Do Pro-Lifers Know Anything About Abortion?

Pro-life feminists exist – although the ones I respect are committed to reducing abortion by changing society so that women are much less likely to choose abortion, rather than by calling for forced childbirth for pregnant women. The “reducing demand” approach is, imo, perfectly compatible with feminism.

Unfortunately, most self-identified pro-life feminists are indistinguishable from their non-feminist counterparts. For example,: Nathan Sheets, posting on the “feminists for life” community, discusses the intact D&X abortion procedure (also known as “partial birth” abortion):

Because we look and we see that the head of the baby is left inside the woman’s body. If this procedure were done to save the health (or even the life) of the mother, what is the magical thing about leaving the baby’s head in and sucking his brains out–as opposed to delivering him completely and letting him die naturally–that saves the health of the mother? Is it necessary?

No, it’s not. The reason the head is left in there is because this is an abortion, not a medical procedure to save the woman. Death is the goal. The head must stay in otherwise the baby would be born. Health is not the reason these abortions occur–the desire for the baby to be dead is.

Contrary to what Nathan thinks, a woman’s body changes throughout pregnancy to prepare her to give birth. A woman in her ninth month of pregnancy, whose body has fully adjusted for giving birth, can safely deliver an intact baby head – usually. (Even at nine months, childbirth is still dangerous for a significant number of mothers.)

But late-term abortions don’t take place at nine months; virtually all of them take place before the 24th week. At that point, it’s simply not safe for the woman to deliver something as large as an intact fetal head, because her body hasn’t prepared for it. Which is why doctors compress the fetus’ head before delivery.

Even when the fetus is already dead (which is not uncommon with intact d&x abortions), a doctor performing an intact d&x will still compress the fetal head. Not to do so vastly increases the chance of the mother being injured, and would be medically irresponsible.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Nathan’s ignorance – or Nathan’s demonizing of women who have abortions as death-loving harpies – is all that unusual among the pro-forced-childbirth crowd, whether or not they self-identify as “feminist.”

(I originally wrote this as a reply to post on the feminists for life livejournal. But it turns out they don’t let non-members post, so I’m posting it here instead.)

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88 Responses to Do Pro-Lifers Know Anything About Abortion?

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  3. 3
    Maia says:

    There are not enough scare quotes in the world for me to convey my feeling towards ‘pro-life feminists’. Thanks for pointing ou the many levels of their ignorance

  4. 4
    lynne says:

    I think that particular procedure is also often used when the fetus has a condition called Hydrocephalus. That causes fluid to build up in the head so that the fetus’s head might be several times larger than a normal fetus’s head. Usually, if the fetus is still alive it wont be for long after birth and the D&X procedure is a lot less invasive than the other alternative (C-Section). This condition isnt terribly common but then neither are such late term abortions.

    All I know is that if I were pregnant with such a fetus and I was forced to have a C-section because some loser politicians had outlawed a medical procedure that would have made things a little bit easier, I would be really pissed at the stupidity of it all.

  5. 5
    Barbara says:

    And the answer is, no, they have no idea. Nearly every second term abortion (certainly those that are later than 20 weeks) is done because of catastrophic defects in the fetus, or for the requirement of the mother’s health.

    But for all of that, most second trimester abortions are not done through D&X, but through prostaglandin induced “labor.” I think the size of the head is the key — in many cases, the fetus has stopped growing or is significantly smaller than it otherwise would be, typically as a result of a chromosomal anomaly, so D&X isn’t as necessary. However, D&X aLSO avoids possible complications of prostaglandin (like uterine rupture), and some doctors won’t use prostaglandin with a woman whose risk of rupture might be higher. I was also told that the induction procedure is “safe enough” in most cases.

  6. 6
    Jesurgislac says:

    The contradictions inherent in being a “pro-life” feminist are exposed when, instead of using their terminology, we use ours: an anti-choice “feminist” is a self-identified feminist who opposes women having the legal right to make decisions about our own bodies when we are pregnant. An anti-choice feminist is a contradiction in terms.

    (This is not to say that someone who is anti-choice may not hold feminist beliefs in other areas… but I tend to think that reproductive choice is such a vital area that someone who holds anti-feminist opinions in that area is doubtful as a feminist in other areas, too, since all their feminist opinions must be qualified with “Unless she’s pregnant”.)

  7. 7
    BEG says:

    You know, I don’t often appreciate how much a background having a nurse (ICU, premature care) for a mother & a nurse (labor & delivery) for a sister gives me even though I myself have no personal medical background. I remember the first time I learned that the fetus’ head is compressed for late-term extraction. I understood immediately that it was because the cervix wouldn’t be able to handle it otherwise.

    It is frightening how little people know about some things, particularly when they are so adamantly opposed to them. I should know this by now, it should not surprise me any longer. But it still does.

    BEG – put me down in the safe-legal-rare camp, but really, who isn’t?

  8. 8
    gengwall says:

    I, too, have not had the hysteric reaction to partial birth abortion that my pro-life friends have had. But, like BEG, I grew up around and continue to be immerssed in the health care industry. My father was a doctor. Virtually every job I have ever had has either been in health care delivery or health care management. I have never entertainted the notion that health care providers perform PBA because they are sadistic infanticidal maniacs. I always presumed there were sound medical reasons why that method was preferred over others.

  9. 9
    Deanna says:

    Please, please, please stop using their terminology and framing. People who don’t want women to control their own bodies are anti-choice… it never has anything to do with ‘life.’ As Jesurgislac points out, the contradictions are clear.

    More here and here.

  10. 10
    paul says:

    On the first day of our childbirth class we were all given nametags consisting of circles of construction paper 10cm in diameter. No question here about why you’d be pretty crazy to try and get a near-term infant’s head out of a not-fully-effaced-and-dilated cervix (and even then).

  11. 11
    Jesurgislac says:

    Please, please, please stop using their terminology and framing.

    Deana, what do you expect?

  12. 12
    Marie Antoinette says:

    I wouldn’t consider it cognitive dissonance to be an anti-abortion feminist. They could believe that while a woman has a right to choose what happens to her body, the fetus’s right to live outweighs that.

  13. 13
    gengwall says:

    You can call me “anti-choice”. I have no problem with that label.

  14. 14
    Thomas says:

    BEG, I’m not in the “safe, legal and rare” camp. I’m in the “abortion on demand without apology” camp. I don’t care about reducing the aggregate number of abortions any more than I do about reducing the aggregate number of lipoma removals. In fact, I am positively against a reduction in medical or surgical abortion without a corresponding reduction in unwanted pregnancies.

  15. 15
    pdf23ds says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling a person pro-life, who is also pro-choice. People who do not support restricting abortion in any manner, but who would like to see there be fewer unwanted pregnancies because they feel the life of the fetus is a valuable and morally significant thing. For this kind of position, “pro-life” doesn’t seem to be a bad frame.

  16. 16
    Maia says:

    I’m with Thomas – Safe, Legal and Rare drives me nuts (my priorities are safe, on demand and free)

  17. 17
    Dianne says:

    Here’s the basic problem: the cervix can dilate to 10 cm in diameter. A typical full term fetus has a head that is 11 cm at its widest diamter when it is in the optimal position. Obviously, that’s a problem. Usually, that problem is solved by the fetus’ head getting slightly squished (the conehead most newborns have). If the fetus even slightly in the wrong position or enlarged (ie hydrocephalus), the head is too large to get out. If nothing is done, both fetus and mother will eventually die. Usually after several days of intensely painful labor. (Malposition of the fetal head leads to labor pain that is more intense than typical labor.) If this occurs during a normal labor, a c-section is done…with the attendant risks of major abdominal surgery. No big deal if you’re going to get a baby out of the deal, but if you’re not…and third trimester abortions are never done on a healthy fetus with a healthy mother…then it’s a major risk and a lot of suffering for less than nothing (less because the uterus is now prone to rupture and the chances of placenta previa go up, making subsequent pregnancies riskier…not to mention the risk of ahdesions which may reduce fertility.) So basically the “pro-llife” movement is trying to ensure that more women become functionally infertile and suffer unnecessary pain. Doesn’t sound real feminist to me.

  18. 18
    Barbara says:

    Dianne, it only makes sense when you consider that the most influential anti-choice institution thinks that it’s wrong to end an ectopic pregnancy through the use of pharmaceutical agents, but that it would be moral (through a concept known as the doctrine of double effects or something like that) to remove the fetus by surgically removing the tube, even though the latter procedure is far more invasive and riskier and all but guarantees that a woman’s fertility will be compromised. It’s all abstract reasoning, it has nothing to do with the welfare of actual women.

  19. 19
    Doctor Science says:

    Compressing the fetus’ head may also be necessary if the dead/defective fetus is one of twins and they hope to save the other one, because the goal is to get the dying/dead fetus out without triggering labor.

  20. 20
    Dianne says:

    Compressing the fetus’ head may also be necessary if the dead/defective fetus is one of twins and they hope to save the other one, because the goal is to get the dying/dead fetus out without triggering labor.

    That’s a good point. Bizarrely, the “partial birth abortion” bill even acknowleges that D and X is the standard of care and considered the best method for preserving the life of the surviving twin in the case of fetal demise of one twin. Apparently, giving the other twin a chance of survival is not adequate reason for a “pro-lifer” to allow the procedure. (After all, if they’re identical twins it’s only a clone, not a real person, right?)

  21. 21
    nolo says:

    The answer is easy. “Pro-life feminists” or, really, any of these folks who oppose allowing women to make up their own minds about reproductive issues have a vested interest in remaining ignorant of the facts, since the facts tend to support leaving these issues to women and their health care providers.

  22. 22
    Doctor Science says:

    Bizarrely, the “partial birth abortion” bill even acknowleges that D and X is the standard of care and considered the best method for preserving the life of the surviving twin in the case of fetal demise of one twin.

    That makes my head go all desky. Ignorance I could understand, maybe, though not excuse, but what’s the excuse for this?

  23. 23
    Anne says:

    Hell, a lot of anti-choicers don’t know anything about PREGNANCY. I’ve run into a number of them who feel that it’s “impossible” to die from pregnancy complications these days, and anyone who mentions the factual health risks of pregnancy is seen by them to be a baby-hating feminazi, basically. I witnessed and attempted to participate in a discussion in which firsthand reports of illness, infirmity, and death due to pregnancy were dismissed by the anti-choicer hosting the blog because she personally didn’t know anyone who’d experienced that, so it couldn’t be that big of a deal. And that’s not an uncommon frame of mind for anti-choicers, I’ve since learned.

  24. 24
    Foxessa says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/14/health/14preg.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    Silent Struggle: A New Theory of Pregnancy

    [The difference is that the heart and the kidney belong to a single individual, while pregnancy is a two-person operation. And this operation does not run in perfect harmony. Instead, Dr. Haig argues, a mother and her unborn child engage in an unconscious struggle over the nutrients she will provide it.

    Dr. Haig's theory has been gaining support in recent years, as scientists examine the various ways pregnancy can go wrong.

    His theory also explains a baffling feature of developing fetuses: the copies of some genes are shut down, depending on which parent they come from. Dr. Haig has also argued that the same evolutionary conflicts can linger on after birth and even influence the adult brain. New research has offered support to this idea as well. By understanding these hidden struggles, scientists may be able to better understand psychological disorders like depression and autism.]

  25. 25
    Barbara says:

    The “excuse” is that a good result is not justified by the use of evil means. It is my understanding that this is the theological basis of Roman Catholic doctrine opposing abortion even where necessary to save the life of the fetus’s twin or mother. Inevitability or futility don’t seem to play much of a role. Again, it’s a form of abstract reasoning that leaves the interests of flesh and blood mothers and twins way behind the interest of doctrinal purity.

  26. 26
    Helen of Troy says:

    Anne-
    Yes. Did you see the article on Wampum and Majikthise about hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)- affects 1% of pregnancies with hypernausea. You can end up eating only with IV tubes- and that isn’t good for your liver. One poster replied that people shouldn’t focus on extreme cases. I wrote back:

    For the person who called this an “extreme case,” 1% of pregnancies is 60,000 women with HG per year in the US.

    We have the luxury of thinking about medical complications of pregnancy and childbirth as “extreme cases” only because of 100 years of good medicine in developed countries.

    Pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous– we’re not well designed for it.

    One root of the problem here: many religious fundamentalists are also creationists. They think the female body is well-designed, with just ‘pain in childbirth’ thrown in *after* the fall (sin in the garden of Eden).

    If you believe in creationism you can’t really accept that pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous, just painful. You’d be insulting the designer, wouldn’t you?

    Instead, if you believe in evolution you can accept that pregnancy and childbirth are amazing, beautiful, and powerful but still darned risky.

    Our 500,000th grandmas did the best they can with what they had to work with, but a system evolved for small-brained quadrupeds might not work as well for big-brained bipeds. And it doesn’t. It only works well enough- mostly we live, mostly we can have more children after.

    But the South Dakota law doesn’t accept mostly. Napoli can only imagine (ick) an exception for raped religious virgin girls (remember, he says “girl” twice!). They don’t seem to believe in medical necessity, because they don’t quite believe pregnancy can really be that bad.

    For example, the anti-abortionists don’t usually let age be a factor- if they have exceptions (rape, incest, life) they don’t specifically base exceptions on age. Why isn’t girl-pregnancy worth an exception? Perhaps in part because they don’t think pregnancy is inherently dangerous. i.e. If a girl is old enough to be pregnant she’s old enough to be a mother because we’re well designed for pregnancy. That we’re not well designed isn’t in their thoughts.

  27. 27
    Tapetum says:

    Yep – HG is so marginal that I’ve only known two women who’ve had it. Mind you I’m no kind of obstetrical professional.

    Talking with people who are convinced pregnancy can’t kill you blows my gaskets every time. Either one of my deliveries would have killed me a hundred years ago. My second one nearly killed me a mere five years ago, and I’m not aware of any awesome breakthroughs since then.

    And Dianne – word. A malpresented head can make you feel like the guy on Alien – only for hours, and hours, and hours, and without the little bugger having the courtesy to come out through the nice pliable abdominal wall. Nope, he was intent on busting straight through the pubic bone.

  28. 28
    Mendy says:

    Yep. Hard to believe that there are those that believe that pregnancy and childbirth are 100% safe for all women today. In fact, in my opinion medical science has created far more “high risk pregnancies”. IV fertilization and other procedures not withstanding… we now have better nutrition, pre-natal care (in developed countries) and this is actually causing birth weights to go up. In my Great-grandmother’s day (and this is merely anecdotal) she said that most of her children and her friend’s children averaged about 5 lbs. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the average birth weight is something like 7 lbs (maybe a bit more), and now 11 and 13 lb new borns aren’t all that uncommon.

    Pregnancy is very dangerous, but it is much less dangerous now than it was 100 years ago. I feel like I can be “pro-life” personally and still be actively “pro-choice” politically. For me it is simple, I do not have the moral right to force my beliefs onto anyone else. I do not feel like the government or anyone else has that right when it comes to a woman’s body.

  29. 29
    gengwall says:

    I can accept that pregnancy is not a 100% safe condition. And I recognize the problem with those on the anti-choice side who won’t acknowledge that pregnancy still holds, even today, an element of danger. But pro-choicers are just as selectively ignorant. Although I realize that anti-choicers blow out of proportion the incidence of post-abortion problems, both physical and psychological, that doesn’t mean that they also don’t exist. Abortion is not necessarily a neat, clean, 100% safe and healthy solution either. Let’s all be honest, there are significant risks and problems associate with both courses of action.

  30. 30
    Barbara says:

    Well, the most dangerous thing about pregnancy is the delivery. So in that sense, every pregnancy does present a risk to the health of the mother. But the rejoinder to those who don’t like focusing on “extreme” cases is that there is no average woman. The few women who have HG are sick 100% — and their lives are as important as anyone else’s. How can a person who sees the “life potential” in a ball of cells be so indifferent to a life threatening event in a fully formed human being? Moreover, a dead mother doesn’t yield a living baby. They both die. Yeah, yeah, it’s the principle of the thing — and if they want to eat principles for dinner for the rest of their (shortened) life, that’s okay by me.

    In addition, why is it that the anti-choice brigade has any right to invoke the “extreme” exception (as in, don’t worry about that individual woman dying, it’s a rare event) but blow it off entirely when it’s clear that D&X is also a rare event, relative to the incidence of pregnancy, certainly, but also relative to the incidence of abortion: D&X is a rare procedure meant to accommodate extreme threats to health and life. WTF is so hard about that?

  31. 31
    Barbara says:

    Gengwall, anti-choice folks have gone out of their way to marginalize the practice of abortion and are in my view almost entirely responsible for exacerbating the minimal threats that abortion poses to women. Women have the same procedure (d&c) every day in hospitals in order to resolve impending or missed miscarriages and there are very, very few complications. In fact, if d&c is less safe it’s because some medical schools and training programs reserve the right not to train doctors in it so that they will never be able to do an abortion — apparently, they don’t really care about the population of women who miscarry and who need a d&c for that reason, in which case, if they don’t get one they could get very very sick.

    So any pg woman would be very wise to query her OB about the quality of their training in d&c — esp. if they were trained in a Catholic institution.

  32. 32
    Doctor Science says:

    Gengwall wrote:

    Abortion is not necessarily a neat, clean, 100% safe and healthy solution either.

    I’d appreciate correction from the health care pros here, but it’s my understanding that abortion is *always*, 100% of the time, safer for the woman than continuing the pregnancy through childbirth. Bear in mind that approx. 25-30% of US births are C-sections, with all the risks of major surgery. When you look at psychological effects of abortion, compare it to childbirth: at least 70% of women get the “baby blues”, and perhaps 10% get severe post-partum depression.

    I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered anyone from the “pregnancy and childbirth can’t hurt you” crowd. It may be that I’m older than the rest of you, so I’m a bit closer to the Bad Old Days — I have contemporaries (born in the 1950s) who grew up motherless because their mothers died in/shortly after childbirth. I’ve certainly known quite a few women who were on bed rest for months to get their pregnancies to term, or who had a cornucopia of other complications.

  33. 33
    Barbara says:

    It should go without saying that once you are pregnant there are no clean, 100% safe solutions. However, as between abortion and continuing a pregnancy to term, yes, I believe that nearly every study shows that delivery is riskier than surgical abortion, of which D&X is one form. And of course, there are pre-delivery complications, like PIH (pre-eclampsia) and, increasingly, pregnancy induced diabetes and heart anomalies (for reasons of increased maternal age and possibly weight). In its extreme form PIH can cause irreversible liver damage and death.

    There’s a fascinating article in the NYT today on the increasingly accepted scientific theory of “pregnancy as conflict” or fight between the mother and her fetus for maximum well-being.

  34. 34
    Dianne says:

    A malpresented head can make you feel like the guy on Alien – only for hours, and hours, and hours, and without the little bugger having the courtesy to come out through the nice pliable abdominal wall. Nope, he was intent on busting straight through the pubic bone.

    Tapetum: You too, huh? I was describing the feeling from experience. It was absolutely the worst pain I’ve ever felt. Worse than a second degree burn, worse than crushing a finger in a car door. If the critter had burst through my abdominal wall my last thought probably would have been something like “ah…relief at last”.

    Of course, the critter does eventually come through the abdominal wall, with the help of a surgeon. I was fortnate enough to have an intelligent and well educated midwife who had an excellent OB backup and so survived what would otherwise have been a fatal problem in delivery. The OB had previously been targeted by violent “pro-lifers” because he includes abortion in his practice. So I suppose I owe my life to the poor aim of “pro-lifers”.

  35. 35
    Dianne says:

    Although I realize that anti-choicers blow out of proportion the incidence of post-abortion problems, both physical and psychological, that doesn’t mean that they also don’t exist. Abortion is not necessarily a neat, clean, 100% safe and healthy solution either.

    It’s true that a signficant number of women feel sad after an abortion. Some, especially those who experience negative judgements from their peers and family for their choice, may experience clinical depression. And no, no surgery is 100% safe. Any time you mess with someone’s bodily integrity it can be dangerous. You can die from getting your ears pierced or blood drawn. (Before I give anyone nightmares, let me point out that the risk in both cases is LOW, like less than 1 in 1 billion…but it can and has happened.) Anyway, yes, avoiding unwanted pregnancies is a much better solution and I have absolutely no problem with people who hate abortion and try to end it by improving knowledge about and access to contraceptive methods including, but not limited to, voluntary abstinence.

    However, pregnancy and birth are far more dangerous than abortion. The mortality rate for legal abortion is less than 1 in 100,000, much less for first trimster abortion. The mortality for completing a pregnancy is around 10 per 100,000 (some variation depending on the year). Others have already mentioned the problem of post-partum depression. There’s also the problem of what happens to the baby once it is born. I’ve mentioned this before, but giving a baby up for adoption is demonstrably hell for the birth mother. Most, possibly all, mothers who give up their children for adoption undergo a severe and long-lasting, often life-long, depression as a result. Any “crisis pregnancy clinic” or “sidewalk counselor” who implies that a woman can bear a baby, give it up, and walk away without consequence is doing women a profound disservice and doing a great deal of harm.

  36. 36
    gengwall says:

    There’s also the problem of what happens to the baby once it is born. I’ve mentioned this before, but giving a baby up for adoption is demonstrably hell for the birth mother. Most, possibly all, mothers who give up their children for adoption undergo a severe and long-lasting, often life-long, depression as a result.

    I certainly don’t doubt or discount this. I am adopted. I know nothing about my birth mother other than she gave me up under duress. I have no doubt that this is at least as traumatic a decision for mothers as abortion is.

    Any “crisis pregnancy clinic” or “sidewalk counselor” who implies that a woman can bear a baby, give it up, and walk away without consequence is doing women a profound disservice and doing a great deal of harm.

    I doubt this is their position, but others probably have more personal experience with them.

    Thank you all for fairly and seriously responding to my comments.

  37. 37
    Dianne says:

    gengwall: Just in case I left a wrong impression…I think that if an unintentionally pregnant woman chooses, knowing the risks, to have a baby and give it up for adoption in order to have something good come out of the situation for someone or for whatever other reason of her own, that that is a brave decision and can be a good one for all concerned. But I worry that women are being talked into this option without understanding that there are real risks, mental as well as physical, involved. And I’ve heard people on the anti-choice side talk about adoption as though it were an easy, low risk way out of the situation. I’ve never been in a crisis pregnancy center, perhaps I’m slandering them by assuming that they don’t understand or chose to explain the risks of adoption. But I would be fairly suprised if they did. I’m not at all sure that Planned Parenthood or any other abortion clinics really lay out the risks/benefits of adoption in an accurate way either: the risks of adoption aren’t all that well known. It’s too bad: I think a full and frank discussion of the options (adoption, abortion, raising the child) and the risks and benefits of each would be very helpful to a lot of women in order to clarify their thinking and help them make the decision they will ultimately feel the most comfortable with.

    A close friend of mine gave up her baby for adoption, under duress, like your birth mother, and it profoundly affected her life. I won’t say ruined, because she found a way to make a life for herself, despite the trauma, but it did damage her life in many ways. She found some peace when her birth daughter contacted her many years later, but is still aware of all she missed, all she was never given a chance to have–or even a chance to willingly give up. Have you thought about attempting to contact your birth mother? It might be worth doing–although, obviously, I don’t know much about your situation and you should entirely blow off any advice I give if you feel that it isn’t right for your situation.

  38. 38
    Anne says:

    And I recognize the problem with those on the anti-choice side who won’t acknowledge that pregnancy still holds, even today, an element of danger. But pro-choicers are just as selectively ignorant. Although I realize that anti-choicers blow out of proportion the incidence of post-abortion problems, both physical and psychological, that doesn’t mean that they also don’t exist. Abortion is not necessarily a neat, clean, 100% safe and healthy solution either.

    I’m sensing a strawman here. I don’t know of any real pro-choice position that holds that abortion is “a neat, clean, 100% safe and healthy solution.” And I really take exception to the idea that pro-choicers are “just as” selectively ignorant as antis. I don’t know of any pro-choice position equivalent to the willful, often expansive medical ignorance of some anti-choicers.

  39. 39
    gengwall says:

    Have you thought about attempting to contact your birth mother? It might be worth doing”“although, obviously, I don’t know much about your situation and you should entirely blow off any advice I give if you feel that it isn’t right for your situation.

    I have not, quite to the dismay of my daughters. In reflecting on it in this context, I feel somewhat selfish in that regard. I had a great upbringing with my adoptive family and saw no reason to pursue any contact. It never occured to me that maybe my birth mother (and father?) might have a need for closure. I always assumed putting me up for adoption was closure for them.

    I’m sensing a strawman here. I don’t know of any real pro-choice position that holds that abortion is “a neat, clean, 100% safe and healthy solution.”

    True. And I’m not arguing to the contrary. I just want us to all stay intellectually honest and avoid exagerated claims and sterotyping of the opposition.

  40. 40
    Mendy says:

    A friend of mine recently participated in an open adoption, and the birth mother is doing very well. The baby is now seven or eight months old, and they’ve all agreed to be up front and honest about the adoption from the outset. There are even plans to include the birth mother in the child’s life. I wonder if any studies have been done that indicate the “success rates” of open adoptions versus the traditional closed versions?

  41. 41
    gengwall says:

    Mendy – interesting. I suspect for many mothers, this might be even harder emotionally than walking away. But I certainly think all options should be explored.

  42. 42
    Jesurgislac says:

    gengwall: I have not, quite to the dismay of my daughters. In reflecting on it in this context, I feel somewhat selfish in that regard. I had a great upbringing with my adoptive family and saw no reason to pursue any contact. It never occured to me that maybe my birth mother (and father?) might have a need for closure.

    I really think you shouldn’t try to get in touch if you don’t want to – it’s perfectly fine to be selfish about this, it’s your life. Your choice.

    But I know personally three women who gave their children up for adoption, and none of them felt that their having given up their child represented closure: I know one woman who via a series of catastrophes had given up four children for adoption, and was overjoyed when – one by one – three out of the four made contact with her when they were adults.

    But, of course, this is bound to be one-sided reporting: women who gave children up for adoption and did not feel closure when they gave their child away are going to be the ones heard from. There must be women who did close the door on what happened, never thought about it again, and don’t especially want to hear from the adult child whom they gave up from adoption – but those are not the women who talk about their experience. Still, does appear to be a much more common phenomenon – women wondering what happened to their biological child – than adopted children wondering anything about their birth parents.

  43. 43
    LAmom says:

    For those of you who feel that there is such a thing as a pro-life feminist, I would qualify as one. Anyway, the stuff you hear from some people is mind-boggling. I recently saw a prolific pro-life blogger (not one who made any claims to feminism) who was writing about how he had JUST FOUND OUT about a condition called ectopic pregnancy, and how this new information was causing him to question his previous belief that there was no such thing as abortion to save the mother. Amazing.

    As to whether I’m really a feminist or not, part of the problem is that feminism does not have a pope. If there were such a person, she could decide which issues are central to the definition of feminism and which ones are open to diverse opinions. But as it is, people will define themselves in whatever way feels right to them. (Would it be bad form for me to mention that if abortion rights were declared an inviolable feminist value, many of the early women’s-suffrage feminists would have to be defrocked?)

  44. 44
    Ampersand says:

    Would it be bad form for me to mention that if abortion rights were declared an inviolable feminist value, many of the early women’s-suffrage feminists would have to be defrocked?

    The suffragettes were writing in a time before antibiotics existed, which made abortions far, far more dangerous. For them, opposing abortion was to a great extent about protecting women. Today – bogus statistics about breast cancer aside – that’s simply not true. So I don’t think the comparison holds water.

    I respect you a lot, LAMom, but I think you’re mistaken to suggest that a fetus is a person, and – much more importantly – morally wrong to support criminalization of abortion. I wouldn’t say you’re not a feminist, but I do think a feminism that combines prioritizing women’s rights with government coercion of women is incoherent.

    To that, you might respond that >50% of fetuses are female, so you see supporting criminalization as helping to save women. If there was any reason to believe that criminalization and coercion is required to bring about lower abortion rates compared to pro-woman methods of lowering abortion (like teaching and providing “double-dutch” birth control, and a generous welfare state), then that argument would hold more water. But that’s not the case in the real world. In the real world, every country with a really extraordinarily low abortion rate (Belgium, Germany, etc) has achieved it by lowering demand for abortion by making unwanted pregnancy less likely, rather than by trying to coerce women with the force of law.

    On the other hand, from what I’ve read on your blog, when it comes to the voting booth you’re willing to vote for politicians who favor policies that help women on the whole, even if it means endorsing a pro-choice candidate. I respect that a lot, and I think it sets you apart from the vast, vast majority of “pro-criminalization” people I’ve talked to this stuff about. I also respect that none of your writings on abortion, that I’ve read, have demonized abortion providers or women who seek abortions.

  45. 45
    Ampersand says:

    Thomas wrote:

    BEG, I’m not in the “safe, legal and rare” camp. I’m in the “abortion on demand without apology” camp. I don’t care about reducing the aggregate number of abortions any more than I do about reducing the aggregate number of lipoma removals.

    There is no necessary contradiction between “safe, legal and rare” and “abortion on demand without apology.”

    I’m in the “safe, legal and rare” camp. Because no matter how safe abortion becomes, it’s not as safe as successfully using birth control. Abortion is a form of birth control, but – even if you don’t see a fetus as having any inherent value. as I do not – it makes sense from a feminist POV to want more women to be successful at using cheaper, safer, and less intrusive methods of avoiding unwanted childbirth. (One such method, of course, is for men to take responsibility for using birth control as well.)

    Of course, some abortion will always be necessary. But more effective sex education and use of birth control could lower the number of abortions that are needed dramatically, and that would be a good thing.

    In fact, I am positively against a reduction in medical or surgical abortion without a corresponding reduction in unwanted pregnancies.

    This, I entirely agree with. And, for the record, I also favor “abortion on demand without apology.”

  46. 46
    Maia says:

    In New Zealand half of women who have abortions were using birth control. Even if all the women who weren’t using birth control started using it abortion would not be rare.

    I’m in the “safe, legal and rare” camp. Because no matter how safe abortion becomes, it’s not as safe as successfully using birth control.

    It is (or at least it was, I think the figures I got this from were out of date) safer to use condoms, and use first trimester abortion as a back-up, than to be on the pill.

    Of course, some abortion will always be necessary. But more effective sex education and use of birth control could lower the number of abortions that are needed dramatically, and that would be a good thing.

    You know I’m not sure that I think that the use of birth control is a good thing in and of itself. I think access to and education about birth control is vitally important. But if a particular woman says that she doesn’t want to use birth control, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and I don’t think it would be ‘a good thing’ if she changed her mind.

    No form of birth control is side-effect free. I don’t have any problem with any woman deciding that the side-effects she can deal with best is abortion (there was an example of this discussed on abortion clinic days but I can’t find the post).

    Also I think that it’s bad logic to say that X would be a consequence of Y, and this situation is good therefore X is good.

  47. 47
    Ampersand says:

    That’s an interesting point, Maia. I had been under the impression that the pill was safer than abortion. A tiny number of women do suffer infertility, injury or death as the result of botched abortions; I’m not aware of birth control pills killing anyone. However, it may be that I’m just ignorant. If it turns out that abortion is safer than the pill and other birth control options, then that might change my opinion on “safe legal and rare.”

    I agree that it’s fine if a particular, individual woman decides she’d rather use abortion than birth control. However, as a whole – if I’m correct in thinking that BC is on average less intrusive and safer than abortion – BC is preferable to abortion.

    When I say that, to clarify, I’m talking about overall rates – what’s best on the whole.

    I don’t think that saying something is best on the whole is the same as saying “all individuals would be better off if they did this.” For example, I think it would be best on the whole if Americans chose more small, gas-efficient cars and fewer trucks and SUVs, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t individual Americans for whom an SUV genuinely is the better choice.

  48. 48
    Doctor Science says:

    Maia wrote:

    In New Zealand half of women who have abortions were using birth control.

    Do you have a link? Random googling tells me that the NZ abortion rate is moderately high and increasing, but I haven’t discovered what methods of BC women in NZ are using and why their failure rate is so high.

    The baseline comparison right now has to be with The Netherlands, where abortion really *is* Safe, Legal, and Rare.

  49. 49
    Maia says:

    Sorry no link it’s a memory of a long ago news story – although I may be able to provide exact figures tomorrow (I have a copy of the Abortion Supervisory Committee report at work, and I suspect it’ll tell me, the report isn’t available on line).

    A tiny number of women do suffer infertility, injury or death as the result of botched abortions; I’m not aware of birth control pills killing anyone.

    Really? You’ve never heard of blood-clots related to the pill? You’d never heard of the dangers relating to the pill and smoking? Unfortunately I can’t get any current figures on the numbers, (which is really annoying, but could have something to do with the fact that my computer is running slower than treacle) but deaths from pills certainly aren’t unheard of.

    I do however have a 1979 copy of Our Bodies Ourselves, which isn’t relevant to today (my understanding is that both abortion and birth control have got considerably safer in the last 25 years), but is relevant to the question of whether ‘rare’ should be our goal. It compares the mortality rate of the pill with the mortality rate of abortion (taking into account the likelyhood that a woman would get pregnant if she wasn’t practicing birth control) . The numbers were pretty similar between 1.2 and 2 per 100,000, depending on age. Sometimes one is higher, sometimes the other is higher. Barrier methods, with abortion as a back-up were much, much safer – 0.2 per 100,000.

    Now obviously the figures are different now. I don’t know what they would say, maybe the pill is much safer than abortion now, maybe it’s still about equal. I’d guess that barrier method with abortion as back-up is still significantly safer than the pill, but I don’t know.

    The point is those figures could all change again, it’s conceivable that we could make another leap forward in abortion practices that would decrease the risk of abortion considerably. The comparative risk of death between abortion, birth and different forms of birth control are not static. Therefore I don’t think we can use the current rates as the basis as our demand for abortion.

    Also I’m not happy with just looking at the risk of death when it comes to birth-control. Some women have really unpleasant side effects from the pill, for example, depression or a loss in libido (it makes me want to cry that loss of libido is seen as an acceptable side-effect in a contraceptive). For a lot of those women a form of birth control that has a higher risk of failure, but less side-effects, is going to be preferable. Those choices are going to make abortion more common. That’s not a bad thing, in fact it’s a good thing (and while I’ve mainly talked about the pill there are other problems with other forms of contraception, every contraception is a trade-off when it comes to side-effects, failure rate, and risk factors).

    I don’t think the comparison with SUV stands at all, because the issue with SUV is not the problems they create for individuals, but the problem they create for us collectively (in terms of pollution and using limited resources). It doesn’t make any difference to you if I’m on the pill or not, it does make a difference (in a small way) if I’m driving an SUV. The whole point about decisions around birth control and abortion is that if every woman had acess to all forms of contraception and abortion, and full information about the options then she’d automatically be making the right choice for her.

    But fundamentally I don’t think ‘rare’ should be our goal for abortion, because I don’t think we should care one way or another. I don’t think there are any other benefits for abortion being rare, that are seperate from the benefits of the policies that would create rarer abortion. I do believe that the policies I seek would result in abortion being rare, but that doesn’t mean rare abortion is a goal.

  50. 50
    Maia says:

    According to this link Netherlands women will on average have 0.2 abortions in their life. I don’t know how that compares to lifetime abortion rates, the number in New Zealand is 0.49 and here a third of women have an abortion, but I’m guessing that extrapolates to somewhere between 10-20% of women have abortions.

    I actually don’t think a procedure that somewhere between 1 in 10, and 1 in 5 women will have in their life is rare.

  51. 51
    Grace says:

    Wow, I’m really impressed by the scope, civility and interestingness (why is there no word for interestingness?!) of this thread.

    I have to confess, the idea of using abortion as a backup to condoms, rather than, say, pill and condoms in combination, really squicks me out. I’m on the pill, and it hasn’t been side-effect-free either, although I’m 27 and a nonsmoker – I was first put on Ortho TriCyclen, which is the most widely prescribed pill in the US and just happened to make me suicidal. Yanked off that one at short notice (I felt better within about 12 hours, though I still had to deal with the massive personal crisis that the pill had tipped over into semi-active suicidal ideation), I switched to a low-dose pill that every 3 months or so gives me a period that lasts 2 1/2 weeks. Never having had sex before I went on it, I can’t offer the comparison between my sex drive on and off-pill, but I’m hoping to go off it in the next year, and I suspect I’m going to get a lot hornier.

    Yet despite all this bothersomeness, I can’t imagine using abortion as a backup method of birth control in the way Maia describes. (Obviously, abortion IS functionally a backup method of birth control, but equally obviously I don’t think what Maia describes is the mindset of most women who seek abortions – they see it as a major, unplanned disaster, not “oh darn, the condom must have broken, gotta go get an abortion as part of my overall reproductive strategy”.) Whether or not it’s the safest surgical procedure ever, whether or not a fetus is a whole person at 5 or 8 or 12 weeks (which I doubt), the fact remains that a fetus is at least a POTENTIAL human life, and I find it a disturbing moral position to advocate for creating and discarding such potential human life rather than preventing its creation in the first place.

    (Politically, such a position is clearly disastrous, and I know everyone on this board is savvy enough not to state such a position in a partisan political context as anything but the extremist strawman to make a “prevention first” choice stance seem more appetizing!)

    Some of this is my personal position, based on the fact that my skin crawls when I think of the possibility of having a D&C after a miscarriage, let alone an abortion. But I think that sometimes in our focus on women’s safety and choices, we can forget that the fetus is NOT just a parasite or a “rogue organ” – it’s something that has a direct connection, even if an as yet unfulfilled one, to a post-birth human being, and as such is deserving of consideration. Thus, I find a stance that doesn’t focus on prevention as the way of reducing abortion because of abortion’s ESSENTIAL undesirability – even as it remains necessary in cases of contraceptive failure or threat to the mother’s health – suspect.

    On the subject of danger to health: My grandmother had an ectopic pregnancy (after she had my father, so that wouldn’t itself have threatened my existence). 100 years ago, my mother and I would probably both have died when I was born, and if I were 20 years younger I would almost certainly have been delivered by C-section (I was dragged out with forceps after 28 hours of labor). A friend went through 32 hours of back labor with a malpresented head, had an emergency C-section, would probably have suffered for days and then died pre-medical advances. Yeah right, pregnancy and birth aren’t dangerous.

    And yet I still look forward with hope to getting pregnant myself, whereas I certainly want to avoid ever having to have an abortion. Pregnancy, while dangerous, is basically life-giving; abortion may save lives both literally and figuratively, but something is also lost. You can say “I’m not sorry” and still acknowledge that.

  52. 52
    Barbara says:

    Call me queasy, but in my view any surgical procedure should be avoided if at all possible, even circumcision.

    The risks of abortion include infection and related complications, but also, as with any surgical procedure that affects the reproductive region, threats to future fertility because of scarring. It’s never a great idea to have multiple d&c procedures unless you are sure you don’t want children, and if you are that sure, you might want to consider tubal ligation. Abortion is also relatively expensive and requires time off work or away from daily responsibilities, like other children.

    Oral contraceptives and their counterparts (the patch, injections, cervical ring) can cause complications including death, but these are well understood (well, the patch is becoming better understood) and any woman can assess her risks based on whether she has risk factors (age, high blood pressure, smoking, headaches). It’s really hard to predict the threat of any particular abortion procedure let alone multiple procedures.

    If your source of information is the 1979 OBO, it’s way out of date. In particular, it probably says that IUDs are really dangerous — but they are much safer now and they provide nearly the same protection as the pill without infiltrating the bloodstream with hormones. If a woman can tolerate it and is basically monogamous, an IUD offers a fully reversible, stress free, reliable means of birth control for up to 10 years, that you don’t have to think about on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

    And if you are not monogamous, then you should probably always be using a condom anyway — so you can just double up with some other OTC method, or a low dose pill if you tolerate it better (from a medical and a lifestyle perspective). A major risk of relying on “on the spot” alternatives is that you won’t use them. It’s just a fact of life.

    Any current method of birth control is probably less risky than using abortion as a back up, even if you have no moral qualms about it.

  53. 53
    Dianne says:

    >50% of fetuses are female

    Actually, I think that slightly fewer than 50% of fetuses are female. More males are conceived and, IIRC, slightly more males are born. However, more males die in childhood so that by adulthood the ratio is pretty even and by middle age it is definitely tilted towards female dominance. There’s no way around it: having only one X chomosome is risky.

    One point on the risks of birth control issue: The very most risky form of birth control there is, riskier than smoking and taking the pill, riskier than a monthly D and C, is using no birth control and completing any pregnancies that occur. Any method is safer than that. (At least in young women. At some point, about age 35-40, smoking and taking the pill becomes more dangerous, though the vast majority of the risk there is attributible to smoking. Non-smokers using the pill are still safer than those who use no birth control.)

  54. 54
    alsis39.75 says:

    Barbara:

    It’s never a great idea to have multiple d&c procedures unless you are sure you don’t want children, and if you are that sure, you might want to consider tubal ligation.

    I hate to harp on something that’s been mentioned numerous times. However, more than one woman has observed that doctors are extremely leery of performing tubal ligation no matter how vehemently women insist we want it. All kinds of “boilerplate” conditions have to be in place before the doctor will accept the patient’s request, and few of these conditions have anythng to do with the woman’s desires. One of the chief conditions seems to be that the woman should be middle-aged or verging on middle age before she gets the tubal. It’s thus not beyond imagining that a woman who would have preferred a tubal at, say, twenty-tive, could end up aborting more than once in the subsequent decade precisely because she wanted a tubal and was refused.

  55. 55
    Barbara says:

    alsis, very true — and I am guessing that even more than age, many doctors would hesitate unless the woman already had children. It is also true, though, that a significant subset of women seek reversals, usually after having been divorced.

  56. 56
    gengwall says:

    So, let me see if I get this right. Men can get sterilized whenever they darn well please but women get at best resistance and at worst refusal if they request to be sterilized prior to middle age? Wow. I have not heard that before.

  57. 57
    Thomas says:

    Amp, I agree that there is no logical contradiction — in a better world, there would be no unwanted pregnancy (and no rape, no intimate violence and no discrimination, but I digress …).The difference is one of rhetoric. It seems to me that SL&R is a nod to the folks who have “moral qualms” about abortion. I prefer to do absolutely nothing which could be perceived as a nod in that direction — if only because paying homage to that rhetoric makes other folks feel like the only “reasonable” position is to genuflect to the notion that abortion is a necessary evil. I want to give others the support and courage to say that they dissent from that position and see nothing wrong with abortion. That’s why, though I’d like unwanted pregnancy and therefore abortion to virtually disappear, I prefer to say “abortion on demand without apology” loud and clear and to never say SL&R.

  58. 58
    Barbara says:

    gengwall, I assume that many doctors would be similarly hesitant to do a vasectomy for a single man or even a married man without children. Since it’s a different set of doctors and the necessary procedures are more complicated for women, it’s probably not easy to do an accurate comparison. But yes, women are often challenged by doctors when they seek permanent sterilization.

  59. 59
    gengwall says:

    Wow. I would not have figured that. OK, I just have to ask. Don’t women consider that quite an infringement on their reproductive freedom? I would imagine there would be quite an outcry, especially in cases were the doctors are male. All those claims of mysogeny and patriarchy, etc. Imagine the protestation (not saying it wouldn’t be justified) if doctors similarly challenged women on their choice to have an abortion.

  60. 60
    Lee says:

    I was thinking about the headline for this post, and probably this has already occurred to everybody, but why are we expecting people who actively discourage the dissemination of accurate sex ed and family planning information to know very much about reproductive and development physiology? Ignorance is bliss, ya know.

  61. 61
    gengwall says:

    Pro-lifers are not so much against the content of sex ed and family planning info as much as who is disseminating it. It is quite a presumption to contend that pro-lifers can’t disseminate accurate sex ed and family planning information themselves. I, for one, grew up in a pro-life household with a father who was a doctor and had been in general practice delivering babies, etc. for a number of years. The sex ed information I received from my parents was more accurate and detailed than any you can get in the schools and I received it far earlier in life than even the most aggressive public school programs provide it. I know many Christian (I presume that is who you are talking about) families that are very, very open about sexuality and quite willing to talk to their kids about it. Certainly, there are others that aren’t but the same could be said for many non-religious and pro-choice families. The general assumption that Christians don’t want their children to have accurate information about sex education and family planning is where true blissful ignorance actually lies.

  62. 62
    Robert says:

    My devoutly Catholic (and pro-life) family gave my sister and I extensive, accurate information on sex from a young age. I intend to do the same with my kids.

    Just another data point.

  63. 63
    Maia says:

    I have to confess, the idea of using abortion as a backup to condoms, rather than, say, pill and condoms in combination, really squicks me out.

    Grace that’s fine, that’s also true for a lot of women. Obviously oral contraceptives are the best form of birth control for you. Not having an abortion is really important for you, and I have friends who feel the same way (using two methods and putting up with what I would consider unacceptable side-effects). The point is that you are the only person who can make that decision. I might rail against loss of libido as a side effect for the pill, but some people

    Actually Barbara this copy of OBO says that the IUD is safer than the pill. But that was exactly my point, the relative safety of different forms of birth control changes over time. But more importantly

    Call me queasy, but in my view any surgical procedure should be avoided if at all possible, even circumcision.

    That’s fine, that’s your decision. Other women are going to make other decisions that work for them. I don’t think we should say that avoiding abortion, in and of itself, should have any more weight than the individual woman decides to give it. I think ‘safe legal and rare’ implies that limiting abortion does have value in and of itself.

    According to this link, the risk of death from a legal abortion in America performed before 8 weeks is one in a million. Still no information on the pill (of course you couldn’t do a simple comparison, you’d have to compare the likelyhood of getting pregnant and therefore having to have an abortion in any period alongside the likelyhood of side effects from the pill.

  64. 64
    Lee says:

    Gengwall, while there are many Christian families who are like yours and mine in terms of being open about providing sex ed and other reproductive information to their children, and many of these may also be pro-life, in my experience, the more fiercely pro-life the adults are, the less likely they are to provide their children with ANY sex-ed or other information. My husband’s parents, for instance, never told him anything, and sent him to a very conservative Christian school besides, where the extent of the sex ed was pretty much, “Don’t do it until you’re married.” My roommate in college frequently got into trouble because of the (accurate) information she disseminated at slumber parties.

    Most of my family are teachers. Every year, each of the ones that teach at the secondary level have at least one homeroom student whose parents refuse permission for them to attend the hygiene and sex ed classes. Every year, there are always a handful of girls in the upper elementary, junior high, and even high school levels who have no clue what is happening to them once a month. These two groups frequently overlap. And in my family, the general rule of thumb for handling the situation is to call the parents to give them a choice: tell your kid yourself, or he/she gets sent to the school nurse for a little talk about hygiene. Just last week, my sister had a conversation with a parent who asked HER to talk to her 15-year-old, because “I know you’re a good Christian woman and won’t tell her anything she doesn’t need to know.” Grrr.

    I would feel a lot better about this anti-public-school sex ed position if I could feel confident that the parents were, in fact, informing their kids. And the avoidance strategy many of these parents use frequently feeds right in to not knowing enough about other reproductive issues, like this guy mentioned above who just found out about ectopic pregnancies, to make informed public policy decisions.

  65. 65
    gengwall says:

    Lee – fair enough and I have experienced the same things you have. It’s just when I read your comment my “stereotyping” alarm went off. Sorry if I over reacted.

  66. 66
    Barbara says:

    Maia, fair enough, whether one thinks the risk of a surgical abortion is acceptable under the circumstances is an individual decision. There are two important points:

    First, the risk of death is not the only risk from a d&c done for any reason — infection, scarring, loss of fertility and so on are non-trivial risks as well.

    Second, there just seems to be a lot of ignorance about methods of birth control in general, and a vague feeling that it’s all unsafe — often based on concerns that were legitimate at one time, but that have changed. There are also many pro-life groups that play up the risks associated with forms of birth control (like the IUD) that they (wrongly) believe are abortifacient. I did a lot of research on this issue and it appears that most scientists think that the IUD prevents fertilization. If fertilization takes place with an IUD there is a decent chance of implantation. Still, the misinformation on this issue is maddening, as it is with EC.

    Every woman is different but there are women, usually young women, who will tell themselves that when the time comes they’ll use a condom as a way of not dealing with the actual risks of any form of birth control, or for that matter, abortion. And then they have no choice but to accept the risks of the latter, or of a full-term pregnancy. That’s why I wouldn’t encourage the mindset of abortion as a back-up.

  67. 67
    Maia says:

    The risk of death isn’t the only risk of any form of birth control either.

    But the main point is that if there’s ignorance about birth control the solution is to challenge that ignorance, not to say ‘well since there’s ignorance about birth control we shouldn’t encourage abortion as a back-up.’

    Every form of contraception has a failure rate, for a lot of women abortion is going to be the back-up. For example (I’ve found the statsitics) in New Zealand in 2003 50.6% of women who had abortions weren’t using any form of contraception, 13.8% were on oral contraceptives, 28.9% were using condoms, 0.2% were using a diaphraghm, 0.7% were using an injection, 2.6% were using natural family planning 0.9% were using the IUD, 1.3 had used the morning after pill and 0.5% were using another method.

    What does ‘we shouldn’t encourage women to use abortion as a backup’ mean? We shouldn’t mention it? We should tell people it’s bad? We should emphasise avoiding pregnancy above all other factors? None of those options is acceptable to me.

    Women will use abortion as a back-up for contraception failure, that’s what it’s there for.

  68. 68
    Barbara says:

    Maia, of course, abortion is a back-up — and by the way, I don’t use the “safe legal rare” rubric either because I think it encourages the view that abortion is shameful, which I don’t agree with. I am not really disagreeing with you, I just know too many women who convince themselves that they’ll do such and such when the time comes as a way of avoiding thinking about contraception, which is also, in its own way, a way of not admitting that they are planning, yes, planning to have sex. Also, relying on condoms is often a prescription for relying on your partner. I really would like to see men assume more responsibility for birth control, but I live in the real world, and in the real world, many women get significant resistance when they announce that condoms are their contraception method of choice.

  69. 69
    Ampersand says:

    Thomas wrote:

    That’s why, though I’d like unwanted pregnancy and therefore abortion to virtually disappear, I prefer to say “abortion on demand without apology” loud and clear and to never say SL&R.

    Point well taken.

  70. 70
    Grace says:

    I think ‘safe legal and rare’ implies that limiting abortion does have value in and of itself.

    Well, in my opinion, limiting abortion DOES have value in and of itself. As I said in my first post. I think it’s better to prevent unwanted pregnancies, even by methods that have annoying side effects, than to terminate them. (Obviously, death is more than annoying. But not many women actually DIE from taking the pill, and those who do are often doing things, like smoking, that they’ve been specifically told they shouldn’t do while taking it.)

    50.6% of those NZ women were using NO birth control. What is keeping them from doing so? Finances? Abusive relationships? Rape? Bad health care? Ignorance? Let’s find out and deal with those causes. Unwanted pregnancy, and therefore abortion, will be reduced. And that’s a GOOD thing.

    If we think that saying “abortion is bad, but it should be legal and accessible because the alternatives are worse, but let’s do everything we can to make it rarer, if not actually rare” is a “mixed message” that’s too complicated for people to accept, then we’re making the same kind of argument used against comprehensive sex education by people who think it’s “too complicated” to tell 14-year-olds “we don’t think you should be having sex but IF you do here’s how to protect yourself”. One of the strengths of the pro-choice movement is that it accepts the messiness and complexity of real life. We shouldn’t let extremists force us into simple, morally untenable positions. We should be doing it to them!!

  71. 71
    gengwall says:

    Grace – Well said!

    One of the strengths of the pro-choice movement is that it accepts the messiness and complexity of real life.Man I hate admitting this but you are quite correct. That points out another paradox for conservative Christians (such as myself). The model we are supposed to be basing our policy and personal decisions on, namely Jesus, very much was in tune to “the messiness and complexity of real life”. I really think Jesus would have a much different take on the abortion debate than your typical pro-life conservative Christian.

  72. 72
    Lanoire says:

    I’ve got real problems with calling anyone a feminist who supports the criminalization of abortion, I have to admit.

    On the “abortion on demand without apology” vs. “safe, legal and rare” debate–I have to side with Thomas and Maia here. In theory, Grace, you may be right about the nuance issue, but in practice? “Safe, legal and rare” sounds apologetic. Especially from the context of United States politics. What wouldn’t I give to hear a prominent politician call fro abortion on demand without apology? But everyone, no matter how supposedly “liberal” they are, seems to feel that they have to talk about how bad and tragic abortion is, and how only women who are somehow trashy and slutty have them, and how girls and women need to take responsibility so it doesn’t happen.

  73. 73
    Maia says:

    Well, in my opinion, limiting abortion DOES have value in and of itself. As I said in my first post. I think it’s better to prevent unwanted pregnancies, even by methods that have annoying side effects, than to terminate them.

    What are those values? Why do you think limiting abortion is a good thing in and of itself (not that the changes need to reduce abortion rates are positive changes – that I agree with) .

    I have no problem with you deciding that you will put up with certain annoying side effects in order to avoid abortion. I do have a problem with you thinking that decision is right for other women. How bad would the side effects from a particular form of birth control have to be before you’d think it was ok to switch to a less effective form of birth control? I don’t think anyone but the woman gets to decide that.

    50.6% of those NZ women were using NO birth control. What is keeping them from doing so? Finances? Abusive relationships? Rape? Bad health care? Ignorance? Let’s find out and deal with those causes.

    Right but saying ‘abortion is bad’ isn’t dealing with those causes. Dealing with those causes is about improving sex education, and the power women have in society, and the health system. Hand-wringing over abortion doesn’t make any of those systems any easier to change.

    If we think that saying “abortion is bad, but it should be legal and accessible because the alternatives are worse, but let’s do everything we can to make it rarer, if not actually rare” is a “mixed message” that’s too complicated for people to accept, then we’re making the same kind of argument used against comprehensive sex education by people who think it’s “too complicated” to tell 14-year-olds “we don’t think you should be having sex but IF you do here’s how to protect yourself”.

    You put mixed message in scare quotes – no one has actually used the phrase in the post.

    I don’t say anything starting ‘abortion is bad…’ because I don’t think abortion is bad. It’s got nothing to do with mixed messages.

  74. 74
    Grace says:

    Maia – I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I think that terminating the potential life of a fetus is an objectively bad thing. You don’t. We’re both part of the movement to keep it legal, which is the important thing.

    Lenoire – But everyone, no matter how supposedly “liberal” they are, seems to feel that they have to talk about how bad and tragic abortion is, and how only women who are somehow trashy and slutty have them, and how girls and women need to take responsibility so it doesn’t happen.

    I didn’t say a word equating the badness of abortion with women being trashy and slutty. I loathe arguments like that. I’ve heard far too many stories from profoundly responsible and moral women making the decision to abort for ALL KINDS of valid reasons, to fall for that claptrap. And as for responsibility, IMHO it’s society’s responsibility to make free contraception, comprehensive sex education and universal healthcare and childcare available to everyone, and THEN we can start talking about whether women are irresponsible if we get pregnant accidentally.

    Gengwall – I really think Jesus would have a much different take on the abortion debate than your typical pro-life conservative Christian.

    Amen!!

  75. 75
    Maia says:

    Just for the record I have no problem with you thinking: ” I think that terminating the potential life of a fetus is an objectively bad thing” for yourself. I do have a problem with you thinking that your belief should guide other women’s choices.

  76. 76
    flea says:

    “…part of the problem is that feminism does not have a pope.”

    Oh, that’s me. Didn’t you get the memo?

  77. 77
    alsis39.75 says:

    Put some little white collars on those cats, flea. Then we won’t all be so confused.

  78. 78
    Siobhan says:

    I gave my child up for adoption when I was 18. The experience made me strongly pro-choice.

    But I know personally three women who gave their children up for adoption, and none of them felt that their having given up their child represented closure:

    The happiest day of my life was when I received a letter from Children’s Aid saying that my daughter was looking for me.

  79. 79
    Karen says:

    It is interesting that you talk of adoption. I happened across this webpage by chance. I am adopted,but it did not make me pro-choice. Quite the opposite actually. I feel that although there were some very rocky emotional times grappling with the fact that I was indeed adopted and with the person my birthmother was ( I have quite a bit of info on her, though I never met her), I still feel that it was much better to deal with that and be alive than to not be here on Earth at all.
    I am a relatively strong Catholic who disagrees with the Church’s stance on birth control. I am currently using Ortho-Tricyclen.
    As an 18 year old university student, I am berated by both sides of this pro-life/pro-choice issue. Pro-choice hates me because I am anti-abortion (under all circumstances except possibly the rare life-threatening anomolies that occur that could kill the mother) and pro-lifers hate me because I believe birth control and preventative measures like the morning-after-pill are entirely acceptable. My mother adopted me as a single parent and I know it is EXTREMELY difficult to raise a child on your own. So hey, if you can enjoy yourself AND prevent pregnancy, I’m all for it. But once pregnancy occurs, I think we have to learn to leave it be.
    But it s quite sad that it is so intensely polarized.

  80. 80
    housewife says:

    I am pro life

    I am also pro choice because I am pragmatic

    My mother burned her bra and I gave up a great career to raise children.

    Because my mother’s bra burned it was a choice not an absolute…

    If you’ve ever had a baby and been to the Doc for an ultrasound you looked at the tiny little heartbeat and fell in love. You thanked G-d, kissed your husband and glowed in the knowledge that a baby was growing in you.

    I suspect that a woman not wanting that baby would see it as a growth akin to a cancer…

    It saddens me and I think she’s wrong but I wouldn’t want her raising a child she doesn’t want

    And I wouldn’t want her to die in the process of aborting that child.

    And because of that I am pro choice.

    Not because I think your choice is a good one, not because I think G-d will forgive you but because I think your life has value.

    But if you decide to keep your baby, to put it up for adoption I will support you like no other. I will call you a hero and I will buy your maternity clothes and feed you ice cream with pickles.

    I realize that not everyone believes it’s a baby

    But no one should die for a mistake.

  81. 81
    Susan says:

    what housewife said

  82. 82
    Susan says:

    Call me. I mean it. (510) 547-5784. If you’re pregnant and need help. If you want to have your baby, I will take him or her and love him or her if no one else will. I will find him or her a good home if I can’t manage it. (My son and his wife are trying desperately to adopt a child. They are great folks with great educations, a seven year old and a lot of love.) You can walk away if you want to. No one will call you, you can take up life as it was before.

    Or if you want to keep the baby, I will get you money and services. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

    Your life is infinitely valuable. The life of your baby is infinitely valuable. There is no conflict here. Call me.

  83. 83
    A. J. Luxton says:

    Susan: Much of the thread you are responding to is about cases in which it is not possible for a woman to survive her pregnancy, or in which it is not possible for the baby to be born alive.

  84. 84
    belledame222 says:

    I’m willing to talk “safe legal and rare” in that i see it as a way of saying “better education, better access to birth control and emergency contraception, more autonomy for women in general.” and that, sure, safe and on demand, no doubt; but, y’know, i don’t think anyone thinks it’s like a real good time; ideally it’d be better for the -woman- if it didn’t get to that point in the first place.

    how -actually- “rare” this means in actual numbers, well, that’s a different story. Abortion will always be with us, i think that’s clear. and I do see why people are leery about “safe legal and rare” in that it can be used as a lever for crap like partial-abortion bans, mandatory wait periods, mandatory ultrasounds and all these other forms of chipping away and harassment. Which is NOT, let me be clear, what I am for.

    but, this is a good argument for using with people who think it’s a necessary evil, who -really do- want it “safe legal and rare”; pointing out the reality that -if- it’s safe and legal and all the other factors we’re all fighting for (yes? yes) are in place, the numbers do in fact tend to go down.

    iow, “meet where you’re at.”

    i just think that politically speaking it makes more sense to take that tactic, depending on context, than to keep trying to simply bang the drum ever louder that it’s no different from any other surgical procedure: -you- may not think so, but a lot of people -really really- believe otherwise, -even ones who aren’t stupid or fanatics and don’t want to go back to the days of back alleys and coat hangers either.-

    because there are a -lot- of those people, self-defining by either label or none at all.

  85. 85
    belledame222 says:

    having said that without having read the posts immediately above, and so really not with those in mind, mind.

    sigh.

    um, Susan, that’s…very thoughtful of you, but, well, i don’t know as anyone -here- is in immediate crisis or nothin’. i could of course be wrong.

    but, also, what A.J. Luxton said.

  86. 86
    belledame222 says:

    >I really think Jesus would have a much different take on the abortion debate than your typical pro-life conservative Christian.>

    me, too.

  87. 87
    belledame222 says:

    >What are those values? Why do you think limiting abortion is a good thing in and of itself>

    I am assuming that this is because Grace believes that the fetus is a conscious living being/soul. others, who don’t see any reason to limit abortion, in and of itself, do not. and yet, as Grace says, she too wants to keep it legal, because she understands that there are shades of grey in the practicalities here.

    I don’t think it’s reasonable or useful to challenge those core beliefs on either side. ultimately this comes down to an existential question that really isn’t one that anyone has any sort of definitive answer to., but often feel -really really- strongly about. And, going into challenging -that- presents cans of worms and deep sore spots that–at least in cases like this–really aren’t all that germaine to the problem-solving. or, at least, maybe not as much so as some people think.

    instead, maybe, we could focus on “harm reduction,” starting with the woman who is carrying whatever-it-is-she’s-carrying, however you define it, and then what are the best ways to go about this.

  88. 88
    RonF says:

    I really think Jesus would have a much different take on the abortion debate than your typical pro-life conservative Christian.

    What do you think that Jesus’s take on either abortion or the abortion debate would be?