of whatever is in there should not be something akin to a parasitic clump of cells but, for the sake of argument, agreed that it could be defined, just for the sake of argument, as a baby (sake of argument!), would that change your opinion on abortion?

          • JB,

            The problem is, I don’t know what “baby” means at that point. I saw images of his ultrasound at 6 weeks. I see him now. Those two things are not the same thing. Even though it is the same thing.

            FWIW, I think the terms we use are more about framing and manipulating language (on ALL sides) than they are about actually defining what something is. So if people want to call it an unborn baby, so be it. But if I call it an unborn baby and they say, “Ah ha! You called it a baby! Babies are people! You don’t want to kill real babies, do you???” I sort of just want to walk away.

            Personally, I tend to look at agency. And as a teacher of young children, I tend to think that most lil’uns have way more agency than we tend to acknowledge. Obviously, with a [whatever we call it when it’s inside the mother], there is a different standard, which is why I’m okay with drawing the line at viability. I don’t love it, because I still think there are complications with that line, but I could make my peace with it until those complications can be addressed (which I think they largely can be via technological advances).

  8. Maybe the problem is that the ones loudest about the 20-24 week thing are the ones that want abortion banned completely anyway?

    It’s not like there’s some group campaigning for a “moderate” position on abortion, or even like the anti-choice folks pretend effectively. That bill in Texas that was supposed to ostensibly be about safety & procedure was promoted with the hashtag #Stand4Life.

    • This is I think an important point.

      I would support a Constitutional amendment to remove Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. A Constitutional amendment that meets some delta of the populist numbers Tim talks about above seems politically possible.

      I don’t see the UK model as being acceptable to either the pro-choice or the pro-life crowd.

      However, in terms of concessions, I see the pro-choice crowd being able to live with it. I don’t think they’d generate much outrage if such was the law of the land.

      I don’t see that on the side of the pro-life crowd. I see this:

      Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith

      (a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or
      (b) that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
      (c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated
      (d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

      … and I see a collection of exceptions that would immediately be targets for restriction.

  9. Could someone please check, I believe several of my comments are being mislabeled spam and are not visible.

      • This is now my third attempt even to reply to this comment.

        • There are a number of comments I have left above that are missing.

        • Ah, there they are. I’ve un-spammed them (except for the ones reporting the missing comments).

        • He obviously found one thing but they are all still waiting for moderation?

          • I’m typically not technology challenged, I’ve just not had this problem before with the system marking non-spam comments as spam. Having un-spammed them, the system apparently sends them into “pending” (I’d assumed it would just publish them). Having now switched to the “pending” screen, I’ve now “published” them.

            What a pain.

            Will, any idea why Cletus’s comments were getting marked as spam?

          • Yes, it’s a pain to fish them out. I wish I could tell you there was an easier way.

            There are a number of reasons why Cletus may have been flagged. He was initially flagged by the front page, but after a few rescues they stopped being so flagged. They’re still apparently flagged here and at NaPP. There are a few reasons why this may be the case, but the system doesn’t tell us as far as I know.

  10. I think you’re half right. Let’s look at the Gallup Poll’s historical trend on abortion rights. There’s no doubt that the position of abortion on demand is stagnated in the mid 20% range. You’re right, the rhetorical debate on that has been won by the pro-life side.

    But look at the other side of it, the no abortion at all position. That one’s also stagnated, and at an even lower range (and the differences between the two positions averages is undoubtedly statistically significant, not just a fluke of the sample).

    So both sides have won the rhetorical debate against the other side’s ideologically strongest position.

    And the position that a majority of the country supports–a majority in a three-way competition–is abortion under some circumstances. Now that covers a lot of territory, and there can be lots of disagreements on which circumstances (and as you note, the circumstance of late-term abortions seems to be a clear loser), but what it ultimately means is that even if they do value the life of the unborn, most Americans don’t value it as an absolute but one that has to be stacked up against other values, so that the value of life often comes out the loser.

    Pro-choice advocates can just as reasonably claim rhetorical victory. And of course they’d also be just half-right. The muddled middle of “sometimes, but not always,” is the clear rhetorical victor, it seems to me.

    • The issue is that the country’s laws don’t reflect that distribution of public opinion at all. If they did, we’d have something like “abortion with zero to some restrictions in the first 3 months, with increasingly stronger restrictions the further into pregnancy you get”. (Which is an outcome I’d actually be fairly satisfied with.) Instead, the law is at the fairly absolute pro-choice position of “virtually no restrictions”.

      • except for a ban of third trimester abortions. (or a near-ban).

        I’d favor “restrictions” rather than bans. They fit better with my mind.

        Pro-life person says: people don’t want abortions after 6 months
        I say: but what if the person didn’t know she was pregnant??

        So, um, yeah, restrictions. Sound better than bans, in principle.
        In practice? a bitch to write.

      • Is that where the law is? Because I’m pretty sure there are parts of this country where it is damn near impossible for many women to get an abortion.

        And, FWIW, that “moderate” proposal is one I’d be pretty comfortable with.

        • Because I’m pretty sure there are parts of this country where it is damn near impossible for many women to get an abortion.

          Much of the problem is that abortion is a procedure that requires expertise and, for whatever reason, a lot of people with the required level of expertise find the procedure distasteful. The folks who tend to have the expertise *AND* are progressive enough to not find the procedure distasteful tend to not want to move out to the sticks.

          • And some doctos have a thing about having their home addresses published on web sites that call them murderers.

        • It’s where federal law is. Some states (mostly small-population ones) have restrictions, and others – being conservative places with small populations – have few doctors who are willing to perform abortions. But there’s not much legal restriction.

          (In Canada, there is zero. And it’s covered by public health care. The only barrier is, again, some doctors in some smaller provinces being unwilling to perform abortions, so the big deal for the pro-choice groups here is legally requiring anyone who wants to practice medicine to be willing to perform abortions. Because “if they’re not willing to do their job, they shouldn’t have become a doctor.” So that’s the political context in which I’m coming to this issue.)

          For the moderate proposal, the barrier seems to be that US legislation is currently a lot further on the pro-choice side than the proposal is, and basically everyone on the pro-choice side is unwilling to countenance any increases in restrictions. Some out of opposition in principle to any restriction whatsoever, some because they’re worried about a slippery slope and fear that if any additional restrictions are made they’ll end up with a blanket ban on abortion.

          • Katherine (and JB),

            All fair points. But regarding your last point, KMW, how many pro-lifers are willing to say, “We’ll go this far (the “moderate” stance) and no further”? Pro-choicers feel the camel’s nose in the tent because, well, so often it is just that.

            When the Gosnell case came out, I was strongly in the camp that abortion clinics need to be regulated just as any other medical facility ought to be and that if this served to somewhat hinder access, it was a worthwhile one. I know I did not have the support of many other pro-lifers in this regard. I offer this as evidence that I am not much of an “absolutist” on the matter.

            If a good faith compromise was offered, I’d do my damnedest to support it. I’m just not sure either side (not individuals… but the “sides” themselves) are willing to do such in good faith.

          • There are zero legal restrictions on abortion in Canada, but there are a number of practical restrictions. The health community’s best practices generally limit abortion on demand to the first 20 or 22 weeks of pregnancy (this is why so many OBs and midwives will schedule an ultrasound right before that – if there’s an issue with the pregnancy, you can still “easily” get an abortion).

            So, regardless of your political context, in reality, Canada does not have abortion on demand for the whole 9+ months.

          • worth noting this is not the first restriction in the US to pass.

            … yeah, I can see how someone could argue, “If they weren’t willing to do XYZ, why did they choose to become an ob/gyn??” as for me? I’d say a referral to someone who will do the procedure (possibly with government assisted transportation, if too onerous), ought to fulfill the obligation.

            Because, really, this isn’t like a doctor who won’t give vaccinations. This is absolutely a moral issue, and I believe quite strongly that private citizens ought to be able to choose.

          • Kim, yeah, I am vaguely (though not urgently) concerned that the day will come when people will look at my wife and argue that because she has chosen to be an obstetrician, and she is licensed by the state, and the state played a role in her medical education, and that the government is likely to be one of her bigger “customers” (at least, payors), that she has an obligation to perform abortions (especially if she lives in a place where there aren’t any providers nearby). It’s honestly not a very difficult argument to make, using elements incorporated in arguments for other things all the time.

            Like I say, though, it is not an urgent concern. This is an area where I am comforted by the fact that pro-lifers have her back.

          • Kazzy,

            I don’t think the danger is all that great, simply because most people don’t support a blanket ban on abortion. The chances of such a thing ever getting through Congress are virtually nil. So whether the more absolutist pro-lifers would like one doesn’t strike me as a pressing problem.

            The Gallup polls seem to indicate that a sizeable proportion of people who self-identify as “pro-life” want increased restrictions but not a blanket ban. So I’d say that a fair number are in line with the moderate stance.

          • So why haven’t we seen the moderate stance realized? Politicians? Entrenched interests? I’m not being snarky here… it seems like there is a will to make it real. So why not a way?

          • To be honest, I think it’s because the pro-choice side opposes every action or regulation that would move us towards it, so they don’t get passed, so the status quo stays quo.

        • There are parts of the country that require travel to get an abortion, though in those parts of the country travel is required for lots of things. I don’t think the are many states without a provider. Wyoming has one And Montana has six distributed throughout the state.

      • @Katherine;
        The issue is that the country’s laws don’t reflect that distribution of public opinion at all. I

        I think you’re exactly right about that. We have a violation of the median voter theorem and my inner rational choice theorist is perturbed!

        But I think the reason for the disconnection is two-fold. One part is that the issue is still so highly contentious that each side fears a compromise will not stick, but will just initiate a slippery slope. And given the absoluteness of the hard line positions on each side, and the reality that the battle is being waged to a large extent by the hard liners, while, as someone said above, there is no mobilized moderate position, it’s not an unreasonable fear. The other part is that “under some conditions” covers a very large area, and I don’t think much consensus exists on what that set of conditions should be.

        From a lawmaking perspective, having a middle ground upon which there’s both no mobilization and no defined policy alternative–so that we don’t even really know with any certainty what the median voter wants–and a strong pressure from mobilized hard-liners on each side…well, that’s the territory where organized interests hold sway over what we might call the public interest (not that I usually hold with that mythological construct).

        • This is an interesting discussion. But it’s nearly noon here and I need to play catch up with the work I’ve neglected this morning.

          James, let me ask something about this: “each side fears a compromise will not stick, but will just initiate a slippery slope….” I’m very curious about slippery slope arguments. They seem to be in disrepute (remember the “Broccoli Mandate”?) but I tend to think your statement here is probably true. Is that specific to the abortion debate, do you think? (I.e., because of the “absoluteness of the hard line positions” on this particular subject?) Or do slippery slope concerns carry more weight with the public than they do with academics and bloggers?

          • Tim,

            Catch up on your work and read my response later. 😉 For my part, I’m under the weather today, so I can’t really accomplish much else.

            Re: Slippery Slopes
            I think in general slippery slope arguments carry more weight with those untrained in critical thinking than with those trained in critical thinking: academics should be the latter (I wish I could claim “should” really means “all,” but alas, I know too many exceptions), but bloggers cross the spectrum. But also, we’re all human, which is to say we’re all fallible, so even those trained in critical thinking will slip at times, and I suspect the primary cause of such slippage is addressing issues that hit our most deeply held values. So I would expect that even those trained in critical thinking–trained to distrust slippery slopes–will often fall short of their ideal standard when they discuss abortion policy. And I think that’s true of both pro-life thinkers and pro-choice thinkers, because they’re equally human.

            And the problem is exacerbated by the demonstrable presence of those on each side whose avowed objective is essentially to make sure the slope tips their way. Katherine, above, argues that it appears to her that pro-choice people are unwilling to compromise, while I frequently hear from pro-choice people that pro-life folks are unwilling to compromise. It could be that one or both sides are seeing something that isn’t there, but I incline toward believing both sides are seeing a very real thing. After all, as the Gallup trend shows, about 20some percent of folks believe in no abortions under any circumstances, and about 20somewhat greater percent believe in abortion under any circumstances–those are real people, each side is looking at, and whose political effectiveness they are concerned about. So the slippery slope fear isn’t completely unfounded.

            And I should note that the critique of slippery slope arguments doesn’t involve a claim that slippery slopes don’t exist. They do; it’s just that, rhetorically, the claim of a slippery slope is not itself evidence of danger, and they’re too easily used as a tool of emotional persuasion, so they should be viewed with skepticism. It needs to be demonstrated that a particular slope is in fact slippery, for the claim to be accepted. And if a slope is properly shown to be slippery, that fact is reasonable to consider in the debate.

            Re: Is the Fear of a Compromise Not Sticking, but Initiating a Slippery Slope Specific to the Abortion Debate?
            I don’t think so, although it’s particularly noticeable due to the heat of the debate I think the abortion issue is part of a class of political issues that lack what rational choice theorists call “Schelling Points,” or “focal points”–some distinctive point that most people will congregate upon, even without communication about the issue. (In fact Thomas Schelling developed the idea specifically to analyze coordination when there is no communication; it’s really pretty fascinating, and is developed in chapters 2 and 3 of his great book, The Strategy of Conflict.) Given that the majority of voters are in favor of allowing abortion conditionally, if there was some set of conditions that functioned as a focal point–a set that had a simple and clear logic connecting them, perhaps–I think the presence of the two hard-line groups would be irrelevant. It would be clear in that case where the median voter stood, and the debate would only swirl in a much narrow range around that position. Any policy that went beyond that narrow range would lead not to further tilt in that direction, as in a positive feedback reaction, but would produce negative feedback, pushing back towards the median-voter position. But with the lack of any such middle-ground focal point, there is no clear majority or median voter position, so if movement starts in one direction there is no clear stopping point. Or more precisely, the only clear stopping points are the last point before reaching “never allowed” or “always allowed” (since it’s clear the majority won’t go that far in either direction.

            So generally speaking, this kind of policy does have something of a slippery slope problem. Ironically, the only thing limiting the slipperiness of the slope may be each side’s heightened awareness of the slipperiness, so that any movement is immediately recognized as a danger and immediately responded to. Figuratively, each side is pushing on the policy point hard enough that they generally keep it from being able to slip far from its current position (imagine a hockey puck balanced on the top of a pyramid of ice, with someone on each side exerting equal pressure–no matter how slippery the ice slopes of the pyramid, the puck isn’t going anywhere). So the policy is in fact kept–mostly–in a moderate position, but not necessarily the particular moderate position, if one exists,* that could command majority support.

            To the extent the abortion issue rises above other issues in this category, it’s not, I think, because it is uniquely structured in terms of the distribution of the public’s preferences, but because few other issues involve such fundamental values on both sides. This is why it’s so hard to have a temperate debate on the issue. There is no way that hard-line pro-lifers are going to not see the value of human life as an ultimate trump card, and there is no way that hard-line pro-choicers are not going to see a woman’s autonomy as the ultimate trump card. For either side to do so would require a radical restructuring of their values hierarchy, and about the only thing I could imagine that would cause that is either for pro-choicers to learn that at the moment of conception the zygote has thoughts, hopes, and dreams, or for pro-lifers to learn that until even after the moment of birth there is no soul, and at some time post-partum God randomly chooses which babies will in fact be given souls and which will not, so that even he does not know ahead of time which is which, and is unconcerned about their fate. I don’t expect either of these to happen, so I expect the debate to continue at least until we’re an even more secularized country, where only a few people believe in the soul, or that the presence of a soul would matter.**

            *In issues with multiple possible outcomes, it is possible that there is no majority position. This was first demonstrated by Condorcet, and so is commonly known as Condorcet’s paradox, or the voting paradox. I’d link, but I don’t want to send this comment into moderation. I was pleased to note, however, that the second result in Google for “Condorcet’s Paradox” is an old blog post I wrote. How does Google work? Does that mean lots of people have clicked on, or linked to, what I wrote?

            **I’ve known many Christians who put great emphasis on the argument that the zygote has a soul from the very beginning. But even from a Christian perspective I struggled with the significance of that (assuming it’s truth), because my church’s (Protestant, Wesleyan) theology taught that there was an age of accountability, below which God would not assign you to hell because you weren’t really culpable for your actions. I guess there was sort of a lack of spiritual men rea. There was no agreement on what that age was, but it was certainly long post-partum. So while I could see abortion as a crime, or even a sin, I couldn’t see it as a tragedy, since the little critter was going straight to heaven without ever facing the risk of getting on the path to hell. At that point, given the common Protestant belief that hell is ultimate and eternal suffering without hope of redemption, abortion begins to sound like a most merciful act. I never found very much agreement with that position, but I did know others who at least seriously pondered the idea.

          • Gah, I had a hugely long response here that’s gone missing. Hopefully I did something that caused it to go into moderation (perhaps it’s very length?), and it didn’t just disappear into the digisphere.

          • Just a small point, but re this:

            It needs to be demonstrated that a particular slope is in fact slippery

            I’m just wondering how one would go about demonstrating that. The slippery slope claim seems like an unprovable (and also unfalsifiable) prediction. Just for discussion fodder, here is a Eugene Volokh post giving some examples where the slope did turn out to be slippery — what could have been said or done to demonstrate the possibility before it actually happened?

          • TK & JH,

            To be fair to the anti-mandate crowd, the Broccoli thing actually wasn’t a slippery-slope argument as I understood it (though maybe some folks extended it that way). It was an argument about principled limits, i.e. If that, then by what principle not this?, not, Experience shows that starting with something like that actually tends to lead to something like this.

    • I’ve never been clear what “abortion on demand” is. Does that mean abortion, up to birth, for any reason at all, i.e., not only due to danger to the health of the mother in the late or very late stages? If that’s what it is, beyond losing in the country, I wonder whether that position even commands a majority, or is even particularly common, among those who identify as pro-choice. Almost all of the defenses that I tend to see of late-term abortion from pro-choice ranks frames that defense in terms of concern for the health of the mother. They might be smuggling in their actual preference for abortion-on-demand at that stage with that framing (that’s what I would be doing if I were discuss the subject in those terms, which, if I were to discuss the subject, I likely would do). But I’m not at all sure that in the majority of cases on the pro-choice side, that’s what actually is happening.

      • I’m sure you’ve heard the argument that the abortion ban ought to have exceptions for rape, incest, and the mother’s life being in danger?

        Well, “abortion on demand” means that you don’t have to give a reason.

        I generally don’t hear it with regards to “at what point in the pregnancy” (abortion in the 2nd month can still be “abortion on demand”) but with regards to the lack of need of demonstrated reason for the abortion to take place. You don’t have to say why, just that you’d like the procedure done.

        • From what I can tell, the general pro-choice view is abortion on demand up to somwhere between the second trimester and the point of viability (it varies). There appears to be very little to no support afterwards for “on demand”.

          In short, up to somewhere between 12 and 22 weeks, the pro-choice view is something akin to “It’s not even my/the State’s business why”. And afterwards, it’s “As long as it’s medically necessary or under a handful of rare reasons. It’s still not our business which one, as long as it’s one of those”.

          • This has been my impression as well, which was my main point above. Even in the pro-choice community, support for abortion absent a health concern seems to drop off dramatically after some point in or around the third trimester.

        • So you’re saying that you think that that poll suggests that only 20% of Americans think women should have access to abortion at, say, 9 weeks for just whatever reason (such as, “I’m not ready to be a mother, I’m not going to be a good one, therefore I do not wish to be pregnant one second longer even if it means killing the baby”), and everyone else thinks the reason should live up to some particular standard that ought to be set out in law (usually that cashes out to “endangerment of the health (at least) of the mother,” though it could obviously mean pretty much whatever in every case? I suppose that could be right, but I think it sounds wrong.

          If the question is asked in those terms – “Do you favor abortion on demand,” it seems to me that would be essentially meaningless as a poll question meant to adduce policy views, and it would also be highly prejudicial phrasing. (“Abortion on demand” hardly sounds like something to approve, whatever it turns out to be, even though, I suspect, if it is what you say it is, at LOT more than 20% of the country favors it. I suspect when people hear that phrase, they think it means, “Abortion legal and available, for any reason, at all time throughout the pregnancy.”)

          • …I should say, I suspect a lot more than 20% of the country favors it at some point in the pregnancy.

          • I suspect when people hear that phrase, they think it means, “Abortion legal and available, for any reason, at all time throughout the pregnancy.”

            Given that that is what I support, I don’t tend to have a problem with people using it that way.

            But it’s easy to phrase the question in such a way that would get people to start getting all squishy on the subject.

            “Do you support sex-selective abortions?”
            “Do you support sex-selective abortions that primarily discriminate against female fetuses?”
            “Do you support abortions that would target babies genetically predisposed to homosexuality?”

            And that’s with phrasing the questions all nice and stuff. You can easily come up with inflammatory reasons for abortions and then ask whether this inflammatory abortion should be denied by the authorities.

          • If the question is asked in those terms – “Do you favor abortion on demand,” it seems to me that would be essentially meaningless as a poll question meant to adduce policy views, and it would also be highly prejudicial phrasing.

            Indeed. Here is Gallup’s phrasing:

            Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?

            I’d like to see follow-up questions aimed at teasing out more detail about those answers (and perhaps they do, and I just haven’t stumbled across it), but it’s not “Do you support abortion on demand?” Congrats, you may have an exciting career in survey design awaiting you!

          • Har! I’m a sharp one, all right. Firm grasp of the obvious here. (Or not even? I actually wasn’t sure wether it might be the phrasing, though I assumed not.)

  11. These people have no voices either.

    When I see the Pro-Life crowd eating their own dog food, condemning the death penalty, acknowledging the barbarity of the death penalty, there will be two moons in the sky.

      • An excellent point, Jaybird. It’s always helpful, when you’re about Affairs of State in matters of life ‘n death, to dehumanise the victim. If the government wants to stick something in your wife’s hoo-hoo or image your guts, it’s all good. Next, they’ll be passing Anti-Onanism laws telling us every sperm is sacred. There’s no end to how wonderful this line of thinking becomes.

          • again. you do realize that having consensual sex with the retarded is still against the law in parts of America? That forced abortions are also within the law (aka without informed consent on the retarded person’s part, even if capable of giving it)?

          • Kim – the latter part (forced abortions) is obviously immoral.

            The former seems justifiable to me, though, under the same logic that sex under the age of consent is considered rape. If someone’s sufficiently mentally disabled to be considered incapable of giving consent, any sex with them would be considered rape.

          • Kat,
            Retarded boys have some understanding of what sex is, though perhaps not so much what its consequences are (therefore putting themselves in about the same category as many 12 year olds).

          • Re: alleged forced sterilizations in California prisons.

            If the allegations turn out to be true, can we all–liberals, conservatives, libertarians, communists, what-have-you, agree that at a minimum those doctors should lose their licenses?

          • I doubt it. I rather expect we’ll start to have a discussion about whether prisoners with a life sentence really should be fertile. People will just be asking the question, mind.

            I doubt the doctors will see their licenses removed. I doubt we’ll have a public debate about whether their licenses should be removed.

    • Interesting, is it not, that some people would demand the pro-life movement’s strict adherence to a principle before giving credence to it, while others’ demand that the movement guarantee they will not seek strict adherence (e.g., that all abortions be made illegal) before giving credence to it?

      • Tim, I don’t know how that applies to Blaise’s comment (and that’s on me… but I didn’t jump to his link), but I’ll just let you know that, personally, I don’t like back-door methods to try to make things effectively illegal when the thing in question is legal (like Will’s gun/bullet analogy, or limiting access to soft drinks or sizes of soft drinks, or not providing health coverage for potentially controversial things, etc).

        The pro-life movement has certainly done this in the past (and championed it!). Maybe you, personally, don’t. If so, excellent, but that doesn’t absolve the movement.

  12. A few random thoughts;

    Because a law may be disobeyed doesn’t make it a bad law.

    We talk about the sanctity of life but don’t actually mean it, .i.e preventable death due to starvation, violence, and disease, not to mention traffic fatalities which are preventable. or deaths which occur because there was no insurance coverage, and of course warfare. Isn’t it really a pragmatic trade-off?

    Survival among premature births keeps pushing back the boundary. How is one a life and the other not?

    I hear talk about rights but what of responsibilities? A rather old fashioned notion that all rights come with responsibilities. I’m speaking of both parties. Not just the mother.

    Because a child is unwanted even perhaps beyond the means of the parent(s) to provide for, is it fair to assume that the child’s life will be a disaster? Beethoven was a candidate for this rationale had abortion been available.

    • War can be a necessity. It may not be good per se but war can be morally just. We have people advocating against starvation and violence. There are people who speak out against drunks and are treatment facilities and programs for drunks. There are food banks and even commercials by actors asking for donations to stop hunger. There are numerous soup kitchens across the country. People speak out against assault, rape, outside the womb murders. And there are laws against this violence. Now under the new health care law everyone must have insurance or pay a fine — oh sorry its been deemed a tax. Not that having insurance equates to having access to treatment and in a timely fashion. There have been breakthroughs on treatments/cures for certain diseases. And scientists are still working on cures and treatments for various diseases.

      But there is one act of violence against an innocent which isn’t protected under the law, protection of unborn babies. Abortion is a horrible act of violence. I would argue that this has opened the door to other violence in society. The desensitization to violent acts started with the lack of of respect for life in the womb.

  13. I agree, human life is not controversial and thats why we should eliminate the death penalty across the globe and implement a strong social safety net, especially true universal healthcare. People have a right to live no matter what. They could be an unrepetent killer and the death penalty would still be murder. They could be a slakcer and letting them die by not providing them with sustenance would still immoral because that person is alive and deserves to live. So I propose a horse-trade, if the right to an abortion goes away than so does the death penalty and we get our social safety net to.

    • I think it would shock you how many pro-lifers would probably take that horse trade, were it offered in those terms.

  14. Here is the crux of the issue on the pro-life side. Unborn babies have no right to live at the present time. Since they can’t speak for themselves and show themselves to anybody any other way then through ultrasound I don’t see this as coercion per se. Women make the choice to have sex or not have sex. If women have sex then there are certain consequences and responsibilities they must live with for their actions. We are appealing to the senses, appealing to humanity, human nature and for the safety of the unborn child when we advocate for laws that demand that the pregnant mother at least look at her unborn baby before she kills her unborn child.

    Never been pregnant. But I have had several ultrasounds done with having endometriosis. Even though I was in pain in the overall scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal to have a transvaginal ultrasound. It took about 5 minutes. I don’t see the big deal or why people are making such a fuss over this one small demand before the woman chooses to kill her child or let the unborn baby live. Small price to pay for choosing to have sex IMO.

    • for choosing to have sex!
      … you state this as if it’s obvious, and truth be to god!
      I’d state that it’s far from obvious…

      (perhaps I’m being simply uncharitable, and you’d
      say something different in other cases…)

    • Not only women who are pregnant are this way on their own accord. I also challenge the notion that even if the sex was voluntary, women have to deal with the consequences of their actions. Many couples who are having sex are doing everything in their power to avoid pregnancy. She is on birth control pills, he is using a condom and they still get pregnant because stuff happens at times. I’d also argue that electing to have an abortion is dealing with the consequences of sex in an intelligent and rational manner.

    • Same question to you as to Tim, Teresa. My wife and I have made a decision with input from her doctor. We have all agreed that the medically safest practice given past complications and difficulties and medical risk is for her not to roll the dice again.

      After all that which has already been emotional enough for us, why should she have to endure state-sponsored physical and mental abuse from some state-appointed religious entity armed with a shaming wand and a Chick Tract?

      • Is it safest for your wife, for your baby, or both? How do you know the outcome is going to be bad? Or that the preborn baby will cause your wife harm? That may depend on the medical diagnosis. She survived past medical complications, right? What were they? Did the doctor suggest the same thing with her prior pregnancies? If so, since everything turned out fine with her previous pregnancies what would make this time different?

        I do understand your concern for your wife’s safety but NOTHING justifies the direct killing of an innocent human life. If she miscarries that’s different. If she uses medicine and that affects the unborn baby and the baby dies that’s different than purposefully killing an innocent human being for preventative bodily maintenance purposes.

        • Including turpentine?
          Ooh, this gonna be fun!
          Lotta medicines that can kill a baby, ya know?

        • Teresa, this is my fourth attempt to compose a response to you as I could not finish my previous three attempts without an expletive.

          Is it safest for my wife? Definitely. Is it safest for my children who deserve to grow up with their mother’s love? Definitely. Is it safest for me, who wants to grow old with the love of my life? Definitely.

          And there is no “our baby”. Referring to the vague collection of cells that even a Vegas bookie wouldn’t take the chance on? I don’t care. My wife gets to make the choice on what she does for her medical health. I being her husband am entitled to make my feelings known and support the decision. Her doctor as a medical professional whose opinion has been sought out can provide his medical opinion.

          You, your fellow cultists, your religious leaders, your politicians, and your Chick Tracts have no place in this decision.

          You keep using terms that have no basis in fact. There is no “preborn baby.” There is no “innocent human life” here. There is a roll of the dice, a small statistical chance that is far more likely to cause irreparable harm to my wife than to result in a living, breathing child.

          Anything else you say to me at this point shows me that you have absolutely no perspective and deserve zero right to be any part of this decision. It also makes me want to make sure you and anyone like you never gets NEAR my wife in the event we ever have to face this decision again.

          “purposefully killing an innocent human being for preventative bodily maintenance purposes.”

          You know nothing about the sort of decision you are ranting about while you unjustifiably accuse people in our situation of murder.

          • It also makes me want to make sure you and anyone like you never gets NEAR my wife in the event we ever have to face this decision again.

            Amen, and may I add, near making sure she never gets near my daughters. The very idea that someone sitting in a living room far away, who doesn’t know our wives or daughters, feels competent to speak to what is in their interests is supremely arrogant.

            I get the argument–even though I don’t agree–that abortion is the taking of a human life that overrides the pregnant woman’s interests. But, dear lord, don’t pretend you can tell those pregnant woman what their interest really is.

          • J@m3z, I have realized the problem and error I made in continuing this discussion
            [useless, mean-spirited comment deleted. I’ll continue this filtering until I tire of it, at which point I will simply ban you. -tmk]

          • Tim Kowal.

            You have proven yourself a coward and refused to apologize for your own bad behavior. You’ve let Teresa’s ridiculous assertions and accusations of malice on the part of others stand. You’ve let Teresa’s accusations that we are murderers or somehow hold malice towards what she calls “unborn babies” stand without comment, presumably because you agree with her. You are too much of a coward to say you agree with her on this blog so instead you announce your intention to pick apart my comments and edit them at your whim.

            You’re not even close to being a gentleman. Your behavior is the precise opposite.

            If you’re a gentleman you’ll apologize. You won’t be getting any apologies from me nor any private email as you so transparently tried to hide your own response from this conversation after being asked a simple question three times.

          • Theresa knows I don’t care for her chosen rhetoric, but I’ve not found any of her comments here as vituperative and venomous as yours. Feel free to direct me to any examples I may have missed.

            With that, you’ve said your piece. Any further comments that are off-topic, uncivil, or above even a PG rating will find you banned from this sub-blog. If you’re sincerely unsure of the propriety of a comment, you can email me.

    • Even though I was in pain in the overall scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal to have a transvaginal ultrasound. It took about 5 minutes. I don’t see the big deal

      So you would consent to the procedure? That’s fine; nobody is arguing against that.

      But your consent cannot be grounds for assuming any other woman should consent, or that we should override their non-consent.

      • Wait….wait…. a woman can without much thought sleep with a man which allows a penis to enter her vagina but then afterward she suddenly cares what enters her vagina. What?!? This is to take a picture. Taking a picture in the womb according to some people in this thread equals assault. That is absurd. Showing a picture of the embryo or unborn baby shows the reality of her pregnancy, of course we wouldn’t want anyone to see that before they decide to kill their baby. Geesh! Oh my! Because ya know once a baby is killed you like can’t take that back and that may haunt the person the rest of her life.

        • Wait….wait…. a woman can without much thought sleep with a man which allows a penis to enter her vagina but then afterward she suddenly cares what enters her vagina.

          And I thought Tim’s formulation was offensive…

          • Yes, I didn’t like Tim’s comment, but objected less to his extrapolation.

            I wasn’t even going to suggest this idea. This is slut shaming.

          • It’s worse, really. It’s essentially a justification for rape: you had sex with one man, why do you suddenly care that another man puts his penis in your vagina? That’s the direct implication of what she said.

            For that reason, I highly suspect that this isn’t really how Teresa thinks, but instead the heat of the discussion and her passion for this issue have made her say something she will probably regret when she takes a step back and thinks about it calmly.

          • Yeah, because she just argued that any woman who has ever had sex (or, I suppose, ever had anything inserted into her — whether by a doctor, a spouse, or herself) is no free game for any man who wants it.

            Which…does not sound like an argument that someone would actually make.

        • “Taking a picture in the womb according to some people in this thread equals assault”

          Shoving a pencil up your ass doesn’t equal assault suddenly? I’m betting that a pencil is smaller than the camera. Could be wrong… but…

          Oh, jesus, woman don’t know she’s pregnant when she stops bleeding. It’s so unreal! But, never you mind that, honey, if you don’t figure out you’re pregnant, you can’t kill da baby! In fact, if you’re so dumb you can’t figure it out, that’s even better. We made laws for folks who got raped like you did. So you can’t decide whether to birth a little rapebaby (yes, dat was nicer than what I was gonna write. you’re welcome).

          • Gee never knew a pencil was sterilized or was a medical instrument? Big difference between the two. I’d like to see a penis that is pencil size. I doubt one exists. So the opening would surely allow something bigger than a pencil to enter the vagina. The only way it wouldn’t is if the woman hadn’t had sex.

            I would be totally open to abdominal ultrasounds being the requirement with the contention being that if the ultrasound is unable to be viewed properly then a transvaginal would be done. If technician and pregnant woman can see the embryo/unborn baby just fine then no worries.

          • Teresa,
            Not in terms of invasiveness. Perhaps in terms of our cultural acceptability… But when you’re using a medical instrument for non medical purposes…

            Can I shove an enema up your ass without your consent? To make you agree to an abortion? [This is merely perspective flipping. I am not saying I would do this, even if you paid me.]

            There are penises quite a bit smaller than pencil size.
            It is quite possible for a guy to impregnate a girl without having had sex with her.
            (note: I’m not talking swimming pools… actual and intentional insemination.)

        • In fact, honey, a woman can without ANY thought sleep with a man.
          That’s called rape, if she’s not consenting.

          Do you really feel like compounding her agony?

          • 1) Violence would be compounding violence. Abortion is violence. Two violent acts don’t make it peaceful. You should talk to many, many women who have had abortions, who regret having had them and have experienced both psychological and physical problems due to having the abortion. The negative ripple affects from having an abortion is profound.

            Rape also includes sperm which the instrument doesn’t have. So comparing the two doesn’t make sense.

          • what you are suggesting is government enforced non-medical, invasive procedure.
            If that’s not violent, pray tell, what is?

          • “Can I shove an enema up your ass without your consent? ” Hospital personnel essentially already do this. At least whether consent was given would be in question. What if physicians agreed and said it was medically necessary for every pregnant woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound to alleviate concerns? They said it was to make sure everything was okay internally? What would you say?

          • Rape also includes sperm which the instrument doesn’t have.

            Come on, Theresa, let’s not play word games. In many jurisdictions rape is defined as any forcible penetration of the vagina, whether with a penis or some other object. And even if you want to limit the definition of rape to the use of a penis, as many other jurisdictions do, you haven’t gotten past the issue of sexual assault, which always includes forcible penetration of the vagina with an object.

          • I’ll be at 3rd and Vine around 8. I’ll have a red flower in my lapel.

            No eye contact.

          • So, if the rapist wears a condom, it’s not rape?

          • What if physicians agreed and said it was medically necessary for every pregnant woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound to alleviate concerns? They said it was to make sure everything was okay internally? What would you say?
            I would call B.S. since it is widely known that it isn’t necessary and therefore a useless comment. Heck it wasn’t necessary in my case although at the time. Had I known then what I know now, I would not have consented to that procedure. If it was necessary, it would be standard. It is neither.

          • Teresa,
            if a hospital shoves an enema up your ass, and you did not consent, you are either unconscious or have been deemed mentally unable to give consent (and the person that has power of attorney has consented in your stead).


        • woman can without much thought sleep with a man which allows a penis to enter her vagina but then afterward she suddenly cares what enters her vagina

          Well, yes. Quite obviously a woman can do this. Carelessness at Time One does not logically preclude carefulness at Time Two. Woman do it all the time, as a matter of fact, so to question whether they can do it is a bit odd.

          Whether they should do it is equally odd. You’re arguing that being uncaring at Time One should dictate being uncaring at Time Two, which is a very strange normative argument. One moment of carelessness, as a general rule, absolutely ought not require a subsequent moment of carelessness.

          Taking a picture in the womb according to some people in this thread equals assault.

          That is absolutely a mischaracterization of every argument made against transvaginal ultrasounds. It is not the picture taking that people object to, but the method of taking the picture. Several have said that they would not object to requiring surface ultrasounds. It is not the required picture, but the required vaginal insertion that they are calling assault. I really dislike this false characterization of other peoples’ claims, and I hope it was inadvertent and not an intentional falsehood.

          Because ya know once a baby is killed you like can’t take that back and that may haunt the person the rest of her life

          The possibility that our choices may haunt us the rest of our lives is not a sufficient justification for regulating them, else we would have justification for regulating nearly all choices. But that kind of paternalism is incompatible with a free society.

          • Liberty without morality is unfettered liberty. The problem is the consequence doen’t involve one person. It involves two persons. One doesn’t take a bit of responsibility but make the other take full responsibility by paying for it with his/her life when he/she wasn’t the one who chose to open her legs and got pregnant.

          • Teresa,
            Are you in favor of allowing abortions for women who have been raped, or otherwise tortured into giving consent?
            How about in cases of spousal abuse?

          • Liberty without morality is unfettered liberty.

            You know, I don’t have much of a problem with the idea of unfettered liberty. I don’t think you can find a society where too much liberty was the essential problem.

          • Whose morality, Theresa?

            If I find abortion at 20 weeks moral and you don’t, what do we do then?

            Whose morals should fetter liberty?

        • I was in pain in the overall scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal to have a transvaginal ultrasound. It took about 5 minutes. I don’t see the big deal or why people are making such a fuss over this one small demand…
          It isn’t your body, you have absolutely no say in my medical decisions and neither should the government. I too had a vaginal ultrasound – when I was pregnant for what I realized later was to confirm what was already obvious. I was carrying a fetus with no heartbeat. Yeah it was really cool to see additional imagery of the lifeless body while lying there being uncomfortably probed. You may not find it a big deal, but you cannot speak for me or any other women who would choose not to have this procedure.
          Wait….wait…. a woman can without much thought sleep with a man which allows a penis to enter her vagina but then afterward she suddenly cares what enters her vagina.
          Whoa… you make sex sound like it is always dirty and unnatural. Quite frankly, I consider choosing not to have sex unnatural. Relationships thrive on intimacy and yes sex is an important and healthy part of life. Just because I consent to sex with someone does not mean that it is either rational or moral to consent to have a state mandated medical procedure in order to make an informed decision. I don’t believe that we have any business trying to make laws which have no other purpose than to emotionally blackmail someone into making some decision preferred by people who have no interest in that individual’s true emotional and physical well-being. The mere idea that a women cannot make her own informed decisions is beyond sickening to me.

    • If women have sex then there are certain consequences and responsibilities they must live with for their actions.

      So the whole calculus should change, then, in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape. Except, it can’t change, since the position is also based on the principle of the reality and sanctity of true human person-being in the womb, which does not vary with the level of consent to impregnation given b y the person who owns the womb. Which means that consent to sex, even if morally significant in some cases, ultimately gets eclipsed in every case by the humanity principle. I would consider giving credence to the responsibility-for-sex argument if the pro-life side were consistent in relaxing the obligation to bear a child in the cases of rape, except then I’d be off the hook because if they did that they’d be violating the fetal human inviolability principle (where the fetus is never responsible for the rape of the mother).

      It’s a sticky wicket that comes out for choice every time.

  15. Few subjects attract more absolutist thought, yet are so resistant to absolutist logic, than abortion.

    Society has a compelling interest in defining when legal protection begins and ends. Yet our science doesn’t have any valid way of giving us the answer to when those points are.
    The law demands a bright red line, yet the harder we look for one, the more it fades away.

    Tim points out that the public supports banning late term abortions; neglecting to add that they also at the very same time, favor keeping early term abortions legal. This happens to be a point of view I favor.

    Yet I have to admit that the logic behind this is maddeningly frustrating in its illogic.

    “Humanness”, defensible by law, occurs, oh, somewhere around the 2nd trimester, give or take. So in the first trimester, the mother’s rights are paramount; as time progresses, the fetus gains more importance until somewhere in the middle, its rights outweight the mother’s.

    What magic happens? Is there some drumroll and thunderclap when that happens?
    Thats doesn’t seem to be how the universe works- the natural world rarely provides clearcut demarcations between phases, between states.

    Holding that life begins at the moment of conception is facile, in my view, unsupported by any science, or sound theology, for that matter. Yet the same goes for holding that life begins at the moment of birth.

    Since science can’t provide us with a clear answer, all any of us can really do is use intuition- if it looks like a baby, its a baby- if it looks like a blob of cells, it is. Which is the point behind Tim’s insistance on pictures- not of scrambled fertilized eggs, but on mid to late term fetuses.

    • The law demands a bright red line, yet the harder we look for one, the more it fades away.

      Yes. This is often the case, but given the heightened salience of the abortion debate, especially problematic.

      If science could give us a bright red line, that would most likely give us the focal point whose absence I emphasize somewhere on this page.

    • I take it you are unaware of what a 7-week old embryo looks like on an ultrasound.

      It looks like a kidney bean. Well, I lie, on an ultrasound it looks like a smudgy white dot on a really grainy background.

      See, that’s sort of a point here — the law mandates ultrasounds when there is no fetus, just an embryo. Which is so small that a transvaginal probe is needed to do an ultrasound. And the result? Is not anything that looks like a baby.

      But women getting an abortion have to have a probe shoved into them, stare at a white dot on a grainy background, because apparently if they don’t, they don’t understand what “abortion” is.

      Unlike the fine folks in the legislature, who apparently don’t need probes shoved into them to grasp this distinction.

      Seriously, I don’t get the YOU MUST LOOK AT THE PICTURE OR YOU DON’T GET IT.

      Are women stupider than men? Does entering an abortion clinic — or getting pregnant — render them incapable of making decisions?

        • <a href="; Here’s a link for people (like me) who can’t get to youtube.

          Many people are pressured into having abortions and may know what abortion is, but don’t have a conceptual grasp on what the “is” is that is being taking out of them. It is not just a blob of cells. That is what many women are told, which is false.

          So, again, the argument is “Women are too stupid to know what they’re doing, so [smarter people, generally male] have to school them”.

          Or is it “women who get abortions” are dumb?

          You’re simply not going to get a lot of traction on the “Look, you, who is pregnant — you don’t KNOW what an abortion is, unlike me, who isn’t pregnant. I understand in a way YOU don’t. I understand. You don’t” line. I mean, I gave you points in that you’re female — it’s not nearly as idiotic a point as when it comes from a man.

          But in the end, you’re still just flat out claiming you, the uninterested third party, know more than the principle party in the case.

          Which is…not a good sell, especially when your proof for this basically boils down to “If she understood like I do, she wouldn’t be getting an abortion, ergo she doesn’t understand”.

  16. Gah! I’m having tech issues (and I’m hoping this will fix it – Tim, please feel free to delete this comment).

  17. I know Tim dislikes really contentious discussion threads, but of course every blogger likes to actually get lots of responses. So the big question here is, did Tim win or lose with this post? 😉

  18. Kim,

    I know at least one person who was raped and kept her baby. She said it was the best decision she made.

    With rape I hate the idea of compounding one act of violence with another act of violence. With saying that I can understand and am empathetic for the woman not wanting to carry the baby to term after having been raped. But sometimes we can’t base our decisions on our feelings we need to base our decision on reality, that there are two lives involved, not one. I can most certainly understand the pregnant mother not wanting to keep the baby after birth. The woman could be responsible and do something that is morally good. She could choose to give new life, allow that life to continue to live, giver birth, give up the baby for adoption and pick up the pieces of her life, feel good about herself in doing the right thing and move on with her life.

    • And you want to take all the choices away from her because you think your one experience generalizes to everyone in the world.

      How blind and hate-filled.

      • Not blind and hate-filled. I have so much love for both the woman and child. I feel sorry for you, that you don’t understand that. Murder is evil. Pure evil.

        I’m thinking about promoting abortions for all animals. And see how that goes over with the environmental whackos. Its sad how some care more for animals than fellow human beings just because they’re in the womb and unable to speak for themselves.

        Slavery all over again. Actually worse.

          • There are no “innocent unborn babies” to be “killed” in the scenarios we are discussing. What your cult tells you is not reality.

        • Slavery all over again. Actually worse
          Yes. Forcing a woman to carry to term a fetus which every day reminds her of the violent act forced upon her and then the government forcing itself into her vagina again – reminding her that the product of this violent interaction has more value than her life and people like you who want her to continue to carry this reminder to term with not a care about how emotionally devastating it can be. Yeah. I would consider that slavery.

          • Equal importance of both lives. You are the one totally ignoring one life and putting importance entirely on the other.

          • Nope. I am placing the choice of value on the person who the other life must rely upon to be viable. It is no one’s responsibility for that life other than the mother. It is her choice not yours, mine, or anyone else’s. We have no rights to what happens in her body. If she believes that it is moral to not bring to term the life that she will be responsible for, it is and should be her choice.

        • abortions for animals are de regeur. You’ve heard of pigeons, yes?

    • Or, she could understand that this child might, in turn, be subject to adoption by folks (perhaps even like yourself) who believe that “gayness” is a condition to be fixed.

      Sure, give your baby away. But, before you do — you reckless, self-righteous person, ask yourself — is your baby gonna be on the streets, if not dead, before he’s 18?

      Giving babies up for adoption sounds good, in principle. If I were pregnant, I would certainly consider it. But, looking at the American adoption system — and at our current pregnancy system — I’d consider it immoral, for me. And doubly so for a 12 year old.

  19. Kim,

    I would compromise on abortion. My first compromise would be ban all abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and if the life of the mother is in danger/at risk.

    My second one even though I hate it would be the same as above with up to 4 weeks abortion being legal. At least this would mean less abortions, less killing of innocent human life. But that doesn’t mean I would not advocate for a total ban on abortions after this is implemented or try and get those who were raped to give up their babies instead of killing them.

    • Teresa:

      If we’re mandating medical procedures…

      Would you support mandatory vasectomies in men at age 13, reversible only upon adulthood with a contractual, state-mandated obligation to support any children they sire, should the mother choose not to do so?

      • No. I would support programs which teach self-control and teach abstinence for both sexes. There is already child support.

        If women don’t display self-control I see no problem with pregnant women having an ultrasound. Its not even close to being invasive like a vasectomy. When the sperm meets an egg cell a new human life forms. When something involves saving life versus killing life I will always favor whatever involves the saving of life, or even the possibility of that happening. As far as invasive, I consider it invasive to break apart small bones and burn human flesh and body parts during abortion.

        • I don’t understand why it is the women that need to display self control, or bear the brunt of the outcome.

          There is, after all, a penis involved, here.

          If your goal is to eliminate or reduce abortions, and mandatory medical procedures are an acceptable tool to achieve that goal, then eliminating the sperm from the equation does that.

          Almost entirely, the staggering majority of abortions would disappear overnight.

          Why is this not an acceptable alternative? Given that lessons can be taught and not learned, and that in all of recorded history the ability of the young to make poor decisions – especially when in the grip of Eros – is legendary.

          • Actually at some point in the thread I advocated for teaching them both self-control.

            I understand your point about men and vasectomies but I see that as much more invasive than an ultrasound (which I don’t see as invasive).

            If an abortion only affected me and didn’t affect another life and have dire or fatal consequences for the unborn baby or embryo then I would be all for the woman having a right to make poor decisions and learning from them.

            Women were given an awesome gift, the ability to bring new life in this world, and IMO no person should think of an embryo/unborn baby as a burden, punishment, or a pariah. Men weren’t given that gift. They play an important part in creating another human being but they were not given the gift of being able to carry new life inside of them.

          • Teresa,

            Have you ever had a transvaginal ultrasound? Even if so, just because you don’t find them invasive doesn’t squat if other women find them highly invasive.

          • Patrick,
            her goal, and Tim’s and many other people’s , is not to eliminate abortions. It’s to have more babies, in general (the Ruth Institute’s leaked documents give ample evidence of that). Whether that involves “legalizing rape” (oh, not the violent sort. Teresa despises violence,after all), or other, more pleasant, things… Doesn’t matter.

            Hell, they don’t even realize it themselves, probably.

          • Kim, if that’s her goal, I’d prefer to let her state that rather than infer it. While I believe that the unintended consequence of Catholic teachings on sexuality and reproduction is more babies being born to the people with the least resources to raise them, I do believe that this is an unintended consequence. Catholics have always been pretty good about trying to help the poor.


            To be clear, I think teaching self-control is a fine and dandy thing. However, I don’t believe that the process of teaching self-control is uniformly effective, nor do I think that this is a goal that you accomplish and test and then call it a day.

            Effective self-control is something humans are bad at, at all ages. Slips in self-control come from all sorts of internal and external forces interacting with the grey goop up in our noggins.

            The point is, we have no reason to believe that the process of teaching adolescents self-control is going to be particularly more effective than the methods that people have used for about ten thousand years… and for the last ten thousand years, we’ve had lots and lots of humans that are bad at self-control. In fact, we have an emerging bunch of evidence that teaching self-control to humans is going to have a fairly bad success rate (particularly young ones not fully developed from a brain chemistry standpoint).

            That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it.

            It just means that we have to expect that it isn’t going to be particularly effective.

            As a result, it’s pretty obvious that even if this was our number one method of cutting down on abortions, and the one that we spent the most resources on, and the one that everybody was on board with following, we would still expect that there would be a lot of people having sex due to a loss of self-control.

            And, uh, the people with the least amount of self-control would also unfortunately have the most unintended pregnancies. Q.E.D. This is a particularly bad longitudinal outcome as it will contribute to the pervasive generational nature of endemic poverty, right?

            So, given that we’re going to have this scenario, and given that you regard abortion as a particularly wretched social evil (by your comments here and on other posts by Tim, if I recall correctly), and by your own willing admission that the loss of liberty and choice by half the population is an acceptable consequence of your desire to curb this wretched social evil, I have to ask… why is it that forced sterilization is something that you’re apparently not even willing to entertain?

            Look, forced ultrasounds are going to maybe stop some percentage of abortions (I don’t think it’s particularly effective, myself, but let’s go out on a limb and wildly guesstimate that it will stop 20% of all abortions, which I think is off by about an order of magnitude, but work with me for a minute).

            If there’s 10,000,000 abortions a year, and we stop 20% of them by forced ultrasounds, we’ve still got 8,000,000 abortions a year.

            Now, forced sterilization (with opt-out) will still leave us with some cases of abortion (notably, the raping and the incesting crowd may opt to reverse their sterilizations), but the vast majority of abortions I would guess would vanish. Well over 90% of them.

            So we’ve gone from preventing 2 million murders (by your definition) to preventing 9 million.

            If the absolute horror of abortion is truly your primal mover, here, I can’t see how the invasive nature of a vasectomy comes into play as being a deciding factor, when the end result is massively more effective. It’s a half-hour outpatient procedure that requires basically no recovery time, sitcom jokes aside. Arguably, it’s effectively no more invasive than a forced vaginal ultrasound. It’s certainly less invasive than an abortion, so even from a personal liberty standpoint it winds up removing far less liberty from a pair of individuals than a forced ultrasound plus an abortion!

            And, you know, from the standpoint of history, it might be a matter of justice to have the men be the ones who bear the brunt of a social policy change instead of the women, given that we’re ahead of the girls by about eight trillion or so.

          • Patrick, I’ve got another take on this:

            The whole notion of ‘self control’ is pretty offensive to me; it’s not about ‘self-control,’ it’s about depravation. And the notion of ‘self-control’ typically means girls controlling themselves; it veers dangerously close to slut shaming. That same controlling society accepts that boys will be boys, wink and a nudge that his appetites will get fed.

            Sex is wonderful. Girls are every bit as driven to be sexual as boys are. I don’t particularly care of anyone thinks it sinful, I think it wonderful and I would live in a world where healthy, responsible sex is encouraged and nurtured.

            This whole put our sexuality in the closet garbage (not just homosexual sex, but all sex, don’t talk about it, don’t delight in it) sucks. And at the same time, go turn on the TV or flip through a magazine: sex is used to see just about everything. That’s also disgusting.

            To me, self-control means taking responsibility for your sexuality. It means learning how to avoid unwanted pregnancy and disease. How to express your desires to a partner, how to hear his or her desires and please him or her in a respectful way. It doesn’t mean depriving yourself of sex, it means learning to cherish and embrace sexuality in a healthy way; and not condemning others for embracing their sexuality.

          • Patrick,
            I do not believe that their position is to create a society where babies cannot survive. To shame and put women through suffering on the grounds that they’ve been loose? Perhaps.

            I do agree that Catholics have been at least okay on the whole charity thing.

            I’d not put words in folks mouths if I thought they’d truly thought through their positions.

          • Patrick,

            I disagree, and wager Teresa would also, with your characterization that ultrasounds result in “the loss of liberty and choice by half the population.” Given that the nature of your argument here is to demonstrate how the pro-life position by its own terms leads to certain results, then let’s consider the terms of the position. We reject the asocial view of liberty in which every individual is an island, where rights exist without duties. For this reason and others, we reject a “right” to abortion. But even working within the current legal construct, we reject that requiring ultrasounds prior to receiving an abortion works a “loss of liberty.” In principle, it is similar to imposing conditions on obtaining a driver’s license, such as obtaining liability insurance. Only the particulars are different, and thus the question is whether there is a nexus to a protectable state interest and whether the measures to protect that interest are reasonable. Under that construct, I’ve offered my position that because the invasiveness of the measure is of the same nature and less intrusive than the sought abortion procedure, and further because the measure is already routine for medical reasons anyway, the measure is clearly not unreasonable. The only response I’ve received here is that I’m advocating “medical rape” and my general point of view gives some people indigestion. Which is to say, I’ve not received any meaningful response at all.

            Your suggestion that the measure is effectively no different than forced sterilization is a better response than what is currently on offer here, but that’s a low bar and it simply misses the mark. Ultrasounds would only be required for those seeking an abortion. The measure is thus not only narrowly tailored, it is perfectly tailored, requiring not a single person to have the procedure than is necessary to help save an actual unborn life. Forced sterilization, on the other hand, would affect tens of millions (at first – ultimately hundreds of millions) of people who might never contribute to a pregnancy or a potential abortion.

            The issues of prevention and self-control lead to a deeper discussion than we can have here, but in my view, self-control is important not because it is the best preventative measure, but because it is a good thing in itself. The good life is not merely about pleasure and convenience and avoiding pain and inconvenience. It is about discovering and mastering one’s self. Incidentally, this is why we reject the fiercely individualistic point of view about liberty. Liberty cannot be divorced from responsibility. Part of liberty is about reaping the consequences of one’s actions – not only the desired consequences, but all consequences. Considering consequences enriches our choices and gives our lives meaning. The procreative nature of sex enriches conjugal relationships. Indiscriminately stripping human beings of that nature subject to permission of the state to obtain a reverse vasectomy would be a drastic and terrible thing. Would it be more effective at preventing the need for abortions? Of course. But at the cost of drastically altering the nature of sex, procreation, family, human relationships, and creating who knows what other indirect cultural effects.

            Abortion is wrong in the pro-life point of view, and more specifically the Catholic point of view (I’m not a Catholic, but I might as well be for purposes of these sorts of issues), because it violates human dignity and human nature. So too would mandated indiscriminate vasectomies. It should be clear that, in our view, one could never be considered an acceptable substitute for the other.

          • Kazzy, Clancy has a TV ultrasound and actually found it less uncomfortable than the regular one they tried first. Which tells us nothing about how other women are supposed to feel about being probed.

          • I think sexual self-control is a thing and a thing that matters, but Zic is absolutely right that it needs to be applied equitably between the genders, which some folks are pretty bad about not doing.

          • Tim,
            I would be interested to hear from you the answer to this question:
            “When do we have the duty to end an innocent life?”
            I find the answers are both vast and illuminating.

          • Zic:

            FWIW, my ideas of self-control more closely map to yours. The point of this little bit of subthread is for me to accept many of the frames that Teresa accepts, in an attempt to show how (even if I thought quite a bit like she does) my conclusions would be drastically different from hers, and to ask her to explain that discrepancy.

            I’ve had this argument before. The way that issues like “choice” and “responsibility” and “obligation” are presented, in this argument, make it seem like these are the focal points of the disagreement.

            My contention is that they are not, in fact, the focal points of the disagreement.

            This example illustrates why. Here, I’ll save some time and rather than walk the path, I’ll describe the path.

            Even accepting many of the opposing side’s ideas about the proper roles of choice and responsibility and obligation, I still come to the conclusion that there are better alternatives than what they are proposing.

            And, of course, there is a reason for that. Because, I’ll assume… like the other cases of this argument that I’ve had before… I’m guessing Ms. Deal actually gives equal, if not greater, precedence to living a Catholic life in the equation.

            That is, even presupposing that I agreed that medical interventions, mandated by the government, were an acceptable policy tool to reduce or eliminate abortions (which is the stated view, thus far, on the thread), my conclusion is that there is a more effective mandated medical intervention that solves the problem that Teresa (and most pro-life Catholics) regard as probably the most important social issue of our time.

            The reason why this is not regarded as an acceptable alternative is that Catholic teaching forbids it, of course.

            So in the public policy problem space, the viewpoint of the average pro-life Catholic is not, in fact, that “government-mandated medical interventions are acceptable to prevent abortions”. It isn’t, because that doesn’t generalize. So when they argue this, they’re claiming a level of legitimacy that the argument, itself, doesn’t possess.

            What they’re actually arguing is that “government mandated medical interventions that are acceptable to Catholic teachings are acceptable to prevent abortions.”

            That junks the whole approach. We can stop talking about mandated medical procedures. We can stop talking about the rights of the unborn or the rights of mothers or whether or not this or that is more effective.

            That’s not our fundamental disagreement.

            Our fundamental disagreement is that Catholic pro-life advocates want the government to establish laws following not just ethical or moral principles, but ones that are acceptable to the dogma of Catholic theological principles.

            You can guess why I think this is a nonstarter.

          • Thank you, Patrick, and yes, I 100% agree. I’ve also had trans vaginal ultrasound after suffering an ovarian cyst, and they are invasive. They’re simply an attempt to shame a woman into not having an abortion.

            I would simply expand what you’re suggesting to include the fact that sex is not something that should be eliminated outside the needs of reproduction; which is what’s meant by ‘self control.’

            But my bottom line here is that accepted Catholic dogma on sex, women’s rights, and reproduction is evil and irresponsible, the cause of untold misery the world over, mostly bourn by poor women. Considering that the families of 12 children, so common amongst Catholic families when I was a child, are now incredibly rare in the US, I suspect most Catholics at some level understand this, and find little objection to using reliable birth control.

            What’s so disturbing about this argument is that we focus on US law, and not the far reaches of Catholic dogma. It only takes a few days in Central America to reveal evil of that dogma. Those women, pregnant, a child a the breast, a toddler on her back, and another slightly older toddler at her side, have every much a right to control their reproductive lives as Catholics in this country who only have a few children.

        • Would you support a $50,000 payment for women, upon pregnacy, to compensate them for the time/inconvenience of being pregnant?
          (that’s about market rate, by the way).

        • hehe. abstinence. You aren’t the one who’s looked at abortion clinic records, are you, honey? The sluts ain’t the ones getting pregnant. They know how to give blowjobs, or get the boy to put on a condom. Oh, you should see the girls in Christian camp! Maybe you were one, I dunno. But when they search your belongings for all birth control… lotta babies get made.

          … apologies to anyone who’s offended by this comment, I am merely stating the truth as it is.

  20. Jonathan,

    “Morality without liberty isn’t really morality.”

    You have that backwards, mixed up. Morality and liberty are not foes. They both must respect nature and nature’s laws. One person’s liberty cannot infringe on another’s liberty. That’s what abortion does. Plus, it violates the Constitution. Abortion kills a developing person who has the right to life. True morality cannot be changed by humans such as meanings of this and that. What is licit and is illicit cannot be changed by humans. Accepting evil and thinking things that are immoral are okay doesn’t change the fact that those things are immoral.

    • Nonsensical and absurd.

      A zygote in a petri dish is not human life. It’s a die roll. At best it is a tiny potential that a Vegas bookie wouldn’t bet on. It could be a thousand zygotes and that does not change anything, none of them are more than a die roll and as long as they remain in that petri dish the die is un-cast. Even when placed into the womb it’s still just a die roll and a woman absolutely has the right to decide not to play those odds at all.

      I don’t care what your cult thinks, I know what I’ve been through and I know that your religious beliefs have no right being anywhere near my government or my wife’s body.

      • Yea because we all know if you let that zygote grow it wouldn’t be a human being (sarcasm).

        As far as ultrasounds go, yes, there are no innocent life being killed. In talking about abortions, yes, innocent unborn human beings are being killed. With ultrasounds there is the possibility of saving human lives.

        What did the embryo/unborn baby do to you? Did the embryo send an axe murderer your way or something? Did it cause its own life to be made? No. But you are sure putting a target on the unborn baby’s back. So much for we are all created equal.

        • You should probably focus your efforts on the biggest aborter of all time: Mother Nature. Or God. Pick your poison.

          Depending on when you think human life starts, the numbers aborted by cold nature are staggering. 80% if you count a fertilized egg as human (and a surprising number do, given their dislike of EC. Although the IVF backlash is surprisingly muted).

          20% if you count confirmed implantations.

          The only conclusion? God hates babies.

          • “The only conclusion? God hates babies.” Nope. Not even close. God allows for free will. People make mistakes and sin. That’s where repentance comes in. There are diseases and circumstances that prevent life from forming. Partially due to our Fallen nature and it isn’t the right time or something prevented it for whatever reason. God loves. God is love.

        • If it sits in the petri dish it will just die. If we try to implant it into the womb the vast majority of the time it’ll die anyways. It is a cast of luck. A roll of dice. A draw from a poker deck. It is an absurdly low statistical possibility. It is not an “unborn baby” [grossly uncivil personal attacks deleted -tmk].

          • I dunno. I mean, think about it — so many pregnancies ended, before the woman even knew she was pregnant. How many careless glasses of wine, a smoke, or over exertion caused an unnoticed miscarriage?

            So many dead little babies.

            There’s no choice. We have to prevent this. I think we’ll just have to ban alcohol and cigarette consumption for women between, say, 11 and 55. (Just to be safe). Kick them out of the military too. Ban them from any jobs around any sort of unsafe chemicals. They shouldn’t be working, really, too much danger.

            You can’t call yourself really pro-life if you’re no in favor of locking women in padded cells between them losing their virginity and menopause. It’s for the babies.

          • Cletus, please pardon my response from before. I was speaking about pregnancy in general as in if it wasn’t in a petri dish but in a growth inducing place in the womb.

          • I don’t think you get it, Teresa. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a collection of cells in a petri dish or a womb. It is a mere potentiality and one that has incredibly bad odds. The life of my wife cannot be measured evenly against it. The right of my children to have their mother in their lives cannot be measured against it. My right to grow old with the love of my life cannot be measured against it.

            It is a bad chance. It may well be a zero chance. And against that weighs the threat, the incredibly high chance of harming irreparably my wife or killing her. There is no malice in this decision. There is no hate in this decision. There is reality. There is what IS instead of the wishful thinking your misguided cult wants you to self-delude with.

            [invective deleted -tmk]

          • Who is tmk and what gave them the right to grossly change my comment?

            [nothing was changed, only redacted. and unlike the unborn, pseudonyms have no rights here. -tmk]

        • Every sperm is sacred
          Every sperm is great
          If a sperm is wasted
          God gets quite irate

  21. Taking a break for now cause I’m in really bad pain with taking my pain meds. Be back later.

    Love the discussion.

  22. Johanna,

    Why do you think one life is more important than another? Why do you think she should have a choice to murder her unborn baby? Isn’t murder murder? A baby out of the womb is totally reliant on the adult as well ya know. So, what’s makes it legitimate in your eyes to kill a human being in the womb versus outside the womb?

    Practicing a bit of Machiavellianism?

      • Consequentialism too. Does the size of a human being decide the wight of importance for each person? The fact that you don’t see different human beings of various stages of development and different sizes as equally important, and equally worthy is life, is sad and a testament to how much our culture has gone down in the gutter.

        • Glad to see you’re not being a cultural relativist.
          Just being a self-righteous, chauvinistic prig.

          You want to know about our culture, honey?
          Our culture has family trees that go straight up. No branches.
          Capiche? Or, wait, did you only want to go back to the fifties, and no earlier?


          • No I just believe that every human life is sacred, special and should be treated with human dignity. I do not treat a smaller being as less important, like garbage that can be thrown away, just because that being isn’t finished developing and is unable to speak for him/herself.

            Well, my dear you are a feminut. I am a true feminist.

          • Teresa,
            That may be as the case may be.
            But if you’re going to defend incest
            and wifebeating, own it, girl.

            And if not, stop trying to say that our
            culture has gone into the gutter.

  23. Posting in order to view again. This is a very annoying bug.

  24. “Theresa knows I don’t care for her chosen rhetoric” What rhetoric is that? Telling it like it is. I thought you agreed with my position or essentially so. Meaning for the most part.

    • I think he means that you come across as being sanctimonious.

  25. Cletus, I feel sorry for you. Please do some research and you’ll find out that biology supports the fact that a new human life has begun at the moment of conception.

    • This is a semantic difficulty, Teresa.

      A new organism has been created. It is very likely not viable. As pointed out elsewhere on this thread, spontaneous miscarriage is the norm, not the exception.

      This isn’t a matter of original sin, it’s biology. Our reproductive system wasn’t designed, it evolved, and it’s evolution is not a path of perfection. Just good ’nuff to get the next generation going.

      I will probably not accept that there is a rights conflict between two parties when one party cannot be shown to possess self-awareness. There may be moral considerations. There may be ethical considerations. I’m unconvinced that there are rights involved.

      • Yes it is. But there is a big difference between a miscarriage happening on its own and a person directly purposefully killing another human being. Self-awareness has nothing to do with whether a developing new human being has a right to live. Since the embryo is a developing human being then that human being has a right to live.

        • How much of a right?
          Seriously, put a dollar value on it.
          (It is okay to say infinity, but I would not recommend it).

          How much are you willing to pay to ensure that every embryo gets to be born?

  26. “We’re dealing with a dogmatic Catholic. The term brainwashed doesn’t go far enough.”

    What a shock, an actual Catholic who believes what the Church teaches, morals and all.

    Catholicism is NOT a cult. For anyone to think that is absurd. A warped sense of reality as far as the Catholic Church is concerned. The Catholic Church has certain beliefs and high standards of morality which I believe wholeheartedly.

    I’d rather have a healthy conscience, know the difference between good and evil avoid acceptance of evil and be considered “brainwashed” then otherwise. I will be praying for your conversion of heart.

    • I don’t have any interst in “your standard” of morality because I do not find it the best example of what good or moral or Christian or a model for how I want to live my life and treat others unlike myself. Less than 20% of the world consider themselves to be Catholic and of those how many actually really stand by its doctrine?
      So the majority of Humans do not buy into your version of morality yet you think it is those rules that stand above the largest majority of humans that disagree. Evidently the majority of humanity, myself included are not interested in your version of what is good and evil.
      The decision to have an abortion for the majority of women is not taken lightly, but it is and should remain hers because this potential life will impact her life in ways that can prove to be wonderful or disaterous. Slut-shaming, emotional blackmail, and non-medically necessasry intrusive procedures are neither just or moral and your willingness to condone such behavior tells me you have a twisted view of morality that I want no part of.

      • Defending innocent human life isn’t moral. Gee, isn’t that just peachy?

        I believe people should not be able to choose to kill innocent human life.

        How come being a slut is revered by our society nowadays? Your promotion of irresponsibility is horrible. Women deciding to make their innocent unborn baby pay with his/her life because of a mistake that the woman made is NOT taking responsibility for her actions. She is putting all the responsibility on the unborn baby.

        If you think believing every new human life has a right to live is a “twisted view of morality” you are sadly mistaken Johanna. Not recognizing that killing unborn babies who have done no wrong is evil and advocating for evil is an immoral, warped and pretzel mega twisted sense, upside down view of morality.

        I’ll stick with my morals. At least mine don’t consist of advocating for murder just to make a person’s life easier.

        • Defending innocent human life isn’t moral. Gee, isn’t that just peachy?

          This is why I can’t debate this issue with anyone who disagrees with me. Teresa knows that Johanna and zic don’t believe that killing innocent human life is moral, but she has to pretend otherwise for rhetorical purposes.

          How come being a slut is revered by our society nowadays? Your promotion of irresponsibility is horrible.

          Ugh… this is the other reason: the inherent misogyny in the “pro-life” position makes my stomach turn.

          • I’ve seen more pro-choice commenters remark on the state of their digestion than in any conversation in recent memory. Too much dairy?

          • Chris,
            what upsets me is not just the inherent misogyny, but the fact that it has no statistical basis — in fact, the statistics run the other way. Which makes the misogyny (and its attendant support of abstinence-only education — “no more sluts”) lead to poorer outcomes for young women.

          • Tim, metaphorically, for sure. Teresa’s approach to this issue is hard to swallow, to run with the theme.

          • I’ll add that I am just a few blocks from ground zero for this debate at the moment, and if I walk outside I can see the capitol. I’ve spent a few afternoons going to the rallies, and it’s even worse in person, because only the really passionate people show up for such things. It’s amazing the sorts of invective you hear hurled at the pro-choice side. The pro-choice side is, of course, very loud, but I haven’t heard many insults flying in the other direction down here. Mostly just variants of “get out of my womb.” It is certainly enough to upset one’s digestion.

          • Also, for a while I lived near (easy walking distance) a PP clinic. The women often need escorts to enter, which is stomach-turning by itself, but if you heard some of the things that the constant small crowd of protesters said to the women as they entered, I suspect your stomach would turn a bit as well.

          • But didn’t I just see you remark that reliance on emotional reactions is despicable? On that point, actually, I tend to agree: emotions are a part of our humanity and they should be a part of our decisions, but we ought to be careful not to let them in control. Emotions play a more important role here than digestion, incidentally. 😉 We can disagree about what ultrasound images do; in the OP, I argue that they inform the intellectual structure already in place in most Americans’ minds that there is something there worth protecting. In a comment above I referred to the hypothetical of the unknown mandarin to further draw out the point that there is more to moral decision making than mere abstracts. Personal connections matter. Images help establish valid, relevant connections that inform the heavily morally charged decision of whether to have an abortion. That claim in no way presupposes a belief that the woman is intellectually defective or wanting, and certainly not that women in general are.

            Tarring the “pro-life position” with “inherent misogyny” is a yellow flag, in my opinion. Again, Teresa could use a lighter touch, but I took her use of the word “slut” as following the precedent set by the numerous accusations of “slut shaming,” or variants thereof, already mindlessly thrown around here. And while this would lead to a very different discussion for another time, there is room for reasonable debate and criticism about sexuality in our culture. I certainly think it is inappropriate for either side of that debate to hurl epithets like “slut” or “slut shaming.” Thus, I urge Teresa and everyone else to choose their words more carefully.

          • By the way, my last comment was initially directed at Chris, but then referenced a comment by Kim. Sorry for the confusion.

          • Wait…. wait…. so Kim and others on this thread are not for abortion?

            Being for both the mother and the baby is not misogyny.

            I am passionate on the issue of abortion but I don’t think pro-choice or pro-life people are any better than one another. I am for all life, the unborn, females, and males from childhood to adulthood.

            I totally understand about why people decide to go through IVF. Believe me I know, I doubt I would have gone through with IVF but hubby and I were thinking of trying AI prior to having my hysterectomy. All of God’s creation is special whether it happened with help of IVF, AI or not.

          • Tim, I disagree about the value of the images in a rational discussion. I suspect that most people who eat meat would be rather upset by images of animals being slaughtered, but this would not support a rational argument against eating meat unless the slaughtering were necessarily and blatantly cruel (say the animals suffered a great deal before death). I don’t mean to analogize fetuses to animals, lest Teresa take this the wrong way, only to point out that disgust and other emotional reactions can lead to moral decisions that have nothing to do with reason (there is actually a great deal of research on this), and it’s quite clear to me that’s what the purpose is here.

            Also, I’m not making a decision on the emotions that the insults and harassment I saw at the PP clinic on a regular basis. I had already made my decision. I’m just pointing out that it caused an emotional reaction.

            The misogyny we can debate, if you’d like. I take much of what Teresa has said here to be explicitly misogynistic, not just the use of the word “slut,” though, and it is pretty tame compared to some of the stuff I’ve heard from pro-life people in the last two weeks in person.

          • @Tim

            “I certainly think it is inappropriate for either side of that debate to hurl epithets like “slut” or “slut shaming.” Thus, I urge Teresa and everyone else to choose their words more carefully.”

            So decrying the mentality behind judging women based on their sexual activity is in the same category as judging women based on their sexual activity?

            Got it.

          • also @Tim
            You used the load term “pro-abortion”. Those of us who support the right to choose are looking at keeping open options when there are hard decisions without good clear answers concerning women’s reproductive rights. We are not embracing abortions or encouraging them. We are not pro-abortion. Pro-abortion as a phrase is less accurate and just as inflammatory as “slut shaming”. At the point that women are told that they have no right to object about having an unnecessary medical procedure that requires the insertion of an object into their vagina since they were fine with penis insertion, I would contend that “Slut shaming” as a phrase may be inflammatory but it isn’t inaccurate.

          • Johanna, I did not use that term. I used the term “pro-abortion rights.” Actually, the full reference was to “pro-abortion rights folks.”

          • “pro-abortion rights” pro-abortion still is inflammatory as it isn’t abortion we favor it is the choice and I prefer the choice to not be abortion the better and more accurate term would be to get rid of the prefix pro. Yes is is semantics but in our language pro notates enthusiasm and I contend that people are not enthusiastic about abortion. It is an unfortunate necessity.

          • Tim,
            “Tarring the “pro-life position” with “inherent misogyny” is a yellow flag, in my opinion. ”

            Throw a yellow flag, if you will, but note where I’m addressing. Not the pro-life, but the “abstinence only education” idea. And I’m doing it on a purely statistical basis, in that it leads to more abortions than other methods of teaching.

            (yes, the data’s old. HIPAA)

        • Um. Okay. Who’s gonna pay for it then? you?
          I can send you a request for a few million.
          Are you willing to advocate for enough funding to protect innocent human life?
          How about pediatric burn victims?
          How about poisoned children?
          How about your old grandma, who can survive for another 50 years on that respirator?

          I do not condone murder except for the innocent’s sake. If their life is truly not worth living, and extremely unlikely to get better… Then I shall condone murder.

        • I am not promoting murder or sexual irresponsibility. I am promoting the concept that as a woman, I have a right to make decisions concerning my body that others do not and should not have. The mere idea that all women interested in terminating a pregnancy do so is an act of irresponsibility is chilling and a flat out mischaracterization of reality. I don’t believe that early abortion amounts to murder. I believe that a woman deciding what is in her best interest in the early stages of pregnancy and sometimes beyond to be enough. We all weigh our options according to our own personal situations and beliefs. Are there abortions to avoid the results of a loose sexual encounter? Of course, but there are also cases where responsible women are put in a situation where a life with a child or just a pregnancy amounts to a conclusion that the consequences of continuing a pregnancy in their eyes will cause incredible and often irreversible avoidable harm. You don’t have children. You haven’t had to deal with a risky pregnancy (I have) while already a parent and it is far more common than you would like to believe. A woman should have the right to value her own life and the life of her already living and breathing children over a “potential” life. You should have no say on how she comes to that decision.

          If you believe that all abortion is murder, so be it. I will not however let your beliefs dictate others through your claims of murder and religious belief especially when it involves a non-medically necessary and invasive procedure so you can attempt to make a point.

        • Wait…. wait…. so Kim and others on this thread are not for abortion?

          Teresa, you know what I meant. That you pretend otherwise is yet more evidence that talking to you on this issue is pointless. I believe the only other interaction I’ve had with you was over at JoA, on the subject of Catholicism, and I saw a bit of this then too (and I was mostly on your side that time), so I think I’m going to just stop addressing you. Have a good one.

          • Its too bad you can’t handle having a civil conversation (which your comments are stretching it there) with a person who disagrees with you. A person who challenged your point of view and beliefs.

            I was specifically talking about abortion before. Not anything else. Geesh you really can’t handle a bit of levity or sarcasm can you?

    • I personally don’t think anyone should be allowed to attend a Catholic church without being shown a 20-minute film about the pedophilia scandal and the coordinated effort by the Church hierarchy to cover it up. Far too many people attend church lightly, without considering the consequences of their actions.

      • “Today, nearly two-thirds of Americans support making abortion generally illegal after the first three months of pregnancy.”

        I contend you’re exaggerating when you say that human life is not too controversial.

        I perhaps misspoke, as I believe you were deliberately misstating the truth — to score rhetorical points, rather than lying to mislead.

        • The linked poll shows that those who “think abortion should generally be illegal” “In the second three months of pregnancy” total 64% of respondents as of the most recent poll in December 2012. If that’s not “nearly two-thirds,” the next most recent poll puts the number at 71%.

          Please explain how I was “deliberately misstating the truth.”

          Kim, you have been around here long enough to know how much I value honesty, integrity, and civility in debate, and how much I hate accusations of dishonesty and bad faith. I know this is much to expect in the comments of a blog, but it is my blog. So I politely ask you to please withdraw the accusation.

          By the way, I do not mean to single you out. I expected more of other commenters as well, but until now (beginning especially with Cletus) have been pretty laissez faire. I intend to change this. I will plan to post a commenting policy for this sub-blog soon, but for now, to those of you who know or should know where the boundaries are, please conduct yourselves accordingly.

  27. Ugh, who is editing Clet_ and calling him a “retard” and “dickless wonder?” I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone edit a comment at any of the League sites and show themselves to be a bigger ass than the person they’ve edited until now.

      • Ah, I apologize. Because it said he was banned, I assumed they were edited. My mistake. Again, I apologize.

        • I suspect your understandable confusion was his intent.

          My senior year of high school, a group of friends and I paid to have a page in the yearbook – a ridiculously dramatic photo of us.

          We captioned it something like “We love you guys and will miss you – The School.”

          People were LIVID – “What did THOSE wisenheimers do to get the school to dedicate a yearbook page to them?!”

  28. I oppose such requirements because they are moralistic mandates.

    Should someone interested in becoming a gun owner be forced to look at pictures of people injured or killed with firearms? Should we require them to attend an autopsy of a firearms victim? Maybe we should just shoot them in a fleshy bit, so they know how it feels to be on the business end of a gun?

    • It is designed, much like the giant photos of fetuses (on the UT campus, a group used to put up an 18 foot picture every year), simply to elicit an emotional reaction that, so the authors and supporters of such bills hope, will change the woman’s behavior. It is explicitly manipulative, and nothing more. It says, “We can’t get to where we want legally or rationally, so we’re going to try to trick you into having an emotional reaction.” Even without the legally-mandated penetration, I find it despicable.

    • Anyone who’s old enough to remember when high schools taught driver training [1] will recall having to watch gory movies about car crashes, designed to scare you into being a responsible driver.

      1. In California, at least, it’s all private instruction now.

      • A decade ago, when my kids were doing the driver’s ed instruction (private), I had to go and watch a gory video about train crossings with them.

        Of course, that’s state law, and gory viewing requirements will have a plethora of variations.

        • Unlike Chris and (I assume) MRS, I have no *inherent* issue with explicit/gory images (so long as they are reasonably truthful/accurate ones) being used as a tool for people to attempt to change minds by eliciting emotional reactions.

          We accept that advertisers, artists, and yes, even the government use this tactic all the time (see also: diseased smokers’ lungs photos); and without these tactics, that starving kid in Africa might not get his $1 a day, or the SPCA their donations.

          But we must stop short of the mandatory sticking of things into unwilling people’s hoo-ha’s to produce said imagery.

          That’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

          • I ask that the explicit be shown in something resembling a classroom, and presented in a factual manner.

          • I have mixed feelings about the use of violent or gory images for the purposes of altering behavior generally. On the one hand, if gory images of accidents makes other people drive better through fear, that’s obviously a good thing. On the other hand, it’s probably less effective, and less lasting, than if you just teach them good driving habits in the first place. The case of tarred lungs is similar: not particularly effective, especially long term, because the emotions are fleeting and we’re not talking about an issue that tends to elicit strong moral judgments (that is, people aren’t likely to judge smokers, or even smoking, as immoral after seeing those lungs, and it would be kind of weird if they did).

            Where moral judgments are concerned, however, I think we tread a very dangerous line if we use disgust and fear as our primary rhetorical devices. For one, there is as in the case of driving and smoking, an issue of its long-term effectiveness since using disgust and fear is likely to manipulate moral judgment at a pretty early Kohlbergian stage. But my real concern is with moral manipulativeness in general, not just with the use of violent images to manipulate people’s moral decisions.

            Another example not involving violence occurred here in Texas a few years ago. Governor Perry “mandated” giving the HPV vaccine to all girls as part of their 12th year vaccine schedule. They weren’t forced to get it, as the parents could opt out and it wouldn’t affect the children in any way, but it was made part of the standard vaccine schedule. There might have been some legitimate concerns related to how new the vaccine was, so that information on long-term side effects was not yet available, but this was not the approach the HPV-mandate opponents took. They constantly associated HPV at 12 with girls having sex at 12, because HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. The reaction was pretty predictable: “I am disgusted and outraged at the idea of my daughter having sex at 12! I oppose this mandate!”

          • Questioning its efficacy or wisdom is A-OK.

            But questioning its “rightness” seems weird to me (so long as the images are truthful, and applicable, and weren’t procured via, essentially, assault).

            For example, what if I proposed a law that said that any person signing up for the military had to look at a picture of an burnt APC that had been blown up by an IED before they could sign on the dotted line, so they knew what they were potentially getting themselves into.

            Some non-zero number of people might say, “whoa…that coulda been me” and not sign up.

            That may, or may not be what we want.

            But as a matter of providing potentially-relevant info to the person about to make the decision, I find it hard to find much fault with such a thing, at least conceptually.

          • Well, my immediate response to that is, “Why don’t we show people what the stuff we take out will look like before any surgery?” Because I can tell you that pretty much any medical procedure is disgusting, and will elicit similar responses to the giant photos of fetuses, particularly when you realize that it’s your body that’s going to look like that.

            But again, my real problem is moral manipulation. We know now that even irrelevant information that elicits an emotional reaction, even though we consciously know that reaction has nothing to do with the moral judgment we’re making, can influence our moral decisions, and relevant (or potentially relevant) emotion-eliciting stimuli can cause us to make choices that go against what we’ve arrived at by careful reasoning and deliberation. By relying on emotional manipulation or moral decisions, we open the doors to all sorts of bad behavior.

          • A relative of mine made the mistake, once, of watching a video showing a knee replacement operation. Which postponed him getting an operation for several years.

            Admittedly, the pain and rehabilitation were quite bad. But that wasn’t what had him put it off — it was the images of gruesome surgery, exposed bone, and gore. The thought of that happening to HIM.

            Whereas the reality was going to sleep, waking up doped to the gills, and some nifty scars. And a lot less pain, even with physical therapy deliberately pushing his limits. A year later? His day to day pain is a tiny fraction of what it was.

          • At the place I had my LASIK done, it was standard procedure to watch a video monitor showing the procedure preceding yours. I think the idea was to show that it was no big deal, but to me it looked *exactly* like this scene from A Clockwork Orange.

          • We shouldn’t let emotional responses overwhelm our intellectual reasoning (sorry for the imprecise terms, but hopefully you know what I mean), but emotional responses do serve a purpose – they are part of the total toolkit of how we make decisions, and exist for a reason. Many a moral decision – what we would call conscience – has been taken not through careful intellectual reasoning, but because someone felt gut revulsion at something they saw happening to their fellow man.

            Should we recognize that emotions exist, and be aware of how easily they can be manipulated, and discount them in relative primacy to reason when necessary? Absolutely.

            But should we go further and say that anything which risks stimulating the emotions is therefore verboten? I say no, since at that point we may be obscuring relevant info.

            As a general rule of thumb, I am not usually against almost any increase in the relevant info that can be provided to the decision-maker. Attempts to suppress some particular set of info – supposedly for the decisionmaker’s own good, so they are not “manipulated” or deceived – seems suspect, and in fact seems potentially its own form of manipulation.

            To your surgery example, if I am going to get a tumor removed, I might see an X-ray or CAT scan or MRI image of that actual tumor, and/or a photo of a similar tumor or surgery, perhaps taken from a medical journal’s case study.

            Will these pictures dissuade me from getting the tumor removed? They might, I guess…but why is that an argument against providing me with truthful, accurate info before I make my decision? The whole fundamental point of this discussion is that people are autonomous, and the decision is ultimately their own (which is why a medically-unnecessary vaginal wand is such an intrusion, since they did not choose it and there is no medical justification for it).

            I don’t think people should harass women trying to enter a PP clinic; but sitting silently nearby and holding a picture that shows a fetus, or an aborted fetus, or a child, or whatever seems a perfectly valid exercise of their free speech and their own conscience. They believe these are countless murders taking place. I wouldn’t expect them to stand by, and not even try to change people’s minds.

            Going further, if the law mandated that the doc performing the procedure had to show the patient a picture of a similarly-aged fetus, and the person had to check a box saying “My doctor has explained to me what a fetus is and what an abortion entails”, it wouldn’t disturb me all that greatly, any more than if I had to check a box saying “I understand that getting an appendectomy means I will no longer have an appendix”.

            It’s maybe a slight imposition but it’s not really all that onerous. And it may risk biasing some – but everything we see risks biasing us. Life isn’t a courtroom, where potentially prejudicial evidence can (or should) always be struck from the record.

          • The thing is, the question at hand — what started all this thread more than anything was — should we shove a tool into a woman’s uterus for no reason other than to show her a grainy photo.

            Why not just require a freakin stock ultrasound photo — or video — of the fetus at whatever age is applicable? They’ve got them, you know. Tons of them. Often taken by far, far, far better ultrasound machines than the ones in question.

            You know, show the EXACT same thing, only without the “shoving a wand up her” bit.

            Except, of course, that the point isn’t to change her mind through photos. It’s to make the process more onerous, uncomfortable and humiliating to try to make her change her mind — but they can’t exactly say that, can they?

            Which leads to uncomfortable times when otherwise sane people say things like “She’s already having some stuff shoved in there, what’s a few more things for no reason, on the off chance it might make her do what I want her to do! Which is, you know, NOT abort the baby!”.

            Which is where this all starts and ends. What are legitimate means to change her mind? In the hands of private citizens, or the hands of the state?

            The condescending, paternalistic tones of “She must not understand, or else she’d be doing it my way” are like a bonus insult to the whole affair.

          • I have no issue with explicit imagery to gain a person’s attention for the purposes of helping them not meet with tragedy. I do take issue with using to try and force a snap decision in a desired direction. I also find it offensive for government to mandate scare tactics for adults & dress it up as trying to “making sure people have all the facts”. It is extremely insulting.

            The proper (IMHO) use of shock images is this:

            When I was in the Navy, I had to take a motorcycle safety course before I could ride on base. The class started with explicit images of riders killed in unpleasant ways, along with a story as to what went wrong. Once they had our attention, we spent the next 2 days learning how to NOT end up like those pictures.

            I had similar training in boot camp (the STD slideshow will guarantee you always have stock & supply in Trojan), & in ‘A’ school (for driver safety).

            The goal, however, was always, “This is what can happen if you aren’t careful, now here is how you minimize that risk.”

            When my son is old enough (an age yet to be determined by his mother & I), he will learn to shoot a gun. First, however, he may see graphic examples of the power of a gun. Not Hollywood graphics, either (gonna really depend on who he is at that age).

            When I am certain I have his attention, he will learn proper safety & handling.

          • Morat20, not sure if your question is to me, since threading has collapsed, but I agree that sticking a wand in someone is *way* over the line. Sans permission or medical justification, (or I am a suspected or convicted criminal undergoing cavity search prior to incarceration) that’s assault.

            I have said, in several different comments, that *if* the intent is to provide maximal information to a decision-making individual (a goal with which I generally, broadly agree) then a stock photo of a similarly-aged fetus would be more than sufficient to accomplish this.

            Now, when we start saying, well why should we even show them a photo? Presumably she already knows (or doesn’t know, or doesn’t care) what a fetus looks like – she’s there to get an abortion; giving her any additional info is paternalistic and assumes she can’t make her own decisions!

            At which point it starts to sound a bit like some of my more wild-eyed libertarian brothers, saying things like “Why do I need an ingredient listing on the Coke can? I’m here to get a sugary drink; giving me any additional info is paternalistic and assumes I can’t make my own decisions!”

            Would we think it all that strange if dentists were required to show the patient pictures of his abscessed tooth before removal? Or the mechanic, to show the customer the busted fan belt before replacing it?

            I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily be FOR such a requirement – if the customer wants this info, they should be free to request it. But if such a requirement existed, I also wouldn’t really see it as such a bad thing. It’s additional information. More information is almost always good.

            I mean, sure, if they had to shove something up my butt to produce that information, that’s wrong; but otherwise, they are in essence saying “this, right here, is a pictorial representation of the situation we are here to resolve”.

            A picture, in and of itself, is simply a fact; one which may be taken into consideration with all other relevant facts.

        • I consider stuff like that to be rather inhumane, personally.
          Effective? perhaps. Justifiable? maybe.
          But still inhumane.

  29. Kazzy,

    Yes, I have had a transvaginal ultrasound. I don’t see this as being an invasive procedure. For me that sort of intimates women are thought of as weak, not being able to handle a particular safe medical procedure to view the embryo. That they can’t be uncomfortable for a small amount of time.

    • I beg to differ and I was pregnant when I had mine. We are discussion the embyro in the first trimester. Even if you see it, there isn’t anything medically to be done that would help it make it to term anyways. Vaginal ultrasounds are used to confirm a suspected problem and not in a perceived normal pregnancy. So again, regardless of safety and discomfort, it is not routine and medically necessary.

    • You can “think” that all you want.

      But, let me ask you a question. What would make you physically uncomfortable and feel very queeky? Because I’ll get to work on a law mandating you do that before you go through a legal medical procedure.

    • My wife had one. She winced in pain as the probe was inserted.

      As a general rule, if a procedure involves a condom and lube, it is probably at least SOMEWHAT invasive.

      • I guess I don’t see it as invasive because I’ve had the procedure done many times and am used to it.

        I’ll tell you what is invasive, having a what looked like a small water hose shoved up your vagina. I had that done when I was making sure I didn’t have endometriosis in my bladder. That was BAD. That was definitely invasive.

        • Maybe you should make a chart of what is, and isn’t, invasive when inserted into the vagina for no actual medical reason. (Leaving aside happy fun time issues).

          So apparently vaginal probes = another day at the office, but small water hoses = a bridge too far.

          let’s really pick this thing apart, so we know exactly where you draw the line when it comes to medically unnecessary insertions.

          On a side note: How do you feel about medically unnecessary vaginal insertions for other problems? Like if you went to the doctor for birth control pills? Should you get one then? Sleeping problems? Broken bone? Is it only abortions that mandate medically unnecessary procedures, or can we derive a class of medical cases in which we should add unnecessary insertions to?

        • But Teresa, as evidenced by the fact that you and my wife had very different responses to the procedure, this is a perfect case of YMMV.

          And when dealing with something like an individual’s body, I think we should tend toward respecting the varying mileage rather than issuing edicts from on high based on what elected officials (most of whom don’t even have vaginas) think is or is not invasive.

  30. Sorry, Tim… down here!

    I just saw this comment, I’m guessing because of the caching issues and me jumping ahead. It deserves a response.

    I disagree, and wager Teresa would also, with your characterization that ultrasounds result in “the loss of liberty and choice by half the population.”

    To clarify, that characterization was aimed at Teresa’s desire to see abortion itself outlawed, not the ultrasound provision itself.

    We reject the asocial view of liberty in which every individual is an island, where rights exist without duties.

    I, personally, believe that rights exist without duties; or to be precise, rights exist without any duty provided they do not conflict with another right. If you have a right to life, you have a right to life regardless of how you choose to live that life.

    This doesn’t mean that duties don’t exist, to be clear. But I don’t think duties and rights are tightly coupled.

    It also does not mean that those two classes of things are equitably encoded into law. It’s pretty easy to encode a right into law (even presupposing that you and I disagree on where the right comes from, we can both agree to encode it into law, as we’ve discussed before here and elsewhere). It is not quite so easy to encode duties into law (shall we discuss charity and the welfare system, for an example?)

    In principle, it is similar to imposing conditions on obtaining a driver’s license, such as obtaining liability insurance. Only the particulars are different, and thus the question is whether there is a nexus to a protectable state interest and whether the measures to protect that interest are reasonable.

    Moving back to the particulars of ultrasounds, I somewhat agree with this framework for the discussion, yes.

    because the invasiveness of the measure is of the same nature and less intrusive than the sought abortion procedure, and further because the measure is already routine for medical reasons anyway, the measure is clearly not unreasonable.

    I don’t believe this is sufficient, because (in no particular order) the efficacy of the measure is in question, the measure itself is not shown to be the most or least effective measure, and the purpose of the measure is to enforce a particular understanding of a protectable state interest that is, itself, in dispute.

    Ultrasounds would only be required for those seeking an abortion. The measure is thus not only narrowly tailored, it is perfectly tailored, requiring not a single person to have the procedure than is necessary to help save an actual unborn life. Forced sterilization, on the other hand, would affect tens of millions (at first – ultimately hundreds of millions) of people who might never contribute to a pregnancy or a potential abortion.

    This is a fair point, however my counter would be something along the lines of, “Show me some male person who is 40 and hasn’t had sex without intending to procreate”. Because I’m pretty sure that’s a very, very small set of people (discounting homosexual activity, I suppose).

    While forced sterilization is thus broad, I’d argue that it’s not nearly as overbroad as you’re implying by this framing.

    I’ll punt on the discussion of self-control because I’m pretty sure you and I are both on a reasonable delta, there, and the nuances of our differences are a huge digression in the context of this particular thread. But!

    The procreative nature of sex enriches conjugal relationships. Indiscriminately stripping human beings of that nature subject to permission of the state to obtain a reverse vasectomy would be a drastic and terrible thing. Would it be more effective at preventing the need for abortions? Of course. But at the cost of drastically altering the nature of sex, procreation, family, human relationships, and creating who knows what other indirect cultural effects.

    I’m really not sure I agree with this. In fact, I’m pretty sure I disagree with it.

    In my (admittedly limited) experience, parenting is done best when it is done with a whole heart. Making the sex act non-procreative absent an active choice would (I suspect) immensely improve the overall quality of parenting, and by extension the overall quality of childhood.

    Granted, this means some people who would be accidental parents (and good at it) would no longer experience parenthood. I’m guessing this is still a net gain, myself.

    • Oh, and lest I be misunderstood: I’m not for forced sterilization of males prior to sexual maturity, myself. It just seems to follow from the principles I’ve seen described on this thread better than forced ultrasounds.

  31. There are so many people on waiting lists for adoptions today. There are more adults than babies due to abortion.

    Someone talked about gay adoption above. Not sure who. I am totally okay with gay couples adopting children. If single persons are able to then I see no reason to exclude gay couples. The children would be much better off with a loving gay couple than in foster care.

    • Yes. They’re waiting for white babies. Healthy white babies.

      If you’re not healthy, white, or an infant, your chances of adoption drop through the floor. Which is why foster care is stuffed with unadoptable children. They had the misfortune not to be white, to be unhealthy, or to be older than about six months.

      • Actually the baby part is true, but as far as race or ethnicity I know a few couples that don’t care about the race or even if the child has special needs.

        • You say that. Ask them if they care about rotting meat in a child’s bedroom.
          Or thievery, or half a dozen other “quirks”.

          And I haven’t even grazed the surface of the worst issues.

      • Two things: there was, seriously, an argument that came from the left, of all places, that said that it was inappropriate for white people to adopt black children. This causes bottlenecks.

        Additionally, foster care is stuffed with unadoptable children for a lot of reasons. Let’s say that a mother is in prison. Should someone be allowed to adopt this child? What if the mother gets out? Stays clean? Gets a job? Could be a good mother? Would you rip this child from his natural mother to adopt it to a white family?

        Well, believe it or not, there are people who say “yeah, this child should be officially unadoptable.”

        • Two things: Seriously, no one says that anymore. And hasn’t for, like, decades. The kids that screwed over? Paying mortgages now. Although, you know, in all fairness I can sorta see the paranoia (black groups were quite concerned — and far outnumbered the relative few whites worried about destroying black culture) given the tenor of the times. (See Australia and aborigines for an example of how nasty such things can get).

          As for “unadoptable because they still have parents” — those aren’t the topic of discussion here. We’re talking about actual, no parents/parents have surrendered custody rights children.

          Anyways, here is a good source of actual stats. However, detailed US stats haven’t been as good since the early 90s (apparently some US government programs that required states and counties to collect information and then send it sorta..stopped.) Another source is here

          Short cuts: Way, way, WAY more minority children (especially black) in foster care than whites than should be, demographically. 55% plus of kids were adopted before the age of 5, which your chance dropping below 20% after the age of 10.

          Most kids adopted were adopted by former foster care parents. There’s not actually a line of eager people waiting for children to adopt. About 20% were adopted by people who weren’t related or already working as a foster parent.

          • Morat, I think you are right about “healthy” and you are right about “infant” but I do not think you are right about “black” insofar as it is a black, healthy infant (or Hispanic, Asian, etc.)

            As far as I know, if my wife and I were to be approved for adoption, there would not be healthy, non-white infants waiting for us to take them into our home. The waiting list may not be as long, but it I am relatively sure there is a wait.

            If you can show me something that says otherwise, I’d be absolutely thrilled to hear it. Children #2 and #3 may be adopted, and we don’t care if they aren’t white.

          • From what stats I can see, there’s a lot more minority infants in foster care (generally black and hispanic, not so much Asian) than there should be, demographically. Then again, that’s not controlled for socio-economic effects either.

            Children from poor (money-wise) parents are more likely to have lacked prenatal care for starters. That’s not even getting into environmental and other effects like parental drug or alcohol use.

            And of course, there’s the whole “If you have money” route to adoption, which tends to avoid the foster care system entirely.

          • I just saw an article on how adoption agencies have to “price” black and Hispanic babies/kids cheapers to incentivize people to adopt them.

            I don’t know exactly how the cost structure works but where ever there is discretion, certain agencies use it. There is something really, really disconcerting about that, even if the effort is noble.

            Read about it here:

            I don’t think my paraphrase based on reading it a couple weeks ago does it justice.

          • Morat, I would expect that the infants in foster care are products of parents who haven’t necessarily (legally, entirely) left the picture yet.

            I think socio-economics would play a role in the disparity. As would (to be blunt) that minority babies are more likely to be taken from their parents than white babies. Into exactly the sort of situation where they aren’t adoptable because parental rights haven’t been completely severed, but they’re taken away “just to make sure.”

            That the babies would cost less to adopt doesn’t surprise me. I believe that there is racial preference in such adoptions. What I am more skeptical of is that there are perfectly healthy, minority babies that don’t have families that would adopt them.

          • Trumwell: You would, in fact, be wrong. The links I posted up a bit indicated something like 50 or 60% of the kids in foster care had officially had ALL parental rights terminated.

          • Or to put it another way: We don’t have orphanages so much anymore. We have foster care. It’s where ALL the kids end up — orphans, abandoned kids, kids taken from their parents, etc.

          • Morat, that doesn’t disprove my statement. My statement pertains to infants. Your statement pertains to all kids in foster care* I believe that infants are probably disproportionately likely to have parents that have not screwed up sufficiently – yet – to lose all of their parental rights.

            Unless I am misreading you, and it is the case that 50-60% of all infants in foster care have had parental rights completely terminated. Actually, wouldn’t even be required. Just a significant percentage.

            Given the rates of international adoptions (including Africa), I just don’t see any reason to believe that there are lots and lots of healthy, non-white babies that we cannot find adoptive parents for. I haven’t seen anything to support that. I’d be a heck of a lot less worried about our own potential adoption prospects if I had.

        • The National Association of Black Social Workers still argues this.

          Check this out:

          “Preserving Families”

          Dude, the very link you cite says that MORE THAN HALF of the kids in foster care are waiting to (and I’m cutting and pasting this): “Reunify with Parent(s) or Principal Caretaker(s)”


  32. Glyph, I’m replying down here because the embedding was making it harder for me to read the comments. Hopefully this will be better.

    but emotional responses do serve a purpose – they are part of the total toolkit of how we make decisions, and exist for a reason.

    I agree 100% with this, and I don’t think emotions are to be ignored, but I do think they are not to be manipulated for the purposes of causing people to make decisions that go against their interests or values without actually changing those interests or values. I think a medical procedure with no medical value that is strictly designed to elicit an emotional reaction in order to change people’s behavior to make it more in line with someone else’s values is bad ethics, bad politics, and bad medicine.

    I do not think that the photos of aborted fetuses should be banned or censored. I agree that is a free speech issue. I just think it is a pretty nasty and manipulative tactic: “Look, it looks like a baby, so you should treat it like a baby” is not a rational argument, nor is it adding any relevant facts to the discussion. It is strictly manipulative. Same with the ultrasounds. I mean, we know what’s in there, right? It’s a fetus. Showing us what the fetus looks like doesn’t add any information on which we can make a more rational decision? It merely plays with our emotional attachment to things that look like babies. We’d get a similar reaction from a slaughtered lamb, but I don’t think a slaughtered lamb photo is a valid reason for a moral prohibition against eating lamb chops.

    • If we found that a large number of people were pressing the button and killing mandarins, would it be manipulative to show them a picture of the mandarins before they press the button?

      • If they thought it was the orange they were killing, yes.

      • I dunno, what’s a mandarin?

        If someone was killing people, and didn’t realize they were killing people, then yeah, I’d want to show them who they were killing. This is not analogous to abortion.

        What you’ve done is determined the issue beforehand, and used images, instead of reason, to manipulate people into at least momentarily behaving in the way that fits with your view of the situation. I don’t think the fetus is a person. I find the images of aborted fetuses upsetting, because they are upsetting, and I can imagine that if I were a woman making the highly emotional decision to have an abortion, I might change my mind upon seeing them, but it wouldn’t be because I thought I was killing a person, because I still wouldn’t think I was. It would simply be because of my emotional reaction on top of an already emotional situation.

        • I haven’t determined the issue beforehand. If you recall the argument in the OP, I pointed out that the vast majority of people think the fetus is something worth protecting, at least at some point during development. That’s a pretty widely shared principle. And it concerns a matter of utmost gravity — the destruction of human life. But as it appears, many people seem not to act on that principle, suggesting that there is room for the images to serve a useful purpose in causing more people to act on moral beliefs they may already hold. It doesn’t have to be a perfect fit: that some people may feel the images are manipulation does not mean there isn’t a valid reason for the images.

          • “Worth protecting” is different from “not choosing to abort.” I think fetuses are worth protecting, too, but you’ve decided it is a person, and I have chosen to decide that it isn’t.
            Showing pictures will not change anyone’s mind about that, mine or yours (if I showed you a blastocyst, it’s not like you would decide from its distinctly non-human appearance that it wasn’t a person).

            What it will do is make an emotionally-charged person have an emotional reaction, and not one that it is at all relevant to the decision she has to make. It’s just a picture of what the fetus looks like, which provides her no new information (hell, she can look it up online — why don’t you just show her a picture of a fetus, or force doctors to have one on the wall, instead of forcing her to have a medical procedure?).

          • I acknowledged there is not a perfect fit, but you insist that the images could only have the tendency to make their decisions on “an emotional reaction.” I guess we just have to agree to disagree.

            They made a movie about the Chinese Mandarin hypothetical, called The Box. Lots of people seem to find the idea quite compelling, that otherwise morally competent people might act differently towards people we don’t know, have never known, and will never know. You and millions of satisfied viewers can agree to disagree about that as well.

          • it concerns a matter of utmost gravity — the destruction of human life

            What do we mean by human life?

            My pancreas are living human cells, so are they human life? But nobody objects to their removal or destruction, so that isn’t a matter of utmost gravity.

            Do you mean a human being? That would be a matter of the utmost gravity. But we’re not agreed that a fetus, and especially a zygote, is necessarily a human being. So if you’re implicitly asking us to discuss this with an agreed assumption that it is “a matter if utmost gravity,” we have to demur.

            The question of what exactly the fetus is and when, is a fundamental and unresolved issue, whose answer is of crucial importance. So your terms “human life” and “matter of utmost gravity” frame the issue in a way that produces your desired outcome, meaning you have, in fact, you “determined the issue beforehand.” Just as much as the person who analogizes the fetus to a clump of cancer cells has.

          • An embryo doesn’t do any self-directing. Due to lacking, you know, a brain. Or the ability to survive on it’s own.

          • Tim,

            So you have no problem with abortion before self-direction begins?

          • As Robert George puts it: “although an embryo has not yet developed a brain, it is clearly exercising self-directed integral organic functioning and so is a unitary organism— an embryonic human being. Its capacity to develop a brain is inherent and developing, just as the capacity of an infant to develop its brain sufficiently for it to actually think is inherent and developing.”

          • Ok, don’t assume everyone agrees with that, but let’s go with it for the moment.

            Is it possible for a person to see the destruction of that pre-brain unitary organism as not of “utmost gravity” without it being the case that the person either misunderstands what is objectively true or is a moral monster?

            Or to put it more graphically, if a person distinguishes between the destruction of an embryo and the destruction of a toddler, is that person necessarily a moral monster or objectively mistaken?

          • There are different relevant factors present at different stages of development, but the dispositive moral fact of discrete self-directedness that demands dignity and respect, I contend, does not change. Failing to recognize that dispositve moral fact does not necessarily make one a “moral monster,” as you put it. But it is quite easy to mistake other relevant but non-dispositive factors as dispositive. Such are the factors that distinguish embryos from toddlers.

          • the dispositive moral fact of discrete self-directedness that demands dignity and respect

            Is this an objective truth?

          • Can that be demonstrated, or must it remain an assumption?

          • It is demonstrated in the same way any other moral fact is. I would prefer, like Robert Nozick, that there was some way of demonstrating it that somehow physically compelled others to acknowledge it. But alas, recognition of moral truths often comes about only through long reflection.

          • So the truth cannot actually be demonstrated; it can only be known through reflection? Is that a correct statement of your position?

            And if it is, does it follow that disagreement is in itself necessarily sufficient evidence that the person has engaged in insufficient reflection?

          • It can be demonstrated. The difference is that, when it comes to moral facts, demonstration often in not enough to compel acceptance. Whether an individual’s failure to accept a demonstrated moral fact is the result of insufficient reflection is impossible to say as a general matter. It is quite possible the demonstration is insufficient, having not demonstrated all necessary antecedent premises and conditions. Moral reasoning is a high forms of human reflection. It is not something that can easily be reduced to sheet music.

          • although an embryo has not yet developed a brain, it is clearly exercising self-directed integral organic functioning and so is a unitary organism

            So do plants and amoebas. They don’t have agency, tho. Even then, they might have a right to life.

            an embryonic human being.

            Yes, that’s the thing, isn’t it. By biological definition, the human blastocyst is an embryonic human being. That seems to be the pivot on which the argument turns, no?

            Its capacity to develop a brain is inherent and developing, just as the capacity of an infant to develop its brain sufficiently for it to actually think is inherent and developing.

            Definitionally this is true, assuming the blastocyst develops in accordance with “normal” biological processes. But how does the mere capacity to develop a brain, rather than having a fully functioning brain – like the mother does – become a trumping moral fact? Does the potentiality of this potentially moral fact override the actual moral facts that obtain in the mother? How is that argument supposed to go? I’ve heard lots of em, and none of them are persuasive. Brute assertion seems to be the most compelling of the bunch.

          • The demonstration of moral facts must begin always from universal principles. (This is why I have made an effort to lay out what I call “presuppositional” principles to our Constitution, i.e., principles that must be true for the Constitution to be intelligible, and why it is dangerous for courts to purport to alter, supplant, or ignore those principles. But that’s a topic for another time.)

            For example, here are ten universal principles from the intro of Fr. Robert Spitzer’s 2011 book of the same name:

            I. Principles of Reason
            Principle 1: The Principle of Complete Explanation (Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle)
            The best opinion or theory is the one that explains the most data.
            Principle 2: The Principle of Noncontradiction (Plato and Aristotle)
            Valid opinions or theories have no internal contradictions.
            Classical formulation: A real being cannot both be and not be the same thing, in the same respect, at the same place and time.
            Principle 3: The Principle of Objective Evidence (Plato and Aristotle)
            Nonarbitrary opinions or theories are based upon publicly verifiable evidence.

            II. Principles of Ethics
            Principle 4: The Principle of Nonmaleficence (Jesus, Moses, and worldwide religious traditions)
            Avoid unnecessary harms; if a harm is unavoidable, minimize it.
            Silver Rule: Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.
            Principle 5: The Principle of Consistent Ends and Means (Augustine)
            The end does not justify the means.
            Principle 6: The Principle of Full Human Potential (Las Casas)
            Every human being (or group of human beings) deserves to be valued according to the full level of human development, not according to the level of development currently achieved.

            III. Principles of Justice and Natural Rights
            Principle 7: The Principle of Natural Rights (Suarez, Locke, Jefferson, and Paine)
            All human beings possess in themselves (by virtue of their existence alone) the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property ownership; no government gives these rights, and no government can take them away.
            Principle 8: The Principle of the Fundamentality of Rights (Suarez, Locke, and Jefferson)
            The more fundamental right is the one which is necessary for the possibility of the other; where there is a conflict, we should resolve in favor of the more fundamental right.
            Principle 9: The Principle of Limits to Freedom (Locke and Montesquieu)
            One person’s (or group’s) freedoms cannot impose undue burdens upon other persons (or groups).

            IV. Fundamental Principle of Identity and Culture Principle
            10: The Principle of Beneficence (Jesus)
            Aim at optimal contribution to others and society.
            The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

          • Stillwater — I disagree with your formulation of the discrete, self-directing human life as having only “potential” rights to dignity and respect. Quite the opposite. It is the discreteness and self-directedness that perfects the right, and our corresponding duty, to afford that life dignity and respect. Any other conditions before bestowing dignity and respect — e.g., consciousness, intelligence, capacity for pain, etc. — would be unworkable. It would instantiate a principle that we would not apply anywhere else (e.g., would a man in a coma with with a diagnosis for recovery in 9 months nonetheless be deemed to have lost his right to human dignity and respect simply by the temporary loss of consciousness? Of course not. Yet we would have to contort our reasoning to yet deny human dignity and respect to the discrete and self-directing yet unconscious human fetus).

            As is commonly said, it is not “a potential life” but “a life with potential.”

          • Tim,
            Ahh, life loves to laugh at such things as reason.
            A person can both know something and not know it at the same time,
            for a brain is not merely the conscious, but also the unconscious.
            I could also speak of wave particle duality.

            “All human beings possess in themselves (by virtue of their existence alone) the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property ownership; no government gives these rights, and no government can take them away.”
            Unfettered rights shall lead to disasters Locke had no means of envisioning. Even rights must change with abilities.

          • Tim,
            According something with dignity and respect does not mean giving it full rights and responsibilities. Seriously, we aren’t even asking the baby to pay for its time in its mother’s belly (probably with interest, as the odds of it being able to work before age 3 or so is quite high).

          • Tim,

            It would instantiate a principle that we would not apply anywhere else (e.g., would a man in a coma with with a diagnosis for recovery in 9 months nonetheless be deemed to have lost his right to human dignity and respect simply by the temporary loss of consciousness?

            I have never, ever heard of such a prognosis. Ever. From what I understand, coma there is no way to determine if, let alone when, someone will wake from coma; and the longer it lasts, the less likely that wakening will be. We hear about the exceptions because that’s what they are, extreme outliers, not the norm.

            But the flip side of your question is that how do we acquire that man’s consent for continued life support while he’s in a coma. Without it, he would die; and without some sort of living will, his choice, when he had the ability to make that choice, are unknown, his survival dependent on the wishes of his family (and their ability to pay, too).

            And this is the very crux of the difference; prior to the coma, he could choose, could make his wishes known. A fetus cannot; it’s dependent on the choices made by its mother, any rights it has stem from her rights. If she chooses to give birth and that child enters a coma for some reason, even still, the child’s prior wishes won’t matter, the parents will decide upon life support.

            That analogies simply don’t work. I’m sorry.

          • zic,
            Sleeping Beauty (specifically Sole, Luna, e Talia) is not just a myth. There are immoral ways of retrieving some from a coma. In third world countries, it does come up.

      • So, just to be sure: You’re worried pregnant women might not understand what’s in their womb. Correct?

        Not like, say, you do. You’re worried they don’t have the depth of understanding. They don’t have the insight, on the issue. You’re worried that, of all the facts on the subject, they’re still unclear as to what exactly is IN there at all.

        • To clarify: There’s no point in showing them photos unless you think they’re somehow missing something. Unless you’re being emotionally manipulative, of course.

        • One of the hardest things for any of us to grasp is that someone who disagrees with us doesn’t necessarily not know, or misunderstand, what we know. We see this in all kinds of issues (like both sides on the Wal Mart debate currently going on on the main page).

          It stems, I think, from the problem we all have of not being able to understand how someone could look at the same thing we’re looking at and think it’s something diferent than we do And that problem, I think, exists because it presents us with three possibilities, only one of which is psychically comfortable: 1) the others are right and we’re wrong; 2) there is no objectively right answer; 3) the others aren’r actually seeing what we’re seeing.

          In the abortion issue, It’s so truly deeply self-evident to some people that the fetus is a human being, that from their perspective there are only two possible explanations for someone who aborts: they’re a monster, or they don’t understand. It’s easier to believe they don’t understand than to believe they’re all monsters.

          Yes, it’s condescending, and functionally misogynist. But oddly enough it’s an effort to put the best construction on a mind-boggling problem. (That’s not to say we shouldn’t point out hw condescending it us, though.)

          • And why it’s so hard to do well (and why I’m very impressed with those who do).

          • James, I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the fetus is a human being. And I know this because of that fetus’s DNA. It’s human, it’s not money or oak tree or yeast.

            Until that fetus is capable of living independently, and only if it does not threaten its mother’s life, it’s status is not that of person with rights. Its rights, until that point of independence and non-harm, are its mother’s rights, since it is totally dependent upon her. And her rights include determining if she wants to go through with her pregnancy until that fetus reaches the point of independence, and gain its own rights.

            I don’t think abortion is a good thing. I know many who’ve had abortions. I only know one woman who had them as a persistant form of birth control, and she was extremely mentally ill.

            For me, it’s very simple. A woman has the right to her own body. I’d prefer it if that women didn’t get pregnant when they didn’t want to; but I know my own biological drives well enough to understand that sometimes, nature takes over. I’ve been abused enough to know that sometimes, she’s not given a choice in getting pregnant. Both things, when they happen, are sad.

            But I think it a far greater evil to force a woman to hand over her rights to a human being who is not yet a person then to end that someday-person’s existence. And I think it criminal to bring a child into the world that’s not wanted by its parents. I know there are women who cannot have children, who disagree. But those women have no right to another’s womb, any more then they would another’s kidney.

          • And that was supposed to monkey, not money at the beginning. My hands are numb today, difficult to type. This is distressing.

          • zic,
            if someone was willing to pay for someone else’s womb, I fully support that. But just because people make something illegal, doesn’t make the baby any easier to feed.

          • One of the hardest things for any of us to grasp is that someone who disagrees with us doesn’t necessarily not know, or misunderstand, what we know. We see this in all kinds of issues (like both sides on the Wal Mart debate currently going on on the main page).

            James, this is actually a widely studies phenomenon in social cognition. I was thinking of writing something about it.

          • I though that op. cit. day was for writing footnotes.

  33. Tim,
    Say, instead of an ultrasound, that the state had prescribed something that would do non-negligible harm to the baby. Say, an XRAY. Would you still be in favor of it?

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