(Very) Basic Economics and Abortion

I’ve been debating abortion a little on the comments of Post Tenebras Lux (from which I swiped the title of this post). I’m reposting some of my comments here. somewhat edited.

Xon wrote (in part):

If people know that they can get abortions without facing any legal consequences, then this will lead to more people having abortions than we would see when legal penalties are attached. Making abortion legal makes it “cost” less to the people who are considering it (legal risk is reduced almost entirely, the cost of the procedure comes down since it is no longer a black market good). Lower cost means higher demand. So we should expect to see more abortions performed after Roe v. Wade than we saw before. And what do we actually see? Bingo.

How successful has the war on drugs been at lowering demand for pot? How successful was prohibition at lowering demand for alcohol?

Let’s introduce another concept from (very) basic economics into the discussion: elasticity of demand. I’d argue that for pregnant women who don’t want to be mothers, the demand for abortion is extremely inelastic. If I’m correct, then raising the price of abortions – for instance, by making abortions illegal – will have a relatively small impact on demand.

The problem with before-and-after Roe v Wade abortion rate comparisons is that too many people mix up the rate of legal and reported abortions – which obviously went up post-Roe - with the rate of abortions. But in fact, there were about a million abortions a year in the US in the few years before Roe - about the same as there were in the few years just after Roe.

What we need, to lower abortion, is a substitute for abortion. Attacking the supply side won’t do much to lower abortion rates, but attacking the demand side can work. For instance, policies which push birth control on teenagers (including the importance of always using two types at once) so hard the teens get bruised. Countries like Belgium have used this sort of policy to have the lowest abortion rates in the world. I don’t understand why pro-lifers have so little interest in imitating that.

Lux comment-writer Matt Weber responded:

I’d say that legalization of drugs, coupled with the inevitable drop in price that would accompany it, would surely lead to more people taking them. What’s so hard to believe about that?

Nothing. But you’re not understanding the concept of elasticity of demand. If something has an inelastic demand, that doesn’t mean that making it more expensive won’t have any effect on demand, just that the effect won’t be especially large.

Look, let’s say we ban drinking alcohol. That will lower demand for alcohol – but there will still be a huge demand remaining, and the black market will be substantial. That’s because demand for alcohol is pretty inelastic; you can raise the cost a lot, and people will still want it. People want alcohol very badly.

Compare that to banning RCA brand alarm clocks. Such a ban would probably be totally successful, because the demand for RCA alarms is very flexible; people will switch to Sony or Panisonic alarms and never notice the difference. Pretty much no one wants an RCA alarm badly.

Which would you guess the demand for abortion is more like – the demand for alcohol, or the demand for RCA alarms? I’d say the former. Women who want abortions often desparately want one; they’ll take on substantial trouble, risk and expense to get one.

Will you lower demand on the margins by banning abortion? Of course. But it won’t make a very big difference, because the demand for abortion is pretty inelastic.

The countries in the world with the lowest abortion rates are countries where abortion is legal – without exception. No country has ever succeeded in getting to a really low abortion rate by banning abortion.

Do you believe in the marketplace or not? If you do, then you have to admit that when the demand is high enough, the market mostly finds a way around barriers – and that includes legal barriers.

The only way to have a really low abortion rate is to lower demand, rather than banning supply. That means pushing birth control on teens as if it were oxygen, and also providing painfully generous welfare support for single mothers.

Will that have negative side effects? Maybe. But if pro-lifers are serious about lowering the abortion rate, they should be willing to consider the trade-offs. What good is an “idealogically correct” approach to lowering abortion rates, if it doesn’t actually work very well compared to other methods?

For the record though, I have no idea how an accurate statistic regarding the number of illegal abortions might be compiled.

One method is to do a representative sample survey and ask women if they’ve had an abortion. This will lead to an underestimate of the true number of abortions, since people are strongly motivated to lie about having committed illegal acts (and even where it’s legal, many women prefer not to admit having had an abortion), but it’ll at least give you a baseline to work from.

Xon responded:

My own understanding is that abortions occurred far less frequently pre Roe v. Wade, and I am not aware of anything that would support the “one million a year” number you presented. But I’m open to your evidence, bored as my inner philosopher may become (I can usually keep him under control if I need to).

Dammit, why must it always come down to evidence! :-P

Although measuring something as hidden as illegal abortions is always difficult, the best pre-Roe scholarly assessment came to a figure of about a million abortions a year (“…prior to the adoption of more moderate abortion laws in 1967, there were 1 million abortions annually nationwide, of which 8000 were legal.” From Christopher Tietze, “Abortion on request: its consequences for population trends and public health,” Seminars in Psychiatry 1970;2:375-381, quoted in JAMA December 9, 1992).

Another option is to look at what happens to birth rates; a sudden, large increase in abortions should lead to a corresponding sudden decline in the birth rate. So if Roe caused a big jump in abortions in its first few years, we’d see it as a decline in the birthrate. So what actually happened after Roe was passed?

      Year  Births   Birthrate

      1973  3,136,965   14.9
      1974  3,159,958   14.9
      1975  3,144,198   14.8
      1976  3,167,788   14.8
      1977  3,326,632   15.4
      1978  3,333,279   15.3
      1979  3,494,398   15.9
      1980  3,612,258   15.9

Similarly, what happened when Poland banned abortions in the 1990s? If pro-life policies reduce abortion significantly, there would have been a spike in Poland’s birthrate. But Poland’s birth rate remained steady. (See Reproductive Health Matters (Volume 10, Issue 19 , May 2002): “The restrictive abortion law in Poland has not increased the number of births.”)

My own argument against abortion is hardly an economic one. It is a moral argument. Abortion should be illegal because it is prima facie a form of murder (i.e., unjustified killing of a human being). There may very well be other, better ways to actually decrease its occurence, and I’m open to such suggestions. But it should be illegal on top of those other ways, for the simple fact that murder ought to be illegal regardless of the deterring effects of its illegality.

There are three questions this brings up, in my view.

First of all, has the pro-life movement actually been proposing that we treat abortion as if it were murder?

I’d say not. The most recent federal partial-birth abortion ban, for example, said that mothers absolutely cannot be punished for their part in abortion; doctors could be punished by a fine.

Is there anyone in the world willing to endorse this policy for a murdered five year old child? A mother hires a hit man to kill her five-year-old child; if that happens, should we have a law saying that no matter what the mother cannot be punished, and the most that happens to the hit man is a fine?

The argument that pro-lifers can’t consider what is practical, because of their unshakable moral commitment to treating abortion as murder, falls apart when we look at the laws pro-lifers propose.

Second question: Is the “let’s do it both ways” plan viable, or are abortion reduction strategies a binary, one-or-the-other choice?

I’d say it’s one or the other. The U.S. has a two party system; no matter how nuanced our personal positions, the real choice we make is between column D and column R. One party supports policies that have actually led to low abortion rates in the real world, but opposes a ban. The other party opposes policies that have actually led to low abortion rates, but supports a ban. And that’s our choice.

And it’s a choice that matters in the real world. If the US had an abortion rate as low as Belgium’s, that would mean something between 700,000 and 800,000 fewer abortions a year, according to my seat-of-the-pants calculations.

Which brings me to my third question. In a system that forces us to choose between one or the other, which is better: 700,000 murders potentially prevented, or 700,000 murders not prevented plus an official statement calling abortion murder?

I don’t know what Xon’s position is. But the pro-life movement as a whole clearly favors the latter policy. And I find that incomprehensible. Putting abstract principle above 700,000 lives doesn’t seem like a supportable position, to me, and certainly undermines the pro-life claim to be motivated only by caring about what happens to babies.

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183 Responses to (Very) Basic Economics and Abortion

  1. 101
    Kerlyssa says:

    gengwall-

    Why is it different when it comes to your daughters?

    I don’t understand why someone can think choice is ok for everyone except their loved ones. Is it that uncomfortable a thought that they would make a choice that is not the one you want them to make? Why is ‘my daughter is having sex’ such a jump from ‘girls are having sex’. From ‘I had sex when I was that age, with a girl who was that age’. And, even more extreme, why is ‘my daughter might choose to have sex’ so frightening that the existence of any viewpoint not completely antithetical to having sex must be blotted out? Awkward transition- sorry, gengwall, I know you aren’t someone who homeschooled out of fear of sex ed, and this part isn’t directed specifically at you.

    Going on to choices- why are parents so afraid of schools corrupting their children? Are people so insecure about their influence after raising a kid for 18 years that they would shut out anything a school has to say about biology because it might lead to a kid getting ideas? Does this come down to parents being afraid of choices being made by the kid that aren’t what the parent wants to kid to make? Should no mention of medicine be made because it might lead to children of certain religious groups choosing to have insulin injections? And, yes, that’s a valid comparison. AIDS is usually contracted via risky acts- so is adult onset diabetes.

    I don’t say ‘choices the parent would not make’ because often they are choices the parent made, and which do not bother them until the kid hits puberty and suddenly they fear him/her doing the same thing. Fear it so much that they will attack policies to lower AIDs transmission rates because of ‘moral’ reasons(where is the morality in making sex a death sentence?). Fears that lead to an attorney general being hounded because of mentioning masturbation- something that never comes up in talk of abstinence.

    Sex education, indeed. Fear seems to be the overwhelming emotion when it comes to sex and teens, and overwhelming fear is never the good thing to make decisions with.

  2. 102
    cicely says:

    gengwall writes:

    So, you are saying that you prefer a country where there is not equal protection under the law when it comes to a right to life? Who decides then, which lives are worthwhile and which we can discard? Such a law would not be “total and absolute patriarchal control”. It would be a balancing of the acknowledged women’s right to privacy and control of her own body vs. the right to life of the unborn person.

    No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that an unborn fetus is ‘not’ a person to begin with. I’ll also say that a desire to enforce Christian (mostly fundamentalist) morality on the whole US population is by far the strongest motivation behind all attempts to define a fetus as a person. (and Christianity is a patriarchal religion.) Said morality also aims to limit access to sex education and contraception as well as abortion. The outcome would be ignorant girls and women on sexual matters, who are therefore more likely to get pregnant, (not to mention other dangers) since there is nothing to suggest they will stop having sex. Poor women will inevitably suffer most, as usual. Millions of women -ignorant, shamed, barefoot and pregnant, and having to raise unwanted children. That is the outcome of the overall agenda, and the only possible way for a woman to happily reconcile herself to these enforced realities of life is to accept wholeheartedly the full hand of Christian teachings on morality. (whether her high profile male teachers adhere to them or not…but that’s another issue….) Correct me if I’m wrong.

    It would be interesting to see how Sweden classifies the unborn. My guess is that they don’t consider it a person. Or, they may have less “right to life” protections for persons than we do. I don’t know. All I know is that if someone prefers their laws, then they should go live there. I hope they don’t mind 60% taxes as well.

    That’s right. A fetus is not considered to be a person in Sweden. It is obvious to people there that women who have abortions are not committing any kind of homicide. I would not mind paying high taxes in order to fund social welfare, free healthcare, free education etc. I believe that if a nation values the safety, freedom, potential, health and dignity of all of its citizens, i.e. status as equal and worthwhile persons above the accumulation of individual personal wealth (while not completely eradicating some financial reward for work, initiative or innovation) it is a better nation to live in than one that doesn’t. However, if I was an American I might prefer to stay and work towards those ideals rather than abandon my home country to the forces that work against them, your ‘my way or the highway’ type comment notwithstanding.

  3. 103
    Rebecca E says:

    I can understand a parent not wanting his or her children to make the sort of choices that they now regret. That’s not necessarily “do as I say, not as I do” so much as it is “learn from my mistakes.” But in the end, we all still have to make our own decisions as best we can, and though we don’t always make the decisions our parents would like us to – or, indeed, the best decisions – but more often than not, we learn from it and generally turn out all right anyway. Have I learned from some of the things my parents have told me? Heck yes. Have I ignored some of the things they’ve told me? That too, sometimes to my regret, sometimes to discover, hey, they weren’t always right after all! (I am speaking here from the perspective of a 23-year-old woman, a year out of college, with generally supportive parents with plenty of stories about their youthful mistakes.)

    Personally, I think of sexual intimacy not so much as a moral issue as a matter of trust. I don’t want someone I don’t trust completely having that sort of intimacy with my body, with the potential to do harm to it through sexually transmitted disease, chance of pregnancy, chance of the relationship becoming abusive, etc. That’s just my view, and what has worked for me. When I have children, I think that’s something I can pass on to them without feeling like a hypocrite.

  4. 104
    Lu says:

    Well said, Rebecca E. I would add that denial, rationalization and self-delusion are human nature; we tell ourselves we are acting from the best and purest of motives, and we lie ourselves into all kinds of bad decisions. Teenagers, being less experienced, are less able to recognize when this is happening. I speak as a former teenager.

  5. 105
    gengwall says:

    Jake – I, of course, understand the “power dynamics” and agree that is the reason. But for the very reason the 14 year old is not mature enough to handle the power dynamics I say they are not mature enough to handle the relational dynamics of a sexual relationship.

    Kerlyssa – As far as the first part – if I get you right, it was more thinking out loud. I didn’t quite follow what response you were trying to get from me.

    Going on to choices- why are parents so afraid of schools corrupting their children?
    Because it happens.

    Are people so insecure about their influence after raising a kid for 18 years that they would shut out anything a school has to say about biology because it might lead to a kid getting ideas?
    Certainly some are. It is not an unsubstantiated fear for parents to worry that their kids won’t listen to them.

    As far as the rest, I think we are on the same side. But some parents are worried enough that they would advocate the things you raise questions about. I’m not one of them.

    I don’t say ‘choices the parent would not make’ because often they are choices the parent made, and which do not bother them until the kid hits puberty and suddenly they fear him/her doing the same thing.
    This should not surprise you. People change a lot of perspectives between adolesence and parenthood…and I should hope so. I know a few parents still living out their adolesence and it isn’t pretty.

    Fear seems to be the overwhelming emotion when it comes to sex and teens, and overwhelming fear is never the good thing to make decisions with.
    I would agree. I simply try to point out the fear that exists (even if it is irrational) that prevents many religious parents from jumping on board to a more aggressive “pregnancy prevention” agenda.

    Cicely – your points about the “personhood agenda”, if you will, may all be true. Religious fundimentalism may be the driving force but it won’t be the legal reasoning which means that all you protestation not withstanding, it may happen. What I’m trying to say is that there is a perfectly legitimate, non-religious, non-moralistic avenue for this personhood to be recognized. You may not believe it, but John Kerry and all of the opponents of UVVA do and they are scared to death.

    Rebecca – points well taken. Thanks for sharing.

    Lu – “I speak as a former teenager.” LOL

  6. 106
    Jake Squid says:

    But for the very reason the 14 year old is not mature enough to handle the power dynamics I say they are not mature enough to handle the relational dynamics of a sexual relationship.

    But I’m not saying that a 14 yr old isn’t mature enough to handle the power dynamics. I’m saying that the power imbalance inherent in a relationship between a 14 yr old & an adult make it impossible to have an egalitarian relationship and, by extension, make the chances of a consensual sexual relationship minimal at best. That power imbalance is exactly the same as you might find (to take a stereotypical example), in some circumstances, between an impoverished 39 yr old woman and a wealthy 42 yr old man. The problem w/ the power dynamic (power imbalance) I am describing has nothing to do with maturity. I knew many people when I was 16 who were mature enough to handle the “relational dynamics of a sexual relationship,” but it still would have been inappropriate for them to have a 35 yr old sexual partner. Maturity is really not the issue here, power imbalance is.

  7. 107
    gengwall says:

    OK Jake, fair enough. I see your point. I’m confident though that the possibility of finding two 14 year olds with the maturity you require in the same community that actually like each other is relatively nill. On the other hand, I think the possibility of finding scores of 14 year olds who think they have the maturity highly probable. In light of the unlikelyhodd of scenario 1 and the almost certainty of scenario 2, I go back to my original question:

    Don’t we want our teens to wait?

    Or maybe a bit more specific:

    Don’t we all think there is far less potential for emotional and even physical damage if our teens wait and therefore generally support the idea?

    Maybe I’m just an old prude. I’m comfortable with that.

  8. 108
    Niels Jackson says:

    From the original post:

    Another option is to look at what happens to birth rates; a sudden, large increase in abortions should lead to a corresponding sudden decline in the birth rate. So if Roe caused a big jump in abortions in its first few years, we’d see it as a decline in the birthrate.

    Hold on: Who says that an increase in abortions would make the birth rate go down? That isn’t necessarily true at all.

    Say there are 1,000,000 pregnancies a year in 1972, and 500,000 result in abortion. (Using round numbers to make the math easier on me.) Number of births: Also 500,000. Then abortion becomes legal in 1973, and there are still 500,000 births. From that fact, you’re deducing that the number of abortions stayed around 500,000 as well.

    This is a non sequitur. It’s been pointed out before, but the legalization of abortion changes the way that people think about sex and birth control. After Roe, the rate of STDs went up, for example, because people weren’t as careful about using condoms. (See the work of Jonathan Klick on this.) And as Steven Levitt points out, the rate of conceptions went up substantially after Roe, even while the birth rate went slightly down.

    So maybe the real numbers would be something more like this: After Roe, 1,300,000 women get pregnant (an extra 300,000, compared to pre-Roe). The same 500,000 give birth (thus, the same birth rate). But there are 800,000 abortions — meaning that the abortion rate ROSE even while the birth rate stayed the same.

    Now those are made-up figures, but they show how it is perfectly possible for the birth rate to stay the same while abortions rise — if more women are getting pregnant because they (or their partners) aren’t as careful about using birth control.

    Thus, Amp is clearly wrong in claiming that a steady birthrate PROVES that abortions didn’t go up.

  9. 109
    Jake Squid says:

    Don’t we want our teens to wait?

    Or maybe a bit more specific:

    Don’t we all think there is far less potential for emotional and even physical damage if our teens wait and therefore generally support the idea?

    Let me ask again, for what do we want our teens to wait?

    I don’t think that there is less potential for emotional or physical damage if teens wait until they are 21 or are married. Part of the reason that sexual relationships tend to be more physically & emotionally fulfilling when we are adults is our experience with sex & sexual relationships.

    Look, my first sexual relationship was a truly fucked up thing, physically & emotionally. In retrospect, I can see that my lack of experience with all things sexual was why I couldn’t see it. If I’d had several emotionally jarring or hurtful experiences as well as one or more good and fulfulling relationships between the ages of 14 or 15 or 16 and 21 I might have known better than to stick around for a decade of abuse. My second sexual relationship, OTOH, has been wonderful – in large part due to my experience. Although admittedly anectodal, I’ve known several other people who didn’t have a sexual relationship until their 20′s describe the same thing – lack of experience was a large component in miserable sexual relationships.

    As long as I knew the physical risks and the precautions available and honest information on what prevents what with what percentage certainty, it may have been better if I hadn’t waited until I was 21.

    Given that nothing has prevented kids from having sex in the past, wouldn’t it be better to give them all of the information about it that we can? Or do you have a new strategy that hasn’t been tried before that you think will greatly reduce teenage sexual activity?

  10. 110
    gengwall says:

    alsis39 – Sorry, I missed your post.

    Seems to me that it’s always been an accepted thing in this culture for men and boys to “educate” themselves about sex. That is, a man should not go to his marriage bed a virgin, though his bride most definitely should…
    I often suspect that when the average Fundie is talking about “kids knowing too much,” they really mean that “girls know too much.” In the worldview that creates the Fundie ideal of marriage, the stability of the marriage is based upon experienced male/inexperienced female.

    Although I agree to a point about the culture as a whole I would strongly disagree within the fundie sub-culture. The fundamentalist Christian philosophy with which I am familiar calls for virginity in both sexes. Although it may not always play out that way, that is the expectation even amongst the males. It is harder for fundie males to adhere to this philosophy because of the contrast in the culture as a whole that they live in. But that doesn’t change the underlying belief.

    Don’t get me wrong, the church has got plenty of problems regarding sexuality. Those problems occur in both sexes and across generations. But when your average fundie talks about “kids knowing too much”, they really do mean both boys and girls.

  11. 111
    gengwall says:

    I certainly acknowledge your personal experience and those of others you know. I can tell other’s stories who had the opposite experience. That doesn’t change the reality of either. So I’ll skip to the end

    Given that nothing has prevented kids from having sex in the past, wouldn’t it be better to give them all of the information about it that we can? Or do you have a new strategy that hasn’t been tried before that you think will greatly reduce teenage sexual activity?

    I have a completely different (and probably foreign to you) perspective on the purpose for sex. So, any strategy I would have would probably sound either silly or impossible to you. I’m ok with that; I don’t expect you to subscribe or agree with my philosophies. My only issue is this presumption that “it is inevitable that kids will have sex, so why not help them along”. Even if it is inevitable that some kids will have sex doesn’t mean I think it is a good idea and therefore I don’t want to help it along. As a matter of fact, I want to get in the way as much as I can. The younger they are, the more I want to put up road blocks and the more I think it is a mistake. (seriously Jake, 14 year olds?) That in no way means I think we should keep them ignorant (something I was accused of on another thread here at Alas). I don’t think I have indicated at all that I am against sex education. But that doesn’t mean I accept that it is a good idea for 14 year olds to be sexually active.

    Now I willingly admit that fundamentalist Christians are in a horrible bind here. What we advocate goes not only against culture but also against biology. To illustrate I will share something a speaker shared with our Jr. High kids at church. I don’t remember the exact statistics but this is close enough:

    100 (or 200 or 500?) years ago the average age for the onset of puberty was 15 and the average age of marriage was 18. So, the most the average kid had to put with raging hormones was about 3 years. Now, the average age for the onset of puberty is 12 and the average age of marriage is well into the twenties. Obviously, the burden on young people now is much greater.

    So, I know there is a problem out there, but the underpinning for my morality, the biblical principals for sex and marriage, have not changed. And across the fundie spectrum, those underpinnigs make us suspicious and resistent to anything that would make this difficult challenge (keeping our kids virgins) even more problematic.

    I hope that makes sense. I mean, I’m trying to convince you to subscribe to this philosophy. I just want you to understand where we are coming from and why it is so hard for us to get behind any, let alone a more aggressive contraception pushing, sex ed policy. Do I think we are being smart about it? No. Do I think teens should wait? Yes. Do I think I’ll convince you? No. Am I done now? Yes. :-)

  12. 112
    gengwall says:

    Crap – Jake – I meant in the last paragraph that I am NOT trying to get you to subscribe to this philosophy. Gee I wish we could edit comments.

  13. 113
    Jake Squid says:

    Gengwall,

    I appreciate your position and your goal. My question really comes down to:

    What are your strategies for dealing with teenage sexuality? (I may have missed it or forgotten it)
    Are your strategies effective in meeting your goal?
    Do your strategies for dealing with teenage sexuality do more good than harm or the other way around?

    I mean, when you write:
    …and why it is so hard for us to get behind any, let alone a more aggressive contraception pushing, sex ed policy.

    I don’t see how you (in the general sense) are doing anything to achieve your goal as you have clearly stated that you don’t want to keep kids ignorant. In fact, this seems antithetical to the desire to educate kids about sex.

    The younger they are, the more I want to put up road blocks and the more I think it is a mistake.

    What kind of roadblocks? My impression is that the roadblocks you refer to are a combination of shaming, lack of access to contraception and, although you profess to the opposite belief, ignorance. Have those things ever kept kids from having sex? Why would it be any different now?

    I think that you can see by my questions that I just don’t understand what you are advocating. Well, I understand the generalities. I just don’t understand what policies you would wish to put in place to achieve your goals.

  14. 114
    gengwall says:

    Jake – Oooooh *light bulb goes on over head*.

    OK – I guess the best way to realte this is to talk about my kids – something I like to do anyway.

    We have always been very open with our daughters on two fronts: sexuality, and the bible’s (and therefore, our) view on it (or at least our interpretation of it which I think is pretty mainstream fundie-wise).

    So, we have said that we do not believe God blesses or desires sex before marriage, and we point ou t our basis in the bible for those beliefs. But we recognize that many people either defy that (those who believe it) or do not adhere to it. We have shared with them our stories of sex before marriage and have related how those experiences actually did much to damage our intimacy within marriage (that’s our story at least). We have also told them it is our belief that younger people (I am not comfortable necessarily with an arbitrary line) are almost always not prepared for intimate relationships. We have shown them, and they know personally of friends, where the consequences of sex at a young age have been life changing, not for the good (the number of teen pregnancies in the church continues to astound me but goes very much to your earlier points about teens always are going to do it).

    Considering these beliefs, therefore, while they were not adults we put rules and policies in place to help protect them from getting themselves “in too deep”. We did not prevent them from dating, but the knowledge of their Christian home life and our beliefs steered most boys away from them. That is to say, they didn’t date much. But had they, we would have had very specific rules about when and in what environments they could be together with their dates. Again, this was to protect them from “getting in trouble”. It was also so they could get to know the boys without having the added sexual tension which seems to be prevelant all around them.

    From a personal perspective, I was open about how boys work. I told them about the effects on a boy of flirting, especially very physical flirting. We discussed clothing with them and I shared the effects certain clothes can have on boys. And I explained how dangerous and, actually, mean sexual teasing can be.

    Now, my girls turned out pretty “good” (they are virgins and share, at least now, our perspective on sexuality. They are 18 and 20 right now). Some times it amazes me. I asked them not too long ago how it is they turned out so good when so many other kids we know in the church who have these really conservative wholesome parents seem to turn out so “bad”. There answer was quite instructive.

    They said there were four keys (none had anything to do with our “morality”, curiously enough).

    1) we were always open with them and we didn’t stick our head in the sand when it came to the realities of life. We answered any questions they had and made them look at the world (and boys in particular) in a way that nobody else (especially their peers and church people) had. Moreover, they observed that what we said was true. Through observation they saw that what we were sharing about boys and girls and how they act toward each other and are affected by each other was true.

    2) We never made them feel like they needed to have a boyfriend to be complete. They always felt accepted just the way they were (they were very active in many things). This is especially significant considering our generic 14 year old. They recognized, instinctively then and explicitely now, how our culture has shaped junior high girls perspective on life so that they do not feel self worth unless they have a boyfriend. Since those boyfriends ultimately make sex a condition of continued dating (a whole different peer problem), they are forced into sexual activity to maintain their feeling of self worth. Our daughters never fell into this trap.

    3 ) Our rules seemed sensible. Our kids had a lot of freedom. But they knew specifically where the boundaries were. They appreciated that and even though they would have liked to have no boundaries, they now acknowledge that they were essential and they recognize that they were in place for their protection. They also have acknowledged that they were not mature enough to handle some of the things that they would have been confronted with had those rules and boundaries not been in place.

    4) They knew we loved them unconditionally and that love would not change if they made a mistake.

    None of this gaurenteed they would share the same moral convictions we do. None of it gaurentees that they will continue on this way now that they are adults. But it got them through the teen years relatively unscathed, and, I believe, well prepared for what lies ahead.

  15. 115
    Jake Squid says:

    Gengwall,

    What you have written is great on a family level. I have no quibbles with how you chose to raise your children & I’m glad that it worked out well for your family.

    However (and you knew that was coming), I don’t see how that family history relates to public policy as you would like to see it. What do you think sex ed. should be like in public schools? How accessible or inaccessible should contraception be? How do you translate your interactions/guidance to your children regarding dating and sex into the wider world of public institutions & public policy? I mean, according to you, even within your church pre-adult, pre-marriage sex is happening. What policies is your church advocating or practicing that have helped to reduce the problem?

    I think that we are talking past each other. I am talking about public policy and you are talking about private parenting. I have no objections to your private parenting as you have related it. But I don’t see what that has to do with public policy towards sex education and teenage sexuality nor do I understand what public policy you are advocating. What am I missing?

  16. 116
    alsis39 says:

    gengwall wrote:

    The fundamentalist Christian philosophy with which I am familiar calls for virginity in both sexes. Although it may not always play out that way, that is the expectation even amongst the males. It is harder for fundie males to adhere to this philosophy because of the contrast in the culture as a whole that they live in. But that doesn’t change the underlying belief.

    Well, the important part to me, gengwall, is watching how people act, not how they discuss their actions in relation to the fantasy world of the Bible or their own ideals and aspirations. In terms of action, it’s obvious that men are simply not scrutinized and punished for their supposed sexual transgressions in the same manner that women are.

    Just one example: Why are Fundies so obsessed with forcing wives to notify husbands if they plan on aborting ? Why aren’t they all fired up about forcing husbands to notify wives if they plan to get vasectomies, for example ? For that matter, why is it only important for women to notify men of an impending abortion if the couple is married ? Is it somehow more exusable to abort a fetus conceived out of wedlock because it’s less valuable without the umbrella of marriage ? Is the soul of the “murderous” unmarried woman less important than that of her married sister in the grand scheme of things because the former’s already a damned/doomed Jezebel, anyway ?

    I don’t know if you see what I’m driving at here, so I’ll be even blunter: This particular folly on behalf of Fundies and their enablers/apologists makes it clear that they consider women to be no more capable of governing our own sexuality than is an animal in a zoo, and the proper role for men is to govern the sexuality of women. Meanwhile, a man’s own sexuality, whether thoroughly depraved or aglow with Biblical virtue, is above questioning or condemnation in the public arena. Such attempts at law reinforce a fantasy –one transparent to anyone with common sense– that men, left to their own devices and Godly guidance, will behave morally –but that women, left to their own devices and Godly guidance, will behave immorally.

    What a great advertisement for atheism. :p

    I also reiterate my belief that there is less contrast than you might think between how secular and conservative religious societies view men, women, and attendent double standards. Secular soceity grew out of religious society, after all. Think of the old saying about how some portion of good or evil will inevitably travel with people like so much baggage no matter how far across the frontier they might go to make a new home.

  17. 117
    Jen says:

    Economics will have no impact on this situation. Opinions on abortion relate to a feeling of right or wrong which ignores economics and last time I checked statistics showed opinions to be fairly evenly divided on the issue. Legalization or not will not change people’s minds. Prediction: it will alway remain legal with the same tired arguments continuing.

  18. 118
    cicely says:

    Cicely – your points about the “personhood agenda”, if you will, may all be true. Religious fundimentalism may be the driving force but it won’t be the legal reasoning which means that all you protestation not withstanding, it may happen. What I’m trying to say is that there is a perfectly legitimate, non-religious, non-moralistic avenue for this personhood to be recognized. You may not believe it, but John Kerry and all of the opponents of UVVA do and they are scared to death.

    ‘Avenue’ is the key word here, gengwall. Political strategies inolving lawyers, sympathetic politicians, sympathetic social commentators and so on. I have recently watched on Australian teleision the US documentary “The Last Abortion Clinic” and seen these processes work to eliminate all but one abortion clinic in Mississippi, and at the time, legal requirements had been set up to upgrade that last remaining facility to meet possibly unreachable or unaffordable standards, and certainly unnecessary ones for the safety of the women in need of the facility. It was sheer strategy and pretence to claim that the womens health and safety was the motivation. The goal, as with many other requirements, is to make abortion as difficult to impossible to obtain in practical terms, particularly for poor women, the easiest targets, regardless of its Federal ‘legality’ as per Roe v Wade. (Does anyone know whether the Mississippi clinic is still operating?)

    The same would be true of the ‘fetus as person’ issue. It’s a question of strategy, political power and position. Finally, the people with the power make the rules, and this has very little to do with what is real and true. I submit again that however it may come about, any legal declaration that a fetus is a person will reflect a Christian standard which would be being imposed on a population which includes many non-christians as well as, I imagine, some christians who are pro-choice on the abortion issue. It would not reflect the reality that most women have never, and ‘will’ never regard abortion as homicide of any description. I respect your right to your own views, gengwall, but where they have political power to place severe limitations on the choices that people who don’t share them can make, I see intolerance, repression and oppression. I don’t see how you could argue otherwise.

    alsis 39 writes:

    I also reiterate my belief that there is less contrast than you might think between how secular and conservative religious societies view men, women, and attendent double standards. Secular soceity grew out of religious society, after all. Think of the old saying about how some portion of good or evil will inevitably travel with people like so much baggage no matter how far across the frontier they might go to make a new home.

    Broadly speaking I agree with this. Patriarchy is a whole raft of double standards keeping women at a disadvantage almost everywhere you look, because secular society did grow out of religious society. The abortion issue is just at the very pointy end of patriarchal power – it’s about the most fundamental of human rights – bodily integrity. If society wasn’t patriarchal this issue wouldn’t even be on the table. However, in the developed world, the less influence religion has in governance, the greater the freedoms of women appear to be.

    Jen writes:

    Economics will have no impact on this situation. Opinions on abortion relate to a feeling of right or wrong which ignores economics and last time I checked statistics showed opinions to be fairly evenly divided on the issue. Legalization or not will not change people’s minds. Prediction: it will alway remain legal with the same tired arguments continuing.

    As above – unortunately it’s easy to see how abortion could remain technically legal but practically impossible to obtain. (fetus as person or not…) For example, in the case in Mississipi, it is a requirement that women visit the clinic more times than necessary to have the procedure performed with knowledge of options, safety etc all considered. A poor woman rang in with an enquiry but hung up the phone as the time off work and transport problems she’d need to overcome to go through the whole process overwhelmed her. She will no doubt be joining the growing number of young women in Mississippi who have been forced, because of a lack of financial resources, into single parenthood.

  19. 119
    sophonisba says:

    From a personal perspective, I was open about how boys work. I told them about the effects on a boy of flirting, especially very physical flirting. We discussed clothing with them and I shared the effects certain clothes can have on boys. And I explained how dangerous and, actually, mean sexual teasing can be.

    And this prepared them for the way their own bodies work, the effects on them of flirting, especially physical flirting, the effects certain clothes can have on them, and how dangerous and mean sexual teasing can be to them – how, exactly? Or did you perhaps have enough empathy to understand that girls have eyes and physical bodies, just like boys do, and that therefore you might try to talk to them about how sex makes them feel, not about how they make boys feel? Because the way you tell it, it doesn’t sound like you understand them to be sexual subjects at all, only objects of the desire of others.

    It honestly sounds like you told them how to resist male physical urges without a word about their own.

  20. 120
    gengwall says:

    Good points all. A couple of responses

    Jake – OK – public policy. I don’t think it is good public policy for teachers or other public service communicators to say sex is “bad”. I think that is what some others have been getting at (another light bulb went on). I also don’t think it is good policy to say sex is ineveitable. I would prefer a public policy that stresses that sexual relationships carry a lot of potential dangers and responsibilities and so they are not for everyone at every time in their life. They especially are not for young people who, quite frankly, have a lot better things to do with their life at that age than have sex. Of course I don’t think they should word that exactly that way but that should be the message – it’s ok to wait. Then, the message should continue by saying that “never-the-less, some of you will choose to engage in sexual activity”. In that case, we take Amps approach and “push birth control on them until they get bruised”.

    Now I have to say that family dynamics still are an important part of public policy. Parents have to wise up a lot more as well. which brings me to:

    alsis39 wrote-In terms of action, it’s obvious that men are simply not scrutinized and punished for their supposed sexual transgressions in the same manner that women are.

    Sad but true. But overall I don’t think it is as lopsided as you do. Most Christian men I know (certainly not all) view their wives as equal partners in their relationship and a good number (not nearly enough) do not promote the male dominant philosophy you describe onto their sons. But, you and I move in different circles so our experiences are certain to be different. I also acknowledge that my experiences are far from reflective of the world in general. What you describe certainly is prevelant out there and, since I have daughters, is something I try to make them acutely aware of. But the sub-culture of fundies which you describe is completely foreign to me. It certainly does not reflect the fundie world I live in.

    I would contest this notion though:

    Why are Fundies so obsessed with forcing wives to notify husbands if they plan on aborting ? Why aren’t they all fired up about forcing husbands to notify wives if they plan to get vasectomies, for example ?

    I personally have no problem with either scenario. I absolutely think a husband should inform his wife before getting a vasectomy. Most people I am aquainted with would say the same. I would be curious to see any studies that back up your contention.

    cicely – your unmasking of the “strategy, political power, and position” approach is valid, but not uniquely pro-life. Both sides play this game.

    My bottom line is that I consider the unborn to be a person. I don’t think that because of any strategic, political position. I think it because, as I read it, biology and the bible tell me so. With that perspective, it is not “intolerance, repression and oppression” for me to consider abortion wrong because the unjustified killing of a person is wrong. There are a number of points where you could disagree with my perspective, and I respect those also. I do not think that you are being any of the things you think I am being even though I think your postition is incorrect. Put bluntly, I don’t think you are a bad person.

    But, a lot of pro-lifers might think you are a bad person. I think they are narrow minded and illogical. I also think they are arguing out of the wrong side of their mouth. They are on my side regarding outcome, but not on my side regarding strategy and argument to achieve that outcome.

    Let me put it this way. If we all can determine that the founders and civil war amendment writers did not consider the unborn to be a person (Roe left that door open), even if biology and the bible do, I have no problem with Roe. On the other hand, if we all can determine that the founders et al did mean to include the unborn in their definition of persons, whether or not biology and the bible do, then we all should be against abortion. I think that is a great debate to have, but it is off topic again. Here, we are trying to figure out if there is common ground so that we could eliminate unwanted pregnancy through public policy, not abortion through legislation.

    sophonisba – you sound like a “sameness” advocate. I simply don’t want to even get into a debate with you because we would never agree on the underlying premiss. Specifically, you have no idea what goes on in my home. I write way too much as it is and in my previous post I tried to write just enough to get my point across. But, to set your mind at ease, my daughters are well informed about their bodies and their sexuality.

  21. 121
    cicely says:

    My bottom line is that I consider the unborn to be a person. I don’t think that because of any strategic, political position. I think it because, as I read it, biology and the bible tell me so.

    I’m not sure about the biology, gengwall, but I would imagine that in all countries where abortion is legal, fetuses can’t possibly be considered persons on biological grounds. So biology is open to interpretation? I have to go back and read the other thread on this one…and it’s getting late…

    Can I ask you to respond to something else I’ve been saying? Women get pregnant; women give birth or have abortions; women have been having abortions or attempting to have abortions under whatever conditions existed since the year dot. And women do not consider our sex to be mass murderers. Do you concede that if it were up to women to make laws around abortion, it would be legal and safe almost if not actually everywhere in the world? If not, why not, and if so, can you explain how is it not raw patriarchal power to forbid it?

  22. 122
    cicely says:

    how it is not – raw patriarchal power – is of course what I meant to write…

  23. 123
    gengwall says:

    cicely

    Do you concede that if it were up to women to make laws around abortion, it would be legal and safe almost if not actually everywhere in the world?

    Well, I’m not sure. A lot of women think the way I do, after all. But I suppose you would argue that that is because they are under this patriarchal influence. If we assume that to be correct, and they were subsequently freed from this influence, I might agree. But I don’t agree with the premise. Specifically – “women do not consider our sex to be mass murderers.” I’m certain the women that you know do not. I assure you the women I know do. You, again, would claim that is because the men I know are all patriarchal power mongers. I, again, would disagree with that claim. So, I think we are at an impass on this point. Or at least, in your world you are absolutely right and in my world you are most assuredly wrong.

    If not, why not, and if so, can you explain how is it not raw patriarchal power to forbid it?

    For the very reasons I’ve been giving. There is nothing patriarchal about God’s love for and knowledge of us even in the womb. I consider that a recognition of personhood. It is debateable, admitedly, but it is what I believe and that belief has nothing to do with patriarchy.

    There is also nothing patriarchal about my biological arguments. Again, we can have that debate, but my reasoning does not reflect any kind of male dominance over women. The biological arguments for personhood of the unborn are gender neutral.

    I would admit that the end result by and large can be considered patriarchal. In other words, in the end analysis, women are being subjected a gender specific prohibition (if abortion is banned) while men can go merily along jumping whoever they please. One response would be – “blame Eve”. But that’s pretty patriarchal in itself, even if it is biblical. Another response would be – “its all circumstantial”. After all, it is only women that can get pregnant. But that seems to absolve men of the equal responsibility they share in the circumstance. Again, the patriarchy persists. My response is, killing is killing. There are many homocides that are more “justified”, or at least, more understandable, than others, but they still are criminal. There are a few that are so justified that they are not criminal. So, I would say that if you can make a convincing argument that abortion (other than self defense which is already justified) is so justified that it should not be criminal, I would accept that. I have not heard such an argument to my satisfaction yet. You may say I never will because of an inherent patriarchal disposition. I would say, you don’t know me well enough to come to that conclusion.

  24. 124
    gengwall says:

    Jake – Here, I think I said it much better in a post on christianity.com where we are debating the exact same thing in the Current Events forum.

    I think we could do a much better job (both parents and schools) of encouraging kids not to “do it” and a much better job of promoting contraception use if they still choose to ignore us.

  25. 125
    Kerlyssa says:

    gengwall: The justifiable homicide idea has been addressed before. Even if a fetus had status as a fullperson, no human being has the right to the body of another, and a person is fully justified in this country(usa) with killing someone who tries to infringe that right.

  26. 126
    gengwall says:

    Kerlyssa – Maybe settled in your mind but not in the law. UVVA and even Justice Blackmun in the Roe opinion disagree.

    But let’s talk about policies that would make abortions rare without making them illegal.

  27. 127
    alsis39 says:

    gengwall wrote:

    I personally have no problem with either scenario. I absolutely think a husband should inform his wife before getting a vasectomy. Most people I am aquainted with would say the same. I would be curious to see any studies that back up your contention.

    But you know that I’m not talking about beliefs in and of themselves. I’m talking about beliefs that some people –usually Fundamentalist Christians– seem obsessed with transmuting into actual laws. Anyone who reads a newspaper once a week somewhere in the U.S. has probably heard of Anti-Choice Parental Notification Laws. I have never heard of any law coming down the pike in any state called the Vasectomy Notification Law. Have you ?

  28. 128
    gengwall says:

    alsis – well, that has been brought up a number of times on the Alito threads. So far, only anecdotal evidence has been given to indicate that some states require spousal notification for sterilization procedures. Try as I might, (and I haven’t tried that hard) I can’t find any statutory support. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any state laws. I do know that the actual providers often insist on spousal notification as a matter of practice, even if the law doesn’t require it. When my wife had her tubes tied, they would not proceed until I confirmed that I had been notified.

    But that wasn’t the point I was responding to. You asserted that fundies would object to spousal notification for sterilization and I disagree with that. Not only would I not object, but no one I know (and we do talk about this stuff) would either. So, state laws or not, your characterization of us is false. So, do you have any evidence that fundimentalist Christians are against spousal notification for sterilization?

  29. 129
    alsis39 says:

    My evidence, gengwall, is that the punitive laws in various states regarding control of reproduction operate on the assumption that women and girls knock ourselves up. Only our anatomy is to come under Church/State scrutiny. Not male anatomy. Ours.

    If any laws are coming down the plank that would, say, confine husbands in giant electrical chastity belts until their wives said their sperm was free to roam and be fruitful, I have not heard of them.

  30. 130
    Kali says:

    “There is nothing patriarchal about God’s love for and knowledge of us even in the womb. I consider that a recognition of personhood. It is debateable, admitedly, but it is what I believe and that belief has nothing to do with patriarchy.”

    To translate your personal beliefs into laws forced upon others who disagree with you, and the primary victims of which are women, has everything to do with patriarchy.

    The double standards in balancing “bodily integrity” with “right to life” also has a lot to do with patriarchy. “Bodily integrity” trumps “right to life” when it is men’s bodily integrity on the line, and the other way around when it is women’s bodily integrity on the line. Which is why courts have ruled that it is a violation of a man’s human rights to be forced to donate bone marrow for a cousin whose body would not accept anyone else’s bone marrow. But courts have been relatively comfortable in tying down pregnant women for forced c-sections, with no repurcussions even for killing the woman in the process. It boils down to beliefs about how violable women’s vs. men’s bodies are – very patriarchal beliefs about women as property, despite the attempt to put a face of religious piety and concern for the fetus on it.

  31. 131
    gengwall says:

    Kali – I would absolutely not want my personal beliefs translated into law and I’m quite certain the founders felt the same. I simply offer them up to indicate why my stance is not patriarchal.

    But courts have been relatively comfortable in tying down pregnant women for forced c-sections, with no repurcussions even for killing the woman in the process.

    A little background please. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Certainly, the bone marrow thing is gender specific. A female would be no more required to provide the bone marrow than a male.

    Alsis – LOL on your comment.
    I’ve been through about have of the state statutes so far and do not find anything remotely close to a notification requirement for sterilization. I did find this interesting statute in LA though.

    RS 40:4.2 Jambalaya; preparation in traditional manner

    Notwithstanding any contrary provisions of the state sanitary code or any contrary provision of any other law or regulation, it shall be lawful to prepare jambalaya in the traditional manner for public consumption, including the use of iron pots, wood fires, and preparation in the open for service to the public at public gatherings. This Section shall not be construed to allow the sale or distribution of any unwholesome food.

    It doesn’t apply, but I thought it would also add a little levity to the discussion.

  32. 132
    cicely says:

    Me: Do you concede that if it were up to women to make laws around abortion, it would be legal and safe almost if not actually everywhere in the world?

    gengwall: Well, I’m not sure. A lot of women think the way I do, after all. But I suppose you would argue that that is because they are under this patriarchal influence. If we assume that to be correct, and they were subsequently freed from this influence, I might agree. But I don’t agree with the premise. Specifically – “women do not consider our sex to be mass murderers.” I’m certain the women that you know do not. I assure you the women I know do. You, again, would claim that is because the men I know are all patriarchal power mongers. I, again, would disagree with that claim. So, I think we are at an impass on this point. Or at least, in your world you are absolutely right and in my world you are most assuredly wrong.

    I’ll rephrase. The ‘great majority’ of women do not consider our sex to be mass murderers on the basis of the decision women have made and do make to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This is because the great majority of women do not consider a fetus to be a person. They understand that a fetus merely has the potential to become a person should a woman decide to give birth, and the great majority of women believe that that decision, or ‘choice’, should be hers and hers alone. This means that where abortion is illegal or unobtainable, that situation is supported by a comparatively small number of women. Therefore, if reproduction issues were decided ‘by’ women, democratically and without reference to men, abortion would be safe, legal, accessible and affordable for all women. The only possible explanation for this not being the case, in my opinion, is male-supremacy, or patriarchy. Your belief, gengwall, arises out of your male-centred and male- dominated i.e patriarchal religion and would remain, (I just strongly suspect) in the face of all secular biological arguments or ‘proofs’ that refute it.

    We are, as you say, at an impasse. But then you say this:

    I would absolutely not want my personal beliefs translated into law…

    Maybe I’ve been concentrating on our exchanges and have missed something, but can you offer me anything that would suggest to me that you are uncomfortable with or in any way resisting the imposition of a minority view among women (and perhaps the whole population) – upon ‘all’ women in your country – a view that happens to correspond with your own beliefs?

    Ok, looking back over what I’ve written I realise I’m assuming that in the US, an anti-choice stance is definitely a minority one among women. I would not hesitate re ‘women of the world’, but from where I sit Christianity, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, has a (to me) frightening level of appeal and influence in your country. Perhaps someone has some accurate statistics?

    I wonder, gengwall, if your imagination can stretch to history having unfolded without men ever having achieved power over ‘women’s business’? By which I mean sexual and re-productive matters, which are the basis of patriarchy still (and rather obviously) today. In that case women would always truly ‘give’ birth, and not ever have it forced upon them. Imagine. I find it difficult to understand how you, or anyone, can’t appreciate how this is simply a matter of who has the power.

  33. 133
    cicely says:

    Bother! There’s a mistake I hope I won’t make twice. I begin at ‘I’ll re-phrase….and again at ‘Maybe I’ve been concentrating…’ I apologise for the unexpected gear shift that was required to read my previous post.

  34. 134
    cicely says:

    Is it my mistake? Testing. Is the line still there? Can anyone tell me what I may have done and how to undo it? The word ‘blockquote’ (except for this) hasn’t been typed in the last two posts…..and on checking – no line in the post preview…..

    [The way to undo it is pretty much to post pointing the problem out, and eventually me or Nick will fix it! :-) Amp]

  35. 135
    gengwall says:

    cicely – Apparently everything got fixed because I have no prob reading the post :-)

    I’m not sure really how to proceed but I’ll try.

    First, I still think our world views are quite different. I can reflect on my own experience in marriage, and know that it is representative of many people who believe as I do. It is not the type of patriarchal dominance that you describe. So I can’t relate to your fears very well because the women I know don’t share them. I readily admit that my experience is only one sub-culture. I am quite aware that there are many sub-sultures, especially religious ones and even some Christian ones, that do pratice a patriarchal dominance when it comes to sexual and re-productive matters. I am not so naive or isolated not to not recognize that. But, it is not mine. I can also assure you that despite what some may practice, Christianity is not a patriarchal religion in these matters. Jesus was very gender neutral in his teaching and Paul, who had the most to say about marriage and intermarital sexual relations, was adamant that sexual realtionships were to be equal (take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:1-6. This outlines the Christian perspective on sexual relations, and intimacy as a whole, in the marriage. It is supposed to be completely equal)

    But I’ll put that aside for now. Let me see if I can tackle the political side of your questions. First, I am not convinced, certainly here in America at least, that a “great majority of women do not consider a fetus to be a person”. I don’t have any polls to back that up and I may very well be wrong. I also don’t doubt the assertion worldwide although I still have no evidence to substantiate it. But I’ll take your word for it for the sake of argument. I would say then, in a democratic society, if women were the only ones with a vote (which I know you are not suggesting) that I would support what the majority decided. I would want to be sure that they heard all of the pertinent arguments on both sides, but I can abide by such a decision.

    And that is actually my stance right now. I support Roe from the perspective that it is the law of the land. I resist calling abortion murder because legally it is not. I would not be in favor of overturning Roe unless new and rational arguments were presented. I happen to think those arguments are out there – arguments that could not be made back when Roe was decided. I happen to think that the anti-choice camp is building those arguments incrementaly and biding their time until they can bring those arguments to bear against Roe. And I happen to think that those arguments are objective and gender neutral and therefore will be compelling to everyone including many if not most women. I could be wrong. Are you willing to take that chance?

    And let me reassure also, again, I try to work within the framework of the law and objective reasoning in developing my position. I will repeat, I am not against abortion because I think God is against abortion (which IMO He is). The framers were uninterested in anyone’s idea of what God wanted because they had seen too often how people invoked God to do horrible things. They set up a framework where reason, justice, and representation would decide what people can and can’t do. I subscribe to that philosophy. So, I can separate my opinions and interpretations about what God wants when dealing with political matters. I AM against abortion because I think the unborn are people and therefore are constitutionaly protected. That may have a patriarchal “feel” to it but it is a gender neutral position because its focus is on the unborn, not the sex of the person who gives birth.

    So, what are we all to do? Here is what I think the reality is. Anti-choicers are winning and will continue to. They have no motivation to compromise on abortion and are, regardless of reasons, determined to eliminate it. (They are naive, of course, because outlawing abortion will not eliminate it and in many cases will make matters worse. But they are so ingrossed in the battle and are so going in for the kill that they “can’t see the forest for the trees”.) The irony is that if there were to be a compromise, it is anti-choicers that would have to move the furthest. They would have to abandon their positions, as we have been talking about, on abortion in general and contraceptive education in particular. These are very entrenched positions, as I have tried to explain. Pro-choicers need to understand that this is not a painless move for them.

    On the other hand, pro-choicers are on the ropes. I really think the political leadership sees the writing on the wall. They are starting to make overtures of compromise to the right. It is a tough sell, but I applaud the effort. There are a few of us who are listening and hopefully we can convince the majority of our friends that a compromise is really in the best interest of all, including the unborn.

    Amps last 4 paragraphs to open this post are so true, and saddening. As someone who is pro-life (using my definition of life) I find equally incomprehensible the blindness of those on my “side” who do not understand how really ineffective the outlawing of abortion would be. I am much more in favor of attacking the “demand side” of the equation.

    BTW – I have looked over about 3/4 of the state laws and have found no evidence that spousal consent or notification for sterilization is mandated by law anywhere. My eyes got crossed and I got a big headache and I stopped. It is clear to me that not only are states not interested in forcing us to communicate well in our marriages, they probably have no constitutional bases for sticking in their noses in the first place. Although I would have no problem on this issue, I think this protection of privacy is for the best. I also see no way to differentiate this from the husband consent for abortions. So, I officially renounce any support I once held for any kind of spousal consent or notification in sexual or reproductive matters. Chalk up one fundie converted on this issue.

  36. 136
    Lu says:

    geng, the passage you cite is interesting, because while it does talk about the duties of both wife and husband, it speaks primarily to marriage as an antidote to sexual temptation pending the shortly expected parousia. You can’t say it prescribes equality between husband and wife unless you can show that the duties mentioned are equal. I would also be interested in your interpretation of 1 Cor. 14:34 and Eph. 5:23. (In fact I’d love to get into a whole Scriptural wrangle with you, but it would be OT and I suspect most everyone else here would be bored silly.)

    I don’t believe even most right-wing Christians (of whom btw you are the most reasonable I have yet experienced, but that may be damning with faint praise) really think embryos or even some fetuses are persons. (Medically an embryo becomes a fetus after the first trimester.) If they did they would hold a full funeral service for every known miscarriage, and possibly a police investigation as well. This is not to belittle the parents’ grief over a miscarriage (I have had several), but to point out that a six- or eight- or twelve-week embryo is not usually thought of in the same way as an eight-month fetus or a born child.

  37. 137
    gengwall says:

    Lu – you may be correct about how most Christians feel about the Zygote/Embryo/Fetus deep down inside but I doubt it. Certainly, again, not the ones I know. It doesn’t really matter though because that certainly is not the mantra from the pro-life movement. I think you have to deal with what we say – “it’s a person from conception on” – not what you or I might speculate we actually feel. I also think that these personal feelings are quite subjective. Justice Blackmun went through quite a recitation of the religious “feelings” about the unborn in the Roe decision. It is clear “religious” people are not of one voice. That is why I try to focus on a biological argument, one I think is more objective.

    If they did they would hold a full funeral service for every known miscarriage, and possibly a police investigation as well.

    Very good point. Of course, we are not any less prone to hypocrisy than anyone else. I personally find the huge emotional outcry over “the victims of abortion” to be a little two faced.

    …(of whom btw you are the most reasonable I have yet experienced, but that may be damning with faint praise)

    I’ll take any nice words I can get. Thank you.

    Bible stuff from here down – read if interested. I don’t intend to continue this train of discussion from this point on.

    Regarding the verse – I don’t think the “duties” differ between sexes. I consider the “duties” of intimacy to be the same – need meeting. The needs differ and the actions appropriate to meet those needs differ from person to person but they are not wholly gender specific. That’s my take.

    Also 1 Cor 14:34 was a specific circumstance. Paul clearly recognized and condoned female leadership in the church in other passages. Eph – this deals specifically with spiritual leadership. Men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the home. Incidentally, we suck at it. We have abdicated this role throughout history. Never-the-less that is what’s expected. This has nothing to do with any household duties and certainly has nothing to do with the bedroom. Actually, the 1950′s style “typical” “dad works and mom stays at home to raise the babies” picture is never laid out in the bible. It is indeed, a patriarchal cultural paradigm, just not a scriptural one. Just my take. And I do acknowledge that these are very controversial verses in the church.

    If you are really interested in this type of discussion, drop on by the christianity.com forums some time. I think you will be amazed at the variety of opinion there but I find a great deal of agreement once the discussion moves “into the marriage bed”, especially when “roles” and “power position” is being discussed.

  38. 138
    Broce says:

    >Pro-choicers need to understand that this is not a painless move for them.

  39. 139
    Broce says:

    Gengwall said : Pro-choicers need to understand that this is not a painless move for them.

    Ask me if I care. It isn’t painless to be forced to risk your life to give birth to an unwanted child, either…and it’s a helluva lot more risky for a woman to go through that than it is for an anti choice person to mind their own damned business.

  40. 140
    Lu says:

    If you want to talk biology, on the order of half of all zygotes never make it, and the woman never knows she was pregnant. Between 25 and 50 percent (or more, depending on maternal age) of all known pregnancies that are not aborted end in miscarriage or stillbirth.

    In my view, a zygote/embryo/fetus can’t be considered a person in any meaningful sense until the development of the cerebral cortex, which as I understand it occurs sometime after the sixth month. Before that time there are nerve endings sending signals but nothing receiving them.

    As for the Bible — I’ve heard those explanations before, but I don’t buy them. Over and out on that subject, in this forum at least.

  41. 141
    Kali says:

    “A little background please. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

    Here are some excerpts from http://www.alternet.org/story/18493/
    ————
    In 1978 Robert McFall, suffering from a rare bone marrow disease sought a court order to force his cousin David Shimp, the only compatible donor, to submit to a transplant. The court declined explaining: “For our law to compel the Defendant to submit to an intrusion of his body would change every concept and principle upon which our society is founded. To do so would defeat the sanctity of the individual and would impose a rule which would know no limits.” Forcibly restraining someone to make them submit to surgery for the benefit of another would “raise the specter of the swastika and the Inquisition, reminiscent of the horrors this portends.”

    In the name of fetal rights however, pregnant women are being forcibly restrained. In 1984, for example, a Nigerian woman pregnant and hospitalized in Chicago was forced to have a C-section. She refused the surgery because she planned to return to Nigeria where she would be unable to access C-sections for future births. The hospital obtained a court order and forced her to undergo the procedure. Hospital staff tied her down with leather wrist and ankle cuffs while she screamed for help.

    Another hospital obtained a court order to force a pregnant woman to undergo a blood transfusion. Doctors “yelled at and forcibly restrained, overpowered and sedated” the woman in order to carry out the order.

    In Washington, DC, doctors sought a court order to force Ayesha Madyun to have a C-section. The doctors asserted that the fetus faced a 50-75 percent chance of infection if not delivered surgically. The court, apparently viewing the pregnant woman as having no more rights than a slab of meat, said, “[a]ll that stood between the Madyun fetus and its independent existence, separate from its mother, was put simply, a doctor’s scalpel.” With that, the court granted the order and the scalpel sliced through Ms. Madyun’s flesh, the muscles of her abdominal wall, and her uterus. When the procedure was done, there was no evidence of infection.

    All of these women were denied the right to bodily integrity and physical liberty and their fetuses were granted more rights than any legal person under law.

    Angela Carder at 27 years old and 25 weeks pregnant became critically ill. She, her family and her attending physicians all agreed on treatment designed to keep her alive for as long as possible. The hospital however called an emergency hearing to determine the rights of the fetus. Despite testimony that a Cesarean section could kill Ms. Carder, the court ordered the surgery because the fetus had independent legal rights. As a result, Ms. Carder not only lost her right to informed consent and bodily integrity; she lost her life. The surgery resulted in the death of both Angela and her fetus.
    ————-

    ” Certainly, the bone marrow thing is gender specific. A female would be no more required to provide the bone marrow than a male.”

    That is an intellectually and morally bankrupt argument. If one standard applies to situations which affect men and women equally, and another to situations which affect women only/primarily, that is a gender-based double standard, much as you would like to obfuscate by stating that the former applies to both men and women, so everything is OK.

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  43. 142
    cicely says:

    Last word on this subject in this forum for me too. Quite apart from the issue of patriarchal control, this is what I see. Anti-choice campaigners will do whatever it takes to impose their beliefs on as many women as they possibly can, as soon as they possibly can. This may inolve overturning Roe v Wade, or putting so many obstacles between women and the accessibilty of abortion that it becomes impossible to obtain and ultimately possibly charging women who procure illegal abortions with murder.

    They will do all of this is knowing that it shows an absolute lack of respect for the deeply held beliefs of many, many other Americans. Knowing that others will not believe they are doing wrong by either providing or having an abortion. Pro-choice is not necessarily pro-abortion. It is respecting other peoples right to choose their own beliefs and actions on a controversial matter of life-changing significance. Gengwall, you say you respect the law. You are also saying that you will respect a law that outlaws actions that arise from beliefs other than your own. That’s the bottom line despite your having said that you have no desire to see your own beliefs written into law. Today, you and I can disagree on this issue. Tomorrow, if you have the victory you seem to be expecting, I could be imprisoned for acting from my own beliefs. That is not the situation in any modern society that aspires to be tolerant and civilised.

  44. 143
    gengwall says:

    Kali – Thank you very much for the info. I certainly am disturbed by those stories as well. I would not be in favor of forcing a woman to have a c-section any more than I would be in favor of forcing her to have an abortion. I’ll read the link. I’m curious how those ended up when appealled or civil suit.

    cicely – Tomorrow, if you have the victory you seem to be expecting, I could be imprisoned for acting from my own beliefs. That is not the situation in any modern society that aspires to be tolerant and civilised.
    All the more reason for all of us to find common ground. Maybe I haven’t been clear enough. I think this is what will happen if we keep up the trench warfare. Legally and biologically I don’t struggle with this outcome. I would like to say morally I don’t either, but realistically I know what a shallow victory it would be. The unborn would still die and so would more pregnant women so what would have really been accomplished? So I outline these things and make these predictions to try and get us out of the trenches. That is what I think this post is all about.

  45. 144
    Lu says:

    I actually meant that would be all I would say about the Bible only (I am willing to continue the main discussion), but I need to clarify something: geng, when I said I didn’t buy your explanation of those verses, I did not mean that I didn’t believe you interpreted them that way, and I apologize, because reading again it definitely sounds like that’s what I meant.

    I meant that I don’t think the church at most times and in most places has interpreted them that way, and in general hasn’t promoted equality between the sexes. Certainly Roman Catholicism, the only church for most of Christian history and still by far the largest denomination, is about as patriarchal as an institution can get.

  46. 145
    Broce says:

    >All the more reason for all of us to find common ground.

    What common ground can there be, when you think my right to bodily integrity is trumped by the right of something you think of as a person, and I know is not?

    What common ground, when you are not calling for people to be mandatory organ donors or blood donors or marrow donors…when the only bodily integrity you’re willing to violate is that of a pregnant woman?

  47. 146
    StripGoddess says:

    >>For instance, policies which push birth control on teenagers (including the importance of always using two types at once) so hard the teens get bruised. Countries like Belgium have used this sort of policy to have the lowest abortion rates in the world. I don’t understand why pro-lifers have so little interest in imitating that.

    They are not interested in eliminating abortion per se. The fundies are hell bent on reducing all sex to a purely procreative function, and eliminating abortion is just one more mechanism to “punish” those who have sex and are unfortunate enough to end up with an unwanted pregnancy. Therefore, advocating any contraceptive use is an anathema in their eyes (and thus, their abhorrence of “Plan B”). These are the same morons that promote Abstinence Only as a viable sex education curriculum.

    It will not be long before we see them calling for the banning of the sale of condoms to minors, and it would nto surprise me at all to find them pushing for an outright ban on the sale of contraceptives of all forms to anyone other than married couples.

  48. 147
    gengwall says:

    Lu – I meant that I don’t think the church at most times and in most places has interpreted them that way, and in general hasn’t promoted equality between the sexes.
    You are very correct, historically. I see great improvement in the position of most denominations now. More importantly, I do not see any major commentators in the church advocating the old male dominating positions.

    I also did not take it the wrong way. This is the meaning I presumed. Maybe there will be an opportunity to discuss in more depth later. I would like that.

    Broce – There is plenty of common ground if we are both willing to compromise. It sounds like many on the pro-choice side are not even willing to look at abortion as a tragedy (personhood of the unborn or not). I think that is short sighted. StripGoddess’ post above may well be true, but the anger behind it belies the fact that she is not interested in finding a combined solution. It’s a lot easier to hate your enemy than it is to find common ground and combine forces for the good of all.

    This hatred, of course, goes both ways. The problem is that anti-choicers have absolutely no reason to change tactics. They are winning.

    This is a really tricky situation. What I have been saying here is that the pro-choicers have to make the first move (I think they are – did you hear about Sen. Clinton’s speech on the Roe aniversary), but the anti-choicers have to make the bigger move in terms of their position because they have to accept leaving abortion legal.

    Pro-choicers have to make the pitch for increased and better sex ed and they have to do it in a way that does not back abstinence believers in a corner or demonize them. Railing away against patriarchy and belittling Christian sexuality is not the way to do it. StripGoddess would not be your best salesperson. Of course, Jerry Falwell is not the best person to try and sell this to. What you need to do is sell it to the rank and file. They are the ones who vote and make up the grass roots anti-abortion movement anyway. They are also the most likely to see the forest for the trees and realize that there is a reasonable scenario here that will give everyone most of what they want.

    BTW StripGoddess, you are dead wrong about one thing.

    The fundies are hell bent on reducing all sex to a purely procreative function
    I have heard this a lot and it simply is not true. What these fundies want to do is reduce all sex to a purely intra-marital function. Fundies like sex and do it for enjoyment just as much as you all. If your accusation were correct, no fundies would have sex after menopause, no fundies would have sex after one of them was voluntarily sterilized, no fundies would have sex during a pregnancy, no fundies would have sex if they were infertile, and all those fundies who use contraception would be living in a constant paradox since the very use of the contraception to prevent procreation during sex would cause them to not have sex because it would not be procreative! I would hope the ridiculousness of such an assertion is apparent.

  49. 148
    Broce says:

    >There is plenty of common ground if we are both willing to compromise. It sounds like many on the pro-choice side are not even willing to look at abortion as a tragedy

    My abortion was *not* a tragedy, Gengwall. It just flat out wasn’t. A zygote isn’t a person, and I did not *kill* anyone by terminating an unwanted pregnancy.

    What compromise can I possibly make with you?

    >Pro-choicers have to make the pitch for increased and better sex ed and they have to do it in a way that does not back abstinence believers in a corner or demonize them

    I always have favored comprehensive sex ed. What you are missing, Gengwall, is that if your contraception fails, it does not matter. What you are also missing is that some women are simply more fertile than others. When I turned up unwantedly pregnant, I’d used a condom which broke. I also used the morning after pill, which failed.

    If you are suggesting that a woman needs to “prove” she’s used contraception and it failed in order to have an abortion, then you’re right back to using pregnancy as a punishment for sex. If you’re suggesting the unlucky woman who is more fertile, or whose contracpetion fails, should be forced to risk her life against her will, you’re back to the bodily integrity issue.

    You haven’t suggested people be forced to donate a kidney against their will, as I noted, it’s just the bodily integrity of pregnant women which you seem to think should be up for grabs.

    >What these fundies want to do is reduce all sex to a purely intra-marital function.

    And that’s NONE of their business. We’re right back to imposing someone else’s religious beliefs on everyone.

  50. 149
    gengwall says:

    This past weekend my wife and younger daughter were gone so I got to spend some time with my older daughter where we could talk about some things in depth. Since this whole topic is heavily on my mind, I asked for her observations in the teen culture about abstinence, contraception, and sex education. The conversation was, as always, enlightening.

    First, I should give a little background. My kids go/went to a very large (3k students) high school in a Minneapolis suburb. Although the majority of students come from white middle class homes there really is a lot of diversity both socio-economically and racially. We have students from “near-urban”, solidly suburban, and rural communities attending. Moreover, my daughters, although not part of the “popular” crowd, intersect that and other cliques and therefore hear from many different perspectives. They have friends (not acquaintances but real friends) who range from star athletes and cheerleaders to band kids; valedictorians to special ed and ESL students. The have African American, Latin, Asian, etc friends. They have friends who are gay, straight, fundie and completely secular. Oh yes, and they have an equal number of guy and girl friends.

    I asked my daughter what sex ed at this school was like and what kids thought about contraception. First, the school has a predominantly abstinence based program. Contraception is mentioned almost in passing. My daughter’s take on it was that it was a joke and most kids blow through it without paying any attention. Moreover, the teachers are frustrated because they know the kids don’t take it seriously. The only ones truly affected are the ones who were most likely to remain abstinent anyway.

    Asked what kids would think about more “aggressive” sex education on contraception, she said that there is always going to be a group that will ignore it because they think they are invincible and that the potential health problems associated with sexual activity will never happen to them. At the same time, a large majority of sexually active teens at her school have STD’s and, although she doesn’t know the numbers, she knows anecdotally that there are a fair number of abortions every year. For the most part, kids don’t use any contraception. I wonder how we get through to these kids. I wonder what Belgium has done to make the message one that teens will listen to. These are the types of things we should all be talking about.

    I also asked her about the societal double standard we have talked about here where boys who have sex are considered cool and girls who have sex are considered tramps. She said, amongst the teens themselves, it doesn’t seem to exist. The girls who are sexually active are not looked down upon as much as the double standard theory suggests and the boys are not viewed with as much admiration. In general, she said, kids are evaluated by their peers on a case by case basis. Individual kids are either thought of as cool or “slutty” based on their attitude and actual behavior, not their gender. She agreed that the double standard is alive and well amongst the parents though. Most boys think their parents would have a “boys will be boys” attitude about their sexual activity while most girls are afraid of their parents finding out because their parents will think they are a tramp.

    Overall, most of her friends, at the very least, view their parents as being uninterested in what goes on in their life. For many, the perception is also the reality. If I have believed anything in all of these discussions, it is that parents, (and this is across the “pro-whatever” spectrum), have got to get more involved in the process. To place this burden completely on the schools is completely irresponsible.

    To answer the accusation against fundies that we are uninterested in sex education and will accept nothing but a total ban on abortions and chastity belts for everyone who is not married, I will only offer this. My older daughter is a deeply religious young lady. She is a missionary, returning to Australia in Feb. to join the staff at a very fundamentalist missions organization. She is radically abstinent, swearing off all sexual activity (even “making out”) until she gets married. Yet, the first thing she brought up in our conversation was how poor the sex ed at her school was. Do you get that? This is a program that promotes her beliefs but she was against it because it did not succeed in the even more important areas of kids’ health. She would have welcomed a program that ensured that kids who were sexual active were protecting their health. She sees the promulgation of STD’s and unwanted pregnancies as a far greater tragedy than the reality that kids are going to have sex. My daughter is the quintessential fundie that you so often deride, demonize, and lash out against and yet SHE GETS IT. I have good news – there are far more like her than you realize.

  51. 150
    gengwall says:

    Broce – It saddens me when people are so filled with anger and so convinced their opponent has evil intent that they completely read past what is being said and jump to the wildest, and worst, possible conclusions. Did you only read the parts of my post that you love to hate and completely miss when I said this: “anti-choicers have to make the bigger move in terms of their position because they have to accept leaving abortion legal“? It’s like that classic comedy bit where someone is asking for something and the other person grants their request but they keep blathering on with justification under the false assumption that their request won’t be granted.

    Your final comment again illustrates that you are not hearing anything I say:

    >What these fundies want to do is reduce all sex to a purely intra-marital function.

    And that’s NONE of their business. We’re right back to imposing someone else’s religious beliefs on everyone.

    I was not arguing which belief system was correct or which should be employed in society, so you need not rebute me. I was simply pointing out that StripGoddess’ characterization of fundies belief system was mistaken. I’m not looking for a fight on our different views of sexuality; why are you so intent on finding one?

  52. 151
    Broce says:

    >Broce – It saddens me when people are so filled with anger and so convinced their opponent has evil intent that they completely read past what is being said and jump to the wildest, and worst, possible conclusions.

    It saddens me when people make assumptions about my being “filled with anger” because I do not agree with them. It seems very counterproductive. I’m not angry with you Gengwall. I simply think my reproductive choice are none of your business.

    > “anti-choicers have to make the bigger move in terms of their position because they have to accept leaving abortion legal”

    Where is the compromise, Gengwall, if you support leaving things in place as they are?

    You suggested I need to view abortion as a tragedy. But for me, and for many women who choose to terminate a pregnancy, it simply flat out is not a tragedy, and a zygote is not a person.

    > I’m not looking for a fight on our different views of sexuality; why are you so intent on finding one?

    I’m not looking for a fight, Gengwall, I’m simply suggesting that compromise on this issue is going to be hard to find. Either we leave abortion legal, or we don’t. Asking me to view it as a tragedy is not going to happen either. The overwhelming majority of women who choose abortion describe their feelings after as those of relief, not tragedy. Are you suggesting the correct course of action is for them to be allowed to abort, but that they need to feel guilty about it? They need to see it as a horrible tragedy and feel pain and sadness? That’s back to the punishment perspective again.

    What compromise are you suggesting?

    BTW, my son’s experiences in high school are quite different from those of your children. The double standard is not only alive and well, but compounded by the fact that sex is seen as something girls do for boys, not a mutually satisfying experience. His friends thought he was nuts when he told them they were missing half the fun seeing it that way. His friends are more likely than your children’s to use contraception, especially condoms. The sex ed in his school was more balanced than that your children were exposed to, and perhaps that is the key…that a de-emphasis on abstinence somehow translated to the kids taking the information on contraception more seriously?

  53. 152
    gengwall says:

    Broce – OK, since we are just talking past eachother, let me try another approach. Do you agree with the premise of this post that the best strategy for everyone is that we reduce the demand side of the equation? If so, how do you suggest we do that if you see no way for us to compromise?

  54. 153
    gengwall says:

    I’m sorry – I guess you asked first about compromise. OK – to leave abortion legal is a compromise from my side. To get behind really agressive sex ed, especially in the area of contraception is a compromise from my side. The compromise I am asking for from your side is a recognition that…well I’ll use Sen. Clinton’s words since my don’t typically have the effect I intend:

    (Abortion is) a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women…There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances.

    Do you see – it is not fundies now who are calling abortion a tragedy but the core of your movement. This is the recognition anti-abortion proponents are looking for. Even more so, we are calling for firm stand from everyone behind abstinence in teens. We can make the moral arguments but we need you to make the psychological and physical health arguments.

    In addition, she said:

    Research shows that the primary reason that teenage girls abstain is because of their religious and moral values. We should embrace this…and support programs that reinforce the idea that abstinence at a young age is not just the smart thing to do, it is the right thing to do.

    This sounds like James Dobson. Anti-abortion advocates can get behind aggresive sex education if pro-choicers make this compromise and appeal to our fundimental beliefs.

    These are the compromises I would support and think have the best chance of achieving everyone’s goals. There are many many anti-abortionists who could enthusiastically get behind this kind of agenda. Are you willing to take up the call from your own Sen. Clinton and join us? Or do you still want to sit there with your head in the stand making outrageous claims about our beliefs and morality while the rights you do have are slowly whittled down to nothing?

  55. 154
    Broce says:

    >Do you see – it is not fundies now who are calling abortion a tragedy but the core of your movement.

    First off, I’d hardly call Hillary Clinton “the core of my movement.” She’s pandering to the religious right. Most telling in that quote is the utter absence of a *word* about abstention for young men. I would also point out that she did not make a blanket statement calling all abortion a tragedy.

    As for abstinence in teenagers – it’s utterly unrealistic. I told my son all the reasons I thought it was a healthy choice for him to wait until he was an adult. But ultimately, whatever choices he made were *his*, not mine. And the fact of the matter is that most kids will NOT wait until marriage, and many will not wait for legal adulthood. That’s just the reality, and in my opinion, we need to deal with that reality, not just ignore it. That means not only solid information on contraception and disease prevention, but also solid information about making emotionally healthy decisions about sex. That does not mean saying “the only emotionally healthy decision is to wait until marriage or adulthood.” It means teaching kids good decision making skills, how to treat themselves and others with respect and care.

    As to reducing the number of abortions being a worthy goal, my reasons for wanting to do so are very different from yours. I think the financial cost is a burden to many women. I think that having to undergo any invasive medical procedure (including childbirth) is a risk, and prefer to reduce medical risk of all kinds where I can. Abortion is not a pleasant experience physically (though certainly no where near as grueling as childbirth is for most women) and I prefer that women not *need* to have an abortion. There is no moral issue here for me. It’s simply practical.

    But reducing the number of abortions would IMHO require not only better access to contraception, but better contraceptive choices than we currently have. Many women cannot take hormonal contraceptives, or choose not to put those chemicals in their bodies. Barrier methods are all limited. There are no effective male methods of contraception beyond vasectomy and condoms. Getting men to use condoms can be problematical. Hell, getting men with multiple children to consider vasectomy can be problematical.

    A lot of people have difficulty accessing safe, effective, affordable, consistent contraception, and that too needs to be addressed.

  56. 155
    gengwall says:

    Broce – there you go. I think we’ve found some common ground. Although my personal views on dealing with teen sexuality differ from yours, I think the reality you see does need to be faced. I don’t have all the answers on how to face it and your appraoch may be better. And since you didn’t condem or attack me or my beliefs in any way in your post I can get on board.

  57. 156
    Tuomas says:

    gengwall wrote:

    I don’t think it is good public policy for teachers or other public service communicators to say sex is “bad”. I think that is what some others have been getting at (another light bulb went on). I also don’t think it is good policy to say sex is ineveitable.

    I just found something I can agree with. Thanks gengwall. This is (IMO) problem: A public policy that says “teens will have sex”, combined with peer pressure and hypersexualized commercial culture makes teens who choose (or lack the opportunity) to not have sex seem like some fringe freak group. That is wrong too.

    I didn’t have sex at the age average teens are “supposed” to have sex (took longer), and looking back it wasn’t a bad thing (altough I certainly felt like a big loser). Emotional maturity developed later (and hey, it still develops).

  58. 157
    Broce says:

    >Although my personal views on dealing with teen sexuality differ from yours, I think the reality you see does need to be faced.

    How would you face it? If I remember correctly, earlier in this thread you said that you chose not to wait. I chose not to wait. A lot of teens will chose not to wait whether we approve or not. Kid do not often “learn from our mistakes” (assuming you think not waiting was a mistake on your part – for my part it was the right choice not to wait – I was raped a few months after my first sexual experience, and I think it’s a good thing the rape was not my first exposure to sexual intercourse). Since we know from our own experiences of adolescence that kids often do *not* learn from other people’s choices and mistakes, but best from their own, how do you face that reality if your views on teen sexuality differ from mine?

    BTW…not sure you understand my views, which are that it’s better for kids to be mature before they embark on sexual activity, but recognizing that ultimately mom and dad are not in control of the choices the teens will make.

  59. 158
    gengwall says:

    Well, I wrote a big long reply and it didn’t “take”. Must be the Blog god’s way of telling me to be brief.

    Broce – I do understand your view and have no problem with it. My approach is different, not necessarily better or worse. The approach we took with our kids was outlined in some detail above. It worked for us. It won’t work for everyone.

    I agree teens often will not listen or learn from our mistakes. That’s why we need to attack the issue on a variety of fronts (sex ed, etc.) The most important thing, and I think you are saying this too, is that the parents need to be involved in their teens lives. Ignoring the realities don’t make them go away.

    For clarification – I chose not to wait but I did not become sexually active until college. I also was not a Christian and so had a different philosophy back then. Incidentally, we never used protection in college unless the girl was on the pill. Even then, I could not to this day tell you who was and who wasn’t. We never talked about it. We were so stupid. Of course, Aids really hadn’t hit the radar at that point so pregnancy was our only concern.

  60. 159
    Broce says:

    > I also was not a Christian and so had a different philosophy back then. Incidentally, we never used protection in college unless the girl was on the pill. Even then, I could not to this day tell you who was and who wasn’t. We never talked about it.

    Wow. I guess we grew up differently. I was a teen in the seventies, graduated high school in 1976, and we *did* talk about it. In fact, an older male friend sat my first serious boyfriend down and explained to him that if we were going to be sexually active, it was not only necessary to use contraception, but since I was the one who had to take pill, it should be *his* responsibility to pay for my prescription. And he did.

  61. 160
    gengwall says:

    I graduated in ’77!?! LOL. We should compare life stories some time.

  62. 161
    gengwall says:

    Since this one seems to be wrapping up, let me just address some of Amps questions/comments directed at pro-lifers. This is from a perspective of someone who understands and subscribes to what pro-lifers believe, but is probably in a minority regarding actual policy. But I am not the only one, and we are not without influence.

    For instance, policies which push birth control on teenagers (including the importance of always using two types at once) so hard the teens get bruised. Countries like Belgium have used this sort of policy to have the lowest abortion rates in the world. I don’t understand why pro-lifers have so little interest in imitating that.

    Primarily because we feel to do so would make us hypocritical and would deny our beliefs. Not necessarily defensible or logical positions, but those are the reasons.

    Do you believe in the marketplace or not? If you do, then you have to admit that when the demand is high enough, the market mostly finds a way around barriers – and that includes legal barriers.

    Even the very few pro-lifers who would think to view the problem this way would probably deny the reality. I’m afraid we need a crane to pull our heads out of the sand. Of course, overexagerating this claim doesn’t help (not saying you are, just that it has been). Unfortunately, this is where the “pro-life” argument becomes contradictory – outlawing abortion won’t stop abortion. Admitedly, we need to do some self-reflection in this area.

    The only way to have a really low abortion rate is to lower demand, rather than banning supply. That means pushing birth control on teens as if it were oxygen, and also providing painfully generous welfare support for single mothers.

    Welfare – another area that is a hard move for us. The thinking is a variation on what you dealt with in “Men’s Rights Myth: Women Trick Men Into Fatherhood So They Can Collect Child Support.” Just insert “welfare” for “Child Support”. I think your argument works never-the-less. But it is a tough sell to pro-lifers who can site examples and mentally exagerate them into epidemic proportions. Plus, we just hate the government spending our money on people we believe are behaving badly.

    Will that have negative side effects? Maybe. But if pro-lifers are serious about lowering the abortion rate, they should be willing to consider the trade-offs. What good is an “idealogically correct” approach to lowering abortion rates, if it doesn’t actually work very well compared to other methods?

    Yes, we should be willing to consider trade-offs. “What good is…?” Answer – no good at all.

    First of all, has the pro-life movement actually been proposing that we treat abortion as if it were murder?…The argument that pro-lifers can’t consider what is practical, because of their unshakable moral commitment to treating abortion as murder, falls apart when we look at the laws pro-lifers propose.

    1 – yes, we can be hypocritical just as good as anyone. 2 – there is a lot of incrementalism in our strategy. 3 – doesn’t mean we don’t think it’s murder anyway.

    In a system that forces us to choose between one or the other, which is better: 700,000 murders potentially prevented, or 700,000 murders not prevented plus an official statement calling abortion murder?

    The answer is obvious but I don’t know if anyone from the pro-choice side (blogs not withstanding) is selling it this way. So, most pro-lifers have never been asked the question.

    But the pro-life movement as a whole clearly favors the latter policy. And I find that incomprehensible.

    it is.

    Putting abstract principle above 700,000 lives doesn’t seem like a supportable position, to me…

    it isn’t.

    … and certainly undermines the pro-life claim to be motivated only by caring about what happens to babies.

    yes, it does.

    I’m out. Thanks for listening. I hope this fosters a better understanding of our side.

  63. 162
    Broce says:

    >Plus, we just hate the government spending our money on people we believe are behaving badly.

    The problem, of course, is that we all have different views on what constitutes behaving badly. Personally, I hate that the government subsidizes corporations I believe are behaving badly…but somehow all the invective of the religious right seems not to come down on all the things that Christ is supposed to have talked about, but only about the sex lives of people. I rarely hear the prolife contingent or the religious right in general berating corporations for pollution that causes birth defects, or othe ways in which both people and corporations are “bad citzens”….instead, it seems only pruriently interested in the sex lives of single women.

  64. 163
    Fielder's Choice says:

    Long ago in Eden there was man and there was woman,
    And nothing but a fig betwixt their shame,
    And now that we have bullets and a glove to hide our britches in,
    We think that Seth and Abel are to blame,
    Glorying in confusion, cursed by man the woman,
    Cursed by woman the man, fighting like Cain is not but human,
    Counting all our pennies, calling children dimes,
    Spending all our money on a Saturday of crime,
    Wasting our pleasure on what should have been a treasure.
    When I am gone do not see me as just the price for leisure:
    Eve was S-T-R-O-N-G.

    To the memory of Rev. Coretta Scott King, Religious Peacemaker

  65. 164
    Jen says:

    Glad this blog died – it is an awful subject :). You can try to justify it all you want but 50% believe this and 50% believe that – which means to me a pretty good indicator that there is something not very settled in this situation and no decision is the absolute correct one.

  66. 165
    cicely says:

    I am re-visiting this thread with an update. Yesterday, in a conscience vote (meaning government members are permitted to vote according to their conscience and not along party lines), the Australian Senate voted on a private member’s bill to take the decision about whether the RU486 ‘morning after’ abortion pill should be made available to women in Australia out of the hands of the conservative Health Minister and put into the hands of the Therapeutic Goods Authority. This would allow the decision to rest on issues of safety rather than religiously informed morality. (Incidentally, Australia’s Health Minister once seriously considered entering a Catholic Seminary and becoming a priest…)

    The bill passed (hooray!) by 45 votes to 28. Female Senators from *all* parties co-sponsored the bill and of the 26 women who voted, 23 supported it. Being such a sensitive issue, there was no whooping and hollering etc, but a quiet ‘Well done, girls, well done’, was heard after the result was announced.

    I am not generally a supporter of the party or politics of this country’s immigration minister, Amanda Vanstone, but I did enjoy this illustrative comment she made:

    “One of the men said…he doesn’t want abortion to be any easier and a pill would necessarily be easier. Well, hello. Clearly he has never had the mindset of it ever happening to him. It is not going to happen to him. It is not going to happen to him because he is a boy.”

    I offer this in support of my arguement that if only women were permitted to vote on the abortion issue, there would virtually be no issue. Therefore, this is about raw patriarchal power – men’s power over women. Again, this *may* not be the case in the US where support for Christian fundamentalist beliefs is so widespread (and alternative worldviews appear to be being denied your youth wherever possible) that your country is in danger of becoming a theocracy if it isn’t already. That is where you get your ‘bargaining’ strength from, gengwall. You make yourself sound like a reasonable man, and I believe you believe yourself to be one, but from my perspective, I’m sorry, but you are not. You are participating in an abuse of power.

  67. 166
    cicely says:

    Furthur reading in The Australian newspaper revealed this…

    ‘Democrats leader Lyn Allison, who kickstarted the debate with a private members bill last year and revealed on the eve of the debate she had undergone a termination as a teenager in rural Victoria, said she simply felt “relief”.

    “In my first speech in this place I said I hoped one day to see a time when women would cross the floor in solidarity on women’s issues and that’s what happened today…”

    Brilliant. Spread the word!

  68. 167
    soopermouse says:

    I will step in with something that most of the posters here lack- a direct experience of living in a country who banned abortion.
    I am Romanian. From 1969 to 1989, abortion was illegal in Romania.
    Women could get abortion for health reasons of them or the foetus.
    1. Abortion rates did not go down. A lotof women had backstreet abortions, which ended in infections and bleedings. They would be taken to the hospital, where they would be refused treatment if the did not denounced the abortionist.
    A lot of women ( maybe 5000/year for a 22million peoplepopulation) died like that. Look up the term “septic ward”.
    2. A lot of abbandoned children in hospitals/on streets, etc.
    Does anyone remember the grimmovies about teh Romanian orphans that flooded the TV in 90-92?? The numbers of some 50,000 children living on the streets/ in the sewers or in abject conditions in orphanages( Romania is a poor country)??
    That is the result of illegal abortion. NO, it did not stop teens having sex. The numbersare missing, but I am willing to put money on teh rate of abortions not going down. Women’s mortality rates werepretty high though.

    This is what illegal abortion will inflict on a country.

  69. 168
    Jeepers says:

    Perhaps by now you’ve all heard of the analogy of comparing mandatory uterus donation to mandatory organ donation?

    Here’s my take on it:

    All adults over 21 must undergo mandatory testing, and be required by law to give one kidney to whoever needs it, if there’s a match. If it is reasonable to demand a woman sacrifice her body for the life of a foetus, then it is equally reasonable to demand citizens sacrifice a kidney to anyone who will die without it.

    Of course, we shall test all members of congress first, so they can set an example of patriotism to the nation.

    This analogy is inspired, and I for one hope you all write your congressional representatives requesting a law like this.

    http://www.firstgov.gov/Contact.shtml

  70. 169
    gengwall says:

    Hate to say I told you so, but…

    From the AP today:

    S.D. Closer to Strict Abortion Limits

    Most importantly in the bill, the unborn are explicitely declared human beings that have constitutional protection within the SD constitution. Some significant portions:

    HB 1215 Section 1. The Legislature accepts and concurs with the conclusion of the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion, based upon written materials, scientific studies, and testimony of witnesses presented to the task force, that life begins at the time of conception, a conclusion confirmed by scientific advances since the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, including the fact that each human being is totally unique immediately at fertilization. ..Moreover, the Legislature finds that the guarantee of due process of law under the Constitution of South Dakota applies equally to born and unborn human beings, and that under the Constitution of South Dakota, a pregnant mother and her unborn child, each possess a natural and inalienable right to life.

    Section 5 (1) “Pregnant,” the human female reproductive condition, of having a living unborn human being within her body throughout the entire embryonic and fetal ages of the unborn child from fertilization to full gestation and child birth
    (2) “Unborn human being,” an individual living member of the species, homo sapiens, throughout the entire embryonic and fetal ages of the unborn child from fertilization to full gestation and childbirth;

    Of course, SD is far from the mecca of abortion. But that certainly isn’t the point. If this law can stand up to scrutiny then other states will follow. More importantly, is this law stands up then it’s principals, which establish that the unborn are human beings with equal protection rights, stand as well. Roe avoided this issue. Now it very likely could be confronted head on by it. If 14th ammendment rights are extended to the unborn…well, you know where I’m going, we’ve been through this before.

    I must admit this is happeneing even sooner than I expected. The time for compromise and action to limit abortions voluntarily is now, before abortions are outlawed nation wide.

  71. 170
    cicely says:

    If this law can stand up to scrutiny then other states will follow.

    It’s not about whether this law can stand up to scrutiny, gengwall. It’s about who’s doing the scrutinising.

  72. 171
    cicely says:

    The problem isn’t only what becomes of women’s rights around their own bodily integrity in the US, as the civilised secular world watches on in horror and offers it’s deepest sympathy along with expressions of outrage, it’s that the religiously informed US government exports it’s view and abuses its power over women in other countries too. As always, the poorest and weakest suffer the most. The article this is an excerpt from appeared in The Guardian Feb 10 – 16.

    ‘The British government has this week defied the United States by giving money for safe abortion services in developing countries to organisations that have been cut off ffrom American funding.

    Nearly 70,000 women and girls died last year because they went to back-street abortionists. Hundreds of thousands of others suffered serious injuries. Critics of America’s aid policy say some might have lived if the US had not withdrawn funding from clinics that provide safe services – or that simply tell women where to find them.

    The ‘global gag’ rule, as it has become known, was imposed by President George Bush in 2001. It requires any organisation applying for US funds to sign an undertaking not to counsel women on abortion – other than advising against it – or to provide abortion services.

    On Tuesday the UK became the founder donor of a fund set up specifically to attempt to replace the lost dollars and increase safe abortion serices.’

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  75. 172
    Curious says:

    cicely and gengwall,

    Why do you have to discuss this? I believe abortions should be legal, even encouraged to people who are actually considering it. Why?

    First, if my parents had any doubts about having me, I would have adviced them NOT to have me at all. No body needs an “obligatory birth”. No thanks!

    Second, if you have doubts about having children and you still engaged in behaviour that could lead into having some, you are irresponsible. It places a doubt on your abilities to be a parent. Maybe you should be sterlized, permanently after the abortion.

    How is that for a pro-choice position?

  76. 173
    Tree says:

    I think a big part of the probIem that you are seeing with most pro Iifers is that they aIso think that birth controI is wrong. perhaps not as wrong as an abortion, but they woud never suggest it as a soIution. I have to agree with you though, it is a suppIy and demand issue, and we need to reduce the demand.

    (sorry about the capitaI Is in pIace of that Ietter that comes between k and m. broken keyboard

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