My Last Thoughts on Pro-Life/Pro-Choice; or, Why the Hell Did I Ask That Question, Anyway?

Earlier this week I posted a hypothetical choice for people on both sides of the abortion issue. The question essentially asked the reader, given the choice between a world where this debate had potential compromise or a world where the issue was unyieldingly contentious, which would you choose to live in and why?

There were several commenters that brushed up against this next question, but it was Stillwater that asked it most directly: “RTod, what are you trying to accomplish with this post?” That’s a damn good question. Good enough that I thought I’d think out loud on pixels now that we are in our slower weekend mode.

The short answer is I am trying to figure out why we think about this subject the way that we do, and why we make the (frankly ludicrous) assumptions we do for those on the other side of the debate. There are lots of things we all disagree on as a society, of course. But I am hard pressed to think of any issue where we collectively and almost universally react with the militant and unforgiving passion we do when faced with the chasm that is the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice controversy.

The idea for the exercise I proposed took place after a post by Tim on Notes from Babel. Tim was reacting to a horrific story from Alberta, where a 19-year-old young woman killed her newly born baby and disposed of it in a morbidly bizarre fashion. Shockingly, the judge suspended her sentence. Now, the links provided in the post of the now 5-year-old crime does not mention any details of the case that might have made this leniency seem either more common or enigmatic; the reader is left to insert their own interpretations. When I read about it, my first assumption was that there might have been mental issues involved, or a history of abuse in the girl’s background. (The fact that she was secretly pregnant and performed the birth herself while living with her parents makes this seem not entirely out of the question to me.) This is not to say that if there were a history of abuse a suspended sentence was right or moral, but it would at least make this story jive with other lenient murder sentencing I have read about over the years. Tim’s conclusion was that after having lived in a culture of legal abortion, the judge has fallen down a slippery slope and now believes that killing infants is a fine and reasonable course of action. (If there is data to support his hypothesis that this was the court’s motivation, he does not link to it.) Which of us is right? I don’t know, and I’m not sure that Tim does either – and that’s assuming that either of our assumptions is right.

I don’t always agree with Tim, but I find him one of the most rational, lucid and clear-thinking bloggers out there. Why would he believe that people who are pro-choice would not be equally horrified by the insane antics of the young woman from Alberta? If he really misunderstands his foes that badly, he needs to get out more. But of course this isn’t a Tim thing – this is the level of irrational demonizing that each side does to the other on a constant basis. We all resort to this kind of thinking with this issue. And this realization is the point where my hypothetical inquiry was born.

I’d be lying if I said that after decades of unending, escalating back and forth I am overly interested in the abortion controversy itself anymore. But I remain fascinated by why we treat this issue the way we do, and this is at the heart of why I came up with the exercise. Would I find that people overwhelmingly longed for compromise, or battle? If the former, why do we continue down the road we travel? If not, why are we willing to gamble completely losing the war for the absurd hope that we might completely win it? There is a solution to this debate out there somewhere – even if it is the complete and utter defeat of one side. For me, these questions are important to ask if we ever hope to get to that solution. I seriously had no idea how people would respond, or if the answers would all be the same, similar, or all over the map. I wasn’t even sure that the post commentary might not become so uncivil as to force me to apologize and delete the whole thing, an outcome I seriously thought possible before I hit the “Publish” button. (BTW, this most gentlemanly and -um, ladyly? – group showed me that fear was completely unfounded.)

The overwhelming consensus – in as much as there was consensus – was that due to the nature of the debate there was no way it can ever be anything other than all out war. It is what it is; always has been, always will be.  Jason, Kyle and others even went as far as to suggest that that it would not be worth even considering a different path, such was the inevitability. I understand this position, and I understand why people think it so.

Yet I remain unconvinced.

As much as we tend to think of the abortion issue being consistent and concrete, the debate we have today is actually relatively new. In When Abortion Was a Crime : Women, Medicine and Law in the United States, 1867 – 1973 Leslie Reagan points out that for most of the history of the anti-abortion movement in this country, the rights and the life of the unborn child have not been factors. Instead, the primary issues were female promiscuity and women’s health.   (Even legal abortions, administered through poisons, often killed the mother as well). Arguments about the life and rights of the unborn child don’t really pick up steam until the last part of the previous century. The micro-controversies surrounding the more extreme ends of the pregnancy timeline are also relatively recent.

This history means little as to who is “right” in the debate. Many on the Pro-Choice take it as being an argument for their side, but this I find this poor reasoning. That anti-abortionists today have different moral reasons for their convictions than did their forbearers does not necessarily negate their conclusions. However, it does suggest that the idea that our views on this subject are etched in stone, unyielding and unbreakable, might be more a reflection of how we feel at the moment than reality.

In the comments, mclaren referred to the Group Polarization principle, which he notes is “the tendency for groups to make decisions that are more extreme than the initial inclination of its members.” The tribalism associated with this principle sounds about right to me with this issue, and I feel like I have seen growing polarization within the past couple of decades. For example, it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago when the Pro-Life side might agree that if the life of the mother were at stake abortion was a reasonable option. Likewise, although I don’t remember it being an issue that was brought up until recently I feel confident that people on the Pro-Choice side would have almost universally agreed that using abortion as a way to get the sex of a child “correct” was beastly and should be illegal. (This last one if for no other reason than much of the Pro-Choice’s arguments are based on women’s rights; historically when cultures start deciding which kids to keep and which to quickly dispose of based on gender, girls have not fared so well.) That each side is now willing to martial their forces behind these extreme hypotheticals suggest to me that the real sticking point today isn’t incompatible philosophies so much as growing tribalism.

And I submit that is a bad thing. A growing number of Pro-Choicers arguing for the right to use abortion to control gender and a growing number of Pro-Lifers arguing the mother’s life is relatively immaterial are positions that 10 years ago I would have argued would never come to pass. But here we are. Unchecked, what will another 10 years of demonization make each side decide is OK to advocate on behalf of their tribe winning? What about 20 years, or 30?

Many commenters that opted for World B cited the desire to live in a world where ideological Truth did not have to be compromised. I am less convinced than they are that that kind of thinking always ends so well.

Anyway, for those that asked: this is why I posed the question.

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55 thoughts on “My Last Thoughts on Pro-Life/Pro-Choice; or, Why the Hell Did I Ask That Question, Anyway?

  1. Where did we come up with the right to perform abortions? Should doctors “be free” amputate a guy’s limbs because he wants to make a living at the circus as Snake Boy?

    Just a thought.

    As for the less theoretical, there exists a firm consensus that there comes a point where a fetus shouldn’t be aborted. We err when we surrender the debate in theory or in practice to the absolutists, moment-of-conception vs. absolute right to “choice.” Most folks have found a tipping point between their moral certainty and their moral reservations.

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    • [had to post this as a “reply” to an existing comment, as it wouldn’t post the usual way]

      Tod,

      I’m still not sure you’ve addressed the concerns in my initial response to your earlier comment. But with that response in mind, let me offer an additional layer to the analysis in support of the slippery slope objection to abortion. Let’s assume that all of us discussing this topic are moral objectivists. There is an objective value in human life itself that is worth protecting. Being objective, that value does not depend on other factors such as overpopulation, a sagging economy, or even whether the mother “wants” the child or not.

      In this case, slippery slope arguments are basically neutralized. If you suggest abortions are never appropriate, and I suggest they are appropriate up until the first trimester, you might accuse me of picking an arbitrary line. You might further suggest that because I’ve chosen an arbitrary line, I might be put to a situation where I’d have to concede abortions one day into the second trimester are likewise acceptable; then two days, and so on. In this sense, I am actually faced with a reduction ad absurdum argument, since my argument ultimately leads to rejecting the premise I’ve set out to defend, i.e., that abortion is morally impermissible.

      I get the impression this is something like the conversation you and I (and several others here) are having: We agree life has objective moral value, and thus abortion is morally problematic, so why can’t we discuss this without some of us claiming the others want to kill infants and throw them into our neighbor’s yard? To that extent, your point is well taken.

      However, imagine the second case. In this case, some of us discussing the abortion topic believe life has objective moral value, as before. But also among us are those who believe life’s moral value is qualified and conditional. For example, life is only valuable to the extent we can establish a certain level of cognitive ability, self-awareness, self-mastery, economic potential, quality of life potential, etc. The value of life for our other interlocutors, in this case, cannot be agreed upon, and thus the participants are asked to resort to other values on which we might have more consensus. Our interlocutors at this point will offer certain tenets of secular humanism, and can’t we all agree that buzzwords like liberty and personal autonomy and reproductive freedom and empathy are all fairly unobjectionable and will lead us to a pragmatic consensus. On the basis of their undisclosed personal weighting of all these values, our secular humanist and/or moral relativist friends will arrive at a variety of conclusions. That variety will be far broader than the one we saw in the first example, however.

      It is at this point that looking to China or India (and to a lesser extent, the example cited in my earlier post) indicates that in the absence of both objective moral values and firm, non-arbitrary legal rules, the needle can start to shift in ways that should abhor those of us in the first discussion above. The slippery slope is used to demonstrate how, lacking fixed moral values and using only malleable, “pragmatic” rules, we can arrive at a wide variety of outcomes. To the extent we agree on the basic fixed moral values at play, you’re right, Tod, that we should refrain from accusing the other of infanticide. But that’s not the debate we’re in. At least one of our commenters is in favor of permitting infanticide up to six months, and TVD linked an important NY Times piece in the earlier post concerning justifications of the practice.

      We don’t all share the same moral values. On even some very basic issues, we’re not even close. Slippery slope arguments give useful hints where that pluralism might be taking us.

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      • Tim:

        I am unsure if you are missing my point or not. But you seem to be making it for me.

        You point to a person in your thread that advocates a six-month post birth “do over.” This is actually kind of my point. Were Russell to have made a post saying a woman he knew was put in the position because of unique health issues of deciding upon her own life or bringing her 2 month old unborn child to term, I have no doubt someone would have popped in to tell Russell if he were any kind of real doctor he should have told her to die, the selfish b**ch.

        You say these positions are just the way both sides are. But I say the positions they are all taking are relatively new, and are becoming more and more extreme.

        You seem to argue that this is due to both sides being morally strong – but I don’t see it that way. Twenty years ago these things weren’t even issues. Why are they issues now? Not, I would argue, because both sides don’t “share the same moral values.” Rather, it’s tribalism that pushes both sides to advocate for things – terrible, terrible things – they would not have dreamed of advocating just a short while ago.

        We do share the same basic morals. It’s just that too often those morals include little more than your ideology winning.

        You and I disagree that this is a good thing.

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        • My Ideology Winning has little or nothing to do with prolife supporters. I am actively against the anti-woman folks. The people who are pro-forced-birth in the case of rape, incest and whatnot. The people who actively try to remove birth control from the equation, and then try to lock down sexuality in such a way that it inevitably (demographic destiny) leads to more pregnancies. I do not believe that the more pregnancies that these people have is an Unintentional Consequence (see what the Ruth Institute has to say about demographic winters…).

          In my considered opinion, most “pro-illegallizing abortion” people are not my enemy. Even more so, the pro-life people are not my enemy.

          But getting caught in the cross-fire is the way of the world.

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        • Twenty years ago these things weren’t even issues. Why are they issues now?

          This is a good question, even if, as you yourself point out with reference to abortion debates of the 19th and first half of the 20th century that what the debate used to be is irrelevant to the question of whether the current arguments are valid. I won’t try to answer it for the pro-lifer side (I prefer anti-choicer, but I’m trying to play nice), even if I know enough about the history of the pro-life movement to guess, but the answer for the pro-choice side is fairly obvious: feminism and the continued progression of women’s liberation. One of the most important conditions for women’s economic freedom, which in our society is where most other freedoms start, is reproductive freedom. If women can’t choose when, where, how, and with whom they have children, then the rest of the choices in their lives will be severely limited. In order for women to be independent, socially, financially, etc., they have to be able to choose if and when they reproduce. This is why increased access to contraceptives and abortion has become such big issues for liberals/progressives/the left in the last 40-50 years. And it’s also why compromise, at least on the basic issue, is pretty much impossible: compromising on that issue means undermining on everything else.

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      • In fact, I’m going to go one step a farther about the effects of tribalism. Regarding this:

        You point to a person in your thread that advocates a six-month post birth “do over.” This is actually kind of my point. Were Russell to have made a post saying a woman he knew was put in the position because of unique health issues of deciding upon her own life or bringing her 2 month old unborn child to term, I have no doubt someone would have popped in to tell Russell if he were any kind of real doctor he should have told her to die, the selfish b**ch.

        I say without your demonizing pro-lifers for ever having that position, Kim never does. And vice versa fiction anti-Russell guy.

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  2. First try didn’t take. Hope this doesn’t appear twice…

    Tod,

    I’m still not quite satisfied you’ve addressed the concerns addressed in my initial response to your earlier comment. But with that response in mind, let me offer an additional layer to the analysis in support of the slippery slope objection to abortion. Let’s assume that all of us discussing this topic are moral objectivists. There is an objective value in human life itself that is worth protecting. Being objective, that value does not depend on other factors such as overpopulation, a sagging economy, or even whether the mother “wants” the child or not.

    In this case, slippery slope arguments are basically neutralized. If you suggest abortions are never appropriate, and I suggest they are appropriate up until the first trimester, you might accuse me of picking an arbitrary line. You might further suggest that because I’ve chosen an arbitrary line, I might be put to a situation where I’d have to concede abortions one day into the second trimester are likewise acceptable; then two days, and so on. In this sense, I am actually faced with a reduction ad absurdum argument, since my argument ultimately leads to rejecting the premise I’ve set out to defend, i.e., that abortion is morally impermissible.

    I get the impression this is something like the conversation you and I (and several others here) are having: We agree life has objective moral value, and thus abortion is morally problematic, so why can’t we discuss this without some of us claiming the others want to kill infants and throw them into our neighbor’s yard? To that extent, your point is well taken.

    However, imagine the second case. In this case, some of us discussing the abortion topic believe life has objective moral value, as before. But also among us are those who believe life’s moral value is qualified and conditional. For example, life is only valuable to the extent we can establish a certain level of cognitive ability, self-awareness, self-mastery, economic potential, quality of life potential, etc. The value of life for our other interlocutors, in this case, cannot be agreed upon, and thus the participants are asked to resort to other values on which we might have more consensus. Our interlocutors at this point will offer certain tenets of secular humanism, and can’t we all agree that buzzwords like liberty and personal autonomy and reproductive freedom and empathy are all fairly unobjectionable and will lead us to a pragmatic consensus.

    It is at this point that looking to China or India (and to a lesser extent, the example cited in my earlier post) indicates that in the absence of both objective moral values and firm, non-arbitrary legal rules, the needle can start to shift in ways that should abhor those of us in the first discussion above.

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  3. Actually the dichotomy runs along the lines of two disparate groups in society; the ‘olde’ ones, who some say are quickly dying out and are advocates of some sort of moral code that recognizes, to one degree or another, the sanctity of human life; and the techno-people or the ‘moderns’ who are proud moral relativists and recognize only their ‘right’ to do whatever. Usually it’s always a better thing for the ‘modern’ to do good Earf stuff (windmills for example, no matter how much it costs), or be tolerant of other libruls regardless of race especially if they can force others to participate in the re-distribution of the wealth of the producers, or seek a World gummint that will do good stuff.

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    • Usually it’s always a better thing for the ‘modern’ to do good Earf stuff (windmills for example, no matter how much it costs), or be tolerant of other libruls regardless of race especially if they can force others to participate in the re-distribution of the wealth of the producers, or seek a World gummint that will do good stuff.

      But since these things are as often luddite in nature, is the choice really one of olde vs. techno? This seems more of an argument that it’s more the product of tribalism than any rational philosophical thought.

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      • You know Tod, there’s part of me that says you’ve made a valid point, then there’s the evil Bob that says NO, Luddism isn’t part of the ‘modern,’ he knows better, and there’s a purpose for the silliness of the Left.

        The ‘modern’ is motivated/driven by the not oft mentioned desire for some suitable recourse to the longing for immortality sans God. Knowing God is Dead the modern/ the alienated seeks a Utopian order that will take the place of God, love us, and provide us with all those ‘unseen’/transcendent things God is usually good for.

        The ‘modern’ needs to kill the unborn to show that God is truly dead, to blasphem, to align with the will of the Demon.
        The dichotomy is that while he/she kills their young with a certain immunity and impunity, he/she is still/continues/must be engaged in what the Greeks referred to as ‘athanatizein’ -the activity of immortalizing-but in an immanent sense of the word- which is so frustrating/perverse because human life is designed “to be conducted in such a manner that it will lead toward a state of imperishability (EV, Eschatology and Philosophy).

        Abortion is the new sacrament that signals the metastatic expection that will bring on the new world/World not by the Divine Will but by direct human action and in this sense it is Marxist. The Marxist longing for the bloody revolution that will transform Man is not conducted in the streets, rather in the clinic and we’ve suffered forty million casualties.

        Of course, this defines/describes the abortion debate as a part of the effort to mute the eschatological longings as an element of the ordering forces of our existence.

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  4. Here’s the question I have. We’re supposedly living in a time of declining moral values and yet, if I’m not mistaken, violent crime rates are declining, divorce rates are declining, abortion rates are declining, and even adultery is on the decline. How do people who are worried about our ongoing moral decadence explain this?

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  5. “A growing number of Pro-Choicers arguing for the right to use abortion to control gender ….. ”

    Can you point to any articles, blog posts, scholarly research etc etc that support this claim of yours? In other words, please cite your source. And what you mean by “a growing number”? How many would qualify as “a growing number?”

    If you can’t cite your sources for this claim (as I highly suspect you can’t), I think it’s safe to assume that you were just playing the “both sides do it” game. Find something the pro-choice side advocates that sounds just as monstrous as the other side, even if you have to make it up without the ability to cite your sources. And I for I would rather directly engage with people like Tim Kowal and his arguments rather than someone like you who comes along, tskk tskking everyone else for behaving badly in that “more in sorrow than anger” tone. That’s quite an overdone schtick already, especially in this blog, so you might want to try something else.

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  6. Responding to the orginal question, I’d prefer to live in a world where some type of compromise (on this issue) is in place. Given that there will always be discontent as well as malcontents, the issue will never die in either world. As long as the feminists and evangelists are fighting each other to the death, they’re more likely to leave me alone.

    It also happens to be a question that fits the norm of most blog responses, in that the gravity of the subject pulls people down to dispensing their own beliefs about the issue, rather than simply answering the question as posed. For those who managed to stay focused on the question, there are some interesting perspectives. The rest are easily chalked up to ADD.

    I believe the very issue of abortion, while a good choice for the question, is nonetheless greatly overrepresented in political discourse. While certainly of high moral and personal value to many, the actuality of abortion has very little do do with anyone’s daily (monthly, or yearly) life and decisions thereunto. I have my own thoughts about abortion, but lacking either a vagina or part-ownership in a fetus, I don’t have a dog in that fight.

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  7. Rufus, the declines you speak of are marginal. Still, the counterrevolution may have turned the tide. [For now. Rust never sleeps.]

    But we speak of averages and aggregates—it could be the worst will continue to get even worse even as general averages tilt slightly upward and back away from the abyss.

    Besides, the revanchist’s work is never done because things were never perfect in the first place.

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  8. Isn’t this just a case of a slippery slope in the opposite direction? A ‘ratcheting incline’? I know, it lacks the alliteration of the original. Sorry. But once you take a stance on one side, even moderately, the tendency is to ratchet further to that side since there are no obvious, discrete benchmarks in this debate. For a pro-lifer it might look like this:
    Starting point – ‘I think I have to value the life of an unborn baby more than the reproductive rights of the mother – so I oppose late-term abortions.’
    ‘But I can’t identify any discrete step between 2nd and 3rd trimesters, and if I think it is alive at the third . . . ‘ CLICK ‘. . . and if I concede that it is alive at the 2nd’ . . . CLICK . . . CLICK . . . ‘But if this is truly a human life I am defending, then isn’t it just as valuable as the mother’s life? Even if the mother is in danger?’ . . . CLICK

    And analagously for pro-choicers.

    Although I think tribalism explains a lot of our political culture, abortion is particularly pernicious (I knew I could alliterate!) because of the lack of clear benchmarks in human development and the stakes involved. So we tend to slip/ratchet to extremes.

    (For the record, I am not claiming that what I wrote above is how all pro-lifers think, or that it is inevitable for all people to ratchet to the extreme. I am merely suggesting a mechanism for the widening extremism that Mr. Kelly observes.)

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    • There are plenty of fetal “benchmarks,” Renee. Brainwaves, feeling pain, REM sleep, recognizing the mother’s voice. Viability outside the womb. Much science has been done in the past few decades and there are all sorts of “benchmarks” for the informed conscience to wrestle with.

      Outside surrendering the question to the absolutists, where “all human life is sacred” meets “the mother’s rights trump all,” the majority of people hear a bell ring in their conscience at some point between the absolutes.

      There is the next issue, related but separate: the assertion, that of relativism’s, that what is right for you by your conscience might be wrong for me and mine. But this doesn’t hold to my mind: there are some folks without much conscience, who are fairly convinced everything they do is right and fine and dandy. If there’s one thing the human brain is good at, it’s rationalization, and some excel at it. To cede the important questions to folk such as these, to make their consciences our standard, seems to me the road to perdition.

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      • But more saliently, to talk about moral standards, we necessarily talk about standards valid for everyone. i.e. while you and I may disagree on what to do in a particular situation, when we say x is the moral thing to do in a situation p, then you are saying that anyone and everyone who finds themselves in a situation p ought to do x. This is just what it means for something to be moral.

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  9. Everyone here has completely missed reality – in our country, lives have exact value and companies and Fed regulators do in fact decide who lives and who gets to die all the time – these conditions are calculated on lives saved/lost relative to a money scale. Death panels do in fact exist and decide all the time whether people live or are allowed to die – they are called insurance companies. Why is this subject, when woman are seeking to decide an even less serious issue by using her own economic conditions to decide exactly what every company and Fed agency does all the time? Realative to anti-choice I have heard zero realative to this issue and it being evil.

    As an aside, pro-choice like (for the most part) do agree with anti-choice beliefs that there be limits for access to medical based abortion; first trimester being a good limit. Likewise, until lately, most anti-choice people agreed that if life of the mother, or rape or incest had resulted in the conception then a woman could decide herself.

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  10. It’s polarizing because if you believe that a fetus is a human being with the full rights that status accords then you will not be willing to compromise on anything short of abortion for legitimate health reasons (i.e. self defense).

    Whereas if you believe that the woman’s right to control her own body and reproductive organs supercede any claim of rights by a fetus that is not viable or fully formed, then you would likewise be uncompromising in the view that any government impediment is a violation of her rights as a human being and should be rejected.

    There might be a point of compromise between people who are not quite that polarized whereby some legitimate restrictions are placed on the time window and circumstances of the procedure, but they will never satisfy the most vocal in either camp who will view such measures as compromises that will lead to a slippery slope of abortion for all or abortion for none.

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  11. “I am hard pressed to think of any issue where we collectively and almost universally react with the militant and unforgiving passion we do when faced with the chasm that is the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice controversy.”

    I disagree. Lots of people I know are squishes on this issue. Moreover, I think the reaction is actually kind of muted, given the stakes. You think this isn’t common in America? Go to a bar in Pennsylvania sometime and ask this question out loud: “Are there as many deer in the woods around here as there used to be?”

    Then kick someone in the knee and run out the door, because all hell is about to break loose.

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        • … are we talking “I have an automatic weapon, and wish to use it in Forest County?” Because, while that is not strictly legal, I do believe you might be able to get away with it.

          If we’re talking me giving you information on how to procure that gun, or me actually approving of using automatic weapons, I’m out of here.

          True Story: “grandpa, why do you have an AK-47 in the basement?” “Hunting deer.” (I’d dig up the webcomic about bear-hunting… Do you read SomethingPositive?)

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  12. The issue is a thorny one, no doubt, and I – for one – appreciate that you’re trying to navigate your way through a seemingly intractable problem. But you also say this:

    it does suggest that the idea that our views on this subject are etched in stone, unyielding and unbreakable, might be more a reflection of how we feel at the moment than reality

    suggesting that abortion related beliefs are maleable, and that maybe the problem isn’t so intractable after all. I would agree with that: one reason the abortion issue is so contentious in today’s political culture is that Rove et al. very consciously used ‘value voting’ and single-issue politics to drive wedges between camps and eliminate ideological overlap. And that effort has been very successfully in creating, or cultivating, a belief in conservatives that the liberal/conservative divide actually reduces to the values supported in isolated issues.

    Insofar as the conservative propaganda machine was successful in focusing conservative views in single issues, your point holds: what are generally considered immutable ideological beliefs are to some extent constructed beliefs. Not the content of those beliefs, of course, but the intensity and inflexibility with which they’re held. They’ve moved – or been moved, I would say – from the periphery of conservative consciousness towards the ideological center. And rigidity wrt the abortion issue will persist just so long as political dividends are reaped by polarizing the debate.

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    • … so what exactly did Casey win by being pro-life? The democrats who are pro-life, just like the republicans (if any — I’m sure someone is. maybe Cao) who are pro-choice, have the better claim to being principled on the subject, in that their choice actively pisses off portions of the electorate.

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      • I’m not trying to present a comprehensive political analysis here – only highlight that political culture has played a big role in shaping people’s views on politically useful beliefs.

        Part of what I’m getting at is that the right to choose wasn’t a closely held political belief for liberals over most of the last 40 years because it was a settled issue. And it may not have been for a majority of conservatives over that time span either, for all I know. But in recent memory, the issue has gained prominence due to conservative attacks on Roe v Wade. It is the conservative camp that has ratcheted up the rhetoric and made it into a ‘single issue’ ‘value vote’.

        That’s not to say that there would have been much room, if any, to compromise on the issue. The competing positions are wildly inconsistent. But they’re also very emotionally charged. So they’re ripe for political exploitation.

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  13. I’m sorry I missed that post. I would absolutely prefer World A, as there are extremists on both sides who scare me, and I would greatly prefer one in which there could be reasonable debate on the issue. I can understand, if not agree with, moderate pro-choice positions; I’ve met few on the pro-choice side, though, who see pro-life stances as something that can be motivated by anything other than hatred of, and desire to control, women.

    (Of course, in Canada World A would mean a major step to the right in terms of social conservatism.)

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