Abortion and Public Reason


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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347 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:


    I didn’t check out the videocast yet, but thanks for this thoughtful post.

    You touch on the implications of the changing nature of viability when you mention the potential for new wards of the state. But, even before you get there, you have to deal with prior obligations.

    Suppose a woman wants to abort a fetus that has reached a point where it could be brought to term “artificially” (if there is better language, I don’t know it and apologize in advance if I’m using poor form). Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the necessary coverage or finances to support such a procedure. Will the government provide this for her? Or will she be required to take the baby to term and give it up for adoption? If the government doesn’t provide for her, we’ll make “women’s choice” something available only to the privileged (“privileged” being a relative term for where ever that line falls that divides those who have access to the procedure and those that don’t). Would you be willing to see the government provide these services, free of charge, if it moved the needle on abortion towards your side?Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

      I can’t really accept either of those rationales as a primary moral justification for allowing abortion rights. Viability is completely a product of the current technological moment. And “women’s choice” frames the issue–a thorny one–only in terms of the lifestyle choices of another. And yet, I am “pro-choice” (or, at least, pro-euphemism).

      My own moral reasoning goes something like this:

      The embryo does not have human consciousness (even if it may have fingers, react to pain, etc.)
      The “humanness” (if you will) of the embreyo / fetus exists on some continuum between conception and delivery. In my moral framework, it certainly doesn’t exist at conception, and certainly does at delivery.
      The hallmark of a modern liberal (little “l”) society is the ability of individuals to exercise maximal control over the course and outcome of their own lives.
      There are few more impactful life events than pregnancy (though death would be one
      Therefore, allowing individuals to end a pregnancy during a period during which the fetus is pre-conscious, is a positive social good.

      I know that this is an issue that many feel strongly about, but I think that the moral arguments that the abortion rights crowd advances in support of their position is weak. Not only ethically weak, but also weak in the sense that it’s unlikely to persuade someone else to come to their side.Report

  2. Avatar Kimmi says:

    Hiya! I love the idea of artificial wombs. Means that men and women can have (mostly) parity in saying “I want this child.”
    I’d rather see all the funds we spend on abortion/anti-abortion defense go towards that!

    You might call me a pro-choice absolutist (I’m not, but my boundaries are, it’s fair to say, probably not most peoples. )Report

    • Avatar bookdragon says:

      Hey I’d love to see artificial wombs end the debate…provided all the pro-life* absolutists volunteer to pay for the associated medical costs and the children born of them.

      Now, as to science. My reasons for being pro-choice have nothing to do with arguments about the definition of viability. There are a lot of public policy and personal autonomy arguments to be made (as well as the argument that says that the mother is also a viable human being and should be allowed to abort if the pregnancy poses a danger to her life!)

      However, my argument comes from personal experience. Genetic testing showed that both my husband and I are carriers for a rare but deadly genetic disease. I won’t go into details, but babies born with this generally die a miserable lingering death over the course of the 1st six months of life. Therefore, when I got pregnant I had amnio. Fortunately neither of my children had the disease, (and in fact, one didn’t even inherent any recessive genes for it), but if the results had come back positive, I would have aborted.

      Maybe that makes me an evil would-be murderess in your book. In my book, someone who would step in and force me to bear a child with this disease and watch him/her die, is the one who needs to think about his ethics.

      *I use ‘pro-life’ because you did, but I find the term obnoxious. As someone who does a lot of volunteer work for animal rescue and cares about endangered species, I note that the majority of people who call themselves ‘pro-life’ are in fact only ‘pro-human-life’. In fact, given the policies of ‘pro-lifers’ like Paul Ryan, etc., it should probably be ‘pro-unborn-human-life’.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I think babies that will have their lifespans measured in hours, days, or weeks present what should be considered a special case. I do think that quality-of-life matters, of both the child and the parents. Bringing a baby to full term that will live twelve pain filled hours, take up valuable medical resources, and cause emotional distress to the family seems, to me, to be the opposite of respect and dignity for life.

        I realize folks can easily make a slippery slope out of this but I would only apply it at the most extreme ends and no further.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          “Bringing a baby to full term that will live twelve pain filled hours, take up valuable medical resources, and cause emotional distress to the family seems, to me, to be the opposite of respect and dignity for life.”

          I hope Kyle will not mind me pointing you here:


          • Avatar Kazzy says:


            Thanks for sharing that. I can’t read all the posts right now, but I reckon I have a sense of what you are getting at.

            Re-reading my statement, I was sloppy and offensive in my choice of words. For that, I apologize. What I meant was that I think it can reasonably be argued that such cases ought to be considered special circumstances if so desired. I was wrong to imply that any family that chooses not to abort is somehow disrespecting the dignity of life or life itself. I should have more clearly said that, for some, abortion might seem a more respectful and dignified course for the various lives involved.Report

    • Avatar bookdragon says:

      Oops. I hit your reply button, rather than scrolling to bottom. Sorry about that. Meant to address this to the author.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    One reason I am usually persnickety about distinguishing between rights held by an individual on the one hand and powers held by the state on the other is for discussions about abortion. I shelved that objection in the discussion last night to avoid going down a rabbit hole of addressing the merits of abortion when the discussion was really about something more philosophical and abstract than a specific issue. But the OP raises an issue that makes me unable to control my impulse.

    The state has no rights whatsoever. It does not have a “right” to tell a woman when she can or cannot have an abortion. It either has, or does not have, the power to punish someone involved with an abortion renderd under circumstances described in a previously-enacted law. In a Constitutional system of government, the law imposes limits on the extent to which the government may exercise its power.

    Further, the woman seeking an abortion has an interest in bodily autonomy. At all times. To determine if her interest reaches the level of a “right,” we analyze the extent of the state’s legitimate, legal exercise of power and balance it against the extent of the individual’s interests at stake (in this case, the right to terminate a pregnancy).

    No right is absolute, no power is absolute. All individual rights, all exercises of state power, are subject to analysis and potential abrogation. Society cannot long exist in a realm of ideological absolutes.

    If the legitimate and legal power of the state exceeds the individual interest at stake, then the law is appropriate and stands, and that’s tough luck for the individual whose interest is suborned to the law. If the individual interest is more important than the state’s power, we call it a “right” and the full force of the law is deployed in its vindication, against the government.

    In order to engage in this calculus, at least some degree of moral comparison must be weighed. Non-moral considerations may enter into the mix as well. The calculus is necessarily done ad hoc since moral dilemmas are difficult to fully anticipate in a resolvable fashion, although we may and do try to set up frameworks for that calculus in advance to increase the degree of predictability in the law and thus avoid at least some moral and legal dilemmas. We give these frameworks names like “the rational basis test” or “strict scrutiny analysis.”

    Abortion is a difficult question because in the moral framework that prevails in contemporary society, personal bodily autonomy and preservation of human life are both assigned a high moral value. It is therefore difficult for society as a whole to balance them against one another. Clearly, the state has the power to protect human life; thus, laws punishing homicide. Clearly, people ought to be allowed to do what they wish with their own bodies, all other factors being equal.

    This is how we get to the point that “personhood” becomes the critical analysis — at what point does a fertilized human egg (later called variously a blastocyst, zygote, embryo, fetus, and child or baby), attain a sufficient quantity of “personhood” that the state may legitimately exercise its power and suborn an individual interest to the larger goal of protecting human life and enabling civilized society to continue existence?

    What your post raises is the idea that “viability” is not a particularly good point at which that line can be drawn, because advances in technology make that point fluid. Perhaps in 1973, technology was such that Justice Blackmun could feel justified in drawing the line between the second and third trimesters. The idea of an artificial womb capable of gestating a fertilized egg to the point of delivery remains the stuff of science fiction and is likely to do so for the remainder of our lives. As an intellectual exercise, it reveals the fragility of viability as the demarcation point of personhood, but let’s not forget that it is just an intellectual exercise. Successful pregnancies still require living wombs, which means a woman must bear the fetus/child/baby/whatever-other-term-you-want for at least some portion of its development.

    We can’t escape the notion that the state is imposing its will on an individual by dreaming about science fiction. We have to do the hard work of balancing governmental interests to individual interests. We will not be able to, and should not try to, avoid compromising powerful moral interests against one another when confronting a difficult issue.Report

    • Re: “rights” vs. “powers” or other terms:

      I agree, and I think you and Jason, among others, have raised this point sufficiently to make be do a double take whenever I’m tempted to use the word “rights.” I now usually (except in unguarded moments) ask myself whether the word “powers” or “prerogatives” works better.

      Re: the rest of your argument: I think I agree, especially with your last paragraph.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Awesome comment Burt.

      {{I read it and was like “whoa”. Then the whoa went away and I was scratching my sideburns, like – what the hell was he saying? Then I re-read it and now I’m all “whoa” again.}}Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Abortion is a difficult question because in the moral framework that prevails in contemporary society, personal bodily autonomy and preservation of human life are both assigned a high moral value. It is therefore difficult for society as a whole to balance them against one another

      I think that’s the most succinct and clear statement of the basic conflict than any I’ve ever seen.

      I have a sneaking suspicion that judges quietly appreciate the legal briefs/documents you write. I’ve seen a few in my life, and they’re not always a model of clarity. Of course the required forms are part of the difficulty in being direct and clear, but surely some lawyers simply write better than others, and I’d wager you’re among them.Report

    • Avatar GordonHide says:

      It is interesting to me that you and most of the other posters don’t mention what I regard as an important moral point. I think it very immoral to bring unwanted children into the world when there is an alternative. So “personhood” is not the only issue for me.

      Also, far be it from me to bring crass economics into the discussion but if there had been no abortion in the US the state might have had to care for up to 50m unwanted children since the inception of legal abortion. (I admit that that is an absolute upper limit).

      But then the pro-life movement seems always interested in quantity not quality.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        “I think it very immoral to bring unwanted children into the world when there is an alternative.”


        I would just ask you how many unwanted children grow up and wish they had been aborted?

        And endorsing abortion as a population control measure is also prety gross.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

      This comment is excellent. It also points to an argument I have attempted to construct in the past, which is that abortion may well be murder, but it doesn’t follow that the state has any authority to prohibit it. That takes another argument, and we rarely have that argument.Report

  4. In that sense there is a weird reversal of roles where there could come a day that the pro-choice side has to rely on public reason alone while the pro-life crowd can actually support their argument with science.

    I do think the science of viability can take the pro-life argument far, but it doesn’t obviate the need for pro-lifers to raise ethical arguments in addition to “scientific” ones. The pro-life argument will still have to answer why the interest in the unborn–whether viable or not outside the womb–ought to trump the interest of the woman who carries it. It’s the “ought” of ethics and not the “is” of science that the pro-life argument needs to address.

    But I do admit that even as a pro-choicer–and when it comes to policy a rather robust pro-choicer–abortion is not only something I’m very uncomfortable with, but even more so with the viability argument, even though part of the justification for my position is in theory immune to the viability argument.

    In short, you raise some very good points that someone like me cannot dismiss.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      Child-rearing is actually an outlier — we generally hold bodily autonomy as more important than the life of another.

      You might be in die near of a new kidney, even at death’s door — and I might be the perfect match, and with two healthy ones able to spare one.

      But few people would agree that you have some sort of claim on my kidney. You don’t get to cut it out just to save your life.

      Nor could I be forced to donate blood, even if a transfusion would save you. Not to you, not to my child, not to anyone. Few Americans would claim otherwise.

      But a fetus? Well, half of America firmly believes it’s mere existance means it’s got an equal claim on the mom’s body as the mom does.

      Abortion is different. Moral, ethical, medical — name your argument and abortion seems to be the morass into which they fail to apply as before. Whether because it simply is a singular case, or because humans get (understandably) irrational about helpless children and procreation or what, doesn’t matter.Report

  5. Avatar Liberty60 says:

    Most people historically have held that if it looks like a baby, its a baby. If it looks like a blob, its a blob.
    Wildly unscientific, but I think its actually fair. Because what we are really talking about, isn’t viability, but personhood.

    I don’t think there is ever going to be a scientific argument that can convince people that a fetilized ovum is a person. Especially if the ramifications of that decision are so incredibly intrusive, as it would be.Report

    • I don’t think there is ever going to be a scientific argument that can convince people that a fertilized ovum is a person. Especially if the ramifications of that decision are so incredibly intrusive, as it would be.

      I agree and tried to make a similar point in my comment above.

      However, I think we can take Mike’s argument a bit further and say that while “a scientific argument” cannot by itself lead one to believe that the fertilized egg is a person, a scientifically verified and verifiable fact can support one of the premises on which a pro-life person bases his or her argument on personhood.

      My beef with what Mike said–or at least with what he wrote as I interpreted it–is the claim that personhood and more broadly, the balancing of interests implicated in the abortion debate can be definitively resolved by “science” whereas I believe that pro-lifers need to go beyond science to make the ethical and pragmatic arguments necessary to convince others of their views.

      To be clear, I don’t think the pro-life argument is less legitimate because it cannot (in my view) rest solely on science. But I do find that people of all stripes and dispositions tend to invoke “science” as the final moral arbiter where usually it can tell us what is and provide us with a framework for determining what is.*

      *I do suppose, as an abstract proposition, that the search for empirically verifiable “truth” or attempts to unravel the secrets of time and space can implicate and in some ways speak to moral considerations that might be intrinsic to the scientific enterprise. But I’m ill-equipped to take the argument there and when it comes to abortion policy, I don’t see “science” operating in that way.Report

    • Avatar Shannon's Mouse says:

      Very good point. My flavor of pro-choice has increasing moral claims on behalf of the fetus as gestational age increases. “Viability” is simply a function of the capabilities gained by the fetus as it develops in utero. I believe that personhood status and the associated moral claims should be driven by the development of capabilities.

      New science probably isn’t going to convince me to change my opinion of the moral claims of the fetus before 12 weeks (it has none). Likewise for the fetus after 30 weeks (it certainly has SOME). It’s that murky middle where most of my uncertainty resides but where I defer to the woman over the fetus. I might be able to be persuaded that artificial womb technology should be the preferred outcome when a woman wishes to terminate a 12-30 week old pregnancy.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “Most people historically have held that if it looks like a baby, its a baby. If it looks like a blob, its a blob.”

      And after the first couple of weeks, it does look like a baby.Report

  6. Avatar James B Franks says:

    Why are you a pro-life abolitionist? I am pro-choice for one simple reason; morality cannon be forced. It must be chosen and it’s not my burden to choose what is moral for you.

    On a religious side I can argue it is evil for you to remove the choice between good and evil from a person. Because by doing that you are going against God’s will in giving us free choice in the first place.Report

    • I can’t speak for Mike (obviously, because I’m pro-choice), but we, or most of us, support measures that compel people to observe certain standards of morality because we outlaw certain actions–rape, murder, kidnapping, etc.–that we deem immoral.

      I’ll admit that intrinsic morality isn’t the only standard we base these laws on. We support them, for example, out of concern for potential victims and out of concern that society cannot long survive unless it punishes or otherwise discourages at least some forms of violent victimization. I assume Mike’s pro-life position comes out of concern for something/someone he sees as a victim of abortion, in this case, a “person” whose right to survival the act of abortion defies.Report

      • Avatar James B Franks says:

        I feel that we can only enforce those standards due to public safety, morality must always be a minor reason for forcing someone to do something against their will. Especially when it’s an issue where there is disagreement of that morality.Report

        • I’m sorry it took so long for me to respond to your comment, but thanks for answering.

          I should say you raise what I consider to be a very good point when it comes to practicality. The fact that prerogative/right to abortion, for such a large number of people, is “debatable” while the violent crimes I mentioned (murder, rape, kidnapping) are not suggests that imposing the more restrictive view (banning abortion) over the more permissive view (keeping it legal) ought to give one pause before endorsing the more restrictive view.

          However, I’ll stand by what I was trying to say in my comment. If someone comes to the intellectually honest conclusion that the unborn is a “person,” then I find it understandable that someone who endorses measures to protect that “person” would resist your claim that their position is merely imposing one’s own morality on another.

          Now, just because someone comes to that conclusion honestly doesn’t mean you or I have to accede to that conclusion. But it does mean, I think, that if we wish to convince that person and not merely resort to rallying those who already agree with us, then claiming “imposing morality on others” will ring hollow.

          Now when it comes to garnering enough votes to elect a pro-choice legislator, for example, perhaps the rallying option could work as a tactic, but even then I submit it serves more to alienate a large number of people who might ally on other issues of common concern, such as access to birth control or to health care. Yes, I know there are problems with even this position–some who oppose abortion also oppose birth control, some who claim to be pro-life to win votes but won’t summon the political courage to make compromises on other issues, and it seems that some who are nominally pro-life might deep down base their position more on discomfort with the independence that access to legal abortion gives women than on true concern with “life”–and I’m also uncomfortable with the “but if they’re pro-life, they’d support the ACA” line of reasoning. I don’t have a full answer.Report

  7. Avatar hazemyth says:

    There’s something about phrases such as “the viability argument that many pro-choice folks use” and “science is a slippery justification for abortion” that makes it sounds as though you regard these arguments as arguments of convenience used by pro-choice advocates — a justification or a rhetorical device to be used rather than a rationale that motivates their position. Is this the case? Do you think that is so? Or am I misreading?

    On a different note, I’m not sure that your conclusion follows form your observations. The argument that “a woman should be able to make choices about their body freely” need not rely on public reason (or social agreement) alone. Support for such a right could be based on other paradigms, like natural rights reasoning or sheer individualism/libertarianism.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      I think the viability argument is certainly one of convenience. It’s an argument not based in morality or ethics but simply in the limitations of medicine. To draw a clumsy analogy, it’s like justifying euthanasia because contemporary medicine can’t stop the aging process. The line is alwasy moving which seems to undermine ethics which should be at least semi-permanent.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon says:

        But the limitations of medicine does affect morality and ethics. In the later half of the 19th century a woman had roughly a 1 in 5 chance of dying in childbirth or shortly thereafter due to complications because of the limitations of medicine at that time. Abortion actually had a much lower fatality rate for women, so an ethical argument could be made for abortion, particularly in the case of a woman with other young children who needed her.

        Actually, medical advances also push what we consider euthanasia. Once giving a terminal patient enough pain killer to stop their pain, even if it was also likely to stop their hearts, was considered perfectly acceptable, even compassionate. I think we are slowly coming back around to that thinking, and at least allow patients to Living Wills. But ~25 years ago when my grandmother was dying of cancer she was afraid of being a hospital because the state we lived in did allow ‘do not resuscitate’ orders. That was considered euthanasia by our pro-life legislature and therefore forbidden.Report

  8. I have to go to work, Mike, but I just wanted to say I find your post thoughtful and well-written, even if I disagree with what I take to be some of its premises.Report

  9. Avatar Citizen says:

    What does the science indicate of state raised children? This is where I disregard that we are the state. Families raise children, the state, not so much.

    I say that society should long exist in realms of ideological absolutes. Those absolutes have no reason to be written in law.Report

  10. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    The next step, as discussed in the video, is the idea of artificial wombs which would remove the viability argument that many pro-choice folks use.

    The existence of the artificial womb does not remove the viability argument that many pro-choice folks use.

    It shifts a massive, crippling burden over to the pro-life absolutists. It also causes a serious pro-choice problem for the pro-life crowd: do we permit people to carry babies to term or give birth naturally if the artificial womb does both more safely?

    If life begins at conception, and we have the capability of sustaining that life without the burden on the potential mother, at which point does the state have the authority to remove that life from the mother? What burden do women carry to test themselves for pregnancy? Heck, why do we allow women to keep their eggs at all? Pop ’em out at puberty and you don’t have to worry about unintended pregnancy and you don’t have to worry about some irresponsible couple doing it in the back seat of a Chevy and then the poor defenseless life-that-began-at-conception dying because the egg didn’t implant in the uterus.

    I’m looking forward to artificial wombs myself. But I think a lot of people aren’t thinking about what the actual consequences of artificial wombs are. I expect the “life begins at conception!” line to rapidly die off.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Indeed, if the assertions of pro-lifers are completely correct then, in the presence of artificial womb* technology, the practice of natural pregnancy and childbirth would represent a massive holocaust of failed natural miscarriages and tiny persons killed through negligence. It seems to me that enforced mandatory use of artificial wombs would be the only policy consistent with pro-life principles.

      *This assumes that artificial womb technology, when it is available en masse, would have a considerably lower failure rate than natural pregnancy. This strikes me as a safe assumption: an artificial womb device probably wouldn’t pass FDA muster let along consumer acceptance if it had a random blue screen danger equivalent to the pregnancy failure rate of natural pregnancies.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      The majority of fertilized ova fail to implant. If we truly believe that life begins at conception, and we have the tech to allow them to grow to viability in artificial wombs, we’re morally obligated to address that problem.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Not necessarily.

        But it’s hard to square circles of “intervention is allowed” vs. “intervention is required” vs. “intervention is contraindicated on liberty principles” if you’re going to step down hard on “the right to life is absolute” and “life begins at conception”. Something’s gotta give.

        I for one look forward to the day when the people who are complaining to me about the nanny state are in fact advocating a literal nanny state, and those who are complaining to me that the nanny state argument is ridiculous are in fact bitching about the nanny state.

        Prolly happen within 30-40 years, so I’ve got a halfway decent chance to watch it happen, in real time.Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

          Not necessarily.

          Pretty necessarily. If we’re going to take kids away from parents who refuse them life-saving appendectomies (and we do) how do we not take “kids” away from mothers who’ll let them die through other forms of neglect?

          Or we admit that “life begins at conception” doesn’t mean that a fertilized ovum is exactly the same as a three-year-old.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            Let’s just say that I submit there might be a way to square that circle, out there, somewhere.

            *I* don’t see it, but I’m a bear of relatively small brain.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Yeah, this is one of those issues I didn’t actually touch on when I brought up the discussion. The implications are actually substantial, as you note here. I put them aside simply because for the sake of argument, the abortion argument would be over, because in practice, abortion would be obsolete, replaced by an entirely new problem that is substantively larger (and goes into issues of much murkier ground) than the original problem.Report

  11. Avatar North says:

    Well I agree technology is going to probably resolve the debate long before pro-lifers and pro-choicers lay down their rhetorical arms. Socially of course the problem is unsolvable; pro-lifers will not accept anything less than full banning of abortion so pro-choicers are strategically forced to not strive for anything less than a full freedom for abortion.

    I suspect, however, that long before we master the complex biotech necessary to carry conceived eggs to full fledges babies in artificial wombs we’ll hit upon both highly convenient and easy contraception options and simple safe do it yourself abortifacients that’ll probably end the debate for the most part as a practical matter.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      We already have the abortion pill, and easy contraception — for Women.
      Men still have a right to bitch that they can’t get chemical contraception for themselves….Report

      • Avatar North says:

        RU-486 is a good example but doesn’t quite reach the necessary thresholds yet. But yes, it does represent an example of the practical problems that pro-lifers would have when an improved version of the RU-486 method appears. Picketing abortion clinics and fighting centralized abortion procedures is easy; a pill would transform the pro-life fight into one similar to the War on Drugs (only even harder to win).

        With birth control, alas, the onus will always be on women as long as the weight of pregnancy rests on them. As a practical matter, even if some male pill comes out, I wouldn’t expect any women to be willing to rely on it.Report

    • Avatar bookdragon says:

      We have easy an contraception method in the Pill (for those women for whom it is not contra-indicated by certain health issues). Unfortunately, a noticeable segment of the ‘pro-life’ movement seems to regard it as an early stage abortificant that should also be banned.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        an alarming segment of the pr0-life community would like to target girls who aren’t on the pill for pregnancy.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        The main thrust of my point was abortifacients though even easier and more fool proof contraceptions are conceptually possible and of course would reduce the whole abortion question accordingly.Report

  12. Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

    It is funny how you frame the “science vs. public reason” debate.

    Pro choice absolutism is not a pro abortion stance. It is a stance that places the locus of the moral decision in the pregnant person, as opposed to the government. It is telling that you think that you get to be a “decider.” Sorry, pal, God didn’t set things up that way.

    The decider is the pregnant person. If she looks at the “science”, or is influenced by “public reason,” and decides that her zygote, embryo, or fetus is a person, then it is one. If she decides that it isn’t, it isn’t.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      There it is: The dictatorship of relativism.Report

      • Avatar Morzer says:

        There it is, the dictatorship of dada.Report

      • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

        Tom, you have a muddled understanding of relativism. It is absolutely the case, in the temporal sphere, that a pregnant woman is the ultimate moral authority as to the disposition of the life within her.

        And as to the eternal sphere, I would suggest to you that God put the zygote, the embryo, the fetus and the baby under the proper authority.

        No moral relativism here, dude.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          I would suggest to you that God put the zygote, the embryo, the fetus and the baby under the proper authority.

          Hah! That’s a great line. I have no idea if I even agree with it (agnostic, etc.), but it’s fantastic.Report

    • Avatar DRS says:

      The decider is the pregnant person. If she looks at the “science”, or is influenced by “public reason,” and decides that her zygote, embryo, or fetus is a person, then it is one. If she decides that it isn’t, it isn’t.

      Exactly. The state has no business interfering with a woman’s moral decision. There will never be a ban on abortion because it’s just a step too far for most people.

      Let’s look at a similar moral decision that faces many families today – and even more so in the future as the North American population ages: end-of-life decisions. Person in their 80’s or 90’s, on life support, and no living will. The family faces an agonizing moral decision. They’ll consider a number of factors: financial, ethical, religious. But in the end the family will make the decision whether to take the person off life support or not.

      It’s the ending of a life. No question about it. It’s definitely a moral decision. But there is no reason for the state to be involved in it.

      Now why is abortion any different?Report

      • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

        Good question. Ask a pregnant woman.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        It’s like when you have a one-year-old, and one day both parents lose their jobs, and then suddenly there’s one of those SIDS things and the one-year-old no longer needs diapers and baby food and day care and toys and books and clothes and doctor visits.

        Ending of a life. Definitely a moral decision. No reason for the state to be involved in it. Right?Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Excellent analogy! Let’s take one with alignments similar to yours:

          It’s like when you have a petty thief, and one day, a cop just decides to shoot him. Suddenly, no more clothing and appliances go missing from local retail establishments.

          Capital punishment. Definitely a moral decision. No reason for the state not to be involved in it. Right?Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            Let the record note that my proposal was a rejoinder to the original contention that killing someone whose life was inconvenient was a purely private decision.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Let the record show that my analogy is about as appropriate as yours, which is to say, not at all.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              Indeed, Mr. Duck.—

              “He insists he doesn’t want to kill me. He simply thinks it would have been better, all things considered, to have given my parents the option of killing the baby I once was, and to let other parents kill similar babies as they come along and thereby avoid the suffering that comes with lives like mine and satisfy the reasonable preferences of parents for a different kind of child. It has nothing to do with me. I should not feel threatened.

              Whenever I try to wrap my head around his tight string of syllogisms, my brain gets so fried it’s . . . almost fun. Mercy! It’s like ”Alice in Wonderland.”

              It is a chilly Monday in late March, just less than a year ago. I am at Princeton University. My host is Prof. Peter Singer, often called — and not just by his book publicist — the most influential philosopher of our time. He is the man who wants me dead. No, that’s not at all fair. He wants to legalize the killing of certain babies who might come to be like me if allowed to live. He also says he believes that it should be lawful under some circumstances to kill, at any age, individuals with cognitive impairments so severe that he doesn’t consider them ”persons.” What does it take to be a person? Awareness of your own existence in time. The capacity to harbor preferences as to the future, including the preference for continuing to live.”


              Unspeakable Conversations
              By Harriet McBryde Johnson
              Published: February 16, 2003


        • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

          Depends on the state. A totalitarian state (either atheistic or theocratic) is untrustworthy to be involved in even such cases as you describe.

          The attempt to force a person to carry a child against their will is wholly totalitarian.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          I hope to god you don’t mean to imply that deaths attributed to SIDS are actually murders committed by parents.Report

  13. Avatar zic says:

    This would all just go away if men were legally forced to stop having all ejaculations unless there was a child wanted.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      “I’M WANTED, WANTED…. DEAD OR ALIVE!!!!”Report

    • Avatar DRS says:

      Another interesting point to consider. Why does all the pro-life/anti-abortion rhetoric centre on women? Kind of closing the barn doors after the horse has bolted, isn’t it? Why isn’t there more emphasis on the – you should pardon the expression – root of the matter?

      Absent a run on turkey basters, men are indispensible to the creation of a baby. Why shouldn’t men have to show their marriage certificate when buying condoms? Why can’t men be forced to financially support children they’ve fathered until the child is at least 18/19 years old? After all, if they didn’t want the responsibility, they could have taken a cold shower instead. Might be a lot more effective as birth control than mere latex could ever be.

      Instead of purity balls where pre-adolescent girls pledge to remain pure and then dance with their fathers, how about an event where 12/13/14 year old boys stand beside their dads and pledge to stay pure until marriage?

      I would give the pro-life movement 1,000% more credit for being sincere if they’d focus at least half their efforts on the other half of the baby-making process. It would be the most effective way to demonstrate this isn’t just about women exercising their own choices.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        “Why can’t men be forced to financially support children they’ve fathered until the child is at least 18/19 years old? “

        Ummm… In what locale is this not happening? I paid child support for 16 years (until I got joint custody). As long as I was employed there was no way I could have dodged that.


        “Absent a run on turkey basters, men are indispensible to the creation of a baby. “

        I agree, however, women remain the ‘gate keepers’. In every situation besides rape, if the woman doesn’t want to have sex, she isn’t going to have sex. So until that part of biology changes, my opinion is to focus a little more heavily on the women. It’s not fair but as a former teenage male, they probably think more clearly anyhow.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          Mike, Mike, Mike,
          that is absolutely not the case.

          Guys get plenty of experience with their hormones.
          They know how to handle them, and how to jerk off
          if they need to.
          Girls? Our culture tells them to suppress their hormones
          and otherwise be good little girls, and not play around
          and learn how they work. Catch someone off-guard
          with something that they aren’t used to dealing with
          (amp it up a lot if possible), and the girls are easy.
          it’s what “getting lucky” is about. Enough guys know
          how to get a girl aroused enough that she can’t speak.
          … it’s not legally rape then, of course.
          Because the laws are rigged.

          I’d go ahead and write a guest post
          on the simple unthoughtfulness of
          Not that it would make me any friends.
          I think I could even get North and Chris
          throwing stones at me.


        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          the numbers of deadbeat dads is quite high, I think you’ll find
          (not that it helps when we send a ton of them to jail on drug offenses…)Report

        • Avatar DRS says:

          The problem with child support as it is today is that the woman has to go after the guy to get it: lawyer up, find him, drag his butt into court. Pro-lifers should take the onus off women and have the state go after him directly. First for the automatic DNA test to prove he’s the man, then by garnishing his wages at source so he doesn’t have be chased for a cheque. Think of it as a tax on sperm.

          I agree, however, women remain the ‘gate keepers’. In every situation besides rape, if the woman doesn’t want to have sex, she isn’t going to have sex.

          Ha, ha, ha. Funneeeeee. But seriously, I think the pro-lifers have established – at least to their own satisfaction – that women simply cannot be trusted to take the longterm view of the consequences of their actions. And we’re discussing their potential arguments here and the points they’d make.

          And the guys are the gate-keepers, really. (At least Rick Moran was.) After all, if the zipper stays in the upward position, then it doesn’t matter what she wants. And why should guys get any sex outside marriage anyway? It degrades the relationship between men and women who haven’t made commitments to each other, and it is disrespectful of the institution (or sacrament) of marriage.

          If unmarried pregnancy is bad, then so is unmarried sex. Right?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            “Pro-lifers should take the onus off women and have the state go after him directly.”

            Again, this happens in most states, especially with unmarried parents. My state is particularly aggressive. In my local jurisdiction they put the names of deadbeat dads in the paper.

            “And the guys are the gate-keepers, really.”

            I disagree. The woman carries the child. If the goal is to prevent a pregnancy, she is the one that must control access. That sounds like I am putting it all on the woman but I’m not. I’m just saying that if we’re going to target a group for better education I would start there. Many women having abortions weren’t using their birth control correctly. That is a basic gap that should be eay to fix (in theory). Also, I’m not a pro-lifer that opposes birth control. I’d like to see better funding and insurance coverage for things like IUDs and longterm BC implants, shots, etc.Report

            • Avatar DRS says:

              The woman carries the child.

              And the man creates the child.

              If the goal is to prevent a pregnancy, she is the one that must control access.

              If the goal is to prevent a pregnancy with 100% certainty, he is the one who must control his actions.

              That sounds like I am putting it all on the woman but I’m not. I’m just saying that if we’re going to target a group for better education I would start there.

              Wow. See the rest of your comment below.

              Many women having abortions weren’t using their birth control correctly. That is a basic gap that should be eay to fix (in theory).

              And you know this – how?

              Any birth control method is not 100% foolproof. The pro-lifers are right about that one. And since the one method that is foolproof is abstinence, then clearly the man has some responsibilities here too. If it’s immoral (at the least) to take an unborn life in the womb, then surely it’s immoral to put it there in the first place. The best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy is to for the two people having sex to be completely clear on what commitment they’re making to each other and a potential third, and a willingness to make it legal first.

              Otherwise it’s just a little too convenient for a man to have it all his own way in this, isn’t it?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                See I’m not sure whether you’re honestly trying to make a point, or just reductio ad absurdum-ing because you think it’s fun.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Coming from you, that’s pretty funny. You’re the guy who “responded” to my end-of-life family-making-decision entry with a reference to a life being considered “inconvenient”.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                You’re the one that brought it up, bro. If you don’t like the stinky things the dog of your reasoning rolls in, then you shouldn’t let it out of the yard of your head.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                I am not a bro, I am a woman. And I will ignore your second sentence, because it is ridiculous.Report

              • Avatar Fred says:

                I understand the point, and it’s an excellent one.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                First, according to Guttmacher 43% of the women having abortions were inconsistent in their use of birth control.

                Second, the concern-trolling with the abstinence thing is pretty silly.

                Men don’t get their way. As I said, in most jurisdictions there are legal responsibilities for fathers whether they wanted the child or not.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Thank you for the Guttmacher reference. I had to google it, but it was easy to find. I am not concern-trolling, I am asking serious questions about responsibility for creating a new life. You’ve yet to address them by the way or the issue of where a man’s responsibility lies. Since I live in Canada, I will back away from the legal issues as things might be different “down there”, but I would be astonished if the process didn’t begin by the woman taking the legal initiative, thereby requiring her to have the resources to pursue the issue in the first place.

                You said above you’re not putting all the onus on the woman in this issue but you haven’t said what part belongs on the man. So I repeat my comment from above as well:

                If it’s immoral (at the least) to take an unborn life in the womb, then surely it’s immoral to put it there in the first place.

                So why not put the emphasis on educating men about what a night of casual sex can lead to? Do women really need to see a sonogram to realize what a fetus looks like? Wouldn’t men benefit as well from seeing what the result of their actions could lead to?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I’m sure it varies from state to state some but for example, in KY the state will help with child support enforcement:


                I don’t believe it’s immoral to get someone pregnant. It’s irresponsible. What happens afterwards is where immoral behavior could occur. The mother could abort. The father could support that decision. The mother and/or father could abandon the child. They could simply be lousy parents. Etc.

                I would like to see more robust sex ed in general however, I STILL believe focusing on women is more productive.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                And I do NOT, for the reasons outlined above. Birth control by women is the province of “I’m in a relationship”. Men who “get lucky” get girls pregnant.
                [am glad to hear someone on the pro-life side admit that there are other immoralities other than abortion.]Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          This is just so wrong on so many levels. I cannot even begin to count the all.

          But as a woman, as the wife of a good and responsible man for 32 years and counting, as the mother of two 20-something sons, I’ve got to say this is a can of hogwash.

          One of the pillars of being moral, of being conservative, of being a good person, of being anything worthwhile at all, is being responsible for your own behavior. If you don’t want to have sex, you won’t. You. She’s not your gatekeeper, you are.

          Suggesting in any way that she’s responsible for you is childish and immature. And someone who suggests such a thing really has no right to dictate what she might or might not do to regulate her reproductive cycle, since you’ve already abandoned all your responsibility.

          Forgive if I offend anyone, but this type of slut shaming is really egregious to me. For I’m also the daughter of a woman who gave birth to her first child two months after she turned 16.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Not to trivialize what you’ve said, because I agree with it entirely. Bit it’s also a perfect example of mansplainin! Those damn women just don’t UNDERSTAND!Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              “mansplainin! Those damn women just don’t UNDERSTAND!”

              “…as a woman, as the wife of a good and responsible man for 32 years and counting, as the mother of two 20-something sons…”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Arghh. Yes that was confusing. The first “it” refers to zic’s comment. The second “it” refers to the comment zic was responding to.Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller says:

          ” however, women remain the ‘gate keepers’. In every situation besides rape, if the woman doesn’t want to have sex, she isn’t going to have sex”

          It’s also the case that (absent rape) if a man doesn’t want to have sex, he isn’t going to have sex. To focus your moral suasion (or, to put it more bluntly, slut-shaming) on women is sexist.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            Slut-shaming would imply that I blame the women for the pregnancy. That would be incorrect. It’s a 50/50 proposition in terms of responsibility. However, women are the ones that end up carrying the child. The physical responsibility is simply greater. Not to mention, they have 100% control over the life of the child until it is born. The woman doesn’t have to consult the man for an abortion. The law clearly gives her greater power during that nine months.

            Look at it this way, if there was some kind of disease that men carried but only women could contract, who would be the gatekeepers of the health of those women? It would take two for the woman to contract the disease but only one party actually gets sick.Report

        • Avatar Fred says:

          “…if the woman doesn’t want to have sex, she isn’t going to have sex.”

          Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all humans were 100 percent rational, always making decisions based on the best information.

          But it isn’t so, and woman are just as much animals, subservient to their biology as males are. It’s patently absurd to suggest that biology says a woman can’t get pregnant if she doesn’t want to have sex. Woman drink. Do drugs. Engage in necking and other non intercourse related pre-sex activities that lead to loss of inhibition and poor judgement because of it. Plenty of studies to back this up. Horny people, male and female tend to make poor reproductive choices, or more importantly FAIL to make those choices.

          Biology makes women and men want to have sex. Read that six times. It’s one of our biggest urges and biological instincts.
          The only thing more absurd is your suggestion that the government and men are all 100 percent standing up and doing the right thing like paying child support. Anyone who thinks this is not paying attention.

          Your suggestion in another comment that children are a 50-50 split is absurdly ridiculous. Men don’t get diabetes because they are pregnant. Men don’t die on the operating table because they are pregnant. Men don’t have their internal organs rearranged because they are pregnant. Because men don’t get pregnant. Read that six times. Men don’t get pregnant. They don’t have to suffer any consequence if they don’t want to if they are willing to run. Or quit their job. Change names or a very few simply kill the woman.

          They do all this because they are little more then semi intelligent animals. Just like women are semi intelligent animals. They are not fully reasoning creatures that always operate on the best information. They usually operate on emotions. They tend to rationalize any decisions they make after the fact.

          It’s absurd to call every abortion murder. A clump of cells, or a single cell without any nerves or brain cells is not, can not be called a human. To elevate it above the woman is insane and an act of unreasoning emotion. To suggest it or even a full grown human has a soul is going against all science.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        …my opinion is to focus a little more heavily on the women. It’s not fair but as a former teenage male, they probably think more clearly anyhow.

        Objection. This assumes facts not in evidence.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        You’ve never been to a Christian Summer Camp, I take it.
        When they steal all the kids condoms & birth control pills,
        and have them all swear to be chaste.
        With some of the girls seething with semen,
        and more to come after they finish the swearing.

        Some might say it’s even deliberate.

        (note: this wasn’t me peeping!)Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I think they should take the stance that every sperm is sacred; it’s a potential baby, and all sperm that do not result in an pregnancy results in a might-be-person murdered. And the sperm spiller should be sentenced to life in prison for spilling seed without making certain each and every one fulfills its manifest destiny.

        (I’m also always stymied by the notion that abortion should be 100% illegal. What are the logical consequences? Should all woman who abort be treated as murderers? Face the death penalty? Then what about babies who’s passage to life results in the death of their mother? Should they, too, be tried and convicted of murdering their mothers and face the death penalty? Really, if you think abortion so horrid that it must be banned in all cases, then what do you do to those mothers and babies who violate the ‘life is sacred’ covenant you’re trying to uphold?)Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Or, if I might quote one of six sexy Americans, “Come on, bro, you can pull that s*** out!”

      (If you hadn’t been following the series, you may want to start with Episode One.)Report

  14. Avatar DRS says:

    You’re not a pro-life absolutist, Mike. You’re a pro-men-should-get-off-scot-free-and-women-assume-the-risk relativist. It’s easy to be absolutist about things that don’t require you to do any lifting.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

      He’s done 18 years or so of heavy lifting for a child he initially didn’t want.Report

      • Avatar DRS says:

        So did the child’s mother. And she went through labour as well. And she raised the child for the two years he was adjusting to the new reality and before he paid child support. I was on that thread too. But I’m not sure what that has to do with his points.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

          You suggested a basis of his position was that he need not do lifting. He lifted. That he lifted as well, or more, is neither here nor there as it pertains to whether men or Mike has to or should have to lift.Report

          • Avatar DRS says:

            In the first paragraph of his post, Mike says: “…some people, myself included, are absolutists on the pro-life side. We aren’t going to accept anything other than a full ban [on abortion].”

            He then says in comments further down: “That sounds like I am putting it all on the woman but I’m not. I’m just saying that if we’re going to target a group for better education I would start there.” But he doesn’t say what onus, if any, he’s putting on men.

            So I believe I am correct in saying that he’s less than a full pro-life absolutist, and that he’s fine with letting men get off scot-free while assume the risk of birth control functioning properly. It is easy to be an absolutist when someone else is assuming the majority of the risk.Report

            • Avatar DRS says:

              Apologies – that should be: “…while allowing women to assume the risk of birth control…”. Carry on.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              “So I believe I am correct in saying that he’s less than a full pro-life absolutist, and that he’s fine with letting men get off scot-free while assume the risk of birth control functioning properly.”

              I don’t know where you get any of that from. Obviously I believe in men taking responsibility for the children they father, both financially and otherwise. I also would endorse a plan for the federal government to heavily fund adoption services as a trade-off for ending abortion. Hell, I would even support free depo shots for girls over 13 (with parental consent). I am ABSOLUTE in the sense that I will support just about any policy aimed at removing the justifications for abortion in the United States.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                For what seems to me the 47th time, I repeat once again a variation on my earlier comment: the pro-life argument would be more internally consistent and easier to support if as much effort was made at getting men to stop indulging in pre-marital, casual sex that might result in fatherhood as in coming up with ways to interfere with a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. You say above or below (I’m losing track) that while it is irresponsible but not immoral to have casual sex, and that what is immoral happens could happen afterwards. I say that is just too convenient for men, and that if it is immoral to end a life before it is born, then it is just as immoral to create that life without due regard to the consequences.

                I’m just not seeing where the equal burden falls on men and women here, and I am NOT talking about child support, which I don’t believe is relevant to a discussion about abortion. (Side question: if life begins at conception, why doesn’t child support begin once pregnancy is confirmed?)Report

              • Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

                The most immediate reason for child support not starting with the pregnancy is that paternity can’t be proven. I’d probably support back-payment once it can be. (I’m not an absolutist, though, and am anti-abortion more on the philosophical rather than legal end.)Report

              • Avatar Dana in NYC says:

                CVS can determine paternity at 10 weeks gestation but it does carry risks to the fetus. Being anti-abortion on a philosophical basis is a luxury men enjoy.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon says:

                On something completely apart from question of educating men vs women wrt to preventing unwanted pregnancies, I have to ask about your last sentence here:

                “I am ABSOLUTE in the sense that I will support just about any policy aimed at removing the justifications for abortion in the United States.”

                Among the justifications most people agree on are: rape, incest, threat to life/health of the mother.

                Just to be clear, are you such an absolutist that you want to remove those?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                Per Guttmacher:

                rape 1%
                incest 0.5%
                health 12%

                I think even the first is probably immoral but I would allow it. The second one too. Health is a slippery one because sometimes health means ‘it will be a hard pregnancy’ and they tap out. If it’s legitimately life-threatening then I would allow it.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Are you against teh war on drugs? Prohibition? Do you think folks in dry counties/towns really don’t get drunk on the weekends?

                I don’t think banning abortion is feasible until we “remove the reason” for whyfolks ‘re doing it in the first place.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                I had a neck injury as a child. After my second child was born, in part because of the stress of two pregnancies on my body, it basically blew up. My doctors told me that a third pregnancy would likely result in partial paralysis — the inability to move my arms. I had children ages 1 and 3 at home. I’m an artist, my work is done with my hands. I do all the things mothers do — cook, wash laundry, mop floors.

                My husband and I opted for a surgical end to our fertility. But in the intervening months, had I gotten pregnant, I would have had an abortion for my health. My life wasn’t at risk in a binary sense, I wouldn’t have died. But my life was at risk, my ability to care for my family, to do my work.

                Personally, I think your moral high-and-mightiness is sickening. You are not walking in her shoes. She might be making an immoral choice, she might be making a choice based on factors you know nothing about, including threats to her from her partner, economic threats to her existing children, and more. And really, you have no right to dictate that to her. Ever. If you want to assume moral responsibility for unwanted pregnancies, I strongly urge you to start with your own sex; where half the problem lies and little of the responsibility flows.

                It’s only since the 1980’s that men even had to pay for their unwanted children. That’s a tiny step in the right direction. Walk that path for a while.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                If we can remove all the justifications, can we still let abortion be legal?Report

              • Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

                I also would endorse a plan for the federal government to heavily fund adoption services as a trade-off for ending abortion. Hell, I would even support free depo shots for girls over 13 (with parental consent). I am ABSOLUTE in the sense that I will support just about any policy aimed at removing the justifications for abortion in the United States.

                Okay. But why not support those policies in the absence of the trade-off? If the “carrot” of providing financial supports and incentives to remove the justifications for abortions would significantly reduce their numbers, and you support that, then why do you find it necessary to package that with a poorly defined* prohibition of abortion? Also, would you get behind funding a Manhattan project style push to develop artificial womb** technology?

                * I say poorly defined because anti-abortionists take the position that abortion is murder. If that’s the case then clearly the woman and the provider are engaged in a conspiracy to commit murder. But I have yet to hear such an advocate call for the execution or life imprisonment of the woman–only the provider. Very inconsistent.

                ** I recently read a sci-fi story set in a future all reproduction was strictly by choice. The way it worked was test-tube fertilization followed by implantation into an animal’s womb–usually a cow or sheep (something with an adequate pelvic structure). When you consider how things work naturally vis-a-vis the immune system and such, that’s not really that far-fetched an idea.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                “But why not support those policies in the absence of the trade-off? If the “carrot” of providing financial supports and incentives to remove the justifications for abortions would significantly reduce their numbers, and you support that, then why do you find it necessary to package that with a poorly defined* prohibition of abortion?”

                You are right and I should have stated that differently. I would be fine with engaging the adoption funding, etc now and seeing how much that lowers the abortion rate, then taking a hard look at changing abortion law to clean up the rest.Report

            • Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

              Unless she aborts or can’t or doesn’t get child support, there is not scot-free. There are questions of equity in liability (the words “a majority” constitute a start), but not of support for getting off scot-free when Mike opposes abortion and supports child support requirements.

              The second quote comes across to me as a question of educcational focus and not one of saying men shouldn’t wear condoms. I am not sure I could disagree with him on that more (which I will get to when I am at a computer and not a phone), but while I know people who believe that men should be able to get off scot-free. Mike isn’t one of them.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          “And she raised the child for the two years he was adjusting to the new reality and before he paid child support.”

          Perhaps that post wasn’t clear but I always paid child support. The order was signed when my daughter was about 6 weeks old and I never missed a payment. I was also always involved with her in some capacity, just not nearly as much as I should have been for the first year (not two).

          …and for the record I was there for the labour .Report

          • Avatar DRS says:

            No, that wasn’t clear. I thought you said you arsed around for 2 years, almost killing yourself and mortally wounding a vehicle in the process, then snapped into it. Sorry if I misread. And dude, seriously – being in the room while labour is underway, and being in labour, are two different things.

            And you’re still not addressing my point about male vs female responsibility. You have ten hours to do so, as I’m signing off for the night.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            I think it’s uncharitable of you, DRS, to cast aspersions on Mike’s personal life alloyed into your criticism of his policy ideas. IIRC, at least according to his own reporting of the events, Mike has fulfilled any and all reasonable moral obligations one might have imagined given his situation. He certainly didn’t let himself off the hook.Report

            • Avatar DRS says:

              Okay, I’m back – briefly until I can get into the shower. Reading Mike’s comment which he posted after I’d left.

              Well, I’m not the one who introduced Mike’s private life into this thread. I have made it clear in my above posts, except for the ones responding to Will and Mike in this sub-thread, that I was referring to his comments in his opening post. I quoted him often and deliberately did NOT refer to his earlier thread about his private life. So I’m not sure what Burt is objecting to here.Report

  15. Avatar Liberty60 says:

    In the Middle Ages, science and theology in Europe were inseparable. Most theologians assumed that scientific inquiry would reveal the existance of God and His Truth.

    By the time of the Enlightenment, of course, that wasn’t the case; the more scientists studied the natural world, the less it resembled the Bible and more like something weirder, and more disturbingly indifferent to humanity.

    Basing the pro-life argument on scientific study is like that; the closer we study biology, the more elusive the search for “personhood” becomes.Report

  16. Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

    “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society
    but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened
    enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the
    remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion
    by education.” – Jefferson, on the franchise and education

    This has always been my favorite Jefferson quote. The thinking it contains it is apt to the discussion of choice in abortion. To paraphrase the adaptation of that thought:

    There is no other place other than a woman’s body where babies develop. It follows that unless you are willing to make a woman’s uterus a property of the state, then there is no other safe depository of the ultimate power over that uterus than a woman herself. And if you think her not enlightened enough to exercise her control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from her, but to inform her discretion by education.

    I repeat, if you think that “science” or “public reason” has a bearing on whether a pregnancy should be carried to term, then make sure that women have access to the education to make the choice. But the fact of the matter remains, no matter how moral or enlightened you may be, I see no reason to trust your judgement over that of the person actually carrying the pregnancy. And if you want to use the power of the state to enforce your judgement, claiming her uterus as a state property, then you are an enemy of liberty in the most basic sense.Report

  17. Avatar Ronado says:

    Although I am pro-choice but two things put me off completely. That is 3rd trimester abortion and choosing the fetus to abort. Choosing a sex of a child will in the end create a world with one group of people being in danger of being wiped out in some countries. In countries like China and India, at some point there will be far more men than women. This will create a war for women.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      Third trimester abortion literally don’t happen 99.999999999% of the time unless the life or health of the mother is at stake or something horrible is found out about the fetus late in the process.

      There’s a reason first trimester abortions are about 90% of abortions. Because women find out they’re pregnant, they think about their options, then they responsibly make a choice.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      I agree. I think that most women ought to be taught that when their periods stop, they’re probably pregnant. And even if they think they’re not, they ought ot check.Report

  18. Here in the Philippines, abortion is not legal. But there are some lawmakers who wnat to make it legal (they just can’t pursue it because they will be condemned by many people especially the Catholic church) I am not a Catholic, but I am strongly against abortion. Many people don’t just see it, but It’s bad for the women’s health. And it is a moral crime. Pity those innocent unborn child who doesn’t given a chance to see world and make a difference.Report

    • Avatar Dana in NYC says:

      When people talk about intelligent design my answer is human childbirth. Abortion may or may not be bad for a woman’s health but pregnancy and childbirth are downright dangerous. Check the stats on pre-modern childbirth death rates or visit a reasonably old cemetery and read some headstones. Pity the untold millions of desperate women who died from botched abortions and didn’t get a chance to make a difference.Report

  19. Avatar damon says:

    “If the legitimate and legal power of the state exceeds the individual interest at stake, then the law is appropriate and stands, and that’s tough luck for the individual whose interest is suborned to the law.”

    NO. Good commentary though. I find no reason to allow either the “pro” or “anti” side to impose their views on this issue onto my life. Gov’t doesn’t have rights and it’s workings is pure force backed up by threat of violence. You will not tell me, through the “democratic” process, how I will use my own body. You will not tell me who I may marry, nor will you force me to kill others in your service. I will not be a slave to your policy decisions just because a majority of you decided I should be.Report

  20. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    Remember when we had that recent post and discussion about mansplaining? Good lord.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      Ryan – I don’t follow?Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

        This post, and even moreso the comments, are a very long exercise in men telling women how to feel about things, what their responsibilities are, why they are more responsible than men, etc. It’s just… I cannot even imagine why a woman would want to participate in this.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          So men can’t have an opinion on abortion? Or if they do, should they keep it to themselves?Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

            Well, look, there are lots of nuances to this.

            The first is that you yourself spend a lot of time outlining why the argument has to fall on women because they have to actually carry the baby, so therefore it’s legitimate to care more about how the law affects them (which, frankly, I think is already just plain misogyny, but let’s leave it aside). You then deny them pride of place in the discussion, despite the fact that you’ve assigned them the brunt of the responsibility. This is massively unfair. If they are the primary bearers of responsibility, then there is already a prima facie case that your job is to shut up and let them have their way.

            The second is that it’s not clear to me that you even are allowed to have an opinion. I mean, legally, of course you’re allowed. You can have an opinion on anything. But does it carry moral weight? My first inclination is that there’s precisely no way it could. I’m not committed to that argument, but it strikes me as plausible.

            Finally, there’s just a question of propriety. This is a blog whose membership insists that it wants to exorcise various demons, including the fact that women find it a hostile environment. Thinking long and hard about how not to alienate people we claim we want to include is not consistent with a lot of what’s going on in this comment thread.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


              “You then deny them pride of place in the discussion, despite the fact that you’ve assigned them the brunt of the responsibility.”

              I’m not really sure what ‘pride of place’ means in this context. What would that look like? Several women are particpating. Should I highlight their comments in some way?

              “The second is that it’s not clear to me that you even are allowed to have an opinion.”

              Is that your opinion on all issues where the potential opinion-holder doesn’t actually have an active role in the discussion? For example, if you live in Florida are you allowed to have an opinion on laws in Oregon? If the answer is no, then we certainly need to re-evaluate the entire blogging medium.

              Lastly, as to the tone of certain threads – I have never agreed much with that concern. And of course, the elephant in the room. Is it possible maybe you are more sensitive to the possibility of gender bias than most?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                My point re: “pride of place” is that you have explicitly argued for the fact that the responsibility falls disproportionately on women, and that the law should target them more directly than men. It seems to me that giving them that kind of responsibility behooves you to elicit their opinions and consider them more highly than your own. It does not mean that you are necessarily obligated to have no opinion, but it certainly requires your first job to be listening rather than telling. That is the essence of the mansplaining critique in general, by the way.

                This actually goes for the second part as well. Certainly Floridians are allowed to have opinions about laws in Oregon, but Floridians are also obligated, to a very large extent, to defer to Oregonians about the laws of Oregon. And there are two reasons for this:

                1. Floridians have no legal jurisdiction over Oregonians, no voting rights in Oregon, etc.
                2. The reason for #1 is that Floridians are inherently less capable of making moral judgments about the state of play in Oregon than Oregonians are.

                As for the last, well, I’d say it’s more or less the general perception among the powers-that-be here that women don’t like to comment here because they feel unwelcome. The obvious rejoinder to your question is, again, that maybe your unwillingness to understand that your role on women’s issues is primarily as a listener makes you especially insensitive to the possibility of gender bias.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “…you have explicitly argued for the fact that the responsibility falls disproportionately on women, and that the law should target them more directly than men.”

                Let me clarify that point:

                On abortion law: I think it’s murder, plain and simple. Since I am a fellow human being that means I get to have an opinion about the law and be loud about it.

                On responsibility: Nowhere did I say more responsibility falls on women. I believe it is a 50/50 proposition (or as Burt puts it 100/100). My own personal history seems to back that up.

                What I said about women being the ‘gate-keepers’ is that because they are the ones who will end up pregnant and dealing with the specific effects of that (mental, physical) then they must act as the gate-keeper to pregnancy. Basically they have more skin in the game for those nine months*.

                I don’t like to rank the value of people’s opinions, which I kind of feel like you are doing. I value all of them. Society simply can’t function that way.

                *Note: ‘More skin in the game’ doesn’t mean ‘the right to abort’ in my opinion. Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Does it mean the right to compel the “responsible party” (aka the personw ho will take care of the child) to pay for lost income during pregnancy? for inconvenience? for mental health sessions?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Well, man, giving one party more skin in the game makes it your job to give special weight to what that party thinks about the game. I simply don’t understand how you come to any other conclusion. Or, rather, I do, but none of the explanations are flattering.

                Also, I submit for the record that I suspect the reason you don’t like to “rank the value of people’s opinions” is because you’ve never really dealt with a scenario in which yours were ranked anything other than #1.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “…giving one party more skin in the game makes it your job to give special weight to what that party thinks about the game.”

                Sure. And I defer to women on any pregnancy-related health matters. That doesn’t even begin to cover the totality of the abortion discussion.

                “…the reason you don’t like to “rank the value of people’s opinions” is because you’ve never really dealt with a scenario in which yours were ranked anything other than #1.

                I’m not sure how you came to the conclusion that my opinion is always #1 but it seems kind of ridiculous. My boss (a woman!) over-ruled me three times this week. My wife over-rules me daily. My daughters don’t even listen to me when I tell them they have on too much make-up. Or maybe when you say ‘you’ what you really mean is ‘men’ ?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Oh. Yes. Sensitive, are we.
                Where’s your silver bullet, bush king?
                *takes a cookie from the cookie jar for not using the actual term*Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            I remember, quite clearly, the first conversation I ever had about “viability” as the moral, if not legal, cut-off point for abortion. It was, I dunno, 14 or 15 years ago, and on one of the pre-cursors of this sort of site, a forum on a giant BBS (ISCA, if there are any other old ISCA regs out there). This was a time, some of you may recall, when the internet was heavily male, and female participants were actually encouraged to adopt gender-neutral “handles” because the presence of a woman was likely to induce a figurative feeding frenzy among the mostly socially-inept male geeks who had the run of the place. So it will come as no surprise that this discussion I was taking part in was between a bunch of men, some “pro-choice,” some “pro-life,” arguing about when, where, and how abortion should be legal, if ever, anywhere, and any way. The discussion gradually became about when, if ever, “pro-choicers” would put the life of the fetus over the bodily autonomy of the woman, and, having just learned about the latest viability dates in my undergraduate developmental psychology course, I offered up viability as an option. And a bunch of other guys jumped in saying, in effect, “Yeah, viability! If the fetus can survive outside of the womb, then it is an independent human being with equal moral status.” Yay! We had solved a major problem in the abortion debate.

            Then a woman (someone I’d “known” via the internet for a while) finally jumped in. Her post (which was quite long), looked something like this (this is a paraphrase, not a direct quote):

            Even when the fetus is viable, it’s still in my body. Why does its ability to live outside of my body suddenly eliminate my bodily autonomy? Can I, if I decide after 25 or 26 weeks or whatever the current viability number is, to have labor induced? Do I have to carry it to term? Do I then have to deliver the baby, either through vaginal birth or C-section? You know that is the most dangerous part of pregnancy for the women’s health, right? Why do I have to be forced to go through that against my will, simply because the fetus inside me can, once it has gotten out of my body, survive on its own (with a probability greater than zero, with the aid of tens of thousands of dollars of state of the art medical treatment that aid it in its breathing and feeding and protect its incomplete immune system and so on)? Furthermore, the science of fetal viability will continue to improve so that at some point, it will place viability at conception, and the woman will, once pregnant, never have any bodily autonomy until the fetus is out, one way or another.

            There was even more, but I think you see the point. From a truly pro-choice perspective, that is, from a perspective that takes seriously the woman’s moral status, and her control over her own body, the “viability” argument makes no sense, and what’s more, it is a true slippery slope that ultimately leads to pregnancy itself removing her right to choose what she does with her body, the very value “pro-choicers” are supposed to be arguing from. Viability is a “pro-life” argument, full stop.

            I will admit that, at the time, while this post made me think, I spent another… who knows, days probably (these threads went on for much longer than most blog post comment threads, back in the day), arguing with her about it. I know this will come as a shock to the people who’ve read my comments here over the years, but I can be a bit hard headed about these sorts of things, and I liked then, even more than now (if that’s possible), to be right. But over the years, every time I or anyone else has mentioned viability, or any other cut off point, her post has popped into my head. It’s like a nagging little voice in the back of my head that won’t let me get away with telling women what they should or shouldn’t do with their body without at least some protest.

            I’m fine if someone wants to debate her position now that I’ve laid it out, but I bring it up less to throw it out there for discussion than to point out that none, literally none, of the pro-choice males who were taking part in that debate, way back when, had even considered what “viability” meant for the woman’s autonomy. And why hadn’t we considered it? Well there’s a pretty obvious explanation: it wasn’t our bodies we were deciding things for. And when I think back to all of the discussions I’ve had about abortion over the years, and there have been a lot of them, both online and off, I can’t think of a single time when a pro-choice woman brought up viability as a reasonable cut-off point for the pro-choice position to adopt. Maybe there are some women who do so, but I haven’t known them, and so I highly suspect that they are in the minority among female “pro-choicers.”

            I believe this is what Ryan is getting at when he calls this thread an exercise in mansplaining. I don’t think he’s really trying to say that men can’t have any voice in the discussion of abortion. I think what he’s trying to say, though I don’t mean to speak for him, is that when we decide to have a voice in that discussion, we have to take seriously, and give more weight to, the perspective of women than our own, because it’s not our bodies that we’re talking about here, so we’re going to miss a lot simply by virtue of the fact that we’re not equally invested in the practical realities of the discussion. Sometimes we have to just shut up and listen, not because we can’t have and voice an opinion, but because shutting up and listening is the only way our opinion can possibly be fully informed.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              OK, that turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it was going to be. Sorry about that.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              Morality begins when the other person can understand it. Even in part. if we’re willing to concede that a person unable to respect others’ rights is not part of a moral society, then we need not extend to them equal treatment to any other person.

              I don’t think this is very controversial.

              I’m leaving open, for the moment, what we ought to extend to those younger than able to respect rights. Perhaps it’s more, perhaps it’s less than what we give a full human being.

              Can we all agree on this, and stop pretending that we gotta keep things equal????Report

            • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

              This is excellent. The only addendum I would add is that I believe it’s impossible for our opinion to ever be fully informed, by virtue of the fact that we’ll never inhabit their bodies or their lives in a truly meaningful way. The flipside of empathy is understanding the limits of empathy.

              As such, our job never stops being primarily about listening.Report

            • Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

              This is a great comment. +1000Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          It’s unsurprising that there are a handfuls of moral issues that have disparate impact.

          They don’t cease to be moral issues.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

            Well, at least we’ve moved on from mansplaining to equal opportunity condescension. Maybe that’s an improvement.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I can move all the way up to affirmative action strawmanning if we get a consensus that that’s an appropriate next step.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I like a lot of the people who blog here (including you and Mike) quite a lot, but some of our tics and tropes make me incredibly sad. This place will never actually expand to include the people we say we want to include, and I think most people here are basically happy with that. It depresses the hell out of me.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                Rose is doing a wonderful job of bringing the female perspective. If we want more of that we need more women writing and I support that 100%. What do we say constantly around here to readers? WRITE A GUEST POST! Kimmi, DRS and any of the other women in this thread have that open invitation. Now I have a feeling you will see that as asking for punishment but I don’t see that on Rose’s posts.

                With that said though until female recruitment improves we are a League of Male Writers and we are opinionated. I disagree as strongly as possible with the contention that we are not entitled to those opinions and that is what you seem to be saying.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                The only counterargument I have is anecdote. The female friends I’ve asked to write here have made it very clear that they feel unwelcome. Take that however you want.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Don’t know if this is a relevant anecdote or not, but I had a convo with my wife the other day about physical spaces that make her uncomfortable, and it seems that a preponderance of men can do the trick, *regardless of the particular opinions expressed*.

                Specifically, there are two restaurants I frequent, a deli and a BBQ place, that attract a heavily, stereotypically ‘male’ clientele. The deli is sort of sports-themed (the owner is a college football nut) and the BBQ place (which attracts a lot of blue-collar workers). She likes the food (in the case of the deli, a lot) but confesses she sometimes she feels uncomfortable in there, typically when the crowd is less gender-balanced and more male-weighted. She admits that in neither establishment have either the owners or patrons ever treated her badly in any way. Yet her feeling of discomfort remains, and she tends to avoid those restaurants during peak hours.

                I wonder if there is some sort of instinctual or conditioned response on the part of females to avoid heavily male-dominated spaces, since throughout a lot of history, being heavily outnumbered by males in a confined space probably increases the risk factor for physical assault, or at minimum catcalling and ogling or whatever.

                This response may carry over into virtual spaces.

                NOTE: This is all pulled right out of my rear-end based on this convo the other day.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Glyph, given the tight rope women have to walk with men on a daily basis, with behavior from ogling to asking out to aggressively asking out to fondling to rape being the norm, I don’t think the response has to be instinctive. It could just as easily be learned.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I said could be ‘conditioned’ – is that different from ‘learned’? You’ve been in school more recently than me, so want to make sure my terms are correct.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                sexual assault would have occured on teh boundaries (at least “minimally non-consensual” — aka not bloody and bleeding — inside our stupid laws but still immoral), and not within mostly male dominated places.

                That said, ask her this question: would she have felt more comfortable if she was in a group of girls?

                Social/cultural/instinctive, women put a lot more emphasis on being in groups. it’s harder to have bad thigns happen to you then.
                the classic line is “we came here together, we leave together.”

                Oogling and whatever happen when women are in places that society says they shouldn’t be — it’s societal harassment meant to get people back within norms. Classic example is unescorted female in South America.

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Glyph, ah, sorry, my brain skipped right over the conditioned part. Sorry.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Also, I would hope that fondling and rape are not the ‘norm’ in 21st century America at least, and especially not in virtual spaces.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Fondling is a big problem in crowded, closed spaces like the subway. I think Japan even has an ad campaign trying to counter subway fondling.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Yeah, subways I can see. BTW, diggin’ the new gravatar. I mentally supply the raft of monkeys.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                DC has started engaging in a widespread anti-fondling campaign as well, I believe.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Glyph, thanks, the raft monkeys were definitely meant to be implied.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Back to the gender dynamic in virtual spaces – I assume Schelling’s model could also have some explanatory power here, though it is usually cited in discussions of voluntary racial segregation, I see no reason it mightn’t also play into voluntary gender segregation (if females have even a slight preference to not being severely outnumbered, which seems likely given that most everybody seems to have this preference to be with people that are ‘like you’ and to not be severely outnumbered by people ‘not like you’; no matter what ‘grouping’ we are talking about):


              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                okay, what’s your -email addy.
                I’ll send you the post, and you’ll put it up
                I promise I won’t troll.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Guest posts should go through Erik or Mark. I’m sorry I don’t have their addresses handy.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                That’s only if they’re going up on the frontpage.
                As the last post that I wrote didn’t get a response back from Erik,
                I’m sure you’ll forgive me for being a bit chary about writing another.

                I do tend to go on, at times.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                Email me (address is at the top of this post).

                I will make sure it gets to the editors.


              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                You’ll post it on your subsite, if they wont’ put it on the frontpage, right? 😉Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I don’t have a sub-blog Kimmi but I think we can get you to the front page.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                “WRITE A GUEST POST” has always seemed to me like a cop-out. Why would I write a guest post if your response to me in comments is, “WRITE A GUEST POST?” What’s your response to me going to be when I write a guest post? “WRITE ANOTHER GUEST POST?”

                Look, I understand that you have an opinion, and it’s a radical one, in every sense: it says that personhood (not life, but personhood) begins at conception, and therefore the embryo, zygote, and fetus have the same rights that any newborn has. This position is not amenable to discussion, and so it doesn’t really matter to you that the practical consequences of this position fall much more heavily on the heads, and entire bodies, and in fact entire lives of women than it does on your own, because it’s not a position that’s about women’s bodies, it’s about another person entirely, the embryo/zygote/fetus. As a result, suggestions that you might benefit from shutting up and listening strike you as not only offensive because they’re an attempt to silence you, but as entirely misplaced.

                I get that. But I hope you’ll understand, then, why some women will think you’re an ass, because in your view, their view is only relevant to the extent that it addresses what you think is important, namely the life of the embryo/zygote/fetus, and therefore they’re not going to like the way you talk about it, while their bodies and the issues that affect them, but not you, aren’t really relevant. And “WRITE A GUEST POST” just reinforces their impression.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                *snort* No, if I’m going to go call him a mysogynistic asshole, I’ll do it in style.
                Flame yes, troll no.
                10 to 1 I’ll have everyone on this site whining for sources though.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                When I was a kid we would sometimes go out to dinner with my grandparents and sometimes the waiter or waitress would not give us very good service. My grandfather once asked me how he should deal with that. I replied that he should leave a very small tip or no tip. He told me that if he left a small tip they might just think he was cheap. If he left no tip they might just think he forgot. So he left a penny.

                For reasons you and I are both aware of, you lost my respect as a commenter a few weeks ago. That is not to say that you can’t regain that respect at some point in the future or that you should even care but until that point I’m not going to interact with you because, generally speaking, I don’t need the stress.

                So consider this your penny.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Mike, I appreciate the penny.

                If it helps ease your conscience at all, I will tell you that you lost my respect as a person when you defended police violence directed at protesters (this was compounded by you saying something to the effect that you couldn’t go to the woods anymore because it wasn’t the legally sanctioned time to kill living beings for kicks and giggles). I didn’t write that comment hoping for a response from you. “WRITE A GUEST POST” doesn’t get anyone anywhere, anyway. I wrote it to make the point and leave it there. Sort of like when I talk to Tom: I don’t care what he says in response. It’s enough that, for a few seconds, a few of his neurons are carrying some of the information I’m conveying. Maybe at some point he’ll wake up. Maybe you will. Sapere aude, as I think Jason said yesterday.

                Anyway, you can at least know that my losing your respect means absolutely nothing to me. But thanks again for the penny.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Set me straight. It seems to me that we’re no longer in “I disagree with Mike” territory here but “Mike shouldn’t have said anything” territory.

                Am I reading that correctly?Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Ryan – you’re right. For what that’s worth.

                One tip: personally I think it’s funny when Mike tells us what he’s willing to “allow” with regard to abortion. Just like he’s an emperor or king or God or something. It’s so darn cute. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until he explains why what he would allow should count with total strangers, and why their preference to make their own decisions about carrying a pregnancy to term should be subordinate to his views. I’ll keep refreshing until he does.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                DRS, the idea of jurisdiction is one that is very, very important to me.

                I very much think that there are areas where there is a sphere of privacy that is None Of Anyone Else’s Business and abortion certainly falls within that sphere. It’s something where the government shouldn’t have an interest in the first place. (Indeed, in the past, I’ve said such things as women should be able to get abortions up to and including the moment of crowning for reasons as trivial as sex or eye-color selection.)

                The problem is that far too many people believe that this is an area where the government ought to have jurisdiction, it should just use its powers for good rather than for evil when it exercises them. That seems to me to be a recipe for disaster.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I don’t know where we are. As I’ve said a few times, I find the comments considerably more distressing than the post itself.

                Frankly, though, there is a sense in which “I disagree with X” is just a category error. On issues where I think it’s a man’s job to listen to women rather than tell them what to do or think, it makes virtually no difference whether men disagree with each other.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                On issues where I think it’s a man’s job to listen to women rather than tell them what to do or think, it makes virtually no difference whether men disagree with each other.

                So the idea that abortion is a moral issue is a mistake. It is instead a topic where men should listen rather than talk.

                Have I got that straight?Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                So the idea that abortion is a moral issue important only to men is a mistake. It is instead a topic where men should listen rather than talk since women have unique perspectives on the subject that have to be taken into account if a real, open dialogue can take place.

                Fixed that for you.Report

  21. Avatar NoPublic says:

    Here’s my technology-related pro-life question that doesn’t suppose science fiction-y artificial wombs.

    If a fertilized ovum or blastula is a human being, if I go to a fertility clinic with my SO, fertilize a half-dozen eggs and freeze them…

    Can I claim them as dependents on my taxes? In perpetuity? (Since they’re never “decanted”, they don’t have a birthdate and thus never reach the 18th anniversary of same).

    If not, why not?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      How much are you spending on them?

      It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that you can deduct freezing costs (which should be minimal… I understand it’s only $1-$5 a day to freeze a human head).Report

      • Avatar NoPublic says:

        Claiming of a dependent child doesn’t mean deducting expenses (though you get to do some of that with the child and dependent care credits etc.), it’s a standard line deduction of $3700 per each based on number of children. You’d have to be storing them in your home, of course, since they have to live with you more than 6 months of the year.

        I could substantially decrease my tax burden this way.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Well the solution should be to just ban IVF in general. I mean that’s what folk like Paul Ryan wanna do, not to mention the Vatican.Report

      • Avatar Dana in NYC says:

        Yes, because people who actually want children should be prevented from having them if nature and god have rendered them infertile. People who are blind and lame should also stay blind and lame because that is their ordained fate. Paul Ryan should stick to reading Ayn Rand and fibbing about his athletic prowess and the vatican has it’s hands full protecting priests from lascivious children.Report

  22. Avatar DRS says:

    In Canada, there is no abortion law. It’s another medical procedure, a matter between a woman and a doctor. And this lack-of-policy was established almost 30 years ago while an unabashed, up-front pro-life, anti-abortion prime minister was in power. The apocolypse has yet to occur, the sun still comes up in the east every morning. Even though women make their own decisions. Imagine that.Report

  23. Avatar Fred says:

    “Science” is on the pro life side?

    So what “science” tells us that a clump of cells, or even ONE cell is a human being? My skin cells have all the information to create another me via the SCIENCE of cloning. Should we start arresting people for having deep facial scrubs?
    Perhaps there is some scientist or study has discovered the soul?
    Or perhaps, science has proven that a clump of cells that doesn’t even have a nerve cell, never mind a brain cell is a person?

    Perhaps science has proven that a fetus’s right to survive is greater then a woman who is carrying it? Where is that proof? Or perhaps science has proven that humans are all reasonable rational people?

    No? I didn’t think so. Call me when that happens. But I won’t hold my breath.Report

  24. Avatar Ahunt says:

    Late to the discussion, but I wanted to add yet another element to the mix: that of a two-tiered system of justice should Mike realize his dream of prohibiting nearly all abortion.

    I think there is some agreement that abortion will always be with us. We could also probably agree that middle/upper-income class women will always be able to obtain a termination of pregnancy, one way or another…and safely, if not cheaply. And I imagine doing so will become even easier in the future, with abortifacient drug development.

    Essentially, any ban on abortion will primarily impact poor women, and I was wondering if anyone here wanted address the inevitable disparity.Report

  25. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


    I addressed DRS’ comments. I said that men have a responsibility to not get women pregnant but I still believe that greater responsibility of ‘gate-keeping’ rests with the woman because she is the one that actually gets pregnant. Essentially she is the defender of her uterus from unwanted visitors. Once the woman is with child it’s 50/50 from there on out from my perspective.

    I made these same points in the comment thread but you were too busy claiming offense to notice them I guess. I will also say that DRS’ primary point about who is responsible for the pregnancy, etc was actually a change of subject from the OP which was about abortion, not the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. She also spent several comments concern-trolling about this ‘immorality of pre-marital sex’ angle which also didn’t have much to do with the Op in my opinion.

    So it seems people are just changing the subject all over the place, aren’t they?Report

    • Avatar DRS says:

      So exploring the issue in more depth is changing the subject, is it? Funny, I don’t remember that being a problem on other threads. And your suggestion that I was “concern trolling” about “immorality” (your word describing abortion, by the way) of casual sex indicates to me your unwillingness to see that you cannot remove the man’s actions from the woman’s in the issue of abortion. If it is immoral to terminate a pregnancy, then it should also be considered immoral to create a pregnancy that will likely be terminated. Other people on this thread have said they see this point. Why you’re so pig-headed about not seeing it – well, only you know the answer to that.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        I actualy don’t have a problem with you taking a different line of debate – but my comment was directed to Zic who complained that I changed subjects on you. Of course, she is complaining because she thinks it was a dodge but I disagree. I made it clear above that I don’t think it is immoral to create an unwanted pregnancy. You seem to basing your claim to that on the ‘liklihood of termination’ but I think that’s a false argument. I don’t think you claim it is immoral to commit an act where the response is ‘likely’ to be immoral. The first act does not necessitate the second.

        As I am writing this I can’t help but wonder if you were trying to walk me towards a certain conclusion you hoped I would be cornered into. It seems you are suggesting that the act of creating the unwanted pregnancy is immoral because that would make abortion itself amoral (as a unavoidable resolution to the immoral act). If that was your plan, kudos for trying it, but I don’t see it that way.

        And I would also mention – I see your point, like others in the thread. I just don’t agree with it. It doesn’t seem that you understand the difference.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Meh. You see the arguent through your lens, and don’t take much time to view beyond that. You think it’s a woman’s job to not get pregnant. I agree. But I also think it’s a man’s job to not impregnate a woman. You think, if a pregnancy occurs, that’s it, with the exception of ‘the mother’s health.’ I pointed out, with a very personal story, that those ‘exceptions’ are not black and white, not binary, they’re shades of gray.

      I am pro-choice because I live in a world where things are not clear. I’ve sat beside women in court, seeking protection from abusive men, and see the fear and shame they have experience; seen the sexist nature of our judicial system, and how slowly that nature changes. I grew up in a household where my mother went from girl-child to mother too young; where my father was absent both financially and physically. My husband’s a musician, I’ve spent too many years in bars listening to the smooth talkers preying their way into the beds of woman after woman after woman; expert hunters, singling out the women who are lonely, and susceptible; heard the discussions of woman as objects, as meat, of wives and girlfriends as entrappers and monsters. I’m also the victim of a pedophile; and know first hand how little choice women sometimes have; and how women are often groomed to have little choice.

      You’re entitled to your opinion. But holding that opinion, there are some very important things you must face. What consequences a woman should face should she have an illegal abortion? Are you prepared to send her to jail? Are you prepared to see women die from back-alley abortions again? I If woman have to face that price, then what’s the price to thoe men contributing sperm to the pregnancy? Their responsibility to not impregnate in the first place?

      My point, and I think DRS’s also, is that if you, as a man, want to stop abortion, begin your crusade with your own sex; because while the majority of you are honorable, there are millions of you who still put getting lucky above giving respect some of the time. I’ve been pregnant, I know how physically difficult it is. Just a handful of decades ago, women died at alarming ratesfrom pregnancy and child birth. They still do die, despite medical advances.

      Before you begin dictating my rights to control my body, begin crusading your own sex’s too-often dismal treatment of my body that lead to pregnancy.

      Attack take on the culture of men, the culture that makes ‘getting some’ manly, and try and replace it with a culture of respect. Since you do not have lady parts, do not have to face the difficulties women have to face, it would be better to deal with the sexism, abuse, rape, and philandering of your own sex first? Don’t put it on me and my sex. We’ve shouldered responsibility for men’s reprehensible actions for thousands of years, now.Report

      • Avatar James H. says:


        And three questions for Mike.

        1. Does the current anti-abortion movement put too much emphasis on women’s responsibility and too little on men’s, especially given that restrictions on abortion have greater negative effect on women than on men?

        2. Does the current anti-abortion movement put too much attention on legal punishments for women who choose abortion and too little attention on helping them manage alternative choices? (When has prohibition actually worked? How much effort are people willing to put into anti-abortion rallies vs. how much they put into rallying fir comprehensive sexual education to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, or providing support services for those who would have their babies and put them up for adoption if the just had the supporting network in place?

        3. How can we or you be sure you’re not actually–subconsciously, not intentionally–demanding we give special privilege to your view because you’re a male? On what basis can we judge your view as “unbiased” while zic and DRS’s are biased? That’s not well phrased, but I have in mind those folks who object to minority/female judicial candidates on the grounds that they are biases, or have an agenda, which implies that (we) white males are non-biased and don’t have agendas–conscious or subconscious–related to our gender and ethnicity. In affect white makes are seen as the norm, non-gendered and non-ethnic. I’m not trying to imply you take that line on judicial candidates; that’s just an analogy. I’m just wondering if you really can be certain that you’re not implicitly viewing your views on the issue as non-gendered, while taking zic and DRS’s positions as gendered. (Pardon for the repeat use of “gendered.” I don’t like the terminology much and usually try to avoid it.)Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          1) No

          2) Yes. I believe the Right has done a lousy job of creating reasonable alternatives to abortion or in funding prevention measures. I spoke to that here:


          3) I don’t know that anyone can be certain but I am not claiming special privelage here. My opinion is just that; one person’s opinion. It’s certainly not because I am male. My pro-life position comes from being a parent, but even with that said, I don’t feel I have any more standing that someone without children. And that’s they key point here. It’s fine to say, “My opinion is based on this personal experience of mine.” It’s not okay to say, “My opinion should be given more weight than yours because I had a certain personal experience.” I simply don’t believe in that concept.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:


            You are claiming special privilege in the same way that you accuse others are. There is no objective reason to declare men and women to be on equal footing in an abortion debate. There is no objection reason to declare women to be on preferred footing in an abortion debate. You argue for the former, others the latter. For those who start from the latter position, you do appear to be arguing for special privilege because you want to maintain a position they don’t feel you are deserving of. For those who start from the former position, such as yourself, others appear to be arguing for special privilege because they want a position you don’t feel they are deserving of.

            It flows both ways. But because you are a white male, part of the culture of power, and regularly have your perspective and world view affirmed through larger systemic forces, you assume it to be the “norm” and “right” and deviations from that to be other.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              “There is no objective reason to declare men and women to be on equal footing in an abortion debate. There is no objection reason to declare women to be on preferred footing in an abortion debate.”

              Kazzy, I disagree. The child belongs to both parents. If it is a healthy pregnancy, I see equal footing. You see it as claiming special privelage because you don’t see equal footing. I don’t think there is really a way to resolve that.

              And my white maleness has zero to do with my opinion. I don’t think my position on equality during the pregnancy is the norm or that DRS and Zic’s positions are not because, again, I see that as ranking the particpants inthe dicsussion and I don’t do that.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                I see that as ranking the particpants inthe dicsussion and I don’t do that.

                But also Mike Dwyer on this thread:

                The woman carries the child. If the goal is to prevent a pregnancy, she is the one that must control access.

                Gotta ask: WTF?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                Because I see the sex and the creation of the life as a distinct act SEPARATE from the pregnancy itself and how that is dealt with. On the first part, I think women must protect themselves first and formost and that is what I tell my kids. On that part women have elevated standing in my opinion.

                On the second part, unless it’s a health issue, I see equal standing from a moral standpoint.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Naturally you have failed to address what “getting lucky” really means about our culture, and the normalization of non-consensual sex.

                You have also failed to address how this can possibly square with WOMEN having to protect themselves when you put them in an environment where men have all the cards.

                And thirdly, you’ve been runnign away from a simple question: say you ban abortion. How is this not like prohibition? I can give you ten different poisons that work as abortifacients. Will you ban all of them?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Just to add some depth here: I’ve spent a lot of time talking with women who’ve been physically abused, and with the people who council them. I don’t have statistics here, but anecdotally, I know that a staggering number of these women report emotional abuse/control issues in the relationship escalating to physical abuse once there’s a pregnancy. Escalating even more once there’s a child; and the woman frequently attract the abuse to themselves to shelter the child. I don’t know how it plays in to the statistics on abortion, but it does matter in the discussion; both for the women and the children.

                I’ve also read several herbals from the middle ages on. I was stunned by the number of abortifacients in them, herbs for ‘bringing on the menses.’ Abortion is as old as our attempts at medicine.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                And my white maleness has zero to do with my opinion.

                I find it fascinating that someone can suggest that their experience shaped their opinion on an issue (Mike said his experience as a father shaped his opinion on abortion), but then suggest that a major determiner of his experience (in general, not just with respect to the issue of abortion), his white maleness, “has zero to do with [his] opinion.”

                This is why I prefer the big 5. The first two factors in the Big-5 would probably explain this.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The big 5 uses virtue language (certainly for agreeableness and neuroticism) which strikes me as spectacularly out of place in a personality test.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Eh, I’m less interested in the language than the validity and reliability. But I suppose that’s because I’m a researcher, so I tend to think that way by default. I can see your point though.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                You do disagree. And that’s great! But you presume that we should start from your preferred starting point.

                And how do you know your white maleness has zero to do with your opinion if you’ve never been anything other than a white male? Again, you hold your opinion up as one formed independently of your race or sex/gender while simultaneously considering women to be holding positions specifically because of their sex/gender.

                I am not saying there is anything wrong with your race or sex/gender informing your opinion -OR- anything wrong with starting from a particular vantage point; the problem comes when we deny any of these things.

                Again, whose terms the conversation should happen on is an important one to answer. There is no “default” or “natural” set of terms that are deviated from when others push for something different.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I should also note that I am not weighing in on who is “right” and not really talking about the abortion issue at all.

                I’m talking about how we talk. Very meta, I know.

                Mike, you want the conversation to happen one way. Which is fine. Zic and DRS seem to want it to happen another way (or two other ways). Which is also fine. If those ways are different, the question then becomes, “How do we rectify this?” It seems that you are insisting you don’t want the conversation to happen the “Mike Dwyer” way, just the “right way” and that Zic and DRS want it to happen “their way”. My point is that there is no “right way”. There might be a normative way in terms of that which is most common, but then we must look at who creates the norms (generally white males) and consider why this way might feel more natural to you but very unnatural to others who are not white or male.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “Again, you hold your opinion up as one formed independently of your race or sex/gender while simultaneously considering women to be holding positions specifically because of their sex/gender.”

                That’s not accurate. What I am saying is that I am not claiming elevated standing in THIS conversation. I feel that DRS and Zic are and they are basing that on their gender.

                As to whether my opinion on abortion is subconciously formed by my white maleness, I think I made it clear in the comments for your post that I think we’re doing way too much of that kind of navel-gazing around here.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I think I made it clear in the comments for your post that I think we’re doing way too much of that kind of navel-gazing around here.

                Self-reflection is annoying!Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                So is public masturbation Chris.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Yes, but self-reflection is one of the encouraged habits of mind. I’m not aware that masturbation, public or otherwise, has ever been considered so.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, I believe he’s suggesting that my comment was public masturbation. Which is fine. I like when Mike shows his true self.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                I got that. I just wanted to note the distinction between the two.

                In fact what really is more similar to masturbation? Engaging in the difficult and often uncomfortable task of thinking about why we believe something? Or getting the instant gratification of just rushing forth to announce what we believe?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                But let me throw one at you, Chris. You say abortion is morally neutral, but you seem to have deep moral objections to hunting? Is that an internally consistent position? Are you entirely comfortable with it as an intellectually coherent conjunction of ideas? (Serious question, not a poke.)Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, you’re preachin’ to the choir with me.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, I suppose I’m exaggerating when I say it’s morally neutral. Here’s my position, in a nutshell:

                Women are persons. Their moral status is unambiguous. Embryos, zygotes, and fetuses (at least to a point) are not persons, and their moral status is ambiguous. When in doubt, side with the person. There’s more to it than that, but I think that gives you the basic idea. So when I say it’s morally neutral, what I really mean is that I have no doubt what the correct moral position is. I don’t think abortion is immoral, even if I think that there are options one should consider before getting to abortion (like, say, contraception).

                As for hunting, let me get something straight. I am not opposed to eating meat (with certain caveats). In fact, for lunch today I will be having a chicken salad sandwich. So the killing of animals is not something I’m opposed to in principle. What I am opposed to is hunting for sport, the killing of wild animals for fun.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So it’s like sex, then.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                I’m with you on the zygotes to fetuses issue. I’m not really with you on the hunting issue. Since most hunters eat what they kill, is it wrong that they enjoy the act in itself. Are they morally better if they take no enjoyment in it?

                Is it important that the great majority of hunters deplore a failed kill shot that leaves the animal in greater than necessary pain?

                And, of course, what is the moral status of non-human animals in general? Is there a hierarchy, such that it’s ok to swat flies, even though we won’t eat them, maybe ok to kill fish, so long as we eat them, and never ok to kill chimpanzees, even if we eat them?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                +1. though i have no problem with people having fun while hunting for food. (goes without saying, yes?)Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, now we’re getting’ into the tall weeds, which is cool, but we may want to start a new subthread down at the end of this post if we’re going to continue.

                To answer your questions here:

                It is morally better if they don’t kill unnecessarily, period. Killing for pleasure is always killing unnecessarily.

                And yes, I do think there is a hierarchy of moral status. However, that basic rule, do not kill any living thing unless it is necessary to do so, applies. I know the word “necessary” is carrying a lot of weight there, and we can quibble over precisely what is and isn’t necessary, but the basic rule is, “If you don’t have a good reason for killing something, don’t kill it.” I don’t consider the pleasure of the hunt and kill to be a good reason. In fact, I find it abhorrent. Swatting flies is sometimes necessary because they are a health risk (the same would be true of, say, cockroaches or even mice and rats). If flies were not a health risk, swatting them would usually be unnecessary, and therefore immoral. The moral hierarchy comes in when we consider what could constitute a necessity (for example, it may be that the only sufficient reason to kill a chimp would be to protect a human from serious bodily harm), and on how serious the moral offense is. For example, I am not in favor of making it illegal to kill squirrels for kicks and giggles, even if I find it abhorrent, but I am in favor of making it illegal to kill dolphins or chimps.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                That’s good enough. I didn’t want to pursue it too far; just get a general sense of your position.

                (By the way, I hate your gravatar. Way too berserker for comfort. I think the moral thing to do would be to go back to that slinky cat character, which was really cool.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                Assuming you are equally dissatisfied with Chris’ answer, I will just point out that unless someone is a vegetarian then hunting for meat IS necessary. One has to eat.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Mike, I’m sorry to hear you don’t have a grocery store.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Chris – we’re both hunting. I use my shotgun, you use your wallet. Passing on the responsibility of killing to a nameless third party and then judging people who want to cut out the middle man as often as possible… well the response to that seem too obvious to mention.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m with Mike on this one. You don’t escape moral culpability–if there is any–for killing by paying someone else to do it for you. (Hiring an assassin generally leads to a first degree murder charge.) And by some folks’ claims about the inhumanity of industrial-scale animal husbandry, the direct shot to the brain or heart of a wild animal is likely the more humane and more moral approach.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Mike, perhaps you’re not following what I’m saying.

                You hunt for pleasure. Pre-killed meat is available to you. You do not need to go out and kill an animal living in the wild (the last part is important too — I’m not making a new argument, as I’m sure you know). When you do, then hunting will be necessary.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, I think it’s important to research where and how the meat you buy was killed, if you can do so (some people don’t really have a choice, usually for reasons of cost).Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                So you are saying that purchasing pre-killed meat from the store is the superior moral choice to killing the animals yourself?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Mike, yes, but you’re leaving out the wild part.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Chris, i think you’re wrong on this one. Dead wrong.
                If it costs X to kill an animal for food, and gives Y amoutn of pleasure, you choose the one with more Y, if you hold X constant.
                nobody likes killing factory animals.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                So wild animals enjoy moral protection that domestic animals do not? I’m not allowed to eat wild rabbit, venison or turkey but it’s okay to eat those things when killed by someone else on a commercial farm?

                That’s a unique perspective.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                So wild animals enjoy moral protection that domestic animals do not?

                And since free range animals are closer to wild animals than are tightly penned animals, the most moral carnivores will only eat animals from confined feeding operations.

                OK, Chris, that is a poke designed to stimulate a response. 😉Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Should I be sorry about starting this tangent? Or should I be happy because I think it’s more interesting than the abortion debate?

                Or is that too much navel gazing? 😉Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                well you did pay for the food for the factory-farmmed critter.
                sorta like how you’re allowed to order around your own kids but can’t order around someone else’s.
                (devils advocate)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think we’re doing way too much of that kind of navel-gazing around here.

                I’m not so sure, Mike. If I were to say that black people ought to be happy with generosity of the welfare state so they have nothing to bitch about, I think I’d be rightly criticized for a lack of navel gazing, wouldn’t I?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                And it may well be that DRS and Zic deserved elevated standing in THIS conversation. Who are you to say, definitively, that they do not?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I can’t say it ‘definitively’. All I can say is that they (nor anyone else) won’t get it from me. That’s not sexist. I don’t give anyone elevated status on any subject.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I kinda disagree with that Kazzy. It strikes me as wrong to say that that DRS and zic’s views deserve elevated status. They just deserve equal status.

                I think the presumption held by certain people (not necessarily Mie, btw) is that giving those views equal status constitutes elevating them beyond what they deserve.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Still and Mike-

                I’m not necessarily saying that Zic and DRS deserve elevated status. I’m saying that they might. They believe that they deserve it. They would like to have a conversation on those terms, where they have elevated status. Mike believes they ought not. He would like to have a conversation on those terms, his terms.

                Both positions are entirely reasonable. But, eventually, we need to settle on which set of terms to have the conversation. And Zic and DRS are just as entitled to argue for their terms as Mike is to argue for his.

                What I see here is that Mike seems to be disavowing that he is arguing for his own particular set of terms, instead presenting them as a commonly-agreed upon set of terms that is somehow “normal” or “right” and that Zic and DRS are attempting to change the status quo but asking for something “other”.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I don’t know if there is a ‘norm’ here but if there is, granting equal status to everyone involved in a conversation seems likely to be what it would look like. That’s as fair as I know how to make things. If that means I am subconciously advancing my white male agenda then so be it.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Neither Zic nor I (if I may speak for Zic for a moment) is claiming elevated status, whatever that even means. Do we get to type in ALL CAPS or something? The person who first brought up the issue of elevated status was Mike. So that should set his mind at rest, right? And we don’t have to discuss that anymore.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                That’s as fair as I know how to make things. If that means I am subconciously advancing my white male agenda then so be it.

                I know you’re being sarcastic with the last comment, but this is part of the reason that it will never be fruitful to have a conversation with you, or anyone like you (and you are certainly not alone in this view) on certain types of issues (e.g., gender or race). In your mind, fair means treating people exactly the same no matter what. However, sometimes equal is decidedly unfair, precisely because “equal” is not a pre-theoretical concept. That is, what counts as “equal” is largely determined by your existing view of things.

                It would be absurd, for example, to treat as equal the opinions of men and women about what prostate cancer feels like. We know this because we’re aware that women can’t have prostate cancer, and therefore, except to the extent that prostate cancer and other cancers that women can have are similar, women can’t know what prostate cancer feels like.

                Like I said elsewhere, though, you (Mike) have determined what the issue of abortion is, so for you, the woman’s experience is irrelevant to the moral issue. I understand that, and I think you’re wrong. Other people are going to think you’re an ass. You’d do well to just accept that.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                DRS – then you and Zic believe my opinion on abortion as a male is equal to your opinions as females?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                And I consider it perfectly reasonable to believe that all conversations should be held with folks on equal terms.

                But I also consider it perfectly reasonable for folks to believe that, at least in certain conversations, certain folks should be held on different footing.

                A problem arises when folks with the former beliefs and folks with the latter beliefs attempt to enter into conversations with one another, which is what we have here. You want the conversation to be held one way; DRS and Zic apparently want it held another way. A conflict of interests. What do we do? What you consider to be fair based on a sense of equality seems inherently unfair to Zic and DRS because they do not believe that all folks enter into the conversation with equal perspectives and understanding on the issue.

                Who is “right”? I don’t know. I don’t know that there is a “right” way. What we need to do is agree on the terms. And to do that, we must first acknowledge that EVERYONE is walking into the conversation with a sense of what the terms ought to be. It seemed that, at least at the onset, you were insisting you had no terms but that Zic and DRS did, which I think is a position that folks often arrive in when their particular set of terms is the norm.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If that means I am subconciously advancing my white male agenda then so be it.

                I don’t think you really mean that, Mike. I mean, it’s incoherent, right?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I might suggest that persons of a particular gender who are told that they should listen rather than talk on a particular subject (because of their particular gender) in order for a dialog to take place could easily misunderstand being told that their obligation is to listen rather than speak as other persons claiming elevated, rather than equal, standing in the conversation.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                DRS – then you and Zic believe my opinion on abortion as a male is equal to your opinions as females?

                With the proviso that Zic can speak for herself here, yes, I do. And it would be nice if you were to acknowledge that our opinions are equal to yours and lay off the “claiming extra points” for being female crap.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I’m glad to hear you are not claiming elevated status (which makes the request that I stop talking and listen all the more weird).

                And if our opinions are equal then it seems the conversation has run its course unless you have some outstanding questions I didn’t answer.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                stop talking and just listen is code for
                “you’re talking over me. listen to my position and respond” probably.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                I’m glad to hear you are not claiming elevated status (which makes the request that I stop talking and listen all the more weird).

                You and your concern with status. No one but you brought up the subject of “elevated status” and you could have stopped talking about it all on your own. And since I didn’t tell you to stop talking, the second part of your sentence makes no sense to me. Apparently listening is a skill you use selectively, whether you’re talking or not.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                See your comment here:


                “It is instead a topic where men should listen rather than talk since women have unique perspectives on the subject that have to be taken into account if a real, open dialogue can take place.”Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Mike – most of that quote is from Jaybird’s comment immediately above mine; he was apparently quoting someone else but I can’t find the original.

                The part that’s mine – the bolded part – was added to that original quote to flesh it out. Are you really suggesting “unique perspective” = “elevated status”? Seriously?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The thread, in its original habitat, is here.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                Jaybird suggested a line of opinion and you signed off on it. That included the suggestion that men should be quiet and listen. Correct?Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Jaybird suggested a line of opinion and you signed off on it. That included the suggestion that men should be quiet and listen. Correct?

                First, thanks to JB, as I could not find that post at all.

                To MD: JB re-wrote something Ryan said, using phrases that I thought were unduly restrictive and not conducive to real dialogue. I added two phrases that I felt loosened up the restrictions; JB did not respond so I assume he wasn’t that opposed to them. If I had “signed off on it”, I wouldn’t have amended it, now would I?

                The “be quiet and listen” was JB’s; take it up with him. I amended it to soften the restrictive quality of the statement so that dialogue can continue.

                For what it’s worth, I didn’t read either Ryan’s or Jaybird’s comments as meaning that men shouldn’t talk at all but rather should listen carefully to what women are saying about an issue that it is impossible for us to regard as abstract. Abortion for women is a practical issue and that’s going to come across as we discuss it.Report

              • Avatar Ahunt says:

                “Kazzy, I disagree. The child belongs to both parents. If it is a healthy pregnancy, I see equal footing.”

                Um, No. A man does not get an equal say in how a woman manages HER pregnancy when she chooses to go to term. Input yes. But the final decisions regarding the pregnancy belong to the woman.

                A man cannot dictate diet, work, activity or hobby choices. He cannot overrule any decision a woman makes, from conception to the delivery room. There is no equal footing here.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                As the husband of a pregnant woman, I can say this is 100000% true. I can encourage my wife to eat healthy, do all the food shopping, make all three meals a day… all of which I do… and if she decides to make and eat a whole funfetti cake when I leave town for 36 hours, there is nothing I can do to stop. Even if I can claim an entire half of the child growing inside of her as my own, I can make zero claim to any other part of her being. And because the entirety of her being is far more than the child growing inside her, I have a right to but a small percentage of the entirety of those two beings together.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


        Men do indeed do terrible things to women sometimes (and vice versa). As the son of a single mother, a husband and a father of two daughters, I get that. And I think there is certainly more we can do to clean up the flaws in our culture that lead to people behaving that way. But this post is about abortion. My personal opinion is that I think it is murder and it is immoral. Period. Pointing out that guys do shady things doesn’t change that.

        As for what I would do with women who had illegal abortions? I really don’t know. That is a dillema I struggle with. But like the argument about cleaning up man culture first, I don’t know how an enforcement dillema squashes the morality argument.

        It seems that you are trying to create all of these pre-conditions as a way of putting the abortion discussion beyond reach. It’s the old ‘you can’t complain to me until you clean up your own backyard’ argument. Wouldn’t it be easier to argue for the neccessity of abortion on its own merits instead of trying to shield it with ancillary cultural problems?Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          I am putting these things up there to put abortion out of reach, because I think it immoral to women otherwise. 100% immoral.

          I also think it immoral to not consider the ‘bad’ things men (and women) do when you hold this discussion; because otherwise, the onus falls on women.

          I think it immoral not to consider the consequences of depriving women the right to control their bodies; failure to consider the remedies of such laws shirk societal responsibility; see drug laws as an example.

          And I think it immoral to not consider the weight of human population already; ever more and more people.

          On it’s own merits, abortion is horrible. But no where near as horrible as the alternative. It’s not binary, yes/no. And until men take responsibility for holding other men responsible for their actions, I fail to see how holding women responsible is moral.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            “On it’s own merits, abortion is horrible. But no where near as horrible as the alternative.”

            In 37 years I have never met someone who said they wished they had been aborted. It seems kind of gross to suggest that there are a lot of people walking around that would have been better off having never been born.

            “And I think it immoral to not consider the weight of human population already; ever more and more people.”

            That’s a strawman unless you are honestly saying that in the theoretical example that every pregnancy was wanted we should still be culling the herd to prevent over-population. Is that what you believe? We need abortion for population control?Report

            • Avatar zic says:

              It seems kind of gross to suggest that there are a lot of people walking around that would have been better off having never been born.

              You’re arguing a negative; for aborted pregnancies never become people to have these feelings.

              You said it yourself, “wanted.”

              Unwanted pregnancies are, in my view, immoral. Otherwise, the potential conclusion might mean abortion for population control. You think I’m pointing to that end; I feel I’m trying to avoid that end because it is a real potential.

              Again, you’re dodging and responding not to what I said, but to what you can twist it into meaning to suit your goals. I ask you to challenge the culture that results in so much unwanted pregnancy; you don’t do that, but say it’s my job to prevent. In my view, abortion is the last resort to that prevention, and it’s your job to tackle your half of the equation. When you can do that, I’ll take you seriously. Until those comments begin, in my estimation, you’re just another man lording it up. Not yet a real man stepping to responsibility, even, but still a child steeped in your prerogative.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                “Unwanted pregnancies are, in my view, immoral. Otherwise, the potential conclusion might mean abortion for population control.”

                So if I buy a car which could kill someone if I was drunk driving… immoral?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                If I wear purple basketballs on my head, is pluto a planet?

                Seriously, though, the correct analogy is, “Is buying a car that I intend to drive while drunk immoral?”Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                If you intentionally go out to steal a car (or just do a joyride), is it immoral?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Total straw-man argument.

                In a world where we don’t give women the right to control of their own bodies, I prefer forced sterilization of men to prevent them from unintentionally impregnating someone. After all, men can always drop a deposit at the nearest sperm bank if the think they might want a child and can find a willing partner in that endeavor.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              Okay. you met one. Withdraw argument plz?

        • Avatar DRS says:

          The problem for me, Mike, is that you apparently see the sex action as one distinct (irresponsible) act and the abortion as a second distinct (immoral) act. I view them as one continuous act without, shall we say, borders. You take part in the first action, you’re complicit in the second. If abortion is a moral problem, then materialistic or mechanistic (artificial womb, better birth control, child support) solutions are inadequate. A moral problem requires a moral approach, and that means men openly disavowing the casual sex mentality all around us. I don’t ask that men change that mentality – it’s impossible – but addressing it seriously is imperative on the abortion issue.Report

          • Avatar zic says:


            I would add to it the consideration of the societal remedy to the man and woman in a world where abortion is illegal; unintended consequences and all.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


            15% of abortions are with married women
            29% of abortions are with women who are cohabitating

            That’s 43% of abortions that I would call non-casual. So your focus on the immorality of casual sex, while not unimportant, seems to be only part of the equation, but then this:

            61% of the women having an abortion have already had an abortion previously

            That’s a significant overlap. Also, when you talk about the immorality of creating the unitended pregnancy, if abortion was not a legal option and off the table as a solution, is the sex still immoral?Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              Yes, the sex is still immoral.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              You aren’t providing any statistics for overlap here. Please try again.

              Also, the 15% of abortions with women who are married? You haven’t provided any evidence that they are pregnant due to their husbands.

              Of the 29% of abortions with women who are cohabitating, many women have cited “changes in circumstances” as a reason to get an abortion.

              Would you really want every woman who hit the jackpot to get pregnant and then live on the public dole for the rest of their life? (as you might guess, this is not an idle question, if slightly exaggerated).Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


                I was not a math major but if my calculations are correct 26% of all abortions were with women in non-casual relationships AND who had an abortion previously.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                There’s not enough information to determine that. You don’t know how much of an overlap there is between the women who are married/cohabiting and women who have had multiple abortions.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Furthermore, you aren’t able to parse out how many of those people in a stable relationship were on birth control. Or had a previous abortion at a different point in life.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              61% of the women having an abortion have already had an abortion previously

              Eh, what percentage of men who participate in creating pregnancies that result in an abortion previously participated in creating pregnancies that resulted in an abortion?

              It seems rather…convenient…to put the one figure out there without considering the other one as well.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                I’d venture to say a far larger percentage. Not all men are pigs, after all.
                (again, using pig as in the Chinese zodiac character, not as a vague calumny).Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I agree. That only confirms what I am saying which is that shifting the focus away from abortion and on to casual sex is a strawman. Plenty of the people involved here are not in a causal situation. They are either in a relationship, or been involved with another unintended pregnancy.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I don’t see how that confirms your point at all. By your own numbers, just reducing the numbers of casual sex pregnancies would significantly reduce the overall number of abortions.

                I guess one of the questions I’m really wondering is, with the dominant focus being on prohibition of abortions, does the history of prohibitionist policies give you any cause for concern, in terms of the side effects and human wreckage that attends them? Do you give serious thought to the question of whether that cost is worthwhile, and whether there might be a better, less damaging, path to your goal?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That only confirms what I am saying which is that shifting the focus away from abortion and on to casual sex is a strawman.

                I disagree. If someone holds the view that terminating unwanted pregnancies is immoral, then it follows – trivially, it seems to me! – that behaviors which lead to terminating unwanted pregnancies are also immoral. In the extreme, given that accidents and other events can happen, it leads to the conclusion that the only type of sex which is morally permissible is the “I’m having sex because I want a baby” kind.

                We’re told by established figures in various churches that this view is in fact the right view to hold.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                All the while they go around doing the exact opposite.
                Abstinence education causes unwanted pregnancies.Report

            • Avatar DRS says:

              Also, when you talk about the immorality of creating the unitended pregnancy, if abortion was not a legal option and off the table as a solution, is the sex still immoral?

              Of course.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          I don’t know how an enforcement dillema squashes the morality argument.

          I think it would be a ridiculous stretch to say enforcement dilemmas “squash” morality arguments. I don’t think they’re actually related to the morality of the forbidden act in any direct way. But enforcement dilemmas do create their own corresponding morality arguments that I think force us into a balancing of competing interests.

          Is that fair to say?Report

          • Avatar Ahunt says:

            ” But enforcement dilemmas do create their own corresponding morality arguments that I think force us into a balancing of competing interests.

            Is that fair to say?”


            It is also fair to say that “enforcement” will disproportionately impact poor women, and especially women of color:

            “As for what I would do with women who had illegal abortions? I really don’t know. That is a dillema I struggle with. But like the argument about cleaning up man culture first, I don’t know how an enforcement dillema squashes the morality argument. “

            And this is where we begin the debate about the “morality” of the two-tiered system of justice that will inevitably result from a near total abortion ban.Report

  26. Avatar Ahunt says:

    Yeah, the discussion is all over the place, but that’s okay. Interesting reads.

    Mike, I do wonder where you think an “absolute” ban on abortion will take us in terms of women’s lives.

    For example, do you support “personhood” initiatives, (I’m guessing not) or simply the banning of abortion?

    You’ve acknowledged that the life of the woman is a legitimate reason for termination, but are dodgy on questions of women’s health. What impairments to a woman’s health are acceptable to you?

    Do you advocate prosecuting women who get illegal abortions for murder? If not, why not?

    How do you envision enforcement of a total ban on abortion? IOWs, how do you think legal authorities should go about rooting out abortion in America?

    For starters.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      How do you envision enforcement of a total ban on abortion? IOWs, how do you think legal authorities should go about rooting out abortion in America?

      This is the number one thing that bugs me.

      In the abortion debate, the pro-life side never really talks about what it’d do if it won. “We’d pass a law and the problem would go away. Like the other problems that were solved by laws prohibiting stuff!”

      It’s like they seem to think that if they got a democratic majority to pass a law forbidding a thing, it’d effectively be the same as a society actually having a taboo against a thing. Instead, it’s just evidence of 50%+1 of the right people at the right time passing a law.

      Way back when I commented on Redstate, when I usually pursued this line of thinking, the example of CPS usually came up. “We already have a template for law enforcement when it comes to CPS!”, they pointed out. I tried to point out the difference between seeing bruises on a child’s face arms legs and hearing a rumor that the daughter has been knocked up… and asking what would happen if people started calling the authorities in response to hearing that someone’s been knocked up but, two months later, they still aren’t showing. What should the authorities do? One of the first things CPS does, I understand, is ask to look at the child… what would UPS do when they showed up?

      For the record, I pointed out, I was opposed to a government agency going to people’s houses and making them pee.

      My concerns, of course, were usually mocked.

      Until, of course, someone else asked about enforcement and someone else pointed out that we already had a template for enforcement in CPS.

      The problems I have with the pro-choice side, foremost being that abortion is a procedure without moral content (skintags, parasites, etc) pale in comparison to the problems of enforcement of the abortion laws that the pro-lifers claim to want, the pro-choice side quite regularly does a good job of communicating that they’re not pro-choice as much as pro-choice-when-it-pertains-to-abortion.

      Given that about one out of four pregnancies terminate in abortion, it doesn’t seem to me that abortion is going to go anywhere. It’s far, far too convenient for far, far too many people and is an even more convenient political weapon.

      It does irritate me that both sides don’t really seem that interested in examining what their arguments ultimately entail… That’s one of those things that’s relatively easy to live with, though.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Jay, the only “pro-choice” folks I’ve ever heard suggest that abortion is a morally neutral procedure are hard-core feminists. Almost everyone else thinks abortion should be “safe and rare.”Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Oh, so long as we can dismiss the arguments of the hard-core feminists, I guess I have no problems at all.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Chris, you really don’t hear the ‘fetus/parasite’ comparison made regularly? Somewhat surprisingly, I must move in more hard-core feminist circles than you, then, ‘cos I hear that one all the time.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Glyph, probably not, but I wonder where you hear that (I think the parasite comparison is a pretty accurate one).Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              I’m no biologist, but it’s a strange host what co-creates its own parasite.

              IMO, using the term ‘parasite’ is an attempt to give some veneer of science to the analogy, for use as moral cover (after all, removing a ‘parasite’ is certainly morally neutral – heck, if you are Ayn Rand, it could be a moral positive!)

              I have been hearing the comparison regularly as long as I’ve been paying attention to the debate (so at least since the late 80’s, when I was still arguably a parasite myself, what with living on my folks’ dime and all).Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Glyph, I treat the “parasite” reference as an analogy, not as a categorization. I know other people treat it as a categorization. I think that’s a mistake, not because it makes much of a difference morally, but because I think there are actual differences between an embryo, say, and a parasite (though the fact that it requires an outside element, namely sperm, to create it does soften your objection I think).Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Yeah, my point is just that even as analogy it’s not great (‘cancer’ is actually probably closer than ‘parasite’ – but that one’s not great either).

                There *is* no really good analogy, IMO – the zygote is *of* the mother and father, and it is *in* the mother and deriving energy therefrom, but it is not *the same* as either (nor is it the same as a parasite, or as a cancer).

                Obviously this lack of good analogy is part of the reason the general larger debate remains. But we all use the analogies anyway.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Agreed. The zygote has potential the parasite or cancer cell does not. I don’t think that mere potential counts for everything, but I think it counts for something.Report

  27. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    From Jaybird:

    “I might suggest that persons of a particular gender who are told that they should listen rather than talk on a particular subject (because of their particular gender) in order for a dialog to take place could easily misunderstand being told that their obligation is to listen rather than speak as other persons claiming elevated, rather than equal, standing in the conversation.”

    Thank you Jaybird for pointing that out. For reference,



    and here:


    • Avatar Chris says:

      Mike, this is somewhat (read: completely) disingenuous since you don’t think women’s experience with respect to abortion gives them any greater insight into the issue, as you’ve said multiple times now. So even if they were saying you should listen before you talk, you’d arrive at the same position.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      There’s the problem. There’s not a goddam one of us on any side in the abortion debate that’s willing to listen.

      Some years back I used to teach in a summer program for high school students (Junior Statesmen Foundation, you should all send your teens). One of their activities was “Congressional Debate.” I hated having to judge it, period, but after two years I started bargaining with the director to give me extra debates to judge if he would not assign me to any of the abortion ones. I’d end up frothing at the mouth and wanting to lash out at these poor hapless high school students for engaging in exactly the same non-listening absolutist position-taking of adults.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        Respectfully, that’s not true.
        There’s plenty of pro-life folks who
        dont’ care terribly about making
        abortion illegal.

        I can deal with them, work with them
        and we can, at the end of the day,
        come up with good ideas.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        [Raises hand]

        I’m willing to listen! I’ve gone back and forth on where I fall, currently occupying a squishy space on the “pro-choice” side. Really, I just want someone to figure out cobcrete answers to all the pertinent questions and then to tell me what’s what and I can say, “Oh, of course,” and then everything will carry on tidily.Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

        “There’s not a goddam one of us on any side in the abortion debate that’s willing to listen.”

        Somewhat, but not quite, true. I’ve tempered my position on abortion [*] somewhat over the years, based on what I’ve read and heard from those opposed to it. I now think that viability **MIGHT** make some difference in whether an abortion should be allowed or not (but the question of viability leads to a whole slew of other questions, as shown in this very thread).

        [*] My position is totally meaningless unless I am the mother or to a much less extent the father.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Mike, on one level, the issue is about a privileged place in the discussion. WOmen feel that men have for far too long stipulated the terms of the debate (no women allowed), and because of that, they say things like “you should listen to what we have to say”. Men, in this case you (I guess) view that as women coopting a privileged place to tell men what to think about abortion. None of that has anything to do with the abortion debate itself, and is instead a meta-level debate about who gets to stipulate the terms on which that debate occurs.

      But of course, from another pov, no one gets to stipulate the terms of the debate. There’s just the debate. And one essential component of that debate are the arguments made by a party to that debate: women. So when DRS or zic advance worries about the justification of a prohibition on abortion as that law specifically relates to them, they’re not stipulating the terms of the debate, they’re debating it!

      For my part, insofar as it’s an actual debate (where the presumption is that sound arguments carry they day), then you haven’t debated with them until you answer their specific concerns. Personally speaking here, I’m not sure you’ve done that.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        This brings up somethng tangential.
        I don’t get to tell you what to do about your private charity giving. You do, or you do not. I can advocate, I can set up laws to encourage your giving, but I don’t compel you.

        Why is the same not true about my family??? Is it the higher stakes? Do you not trust me to do the right thing? Is it worth it to compel me, even if it puts my life in danger?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Yes, there’s all that. I often wonder why the law is necessary to begin with. If it’s so crystal clear that abortion is murder, that it’s so obviously morally wrong, then why are we even having this debate? It seems like carefully explaining this stuff to rational people ought to suffice to change everyone’s mind, right?

          Is it because women – and liberals – and especially liberal women (don’t even get me started!) – are irrational?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            If liberals were rational, they’d be libertarians. 😉

            Of course even libertarians are divided on abortion. That whole issue of “is it a person or is it not” is really the impossible dividing line. I think believing either is rational–from an objective, outside, perspective–and therein lies the impossibility of rational people persuading other rational people.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              I’m not sure this boils down to a rational decision. This is a nation with the death penalty. While that’s true, let nobody make a big deal of the sanctity of human life. We have courts ruling against persons with locked-in syndrome who want nothing more than to be allowed to die in the same legal system which sends retarded persons to the death chamber. It’s an ethical dog’s dinner.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Also the nation that invented the term “collateral damage” as a euphemism for “innocent bystanders that we’re going to kill”.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Agreed, but I’d quibble and note that at least we no longer execute the mentally retarded.

                Except, that is, for that national embarrassment called Texas.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The death penalty is barbaric. How many Woopsies do we need, executing the innocent, before we Get the Proverbial Clue as a nation? How many people still languish in prison for lack of DNA testing? If there’s one thing I wish the Libertarians would address more directly — and maybe you lot do care about it but you ought to make the point more forcefully — is the inertia and sloth and fecklessness of the criminal justice system in this country.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I couldn’t agree more. Some libertarians do–as forcefully and consistently as most liberals–but not enough; never enough.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Libertarians would find much common ground with Liberals on this issue. Now I remain a Liberal, believing Libertarians are Liberals who haven’t been seen a corporate mugging go down, but the Libertarians are the only folks preaching about the manifestly sinister overreach of government.

                The justice system is proof positive government is out of control. We imprison more people on a per-thousand basis — than Stalin at the height of the gulags. Now either we are the most criminal people in the history of the world or the prison system has turned into a bloated, self-perpetuating monster and I believe it’s the latter.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Blaise, the fairly mainstream libertarian sites I check, like Reason and Radley Balko, are all over the mess that is the criminal justice system, constantly.

                A lot of their focus is WOD-related, but by no means all of it. Balko in particular has done a lot of stuff on prosecutorial overreach, incompetence and downright malfeasance, plus the states’ inertia of not wanting to have to go back and re-try all those closed cases with new DNA evidence and the like.

                Granted, I have never heard much about these topics from the Ron Paul wing (remind me, where’s Ron Paul from again? 🙂 but I certainly hear a lot about it elsewhere in the small-l libertarian circles I frequent.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I had Balko up to my college to speak about the increase used of SWAT teams in the WOD last year. One of my colleagues, a liberal who tends to think all non-liberals are wholly illegitimate and probably shouldn’t even be allowed to teach, suffered some serious cognitive dissonance. He fully agreed with everything Balko said, and hadn’t known the half of it before…but he was hearing it from a libertarian…and he had to confess to agreement with a libertarian. I think it caused him physical pain.

                (I should add, though, that he’s a great guy, and we’re good friends, despite him thinking I’m evil.)Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Heh, I’ve had a different reaction from a conservative friend of mine, sort of a law-and-order kind of dude, who would normally tend to give cops & courts the benefit of the doubt.

                The more Balko he reads, the more he is sounding like an N.W.A lyric.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                @Glyph, well, that’s excellent. It really is. The growth of the American Gulag Archipelago ought to be a growing concern for everyone, regardless of political persuasion.

                I have no doubt many people belong in prisons. But here’s how I’m thinking, and it came to me driving down here, late at night. The Libertarians do not trust Liberals and argue with them over pilpul while we share great swaths of common concerns of which neither camp has much to say with common voice. No concern is more dreadful, none more ripe for reform than the justice system.

                Several obvious changes come to mind: while people are in prison, they should be educated. Prisons have become dangerous zoos, ruled by gangs, divided precisely along racial lines. They have become little more than universities for advanced criminal studies and they graduate a fresh crop of ever-more-qualified prison every time these jamokes are let loose on society. Eliminate the stupidity of our current drugs policy, get addicts off the streets and into rehab, by force if need be (and that’s what it often takes) — we’ve got a captive population of millions now and we’re doing nothing to ensure they emerge to live productive lives.

                It may be time for a Constitutional Convention. Seriously, the current legal framework is looking like a badly organised closet, with damned near everything hanging on either the Fourteenth Amendment or the Commerce clause.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                @Glyph: NWA was my breakthrough group when it came to rap. I’d adapted to pretty much everything which had come down the musical pike until rap. I knew there was something I just wasn’t getting. NWA sorta cleared the deck and gave me some fresh insight: rap, like country and gospel, is music wrapped around a lyric.

                Mind you, I still despise the cheap gangsta flash-da-money crowd but Straight Outta Compton still resonates with me.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Heh. It’s a sad time for liberals when we have to sub-out opposition to the death penalty to libertarians.

                How does that work, btw? Is it like a silent partnership?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I think it’s two groups acting independently of each other because of their mutual distrust on other issues.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Well, the Libertarians and the Liberals are on the same wavelength when it comes to tyranny. The Conservatives give the concept a bit of lip service but once elected, nobody enlarges and empowers the Engine of Gummint more than they do.

                Ruling abortions illegal is tyrannous. The death penalty is tyrannous. Both concepts imply the government has the power of life and death over its citizens. I do not like Roe as written but I believe Liberals and Libertarians would find common ground saying the government does not have force majeure rights on our lives.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                For the record I also oppose the death penalty and I love this Megan McArdle quote:

                “Actually, I’m told that a shocking number of prisoners request DNA tests that confirm their guilt; they have nothing to lose, and apparently want to gamble on the slim possibility of a miracle exoneration. But this seems irrelevant to me. If they get a DNA test and it proves them guilty, we’ve lost little time or money. If they get a DNA test and it exonerates them, we’ve set an innocent man free. DNA tests would have to cost $1 million apiece for me to consider that a bad bargain.”Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                I can’t remember where, but I read something recently saying that judges are generally reluctant to allow DNA tests where a negative test would not actually provide enough evidence to overturn the conviction—i.e., where “We got the wrong guy” isn’t the only plausible explanation for a negative match.

                I can’t vouch for the truth of this since I can’t even remember the source, but it seems likely that that would sometimes be the case, and in such cases it would make sense to deny post-conviction DNA testing, not only because it would be a waste of money, but because the defendant’s attorney could then go to the media claiming that the judge had refused to overturn the conviction despite a negative DNA match, conveniently neglecting to mention that the negative DNA match didn’t actually prove anything.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                I do remember the source now. It was Joshua Marquis’s response essay in March’s Cato Unbound. It was actually about district attorneys, not judges:

                In response to the Senate hearings, the National District Attorneys Association, on whose board I have sat since 1997, adopted the policy that DNA tests should be afforded at any stage of a proceeding—even after all appeals have been denied—if the testing can reveal actual guilt or innocence. There is little downside to a DNA test for a convicted murderer when the test won’t answer any question regarding guilt. But a defense attorney will demand one because his job is to cast doubt on any part of the state’s case, not just that which establishes guilt or innocence.

                This policy makes sense to me, and probably explains in at least some cases why requests for DNA testing are denied.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Well that, and obviously setting a precedent where any future technological advance (like DNA testing) triggers a re-trial of every prisoner in the system, has to be daunting as well.

                But good god if we would end the WOD and stop criminalizing every damn near thing, we’d have a smaller prison population to work with, and maybe it wouldn’t be quite so daunting.

                Gettin’ way off topic here, so I’ll stop.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                But good god if we would end the WOD and stop criminalizing every damn near thing, we’d have a smaller prison population to work with, and maybe it wouldn’t be quite so daunting.

                Actually, most prisoners are in prison for crimes that even the most hardcore libertarian would regard as legitimate. Only about 25% nationwide are in for victimless crimes. That’s significant, to be sure, especially if you’re one of them. And a 25% reduction in prison population would be great if it could be done without putting real criminals back on the streets. But it’s not a game-changer.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                1 in 4 is not insignificant, especially if you consider prison part of a feedback loop – that is, some of the recidivists maybe went into the joint the first time *for* a joint, learned how to say, burgle, on the inside (since they weren’t gonna be able to get a decent job when they got out anyway), then got put back in the second time for the burgling.

                Also, some percentage of the ‘non-victimless’ crimes (killings, muggings, burglary, etc.) were doubtless committed by either addicts, or soldiers in territorial disputes or deals gone bad. There’d be fewer addicts needing to rob, if the black market’s back was broken and the drugs correctly priced/available in maintenance doses; and the drug gang violence would be nil.

                So, I suspect ending the WOD would yield a somewhat greater than 25% reduction in prison population, since I think we’d see a reduction in crimes with victims too.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                I was going to say something snarky about how at least Texas puts the decision about whether to commute capital sentences in the hands of the retarded, but I had a different thought:

                Why aren’t conservatives up in arms about Texas flouting Supreme Court decisions: don’t they care about process?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I wish there was a route to disenfranchise Texas entirely. They don’t deserve statehood.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                I vaguely recall that Texas offered to do something of the sort voluntarily some time back, and that that didn’t go over so well. I swear, there’s no pleasing you Yankees.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                No, they’re happy to oppose those judicial activists in D.C. who are trying to manage state affairs. And that’s not snark.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Oh sure. I was more critiquing the abosolutist side of the argument: abortion = murder, so it ought to be prohibited. It seems to me that the only way someone who thinks that view is the end of the debate could account for a difference of opinion is by attributing irrationality to that person, or moral depravity, or that they’ve brainwashed by a powerful cabal of Stalinistas Progressive Operatives.Report

            • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

              “If liberals were rational, they’d be libertarians. ;)”

              I think you have that backwards! LOLReport

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Though I should also say that there are a great many dilemmas that need to be addressed by the pro-life side that very rarely are.

      Pregnancy is a lot harder on women than it is on men. Yes, yes, we all know the one guy who threw up with his wife every morning. Pregnancy is a lot harder on women than it is on men. Men who are pro-life would do best to at least *ACKNOWLEDGE* this fact.

      Hell, parenthood tends to demand more from the mother than it does from the father. Yes, yes, we all know several dads who do their fair share of heavy lifting as well as the delightful male couples who are both raising children (and whose marriages should be acknowledged by the government, by the way) but the point remains that, in general, the old stereotypes about mothers doing more parenting tends to tend true. That might be another thing worth acknowledging at the beginning of the debate.

      It might also be worthwhile to acknowledge that on a moral conscience level, it’s easier to deal with someone else doing something than to deal with doing something yourself… and, as such, men don’t have to wrestle with having aborted a child in the same way that women will have to wrestle with having aborted a child. Yes, yes. We all know the one guy who never stopped being torn up about the woman in his past who got one and the one girl who, for some reason, has had three and doesn’t see it as a big deal at all (it’s like having a skintag removed!) but, for the most part, the moral issues dealing with abortion have more weight fall on women than on men and failure to acknowledge that is a failing as well.

      Acknowledging all of those things strikes me as something that the pro-life side doesn’t do half as much as it should.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        JB, do you think that an ardent pro-lifer can acknowledge those issues and still maintain a vigorous opposition to abortion?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:


          In the same way that I ascribe moral value to the parasite/skintag but still think that whether a woman gets an abortion is none of my business (let alone under my jurisdiction).

          I just put more emphasis on this thing than on that thing.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            I’m a little confused. Are you saying that considering those other issues wouldn’t effect their views of the morality of abortion, or that it wouldn’t effect their support for making abortion illegal (except in self-defense)?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              For some it might. For others it might make them waver, sure.

              But it’s still possible for an ardent pro-lifer to acknowledge those issues and still maintain a vigorous opposition to abortion.

              I mean, I’m pro-choice… even though I know that sex-selection abortions are responsible for killing millions and millions of women in misogynist cultures such as some that exist in Asia. Even though I suspect that there are sex-selection abortions going on in North America. Even though I fear that abortion might someday be used to kill a number of homosexuals in the womb…

              Even if I acknowledge the moral wrongness of killing gay fetuses for no reason other than that they’re gay.


              It’s none of my business. It’s certainly not my jurisdiction.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Ahh, good. I think that might be a different issue. I think the reasons you’re giving for you’re support for keeping abortion legal (or not making it illegal) are can’t be gleaned from a consideration of how pregnancy and child-rearing disproportionately effects women, or the rights women might have over their own bodies, or consequentialist quality of life arguments devolving from an unexpected pregnancy, or from considerations that abortions will happen in any event so why not make them safe, or …

                Maybe I’m wrong here (and that’s why I was asking) but it seems to me that as more morally relevant factors are introduced into the abortion debate, the more difficult it is to sustain a hard-line pro-life position. (On the other hand, I think the reasons you’ve given for your personal support of choice would hold (for you) independently of any of those specific concerns.)

                That, fwiw, is what I was wondering about.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I suspect that many of the reasons for arguing that the unborn whatever you want to call it is merely a clump of cells, a parasite, a skintag stem from the desire to not have to deal with a handful of issues that make it difficult to sustain a hard-line pro-choice position.

                I mean, keep in mind: we’re talking about a large chunk of people who believe that this *IS* their jurisdiction… it’s just that justice/morality *DEMANDS* this response rather than that one. This month, anyway.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Of course there is some sort of moral obligation to the unborn. Some degree, I ought to say.Report

  28. Avatar zic says:

    Just need to add: throughout this thread, I’ve suggested the silly notion of restricting men’s fertility. I hope you know I don’t mean that; it’s just the only invasion of male bodies that rises to the same level as forcing women to go through with an unwanted pregnancy.

    Just wanted to be clear on that.Report