Even For Pro-Lifers, Banning Abortion Makes No Sense

In comments on that thread on Dawn’s blog, “Butterfingers” wrote:

The bottom line is that abortion is as old as mankind. There has never been a period in human history when abortions were not performed. There has not been a single society – whether it officially approved of abortion or not – where abortions were not performed.

And then “Steve G.” responded:

What you state here is without doubt true in regards to historical accuracy. But that it occurs really has no bearing on its moral correctness, whether we should accept it, or whether it should be legal. I could rewrite the entire paragraph you lay down and substitute the word rape, and it would be equally accurate. I presume you wouldn’t be willing to argue that rape should be legal because, well after all it’s always happened and will always happen, correct? This argument just doesn’t hold any force.

I don’t think Steve’s argument makes much sense. After all, we all want rapists to be punished, regardless of what happens to rape prevalence.

In contrast, what I’ve heard from pro-lifers over and over is that pro-lifers don’t want to punish women. Unless pro-lifers are lying about that, then there’s a critical difference we all agree on between rapists and women who abort – punishing the former is an independent good, punishing the latter is not.

But if punishing women isn’t an independent good, like punishing rapists is, then pro-lifers can’t logically say that women who abort should be punished regardless of what happens to abortion prevalence.

* * *

It’s a more than theoretical point, because in the real world, countries do in effect choose between a punishment-based approach, in which abortions are banned by law, and low abortion rates.

As I’ve said in the past, pro-lifers should be asking which countries have the least abortion? Belgium has an abortion rate of 6.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. The Netherlands, 6.5. Germany, 7.8. Compare that to the USA’s rate of 22. Even better, compare it to countries where abortion is illegal: Egypt, 23; Brazil, 40; Chile, 50; Peru, 56.

According to the World Health Organization:

Contrary to common belief, legalization of abortion does not necessarily increase abortion rates. The Netherlands, for example, has a non-restrictive abortion law, widely accessible contraceptives and free abortion services, and the lowest abortion rate in the world: 5.5 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age per year. Barbados, Canada, Tunisia and Turkey have all changed abortion laws to allow for greater access to legal abortion without increasing abortion rates.

Pro-life policies aren’t associated with low abortion rates. But pro-choice policies are.

Without exception, every country in the world with a very low abortion rate has either legal abortion, or bans so toothless that abortion is effectively legal. But what those countries (Belgium, West Germany, The Netherlands, etc) also have are cultures that strongly promote effective use of birth control, and that have strong social support programs that support poor parents – not just before birth and in the first year of infancy, but for life.

The abortion debate in the US can go on forever. We can have yet another round of clever, heartfelt essays like Dawn’s, implying that the other side is uncaring; or, if we want a better debate than that, we could argue for the zillionth time about how to define personhood. But that will never get us anywhere.

Rather than rehash those questions, I’d like to ask pro-lifers: Do you forsee a time when pro-choicers will give up our most heartfelt goals, and stop finding ways to make abortion available? Will there ever be an abortion ban in the United States that vastly lowers our abortion rate? And since saving baby lives (or what you folks consider to be baby lives) should be more important than opposing birth control and welfare, shouldn’t you be willing to consider supporting policies that are empirically associated with low abortion rates in the real world?

We can have it both ways. We can have full bodily autonomy for women, and combine it with an incredibly low abortion rate. And we can end the deadlock. But it requires both sides to give something up. It requires pro-choicers to agree that pursing low abortion rates is a legitimate policy goal; and it requires pro-lifers to agree to pursue low abortion rates through giving women more choices, not through banning choices.

I know pro-lifers may consider that to be an immoral thing to ask of them. But consider: Real-world experience indicates that Belgium-style social policies are the only national policy that is associated with the lowest possible abortion rates. Is it really clear to pro-lifers that a policy that could potentially prevent tens of thousands of abortions annually is the less moral choice?

(Note to “Alas” posters: I’m really, really interested in what pro-lifers have to say about these issues. But it’s my observation that the most intellgent and thoughtful pro-lifers are also the least likely to hang out in places where they get insulted and flamed. So please, as a favor to me, don’t flame pro-lifers who happen to show up in the comments of this post.)

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92 Responses to Even For Pro-Lifers, Banning Abortion Makes No Sense

  1. 1
    Robert says:

    Abortion rate alone is insufficient to measure whether policies are encouraging or discouraging abortion. You could have an abortion rate of 5 per 1000, representing 100% of all pregnancies – or you could have an abortion rate of 10 per 1000, representing 5% of all pregnancies. The former situation represents a culture of absolute death and nihilism when it comes to creating future generations; the latter, quite the converse. There’s more to the decision than the body count.

    That aside, I mean you no disrespect when I say that this board is the last place that any sensible pro-life person would start negotiating a truce in this particular kulturkampf.

  2. 2
    Tapetum says:

    Maybe I’m being stupid here, Robert, but I don’t get what your numbers mean. Do you mean 5 abortions in a country with only 1000 pregnancies total vs. 2000 abortions in a country with 20,000?

    If that’s what you’re getting at, then please show some numbers that the countries with low abortion rates are falling below replacement.

    Also – the decision is exactly body count, as you’re phrasing it. You term the earlier set of numbers as death and nihilism because they fail to produce sufficient live bodies – irrespective of any other knowledge except that the babies they produce are wanted. (If abortion is legal and easy to obtain, yet abortion is that rare then logically…)

    The answer to too few people wanting children (to me) would be to try to make life easier for those who do, or to otherwise increase incentives, not to force people to bear unwillingly. If you have such a high percentage of people who get pregnant wanting the child, why on earth would you mess with that?

  3. 3
    Lee says:

    Hmm, invoking Otto von Bismarck AND Patrick Buchanan in one fell swoop – pretty impressive. But did you intend to exclude yourself from the category of sensible pro-lifers in your reply, Robert? I think most sensible pro-lifers already concede many of the merits of the pro-choice arguments, but in some respects it’s like discussing gay marriage – either you are willing to admit that we’re a pluralistic society and the government has to be religion-neutral, or you’re not. We already have Prohibition to hold up as a shining example of what happens when we try to legislate morality, so I don’t think reasoned discourse will lead to an Aha-Erlebnis for very many on the pro-life side. Besides, in many pro-life circles, the needs of the one are more important than the needs of the many or the few, when you’re talking about the salvation of the immortal soul. The extreme position that abortion is always wrong is based on the premise that the mother and the abortionist are interfering with God’s plan for the baby, similarly to what you do to yourself in suicide, plus 2 souls are tainted because they have killed another human being. (Although I have never really understood the interference thing – presumably God being omniscient and eternal would mean that He already has always known the baby would be aborted.)

  4. 4
    WeaverRose says:

    I think your proposal is a good one, but IMO it requires a greater concession from pro-lifers than pro-choicers.

    I really haven’t heard of any reluctance to reduce the number of abortions by pro-choicers as long as abortion is freely available to women. In addition, most supporters of abortion rights are also committed to getting accurate information about reproductive health and supplies of contraceptives to women. So agreeing to that part of this plan is pretty easy.

    This plan requires pro-lifers to accept the legality of abortion. Given that free access to abortion and contraceptives seem to reduce the rate of abortions it seems that resistance to legal abortion is more symbolic that practical. The thing is that symbols are important, especially if you are trying to live consistently according to a moral code that forbids abortion and you live in a country in which citizens are responsible for making/approving laws. Accepting the legality of abortion under such circumstances is effectively accepting responsibility and guilt for the abortions that occur. Pragmatism just doesn’t apply here.

    I am pro-choice and can live with my share of corporate guilt, if there is any but I don’t know how someone on the pro-life side can really give up the struggle without violating their personal integrity. I think this is the heart of the struggle for all of us.

  5. 5
    Robert says:

    I don’t get what your numbers mean. Do you mean 5 abortions in a country with only 1000 pregnancies total vs. 2000 abortions in a country with 20,000?

    Scenario A. Country where 1,000 women live. 5 of the women get pregnant. All of them abort the baby. Abortion rate is 5 per 1000. Abortions per pregnancy is 1.0.

    Scenario B. Country where 1,000 women live. 200 of the women get pregnant. 10 of them abort the baby. Abortion rate is 10 per 1000. Abortions per pregnancy is 0.05.

    Country B has “twice the abortion rate”, but one twentieth the real prevalence of abortion.

  6. I can see where you are arguing from in abortions per captia vs. abortions per pregnancy Robert.

    But then my question would have to be, why is that difference relevant? If you want to ban abortion, surely it is the number of abortions, namely that per capita, that is the important statistic? Please don’t think I am being deliberately dense to infantalise your arguement Robert, I’m just having a hard time understanding why the difference matters to Amp’s question.

  7. 7
    Robert says:

    Sarah, the difference goes to what policies and societies we want. Amp is essentially asking us to buy a pig in a poke – to select for policies on the basis of a statistic that doesn’t in and of itself adequately measure what we consider important – the natal culture of our society.

    I don’t want to live in country A, even though it has fewer abortions.

  8. 8
    Tapetum says:

    In that case, Robert, what you would need were some statistics on pregnancy rates, or birth rates. If the countries with low abortion rates nonetheless have respectable birth rates, you don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

  9. 9
    Robert says:

    If the countries with low abortion rates nonetheless have respectable birth rates, you don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

    They don’t. They have the lowest birth rates on the planet, way below replacement in most cases.

    I don’t know it as a fact, but I strongly suspect that Amp’s low abortion rates are mostly an artifact of dying European countries, not the pro-natalist effects of socialistic family policy.

  10. 10
    Robert says:

    Rough figures for net birth rate (births per 1000 – deaths per 1000)

    Belgium: 0.3
    Netherlands: 2.4
    Germany: -2.3

    Compared to:
    USA: 5.9
    Egypt: ~18
    Peru: ~14.7
    Chile: ~9.6

    (Source for Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, US: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004395.html)

    (Source for Egypt, Peru, Chile: http://www.nationmaster.com)

    It seems fairly obvious that these ban-abortion countries have high abortion rates because they have a lot of pregnancies, and that free-abortion countries have low rates because they have few pregnancies.

    That may support the idea that extensive birth control will lead to fewer abortions, but does nothing to support the idea that family welfare does. The countries with family welfare aren’t having any babies.

  11. 11
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    hmmm, careful Robert, while it may be a claim you could make, correlation isn’t causation (not refuting, rather just warning about basing an argument around it)

    Personally I would argue that a country that provides socialist family welfare systems would exist in a culture that was quite natalist (in the sense of wanting to provide for every child born), and not the reverse, but that’s possibly coming from my own biases :)

  12. 12
    Antigone says:

    Robert, I’d be careful, for you seem to be going awfully close to the idea that we SHOULD have high pregnancy rates. If lots of women don’t get pregnant, they don’t abort, no death was involved at all.

    But what you seem to be advocating for women TO get pregnant, regardless of if they want to or not, for the good of society.

    I can’t agree with that AT ALL. It brings up specters of Romania for me.

    And Amp, I have nothing wrong with trying to reduce the number of abortions: I don’t think anybody ipso facto believes abortion is good. I think they just believe that the OPTION is good.

  13. 13
    Myca says:

    Robert, the only problem with using the metric you suggest is that it utterly ignores the effect of ready availability of Birth Control . . . which studies have shown is key to reducing abortion rates.

    A woman, who, if she’d become pregnant would have aborted, but instead availed herself of the birth conrtol pill wouldn’t even show up on your radar using this method.

    Of course, when you consider that the groups in America that most vociferously oppose abortion are generally the same groups that vociferously oppose birth control, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s still disappointing.

    Sheesh. It’s like they think a drop in the abortion rate doesn’t ‘count’ if the woman avoids pregnancy some other way.

    —Myca

  14. 14
    Robert says:

    Robert, I’d be careful, for you seem to be going awfully close to the idea that we SHOULD have high pregnancy rates.

    Some men flirt with danger – I go right up and give it a full bore kiss with tongue. Ceteris parabus, high pregnancy rates are better than low pregnancy rates.

    But what you seem to be advocating for women TO get pregnant, regardless of if they want to or not, for the good of society.

    Yep. The good of society outweighs individual preferences, does it not?

    I don’t recommend or desire any kind of legal sanction against women who don’t want to reproduce. Nor is our material situation any longer such that we need every woman’s womb to pump out 12 babies or we all die die die. But society doesn’t regenerate itself without reproduction. Cultures that do not reproduce themselves die. I don’t want my culture to die. The cultural pressure and presumption should default to “have some babies, you two”.

    People should reproduce; the culture should encourage them in doing so; the state, to the extent that it has any role in the matter, should be encouraging reproduction and not the opposite.

  15. 15
    Robert says:

    Robert, the only problem with using the metric you suggest is that it utterly ignores the effect of ready availability of Birth Control .

    No, I note that a low pregnancy rate could well be connected to the contraceptive availability.

    Of course, when you consider that the groups in America that most vociferously oppose abortion are generally the same groups that vociferously oppose birth control, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s still disappointing…Sheesh. It’s like they think a drop in the abortion rate doesn’t ‘count’ if the woman avoids pregnancy some other way.

    Or, it’s as if they’re working from a value system that you don’t understand, and aren’t acting consistently with your misunderstanding of it.

    You’re also conflating two quite distinct groups of pro-lifers. There’s a big contingent of pro-lifers who are also pro-natalist and opposed to most forms of birth control, and there’s another big contingent that doesn’t care about birth control at all.

  16. 16
    Antigone says:

    Hmm…sacrifice for the good of society? For the good of culture? Yeah, I’ll do that when it’s a culture I actually want to preserve.

  17. 17
    alsis39 says:

    Robert wrote:

    The former situation represents a culture of absolute death and nihilism when it comes to creating future generations; the latter, quite the converse. There’s more to the decision than the body count.

    That’s a new one on me. Perhaps you’re different, but most pro-lifers seem to strive mightily to argue as if every last fetus should be carried to term, no matter what the circumstances. But you’ve gotten into choppy waters with your concept of “more” before, and Barbara, among others, nailed you pretty good on it.

    Scenario A. Country where 1,000 women live. 5 of the women get pregnant. All of them abort the baby. Abortion rate is 5 per 1000. Abortions per pregnancy is 1.0.

    I don’t see how this is relevant one way or another, unless you know for a fact that all five women really wanted to carry the pregnancy to term and were coerced out of it, either literally or by social or economic forces.

    If you are not willing –or not able– to create a scenario in which you know for a fact that all, or some, or none of these pregnancies were wanted, you might just as well speculate on angels dancing on the heads of pin for all the relevancy it has to real-life concerns. To this pro-choicer, as usual, the fetus is not the central issue. The central issue is: Does the pregnant woman want to give birth, or does she want an abortion ?

  18. 18
    alsis39 says:

    The good of society outweighs individual preferences, does it not?

    If you’re a pregnant woman in a patriarchy, aparently. :/

  19. 19
    Tishie says:

    Hi Amp. I would like to respectfully lodge a complaint about your post (about the note to readers, specifically).

    Reproductive rights aren’t a philosophical abstraction — they are tangible to me. This issue has affected me, and will affect my 9 year old daughter. If the pro-lifers have their way, by the time she’s of childbearing age, she won’t have legal access to an abortion if she needs one; I don’t want to play nice with the pro-lifers.

    I realize this probably sounds a lot like something you’d have heard back at Ms., but I’m irritated that you are asking me and other women not to tell the pro-lifers what we really think of their comments because it might interfere with the intellectual exercise going on here. But, as I said, this isn’t an interesting experiment for me, this is real-life. You are a tireless and very visible ally, but the fact remains that the pro-lifers are not attacking *your* personal and bodily sovereignty. Imagine the reaction you’d get if you told any other marginalized group to be polite to those who seek to further limit their freedom.

    In any case, I like your points, and I hope some pro-lifers will see the wisdom in your post. However, I agree with Weaver Rose. Many pro-lifers feel that legal abortion bloodies the hands of everyone in this country. Outlawing bad things doesn’t make them go away, of course, but it does make it easier to pretend that those bad things are caused by problems of a personal nature rather than a social one.

  20. 20
    Rock says:

    Just for the record, I am pro life, yours, mine, prisoners, Iraqis, fish, birds, the unborn, however do not support a ban on abortion.
    The debate between the “two sides” is part of the problem IMO. To me it is more of a fugue than a fight (or should be). That is two movements or themes that do not seem to be related unless one looks at the piece in its entirety, then the relatedness appears. The Pro Choice and Pro Life camps have very much in common, (I hope both would like to see lower rates of abortion, and greater safety for both women and children.) and realizing that and embracing that creates a different place to begin the discussion than as adversaries.

    There is little doubt that where people feel the most secure for the future life of themselves and their child, abortion rates are the lowest. (This just makes sense.) There also is a correlation for higher education and lower birth and abortion rates. (Ironically, there is also a correlation between income and education… hmmm.) Those wishing to reduce abortion, pro choice and life should therefore all be advocates of national healthcare and better education for ALL people, especially the poor. This would drastically reduce the issue as has been already pointed out (vigorously, ratio arguments aside).

    By bringing the discussion out of the courts where it is an all or nothing debate and placing it in the legislature where it belongs, acknowledging the shades of gray and guaranteeing rights to folks as opposed to treating all abortion as the same could do much as well to stop the derisive fighting and assure abortion rights to those that need them. It should not be based on a few jurists’ opinions of a vague interpretation of the law. It needs to be spelled out in the Constitution clearly. (Talk about the political third rail!)

    Amp,
    Your suggestion that all agree that rapists be punished is very interesting coming from you. I personally do not believe that all rapists or criminals justify punishment, especially the death penalty. The suffering of the victim is not diminished by the suffering of the assailant. (I am sure I will get flack on this.) McVeay’s death did not bring back a single victim. It did not punish him as he felt he was a martyr and it removed the possibility for further testimony. IMO it is also contrary to respect life and model murder/violence as a reprisal. Dangerous people need to be removed from where they can harm others and be treated with the dignity that all life demands. A rising of the value for life would in the long term enhance how we treat each other, and reduce the numbers of violent acts that we see, and IMO abortion as well. My faith (Christian) teaches this. Christ who could have escaped the violence thrust upon Him, did not fight back. He calls His followers to take up their crosses and follow Him, not beat the assailants with them; to love all people. (Though many who share the faith do not agree with me, many support war and retribution, one of us is mistaken.)

    Life comes only from the living. At no time if something is dead (not mostly dead) can it animate or create life. This is what makes it difficult for many Pro Lifers. Pro Choicers ought to be able to get to the middle ground that a child at any state of development is alive. The forming person is never part of the woman as in her self, one is unique from the moment of conception. While being inside of her, one is never part of her in the sense of an organ or appendage. It is difficult for me to see that a place in development changes the value of a human being. Once conceived all that is essential to be a complete person is there, nothing but nutrition and environment need be added. If we can at least get somewhere around to that to discuss it then the issue of the mother and the rights of her self determination are fair game. (The responsibility for the choices we make can enter into it as well.)

    It seems altogether ineffective to debate fetal neural sensitivity or at what point does one become human to argue for or against taking of life. We become human when we see the humanity in each other. Blessings

  21. 21
    Ampersand says:

    Tishie, it’s nice to hear from you. Long time no see. :-)

    I understand your point, as much as I think I can, but I don’t agree with it. I’m not asking you to “play nice with the pro lifers”; you’re not in any way required to post on this thread, or even to read this thread. Nor is there any lack of forums on the internet (including other threads on this very blog!) where you can talk as harshly to the pro-lifers as you want.

    I don’t understand the attitude that says “it’s not enough for me that I have forums where I can speak in the way I need to speak. It is offensive to me that not 100% of all forums are set up the way I want them set up.” And it sounds to me like that’s what you’re saying – although I appreciate that you’re saying it very nicely.

    Another issue, I think, is that you think that by asking for a civil thread, I’m saying that the issues being discussed are abstract and unimportant. However, if that’s how you’re reading me, it’s a misreading. There are very few issues I care about as much as choice (even though it doesn’t effect me directly – most of the issues i care the most about don’t effect me directly). It’s not that I don’t care; I just don’t express caring the same way as you.

    For the record, if a thin person’s blog had a “civility rule” in a discussion of fat vs. anti-fat ideology, I don’t think I’d have a problem with that.

  22. 22
    Antigone says:

    Of course income and education are coorelated: only those with income can afford education.

    And the ZEF is very much part of a woman. Without the woman (the envirnment and nutrition, how nice we’re irrelevant to you) the ZEF will NEVER grow into a fully-grown human.

    But I hesitantly agree with you’re idea of punishment; but I’m not fully comfortale with yet…it’s something I have to bang around some more.

  23. 23
    Rock says:

    Why would you think that I believe that a woman’s body and essential part in new life is irrelevant? I do not believe it is exclusive to the discussion, I do believe it is relevant. I also believe that the unborn person has a stake as well. If women are marginalized by removing them from the choice, the life of the unborn has a place to be considered as well. That is if you believe that the unborn are living beings. (I do.) We make choices that end lives everyday, abortion is one of them. In my belief system there is causality and responsibility for our actions, I believe that teaching a loving respect for life would help us as a community make better choices.

    As far as responding the way folks want to in this thread, why would anyone want to torch another? When we do move to the extreme, there are other motives at work then the discussion. What do we get by being abusive? Thanks Amp for the request for civility, one can be very much a part of the feminist/progressive family and work for a place where abortion is rarely necessary. Blessings

  24. 24
    Niels Jackson says:

    Ampersand –

    The problems I see are twofold:

    1. As Robert cogently points out, the Netherlands has a low abortion rate — but that’s probably because so few women get pregnant in the first place. Which is ok for the very short term, but in the long term, it means no more Netherlanders. Why is that sort of thing a goal that would appeal to many people, let alone pro-lifers?

    2. You’re comparing apples and elephants when you point to the fact that some rich Western countries have low abortion rates while some Third World countries have higher abortion rates. Needless to say, there are many other reasons that those countries might be different from each other. The REAL question is: Would the Netherlands have an even lower abortion rate if it restricted abortion? And to that, the answer is: Why on earth not?

    Don’t I often hear prochoicers arguing that even the slightest restrictions — lack of public funding, or lack of clinics in a given county, or a requirement of parental notification — will mean that at least some women won’t be able to get abortions? Well, to state the obvious: If an abortion restriction keeps even one woman from getting an abortion, then it has lowered the abortion rate at least by that much. How could that not be true?

  25. 25
    Tishie says:

    Thanks for the response, Amp. I don’t expect every forum to be set up the way I like, but it bothered me in part *because* yours is a progressive blog, if that makes sense. Obviously, you can set up any parameters you like, and I do understand your reason for asking that of your readers, but it got under my skin anyway.

    Also, hi! :) I’ve been mostly avoiding blogs for awhile. I am awed by your ability to continue to have these debates — they really wear me out and make me cranky.

  26. 26
    Niels Jackson says:

    Put it another way: What you’re saying is that even a total ban on abortion wouldn’t keep so much as one woman from getting an abortion. That’s an . . . interesting contention.

  27. 27
    Rock says:

    “Real-world experience indicates that Belgium-style social policies are the only national policy that is associated with the lowest possible abortion rates.”

    It is true that these social policies may produce lower rates now (and are therefore worth following). There is no proof that these polices produce the lowest “possible,” it is very possible that other paradigms could exceed these practices. Blessings.

  28. 28
    Glaivester says:

    A few thoughts:

    First, it occurs to me that there is no reason why available birth control and legal abortion have to be coupled. One could have a society where abortion was not legal, but where birth control was. I’m not certain that it is accurate to say that banning abortion dos not decrease the abortion rate or that it increases the abortion rate. It strikes me that most of the countries with pro-choice policies also have a lot of other societal differences, so to claim that banning abortion does not affect (or at least does not lower) the abortion rate is not necessarily accurate.

    Second, the problem with strong social support problems, irrespective of abortion, is how you avoid massive abuse of the system. The general attitude on this blog seems to be that “a person has the right to do whatever I want with my own body, whether it is abort of whether it is have twenty children, whether I can afford the choices or not, and if I can’t, then the government should support me.” I have heard the argument that the fact that the government is supporting someone’s decision does not imply that the government should have any control over those decisions. Yet in the end, how is that fair to the taxpayer? If I want to work hard to get a good job and be able to support myself and a family, why should I have to pay taxes to support the eighteen-year-old dropout who decides that raising a large family on welfare is a better option than trying to get a paying job? Moreover, won’t such policies encourage a lot of people to make such decisions? It’s wonderful that such policies are associated with low abortion rates, but abortio nisn’t the only social ill out there.

    Thirdly, while on principle as a libertarian I am not particularly enamored on principle of the idea of the government paying for birth control, I think that it would be a much better use of tax money than 90% of the things we are spending it on now (e.g. “democratizing Iraq” or Viagra), and wouldn’t raise a stink if we decided to do so.

    Fourth, on the point Tishie brings up:

    Reproductive rights aren’t a philosophical abstraction … they are tangible to me.

    …I don’t want to play nice with the pro-lifers.

    …I’m irritated that you are asking me and other women not to tell the pro-lifers what we really think of their comments because it might interfere with the intellectual exercise going on here.

    It seems to me that this issue parallels the issue Amp brought up about pro-lifers – is the most effective way to deal with other side on the abortion debate to be nasty and insulting (which is the only thing, as I understand it, that Amp was asking not be done), or to try and engage them in “intellectual exercises?” It seems that if the goal is to try and get pro-lifers who are on the fence or who are open-minded about the possibility of the other side to convert to being pro-choice, then engagement might be a better strategy.

  29. 29
    SocialScientist says:

    I really should be in bed now, but …

    Robert writes:

    “But society doesn’t regenerate itself without reproduction. Cultures that do not reproduce themselves die. I don’t want my culture to die. The cultural pressure and presumption should default to “have some babies, you two”.

    People should reproduce; the culture should encourage them in doing so; the state, to the extent that it has any role in the matter, should be encouraging reproduction and not the opposite.”

    Well …

    Reproduction is only one way in which a society regenerates. Migration is another (and one at which, I might add, the US has been particularly adept). While our birth rate may be falling toward so-called sub-replacement rates, we continue to see population growth.

    So relax. Our culture isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.

    And FWIW, at some other time we might devote a thread to discussing the merits of a smaller population in the face of problems such as sprawl and resource allocation.

    G’night!

  30. 30
    Mehdi says:

    The REAL question is: Would the Netherlands have an even lower abortion rate if it restricted abortion? And to that, the answer is: Why on earth not?

    The fact is, that the Dutch government believes in choice. There are as many pro-life advocates in Holland as there are pro-choicers, but the government doesn’t impose a ban on abortion, because it believes in a woman’s right to make her own decisions. In the Netherlands, you are provided with options – if you don’t want (or are not able to) have and keep your child, or even provide for it if you want/can, there are organisations that will help you out for as long as is needed. I’ve seen the political discussions when I lived in Holland, and the government came to the conclusion they had no right to interfere with human rights that way.

    The other side of the coin is that contraception is available in abundance – the age of consent in Holland is 16, btw – in the form of condoms and the contraceptive pill. The pill is prescription only, but available that way to women from 16 years and older.

    Another thing is that sexual education is an integral part of the school curriculum in Holland – sometimes even starting in elementary schools. The Dutch (and the Belgians, and the Germans) are pragmatists: if you are honest to children, and teach them what to expect, they’ll be more sensible about it.

    All this helps keep both pregnancy and abortion rates low. The point mentioned earlier that Holland has a lower number of pregnancies is correct – and that’s partly because in Holland (and Belgium, etc.) teenage pregnancies hardly ever occur, because of the available information and honest approach towards sexuality.

    If you want less abortions to be performed, or make a start with eliminating the need for abortions, begin with educating people, starting at an age before they can truly understand, so that when the time comes they can understand, they will be prepared.

    Right now, sex in the US is considered *the* taboo subject, and the one thing that is promoted zealously is a thing called “abstinence”. Sex ed is still being considered not done (I hear that biology textbooks in some states still have chapters on this subject teared out) – all that makes sex a thing to do because it’s cool, and exciting, and forbidden.

    The Dutch (and the Belgians, etc.) will never impose a ban on abortion, because there is no need to. Sex isn’t considered “evil”, and people make no big deal about it, or a “morality” issue.

    Sex happens, that’s the one fact that is undeniable, no matter how much preaching is done. Better to have people be aware of the risks, than to have a skyrocketing pregnancy rate, and the number of unwanted pregnancies that goes with it.

    Here’s an interesting article about both pregnancy rates and abortions rates in the US compared to France, Germany and the Netherlands.

    (As a by the way: I’m a long-time reader of this blog, but have never posted in here before. I’m a pro-choicer, myself – although I admit I’m not always sure about the subject. My wife and I have some interseting discussions about these subjects, every now and then, and we agree there’s something to be said for some of the arguments on both sides of the battle – but a rigorous stance on either side isn’t our way. I just wished people – again, on both sides – would get their facts straight, and stopped mixing “morality” issues with an issue that doesn’t have to be an issue.)

  31. 31
    Mehdi says:

    Sorry – I forgot to close the link, and now my parenthesized by the way turned out to be that link…

  32. 32
    amanda says:

    1. As Robert cogently points out, the Netherlands has a low abortion rate … but that’s probably because so few women get pregnant in the first place. Which is ok for the very short term, but in the long term, it means no more Netherlanders. Why is that sort of thing a goal that would appeal to many people, let alone pro-lifers?

    But, as Antigone said – who would aim to preserve a culture that didn’t think the right to make your own life choices was important?

  33. 33
    jrochest says:

    But, as Antigone said – who would aim to preserve a culture that didn’t think the right to make your own life choices was important?

    But such thinking implies that women aren’t a part of the culture, but production units that manufacture those who do take part in it. We don’t have a stake in the world at large: we provide it’s raw material.

  34. 34
    jrochest says:

    bugger… I meant “we provide its raw material”, of course.

  35. 35
    VK says:

    The REAL question is: Would the Netherlands have an even lower abortion rate if it restricted abortion? And to that, the answer is: Why on earth not?

    I can think of one scenario that would cause the abortion rate to go up if it was restricted (particularly if it was banned outright). If abortion is seen as a bad/illegal thing to do it could stop women completely exploring their options – they wouldn’t be willing to go to their family or a counsellor and say “I’m considering an abortion because blah, what are my other options” because then they would be prevented from seeking an illegal abortion. Instead they may decide to keep the pregnancy secret and have an abortion on the sly – not realising that there are people around who would have offered support if they knew.
    I think I garbled that a bit, but do you get what I’m saying?

  36. 36
    Tuomas says:

    What’s the fuss – Netherlands birth/death rate was positive. So yes, more Netherlanders, even with ultra-liberal sexual politics. I don’t think that the state needs to hugely invest in policies that force/coerce (pr morally should, when we’re talking about force, not simply child-positive politics) women to have babies. I’d like to think that starting a family and having kids is actually quite rewarding, and a common human instinct not just a Sacrifice For The Fatherland. Beneficial for both in reasonable limits (pregnancy isn’t risk-free, nor is a society viable to support unlimited amounts of children that cannot be provided for by parents or charities. Quite many, though.).

  37. 37
    Tuomas says:

    Oops.
    (pr morally…)

    Clumsy fingers. Should be:

    (or morally…)

  38. 38
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    The REAL question is: Would the Netherlands have an even lower abortion rate if it restricted abortion? And to that, the answer is: Why on earth not?

    Well, I think the answer to that becomes apparent when you read the language coming out of our side. We don’t argue for women to have access to abortions, but rather we argue for women to have access to safe and legal abortions.

    Why this distinction is important is that banning abortion really won’t decrease the numbers of abortions substantially, but will instead increase both the fatalities and injuries to women from illegal abortions, and also from those women that can’t afford the illegal abortions and so have to resort to other means.

    Banning won’t result in any really large change in the number of abortions, but it will result in a change in the deaths to women.

    Oh and Mehdi – wonderful discussion of the Netherlands hon! Having lived there myself, one really needs to show to foreigners how for the dutch one cannot just take abortion out of the equation, as it is part-in-parcel with the wider culture of contrception, family povision, welfare, sex education, etc, etc. The culture there isn’t seen as an ‘either-or’ thing.

  39. 39
    ginmar says:

    Ceteris parabus, high pregnancy rates are better than low pregnancy rates.

    Yeah, spoken like somebody who’ll never have to get pregnant.

    But what you seem to be advocating for women TO get pregnant, regardless of if they want to or not, for the good of society.

    Yep. The good of society outweighs individual preferences, does it not?

    When I see men getting subjected to ‘the good of society’ with regard to the women they impregnate and abandon, or all the crap they do to women,then I’ll be impressed with the good of society. Right now the good of society is all on women’s heads. And that’s bullshit.

  40. 40
    AndiF says:

    high pregnancy rates are better than low pregnancy rates.

    Here are the top 10 countries with the highest birth rates (from the CIA World Factbook 2005):
    1 Niger
    2 Mali
    3 Uganda
    4 Afghanistan
    5 Chad
    6 Sierra Leone
    7 Burkina Faso
    8 Angola
    9 Somalia
    10 Liberia

    The top five countries with the highest standard of living (UN Human Development Index, 2004)

    1. Norway (birth rate rank 179 of 226)
    2. Sweden (birth rate rank 195 0f 226)
    3. Australia (birth rate rank 172 of 226)
    4. Canada (birth rate rank 186 of 226)
    5. Netherlands (birth rate rank 151 of 226)

  41. 41
    Glaivester says:

    Ceteris parabus, high pregnancy rates are better than low pregnancy rates.

    Well, that depends on a number of other factors. Obviously, there is a problem if pregnancy rates fall below replacement level over the long-term (as it means extinction). Of course, over the short term, a society may benefit from a decreasing population. For example, in Japan a low birth rate is not necessarily a bad thing, because a lot of Japanese may consider their archipelago to be overpopulated and would like for future generations to have a bit more space per person.

    Which is ok for the very short term, but in the long term, it means no more Netherlanders.

    Which assumes that low birth rates is a permanent trend.

    Reproduction is only one way in which a society regenerates. Migration is another (and one at which, I might add, the US has been particularly adept). While our birth rate may be falling toward so-called sub-replacement rates, we continue to see population growth.

    With all due respect, and at the risk of being called a racist, that is not necessarily a good thing. Large scale immigration can destroy a society rather than regenerating it, if the immigrants do not assimilate to the culture of that society. REplacing a society is not the same thing as regenerating it. In fact, large-scale immigration can make the low birth rate problem worse, as migrants are often more fecund than the native population, and thus the risk that the current society will be displaced is greater and the chances of assimilating the immigrants goes down as they becvome numerous enough to create a parallel society and to obviate the pressue to assimilate.

    In any case, I oppose abortion more from a “right-to-life” standpoint than from a collectivist “increase our population” standpoint. It strikes me that if the abortion rate is such that it is threatening the population with extinction (e.g. Russia, where abortions outnumber live births), there is probably a deep malaise within the society that has nothign to do with abortion itself. I would argue that in a healthy society, people (on average) will naturally reproduce at replacement levels regardless of whether we give them the option not to, unlesss the society is consciously making a (temporary) decision that it is overpopulated (as appears to be happening in Japan).

  42. 42
    Elena says:

    Robert’s arguments are invalid, in my opinion, although I’ve heard them before from others. Others who think the sky is falling along with birth rates, which it obviously isn’t, since low birth rate countries have such a high standard of living compared to high birth rate countries. The argument that there aren’t enough replacement workers to provide retirement benefits for the eldery is puzzling to me, since it seems to be saying that the elderly should gain at the expense of young families, instead of looking for other solutions. Not to mention that high birth rates are devastating to the enviroment, which is really the most fundamental thing, if you think about it.

    Robert knows full well that immigration replaces a culture- but he is probably one of those who thinks that it is not really replaceing if it speaks another language and has another religion. I’m not going to claim that massive immigration isn’t problamatic ( a pollyanna point of view if ever there was one) but it’s the way of the world, and cultural exchange goes both ways. Birth rates will fall in the immigration “export” countries as well.

    Traditionalists love to say this and that is human nature. Well, I think it’s obvious that it’s human nature to have fewer babies when a culture becomes more advanced and educated. It might even be a natural mechanism for saving resources, like a gentel malthusian scenario.

  43. 43
    Glaivester says:

    Robert knows full well that immigration replaces a culture- but he is probably one of those who thinks that it is not really replacing if it speaks another language and has another religion.

    But that’s the point; if you rely on immigration to keep a country populated, the immigrants replace the culture rather than regenerating it. However, based on context, I’ll assume that by “replace” you actually mean “regenerate.”

    You’re darn tootin’ that it is not really regenerating a culture if it speaks another language and has another religion. Unless, of course, you think that a culture is defined by geography, so as long as there are people in the same geographic region, the “culture” is preserved.

    The argument that there aren’t enough replacement workers to provide retirement benefits for the eldery is puzzling to me, since it seems to be saying that the elderly should gain at the expense of young families, instead of looking for other solutions.

    I think the concern is that the current welfare systems are unsustainable at the currnet birth rates; the argument isn’t necessarily for higher birth rates; one could also raise the retirement age, reduce benefits, etc. The point isn’t what the solution has to be, just that due to a conflict between the number of replacement workers and the number of retirees, the system as it currently stands was not designed well.

  44. 44
    Nick Kiddle says:

    If you want to talk about what immigration does to the culture, you need to be clear about what the culture is. The US has this whole American Way ethos, which, from my perch way over the other side of the Atlantic, I think newly-arriving immigrants are still buying into. So in that regard, the culture is being continued.

    Similarly, on an individual scale, people can pass on their values without reproducing themselves: “Spread memes not genes” sound familiar?

  45. 45
    Steve G. says:

    I want to start by noting that the basis on which you state that my argument doesn’t make sense has nothing to do with the internals of that statement itself. I understand that you are likely using this only as a jumping off point, so I don’t want to be too hard on it, but I feel compelled to at least point this out.

    You say that it doesn’t make sense based on the issues regarding punishment, but the statement I made makes no mention of that issue. You imported it into the discussion. For all the reader of the statement knows, I am all for prosecuting both woman and doctor. I simply didn’t address that. When you strip that issue away, and look at the actual statement I made, you’ll see it is perfectly sensible.

    All I did in the statement was to make the common sense observation that morality and legality of a behavior is not based on whether something is being, or historically has been done, as Butterfinger was arguing with regard to abortion. I used rape as a substitute to show how absurd this is to use as a rational for accepting something as moral. I could have used slavery, or any other number of things that always have been, and always will be done which we accept as neither morally or legally legitimate. Your critique does nothing to address the validity of that point.

    With regard to the punishment issue itself, It still wouldn’t invalidate the argument above. We use mitigating factors to address how we view culpability all the time. If a woman suffering severe, hormonally induced post-partum depression kills her baby out of desperation, I can say objectively that she indeed murdered her baby, and at the same time that their were mitigating factors that we should consider which might give us reason for leniency. The woman who murders her husband after stumbling upon him having an affair is objectively committing murder, but juries regularly take the emotions induced into account when metting out punishment.

    To the extent that a pregnancy occurs inside a woman’s body, the pro-abortion side has a valid point. Not valid enough to justify killing the baby involved (assume for the sake of argument that it is a baby), but valid enough that all the emotions, and mitigating factors that induces *may* relieve culpability. It’s possible I supposse that a woman would get an abortion in cold blood. It’s also possible that a woman gets one out of utter fear of what the unknowns of an unplanned pregnancy would entail. It doesn’t undercut the argument to admit this reality and recognize that in any system where abortion might be illegal, we’d need to account for such factors when addressing culpability and resulting punishment of the crime.

    As for the comparisons done, Robert already pointed out that the numbers are somewhat meaningless as presented. The more important information is the number of abortions per pregnancy.

    And comparing the rates of a third world country such as Egypt and extrapolating that the results would be the same in the U.S. does not take into account a myriad of other cultural factors (including birth rate and pregnancy rate) that further invalidate the comparison.

    The argument can be more seriously considered when a valid comparison is presented.

  46. 46
    Antigone says:

    Again, why should I sacrifice for a culture that I don’t think is worth preserving?

    Let the immigrants come. We’re a pluristic society, odds are they’ll even each other out. What’s so great about this society that non-English speaking, non-white people are going to destroy?

  47. 47
    alsis39 says:

    Well, it didn’t take long for “save the culture !” to become the new, improved smokescreen of the pro-life side, did it ?

    It’s not any woman’s obligation to save a “culture” that she has never wanted to be part of. Have I ever wanted to be part of a culture that compells me to breed so we can have enough White people to keep the alleged Puerto Rican/Lebanese/Haitian Menace from supposedly swarming our shores and taking over ? Please.

    Again, it’s fascinating to be reminded that all fetuses are actually not created equal, the usual pro-life pretense aside. If a Puerto Rican/Lebanese/Haitian couple wants to move to this country, learn the languages, take the jobs, attend the churches, buy the cars and houses and other acoutrements that are supposedly what makes this culture (as if we had one culture, and as if everything about it was worth preserving) great– and then have five kids who wanted to do the same, why would pro-lifers not consider this a signifigant continuation/preservation of U.S. culture.

    So, what is it again that makes the Puerto Rican, the Lebanese, the Haitian woman’s fetus a menace to the culture ? Ahem. And don’t trot out the welfare canard if you have any respect at all for the other side. A hell of a lot of White immigrants and their children have been/are on welfare.

    Forced childbearing is aparently an expression of the rightness of cultural dominance, with one very specific aspect of U.S. society –White, middle class, Christian society– inteneded to be the default “proper culture.”

    Well, color me disgusted at this particular philosophic development, but not terribly surprised. As a Jew myself, I have my doubts that the sort of folk who usually pitch this sort of vision would really want Yours Truly around to make babies in the first place. I’m not part of the sacred “culture” (ie– Christianity) myself, after all.

  48. 48
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    Well put alsis hon, I was going to write something similar, but you’ve made me redundant here :)

  49. 49
    alsis39 says:

    Actually, Sarah, Antigone beat us both to it (her post showed up before I could finish grumbling) but you’re welcome anyway. :)

    Should I add that since the first waves of U.S. immigrants destroyed the original nation’s culture, (and it was somehow considered right and proper for them to do so) perhaps it would be poetic justice for someone else to supplant ours as well ? Is one culture charged by God to dominate forever, or are others to be allowed their day in the sun ?

  50. 50
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    oops, I missed Antigone’s post … well done too hon! :)

    One of the big things I don’t get about the whole ‘preserve the culture’ argument, aside from it’s inherent racism, is the idea somehow that culture is a static thing … precisely what American culture would you be preserving? The one from 20 years ago? 30 years ago? These cultures don’t exist anymore, it changed, grew and evolved, particularly through the involvement and infusion of immigration.

    I can understand, though, Robert’s argument about wanting to live in a natalist culture, where there is a high value placed on pregnancy, child birth and child rearing as different from the above. But I just don’t agree, as I would tend to think this isn’t incompatible with safe, legal, and subsidised abortion services … hell, my personal feeling is that it is inherently required, but that’s just my opinion.

  51. 51
    Josh Jasper says:

    Just in case anyone missed it, when Robert is talking about “his” culture, he means the one that puts women at a lower social level than men.

  52. 52
    alsis39 says:

    Sarah wrote:

    These cultures don’t exist anymore, it changed, grew and evolved, particularly through the involvement and infusion of immigration.

    Well, those were the RIGHT kind of immigrants (nudge nudge). That is– the ancestors of the people who are now crying “Save the Culture !” So that’s different, Sarah. You didn’t read the manual very carefully.

    Josh wrote:

    Just in case anyone missed it, when Robert is talking about “his” culture, he means the one that puts women at a lower social level than men.

  53. 53
    alsis39 says:

    Darn, part of the post got munched. I meant to say to Josh that mothers are very powerful people in Robert’s culture, at least according to Robert. Clearly it’s only motherhood that is an approved-by-God avenue to womanly power. A woman who eschews motherhood is willfully eschewing her assigned power, and is thus SOL in the power sweepstakes. Or else, the dominant culture can paradoxically force her into this “powerful” position against her will– For her own good and for the preservation of this great monolithic culture of ours. Go USA !!

  54. 54
    Rock says:

    Alsis and Co.

    Admittedly I do not represent the average Evangelical, (closer to Anabaptist) the generalizations about us is hurtful. Other than that, I agree with most of what you said.

    The arguments about immigration and preserving the status quo are not new. MFK Fisher debated brilliantly many decades ago the benefits of immigration, his points are as true today as then. The fact is many people feel that immigration should stop after they get here. It is ludicrous. Nationalism and other racism are stupid and cruel not to mention ineffective at stopping the coming of new people. We all benefit from the infusion of new and different peoples. If we had more Muslims, perhaps we would be less willing to bomb them. More Latinos, and we might invest and not exploit them. More African émigrés might move us to help them with the terrible race and health issues they have. (Other then sending in the guns and big corporations to bleed them.) The myth of preserving an identifiable national identity is the root of tremendous suffering. Nothing in culture is static. Blessings.

  55. 55
    Glaivester says:

    A few points: I am arguing about preserving culture here because I don’t think that immigration can replace reproduction as a way to maintain a culture; that is, if the birth rate is below replacement, and if the desire is to keep the population stable or growing, I don’t think that using immigration is a viable solution if the goal is to preserve the society and culture. (I’ll go into this in more detail at some other time, but I do think that the Anglo-Saxon aspects of American culture are worth preserving, and I do not think that they can be preserved if the Anglo-Saxons are wiped out).

    This should not, however, be taken to mean that I see as an argument against legal abortion. The only valid argument against abortion is, IMO, the “right-to-life” argument, i.e. that aborting a fetus is murder.

    Aside from that belief, I see no rationale for restricting abortion. To proscribe someone from ending a pregnancy is a very serious imposition, and the only rationale that I can see that would warrant such an imposition would have to rest on the value of fetal life per se. That is to say, restricting abortion primarily to achieve a social objective (e.g., a larger population) would be a monstrous example of social engineering.

    I do believe that a society that refuses to reproduce at levels sufficient to maintain its population is a seriously sick society (unless, of course, this is a conscious and temporary trend to deal with overpopulation, e.g. Japan). However, I do not see government bribing or coercing people to reproduce more as a viable solution. This would be treating a symptom rather than the underlying malaise. Even if people responded and had more children, I doubt that the society would become more healthy. For example, take Russia. In Russia, abortions are now outnumbering live births and the population is rapidly collapsing. This strikes me as symptoms of a larger problem in Russia that needs to be dealt with if Russia is going to survive.

  56. 56
    AndiF says:

    I do think that the Anglo-Saxon aspects of American culture are worth preserving, and I do not think that they can be preserved if the Anglo-Saxons are wiped out

    Well, not being an anglo-saxon, I’m kind of curious as to what aspects of the American culture my grandparents (all immigrants), my parents, my siblings and I are helping to wipe out. And why I would care since, apparently, they don’t include me and I don’t contribute to them.

  57. 57
    Glaivester says:

    Back a little more on topic, I am not convinced that banning abortion has no effect on the abortion rate.

    The evidence suggests that the number of abortions in the US went up after Roe v. Wade, and also suggests that the number of pregnancies went up as well. Put more bluntly, the availability of abortion may have increased people’s willingness to take more risks in terms of getting pregnant. In fact, some estimates suggest that conceptions increased 30% after Roe v. Wade, while birthsdropped 6%. This would indicate the a large number of those aborted would likely have never been conceived without Roe v. Wade.

    In any case, I do not think that it is at all clear that banning abortion does not affect the abortion rate. In fact, I think that most of the evidence suggests that banning abortion, ceteris paribus, does decrease the abortion rate.

    However, the evidence also suggests that making birth control more available decreases the rate of abortions, and I see no reason not to try to make birth control more available.* On the other hand, I think that Ampoersand seems to set up a bit of a false dichotomy (albeit unintentionally) by implying that pro-lifers have to hoose either/or. For those pro-lifers who are not against birth control per se, it seems to me that one might try to convince them to try to join the fight to make birth control more available without tying this to giving up their goal of banning abortion. It is not illogical that some people may want to try both tacks.

    * I am not saying that this is the only reason why making birth control more available is a good thing; there are other reasons why someone would find that desirable that have nothing to do with abortion.

  58. 58
    Rock says:

    Glaivester,

    What “culturally” are you suggesting can be or should be preserved? What is it that would be lost in your opinion from immigration vs. births? What in WASP culture is threatened, or monopolized by that group? Don’t most folks pick up cultural traits that are beneficial to them?

    As has been pointed out, a ban on abortion may indeed reduce abortion rates, however it will place many more at risk by seeking unsafe abortion, and this is not acceptable. Blessings.

  59. 59
    Elena says:

    Birth rates are falling even in high birth rate countries. Best case scenario is a low population equilibrium, with little immigration. Immigration isn’t fundamentally bad because it disrupts the host countries, it’s bad because the countries of origin have made life unlivable and their governments have failed their people.

    Low birth rates are associated with higher status and education of women. Higher status and education of women are associated with stable governments. Falling birth rates are GOOD. The culture thing sorts itself out, but any argument that white women have a duty to have more babies-which is what pro-natalist arguments really are- is totally missing the boat. Educated, well off women have less babies because they are educated and well off. I really believe it’s a natural tendency, a result of social evolution in a post-industrial age when having many children has no particular advantage to a family or a society.

    A side note- as usual, the conservative idea to *fix* society, by having more babies, is to be born out by others.

  60. 60
    Elena says:

    Low birth rates are the ultimate manifestation of supply and demand- conservatives should embrace it. It’s pure economic law!

  61. 61
    Dianne says:

    I’m curious about how the pro-life movement justifies one of its central postulates, namely that every entity that has been conceived, from fertilized egg to adult, is a person. It seems to me that there are a number of problems with this view of personhood. A few include:

    1. The current medical definition of “death” is brain death–that is, when the brain is no longer functioning on any level. A fertilized egg (morula, blastulocyst, very early embryo) has no brain. How can it be considered to be a living person if a brain dead person is not? If the proper pro-life answer is that the definition of death currently used is wrong, what alternate definition is proposed?
    2. Monozygotic (identical) twins are derived from a single fertilized egg. If a fertilized egg is a person, are each of the twins half a person or is one a person and the other an evil clone? If the latter, how do you tell which is which?
    3. Occasionally, unfortunately, a fertilized egg can go wrong and develop into a cancer instead of a baby. Is the cancer considered a person and is giving chemotherapy immoral in that circumstance? If not, what happened to the person that the fertilized egg was?
    4. If articifical cloning were performed, so that a baby might be born without ever going through the stage of being a fertilized egg, would that baby be considered a person by the pro-life movement? If not, how can that exclusion be justified? If so, when did the person in question become a person? Does that mean that all somatic (non-reproductive) cells are also people?
    5. When, exactly, in the fertilization process do the gametes become people? Are the unfertilized egg and sperm already to be considered people?

    I’ve never seen any pro-life advocate address any of these issues and I am quite curious about them, so I hope someone would be willing to discuss them. Any takers?

  62. 62
    Steve G. says:

    1. The current medical definition of “death” is brain death”“that is, when the brain is no longer functioning on any level. A fertilized egg (morula, blastulocyst, very early embryo) has no brain. How can it be considered to be a living person if a brain dead person is not? If the proper pro-life answer is that the definition of death currently used is wrong, what alternate definition is proposed?

    Brain waves are detected at about 8 weeks. You willing to outlaw abortion after that point? Beyond that, even defining death is difficult. It used to be when the heartbeat stopped. Since this seems to be somewhat arbitrary, and has changed over time, I don’t think it’s wise to determine abortion policy based on this.

    2. Monozygotic (identical) twins are derived from a single fertilized egg. If a fertilized egg is a person, are each of the twins half a person or is one a person and the other an evil clone? If the latter, how do you tell which is which?

    The problem here is that you are using an arbitrary and unquantifiable characteristic of personhood, whereas we would not. The gamete, from the time of conception is a living human organism by definition, that left unimpeded has the potential to develop into a mature human being. But then that definition applies until adulthood reaches, which makes sense, since the human organism’s life from conception to death is a continuum with various stages of complexity all along the way. Any attempt to apply personhood using some of the complexity markers is, as I said arbitrary.

    3. Occasionally, unfortunately, a fertilized egg can go wrong and develop into a cancer instead of a baby. Is the cancer considered a person and is giving chemotherapy immoral in that circumstance? If not, what happened to the person that the fertilized egg was?

    If this truly happens, then the fertilized egg at the point it goes from human organism, to cancer, ceases to be, well…human. As to what happens, at the point this occurs, the human organism of course ‘died’ as it were.

    4. If articifical cloning were performed, so that a baby might be born without ever going through the stage of being a fertilized egg, would that baby be considered a person by the pro-life movement?

    Of course, by scientific definition, they are living human organisms.

    Does that mean that all somatic (non-reproductive) cells are also people?

    Of course not. They are not human organisms, and have no potential of their own to develop into one.

    When, exactly, in the fertilization process do the gametes become people? Are the unfertilized egg and sperm already to be considered people?

    Of course not. IBID

  63. 63
    hf says:

    Robert reveals an interesting point in his first post. We’ve touched on it, but I want to spell it out and see if I have it right. See, when I heard pro-lifers say they want to stop the “culture of death”, I thought they meant they wanted to stop deaths that our culture causes. And that seemed like a flat contradiction, looking at their actions elsewhere. But now it seems Robert mainly feels concerned about the culture itself. He cares less for its effects on life and death than for what the culture itself values. (He specifically mentions “natal culture”.) This goes back to the question of government’s role. Robert et al, why do you want to protect “natal culture” by government force? And why would we agree to help, or stand and watch, if we see this as opposed to the true work of government?

    Glaivester wrote:

    You’re darn tootin’ that it is not really regenerating a culture if it speaks another language and has another religion.

    Do people like me, who likely don’t share your religion — and who see democracy and freedom as the most important parts of America — belong to your culture? This strengthens my argument: my government has no business protecting your culture at the expense of freedom. Mind you, I doubt Robert would mind more Catholics. As someone said, I’d like to hear more about what culture(s) y’all want to protect. (Dianne made some excellent points too.)

    Again, and more bluntly: if you see abortion as murder, why would you place your culture before stopping murder? Because hypotheticals aside, the real-world movement to limit choice clearly increases abortions.

  64. 64
    Tishie says:

    Approximately one Blog-Eon ago, Glaivester wrote:

    It seems to me that this issue parallels the issue Amp brought up about pro-lifers – is the most effective way to deal with other side on the abortion debate to be nasty and insulting (which is the only thing, as I understand it, that Amp was asking not be done), or to try and engage them in “intellectual exercises?” It seems that if the goal is to try and get pro-lifers who are on the fence or who are open-minded about the possibility of the other side to convert to being pro-choice, then engagement might be a better strategy.

    The thing is, I’m not in the business of reasoning with people who wish to curtail my right to the control of my own body and life. Talking with people who put the value of my freedom and the freedom of all women below the value of a zygote (as if this is an idea with merit that can be reasonably discussed rather than a ridiculously offensive and bigoted idea) — this talking doesn’t get things done. It never has, and I have seen no evidence supporting the notion that it ever will.

  65. 65
    Glaivester says:

    Do people like me, who likely don’t share your religion … and who see democracy and freedom as the most important parts of America … belong to your culture?

    American culture has largely developed based on WASP traditions; for example, our legal system and Bill of Right was developed largely by England. Our language is English, and our particular work ethic and attitude toward life was developed by English Protestants (particularly Calvinists). By and large, our culture is tolerant, and we have been able to integrate other cultures into it and to assimilate large numbers of people from diverse cultures.

    However, there was always the ideal of assimilation, a a;lrge number of the people were from similar cultures (Ireland and Germany), and there were periods with little immigration in which those already here were allowed to assimilate. Moreover, this immigration occurred in conjunction with natural increase in population, not as a replacement to it.

    I will admit that the US is not the best example, because we are less of an ethno-state than most other countries. If, say, the Netherlands reduced its birth rate well below replacement levels and North African and Arab Muslims “took up the slack,” in a few decades what we would have in the Netherlans would not be “Dutch culture” as we understand the term.

    This strengthens my argument: my government has no business protecting your culture at the expense of freedom.

    If you read comment #55 carefully, you’ll see that I never suggested it did. I explicitly stated that it would be wrong to ban abortion as a way to achieve a social objective (such as maintaining birth rate). If a culture chooses not to reproduce itself, it’s not the government’s job to try and save it. (Although I also would point out that although the government’s job should not be to try to save my culture, I do think that government policies should not actively try to undermine my culture, either, so I am not saying that the impact of the government policies on my culture [or for that matter, other people's cultures] should not be a consideation ).

    In any case, my comments about culture were more or less an aside. I made them because I found SocialScientist’s comment:

    Reproduction is only one way in which a society regenerates. Migration is another (and one at which, I might add, the US has been particularly adept). While our birth rate may be falling toward so-called sub-replacement rates, we continue to see population growth.
    So relax. Our culture isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.

    to be a bit naive. Using massive immigration as a way to maintain your population when you are reproducing at sub-replacement rates does not preserve a society in the same way as reproducing at or above sub-replacement rates. If you think, as Antigone does, that our current society is not worth preserving, then obviously this doesn’t bother you. My point is not that you have to want to preserve our current society, but that a person shouldn’t claim that maintaining an otherwise decreasing population by immigration so preserves a society, because it doesn’t, whether that is good, bad, or indifferent. (And I am not saying that immigration itself destroys a society, just that using immigration specifically as a replacement for reproduction does not preserve a society).

  66. 66
    hf says:

    Glaivester, since you disagree with Robert on this point, Amp’s original argument applies to you. Again: we’ve seen some hypothetical situations, but in the real world, the “natal culture” movement clearly increases the number of abortions. Why don’t you oppose this first? Why not make contraceptive freedom your number one priority?

  67. 67
    Julie says:

    Hi! I ‘ve never posted here, so try to be nice :) Anyway, I’ve spent most of my life vehemently pro-life. It was only this year that I actually sat down and thought things through myself, with the help of some very wonderful people I’ve met on some of these blogs.
    The conclusion I’ve come to is this… I hate abortion. Passionately. However, I believe so strongly in a woman’s autonomy and right to do with her body as she sees fit, that I am very uncomfortable with a law that prohibits abortions unless someone else thinks you’re “worthy” of having one. Is it possible to be anti-abortion and not think Roe v. Wade should be overturned? I have yet to figure that out. There are a couple reasons I find myself changing my viewpoint so radically… 1) Because I am realistic enough to realize that outlawing abortion will never make it go away. Ever. In fact, I think it would do so little to the abortion rates that it’s not worth the civil unrest and harm to women. 2) Because I no longer feel comfortable telling a woman she must do something with her body that could lead to death (rare though it may be), severe complications, lie long health problems, major abdominal surgery and ten months of basically giving her body over to someone else. 3) Because women who truly want an abortion will have one anyway, despite the law.
    This poses a dilemma for someone like myself who believes passionately that abortion is wrong (many of you disagree and I understand that). My recent struggle, and one that I know my sister has been experiencing as well, is how do you make the two sides match up? How do you respect a woman’s right to her body while still believing that abortion is wrong? The solution, for me, came down to this. I do not support criminalization of abortion. I do support increased access to birth control, increased access to the morning after pill (including over the counter status and automatic offering to rape victims), comprehensive sex education, and much stricter penalties for the crimes of rape and incest. I do support increased programs to help low income women have children and obtain an education, or to have children and work. I do support the work of groups (like feminists for life to) to make colleges more friendly to women who want to keep their children, but have no idea how they can possibly do it. I support making the adoption process easier and less expensive. I have personally marched friends down to Planned Parenthood when I found out they were having sex so that they could get a prescription for the pill. I spend a lot of time on boards for women with unplanned pregnanices, helping with questions about birth control or reassuring women who have found out they are pregnant and are scared to death. I do not advocate abortion, but I do not criticize or pass judgement either
    What I cannot get behind and will never do is deny that a fetus is a human life. We can debate personhood all day and yet in the end, this is a human life that is being ended. You will never hear me tell somebody that abortion is just like any other surgery, because I believe it is different. I will never refer to a fetus as a lump of cells or a parasite, because I remember how offensive I found those terms to be when I was pregnant. And I will never deny the humanity of a fetus, because honestly, when my son was born at 27 weeks, he was unmistakably human and as much a person as I am. I don’t believe that his humanness came only as he exited the birth canal.
    I hope that this makes sense. In the end, after all my rambling, I think I I pretty much agree with what you wrote.

  68. 68
    hf says:

    P.S.: I knew what you said, but I combined your position with Robert’s in a somewhat misleading way.

  69. 69
    alsis39 says:

    The thing is, I’m not in the business of reasoning with people who wish to curtail my right to the control of my own body and life. Talking with people who put the value of my freedom and the freedom of all women below the value of a zygote (as if this is an idea with merit that can be reasonably discussed rather than a ridiculously offensive and bigoted idea) … this talking doesn’t get things done. It never has, and I have seen no evidence supporting the notion that it ever will.

    Amen, Tishie.

    Just damn civility, already. All the civility in the world is not going to make me safer around people whose own sense of self is so overblown that they think it’s better for me to breed against my will rather than that their “culture be undermined” or some such egotistical claptrap.

    To Hell with their culture. A culture based on my subjugation, or that of any other woman’s, is a pile of crap. The sooner it’s shovelled into a can and carted somewhere far, far away, the better.

  70. 70
    tekanji says:

    A few points. First off, in regards to high pregnancy rates, Robert said: The good of society outweighs individual preferences, does it not?

    Just a note here – neither high rates of unwanted pregnancies nor forcing “parent” to be the default value produce a “good” society. I would argue that the “good of society” would be making all choices viable so that all pregnancies were wanted and all babies born were both loved and cared for. What’s the point of bringing children into the world if the people doing so are unable or unwilling to give them the proper support they need?

    Julie: I don’t think that being anti-abortion and supporting Roe v. Wade (or similar legislation) is necessarily mutually exclusive. The point is to reduce deaths, right? Without Roe v. Wade, there would be a lot more pregnant women dying due to illegal abortions (so if you believe a foetus is a life, that’s two lives for the price of one). I also think the two ideas work together, especially in your case because of your position, when coupled with the idea of reducing the number of abortions by both reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and also widening the options for women faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

    My one caution is your support for the group “Feminists for Life”. While I think that the good deeds they do deserves recognition, they are in many ways no better than the extreme anti-choice groups that are more concerned with controlling women’s bodies rather than preventing abortions and unwanted pregnancies. They don’t support birth control. Also, they hedge the topic of criminalizing abortion by stating that, while they don’t advocate it, early feminists enacted such laws as “protection” for women. FYI, “protection” is a longstanding codeword for “control” – we need to be “protected” because we are not capable of making our own decisions. They also perpetuate bad science in order to scare women out of having an abortion. Other problems include disrespecting the survivors of the holocaust by likening abortion to genocide, and claiming to be feminists while engaging in guilt tactics and bashing feminism by perpetuating the stereotype that feminists are man-haters ( Pro-abortion feminists lecture at universities about how violent men can be – scratch that – make that, how violent men are (as in innately). In the opinion of some pro-choice feminists, “all men are rapists and therefore the enemy.”).

    For more information, there’s a post on this blog about the organization: Katha Pollitt on Feminists For Life. All I’m saying is that FFLA is neither as feminist nor as “for life” as they make themselves out to be. Support them or not, but I hope whatever choice you make is informed by all their stances and tactics, not just the ones that are good.

  71. 71
    ginmar says:

    Julie, I appreciate you actually taking steps to prevent the need for abortion. I hope you continue to do so and I hope you have much success at it.

    I won’t apologize for thinking abortion is a good thing. I think it’s great. My mother had five living children, one of whom predeceased her, and she had something like ten or twelve pregnancies. Her life was changed because she did not have simple control of when she had children.

    If more prolifers were like you, we simply wouldn’t have as many abortions.

  72. 72
    Nick Kiddle says:

    I will never refer to a fetus as a lump of cells or a parasite, because I remember how offensive I found those terms to be when I was pregnant.

    Interesting how we’re all different. One of my names for my baby is “the cute li’l parasite” – it is technically parasitic after all, but I still love it.

    There’s a lot of overlap between your position and mine, although I place myself in the pro-choice camp. Abortion squicks me out profoundly, but I recognise that as an emotional response to the idea of abortion I formed as a child (possibly a topic for a post of its own) and no reason to dictate the choices other women should make. As for how human the fetus is: the CLP (at 29 weeks) strikes me as pretty human, but a 6-week fetus a lot less so. The mother, on the other hand, is definitely human, so her rights win out.

  73. 73
    Julie says:

    Tekanji- thanks for pointing that out, it was a very interesting read. I guess I’ve never understood how one could be anti-abortion and anti-contraception. It has never made sense to me. In my first post, I was actually referring to the college outreach program they have, which I asolutely think is a good thing, but I didn’t know about some of the other stuff, so thanks :)
    Ginmar- Thanks :) I appreciate your kind words. I don’t expect you to be sorry, or apologize for your beliefs, any more than I am sorry for mine. I understand exactly what you are talking about, though. My grandmother had 12 children, all of whom were abused and mistreated b/c she simply had too many kids. She also doesn’t believe in birth cotrol, so I don’t know how much that would change today, but I definately understand where you are coming from. I don’t know, honestly, that birth control and even abortion can change whether on not our children predecease us. I’m all of 24, have used birth control religously for four of the 6 years since I became sexually active and have had three pregnancies ( a miscarriage, a healthy girl and a son who passed away shortly after his birth) but I understand and agree that women having no control over when they have children is not a good thing.
    Nick- Congratulations on your pregnancy. I guess, I should explain, I found it offensive when other people described my unborn child as nothing more than a parasite or lump of cells, because I think it takes away from the awesomeness of what you’re doing. While I know and understand there are times when pregnancy is not viewed as a wonderful thing or a wonderous thing, I think being pregnant is really cool and I love the fact that I can use my nody to nurture and help another human being to grow. I work hard to make sure I’m getting enough exercise, enough rest, proper nutrition, I quit smoking, I don’t drink, etc… all the stuff you’re supposed to do (yes, I’m very anal retentive like that) So, for someone else to say “It’s not like it’s a child, it’s just a lump of cells, or a parasite, or a blob of goo, to me takes away from the experience. When my son was kicking the hell out of me and I had someone explain to me that I was carrying nothing more than a lump of cells, I got a little ticked. When my son was born at 27 weeks and I read somewhere that a fetus at 3o weeks is not a person, I wonder what that makes my precious baby who opened his eyes, took breaths, even held onto my finger before he passed away.
    I’m not even sure what I would be considered at this point. If I don’t believe abortion is a good thing, but I don’t think it should be illegal because I recognize that forcing another woman to donate her entire self for 10 months plus recovery time is not recognizing her rights either, then I guess I’m sort of pro-choice. (And to tell you how deeply my beliefs are ingrained, I actually shuddered a little bit while typing that) I’ll never be adamantly pro-choice and the term pro-abortion makes me cringe, but to me, the idea here is to save as many lives as possible and in illegal and dangerous abortions we most definately lose the fetus and we risk a high percentage of women as well. In reducing the need for abortion by reducing unwanted pregnancies, and increasing social support for women who want to keep their children I think we have the best of both worlds.

  74. 74
    Nick Kiddle says:

    Julie: Even more that we have in common! I stopped drinking and gave up all the foods that are supposed to be bad for the baby as soon as there was a theoretical chance I could be pregnant – I couldn’t bear the possibility that some omission of mine might deprive me of the chance to have this baby. And I think it was a person to me even before then, because it’s been wanted for much of my adult life.

    At the same time, I know a lot of other women don’t see their fetuses in anything like those terms, and who am I to tell them to? I wouldn’t have called your fetus a parasite if I’d known you when you were carrying, because I don’t go round trying to offend people, but by the same token I wouldn’t tell someone who didn’t want to be pregnant that this was a real baby.

    What camp you identify in, unless you’re an absolutist, can be quite tricky, but by saying that abortion shouldn’t be criminalised and that the woman’s rights trump the fetus’s you’re expressing the pro-choice position. Pro-abortion is another thing again, and a lot of people who consider themselves pro-choice don’t consider themselves pro-abortion.

  75. 75
    Rock says:

    A major rub for many is the exclusive nature of the argument that it is all about the birthing parent and the child has no weight in the discussion; this implies those without a voice are less viable in the scheme of things. I personally find that I support feminism specifically because it is patently offensive and wrong that many women’s voices are unheard or rendered less viable because of a gender biased society. One of the corps offenses of racism is the marginalization of entire groups and the minimalizing of their voice and consequent disempowering and exploitation that results. While reducing the numbers of offences is a worthy step elimination should be our goals.

    I have read countless times on this blog regarding men and sex it is not a right and it is not a demand and it is not essential to survival outside of the species requirement to produce above the death rate. Sex has risks inherent with it, just like many other activities, one has to assume the risks when undertaking to get involved, especially when it places other interested parties at stake. (Obviously forced sex does not fall into this.) Pregnancy is only one potentially undesirable aspect. Fatal diseases, debilitating diseases, and emotional damage can be associated as well. All this should be respected when entering into the sexual arena. Education on these and other areas involving sex must be better to reduce harmful effects of sex, one of which is an undesired pregnancy. Birth control must be made easily available as well. Women’s rights must be taken into account.

    Roe is not the best guarantor of reproductive rights, well defined legislation is. I would like to ask do we think that relegating the unborn to non person status, reducing the value of life and human rights, increases the chance of reducing abortion or raises it? Does marginalizing a group help to raise the consciousness of other marginalized folks or does it hinder them? The tide that raises the rights of one should not have to come at the expense of another. The extremism that the discussion needs to be an all or nothing affair places both camps at a disadvantage, it is not capture the flag; we are talking about groups that need protection and recognition. Amp wanted to remove the person hood factor from the discussion, however it is so much a root of what is foundational to many peoples position that eliminating the question becomes predetermined like, “do you still beat your wife?”

    If the discussion is ever to be approached and settled where rights are guaranteed and the need for abortion is to go down then it appears that acknowledging that women do have rights for their self-governess needs to happen while the equally valid and no less important recognition that the unborn are potentially beings and do have a place in the discussion as well. The energy spent seeking everything but a path of reason is energy wasted that could be used to free many from ignorance and suffering. Blessings.

  76. 76
    Dianne says:

    Steve: Thank you for your answer. I’m going to discuss it in several posts, since otherwise it would get rather lengthy.

    “Brain waves are detected at about 8 weeks. You willing to outlaw abortion after that point?”

    This statement is actually rather controversial. It is also a distraction unless you are saying that you have no problem with abortion before eight weeks. A one day old blastulocyst clearly does not have any brain waves.

    “Beyond that, even defining death is difficult. It used to be when the heartbeat stopped. Since this seems to be somewhat arbitrary, and has changed over time, I don’t think it’s wise to determine abortion policy based on this.”

    Brain death has been the technical definition of death for quite some time now. The previous definition was changed for several reasons, the one of most practical importance being that it is sometimes possible to restore breathing and circulation (ie restart a heart after it has stopped beating and the lungs after they have stopped breathing) and it was rather silly to talk about people who were walking, talking, and paying taxes as “dead”. The more important philosophical reason is the realization that the brain, not the heart, is the seat of intelligence and awareness. Since intelligence and awareness, particularly self-awareness, are the characteristics that make humans different, at least in degree, possibly in kind, from other animals, it seems to me that these characteristics should be taken into account in defining humanity.

  77. 77
    Dianne says:

    “The problem here is that you are using an arbitrary and unquantifiable characteristic of personhood, whereas we would not. The gamete, from the time of conception is a living human organism by definition, that left unimpeded has the potential to develop into a mature human being. But then that definition applies until adulthood reaches, which makes sense, since the human organism’s life from conception to death is a continuum with various stages of complexity all along the way. Any attempt to apply personhood using some of the complexity markers is, as I said arbitrary.”

    An interesting argument but it doesn’t answer the question: how did the fertilized egg, which you say is one person, become twins, who are two people? Or didn’t it? Are twins really only one person because they share the same genetic code and derived from a single egg?

    “If this [the transformation of a fertilized egg into a cancer] truly happens, then the fertilized egg at the point it goes from human organism, to cancer, ceases to be, well…human. As to what happens, at the point this occurs, the human organism of course ‘died’ as it were.”

    It happens, unfortunately. Look up gestational trophoblastic disease if you doubt me. But the fertilized egg does not die when it turns into GTD, indeed part of the problem is that the cells “forget” how to die when need be and so grow out of control. How can the organism be said to have “died” when not a single cell in that organism has died?

  78. 78
    Dianne says:

    “Of course, by scientific definition, they [artificial clones] are living human organisms.”

    The scientific definition of a living human being, such as it is, states that life ends at brain death. Since you disavowed this definition earlier in the post, I’m not sure it is valid for you to use it now. Nonetheless, since, much to my relief, you agree that clones are people, when did there personhood begin, since they did not originate from a fertilized egg? Suppose someone was cloned from an intestinal cell. Was that cell really a separate person all along, even when it was exactly like every other intestinal cell? If not, how and when did it obtain its personhood?

    “Of course not. They [somatic cells] are not human organisms, and have no potential of their own to develop into one.”

    Neither do gametes, fertilized or otherwise. A fertilized egg needs a uterus to develop properly.

    “When, exactly, in the fertilization process do the gametes become people? ”

    This question went totally unanswered. Perhaps you weren’t aware that fertilization was not a single event but rather a multistep process?

    “‘Are the unfertilized egg and sperm already to be considered people?’

    “Of course not. IBID”

    A sperm, maybe. But an unfertilized egg needs only one tiny detail more than a fertilized egg to develop into a person. That thing is, of course, a sperm and they are easy to comeby in large numbers.

    Overall, I think you’re proposing an “I know it when I see it” definition of humanity. Sorry, but I’m not convinced yet.

  79. 79
    tekanji says:

    Julie: From where I’m sitting, you’re absolutely pro-choice. Depending on the definition, you can be pro-life too (Hugo’s definition, for example, isn’t an anti-choice stance). Of course, abortion debate terms are highly problematic because the two biggies aren’t a dichtomy: pro-choice, pro-life. Some clarity comes from anti-choice, pro-abortion, anti-abortion but even they can be used to misrepresent a person/group’s stance (see the FFLA quote I pulled about “pro-abortion” feminists). I’d say that I, personally, am a pro-choice person who is pro-BC, including abortions if necessary, and pro-sex ed. Like you, I think the best way to get things done is to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place and have better support for women who are pregnant (wanted or no). However, if faced with an unwanted pregnancy I would have no hesitation in aborting. Personal choice there, and I completely respect any woman who chooses to carry her pregnancy to term.

    Which brings me to a minor point about the whole “parasite” thing. I agree with you that it’s 100% offensive to term someone else’s pregnancy a “parasite” (unless it’s in the way Nick described – a cute term). That being said, if I were to become pregnant, I woudn’t hesitate to use the word on myself. Pregnancy would not be a state of joy for me – it would be one of my worst fears realized. When a pregnancy is wanted, it can seem miraculous that another organism is sharing your body so it can safely develop into a full-fledged baby. When a pregnancy is not wanted, heck when the very state of pregnancy is not wanted, that same process can be seen as a parasitic one: an unwanted organism leeching away my body’s resources with the very real possibility of eventually killing me. I’m with Nick on this one; I believe in respecting the pregnant woman’s feelings toward the organism inside her and not using terms that she would feel are offensive, whether it be “parasite” or “baby”.

    Rock: The problem with your argument, and one of the reasons I believe Amp consciously chose to not delve into the “personhood debate”, is that, scientifically, we have not been able to determine an empircal measure for when an organism becomes a “person”. Without science, all we have left is personal opinions. If you need proof to see how diverse those are, just take a gander at the discussion Steve and Dianne are having right now. Heck, look at my “baby” versus “parasite” paragraph above – one woman’s beautiful baby is another woman’s nightmare lifesucker. Give me a proven method for determining when “personhood” begins and I’ll stand behind you on finding a way to ensure that group’s rights. Until then, I rule in favour of the group (women) that are undisputably people.

  80. 80
    Rock says:

    Tekanji,

    I hear what you are saying. I do not believe that the lack of an empirical equals non existence of a place to start. We have yet to understand the mechanics of gravity however we all know it is there and can define many of its affects in graphic detail.

    Some of my personal philosophies, do no harm, respect life, love all people, are the basis from where I try and define the areas that are not black and white. I do understand that at conception the entire person is there less time and nourishment. From that point on nothing need be added to create a person then what is needed to sustain one. My belief in Judeo/Christian theology brings me to understand that a soul is present, and the creation is no less than the image of God. (IMO) As we cannot together prove nor disprove the definition of life, death, and personhood, I lean toward caution and care for the unborn. (As well as many other marginalized folks.)

    I do not wish to make abortion a crime. Nor do I seek to undermine a person’s choice over the free will and destiny of their body and soul. I do ask that people acknowledge that they may be mistaken, including myself, and deal in this realm with compassion and care. It is my belief that our actions should always be predicated by how they affect others. That love should (as much as our own self will and ego will allow) be the determining factor in what we do. This is why I cannot support war, violence, death penalty, and many aspects of capitalism and other political systems designed to exploit the poor and natural resources horded to benefit a small minority. (I am getting to where personal property makes less sense as well.)

    It is depressing to see people fighting over the issue of abortion, when embracing one another and caring for all the lives at stake, teaching and nurturing as we make our way in love would be far more promising and lower stress, anger, fear, control, angst, and all the other things that divide loving people and turn us into our worst definitions of ourselves. This could do much to get to a place where the battle lines would dissolve and the people on the extremes would be left standing their personal agendas dangling for all to see.

    When we start with love and compassion the vallue of life goes up. As the vallue increases, with any luck, people will cherrish it more and be less prone to treat it cheaply. Blessings.

  81. 81
    tekanji says:

    Rock: While I don’t share your views on when personhood starts (as an atheist I don’t believe in the concept of a soul, so it’s harder for me to find a clean-cut stance on the issue), I think the attitudes you’ve expressed in this posts (and the others) are good ones. I agree with the philosophies you ascribe to (although in practical terms, I find it at this time to be impossible to love people who have inflicted serious harm on myself or others) and I applaud your consistency when it comes for respecting life. Heh, thinking about it, it’s kind of sad that consistency in respect for life is something extraordinary rather than the default value, eh? But still, it’s an admirable quality.

    I also wish that the abortion debate (and in broader terms, reproductive freedom – access to BC, good sex education, and the ability for those of us who are childfree to live unmolested lives, to name the issues important to me) was made obsolete by better understanding of and caring for each other. Heck, that’s one reason why I love Amp’s post so much – I think that focusing on the common goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies is encouraging such an outcome. Unfortunately, those of us working for the same goal have been so polarized by the extremist dogma of “pro-choice vs. pro-life” that it seems impossible at this point to provide a unified example of caring and compassion to those people/groups who care nothing about the issue and everything about control and perpetuating hatred.

    If nothing else, though, this thread proves that, while all of us have different views on various issues, no matter how we identify politically (pro-choice, pro-life, anti-abortion, etc) we all want children to be born into an environment that is loving and able to provide for them. Perhaps if the debates tried to focus more on that, rather than divisive arguments, we’d see more being done to this end. Thus far, we’ve let the extremists decide the frame and all it’s gotten us is more and more vitrol being spewed forth – perhaps it’s time to take back the topic and put the focus where it belongs: on ensuring as many pregnancies as possible are wanted, and providing the means for all babies that are born to be raised in loving, caring households able to give them a good standard of living.

  82. 82
    Rock says:

    Tekanji,

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the getting back to the subject and out of the extremes, which seem to be as you say about control and not freedom. I have to admit that choice was much easier when I wasn’t a theist. I have great difficulty navigating the road of freewill and obedience to Christ. The other thing was having two kids (that are 20 and 18) just rocked the way I saw this new life. One thing I do know is according to my faith, judgment is not ours, I am perplexed why more of the Fundamentalist folks do not get it? I do not understand why taking up a position across the valley and tossing stones is part of the body of Christ? How do we restrict BC, demonize real sex and relational education, and cut off social welfare and healthcare and think somehow abortion is going to go away? I can see why many lose patience and strike out in anger; (it is all I can do to control mine some times.) However when we do give in to argument, we hand control to the other person. The way to get through is by sticking to the truth as you know it, and explaining that we are trying to get to the same outcome, we aren’t going to agree 100% but who does? Thank you for your encouragement. Blessings.

  83. 83
    LAmom says:

    Hi. I’m just seeing this post for the first time. Since you said that you really want to hear pro-lifers views on this, I’m going to take the liberty of responding without reading all 82 of the previous comments. If I’m redundant, just ignore me.

    The questions were:
    Do you forsee a time when pro-choicers will give up our most heartfelt goals, and stop finding ways to make abortion available?

    No. Only perhaps a time when the situation had improved so much regarding access to contraception and support for pregnant women and mothers that fewer people would see abortion rights as an issue of dire importance.

    Will there ever be an abortion ban in the United States that vastly lowers our abortion rate?

    No. Legal means alone are not the answer. And as long as women are as unsupported as they are now, no abortion ban would last very long anyway. If abortion were legally banned in the current climate, all that would happen is that the pro-choice side would get more fired up than ever, the segment of the public that currently supports them in thought only would get active, and the bans would be overturned sooner or later. A big political tug-of-war, not a lot of babies being saved.

    I believe (you will probably disagree) that some of the 55% of Americans who believe that abortion should be legal in some or all cases do so out of a feeling that abortion is “a necessary evil.” The more we can do to support women’s reproductive freedom on other fronts, the less they will see abortion as necessary.

    And since saving baby lives (or what you folks consider to be baby lives) should be more important than opposing birth control and welfare, shouldn’t you be willing to consider supporting policies that are empirically associated with low abortion rates in the real world?

    This would be more a question for people who don’t like birth control and welfare. I’m in favor of both of those.

    When you stated, though, that pro-choice policies lower abortion rates, did you mean “pro-choice” in terms of giving women freedom to prevent pregnancy or to still have a life (job, education, respect, etc.) if they become pregnant? Or do you feel that the specific policy of making abortion readily available leads to lower abortion rates? Are there any countries that have all of the pro-woman policies that you and I both would love to see, but have banned abortion?

  84. 84
    LAmom says:

    Add to previous comment: I should say specifically that because of the things I’ve stated, I believe that attacking the problem through legal means is not the best use of pro-lifers’ time and energy. We would do well to spend the majority of our time on measures that support women and children.

  85. 85
    Dan says:

    I am a pro-lifer who reads these sorts of blogs to see how the other side thinks. It fascinates me at one level, saddens me at another. The difference between a pro-lifer and someone who is pro-choice boils down to a very profound difference in values. A person who is pro-life thinks– more than thinks, feels in his or her bones — that all human life has inestimatble value, i.e, that nothing is more important than human life — not money, not status, not personal comfort or convenience, and not hardship. We believe– in an important sense we know — that this is true regardles of how weak or young or defenseless the human life is. Indeed, because we feel in our bones that human life intrisically has inestimable value, what stage of life the person is at is irrelevant to thequestion of whether the person merits love and protection. Thus, when we hear that a woman aborts because she is poor and can’t afford to raiseanother child, we feel compassion for the woman but are not persuaded that her circumstances justifiedthe killing of her unborn child — no circumstance (save the exceptionally rare instances when the mother’s life is threatened) ever justifies the killing of an innocent child. There are always better solutions than lethal violence. As Cardinal O’Connor once put it, “I may be poor — but I’m alive! I may be crippled — but I’m alive! I may be unwanted by my mother — but I’m alive! But if I’m aborted, there is no hope for me.” The pro-choicers think, apparently, that it is better to be dead than to be poor or crippled. It is this that I find sad.

    I’ve been on the other side. For many years I was a classic liberal, always voted Democratic, etc. The abortion issue casued me to stop voting Democratic, and has left me in a political wildnerness since I am not a Republican. I will never vote Democratic so long as it continues its love affair with abortion. Liberals claim to have big hearts. Why can’t they find room in their hearts for the tiny unborn child?

  86. 86
    Ampersand says:

    You know, Dan, thousands of women die every year in African countries in which pro-lifers have succeeded in banning abortion. I guess if I wanted to take a cheap shot in return, I could ask why, since Christians claim to have big hearts, there’s no room in your heart for dead African mothers.

    But I’m not going to ask that question, because the way that so many people think that cheap shots are a substitute for debate is part of the problem, in my view. I’d rather not be part of the problem. I hope someday you come to the same conclusion.

    By the way, I like the way you completely ignored every substantive point made in the original post.

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  90. 87
    Chris says:

    DISCLAIMER: I know that there are many pro-lifers who truly believe that fetuses are human beings with rights, and that is their primary motivation. You are not the pro-lifers I refer to in the following post.

    “Amp is essentially asking us to buy a pig in a poke – to select for policies on the basis of a statistic that doesn’t in and of itself adequately measure what we consider important – the natal culture of our society.”–Robert

    Oh, and here I thought what pro-lifers considered important was the lives of innocent babies!

    Oh, wait, no, I didn’t think that. I knew that your precious “natal culture” was far more important than any human lives you claim are being destroyed.

    Let’s all thank Robert and the others for coming right out and admitting what their real goal is: to pressure women into having babies whether they want to or not, in order to preserve America from the threat of minorities.

    Oh, sure, you’ve still got some smokescreens up. You may admit that you don’t actually care about the deaths of babies, rather than how many people are actually getting pregnant, but you wouldn’t want to give away everything right? So instead of just coming out and admitting to being both a sexist and a racist, you make ludicrous, apocalyptic scenarios in which a decrease in pregnancy rates somehow signals that people will eventually stop procreating altogether, and the human race will die out due to no one wanting babies anymore. And before this happens, every last vestige of American culture will somehow magically disappear, because there are no such things as museums in this dystopian future.

    I’m sorry, I know we were told to be polite and respectful–but give me a fucking break. This argument is absolutely ridiculous, it doesn’t make sense, and its a very thin cover for absolute misogyny and racism.

    Oh, and this:

    “Some men flirt with danger – I go right up and give it a full bore kiss with tongue.”–Robert

    You go, you big strong man, you.

    Ugh.

  91. 88
    Chris says:

    Let me correct something in my last post: the “others” I implicated along with Robert apparently don’t exist, or at least they are not on this thread. I didn’t read all the way through the thread and badly misinterpreted the words of some other posters and thought that they were in agreement with him. Apologies.

  92. 89
    Megan says:

    Hi! I realize that I’m VERY late to this conversation, so let me apologize for that. I just wanted to make the quick point that not all pro-lifers are opposed to free contraceptives, social support, and programs to help the family raise the child. I know that pro-life democrats aren’t the norm, but there are a few of us. I personally find it deplorable that so many want to force women to have babies only to leave the family in dire needs afterward. (Activist and author Shane Claiborne calls these people merely pro-birth, not pro-life.) But you have to understand that we are convicted that abortion is murder and will work just as passionately for this conviction as pro-choicers work for theirs. This doesn’t mean that both sides shouldn’t work together to help educate the public about contraceptives and then provide services to the child and his/her family both before AND after birth.