October 6, 2005

"For the first time in my life, after over 1,200 abortions in private practice, I actually looked at the pile of goo..."

A pro-life speaker on the UW campus:
“It’s not a choice of hot dogs and hamburgers,” Levatino told the audience as protesters lining the aisles with signs proclaiming, “Our bodies, our right” hissed and interrupted. “There’s more at stake.”

Levatino then launched into a graphic description of his abortion procedures, which involved pulling individual body parts off a 20-week-old fetus from inside the womb with a large metal clamp.

“I didn’t have any qualms with what I was doing,” Levatino stated. “I was pro-choice. It was part of my care to women.”
Supporters of abortion rights heckled during the speech. Can somebody explain how they can think that helps their cause? I'd say trying to blot out the other side's speech, especially in this case, implicitly expresses your fear that the information and reasoning he's providing is persuasive. Also, it makes you look rude and insensitive to both the speaker and those in the audience who want to hear, which is especially damaging to the abortion rights cause (because it's easy for people to think of abortion as a woman's selfish insensitivity to the interests of another).

76 comments:

Sloanasaurus said...

If you believe that a 20 month year old fetus is not life an no different than cutting someones hair, it wouldn't bother you to boo and hiss someone who thought otherwise.

I suppose PETA supporters feel they get a similar insensitive reaction from farmers who take their pigs to the slaughter house.

The more I think about it, it is odd that PETA members are not also radically pro-life. There is a breakdown in logic somewhere in their thinking.... how could a 20 month year old fetus have less rights than an egg or chicken.

Telecomedian said...

Your ending comment is spot-on - it doesn't help their cause to interrupt information, especially from an expert. This relates well to a post you had a few weeks back about Chief Justice Roberts during his law school days - he was one of the rare conservatives surrounded by liberals - he *HAD* to be more schooled in facts against purely emotional arguments.

Goesh said...

We need hecklers however. Public speakers must never be allowed to think they have captured the hearts and minds of any audience. Heckling is raw Democracy at its finest. About 5 years ago I was one of the hecklers at a kkk rally. There were 4 klansmen and about a dozen of their supporters. There must have been at least 150 hecklers, all booing, hissing, chanting, cat-calling, etc. There truly is delight in heckling a public speaker. There is a savage joy in it, all moraltiy and politics aside.

StrangerInTheseParts said...

I agree with your post Ann - though I also like Goesh's comments a lot, too.

However, has anyone been to their local abortion clinic lately? Have you noticed if it is or is not surrounded by shouting, marching anti-abortionists with large posters depicting said 'piles of goo'. They especially like getting their posters right in the faces of the terrified and depressed young women trying to survive what is usually the worst experience of their life. Does that behavior really help their cause? Does it help those women?

Seems to me that if you can't stand a couple of hecklers at a speech, you out to be equally outraged by the anti-abortion protests as well. (Not to mention the occasional bombings and shootings that go on.)

Again - for clarity - I find BOTH sides tactics repulsive and counterproductive. I just find Ann's comments here worth confronting for their one-sidedness. Most often in life, if you see one side acting in a childish rage, it is because they learned that behavior from their enemies. Such things feed on themselves.

JB said...

Sloan-

I will never forget my oddest experience with liberal thought, I met a number of vegetarians who would not eat eggs (some vegans) because of moral concern, but were ardently pro-choice. It would have been laughable if it wasn't so disturbing.

Decklin Foster said...

It's sad that they would be so rude, but I guess if your beliefs are mocked and insulted so often (take, for example, JB's comment directly above) I can understand how you might feel like there's no other way to get through to anyone.

Me, I'm not invested enough to take that sort of thing personally, so don't try to get me in an argument about it.

I am still pro-choice. But I understand what this speaker was saying and why, and it breaks my heart. There is no such thing as an easy position in this debate. (Nevertheless, we still have ideologues on both sides who pretend that theirs is.)

HaloJonesFan said...

>There truly is delight in
>heckling a public speaker. There
>is a savage joy in it, all
>moraltiy and politics aside.

But that is the problem! You aren't doing it because you think it needs to be done, you're doing it because it feels good. It's not about the speaker, or the content--it's about you.

Jim Gust said...

Mr. Sloan--

20-month old human fetuses would almost certainly be dead.

anselm said...

JB & Sloan:

It's not inconsistent to support vegetarianism and abortion rights, both as a matter of personal choice.

I am a vegetarian and think it's a good idea for various reasons, but I don't expect that a legislative ban on meat consumption is the answer, morally or pragmatically.

Even on a strictly moral level, there is no moral interest in meat consumption that I can see. Whereas there are arguments for the right of women to abort their fetuses based on moral considerations, agree or not.

Not that your comment doesn't pose some good questions, but if you tink you've hit upon some kind of ultimate contradiction, you're missing some obvious differences between the two issues.

MD said...

Heckling's fine, as long as it doesn't get so carried away that you can't hear what the speaker has to say. Did you read the descriptions of Bolton speaking at Yale, was it? Sounds lively and like he 'heckled' right back. So much more fun that way....

I had some of the same thoughts as the speaker when I first started my pathology residency and saw the products of conception, the abortuses, the ASAPS (acute situational anxiety of pregnancy - I am not making this up, sorta Orwellian, eh?), the what have you, depending on the hospital. When you first see the specimens - the delicate little hands and feet, the fragile, thin skulls, it's weird. Really, really weird. At least, it was for me. I'm still (more and more reluctantly) pro-choice, but I've become disillusioned with the language and the general antics of the pro-choice movement (the more vocal parts, anyway).

Be honest! We can take it.

JB said...

Anselm-

I definately see how a myriad of distinctions could be made, for one, the mother chicken, does not have a "choice" in the situation, and therefore personal autonomy is lacking etc. I understand the differences and see them.

I also agree that vegetarianism does not conflict with a pro-choice position especially where the choice is based on pragmatism or taste.

It was the instances, where I met individuals who had a moral problem with eating (not just meat) eggs, who I also found out were pro-choice. Sure distinctions can be made, and as I said the personal autonomy of the "mother" may be one of them, but I just found that particular contradiction, particularly "icky."

MD said...

Hmm, it looks like I just contradicted myself in my last comment, doesn't it? I wasn't referring to the heckling of the speaker, which I don't mind too much, but the use of medical phrases like ASAP and the other 'weasel words' often used when talking about abortion.

Jack Roy said...

I think there should be a new species of academic fallacy: Assuming contrary to evidence that college students are acting rationally.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Stranger,

Has anyone been to their local abortion clinic lately?

Yes.

Have you noticed if it is or is not surrounded by shouting, marching anti-abortionists with large posters depicting said 'piles of goo'.

Yes I have noticed, and yes there are some of those people, but they are a minority. Mostly, the "protesters" are there praying and offering to speak to anyone who'd like to hear about alternatives to abortion. It's hard to do when you're not allowed within 150' of a clinic entrance.

They especially like getting their posters right in the faces of the terrified and depressed young women trying to survive what is usually the worst experience of their life.

Yes this happens, and I think it's unfortunate. But I understand why protesters use those posters since Planned Parenthood refuses to show sonograms to their patients or give them useful information - they are told it's a "product of conception" or "mass of cells." Why do 90% of abortion-minded women who see a sonogram choose not to abort?

I don't like the use of graphic posters personally, but I understand the justification. Just like when PETA shows graphic pictures of abused animals, or when TV showed pictures of fire hoses used on civil rights protesters, pictures are a powerful way to communicate truth.

And I agree with you it's the worst experience of of a young woman's life. That's why I am conflicted about the use of such tactics.

Does that behavior really help their cause? Does it help those women?

I doubt it, but who knows? I think their immediate cause is to 1) Force the young woman to be confronted information she definitely will not receive inside the clinic, and 2) Raise enough doubts in her mind such that the fetus will not be killed.

anselm said...

Signs work well. They show solidarity and numbers, give a certain threshold level of respect to the speaker, and make it into the morning paper.

JB -

The distinctions didn't keep you from finding the vegan/pro-choice stance "laughable" and "disturbing", but you noted them.

better than nothing...

PatCA said...

You're right, Decklin, there are no easily defended positions, and that's why hecklers do their cause no good. It's not the heckling, it's the lack of thought, that rankles.

I don't want abortion to be illegal, but I have to say that all of the women I know who have had abortions did it for reasons of essentially convenience. That was a couple of decades ago, in the early days of Roe v. Wade, and women perhaps chose abortion too quickly, but this is not a good for society, either.

Ann Althouse said...

Anselm: "Even on a strictly moral level, there is no moral interest in meat consumption that I can see." I used to be a vegetarian, but I felt sick in a way that I found was cured by eating meat. I don't eat a lot of meat and I try to buy free-range type meats. I feel I need to eat meat for my health. Is that not a moral interest if I also take care to buy meat from animals that have been raised under decent conditions?

Ann Althouse said...

The problem with eggs isn't their status as potential chickens -- you're probably not looking at fertilized eggs. It's the conditions under which most egg-laying chickens are confined. It's therefore important to buy eggs from free-range chickens. Concern for the suffering of chickens caused by you is not inconsistent with your supporting a woman's autonomy in governing her own body. It's true that you're failing to rescue the unborn child, but you would have to intrude on her body to do it. When you eat eggs from chickens raised under poor conditions you are part of the cause of the suffering.

Paul said...

A person invited to a forum has a right to be heard in that forum, it is not extemporaneous speech on a street corner. It is publicized and people are expected then to hear this person. There is no room here to disrupt the speaker. Those opposed should hold their own forum, conduct their own protests outside or in another building where people who choose can come to listen. This country lives not to smother a person's views.
I'm naive again.

miklos rosza said...

I was involved in a late (6 month) abortion when I was 17. The girl was 15. We just kept putting off thinking about it, and her (wealthy) parents were inattentive at best.

It was just getting to the point where I would put my hand on her belly and feel the baby occasionally kick.

This is too confessional. It feels self-indulgent. All apologies.

On a Tuesday night at 10pm D. called me from the small hospital her parents had checked her into. She was to have an abortion first thing the following morning. I was simultaneously horrified and I guess relieved. I was school president, etc, and the only way I could picture having the baby was dropping out and getting a bluecollar job.

She had an "induced labor" abortion, which from what she told me later was horribly painful, the contractions more powerful and unrelenting because they were artificially caused. D's parents flew to the Bahamas and I picked her up from the hospital, staying with while she wept off and on -- and was in pain -- the next few days.

I look back on my irresponsibility and lack of seriousness as the worst thing I've been a party to in my life. It was a sin. It's haunted me a great deal, as it doesn't look like I'll end up ever fathering a child.

I've known two women, "career women" -- well, teachers, who had one or more abortions in their 20s and then frantically sought to become pregnant in their late 30s without success. One eventually adopted a baby from Nepal, the other a child from Bombay.

I know a woman who in her early 20s was in a band, addicted to heroin off and on, and had no less than five abortions. She has had complications since -- that is, she has gone to the emergency room on several occasions because of frighteningly heavy bleeding when her regular period occurred.

I know a lesbian who had two abortions while married then finally had a child when she was 38. She smothers it with attention -- the "only child syndrome" -- which seems so common as to be unremarkable these days.

My wife does not want to have a child because this would cramp her "creativity," a faculty which remains, in her 30s, amorphous and ill-defined. She used to be in a band.

I know two other women in their 30s who attend writing workshops and hope to be novelists and reject motherhood as something which would put an end to that hope.

I guess I remain pro-choice. I don't feel morally elevated enough to judge anyone here. But it's a bad business. And these kinds of stories -- which have all kinds of overtones, and reverberations, and epitomize so much -- seldom seem to be heard. Or I miss them. I don't know.

Sally said...

This is a very interesting post by Ann, and interesting comments. I have to agree with Ann here on her basic premise - that heckling someone who has first hand experience with abortions and is coming from a thoughtful place does little for the pro-choice cause. Ignoring the repurcussions of late-term abortions also does little for the cause as it deters honest dialogue. Many pro-choicers feel conflicted by late-term abortions, yet the pro-choice movement seems to try it's hardest to silence even a respectful debate. And yes, i am pro-choice.

JB said...

It's certainly the case, that one could refrain from eating eggs from providers who treat their chickens poorly and this would be not at all inconsistent, but that's, if I'm correct in understanding, a reason to not eat certain eggs, but some others. Which is not inconsistent.

I was going to point out the unfertilized nature of the eggs as well, but I thought it demonstrated even greater absurdity.

There are a myriad of bases to justify not eating eggs or to only eat certain eggs, but when in the 5 or so where someone mentioned they were a vegan, who I then asked why and they told me that they had a moral problem with eating meat because it was killing, who also stated that they ate eggs, and later in the conversation when I asked casually if they were pro-choice and they said they were, I couldn't help but ponder at the inconsistency.

Anselm-
Just cause I recognize that someone has made a distinction to themselves doesn't mean that I necessarily think it's legitimate, most cases, it is, just some are a stretch, and I'm probably too harsh in calling it laughable, but it's always interesting to me how fine distinctions can get, and some do start to get silly.

JB said...

That should read..."didn't eat eggs"

Sally said...

Paul,

OMG, thank you for sharing your stories! This is another big piece of the pie that is missing from the pro-choice movement IMO- the haunting that an abortion can cause one, even if one happens to be so very liberal and creative. I feel the pro-choice movement is so into the politics of it, that they've decide to ignore the nuances and the real emotions that come from such a decision.

Walt said...

Hecklers appearing to be rude and insensitive?

Hecklers ARE rude and insensitive, on both sides of the issue, whatever the issue.

Oh, I know. The hecklers are thinking of themselves as wielders of 1st amendment rights, participating in confrontational politics. And that's the problem.

Confrontation goes beyond the boundaries of civilized discourse, and to the degree the hecklers go beyond those boundaries, it becomes less a matter of expressing a viewpoint and more like an assault, with the underlying possibility that violence is a possibility. In short, heckling is a threat, and is meant as one.

StrangerInTheseParts said...

Aha! So rational, calm and insightful exchanges about abortion from both sides is possible! I knew it! Kudos to all commenters.

Pastor Jeff - thanks for the even tempered and thorough response.

Lesson: It is the zealots and the radicals on your own side that are often the largest cause of suffering, misunderstanding, rage and defeat. People who value calmness, convincing arguments, and humility always have more in common with each other - even when they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum - than those who value rage, purity of ideals, and smiting their enemies.

PatCA said...

Milos, thanks. Your experiences echo mine. All this 'choice' can break your heart.

tcd said...

I don't agree with the heckler's tactics and wish they wouldn't do it, but I can understand why they're doing it. It is pure anger. Anger at the opposition's deceit.
The pro-life movement purports to care about the woman and the fetus and they mask their argument in the language of life, community and religion. But when the mask is removed, their position boils down to anti-choice and anti-woman; pure control over half of the population. For example, here's a sentiment from Pastor Jeff, one of our moral betters, "...I agree with you it's the worst experience of of a young woman's life. That's why I am conflicted about the use of such tactics." So he is conflicted. Wow, thanks for your empathy Pastor. What does he propose to do to the young woman? Pastor Jeff says, " 1) Force the young woman to be confronted information she definitely will not receive inside the clinic..." Yes, let's FORCE her. So today, we force her to look at some pictures. Tomorrow, we force her to give birth to a future taxpayer. And the day after that? We must punish her by forcing her to live with the consequences of her immoral behavior (how dare she have sex outside of marriage, my moral belief says it's wrong). Let's see if the bitch can survive single motherhood. Forget about high school, forget about college, she can work at Walmart -- she has a future taxpayer to raise and feed after all. End of the road for you, baby. Let's move on to the next sinner!
That's my view on pro-lifers.

vbspurs said...

Anselm wrote:

Not that your comment doesn't pose some good questions, but if you tink you've hit upon some kind of ultimate contradiction, you're missing some obvious differences between the two issues.

That the killing of the children of animals is more morally egregious than the killing of the children of humans?

Because that's how it looks like, when you're a vegan AND pro-choice.

I am pro-life, and I veer towards favouring anti-capital punishment.

I realise one is the killing of innocent life, and the other is the killing of life which has taken life, which the State has decided must be punished, but at least my way, makes more sense.

But vegan and pro-choice? Please.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

implicitly expresses your fear that the information and reasoning he's providing is persuasive. Also, it makes you look rude and insensitive to both the speaker and those in the audience who want to hear, which is especially damaging to the abortion rights cause (because it's easy for people to think of abortion as a woman's selfish insensitivity to the interests of another).

Brava.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

But when the mask is removed, their position boils down to anti-choice and anti-woman;

I am hardly likely to be anti-myself or anti my own interests.

This is where the absolute breakdown of logic occurs.

It is not men who are the basis of the pro-life movement. It is women.

You have to find another argument than "It's the big bad MALES who are at fault for trying to keep you down!".

You'll find that doesn't work in the West as much anymore.

Cheers,
Victoria

tcd said...

Victoria,
I was raised in and still live in Michigan, USA. I've had my share of abortion arguments with enough American males to know where they're coming from. You need not condescend.

Jennifer said...

tcd said...I've had my share of abortion arguments with enough American males to know where they're coming from.

If you've approached said males as antagonistically and condescendingly as you did the posters here, then I doubt very much that you discovered anything about where they are coming from.

tcd said...

And I wasn't just referring to males. I was referring to all pro-lifers including women like you. You know, the kind who like to look down their noses at other people.

Jennifer said...

tcd said...I was referring to all pro-lifers when saying
their position boils down to anti-choice and anti-woman; pure control over half of the population


You just confirmed my opinion that its unlikely you've actually gleaned much from anyone you debated abortion with.

I have a hard time believing that you have never met a single pro-lifer who opposed abortion on moral grounds. Every single pro-lifer simply aims to control women, huh?

That seems a rather naive and simplistic view of things.

Sally said...

Ooops! I gave thanks to the wrong person. I meant to give thanks to Miklos for sharing his experiences. THESE are the sorts of stories we (rightfully) pro-choicers should start sharing.

And Tcd, you are demonstrating EXACTLY what I cannot stand about my pro-choice sisters and brothers. Stop simply reacting and start listening. Believe it or not, there is some commonground between the pro-life and pro-choice movement, and I think we better start connecting a bit more to help young women.

tcd said...

Jennifer,
You think abortion is morally wrong, then don't have one. Abortion would not be an option for me as well. I'm just not arrogant enough to think that I should impose my moral views onto other women. Maybe you sleep better at night in the comforting thought that you are morally superior. I happen to like living my life with a bit more humility.

Jennifer said...

tcd: For the record, I absolutely think women have a right to make a choice. I just think we need to make our choices well before you think we do.

And, I feel it is morally repugnant to stand by and tacitly condone something that is wrong. Can you understand that, from my perspective, I would be betraying my own beliefs by supporting a right to abortion?

That said, you certainly have the right to your beliefs and to lobby for laws that support your beliefs. I think I have that right as well.

Allicent is absolutely right. There truly is common ground between pro-choice and pro-life. And, no one is served by a contentious debate where each side seeks to silence and insult the other.

Eddie said...

What I don't understand is this. If a man can't have a view on abortion because he can't get pregnant, it then seems reasonable to me that a woman who HASN'T had an abortion can't be pro-choice or have a position because she hasn't had an Abortion, doesn't know the pain of one, doesn't know the hurt and suicidal thoughts a woman goes through after having one in order to "know" what it's like to have an abortion.

Eddie said...

Why does carrying a child to term automatically mean a woman doesn't have a life, career, or future.

1) She doesn't live with the forever pain an abortion brings and the nightmares that go along with it.
2) The child is raised in a good home, at least as good as any.
3) Adoption has always been the Christian thing to do, and there is quite the waiting list for it as well.

Sally said...

Eddie,

Adoption is a wonderful thing and I hope to adopt a child one day myself. That being said, adoption can also be a tricky thing. It is devastating for a birthmother to give up a child and it can also cause identity confusion for the child. I have spoken to women who lived in the day and age in the U.S. when abortion was illegal, and so opted for adoption. As far as I can see, these women are haunted far more than my friends who have had abortions, which of course, can also be devestating.

I'm hard on the pro-choice movement for pollyannaing (is that a word?) the affects of abortion. That being said, I think the pro-life movement should also think twice about pollyanning the potentially devastating affects of bringing a child to term when said women is not ready to be a mother. Adoption is not necessarilly a wonderful thing for everyone.

Mary said...

Anybody else catch this?

"My wife does not want to have a child because this would cramp her 'creativity,' a faculty which remains, in her 30s, amorphous and ill-defined. She used to be in a band."

"I know two other women in their 30s who attend writing workshops and hope to be novelists and reject motherhood as something which would put an end to that hope."

That's a rather extreme view of "pro-life" if you're suggesting every woman should be a mother. Good or bad, why not respect their choices since your judgment here might be off. Or did I miss something and they've all aborted too?

(You could always leave your wife if you feel so strongly about fatherhood -- there's probably still time for you as a man. Sorry to hear about your youthful mistakes, but it sounds like neither of you were responsible enough to care for a child then, and her parents did not want to either. Perhaps this was the least painful outcome considering what might have become of that child, had you not found a decent adoption home for the child. Good luck.)

Eddie said...

Allicent,

While I respect your comments, I still did not see one thing in there that ever talked about the child, as if my life and yours aren't worth living. Were we not born of the same womb that mothers who abort their children are born from, and then torn apart from limb to limb? I am sorry if a woman is an incubator, but that doesn't make that child's life, yours, mine, and Ann Althouse's any less valuable.

Eddie said...

Allicent, if you have never had an abortion, how do you know the pain in the heart of the women who had abortions? You and I are not God and have no idea.

One of my sister's friends murdered her child and had nightmares, repeating, of a baby coming at her with a butcher knife.

Sally said...

Eddie,

I never said that I never had an abortion. Although I am under the guise of my pseudonym "Allicent", I do like to maintain some level of mystery. So I will keep this part of myself a secret. Have I ever been raped and as a result aborted? Have I ever had unprotected sex and as a result aborted? Has a condom ever broken on me, and as a result, I aborted? Or am I a good christian who gave birth, put my child up for adoption, only to have my biological child commit suicide at the age of 16 while being cared for by her adoptee parents? Or was I one of the lucky ones? All of these stories are true, and whichever is mine, I'm not telling. However, this truth remains - giving ones child up for adoption is truly a horrifying experience for most women.

Sally said...

Eddie - Or shall I play with language as you did?

You say mothers who abort are "murderers". Well then, those good Christian women who give up their children for adoption must then be "abandoners"?

ShadyCharacter said...

Allicent writes:

"You say mothers who abort are "murderers". Well then, those good Christian women who give up their children for adoption must then be "abandoners"?"

That is simply specious. I'd say leaving a baby on the side of the road might qualify a person as an "abandoner", but entrusting a child to a loving home most certainly is not. You, of course, know this, but you had a cheap point to score. Well, congrats!

Sally said...

Not exactly, shady, I don't believe adoptee parents abandon their child. I was only drawing attention to Eddie's use of "murder" which I thought was cheap, and creating a parallel situation. I do not think Eddie's use of "murderer" encourages an environment of civil debate. Of course I could use the logic that you used, shady, and say that a mother who throws her children in a dumster to die is a murder, and a woman who has an abortion at 6 weeks is not. I'm sure you would agree with that.

Sally said...

Shady and whomever,

I'm only trying to draw attention to pro-lifers' tendency to pollyanna adoption.

paulfrommpls said...

A long time ago, I read that abortion was the main means of birth control in the Soviet Union. Don't know if it's still true in Russia.

I increasingly don't know where I stand on this issue, but I always thought that little fact puts some moral context on the issue that pro-choicers might want to consider. I mean, given the rather mechanistic, anti-human aspects of the Soviet approach to organizing life.

tcd said...

paul,
I don't buy your argument. The way I view the abortion debate is like this:
Pro-choice = abortion remains a legal option for all; it is the woman's choice to take this option or she can decide it's not for her.
Pro-life = abortion is illegal and criminalized by the State; takes autonomy away from the woman and gives control to the State.

So unless you are saying that the pro-choice position is for mandatory, state-sanctioned abortion then your argument is wrong. BTW, not to state the obvious, the pro-choice position is not to advocate for mandatory abortions.

OddD said...

Victoria is spot on with her comment: Men are consistently more pro-choice than women.

This is actually obvious if you think about it. It's easier to look at the "bottom line" of being pregnant if you're not actually the one who is pregnant.

From a political standpoint, I think the fact that nobody is particularly happy with the current state of affairs is a good sign.

paulfrommpls said...

tcd -

The only thing I'm saying is something vague about the nature of abortion, such that it struck the Soviets as such a wonderful means of birth control.

So perhaps it's more a comment directed at women having abortions than at the pro-choice movement. Although, I do think there is an aspect of the militant pro-choice wing that evinces a certain pride in the choice and even in the act.

It was a musing sort of comment. But maybe there is meaning for the pro-choice wing, in that the way the Soviets embraced it provides a clue for what strikes the pro-life movement as so dark and anti-human about it. And also, results-wise, the fact that it's not mandatory doesn't mean it doesn't become common.

In fact, now that I think about it, it wasn't mandatory in the Soviet Union either. It's just the way things developed, I believe.

I am basically a pro-choicer, still, just because it is a moral decision about which there is great disagreement, so I've always thought we really have no choice but to leave it up to individuals. Yet I also have always known that ethical construct means nothing to pro-lifers who see it as murdering babies.

I also think it's been an issue that has contributed strongly to the political decline of the left. Politically, emotionally, staking a large part of your base on something that CAN be seen intellectually as a legitimate right for women versus something that can very easily be seen as killing babies - well, you're at a disadvantage.

paulfrommpls said...

Especially, by the way, since about half the women in the country don't agree it should be a right. So it becomes kind of hard to argue that it's a totally obvious right.

Again, I'm just thinking about political dilemmas.

Jennifer said...

OddD: Victoria is spot on with her comment: Men are consistently more pro-choice than women.

I think you're both completely right here.

Ann: You've had a few threads on abortion in the past few days. Kudos to you that you've created a forum where posters (with a few exceptions) have maintained a civil discourse on a subject that's notorious for reducing debaters to screeching, seething radicals.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Jennifer. One of my primary concerns in blogging is fostering civil discourse. I love good debate and have devoted much of my life to trying to inspire it.

Sally said...

Odd and Victoria,

I don't know the statistics but that is a very important point, and one that I have noticed myself in regard to my generation. Of course! Men LOVE abortions. I don't mean to be crude, but I can't count how many times I've seen a young man either manipulate his girlfriend into having an abortion, or if a better man, sat on the sidelines like a scarred puppy while his girlfriend made "the decision", all the while praying that she would just go through with it. This is yet another issue that the pro-choice camp should acknowledge.

Jennifer said...

Allicent: Good points. I've also noticed that a lot of men are pro-choice by default. They've never associated the issue with themselves and therefore have never really formed specific opinions or beliefs.

tcd said...

paul,
Fair enough. I see your point and I totally agree with you when you say, "I am basically a pro-choicer, still, just because it is a moral decision about which there is great disagreement, so I've always thought we really have no choice but to leave it up to individuals. Yet I also have always known that ethical construct means nothing to pro-lifers who see it as murdering babies."
Thanks for stating something that I was unable to convey so succinctly.

vbspurs said...

A long time ago, I read that abortion was the main means of birth control in the Soviet Union. Don't know if it's still true in Russia.

That was true, and IS true today in Cuba.

(I don't know about North Korea, since I have never met a N. Korean)

The mother of my ex-boyfriend, Cuban-Americans here in the US since 1985, once had to be rushed to hospital with profuse bleeding.

Turns out she had an IUD implanted in her without her knowledge, let alone consent.

This was after she had given birth to the 2 children considered the ideal of a Communist Cuban family (1 more than in China and Russia), and apparently, it was determined not to leave it to chance.

We're not in any danger of that or Indira Gandhi's mandatory vasectomies here in the US, but you see, birth control and abortions in some societies (these alleged Superior Societies at that) are not about women's rights.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

I've also noticed that a lot of men are pro-choice by default.

My father is pro-choice. My mother is not.

I've never dated a man who was pro-life. Ever.

Cheers,
Victoria

Jennifer said...

My father is pro-choice. My mother is not.

Funny - we're the opposite. My father is ardently pro-life and my mother is just as adamantly pro-choice. This breaks down along religious lines, though, in my family.

I've never dated a man who was pro-life. Ever.

My husband was pro-choice when we met 10 years ago. He was surprised that I wasn't. Over time, his views have changed some what. Mostly since we had our first child.

While he was talking to his sister on the phone during my first pregnancy, he said something or other about the baby. She broke in and said it's not a baby - it's just a bun. I think that was a turning point for him.

I wouldn't classify him as totally pro-life, in the political sense. But, he's not exactly pro-choice any longer either.

Jennifer said...

Paul: I am basically a pro-choicer, still, just because it is a moral decision about which there is great disagreement, so I've always thought we really have no choice but to leave it up to individuals. Yet I also have always known that ethical construct means nothing to pro-lifers who see it as murdering babies.

I'm glad you made that point. It's so easy for it to become us against them. They are all baby killers. Or they all want to control women.

This is one of those debates where the fundamental differences in the two sides are so far apart, it's really easy to be blind to the foundation of your opponents' argument.

Yevgeny Vilensky said...

To tcd and others who have made the point that if you don't like an abortion, then don't have one...

I am pro-choice, so this is not exactly what I believe, but to someone who is pro-life and has determined that abortion is immoral, isn't saying "if you don't like an abortion then don't have one", the equivalent of saying "if you don't like slavery don't own own a slave"?

So the point is that the morality of the issue IS the lynchpin here on which the outcome rests.


To Ann:

I think that you're too hastily dismissing the conflict between a woman's right to autonomy and a fetus's possible right to life. I think that, if anything, if we determined that a fetus is a person, then the right to life ought to trump a right to liberty. Now of course, this is a rebuttable presumption and noted MIT philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson has written extensively on the "violinist" problem (look it up on Google or Wikipedia). But there is a conflict there and I do not think it's adequate to say, "sure, the fetus might have some rights, but we shouldn't invade on women's bodies" especially when in the vast, vast, vast majority of cases, the actions of those women are the reason why this conflict exists in the first place.

Now that doesn't mean that I think that we should blame women for pre-marital sex or sex when they don't want to have children, etc. But I do think that just because it ought to be morally acceptable to make those decisions (to engage in sex when not willing or ready to have children), we should not entirely discount any of the potential consequences.

That said, great job on providing such a great forum for reasoned debate.

Pogo said...

The pro-choice hecklers are engaging in propaganda which is not intended to persuade, convince, or inform, but to coerce silence and/or humiliate.

When people are forced into silence, to renounce their own views before the mob, or to repeat the mob's views as if now their own, the complete debasement of the independent human mind is accomplished. Such heckling is not merely childish or, in an active democracy, counterproductive, it is at its core aggressively anti-human.

tcd said...

Yvegeny,

I can appreciate your philosphical argument and it makes sense to me. But with life, one deals with realities. Since the pro-life side is sharing personal anecdotes, I will submit my reality for consideration. Make of it what you will.

I am 5'2", weigh 90 lbs (I have never been able to crack 3 digits on the scale no matter how much protein I consume), and am severely anemic. My anemic condition is severe enough to warrant a visit to an oncologist every 3 months for blood count tests and sometimes liver function tests. This same doctor has told me on several occasions that any pregnancy I should have will likely come with complications beyond "normal" pregnancy complications and that I should have a very good OB-GYN if I should consider motherhood. If and when the time comes that I am pregnant and should experience these complications, I want the decision to continue or not to continue my pregnancy to remain in the hands of 3 people, that is me, my husband (who fears he will lose me in such a case) and my doctor. I do not want the decision making process to involve total strangers who do not know me, care about me or are not medically informed. I am not asking the pro-life side to support abortion, I am asking them to not criminalize it and to not put the decision making process in the hands of the government.

So while the pro-life side may debate this issue on philosophical or moral grounds, the issue of abortion may become a medical reality for me and perhaps other women and their husbands. It is not a reality that I relish as I have said before that abortion would not be my first choice but it should remain my choice. Unfortunately it is a reality that gives me a vested interest in an issue that I would just rather not debate. And that makes me angry. I do not expect the pro-life side to empathize with this; I suspect that many of them will say that such a case as mine is rare and glibly dismiss it.

Jennifer said...

tcd: I'm not sure why you think so little of the people who make up the pro-life side of the debate. Of course I sympathize with your dilemma. Most pro-lifers would - which is why few would deny an abortion in the case of medical necessity for the mother.

That you would be angry at people who oppose what they perceive as legalizing the killing of innocents as a routine course because you have a medical necessity confuses me.

Pastor_Jeff said...

tcd,

Thanks for sharing your own story and personal investment in the issue. I'm assuming from your comments you want to at least have the possibility of having children, and physcial issues make that potentially dangerous for you. I can't imagine how hard it would be to have to terminate a pregnancy because of your own health concerns. That would have to be one of the most tragic and painful situations imaginable.

The vast majority of pro-life people (myself included) would not want you to have sacrifice your own life to save an unborn child - precisely because we are pro-life. There have to be exceptions for cases such as yours because your life matters, and I'm sorry if in the past your personal concerns have been glibly dismissed.

Pastor_Jeff said...

I think the sharing of personal stories has been helpful and generated increased understanding and sympathy. Here goes:

Our 5th grader wanted her ears pierced for her birthday, so we took her to Claire's where we had to sign release forms giving them permission to perform an extremely minor and inconsequential medical procedure. We left with aftercare instructions which we have helped her remember and follow.

Right now, abortion is largely unrestricted. Are there parents out there who think it is in your minor daughter's best interests that she is able to undergo a very significant medical procedure with moral implications and long-term emotional effects with less parental oversight and involvement than there is in getting her ears pierced?

Most pro-lifers are opposed to abortion not because they want to control people's bodies, but because abortion hurts people.

Sally said...

Ooooh, such good things being said! O.K. pull my arm, I'll keep posting.

Yes, I agree with you Pastor Jeff. Abortion does hurt people. But so does bringing an unwanted child to term. IMO, it seems that both the pro-choice and the pro-life movement want to deny the deleterious effects of one or the other as it suits their needs, beliefs or agenda.

Sally said...

Pastor Jeff,

To illustrate how the pro-choice movement ignores some of the problems with abortion as is, let me share this story:

A young girl at the high school that I worked with had her third abortion when she died. I'm not sure exactly what happened medically, but apparently so many abortion in so little time at such a young age and without parental consent was too much for her wee body. If her parents had known what was going on, I'm sure some sort of intervention would have taken place in this girl's life and perhaps she would still be living. However, stories of frightened and alone young girls who partake in life threatening scenarios in order to abort w/o parental consent are also horrifying.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Allicent,

Thanks for your even-handed response. You wrote:

stories of frightened and alone young girls who partake in life threatening scenarios in order to abort w/o parental consent are also horrifying.

I agree. It's sad that there are family situations such that minors would risk their own safety to avoid telling their parents they were in trouble. That's why notification laws are usually structured to allow for a judge or other responsible adult to provide consent for minors. Most minors probably don't know this.

And Christians are involved in helping young women with unplanned pregnancies. Our local pregnancy resource center has a room stocked with clothes, diapers, strollers, blankets, formula, toys, and more - all free, and all donated by Christians. We have free classes in parenting, basic financial management, and job skills; we provide counseling, referrals to adoption agencies, and even housing. I know a number of people who have taken young women into their homes and treated them like family, or invested months of their time and quite a bit of money mentoring, encouraging, and supporting young women who give up their children for adoption.

Perhaps it's a little unfair to say that Christians are either uninformed or uncaring of the problems associated with unplanned pregnancies and adoption?

michael a litscher said...

Adoption is not necessarilly a wonderful thing for everyone.

It was and is a wonderful thing for me. You see, I was adopted. My very existence proves that there is a third choice, a choice which the pro-abortionists are too myopic to consider, or even mention in their arguments.

I have spoken to women who lived in the day and age in the U.S. when abortion was illegal, and so opted for adoption. As far as I can see, these women are haunted far more than my friends who have had abortions, which of course, can also be devestating.

I have a dog, whom I love very much. If faced with the situation that I had to give him up, for whatever reason, and my two choices were to kill the dog, or let it be adopted by some anonymous family and never to be seen again, I would choose to adopt him out without hesitation.

To me, it doesn't seem at all "feminine" to not only choose to kill your own progeny, but to pay someone to do it while it's still inside your womb.

Likewise, it doesn't seem all that "masculine" to abandon a woman after she's been knocked up.

aidan maconachy said...

I don't understand the hysteria that exists in some quarters about this issue of abortion.

The "pro" and "anti" positions are equally unbalanced because they stake out simplistic positions. I see abortion as being a complex issue that has to be looked at in the context of the individual woman's health and circumstances, rather than from the standpoint of intractible political or theological positions.

The anti-abortion rights people make a big deal about the Christian ethical position. Yet I see no comment from Jesus at all on this matter in the New Testament. Neither is this included in the Ten Commandments. At best, it is an interpretation derived from scripture. But a different interpretation from scripture could be made by one who argues that compelling a fifteen year old victim of rape to bring a baby to term is equally ethically repugnant and un-Christian.

My position is that you simply can't make dogmatic assertions on this issue - on one side or the other.

I don't want to see a country in which women in trouble are forced to go into back alleyways to get abortions. By the same token I don't want free standing clinics on every corner where "abortion traffic" is considered normal.

There needs to be a sane and compassionate balance between these two extremes.

andrew said...

Thank God for this sane debate!

I am pro-choice, but hate that the pro-choice movement can't admit that a fetus is in some sense a life. But then, to both sides THIS IS WAR, and I presume that pro-choice leaders feel they will quickly slide down the slippery slope and must hold the line. They feel they can't afford to be totally honest and nuanced, because the cost of a return to criminalized abortion is too high.

Here is the big picture for me: we need universal sex education and contraception, universal free daycare, tons of support for all parents and children, and men should somehow, magically, be made equally responsible for any children they spawn, and parents will all be involved in their children's lives as trusted counselors. Abortions would become exceedingly rare, which would make everyone happy, because who likes abortions? I hope this is true someday. But it is so, so far from true now. From my perspective, the conservative pro-life party will always be undermined and de-legitimized because of all it does to dismantle sex education, public education, welfare, the safety net in general. It is clearer than ever to me, because of this blog, that there are rational and caring pro-life people who care about children AFTER they are born as well. It is a shame that the other kind get so much press and become the face of the movement.

Sally said...

I have to add one more thing to this, yes "sane!" debate, if anyone is still checking back that is, but I just thought of this.

Again, I'm coming from a pro-choice position, and I haven't really changed my perception of that, but I do agree with the above comments, that I would like abortion to stop being this very common form of birth control.

At any rate, I just checked out images of fetal development via google, and I was very very surprised at the rapid development, how human they look, even at 7 weeks, let alone 20 weeks. But what this got me thinking about is science. Liberals tend to support science, and the pro-choice position is a liberal position. So how come young girls don't see images of fetal development, before and while they are beginning sexual intercourse? For that matter, why don't young boys, so that they may understand what they are asking of a woman, when someday, some of them may pressure their girlfriends to have abortions? Why deny the science? No one can say when life truly begins, but why deny the science, the physical reality, of fetal development?