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Do the Unborn Dream of Jerry Springer? : How the creepiest, most sensational story of 2013 could be a game-changer for Pro-Life advocates

Remee-Lee-jpgYesterday morning, Florida resident John Andrew Weldon pled guilty to product tampering and mail fraud in what may well be the most bizarre, creepy, made-for-reality-television crime of the year. More than that, though, Weldon may very well have inadvertently done more damage to the pro-choice movement than any other single person over the past decade.

The headlines of the case are sordid enough: Not wanting to shoulder the financial and personal burdens of becoming a new father, Weldon tricked his girlfriend into taking an abortion pill which subsequently terminated her pregnancy.  As strange and icky as that might sound, the actual details of what transpired are stranger and ickier still.

Weldon’s girlfriend, Remee Jo Lee, says that when the couple discovered she was pregnant the two had different reactions. While Weldon actively encouraged terminating the pregnancy, Lee found the news to be a “blessing,” saying that being a mother was her “number one goal in life.”  At an impasse, Weldon took Lee to see his father, a Tampa Bay gynecologist.  After the examination, Weldon told Lee that his father said she had a slight infection, which could be cleared up by a mild anti-biotic.  Working with an unnamed pharmacist, Weldon instead obtained the drug Cytotec, more commonly known as “the abortion pill.”  (Part of his plea deal states that Weldon will give up the name of the pharmacist who was his co-conspirator.)  After tampering with the prescription label so that it appeared to be an antibiotic, Weldon then delivered the Cytotec to Lee.  Later, Lee developed abdominal pains, which led to her hospitalization.  There she learned that her pregnancy had been terminated.

1378759072860Other parts of this horrific story, while 100% true, still feel… off.  For example, Lee thought her long-term boyfriend with whom she wanted to raise a child worked at the hospital where she was admitted. But he did not work there, or indeed at any hospital.  Now that Weldon’s plea is in, Lee has begun the cable-news and talk show circuit, presumably with the help of a publicist, and talks about her desire for hers to become the face of the plight of the unborn child.  And while it’s certainly within Lee’s rights to attempt to become a mini-celebrity just months after being victim of such a horrific ordeal, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t touch off a warning bell on my sympathy-meter.  That the unborn child had already been named Memphis as a tribute to Graceland, because the couple so loved All Things Elvis, only adds to the purposefully tabloid feeling I get from the entire awful affair.

But there’s another fascinating aspect of this story that I cannot deny, which is this: I find myself reevaluating my solid pro-choice stance.  And if this becomes a big, national story, I think many others might as well.

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For decades, social conservatives have been trying to pass laws that make destroying a fetus classifiable as murder and/or manslaughter.  These have primarily been attempts to get around Roe v. Wade (or at the very least to attempt to force SCOTUS’s hand in the matter).  Pro-choice advocates have of course objected, but not just on the basis of access to abortion.  Is a pregnant woman who goes hiking guilty of murder or manslaughter if she slips and falls, unintentionally triggering a miscarriage?  What about a woman who gets in an auto accident that triggers one?  (Not to mention the other driver.)  What about one who is under the weather and doesn’t go to the hospital, and later discovers she was suffering fro hyper-thyroidisim? Most social conservatives say they would never advocate prosecuting for such circumstances, but since similar proposed laws attempt to jail rape victims for “evidence tampering” if a resulting pregnancy doesn’t come to term, it’s hard not to take such promises with a grain of salt.

One of the inherent problems of having an issue like abortion so deeply steeped in politics is that anything that remotely touches it is, likewise, so deeply steeped in politics.  The case of Weldon and Lee, however, is something entirely different than I have heard discussed by either the pro-choice or pro-life crowd.  In this case, we’re not even talking about a domestic dispute where violence creates unintended consequences.  Rather, we’re talking about an incredibly detailed, systematic conspiracy to terminate the pregnancy of an unsuspecting woman.  Authorities will point out that even without a law protecting the fetus, crimes were committed and that Weldon will serve jail time for those crimes.  And that’s certainly true enough, but…

Mail fraud?

abortionThere’s no question in my mind that the real crime committed by Weldon isn’t anything remotely akin to, say, sending out mailers for a fictitious non-profit asking for donations.  The whole concept of mail fraud (or product tampering) being the issue here is so absurd that I have no doubt that most readers will find it equally absurd – even if they’re die-hard pro-choicers.  There are other crimes you could go with, I suppose.  Reckless endangerment?  Medical fraud?  Practicing medicine without a license?  Assault? Vandalism?  All of them have the same wink-wink feeling of all of us agreeing not to notice we’re collectively forcing a round peg into a square hole.

I’m a pro-choice guy, and I will fully admit to my stance being just as much gut as reason.  To me, a woman having a miscarriage she probably could have avoided feels like an accident.  A rape victim terminating a pregnancy spawned by her assailant feels like someone not being forced to be a victim for life.  A woman terminating a pregnancy at an early enough stage because she knows she’s not ready to raise a child feels like a choice.  What Weldon did, though…  That feels like murder.  It feels like murder all the way down to my bones, all the way down to my cells, all the way down to my very atoms. It’s hard  to have such a visceral reaction and not begin to question where I stand on the whole abortion issue.  Which is not to say that I’m suddenly jumping on Team Pro-Life; I’m not.  But I am suddenly far less comfortable with the side of the fence on which I choose to stand.

And I’m guessing I’m not alone – even with those that stand pretty heavily on the pro-choice side of the fence.  And herein lies something of an opportunity for pro-life advocates.

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Republican Missouri senate nominee Todd AkinSocial conservatives have become their own worst political enemies on most national issues, but none so much as the issue of abortion.  How bad has their messaging on abortion been over the past year or so?  So bad that they’ve had to spend the majority of their public bandwidth defending/explaing/spin-doctoring the guys who insinuated that women who are pregnant would have to be lying about being raped, the guys who told women impregnated by rape that they should view their ordeal as a “gift from God,” the gal who compared being impregnated while being raped to having a fender bender, the guy who said we needed to remember when hearing of a woman being impregnated by rape that “some girls, they rape so easy,”  the guy who said that any pregnant woman who thought she had been raped should get a second opinion from a “professional” to find out if she really was raped, and of course, the aforementioned gal who suggested a woman who was impregnated by rape should be charged with a felony tempering-with-evidence charge if she chose to take a morning after pill.  That’s right – social conservatives are so bad at political messaging that they have chosen the tactic of shaming, pooh-poohing, and denigrating rape victims.  It’s  as if they have been actively trying to boost pro-choice support.

The Weldon-Lee case, however, has the potential to be a game changer.

I’ll be the first to admit that my deep-seated cynicism of cable news may be clouding my judgment of Lee, but if I’m being honest, I find her foray into B-status celebrity to be bordering on creepy.  (Her ability to go from photogenic smiles to teary eyes and back just a little too rehearsed looking; her outfit on CNN just a little too sexy yet tasteful, her timing to hit the limelight just a little too well calibrated.)[1]  And despite feeling this way, Lee’s story has still stopped me in my tracks and made me seriously reconsider my position on abortion. Think, then,  of how she might resonate with the 99% of US citizens who aren’t nearly as cynical as I am.

Of course, it’s possible that social conservatives might still find a way to – ahem – abort this “gift from God” being handed to them.  (Sorry.)  If it they were any other major U.S. political faction I would have no doubt they’d completely abandon their attacks on rape victims and talk about Weldon and Lee 24/7.  But then, those other political factions wouldn’t have been so stupid to have chosen to go after rape victims in the first place, so who knows?  Still, the Weldon-Lee case is one of those opportunities that comes rarely for political causes: the kind that make their opponents stop and question if they’re on the wrong side.

I certainly know I’m asking myself that question.

 

 

[1] And before you ask: Why yes, I actually do feel pretty guilty about having this reaction.

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177 thoughts on “Do the Unborn Dream of Jerry Springer? : How the creepiest, most sensational story of 2013 could be a game-changer for Pro-Life advocates

  1. First i’ve heard of this. It does sound icky and i doubt it will change anybodies mind. Nor should it. This seems more like one of those weird oddball stories that doesn’t represent a trend or common occurrence, just more of an outlier. Florida does seem to churn out tons of weirdtacular stories. Does mail fraud really fit what this dude did? Not really but laws aren’t prefect and can’t foresee every possible bit of cruelty and insanity in the world.

    I’ll quibble a bit with saying SoCon’s are really bad at messaging. All those various statements, and others which you could have listed, are far more than “messaging” they are clear statements of beliefs. What i, and many others would take, from all those statements is that for many SoCon’s their beliefs about women and rape are so antediluvian that most Neanderthals would say Whoa. FSM knows calling a woman a “slut” is just a “joke” when said by the right person. It’s more that messaging, it is attitudes about women that are misogynistic.

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  2. Tod, this is an excellent post.

    For me personally, my “gut” response is that the crime here is the boyfriend taking choice away from the girlfriend. He committed violence not so much against the fetus as he did against the mother.

    To the degree that pro-choice flows from the rights and priority of the mother, I see the problem here as having less to do with the terminated pregnancy than the fact that it was terminated by not her. Obviously, if she had taken the pill herself many of us would have no problem with what transpired. That alone should indicate that “murder” isn’t at issue, but rather the agency of the person who’s pregnant.

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    • +1000

      Actually, he did more than violate her choice, he altered her body without her consent by giving her dangerous drugs to bring about an effect she considered to be deeply painful and horrible.

      By analogy, imagine that someone slips your doctor a poison that makes your penis fall of, or that chemically castrates you. Someone could say causing an abortion is not as bad, because the physical damage to the mother isn’t permanent, but the psychological damage is. Indeed, to extend the analogy, imagine that with surgery, your penis can be reattached, or with extensive psychological counselling, physiological therapy, and medication, you can overcome your chemical castration. It is still an objectively evil thing, nearly as evil as murder, to do that to another human being.

      “What Weldon did, though… That feels like murder. It feels like murder all the way down to my bones, all the way down to my cells, all the way down to my very atoms. It’s hard to have such a visceral reaction and not begin to question where I stand on the whole abortion issue. Which is not to say that I’m suddenly jumping on Team Pro-Life; I’m not. But I am suddenly far less comfortable with the side of the fence on which I choose to stand.”

      I’ll disagree with this a bit. I bet that what it feels like is a deeply immoral act. But the deep immorality is the, for lack of a better word, intentional mutilation on the mother against her will.

      Not all abortion is “mutilation” in this negative sense, just as not all surgery is mutilation. Surgery and abortion with consent aren’t mutilation. Without consent, both are horrid acts of mutilation.

      Last point, I wouldn’t call castrating a man murdering the children he was going to have. It is deeply immoral to forcibly castrate, chemically or surgically, but it isn’t murdering his children.

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  3. And, naturally, this obscures the actual trend, with actual numbers.
    Of women whose partners deliberately impregnate them against their will,
    perhaps with intent to use the pregnancy/baby as a chain to keep the mother in a marriage.

    It is for those women that I stand for abortions, with cause or without.

    If it is not murder that man did, then it is something equally dire.

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  4. Hard cases make bad law, I guess?

    As awful as this is, there’s several things coming together at once here…

    We, as a society, have a tradition of paternal responsibility… so when a man gets a woman pregnant, he is responsible for seeing that the child is taken care of. Heck, I’m sure you’re familiar with the arguments “if you don’t want to have a child, keep it in your pants!”

    Well, of course, we then ask about abortion and whether paternity is outdated in a society that has liberal abortion laws… and I’m sure you remember the dozens of times we’ve had arguments about *THAT*.

    Fundamentally, we are a society that wants it both ways. We want the fetus to be nothing more than a parasitic clump of cells if that’s how the host female feels about it and we want it to be a baby if that’s how the mother feels about it… and there’s no way to put that into law given the very real possibility of a woman feeling one way at 10AM and another way at 3PM.

    A solution that does not let us have it both ways won’t work.

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    • I don’t mind a system where we admit that it is a potential human,
      and us saying that if the mom wants to keep it, at that particular time,
      then it is “nearly murder” to take it from her. (Nearly Murder punishable
      at manslaughter threshholds, perhaps?).

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    • “We want the fetus to be nothing more than a parasitic clump of cells if that’s how the host female feels about it and we want it to be a baby if that’s how the mother feels about it…and there’s no way to put that into law given the very real possibility of a woman feeling one way at 10AM and another way at 3PM.”

      Pro-choice policy may not perfectly solve having both those feelings, but it puts the emphasis in the right place. Leave the choice to women and if you want to reduce the number of abortions, put the focus on how influencing how people “feel” about the fetus.

      Regardless of how Tod feels about this sordid episode, I’m confident presuming it didn’t feel like murder to Mr. Weldon. His feelings about the fetus were the only ones contributing to this outcome.

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  5. If people were interested in writing laws that would reasonably protect the fetus, it could be done readily. The examples Tod gives, such as a hiker slipping and falling, could be worked out intelligently. We’d have to be a little less lawsuit-happy as a society, but I think we could manage it. But no one’s interested in such laws. It’s a lot like the gun-control debate, or probably a hundred other debates in our political system: two sides of professionals seeking to undermine their opponents rather than craft effective legislation.

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  6. Weldon poisoned Lee, that is, used deceit to cause her to ingest a toxic substance. We have laws to deal with that. If the fact that he killed a fetus that Lee very much wanted to be born means that he gets the maximum sentence for that, good. He deserves it.

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    • I’m not sure he “poisoned” her with a “toxic” substance – the abortion pill is essentially a beefed-up contraceptive, isn’t it?

      If someone slipped BC pills into my food I’d be pissed, but not sure the law could go after them for “poisoning”, any more than it could if they were slipping vitamins into my food.

      Obviously I am not defending his actions, but presumably there is a reason he was not charged with this particular crime.

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      • It’s an active substance that caused a serious change in her body chemistry with extremely deleterious results. I honestly don’t think using “poisoning” is an ad hoc stretching of its definition.

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      • Cytotec is chemically very different from oral contraceptive pills. (Glyph, I think you’re thinking of Plan B [emergency contraception], which is basically the same medication as in birth control pills at a different dose.) It is a prostaglandin analog, which means it mimics the effect of a certain endogenous physiologic compound.

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      • I don’t think “poisoning” is actually a distinct crime in any case. Assault, battery, etc. Now, presumably the main crime is fraud, which induced her to willingly take the pill. But I imagine that assault or battery or mutilation, etc., probably cover most any situation where a person intentionally causes another to ingest a chemical they don’t want to ingest that causes harm to the body. Not sure – would be interested to hear from the lawyas on this one.

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      • Well, according to Lawyers.com, which of course is where all legal advice should be procured by laymen without question or further professional consultation, battery would seem to cover it:

        “A battery is an intentional physical contact with a person without his or her consent that results in bodily harm or is offensive to a reasonable sense of dignity. An act is a battery if it causes physical pain or injury to a person’s body. It may also be an act that is offensive to a reasonable person….Examples of acts that constitute a battery include playing a joke on a person that involves offensive contact, performing surgery on the incorrect portion of a person’s body, throwing an object at a person, and poisoning a person’s drink. ”

        To me, the “dignity” and “offensive” lines mean toxicity’s not even all that relevant. Dosing someone without their knowledge/consent should be offensive to a reasonable person.

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      • Actually, scratch that – the contractions caused by the Cytotec = pain, therefore = battery.

        I didn’t like the whole “non-toxic dosing without consent/knowledge” = “offensive to dignity” formulation I was making, because while it covers some situations I find objectionable (giving an unaware person LSD), I can conceive of it being stretched to cover others I wouldn’t want to call “battery” (giving a delirious or unconscious person medicine for example; I’ve also argued in the past that a food vendor who deceitfully serves pork to halal/kosher customers has committed fraud against them, but I am reluctant to call it “battery”, since it didn’t harm them in any physical way).

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      • what is this I don’t even

        Kim, the hypo presumed there’s nothing wrong with the pork other than it was sold as, say, chicken. Nobody was dying. My argument was that such an action should be prosecutable as fraud, but nothing more (IIRC the discussion was in the context of hate crimes). But this is all pretty off-topic, so that’s all I’ll say. Suffice to say deceitful administration of Cytotec sure looks like battery to me, per the infliction of pain(ful contractions).

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      • My Dad ate pork once without realizing that’s what it was. When he found out, he got genuinely, if obviously psychogenically, ill, much as I expect most of us would if we learned afterwards that that meat came from a human baby.

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      • Someone could have told your dad it was pork (or baby meat) when it was *really* kosher beef, and he would have had the same reaction. The fraud is the hinge on which any prospective legal action should be taken, not a psychosomatic reaction. (Again, if the food really IS physically toxic, that’s a different story).

        But again, this is pretty OT (and I don’t mean “This post is totally OT, dude”). In the hypo of psychosomatic symptoms for a kosher customer deceived into eating pork, the wrongful action is seemingly the fraud. I’m not a fan of going farther because a.) we start treading into adjudicating the validity of people’s religious/metaphysical beliefs, with nebulous and unclear “damages” for each taboo violated and b.) we seemingly open ourselves to wacky prosecutions – like if I know you are irrationally scared of ghosts, and I decide to prank you by jumping out from behind a bush wearing a sheet, frightening you so that your teeth chatter painfully, can I now be charged with battery? Or am I just a real jerk?

        Here, the woman experienced painful contractions as a direct physical result of the deception, which clearly seems like fraud + battery.

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    • If nothing else, this should lead to stripping the doctor of his license. Doctor’s aren’t allowed to force medical procedures or drugs on an adult without consent.

      Sometimes the courts handle it, or their spouse or someone else if they are incapable of giving informed consent, but that’s not the case here.

      It’s about as ridiculously unethical as a doctor can get, though.

      Law-wise, it probably falls under assault of some form, though that’s a stretch. The legal system isn’t really set-up to handle this sort of case, because this sort of thing is rare. Jehovah’s Witnesses can and do refuse blood transfusions, sometimes leading to preventable deaths, but other than seeking court orders for minors — nobody forces a transfusion on them.

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  7. An excellent post, my Tod, and very thought provoking especially as it runs against your (and my) ideological grain as pro-choicers. I’m going to throw out a few thoughts as they occur to me.

    I would join Greginak in emphasizing that what this man did was fundamentally anti-choice. Morally speaking he occupies the same ideological distance from a pro-choicer as a pro-lifer does, just in the other direction. If you and I are pro-choice because we believe that a woman should be able to choose whether or not to carry her pregnancy to term and a social conservative is pro-life because they believe a woman must be forced to carry the pregnancy to term then Weldon is that conservative’s diametric opposite in that he believed (and acted) to force his girlfriend to not carry the pregnancy to term. In sum, Weldon is what pro-lifers (wrongly) accuse pro-choicers of being; an pro-abortion fanatic (albeit on a strictly personal level, he’s not even an idealist, just a self interested scum bag). As a pro-choice advocate I can deplore Weldon just as much as I’d deplor, say, the Tiller murderers. Both are anti-choice but from different directions.

    Regarding the law, I’d say that assault is the obvious charge to levy, maybe aggravated assault. The man essentially poisoned this woman.

    Also regarding the law but more peripherally I would like to observe that this conflict you’re feeling is a natural outgrowth both of the politicized nature of the choice/life debate in America but especially of the absolutism of the pro-life side. It is entirely possible that laws could be written to categorize crimes that target fetuses and assign appropriately harsh penalties on those who do it. They could be written in language so that, in a vacuum virtually no one, not even pro-choicers, would object to them. But the world is not a vacuum and on these subjects the pro-life side has made themselves abundantly clear: any concession or loss of ground by pro-choicers would be immediately used by the pro-life side as the new baseline from which to further assail abortion access.
    In the rest of the west the deal has generally been struck: access to late abortions is quite restricted (though with strong protections for the life of the mother and exceptions for fetal abnormality) BUT access to early term abortions/contraception (the vast majority, remember, of abortions) is also firmly entrenched with little to no realistic movement by pro-lifers to make them illegal.
    Pro-choicers, by and large, would take that deal in a heartbeat. Pro-lifers, by their own admission, would accept that deal only to renege and immediately turn it into the new baseline from which to push for further abortion restrictions (while also merrily pursuing extralegal methods to further contract abortion access).
    That absolutism is why the law is shaped in the manner it is. Pro-choicers fight against any reduction in women’s rights as a protective buffer against fundamental access to choice. In the immortal words “we fight em over there so we don’t have to fight them over here”. Again to emphasize: these political deals are not currently possible in America because both sides will not accept it. Pro-lifers view all forms of abortion as abhorrent and will not/can not trade restrictions on the most problematic forms of abortion in exchange for protections for the least distasteful ones. In this environment no deal is possible.

    Now, granted, opinion in America leans pro-life. Personally I consider that primarily a product of the pro-choice side’s success. That vast ribbon of the middle of the populace can happily have their cake and eat it too: decrying abortion and clicking their tongue over it in distaste to the pollsters and opinion takers content in the knowledge that, if they ever actually need an abortion, it’s there for them. Should pro-lifers ever see large gains, Roe vs. Wade falls* for instance, they’ll likely discover just how tepid many of their supporters are and public opinion will invert dramatically.

    I don’t think Weldon-Lee will be a game changer, I really don’t. The sides are both on solid rock foundations: pro-choicers on the self autonomy of women as equal independent people and pro-lifers on the fundamental awe and profundity that surrounds the kindling of new life and the perfectly moral inkiness that people feel at the idea of it being interfered with or aborted. Between these two rocks the electorate will flow like weird inverted sand dunes, shifting gradually in the direction of the pole against whom the legal and practical abortion winds are blowing.

    *I’d note also that I suspect that Roe Vs. Wade falling would likely be a necessary precondition for America ultimately achieving the compromise that the rest of the West has reached.

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  8. You know, from the opening paragraphs, I thought you were going to go in a different direction with this. Namely, that when a woman does this to a man, it’s perfectly legal. She doesn’t trick him into taking a pill, of course. She doesn’t have to. She can just go out and get an abortion. And then his unborn child is dead, and he has no legal recourse.

    In terms of the cost inflicted on the victim (i.e., the parent who wanted the baby to be born), there’s not much difference between the two. If anything, I’d argue that the cost to a man of having his unborn child aborted against his will is greater than the cost to the woman of having her unborn child aborted against her will, because the woman’s loss is partially offset by not having to go through the pregnancy. I suppose some women might actually value the experience of the pregnancy itself apart from the result (i.e., having the child), in which case the harm to her would be greater than it would to a father in the corresponding situation.

    “But wait!” you say, “It’s her body!” And I agree that that’s relevant on the benefits side of the ledger, but not on the cost side. Her complaint here isn’t that taking the pill was a horrible experience in and of itself, but rather that it resulted in the loss of her unborn child. Exactly the same complaint a man has when a woman aborts his unborn child.

    The differences are more significant on the benefit side of the ledger. In this case, the benefit to the man was that he wouldn’t have to become a father. The benefit to a woman who has an abortion is that she doesn’t have to become a mother, and also doesn’t have to go through the pregnancy.

    As far as I can see, that’s the rational basis for treating these situations differently. But it seems insufficient to me, to justify how differently we treat these cases, legally. Really, how often is “I don’t want to go through pregnancy” a significant factor in the choice to have an abortion, as opposed to “I’m not ready to be a mother?” or “I don’t want another child?” This paper from the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute says that about 12% of respondents cited concerns about their own health. From the discussion section of the paper, and the fact that they cite morning sickness as a specific example, it appears that this includes any issues related to the physical burden of pregnancy.

    So in the vast majority of cases, women cite essentially the same reasons as men for wanting to terminate a pregnancy. With that in mind, does it really make sense to treat this as a step down from murder, but treat a woman’s unilateral choice to abort against the father’s wishes as beyond reproach?

    I don’t really have a good answer here. I’m not terribly keen on giving the father the legal power to compel an abortion. Nor do I like the idea of giving him veto power over an abortion. And yet, assuming that she wasn’t raped, a woman unilaterally choosing to have an abortion over the objections of the father is doing something every bit as awful to him as what this man did to his girlfriend was to her. And I don’t like that, either.

    N.B.: I assign zero value to the preferences of the fetus, because the fetus isn’t at an advanced enough state of neurological development to have preferences. Those who disagree are free to do so, but I’m not going to argue the point.

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    • In terms of the cost inflicted on the victim (i.e., the parent who wanted the baby to be born), there’s not much difference between the two. If anything, I’d argue that the cost to a man of having his unborn child aborted against his will is greater than the cost to the woman of having her unborn child aborted against her will, because the woman’s loss is partially offset by not having to go through the pregnancy. I suppose some women might actually value the experience of the pregnancy itself apart from the result (i.e., having the child), in which case the harm to her would be greater than it would to a father in the corresponding situation.

      I can’t tell whether this is serious, or meant as a sort of parody of a pseudo-rational approach to the issue.

      Either way, I think you’re missing the part that you actually don’t miss in your subsequent calculus, namely that a woman who has an abortion without telling the man who got her pregnant isn’t doing anything to that man’s body, but in a case like the one in the OP…

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      • First, don’t be a dick.

        Second, I devoted a paragraph to the argument that you think I’m missing. Here it is again:

        “But wait!” you say, “It’s her body!” And I agree that that’s relevant on the benefits side of the ledger, but not on the cost side. Her complaint here isn’t that taking the pill was a horrible experience in and of itself, but rather that it resulted in the loss of her unborn child. Exactly the same complaint a man has when a woman aborts his unborn child.

        Suppose some mad scientist invented some kind of hypothetical abortion ray that could kill a fetus in the womb without having any effect at all on the mother. Would this affect your analysis of the situation in any significant way?

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      • Brandon,
        some other person might find the “it’s my body” part of the costs.
        A black person, perhaps, who has seen relatives experimented upon without their consent.

        I agree that this person obviously does not, but please look at the forest, not just the tree!

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      • Brandon, don’t be a dick (which is what you are being, in completely ignoring the woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body in a comparison with the outcome of an abortion for a man and a woman), and I won’t be one.

        Your cost-benefit analysis is still missing a major, perhaps the most important cost, the man’s violation of the woman’s body.

        By your calculus, if I have a toothache, and a man hits me, knocking the tooth out, this is the same as me going to the dentist and getting it removed, because the assault — which is what the man did to the woman — is irrelevant.

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      • Brandon, I’d like to note that women are absolutely flooded with emotional bonding hormones as part of the process of pregnancy and giving birth. So I’d submit that your statement: “If anything, I’d argue that the cost to a man of having his unborn child aborted against his will is greater than the cost to the woman of having her unborn child aborted against her will, because the woman’s loss is partially offset by not having to go through the pregnancy.” Doesn’t parse.

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      • Chris, Brandon, I’d like to throw out a suggestion the thread has been excellent so far but this is a propane filled subject so perhaps cool the heat and flames in the interest of addressing the substantive points involved?

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      • There are substantive points involved? As far as I can tell, the “substance” here is, “Nevermind the assault, they both end up with an unwanted termination of a pregnancy, so everyone’s even, and the woman, not having to go through pregnancy, may even have come out ahead, again, inspite of being assaulted.” I think I’ve treated that with precisely the amount of respect it deserves.

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      • I suppose if I were going to deal with the “substance,” I might point out that this is another instance of this:

        Social conservatives have become their own worst political enemies on most national issues, but none so much as the issue of abortion.

        That is, ignoring a woman’s bodily autonomy, and the fact that it has been violated, in order to produce a calculus in which two very different actions are treated as the same is a perfect example of this.

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      • I think a part of the question is what, precisely, we are counting as harm against the woman.

        Is the harm that she ingested something against her will? Would we consider this comparable to a man being slipped Viagra as a practical joke?

        Is the harm that she lost the baby against her wishes? If so, that does complicate things. Because, as Brandon points out, that happens to men and only pro-life individuals would argue that it should be otherwise.

        If we’re sticking to the first claim of harm, that this is comparable to another kind of assault, then Chris is right.

        But the post said “murder.”

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      • What happens with Cytotec is that it actually causes the woman to go into labor; describing it as “an abortion pill” somewhat simplifies the issue.

        In addition, since Cytotec isn’t intended to *be* an abortifacent, it’s not formulated for that; there’s no way to control the dose or to stop delivery of the drug. So the woman might start having horribly strong contractions and end up rupturing her uterus and bleeding to death–particularly when this is “slip one in her coffee” and not “administered in a hospital with quick access to emergency surgery”.

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      • Will, I guess you could parallel it with a man and a woman both being slipped a substance that caused their hands to atrophy and fall off? In that scenario yes, they’ve suffered equal harm. I still don’t think Brandon’s parallel works though I’m still gumming at it in my mind.
        A woman who has an abortion of her fetus against her will isn’t equal to a father who has an abortion of his fetus against his will even in terms of harm. The woman has experiences the actual loss of the fetus on a physical (not just emotional) level. On the emotional level there’re hormonal and psychiatric dimensions to the unwilling abortion that a woman will suffer that a man would not (or only to a considerably more muted degree). A woman who suffers an unwilling abortion of her fetus is having risks to her health forced on her that a man who suffers the same is completely insulated against.

        No, the more I think about it the more I’m settling that substantively Brandon’s assertion doesn’t work. That’s without touching on my other points that I’ve addressed elsewhere about the biological inequality between men and women and the law reflecting that fact.

        Chris: At the risk of sounding like a pretentious git I’ll share my rule for arguing on the internet #2: “Always be much more polite than you think the subject or your counterpart deserves. They’ll hate you for it.”

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      • Pretty sure being forced or tricked into a medical procedure you haven’t given informed consent to (or a duly recognized authority if you’re incapable, like the courts or a spouse) is a crime all by itself.

        It’s certainly how a doctor loses his license to practice.

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      • North, there is a little bleedover between Objection #1 (physical harm to the woman) and Objection #2 (lost baby) in your comment.

        The potential side effects to the woman are all covered in #1. The harm to the woman’s physical person (and the potential of harm). This is most certainly different for the woman who has the abortion and the man whose half-product is aborted.

        But, again, Tod’s post focuses on #2. That this is more than an assault on the mother. This is about a lost baby. That is something men can definitely relate to. Exactly the same? I’d argue not because the psychological trauma of having it happen inside your body is worse than what the man feels. But whether they are worlds apart is discussion-worthy (especially if one occurs with much greater frequency than the other). I’m actually kind of glad that somebody brought it up.

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      • North, I appreciate what you’re doing, and that’s an excellent rule, but I think that in some cases I am constitutionally incapable of adhering to it. What Brandon is doing here, though he’s doing it in the guise of the sort of calculus that only intelligent people would make, amounts to ignoring the woman’s bodily autonomy, something that I doubt he’d do in the other direction. It’s 2013. This is unacceptable.

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      • Suppose some mad scientist invented some kind of hypothetical abortion ray that could kill a fetus in the womb without having any effect at all on the mother. Would this affect your analysis of the situation in any significant way?

        Your supposition assumes that the fetus is not a part of a pregnant woman’s body. I do not grant the validity of that assumption. I do not believe a fetus can be endowed with personhood until it has a functioning cerebral cortex. Until that time, a fetus is simply a part of a pregnant woman’s body. It is a physical and logical impossibility to “kill a fetus in the womb” without having any effect on the woman it is attached to. Changing the state of the fetus is changing the state of the woman’s body.

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      • Will: I certainly think the point can be validly raised. I just am of the opinion that, considering that the preponderance of emotional, physical and logistical burden of child creation falls on women it’s only just and logical that the preponderance of legal power over said process rest in the potential mothers’ hands.

        Chris: I’m an “I’ll see you on the barricades if you come for my sister and nieces” pro-lifer myself so I emphasize. But it’s 2013, I think we’ll we win better with humor, zeal, cold focused arguments and above all by acting as if everyone we argue with is a potential pro-choicer and a person arguing in good faith -even- if we don’t think it’s true.

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      • North, actually, to clarify what I am saying, let’s take the peculiarities of the situation off and go with the more traditional manner in which this was done before: The man beats her up.

        So he slugs her six times in the stomach. She loses the baby. Mission accomplished.

        Is this comparable to a man being slugged six times in the stomach? Or, for that matter, a non-pregnant woman?

        If we answer yes, then we’re talking about Objection #1. It is the harm to the woman’s person, rather than the lost baby, that we’re objecting to.

        To whatever extent that we’re saying it’s worse because the baby was lost, then men losing the baby becomes comparable in some manner to whatever extra negative value we assign to the fact that there is a lost baby.

        Which isn’t to say that there is the same negative value. The more I think about it, the more difference-in-degree I see. But I do think that axis, thought of independently from the assault, is worth thinking about it. (Had Brandon not brought it up, I wouldn’t be thinking about it to the extent that I have, to come to the conclusion that I have.)

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      • Note that my comment came before I read North’s.

        North, my argument wasn’t actually geared towards a conclusion like “Women should not be legally allowed to have an abortion.” One can actually accept the notion the negative value of Objection #2 is equal, and still argue that a woman nonetheless has rights in this arena that a man does not (cannot).

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      • Will: It’s quite possible to claim a fetus is a potentially valuable thing without ALSO claiming it’s a human being.

        After all, if you WANT a baby (an actual human) you have to start with an egg and invest a lot of time and energy to get the end result, right?

        So why shouldn’t the loss of invested time an energy if nothing else warrant an extra or deeper punishment?

        There’s also emotional distress and damages — a key finding in many a civil suit, and a factor in criminal ones. Ending a wanted pregnancy against the woman’s wishes is emotionally and mentally damaging, yes?

        It’s not binary. Pregnancies are heavily invested with the future — not what is, but what this is a foundation for. Step one in a process.

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      • It’s quite possible to claim a fetus is a potentially valuable thing without ALSO claiming it’s a human being.

        That’s not only possible, those are my views on the subject precisely.

        So why shouldn’t the loss of invested time an energy if nothing else warrant an extra or deeper punishment?

        That argument is not without merit. We can call that Objection #3. But I think if we’re being honest with ourselves that’s not really what it’s about.

        There’s also emotional distress and damages

        Because THIS is what it’s about, ultimately. But this is also where Brandon’s point about men come into play. Men can also feel distress at losing their unborn offspring when his partner chooses to abort. Is it the same? I’d argue not for the reasons I have already mentioned. But I think it touches on a number of valuable points, even if we believe that women should have an unfettered right to choose to keep or terminate.

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      • If my girlfriend leaves me, I will suffer extreme emotional distress and damages.

        But that doesn’t mean her right to leave me is more important than my emotional distress.

        Sure, an abortion can be devastating for the father. But devastating enough to trump her bodily autonomy? To use an extreme example: Suppose I converted to a religion — deeply, truly, honestly — that forbade short hair on women. I deeply believed any woman who cut her hair shorter than her shoulders was damned to hell.

        Should I be allowed to forbid my wife from cutting it, on the grounds of the very real emotional distress her eternal damnation would be to me? Of course not.

        I mean, how often are even minor human freedoms curtailed — in America — to protect another’s feelings and emotional well being?

        I mean if you ignore like 90% of the rationale behind University speech codes and play up public funding, maybe that. Feels like a stretch though.

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      • Ok, initially I was attracted to Brandon’s argument and repulsed by North’s. However, on reflection, a pregnancy or termination of a pregnancy can have an impact on the woman’s future ability to successfully have children. The man reproductive health is not affected. It’s true that a man may feel distress and pain but he has the option (if he has the resources) to get an egg donor and surrogate and rectify his situation.

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      • Sure, an abortion can be devastating for the father. But devastating enough to trump her bodily autonomy?

        This isn’t really a pro-life vs pro-choice thread, given that none of the participants think that abortion should be illegal.

        The only point here being made is that some degree of emotional hardship that the woman faces by losing her baby is felt by a father when a mother chooses to abort. So it seems a bit problematic to place too much importance on that loss. By, for instance, equating her sense of loss with the loss of one who was murdered, by calling what he did murder (which is how Tod said he felt about it, on a visceral level).

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      • he only point here being made is that some degree of emotional hardship that the woman faces by losing her baby is felt by a father when a mother chooses to abort. So it seems a bit problematic to place too much importance on that loss.

        I disagree.

        First, I think you are overlooking a critical part of pregnancy and how men and women relate to it — specifically, the father has an emotional connection as does the mother (or at least the possibility of one) — no arguing there. He does not have a physical connection — the fetus is not living inside his body. (yes, yes, half the DNA — I’m talking ongoing here). Or perhaps “undervaluing” is a better term.

        Anything done to the fetus is therefore done to the woman. They are biologically intertwined for the entirety of the pregnancy.

        In the case of an abortion, it is a medical procedure — done TO the woman as much as, if not more so, than the fetus (depends on developmental stage as to specifics). Forcing an abortion on a woman is forcing a medical procedure — or a drug or both — upon her, in addition to emotional damages there is a purely physical violation.

        One the father cannot share. Her abortion might be emotionally distressing to him, but his bodily integrity is not violated.

        Thus i see his emotional distress as being more that of a secondary party — things equalize when the child is born (thus I would consider both parents equally distressed if their infant was to die).

        It is, unequivocally, at a remove from that of the woman’s for the simple reason that his distress is not compounded by direct physical, biological, or medical factors.

        Which is at least why I’d consider abortion against the consent of the mother a crime, but not one against the consent of the father. In short, the father suffers JUST emotional distress whereas the mother suffers aggravated assault via medicine AND the same emotional distress.

        It’s the assault that’s the crime — the emotional bit is just a modifier for severity.

        As to the claims of ‘murder’ — we’re not exactly wired to be dispassionate about babies, are we? One reason abortion is such a touchy subject is because humans are pretty well wired to cherish and protect infants, even to the point where rather nefarious criminals often consider harming young children and pregnant women taboo when so little else is to them.

        So I can understand the reach to the word ‘murder’ in a case like that — it’s emotionally charged and you want to reach for the rhetorical hammer because forcing an abortion is so much worse than choosing one (on that everyone can agree).

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    • “You know, from the opening paragraphs, I thought you were going to go in a different direction with this. Namely, that when a woman does this to a man, it’s perfectly legal.”

      It’s not remotely the same in reverse. Doing something malicious to another person’s body, without either their permission nor their knowledge, has to count for something in all of this – and a pretty big something at that.

      Using your logic, there’s no real moral difference between a woman donating one of her kidneys to someone other than her lover even if he needs one, and that same boyfriend chloroforming her and surgically removing her kidney for himself without her consent.

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      • And of course a fetus is not a person, especially early in development, so it cannot be murdered.

        It is a potential person, whatever that means. It could or is likely to become a person. The question of whether it is immoral to destroy a potential person is vexed and not clean cut like the question of whether it is immoral to kill a person.

        If preventing potential persons from becoming persons (because of what is done to the potential person and not the persons who might care about it) is morally wrong, then using contraception is wrong.

        Maybe potential persons have moral worth, but there is no reason to think it is at all comparable to the worth of, you know, an actual person like, maybe the mother.

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      • “And of course a fetus is not a person, especially early in development, so it cannot be murdered.

        It is a potential person, whatever that means.”

        I think this is an assertion that reasonable people can disagree with, even if we replace “fetus” with “fertilized egg.” Simply saying it won’t make someone agree with you.

        I happen to think the argument that the fertilized egg might be a person is very plausible. I’m pretty much robustly pro-choice regardless. But it is something I struggle with.

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      • A person must have some features associated with experience or consciousness.

        A person can experience, think, feel, emote, etc., or at least do some of those things.

        A fetus can do none of those things, in the way that a bacterium can’t, amd both aren’t persons. A fetus is human, but there are lots of things that can be called human that aren’t persons. (Human akin cells grown in a lab, say. Or a molar pregnancy.)

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      • Again, Shazbot, those are claims that can be disputed by reasonable people. I realize I cannot advance an argument that will convince you, any more than you can advance an argument that will convince me.

        I guess my main concern is that in the abortion debate, many people on each side draw their true rejection along unprovable lines, or at least along lines that are so fraught, value-laden, and subjective that a reasonable person might disagree without ever having to resort to reason or that can only be resolved by a form of circular reasoning, such as an assertion of the attributes of personhood and then an assertion that the unborn do not demonstrate those attributes.

        To the proposition that the necessary attribute of a person is one/something who can “an experience, think, feel, emote, etc., or at least do some of those things,” another might advance a proposition along the lines you alluded to with your “potential person” comment, that once an egg is fertilized, it has a destiny, or telos, of personhood. (You also pointed out that this raises the question of why stop at fertilization and not pre-feritlization. Good question, and I have no answer other than the unsatisfyingly question-begging one that it’s not a fertilized egg yet.)

        Or let me put it this way: if it can be demonstrated beyond a doubt that a zygote has all or most of the attributes of personhood, would you accept that as a valid reason to outlaw abortion in, say, the first trimester? I suspect you wouldn’t, as I don’t. If I’m right, your pro-choice position is probably based on a claim different from that asserting the non-personhood of the unborn.

        For me (and you?), it’s based on a near absolute respect for the woman’s autonomy over herself and the lifeform, whether we call it a person or not, that is developing within her. Of course, my view is, in its own way, a question-begging one, based more on a sense of what I feel is right and not on a set of premises that I expect prolife people to agree with.

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    • Excellent comment on an excellent post.

      What are your thoughts on giving both parties (prospective mom and dad) economic rights and obligations?

      For example, what do you think about giving any unmarried dad the right to claim the child and override an abortion, but as an oblogation he must pay the mother for her services?

      Alternatively, if he wants it aborted and she refuses, what are your thoughts on freeing him of paternity obligations?

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      • Roger,
        “For example, what do you think about giving any unmarried dad the right to claim the child and override an abortion, but as an oblogation he must pay the mother for her services?”

        … I don’t like this. A woman can be raped (or carrying an incestuous baby), and be forced to carry it to term?? That’s icky. I’d love for there to be something systematized and in law (a formalized contract), where a woman can sign a contract with the dad to give the child in return for payment.

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      • Biologically speaking, Roger, you’d end up with men running around with stacks of paternity obligation nullification forms all day long. It’s a step up from “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you” but only a couple steps and certainly is in the same family.

        Your proposed system would work in a world where men and women were biologically equal vis a vis abortion. We both know, of course, that this is not the case.

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      • Yes, to echo Will here, in order for this to be a true market alternative Roger the man would have to bid and the woman accept. An override, like you’re suggesting, would be a massive anti-market imposition since it’d be a regulatory body setting the price on the woman’s time and physical integrity.

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      • For example, what do you think about giving any unmarried dad the right to claim the child and override an abortion, but as an obligation he must pay the mother for her services?

        He’s already free to offer that. Removing her ability to refuse is slavery, and removing her ability to say “yes” but demand more money than he could possibly raise is even worse: it’s government interference in a market!

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      • As noted, a contract you can’t say “no” to isn’t a contract — it’s slavery.

        Pregnancy, even healthy ones, can be quite physically damaging. Ask any woman with kids, and there will be a laundry list of post-pregnancy issues — from minor (frequent heartburn) to moderate (incontinence is a common one) to major (people still do die from it, you know).

        There’s a reason surrogate mothers tend to be either VERY close friends (ie: willing to sacrifice for their loved ones) or desperately needing money (and still quite well compensated). Pregnancy is 9 months of stress, a not as safe as people assume delivery, and a possible lifetime of medical issues.

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      • To Kim, Morat, North, Will and Mike

        Thanks for the responses. Just to clarify, I was not suggesting anything. I asked two questions to stimulate discussion, that is all.

        The assumption was voluntary intercourse between unmarried individuals. My questions did not apply to married people or rape for obvious reasons.

        I agree that it would be coercive to force the woman to take the offer, and I agree it would be a bad idea. What is everyone’s thought on the idea of the prospective dad being able to enter a contract for delivery with the mom?

        Second, I am still not clear where you guys fall on the issue of men having a say in abortion or gaining the freedom of financial obligation. There were comments on “slavery”, but I fail to see how this is not also true of the dad’s obligation to a kid he never agreed to. What is the argument that you take away the father’s choice but protect the mother’s? It seems to fall apart on principle. Is it utilitarian?

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      • Mike, pregnancy and delivery are also consequences of having sex. I understand why we must make the distinctions that we do, but I am a bit sensitive (perhaps hypersensitive) on the “If you don’t want to deal with the consequences, don’t have sex!” lobbed at men. When, at the same time, my basing my philosophical views on abortion, on a woman’s decision to have sex (hence my “rape exception” on the moral question), is… viewed rather unfavorably by many of the people who think that if a guy doesn’t want to be a father he just needs to keep his pistol in his holster.

        Roger, because it’s ultimately necessary. While it may be unfair on one level that men have no control over the situation once a pregnancy has occurred, it’s the least unfair solution for all parties involved. Having to pay child support for eighteen years or more is significant, but a different bird from having to carry it in your body for the better part of a year.

        Another thing is that there are a lot of men that very much want to be a part of their kid’s lives and often face uphill battles in courts and norms. It is damaging to the case that men should be involved in their kids’ lives if we turn around and argue “but only if they want to.” For it to be a right, it also needs to be an expectation.

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      • MS — your sqme logic can be spun against a woman’s freedom of choice. You seem to already be aligned on a solution and just rationalizing it.

        WT — your argument does seem to be utilitarian. Not that there is anything wrong with this. On the issue of difference in kind between paying child support and giving birth, I kind of agree, but not sure this justifies taking away the man’s freedom o choice. And I don’t really agree with your final paragraph. Again, you can spin the same obligation thing on the woman.

        Tod’s article gets to a common thread around these parts. What principle are we using to give choice to one party and not the other? Utilitarianism is one principle, though it is not usually the reason i remember hearing as given by the left.

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      • I have no solution. It’s a difficult situation if there are conflicting desires and goals, and there’s no neat way to cut the baby in half. But

        1. I don’t think the solution is for one party to have a Get Out of Jail Free card, and
        2. I wish I were disappointed by being accused of intellectual dishonesty, but it is the usual pattern, isn’i it?

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      • How ’bout we let men opt out of paying for a child if they give up any claim to any parental rights, including the right to see the child, and when the men do so, the state provides the material support that would have been legally required from the father?

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      • Making babies can result in a baby. What principle protects the father from a foreseeable consequence of his freely chosen actions?

        Mike – So why is asking the same question about the mother treated as immediately and indisputably misogynist?

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      • Relax Mike. I did not accuse you of “intellectual dishonesty” nor do I believe you were being so. Not at all.

        Chris. Agreed (with your characterization of a secondary problem created by giving freedom of choice to the dad, and thus pointing to potential utilitarian issues).

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      • Roger,
        “What is everyone’s thought on the idea of the prospective dad being able to enter a contract for delivery with the mom?”

        I like it. Want it streamlined, and available from a notary.

        A guy does things with consequences, he ought to be willing to pay for the unexpected ones. Nothing more different than speeding. If he crashes into someone while speeding, well, then he’s got manslaughter charges. Here, we assess a different penalty.

        I’d LOVE if folks were willing to create contracts saying “here’s what we’ll do if there are offspring”… (and enforce them outside the legal system, but within the laws). But, seriously, get real. Nobody’s gonna do that.

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      • So why is asking the same question about the mother treated as immediately and indisputably misogynist?

        I don’t recall where anyone said that a woman can just walk away from the situation and make it someone else’s problem by saying “I didn’t want this.”

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      • “I don’t recall where anyone said that a woman can just walk away from the situation and make it someone else’s problem by saying “I didn’t want this.””

        My brother in law would give just about anything if his literally crazy ex would just excuse herself from the picture. She’s messing up the kids every time they visit her.

        Ultimately, isn’t this what happens with adoption?

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      • Katherine, you’re right, people do treat it as misogyny, or at least as unfair to the woman, because unlike the man, the woman’s body and its health are at stake. There is a fundamental, natural, and given the current state of technology, unavoidable asymmetry here, and it only looks like people are applying a double standard if we abstract everything away from that asymmetry.

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    • I think you answered your own question Brandon. The law assigns weight to the parents commensurate with the burdens each must shoulder through the creation of this new child. Fathers carry little to no burdens that the mother does not also carry (emotional toll, etc); Mothers carry multiple burdens that the Father doesn’t share (biological risk, the toil of pregnancy, heightened emotional burden, hormonal conditioning) so the law places the weight of the authority in the same place that the weight of the burden lands: with the mother.
      It is as unjust as the sexes are unjust; no more, no less. Frankly I don’t see any alternatives that would be more just.

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    • You are forcing an equivalence that simply isn’t there. Biology ain’t fair, but it tends to be not fair in ways that balance each other out. It’s not fair that women bear the primary physical responsibility (and often the primary parental responsibility in cases where the father leaves) of conceiving and birthing a child. It’s also not fair that once a woman is pregnant, the man has essentially lost control of the decision of whether to be a father or not. Trying to suss out which is “worse” is sort of a meaningless exercise.

      The real question is whether there is a way to make this more fair to both sides. And here is my good answer: Women have absolute say over the reproductive choices that affect their bodies (birth control, abortions, sterilization procedures, etc.) However, when a women gets pregnant and seeks to make a paternity claim against a man to whom she is not married, the man can for a certain period of time choose to either recognize the child as his own and assume all the rights and responsibilities or he can renounce all rights and responsibilities. If the man renounces, the woman now has the choice to have the child on her own knowing that the father will not be there or have an abortion. If paternity is in question, that can be determined after the birth and if man is not the father, he can again choose to absolve himself of fatherhood. If it’s a married couple, tough luck to the man. He stood at the alter and said the words. A husband can, however, double-check paternity in cases where it is in question and it it’s not biologically his, he can opt out.

      I doubt that we will ever see such an arrangement because both traditional conservatives and progressive feminists would likely oppose it.

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    • All right, I think this is fairly easily resolved.

      The contention would simply be that “unborn child” is a figment concept of the culture wars. In fact, fetuses are part of a woman’s body. The woman has full autonomy over it because it is her her body; no other person has any rightful claim over it that supersedes or even rivals her own. This doesn’t claim to speak to all emotional attachments that have been formed, but then property rights never do. Just because you want something doesn’t give you a rightful claim over it.

      This was assault because she was tricked by fraud into ingesting a chemical that caused an unwanted process to happen in her body. That’s the legal complaint. There’s a lot more to the claim emotionally because this process meant that this part of her body will now not one day become her child. But legally, the complaint relates to the causation of harm to the body – her body – not the loss of the child. (If she were to sue specifically relating to the loss of the child itself, that would be a different question.)

      I do have some sympathy for your view here about treating “a woman’s unilateral choice to abort against the father’s wishes as beyond reproach.” I think whether that sort of decision is beyond reproach should very much be up for discussion (though not, as you say, whether there should finally be any enforceable interest of the father’s that we’d protect against the mother’s wishes legally – that should be off the table). But it doesn’t need to be anyone’s position that those decisions should be treated as completely unreviewable as an ethical matter (“beyond reproach”) in order to think that this case is one of criminal fraud assault. I agree that there’s a tension to thinking at one and the same time that this case is barely different from murder (it is quite different from murder) and that any woman’s decision whether to have an abortion, in any case (i.e. even when the father wants to have the child), is always beyond reproach, but that’s because both of those positions are independently, IMO, flawed. This crime isn’t like murder, and there might be situations where it might be an unjustified choice for a woman to have an abortion against the wishes of the father, given the balance of emotional harms for each party. This is not to say that w can arrive at a conclusion that she’s wronged him if she does it, because, as I say, we should regard the fetus as a part of her body that she has total autonomy over. But at some level, in some (and only very particular) circumstances, I think it becomes possible to question her choice to disregard the wishes of the person she conceived the child with, even while it remains as a matter of right entirely her choice and not his.

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      • …To be clear or reiterate (I’m not sure which), the kind of questioning I’m saying could be done is not in relation to right or legitimate claims of the decision of the mother in this circumstance – her choice should be inviolate. But perhaps not theoretically beyond reproach in the sense that, in the intimate context of a given relationship, she may be making a cruel or unfair or otherwise unjustified decision, and as a matter of how to treat people optimally, how to be good in one’s behavior with respect to others’ wishes, perhaps in some circumstances the decisions of a pregnant woman could be questioned in that intimate way (though no one should presume to do so from outside the relationship or at least the intimate spheres of the parties involved). But as a matter of right, of prerogative, of autonomy, the decision should be regarded as only hers and inviolate.

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  9. Three things are needed….plus fanatical dedication to the pope.

    A male pill
    An artificial womb that can grow a fetus
    A law against lying about ones fertility status or unilaterally making a decision about the life of a fetus given the existence of an artificial womb

    These things are clearly needed. why hasn’t the market come through?

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  10. I forgot to award kudos for the great post title. It might trivialize the nasty topic, but a great title deserves at least an enthusiastic un-ironic golf clap at the least.

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  11. I’m not sure how this is going to change anyone’s mind. I’m still unclear about why you think this is going to be a game changer.

    Most people have probably made up their minds on this issue.

    Others have pointed out that the defendant’s actions were fundamentally anti-choice because he made a choice against the woman holding the child.

    This seems like a rather tragic but outlier case that is going to attract attention but is really very, very far from the norm. There are probably a lot of men who do not want to be fathers but end up in situations where the girlfriends or wives have an unplanned pregnancy. Most (an overwhelming majority) will not stoop to these disgusting tactics. An unfortunate number might become deadbeat dads if their wife or girlfriend decides to keep the child but that is another story.

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    • The issue is that all along, anti-abortion speakers have been saying “if abortion is easy and legal, and access to abortifacents is easy and legal, then we will have situations where women are coerced or even tricked into having abortions”, and the response was “that’s just crazy conspiracy-theory talk”. And now, well, it’s not.

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      • Got it. I still think this is one case and the defendant-asshole seemed to have gone way out of his way to get his girlfriend to miscarriage.

        Most guys are not this capable or devious. I still think of this as an extreme outlier but bad facts do make bad law.

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      • Men have, historically, punched pregnant women to induce a miscarriage. Pushed them down the stairs. IIRC, they generally don’t get charged with murder, manslaughter, or any variant of it unless it’s rather late in the pregnancy. Certainly not the first 12 weeks.

        They get charged with assault of some sort, often with a kicker for causing extra distress.

        How is this anything but a less violent version of it?

        This isn’t a new story — it’s an old one. Except this guy, thanks to his father the highly unethical about to lose his license doctor, didn’t have to beat the pregnancy out of her.

        This is only going to ‘change minds’ if it’s of people who are, basically, working entirely off of pure gut instinct. Male gut instinct, by and large — because I’d bet good money that women are quite aware of the possibility of a man ending her pregnancy against her will.

        (Which is, as noted, about as anti-pro-choice a position as you can get.)

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      • It’s a bit harder to prove intent with a beating — especially if it’s an already abusive spouse. “I didn’t MEAN to cause a miscarriage, she just makes me so mad…”, you know? Slipping someone a drug is easier to show intent (although it requires you to have an unethical doctor on call, kinda hard to come by).

        But you can google it and get news stories about it even now.

        But miscarriages are common enough results of domestic abuse. You don’t think they’re all accidental, do you? The abuser was just fond of gut shots?

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      • “The issue is that all along, anti-abortion speakers have been saying “if abortion is easy and legal, and access to abortifacents is easy and legal, then we will have situations where women are coerced or even tricked into having abortions”, and the response was “that’s just crazy conspiracy-theory talk”.”

        This must be one of those things that pro-life people are constantly saying when they are under the magical cone of silence, because I have never once had anyone say anything remotely like this to me, ever.

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    • I agree. I would go so far as to say that if this freak occurrence represents a major challenge to your pre-existing views on abortion, then you’re pre-existing views were not very well thought out. Of course, I say this with the understanding that lots of people fall into this category and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

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    • I agree with ND, here; this was an anti-choice action; it just wasn’t a pro-life anti-choice action. But being pro-choice does not equal pro-abortion; it means being willing to let women have the choices necessary to control their own bodies.

      That choice and control were removed from this woman; and if it shocks and dismays, it’s for the removal of her choice.

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    • ” “You said this would never happen. Well, it did. Once! So you’re wrong!” ”

      Actually it’s more like “you said I was a complete idiot for even imagining that this might happen, but then it did! So who’s wrong, me or you?”

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  12. Maybe the “mail fraud” plea sounds like wink at the crime, but maybe it actually works as a way to punish the guy more severely, by making him face federal penalties as opposed to state penalties. Perhaps like convicting Al Capone of tax evasion.

    This is just speculation on my part, as I don’t know the facts.

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  13. If the Kermit Whatsisname case (the Philly abortion horror-show) didn’t turn your opinion, I’m not sure why this one would. Not saying the Philly case should turn your opinion, it didn’t turn mine, just that it seems a lot worse and more viscerally offensive than this one.

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  14. I’m not inclined to criticize Tod for seeing this particular situation as a game changer. A lot of times, we (well, I) can have a distinct view on a subject, know most of the arguments and counterarguments and know most of the facts, and yet have an “ah hah” moment that causes me to shift gears.

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    • I should clarify: I don’t criticize Tod for seeing this as a game changer for his own views on abortion.

      At the same time, I’m very skeptical that this is a game changer in the overall debate. At most, I see it as a signal of the process that leads some pro-choice people to favor increasing restrictions on abortion.

      At least, I see it as a manifestation of one the reasons pro-lifers adopt their position. “We” treat the unborn discursively* as persons in such situations and similar situations. It’s not uncommon, for example, to hear news reports about some tragic accident in which a pregnant woman “and her unborn baby” die. There is a real sense of loss expressed in such reportings that is more than just pro-life propaganda infiltrating the local media. Of course, just because people for the sake of expressing themselves adopt the language of personhood doesn’t mean we can definitively resolve the issue in favor of personhood. But it’s a signal of how people, on an emotional level, arrive at that conclusion.

      But as I said above in a comment to Shazbot, my pro-choice position does not rest on the claim of non-personhood. I also strongly suspect that many (most?) pro-choicers’ true rejection to outlawing abortion does not rest on claims against personhood. I also suspect this true rejection is more implicit than affirmed.

      *I’m not sure what “discourse,” “discursive,” and “discursively” actually mean. Still, that won’t stop me from using the terms.

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  15. Fantastic post Tod. As a pro-lifer my mind was already made up, however it seems to me that a lot of people would have gone through this same moral dilemma back when Scott Peterson was on trial. If you will recall he was convicted of second degree murder in the death of his unborn son. That seemed like a legal contradiction to me at the time but I guess the law disagreed with me on that point.

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  16. Tod,

    Maybe I’m missing something, but whenever I hear what you outlined in the 6th paragraph, I feel like there is a relatively easy answer: If a pregnancy is deliberately terminated against the wishes of the mother, you have committed a crime. We need not call it murder. This is perfectly consistent with the pro-choice position because it still affirms the right of the mother to make a choice. And if her choice is to carry the fetus to full term, than no one has any right to interfere with that choice, just as no one has any right to interfere with her choice to abort (within whatever restrictions we might agree to, etc.).

    So, said a cleaner way: Any interference with a woman’s right to choose is a crime in its own right.

    Okay, now everyone can tell me just how dumb I am…

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    • “If a pregnancy is deliberately terminated against the wishes of the mother, you have committed a crime. We need not call it murder. This is perfectly consistent with the pro-choice position because it still affirms the right of the mother to make a choice. “

      So, then, you would argue that a man unsuccessfully trying to get a law passed that reversed Roe v. Wade and ban abortions is the moral equivalent of a man trying unsuccessfully to do what was done to Lee? Because if the real moral crime is merely an attempt to take away choice, they are somewhat equal… yes?

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      • Or to look at it a slightly different way, in even more black and white terms, let’s say that he had punched her repeatedly in the stomach. There would be the assault and there would be the deprivation of choice. Even if the latter is also an issue, the former is an issue in itself because you can’t go around punching people in the gut. Likewise, you can’t go giving people medication they asked for. (Particularly potentially dangerous medication, as Heffman points out.)

        I am not entirely on board with this logic, but that’s how I (best) understand it.

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      • Then this is just one of those areas where we’re all going to have to disagree.

        Like I said in the OP, much of what drives me on this issue is the way things feel in my gut. To me, a man conspiring to take the life of an unborn child from a mother feels very different and far, far more heinous than any of the crimes – or the limiting of choices – that you are all describing. It’s not a reasoned argument, really.

        I suspect that me trying to say it in different ways is going to be as unconvincing to everyone in this thread.

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      • Sorry, that was confusing given the discussion elsewhere in the thread. I was using assault as an analogy. I do think that this was an assault, and that the assault is not really separable from the choice issue in this case, but I was using assault as an example of how two instances of the same crime can be different.

        To make it clearer, just imagine thefts of different items or of items of different value. They’re both theft, but they’re different.

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      • Tod, I’m late to this and haven’t read the whole thread tho I did read the OP this morning, so maybe this has already been covered … but I’m curious. You think the man’s actions in this case border on murder, yes? That’s the issue you find particularly compelling about this case, right?

        Consider an analogous scenario: the father wants to keep the child but the mother doesn’t. In this case, assume that she tricks her partner into thinking she wants to take the fetus to term but privately she actively pursues a course to terminate the pregnancy by taking various abortifaciants. Is this a case analogous to murder? Well, I hope not, since almost by definition the woman is acting on her right to choose.

        How is that case not analogous wrt to the fetus to a male partner actively terminating a pregnancy against the mother’s will or knowledge? The only distinction wrt the fetus, it seems to me, is that the right to choose is limited to women and excludes men. But that issue isn’t a new one, I don’t think. On the other hand, the interesting thing about this case is that the male partner as described in the OP engaged in a very unique form of assault, one which may test some legal and moral issues, but again, not wrt to the fetus.

        Or, of course, maybe I’m just confused about all this.

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      • Still, the situations have some similar dynamics, but they’re not analogous, because the fetus and the mother are one, whereas the father is a distinct person from the mother&fetus. What this father did was not murder, but it was assault, because it caused harm to the mother’s body against her wishes. The harm was in pat the loss of the fetus (as well as associated processes), yes, but that’s harm to her body just as much as if he had tricked her into taking a pill he knew she was allergic to. The fetus is a part of her body; its loss is a harm if she experiences it as such.

        And why can she take the same pill in knowledge of its properties without committing the same assault? Because she can legally do many (any?) things to her body that others can’t without her permission. Others can’t stick a needle through her earlobe, or pay someone to do it, against her will – that would be a harm. She can (and she may not even consider it a harm). Etc.

        The father rightly creates an emotional stake in the fetus, and it’s true that without him that part of her body wouldn’t exist. But that doesn’t give him part ownership over that part of her body or any say in what happens to it that she doesn’t consent to. As an emotional matter, though, this doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t take into account the wishes of this partner. But at the same time, asking a person to bear a child, and let’s be realistic, in most cases the ask is also to be a parent to it, that they don’t want to is a really, really big ask. (I’m getting away from your question and back to Brandon’s now.) Men should refrain from making that ask when the opposing preference has been expressed except in extraordinary circumstances. And women should seriously consider whether they want to go ahead with a pregnancy when the person who impregnated them says he has no interest in becoming a father.

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      • and and others:

        In my opinion, the implications of Tod’s “in my gut” approach to this issue–which is very similar to my own “in my gut” approach to the issue–actually touch only incidental to whether or how the a-hole in this story is punished. There’s been a very productive discussion above throughout this thread about the differences between assault, denial of choice, poisoning, and mail fraud.

        But I think Tod is aiming at something different, even if he is framing it in part as a punishment issue. What the guy did *feels* like murder to Tod. Tod can correct me if I’m wrong, but I suspect he’d stipulate to the proposition that situations like these are complicated and the laws can at best only approximate what he might see as a fitting punishment. But his main point seems to be the gut-feeling and the implications this feeling might have on his approach to the legalizing/outlawry of abortion.

        I’m not sure I’m being clear here. But I will say, as I’ve said a couple places above, when I developed my pro-choice position, I did so almost taking for granted what the pro-life position sees as the trump argument: that the unborn is a person. I’m not totally on board with the idea that it’s a person, but I find myself very strongly pulled in that direction. Therefore, if I want to remain pro-choice, I have to find another reason.

        If one is inclined to accuse me of disingenuousness, of deciding upon a conclusion and then formulating an argument out of nothing to support it, well, I’m not sure I’d plead guilty, but I can’t in good conscience plead innocent, either.

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      • Tod, I realized just now that a better analogy would be to different means of theft, not different objects stolen. So, there’s breaking and entering, there’s shoplifting, there’s white collar theft, there’s even the theft of Native American land by legislative act (in which case, voting for the act is part of the act of theft), and so on and so forth. They’re all theft, but they’re not all the same thing. Your two examples are sort of like this.

        Yeah, I see where you and Tod are coming from. I just don’t have that reaction. This is probably why I have an extremely difficult time sympathizing with pro-lifers than some other pro-choicers do. My only real gut reaction was to the violation of the woman’s right to control her own body.

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      • I completely understand. When it comes to propositions and positions, I have a lot of sympathy for the pro-life stance, even if ultimately I support pretty much abortion on demand, public funding for (or other form widespread access to) abortion, and a philosophical prerogative for the woman to be able to choose to terminate if she wishes.

        Even so, when I see some specific pro-lifers and the things they say and the way they act, I usually have much less sympathy than I express in the rarefied world of the blogosphere. Not all pro-lifers are like that, but the most vocal and public ones seem to be and seem also disingenuous (not a failing in their argument, but one that raises my skepticism about their end game).

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      • I think brings up a fantastic question.

        If ceasing a pregnancy that is desired by ONE side is wrong, it must be wrong in all occasions.

        If it is not wrong when a woman ends a pregnancy desired by a man, than there must be something about the specific roles of the different sexes that matter.

        By your logic, , it is the desirability of the pregnancy by the mother that affords it moral weight. If the mother wants it, it is a baby and interfering with the pregnancy is murder… or something close. If the mother doesn’t want it, it is just a fetus and interfering with pregnancy is legal abortion. That is not what is meant by choice. Choice is about self-determination over one’s body.

        And I would (and do) criticize people who seek to limit women’s ability to choose.

        When we look at slavery, are we only critical of the slave masters? Or do we also criticize those who enacted, enforced, and protected laws that made slavery legal? Both sides are culpable in slavery. They might commit different crimes in addition to that (e.g., whipping or killing a slave), but they are all guilty of perpetuating slavery. Just as all who seek to limit choice are guilty of seeking to limit choice.

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      • Kazzy: Yes, that’s the point I was trying to make. Thanks for making it a bit clearer. I’m not sure such a distinction is persuasive or would change Tod’s views, but it accounts for at least my views on the topic. If the male partner’s actions hold moral significance wrt to the fetus, I’m just not seeing it. So, again, maybe I’m just confused about Tod’s argument here.

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      • “If one is inclined to accuse me of disingenuousness, of deciding upon a conclusion and then formulating an argument out of nothing to support it, well, I’m not sure I’d plead guilty, but I can’t in good conscience plead innocent, either.”

        Reminds me of the never ending argument Jaymes keeps bringing up with those to his left on whether they represent a consistent worldview or an aggregation of beliefs, some of which appear almost contradictory. Many on the left have actually argued eloquently for the latter.

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      • Perhaps. But I’m inclined to think it’s something we’re all guilty of, or at least potentially guilty of. So unless there is a glaring contradiction, followed by a stubborn refusal to acknowledge the inconsistency once it’s plainly demonstrated, the thoughts about disingenuousness and motivation, in my opinion, work best as an internal or introspective critique. When it’s lobbed from one person against another without the first one being in a position to know the facts, it’s a hazardous not usually productive enterprise.

        By the way, I’m sorry I haven’t contacted you for lunch. Things have been crazy busy and might be that way for the foreseeable future.

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      • I certainly was not trying to use it as a criticism. My guess is someone has even built a coherent philosophy out of rejecting coherent philosophy. Raymond Smullyan comes to mind. Indeed, the question needs to be why does anyone assume a coherent ideology is really the best way to live ones life (I realize every time I write this it sounds like a hidden insult, but REALLY it is not).

        Libertarian types are the ultimate synthesizers. However, I have never seen them prove why anyone else should be.

        Sometimes life is real messy, and maybe the best response is more diverse than any ideology or single world view.

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      • Roger,

        My apologies. I read into your comment what I had been saying in mine (that is, the one you were responding too). I think I pretty much agree with what you’re saying, even to the point of aspiring to embrace this: “Sometimes life is real messy, and maybe the best response is more diverse than any ideology or single world view.”

        I say “aspire” because in practice, I find myself forcing foolish consistencies where they oughtn’t (probably) go.

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  17. Go here to learn how the so-called abortion pill works — it is not a single pill and the process is not a single day.

    There is the morning after pill and it is effective only within a very few hours after unprotected intercourse, i.e. preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall. Again, the woman must take more than one of them.

    If this story is true it remains impossible to understand how you get from a lying man decided to terminate his girlfriend’s pregnancy without her consent to we must not have pro-choice for women.

    It all smells deeply stinky.

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  18. That guy is so messed up for so many reasons.

    I can’t think of a time that you have given advice to conservatives in this format and they’ve taken it. Starting to feel like you’re talking to a brick wall?

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  19. Since you made it all up, and now we’re at the end of the commentariat postings, perhaps you will include the fact that you made it up at the top.

    That was a truly ratty thing you did. Not funny, not witty, not even a commentary on anything — except that mostly a man wrote it, mostly men responded, showing once again how very ignorant most men are of the most basic information about how reproduction and contraception work.

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