Regarding Amy Richards & Abortion

Amy Richards has been condemned a lot this week for this NYT article, mostly (but not exclusively) on the right half of the blogoverse.

Richards – who many Alas readers are familiar with as the co-author of Manifesta - was pregnant with triplets, and chose to abort two of the eight-week-old embryos so that she could give birth to only one child. From the article (which is not written by her, but “as told to Amy Barrett”):

On the subway, Peter asked, ”Shouldn’t we consider having triplets?” And I had this adverse reaction: ”This is why they say it’s the woman’s choice, because you think I could just carry triplets. That’s easy for you to say, but I’d have to give up my life.” Not only would I have to be on bed rest at 20 weeks, I wouldn’t be able to fly after 15. I was already at eight weeks. When I found out about the triplets, I felt like: It’s not the back of a pickup at 16, but now I’m going to have to move to Staten Island. I’ll never leave my house because I’ll have to care for these children. I’ll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise. Even in my moments of thinking about having three, I don’t think that deep down I was ever considering it.

The specialist called me back at 10 p.m. I had just finished watching a Boston Pops concert at Symphony Hall. As everybody burst into applause, I watched my cellphone vibrating, grabbed it and ran into the lobby. He told me that he does a detailed sonogram before doing a selective reduction to see if one fetus appears to be struggling. The procedure involves a shot of potassium chloride to the heart of the fetus. There are a lot more complications when a woman carries multiples. And so, from the doctor’s perspective, it’s a matter of trying to save the woman this trauma.

Many folks – even pro-choice folks – have been very disturbed by this article. I don’t see what the problem is.

Not being of an original frame of mind today, I’m just going to quote some of the better comments I’ve seen. From Majikthise:

As far as I’m concerned, all that need be said is that Richards wanted one baby rather than three.

However, for those who argue that one needs some “better” reason to have an abortion, let’s look a the facts of Richards’ case. As a single mother, Richards felt that she could provide a good home for one kid but not for triplets. If you think it frivolous to balk at the costs of two extra babies, imagine the difficulty of securing childcare for three infants, or the expense of keeping them fed, clothed and diapered. Three college savings plans… So, Richards bravely chose to bear exactly the number of babies she wanted. If those aren’t good reasons, I don’t know what are.

Besides, Richards and her partner plan to have more children when they are ready. When spacing births by selective abortion means a better life for the mother and her entire family, we should celebrate the practice.

She goes on to make good comments about the medical issues – having triplets really isn’t as safe as having just one baby, for either the mother or the infant. Read the whole thing.

In the comments at Unfogged, FL wrote:

I think this woman is getting a raw deal. She deliberately went off the pill after deciding, with her partner, that she would have a child if she became pregant. This is not quite– but close to– stopping contraception in order to get pregnant. Something very, very unlikely happens: she gets stuck with three fetuses, not one. Carrying all three would put her at greater risk, seriously interfere with her career, undermine her economic security, and so on.

Having the selective reduction doesn’t seem crazy to me– is it crazy to have an abortion for similar reasons after condom failure? This is one of the classic test cases, and most “pro-choice” people think that abortion is permissible in such a circumstance. Are the odds of triplets that much greater than condom failure? I’m not seeing the case for hell yet…

Also in the comments of Unfogged, PZ Myers – who also wrote a good post on his own blog – wrote:

90% of all triplets are pre-term.

If you want to go bankrupt, try having a premature baby. Try having three. This isn’t a matter of just having to absorb the costs of an ordinary-sized family all at once, we’re talking about a vast increase in expense.

Mortality rates skyrocket with multiples. For single births in the US, death rates at birth are 2.7 per 1,000. For twins, 37; for triplets, 52; for more, 231.

Pre-term multiples tend to be low birth-weight. This is strongly correlated with the incidence of disabilities like mental retardation and cerebral palsy. The mothers also face greater risks of complications like gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. These problems can be minimized by more intensive care during the pregnancy, which the article mentioned.

Seriously, we human beings are MUCH better off having our kids one at a time. We just aren’t very good at handling more.

This was followed up by a comment by Cardinal Fang, who wrote:

Let me state those statistics from PZ Myers again, in a simpler way: If that woman hadn’t aborted two of the three fetuses and hadn’t miscarried, each baby would have a FIVE PERCENT chance of dying in its first year of life.

That’s more than “a little inconvenience.” Each baby has a five percent chance of dying, and even if a baby survives it’s likely to have lifelong problems.

Kevin Drum writes:

And if you’re pro-choice, why the sudden concern with motive? It’s unfair anyway, since the “Staten Island” crack is what most people are focusing on, even though that’s obviously just a metaphor: Richards says pretty clearly that she’s concerned that triplets would prevent her from working and make her into a full-time housewife, and that’s not what she wants. What’s wrong with that?

Abortion is a means of controlling the number and frequency of bearing children. Richards’ reasons for wanting to control her reproduction were stated a bit flippantly by the writer, but they are not, as so many have argued, trivial. Wanting to have a career is not a trivial concern. The difference between raising a first baby and raising newborn triplets is not trivial. The health concerns that come with bearing triplets are not trivial.

That so many people – even some pro-choice people – were prepared to make a snap judgment that these are trivial or unimportant concerns convinces me, more than ever, that it would be a disaster to place the abortion decision in anyone’s hands but the mother’s.

* * *

In addition to the posts I linked to above, here are some other posts discussing Amy Richards’ abortion:

  • Trish Wilson has a good, not-easy-to-quote-a-small-bit-of post on the matter.

  • Professor Bainbridge gets the prize for most over-the-top pro-life comment: “It is hard to see how any one with normal human values could find common ground with the author of this essay, whose morality differs but little from Hitler’s executioners or the Rwandan genocidal killers.”
  • The pro-choice UNF at Unfogged - whose readers had many super-intelligent comments, some of which I quoted above – is barely any better than Bainbridge. “… when you have the motives expressed in this article, you ought to be sent to jail. Because you’re certainly going to be sent to hell.” Yes, this woman wanted to have a career and control her own childrearing – how evil of her!
  • Hugo Schwyzer is also pro-life, but he at least let a little humanity sneak into his judgment of Amy Richards, which makes him better than Bainbridge.
  • Mousewords has a harsh – but I think often on target – critique of Hugo Schwyzer’s post.
  • I disagree with just about everything on Sed Contra, but this post nonetheless struck me as the most thoughtful and interesting pro-life post I’ve read on the Amy Richards matter (although it’s also over-the-top in its comparisons to slavery, but if you read pro-life sites you get used to that sort of thing). Unlike the author, David Morrison, I have no problem understanding why the value hospitals give fetuses should depend on if the mother wants to go through with the pregnancy or not. Restaurants often cook food with great care for their customers, but throw out apparently identical food that is unwanted; I wonder if this practice also strikes David as contradictory?
  • Feministing’s Hannah is more disturbed than I am, but comes (I think) to the right conclusion.
  • Over at A Small Victory, I’m having a debate with a pro-lifer in the comments of this post. (If you go over there, please be ultra-polite.) I thought that this post, also on A Small Victory, was much more thoughtful and interesting.
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152 Responses to Regarding Amy Richards & Abortion

  1. 101
    zuzu says:

    The whole Amy Richards kerfluffle amazed me.

    I think it had a whole lot to do with anti-urbanism, especially because the high dudgeon really came out over her snarky comment about giant jars of mayonnaise.

    And really, not just anti-urbanism, but anti-single-urban-women-who-haven’t-settled-down-in-the-burbs.

  2. 102
    piny says:

    Ugh. I grew up in the suburbs, and it was the most isolated, anti-community existence imaginable. You never leave your house unless you’re in your car, and going to a restaurant involves getting on the expressway. Horrible for kids, too–the library was forty minutes away by bus.

    I don’t care if it means heading into retirement with the same amount of equity my great-grandparents had when they got here from Ireland. My kids will be city kids.

  3. 103
    Robert says:

    Does attacking/purging pro-choice people who thought Ms. Richards’ motives were questionable (a) improve or (b) degrade the political position of the pro-choice movement?

  4. 104
    piny says:

    Does attacking/purging pro-choice people who thought Ms. Richards’ motives were questionable (a) improve or (b) degrade the political position of the pro-choice movement?

    Questioned her motives? Yeah, that’s a perfectly honest summary of the treatment she received. “Crying with Rage at Amy Richards,” anyone?

    Does attacking/purging women like Amy Richards (a) improve or (b) degrade the political position of the pro-choice movement?

    This reminds me of all the pseudo-allies who see me as some sort of model tranny who will provide a supportive audience for their vituperation towards all those nasty, undeserving, homeless, nonpassable, drug-addicted, diseased, prostituted transwomen out there. Amy Richards is us. We are Amy Richards. Allowing her to be turned into some sort of scapegoat for choices that are no different from our choices is both immoral and short-sighted.

  5. 105
    Q Grrl says:

    I dunno Robert. Does attacking Ms. Richards improve or degrade anything?

    We all know you think feminism is well on the way to hell, handbasket or not. Your question doesn’t really have any meat on it.

  6. 106
    Robert says:

    Piny, I’m not referring to the attacks on Ms. Richards. I didn’t follow the case and am not particularly familiar with them, although I’m sure there were some that were over the top.

    I’m referring to the treatment meted out to people like hotshot – pro-choice individuals who explicitly say that Ms. Richards has a right to her abortion, but who question her judgment. People who vote with you, in other words, but who don’t agree with you about everything.

    Perhaps the question of how political movements should treat imperfectly-aligned allies holds no interest for you, Q Grrl. That’s your prerogative, and hey, your movement for that matter. While you have one, anyway.

  7. 107
    piny says:

    Piny, I’m not referring to the attacks on Ms. Richards. I didn’t follow the case and am not particularly familiar with them, although I’m sure there were some that were over the top.

    Most of the ones that I saw–and I mean from pro-choice individuals–were indeed “over the top.” So was this:

    I understand there are medical risks in carrying 3 children, but that was not the focus of the article. Richards’ chief reason for aborting two children was convenience. She did not want to give up her comfy lifestyle.

    I’m referring to the treatment meted out to people like hotshot – pro-choice individuals who explicitly say that Ms. Richards has a right to her abortion, but who question her judgment. People who vote with you, in other words, but who don’t agree with you about everything.

    Hotshot questioned her judgment based on a pretty bizarre and rather anti-woman reading of Richards’ level of responsibility–believing, apparently, that a woman prepared for one pregnancy had better be prepared for the extremely unlikely event of several at once. I see no reason not to treat someone like an adult, and subject their assumptions to the same rigor as any others on this blog. I see no reason not to speak candidly about women’s reproductive issues as they actually are. If hotshot would change a voting tendency based on this comments thread, well, hotshot’s support is too much of a hothouse orchid to bother with. I have more faith in hotshot than you seem to, though.

  8. 108
    piny says:

    Perhaps the question of how political movements should treat imperfectly-aligned allies holds no interest for you, Q Grrl. That’s your prerogative, and hey, your movement for that matter. While you have one, anyway.

    You know how people keep calling you disingenuous? Well, it’s disingenuous to talk like this and then pretend that the reason Qgrrl doesn’t want to have this conversation is that it’s on this subject, rather than with you, Robert.

  9. 109
    Sheelzebub says:

    The day every single medical decision/treatment out there is up for scrutiny and criticism by people who don’t have to live with the consequences is the day I’ll relax on so-called pro-choicers who get their tighty-whities in a twist because I’m not torn apart by making a choice they didn’t like, or because my reasons weren’t ‘good enough’.

    Scratch that. No medical decision is anyone’s business except the person who must deal with the physical consequences.

    A woman’s reproductive choices are no one’s business, and I’m sick to death of being expected to give ‘good enough’ reasons for approval. If choice were safe, our reasons wouldn’t be up for judgement–because it would be a non-issue.

  10. 110
    Mendy says:

    I am disgusted over the way this woman is being treated in the press. Women selectively “cull” embryos after IV procedures all the time. Not only is that healthy for the mother, but it also ensures that the remaining one or two embryos that are allowed to fully develop have the best chance at having a healthy life.

    I have three children, and though I would like more my health cannot tolerate another pregnancy. I discussed it with my husband, and I chose to have a tubal ligation rather than remain on birth control indefinately. This way I am assured of no viable pregnancies, though I do have an increased risk for an ectopic.

    It’s all about choice, and our right to exercise those choices. People are going to judge those around them. It’s shameful and wrong, but it is human nature. I don’t listen to or accept anyone else’s judgement of me or my life. I am the one that has to live with the consequences of those choices, not all those that would stand around and judge me.

    Ms. Richards should hold her head high, and tell those that judge her to go have their own set of triplets and then get back to her. That’s what I’d do, but I’m a bit of a bitch that way.

  11. 111
    zuzu says:

    Questioned her motives? Yeah, that’s a perfectly honest summary of the treatment she received. “Crying with Rage at Amy Richards,” anyone?

    To be fair to Hugo, piny, he wasn’t claiming to be both pro-choice and upset at Richards’ motives. And he seems to have altered his position slightly after the shitstorm that came down on him.

    A better question, though, Robert, is whether people like hotshot who claim to be pro-choice and question the motives of women who get abortions are helpful to the movement or are undermining it.

  12. 112
    Robert says:

    A better question…is whether people like hotshot who claim to be pro-choice and question the motives of women who get abortions are helpful to the movement or are undermining it.

    That is a good question.

    I would argue that movements which are controversial within the population at large should have vigorous internal debate to find the areas of moral solidity, to shake out contradictions, and to thrash out conflicts and inconsistencies so as to present a strong front to the outside world. For example, as someone who is in the pro-war camp, I find that my most useful allies are the people who maintain a critical stance, who find errors in doctrines, who can point out mistakes, and so forth. The folks who are more like my uncle – rah rah Bush – are helpful in the sense of providing electoral muscle, but unhelpful in the sense of strengthening our intellectual position.

    Of course, I believe that because the underlying reasons for the war are sound, our underlying morality is correct, and an argumentative storm that sweeps away every falsity, contradiction and untruth in our position will leave us holding something good and true and right. If I didn’t think that was true, but nonetheless held to the position I hold, then I would want a lot more supporters like my uncle and a lot fewer people asking inconvenient questions and engaging in critical thought.

    So whether folks like hotshot et al are “helpful” or “undermining” would rather seem to depend on what you find helpful. Vigorous dissent or discussion within a framework of accepting certain principles strikes me as helpful. In fairness, abortion on demand is a position which I believe founded on false grounds. It is thus very natural for me to frame everyone’s position in my own terms, and to assume that anybody who dislikes dissent is secretly just trying to avoid exposing the fallacies that they know are there. Of course, that’s not necessarily the case; it’s certainly possible to wish to have a unified voice for other reasons than fear of revelation of untruth or wrongness.

  13. 113
    piny says:

    I would argue that movements which are controversial within the population at large should have vigorous internal debate to find the areas of moral solidity, to shake out contradictions, and to thrash out conflicts and inconsistencies so as to present a strong front to the outside world.

    …I’m sorry, didn’t you describe this process a few comments ago, as “tear[ing] your own flesh?”

  14. 114
    mythago says:

    Really, who cares if hotshot doesn’t approve of Richards’ choice? “It should be legal but I disapprove”–hey, knock yourself out. I doubt Richards knows or cares.

  15. 115
    Nick Kiddle says:

    There’s debate, and there’s not really getting it. I mean, suppose someone claimed to be pro-life but said that if a woman can’t cope with a pregnancy we shouldn’t make her feel bad about abortion, would you think that person was an “imperfectly aligned ally” of the pro-life side?

  16. 116
    Robert says:

    Vigorous internal debate and “you’re what passes for pro-choice? that’s sad” aren’t the same.

    Vatican II = vigorous internal debate.
    Stalin shoots all his officers = purge.

    One is healthy, one isn’t. Admittedly, it’s a judgment call.

  17. 117
    Robert says:

    I mean, suppose someone claimed to be pro-life but said that if a woman can’t cope with a pregnancy we shouldn’t make her feel bad about abortion, would you think that person was an “imperfectly aligned ally” of the pro-life side?

    How does she vote? If she votes pro-life, then yeah, she’s an imperfectly aligned ally. And the question “should we make people feel bad for their choices” is a good tactical question to be raised on our side – should we guilt people into going along with our agenda? Is it effective? Etc.

  18. 118
    piny says:

    Vigorous internal debate and “you’re what passes for pro-choice? that’s sad” aren’t the same

    That’s not what Jake said. He said, “That’s what passes for pro-choice? That just makes me sad.” In other words, he attacked the argument, not the person. He also didn’t compare anyone to Stalin.

    As far as I’m concerned, if it fits within Amp’s guidelines for civility, it definitely isn’t on the level of a purge, real or virtual. But I guess not being on our side makes that kind of hyperbole perfectly within bounds.

  19. 119
    Jake Squid says:

    Vigorous internal debate and “you’re what passes for pro-choice? that’s sad” aren’t the same…

    Why should anybody expect Robert to argue honestly? He has a long history of this sort of dishonest paraphrasing disguised as quote. This is why Robert gets called a troll and why any attempt at discussion or debate with him is usually a waste of time.

    But for those who aren’t Robert and don’t automatically view criticism of a self-proclaimed ally whose writing reveals otherwise as a rigid doctrinal purge…

    Questioning the motives of a woman seeking an abortion by attacking her is not a pro-choice position in my view.

    This:
    If she was unprepared to accept the risk of getting pregnant with triplets, she should not have gone off the pill. By choosing to stop birth control, she chose to forgo her life of convenience and accept the risk of bearing children.

    is not the statement of a person who is pro-choice. In fact, this is one of the standard anti-choice statements. In retrospect, I should have taken hotshot to task for pretending to be pro-choice rather than be saddened that this is understood to be a pro-choice view.

    hotshot did not, in fact, provide any fodder for debate within the pro-choice movement. Rather, hotshot attacked the pro-choice movement while in disguise. And I fell for it.

  20. 120
    Charles says:

    Robert,

    hotshot was an officer of the pro-choice movement?

    Jake Squid is the dictator of the pro-choice movement?

    Jake’s comment was indistinguishable from a bullet to the head?

    Who knew?

    Maybe you should inform the police?

    Honestly, Robert, you’ve made this argument many times here. Has it ever led to a meaningful or interesting discussion? Why do you think it hasn’t?

  21. 121
    mythago says:

    Robert, I believe Stalin still puts you within Godwin’s Law. Sorry.

    should we make people feel bad for their choices

    We can’t make people feel bad for their choices unless we start MKULTRA II.

  22. 122
    Robert says:

    OK. Sorry. Bad analogy. Bad paraphrase.

    Fine. Abortion on demand is the only possible position, expecting women to make and justify moral decisions on adult grounds is fascism, and everybody who doesn’t adhere to that is a fundamentalist pro-life troll.

  23. 123
    mythago says:

    Pouting doesn’t get you within Godwin’s law, but it does make you a big crybaby.

    Really, the strongest argument for the pro-life side is that abortion is murder. The problem is that people don’t really want to follow that argument to its logical conclusion–every woman who gets an abortion is Susan Smith–and in classic fashion resolve cognitive dissonance with bizarre reasoning. (Yes, but it’s OK in the case of rape; the woman isn’t guilty because the evil abortionists led her astray and tricked her; you know the drill.)

  24. 124
    Jake Squid says:

    If she was unprepared to accept the risk of getting pregnant with triplets, she should not have gone off the pill. By choosing to stop birth control, she chose to forgo her life of convenience and accept the risk of bearing children.

    This is not consistent with the views of the pro-choice movement. This is consistent with the views of the anti-choice movement. It smacks of anti-choice cliche w/ buzzphrases such as “life of convenience.”

    Do you want to address the argument rather than continue to troll? Or do you want to see how clever you can get while distracting from any possibility of discussion? Surely you can do better than this.

  25. 125
    Robert says:

    That isn’t the strongest argument. That’s the argument that pro-choicers would most like to engage, because it permits facile dismissal of the position.

    The strongest pro-life argument is that reproductive choices have moral consequences, that such choices should be made in a framework of balancing rights and responsibilities, and that this framework will generally though not always dispositively tilt in favor of the nurturing of new life.

  26. 126
    mythago says:

    It’s also not consistent with the facts. As has previously pointed out to hotshot. Amy Richards did not have an ‘oops’. She wanted to be pregnant. Just not with triplets.

  27. 127
    Jake Squid says:

    That is also an argument that is brought up consistently by pro-lifers. When this (admittedly) facile argument is written by those in your camp, that is what we engage. What argument did hotshot bring to us? The argument that Richards didn’t want to give up her “life of convenience” (conveniently ignoring the fact that she did have a child). Then you came along and defended it with underhanded tactics and devolved into comparisons to Stalin. Which, I might point out, was also addressed by your opposition. Now you want to complain that these are arguments that the pro-choice folks want to address. You’re not making any sense. Unless you’re trying to start a new line of discussion – in which case you might want to do it honestly and without throwing underhanded insults at those who don’t agree with the aforementioned facile anti-choice argument.

  28. 128
    piny says:

    Fine. Abortion on demand is the only possible position, expecting women to make and justify moral decisions on adult grounds is fascism, and everybody who doesn’t adhere to that is a fundamentalist pro-life troll.

    Does this read like vigorous (-yet-responsible) debate to you? Because it reads to me like a dishonest, self-serving misrepresentation of what’s being said here, by someone who’s definitely smart enough to know better.

    Also, what mythago said.

  29. 129
    Robert says:

    Piny:
    The pro-life troll part is rhetoric, I’ll grant that.

    Unpack the rest of the “self-serving misrepresentation,” please.

    Show the whereins how my statement isn’t the bottom-line position of the pro-choice partisans posting here. What deviation from unrestricted-abortion-on-demand can be legitimately argued as being “pro-choice”?

    What requests for moral justification on the part of women making a choice can a partner, a community, or a philosophy legitimately require of a pregnant woman?

  30. 130
    Ampersand says:

    I know I’m a bit late in the game here, but I’d like to encourage everyone to remain civil.

    Robert, as you’ve already acknowleged, the Stalin comment was way over the line – that was really trollish of you. And in general, I think you could have done a lot more in this thread to communicate in a way that was likely to be heard, rather than in a way that was likely to lay down fuel for flames.

    Jake, the first part of post #122 was a personal attack. You don’t have to agree with the moderation policies here, but please try to abide by them anyway.

    * * *

    Regarding how Hotshot was received:

    Hotshot is entitled to her or his opinion. But I think it would have been received a lot better if it had included more of an acknowlegement of and response to the other arguments in this thread, or at least to the arguments in the opening post. As it was, I really got the impression that Hotshot was here more to disagree than to discuss, which probably fed into the response that Hotshot received.

    Abortion on demand is the only possible position, expecting women to make and justify moral decisions on adult grounds is fascism….

    Gee, how could extremist language like “only possible position” “adult grounds” and “fascism” be taken for a misrepresentation? What a puzzle!

    Obviously, pro-choicers disagree all the time on questions like third trimester abortions (some pro-choicers beleive that it should be banned except in the case of danger to the mother’s health or life). Some pro-choicers beleive that some decisions to have an abortion can be immoral; for instance, sex-selective abortions, or abortions to prevent disabled children from being born.

    So your claim that there is only one possible position is wrong.

    And Richards’ decision was an adult decision. If you can’t acknowlege that, then that suggests that you’re unable to understand that adults can legitimately disagree.

  31. 131
    Mickle says:

    “What requests for moral justification on the part of women making a choice can a partner, a community, or a philosophy legitimately require of a pregnant woman?”

    Depends on what you mean by “legitimately.”

    Robert, your analogy comparing hotshot to dissenters who help you see your own faults is false because the question wasn’t about whether critiques should be tolerated. The question was about whether someone who puts certain conditions on abortion that have nothing to do with the health and safety of others could really be called pro-choice and if these particular arguments are really pro-choice.

    I say no because it treats abortion as something fundamentally different – above and beyond the question of if the fetus has rights. There are choices I consider to be bad, and others I consider to be good, but hotshot’s only argument for Richards’ choice being “bad” has nothing to do with moral obligations to her partner or community. Such obligations would exist no matter why she chooses to do what she did; and if they don’t trump her choice to get pregant or not in the first place, why would they trump her choice to have only one child and not three?

    I know plenty of people who made the choice to only have one or two children, or to not have children right now, because it would require too many changes in their lives. Most (modern) parents do this – including my sister who is a SAHM. Why is Richards any different from her?

    Outside of the idea of fetus rights, the idea that a woman is obligated in some way to carry every pregnancy to term simply because “she already made that choice” is just ludicrous. If it’s morally acceptable to have an abortion because the fetus is severely mentally disabled – and thus will require more of the parents than was expected – why is it not morally acceptable to have an abortion because having any child (or two or three at the same time) will require more of the parents than expected?

    Perhaps hotshot believes that parents who have abortions because the fetus is disabled and that parents who factor in their own comfort and desires into their reproductive decisions aren’t making “good” choices, but (from what I understood) Richards was telling her story in response to people who think that both are least “ok” choices – but still like to make the “she already made that choice” argument.

  32. 132
    Robert says:

    It’s been a very difficult day emotionally and I shouldn’t have posted here at all (see my blog for why if you care) particularly on a contentious topic. Not an excuse, just an explanation. My apologies for the over-the-line statements.

    BTW, I disagree that Jake’s #122 was a personal attack. He was making an assertion of historical truth concerning the way I write and argue; he’s laughably wrong, but that’s not personal.

    Making a last gasp effort for civility:

    Piny and/or Jake, do you concur that you can be “pro-choice” and still believe that third-trimester abortions are wrong, that people should not have sex-selection abortions, that aborting disabled kids for that reason is wrong, etc.?

    On Richards’ decision being “adult”, in my worldview part of something being adult is that it’s maker can and will stand scrutiny and criticism. If it’s invalid in and of itself to scrutinize a decision (or to say “well, you have the power to make that decision, but boy do I think you’re wrong”) then I wouldn’t call it an adult decision. That’s the kind of decision that teenagers want to make – power, no feedback. Or so I recall, from mumbledy mumble years ago.

  33. 133
    Jesurgislac says:

    Robert: Piny and/or Jake, do you concur that you can be “pro-choice” and still believe that third-trimester abortions are wrong, that people should not have sex-selection abortions, that aborting disabled kids for that reason is wrong, etc.?

    Sure: but being pro-choice means that, whatever your personal morality, you will support a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion in the third-trimester or to choose to abort a fetus she knows will be born disabled or – if it is genuinely her own choice, and not a forced abortion – to choose to abort a fetus because it’s male or because it’s female.

    I was once asked by a friend if I’d support a woman’s right to choose if it meant a homophobic bigot aborted a fetus that had tested positive for “the gay gene”. I thought about it, and said yes, I would: I support any woman’s right to choose to have an abortion for a reason that seems good to her. If a woman cannot bear the thought of bearing a child she’s certain will grow up gay, she should have an abortion – that’s her right. I may disagree with her reasons, but I support her right to choose. No woman should ever be forced to carry to term a child she does not wish to have, regardless why she does not wish to do so.

    Tucking in “sex-selection abortion” is a nasty little trollish trick that’s typically you, Robert: as you know, sex-selection abortions are generally forced on a woman by the culture in which she lives that values boy children over girl children.

  34. 134
    Jesurgislac says:

    Ampersand: Robert, as you’ve already acknowleged, the Stalin comment was way over the line – that was really trollish of you. And in general, I think you could have done a lot more in this thread to communicate in a way that was likely to be heard, rather than in a way that was likely to lay down fuel for flames.

    Yes, but why should he bother? He knows that anyone who flames him may be banned, but he will never be banned. He has no need ever to be on good behavior here: it’s the rest of us who have to watch our step around him.

  35. 135
    Jake Squid says:

    I concur w/ Jesurgislac’s comment (#136). But I follow that same logic for pretty much any medical procedure. There is a fundamental disagreement between my position & that of fetus-firsters. That is, I don’t believe that a fetus is a person whereas they do. You can try to tickle out contradictions in my position by asking about 3rd trimester abortions (extremely rare), sex-selection, etc. but that won’t get you anywhere nor will it serve to find common ground. If you believe a fetus is a person, with all the rights that go along w/ the legal status of being a person, you and I will never agree.

  36. 136
    Ampersand says:

    Yes, but why should he bother? He knows that anyone who flames him may be banned, but he will never be banned. He has no need ever to be on good behavior here: it’s the rest of us who have to watch our step around him.

    Actually, because I know Robert from other forums, I can tell that he actually does make a good-faith effort to be on “good behavior” here. If I didn’t beleive that was true, I wouldn’t refuse to ban him.

    If anything, I tend to moderate Robert more than I moderate most other posters. For instance, although you may feel I moderate you more harshly than Robert, I don’t recall ever deleting posts of yours, or kicking you off a thread; I’ve done both these things with Robert.

  37. 137
    Ampersand says:

    Sure: but being pro-choice means that, whatever your personal morality, you will support a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion in the third-trimester or to choose to abort a fetus she knows will be born disabled or – if it is genuinely her own choice, and not a forced abortion – to choose to abort a fetus because it’s male or because it’s female.

    This reflects my own, personal pro-choice position. However, in the larger culture, many people who favor banning late-term abortions except when the mother’s health or life are in danger, are nonetheless credited with being pro-choice. For example, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and most other leaders of the Democratic Party have favored a late-term abortion ban, but they are still widely considered “pro-choice” and supported by organizations like NARAL.

  38. 138
    Jesurgislac says:

    Ampersand: I can tell that he actually does make a good-faith effort to be on “good behavior” here.

    So, one standard for Robert, another standard for the rest of us?

    For instance, although you may feel I moderate you more harshly than Robert, I don’t recall ever deleting posts of yours, or kicking you off a thread; I’ve done both these things with Robert.

    Ah, there we come to my supposed “bias” against you. I have no objections to make of your moderation of me: my criticisms of you are sourced in your behavior, even if you prefer to set them down to a “bias”.

    I presume that if I were to behave as trollishly as Robert does, you would delete my comments or kick me off a thread: I presume that as you haven’t, I haven’t.

  39. 139
    Q Grrl says:

    Ah, hell.

    Amp, this is bullshit:

    “Jake, the first part of post #122 was a personal attack. You don’t have to agree with the moderation policies here, but please try to abide by them anyway.”

    As long as men [read: MEN] continue their bullshit arguments about abortion and life and conception and women’s choices then, yes, maybe, just maybe, what Jake said was a personal attack. But as long as abortion is a freaking REALITY [read: REALITY] for women and their bodies, and that REALITY is being limited by the State [read: women's choices are not autonomous] then what Robert is doing is a personal attack. Of the vilest sort. But, because you are men, and the reality is that abortion does NOT HAPPEN TO YOUR BODIES, you can bitch and moan about “personal attacks” as if all that amounts to is name calling. Your personal attacks on women are insidious in their transparency and your willingness to police the rules of engagement when we are discussing our social and political parameters. Robert speaks from a seat of male supremacy and gets to giggle behind his hands at the silly feminists who, according to him, are just really bitch-slapping each other. That, my friend, is a personal attack. With real consequences. It doesnt’ matter if anyone here calls Roberts style “dishonest.” What matters is that men like him, who really could give two shits less about disinvesting themselves of their male supremacy, vote and partake in a social and political system that is predicated on their male biology, so that issues like abortion look like moral issues, rather than the health issues they really are. Women’s “choice” looks more like “choices that men are comfortable with” when you have men like Robert and yourself dictating what is honest and what is dishonest discourse. When Robert is being dishonest and manipulating threads to suit his ego needs, we have every right to call him on his bullshit. He has no inherent right to decency from us when he is willing to play high and loose with issues that are more real to us than they are theoretical.

    But you know all this Amp. We’ve been over it quite a few times.

  40. 140
    Q Grrl says:

    Also, for the record, what the hell does anyone mean by “abortion on demand”?

    That phrase alone lets me know exactly how men value autonomy in women’s choices.

    …their porn is protected free speech (sex on demand, one could say), but women’s health issues = abortion on demand. The objectification of women, certainly the objectification of women as sexual and immoral, couldn’t get any more obvious.

  41. 141
    Ampersand says:

    I always understood “abortion on demand” to mean that any pregnant woman should be able to walk up to any abortion provider and get an abortion, without having to get some other party to sign consent waivers or the like; that abortion providers should be available everywhere in the country; and that abortions should be provided free to anyone who can’t afford to pay.

    In particular, it’s my impression that the phrase originated in debates about if abortion should be paid for for poor women. However, my impression may be mistaken.

    And, come to think of it, I’m in favor of “abortion on demand.” At least, if I understand what it means correctly, I favor it.

    But I agree that it’s a very nebulous phrase, and what people mean when they say it is not clear.

  42. 142
    zuzu says:

    First off, I want to point out that Amy Richards did not have an abortion, because she continued to carry one of the fetuses. Abortion terminates a pregnancy. She had a selective reduction, where two of the three fetuses she was carrying were terminated.

    Robert: On Richards’ decision being “adult”, in my worldview part of something being adult is that it’s maker can and will stand scrutiny and criticism. If it’s invalid in and of itself to scrutinize a decision (or to say “well, you have the power to make that decision, but boy do I think you’re wrong”) then I wouldn’t call it an adult decision. That’s the kind of decision that teenagers want to make – power, no feedback. Or so I recall, from mumbledy mumble years ago.

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with scrutinizing her decision, and it can certainly withstand valid criticism. The problem we’re having here is that hotshot claimed to be pro-choice and yet objected to Richards’ decision on decidedly anti-choice grounds. And also on grounds that had absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the procedure she had, but rather had everything to do with mocking the choices of what he obviously saw as an uppity, privileged single urban slut.

    And for the record, I don’t have any problem with someone who is pro-choice but has qualms about post-viability abortions. Of course, as a practical matter, those procedures are highly rare and performed only when the mother is in danger.

  43. 143
    Q Grrl says:

    Well, Amp, that phrase is as dangerous as it is disengenuous. A woman asking for an abortion is a woman asking for an abortion; I fail to see how poverty makes it a “demand.” In this case, I would argue that “demand” is used in much the same way that “hysterical” is/was. It puts the age-old assumption of women’s over emotionality on the issue, when in fact the woman is requesting a medical procedure.

  44. 144
    Q Grrl says:

    Just want to throw this out there, in regards to Richards’ choice looking immature or selfish to the men in the audience:

    The Crime of “Unauthorized Reproduction”
    New law will require marriage as a legal condition of motherhood

    By Laura McPhee

    Republican lawmakers are drafting new legislation that will make
    marriage a requirement for motherhood in the state of Indiana, including specific
    criminal penalties for unmarried women who do become pregnant “by means other than sexual intercourse.”

    According to a draft of the recommended change in state law, every woman in Indiana seeking to become a mother through assisted reproduction therapy such as in vitro fertilization, sperm donation, and egg
    donation, must first file for a “petition for parentage” in their local county
    probate court.

    Only women who are married will be considered for the “gestational certificate” that must be presented to any doctor who facilitates the pregnancy. Further, the “gestational certificate” will only be given to married couples that successfully complete the same screening process currently required by law of adoptive parents.

    Who’s being selfish? Immature? Immoral?

    A bunch of men who can’t get pregnant, that’s who.

    Don’t ask us to be civil when this shit is going down in 2006.

  45. 145
    mythago says:

    That isn’t the strongest argument.

    Indeed it is. “Personal responsibility” is not nearly as emotionally powerful as “baby-killing.” It’s actually much easier to attack the responsibility argument–that’s how you get exceptions for rape and failed birth control and so on.

  46. 146
    piny says:

    Piny and/or Jake, do you concur that you can be “pro-choice” and still believe that third-trimester abortions are wrong, that people should not have sex-selection abortions, that aborting disabled kids for that reason is wrong, etc.?

    Just so long as we all understand that this is completely different from what you were saying earlier:

    Sure, with the caveats that Jake outlined. By that measure, hotshot is indeed pro-choice. So’s my mom. And so am I.

    However, Mr. Vigorous Debate, hotshot is an adult hashing out a political position in the company of other adults. He has to deal with criticism of his beliefs about what is and is not responsible, moral behavior. I think his moral calculus is wrongheaded–in fact, as I said earlier, I find it downright bizarre. I also think that its oddities stem from unexamined sexism which, left unexamined, does endanger women’s choices. There’s nothing wrong, rude, oppressive, or ill-advised about saying so.

    Amy Richards is in the same category, although I see that other commenters disagree. I don’t have a problem with her decision being “scrutinized.” I feel, however, that the extra scrutiny placed on her decision and on women who make similar decisions is (a) wrongheaded and (b) sexist. Again, there’s nothing wrong, rude, oppressive, or ill-advised about saying so.

  47. 147
    Robert says:

    By abortion-on-demand I mean the idea that any woman can have any abortion for any reason, provided free if she doesn’t have the means, and nobody anywhere has any power to stop her. An absolute restriction on restrictions, in other words. Not exactly how Amp defined it but fairly close. We don’t have abortion-on-demand in the United States; you generally can’t get one past a certain point in time, for one thing. That framing of AoD seems useful to me in that it distinguishes between absolutists and non-absolutists. There’s a philosophical difference in there.

    Jesurgislac, my “trollish trick” of inserting sex-selection abortion was a response to Ampersand’s inclusion of that type of abortion in his list of abortions that a “pro-choice” person might disagree with. I assume that you simply missed that – and that as someone arguing in good faith, you’ll retract your comment.

    It is worth emphasizing from my point of view (I can’t speak for Ampersand, but I’m pretty sure this is true), I indeed can be banned – if my behavior regularly falls into the range of behaviors that Ampersand finds objectionable in his space. That I won’t be banned is a prediction on the part of Amp about my respect for his rules, not a statement of privilege on my part. I can similarly say that Mythago will never be banned from my blog – because she never comments in a way that would get her banned, and I assume that behavior will continue. If she starts spouting vileness, then out she’ll go; I just expect that she will never do that.

  48. 148
    Jesurgislac says:

    Robert: I indeed can be banned – if my behavior regularly falls into the range of behaviors that Ampersand finds objectionable in his space. That I won’t be banned is a prediction on the part of Amp about my respect for his rules, not a statement of privilege on my part.

    So you’d ban Mythago for spouting vileness, but expect that Ampersand will continue to tolerate your spouting vileness because that falls within the range of behaviors Amp finds unobjectionable?

    Jesurgislac, my “trollish trick” of inserting sex-selection abortion was a response to Ampersand’s inclusion of that type of abortion in his list of abortions that a “pro-choice” person might disagree with.

    So, again, you prefer to lay blame on Ampersand rather than take responsibility for your own words?

  49. 149
    mythago says:

    I mean the idea that any woman can have any abortion for any reason

    Which Roe does not support. (Nor does it support the idea that the government must pay for them–hello, the government doesn’t even have to pay for well-child care!)

  50. 150
    Robert says:

    Jesurgislac, you explicitly accused me of trolling by bringing up the subject of sex selection. I did not bring up the subject; someone else did, and I responded to it, appropriately and in context. If you wish to characterize that as laying blame rather than taking responsibility, that’s your prerogative, but I hope you will forgive me for deprecating the seriousness with which you should be addressed in the future.

    I would ban Mythago for spouting vileness. I expect that Amp would ban me for spouting vileness. That he considers what I have to say as being non-vile (however wrong or objectionable) would appear to be clear; that you disagree is, again, your prerogative. Since there is very little that I have to say which does not fall squarely within the mainstream of American political thought, I’m not sure what you expect to gain by characterizing my statements as vile.

    At the moment, you are in a position of labeling entirely appropriate and contextual responses “trolling”, and (it appears) demanding that the host of a blog you do not own adopt your own views and policies as his own. I would consider that classic trolling, and in my own space, it would not be long tolerated – but this isn’t my own space, it’s Amp’s, and I have no business telling him how to run things or expecting him to think the way I do.

    Mythago, I explicitly said that we don’t have AoD in the US. Not sure what your point is.

  51. 151
    Jesurgislac says:

    I am backing away from the thread now, reminding myself that it’s better just to stay *off* any thread on Alas A Blog about any feminist issues.

    *backing away*

  52. 152
    Robert says:

    I’m not sure what feminist issue you have in mind as being problematic here, Jesurgislac. You accused me of a “trollish trick” when the actual issue was your simple misreading of a thread’s content, and apparent reluctance to acknowledge an ordinary error.