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Can I Get Multiple Amens?

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The great Katha Pollitt:

There are two reasons abortion rights activists have been boxed in. One is that we’ve been reactive rather than proactive. To deflect immediate attacks, we fall in with messaging that unconsciously encodes the vision of the other side. Abortion opponents say women seek abortions in haste and confusion. Pro-choicers reply: Abortion is the most difficult, agonizing decision a woman ever makes. Opponents say: Women have abortions because they have irresponsible sex. We say: rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities, life-risking pregnancies.

These responses aren’t false exactly. Some women are genuinely ambivalent; some pregnancies are particularly dangerous. But they leave out a large majority of women seeking abortions, who had sex willingly, made a decision to end the pregnancy and faced no special threatening medical conditions.

We need to say that women have sex, have abortions, are at peace with the decision and move on with their lives. We need to say that is their right, and, moreover, it’s good for everyone that they have this right: The whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary. When we gloss over these truths we unintentionally promote the very stigma we’re trying to combat. What, you didn’t agonize? You forgot your pill? You just didn’t want to have a baby now? You should be ashamed of yourself.

The second reason we’re stuck in a defensive mode is that too many pro-choice people are way too quiet.

This has always been the problem with the Saletan style “pro-choicers need to say that abortion is icky and immoral” argument. The first reason not to do this is that the argument is wrong on the merits. But the second is that it doesn’t make any sense tactically or strategically. So pro-choicers start saying that even if it should be legal abortion is icky, so now what? How does this make it more likely that abortion will remain legal?

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  • Amen.

  • This has always been the problem with the Saletan style “pro-choicers need to say that abortion is icky and immoral” argument.

    I thought the main problem with Saletan style argument is that Saletan is at least icky and arguably immoral.

    But Pollit can have all the amens!

    • DrDick

      Exactly. Abortion is not “icky”, at least no more so than another medical procedure. What is icky is condemning a woman to have a child she does not want or cannot care for and a child to be born to a mother who does not want it and/or cannot care for it. The anti-abortion crowd are not “pro-life”, they are pro-punishing women for having sex.

      • SgtGymBunny

        Notice that the anti-women/pro-forced birth posse is never at all keen on punishing the fathers for their part in the deed.

        An alien from Mars would assume that women get themselves pregnant after having sinful thoughts and rubbing against door knobs.

        • An Alien From Mars

          An alien from Mars would assume that women get themselves pregnant after having sinful thoughts and rubbing against door knobs.

          Wait, they don’t?

          • DocAmazing

            That might explain all the doorknob pr0n on my…on people’s hard drives.

        • Innocent doorknobs that were minding their own business when attacked by a randy ladyperson.

          • Dear Doorknobhouse,

            I can’t believe this happened to me….

  • bad Jim

    Best thing I’ve ever read on the topic, from Mike the Mad Biologist:

    Abortion isn’t the lesser of two evils–it is a just and good thing. So says Reverend Katherine Ragsdale:

    Let’s be very clear about this: when a woman finds herself pregnant due to violence and chooses an abortion, it is the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

    When a woman finds that the fetus she is carrying has anomalies incompatible with life, that it will not live and that she requires an abortion — often a late-term abortion — to protect her life, her health, or her fertility, it is the shattering of her hopes and dreams for that pregnancy that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

    When a woman wants a child but can’t afford one because she hasn’t the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.

    And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion — there is not a tragedy in sight — only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.

    These are the two things I want you, please, to remember — abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.

    • Emma in Sydney

      Abso-fucking-lutely and I speak as a person who has five kids and had two abortions. Timing is EVERYTHING. I have never regretted those decisions for a moment — I have no doubt that carrying those babies to term when I already had three kids under three would have destroyed the lot of us. Ten years later with a different partner it was a different equation. Most women who have abortions are already mothers. It is not an abstract question.

    • StellaB

      Yes, yes, yes!

  • Alan Tomlinson

    I believe that people having children they don’t want is really fucked(icky doesn’t even begin to describe it). There are so many parents who are pushed beyond their limits by having children and the children suffer because of it. I wonder if perhaps a portion of the people who want to control women’s bodies do so out of a desire to make others share the same fate. Abortion is not anything to be ashamed of. It is an unpleasant medical procedure(like the great majority of medical procedures) and that’s it. I feel compassion for those who have had difficult childhoods or are completely incompetent at parenting, but those situations are not an excuse any longer. One can choose to be a parent and it should be a conscious choice. Just because, ‘my parents made me and I turned out okay’ is not an affirmative argument. People deciding to inflict their torment upon others should be seen for what it is; unreflected sadism.

    Cheers,

    Alan Tomlinson

    • Matt McIrvin

      Just because, ‘my parents made me and I turned out okay’ is not an affirmative argument.

      Not only that, there are plenty of people in this world who exist because their parents had abortions earlier. “Aren’t you glad your mother didn’t abort you?” isn’t an argument against legal abortion, it’s an argument against time machines.

      • ajp

        Hell, I’m one of them. Admittedly, it did fuck with my head a little bit to learn that my mother had an abortion*, but I am still pro-choice.

        *which appears to have psychologically affected her-her very vociferous pro-life beliefs appear to have some root in her unresolved guilt about having an abortion.

    • Rob in CT

      I believe that people having children they don’t want is really fucked(icky doesn’t even begin to describe it).

      Agreed.

      Plus, if you take pro-lifer commentary seriously (and you shouldn’t, but nevermind), not only do they want people who don’t want kids to be forced to have them, they want terribly irresponsible and/or flat-out awful people (you know, people who would *murder baaaaaabies*) to have children.

    • Hogan

      ‘my parents made me and I turned out okay’

      I’m sorry I have to be the one to tell you this, but no, you did not turn out OK.

    • SgtGymBunny

      One can choose to be a parent and it should be a conscious choice.

      Exactly this. With the heat of a thousand suns, do I hate people who say “Oh, well you got pregnant so you should take responsibility and just have it”.

      It’s this anti-modern, anti-medicine willful pretending that there exist neither methods of prevention nor any “undo” process for ill-timed pregnancies. But even if they do acknowledge that undo process does exist, they act as though we’re not supposed to avail ourselves of its usefulness or something. It’s as preposterous as damning everybody to wash dishes every night because they think dish washing machines are evil.

      Granted, contraception and abortion are not exactly 20th century inventions. But that there are significantly safer, more accessible and more affordable.

      • Pat

        We talked to our teen-aged children about premarital sex (that it’s a normal thing adults do, and it’s not a crime or a sin), and birth control (which is how you protect yourself, your partner, and your future while being a normal young adult).

        After watching a friend go through an unintended pregnancy and abortion, our high-school aged daughter elected for an implant. She isn’t dating yet, but when she does, she’ll be covered. It took about a month to get the appointment, what with the insurance check and everything.

        Abortion was the best answer for that young lady at the time. She was sixteen, her friend with benefits was fifteen, and there was no way they could have raised the child.

        • DocAmazing

          It’s worthy of note that, at least among my patients, the ones most protected against negative outcomes from sex (papillomavirus/genital warts, pregnancy, STIs in general) are only moderately sexually active and skew young, but they are thinking very much about their futures.

          Give a kid the idea that they have a future and they will take steps to protect it.

        • Epsilon

          Your children are very lucky to have you as a parent.

        • SgtGymBunny

          The obnoxious thing about anti-choicers is their rigid belief that the ONLY way to exercise responsibility is to just have the baby. Nevermind that actually having the baby when the parents are in no way equipped to take material responsibility (by being a teen, for instance) is pretty irresponsible.

          Even though all of my brothers and sisters are now adults thirty and over, my parents still question whether or not some us are “responsible” enough to have kids. True story, there was a minor shit-storm when my oldest brother (early 30s/working/married) announced that he and his wife were having their second kid not even one year after their first. We were all very “concerned”, considering the general sentiment was that he and his wife, on top of their own relationship issues, were barely making do with the one kid they already had.

          Our society is savvy enough to recognize that certain individuals can be negligent, abusive or a danger to children (Hello, Child Safety Services!). Yet we somehow think that it is the pentacle of responsibility that any and everybody who can do the horizontal limbo ought to have children.

          • ajp

            The obnoxious thing about anti-choicers is their rigid belief that the ONLY way to exercise responsibility is to just have the baby. Nevermind that actually having the baby when the parents are in no way equipped to take material responsibility

            The argument I’ve heard from many pro-lifers is that “God provides” or “God will find a way” or something.

            I generally don’t like to mock peoples’ beliefs, but that sort of ridiculous wishful thinking shit drives me crazy and deserves ridicule. When we’re talking about people’s lives, we have to be more concrete than that.

            • Pat

              When they’re talking about other peoples’ lives, we have to be more concrete than that.

  • Lurker

    I really cannot support this idea on the moral grounds. All life, including plant and animal life has intrinsic value. Ending any life without a valid reason is wrong.

    A fetus does not have a life independent of the woman but it has the potential to live as a human being. That has some value. Not the value that a full human being has, but some value comparable to the value of the life of a fly, or a mouse. Killing an ant just for fun is wrong, yet I do not hesitate to kill an ant that is inside the house or otherwise causing me inconvenience.

    Abortion does end life, and therefore it is a moral tradeoff. You can support and I do support, legal and publicly funded abortion without subscribing to the absolutist ethical position outlined above. I do not hold abortion to be any greater tradeoff than eating meat, but claiming it does not have any moral ambivalency is a too absolutist position.

    • Not the value that a full human being has, but some value comparable to the value of the life of a fly, or a mouse.

      Even a conceptus?

      Killing an ant just for fun is wrong.

      Is it really?

      Abortion does end life, and therefore it is a moral tradeoff. You can support and I do support, legal and publicly funded abortion without subscribing to the absolutist ethical position outlined above.

      Pollitt’s position is not particularly absolutist and it’s perfectly compatible with your “having an abortion is about at the level of killing a fly” line. Indeed, I fail to see what line you are drawing here other than We Must Say Ick.

      • njorl

        I’d say killing an ant for fun is wrong, not so much for what it does to the ant, but for what it does to the person. Engaging in “killing for fun” changes you. Maybe there isn’t enough empathy with an ant to make killing it harmful, though. How many ants do you need to kill before you feel sated and need to kill a lizard? You wouldn’t go full-on Bundy until you were 96 years old.

    • Abortion does end life

      So does a course of antibiotics, or removing a tick. I don’t think there’s the remotest moral ambivalence to those acts.

      I completely reject the idea that a living organism has intrinsic moral value. Nobody acts that way, and it is not a necessary precursor to valuing human life.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Abortion does end life

        So does a course of antibiotics, or removing a tick.

        A properly-removed tick can be rehomed! Our volunteers are waiting to assist you; call now.

        ETA: As of yesterday at 4PM, I have been rehomed, more or less successfully. P.S. I am not a tick.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          congratulations! Especially on not being a tick

        • Sitting on a bench in Philly wearing a “San Francisco or Bust” sign does not count as rehomed.

        • Hogan

          So that wasn’t you I heard last night yelling “SPOOOOON!!”?

        • Karen24

          Anyone who removes a tick and then fails to kill it with fire needs to stopped by law enforcement.

        • NBarnes

          “Yeah, I suck blood all the time. Look, I got a straw right here, pal. You want a demonstration?”

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          Ticks are amazingly robust.

          Why, I think if you put a bunch of them in an envelope and mailed them to some anti-choicers, they’d arrive okay. And hungry.

        • Gwen

          Lee, have you ever considered opening a Tick Crisis Center so that you can help people make the right decision about tick rehoming?

          • DocAmazing

            You know, if you have second thoughts, you can reattach the tick within twenty-four hours…

            • Lee Rudolph

              I had the great pleasure to attend a poetry reading by Katha Pollit two modal human gestations ago, and the greater pleasure of getting a free dinner with her and about a dozen other faculty types before the reading, at which we two sat directly across the table from her and somewhat wickedly monopolized her conversation. I hope it’s not telling tales out of school to say that she (and the English professor sitting next to her, who was apparently the only other person at the table who was actually interested in poetry, the rest mostly being there for the politics) was, as of that date, an ardent evangelist for Game of Thrones.

              Which I have always thought would have a worse effect on me, were I to watch an episode, than a bucket of ticks.

              • witlesschum

                Books or show?

    • witlesschum

      It’s nonsensical to demand moral status for abortions, but not contraception. Once you’ve crossed the bridge to valuing potential life in the abstract, there’s no particular reason to stop at fetus as opposed to going back further to sperm and egg. And I don’t think I’m going to be convinced to feel just a little bit bad every time I have sex with a lady while wearing a condom.

      But that’s all a parlor game. I subscribe to “Your roof and/or uterus, your rules.” A fetus has whatever status and value and life its mother says it has. She gets to decide whether it’s something to feel, good or bad or whatever about. I don’t get to have opinion about it until it gets outside her body.

      That’s simply the most practical and moral way to draw the line. Also, I love my mother and wouldn’t dream of disrespecting her by saying even a whisper of a word against legal abortion.

      • Just_Dropping_By

        I’m pro-choice, but it’s hardly nonsensical to draw a line between abortions and contraception. Something like 99%+ of human eggs and 99.99%+ of human sperm never even have the opportunity to form a zygote even in the absence of artificial contraception. Conversely, once a fertilized egg successfully implants in the uterus, there’s roughly a 50% chance that will reach birth absent human intervention. Probabilities inform morality all the time (for example, even if you are world’s best driver, there’s still a non-zero risk of you killing someone while driving to work each day, but no one would claim that it is immoral for you to drive to work so long as you make best efforts to drive safely), so it’s not nonsensical to conclude that preventing “potential life” via contraception is different than preventing “potential life” via abortion.

        • Really? A 50 percent chance that it survives without “human intervention.”??? What is the woman involved, not a human? What are her daily actions, not a kind of intervention? Also: I think your 50 percent chance is weird–the chances of the fetus surviving to birth are different in different trimesters. An enormous number of implanted eggs don’t survive the first trimester. Does anyone even know the number given that many women don’t know they are pregnant at the time of a first trimester loss?

          • L2P

            Amen.

        • Origami Isopod

          Conversely, once a fertilized egg successfully implants in the uterus, there’s roughly a 50% chance that will reach birth absent human intervention.

          Women: Just flowerpots for seed!

        • witlesschum

          No, that’s making a different argument based on the things you stated, rather than the one lurker is making based on some hazy life something or other, or the straight up Catholic life begins at conception foolishness. When someone says women are to be forced to bear children because a fetus is a person, you’re deciding that various potential persons have a right to be born and there’s no logical reason suggested by that argument to only do that with fertilized eggs and not go back further, as the bureaucracy of officially celibate men who god totally talks to does, and demand that people not have sex when the woman couldn’t possibly get pregnant. And there’s reason for them to stop there, rather than demanding that married couples always be having sex because potential people!

          That’s why the fetal personhood argument is totally nonsensical, along with being woman-hating poison.

          I don’t think yours is any more persuasive and I don’t know why it should carry any more weight than the ones that involve magic, but it is more coherent and it’s quite different than either the traditional or mumblecore life arguments.

        • 50%? depends on when implantation occurs (small sample study):

          The estimated risk of early loss was strongly related to the time of implantation (Figure 1). Early loss was least likely when implantation occurred by the 9th day (13 early losses among 102 pregnancies, or 13 percent), rising to 26 percent (14 of 53 pregnancies) when implantation occurred on the 10th day, 52 percent (12 of 23) on the 11th day, and 82 percent (9 of 11) with implantation after day 11 (P for trend, <0.001).

          So..what? Probability does inform morality, but why does *this* probability do anything? When you use contraception, you prevent most of those sperm and eggs that wouldn’t even reach fertilisation from happening, but you also prevent the ones that *would* have been. So by using contraception you have a high risk of preventing a sperm/egg pair from becoming the baby they otherwise would have become. We know this because…er…people who use contraception have fewer babies. If you have 10 million mannikins in a field and 1 person, you know that if you nuke the field you will kill one person. Why should it matter that you also destroyed 10 million mannikins?

    • Russell Arben Fox

      A fetus does not have a life independent of the woman but it has the potential to live as a human being. That has some value. Not the value that a full human being has, but some value comparable to the value of the life of a fly, or a mouse….Abortion does end life, and therefore it is a moral tradeoff.

      For whatever it’s worth, this suggests that you, like me and lots of others, are in the complicated and ambivalent mainstream of American opinion. Welcome!

    • I honestly have no idea what your point is.

      No one in their right mind would argue that I should upend my entire life in order to avoid killing a fly or an ant. Why, then, is it reasonable to expect me to do so for a clump of cells that is actually less biologically complex than a fly or an ant, and less able to survive without my support? Why is it even relevant to bring up the fly or the ant?

    • Joe_JP

      That’s fine though people will carp over the wording — few people have absolutist positions and one can even think various things are wrong and immoral and not opposed legalization. We don’t, e.g., make killing ants for fun illegal with waiting periods and so forth in place before people can kill some.

    • An Alien From Mars

      Speaking as an Alien from Mars this is the strong Parsi conviction. If you aren’t a Parsi and you haven’t starved yourself to death refusing meat, dairy, honey, and many vegetables with souls then you should definitely STFU.

      • DocAmazing

        How do yo know which vegetables have souls? Some are obvious: okra, for example, drools, which is proof of a soul.

    • Origami Isopod

      Yet another clueless comment from a noted misogynist.

    • ema

      Ending any life without a valid reason is wrong

      Significantly decreasing morbidity/mortality* is not only a valid reason for a medical procedure, it’s one of the fundamentals of medical practice.

      Also, there is no way to tell if a particular pregnancy will result in a live birth, so the most you can say is that abortion terminates a pregnancy.

      *Risk [of death] per Pregnancy from Continuing Pregnancy……………1 in 10,000

      Risk from Terminating Pregnancy [Legal Abx; before 9 wks]………1 in 263,000

      Williams 21 ed, p 1518

    • ajp

      Concern troll is very concerned.

      • Lurker

        I come from a society where sex ed starts on the 5th grade, and where abortions are provided by the society for free. I like it that way. Technically, there is the restriction against abortions after week 24, and I feel that is correct because prematurely born babies may survive from about week 25 onwards. (Technically, here, a late-term abortion is a Caesarean section, if the woman’s health is in danger. If the new-born is born with a chronic illness that makes it unviable, it is given only palliative care.)

        However, were I living in the US, I would not support late-term ban for abortions because the practical possibilities to obtain abortion on time are too bad for a late-term ban to be workable.

        So, I vociferously support free and safe abortion.

    • UserGoogol

      I have a certain appreciation of that point of view, but seriously, plants? What about bacteria? Sentient life is one thing since pleasure and pain seem pretty self-evidently value-laden, (which to be fair is enough to be squeamish about at least some later abortions depending on how much cognitive function qualifies) but just life as such?

      In so far as I do have appreciation for that point of view, I guess the idea would be that life is this really complex (or even “majestic”) system which should be appreciated if only for that. But then, precisely for that reason, you have to look at life as part of one big system. Life depends on death. When a plant or animal dies its remains are used to fuel more life. That doesn’t directly apply to fetuses, and a cluster of cells growing with a distinct genetic code growing more complex inside a larger organism is certainly uniquely impressive, but if you terminate it, the woman’s body will do lots of other interesting things instead.

      Of course humans shouldn’t use that as an excuse to kill things willy-nilly because the ecosystem can’t adapt to the sorts of killing we can engage in, but fetuses are inherently “our territory.” We’re not upsetting the existing ecosystem, we are the ecosystem.

      And to address fetuses more directly, the whole “potential” thing just doesn’t convince me. Lots of things have “potential” to become a human life if you do enough to them. Fetuses “naturally” turn into adult humans, but that “natural” process involves quite a lot of work: on the part of the person impregnated, but even after that newborns still have long way to go. We all contain within us things that could become a human (even sterile people could in principle clone) pregnant people are just further along in the process.

  • Hallen

    Pretty handily the best thing I’ve ever read on LGM, and one of the few I’ve found myself in 100.00% agreement on. Good stuff, Thanks for sharing it.

  • Sebastian_h

    This is a great Chesterton’s Fence moment. Can you explain why even very pro-choice activists have chosen to focus on the rape or fetal abnormality cases and downplay the other cases? You might want to understand why they have done that for more than 40 years before you propose abandoning it.

    • I don’t so choose at all. Nor do lots of people.

      My diagnosis is similar to Pollitt’s: It’s a sometimes reasonable tactic that has been elevated into a seriously misguided strategy.

      Of course, I identify as pro-abortion as well as pro-choice. I think abortion is often a very good choice and also that the overwhelming majority of women choosing to abort are making an excellent choice (at least in modern society). Forced or coerced abortions are horrible, of course, so I don’t think that abortions are good *independent* of the patient’s choice, but that’s like every other medical procedure.

      Advances in medicine that make us healthier, happier, more functional, etc. are terrific things that should be celebrated. Modern abortion techniques have made enormous strides and saved lives and seriously improved the quality of many other lives.

    • jamesepowell

      I get what you’re saying and it’s worth thinking about. But consider this. The results of the defensive crouch on abortion rights for the last 30 years has been a steady erosion of abortion rights, a steady reduction in the availability of abortions in many states, and an increasingly aggressive anti-abortion movement. Stated another way, that strategy is not working.

      There are many, and I’m one, who believe a more forthright posture, one that does not cringe, might do better. I suppose the experience with gay marriage encourages us, from political death to political winner in what? 15 years? Everybody tip-toed around that one, too. Same cringing fear of provoking an over-reaction.

      Well, what happened was that the majority of Americans looked around and found gay/lesbian family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and said, “Aw prairie shit. Everybody!”

      What would happen if people became more aware of how many women in their lives – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – had abortions? Why not give the truth?

    • Matt McIrvin

      Of course I understand why! It’s so they can gain the sympathies of people who think some abortions are morally objectionable.

      I could even see modifying this into an argument for total legalization of abortion that I find personally convincing:

      1. Early abortions are simply morally unproblematic: that’s not a baby by any reasonable definition.
      2. Late abortions mostly occur in cases of severe fetal abnormality or medical emergency.
      3. Anti-abortion activists want people to think about the case of late-term abortions that are purely elective, since the most Americans find this case objectionable. However, these are sufficiently rare that attempts to ban them mostly have baleful knock-on effects on case 2.

      But I will also note that the more socially acceptable abortion is, the more abortions will fall into case 1, because shame drives procrastination and time is of the essence. Many abortion restrictions seem actively designed to push case-1 abortions further into the politically unpopular case 3.

      This may all be too mealy-mouthed for the argument of the OP. But in the end I think it comes to the same thing.

      • But I will also note that the more socially acceptable abortion is, the more abortions will fall into case 1, because shame [ETA: and nonsense restrictions including availability of providers] drives procrastination and time is of the essence. Many abortion restrictions seem actively designed to push case-1 abortions further into the politically unpopular case 3.

        You got it afterwards, but I suspect shame is comparatively minor to the active barriers.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      To be honest, I’ve never understood why a rape / incest exception should make any difference to someone who actually believes that a fetus has the same (or even similar) moral status to a human being. If abortion is murder, then how can the rape or incest justify murder? People who think that abortion is wrong, except in cases of rape or incest seem to me to reveal that they are less concerned with supposed fetal personhood and more concerned with policing women’s sexual morality. Of course, virtually nobody who claims to believe that abortion is murder actually favors throwing 1/3 of American women in jail. This is much less about fetal life than about denying women moral agency.

      • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

        Amen to that. If you really believe a fetus = a person hence abortion = murder, the you’re saying that women (and doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, etc.) should be arrested and tried for murder. Also, China is ethically worse than Nazi Germany and Stalin’s USSR. I have yet to hear a single person capable of typing lowercase make these arguments.

        If you don’t agree with those things, it follows that maybe a fetus isn’t quiiiiite ethically equivalent to a person, and you need to get off your high horse.

      • SgtGymBunny

        Double Amen.

      • An Alien From Mars

        The rape/incest exclusion is an argument only directed at the (few) people who chanted “you shouldn’t have chosen to have sex” it is not the be all and end all of arguments against the hard anti-abortion stance. It basically serves the same function as the argument against homophobic bigotry that says “sexual orientation is not a choice.” Its an argument that works only for that sliver of homophobes who were honestly arguing that it was a “sin” in a world where “sin” is tied up with “free choice.” # Not all Homophobes are Christian, #Not all Christians believe sin has to be a free choice. Similiarly, not all anti abortion people give a fuck whether the woman consenting to sex–thats not their issue and it doesn’t affect their issue. But for some the idea that the pregnancy itself was the just punishment for having had voluntary sex was an important building block intheir anti abortion fervor.

        • That was me.

          • Bill Murray

            yes, your avatar gave you away

          • witlesschum

            Whew. I almost leaped in to sneeze on you as many times as possible before you could raise your tripod and lay waste to New Jersey and/or England.

      • Rob in CT

        Certainly: the “no abortions except for rape/incest” position is incoherent. It really exposes the person as not actually caring all that much about the “baby” and really deeply caring about the choices of women.

        Of course, virtually nobody who claims to believe that abortion is murder actually favors throwing 1/3 of American women in jail.

        I saw some really jaw-dropping shit in a random comment thread on a site that is normally all about baseball. On this site, there are several rapid anti-abortion posters, it turns out. One of them drew the distinction between women seeking abortions and “abortionists” (doctors), saying that the women are ignorant/misled but the doctors know *exactly* what they’re doing. Thus, women lack… mens rea, I think the term is? Thus, only the doctors should be punished for murder.

        When pressed as to how this was not amazeballs condescending to women, analogies were made to cancer treatment (I don’t know the details of my cancer treatment either, I trust the medical professional).

        • SgtGymBunny

          OMG!!! That was an abortion he gave me?????!!!! He told me it was a root canal!

          • Rob in CT

            The argument was, basically, that telling women that a zygote or fetus isn’t really a baby is false and, therefore, women were being fooled into thinking they weren’t murdering a human being by lying liars who know full well that every sperm is sacred a zygote IS TO a person.

            • SgtGymBunny

              Yep, that shrewd kind of reasoning would appeal to me as woman. Us ladies always make those kinds of distinctions at the cellular level. There’s no baby in my uterus, just a zygote. Just like there’s no sugar in this diet soda, just artificial sweetener.

          • ajp

            Well, there was a canal involved…half truth I guess.

    • Origami Isopod

      Because they’ve been intimated by fetus-huggers into not defending the right of all women to have bodily autonomy, even women whom moralists wag their fingers at.

  • Gregor Sansa

    Forced birth is anti-child. Abotion is pro-child.

    I’m a vegetarian. I think eating meat is icky and in many cases morally questionable. But if I stood around next to the meat section yelling at and spitting on customers, I’d deserve to be held in contempt and treated as a criminal. If I lobbied my congressperson to pass a law that meat couldn’t be sold before a 48-hour waiting period, I’d deserve the same contempt and ridicule. My ick shouldn’t trump your choice, and my morals can’t be made into your yardstick.

    • It’s also worth noting that current meat production and trends have loads of negative externalities. Abortion (and reproductive care) generally has lots of positives.

    • xq

      This reasoning is dangerous. I don’t think eating meat is necessarily wrong (though the case for that is stronger than the case against abortion), but fighting for better conditions for the animals we eat is an important fight. The justification for legal abortion is that abortion is ethical, not that personal freedom should always win out against ethical concerns.

    • Joe_JP

      My ick shouldn’t trump your choice

      It depends on why you are a vegetarian. Torturing animals is “icky” and some want to do it. But, we do have animal cruelty laws against that sort of thing, and even religious requirements need not require it if the laws are evenly applied.

      I’ll save time and avoid applying this to raising animals for food, but note there is a case to be made. Certain things are more than “icky.” Spitting at people who buy products made by sweatshops would be wrong too. Bad strategy and a violation of their personal space.

      Waiting periods are appropriate when the balance of equities justify them. For instance, it might be warranted to buy a gun at least in certain cases. True “personal morals” alone should not be the test here. But, sometimes they are a reflection of a public wrong.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      “… meat couldn’t be sold before a 48-hour waiting period…”

      don’t forget the mandatory counseling with PETA propaganda, as well as the mandatory viewing of the video of your mandatory colonoscopy. Plus, there’s only ONE supermarket with a meat counter in the entire state, subject to a 24/7 PETA picket line.

      • Matt McIrvin

        And the new butcher there is a Jain who cites a sincere religious objection to actually providing any meat.

        • Sorry–you are right. Its Jains not Parsis with the specific beliefs about non violence towards all life, and also vegetable souls.

  • Manju

    I’m not sure about the premise.

    Going by the polls, we’ve been in a stalemate for more about 15-20 years now…with pro-choice enjoying an edge. So why describe pro-choice as “boxed in”? Because of the rhetoric?

    Well, just utter “rape, incest” and pro-life will be on the defensive. I mean, they aren’t moving in the polls either. Where the hell is their movement going? They’re stuck in red states unless they can get another scotus judge. They’re even more boxed in.

    Abortion is a constitutional right under attack. Thus, it makes sense for pro-choice to be on the defensive. The other side has less to defend and more freedom to attack. When you ain’t got nothing you got nothing to lose.

    • witlesschum

      Lots of women don’t have abortion rights as a practical matter right now. They’re supposed to live in the United States and just because they live in red states doesn’t mean I’m willing abandon them. Plus going on the offense has the potential to push society in a more feminist direction on other issues, given that the same discomfort with modern sexual norms that motivates most abortion opposition also motivates things like the passive parts of rape culture.

      Just playing defense won’t help Texans and a Democrat getting to name the next meaningful Supreme Court Justice on abortion is a chancy thing.

    • Peterr

      We are *not* in a stalemate over abortion.

      In state after state, incremental laws have been passed to increasingly restrict access to abortion, whether by imposing longer waiting times and other costs on the woman or by increasing the regulatory burden on providers. Some of the worst of these have been overturned in the courts, but many have been upheld, and various abortion clinics have closed as a result.

      The polling may be at a stalemate, but the actual access to abortions is not stalemated at all. It has been getting harder and harder as more providers have been forced to close their doors.

      • Rob in CT

        Because the GOP won big in the mid-term elections of 2010 (and again did well in 2014).

        Polling remains basically constant, but the political results differ… for the same basic reason we cannot have other good things: a whole lot of people who lean liberal do not show up for mid-terms elections.

      • joe from Lowell

        But Pollitt’s piece is about public messaging and its influence on public opinion, so that would seem to be the relevant measure here.

        • Peterr

          Pollitt’s piece isn’t concerned about the influence of messaging on public opinion, but about the influence of messaging on public POLICY. I don’t agree with Manju that we’re in a stalemate on that front, and given that Pollitt wrote her piece to get the pro-choice folks moving in a new direction, I feel confident that she wouldn’t by the stalemate description either.

          The relevant measure, in my book and I believe in Pollitt’s as well, is the extent to which women are able to freely exercise their constitutional rights, not whether the polling favors the pro-choice side of the argument. Messaging matters — hence Pollitt’s discussion of it — but it is the means toward the end, not the end in and of itself.

          • joe from Lowell

            Pollitt’s piece isn’t concerned about the influence of messaging on public opinion, but about the influence of messaging on public POLICY.

            Influence policy via public opinion. Unless you think there is some other method by which public messaging helps influence policy.

            I don’t agree with Manju that we’re in a stalemate on that front

            Manju didn’t say anything about “that front.” He wrote, “Going by the polls, we’ve been in a stalemate for more about 15-20 years now.”

            Polls; that is, a measure of public opinion.

            But, yes, of course public opinion is a means to policy ends. Pollitt, and Manju, and I are talking about which public messaging and opinion strategies are going to be effective in moving public opinion in order to achieve policy ends.

    • Brett

      Where the hell is their movement going? They’re stuck in red states unless they can get another scotus judge. They’re even more boxed in.

      It goes national. The 20-week abortion ban is only the beginning – if Republicans take Congress and the Presidency, I have no doubt that you’ll start to see them try out TRAP laws at the national level.

      They’re already pretty damn close, with control over the Senate and House. And they will do it even though attacking first-trimester abortion rights is unpopular, because the party’s abortion policy is dominated by the fanatical anti-choice wing, and they’re counting on most Americans just not caring that much about abortion policy. Maybe that will change if they start threatening abortion rights in blue states.

      Abortion is a constitutional right under attack. Thus, it makes sense for pro-choice to be on the defensive.

      I disagree. Abortion rights have constitutional protection from the Supreme Court, but nothing like the Civil Rights Acts or constitutional amendments to enshrine it beyond the decisions of whatever majority happens to be sitting on the Supreme Court at the time. That’s why you get stuff like the ground lost on Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

    • L2P

      “Abortion is a constitutional right under attack. Thus, it makes sense for pro-choice to be on the defensive. The other side has less to defend and more freedom to attack. When you ain’t got nothing you got nothing to lose.”

      Every civil rights movement is “defending” a constitutional right. The better ones (same-sex marriage, most recently) attack: what we want isn’t something you should reluctantly allow, but an affirmative good you should support.

  • Russell Arben Fox

    This has always been the problem with the Saletan style “pro-choicers need to say that abortion is icky and immoral” argument. The first reason not to do this is that the argument is wrong on the merits.

    So, as I kind of suspected, Scott, this means that you are in agreement with Ross Douthat? Not with his particular arguments, obviously, but rather with the way he understands the context and implications of the arguments in question? I confess it was yourself, Katha Pollit, and several other strong public defenders of unrestricted abortion rights that immediately came to my mind when I read his column.

    • witlesschum

      “In agreement with Ross Douthat” seems like fighting words. I wouldn’t throw that around in a bar, if I was you.

    • xq

      That article is an exercise in “time series are dangerous”

      I don’t really see any connection between Douthat’s arguments and Scott’s, other than that they are both opposing Saletan.

    • sharculese

      That piece really just underscores what a selfish, inhumane prick is. he basically throws up his hands and say ‘welp, total number of abortions is down, so fuck you’ as if there’s that reducing the number of situations where women need an abortion could be in any way good. Like, it’s not even that he’s intentionally reveling in the sluts deserving what he gets, it just never occurs to him in the first place to think about another person’s situation. What a shitty human being.

      • He can’t get pregnant. It gives him more time to contemplate how great god made him.

      • witlesschum

        Even if you assume his analysis is correct, the fact that he’ll offer it with one hand while pushing I’ve got mine fuck you economics forward with the other thereby guaranteeing more women will be in economic straits when they decide whether or not to have a kid really locks down the shitty human being status.

      • Origami Isopod

        Exactly.

    • djw

      Speaking for myself, I’m less interested in the philosophy of the mushy middle on abortion and more interested in the consequences of the kind of policies they advocate. The primary practical effect of the various policies they advocate, the various compromises in an effort to find ‘middle ground’ on abortion, is to exacerbate social and economic inequality by throwing up a bunch of hurdles easily cleared by the well-off and genuinely onerous to those in more difficult situations. I have no use for the Saletans of the world not because I desire a Manichean abortion conflict (I’m OK with that, but I don’t care about it one way or the other in the abstract) but because of their casual indifference to the disparate effects of the policies they advocate on those the least off. This harkens back to my objection to your argument in favor of parental notification laws: they can’t help but be awful for the worst off (pregnant girls in various abusive parenting situations), and no waiver system, at least not one devised and administered by this society, is going to change that. I’m not convinced using legal hurdles and restrictions to express society’s ambivalence about abortion is something that I’d ever be comfortable with, but the fact that such policies effectively target the least off among us and further enhance and deepen the growing social and economic inequality in our society makes it even more urgent to oppose them.

      In other words: they’re interested–or at least purport to be interested–in the morality of abortion. I’m genuinely not, for several reasons: I’m interested in the morality of abortion restrictions.

      • Rob in CT

        Well said.

        • witlesschum

          Indeed it was. Abortion restrictions supporters are being amoral at best by harassing women because of those supporters’ vague qualms and at worst just being cruel to people who they imagine might have done something they disapprove of.

  • LeeEsq

    It’s worth a try but I’m not sure that Pollit’s strategy will be any more successful than Saletan’s strategy. Abortion is a political issue and as long as anti-abortion politicians and judges hold office and power than the right to an abortion is under threat. The only way to really secure a woman’s right to abortion is to make sure that the anti-abortion forces are politically impotent.

    • Gwen

      It seems like Pollit’s basic point falls into the general assertion that “the best defense is a good offense.”

      I’d say the best way to get anti-abortion politicians out of office is to dry up the pool of anti-abortion voters, rather than trying to accommodate them.

      The fundamental mistake that Saletan makes is that think that abortion is still a wedge issue, and that the key is to de-fang it by de-escalating the culture war. That might have once been true, but it’s not any more. It’s an issue that almost entirely breaks down along party lines.

      http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-gop-may-regret-its-lasting-battle-against-gay-marriage/

      What’s needed is mass mobilization, not retreat.

    • One advantage about Pollit’s strategy is that it might promote better treatment of people who have or are considering abortions. The “only for severe health, rape, or incest” line entails that only people who are presumptively damaged (and often helpless in their damage) can properly get abortions.

      I prefer a more celebratory line for the informed and wise decisions most people make in these circumstances, when given a chance to do so.

    • Brett

      What you need is a counter-balance activism movement on the left to openly defend abortion rights and push the Democratic Party (and popular opinion) towards support for it. It’s not enough just to have a polling majority for the right to an abortion, because the US government is set up such that a fanatical minority can blunt the will of a more apathetic majority.

  • Yes, people pushing for multiple mea culpas from women’s health advocates are the same species of backstabbers who give us such classics as

    “Yes, racism is bad but if you don’t watch your tone you’ll frighten away this imaginary ally who isn’t sure you deserve to be treated like a human being.”

    And

    “Look, since people obviously feel so strongly about the word marriage and believe it is a religious matter, why can’t you all settle for civil unions?”

    And

    “Yes it it must be unpleasant to work in an environment where men treat you like an idiot because you’re a woman. But they feel their place in the world is threatened, and if you push for equal treatment it will just get worse.”

    They can fuck, right, off, because no equal rights movement has ever gotten anywhere with the chant “We are unworthy, but could you pretty please be nice to us?”

    As for

    We say: rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities, life-risking pregnancies.

    And the response has been “OK, in those cases we’ll let you have an abortion (provided you meet all of the criteria that can be found in the dark basement behind the door marked BEWARE OF THE LEOPARD).

    It makes things worse.

    • Origami Isopod

      I can’t recommend this comment enough.

      Mushy-middlers sit on the fence, wring their hands while women die, and expect us to give a flying fuck about their “moral agonies.” After three decades of this shit I have no damn use for them and their equivocations.

      • I can’t recommend this comment enough.

        Me too!

      • Gayle Force

        Amen.

  • King Goat

    Amen. Pro-lifers want you to argue accepting their basic premises, that’s always a losing game and especially so when the real crux of the disagreement lies in having fundamentally different premises.

    The ‘irresponsibility’ thing really strikes me as foolish as there’s few things I can think of as more ‘irresponsible’ than having a child that’s unwanted/unprepared for.

  • Murc

    Is this actually “wrong” as a matter of tactics?

    It seems like there really are a lot of people out there who are genuinely (as opposed to faking it because they know their actual anti-women message is a loser) conflicted on abortion, and that there are also a lot of people who are only in favor of it “for a good reason.” I myself know a fair number of squishes, people who are in favor of abortion rights but only weakly and have the potential to jump ship if they think they’re politically allied with people favoring unrestricted abortion on demand.

    Now, those people are of course wrong, but I’d be curious to know if there’s any actual research on how important the votes of them as a bloc are, because if they’re the swing then appealing to them isn’t necessarily dumb. I do not know if that is the case or not, tho.

    I’m reminded a bit of MLK’s famous line about white moderates. He was 100% correct, but as a matter of political tactics just about everything King ever did was focused like a laser right at the beating heart of white moderates, people who would have raised a hue and holler if they thought their daughter was dating a black man and who would have been kind of uncomfortable with black families moving in next door, but also were repulsed by the actions of the Bull Connor’s of the world. And he did that because, annoyingly, those people held the political balance of Civil Rights in their hands.

    • King Goat

      I think MLK’s strategy was more about how you defended something rather than what was defended. Desegregation was always to be defended, it just should not be defended in a way that came off as ‘too militant’ or angry towards whites in general. Likewise re: abortion us pro-choicers can be aware of tone without ceding that most abortions start as morally problematic.

      • I think MLK’s strategy was more about how you defended something rather than what was defended. Desegregation was always to be defended, it just should not be defended in a way that came off as ‘too militant’ or angry towards whites in general.

        That seems more an Malcolm X reading of their respective roles, not how King conceptualised things. From Letter:

        You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

        One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

        We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

        We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

        ….I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

        Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.

        King is against *violence* not militance or even anger.

        ETA: I just love Letter (even though it’s not his best), so I’ll take any chance to quote.

        • King Goat

          He also said: “Perceptive Negro leadership understands that each of the major accomplishments in 1964 was the product of Negro militancy on a level that could mobilize and maintain white support. Negroes acting alone and in a hostile posture toward all whites will do nothing more than demonstrate that their conditions of life are unendurable, and that they are unbearably angry. But this has already been widely dramatized.”

          • Good counter!

            I think the “too militant” he identifies here is far far from what we’re talking about in abortion. I mean, really, rivers of blood level militancy.

            • Matt McIrvin

              And yet, that’s where the anti side actually is.

              • Yes! Great point!

                They froth at the mouths, kill people, and harass patients!

                We’re not talking about anything like that!

            • King Goat

              I think MLK walked that fine, difficult line between an activism that was militant enough to overcome the inertia of an unjust status quo while not putting off too many people that would otherwise stand with him. The key word is stand with him, what he had little time for were ‘white moderates’ who wouldn’t stand with him in any way beyond clucking about how the other side was unseemly. One shouldn’t cater to that group, but one ignores or puts off those who would make meaningful stands to progress your agenda even though they might not be on in every respect at the peril of your goals.

              • I agree.

                I tend to think that the “we should acknowledge that abortion is icky” or “we should focus on cases of health, rape, or incest” are very much on the tongue clucking moderate group. I don’t think we should necessarily beat on them (after all, it’s a wide spread meme), but I think respecting their strategic sense is unwise, at least as a group. I take it as a warning sign, really and evaluate such people closely.

                There’s a variant of Clinton’s “safe, legal, and rare” that makes sense: abortion should obviously be safe and legal, and excellent family planning support (good contraception is the keystone, but also good support for mothers and other parents is important) would make it rather rare.

                But what came out of it all is providing some cover and squishiness for all sorts of encroachments on the effective availability of abortion.

                • joe from Lowell

                  I tend to think that the “we should acknowledge that abortion is icky” or “we should focus on cases of health, rape, or incest” are very much on the tongue clucking moderate group. I don’t think we should necessarily beat on them (after all, it’s a wide spread meme), but I think respecting their strategic sense is unwise, at least as a group.

                  OK – but please note that this isn’t what Pollitt wrote about. She isn’t pushing back against people who say “We should…, and you need to stop…” Instead, she’s writing her own “We should…, and you need to stop…”

                  So, while I agree with you, I’m also going to question the strategic sense and evaluate closely people who look at a board member from a Texas abortion rights group saying “This message worked for us” and tell her “No, you’re wrong, stop that.”

                  But what came out of it all is providing some cover and squishiness for all sorts of encroachments on the effective availability of abortion.

                  Karen’s wrong about what worked in Texas?

                • OK – but please note that this isn’t what Pollitt wrote about.

                  Hereby noted. It is what I wrote about, though :)

                  So, while I agree with you, I’m also going to question the strategic sense and evaluate closely people who look at a board member from a Texas abortion rights group saying “This message worked for us” and tell her “No, you’re wrong, stop that.”

                  Sure!

                  Karen’s wrong about what worked in Texas?

                  Sorry, which bit about what worked in Texas? I certainly welcome her reports on her experience, but here’s what I found in this thread:

                  I was on the state board of the Texas Abortion Rights Action League back in the 90’s, when we actually won a few fights.

                  Which is completely awesome! No doubt! But there were two points I saw, one:

                  Asking women who have had abortions to be cheerleaders manes asking people to relive a painful experience and that is never something to be undertaken lightly. I don’t think we should be using the pain of others as props for our cause. If there are women who want to explain why they needed an abortion I think that’s great and they deserve our respect but we shouldn’t be hectoring those who don’t want to talk about it.

                  I agree with the last bit and while I don’t agree that all women have abortions from a place of pain (or even most…afaict, the literature doesn’t show this and suggests otherwise; Aimai’s explanation seems plausible, but I don’t have enough data to make a firm conclusion here), I agree that there could be significant risk even in gentle requests for story sharing. But I think that, unlike hectoring, is a reasonable risk. I *think* Karen would agree, but maybe not?

                  The other point was:

                  Nevertheless, we shouldn’t forget that women need abortions because of problems in their lives, and we should emphasize that our opponents are the ones making those problems worse.

                  I agree with this wholeheartedly and don’t think it conflicts with my claim above, but I sorta see how it would be read that way. I don’t see how talking about making abortion “safe, legal, and rare” is the same as “people who get abortions often are struggling with a variety of difficulties and abortion restrictions and protesters and bad abortion attitudes make their suffering worse”.

                  Does this help clarify?

                • Karen24

                  I’m actually in agreement with both of you. It’s vital that women who can comfortably tell their stories do do and equally vital that no one is forced into an unwanted and unwelcome confession.

                • Hey, Karen24! Thanks for weighing in!

  • I think the crucial point that Politt is making is that the pro-choice movement has bought into the anti-choice wing’s perception of abortion as something shameful, something a woman wouldn’t admit to even if it wasn’t “her fault” (if she was raped, if she was having the abortion to save her own life or because the fetus had incurable birth defects). This has helped, I think, to create the sort of dissonance where anti-abortion types will froth at the mouth about how abortion is killing babies, and then calmly get one for themselves or their female relatives. Abortion, the political concept, has become completely divorced from abortion, the medical procedure that is necessary for the health and happiness of the majority of women everywhere.

    One of the changes I’ve seen on this front recently is the fact that more women are opening up about their abortions, and being encouraged to do so. I don’t think it can hurt to start normalizing the notion that abortion is a part of many people’s lives – many of whom are already mothers, and making the best choice for themselves and their families.

    • Rob in CT

      One of the changes I’ve seen on this front recently is the fact that more women are opening up about their abortions, and being encouraged to do so. I don’t think it can hurt to start normalizing the notion that abortion is a part of many people’s lives – many of whom are already mothers, and making the best choice for themselves and their families.

      I think this is likely right.

      So and so is a good/responsible person + so and so had an abortion would force some folks to think about this differently. Right now, it’s almost entirely an abstract argument about people you do not know.

    • SgtGymBunny

      Yes, I definitely think that more women sharing their experience with abortion is a plus in that it dispells a lot of myths as to when and why women get abortion. The current dialogue makes it sounds like only wanton women or rape/incest victims get abortions. But this little nugget of truth was really nice to see for a change:

      Rachel Atkins once said, “There aren’t ‘women who have abortions’ and ‘women who have babies.’ Those are the same women at different points in their lives.” … Abortion is just one point on a long spectrum of reproductive experiences.

      • SgtGymBunny

        There was supposed to be link for that quote.

        • 100 percent this.

    • Origami Isopod

      I think the crucial point that Politt is making is that the pro-choice movement has bought into the anti-choice wing’s perception of abortion as something shameful, something a woman wouldn’t admit to even if it wasn’t “her fault” (if she was raped, if she was having the abortion to save her own life or because the fetus had incurable birth defects). This has helped, I think, to create the sort of dissonance where anti-abortion types will froth at the mouth about how abortion is killing babies, and then calmly get one for themselves or their female relatives. Abortion, the political concept, has become completely divorced from abortion, the medical procedure that is necessary for the health and happiness of the majority of women everywhere.

      Agreed.

      On another note, I would love to see the end of “safe, legal, and rare” as a slogan. No, abortion should not be “rare.” It should be readily available to women who want it. If you want to work on the prevention end, fine, that’s great. Focusing on the numbers and reducing them takes the focus off what women need and makes the whole thing into a numbers game to appease the squishy middle.

  • King Goat

    I wonder how much discussing recent rhetorical approaches on this matter is neither here nor there and that the only substantial reason that abortion faces the onslaught it currently does is that in 2010 the political lines (redistricting) were redrawn and we’ve got gerrymandered safe GOP seats controlling more and more state legislatures. In such a situation not only do you have GOP legislatures with a general bent against abortion but in many of these safe seats the action is in the relatively low turn out primaries, contests where a dedicated pressure group of fanatics can win some impressive concessions. The result: this rush of pro-life legislation. The real lesson here is that non-Presidential elections are important too

    • Rob in CT

      I think this is basically right. There are two problems here: 1) stalemate in poll data (not great, but also not disasterous); and 2) political facts on the ground (currently bad).

      Improvement in #1 would be great, but obviously really hard (if it wasn’t really hard, we’d be in a better place already).

      Improvement in #2 requires winning some more elections.

    • xq

      But aren’t presidential elections still the main driver here, through the courts? Some of these states would probably ban abortion if it weren’t for Roe.

      I agree though that public opinion has only a tenuous relation to the status of abortion rights.

      • King Goat

        “But aren’t presidential elections still the main driver here”

        Yes, in the sense that current precedent places some limits on what these state legislatures can do. I didn’t mean to say Presidential elections aren’t important here, just that “non-Presidential elections are important too.”

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      Good point. I think this may be a regionalized issue to a much greater extent than has been discussed. Pollitt astutely describes a continuum of situations where a woman would want to choose to terminate, and her approach is trying to expand the battlefield by normalizing situations more in the middle that had normally been avoided. Given the views of the country as a whole this approach is most likely to be successful on a nationwide level.

      At the same time, groups like this gotcha operation are gaining traction in Blue States because so many more voters there are on the extreme end of the continuum aka “abortion is just free birth control for teenage welfare sluts.” Those states seem to be the ones where abortion access is getting most restricted. The best counter to that argument may be the rape/incest argument. The best approach may be to push the old “rape/incest” argument regionally, while advocating for the Pollitt/Lemieux approach nationally. I have a feeling this type of strategic split will become more and more important as the GOP entrenches among white Blue State voters and the Dems move more towards the Obama coalition model.

      • Lurker

        In fact, I really don’t see why free birth control would not be a good thing if you don’t like “teenage welfare sluts”. Free birth control will mean they don’t get so many unwanted babies, can get an education and a job and don’t become a burden to the society.

        In Finland, birth control is not free, although it is subsidized. A neighboring city started to issue birth control to teenagers for no cost at all last year. Economically, it pays off very well in decreased social support costs. They can see the results already.

        • witlesschum

          Colorado did this in a limited way and it did not in fact make mainly hardcore religious social conservatives happy. Their rationalization is either that birth control is also wrong, it’s wrong that they should contribute to paying for it or that birth control is really abortion. These are not people who have a strong grounding in science to begin with.

          They don’t seem to have concrete goals, but rather are trying to somehow satisfy vague uneasiness about modern society through politics, so they can’t really be satisfied no matter what.

  • Karen24

    I was on the state board of the Texas Abortion Rights Action League back in the 90’s, when we actually won a few fights. I say that, because I don’t really agree with one of Pollit’s principles. Remember a few weeks ago when we were discussing the difference between marriage equality’s level,of approval and reproductive rights? Think back for a minute. Unlike marriages, every abortion starts in a place of pain. Even if the woman knows she’s making the correct and perfect decision about the pregnancy, she’s still making that decision because something else is wrong at that moment. Asking women who have had abortions to be cheerleaders manes asking people to relive a painful experience and that is never something to be undertaken lightly. I don’t think we should be using the pain of others as props for our cause. If there are women who want to explain why they needed an abortion I think that’s great and they deserve our respect but we shouldn’t be hectoring those who don’t want to talk about it.

    I am NOT saying abortion is icky. Abortion is like chemotherapy — an essential medical procedure that everyone who uses it would much prefer to avoid. Everyone who needs chemo should have it when they need it without question and abortion should be exactly the same. Abortion gets tagged with extra stigma because our societies all have at least some stupid attitudes about sex, especially women having sex. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t forget that women need abortions because of problems in their lives, and we should emphasize that our opponents are the ones making those problems worse.

    • Rob in CT

      I don’t think we should be using the pain of others as props for our cause. If there are women who want to explain why they needed an abortion I think that’s great and they deserve our respect but we shouldn’t be hectoring those who don’t want to talk about it.

      Lots of people felt this way about gay people who chose to stay in the closet. I think it’s valid: the price for coming out is not something to blithely hand-wave away, nor is it a small thing to ask someone to relive an experience that was unpleasant (or worse). At the same time, it sure looks like lots of people coming out of the closet helped.

      • JL

        And here we have an important difference between more and more people gradually deciding to come out of the closet as different kinds of work lowered barriers to doing so, and people being forced out of the closet (some of both happened, of course – for one thing, HIV forced quite a number of people out of the closet back in the ’80s and early ’90s).

        In 2015, we also have the painful flipside to it. As this interview with the Center for American Progress’ LGBT research director points out, the tremendous modern epidemic of LGBTQ youth homelessness has been driven by kids, emboldened by rapid progress on some fronts, coming out at younger ages and ending up rejected or abused by family or peers.

        If we want more people to talk about their abortions, we (pro-choice people and organizations) should be willing to provide support around that (which I get at in my comment below). Public speaker training, counseling and support groups for those who are considering disclosure or have disclosed, help with obtaining protective orders and other safety support for people who end up harassed for sharing their stories, events where people have a safer space to disclose their abortion experience for the first time and will be welcomed and celebrated.

        • djw

          Thanks for that link, by the way; it’s a good hook for a post I’ve been meaning to write.

    • searcher

      It’s a form of self defense. It’d be nice to not need to defend yourself and your family against babies, but that’s the crapsack world we live in.

      It’s about wants versus needs. Conservatives didn’t want gays to marry; gays NEEDED to marry. Conservatives don’t want people to get abortions; sometimes people NEED to get abortions.

      • Karen24

        I think that’s a better way of explaining this issue. Focusing on the painful realities of being a mother today will win a lot more friends, and put the antis on the defensive about all their other terrible policies.

      • joe from Lowell

        It’d be nice to not need to defend yourself and your family against babies, but that’s the crapsack world we live in.

        And to think, Hallmark still won’t give you that gig.

    • JL

      I agree that people shouldn’t be hectored. I’m not sure that’s Pollitt’s argument, though. I see her as wanting people who have had abortions who CAN talk about it, to do so. To that I would add that we should be working to reduce the stigma enough to lower that barrier for more people who have had abortions (which will in turn reduce the stigma further).

      Many rape crisis centers and similar organizations (like the NYC AVP, which works with LGBTQ survivors of violence) have the concept of the Survivor Speakers Bureau – a group of people who have experienced the relevant, and often stigmatized, kind of violence, who are willing to talk about it to public audiences, who receive public speaking training and emotional/psychological support from the organization. These organizations emphatically don’t believe that anyone should be hectored to talk about their experience; they’re pulling their speaker-activists from among the already-willing, and the work of the already-willing produces more already-willing. Maybe pro-choice organizations should have Patient Speakers Bureaus. Maybe some already do.

      There are other destigmatization efforts that we could take from anti-violence movements that might work here. My local rape crisis center has the Clothesline Project, where people who have been sexually assaulted anonymously decorate t-shirts with their stories and emotions, and the t-shirts become part of a roving art exhibit. That would be simple enough for pro-choice groups to implement.

      • Karen24

        I hope all of these actions are copied all over the country. As we say down here, good on ya’ll and many good wishes.

        That said, I still think Pollitt doesn’t acknowledge that abortion is always a painful choice. The pain comes from the circumstances forcing it, but it’s still a serious issue. (There are probably a tiny number of women who end pregnancies flippantly but they shouldn’t be trusted with a cactus, much less a human infant.) For all but a rounding error number of women, abortion is a decision they would have avoided if at all possible and I don’t think we should minimize that part.

        • On a slightly separate but related topic I think we have to realize that women who have abortions for all/any reasons also don’t have the “friends and allies” that other people who have faced surgery do. They may not even have friends and allies in the medical profession to speak up for them and to normalize the procedure given the way abortion has been pushed ot of medical schools and hospitals and women-who-have-abortions pushed out from the nursing side as patients.

          The idea that gay people have friends and family who loved them anyway and who were converted from enemies to allies has, largely, turned out to be true (with the exception of the flood of younger people coming out). The idea that women who have abortions have friends and family who will stand by them and not attack them for their abortions? That’s only sometimes true. It can be true–especially of the vast number of abortions that women choose because they and their families can’t manage this baby/a baby. But I don’t think that the ur-abortion teen has much emotional or social support of any kind for her abortion even if its being pushed on her by family and friends.

          Looping back to the beginning of my comment women who have miscarriages have them within the context of labor and delivery and they can receive a certain kind of medical and therapeutic support as a suffering madonna. But women who have abortions, or suffer from spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) who are suspected of not wanting the baby are routinely attacked and harassed by family, friends, and medical professionals. Its hard to ask people to come forward with their experiences of abortion when the act is surrounded by so much secrecy and hostility that even the nurses and assistants at your doctor’s office may attack you for it.

          • Adding to this, I think it’s worth mentioning that women’s relationship to pregnancy and miscarriage, and necessarily to abortion, and their experience of these things as it relates to medical professionals, has changed enormously since I was eighteen. It was then normal to find out you were pregnant only from a doctor, and only several weeks after conception. If the first test was negative but you were pregnant, you could be well into your third month before you found out officially. Before that time, medically, you were not pregnant, but only hoped or feared you were.

            Now you can take a home exam less than two weeks after possible conception. It isn’t normal, as it was when I was young, to just wait and see if your period is just a little late.

            When I was undergoing fertility treatment, I once conceived and miscarried within a week or two, at most, and that’s in my record as a pregnancy. While all the earlier times I skipped two periods and had negative tests by the time I went in were not. No woman today would fail to know for sure in cases like those. And she’d know BEFORE she ever spoke to a doctor or nurse.

        • Rob in CT

          abortion is always a painful choice

          I certainly don’t have any personal experience to speak from, but others in this thread do and they’re saying that’s wrong.

          • Karen’s experience is from having been on the State Board of PP in Texas. That’s a very definite personal experience. I think we might want to talk about the ways in which women’s experience of abortion as a procedure which is hard to get is part of the trauma that women experience, not separate from it. How many heart patients have to scrape together the money because their doctors appointments aren’t covered, or have to anticipate walking through a gauntlet of protesters, or have to ask for time off work for a procedure that is treated as a badge of shame? Women who get abortions in this country are treated as though they are committing a crime–despite stories (which I totally believe to be true and valid) about the relief of the abortion itself the experience of getting it under these circumstances is pretty dire. The abortion-getting-experience is, itself, a source of pain (however brief and worth it) for a lot of women. And I have absolutely no doubt that Karen’s experience was communicated to her by a lot of women since “on the board of PP in texas” has to have been a hell of a job.

            • Rob in CT

              Yeah, that all makes perfect sense to me. My “shorter” would be: the circumstances that lead to wanting/needing an abortion likely suck, and the process of obtaining one may suck, but the fact that it’s attainable is great and therefore “place of pain” thing struck me (and others, it seems) as a little off.

              But her experience is obviously miles beyond mine.

              • Emma in Sydney

                I live in a country where abortion is safe, legal and subsidised. When I needed an abortion it was more a bloody nuisance than a great trauma. There were US inspired abortion protesters to walk past at the clinic, and I still hate those people with the power of 1 million suns, but otherwise it was like spending a day going for an uncomfortable and undignified medical procedure. Which it is. There is a hormonally induced emotional slump over the next few days and weeks, exactly the same as a miscarriage, which would make it worse for someone younger or less experienced or less sure of their decision. But there seems to me no innate reason for it to be a great shame or problem, any more than a colonoscopy or something.
                Just in case anyon here decides I am a monster, I have kids and grandkids and am widely seen as a loving earth-mother type. Quilts, chickens, the whole nine yards.

        • L2P

          Compare assisted suicide.

          That’s a movement that is literally only coming from pain. Only people going through immense suffering even consider assisted suicide. Talk about agonizing, painful decisions. And there’s a huge movement of people pushing for this, talking of their experiences, and explaining that it was a GOOD decision that others should be allowed.

          A painful decision isn’t a bad decision, isn’t a shameful decision, isn’t a decision to be hidden.

    • Unlike marriages, every abortion starts in a place of pain. Even if the woman knows she’s making the correct and perfect decision about the pregnancy, she’s still making that decision because something else is wrong at that moment. Asking women who have had abortions to be cheerleaders manes asking people to relive a painful experience and that is never something to be undertaken lightly.

      I think this is far too strong. Consider Emma from Sydney’s awesome comment above. I could be wrong, but it doesn’t *seem* to be coming from a place of pain.

      We ask chemo patients to cheerlead other chemo patients. I have a high school friend who has (fairly late stage) Huntington’s…he and his partner advocate for Huntington’s research. Sometimes that’s how people deal with their pain.

      And many (most?) abortions are nothing like chemo. Physically, they are not a big deal in the typical case. I mean, a lot are outpatient!

      The literature on abortion regret seems weak so I can’t speak strongly about it, but I’d be wary of feeding into the big abortion is horrid narratives.

      Of course, we shouldn’t require women who don’t want to share their stories or hector them. But I think being positive about it and encourage people to think positively about seems unobjectionable.

    • Gayle Force

      Abortion is like chemotherapy, but only because it saved my life. I didn’t want to avoid it. I loved my abortion. My abortion was awesome. It was amazing. The second after I had it, my body stopped trying to kill itself, and though I’m an atheist, calling it a “blessing” is exactly the correct word.

      Not every abortion starts from pain. Many of them end the pain.

      And anyway, in my experience, the equation is more like: Lady friends who have had abortions + alcoholic beverages = hilarious abortion jokes. I’m sorry you don’t move in such circles.

      So I already think your belief about abortion is buying into a narrative that is not only incorrect as a blanket statement, but illustrates exactly Katha Pollitt’s point. I’m sure for some women it is difficult, but the rest of us will be over here telling the funny story of trying to engage with the anti-choice guy who was protesting the clinic on our way out after the procedure while severely under the influence of narcotics and Xanax and announcing, “WOW THAT WAS GREAT.”

      • joe from Lowell

        So what you’re saying is that the message that won political victories for abortion rights in Texas isn’t the same one that inspires women in your social circle.

        The lessons I’d draw from that are that pro-choice is a broad coalition; that different tactics are appropriate for difference places and situations; and that not everybody needs to be making the same argument anyway.

        • Gayle Force

          Right. We can’t talk about an abortion narrative like there is a single one. And I have no doubt that my social circle can makes jokes about abortions because we could obtain one – I live in a place where we have access to abortion without waiting periods or other onerous burdens, and my friends generally have the resources to pay for one.

          I also think that a lot of people will speak about their abortion in the way that they think they are supposed to speak about their abortion – that it was the hardest decision they ever made, it was an agonizing conclusion to have come to, etc. Because that narrative, that abortion is shameful, is the only one that is acceptable. If taking a defensive stance is deemed the only socially palatable stance, then a lot of people will adopt that, whether it is personally true for them or not. Or they will feel shame, because they are expected to, that they may not have felt without the social stigma.

          But yes, exactly what you said – this is a broad coalition. And I should point out here that not all the people having abortions are even women; we often exclude transmen from this debate. I have been trying to remember to use “people” instead of “women,” but I still make mistakes.

          • joe from Lowell

            Thank you for the thoughtful, insightful reply.

        • ColBatGuano

          The lessons I’d draw from that are that pro-choice is a broad coalition; that different tactics are appropriate for difference places and situations; and that not everybody needs to be making the same argument anyway.

          Yeah, I’d agree, with the caveat that right now we don’t have much of the tactics recommended by Pollitt or Gayle Force. We have plenty of anti-abortion screamers and a lot of handwringing Saletans, but not much else.

    • Unlike marriages, every abortion starts in a place of pain.

      Not so, and it certainly shouldn’t be the case. Knowing that you don’t have to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term should create a place of joy.

      I think a lot of the place of pain comes from the fact that society still insists that “womanhood” = “motherhood” and women who don’t want babies are faulty.

      I do agree that people who don’t want to talk about it shouldn’t be expected to, but that’s because people shouldn’t be expected to discuss their health history, especially a procedure as trivial as your standard early term abortion.

      • Origami Isopod

        Throwing out this link yet again:

        http://imnotsorry.net

        Many, many stories from women who were glad to have had abortion as an option, and quite a few of them didn’t experience any ambiguity, regret, or guilt whatsoever. That site drives pro-liars nuts, btw.

        • That site drives pro-liars nuts, btw.

          Thanks for the link. Uppity broads shouting “Yay, abortion!” ruin the “We’re just protecting the dimwitted women from a terrible choice that they’ll regret forever,” narrative.

        • SgtGymBunny

          The one or two occasions when the monthly was a little late, I admit to shamelessly blowing up google with my “abortion services” searches. Not a trace of “ambiguity, regret or guilt whatsoever”. Thankfully, I really was just late, but I was definitely in a “Oh, HELL NO!!!” mindset.

    • brendalu

      This argument can come dangerously close to concern trolling though. There are plenty of women who don’t recall it as a painful period that ought not be dredged up, but rather a time when they had a choice to make, that choice was thankfully available to them, and they were able to prevent a major life disruption that they weren’t prepared for or desirous of at the time. A lot of these women don’t mind talking about it. Many more, I’ll bet, would be comfortable talking about it if more were also doing that.

      No one is talking about “outing” women, or asking specific women, individually, to tell a story that may be painful for them to recall. But asking broadly, communicating to women broadly that if this is you, if it is not reopening a wound, you can help by telling your story? I don’t see anything possibly wrong with that.

  • Woodrowfan

    some of us who are pro-choice have moral objections to abortion (in some circumstances), but also think “it’s not our body, so it’s not our f-ing business!”

    Besides, it’s like Marriage Equality. I look at the opposition, with their lies, hatred, anger, faked videos, violence, threats, etc, and I think “there is NOTHING Godly over there.” WWJD? He’d scatter the “pro-lifers” with a whip like he did the money-changers.

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      What’s amazing to me is that the gotcha group hasn’t gotten condemned (AFAIK) for disseminating a videotape of fetal remains being handled. Even if the parents consented to the remains being used for research, they didn’t consent to that, and it strikes me as a pretty serious violation, and in no way reverential.

      • DocAmazing

        Possible HIPAA violation? That could get expensive for the videomaker.

        • Not HIPAA, as the Up Womb creep isn’t a covered entity.

          • DocAmazing

            Is there a set of laws that cover third-party violations of patient confidentiality?

            • I think you’re referring to business associates? From what I understand that wouldn’t apply here even if you could argue that by posing as a medical company they became BAs (which would be very clever).

              Did they release the names of any of the patients or any information that would allow you to identify them? If no, then it can’t be a HIPAA violation.

              And by the way, this is a good thing because Planned Parenthood would be in trouble.

              I think trespassing and depending on state law, illegal recordings would be the best bet.

  • joe from Lowell

    Scott, do you object to anyone holding this position and making this argument, or only to the insistence that all pro-choicers need to do so?

    I remember during the Iraq War, there were some people who opposed it while arguing “This is an imperialist war meant only to further American geopolitical goals, and that’s evil,” while others argued “An invasion of Iraq will take our eye off the ball, empower Iran, and do damage to our geopolitical standing.”

    Does the latter argument “unconsciously encode the vision of the other side?” Should people coming from an anti-imperialist direction have spent their time insisting that people coming from a realpolitik direction shut up?

    Not everyone on the same side needs to making the same argument.

    • DocAmazing

      Well, the Democratic presidential frontrunner has been using the “safe, legal and rare” formulation for a very long time now, so I don’t think we’re in danger of seeing a “moderate” stance disappear.

      • joe from Lowell

        Is she?

        I don’t recall hearing her use that since the 2008 campaign.

      • joe from Lowell

        Though your larger point is certainly valid: Pollitt can’t make the mainstream pro-choice argument disappear anyway.

  • joe from Lowell

    So pro-choicers start saying that even if it should be legal abortion is icky, so now what? How does this make it more likely that abortion will remain legal?

    Pro-choicers win some elections they would have otherwise lost?

    Which is an important good, but the tail can’t be wagging the dog here. The messaging that’s necessary for that one competitive suburban district in some purplish-red state can’t be the dominant one for the movement as a whole.

    • King Goat

      Might there be an important difference between conceding that abortions are icky and saying ‘abortion should be legal even if you think its icky?’

  • Joe_JP

    People have a range of feelings about abortion and it’s complicated for many people. For some, it’s less so. Kinda like marriage in various ways. Sometimes, people are disappointed about their marriages. They might even have made a mistake. But, they have a right to choose.

    We say: rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities, life-risking pregnancies.

    Yes, these are the “easy” (I use quotes since they are horrible for those involved; for them, an abortion in college because one isn’t ready to have a child yet is much more “easy”) arguments to answer extremists. It’s understandable. But, we also have to make sure to not leave it to that. What we are talking about here is basic health care to control one’s body and live per one’s own needs and moral/religious beliefs.

    One thing that is focused upon by those who use these videos is the “tone” of the participants or how horrible the process is. Even people like Hillary Clinton or Al Franken (damn, even the official PP video response) was uncomfortable with the tone. This is b.s. But, it’s something that has to be handled too. The distaste over abortion and now how fetal tissue is collected is a major reason why abortion is like the right that isn’t talked about. Millions have them and it is barely shown on t.v. and film.

    The Saletan “icky” approach is wrong but merely avoiding it is not enough. Our response has to put forth an alternative.

  • StellaB

    Ending legal abortion doesn’t end abortion, just safe abortion. Poor women won’t cease to have abortions, they’ll buy misoprostol from the internet, throw themselves down stairs, ask people to punch them in the stomach, and worse.

    • D.N. Nation

      And rich women will “go upstate for the weekend.”

    • Bill Murray

      falls off horses were big in the rural West

  • CSI

    If America made a concerted effort to get free long-term contraception (IUDs or implants) to as many women and girls who could use them, this would cut the need for abortions drastically. Instead America’s corrupt medical system bloats the cost of these beyond all reason, and meanwhile many places continue to emphasize “abstinence only” education (which may be nice in theory, but simply doesn’t work in practice).

    • witlesschum

      Colorado did just that.

      Then, the state’s Republicans realized the error of their ways and absolutely did not attempt to defund the program providing free, long-term contraception on the grounds that it was abortion and the recipients were not good girls who needed to be vaguely shamed. Not even a little bit. That would be ridiculous.

  • Brautigan

    First, I can’t agree with this more. And not just because, on a tactical level, I subscribe to Josh Marshall’s ‘Bitch-Slap’ theory of politics.

    However, I’m struck by the extent to which this argument is, essentially, one that we need to move the Overton Window, which inexorably leads to ‘Green Lanternism,’ and we all know how well THAT goes over in these parts.

    • Green Lanternism is defined by its belief that a president can substantially affect domestic policy by taking a particular stand on an issue. It is a rejection of the belief that a president’s effective policy is heavily constrained by Congress and public opinion. In that sense, arguing that activists should stake out a particular position on an issue in order to move public opinion is actually the complete opposite of Green Lanternism — it’s much closer to the FDR “I agree, now make me do it” model that Green Lantern critics tend to espouse.

  • Sebastian_h

    It seems quite likely that even very pro-abortion pro-choicers take the tactics Politt doesn’t like because a huge percentage of the pro-choicers in the middle are pro-choice toward the beginning of the pregnancy, but become much more pro-life leaning as the pregnancy continues. You aren’t buying into the extreme ‘pro-life’ argument. You are buying into the moderate pro-choice argument.

    You are buying into the opposite side of the argument exactly when you define as “pro-life” all of the people who think that a baby’s life in the last few months might be worth protecting in some circumstances.

    • ColBatGuano

      They are anti-abortion (under X circumstances), not “pro-life”.

  • cpinva

    these are all nice arguments and everything and yes, thank goodness for safe abortions, at whatever stage. the bottom line is that the only argument that counts, and trumps every other argument, is that it’s the woman’s body, she has absolute agency over her body and, absent being adjudicated an incompetent, is the only person in the entire world who has the absolute right to decide if she’ll have an abortion or not.

    to start from the position that other people have a legitimate right to interfere, and make arguments against said woman having an abortion, regardless of the stage of pregnancy, grants them an agency over this woman’s body they absolutely don’t have. the starting point for the discussion is:

    “I am having an abortion, and it’s really none of your goddamned business, so just shut the fuck up and get out of my way, before you accidentally end up a patient in this medical facility. thank you, and have a lovely day.”

  • Ronan

    I feel like there’s a lot Im ignorant about on this topic, and certain questions that I need to clarify in my own mind. So rather than get into it, does anyone have any reading recommendations ? Any type welcome(ie blogposts to books) and from any position , though on the ‘moral’, philosophical, personal narratives and scientific aspects of the question rather than the politics ?

    • JL

      Hmm, you might try this post and all of the follow-ups linked at the end. It’s written by a woman who was raised to be, and for a long-time was, extremely anti-abortion and was heavily involved in the “pro-life” moment, and is now a feminist and pro-choice.

      • That’s a great link! Thanks.

      • Ronan

        Thanks JL, that looks ideal.

    • If you want some philosophical treatements, Boonin’s book A Defense of Abortion is very good.

      http://ebooks.cambridge.org/ebook.jsf?bid=CBO9780511610172

      Schwartz’s Arguing about Abortion collected the key essays circa 1992 and provide a lot of helpful material. I taught it for years. Really wonderful. There seems to be an Arguing about series but it doesn’t include it.

      https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Arguing_about_Abortion.html?id=3ooEAQAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y

      • Ronan

        Thanks Bijan, I was hoping you’d weigh in with a philosophical rec. That Boonin book looks good. It’s been added to my wishlist and so now begins the battle of wills between myself and the amazon price drop algorithims ; )
        (the Schwartz book also looks useful, and is cheaper, so will prob start with that)

        • The main difference (aside from Schwartz being out of print) is that Boonin is a single author manuscript while Schwartz is a collection of classic papers. It even has the single best anti abortion argument I know of (by Don Marquis; it’s wrong but very clever and interesting).

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