Full Court Press

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43 Responses

  1. RTod says:

    Honestly, I have a hell of a lot more sympathy for someone being anti-abortion in all cases than I do someone being anti-abortion except if the kid is DD.Report

    • Chris in reply to RTod says:

      Right. If someone is “pro-life,” it makes no sense to me for them to be “pro-life with the following exceptions.” As soon as you add in “with the following exceptions,” “pro-life” starts to look like it really is just “anti-reproductive freedom.”

      That said, the repeated glancing blows against reproductive freedom because a direct blow is politically and perhaps legally difficult, is really annoying.Report

      • zic in reply to Chris says:

        The exception being sought is a priori right of the fetus’ to the woman’s. Perhaps you’ve a better way of expressing that?

        The method — the full court press — is to keep trying a bunch of stuff and see what sticks.Report

        • Chris in reply to zic says:

          The exception being sought is a priori right of the fetus’ to the woman’s.

          Could you unpack that? Do you mean that the exception says the fetus’ rights, or at least the fetus’ right to live, comes before the woman’s right to control her body? If so, isn’t that the case for every “pro-life” position?

          And having watched “pro-lifers” for a couple decades now, they’re not just throwing stuff at the wall. They are very calculating. They have a pretty good idea what will work before they try it, because it’s become the cause celebre among their true believers, through systematic propaganda campaigns, before it’s ever brought before a legislature (though in the age of the internet, it can go from propaganda to legislative imperative very quickly).Report

          • zic in reply to Chris says:

            Do you mean that the exception says the fetus’ rights, or at least the fetus’ right to live, comes before the woman’s right to control her body? If so, isn’t that the case for every “pro-life” position?

            That is the pro-life position. It is not the position of the majority of Americans and it is not reflected in legal rights. They are looking for a legal precedent that shapes the perceptions (and forces the legal rights), and trying whatever they can, in a calculated manner, to force a legal precedent that can be used to justify outright outlawing abortion.

            So really, this is a matter of perspective; my framing was basketball’s full court press, with this as one play of many in the handbook.Report

      • North in reply to Chris says:

        Annoying, hell, it’s enraging- especially because it’s working. At some point, though, I cynically expect that it will hit a wall when it begins infringing on the comfort of the “have their cake and eat it too” fence sitters.Report

    • CK MacLeod in reply to RTod says:

      So, to be clear, you’re saying you disapprove of the selective abortion of the Downs-diagnosed?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        No, he’s saying he has less sympathy for someone who advocates banning abortion in only those cases.Report

        • CK MacLeod in reply to Stillwater says:

          Sorry about the commented I deleted, but Stillwater’s explanation confused me, and I’m still feeling confused.

          Tod wrote:

          Honestly, I have a hell of a lot more sympathy for someone being anti-abortion in all cases than I do someone being anti-abortion except if the kid is DD.

          Stillwater translated:

          he’s saying he has less sympathy for someone who advocates banning abortion in only those cases.

          Those aren’t the same group. They’re opposite groups. Tod’s is generally anti-abortion, but not for DD: i.e., go ahead and abort for Downs diagnosis. The other is pro-choice except for DD: i.e., abort for any reason except for DD.Report

          • Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            Right, I thought it was clear Tod meant he had more sympathy for someone who’s always “pro-life” than for someone who is “pro-life” but makes an exception for DD fetuses.

            This doesn’t commit Tod to any position except favoring consistency.Report

            • Chris in reply to Chris says:

              Also, I imagine Tod was noting that if someone says he or she is “pro-life,” and this motivates his or her opposition to abortion, but doesn’t oppose the abortion of a fetus with Down’s Syndrome, he or she is sending a strong message about the value he or she places on the life of someone with Down’s Syndrome.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                I can’t think of a significant group that fits that profile – except, in a certain sense, the parent who is “anti-abortion for own family,” but makes specifically the choice that the NYT editorial defends as “personal” even while it acknowledges that a “significant majority” or women presented with the diagnosis do proceed to abortion, as one suspects they would for a range of diagnoses.

                Most people supporting a law like the one in Ohio are, of course, consistent in the way you say Tod finds more sympathetic. There are people, of course, who find the bioethical questions particularly compelling, since they begin to refer to a “life unworthy of life” ethic.Report

              • Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                I don’t think it’s a large grip group until it becomes a choice, at which point the numbers suggest it must be a common position in practice.Report

              • North in reply to Chris says:

                Exactly, the numbers of Downs syndrome babies suggests that while the country is roughly verbally divided 50/50 on the subject of abortion when the rubber hits the road and the in vitro tests pop up “Downs Syndrome” we’re functionally 10/90 in favor of the pro-choice position.Report

              • Chris in reply to North says:

                “Thou shalt not” rarely holds up when action is required, unless it’s accompanied by a “But if one has to act, thou shalt…”Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                The best explanation of the situation is that we are a somewhat ruthlessly self-interested bunch of so-and-so’s, and much more so than (perhaps for good reason) we prefer to confess or recognize, but that we are also aware of trade-offs, or have developed contradictory values or sentiments, often ones that originate in rationales that operate as second nature, so are difficult to articulate especially for those untutored in moral philosophy.

                Now for my habitual proviso: It is difficult to discuss this problem area seriously without sooner or later gravely offending someone, or, same thing, gravely contradicting one or another set of seemingly obviously compulsory moral propositions.

                Of course developmentally disabled people are not or must not be said to be of, as Tod puts it, “lesser value” than anyone else. Only a Nazi would say such a thing. Yet the North estimate above seems to suggest that 90% of us will turn out to be Nazis when it comes to our “intensely personal” decisions.

                This observation may become even more troubling if one holds to the originally feminist proposition that the “personal is political.” If the personal is political, and we are personally in favor of anti-DD genocide for our own purposes, then we are politically or collectively anti-DD Nazis enacting an anti-DD genocide: That seems to be the result that the combination of the pro-choice position and pro-choice political ideology produces, and that also requires the NYT to attempt to square a certain unpleasant and contradictory vicious circle. The combination not only prevents us from “passing laws” restricting choice, but seems inevitably to require us to refrain from expressing disquiet about, and exerting moral pressure in relation to, these “intensely personal” decisions. We cannot even acknowledge the moral problem, at least not too loudly, because in a law-governed society no harm should be able to occur (ideally no harm of any kind) without implicitly violating the or a law or pointing to a need to clarify or revise the law.

                Tod reacts with feelings of apparent outrage to the “message” or “signal” that the NYT circle-squaring perhaps inevitably sends. Chris also seems sensitive to the notion that the bioethical problem is a real problem, though, anticipating the “legal ideal” reflex, he notes that being perturbed by a problem is not, for him, the same thing as calling for laws to be passed against it. This position is the same as placing the “pre-born” DD outside the protection of the law, so remains the DD genocide pre-figured.

                There is much more to be said on this problem, which is not unique to issues of reproductive choice, but is put in sharper relief by them. What’s notable in this instance, though I would somewhat expect Tod to deny it, is that his position embodies a pro-life logic or points to it.

                When I asked Tod initially whether he disapproved of anti-DD “selection,” he denied doing so, but his latest comments about the bad “signal” strongly imply it. The pro-lifer extends the question of the signal more broadly. The outrageous signal about DD people being of lesser value (or about people being of comparative “value” at all in any moral sense) is the same signal that pro-lifers feel is being sent about (what they hold to be) human lives that for whatever reason are deemed too much a burden to carry to term.

                So, using Tod’s terms, the NYT logic also asks us to be appalled by, or strongly differ from, “crazy righties” who would force a mother to carry the child of her rapist, or of her rapist father, to term, or be asked or even required to risk her health to carry a baby in other circumstances to term, but we are also supposed to be appalled by anyone who presumes to judge any of the products of these conceptions as of “lesser value.” So it’s permissible to kill them or allow them to be killed – or to pre-empt their existence if “kill” seems like too strong a word – but not to think less of them on the off-chance that their coming into existence has not been successfully pre-empted.

                I’m not going to attempt to answer all of the attendant moral philosophical questions in a blog comment. I have been arguing these issues for long enough to be very well aware of the arguments that, say, zic would be able to introduce here on behalf of women and mothers, and no doubt more credibly and forcefully than I would. I’m surprised that she or someone else hasn’t already attacked this gaggle of menfolk for arrogantly presuming to pronounce on this matter of primary concern to womenfolk. My only purpose is to explain why I think Tod seemed to be saying the opposite of what Tod’s friends and perhaps Tod himself would expect Tod to say.Report

              • Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                I don’t think the pro-choice position requires eliding those difficult and often very troubling moral issues. If anything does, it is not the pro-choice position, but the dysfunctional nature of the abortion debate (see, e.g., the widely discussed recent deceptive videos of fairly mundane discussions meant to make it look like Planned Parenthood is profiting from the sale of fetal tissue). In such an environment, particularly one in which anti-choice activists cease upon and distort virtually anything anyone associated with the pro-choice position says, for propaganda purposes, publicly discussing such moral questions becomes incredibly difficult to do candidly.

                That said, I’ve had such conversations, particularly about sex-selective abortions, almost exclusively with other pro-choice people, and the moral issues are discussed quite openly when it is “safe” to do so, that is, “safe” from the eyes of anti-choice propaganda producers.

                The pro-choice position allows for the possibility that selective abortions are deeply morally troubling, even deeply immoral, but that reproductive freedom is an imperative that makes prohibiting them legally practically impossible. That is, since it is difficult to outlaw internally held motivations without seriously compromising the legality of the actions, banning selective abortions, even if they are immoral, is simply not feasible if one believes that reproductive freedom is, as I said, a moral imperative.

                And of course, I do think reproductive freedom is such an imperative, as without it women cannot be independent, equal actors in our society. So while I think that selective abortions are morally troubling, I think they should be discouraged but not outlawed.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to CK MacLeod says:


            It’s a translation only in this sense: if someone says they have more sympathy for group A than group B then they also mean they have less sympathy for group B than group A (even tho it wasn’t explicitly stated!!). That’s the language and semantics work. So there really isn’t much translation there at all.

            On the other hand, treating group A and B as distinct (as you’ve done) given the context of Tod’s comment (which is strange) seems like a radical interpretation of Tod’s claim. As free standing assertions (group A: I wanna ban all abortions; group B: I wanna ban only Down’s abortions) they are and can be distinct, and not necessarily motivated by the same impulse. But even then, I don’t see how Tod’s comment can be criticized for not treating the putative assertions from two groups being on a continuum, since the context makes it clear what he means.

            ANd more to the point, none of the above analysis (I need scare quotes around that term!) leads to the conclusion that Tod “disapprove of the selective abortion of the Downs-diagnosed”, since he was talking about different types of anti-abortion advocates and not types of abortion.


            • Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

              Group B in the comment is ban abortion in every case but DD, not ban it only in DD.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Huh? I’m confused. From the link:

                the latest anti-choice salvo from Ohio lawmakers, which would criminalize abortions based on a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome,

                What am I missin?Report

              • Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

                “being anti-abortion except if the kid is DD.”

                That’s how he words group B. Seems perfectly clear to me.

                I have heard of the idea of people who would outlaw sex-selective abortions, and I imagine some of them would want to ban abortions for certain genetic abnormalities, say, but who are otherwise pro-choice, but I have never encountered such a person that I know of.

                Of course, admitting that sex selective abortions, or DD-selective abortions, raise serious ethical issues is not the same thing as wanting them outlawed (given certain common assumptions, I feel like I have to state this obvious truth).Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Ahhh. I see the confusion!!!Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                I’m trying to puzzle this out and not really getting anywhere (hence the confusion!). One thing tho, is that when Tod says ““being anti-abortion except if the kid is DD.”, he doesn’t mean an exception made by pro-choice people, since he clearly says “anti-abortion except”. So his criticism – the thing that engenders less sympathy – is the attribution of a general anti-abortion sentiment that is expressed as a selective ban prohibiting a certain type of abortion practice.

                Is that a good interpretation?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Adding to that: I concede that Tod’s literal wording is confused since being anti-abortion except when the kid has DD is the exact opposite of what the bill in question actually does. (It bans it when and only when the fetus is diagnosed with Downs.)Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                except /= only


              • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                It’s only confused if you think I was uncomfortable with the conservatives in this instance.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Hmmm, I think the argument is taking place at another level. CK – I think – is puzzled by your use of the word “except” in the above sentence, since it implies that anti-abortion folks are OK with abortion in the case of Downs babies. Chris picked up on that too (I think). I skipped right over it and read the sentence as ““being anti-abortion except only if the kid is DD.” Which is what I think you actually meant.

                So, no politics enter into this, as far as I can tell. I mean, I’ve spent a bit of time trying to figure out how CK came to the conclusion he did upthread, since it was not at all apparent by my (literally incorrect) reading of the sentence.

                Don’t know if that helps. DOn’t even know if that’s correct….Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                Look, let me just try being more verbose:

                Part of the message that I believe is being signaled from this story is:

                “Those crazy righties are so out there that they aren’t just against abortions, they’re against abortions of people with developmental disabilities.”

                This makes me profoundly uncomfortable. To be clear, the “this” i am referring to here is not the crazy righties but the implied message being sent. And because I’m now worried that people still not grok my meaning, allow me to fully flog the dead horse.

                Try reading that message again, substituting a different type of human being:

                “Those crazy righties are so out there that they aren’t just against abortions, they’re against abortions of females.”

                “Those crazy righties are so out there that they aren’t just against abortions, they’re against abortions of Mexicans.”

                There is an unspoken assumption that whomever you place in the italicized part of that message is of lesser value as a human being than the rest of us.

                This, once again, makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Maybe even more than pro-life people trying to make abortion illegal.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:


                Thanks for elaborating but – unfortunately – that doesn’t settle the debate CK, Chris and I have been having about you, your intensely personal beliefs, and your choices in semantics and grammatical constructions. CK, is right (Chris, too): what you literally said up there is that you have less sympathy for anti-abortion folks who permit aborting Downs bebbes (which is weird given the context of this post(?)) than folks who advocate a fully general ban on abortion.

                My argument is that you really didn’t mean to say any such thing. (Except/only.) (And I’m stickin to it!)Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Stillwater says:

                Not in my opinion. In the last sentence of the main paragraph you are again reversing his original statement, referring to a “selective ban,” when he refers to a selective exception (or permission).Report

              • Stillwater in reply to CK MacLeod says:


                The article Tod is responding to is all about a selective ban. Now, we can stick with Tod’s literal wording – which entails that he makes no sense at all – or we can say he misspoke (or whatever). But you’re trying to pin Tod down on a belief (or an expression) which he said he rejects. Principle of charity and all that.

                I mean, if your point is that he misspoke, then go ahead and make it!!Report

              • Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

                It makes perfect sense to me. Now I see the step you’re adding: you’re assuming he meant the opposite of what he said in order to fit it directly with how you’re reading the across from the article in the post. And really, when he says later that he doesn’t mean conservatives, he seems to be saying that he meant the opposite of what he said.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, From a logical pov, the sentence makes perfect sense; from a contextual pov it makes no sense to me whatsoever (hence my above comments). Eg, it makes no sense to me for someone to say they have more sympathy for folks who advocate a fully general anti-abortion position than anti-abortion folks who selectively allow abortion in the case of a Downs diagnosis in the context of an article about a selective ban on abortion promoted by anti-abortion activists.

                It makes even less sense when I realize it’s Tod who said it. So I think, perhaps incorrectly at this point since I’ve sorta lost my way on this topic, there’s a misstatement somewhere in there.

                I mean, clearly nothing important hinges on this so I don’t think it’s really worth pursuing except – at this point. Either you and CK or correct or your not. ANd as I said it just strikes me as bordering on incoherent that Tod would literally mean what he apparently said in the context of this post.Report

              • Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

                Yeah, Tod’s clarification makes it sound like he meant to say it the way you interpret it, he just didn’t.

                Which, again, I do not know anyone who wants to ban DD-selective abortions specifically, but doesn’t want to ban abortions more generally. It could be that some such person exists, but I’ve yet to encounter him or her. Tod, in his follow-up, seems to suggest that it exists, but I’d have to see an example.

                I believe some countries where sex-selective abortions have produced serious gender imbalances have tried to ban them, but that’s sort of like banning thinking about ice cream: sure, I can ban it, but how am I gonna know that’s what you’re doing when you could be thinking about dot matrix printers for all I know?Report

              • Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

                I don’t know how you get any interpretation than that he respects total anti- more than anti- unless DD, since that’s what he said very clearly. You seem to be flipping that last one around, but as straightforward as his comment was, perhaps I’m missing a step you’ve added yourself.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

                What am I, talking in parables? How on Earth is anyone confused about what I said here?

                FTR, Still and Chris have it right.

                Also FTR, this is one of those areas where the barb was not actually intended for the conservatives.Report

              • CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Since Chris agreed with me that Stil had it wrong, it is logically impossible for both Stil and Chris to be simply right.Report

  2. North says:

    Well this is the kind of success that I can see the Pro-Life movement achieving that might get the comfortable have cake and eat it too fence sitters to flip over to the pro-choice side if it begins to be adopted widely.Report