Abortion And The Wrong Question.

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South Dakota and other states are determined to lay Roe v. Wade at the feet of Chief Justice John Roberts and newly-minted Justice Samuel Alito. South Dakota is hoping for a thumbs down. They’re hoping the Supremes will let them stick a knife in Roe.

Pro-lifers claim they are defending human life. “Abortion stops a beating heart,” the bumper stickers say. “We believe in the sanctity of human life,” they say. They demand to know, as if they’ve come up with the perfectly apt question that will baffle and intimidate every opponent, “When does life begin?”

So, okay. Let’s talk about life.

Life exists all the way down at the bacterial level, maybe (though there’s some scientific debate) at the viral level. “Human life” exists in every cell of every human body. You can grow a perfectly human copy of yourself with the data encoded in the DNA of the cells you just killed scratching your head. You don’t get a baby without a fetus, you don’t get a fetus without an embryo, you don’t get an embryo without a blastocyst, and you don’t get that blastocyst unless you start with a live sperm and a live egg.

Live sperm. Live egg. Living. Undeniably human. But pro-lifers seem curiously indifferent to that human life. They aren’t trying to outlaw hot showers or the female menstrual cycle.

So, “When does life begin?” was never the right question. It was just the Right’s question.

The real question is when does a living thing acquire a right to go on living?

The uncomfortable answer is that it aquires that right when we say it does. We don’t protect skin cells – millions killed every time you take a drink of whisky or cut yourself shaving. We don’t protect fully-formed walking, talking homo sapiens when they behave badly or get in the way of our pursuit of a military objective.

We kill human cells, and we kill fully-formed humans. We knowingly risk the lives of all sorts of fully-formed humans, and do it knowing that decisions we take will doom thousands — anyone want to lower the speed limit to 10 mph? No? So you want to kill 30,000 Americans every year in car accidents?

Shall we close the mines? Should human life sacrificed for coal? Should we stop commercial fishing? All those human lives lost for swordfish? Maybe we should cease building bridges. Every time a major construction project is undertaken some actuary sits down and coldly calculates the likelihood that a human being will die for the latest freeway overpass or mall. When we rebuild ground zero in New York, someone will die doing the job, count on it. Shall we not rebuild because all life is sacred?

We make life and death calls every minute of every day. And we decide to kill, or allow the deaths of, tens of thousands, millions, of people for reasons of efficiency, profit, convenience, principle, power . . .

There are actual, living, breathing, terrified, crying children being slaughtered all over the world today. Right now, as you’re reading this. And we do nothing to save them. And then, there are collections of cells the size of a pinhead. . .

So, what is going on with the pro-life side? They aren’t protecting all human life. They’re singling out one type of human life: the blastocyst-embryo-fetus. They are playing God: deciding that a blastocyst in the womb of a woman in South Dakota is sacred, but the life of her daughter driving in a car on an interstate where the speed limit is 70, is not.

We like to talk about all human life being “sacred.” It makes us feel good. But it’s baloney. We pick and choose. We assign value. We draw little magic circles around some human life, and exclude the rest. We accept the death of this human and that, and defend the life of another. We took a shot at Al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri, missed him and killed innocent people instead. And we would do it again, wouldn’t we? We used a missile to do the job because sending in a team would have risked the lives of our soldiers and their human lives are infinitely more “sacred” than the lives of whatever poor mother’s children got between our missile and our prey.

We play God. We play God with life all the time. “God” is a game on our X-Box.

So why exactly is the blastocyst-embryo-fetus sacred to the pro-life side? Why is this where they spend their blood, sweat and donations? I don’t know. But I suspect there is a mix of motives. I believe most pro-lifers haven’t spent five minutes thinking the issue through, they respond to emotional appeals and act out of pure sentiment undiluted by analysis. Many believe what they are told to believe by their religious authorities. Others, I believe, are motivated by an instinctive dislike of free will. Others by pure political calculation.

People are perfectly free to decide for themselves what constitutes a human life deserving of protection. We each have a little lifeboat in our imaginations, and we play God, deciding who should be saved and who should not. But we can’t kid ourselves that we aren’t playing the game. The least we owe ourselves is the truth: it’s not nature or science or some chiseled-in-granite moral code that decides who lives and who dies, which life is sacred, and which life is expendable, which cry we’ll hear and which we’ll ignore. We do that.

When night falls in the Sudan tonight, Janjaweed killers will descend on a village, snatch a child from his mother’s arms, and murder him because he has black skin. In Cambodia a child sex slave, sold into bondage by desperate parents, will be raped and will begin to die of HIV. In Guatemala, the child your cleaning lady left behind to find work in America, will die of hunger and disease. We are not going to save those children. We aren’t going to really try. We’re going to twist the joystick on our X-Box version of the God game and save a clump of cells instead.

  • http://mooreisfatduhimstoopidilikeanncoulterandchickenfries.ytmnd.com/ Jimmy the Dhimmi

    The uncomfortable answer is that it aquires that right when we say it does.

    Exactly. Thats why citizens of South Dakota decided that all autonomous, individual human organisms are human beings (which the sperm and egg are not), they elected representatives, who then drafted legislation, ect… Your statement, Mike, is precisely why Roe v. Wade was poorly decided. The Judges in that case said: “it aquires that right when we say it does.”

  • http://cantankerousbitch.blogspot.com/ Cantankerous Bitch

    As to the question of whether or not “The Right” has thought the issue through, here’s an example of some of their “warriors”:

  • w

    Whoa there. Did you just say that abortions are as necessary as 70mph highway speed limits?

    I agree that legislating the beginning of life is tricky. Do you prosecute a woman who has a beer if she doesn’t yet know she’s pregnant?

    All your other vaguely extracted examples about our society’s valuations of life and terrible crises that go on in other countries aside: what we as humans can do is take a small step in the direction of respecting life, no matter how many gory or dirty human life abuses you can think of. Whether or not it – or any anti-abortion – ever succeeds against a tide of liberalism, is beside the point.

    For a so-called moderate blog, this pseudo-intellectual attempt at anesthetizing us to the worldwide realities of death clings very little to the argument against abortion. You can go as far as the argument to protect sperm and eggs, but no further without logically smashing your premise.

    Here goes:

    Are sperm and eggs life? They don’t match some of the definitions of life. They don’t reproduce themselves. They don’t metabolize. Much like viruses, they are data carries. Now, a zygote is the beginning of a true life form: humanity. Sperm alone can’t be linked to humanity. Neither can eggs. But the first cell they make together can be developmentally tied to homo sapiens. So legislatively, a line can be drawn there.

    But again, do we jail women who drink a beer or smoke the day after conception? Assault? Negligent homicide perhaps? If not, can a woman deny she knew she was pregnant if she just happened to take the day-after pill? It seems that the easiest way to legislate humanity is to say when it exits the womb. (Partial birth abortions still make no sense in this case).

    So the quandary is there. Perhaps science will one day give us a better way to legislate abortion. Until then, many pro-lifers like myself will just have to admit that legislating this is hopeless. Attempts in South Dakota are valiant but even they know its not going to succeed.

  • http://mooreisfatduhimstoopidilikeanncoulterandchickenfries.ytmnd.com/ Jimmy the Dhimmi

    I don’t see Code Pink or NARAL members advocating a military occupation of Sudan, or protesting Sharia law, or applauding President Bush for ending the Taliban regime or once-and-for all stopping the Kurdish holocaust. C’mon Michael, its a straw-man argument.

    If saving a “clump of cells” is not such a big issue compared to the other tragedies in the world, why doesn’t the left just drop the issue, let the South Dakotans have thier way and move on to more pressing matters?

    The “wrong question” in the case of abortion not anything that pro-lifers are asking, rather it is the question that pro-choicers always turn to; the question of “women’s rights.” You have adressed in this post that it truly is a question of when life begins, otherwise the “I’m pro-choice except for late term abortions” argument falls on its face.

  • http://austincentrist.blogspot.com/ Paul Silver

    My views on this evolve, as does societies. What was once acceptable or standard is no longer.

    I am fine with a woman’s right to choose with occasional adjustments to limit irresponsibility. I have a problem with a woman waiting 120 days to arbitrarily decide she doesn’t want the child.
    I don’t have a firm ethical standard for making these choices. Generally I want to promote optimize freedom. The rest is very wiggly.

  • http://sporkmonger.com/ Bob Aman

    Michael, while I agree that pro-lifers tend to focus on the wrong questions, I think most of the argument you present here is wrong. It’s not a question of whether a living being dies. It’s a question of whether a defenseless living being dies as a result of aggression. As Jimmy said, you’ve erected a strawman argument here. A 70 MPH speed limit vs a 10 MPH speed limit has little to do with injustice. And Sudanese children die outside the realms of our control. We could interfere, but until someone invites us to, it’s a violation of another country’s sovereignty. You know as well as I, that we cannot police the world (as amply demonstrated in Iraq), but that doesn’t mean we cannot police ourselves. And clearly, for civilization to continue to exist, some semblance of justice must be served. The question then that remains is, “Is an abortion an act of aggression against a defenseless living being?” And I don’t think anyone has a good answer — neither the right nor the left.

  • Meghan

    the wrong question, indeed, but i’ll take it up anyway.

    the ‘when life begins’ argument is a clever ruse to avoid talking about the real issues, which are predictibly: sex and power. this post points out that the ‘when life begins’ argument has no logical endpoint. the potential for human life exists in an egg, but you don’t see pro-lifers jumping up and advocating women have as much sex as possible so that the fewest number of eggs as possible go un-lived. no. it’s the opposite message:don’t have sex unless you want to be a mommy.

    this smacks of the religious ideals of chastity in women and virtue in pureness etc. well, not everyone is religious like that. not everyone ascribes to that book…or that book either (it’s not only christianity).

    the abortion argument in america is about sex and who should and can have sex. if you’re poor and can’t afford birth control: no sex for you. if you’re poor and can’t afford to support a baby: no sex for you. if you have money to pay for birth control and doctors visits, better yet health insurance that will cover it: get it on as much as you want. if you have the means to support a child without government assistance: go for it, all day if you like.

    this doesn’t have anything to do with when life begins, it has to do with who can and cannot have sex. if pro-lifers really care about life and abortion, why aren’t they advocating that health insurance, medicaid etc. cover brith control? why aren’t they advocating better government programs to assist poor mothers? why aren’t they adopting unwanted children in record numbers? because it’s not about life, it’s about their moral judgements and values regarding sex.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    Sorry, but nothing you wrote made any sense to me. It is absurd to deny that a sperm cell is alive. And is human. Likewise egg cells. You have no scientific basis for drawing that conclusion, only a political necessity.

    There’s a reason people are hysterically demanding that we outlaw human cloning: because we know perfectly well we are on the threshold of being able to turn any single cell into a full-blown human being.

    And of course I made no attempt to deny any legislature, or any individual, the right to decide when life is worthy of protection. On the contrary, I made the point that we all play that game.

    And far from trying to anesthetize anyone, I pointed out that we do anesthetize ourselves to deaths that don’t fit our chosen parameters.

    As for anything smashing my premise, I’m not convinced you know what my premise was.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    It’s a straw man argument because NARAL doesn’t call for invading Sudan? This is the problem with seeing every issue through a Left-Right prism. I’m actually capable of believing both sides are full of sh*t. And since I don’t get my marching orders from NARAL (and if you read my blog you’d know just how true that statement is) I’m not required to advance only those arguments which are supported by NARAL’s actions.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    If it’s not a question of whether a living being dies, why does the pro-life side say it’s a question of whether a living being dies? I specifically address the argument they make. You want to change the argument to one about “agression?” Fine. But that’s not the pro-life argument, and it’s not the one I was addressing.

    As for Sudanese children they do not die outside the realm of our control. If we have the right to intervene to bring democracy to Iraq, why wouldn’t we have an identical right in Sudan? You are doing exactly what I said: you’re playing God, setting up rules of your own devising, writing off one life while focusing on another.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    I would caveat that a bit by saying that it applies to some percentage of pro-lifers. I don’t know how many, what percentage, but the answer is not zero.

  • debsay

    “the abortion argument in america is about sex and who should and can have sex. if you’re poor and can’t afford birth control: no sex for you. if you’re poor and can’t afford to support a baby: no sex for you. if you have money to pay for birth control and doctors visits, better yet health insurance that will cover it: get it on as much as you want. if you have the means to support a child without government assistance: go for it, all day if you like.”

    Oh come on…. how much are Trojans in your neighborhood???? Spermicides??? You can always use some type of protection and if ‘she’ can’t afford it then make ‘him’ pay for it!!!!

    “this doesn’t have anything to do with when life begins, it has to do with who can and cannot have sex. if pro-lifers really care about life and abortion, why aren’t they advocating that health insurance, medicaid etc. cover brith control? why aren’t they advocating better government programs to assist poor mothers? why aren’t they adopting unwanted children in record numbers? because it’s not about life, it’s about their moral judgements and values regarding sex.”

    Better government programs? You want to know what would change the tide of poverty in urban areas??? Give it about 3 generations – cut off Government programs that reward idiot and irresponsible behavior, things will be ‘really rough’ for a couple of generations because they are used to the Government bailing them out of every dumb decision that they make. By the time the 3rd generation came along, they would be doing better in school, fewer drop-outs, fewer out of wedlock pregnancies, and less poverty. Women would have more respect for themselves out of necessity, they would only be getting serious about ‘men that can help support them, successful men’ and not on the highschool dropout with no job prospects or initiative of getting anywhere… give these guys ‘no access to poontang’ and they will be studying in school, trying to pass, so they can impress girls and get dates. Poverty would drop down because you wouldn’t have as many single parent households (which is almost a life sentence of poverty), women wouldn’t be so free to share themselves without some protection or careful consideration of the man’s prospects.

    It’s not about ‘power’ it’s about common sense!!! Try a little bit of it, it only hurts at first…

  • Meghan

    michael: you are very right, i do not mean to suggest that all pro-lifers hold this position, i’m sure there are some who do the very things i suggested such as advocating bc, better programs, adopting etc. i do, however, believe it holds true for many.


    so, if i understand correctly sex is a rewad for doing well in school and generally being successful in life? the very terms you use to describe sex, as women granting “access” and “sharing themselves” illustrates that this is, indeed, about power. i also saw a hint of blaming the poor performance of urban males in education on their oversatisified libidos. interesting.

    forgive my lack of common sense, but you’re saying that by cutting off all that big fat government windfall (by way of example, the max benefits in the state of missouri is under $600/mo. total and that’s with children), then people will crawl out of the government-provided lap of ghetto-luxury and ‘git jobs’ and stop reproducing, thus ending urban and rural poverty? lack of motivation and too much sex is to blame, as opposed to woefully inadequate resources? is that right?

    your argument articulates exactly the pro-life position i was speaking of. you are advocating that sex is the root of the urban and rural poor’s problems, and the lack of abortion as an option is a form of retribution for engaing in this activity without the resources to support a child each and every time a woman, as you put it, gives “access to the pootang”.

    how is this ok? when did sex become reserved for those who could afford it? i think that’s really inhumane. i think we should leave the business of controlling people through sex to the advertising industry, not government.

  • http://mooreisfatduhimstoopidilikeanncoulterandchickenfries.ytmnd.com/ Jimmy the Dhimmi

    Michaele Reynolds, It appears to me that you are setting up the pro-life movement as being callous, or ill-compassionate because they focus on the unborn rather than other preventable human tragedy. But the pro-choicers focus on the same issue while claiming to promote justice for the life of the mother! I just think what goes on in the Sudan is a totally unrelated issue here.

    Meredith, If the “right question” regarding abortion is one of sex and power, and NOT one of when life begins, then let me ask you this: Do you support late term or partial birth abortions, and if not why? (address the sex and power angle only please)

  • Meghan


    It’s Meghan, not Meredith, but whatever.

    I honestly haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about partial-birth and late-term abortion. So, to start, i’m not very educated in that area or on the different aspects of the procedure that each one entails.

    However, I don’t see how supporting a ban on late-term abortions/partial-birth abortions would undermine my argument, because the initial choice would exist. There are always the cases of women not knowing they are preggers until it’s way too late, but there are also cases of people finding out they don’t want to be parents until it’s way too late (like say, when the kid is 8). So, I don’t think the issue is necessarily strapped to the whole where life begins debate. Parents don’t maintain a neverending right to decide whether or not they want to be parents, of course, so placing a bright line would be necessary, but my stance is that the line should provide for some window of choice, POST-SEX. (i can just hear the counterargument: people have the CHOICE whether or not to have sex). I want to be clear that I believe the only meaningful choice is one that occurs a reasonable time after conception, otherwise as my argument above states, it’s really an argument about sex, not babies.

    This will be horribly unpopular, but I wouldn’t be bothered by a resolution that determined all pre-birth decisions are matters of medical expertise and medical privacy, which should stay within the confines of the doctor/patient relationship until live birth.

  • Meghan

    um, that odd little happy face icon is supposed to be the number eight. i have no idea, and couldn’t make that happen again if i tried…

  • GN

    To All,
    It is not about sex and control … it is about control!! The “right” has an agenda of control where birth is involved and where death is involved (witness Terry Shiavo). The reams of written data and the endless point-counterpoint discussions rend nothing in terms of understanding the complexities becuse it is not complex at all. It is, as Mike very clearly pointed out, selective to the agenda.

    the argument that Sudan, or Iraq, Or anywhere else is not jermaine to the issue is wrong, but, just to give it a local perspective think about this. When was the last time you heard of a pro-lifer (be they the local soldier of whatever ilk from Catholic to congressperson) stop on the way home from their very important support of “life” protest at ANY inner-city street corner with a sign saying ” Drug dealers and Hoodies – stop shooting our children and old folks cause your dope deal went wrong … or … Stop killing gang rivals(even they are selective in the color of the bandana they wear) You will not see them saving those lives … cause bullets do much mor damage than words. THAT is selective pro-life support …. and for one reason only. I that instance THEY don’t have CONTROL.

  • Gerry

    Hey GN,

    Is a foetus a human life?

  • Lewis

    For me, abortion is an issue of the heart, not the law. I know beyond all doubt that it is wrong. I feel this strongly because in my life, I’ve had the fortunate experience to find out exactly the result of abortion.

    22 years ago my wife found out she was pregnant. We were poor and busy college students. Having a baby at that time was going to be a major hassle. She decided to have an abortion and I supported her decision, although having the baby was just fine with me also.

    So we went to the clinic, but at the very last minute she changed her mind. I thank God every day. 22 years later, I have a wonderful daughter. She is smart, caring and passionate about life. Oh yeah, she’s a babe too. And she’ll vote for democrats, if you can believe that. She’s in medical school now, getting straight A’s and preparing in a career to help heal injured people. She wants to get married and raise a family. Yes I am a very proud papa.

    This is an example of what’s missing in the abortion debate – the potentially precious life that never gets lived. A life that could touch many others in a great way. In the meantime, we nit-pick technicalities in-between the lines of our Constitution and some (like Mr. Reynolds) engage in mental masturbation trying to come up with new and more creative rationalizations to convince ourselves that abortion is no big deal.

    Abortion is a choice that’s way too easy to make. How often is that choice made because of the inconvenience of the moment and by people who are still young and not wise enough to fully understand the consequence. As responsible adults, we should not make abortion easy nor trivialize it.

    I someday hope I can vote for a progressive democrat again. I strongly believe in many of their ideals. But the obvious hypocrisy of their support of abortion as compared to the ideals they claim to support leads me to conclude they’re just total fakes.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    That’s your experience. Mine is almost exactly opposite, including the age and the poor college student thing. If I believed in God I’d thank him every day — on behalf of the fetus in question — that the woman and I made the decision to have an abortion. Neither she nor I was haunted by the decision — it made sense.

    Now, many years later, I have two kids I love with all my heart. The abortion has nothing to do with them. The abortion didn’t ruin my life, or the woman’s life, and yes, I do know. Neither of us lies awake at night weeping.

    Every man produces millions of sperm. Every woman produces thousands of eggs. Each of those eggs can be seen as a “potentially precious life that never gets lived.” Every time your wife gets her period and you’ve failed to fertilize her, it’s another precious unlived life wasted.

    This is why abortion should be legal: because you have your experience, and I have mine, and we are different people, with different lives. What worked for you, would not have worked for me or the woman.

  • http://ambivablog.typepad.com/ambivablog amba

    Michael — apologies but you’re full of it about the sperm and the egg. They are alive just in order to, and just long enough to, get together. Neither one can survive or divide and multiply alone because they have only half the requisite number of chromosomes. A human life has 46, a sperm or an egg has 23. Won’t cut it. It’s like epoxy glue, the kind that comes in two separate tubes: neither of the components alone will glue. s**t.

  • Lewis


    I think you just made my point about trivializing abortion. If we compare an unborn child to skin cells, or put every unfertilized egg on the same level as a developing child, or say a fetus is just a clump of cells, then you can remove just about all of the deeper issues surrounding abortion. Then one can sleep better at night believing they did nothing that means anything. I mean what the hey, it was just a blastocyst. Who cares?

    I think this is an attempt to try to hide the true miracle of life, something that, with all our knowledge and technology, we still can’t figure out and I’d bet we never will. I believe we should not try to hide, but rather to openly exclaim with awe and wonder the miracle of life. This way, maybe people will think longer and harder about ALL the choices they have and maybe abortion will become a rare thing without continuing to go through this stupid fight over RvW.

    I’m sorry, I just will never agree that the so-called “right” of a woman to choose, especially if it’s a convenience thing, is more important than the life of an unborn child. Heck, it’s not even close. And I have my youngest daughter as living proof of that. I won’t judge or condemn you for the choice you made. But I’m so glad that I made a different choice than you did.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    You’re right, I’d forgotten that sperm and egg are diffferent from regular cells in that they don’t contain a full set. So I suppose what we should hold sacred, if the idea is the preservation of any human cell capable of being turned into a human being, is all the other billions of cells, each of which does carry a full DNA set and can be turned into a human.

    I’m so glad you made a diffferent choice, too, Lewis, because it was your choice, and I would never impose my choice on you. You on the other hand wish to impose your choice on me.

    You have a daughter, I have a son and a daughter. By choosing to have that baby, you forestalled the chance of having another baby six months later. The consequences ripple in all directions, Lewis. Shall we boo hoo for the son you didn’t have because you had your daughter?

    Had I chosen to have that baby 30 or whatever years ago, I would almost certainly not have had my son two decades later. And if I had not had my son, under the particular circumstances that occurred, I would not have had my daughter. Life really isn’t so simple that it can be seen as a pile of neat building blocks, with elements moved here and there with predictable results: it’s a lot more like a house of cards. Move one piece, and you have no idea what the consequences might be. And really no one but a fool sits around worrying about what might have been. None of us has any idea what might have been.

  • GN


    I believe that a Foetus is a human life … that said, I am not sure what your point is. I didn’t even address that question in my response. My response was all about selective support of life, and the energy, effort and discourse regarding procreative life. So, I will ask you a question.

    Are Crips, Bloods, students, drug addicts, soldiers, single parents, drunks, politicians, mentally retarded, and little old ladies in nursing homes ….. human life? And for your own consumption regarding the ACTUAL point of my response defined… check out the Mighty Middle. com post quoting the Bill Napoli (South Dakota politician extrodinaire) and his definition of an appropriate CHOICE for abortion.

  • Lewis

    Good morning Mike!

    I want to thank you for spending your time continuing this discussion. It’s a good thing that we both feel we can express our thoughts honestly without trashing each other.

    No, I would not want to impose my personal choices on anyone. I think the best decisions are always a result of critical thinking. Like for example, when rasing my 3 daughters, my goal was not to make decisions for them, but to teach them to think for themselves. That meant letting them learn the hard way sometimes.

    Critical thinking demands being honest with yourself, having some type of moral compass and not selectively ignoring or minimizing things that might sway your decision in a direction you really don’t want to take. That’s exactly what you are doing when you arbitrarily establish outside of the womb is where life begins. Inside of the womb, it’s not a person, just a clump of cells. That’s baloney.

    I think we should freely acknowledge abortion for what it really is – ending the life of an unborn child. We should encourage people to think long and hard about that prior to making the decision. And this should be done without everybody else trying to hang their personal morality over their head like a hammer. That goes for both sides – pro and anti.

    When we went to the abortion clinic, we took our 2 year old daughter with us. Oops! My daughter and I were quickly ushered out by two large dudes. It was my daughter that wasn’t welcome. They did not want the women inside to see a child. They didn’t want anybody to change their mind about what they were about to do. This is just plain wrong.

    This is where I believe the pro-choice crowd goes horribly wrong. The argument that the unborn child is not really a life yet is an attempt to hide the ugly truth in order to make a really difficult and important decision something a whole lot less.

    I believe RvW doesn’t matter as long as we encourage critical thinking and certainly don’t sugar coat the enormity of the decision. I have confidence that many will choose life.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    Yes, that would be baloney — if that’s what I had said. In fact, I’ve acknowledged right from the start that blastocyst-embryo-fetus is life, and human life.

    And I acknowledge that abortion is ending an unwanted life. I don’t run from blunt language, and I don’t hide behind euphemisms. I’m not with NARAL.

    So you’re arguing with a straw man, not with me. The entire point of my post was that we decide as a species, as a civilization, as a country, as a individuals, which life is worthy of protection, and under what circumstances. That was the beginning, middle and end of the thing.

    As for taking a two year old to an abortion clinic, I think that was rather tastelesss of you, frankly, like tapdancing past the amputee ward, or sitting around the hospice talking about how much you’re looking forward to next summer’s vacation. It’s not your business to decide what women need to think about or see as they’re going in to have an abortion.

  • Lewis

    Mike, by explaining the point of your post, I think we’re pretty much in total agreement. I believe the decision should be made by the country as a whole, not by handful of people sitting on the Supreme Court. Since after all, that decision should reflect the heart, soul and most important values of the civilization. This needs to include the input of all of us.

    So what kind of civilization are we? Do we truly value life as sacred? Are we trying as best we can to be consistent across the board? I think this is true in many ways. We obviously place a high value on life and have a mostly clear moral compass as a country. But for all the things we get wrong, our unwillingless to reconsider abortion and allow the country as a whole (or as individual states) to establish the standard is in my opinion, one of the big ones. Quite frankly, I want my country to be better than that.

    Have a good one.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds


    It’s actuallly pretty clear what the country wants. The country, in poll after poll after poll, wants abortion to remain legal, with some restrictions — late term and parental consent.

    The Supreme Court has never forced a single woman to have an abortion. It simply said “It’s up to you people to decide for yourselves.” So the Supremes imposed nothing. They didn’t decide for us, on the contrary, they left it up to us.

    What you are talking about is having some political entity — state legislature, Congress, whatever, take the decision away from the woman. You are suggesting that government knows best . . . except not the third branch of government. And you can couch this in feel good terms all you like, but what this means is arresting and imprisoning doctors who perform abortions, pressuring women to turn informer and, inevitably, arresting women themselves as co-conspirators. This isn’t a feel good, let us reason together thing, it’s a handcuffs and prison bars thing. The question is whether we will use force of law to compel women to deliver their babies.

  • Lewis

    Mike, we could go on and on and on. I’m quite OK with with agreeing to disagree in mutual respect for our different opinions. The point of my comments was only to state what I think, not saying I’m any more right than you are. Hopefully, this might give some insight to how crazy people like myself feel. Maybe too we might discover that we have more in common than we think. You obviously are quite comfortable with how you feel, just like I am.

    I do agree the court has never forced a woman to have an abortion. I don’t agree they left the decision up to us. I think they took that away by removing the democratic process from the equation. I’m more than willing to let our government (after all, that’s us isn’t it???) via the democratic process establish laws concerning this issue. This way we all actually have the opportunity to have input in the process. My position is to defend the totally defenseless. Unborn babies obviously need someone to do this for them. And I’ll abide by the result, whether I agree or not.

    I also don’t have a problem of using the force of law to compel a certain behavior. I mean, what are laws for anyway? Without them, there would be no civilization.

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    The Pro-Life argument is very very simple. If a woman is pregnant, the fetus is a human child with rights.

    The Pro-Choice argument is also very simple. Until the fetus is viable, it is a woman’s body and her choice.

    There won’t EVER be agreement. Anything short of a full ban on abortion is denying that a fetus is a human with rights, therefore will always be at odds with the Pro-Life movement. This is why the South Dakota law has no exemption for rape or incest, but does allow for a self-defensive abortion if the life of the mother is in danger.

    Pro-Lifers don’t need to be religious zombies to believe what they believe. “If a woman is pregnant, it is a human child with rights” is the sort of conclusion a normal person could draw, without reference to extreme ideologies or deep misogynistic impulses. Just as “Its my body, its my choice” is a conclusion a reasonable person could draw, without being a radical feminist.

    I hope Roe is overturned. This SHOULD be a state issue. If, as people say, most people want abortion legal, then they will pass laws. This will also help the democrats in future elections. The abortion litmus test is political poison. The Pro-Life position is necessarily inflexible. They don’t want a candidate that, in their view, supports the murder of children. Often times, these people WOULD vote for a democratic candidate.

    State governments can legislate what is and is not murder. They legislate and regulate medical procedures. They legislate parental rights and child welfare. They define, implement, and enforce privacy statues. They are, quite simply, the best place for the abortion issue to be defined.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    As a pro-choice Democrat, I agree. Let’s say good-bye to Roe and take this issue into the states, fight it out there. It will strengthen the pro-choice side, deprive the pro-life side of their “we wuz robbed” applause lines, and 20 years from now abortion will be legal in major states with 70% of the total population, and illegal in hillbilly country.

  • pacatrue

    Aren’t we forgetting something in this debate? The fact that the human life is inside and a part of another human life seems to have been forgotten somewhere along the way in this debate. It hasn’t been mentioned in the last 20 posts. Unborn children are not children in incubators. They are part of another person with their own legal rights. Any decision on this issue – on either side – that comes out the same whether or not the baby is part of a mother or living in a box is not the right decision.

  • http://greatamericanstory.blogspot.com Lisa

    Michael, You’ve posed an interesting and, I think, worthy alternate question, but I still don’t think it’s the right one. I think you came closer when you brought up prison bars. The right question is: do we as a society intend to punish citizens for having or performing abortions or not? Because the only real fact of abortion is that – legal or illegal – it has happened and will continue to happen in every society that has ever existed and will continue to happen in ours. The rest, as your very premise and your subsequent exchange with Lewis proves so clearly in its reflection of the pro-life/pro-choice debate, is opinion. And very polarized opinion that is not likely to be resolved – I was going to say in our lifetimes – but it’s probably more accurate to say ever.
    Personally, I think its ridiculous to believe that a public which, in poll after poll after poll, asserts its belief that abortion is a woman’s right will stand by idly while pro-lifers start locking women – and their doctors – up. And if that is not their intent, why do they bother?
    Why not instead direct their attention to advocating the sort of sex education programs and access to birth control that would make an actual impact in terms of reducing the number of abortions – legal or illegal – that actually occur? The answer to that being that of course the most adamantly pro-life proponents out there are composed of a group of people who wish instead to preach abstinence and cut or prevent social programs which might bring birth control and the knowledge to use it to those most in need, which I guess brings us right back to Meghan’s point. Sex and power indeed.

  • Chris

    I see the whole issue as pretty simple.It is about choice and morality.If I choose to drive 70 mph or work at a hazardous job,ect. that is my choice.
    There are always alternatives.In regard to the abortion issue,your choice is, when you have sex,wether you use protection or not.If you conceive a child then,that is your responsiblity.That child cannot speak for him or her self.
    You do the crime,you do the time.To me abortion is the easy way out of a situation that you choose to get yourself into.It’s a cop out and,no scientific argument about when life begins could ever change my mind.That life begins at the moment of conception,period..

  • carl

    I totally agree with your article, well written. The one thing that I think I would like to say further is that once the egg is fertilized the true out come that will result is that it will eventually die. Years later maybe, but will die none the less.The only reason for the fertilization is to continue the species.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    The fact that an “out” is the “easy out” does not make it inherently wrong, unless you subscribe to the belief that life must be miserable. I speed, I see a cop, I hit the brakes, that’s the “easy out” The virtuous thing no doubt would be to go on speeding and risk the ticket.

  • EL

    Excellent discussion! I’d like to toss in a slightly medical perspective on the question. As a doctor, I see areas where we as a society constantly make choices of life and death, sometimes very cavalierly. By not making it easier for the poor to get expensive medicines, for instance, some will die, and some of those will be babies and children.

    Likewise, by our lax laws on gun ownership and safety training, and our tolerance for violence, children die of gun shot wounds. Note that the reason this occurs is gun proponents’ demand that their “right to bear arms” be honored above the lives that are lost due to gun accidents and deliberate violence – another place of where one group’s rights are held to trump an absolute emphasis on “life.” When this sort of thing comes up, counter-argument seems to be the difference of a sin of comission and a sin of omission, which I believe doesn’t wash theologically.

    So the attitude seems to be “children must be born, after that you’re on your own,” and the description I’ve seen of the antiabortion groups of “pro-birth” rather than “pro-life” struck a chord for me.

    The thing that disturbs me most about the SD law (and I found a lot of it disturbing) is the lack of provision for the health of the mother. Only if she will die – which would also kill the fetus – may a doctor abort. This says that the mother’s life is always absolutely subordinate to the fetus, abortion can occur only if the fetus will die anyway and the mother’s life is threatened. If the fetus dying anyway is not sufficient, I find it even worse, that if the fetus is, say, anencephalic (no brain, such babies die within hours to a few days), the mother must still carry and nourish the fetus until birth and the resultant death. Anencephalic babies are generally diagnosed on the 10-14 week ultrasound. I sincerely feel for the women who are now mandated to continue through 6 months of pregnancy, knowing that their baby will die within a day of delivery.

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    El, the SD law seems to be staking its claim in a straightforward way. It is saying…

    1. A fetus is human, and has human rights.
    2. As a human, to terminate the fetus would be murder, and the States have a well understood right to legislate murder.
    3. A woman can have an abortion if her life is in danger. This is essentially explicitly stating a right of a woman to self-defense, one which she would have ALWAYS possessed implicitly.
    4. The law also declares that where knowledge of the pregnancy is impossible, such as the first few weeks when pregnancy tests don’t work, that no crime will have been committed.

    Now, the only way the law could be consistant with these principals, is to take the absolutist position in cases like Anencephalic babies. If you could not terminate them outside the womb, you can’t terminate them inside. As for point #4, the law is simply stating that you won’t be held responsible for actions that led to the death of a fetus, if you reasonably could not have known of its existance.

    The SD law is basicly stakings its claim on very basic, unshakable principals of law. The right of the State to legislate murder. The right of the State to regulate medical practices. The responsibility of the State to ensure child welfare. The responsibility of the State to protect the right to self-defense(for mother and child). The only question here is #1, is a fetus a human being. Every other part of the law flows from that.

    If this does go to the Supreme Court, I don’t think the court will ask, “Is the fetus is a human person?” They will ask, “Do the States have the right to determine who is a human person?”

  • EL

    Again, interesting discussion! Going to the point of anencephalic babies (and reserving the right to come back later to other points):

    “Anencephalic babies. If you could not terminate them outside the womb, you can’t terminate them inside.”

    However, you can legally remove an anencephalic baby from life support, and I don’t think most pro-birth people would disagree, as the baby is brain-dead. One could argue that abortion would be removing the fetus from life support early, rather than late after it is born. The issue that gets left behind when one gives absolute primacy to the blastocyst, embryo, or fetus, is that the woman must provide “life support” with her own body.

    Another situation I’d be curious as to your thoughts and the reasoning behind them:

    Multiple pregnancies pose much greater risks for the babies involved. Some pregnant women will have pregnancy reductions, which means aborting one or more of the fetuses at the 6-10 week stage. This clearly improves the possibility of survival for the remaining fetuses. We know these are usally desperately wanted children, since multiple pregnancies are most often a consequence of fertility drugs.

    Should a woman pregnant with septuplets have that option? Would you deny her the chance to try to save some of the babies?

  • http://sporkmonger.com/ Bob Aman


    While the typical pro-lifers may not make “aggression” argument (at least the Republican ones, anyways — it is typical of the occaisional pro-life Libertarians) that doesn’t mean that it isn’t instructive as a divider between what one might object to reasonably and what constitutes a gross overreaction. Which was kind of my point. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    And you will find that I generally object to our entrance into Iraq for many of the very same reasons that I would object to any hypothetical entrance into Sudan. I am not being inconsistent here.

    Frankly, I think you’re being intellectually dishonest.

  • http://www.gregpiper.com Greg

    A skin cell is not a self-contained human being. If a skin cell dies, the person doesn’t die. You really had to jump through some philosophical hoops to ignore the basic biological fact that a human being dies in an abortion. The most intelligent writer in abortion today, the pro-choice Will Saletan of Slate, agrees. Peter Singer of “you should be able to kill a month-old child legally” fame agrees. But I’m glad you think abortion should be handled at the state level. You’d see far more restrictions on its practice than is possible with the Supreme Court lineup for the foreseeable future. Legal, sure. Unfettered, not at all.

  • http://sporkmonger.com/ Bob Aman

    Also Michael, the virtuous thing no doubt… would be to not speed at all. Once you’ve gone over the speed limit there’s not really any virtue to be had. Also, this is why analogies suck, because who knows what that’s supposed to mean when translated back into the abortion argument.

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    I think the ambiguity of the discussion is due to the fact that the law has never felt the NEED to assert who is and is not human. Historically it was just ASSUMED that an unborn baby was a human. It was assumed that way for a long time, right up until the time it wasn’t. Children, Elderly, Incompetent, Prisoners, etc all have acquired a basic minimum of rights because they were human. Our concept of rights evolved to be more inclusive, to cover more and more things that weren’t explicitly spelled out. But, nobody got around to explicitly stating what a human is, it didn’t used to be necessary. In our system you don’t need to. Since our legal system is adversarial, a notion will stand until challenged.

    Back on topic…

    El, since the SD law is asserting that a fetus is a human person, deserving of rights, then all previous law regarding withholding of life support is valid. The States don’t deny the humanity of a brain dead patient, they simply have decided that where an legally incompetent person is on life support, that the person’s legal guardian(typically next of kin) can make the choice to remove active lifesaving measures. This precedent would still stand with an Anencephalic baby. They key here is, the legal guardian isn’t saying, “I don’t want to support this person.” The legal guardian is saying, “As legal guardian, I am asserting the patient’s own rights, on his behalf, to withhold treatment.” And baring obvious misconduct on the part of the guardian, the States and courts have supported this. The SD law, by asserting that the fetus is a human person, would give the fetus these rights also.

    With regard to pregnancy as analogous to life support, I don’t support that interpretation, and I don’t think the court would either. The court would more likely just extend a mother’s normal Duty of Care to include pregnancy. Even if a child is born, a parent is legally responsible for its care, until the parental rights and responsibilities are legally transfered to another. The law has, and likely will continue, to put burdens on parents, in deference to a child’s welfare.

    El, I like the way you frame you question about the multiple births. I think the SD law would be up in the air on this, it would require a specific challenge. This is one of those areas where a non-pregnancy analogue is hard to device without serious contortions. This would be an issue for further legislation. Deliberately hastening the death of another though a willful act, would probably be considered murder if the mother’s life wasn’t directly threatened. So terminating baby #4, to give 1-3 a better chance, would likely be considered murder as the law stands. If we DO remove the discussion from the womb for a minute…

    If a mom and her 4 kids are in a lifeboat for an unknown number of days, and there isn’t enough food for 5 people, so she drowns two children to make the food last. She would be guilty of murder. What is weird about this situation(and I am not a lawyer) I think if she ate all the food herself, and let them all starve, she would be found innocent if she could prove that she had a legitimate fear for her life. Thats why I say that non-pregnancy analogies are really hard to come by here. I think in a “selective reduction” situation, specific legislation would need to be passed, since the level of danger would be hard to assess.(how many is too many?)

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    Let me take this back to where I started. We decide which lives are worth saving. We make value decisions. The conclusion that a murderer should forfeit his right is a judgment we make, not something necessary or obvious or indisputable. Just as we decide that collateral damage — the accidental but predictable killing of innocents in war — is acceptable. Again, that conclusion is highly debatable, not a given, not inevitable.

    People are looking for an absolute, some chiseled in granite statement they can make about the sacredness of life. But people are unwilling to go all the way. They inevitably decide that human life is sacred — except when it’s not.

    That is precisely what we do when we allow abortion. We make a decision that this particular fetal life is not worthy of protection. When we outlaw abortion we say that the fetal life is worthy of protection. But even when we say that we apply judgment to the issue, we set priorities, we conclude that this life is sacred, and that other life over there is not.

    We can argue law and morality and politics on this forever, but we cannot escape the fact that we are making judgment calls, drawing lines, making decisions that put us in the position of “playing God.” People are very uncomfortable acknowledging that it is we humans who set the value of human life, but that’s the fact. Free will is inescapable.

  • EL

    “We can argue law and morality and politics on this forever, but we cannot escape the fact that we are making judgment calls, drawing lines, making decisions that put us in the position of “playing God.â€Â? People are very uncomfortable acknowledging that it is we humans who set the value of human life, but that’s the fact. Free will is inescapable.”

    Michael, I agree completely with you here. As a physician, I made judgement calls all the time which affected people’s lives. I didn’t always feel comfortable with it, often wishing society as a whole would make the decisions, or that the family or individual patient would clearly declare a decision. All too often that doesn’t always happen.

    William, I appreciate the civil discussion, and thank you for provoking me to stretch my thinking. A few points:

    “Historically it was just ASSUMED that an unborn baby was a human.”

    That is actually not the case in my religious tradition, which is a very old one: Judaism. While totally unrestricted abortion is not sanctioned, the fetus is not considered to have the same standing as the mother until the head is out of the birth canal and the baby takes the first breath. Many Jewish sources say that only after the first 40 days of a pregnancy does the fetus have some “personhood” and even then it is regarded as less significant than the mother until the first breath.

    Continuing the discussion of anencephaly, I don’t believe that there is much decision about life support in such a case. If a patient is braindead, the doctor is in effect declaring them dead, not giving next-of-kin a choice. The choices come in the gray areas where there is some brain activity, like Karen Ann Quinlin or Terri Schiavo.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    By the way, I believe the Christian tradition likewise is not so clear. I may be wrong but I believe there was a phase referred to as a quickening — when the baby began to move.

  • Jordan

    I don’t freaking understand this debate….

    I’m a moderate, and I hate the abortion debate. In my mind, I wouldn’t make the decision to abort if my girlfriend became pregnant. I couldn’t wrap my own mind around it, for my own personal reasons (some of which may or may not be religious).

    Why can we not agree to allow people to make this decision on their own. The subtle point of this argument is that there is no black and white. So why pretend there is, from either the pro-life or pro-choice side of things?

  • EL

    Michael, I was not aware of the early Christian tradition on this, but after your post I went looking. Among early Christians, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Pope Innocent III and others felt that “ensoulment” was not immediate on conception, and some gave times, others used quickening as the marker. The matter apparently went back and forth with various Popes, until in 1869 Pope Pius IX declared any abortion to be homicide. So for most of the history of the Christian Church, early abortion was not equated to killing a person, but was a far lesser sin.

    I came across one interesting illustration:
    “Theodore, who organized the English church, assembled a penitential about 700 CE. Oral intercourse required from 7 years to a lifetime of penance; abortion required only 120 days.”

  • Andrew

    Question: If the people of SD believe that a fetus is a human being worthy of protection, why does their law not provide that committing an abortion is no different than first degree murder, and punish it in the same way? (versus the “5 year/$5,000 fine penalty)

    Seems like they don’t think the fetus is *as* human as a live born person, or else they would punish its killing as they do the killing of any other live-born person.

  • Andrew

    BTW, Michael, your original post is very well done. I think that it is an excellent point.

  • http://www.mightymiddle.com michael reynolds

    Thanks for the research. That jibes with what I sort of half-remembered. As for the penalty phase, I guess now we know why Hell has a population explosion, eh?

    Excellent point. 5 and 5 is about what you get for a burglary. Interesting.

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    Andrew, the people of SD in this case are the people of the legislature, not the electorate. If the electorate had their way, they would pass something far less strict. Likely this is a once in a career opportunity for the legislature to make this gesture.

    I don’t think the people of South Dakota will let this law stand in its present form. In fact, I don’t think that the legislators who voted for it, are in favor of this law per se (I don’t know for sure, just a hunch). This seems to be a marriage of convienience between the States Rights and the Anti-Abortion crowd. This law is a hammer to break Roe with, and an attempt to reclaim the issue for the States by making it a Soverignty issue, rather than a personal rights one. A less absolute law would not have made the necessary challenge.

    El and others, about the “assumed to be human”. I’m not talking philosophically necessarily. I’m saying, that in 1850, if you asked a woman who just found out she was pregnant, if it is a human being, she, and her husband would both likely say yes. Philosophers can’t even agree if WE exist at all… :-) People are very good about selectively ignoring inconvenient philosophies.

    As for why the penalty is set to what it is, i have no idea why they chose 5 year/$5,000. Likely they just picked something in line with other forms of medical liability. I honesty think this law is more political maneuvering, as it is heartfelt moral dedication.

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    El, about the English church… first off…. heheh :-)

    Perhaps there was a big problem with oral sex in the 700s. :-) Naughty Romans…

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    Jordan, you don’t understand it because you don’t think a fetus is a child. If you did, then moderation would be impossible. However, I think most Pro-Life people are instinctively anti-abortion, rather than any deeply held religious or philosophical belief. They are the Pro-Life people who tend to make the exception for rape and incest.

    The Pro-Choice people tend to be shrill because they fear the slippery slope. They rightly fear that if they give ground and let ANY restrictions, that they will eventually be fully restricted. This is exactly what happens in the more conservative states.

    To “allow people to make this decision on their own” isn’t possible, because that effectively hands victory to one side, the Pro-Choice side. Some social issues end up coming to head and simply HAVE to be decided, with finality. Slavery was an issue like this. For several thousand years, there was no serious social challenge to slavery. Then times changed, and in the span of about a century slavery was eradicated in the civilized world. It had become such a morally, legally, and philosophically contentious issue that avoiding the decision was impossible. The same with Woman’s Sufferage, and Child Labor.

    I certainly hope it gets decided sooner rather than later. Pro-Choice people don’t have as many kids as Pro-Life people, so the question will eventually be decided by demographics. I’d rather that Roe is dismantled now and the issue is fought in the States, rather than a constitutional amendment banning abortion in 20-30 years.

  • http://greatamericanstory.blogspot.com Lisa

    You say “A less absolute law would not have made the necessary challenge.” I’m not an attorney, but this seems to be exactly that – a less absolute law – if what they set out to do was to define a fetus as fully human.
    Isn’t a law which provides a lesser penalty for killing one form of a human a failure to provide equal protection under the law to that form and therefore an acknowledgement in and of itself that the law’s authors recognize that the unborn are (as Judaism and Early Christians would have it) less than fully human?

  • http://vernondent.blogspot.com/ Callimachus

    FYI: The “penitentials” long attributed to Theodore of Canterbury may or may not have been written by him.

    The penitential in question exacts a penance of one year or less if the aborted fetus has not yet reached forty days of development, but three years after that time.

  • pacatrue

    I guess this has sort of been brought up before with the discussion of viability, but not exactly. The debate seems to have revolved around human life with legal rights or not human life with legal rights. Perhaps an unborn baby is actually a unique thing that doesn’t fit either. It is a human living inside another human, living off of her very blood. It’s special and unlike any other situation in human experience. The closest we get apart from gestation itself is someone who is very sick and utterly dependent on another person, but even this isn’t quite right, because that sick person is not inside the other, living off of them literally. It also might come to the debate of: person A needs a kidney to survive. Only person B’s kidney is compatible with A, and B can live a normal life, after a recovery period, with one kidney. Person B would surely be a noble person for giving up her kidney, but does anyone want to lock Person B up in jail if she refuses? Even if they refuse for dumb reasons like they are tired that day or don’t want a scar on their skin, or whatever? I don’t know if this is the same or not, but I do get the feeling that gestation is special and it is not either human life or not human life. It is just what it is.

    Couple other notes: I am sure there are histories of this, but abortion and infanticide have been practiced through-out history in various ways. Some times they were punished for it; sometimes it was deemed acceptable. People have already mentioned some Christian and Jewish traditions. I believe the Romans commonly practiced exposure, which is leaving a baby post birth in some place to die. Abortion is rather common in Japan right now as well. I know there are shrines to the unborn children. The point is simply that human kind has had a long and complicated history on this issue, and it is simply false to say that everyone from time immemorial held exactly one view on this until Roe V Wade or whatever your arbitrary point is where we fell off the wagon. Also, St. Thomas and St. Augustine are not quoting some random philosophers. Those random philosophers are the ones who wrote many of the beliefs the Church holds today. It’s not far removed from digging up a quote from St. Paul and someone just dismissing it as irrelevant to Christian belief because he’s just a philosopher.

  • pacatrue

    OK, one more thing. First off, I owe a slight apology to William Crim, as I think I slightly misread his points earlier, so apologies on that. He also made the statement that we cannot leave this up to each person, because that isn’t really a null decision, but is in fact a decision for one side. The other possibility here seems to be that our government will make the choice. Anyway his statement reminds me of the view, which I have no idea if William holds or not, that a secular government/school/legal body is not truly neutral, but is in fact choosing against religious belief. I am not sure this is the case. A secular legal body should be one where its members can, privately, practice any religious belief of their choosing or not. This is not the same as an atheistic body, which additionally attempts to wipe out the private practice of its members. Similarly, making abortion legal does not perform any abortions. It gives a woman the right to decide what to do with her body and the life inside of it. In theory, you could have a pro-choice world with as few abortions as a no-choice world. The difference is only that in the latter people go to jail as well.

    I’m sorry that I am not expressing myself well here. The main point is that it’s not clear that secular and pro-choice are in fact atheist and pro-abortion.

  • http://sporkmonger.com/ Bob Aman

    I’m much happier agreeing with this.

  • Meredith

    “Similarly, making abortion legal does not perform any abortions. It gives a woman the right to decide what to do with her body and the life inside of it. In theory, you could have a pro-choice world with as few abortions as a no-choice world. The difference is only that in the latter people go to jail as well.”

    I liked this point, pacatrue, and also kudos to Michael for writing such a great post! The point for me is that if you don’t like abortion, don’t get one. If I want one, I should be able to make that choice, and I guess God (if there is one) will “get me” later. It will not hurt anyone but me if I go to hell (if there is one).

    The fact that this discussion turns to religious views (Christianity and Judaism have been mentioned) really inclines me to believe that this is just another Church and State issue. I would argue that outlawing abortion would be excessive entanglement between the government and certain religions who believe that abortion should be completely banned, especially since it seems that some religions would allow it up until a certain time.

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    Lisa… The ability to legislate something, and the severity of the penalty are seperate things. Even when the Supreme Court banned the Death Penalty, it didn’t usurp the State’s right to legislate murder.

    In the South Dakota law, the scope of the authority of the law is important, not the exact penalty.

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    pacatrue and Meredith…

    Every social issue touches the moral, therefore religious sphere. Religion is intimately involved with the moral development of its followers, that is part of the point of religion. Most of the moral(vs. legal) evolutions of any age are tied in with one religion or another. If large number of people believe that abortion is morally wrong, it doesn’t matter WHY they believe that. If they can muster the legislative numbers to enforce their will, they can. Thats how democracy works. Its how slavery was abolished, how child labor was banned, how alcohol was banned, how alcohol was unbanned. all of these movements had a strong religious component, but were not inherently religious arguments. Abortion is the same.

    This country needs a decision, in either direction. The division is more harmful that the consequences of either choice. With Roe, the Federal government can’t act decisively and the States are left legislating ancillary issues. Without Roe the States can make the decision for themselves. If, as people here seem to agree, most people would favor SOME abortion provision, then they can lobby to have it passed.

    If Roe is overturned, I expect an outpouring of legislation just like we saw with Kelo. When the court decided something that “shocked the conscience” of the people, the States, Counties, and Cities took it upon themselves to explicitly spell out the rights of the people in law. I think that THIS is what will happen if Roe is overturned. Except for a handful of VERY Red states, I think we will see an outpouring of very sober thinking by people and politicians, because finally someone will ASK them, “What do you want?”

    And now these people will have to take responsibility for their answer…

  • http://greatamericanstory.blogspot.com Lisa

    I think I understand the “two separate issues” but just to clarify, and be certain I understand:
    Potentially, the state could legislate three separate murder laws, for instance, one saying the penalty for killing a human under the age of say one year (and including the unborn), is punishable by 5 years/$5000, and another saying that the penalties for killing a human over the age of one year and up to the age of 65 is punishable by penalties ranging up to the death penalty, and a third saying that the killing of humans over 65 is punishable by penalties up to 20 years?
    Or they could, alternately, establish different penalties under identical, but separate, murder laws for different races?
    Am willing to be instructed, and may just be being too literal here, but am eager to hear your answer, as it just seems to me (as per the analogies above) as if the authors are drawing a definite distinction between defining a fetus as less wholly, fully entitled to the rights of “human” as someone who has already been born….
    Weren’t there laws about killing slaves that were defined as less-than-murder prior to the civil war and that provided for lesser penalties (i.e. as more of a “destruction of property” thing) that were rendered unconstitutional by the equal protection clause?

  • http://greatamericanstory.blogspot.com Lisa

    Also William,
    I can’t say I disagree with this statement of yours:
    This country needs a decision, in either direction. The division is more harmful that the consequences of either choice.
    Hear, hear!!! I, like most people I know, am thoroughly sick of the divisiveness of this issue. So much so, that I’m amazed I got pulled into this debate in the first place. Except that I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard a group of people even able to debate this rationally, without carrying signs and shouting at each other (perhaps 1975?) so maybe its just the relief of it all…

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    Lisa, The State has the authority to pass any punishment so long as it passes Constitutional muster. So it can be Cruel or Unusual, and it can’t be racially discriminatory. Unless a judge has legally enforced sentencing guidelines on a particular crime, and passes constitutional muster, the judge can define any penalty he choses.(Which could possibly be increased/reduced on appeal)

    The law separates the penalty from the determination of guilt on purpose, so it can fudge the results. In the absence of a sentencing law, it is only precedence and tradition that bound him.(which in out legal system are powerful, but not absolute). Which is why an old man who gives his sick wife pills to help her die, will not be sentenced as harshly as a man who stabs his wife in her sleep. Both were premeditated murder in the eyes of the law. Judges and juries are there to ensure that the black and white law can accommodate shades of grey. As for different penalties for different people, killing a cop often carries a higher penalty. The determination of guild is black and white for the protection of the accused, the sentencing is for society’s benefit.

    The penalty of the SD law isn’t relevant because our justice system takes a great many factors into consideration for sentencing. The exact penalty was likely chosen for political reasons, and not for Criminal Justice ones.

  • http://greatamericanstory.blogspot.com Lisa

    Thanks for the answer. Maybe what’s bothering me is the illogic of claiming – on the one hand – an absolute belief in the full humanity of a fetus, then writing a separate law for abortion and attaching much lesser penalties than those for any other “murder.” Just seems as if, if the authors’ intent was really to be absolute, the point would have been better made had they just defined a fetus as fully human and aggression toward it as punishable under the same laws that already cover aggression toward any other human in South Dakota.
    However, I do understand, as you pointed out, the reality of this:
    “If large number of people believe that abortion is morally wrong, it doesn’t matter WHY they believe that. If they can muster the legislative numbers to enforce their will, they can.”
    All logic aside, I understand that’s the reality. But I think it just strengthens my belief that these legislators understand very well that the vast majority of the public, at some deep level, DOES make a distinction between murder and abortion – and by extension between human and fetus. Because they know very well that should they be that literal and absolute there would be an instantaneous outraged outcry over subjecting women and their doctors to twenty to life – and possibly even the death penalty – for abortion. So there must be a third ground that the public in general feels somewhat comfortable standing on.
    Which is why I suspect you are right about Roe v. Wade. It undercut the public’s ability to hash this out and find that middle ground, and until we do it will continue to be a dangerously divisive issue.

  • http://goatskinpants.blogspot.com pacatrue

    William, there are a couple of points in your most recent posts that I am not clear on. You indicate that the country needs to decide one way or another, and at the same time imply that Roe V Wade was not a decision. Obviously, making abortion illegal with some sort of punishment is one possible choice. What is the other if it is not the ruling that women and their doctors have the legal right to make their own decision? The only basic alternative seems to be that we will mandate that abortions happen, which is obviously not what anyone is fighting for. Perhaps, you are saying it is high time the people, not the judiciary, chose, but that is equally thorny. If “the people” is each individual person, then that’s what we already have. If “the people” is the democratically elected governments, then we have the problem of Rights. Rights are not supposed to be granted and taken away with elections and votes (barring of course Amendments which are essentially very very popular votes). If we grant that the unborn baby is part of a mother, then she will have some measure of rights over that baby and her body. It wouldn’t matter how popular a restriction on her rights is; it remains a right, and that is exactly what the judiciary, not the legislature, is supposed to enforce.

    I suppose I have moved away from Michael’s original point about when life begins, or more particularly the nature of the unborn child. The reason I have moved from that question is that it seems the question of whether or not an unborn child is human or not only gets us so far. We actually know quite precisely that we have a human growing inside another human, where the first is going through rapid stages of development. Now the question is what legal rights do each human have, and if they are rights, then they cannot be voted on. (And please note that I am intentionally using the words baby, child, and human, not fetus, to make it clear that I am not denying the human-ness of the unborn.)

    The parallel to slavery is interesting, but not perfect. For a long time, certain humans were not granted the same legal rights as other humans, both by the judiciary and the legislature. One could argue that the government finally gave full human legal rights to people and this trumped the other person’s right to own property. The parallel is of course saying that if we grant human-ness to unborn children, then it trumps the mother’s rights over her own body and medical care. But this analogy is not perfect for obvious reasons. Slaves are not part of the same physical body in the way unborn children are. Additionally rights to one’s own body are greater than rights to property. We will grant the seizure of recognized property long before we would grant the seizure of body parts.

    So is this a question of legal rights or a legislative choice?

  • http://graydoesmatter.blogspot.com Gratis

    I’ve just found this site and am finding it quite intriguing.

    I thought Michael’s post made a lot of sense because most pro-lifers forget about these babies after they’re born. Most pro-lifers are also against government programs that would help educate young girls and boys about sex, babies,and stds. They’re not worried about the kids that are home alone right now because their parents are out smoking crack. Or the little girls that are forced to turn tricks for their mommy’s boyfriend. By supporting an administration that cuts so many domestic programs (because of this single issue) they are turning their backs on the babies that are here right now. Why is there such an effort to cut welfare programs that feed these children- the ones already here? Why should they be the ones punished for their parents’ sins? And yet that type of thing becomes a non-issue when a pro-lifer is confronted with it. It’s not about the babies suffering now. They will just feel better know the babies were born, without giving thought about what kind of lives they’ll have to suffer through later.

    But I don’t think it’s about controlling sex, per se. I think it’s about legislating someone else’s personal morality. They would like all of us to live by their moral code, all the way down to if a woman can buy a dildo in her home state (Tennessee).

    I sincerely feel for the women who are now mandated to continue through 6 months of pregnancy, knowing that their baby will die within a day of delivery.

    I take issue with this statement because I am a mother who knew her baby was going to die before he was born. He was diagnosed at 15 weeks gestation with a fatal birth defect that was “incompatible with life”. I had a choice to either go to a clinic and have him disposed of as biohazard waste or carry him to term and give him a funeral. I chose the funeral. I’m very happy with that choice because the memories of my pregnancy are the only ones I have of my child. There are thousands of women every year that go through what I did and there is no need to pity us. I only say this because I hear it so much, and I am very happy with my choice to continue my pregnancy. I talk about it on blog here if you’re interested in another perspective.

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    Pacatrue, the reason abortion is controversial is because one side believes “Uterine Lifeform” is a human baby, and the other side believes(to various degrees) that it isn’t(Or isn’t a baby the entire time from conception to birth). That is the problem, the source of the schism. The Supreme Court didn’t answer that question fully with Roe, and the answer they gave was on a widely acknowledged shakey reading of the Constitution. They never said, “Its not a human”, they said its a privacy issue.

    The source of the moral conflict (as opposed to the legal one) is the act of abortion itself. Roe didn’t decide on abortion, it created a right to privacy, and used that Federal Constitutional Right to take it out of the state’s hands. A right to privacy is good, however you have to stretch our constitution to make it say that.

    If two parties are in a dispute, and the court says, “You can’t talk to eachother anymore”, then the dispute is over, but nothing gets resovled.

    Reproduction is an issue to tremendous social importance. It touches on every aspect of human life, far beyond the confines of the mother’s womb. If there is ANY issue that deserves to be put explicitly to the people, it is this one. By making it an issue of Federal rights, it denied the people a voice in it. A definative answer is one where each state votes, explicitly, on the issue.

    Right now, in states like South Dakota, rules and regulations are added a little at a time. Parental Notifications, Late-Term abortions restrictions, restricting “morning after pills” on health and safety grounds. Roe makes the Anti-Abortion people unable to directly tackle the question(until now), so they tighten the noose with regulation.

    People who want to keep abortion legal, are forced to adopt extreme positions to avoid slippery slopes. It hard to accept any legal restrictions(even popular ones) if your argument is based on it being a personal privacy issue.

    With Roe gone, it can be unambiguously a state issue. The SD law is only one possibility. With Roe gone, absolutist positions are no longer necessary, because the people themselves will have to decide. Both sides of the abortion debate are behaving like an opposition political party, with all the sniping, backbiting, slurs, and grandstanding because they have no responsibility. Roe v. Wade relieved both sides of the burden of compromise.

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    Gratis, reproduction is by definition a non-personal choice. :-)

    Also, the pro-lifers people don’t “forget” about the babies after they are born. Babies that are already born HAVE people to look out for them. They have mothers, perhaps fathers, churches, vast state bureaucracies, teachers, doctors and others to look after them. The law already covers those children. Pro-Lifers believe an unborn baby is just as important as important as an already born one, however the unborn DON’T have the same legal protections.

    Disliking wasteful government spronsored social programs that spend money on children, is not the same as hating or ignoring children. I’m entirely too Pro-State’s Rights to mourn the loss of a federal entitlement program(or matching funds), no matter how compassionate it is. I firmly believe that the State is the proper level of government for all Social Welfare programs, if they exist at all.

  • http://graydoesmatter.blogspot.com Gratis


    I guess that would depend if both parties made the choice to reproduce.

    I agree that the state’s should be responsible for funding children’s programs within their borders. Absolutely. However, not all of these children are cared for by parents, churches, etc. There are so many kids that slip through the cracks with no one there to help them. The case of the 11 adopted special needs children in Northeast Ohio is a prime example of that. Yes, they were eventually rescued from the parents that kept them in cages, but probably not in time. I would love to see all children of neglect and abuse have the same kind of passionate champions as the unborn. I would love to see all of the forgotten children get this kind of attention and reverence.

    As for your inference that father’s are involved with these children, I have to say from experience there are men out there that will gladly father child after child and then walk away. That’s why it’s so important to educate boys as well as girls, as far as I’m concerned.

    Please understand that I’m not one of the pro-choice who considers a fetus to be an unwanted parasite in a woman’s body. Those kinds of terms and tactics by “my side” appall me. I do believe that once abortion is outlawed then there will be more attacks on women’s health issues. More “biblical” issues forced on women. There already are- pharmasists refusing to fill a birth control prescription for an unmarried woman, for instance. I believe the best solution are education and prevention so that abortions become almost unnecessary. Unfortunately, there are too many people that think “abstinence only” is the best way to go.

  • Meredith

    William said,

    “Every social issue touches the moral, therefore religious sphere. Religion is intimately involved with the moral development of its followers, that is part of the point of religion. Most of the moral(vs. legal) evolutions of any age are tied in with one religion or another. If large number of people believe that abortion is morally wrong, it doesn’t matter WHY they believe that. If they can muster the legislative numbers to enforce their will, they can. Thats how democracy works. Its how slavery was abolished, how child labor was banned, how alcohol was banned, how alcohol was unbanned. all of these movements had a strong religious component, but were not inherently religious arguments. Abortion is the same.”

    I guess as an agnostic, I agree with your point, and I just don’t like it. I suppose that is the same reason this country outlaws prostitution and some types of drugs. Things would be safer for everyone if those things were legalized and regulated, but our country won’t stand for them because a majority of us (excluding me) think they are immoral. I am just an extreme believer in separation of church and state.

    My test for whether a law should be a law is this: Is the main reason something is illegal that it’s immoral? If so, and there is no other “good” reason to make it illegal, such as it violates the rights of others, then it should absolutely not be illegal. I realize that abortion does fall into the category of violating the rights of others (if you think life begins at conception), but the test I articulate above is just a starting point. There are other questions to ask after that, such as balancing the rights of self vs. others, and that’s where abortion fails to be something which should be illegal, at least in my eyes. But, then again, by majority/Christian standards, many of my activities would be considered immoral.

  • john


    You are missing or most likely ignoring the true point to the Pro-Life movement. It mandates a religious opinion by veilling it in a constitutional issue. Like it or not, that is what you and other pro-lifers are doing. You have to reduce your argument to the point of truth. You say that fetuses are humans, and your argument is that since life begins at conception, a fetus (regardless of it’s dependancy on it’s mother) should be granted all rights under the constitution, even if it usurps the rights of the mother. But what you and all have left out of your argument is how that fetus derives greater value for life than the mother. There is the rub. The fetus has greater value because the pregnancy was ordained by God. The fetus, having never had to encounter free will is “Saved” by the crucifixion of Jesus and there for is Free of Sin. The Mother on the other hand is wrought with sin, most likely going to burn in hell, and definitely will if she commits murder (abortion) and does not repent that murder. So in no uncertain terms, you are definitely mandating religious morallity of the majority upon the beliefs of the minority.

    In that end, There are a great number of Americans that feel that the bible specifically forbids interracial marriage. Should the majority of Americans come to the decision that the religious morallity of this belief usurp the rights of a few americans, should that be allowed too? Of Course Not. So the same should apply to the rights of the mother to have power over the fetus that is a part of her body, and her body in general.

    Don’t Like Abortions. Don’t have ONE. The greatest message of a free nation where the individual has the right to choose what is best for them free from religious opinion.

  • http://goatskinpants.blogspot.com pacatrue

    Hi William,

    I very much get your point about people not speaking to each other on this issue and therefore not finding middle ground. However, you also say something which I don’t get at all:

    “Reproduction is an issue to tremendous social importance. It touches on every aspect of human life, far beyond the confines of the mother’s womb. If there is ANY issue that deserves to be put explicitly to the people, it is this one. ”

    I cannot fathom what interest society at large has in reproduction that is greater than one person’s control over their own body. Maybe if you came up with some sort of weird desert island after a nuclear war scenario where we must reproduce to keep the species alive…. Maybe. But seriously what issue of reproduction is so important that we vote on what another human will do with their uterus? I was just thinking that we do have an example of a societal interest in what a woman does with her body, and that is the case of the one child policy in China. There, it has been declared that the interest in reducing population is so great to society at large that it overweighs the rights of a woman to bear a second child. It seems that both pro-life and pro-choice positions could be considered inconsistent here. If the reason to punish people for abortions is because society has some greater interest in forcing someone to bear a child, then this same societal interest should be correct in mandating abortion in China. On the other side, if a woman’s possession of her own body always outweighs societal interest, then pro-choice people should be opposing the China one-child policy. Of course, this is not how things fall out in the current debate.

    Makes me wonder if this isn’t even the right discussion. Or maybe we are all inconsistent.

  • http://greatamericanstory.blogspot.com Lisa

    You said this to William:
    “You are missing or most likely ignoring the true point to the Pro-Life movement. It mandates a religious opinion by veilling it in a constitutional issue.”

    I am NOT pro-life, nor do I agree with everything William has had to say here. However, I do agree with this statement of his:

    “If large number of people believe that abortion is morally wrong, it doesn’t matter WHY they believe that. If they can muster the legislative numbers to enforce their will, they can. Thats how democracy works.”

    In other words, it doesn’t matter whether our laws are based on English Common Law (which they are) and influenced by Christianity (which they are) or based on the Third Modification of Codified Law of the Planet Betelguese 3 and influenced by the Surpeme Galactic Churh of Nothingness, they are what they are because the majority of the participants of this democracy share certain cultural commonalites. That is simply how a democracy works and as a practical matter, there is no such animal as a law that ALL of the people it governs agree with. Best we can hope for is the majority thinking, “ok, I can live with that.” That’s also why there is a Theocracy forming in Iraq. We “gave” them a democracy and they used it to choose a Theocracy.

    Moreover, fervently as I believe in the separation of church and state (and I DO), and whether I think that it should be so or not, I must concede that it is simply not possible to deny the religious background of the majority of Americans as an influence on our laws – right back to “if the majority believes it, it will end up law.”

    In fact (and William will probably come along and correct me on this any minute now, because he seems to be an attorney or a judge or something and I’m feeling too lazy to look this up right now) if I am recalling the Constitution correctly, separation of church and state is a really good NON-religious (some on the religious right would say anti-religious) example of something that persists throughout our culture, laws and courts, because the majority of the people want it so and believe it to be so. I think what the Constitution actually says about this is very simple and very limited: Congress shall make no law respecting religion. Congress. Not your city council, or your state reps. Congress. Yet the concept of church and state is so deeply entrenched in our democracy that no city council that does not wish to be sued would display a cross on city property. Because, I think, we have as a people so deeply embraced the concept of separation of church and state, that courts find it easy to support lawsuits that are based on other grounds, such as discrimination. And they’ll do it in a heartbeat, because the majority of people are listening to the details of the case, they are thinking “oh, separation of church and state, that’s ok then”

    I think that’s why people keep trying to do things like place monuments to the ten commandments on public property, because they are a.) relying on the actual fact that separation of church and state in every way and at every level of government is NOT constitutionally mandated, and b.) they are hoping they can change enough minds so that the “will of the governed” will let them get away with it regardless.

    Also there are a great many people who believe the bible says a great many things – that doesn’t make it so, or make it likely that their belief will be codified in law unless they can bring the majority of the people to believe it would make good law.

    You also said this regarding some comment of William’s
    “You say that fetuses are humans, and your argument is that since life begins at conception, a fetus (regardless of it’s dependancy on it’s mother) should be granted all rights under the constitution, even if it usurps the rights of the mother.”
    I don’t remember William saying this, or saying for that matter that he is pro-life, but again, am just feeling too lazy right now to go back and read all his comments! Nevertheless, if William DID say that, then he’s not quite as knowledgable about the law as I thought he was, because I don’t even feel the slightest guilt at being too lazy to look this one up: One American’s right’s end where they impose harm on another American.

    That is about as settled as settled law can be. Moreover, the courts at all levels have used this to strike down, among many, many other things, one abortion law after another that make no provision for the safety and health of another.

    Again, I don’t remember William stating he is pro-life, and I am not. But I can tell you I have spent enough time facilitating public meetings in communities that I know for a fact that what I think is “right” or “moral” is wholly irrelevant, and woe betide the local government that decides issues without sufficient time for public debate – the whole community can and will end up locked in bitter and uproductive debate for decades to come and the potholes just get bigger and the sewers just leak more while people snipe bitterly at their neighbors over some marsh in a back cornfield that most of them have never seen. True. Fact. I’ve been in that meeting. Many times.

    And that’s why I again agree with William in regards to the abortion debate. As long as we are locked in debate over abortion at the national level, a lot of stuff is NOT getting dealt with. And Roe v Wade DID undercut the public debate. There are increasing numbers of pro-CHOICE people who are sick of this and want to have it out once and for all too. And lots of moderates certainly want that to happen too, because it really is truly idiotic that abortion drives everything from party identification to where individuals end up standing willy-nilly on, say, environmental issues because of which party an individual feels they must offer their allegiance to because of it. It’s a ridiculous way to run a country. And we will never be free from it until we let the public have their say.

  • http://goatskinpants.blogspot.com pacatrue

    I will be brief this time. I just cannot agree with Lisa’s last post. It is not okay to just have people vote on certain matters. That amounts in the end to a tyranny of the majority. Our Constitution is exactly created so as not to have all matters settled by public vote. Some aspects of life are legal rights and cannot be taken away, no matter how popular the other side is. (Barring of course Amendments.)

  • http://greatamericanstory.blogspot.com Lisa

    I agree there are basic constitutionally guaranteed rights that can not and should not be taken away by a tyrannic majority – barring a constutional amendment – such as those listed in the bill of rights.
    If I remember my government classes correctly many of the framers didn’t want to include the bill of rights, precisely because they were afraid subsequent generations would restrict individual rights to ONLY those specified, therefore the addendum to the effect that “rights not specifically given to congress or the prez are reserved to the states or the people.”
    I’m not even saying abortion shouldn’t be decided to be one of the rights reserved to the people. Frankly, I think eventually it will be. Everywhere. In all 50 States. Because the trend of our democracy over 200+ years has been to the progressive expansion, not restriction, of individual rights.
    All I’m saying is that, as a practical matter, unless the will of the majority is to demand a specific right, those rights are OFTEN interpreted in order to align with the present will of the MAJORITY, however much judges and legislators must reach to accomplish that.
    For an example ripped from the consitution AND the headlines, “The people shall be secure in their persons and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures” and that passage goes on to REQUIRE warrents. Yet presidents have, in the past, ignored this, claiming executive privelege and their own constitutional prerogatives. So Congress passed FISA to attempt to delineate the rules. Now Bush has ignored FISA and the Constitution BOTH. It’s pretty legally clear, according to most legal scholars, that he is violating the constitution and breaking the law. So Feingold tries to call him on it in the most mild way possible. And the other Dems promptly refuse to back Feingold. Not because the president’s weak arguments have real legal validity – they are basically bul**** legally, according to most legal scholars. They won’t back him up because the polls show a very slight majority just don’t care, because they think his “intentions are good.” Therefore, in practical terms, while I think this situation is dangerous and deplorable, and even the Republicans should be standing up to Bush (both to protect our rights and their’s as a co-equal branch of government) much less the Democrats, he’s getting away with it – and probably will until the will of the people changes on this issue – and I pray every day it WILL. Bush’s polls are so bad on everything else, I am astounded the public is still standing behind him on this one. And no, am not suggesting we put abortion to a vote. Just that if Roe is overturned, then abortion must be legislated and pressure from the public will have an impact on how it IS legislated.

  • http://greatamericanstory.blogspot.com Lisa

    Also Pacatrue,
    I don’t mean to say that I am one of those people who thinks the Supreme Court should never intervene in majority opinion to protect individual rights. They certainly should – its their job. But a lot of Pro-Choice people know that the Court based Roe on very shaky legal grounds and convoluted logic – the right to privacy – which is itself on somewhat shaky legal ground. The right to an abortion would be a much more stable and protectable right if it was based on a woman’s basic right to control her own body, thus growing Pro-Choice attitude of “go ahead and reverse it, we’ll secure this right on more unassailable ground.”
    Also, the great middle moderate ground out there is just sick of the whole electoral process being held prisoner of this debate and would like to see it resolved, and you must admit that, whatever else Roe v. Wade has accomplished it has not succeeded in achieving any resolution. Since I facilitate public meetings and gather a lot of public input have seen it work like a charm more times than I can say to let everyone “get it off their chest” and once that is done its amazing how much more reasonable and less absolutist even the most strident people can be.
    I don’t have a problem with Roe, no-one would be happier than me if everyone just accepted it and went about their business and stopped meddling in other people’s lives. I have a problem with the repetitive and senseless circular debate that has resolved nothing.

  • http://gogmagog.vpsland.com/blog William Crim

    pacatrue… You said, “I cannot fathom what interest society at large has in reproduction that is greater than one person’s control over their own body.”

    Society needs to decide if/when a fetus is a human life, and when/if it deserves rights and protections. Thats the point that needs clarification, not whether a woman has a right to control her body, I’m not disputing that.

    Heck… I would be happy if people said, “Pregnancy is a unique and special case of the human condition, and will be legislated(or not) as such.” This would be the best of all worlds, because we could all stop using stupid analogies comparing fetuses to dangerous parasites, and lumps of cells to squalling babies. It would requre new law, but it would be a much better situation than trying to contort normal law to cover a uniquely special situation.

  • pacatrue

    William, Lisa, it sounds like I agree on many major points with you. I think there is a human inside another human. I think this is a special, unique thing, unlike any analogy, and we should come up unique laws to handle it. Believe it or not, I have never been strongly pro-choice, no matter how I sound here. The main reason I could never be super pro-life though was because for many on that “side”, the only question seemed to be: is the developing entity fully human or not, as if that decides the issue. But of course it doesn’t. As I have become fond of saying, “if your position is the same regardless of whether or not the fetus is inside a person or in an incubator, then it’s not the right position yet.” Perhaps I should add a line about “if your position is the same if there is a developing child inside or a fish, then you aren’t quite there yet either.”

  • http://ringtone.devki.net Eart


  • http://ambivablog.typepad.com/ambivablog amba

    In my own struggles with the issue I came to two definitions of abortion that I “like” (that doesn’t seem like the right word), that seem accurate and at least capture the grey-areaness of it:

    1) “Nipping a human life in the bud.” Literally.

    2) “One life in precarious progress fending off a blameless hijacking by another barely begun.”

  • http://lawyer.gmum.net Earth
  • Ray H. Noblit

    You are right in asking is it the “Right Question”, because it isn’t. The question is when does the developing fetus become a person with rights equal, or near equal to the woman host? It might add perspective to look at the other end of life. The Schavio case is the best one I can think of that relates. The Pro-life zealots claimed that it would be murder to remove the feeding tubes and allow her body to die. She was in a persistent vegatative state. She had no consciousness. She was blind, couldn’t hear, couldn’t feel pain and had no ability to reason. If you believe in a soul, it left when the part of the brain that makes us a person died.

    So when does a fetus become a person? The best medical evidence suggest that consciousness occurs some time eartly third trimester. I would perfer to error on the safe side and say the very begining. As stated earlier it is human from conception, but it not a person with rights superseeding that of the woman. It is my opinion that is also immoral to equate a fertalized egg with a full grown walking, talking, feeling human being with hopes, and dreams of their own.

  • Molly

    I am pro-choice because its never a simple situation, and should be left up to the people involved and their doctor.