A Reframing I'd Like to See: Government-Enforced Childbirth

For all the talk about “reframing” the abortion debate, the reframing I’d like to see never seems to come up. The issue is government-enforced childbirth. Right-wingers want government-enforced childbirth; lefties don’t.

The issue is not whether we favor or oppose abortion. Plenty of people who are personally opposed to abortion are still pro-choice. You can’t tell the difference between pro-choicers and pro-lifers by asking, “do you favor abortion?” You can tell the difference by asking, “should there be government-enforced childbirth for pregnant women?” Government-enforced childbirth is the defining issue; wanting government-enforced childbirth, not wanting abortion, is the difference between the opposition and us.

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50 Responses to A Reframing I'd Like to See: Government-Enforced Childbirth

  1. 1
    AndiF says:

    What timing — did you see the article on slate on the ‘forced pregnancy’ law in Italy?

    Take This Embryo and Shove It

    As the author points out, enforced pregnancy is hardly an unreasonable result of religious right’s position.

  2. 2
    Josh Jasper says:

    True. If the government thinks it has a right to force a mother to give birth, they ought to pay for the whole of the medical costs related to pregnancy, and then for the rest of the child’s care until it’s 18.

    For all the right wing whines about unwed mothers and welfare mothers, they’re creating the situation they hate by not (a) taking care of those kids, and (b) helping the mothers out financialy. If you bring a child in ot the world, you’re responsible for it. That includes the government forcing mothers to bring children into the world.

  3. 3
    Vardibidian says:

    I think that one reason people talk past each other on the issue is because many pro-life people are against abortions, and assume that laws restricting abortions will result in fewer abortions, while many pro-choice people are against illegal and dangerous back-alley abortions, and assume that laws restricting abortions will result in more of those kind. As those assumptions are invisible, for the most part, to the people who hold them, it’s hard for arguments to really connect.
    Your construction has the added value (in addition to being inherently persuasive) that it brings up enforcement, which for the pro-choice side is inherently part of the argument. Another way to tell the difference between pro-choice and pro-life people is to ask “what criminal punishment would be appropriate for a woman who has an abortion?”


  4. 4
    noodles says:

    Well AndiF, as someone who has voted in that referendum, and is most definitely pro-choice and against that hypocrisy Amp outlines, I can tell you that article you linked is an extremely clichéd and biased look at the Italian referendum debate, and one that appropriates a completely different context in a completely different society from the US only make a point about internal US debate that should be made on its own terms.
    The issue in that Italian referendum had nothing to do with enforced childbirth, not just because IVF is voluntarily chosen, not enforced or accidental – which makes it a completely different situation from an unwanted pregnancy, and makes any comparison with laws on abortion incorrect and also very dangerous and backfiring – but also because the law has been later integrated by guidelines that allow for later withdrawal of consent at any time prior to fertilisation. The purpose of the requirement to implant the embryos once they’re fertilised is to avoid production of redudant embryos and indefinite conservation or use of embryos for research. The prohibition of a pre-implantation diagnosis has been highly debated, and I can see both sides, but honestly even many people like me who don’t think embryos are or should have the same rights as persons have legitimate and completely secular reasons to be skeptical of the direction such a possibility would take. Who decides what embryos are healthy and which are not? Who would draw a list of which diseases can be grounds for selection? That’s what it is. It doesn’t take wild scenarios to be called eugenetics.
    It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with women’s rights. It is all to do with the need to define boundaries for a new technology that turns reproduction into a medical procedure.
    The article is correct about Italy being a wild territory for all sorts of manipulations and business exploitation of IVF for more than twenty years. That law has contradictions and should probably be rewritten, but it aimed at reducing the non-regulated mess that existed before. The fact it was backed – hypocritically – by the Catholic church doesn’t make it automatically a reactionary thing. The referendums mingled all sorts of different issues in the same questions; the proponents used arguments that were as rhetorical and fanatical as their opponents (research on embryonic cells is going to cure all sorts of terrible diseases, just like GM crops are going to save the world from poverty and hunger… so you should feel like a murderer in preventing both); the business interests behind it all were all too evident; and that are some of the reasons most people didn’t vote. The Catholic Church was extremely sly in seizing that non-vote majority and claim it as a victory for themselves, despite their continuously declining influence on society (in fact, precisely because of that).
    I understand it’s temping to fit it all into reactionary, backwards, dangers of right wing at the government etc. etc., especially when it’s about a foreign country whose politics are byzantine enough even for those living in it, but while the law on abortion was approved with 80% of votes via referendum, and that’s more than thirty years ago when the Catholic influence was still a lot heavier, the people who didn’t even bother to vote for this one were 75%, so there’s definitely a lot of pro-choice, left wing, liberal, secular and atheist folks in there too, not just religious conservatives (whose position on IVF is contradictory anyway). Also because in Italy the actual religious conservatives are definitely a lot more of a minority than in the US. Just FYI. Apples and oranges.

  5. 5
    Dave says:

    I realize this wasn’t the main thrust of your comment, and apologize for singling it out, but I can’t speak to Italian domestic politics/policies and inasmuch as taking this news item out of context requires rebuke you’ve handled it, so:

    Who decides what embryos are healthy and which are not? Who would draw a list of which diseases can be grounds for selection?

    The parents, or custodial entity / owner of the embryos, I’d imagine.

  6. 6
    AndiF says:


    Thanks for the information. Getting other (especially international) viewpoints is, I think, one of the great strengths of the internet.

  7. 7
    AndiF says:

    The other re-framing I’d like to see is to point out that once you establish the governmental right to interfere in decisions about pregnancy, then the government has the right to not only to force pregnancy but also to force abortions. Depending on the circumstance, a government’s compelling interest in mandating pregnancy could be overtaken by a compelling interest in reducing population (see, of course, China).

  8. 8
    Sozialismus says:

    I have a few female friends who honestly believe life begins at conception, and that abortion is the murder of a baby. But none of them would outlaw abortions because they realize women as a whole will simply not tolerate “government-enforced childbirth”. This is a phrase I am definitely going to be using with them in the future.

  9. 9
    noodles says:

    AndiF, just in case I came off a bit snippy, I didn’t mean to, well I did actually, but my target was the journalist, not you :)
    And mind you, my views are biased too because I do have an opinion on the matter (and I did vote to abolish the law). I just don’t think that even a restrictive or flawed law on IVF is a relevant example for this notion of enforcing childbirth that’s implied in a strictly anti-abortionist stance.

    – Vardibidian: Another way to tell the difference between pro-choice and pro-life people is to ask “what criminal punishment would be appropriate for a woman who has an abortion?”

    Indeed, but you’ll never get a “prolife” person to answer that question. Only the real nutcases would literally advocate criminal punishment.
    Those who would like to ban abortion just don’t want their country’s laws to sanction it, but don’t want to think about how it would go on in clandestine fashion anyway, the way it went on for centuries before laws about it were made.
    Basically it’s a way of reducing morals to pure form. Like, they want the laws to reflect their morality on the surface, but don’t want to ask moral questions about the actual consequences of a ban.

  10. 10
    La Lubu says:

    I don’t think that reframing would actually work in this instance, because that’s the whole point for many anti-choicers: pregnancy and motherhood as punishment. Look at the terms they use: “you play, you pay.” “you made your bed, now lie in it.” “she had her fun, now it’s time to pay the piper.” “that’s what you get for not keeping your legs shut.” “serves her right, the little slut.” “let’s see how much fun she has now.”

    The anti-choice side doesn’t have any problems with government-enforced pregnancy. Their language leads me to believe they really dig the idea of forced pregnancy and childbirth. For all the “family” rhetoric, they have a real warped idea of what a functional (as opposed to dysfunctional) family is.

  11. 11
    AndiF says:


    Not to worry. I did’t take as a personal cricitism and I was completely sincere in my thanks. We are so insular here in the states and it makes very happy that the internet can serve to emphatically remind us that we are not the whole world.

  12. 12
    noodles says:

    AndiF, believe me, news coverage and political debate is insular pretty much everywhere. Except I don’t know maybe Luxembourg because not many exciting things must happen in Luxembourg…

  13. 13
    AndiF says:

    And now back to the subject at hand.

    La Lubu,

    I don’t think we’re after the anti-choice folks since we aren’t going to change their minds (any more than they are going to change ours). What we want to do is garner more popular support for choice so that politicians will be more likely to support pro-choice legislation and less likely to propose/support anti-choice legislation.

  14. 14
    Kyra says:

    Excellent point, about the framing. I think that’s a very accurate way of portraying it. If there is no legal abortion (or no access to legal abortion) then there is state-enforced childbirth.

    La Lubu, it may not work against the extreme anti-choicers, but the point is, it will work on the undecided public, and the people the Right (and quais-Left) is courting with all this “Abortion is horrible and must be stopped” type emotional appeals.

  15. 15
    Robert says:

    I’d like to see your reframing take place, as I think it likely to boost the pro-life position.

    As currently framed, pro-choice folk are emphasizing a woman’s bodily autonomy, her right to choose, her right to control her reproductive destiny, etc. Your reframing would change that conceptual framework about the nature of our bodies and who owns them (where your position is wrong but defensible) into a single act: childbirth.

    Pro-lifers are currently in the position of saying “we think that the unborn child’s right to go on living outweighs a woman’s right to bodily autonomy &c.” This is a fairly tough case to make; it doesn’t work for a fairly large segment of the population, especially the folks who think that liberty and license are synonyms.

    Your reframing would change our position to “we think that the unborn child’s right to go on living outweighs a woman’s right to forego a difficult and occasionally life-threatening experience.” That’s an easier sell, it seems to me. Losing a life vs. autonomy – tricky decision fraught with implications. Losing a life vs. hard work plus small chance of losing a life – easy decision, few implications.

  16. 16
    Lizzybeth says:

    Have you seen this yet? From BoingBoing:

    Petition for Canadian abortion doctor’s honorary doctorate
    Henry Morgantaler is the hero doctor who faced jail in order to operate Canada’s first above-ground abortion clinics, a struggle which culminated in the legalization of abortion in Canada. He’s faced hardship and privation — including having the Toronto clinic, where I used to escort patients through the lines of chanting protestors, blown up by anti-abortion terrorists — and survived his youth in a Nazi death camp.
    The University of Western Ontario plans to award Morgantaler with an honourary doctorate, but a mostly US anti-Choice group has bombarded the University a petition with thousands of signatures protesting the move. There’s a chance they’ll succeed.

    The Humanist Association of Ontario has posted their own petition endorsing the honorary degree. If you are a Morgantaler supporter and a supporter of reproductive rights in Canada, I hope you’ll sign it. I have.

    Dr. Henry Morgentaler – physician, Holocaust survivor, civil rights activist, and tireless champion for women’s reproductive rights and choices – has been chosen by the University of Western Ontario (UWO) to receive an Honourary Doctor of Laws degree. This degree is to be awarded at their convocation on June 16, 2005.
    Unfortunately, the noble attempt on the part of this prominent Ontario university to bestow an honour on Dr. Morgentaler is being vigorously opposed by anti-choice elements. A petition to this effect, authored by William Vandoodewaard and endorsed by “Catholics for Life”, has been posted on the Internet. Currently, this protest petition has collected over 5000 signatures opposing the pending honour.


  17. 17
    Radfem says:

    I don’t believe it’s just about forced pregnancies, but more like controlling a woman’s uterus and its contents. For every population that the state would like to force to bear children, to pay the piper so to speak, there’s another that it would love to curtail reproduction through coerced or forced abortion, birthcontrol and/or sterilization.

  18. 18
    Ampersand says:

    Noodles, I’m hoping you can help me clarify the story the Slate article talked about a bit, because I’m still confused. You wrote:

    The issue in that Italian referendum had nothing to do with enforced childbirth, not just because IVF is voluntarily chosen, not enforced or accidental – which makes it a completely different situation from an unwanted pregnancy, and makes any comparison with laws on abortion incorrect and also very dangerous and backfiring – but also because the law has been later integrated by guidelines that allow for later withdrawal of consent at any time prior to fertilisation.

    But according to this article, “An Italian judge ordered a sterile couple to transfer all the embryos obtained with assisted reproduction techniques, despite the fact that both would-be parents carry the recessive gene for {beta} thalassaemia, wanted a preimplant diagnosis, and would not keep a child born with the condition.”

    So, from what you said, the judge didn’t actually order her to have a pregnancy; she had the choice of transferring all of the embyros, or transferring none at all. What she wasn’t allowed to do is choose which ones to transfer.

    Is that correct, or am I still misunderstanding the story?

  19. 19
    media girl says:

    This is how I view it. It’s the only way to look at it, it seems to me.

    But of course we’d never get “good Democrats” like Kos to agree, because they can’t get past their Republican-imposed frames and see it about being “for abortion.” (I single out Kos only because he’s been rather vocal on the issue of late.)

  20. 20
    Scarbo says:

    LaLubu: “Look at the terms they use: “you play, you pay.”? “you made your bed, now lie in it.”? “she had her fun, now it’s time to pay the piper.”? “that’s what you get for not keeping your legs shut.”? “serves her right, the little slut.”? “let’s see how much fun she has now.”?”

    So, it’s “uncool” to use those terms to shame a woman who gets pregnant and then decides the rights of the unborn are inconvenient, huh?

    Seems to me society has no trouble using those same terms when slamming the father with a child support order.

    I gather I’m supposed to feel bad about saying those things about that poor, innocent, young lady, whose life was ruined, but please join me in chorus as we slam her partner-in-lovemaking, who will likely be looking at his checkbook way more than his offspring for the next 18 years.

    The reason there are 1 million + abortions a year is because of the lack of shame in society any more.

  21. 21
    noodles says:

    Ampersand: yes, you understood correctly. The paragraph you quote from the article is also factually correct (and I didn’t mean to imply they’re literally making things up; they’re just picking a very one-sided interpretation of the whole debate) but that was about that case and the sentence, before guidelines were added as an amendment to the law. And now we get into byzantine territory…

    Basically, she and her husband had been trying to concieve via IVF for a while, even before the law was passed, and pre-implant diagnosis was possible back then; there were no laws against it.

    After the law was passed and came into effect, the couple again tried to conceive via IVF, but decided to appeal against that prohibition of a pre-implant diagnosis, ie. they specifically appealed to the judge to be given the option to diagnose the illness and select only the healthy embryos for implant.

    They did not appeal to withdraw from IVF or renounce implant altogether; both the woman and her husband had obviously given their consent to the procedure, as required; they also knew beforehand that the diagnosis was no longer possible under the new law.

    The judge refused the appeal, but recommended an amendment of the law, which was passed by means of binding guidelines issued directly from the Ministry of Health (ie. without going through Parliament all over again or it’d have taken ages). The new guidelines still do not allow for diagnosis on embryos (diagnosis is only possible over eggs before fertilisation), but they do allow for a withdrawal of consent, up to the moment of fertilisation. Before those new guidelines, the consent given at the start of the whole procedure could not be revoked at any point later on.
    (IIRC the woman did get pregnant eventually but miscarried; the one embryo that had developed was actually healthy, ie. did not have the gene of the disease.)

    So one can say she was forced to have all three embryos implanted, rather than screen each one for the disease; but she had consented to that and she knew it was no longer possible to get diagnosis; she didn’t object to implant itself or withdraw her consent to it, either. So it’s incorrect to say she was forced into pregnancy or that the judge ordered pregnancy. That’s not what he was asked to rule on.

  22. 22
    Hestia says:

    Your reframing would change that conceptual framework about the nature of our bodies and who owns them…into a single act: childbirth.

    I guess I don’t see that. The concept of bodily autonomy is the crux of “government-enforced childbirth,” and if you can recognize the difference between the two perspectives, you’ll certainly recognize that they’re inextricable.

    And I really don’t see how it turns childbirth into “a difficult and occasionally life-threatening experience.” If you can look at it that way–as something that just happens to you, as just something to endure, as mere “hard work”–you’re probably already pro-life. (I’ve never understood how pro-lifers can revere pregnancy so much and at the same time dismiss it as insignificant.)

    Anyhow, citing the government’s role in abortion is sure to make at least some pro-lifers, many of whom are conservative and therefore oppose (theoretically, anyhow) greater levels of government intervention, uncomfortable. Which is the point.

  23. 23
    noodles says:

    Again, regardless of the flaws of that law, I do think it is very incorrect to frame it as a matter of women’s right to choose, because the choice being demanded there is not between pregnancy or abortion, bodily integrity or violation; it’s between healthy children, or unhealthy children. It isn’t the same thing at all.

    Even if one thinks the diagnosis should be available, it has to be acknowledged that it is not reactionary but totally legitimate to be uncomfortable with the idea that some diseases can be grounds for genetic selection, even if that selection is for serious health reasons and not futile ones. That is the point: selection. Who gets to decide what is and isn’t healthy. Case by case? a list? Some proponents of the referendum were also talking of spina bifida and other more or less serious disabilities. It does get into shaky territory.

    Of course that decision is possible later on during pregnancy, you can have all sorts of diagnosis and can then decide to have an abortion – and this was one main point of criticism of the law, that it denies what is possible only a few weeks later – but it is different. When there’s already a pregnancy then it is the legal right of a woman only to decide, because it’s in her body, her person, and laws already specifically grant that choice. So we may not approve of abortion of disabled foetus, but no woman can be forced to give birth against her will, whatever her motive for not wanting that pregnancy. That’s established by law.

    However, if the decision is taken beforehand in a clinic, before implant, with a diagnosis that is obviously not even possible outside of IVF, it is completely different.

    Abortion is so not the same as genetic selection. It really does bother me that those proponents of the referendum who used this equivalence did not realise how unfair and counteroproductive to the pro-choice stance it is.

    Incidentally – the law may still get struck down by the Constitutional Court later, in fact, it’s rather likely.

    (Another byzantine effect: the law bans use of embryos for research, but clinics have been known to work around this by getting embryos from abroad. Also, it only takes a few hours to go to France, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Germany or the UK to do all that the law doesn’t allow within Italian borders so it’s all a bit pointless really. The ideal solution would be to have a common EU approach but then again these matters are not under EU jurisdiction.)

  24. 24
    Robert says:

    Anyhow, citing the government’s role in abortion is sure to make at least some pro-lifers, many of whom are conservative and therefore oppose (theoretically, anyhow) greater levels of government intervention, uncomfortable.

    The kinds of conservatives who theoretically oppose government intervention are generally working from libertarian theory. Libertarian theory holds that one of the legitimate uses of state power is to protect the powerless from the depradations of other citizens. This reframing is unlikely to make any pro-lifers realize that we’re talking about the use of government power; pro-lifers already know that they’re asking for a use of government power.

    Hey, the preview is back. Yay!

  25. 25
    alsis38.9 says:

    Scarbo, that’s one hell of a case of cognitive dissonance you demonstrate there. Folks, I give you the pro-life misanthrope. It slices, it dices, it trolls, it makes julliene fries !!!

  26. 26
    noodles says:

    Sorry for getting carried away with the answer, Amp, just wanted to make sure I’d clear up both the facts and my own point of view/reaction.

    On the question of reframing – like Hestia, I am also not getting Robert’s point at all. I think it deserves the fourth mention of the word “byzantine”.

  27. 27
    Ampersand says:

    The reason there are 1 million + abortions a year is because of the lack of shame in society any more.

    When do you think there was shame, exactly? It seems to me an untestable claim. There were about a million abortions a year in the US before Roe. I guess you could claim that there was more shame and fewer abortions in the 1950s or something, but how would we know, really?

  28. 28
    Ampersand says:

    I’ll be turning the plug-ins on, but spacing each turn-on a week apart, so we can test to see if any of them are causing server load problems. I turned the “live preview” plug-in back on today.

    I think that very few people who have given it a lot of thought, on either side of the issue, are likely to have their minds changed by reframing. for those who haven’t given it much thought, I think that making it clear that the issue is having the government force unwilling women to give birth may give some people pause.

    And with all due respect, a pro-lifer saying that he thinks it’s a bad idea won’t really persuade me that it is. :-)

    Noodles, thanks very much for the expanded information. The Slate article really is misleading, from what you say.

  29. 29
    Robert says:

    Excellent. My plan to deepen your commitment to your doomed plan by critiquing it has borne fruit. Soon the world will be mine.

    At least, that portion of the world which can be acquired by manipulating Portland-based cartoonists.

  30. 30
    Morgaine Swann says:

    I’ve been writing about Slave Births for a while now. I’ve always said we have to get the focus off the fetus and on to an adult woman’s natural autonomy and right to life.

  31. 31
    noodles says:

    Ampersand, yes, it was misleading, of course it wasn’t just that article, it was also the view of those in Italy who attacked the sentence (and the law it upheld) as cruel and unjust because of that ban on embryo diagnosis and selection. The article exclusively embraces that position, distorting the actual nature of the couple’s request, the motivations for that ban, and the reasons the judge gave for upholding it. They could have at least mentioned that side of the story.
    The sentence itself is very long and the rejection of the appeal had several motives, not least the uncostitutional nature of the couple’s request (in short, some of the main arguments of the sentence: a judge cannot single-handedly overthrow a law just passed with a majority in parliament; “right to a healthy child” which the couple’s lawyers invoked is not a right recognised by any law; the couple had already given informed consent; IVF is legally available for fertility treatment only, not for screening of genetic diseases in the embryo; the couple requested the former, they later changed the request to the clinic to get the latter, which wasn’t allowed and they knew that; the impossibility to physically coerce the doctor to follow the law and implant all three fertilised embryos without pre-implant diagnosis doesn’t make the law any less valid and no judge can sanction a breach on a case-by-case basis – so there was also an express acknowledgement that actual coercion was not even possible, the judge wrote he could only confide in the doctors’ good faith to respect the law; even laws on abortion are based on the principle of safeguarding the health, psychological and/or physical, of the woman, and while they do allow for considerations on diseases and malformations of the foetus itself from the point of view of repercussions on the woman, they do not allow for a eugenetic screening per se, even if again there can be no actual coercion to enforce that principle, so in practice that kind of selection is also possible for abortion; but expressly allowing it for voluntary IVF treatment would be against the principles of all existing laws and the constitution, etc.).
    I have to make a correction though, it wasn’t the judge that suggested the new guidelines, it was the government itself that decided to establish them, after the sentence.

  32. 32
    noodles says:

    My plan to deepen your commitment to your doomed plan by critiquing it has borne fruit.

    Hmm, I have a feeling Robert’s cunning plan was actually to attempt dissuading from an approach that would be so obviously effective for the pro-choice side by pretending it’d be welcome by the pro-lifers. Except that attempt at dissuasion is so transparently unconvincing.

    Maybe next time don’t make it so obvious! :p

  33. 33
    Lucio says:

    There are people who identify as pro-life who are sincere in their propositions that the fetus is a human being with rights and needs that must be recognized. These people are also reverent about the equally sincere, understandable, and compassionate reasons behind the pro-choice stance. The trick is to have an open mind about it. I must admit I sorely regret being so initially distrustful of people who call themselves pro-life. Whenever I met one such person who was obviously kind and geuineky interested in us pro-choicers, I’d be happy to oblige, but they’d have to prove it to me first. Now, they still have to prove it to me, but I am more receptive.

    And there is a reason for this; because without this little defene mechanism, you’ll get screwed. There is nothing wrong with changing or building up your position. There is nothing wrong with questioning it. With time, experience, and discovery, you learn more! That doesnt make ou a flip-flop. It makes you educated! But anti-choice people, who are usually too dense to do any of this, will take that as insecurity. Sounds a lot like our Bushie, eh, who has no problem killing thousads upon thousands of innocent people to quence his sick, obsessive need to have total control? If you are not careful, they will pull you in with their lies and duplicity. Of course, every insult, every manipulation, every lack of thought, every repeated question or answer, every assault, etc. they will vociferously deny, unless of course you are a quasi-sociopath like Michael Griffin, but when we come across these people who are intent on dismantling us, not out of a moral hih ground, but out of power hunger and fear, we have to keep in mind the alternative to haning on and marching on to advance the life-saving pro-choice cause.

    If our anti-choice counterparts wanted parental consent in place to ensure involvement in teens’ lives, then they would require the same of pregnanc and childbirth, which is much riskier. They wouldn’t require some teens to go looking for a parent they haven’t seen in years. (In what other medical procedure do you need BOTH parents’ consent? A heart transplant wouldn’t require the signature of two parents.) And let’s not forget that informed consent is standard before a tetanus shot, mcuh less an invasive surgical procedure, no matter how mild. “Informed consent” is more like biased counseling, and let us not even address those “crisis pregnancy counseling centers.”

    And that is why I support this reframing. I have only one caution; do not push away our pro-life-truly-partners in pregnancy prevention. It is the only way to solve this problem that otherwise has no solution.

  34. Pingback: e p o n y m o u s » Alas, A Reframing

  35. 34
    Amanda says:

    I like the frame and try to use it already when I write. The thing is that I think that “enforced pregnancy” tends to invoke all women, including wives and mothers, and not just the demonized slutty teenagers that are going to pay that anti-choicers like to conjure.

  36. 35
    Michelle says:

    I like this frame. Many people who are anti-abortion actually claim to be for smaller government. They ought to realize that the two are mututally exclusive in many ways. I intend to use this frame. Also, “forced pregnancy” extends to “forced birth” in women who have chosen to be pregnant, and those that havent: the court ordered c-section.

    I obstinately refuse to use the term “pro-life”. That is a frame I simply refuse.

  37. 36
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    Okay, I have to post this here, as it simply HAS to be reposted. I made a post to my blog commenting favourably on Amp’s reframing, quoting him. I then got the comment below.

    Needless to say this person is now banned from my blog, her emails will no longer come to me, and the comment is deleted (I don’t mind contradicting opinions on my blog, but this kind of hate … nope).

    The really sad thing is that I was a witness at this person’s wedding and did her makeup for it. She was a good friend before I left my home country and she converted to conservative catholicism. THIS is what fundamentalism does to wonderful people; fill them with hate and anger.

    Anyway, on with the comment:

    Ok, I’m now annoyed enough to actually post.

    Motherhood is integral to the feminine experience, that ability to hold life in your body is part of what makes us what we are. How dare society rip that gift from us under the guise of forced pregnancy. What a lie. Guess what, sex makes babies. Fact of life. And if the contraceptive/sterility droids can’t get this through their skulls then at least could they back off trying to make killing other people’s infants part of women’s “right”. Gee, some right.

    It’s not a forced pregnancy, when she wasn’t forced to have sex. If they didn’t want that consequences then they didn’t have to engage in the actions that… DUM DE DUM… make babies.

    Reproductive choice goes back to the act of sex, not offing the baby already made. Women aren’t rabbits, mindlessly fucking their way to greater glory for the edification of the Hugh Hefner crowd. We are women, not playboy bunnies, sterile little fucking objects for other’s pleasure. Objects without those annoying consequences like emotions or fertility or demands.

    Reframing. Yeah, lets reframe infanticide too, cos babies are such a drag when they’re born. It’s not like women are emotionally connected with their children or anything, it’s just a buch of cells. And besides, who wants to front up with the child support? It’s not like anything a woman can do with her body is _important_… There, there honey it was just a few cells, now come back and don’t you worry your pretty little barbi head about it.

    Fuck off and leave our children alone you sterile death suckers. Leave our ability to be fertile alone, leave our kids alone and leave our motherhood alone. Go and fuck a doll who won’t have all those messy consequences, cos that’s what society wants. The permenantly pretty smelling, smiling, blond, big breasted plaything. Not a woman who bleeds, and whines about paying for nappies and new shoes, whose belly swells with new life, all squirmy and growing, only to give birth through that previously nice tight little pussy, which used to be just for your fucking pleasure.

    Well guess what, our tight little pussy is for bearing out our babies, and those soft milky breasts, well they’re for our babies too. Leave our motherhood alone. Go get your kicks from some other piece of pie you killers.

  38. 37
    alsis38.99 says:

    Yeah, you know, I just can’t hear it often enough: I want sex but not babies, so I don’t get to be a “real woman,” just a “doll” or a “piece of pie.” That and the Kos-land reincarnation of the oh-so-original “ick, hairy-legged females” rap make me really feel like I’m on a roll this week. Whoo-hooo !!

    Dear Sarah’s ex-friend,

    Go piss up a rope.


    The Satanic unnatural hairy-legged pie. :p

  39. 38
    BritGirlSF says:

    Yikes. This is reason # 526 why I’m an atheist – look at what religion can do to decent people. Sometimes it’s like spiritual crack.
    Losing a friend always sucks, but if it’s any consolation, friends like that you’re better off without.

  40. 39
    wookie says:

    Now hypothetically, what if Sarah’s commenter had ended with the paragraph that ends in “make babies.”?

    What if we cut off all the hate and exaggeration and everything else that makes the “pro-life” side so easy to revile and come back to the core of their more “sane” argument, which is:

    “Sex is a choice, so barring coerced sex or medical need, why should abortion (killing a baby) be a choice? Why can’t they choose adoption instead, if the economic concerns of raising a child are so grave? Or, choose not to have sex if they are not prepared for the consequences of pregnancy?”

    There are several answers to this, which have varying degrees of satisfaction, but it’s always fun to play devil’s advocate. In a way, yes, it would be nice if the argument could be broken down to a less ethically and emotionally loaded area, like choosing wether or not to have sex instead of choosing wether or not to terminate a pregnancy that may or may not be viable, may or may not be “a sentient life”, may or may not be medically risky to the person involved.

    For the record, I’m not pro-abortion, but I am pro-choice.

  41. 40
    AndiF says:

    Ah great advice — don’t have sex if you don’t want to get pregnant. Well, there goes the sex life of most of the people in the world. What was this woman, a recruiter trying to end the shortage of priests and nuns?

  42. 41
    Anne says:

    Many people who are anti-abortion actually claim to be for smaller government. They ought to realize that the two are mututally exclusive in many ways.

    Ah, but they’re only for smaller government when it’s a government populated largely by Democrats. Notice how the “Big government out of our lives!” meme has died out over this presidency.

    Fuck off and leave our children alone you sterile death suckers. Leave our ability to be fertile alone, leave our kids alone and leave our motherhood alone.

    Uh, unless I’m missing something, we ARE leaving people like Sarah’s friend alone. It’s forced pregnancy advocates that aren’t leaving people alone.
    Its always weird to me when I come across people like that who seem to believe that pro-choicers are actually “pro-abortion” and we actively hate children and pregnant women, as if we’re supervillians trying to stop everyone from procreating.

  43. 42
    AndiF says:


    Its always weird to me when I come across people like that who seem to believe that pro-choicers are actually “pro-abortion”? and we actively hate children and pregnant women, as if we’re supervillians trying to stop everyone from procreating.

    I don’t know — do I get a say in who doesn’t get to procreate?

  44. 43
    noodles says:

    Well, Sarah’s charming troll certainly does make a good case for requiring a sanity license before allowing people to procreate. Think of the poor children of that woman! I sure hope she engages in that kind of psycho ranting only on the internet. Not that it makes it any less revolting.

    Sarah, that must have been so awful to read, from someone you actually knew.

  45. 44
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    Thanks everyone for theirs words of support and reinforcing that this isn’t me reacting weirdly to this. I have never banned someone from anything I have created on the web before, nor actively filtered my email accounts, so for me to do is a Big Deal. Honestly, if it had just been a troll I could have written it off as just another fundy loon, but when someone you cared about does it, it kinda rocks you

    The follow on from this is that I caught a post from her this morning on a mutual friend’s blog-roll and she further slandered me, posting the email I sent her privately asking her not to contact me again and that I was sad that the person I had called friend seemed to no longer exist. She accused me of being ignorant of and bigoted towards her religion (conservative catholicism) and that I was afraid and running away from an opposing view.

    Now, anyone that has seen me around here will know the latter is blatantly not true *smile* Sure, I know when it’s time to admit that me and another person probably aren’t going to reach any kind of an agreement, but I think that’s a good thing actually. However, to place my thoughts on the matter once and finally, I made the following post to my blog.

    I tried to be reasonable, rational and calm while expressing my regret that this person did this and forced me to ban her. Hopefully I acheived something in the ballpark of that (let me know):

    Yesterday evening after I posted a possible strategic reframing of the terms of the abortion debate by a very intelligent feminist man who runs one of the most successful progressive feminist blogs on the web I got a comment from someone I now used to call a friend. Disagreement on the issue of choice and abortion rights is certainly something I actually like and certainly welcome. The ability to have social spaces to disagree and debate and talk are things I want to have and is part of my work.

    However, the language was abusive and hateful. It was filled with anger in a way that I rarely see. I know this person has been anti-choice since even before she converted to conservative catholicism, knew it before she posted, and have always respected her beliefs in this regard. I’ve never in my life run from a position that is other than mine and certainly wasn’t going to start.

    Regardless, the behaviour involved in that post (calling us killers, saying if we didn’t have kids we somehow aren’t women) wasn’t about a difference in opinion. It was about such a display of anger and intolerance that I couldn’t be the kind of person I am and have that kind of lack of basic human respect around me. I had never experienced such hatred except from those whose religion encouraged such.

    Do I hate religion? Hell no. In fact I have argued in a lot of progressive blogs that it is our duty as feminists and progressive to protect and argue for freedom of religion. Do I know the nuance of every facet of every religion out there? No, I don’t, and I openly admit that, though I do think it’s not a stretch to say I know more than most.

    However, using a random example, such churches as the UCC, or the MCC don’t post hate-filled pronoucements against gays and lesbians that have no basis in reality. They don’t position women in secondary positions, and they don’t try to impose their beliefs on the lives of the people around them. Catholicism does this.

    I honestly DON’T CARE what the theological basis is for such bigotry, the kind of bigotry that promotes an environment where hate crimes are committed against gays and lesbians. It’s hate, nothing more, nothing less.

    I don’t go out of my way to attack social groups or religious organisations just because I disagree with them. As I said above, I think disagreement is a required part of a healthy society. However, some churches don’t seem to believe that and actively work to dehumanise and demean gays and lesbians, regardless of the language they place it in. The catholic church is one of these.

    All gays and lesbians want to be able to do is live side-by-side with people of different beliefs and faiths and not impose each other’s life on the other. The catholic church does not seem to be able to go by this live and let live approach. I don’t need to see the reasons for this intolerance.

    Moreover, returning to the question of abortion, WE DON’T SEE A FETUS AS A BABY. How many more times do we need to say this? We don’t want to impose abortion on any women, in fact we would be perfectly happy if abortion became a historical practise. However, banning it won’t do this, if anything, it’ll increase the numbers of abortions and jepordise the lives of the women involved. Sex isn’t just about procreation, it never has been just about procreation, as an ancient history of contraceptive use attests to.

    Abortion rights for us pro-choice folks are about a wider debate of providing women with autonomy over our bodies and sexualities, including contraception and childbirthing empowerment. This is why we don’t get into debates about whether or not a fetus is a baby or a collection of cells, because it is not for us the main issue and it’s a frame to the debate that isn’t really constructive to us. We aren’t killers, and we don’t want to use women. Yes, we know and support women for whom things aren’t as simple as this is as it is for us as we provide the services they need, through counselling and assistance. We don’t tell women what they have to believe and this is what I love about this part of the movement.

    However, this isn’t what the comment included. It didn’t reciprocate the respect that pro-choice people have for the beleifs of those people that are anti-choice. We don’t tend to hurl abuse at those that disagree with us. That comment did, and that’s why I was moved to ban this person.

    Her beliefs may not have changed, but the intolerant and hateful expression of those beleifs has, and that is what I am so sad about in losing this person as a friend. And I am not going to change my mind about putting myself in a place where such hate is expressed.

  46. 45
    Sydney says:

    Sarah, this is a fantastic response to a really shitty ex-friend. Once again, you used a logical and thoughtful approach when confronting her hostility and hatred. What I don’t understand is why she would even call herself a true catholic to begin with when she can say such vile and judgmental things. She simply is not worthy of your friendship, plain and simple.

    And if you want, feel free to post a link to that website where she’s bashing you. I have a few choice words that I would like to share with her. I think its time that she was confronted by people who actually value rationality and common sense.

  47. 46
    AndiF says:


    Your response is truly eloquent and well-reasoned but even more admirable is your restraint. If I had been the recipient of such vitriol, I’m sure I would have thrown some acid right back. I doubt your effort will make an impression on someone as over the edge as your ex-friend but it may have some impact on those who are still open to rational dialogue. You should take pride in having done the best you can.

  48. 47
    Ampersand says:

    I agree with AndiF. You’ve reacted to your ex-friend’s appalling comments with incredible class, Sarah.

  49. Pingback: kiwi_grrl: and again ...

  50. 48
    pookashhell21 says:

    While your friends comment did get way out of hand, she does have a great point….if you cannot handle the consequences of sex, don’t have it. We all have a “choice” in how we conduct our lives, why not deal with the consequences of your own decision to have sex? Yeah, it will suck carrying an unwanted child to term, but at least you are taking responsibility for your own actions and your own choice, and that is a way better thing to do than to kill your own baby.

    Mind you, my point of view is not considering rape/child abuse, which may be, in my honest opinion the only justifiable reason for seeking and abortion, because in each of these situations your “choice” was taken out of the matter.

    Just because someone holds the point of view that a unborn child’s right to life trumps a woman’s right to the convenience of abortion does not make someone insane btw. This is a very rational way to think, and forcing someone to take responsibility for their actions is very little to ask if you feel that aborting a child is murder.

    If I could have it my way, abortion would be illegal, except in situations of rape, incest, and perhaps to protect the life of the mother. Abortion in my eye’s is murder and as such it is sinful. However, I believe that all people can and should be forgiven for their wrongful actions if they so choose to seek forgiveness. I do not hate anybody, and I do not, and will not judge another by saying whether their actions will land them in Hell after this life is over, that is up to God not me. However, I would urge everyone to consider their own actions and the consequences of those actions. What is the RESPONSIBLE thing to do?? What is the better decision to make? This to me is self evident.