deletions
March 21, 2011 10:45 AM   Subscribe

[comments removed - that's **IT** This thread is not a referendum of one crabby person's opinions about abortion. Go to MetaTalk, don't say "screw you" to people. Act like someone who wants to be here. Thank you Well,you said take it to MetaTalk. So I have. I don't think my opinions on abortion should be considered invalid, simply because I am male. I don't think I should get the ole delete hammer, because I am considered "crabby." I was accused of calling women sluts, which I certainly did not do. One person inferred it, a couple others jumped on the proverbial bandwagon, and I got saddled with something I didn't do. Yes, I said "Screw you." I think that IS acting like I want to be here, know how the joint works, and don't much feel like getting piled on for something I didn't do in the first place. I'm sure there a lot of reasons to not like me, but if you are going to pick one and broadcast it, at least make sure it is true.
posted by timsteil to MetaFilter-Related at 10:45 AM (501 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

You're welcome to have whatever opinions you want, regardless of whatever gender you identify with, but you need to not be jerkish and judgemental in how you express them or you're basically picking a fight. And you'd left a few comments in the thread earlier on that were fine.

It's this comment that went in a weird direction and suddenly derailed badly what had previously been a pretty solid and even-handed thread, and honestly we would probably have deleted that one and saved a whole lot of further GRAR in that thread if we'd seen it before it was heavily responded to. I would have appreciated you just taking a walk and giving the thread a rest after the pretty clear WTF reaction you got at that point; that it kept going is why we had to nix stuff and leave a note.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:53 AM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


The option I picked was "you are being crabby" and the thread was quickly turning into you+everyone else. I know it's tough when people misinterpret what you felt that you were saying, but honestly people weren't after you about your first comment. They were after you about this comment which was responded to so quickly we couldn't really do anything about it, but is pretty well getting close to the line of what's participating in the conversation and what's just soapboxing.

Seriously, "They are your legs. Is there some point where you didn't get the memo on crossing them? ... For all the feminist howling and wailing about your bodies and reprodcutive rights and just lah de fucking dah, you took off your pants, you spread your legs, and said go for it." How did you think that would go okay on MetaFilter?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:55 AM on March 21, 2011 [92 favorites]


It's this comment that went in a weird direction

Holy shit, weird is not the word for it. WTF.
posted by amro at 10:58 AM on March 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


Yes, I said "Screw you." I think that IS acting like I want to be here, know how the joint works, and don't much feel like getting piled on for something I didn't do in the first place.

That one summer, at Jesus camp, I never actually hit the kids with the 'Jesus Loves You!' stick, but I still got yelled at for swinging it around.

"But this is the stick of Jesus' love!" I maintained.

"Yes, you can bestow the love of Christ to these children, Carson," my camp manager said, "but you aren't allowed to do it with that stick."
posted by carsonb at 10:59 AM on March 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


I don't know what would possess you to make such a hate-filled comment. I find it much more surprising that you thought bringing it here would give you whatever result you're looking for. I strongly suspect it will get worse.

But good luck!
posted by SpiffyRob at 11:01 AM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


timsteil, I read the comment you linked in this post and thought, "Wow, people were giving him shit for that?" Then I read the comment that cortex linked. Your presentation of your part in this is one of the most intellectually dishonest I've seen here (and that's saying something). Had you expressed your (later) opinion regarding personal responsiblity (I'm being charitable here) in a measured and respectful way, you probably would have still been shouted down, but at least you could have plausibly claimed it was because you dissented from the majority view. But saying "you took off your pants, you spread your legs" is some sexist flamebait if ever I saw it.
posted by Dasein at 11:02 AM on March 21, 2011 [76 favorites]


if that's you not calling women sluts, i'd hate to see what it looks like when you feel you are calling women sluts.
posted by nadawi at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2011 [68 favorites]


You pretty much lost any benefit of the doubt I was going to give you when you linked your first post and not the one that actually offended people.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:04 AM on March 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


I actually felt that the conversation was JUST starting to turn in an interesting -- and telling -- direction, although I totally support the grar being deleted; let's see if I can remember what I'd said.

Tim: someone pointed out that you seemed to always fall back on a hypothetical grandCHILD being a grandSON. It was something you said you hadn't noticed you were doing, and you said that perhaps there was some "subconscious stuff" that was going on in your head.

I wonder if perhaps this "subconscious stuff" may be something you want to reflect on -- because some of your comments -- particularly the one cortex linked to above -- give the impression that you were more concerned about a hypothetical grandSON than you are about your actual DAUGHTERS. I am absolutely not saying that that is the case, but the comment history in this thread -- despite your insisting that you're a "liberal hippie dude" (paraphrasing is mine) who'd drive your daughter to get an abortion if asked -- suggests that there is indeed some "subconscious stuff" that may be coloring the way you think about and respond to this issue.

And I think it may be worthwhile to think about what that "subconscious stuff" may be. It may not change your opinions on this issue one whit -- nor am I suggesting it should. You may still just as firmly believe what you do about the inherant respect that should be due an unborn child. (I actually sort of agree; or at least I don't disagree.) However, you may also now have further insight into your own motivations, as well as the motivations of others, and that can only help in future discussions -- if only because you can explain what you're talking about more clearly, and you'll be able to get your point across without "subconciously" saying something you may not quite mean.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:04 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow. I, um, kind of see what you were saying about the lack of nuance when discussing the state of a fetus. It's pretty clear that a third trimester fetus is mostly a baby and can survive outside the womb (with medical care) and should be differentiated from its earlier iterations when it's more like a squishy bag of protoplasm. But, man, that kind of loaded language is never going to go well in a forum where mixed opinions are the rule. Maybe just take a bit of a breath and remember that it's not that important here.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:05 AM on March 21, 2011


Wow timsteil, that comment was waaaaaaay out there and burned through so many lines of what is acceptable it's making my head spin.

There's no way you can say or write something like that without expecting to piss people off. Honestly, if you're so big on responsibility, you need to accept some for taking the time to articulate that line of thought.

Seriously, I want to ask you if you're high or drunk or haven't slept in 4 days and then that's only the barest of excuses. Jesus.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:06 AM on March 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


I also went to the thread and thought your first comment was reasonable enough. But I was fairly appalled at the sentiments and hostility expressed in the followup comments. I don't think those are reasonable and they are certainly demeaning and dismissive to women, both here, and even the ones in your own life, and also inadmissive of male responsibilities in their own reproduction.
posted by Miko at 11:07 AM on March 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


That comment that cortex linked to, in particular, goes way beyond crabby. It veered midway into "I feel sick to my stomach after having read this" territory. To the point where I am actually weirdly thankful, because sometimes I feel like MeFi has boys club tendencies that lead to discomfiting comments, and I can get a little grar in response in a manner that isn't super helpful.

That comment reminded me what real misogyny looks like. And it reminded me of what feminism, as well as the pro-choice movement specifically, is up against.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:07 AM on March 21, 2011 [50 favorites]


Damn, Gina. Damn.
posted by liketitanic at 11:08 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I actually felt that the conversation was JUST starting to turn in an interesting -- and telling -- direction

Yeah I saw this happening too. timsteil had followed up with some more reasoned articulation which was followed by four or five other comments. But really, with the previous comment hanging out there like a big ugly turn and the "Screw you" statement not really indicating that timsteil was getting a grip on learning to interact appropriately [I think he said something about saying "screw you" ironically in a thread about abortion, time to take a walk, man] it seemed better to tell folks to take this to MetaTalk than to just turn that thread into "What does everyone think of timsteil and what do they think of him" which was all it was. Sad too because otherwise it was a htread about abortion that was actually going okay for once.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:08 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know...as a guy, I kinda agree that men's opinions (not as partners of women...but as just men) on abortion should not matter...as much as an opinion of a woman who is NOT in physical position to have an abortion, doesn't matter.

So yeah...dudes, post-menopausal women, and prepubescent girls need not opine.

Or we can call this a free speech area, and everyone should have a valid opinion. Whatever...but lets be logically consistent.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:10 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


They are always doing OK until they get fucked up, Jess - it is like finding your keys in the last place you look. :)
posted by Meatbomb at 11:11 AM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure I was the one who was talking about saying "screw you " ironically, but I totally get why you removed the grar. I'm just glad I got a chance to recreate that "hmm" comment in here. So yay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:11 AM on March 21, 2011


Good point Brother Meatbomb.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:12 AM on March 21, 2011


You pretty much lost any benefit of the doubt I was going to give you when you linked your first post and not the one that actually offended people.

Add me to that list.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:13 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


So yeah...dudes, post-menopausal women, and prepubescent girls need not opine. Or we can call this a free speech area, and everyone should have a valid opinion. Whatever...but lets be logically consistent.

I think there's a difference between "having an opinion" and "attempting to pass judgement based on that opinion."

I embrace the ability to express my opinion on male circumcision, but that still doesn't mean I think that gives me the right to tell a guy he was good or bad based on his decision about what do with his own dick.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:14 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


everyone should have a valid opinion

I believe the problem was telling women to (I'm paraphrasing, but alas! not that loosely) close their damn legs?
posted by liketitanic at 11:14 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not having been part of teh thread, thus unaware of the complete context of the conversation. However having been there; done that re: the topic of the post, I read the linked comment and could see the message beyond the choice of words used. The author has a point that is valid adn being made. Perhaps it the choice of words and less than careful articulation of the basic premise that have led to this here grar, them not being what the community considers appropriate for public discourse.
posted by infini at 11:14 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


everyone should have a valid opinion

It's free speech to allow everyone to have and express an opinion, but that doesn't mean all opinions are valid. If we're going to have a substantive discussion, that will probably including challenging the validity of some opinions. That's not curtailing free speech, that's allowing it to flourish.
posted by Miko at 11:15 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.
– Douglas Adams
posted by Zozo at 11:18 AM on March 21, 2011 [45 favorites]


Telling women to close their legs is more of a heated injunction than an opinion anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:20 AM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


You know...as a guy, I kinda agree that men's opinions (not as partners of women...but as just men) on abortion should not matter...

It's kinda silly, IMO, to say half the population's opinion doesn't matter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:21 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


One thing I've learned here, timsteil, is that it's actually pretty ok to hold divergent opinions, even quite controversial ones, and certainly in this case "actions have consequences, etc." is not something the conversation should shirk from nor is it a sentiment that should be universally denounced without a proper discussion, HOWEVER, you would not believe the world of difference it makes when proclaiming these views in how you frame it and the tone and word choices you make. You can present the same opinion in two different ways and the one will yield an interesting and nuanced conversation and the other a flame war.

Once you get past the opening lulzy comments, threads can become really interesting, but if you want thoughtful discourse on what (you know) will be an unpopular opinion, treat other members as if they are capable of thoughtful discourse when you frame your thoughts.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:22 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or we can call this a free speech area, and everyone should have a valid opinion. Whatever...but lets be logically consistent.

Did you even read the rest of the comments here at all?
posted by kmz at 11:22 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what a 'good' abortion thread would look like.

I've never seen one.
posted by empath at 11:22 AM on March 21, 2011


there is something very deep in the core of who I am that takes massive offense at you describing a potential kid as a coupla mutant cells living in your uterus

Valid opinion.

For all the feminist howling and wailing about your bodies and reprodcutive rights and just lah de fucking dah, you took off your pants, you spread your legs, and said go for it.

Not a valid opinion.
posted by desjardins at 11:22 AM on March 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


timsteil, at the very least, your comment lacked the kindness, compassion and empathy that was needed for such a sensitive discussion on a topic that has a long and contentious personal, collective and sociopolitical history. If you can see that, then maybe it's a good place to start for meeting us halfway here.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:23 AM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


"she let some guy stick his dick in her."

"you guys (read:women, my own clarification here) got the damned plumbing that makes babies., and that comes with some responsibility."


I find it interesting that timsteil's second comment (the one he so carefully didn't link to) talks about the woman's--and only the woman's--responsibility for preventing pregnancy, and nothing about the man's responsibility for preventing pregnancy. Sluts "get pregnant" -- they're solely responsible, right?

"It's your junk. Read the owner's manual. And in case you havent figured it out yet, yes, men are half of this equation, and while you might want to sing your sad songs about your reproductive rights, half the person that is growing in your belly is a man."

So, the woman is entirely responsible for everything having to do with taking responsibility for "keeping her legs shut," among other ways to prevent pregnancy, but if a pregnancy occurs, let's not forget that the man involved gets to claim half it.

Talk about rape culture in action. And absurd misogyny, which I'm sure timsteil will refute with my all-time favorite bullshit response: "I can't be a misogynist; I have a daughter!"
posted by tzikeh at 11:24 AM on March 21, 2011 [114 favorites]


Valid opinion.

Even that's debatable.

Valid opinion: I take offense when you describe my child as a mass of mutant cells.

Strange opinion: I take offense when you describe the thing that is inhabiting your body as anything other than what I think it is.
posted by muddgirl at 11:25 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm really glad there are a lot of people out there who care this passionately about defending my rights to my body.

I know it gets GRARy-- I have my fair share of GRAR myself-- but being able to log onto a site where slut-shaming is looked at like this is so nice. The rest of the world just isn't like this, and I feel safer here.

So, um, I know it's a pain in the ass to deal with, but having the obvious dozen "W.T.F" comments when something like the "spread your legs" comment comes up does make me feel better here. I seem to spend a lot of time in places where no one questions that kind of behavior.
posted by NoraReed at 11:27 AM on March 21, 2011 [25 favorites]


Not having been part of teh thread, thus unaware of the complete context of the conversation. However having been there; done that re: the topic of the post, I read the linked comment and could see the message beyond the choice of words used. The author has a point that is valid adn being made. Perhaps it the choice of words and less than careful articulation of the basic premise that have led to this here grar, them not being what the community considers appropriate for public discourse.

Yes, I agree with this (and I also wasn't involved in the thread). It's interesting that people are having this reaction to his comment that has been linked to. (I haven't seen the one that was deleted.)

It seems to me there are two basic things you can object to about about the comment. You can object to his choice of words, which, yes, were crude. On the other hand, there generally isn't much objection to crudely expressed views that accord with the majority opinion on this site.

Or you can object to his opinion, his viewpoint. He's expressing one of the most common arguments on one side of the abortion debate. He even admitted his point fails in the case of rape.

It's not my opinion, since I happen to be in favor of abortion rights. And even if it were my opinion, I wouldn't have expressed it in that manner.

But I hope I get to read opinions I disagree with on Metafilter, and I don't think there's any need for my opinions on abortion to be privileged. If you're confident in the correctness of your opinions, you should want there to be a free debate, which should reveal your opinions to be superior. And the more you get to see the views you disagree with, the better you'll become at fighting against them.
posted by John Cohen at 11:30 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I believe the problem was telling women to (I'm paraphrasing, but alas! not that loosely) close their damn legs?

Yeah, that boy ain't right.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:31 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll just come right out and say it. timsteil, I have zero respect for you. None. Not an ounce.

I know that probably doesn't mean anything to you. I'm just a person on a website. I'm not important in your life. I'm not important to Metafilter. So shrug it off, if you want.

But while you're shrugging it off and having that internal dialogue about how it doesn't matter that this faceless internet person has told you that they have an absolute lack of respect for you because really you're a pretty good guy and you have some awesome qualities like _____, ______, and _______ -- while you're doing that, go ahead and reflect on what it feels like to have proven yourself so unworthy of respect to a faceless internet person.

Because that? That's what you did to every woman who's ever had sex. You showed an absolute lack of respect for every woman who's ever "opened her legs" so a guy could stick his dick in her. And you probably didn't mean to do that, and you can claim that absolute lack of respect for women you showed isn't real, but that's what you did.

Mine, though, is real. I normally would keep it to myself. But in this case, for whatever reason, it felt important to say it.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:35 AM on March 21, 2011 [22 favorites]


I'd direct anyone stomach-sickened by timsteil's words to take a look at this post from a couple weeks ago in Ask MeFi. Keep reading all the way to the end. It takes all kinds to make a world (web), I guess, but there are good people here, too.
posted by fight or flight at 11:37 AM on March 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


Something about this comment also struck me:

"you guys (read:women, my own clarification here) got the damned plumbing that makes babies...."

Tim, this may yet be more of that "subconscious stuff" you were talking about. Because technically, women only have HALF of the "damned plumbing that makes babies". Men have the other half of the "plumbing". At least -- there's been no verifiable scientific evidence of human parthenogenesis.

So a statement that says that women ALONE have the requisite "plumbing" seems to indicate that there may be more to that "subconscious stuff" worthy of exploration.

I know that I keep harping on this; but that's only because someone pointed this out to you and it sounded like you had a "huh, I hadn't noticed I did that" reaction, but it looked like you were going to just shrug and move on. I'm suggesting you may want to give this "subconcious stuff" deeper reflection, is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


> I'd direct anyone stomach-sickened by timsteil's words to take a look at this post from a couple weeks ago in Ask MeFi.

I'm glad that OP's situation turned out as well as could be expected, but that thread is so full of one sided hate that I can't sit and enjoy as some kind of antidote to misogyny, sorry.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:39 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd like to also follow up on what NoraReed said and add that it makes being in spaces where there is inherent contradiction and conflict in being there that much more tolerable and/or enjoyable (I can think of a few places* where the contradiction is in my wanting to be there, wanting to be part of the scene, but that scene is rife with sexism or mysogyny and it becomes a struggle to stay and enjoy — taking me out of the experience and what I enjoy about it...but less so with a whole community of sex-positive, culturally aware feminists and equal rights supporters in my mind and who have my back). The support of this community makes such situations less stressful and lifts the moral weight and burden enough to find a healthy balance between the rage I feel and the love I want to offer, in hopes that I can actually be the change I wish to see in this complicated world.

So, thanks for tirelessly and patiently having this discussion again and again, for as long as we need to. It's worthwhile.

*My boxing gym and my favorite adult sites are a few examples.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:41 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you're confident in the correctness of your opinions, you should want there to be a free debate, which should reveal your opinions to be superior.

I'm confident that pro-choice opinions are superior, and in thread after thread on MeFi every single argument against legal abortion has basically been reduced to powder, leaving only personal and subjective inclination as a reason to maintain a pro-life stance. I'm sure that given time, it would happen again in that thread.

But that doesn't make it any less tiresome to battle through misogyny in order to focus at the opinion or argument buried somewhere within, and there's no need for the site's community to tolerate that misogyny in the name of free speech. We wouldn't do so if the issue were race or disability, and there's no need for us to do it on the issue of the rights of women. You're right that it's not crudeness itself that matters - it's the confusion of the opinion or argument being stated with another set of messages that isn't explicitly stated and yet which completely changes the color and shape of the discussion. Here, there's a set of opinions about abortion overtly expressed, but they're expressed along with a set of implications about the value, responsibility, and conduct of women that it's fair to get out in the open and to address.

It's possible to express those opinions respectfully, even if they do offend the majority and even if they are ultimately unsound, but that wasn't done here; and it's reasonable for the site community to say "on issues of human rights, we'd like to approach discussion with basic respect."

There's nothing hypocritical or fearful about setting the terms of debate in a way that increases the likelihioo that the substance of arguments will be seen and heard and addressed, rather than the style in which they are expressed.
posted by Miko at 11:45 AM on March 21, 2011 [20 favorites]


timsteil, I feel for you. You are getting piled on here, and though I can see why, because your words were very hurtful and chauvinistic to women in general, I think your opinion comes from your own, very specific problem with one, very specific woman, your ex-wife. And That is coloring all your thoughts and judgment.

And that's understandable, but please believe that if you WERE able to be objective about this, you'd realize how offensive what you said in that comment was to every other woman, including, one day, your daughters, who will grow up and hear this kind of thing and feel shame and guilt about their own sexuality if they don't know feel empowered to look out for their own reproductive rights. Because, as we recently saw in a very poignant thread from a woman whose boyfriend abandoned her the moment she got pregnant, and then lied about how he would not be financially responsible for any child if she did give birth, women need to feel empowered to move on after an accidental pregnancy, no matter what decision they make.

I get that your ex-wife had an affair, and she got pregnant, and that sucked. And I get that you felt like what was a clearly an emotionally-wrought moment for you seemed like something so commonplace to the doctor, and that left you feeling like you'd just been kicked in the chest. And I think I understand that. For you, this whole issue is all tied up in your feelings for your ex-wife and your divorce.

And I sincerely feel that you should, for your own sake, talk to someone about how deeply that experience affected you.

Because, dude, honestly? It is STILL affecting you.
posted by misha at 11:47 AM on March 21, 2011 [46 favorites]


They are your legs. Is there some point where you didn't get the memo on crossing them? Billions of dollars have been spent trying to tell you how to not to have babies from the time you are in sixth grade up.

That is your penis. Did you not get the memo on keeping it in your pants? Or should we simply pity you for not being able to control yourself? Or for not being able to take responsibility for your role in baby-making?
posted by rtha at 11:50 AM on March 21, 2011 [36 favorites]


I am not comfortable with telling people not to have sex. Some of them might want to have sex with me, and my memo to them says "yes."
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:51 AM on March 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


And this is yet another Monday at MeTa, boy I feel for you mods right about now. I hope Austin was a nice break anyways.
posted by wheelieman at 11:52 AM on March 21, 2011


Timsteil-two things

First---That was pretty lame to link to your reasonable comment and to ignore your unreasonable one as if it hadn't happened. You will not get much traction with that and you lost whatever support you might have gotten just by doing it-own your own words, man.

Second---Did you read what you wrote in that second comment before you posted it? I mean, I even agree with some of what you said in the first one and I think that abortion is treated too lightly by many people who do not behave responsibly. It's a horrible thing to have to do and that anyone wouldn't regard it as a tragedy makes me sad. But wow, did you take that sentiment and make it as ugly and awful and misogynistic as possible. Having a dissenting opinion is fine, spouting that opinion in a way designed to offend as many women as possible is much less okay.

As a side note, I read that other thread last week and while I am so glad that the OP was okay and that she received the support she needed from our community, I was depressed at some of the response to it. It's not like it was a 100% awesome thing to happen, we didn't help her win the lottery here.
posted by supercapitalist at 11:52 AM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Did you not get the memo on keeping it in your pants?

Memos to your pants? How'd ya'll manage that, I'm still getting faxes?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:58 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brandon, dude, there's an app for that! I got a tweet about it, like, months ago!
posted by rtha at 11:59 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


it is like finding your keys in the last place you look.

I always keep looking for another half hour or so after I find mine, just so it's never in the last place I looked.
posted by quin at 12:01 PM on March 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Sure, Hipsapantamatic. I use it to send out party invites from my pants all the time.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:01 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think that abortion is treated too lightly by many people who do not behave responsibly.

I'd have to disagree with that. If anything, I think that in the US it's not treated lightly enough.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:05 PM on March 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


I think that abortion is treated too lightly by many people who do not behave responsibly.

Yeah, I'm going to disagree too, and say that having an abortion is an act of taking responsibility. Just because you don't like how somebody chose to be responsible for their pregnancy doesn't mean they are being cavalier and irresponsible.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:07 PM on March 21, 2011 [40 favorites]


Gawd, the "that comment" is like the worst thing I can remember reading in recent memory. If you wouldn't talk that way to a stranger, you shouldn't talk that way to someone on Metafilter.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:08 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


And if you would talk that way to a stranger, you probably ought not talk to strangers.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:10 PM on March 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


timsteil, your inability to own your words is really, really gross. but i like how you opened up a metatalk thread to show everyone how hateful you are, since your hateful words to me were deleted from that thread.
posted by palomar at 12:10 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, sorry, this isn't a free speech issue. It is perfectly legitimate, if unpopular here, to defend a discomfort with or opposition to legal abortion in all its shades of gray and it happens here sometimes. You might -- you will -- get an argument from many in a broadly liberal and feminist-leaning community like this (I'd call that "progressive," but you're free to disagree). Yoi'll get an argument, but you won't get slammed as hard as you were in that thread just for holding a sincere opposed belief and expressing it civilly and not so disingenuously.

The argument that our society sends confusingly mixed messages (and many untrue ones) to young people -- boys and girls alike -- about sexuality, responsibility, and self-determination -- is legitimate. It's even somewhat true, in my opinion.

But most of us who are pro-choice are not thereby in favor of increasing the rate of teenage pregnancies or encouraging promiscuity for young people (although from an anthropological point of view -- my profession -- adolescents in general and around the world in all cultures have never *not* been sexually active or even typically monogamous, whether or not they risk shame or loss of economic opportunity, and that's just our nature, so it's somewhat useless to just be opposed to something we do by virtue of being primates -- if we would only learn to dispassionately accept that we *are* primates with powerful sexual drives as a basis for policy and public discourse, we'd live in a far better world. Humans are designed to start reproducing at 14 or so years old -- the risk of death in pregnancy and childbirth, for woman and fetus/newborn alike -- were terribly high until very recently and even then only in some well off societies -- and it's only been in the last century or so that any serious and widespread exception to that has become a possibility for the vast majority of the world's people. The reason people exist is to make babies. The rest of it is all gravy.

But in point of fact -- and it is just a simple and unambiguous and terribly ironic fact -- most supporters of anti-abortion politics also oppose serious sex education and available birth control for teenagers of either sex, deny the possibility that sexual pleasure and reproduction can be and are de-linked in the human imagination and in our culture and economy, and refuse to link reproductive rights and politics to basic economic and civil rights like the right to a decent education and the expectation of meaningful work and economic security in exchange for deferring the strongest human drive of all (we have evolved as mammals to make as many babies as possible starting at the youngest age possible, and cultural constraints on that are always going to meet their match when the chips are down). Many also happily support the death penalty while calling themselves "pro-life," making them instant hypocrites whom you will forgive the rest of us for not taking seriously.

And few can stomach the consequences they would invoke if they seriously thought a first trimester abortion was "murdering a baby" with malice aforethought, certainly not for their own daughters or mothers or sisters. Whole lot of denial going on, it was ever thus across most human societies where the control of women's reproductive capacity is a key form of social and economic capital. We (in the westernized world) live in the first period in history when that is not necessarily an accepted framework to which all women (and men) must accede, where a woman has a right (and even a duty in some cases) not to have a baby except by her own choice.

The tone of the comment cortex links to above is unmistakably misogynist to the core, to the point of using dog-whistle phrases ("spreading their legs," for serious?) that have a long ugly history in the politics of shaming (typically, poor and/or young) women for their sexuality, controlling their reproductive rights and their bodies, and exercising male domination in domestic and political spheres alike.

All you've managed to accomplish is the opposite of convincing anyone to consider your opinion on abortion as a sincere one rooted in the belief you assert, that an otherwise non-viable-outside-the-uterus (of a living, breathing, sovereign individual woman) fetus still has a right to a sovereign existence as an individual. Instead, it's clear that you view potential mothers -- women with uteruses -- as less than sovereign individuals the moment they become sexual beings.

Thus, you've reinforced the common perception (among those of us who are anywhere on the pro-choice spectrum, at least, and I myself am not all the way over on one side of it either) that many who are "anti-abortion" (especially men) are actually opposed to women having any rights to self-determination whatsoever, or even to control over their own bodies, something I think you'd find problematic if it applied as much to us men. Abortion is just your moral fig leaf for a deeply discriminatory agenda.

Instead of telling other people not to spread their legs, how about you work on not whipping out your dick and waving it around like a cudgel?

See, how do you like how that feels?

You exude an anger at women, and even source it in your own experience of a failed relationship. Take it from another guy who, like many of us, has had to work through the complexities of masculinity at the dawn of the 21st century in western bourgeois culture. That anger will eat you up inside -- it's already doing so -- and poison your relationships with your daughters over time. It's cancer, man -- and it's mostly rooted in fear, not certitude. It's something a lot of men have to struggle with -- we too are victims of sexism and misogyny, it fucks us up inside. I'm really tempted to tell you that you need to "man up" (in a new way) and get used to women having power whether or not it threatens the model of masculinity into which you were socialized.

You want to cut the number of abortions really sharply and put your money where your mouth is? Support scientific and realistic sex education and freely available birth control for adolescents, a discourse of equal responsibility for men (and boys) in sexual relationships, and oppose the oversexualization of children's culture. That's where the crisis is, both of excessive abortion rates and of grossly restricted economic opportunities for women and their children alike, which in turn reproduces the cycles of social dysfunction that drive high rates of teenage pregnancy.

It's not women having rare third trimester abortions for medically necessary reasons, most of whom wanted to have the baby they were forced to abort, which makes your casual misogyny even more cruel than it already is. And it's damn not sure reducible to women and girls being sluts who can't keep their legs closed and the poor, helpless penises that are thereby irresistibly drawn into the trap of fathering babies for these seductresses to murder in turn. That is just some ugly, ugly bullshit. And it deserves to be called out, rebutted, and made unwelcome in this community.

Real men respect women.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:11 PM on March 21, 2011 [213 favorites]


I swear to god this will be my last words on this. I feel a ban hammer swinging above my head, so i will try to be succinct.

I know I used some words that started fires. I could have chosen them better.

I support a woman's right to choose, amd that's the way I vote.

I just feel personally, that abortion should be a last option. I think that most anything that passess for sex education in this country, is almost exclusively devoted to tell girls how to not have babies.

With that in mind, I find it hard to conceive that a woman can find herself pregnant, and not know how it happened.

I don't know why or when, but I have come to the personal belief that maybe yeah, even from the first two cells, maybe there is a little spark of something going on there. And truly, it does kind of creep me out to see anyone look at it so lightly, like it is nothing.

Given this back and forth on MeFi, I had yet another discussion
with my 14 year old son, which seemed uncomfortable, where I pretty much told him you are shooting live ammo and that comes with responsibilities.

I'm sorry for starting this shitstorm, I chose words badly when commenting on an issue that was on fire to begin with. In the end, I regret making a mess here, but I will stand by my feelings.

Roast me all you want. Maybe I deserve it. Maybe you will look back with the gift of wisdom and think I said the right thing in the Oh so fuckin wrong way. Flip a coin.

With that, I will take some upthread advice. and preempt mods needing to do something. I'm taking a walk. I'm taking a break.
posted by timsteil at 12:11 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think that abortion is treated too lightly by many people who do not behave responsibly.

Of all the women that I know who have had an abortion, none of them treated it lightly. After much soul-searching and thoughtful consideration, they decided it was the most responsible choice to make, in the totality of the circumstances.
posted by ambrosia at 12:13 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wow. What an interesting series of comments. The way timsteil just starts addressing women as a whole, venting his frustrations and annoyances on half of the human race – and yet it's a natural thing; it's a portrait of something that seems very common. And the source of it all is this apparently personal angst that he's laid on the opposite sex.

The little details – like his statement that there was no way in hell he'd raise a kid who was the product of his ex's folly, and yet when he faces that moment when the abortion happens, it's almost too much for him to bear. And then he turns around and is really anguished that the doctor could be so callous – and eventually that women could let this happen. He's projecting everything everywhere but himself. Whereas I can't help but feel as though it's all down to how he feels about his own part in this: he rejected this "potential kid," as he puts it, and now he feels a pang of guilt for that rejection. And he's projecting that guilt outward.

It's just very interesting to me, because this seems like a really common place for misogyny to start, and if we pay attention to it we can understand better how to deal with it. It's easy to see stuff like this and be outraged – it's outrageous, of course, the way timsteil can actually address all women in this way. But it's also somewhat revelatory; because this, friends, is where misogyny starts: with a moment of pain that's never faced down and confronted.
posted by koeselitz at 12:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [58 favorites]


We all choose our words poorly now and then, especially on subjects we feel strongly about. If you feel like you are taking something away from this interaction that will inform your later participation on MetaFilter, then some good will come of it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Note: Everyone needs a hug.
posted by infini at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sure, Hipsapantamatic. I use it to send out party invites from my pants all the time.

Everything is better with bluetooth.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2011


And a pants invitation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2011


With that in mind, I find it hard to conceive that a woman can find herself pregnant, and not know how it happened.

I don't think anyone asserted that women don't know how they became pregnant.

Given this back and forth on MeFi, I had yet another discussion with my 14 year old son, which seemed uncomfortable, where I pretty much told him you are shooting live ammo and that comes with responsibilities.

Keep having this discussion. I am continually shocked by how rarely young men are properly educated about their responsibilities with regard to sex. In the case of a son, your responsibilities as a parent are even more potentially serious than they are with daughters, because your son could easily impregnate someone, and unlike your daughters, would have absolutely no say in whether or not he becomes a parent as a result of that pregnancy. Therefore, he risks becoming a father any time he has sex. A serious responsibility.
posted by Miko at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


With that, I will take some upthread advice. and preempt mods needing to do something. I'm taking a walk. I'm taking a break.

I invite you to take some other advice offered you by myself and misha -- and examine whether there are any scars from your past.

I'm not seeing someone hateful in here. I'm seeing someone who's been hurt deeply somewhere, and is trying to "walk it off" -- and that just doesn't work.

Peace to you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


That was meant for infini, but seems to work just as well with L'Estrange Fruit.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:18 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really don't think going through the Culturally Approved Amount Of Pain And/Or Shame should be a prerequisite for getting an abortion. I really hate the "flippant woman getting abortions for funsies" straw (wo)man.

That said, joke time: my pants have a street team to hand out those 1/4 sheet flyers.
posted by NoraReed at 12:19 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Roast me all you want..

No, it's not time for recipes yet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:19 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


(Puts away copy of To Serve Man)
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:20 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


With that in mind, I find it hard to conceive that a woman can find herself pregnant, and not know how it happened.

Reading between the lines in the comment I was able to discern this point, however it seemed like you chose every other word to be as offensively received as possible.

Charitably demands that I choose to believe that this was not your intent, but seriously, the way you phrased some of your points really seemed like they were designed to start fires. Maybe be more careful next time?
posted by quin at 12:20 PM on March 21, 2011


Just as an attempt at reframing Tim's comment into something more reasonable:

The costs of pregnancy to women are more immediate and higher than the costs to men. It is therefore unfortunate and true that women have more of a vested interest in preventing pregnancy, though undoubtably men have an interest as well. Women who have unwanted pregnancies have engaged in risky behavior. This doesn't absolve men, and does reinforce the necessity of women having reproductive choices, but it does underline the fact that risky behavior is risky. It is human to castigate those who suffer the consequences of risky behavior, even as we seek to mitigate that risk.
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I find it hard to conceive that someone could get, say, syphillis, and not know how it happened. And yet, we allow those idiots to take antibiotics, instead of forcing them to live with their mistake as a form of punishment.

Wait, look what I did there - I compared getting pregnant to getting an STD! I'm terrible!
posted by muddgirl at 12:24 PM on March 21, 2011 [27 favorites]


You want to cut the number of abortions really sharply and put your money where your mouth is? Support scientific and realistic sex education and freely available birth control for adolescents, a discourse of equal responsibility for men (and boys) in sexual relationships, and oppose the oversexualization of children's culture. That's where the crisis is, both of excessive abortion rates and of grossly restricted economic opportunities for women and their children alike, which in turn reproduces the cycles of social dysfunction that drive high rates of teenage pregnancy.

Quoted because it is exactly right and if I weren't in my work cube right now I'd stand up and applaud.
posted by rtha at 12:25 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


timsteil: " With that in mind, I find it hard to conceive that a woman can find herself pregnant, and not know how it happened."

This was never an issue! It was not brought up by anyone until you said it. No one used ignorance as a defense or justification for abortion in that thread, and your continued insistence that women are somehow irresponsible if they have sex, become pregnant and want an abortion is truly bizarre and misogynistic.
posted by zarq at 12:26 PM on March 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


With that in mind, I find it hard to conceive that a woman can find herself pregnant, and not know how it happened.

Contraception isn't 100% reliable. People sometimes decide not to use it. Not all sex is consensual. Circumstances change and suddenly having a child stops being a good idea. The list of reasons why a woman could find herself pregnant, knowing how it happened, and still not wanting to be, is endless. The substance of your comments makes it sound like you think women should be punished for some of those reasons by continuing an unwanted pregnancy. That seems to me like a terrible reason to have a child.

The tone of your comment made it into one of the nastiest things I've ever seen on this site.
posted by FishBike at 12:27 PM on March 21, 2011 [34 favorites]


Maybe you will look back with the gift of wisdom and think I said the right thing in the Oh so fuckin wrong way.

Personally speaking, I don't care what someone thinks, as long as they talk like they respect people who disagree with them. The "oh so fuckin wrong way" of framing a comment turns people off from anything worthwhile you might have to say. It shuts down conversations. The oh so fuckin wrong way of making comments should really be avoided at all times.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:28 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm honestly curious to know if it is common for clinics to let other people into the procedure room.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:29 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


@ Timsteil--- It seems like you took something positive away from this conversation. I'd like to believe this is a place where we can all disagree and do it well. But we all have an obligation to try and be respectful, even when it's hard and even when we want to rant and rave, which I know I want to do on occasion. This is a really emotional issue for a lot of people on both sides. Which makes it even more important to try not to be a jerk when you talk about it.
posted by supercapitalist at 12:29 PM on March 21, 2011


Women who have unwanted pregnancies have engaged in risky behavior.

That's.... just... no. Not always. Please see "not always consensual", above.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:30 PM on March 21, 2011


Please see "not always consensual", above.

Not to mention the also previously mentioned

1) change of life circumstances
2) failure of birth control
posted by small_ruminant at 12:32 PM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


The author has a point that is valid adn being made. Perhaps it the choice of words and less than careful articulation of the basic premise that have led to this here grar, them not being what the community considers appropriate for public discourse.

As a person who issued a GRAR-y couple of responses but was not sorry to see one of them deleted, I thought the problem wasn't the opinion so much as the fact that timsteil wanted something he wasn't going to get out of the thread. I can't tell whether that was the last word, or pro-choice without apology women to back off/admit he was right/admit they were bad people, or what. The opinions expressed and the language used, especially in the comment cortex linked, were pretty heinous IMO, but the thread had rerailed after the first derail. Derailing it again was the WTF-GRAR moment.

(New self-rule: in addition to not repeating myself more than 3 times, don't respond to the guy repeating himself more than 3 times. It wastes my time and annoys the mods, who are probably going to delete it, and then I can say what I really think in MeTa.)
posted by immlass at 12:32 PM on March 21, 2011


To respond to the more reasonable version of the argument drafted by klangklangston:

It is therefore unfortunate and true that women have more of a vested interest in preventing pregnancy, though undoubtably men have an interest as well

I actually think it's men who have more of a vested interest, since the only point they can fully control their fertility is the point at which they choose to have sex or not. If a pregnancy results from sex, a woman may exercise the choice to have an abortion, so there is a second opportunity for the female to prevent reproduction, but not the male.

Women who have unwanted pregnancies have engaged in risky behavior.

Women and men who have sex have engaged in risky behavior. Both people have. Also, as noted above, knowledgeable consent is not always present. Some women become pregnant who have accepted no risk at all, unfortunately.

It is human to castiate those who suffer the consequences of risky behavior, even as we seek to mitigate that risk.

It might be predictably human, but it's still inhumane. As fourcheesemac's comment illustrated, sexual activity is pretty much a human constant. Recognizing and mitigating the risks of sexual activity doesn't necessarily involve shaming or castigating people who indulge in something that is entirely natural and heavily influenced by evolutionary drives. We can certainly impose intellectual and social constraints on our drives to bring about more social good in human lives, and sex education and reproductive choice are actually part of the constraints we've evolved in order to maximize human potential overall.
posted by Miko at 12:37 PM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Or how about a just plain drunken fuck without birth control? How many of us haven't done it at least once, and gotten away with it in our lives? Timsteil, have you lived a pure and risk free life? Did you keep *your* legs closed until the moment you knew you wanted and could afford a baby, on the off chance that whatever birth control you were using (you were using it, right?) was 99 percent reliable?

We take risks all the time at all levels and most of the time we get away with doing things when we knew the consequences might be serious. Sometimes we don't, and a civilized society provides measured ways of handling those consequences that don't make us pay for one mistake out of all proportion just because we were the unlucky one or did something extra careless in the grip of powerful emotions or drives rooted in our most basic animal natures.

People will always take risks, and sometimes misjudge risks or have failures of rational judgment in moments of high emotion or desire. If we could only admit that was true instead of pretending that some sort of pure virtue (of whatever sort, even if it means always using a condom) is even possible for any of us. It isn't.

The more strident the moralist, the more likely s/he is a serious sinner. If there's one thing we've learned from watching the sexual moralists of the American right come to grief on the rocks of their own repressed natures time and time again, it is that you shouldn't trust someone who orders you to be perfect.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:40 PM on March 21, 2011 [40 favorites]


My pants are high tech, are you on NFC?
posted by infini at 12:40 PM on March 21, 2011


Or how about a just plain drunken fuck without birth control?

I'm in.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:42 PM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


We take risks all the time at all levels and most of the time we get away with doing things when we knew the consequences might be serious. Sometimes we don't, and a civilized society provides measured ways of handling those consequences that don't make us pay for one mistake out of all proportion just because we were the unlucky one or did something extra careless in the grip of powerful emotions or drives rooted in our most basic animal natures.

I couldn't agree more. If I was held to task for every risk I've taken and gotten away with, I'd be one sorry person.
posted by Forktine at 12:42 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm in.
posted by Astro Zombie

That's the problem right there!
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:44 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm a sex educator. I read this and the other thread. I'm sitting within arm's reach of a stack of index cards of REAL questions that REAL teenagers have. I'll tell you right now, the state of sex ed in this country is shameful. For those of you who can't believe someone might not understand how pregnancy works, here's a sampling of real 9th graders' questions:

What is masturbation and is it safe?

If a man has a small penis and other man has a big penis, which guy would get a girl pregnant first?

If you give a guy a blowjob and swallow the cum can you get preggo?

How long do you have to take the pill if you have sex only once? Just the day it occurred or after, too?


I'm not sure what my point is other than just to say that I'm tired. I'm emotionally tired of hearing people who do know how reproduction works assert that of course EVERYONE must know.

They don't. Believe me.
posted by Stewriffic at 12:46 PM on March 21, 2011 [126 favorites]


Are you going to answer those questions, or just leave us hanging?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:48 PM on March 21, 2011 [26 favorites]


Seriously, how can anyone insist that absolutely everyone MUST know all the facts of reproduction, given the countless school districts in this country that don't even offer sex ed, or offer only abstinence-based sex ed if they offer it at all?
posted by palomar at 12:49 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


You'd be surprised how many people think that the pregnancy testing sticks from the pharmacy can detect pregnancy the morning after sex.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:50 PM on March 21, 2011


Not all of us have advanced degrees in babytology, Stewriffic. Stop trying to show off and just tell us whether you can reverse pregnancy by having sex with the same person in a different time zone.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 12:51 PM on March 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


you just have to read the sex questions on yahoo answers for a few minutes to see how dire sex ed is in this country (or really any country -- i don't think it's exclusively a US problem)
posted by empath at 12:54 PM on March 21, 2011


That's not how babby formed?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:55 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


"That's.... just... no. Not always. Please see "not always consensual", above."

Yeah, but Tim explicitly excluded rape from his argument. I should have reprised that exclusion, but I didn't think it was necessary.

"Not to mention the also previously mentioned

1) change of life circumstances
2) failure of birth control
"

Both of those are still risks inherent to having sex. When you have sex with a condom, you are accepting the risk that the condom could break. When you have sex, even to explicitly conceive a child, you are also accepting the risk that your life circumstances could change. In both cases, abortion helps mitigate that risk, but since abortions are always something that any rational person would want to avoid, they are part of the consequences to that risk.

"I actually think it's men who have more of a vested interest, since the only point they can fully control their fertility is the point at which they choose to have sex or not. If a pregnancy results from sex, a woman may exercise the choice to have an abortion, so there is a second opportunity for the female to prevent reproduction, but not the male."

I remember a MeTa thread (that I can't seem to find) where you argued very forcefully against the proposition that a man had any interest in keeping abortions legal. But again, the risk and interest in this argument are proportionate to the detrimental consequences, which anyone must agree rest much more in practice with the woman. The costs for a man of a woman becoming pregnant are simply not as high as they are for the woman.

"Women and men who have sex have engaged in risky behavior. Both people have. Also, as noted above, knowledgeable consent is not always present. Some women become pregnant who have accepted no risk at all, unfortunately."

Yes, both people have. Which is why I said that it didn't absolve the man from the consequences of his actions — one of the reasons why we recognize that the man in that AskMe was a bad actor was that he was seeking to shirk those consequences.

"It might be predictably human, but it's still inhumane."

Sure, if it happens afterward, mostly because it's unnecessary. As someone mentioned upthread, getting an abortion is taking responsibility and accepting the risk — it's not as if abortions are without cost, both physical and financial. No one outside of right-wing anecdotes sets out to get an abortion, and the vast majority of sexually-active people can reasonably be construed to be actively avoiding having to get one.

As an aside, it's kind of a shame that the last mainstream movie I saw take a healthy approach to abortion was Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
posted by klangklangston at 12:55 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Uppity Pigeon #2, that only works if you can get to the southern hemisphere in time- it has to do with the water draining out of the sink in the other direction. That's why it's only safe to join the mile high club if you're on a flight to Melbourne, Australia. It's also why so many Australians and new Zealanders are left handed.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:56 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Women who have unwanted pregnancies have engaged in risky behavior.

I once knew a woman who had four unintended pregnancies while using six different methods of birth control. If you're doing the math, yes, that's right — two of those times, she and her husband were doing the belt-and-suspenders thing and using two different methods simultaneously. It didn't matter how careful they were, it seemed like the Universe really really REALLY wanted her and her husband to spawn. (And before anyone jumps in with the insulting suggestion that maybe they screwed up all six methods... please. You must be psychic if you can tell what they did wrong when her OB/GYN said they'd used the methods correctly as instructed and intended.)

What would the "unwanted pregnancies means you engaged in risky behavior" people suggest? That she and her husband never have sex? That they never have sex until they could afford two surgical sterilizations (which is not 100% guaranteed)?

Sometimes pregnancy happens, regardless of the precautions people took to avoid it. I think it's pointless to waste time on discussions of how they should have anticipated it or should have done something (unspecified) to avoid it — sometimes it happens even when people did everything "right". So now what?
posted by Lexica at 12:56 PM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Repellent, sexist, misogynist horseshit, timsteil. It takes two. Plain and simple. If we, as a species, are to succeed and thrive, we had better work together. That whole "it's your womb, it's your curse, it's your responsibility" relegatory garbage is positively primeval and really the worst kind of foolishness.

As a nulligravida who's still had too many Thursday mornings spent staring in horror at the Wednesday pill still in its little blister pack spot, I strongly feel that a human error should not be the determining moment of a life. Of two plus lives, in the case of pregnancy. We have the intelligence to find a better way, to surpass, together, our simple silly natures, and there is no reason to believe women should bear superhuman responsibility, living in fear of penises getting anywhere near them, as you suggest, other than in service of a program of their specific repression.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:56 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


"I'm not sure what my point is other than just to say that I'm tired. I'm emotionally tired of hearing people who do know how reproduction works assert that of course EVERYONE must know.

They don't. Believe me.
"

To be fair, when I was in my health classes, we went out of our way to write up the stupidest questions possible (not just because everyone was required to write one question, but also because the teacher read all of them aloud). I think mine was about whether you could still get pregnant in space, because without gravity the sperm wouldn't know which way to go. If I were writing it now, I'd add a "LOL," but such advances in trolling comedy hadn't been made then.
posted by klangklangston at 12:58 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I'm going to disagree too, and say that having an abortion is an act of taking responsibility. Just because you don't like how somebody chose to be responsible for their pregnancy doesn't mean they are being cavalier and irresponsible.

This is one of the more inane and repugnant comments I've read here. You are defending all abortions as a class - everyone who got one made a responsible choice.

Let's look at some statistics. Scroll to the table Reasons for Abortions: Compiled Estimates. A bit less than 98% are "personal choice", meaning not medically necessary and not a product of rape. Take a look as well at Reasons Given for Abortions: Nebraska, 25.83% No Contraceptive Used. And you're signing off on all of those as the responsible choice? The women getting those abortions are indeed responsible for the choices they made, but that's far and away from what you claimed.
posted by BigSky at 12:58 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stop trying to show off and just tell us whether you can reverse pregnancy by having sex with the same person in a different time zone.

That's ridiculous. Everyone knows you can only reverse a pregnancy by having sex in reverse and then walking backwards out of the room.

But seriously, folks: the level of ignorance about sex and reproduction among huge portions of our citizenry is really shocking, and way too widespread for it to be their own fault. I teach college English, and one of my colleagues had to turn his composition class into Emergency Sex Ed after a casual comment by a student and the subsequent comments of the rest of them made it clear that most of these 18-19-year-old college students knew next to nothing about any of this stuff. It's unfortunate that their English professor had to be the one to tell them that you can still get pregnant if you have sex in the shower, but at least someone did.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:59 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> the last mainstream movie I saw take a healthy approach to abortion was Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Blue Valentine is pretty great at it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:59 PM on March 21, 2011


This is one of the more inane and repugnant comments I've read here.

Are you new here? Or did this just whack the back of your particular hobby horse?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:00 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, that comment was... yeah. Others here have pretty much nailed it. And it had none of the verbal flair that we saw in The Case of the Ass-Jittering Cattle.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 1:00 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be fair, when I was in my health classes, we went out of our way to write up the stupidest questions possible

Oh, I get those, too. They look like this: "If a guy has gonareia [sic] and a girl gives him a handjob can she be like spiderman and shoot green stuff out her hand?"
posted by Stewriffic at 1:01 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, Bevets himself would be proud.
posted by malocchio at 1:02 PM on March 21, 2011


Are you new here?

No. Time lurking + membership = approx. 10 years.
posted by BigSky at 1:02 PM on March 21, 2011


"Sometimes pregnancy happens, regardless of the precautions people took to avoid it. I think it's pointless to waste time on discussions of how they should have anticipated it or should have done something (unspecified) to avoid it — sometimes it happens even when people did everything "right". So now what?"

Well, either have the kid, or have a safe, legal abortion. And while they tried six methods of birth control, the risky act is the sex. They lowered their risk, they didn't eliminate it. (One of my high school teachers got his wife pregnant after she'd had a tubal ligation that they found out was apparently done wrong; his son managed to impregnate a woman after getting a vasectomy.)

"And you're signing off on all of those as the responsible choice? The women getting those abortions are indeed responsible for the choices they made, but that's far and away from what you claimed."

Yeah, I will. It was irresponsible to have sex without contraceptives. It is responsible to have an abortion in order to not have a child. They're acting responsibly after acting irresponsibly. Isn't that what we want? And in order to decrease those abortions, isn't it worth working to make sure that people know how to avoid that first act of irresponsibility?
posted by klangklangston at 1:03 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh shit! There may be hope for Julie Taymor's career yet!
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:03 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's look at some statistics. Scroll to the table Reasons for Abortions: Compiled Estimates. A bit less than 98% are "personal choice", meaning not medically necessary and not a product of rape. Take a look as well at Reasons Given for Abortions: Nebraska, 25.83% No Contraceptive Used. And you're signing off on all of those as the responsible choice? The women getting those abortions are indeed responsible for the choices they made, but that's far and away from what you claimed.

BigSky: in light of what others in here are saying about the ignorance some people have about contraception and reproduction, I wonder just how "responsible" they were capable of being.

In other words: they may not have used contraception, but it's very possible that many of them may not have known enough about contraception to use it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:03 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


And you're signing off on all of those as the responsible choice?

Well, I sure am. It seems more responsible than forcing someone who clearly does not want a child to have a child anyway. Preventing someone from having an abortion because their choices do not perfectly align with my own is not something I can support.
posted by palomar at 1:03 PM on March 21, 2011 [23 favorites]


Yeah, but Tim explicitly excluded rape from his argument. I should have reprised that exclusion, but I didn't think it was necessary.

1. Your statement was standing on its own, and had no hint of being anything but a blanket statement.

2. While removing rape from the discussion makes it easier to take a simple moral stance, YOU CAN'T REMOVE RAPE FROM THE QUESTION. Rape is out there, it's a part of many many womens' lives, and you can't discuss abortion in a puritanical vacuum that discusses only those women who chose to have sex. Life, for a woman, does not work that way.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:04 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


No. Time lurking + membership = approx. 10 years.

Then I'm going with hobby horse.

So to clarify my outrageously objectionable comment, the worst you have seen in a decade, yes, making an appointment, finding transportation, having a medical procedure, and paying for it -- as most people who have an abortion do, to some extent -- is taking responsibility for an abortion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:05 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


for a pregnancy, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:06 PM on March 21, 2011


I certainly hope that those who are jumping in to say "I am!", did not bother to click the link in my post. There are after all a few embroys aborted for the "reason" of sex selection. Or are you so incapable of seeing nuance in this issue that even that is the responsible choice?
posted by BigSky at 1:07 PM on March 21, 2011


I'm pretty sure this metatalk thread shouldn't be a place to have another argument about abortion.
posted by empath at 1:08 PM on March 21, 2011


And you're signing off on all of those as the responsible choice?

This is why I tell my students never to argue using rhetorical questions. It seems like a solid way of making your point, because you think the answer to that question is so obvious that you can't imagine anyone answering it differently from the way you would. But, as we see here, that's pretty much never true. They're really good for entrenching the opinions of people who already agree with you, but not so good for changing people's minds, or having a reasonable discussion.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:08 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


BigSky -- I support a woman's right to abortion. I do not support it only if they have abortions that I can agree with. I support the right regardless of my personal feelings about it. If a woman has a sex-selective abortion, that is her right, regardless of my feelings about it.

The only time I get to have a say in a woman's abortion is when I am the one having the procedure.
posted by palomar at 1:09 PM on March 21, 2011 [53 favorites]


If it's irresponsible to have an abortion, it's more irresponsible not to have sex education, irresponsible not to not hand out free birth control, and irresponsible not to encourage kids to use that birth control if they're gonna do it anyway.

If only anti-choice, anti-sex folks could focus less on controlling women's private lives, and focus more about being responsible human beings themselves.

Maybe they could take a grown-up perspective of the world, instead of deliberately forcing society to raise a generation of ignorant children who don't know no better, which seems an irresponsible and childish thing to do in itself.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:10 PM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


Or are you so incapable of seeing nuance in this issue that even that is the responsible choice?

There will always be an abortion I personally disagree with. This does not mean the person making the actual decision was being irresponsible.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:10 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm in.
posted by Astro Zombie


A little to your left. NOW you are.
posted by Sallyfur at 1:12 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, it's hurting me!
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:14 PM on March 21, 2011


Haven't you been taught about lubricants?
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:14 PM on March 21, 2011


palomar: "BigSky -- I support a woman's right to abortion. I do not support it only if they have abortions that I can agree with. I support the right regardless of my personal feelings about it. If a woman has a sex-selective abortion, that is her right, regardless of my feelings about it.

The only time I get to have a say in a woman's abortion is when I am the one having the procedure.
"

I would like to favorite this about 10 more times, please.
posted by zarq at 1:16 PM on March 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


L'Estrange Fruit

"Strange Fruit" is a Billie Holiday blues song. The phrase describes the sight of lynched black men swinging from nooses tossed over a tree limb.

I think that as a user name, it is in exceedingly poor taste.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:16 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haven't you been taught about lubricants?

dude. how many times do i have to say it, sex ed is friggin' DISMAL.
posted by palomar at 1:17 PM on March 21, 2011


Yeah, what is this, auto shop?
posted by Sallyfur at 1:19 PM on March 21, 2011


BigSky - maybe you could find statistics on a page that isn't so...opinionated?
posted by nadawi at 1:19 PM on March 21, 2011


I think that as a user name, it is in exceedingly poor taste.

I support your right to have an opinion about my user name. I also support my right to have my own opinion about it.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:19 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I support your right to have an opinion about my right to have an opinion!
posted by five fresh fish at 1:21 PM on March 21, 2011


That's funny. I always thought it was a reference to the Harry Potter character.

Modern pop culture has apparently melted my brain.
posted by zarq at 1:21 PM on March 21, 2011


Cake!
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:22 PM on March 21, 2011


Dudes, I don't support any of your rights or respect your decisions, and I will be very vocal about it. It's part of my radical feminist rebalancing of privilege project.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:22 PM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


I assumed it was a reference to the Camus book in which the protagonist murders an Arab.

Which, I suppose, isn't an improvement.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:23 PM on March 21, 2011


DEATH no wait cake please
posted by scrump at 1:23 PM on March 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


I find it hard to conceive that a woman can find herself pregnant, and not know how it happened.

I assumed this was a terrible pun that I didn't quite understand.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:23 PM on March 21, 2011 [28 favorites]


I support your right to have an opinion about my right to have an opinion!

I support your opinion to have a right about right opinions having to my... uh... handjob...
posted by fuq at 1:26 PM on March 21, 2011


I swear to god if you kids don't stop recursing I will reboot this server right now.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:29 PM on March 21, 2011 [36 favorites]


I assumed this was a terrible pun that I didn't quite understand.

It was the "...a woman find herself pregnant..." part that was odd to me. I kept imagining a woman looking for her car keys, lifting up a sofa cushion and suddenly finding out she' s pregnant. Still no car keys though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:29 PM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


palomar - I'm pro-choice as well. This isn't about me looking to limit women's ability to choose. Freedom means having the ability to make dumb, and perhaps even evil, choices. After all the freedom to do only that which some authority figure approves of is no freedom at all. But that is not the some thing as declaring the choices free of judgment. And there is nothing wrong with pointing out that some number of women seem to be rather casual in their choice to abort. Condemning a specific choice is not necessarily connected with a desire to legislate.

Frequently, in debates about abortion some of the more outspoken pro-choice advocates will conflate the approval for a woman's right to make a choice, with the approval of the decision. That's what happened here. This is shitty rhetoric masquerading as a discussion of the issues. When you look at it in the context of abortion, the reasons given and the results thereof, it is particularly repulsive.

-----

nadawi - Yes, the author has a strong pro-life view. But what does that have to do with his work here? Please note, he cites his sources.
posted by BigSky at 1:32 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Said a boy to a girl in a Fiat
"Where the hell is my key at?"
He continued to seek,
And she said, with a squeak,
"THAT's not where it's likely to be at!"



sorry
posted by Sallyfur at 1:32 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


It was the "...a woman find herself pregnant..." part that was odd to me. I kept imagining a woman looking for her car keys, lifting up a sofa cushion and suddenly finding out she' s pregnant. Still no car keys though.

I was thinking more along the lines of "Extree, extree! Read all about it! You're pregnant!"
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 1:33 PM on March 21, 2011


bigsky - i could comb through every single one of those sources and i might come up with the same data - but chances are that his viewpoints on abortion skew his telling of the facts. it's just the way it works. he had to do some editorializing and condensing to use that many sources and come up with an article that short. reading his other "studies" on abortion and terrorists and democrats and israel - well, i just don't find him trustworthy enough to accept his "facts."
posted by nadawi at 1:35 PM on March 21, 2011


Frequently, in debates about abortion some of the more outspoken pro-choice advocates will conflate the approval for a woman's right to make a choice, with the approval of the decision. That's what happened here

I thought the exact opposite happened. We were having a discussion about the legal right to abortion and restrictions thereupon and some dude stomped in to make it all about his hurt feelings and what about the men?!?!
posted by immlass at 1:35 PM on March 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


i just don't find him trustworthy enough to accept his "facts."

A most convenient and convincing (!) response.
posted by BigSky at 1:38 PM on March 21, 2011


"2. While removing rape from the discussion makes it easier to take a simple moral stance, YOU CAN'T REMOVE RAPE FROM THE QUESTION. Rape is out there, it's a part of many many womens' lives, and you can't discuss abortion in a puritanical vacuum that discusses only those women who chose to have sex. Life, for a woman, does not work that way."

Puritanical vacuum?

Hey, look, I get that I waded into a contentious thread and put forth an arguable opinion, but that's a pretty ridiculous bit of rhetorical overreach given what I wrote, and a pretty emotional, irrelevant response. You can, in fact, remove rape from the question: Abortion should be safe and legal in all cases. Rape is an irrelevant tangent to that statement because it's already covered in saying that it should be safe and legal. The only way to go further would be to say that abortion should be explicitly endorsed in cases of rape, and that's a little silly and brings its own set of weird assumptions and crazy consequences.

So stop pretending that you're arguing with some nut outside the clinic and actually read what I'm writing.
posted by klangklangston at 1:40 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


have you read all his cites? why are you taking on with blind faith that he's accurately representing the data? did you read any of his other studies or op-ed pieces? did you find nothing in those that were at least open to interpretation that he set forward as actual fact? does that not make you question his conclusions in this matter? just because some guy said some study says something doesn't actually make it true - see all mass media science study articles.
posted by nadawi at 1:41 PM on March 21, 2011


I only have two things to say because I'm so incredibly late to this thread.

1. As I belatedly just said in the original FPP thread, three cheers and a standing ovation to Errant, whose responses to timsteil were 11s on a scale of 1 to 10.

2. I agree with BigSky that as long as freedom of choice is in no way impeded, it is fine to judge the choices that others do make. The sticking point is when it is clear that the judgments are leading people to feel fine about infringing on choice. I too disapprove of abortion but as I said in the original thread, I'd fight to the death to defend anyone's decision to get one, no matter how bad I might feel their reasons were.
posted by bearwife at 1:41 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm in.
posted by Astro Zombie


Wrong hole!
posted by Forktine at 1:42 PM on March 21, 2011


A most convenient and convincing (!) response.

It's kind of pointless to try to convince anybody one way or the other on abortion. People's opinions are generally entrenched and immovable, and if they are going to change they're mind, they're going to do it on their own.
posted by empath at 1:43 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Puritanical vacuum?

No thank you, have you any RU486?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:44 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


klangklangston, I read and responded to this: Women who have unwanted pregnancies have engaged in risky behavior.

You then tried to redefine that statement to refer only to consensual sex, and I responded to that.
Yeah, puritanical was overblown and not the best word choice. I concede that. But I was in fact responding to you in each case and not to a mythical sign-waver. Rape is a pretty hot topic, abortion-wise, because of the many and myriad ways in which women are raped in which they are not allowed to define it as rape, because of clothing choices or power relationships, having had a few drinks or having married a man who thinks that punching his wife into bed is okay.... it's not easy to define all sex as consensual, and all women as having to indulge in risk.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:46 PM on March 21, 2011


all women as having to indulge in risk.

all women as CHOOSING to indulge in risk.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:47 PM on March 21, 2011


Eventually (sooner rather than later), I would like to see "untenable" replace "unwanted".
posted by batmonkey at 1:48 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Frequently, in debates about abortion some of the more outspoken pro-choice advocates will conflate the approval for a woman's right to make a choice, with the approval of the decision.

It seems to me that some of the more outspoken pro-choice advocates will conflate the approval for a woman's right to choose with the idea that their own personal approval or judgment of that decision doesn't matter in the slightest. Outside of the Church of Euthanasia, I can't think off the top of my head of any pro-choice advocates who are happy a woman got an abortion.

But, look, anyone can get as judgy and finger-pointy as they want, so long as they are not also supporting the legal codification of rights removal from a class of people. As long as that's the case, we can have a different argument about how much opinion we can reasonably have regarding other people's lives, and we can do so in a way that doesn't have as its output the infringement of basic autonomy. I would love to be having that argument instead.
posted by Errant at 1:49 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


BigSky, I guess I would question why you feel you deserve to have judgement over anyone else's choices. Or, rather, why your judgement matters at all.

People make choices all day long that I would not make for myself. I suppose judging those people for those choices is my "right", but... why would I want a right like that? What good does it do? What purpose does it serve? Does it help anyone? Does it change anything in a good way?
posted by palomar at 1:49 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Totally off topic, but things have been completely odd and strange in my media consumption for the past 24 hours.

Last night I caught up on past episodes of Glee and House, which include teenage boys (odd, but YAY for primetime tv) kissing each other and a limping doctor saving people from a zombie apocalypse with his ax/gun cane amidst a dance number.

This morning I stumbled across Everything you need to know about pegging (NSFW), courtesy of Jezebel, this afternoon there's gay conversion Apps courtesy of Apple, and talking about younger kids is hateful and hurtful and this thread, which I can't even being to categorize.

I should hold off on that AskMe question....
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:51 PM on March 21, 2011


Be careful! I recently read that moralizing is the primary causative factor for adult-onset micropenis.

Very recently, actually. Like, just after I wrote it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:54 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


If someone has already made the decision to be pro-choice, that is, not to legally interfere with a woman's right to an abortion, then what on earth does it matter WHY she wants one?

If a woman consciously and repeatedly uses abortions as birth control, it's certainly unfortunate, since there are much cheaper and easier methods, but it's none of my damned business.
posted by desjardins at 1:57 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Men are 50% of this equation. BILLIONS of dollars are spent since you are conceived teaching you not to spill your precious, precious seed inside of a lady. THEN more billions of dollars get spent in order to keep that lady from keeping that baby in her belly. What is wrong with you men that you go around spraying highly potent sperms into all of the ladies? What if they need to not be pregnant? We spend TRILLIONS of dollars on this, you stupid men!
posted by SassHat at 1:58 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ambrosia Voyeur: "Be careful! I recently read that moralizing is the primary causative factor for adult-onset micropenis. "

BUT NOT THE ONLY FACTOR.
posted by zarq at 2:00 PM on March 21, 2011


If there's one thing I have learned from the billions of dollars spent on porn, it's that sperm goes on the partner, not in the partner.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:00 PM on March 21, 2011


Astro Zombie, do I ever have some new search keywords for you.
posted by Errant at 2:02 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


So yeah...dudes, post-menopausal women, and prepubescent girls need not opine.

Or we can call this a free speech area, and everyone should have a valid opinion. Whatever...but lets be logically consistent.


I, a non-Jew, would like to opine on how much bacon Jews should be allowed to eat. FREE SPEECH ZONE! SPRING BREAK WHOOOO
posted by SassHat at 2:03 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did I miss the part where it said, "Astro Zombie Relentless (Attempts at) Comedy Show?"
posted by ambient2 at 2:04 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


No, but you may have missed my more serious contributions.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:07 PM on March 21, 2011


Astro Zombie Fresh

Whatever you're inhaling, pass it over...
posted by infini at 2:10 PM on March 21, 2011


What is wrong with you men that you go around spraying highly potent sperms into all of the ladies?

Spray? Somebody needs this settings adjusted.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's look at some statistics. Scroll to the table Reasons for Abortions: Compiled Estimates. A bit less than 98% are "personal choice", meaning not medically necessary and not a product of rape. Take a look as well at Reasons Given for Abortions: Nebraska, 25.83% No Contraceptive Used.

That chart is not accurately written: the data collected allows people filling out the questionnaire to choose more than one answer. So for "reasons to have an abortion" you could choose rape and mental health and not using contraceptives. So the real reason could very well be rape, yet if that woman chose to indicate that no, she didn't happen to be on the pill at the time she was raped, it contributes to data that sure looks like 25% of women in Nebraska are having abortions as the form of birth control. Yet the compiler has chosen to show these options in his table as adding up to 100%, which is complete BS. And you've chosen to highlight them, without looking at whether it's statistically good information or not.

I also would look long and hard at the circumstances that show mental health as a reason with hundreds of responses per year up until 2006, when suddenly there's only 1. and 1 again for 2007. That's a bad set of data. A responsible statistician would point out this discrepancy at the very least.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


But it's also somewhat revelatory; because this, friends, is where misogyny starts: with a moment of pain that's never faced down and confronted.

koeselitz, I have liked reading you for a long time. Now, it's love.
posted by thinkpiece at 2:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


"In case of rape only" is just a slow descent into madness. A woman's right to abortion is as valid as your right to any medical procedure, period.
posted by SassHat at 2:23 PM on March 21, 2011


"I find it hard to conceive that a woman can find herself pregnant, and not know how it happened."

I like to parse it so that the second 'it' refers back to confusion about not being able to comprehend the conception of a woman finding herself. And pregnant, to boot!

I really wish there were a syntactician on MeFi that could draw me some ascii trees. I am not that clever. At trees or ascii. And I love me some syntax trees!
posted by iamkimiam at 2:32 PM on March 21, 2011


nadawi - No, of course I have not checked each of his citations. The essay is well written and he is open and clear about how he works with the data at hand, and so I take him at face vale. But really this is irrelevant. What we're talking about is whether or not it is appropriate to talk about some abortions having been made lightly, that is irresponsibly. We may well have different ideas about where the line should be, but to deny the existence of a line at all is just blind partisanship and a very poor excuse for participating in a debate.

-----

BigSky, I guess I would question why you feel you deserve to have judgement over anyone else's choices. Or, rather, why your judgement matters at all.

People make choices all day long that I would not make for myself. I suppose judging those people for those choices is my "right", but... why would I want a right like that? What good does it do? What purpose does it serve? Does it help anyone? Does it change anything in a good way?


I think it matters a great deal. This is how we establish the norms for our culture. It doesn't have to be a matter of hounding people, but the refusal to make any judgments is equivalent to disregarding its importance. And this is surely one of the most important ethical decisions a person will make.
posted by BigSky at 2:34 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reasons Given for Abortions: Nebraska

Survey carried out by the Abortion Clinic of the Surreal.
posted by biffa at 2:37 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember a MeTa thread (that I can't seem to find) where you argued very forcefully against the proposition that a man had any interest in keeping abortions legal.

I did; that was pretty recent. But that argument is consistent with my argument here - in fact, this argument is the corollary. I was pointing out here that men do have an interest in preventing a pregnancy, but the only point at which they can influence whether or not they have a child is when they choose to have sex. So, in a way, I see the decision to have sex as actually riskier for a man than for a woman, because for the man, it's his last opportunity to decide whether or not he is willing to become a parent. If abortion is legal and safely regulated, women will have a subsequent opportunity to decide not to become a parent. Men don't have an interest at that point when the woman is considering whether to carry the pregnancy to term, because they've already declared their acceptance of the possible outcome of eventual parenthood by taking the risk of having sex.

But again, the risk and interest in this argument are proportionate to the detrimental consequences, which anyone must agree rest much more in practice with the woman. The costs for a man of a woman becoming pregnant are simply not as high as they are for the woman.

I agree that the risks of pregnancy and parenthood are higher for the women. The risks at the moment of the sex act itself, though, are higher for the man, because that's the moment at which the chain of events can be set into motion, and yet it's the last moment he'll have any influence over the outcome.

For instance, let's say I'm in college and drink too much and take an impetuous, unprotected roll in the hay with someone. For me, on waking up, during the next few weeks I'll live a nervous existence playing out a bunch of big scenarios in my head, waiting until I find out whether or not I've gotten pregnant, but even if it turns out I have, I know that I have the option to end the pregnancy. For the guy, though, the die is already cast, and he won't get to determine the outcome of my pregnancy, whereas I will. That's why the risk for him of choosing to take part in the actual sex act is higher. He won't have a further opportunity to change the outcome of the act, but I will, at least if I'm lucky enough to be able to find, afford, and avail myself of the services.
posted by Miko at 2:38 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's an (in my opinion) less biased look at why women themselves say they have abortions.

Most women, it should be noted, have more than one reason, and indicated this (something like 74%). Some had as many as 8 reasons. Which should serve to indicate that, for most women, this is not a choice made lightly. However, less than 1% indicated non-consensual sex as the reason.

I think it's okay to say that sometimes we don't agree with the reasons people have abortions, so long as we do not infringe on an individual's choice.

I doubt anyone here *wants* abortion as a preferred method of birth control. For some of you using the word "lightly", I believe that's what you mean: in an ideal world, we either would never need abortions or only in very rare cases. Birth control would also be easy to use, easy to acquire, inexpensive, have no negative side effects from long-term use, prevent against STDs and always be 100% effective!

The anti-choice argument rails at the fact that some (I think a very, very small percentage of) women DO have more than one abortion, implying these women do this rather than choose to use birth control prior to sex.

But they conveniently leave out the research that indicates that women who are strongly discouraged from having sex outside of marriage and taught that birth control is 'wrong' equate using it with being 'slutty' because it suggests premeditation for sexual activity. And this attitude results in precisely the outcome anti-choice activists don't want: more abortions.
posted by misha at 2:38 PM on March 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


If a woman consciously and repeatedly uses abortions as birth control, it's certainly unfortunate, since there are much cheaper and easier methods, but it's none of my damned business.

And you know, I'm not sure that it's even cheaper over a lifetime. An abortion is a few hundred bucks; over my lifetime, I've spent (holy cow I just did the math) $12,000 on the pill. Ye gods. That would pay for a lot of abortions (more than I would ever have needed, given my particular relationship history).
a
posted by Miko at 2:43 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


And this is surely one of the most important ethical decisions a person will make.

In the spirit of this conversation, I'd like to add teh caveat taht starts with the point that the ethics of such an act emerge from the foundation of social, cultural and spiritual/religious thinking/norms/customs of the woman's society.

Unless we're only discussing abortions in the United States?
posted by infini at 2:43 PM on March 21, 2011


I think it matters a great deal. This is how we establish the norms for our culture.

I think this is fair. And I think one of the things which comes with living in a free society is dealing with other people's negative opinions about our choices.

What is tricky here is that the people who are supposed to have the choice are often less powerful than the people who have the opinions. So the ability to make negative judgments about other people's abortions needs to be very, very carefully segregated from the ability to influence those choices. As the comments that started this thread illustrate, it is very easy to cross that line. I doubt many of us would be OK with the opinions timsteil expressed -- which he's entitled to have -- being screamed at women walking into an abortion clinic. Or, to put it differently, would be concerned if people who shared those opinions were limited to remaining a given distance from said clinic and woman.
posted by bearwife at 2:45 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


BigSky -- But I still don't understand how you expect to effectively judge abortions that you did not have, since you don't have a full understanding of the circumstances that went into the decision for any given abortion if it's not one you personally did not have performed on your own body.

That's why I have a problem with the idea that judging other women's reasons for their abortions is an acceptable practice. In most instances, I can't possibly know all the reasons for another person's decision. I can't look at another woman's abortion and judge it as being a frivolous decision because there's not enough information for me to make that judgement. I don't live in that hypothetical woman's brain, I am not her soul, I do not know her intimate thoughts and hopes and dreams and worries. I just don't. I can't ever know that, and therefore I can't judge the choices she makes. All I can do is fight for her right to have that abortion in a safe, legal fashion, so that's what I do.
posted by palomar at 2:46 PM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


oneirodynia - I don't see what the problem is. Directly beneath the table for Nebraska it says, "Note: The Nebraska questionnaire allows respondents to indicate multiple reasons, so numbers add to more than total abortions." The last row is giving a total only horizontally. Perhaps the bottom right cell should have been left blank or there should have been a graphical separation between the bottom row and the rest, but this is small potatoes.

And I'm not saying that 25% of the women in Nebraska who got an abortion were doing so for birth control, but rather that it is a sizable percentage and impossible to conceive that all the women who checked that reason (among others) made what I would consider to be a responsible choice, especially given the low percentages of women listing rape and incest as one of the reasons for their abortion.
posted by BigSky at 2:47 PM on March 21, 2011


I commented at length if the thread, but I'll repeat 1 paragraph here.
Many years ago, I held a woman's hand while she was having an abortion. We were married, seperated, and she had got drunk on her birthday and slept with someone whose name she didnt even know, and as we tried to reconcile, this bombshell fell. We went to therapy. I was resolute in thinking I didn't want to raise some no name's kid.
I think this is the key. You sound rather bitter, and maybe this has affected your feelings about women. I'm sorry this happened to you and to her. You aren't representative of all men, she isn't representative of all women.

posted by theora55 at 2:47 PM on March 21, 2011


Funny how so often when one scratches a Libertarian, you find a moralizing little authoritarian just under the skin.

Google ron paul, indeed.
posted by stet at 2:51 PM on March 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


I find it hard to conceive that a woman can find herself pregnant, and not know how it happened.

I'm not sure you deserve the time I'm giving you here, nor anyone else's time. I'm glad there are so many intelligent, coherent commenters to speak for me.

Imagine 1,000,000 sexually active women of childbearing age. None of them wish to become pregnant. If every one of them gets a Paraguard IUD, which is only slightly less effective than tubal ligation, 6000 of those women will become pregnant in one year. If those 1,000,000 all opt for sterilization instead, 5000 will become pregnant.

If those 1,000,000 women use condoms, perfectly, every single time, 20,000 of them will become pregnant.

How many millions of sexually active women of childbearing age do you think there are in the US? I suppose there's a fairly accurate estimation out there and maybe someone else can look that up. Even if every single woman used birth control perfectly, every single time, there would be hundreds of thousands of unintended pregnancies every year.

My personal opinion is that none of the above is relevant because I trust women to make their own decisions about their pregnancies, regardless of what they did or did not do to prevent them.
posted by peep at 2:51 PM on March 21, 2011 [25 favorites]


There are after all a few embroys aborted for the "reason" of sex selection. Or are you so incapable of seeing nuance in this issue that even that is the responsible choice?

I judge as repugnant any conceptual framework that says one sex is more desirable than the other; I judge as unfortunate, sad, misguided, and morally wrong such a belief. But I don't see why my judgment of that belief needs to turn into a judgment of the action.

Honestly, if you earnestly and sincerely hate one sex more than the other such that you would be a bad parent to a child of the hated sex, it seems perfectly responsible to avoid becoming a parent to that hated sex. I can say that and, entirely consistently, maintain that it's pretty messed up to hate one sex like that.
posted by meese at 2:53 PM on March 21, 2011


BigSky: “And I'm not saying that 25% of the women in Nebraska who got an abortion were doing so for birth control, but rather that it is a sizable percentage and impossible to conceive that all the women who checked that reason (among others) made what I would consider to be a responsible choice...”

To whom do these women have a responsibility? What duty are we discussing here? It sounds like you're saying they have a duty to take seriously this particular medical procedure. What is it about this medical procedure that makes it serious, and in what sense do women have a responsibility with regard to it?
posted by koeselitz at 2:55 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


BigSky -- But I still don't understand how you expect to effectively judge abortions that you did not have, since you don't have a full understanding of the circumstances that went into the decision for any given abortion if it's not one you personally did not have performed on your own body.

You make it sound as if I'm sitting on a chair up high, with a line before me, declaring each individual's choice "Good" and "Evil". This simply isn't the case. What I'm talking about is that the refusal to ever make this distinction and even worse than that, to deny that this distinction can, at least in some cases, be made, makes it easier to make the decision casually. That's why it's important.
posted by BigSky at 2:59 PM on March 21, 2011


Again: what's wrong with making this decision casually? I'm honestly not trolling. You said above that abortion is "surely one of the most important ethical decisions a person will make." Why?
posted by koeselitz at 3:02 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


It sounds like you're saying they have a duty to take seriously this particular medical procedure. What is it about this medical procedure that makes it serious, and in what sense do women have a responsibility with regard to it?

Yes.

I'm a bit surprised at your question. I consider it self-evident, it's more of a starting point than a conclusion. My initial motive for posting was that I found the labeling of all abortions as responsible to be masking this intuitive truth. To argue whether or not the existence of an embryo is worthy of any consideration at all is beyond the pale.
posted by BigSky at 3:06 PM on March 21, 2011


To argue whether or not the existence of an embryo is worthy of any consideration at all is beyond the pale.

No it's not. I don't think a blastocyst is worth more consideration than a sneeze, personally.
posted by empath at 3:09 PM on March 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


What I'm talking about is that the refusal to ever make this distinction and even worse than that, to deny that this distinction can, at least in some cases, be made, makes it easier to make the decision casually. That's why it's important.

Eh, I see it a lot like me meddling with what people decide to eat. Those things can have lasting effects on their lives and, if I'm extrapolating, increased health insurance costs and a whole bunch of other quality of life things. And sure at some level I'd like people to eat healthier, that's my personal preference. I can say that one sort of food is healthier than another. And yet, if someone's in line in front of me at the supermarket, it's not appropriate of me to start hassling them about it. This is because one of our societal norms is that people get to choose what they eat.

Similarly I think there are better and worse reasons for people to get an abortion, in my private heart of hearts. However, ethically for me being pro choice means that even if you have what I personally think is a not-good reason to get one, it's immaterial to the larger question of whether I think it's your choice to make. So, other people can talk about how it may make them uncomfortable if women use abortions as birth control or as sex selection, but to me there's nothing to debate because I personally have decided that it's not my business why you're getting one. If this becomes a larger issue in the fight to keep women having the right to choose what their reproductive decisions are going to be, then yeah we can talk about it, but ultimately even if the numbers in Nebraska were right on [and I don't think they are for reasons that have been stated upthread] I still think it's not my business and I still think it's okay.

You making a decision to have an abortion is your right whether I think it's a good idea or not. Clearly other people have other ideas, but I don't think that the consensus point on abortion here or elsewhere is that they're "always responsible" but it's that it's ultimately always your own choice as the pregnant person, to make.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:12 PM on March 21, 2011 [30 favorites]


So your sense is that "the existence of an embryo" is a thing of such seriousness that women have a responsibility to take it seriously?

I'm asking about this because it seems to be the crux of the matter, and the central source of differing opinions. As empath's comment makes clear, some people don't take embryos or their existence seriously. And apparently the difference between abortions and all other medical procedures – tonsilectomy, for example – is that embryos, unlike tonsils, have some inherent and immanent seriousness or importance.

I mean, I can sit here all day and tell you that neither doctors nor patients take abortions lightly. And I even think you'll probably agree with me, at the end of the day, as far as it goes. But the fact is that there are doctors and patients who will perform or undergo an abortion as lightly as they might a tonsilectomy – which is still a surgical procedure with very real risks and a physical component that can't be ignored. The thing is that I get the sense that that is what you object to; you feel, I sense, that a tonsilectomy and an abortion are fundamentally different.

But I have trouble seeing how you draw that distinction without claiming that embryos are viable living beings. What I'm saying is: if you believe embryos are worthy of this deeper consideration, how can you believe that abortion is ever justified?
posted by koeselitz at 3:16 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


(Sorry, that was addressed to BigSky.)
posted by koeselitz at 3:16 PM on March 21, 2011


BigSky, the issue is that you keep insisting that certain women are having abortions "casually". The question I have for you is, how do you know? Why are you so sure that some women are casually deciding to abort a pregnancy? Is it because they're having abortions for reasons that you don't agree with, therefore they must not be taking it seriously? Because that's how you're coming off, and that's not a position I can support in any way.

Really, I don't understand this "casual abortions" thing. Again, you don't have a window into anyone else's decision making process, so how can you be so sure that casual abortions are happening?
posted by palomar at 3:25 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The "casual abortions" argument gets into some "this is why we can't have some things" territory too-- how many women have to be having casual abortions before someone says "that's it, no more abortions for any woman ever?" Does one woman ruin that for everyone else? Ten? A billion? How casual do you have to be about it to start ruining it for others?

That's about the point where it gets a bit absurdist.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:33 PM on March 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


working through this, an anecdote:

My mother had an abortion when I was 1 or 2. When, as an adult, she told me about this, she did so in the context of her deep regret or sadness over the decision. It was something of an "I've been a crappy mother and role model" conversation.

If she had carried the baby to term, I'd have a full brother or sister. As it is, I do not. She aborted and left my father, a very angry man who had been abusive to her.

So, that's a pretty typical abortion situation, I'd say. She was faced with TWO children single to raise as a single parent, or one. She went with one. She says she regrets this very much.

Shouldn't I be in a position to agree with her, to say "Yeah, mom, you made the wrong call and now you're living with the pain you earned by making bad romantic decisions when you were 20. What you did was morally deficient"? I mean, SHE'S saying she regrets it.

I still can't agree with her. I respect 22 y/o 1983 Mom's choice that much. I'm sure she did what she had to do, to be the best mother she could be. As close as I am to this person, I still cannot know what it was like to be in her shoes and face that choice. I can, from personal experience living through the fallout of her decision and BEING RASIED BY HER AS A CHILD following it, fairly well extrapolate the circumstances that would have befallen her with 2 kids by a horrible bastard, not 1. It probably wouldn't have been that bad, you know? She probably wouldn't have stayed with him anyway and watched her kids be abused, for one thing. We'd have been a bit poorer. But things are the way they are and since I know her hear I know she did her best. There is no logical way I can believe differently. There is no way I can judge better than she did, even with all this available information. That's what being pro-choice means, to me.

People do their best. If you assume otherwise, you're the asshole, not them. You can either try to make their best capable of being even better, or you can shut up. That's how my mama raised me, anyway.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:38 PM on March 21, 2011 [22 favorites]


Abortions aren't casual. Heck, for me, getting my teeth cleaned isn't even casual. But I can say without hesitating that for me, and many other people in the world, the embryo's existence would be the least part of any consideration.

The fact that even otherwise liberal people take it for granted that embryos need consideration is just further proof of how frighteningly deeply the religious right has managed to get their women-controlling agenda into American consciousness.

I am especially irritated at the otherwise liberal older women who have started beating their breasts at the "mistake" they made when they aborted. To a one, every one I've asked about it has had no idea how their 18-25 something self would have supported a child, or realistically remembered what life was like back then for them. They all think that somehow they and their infant would be transported through time to their current comfy lifestyle. It's exasperating how completely people forget what it's like to be young and without resources.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:46 PM on March 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


At least a full quarter of pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage.

I fail to see any reason why there should be any particular upset over a woman choosing what nature so frequently accomplishes unassisted
posted by five fresh fish at 3:51 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


BigSky: " I think it matters a great deal. This is how we establish the norms for our culture. It doesn't have to be a matter of hounding people, but the refusal to make any judgments is equivalent to disregarding its importance. And this is surely one of the most important ethical decisions a person will make."

According to you. Not according to everyone. Whether you like it or not, your values do not and should not automatically map onto everyone else who chooses to have an abortion.

Feel free to attempt to establish cultural norms on abortion according to your values. But if your perspective includes misogyny such as judging womens' characters for having an abortion, casting their actions in a negative light according to arbitrary assumptions, such as their motivations (casual abortions?) or trying to take their right to manage their own bodies away from them, then expect to have a fight on your hands.
posted by zarq at 3:58 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


"Pro-choice" is a handy little soundbite, but like all soundbites it leaves out a lot of nuance.

The way I define it—what I mean when I say that I am pro-choice—is belief that a woman has a right to autonomy over her own body.

Which means I have a hard time thinking of "being pro-choice" as a spectrum. You are, or you aren't. You can't be "pro-choice, except..." and you can't be "pro-choice, unless..." and you can't be "pro-choice, until..." Either you believe that a woman has the perpetual and inalienable right to autonomy over her own body, or you don't.

Any exception—if the pregnancy's not too far along, if she hasn't already had "too many" abortions, if it's not for sex selection, only if it's a case of incest or rape, only if her parents have been notified, only if she's had an ultrasound and heard the fetal heartbeat—any exception at all means you believe that, at some point, a woman's right to autonomy should be revoked.

"Pro-autonomy" doesn't really roll off the tongue, though.
posted by Zozo at 3:59 PM on March 21, 2011 [19 favorites]


I've found that "feminist" works ok. Or "humanist". I prefer the latter, but I don't shy away from the former.
posted by Errant at 4:02 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


palomar - This is as plain as I can make it. Not all motives are equal. If you can't concede that point when looking at the reality of some people choosing to abort on the basis of sex selection then we aren't going to find any common ground between us.

-----

The thing is that I get the sense that that is what you object to; you feel, I sense, that a tonsilectomy and an abortion are fundamentally different.

But I have trouble seeing how you draw that distinction without claiming that embryos are viable living beings. What I'm saying is: if you believe embryos are worthy of this deeper consideration, how can you believe that abortion is ever justified?


Yes, I do consider them fundamentally different. Answering the question of how this can be so and still justifiable is far beyond my abilities. Since you're pressing the issue I can only wave my hands and claim that tough choices must sometimes be made. The image of the Great Chain of Being is perhaps of some use as well. I won't get into a debate about when and where lines should be drawn at which creature for what reason. That road goes straight to hell. The image makes sense for those who share its premises, and meaningless to those who don't.

-----

Similarly I think there are better and worse reasons for people to get an abortion, in my private heart of hearts. However, ethically for me being pro choice means that even if you have what I personally think is a not-good reason to get one, it's immaterial to the larger question of whether I think it's your choice to make. So, other people can talk about how it may make them uncomfortable if women use abortions as birth control or as sex selection, but to me there's nothing to debate because I personally have decided that it's not my business why you're getting one.

Despite my agreement with a lot of what you've written this is just too reductive for me to buy in. I too in my heart believe that are better and worse reasons and I also believe this is far too important to talk about everything with the exception of that distinction.

-----

At least a full quarter of pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage.

I fail to see any reason why there should be any particular upset over a woman choosing what nature so frequently accomplishes unassisted


Nothing to see here, folks! What on earth could have motivated the writing of this book.
posted by BigSky at 4:02 PM on March 21, 2011


Big Sky,, the book you link to is about women who are recovering from their own miscarriages of babies they wanted.

Why are you using that as a justification to look with scorn upon the termination of unwanted pregnancies of women you don't even know?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 PM on March 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


Despite my agreement with a lot of what you've written this is just too reductive for me to buy in.

I don't see why your buy in should be any more important than anyone else's in this thread or elsewhere. You vote. I vote. We vote. You and I don't need to agree. But I guess if you think this is important to talk about it, you're welcome to talk about it with other people who think it's an important topic to talk about. Those people do not include me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:08 PM on March 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sex selection isn't casual for, say, Chinese women. Do you blame the woman or do you fight against the policies that force Chinese women to favor boys over girls?

That's my damage in this particular issue. I can either accept that the reality of the world I live in is such that abortion is a rational and not-lightly-undertaken situation for many women, or I can stick my fingers in my ears and insist that we should act as though the world is perfect, governmental policies/ abusive relationships/ socioeconomic disparity/ etc. doesn't exist.

Ta-Nehisi Coates said it better than I could, though:
My own pro-choiceness doesn't really procede from the question of whether a zygote is a life, as much as it does from a rejection of utopianism.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:11 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is as plain as I can make it. Not all motives are equal.

You know, I think I probably agree with this. What I disagree with is your or my wisdom or ability to be able to discern with certainty which motives are better. Put another way, I'm absolutely certain one can choose to sit in judgment, I just question one's qualifications to do so or why I should accept one's moral authority. I don't know why you think I should believe you have the wisdom of Solomon.
posted by Errant at 4:13 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]



I'm in.
posted by Astro Zombie

A little to your left. NOW you are.
posted by Sallyfur at 1:12 PM on March 21 [1 favorite +] [!]


Well, it's hurting me!
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:14 PM on March 21 [+] [!]


Only on mifi would I suspect that they are actually... and doing it while posting....
posted by sammyo at 4:13 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bigsky: That is a damned ridiculous response. Honestly, I'm embarrassed for you.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not all motives are equal.

BigSky, you keep ignoring the point I've made repeatedly in this thread -- you CANNOT KNOW anyone else's motives. You seem to be making your points solely about sex-selective abortion, because that's the point you keep going back to. So, let's pretend that somewhere in the city I live in, a woman is having an abortion based on the sex of her fetus. Now, I don't know any of the reasons this specific imaginary woman is having her abortion. Maybe she's like me, and the men in her family have a genetic condition that will kill them, and her fetus is male. There's one reason. Or maybe the opposite is true -- she is carrying a girl, but the women in her family are prone to a genetic disease that kills them, and that fetus is already showing signs of that disease.

Or maybe the men in this woman's family all die of horrible cancer. Or the women do.

Or maybe the woman having the abortion is from a culture where one sex is prized more highly than the other. Maybe this woman will be abused, and her child will be abused, if she brings a child of the "wrong" gender into this world. Maybe she has decided to abort because she already has children of the "right" gender at home, and does not want them to grow up without a mother.

Or maybe I just don't know the reasons for this imaginary woman's abortion, and I'll never know them. That's the most likely thing, right there.

So how is it helpful, kind, good, or remotely productive to judge that woman? Or women like her? What problem does it solve, to sit in judgement of someone for making a decision that we don't know all the particulars of?
posted by palomar at 4:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


"That's why the risk for him of choosing to take part in the actual sex act is higher. He won't have a further opportunity to change the outcome of the act, but I will, at least if I'm lucky enough to be able to find, afford, and avail myself of the services."

No, you're defining "risk" incorrectly. Risk is harm of consequences multiplied by probability of those consequences. For every situation, the harm borne by the woman is higher. That the woman has another opportunity to change the outcome is irrelevant to that initial question of risk.

You're making an error out of the Monty Hall problem — even if the final chances of selecting the right door are 50 percent after changing the decision, the initial chance is still one in three.

Think about the problem outside of the context of abortion: Two people decide they want apples. There are a finite number of apples, and it's known that several of them are rotten, lets say one out of every hundred. The two people have to choose apples by number, sight unseen, but one of them gets to take a look before they bite. If they decide that the apple is rotten, they still have to eat half the apple, but the other person only has to eat a quarter of it. Who ends up eating more bad apples?

The only way the second person doesn't have to eat more bad apples is if they never use their choice to not eat it, in which case both people end up eating more bad apples than they would have otherwise. Despite the fact that they have agency in the situation, they still are at a higher risk for eating bad apples. They still have a greater interest in apple-sorting technology that will allow bad apples to be removed from the pool prior to eating them.

Sorry, I know this is something that's very important to you, and it's important to me too, but your argument just isn't a very strong one even as I sympathize and agree with a lot of the assumptions you've made. But just as I disagree with the statement that men have no interest in keeping abortions legal (a statement that you defended even as it seems absurd and tempting to pervert), I disagree here, because you're defining interest and risk incorrectly.
posted by klangklangston at 4:25 PM on March 21, 2011


I'm reminded of a joke Townes Van Zandt used to tell.

So this drunken fellow is weaving down the street holding on to his car keys and trying to remember where he parked his car before going in to the bar and getting sloshed, and no luck, so he goes up to a cop and says "Offishuh, they stole ma car!"

The cop says (thick Irish brogue) "whaddaya mean they stole it, who's 'they,' and when did you last see it?"

The drunk holds up his car key and says "I dunno, lash time I shaw it was attached to this here key, this key right here offishuh. And now it's gone!"

The cop says he can't help as he has to walk his patrol and gives the drunkard directions to the police station to file a report. But as the drunk is turning to go, the cop says, "by the way there, sir, your fly is open and your junk is petty much just hanging out."

The drunken fellow looks sheepishly down at his groin area to see the officer is correct, and after a long beat, exclaims:

"Awwww SHIT, they got my GIRL too!"
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:27 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


BigSky: What I'm talking about is that the refusal to ever make this distinction and even worse than that, to deny that this distinction can, at least in some cases, be made, makes it easier to make the decision casually.

To what end do you hope that this distinction be made? You're pro-choice, so I assume you're not hoping for legislation or policy changes. If more people...acknowledged... "casual" abortions vs "seriously-chosen" abortions or if more people condemned and shamed "casual" aborters, do you think that would reduce the number of abortions chosen "casually"? Or what?

I remember a moving personal account that EmpressCallipygos told in a previous thread:

if I were, today, to find myself pregnant, I would automatically and without question go immediately to schedule an abortion. No hesitation, no tears, no taking a couple days to think about it. To many people, that may very well look like I was being cavalier about it.

But -- those people judging me on my actions today aren't seeing the entire year of intense thought, endless reading of theological discussions on the one hand and medical texts on the other, talking to new parents, and nights crying after doing soul-searching that I did several years ago when I first became sexually active and asked myself "okay, if I ever DID become pregnant, what do I think I would do?" . . . even in the cases where it looks to us like someone treats abortion "not seriously", . . . we cannot know for sure what conversations she may have had with herself in the middle of the night, and that if we did, we may very well find ourselves put to shame for our assumptions instead.


I don't "acknowledge" the casual/legitimate distinction you make, BigSky, because I don't presume to know what went through other women's heads in the process of making the decision. Others are entitled to judge, and have, based on the bare-bones, no-details-disclosed fact that I told them point blank I was going to have one / I had had one...that I made my decision casually. They judge in blissful, presumptuous ignorance.

See, for them to know for sure whether my decision was casual or not, they'd have to have known the details of the financial, medical, relationship etc factors that we carefully weighed, and talked through with each other and with our non-judgy family and friends. Guess what, those that were inclined to judge never got to hear those details. I didn't tell them, because it was none of their business to know about _________ financial situation or _________ evolving relationship situation or ________ medical condition that could undercut the quality of life we could give a potential kid. I'm not likely to confide those kinds of intimate details to someone who thinks s/he's qualified, better than I am, to pass judgment on whether those reasons were legitimate enough for us to decide to abort.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:34 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


By the time that abortions are truly casual, we will have solved so many other problems that the need to get abortions will be non-existent.
posted by klangklangston at 4:35 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


(And really, the only reason I'd be against them being casual is because I think people tend to underestimate the risk in medical procedures. But it's certainly not as serious as a root canal or anything.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:37 PM on March 21, 2011


> The image of the Great Chain of Being is perhaps of some use as well. I won't get into a debate about when and where lines should be drawn at which creature for what reason. That road goes straight to hell. The image makes sense for those who share its premises, and meaningless to those who don't.

Such as rational post-enlightenment thinkers?

I'm trying to incorporate The Great Chain of Being into a non-batshit worldwiew, but gee, I just can't seem to, maybe I've too much black bile or bad air, or perhaps I've been hexed. Oh, dear.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:39 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I keep seeing "casual" as "causal." And I'm an idiot, so instead of realizing immediately that I keep making this mistake, I instead have a moment of wondering, "What's a causal abortion?" before I realize my error. Every time.
posted by meese at 4:44 PM on March 21, 2011


I told myself I was going to stay out of this thread, but there's a cognitive dissonance in the responsibility argument that makes my head hurt: If some abortions are inherently more responsible than others, wouldn't the women choosing abortions for allegedly irresponsible reasons be theoretically the least able to responsibly raise a child - and wouldn't their choice to not do so then flip accordingly over to the more responsible reasons, causing a perpetual motion of moral ambiguity that would theoretically break the great chain of being?

Also - I can't seem to get the phrase "Casual Abortion Fridays" out of my head.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:48 PM on March 21, 2011 [41 favorites]


Thanks to meese, I read that as "Causal Abortion Fridays".
posted by iamkimiam at 4:58 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I can't seem to get the phrase "Casual Abortion Fridays" out of my head."

Worst chain restaurant ever.

Don't try the poppers.
posted by klangklangston at 5:00 PM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


posted by Sallyfur at 4:32 PM on March 21

eponysterical
posted by unSane at 5:04 PM on March 21, 2011


As someone utterly and completely pro choice, for reasons I explained in the thread on the blue,
I'm going to stick up for BigSky here on a few points.

First, the right to comment and make judgments is almost as central to our liberty as the right of personal bodily autonomy that is at the heart of the abortion issue. So I don't care if BigSky's judgments are good, bad, fully researched, or incomplete -- anyone can think and judge as they deem best. As long as that doesn't translate into any inhibition at all of the right of personal bodily autonomy, that is.

Second, though I think IRFH has a great point about people with less wonderful reasons to abort being perhaps less wonderful potential mothers, too, and hence actually having good reasons to abort . . . we aren't talking about purely cosmetic surgery here. Every embryo represents the potential for life, it is true. We can be woo woo and talk about the web of life -- something I think exists myself -- or just say that life is also a pretty fundamental value in any free society. So it isn't wrong to say that maybe reasonable people can discuss norms for terminating potential life. I think that's a fine discussion to have, if the predicate for it is that the choice is not that of the discussion group. It belongs entirely to the person whose body is housing the potential life. The person already in existence has all the rights. The potential life has none until actually born. You can't fudge that line without destroying the personal autonomy of the person who is already born, and pregnant.

Unfortunately, in our society the overwhelming problem right now isn't "casual" abortions or poorly reasoned abortions, but the strong inclination of many lawmakers to go right ahead and infringe on the personal autonomy of pregnant women, combined with an unwillingness to provide even basic sex education, available contraception, or support for child rearing. I must admit I'd rather talk about our judgments on abortion if we ever get an environment where women's basic bodily integrity isn't under legislative attack.
posted by bearwife at 5:07 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I can't seem to get the phrase "Casual Abortion Fridays" out of my head."

Worst chain restaurant ever.


But the balut is fantastic.
posted by NoraReed at 5:13 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


You should see the place at Happy Ending Hour!
posted by iamkimiam at 5:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't swing too far in the opposite direction, now.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:19 PM on March 21, 2011


So it isn't wrong to say that maybe reasonable people can discuss norms for terminating potential life. I think that's a fine discussion to have, if the predicate for it is that the choice is not that of the discussion group. It belongs entirely to the person whose body is housing the potential life. The person already in existence has all the rights.

I think the reason why this idea is encountering some opposition from people, including me, is that some of us are approaching that discussion from a pragmatic perspective. Not pragmatic in the casual, let's be reasonable sense, but pragmatic in the old school, William James sense of the word, where an idea needs to be judged by the actual, real-world effects that arise from it, rather than being considered for its own sake. This makes the discussion you talk about difficult to have, because the question we would ask, or (since I should really only speak for myself) the question I would ask is: what follows from that discussion?

If you're pro-choice, and everyone in this debate seems to be self-identifying that way, then legislating against abortion is off the table. But if we're having a discussion about the validity of different reasons for terminating a pregnancy, I can see one of two possibilities. 1) We're having a completely abstract, hypothetical discussion about ideas. That's fine, but not everyone is interested in having that kind of discussion at all. Or 2) once we've sorted reasons for getting an abortion into "good" and "bad" ones, William James pipes up and asks, "now what?", and the answer is that the people with "bad" reasons shouldn't get abortions. But that's only achievable through either legislation to which we're all opposed to, or some kind of shaming, which I personally would find reprehensible.

So my conclusion is that another person's reasons for getting an abortion not something I get to talk about, or judge, because the only practical consequences of that judgment would be things that I don't want to see happen.
posted by Ragged Richard at 5:34 PM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


I think, Ragged Richard, that Big Sky would like societal norms -- like those against adultery -- that tend to discourage abortions that aren't for good reasons. I don't think there's any place in the US now where adultery is a crime, or for that matter even a ground for divorce anymore, but presumably knowing it isn't societally approved may discourage some of the behavior. Similarly, norms against lying don't mean that all lying is illegal, but they may tend to discourage some untruthfulness. I.e., not everything that isn't ethical needs to be illegal.

Having said that, I still think we can wait to talk about good and bad reasons for abortions -- at least I can -- until the day comes when the basic right isn't under threat.
posted by bearwife at 5:42 PM on March 21, 2011


Bearwife - that's fair enough. I actually think we may already have those, and in fact, BigSky seems to be appealing to those very norms; his repeated invocation of sex-selection, for example, tells me that a norm against that is widespread enough that he feels comfortable using it as a limit case.

But, in any event, I'm so in agreement with this: Having said that, I still think we can wait to talk about good and bad reasons for abortions -- at least I can -- until the day comes when the basic right isn't under threat, that I think I'm fine leaving it there.
posted by Ragged Richard at 5:51 PM on March 21, 2011


The discussion of good and bad is part and parcel of our socialization system, ie. school.

If we taught about pregnancy and babies honestly, I think there'd be a whole lot more folk being careful about consequences.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:55 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately, in our society the overwhelming problem right now isn't "casual" abortions or poorly reasoned abortions


I, too, am tired of dealing with this fictional lady who uses abortion as birth control that anti-choice people want to use as an example.

I've decided that if that argument comes up again, I'm just going to say I have no problem with a woman getting multiple abortions. I personally wouldn't want to try to pay for or endure multiple abortions, but if fictional lady wants to use abortion as birth control, it's fine by me. If there's a real lady out there getting multiple abortions, or using abortion as birth control, fine by me. (I wouldn't want to, but I hate visiting the gynecologist and put it off most of the time, and I think there are some health risks involved with repeat abortions, but if she's okay with it, fine with me.)

Honestly, it's obvious no one wants to get an abortion and it's not just for the "Ooooh, it could have been a little baaaaby!" reason. We saw in the thread where we raised money for the abortion that it's a problem of convenient access, that it's stigmatized, and that it's not at all cheap. The only thing the fictional woman who uses abortion as birth control should be worried about is the health risks that come with repeat abortions. Other than that, it's no one's business but her own.
posted by anniecat at 5:57 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Worst chain restaurant ever.

Worst name ever, Squat & Gobble.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:00 PM on March 21, 2011


I don't think there's any place in the US now where adultery is a crime, or for that matter even a ground for divorce anymore, but presumably knowing it isn't societally approved may discourage some of the behavior.

I think this is understandable but ultimately an idealistic view of the relationship between society and human behavior. Shaming people who commit adultery doesn't discourage adultery, it discourages telling anyone about it. Just as shaming those who get abortions doesn't really lower the abortion rate, it creates a social dissonance where 1 in 4 women have the procedure at least once, and yet few people are talking about it as something that actually happens to their family members, their friends, or themselves.
posted by muddgirl at 6:09 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


I told myself I was going to stay out of this thread, but there's a cognitive dissonance in the responsibility argument that makes my head hurt: If some abortions are inherently more responsible than others, wouldn't the women choosing abortions for allegedly irresponsible reasons be theoretically the least able to responsibly raise a child - and wouldn't their choice to not do so then flip accordingly over to the more responsible reasons, causing a perpetual motion of moral ambiguity that would theoretically break the great chain of being?

My favorite version of this: minors who want to have an abortion without the consent or knowledge of their parents have to convince a judge that they're sufficiently mature. In other words, the consequence of being too immature to have an abortion is that you have to carry a baby to term, give birth to it, and then either raise it or give it up for adoption.
posted by prefpara at 6:28 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


No, you're defining "risk" incorrectly. Risk is harm of consequences multiplied by probability of those consequences.

Maybe that is a formal definition of risk in some contexts. But it's not how I'm using the term; I'm not making a mathematical argument. There are other, more pragmatic definitions of risk in common and widely understood usage, and I'm thinking of those definitions, and not approaching this with anything that can be quantified in the way you've constructed this apple analogy.

Leaving the mathematics aside, my point is that the decision to have sex should be a weightier decision for the man, because he won't have any further way of opting out. Yes, the mathematical risk of pregnancy may be exactly the same, and yes, the woman is the one bearing the consequences of undergoing an abortion, but she doesn't have to bear the consequences of carrying a child to term or of becoming a parent, and it's up to her to decide whether to bear them or not. I'm not saying she's less harmed by the experience, just that she still has a way to avoid consequences that are even more serious - a lifetime of additional responsibility for raising a child - but the male doesn't. I'm not concerned with who's more harmed, but with the fact that the man has just one choice point at which to influence paternity, where the woman has at least two at which to influence maternity.

Sorry, I know this is something that's very important to you, and it's important to me too, but your argument just isn't a very strong one even as I sympathize and agree with a lot of the assumptions you've made.

I suggest you read the argument with less of a focus on the term 'risk' as you have defined it and more of a focus on the opportunities to prevent outcomes that each party has, under a system of legal abortions.

But just as I disagree with the statement that men have no interest in keeping abortions legal (a statement that you defended even as it seems absurd and tempting to pervert)

You're misremembering the argument. I didn't assert that men have no interest whatsoever, but that their material interest was not part of the legal foundations for the right to abortion, and that it should never be, and claims of such interest should be rejected because they are, essentially, a claim on the contents of the woman's body. In other words, I was arguing that the foundations - to me, the moral foundations as well as legal - rest in an individual's right to determine what happens to his or her own body, and not in any potential gain or loss to others.
posted by Miko at 6:33 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyone catch that special on mid-wives on JE today, yeah.
posted by clavdivs at 6:33 PM on March 21, 2011


AJE
posted by clavdivs at 6:34 PM on March 21, 2011


The other thing that might influence how people see the acceptance of the risk of having sex is recognizing that in some situations, the woman actually does accept the risk of becoming a parent, even when the man doesn't want to. In other words, if she chooses to carry the baby to term, yes she exposes herself to the harm of childbearing and parenting, but she wants to, so she experiences it as a general good. But if the father of the child never wanted to, he may experience it as nothing but harm. Taking the risk of sex, for him, results in a situation that is harmful; whereas for her, it's a welcome and good situation. In that case, the harm of parenthood to him - financial harm, legal harm - could actually be much greater than the harm to her, aside from the natural physical risks.
posted by Miko at 6:38 PM on March 21, 2011


Bearwife-I just want to say that I really like the way you put your comments in this thread.

I think that we are dealing with two different paradigms here. There is a camp that believes that abortion is a really big deal, maybe even akin to ending a developing life. There is another camp that seems to think it is much less of a big deal, as one poster commented that the embryo is no more significant than a sneeze-not picking on that poster, just a data point. I don't think these two camps can argue the abortion issue very successfully because it's same planet, different worlds.

I am pro choice. I have seen people refer to their abortion as "no big deal." Maybe they are just putting on a brave front. But if someone truly feels that way... well that's hard for me to wrap my head around. There are those of us who vote pro-choice and defend a woman's right to choose but do it kind of holding our noses because we really wish there was never a need for it. Maybe someday there won't be-we'll all have great access to sex ed and perfect birth control-it'll be a day to celebrate for us all. I truly mean that.

As far as the responsible/irresponsible thing... yes, many people get pregnant and thus seek out an abortion even though they were responsible. And many others rely on a wing and a prayer for birth control. It shouldn't matter for their access to abortion, I don't think anyone has said that it should. I hope not, anyway. But I am not ashamed to admit that I am disappointed by the latter, the same way I am people who cheat on their spouses, lie on their taxes, and scream at their kids in the grocery store. We all get to have our own barometer for what we think is okay and what we don't.

This has been a really educational thread, I have heard some perspectives I've never encountered before that have given me lots to think about and it has been remarkably civil. I think that's really great.
posted by supercapitalist at 6:50 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think that we are dealing with two different paradigms here. There is a camp that believes that abortion is a really big deal, maybe even akin to ending a developing life. There is another camp that seems to think it is much less of a big deal, as one poster commented that the embryo is no more significant than a sneeze-not picking on that poster, just a data point. I don't think these two camps can argue the abortion issue very successfully because it's same planet, different worlds.

... and I think there's a significant, perhaps less-listened-to camp that believes even if babies were conceived as perfectly formed, miniature, sentient human beings, as long as they relied solely on my body for their sustenance then I have the right to determine whether or not I give them that sustenance. It's my bodily autonomy.

Now, it's possible that if this were the situation, scientists would be working a lot harder at mechanical fetus incubators, in which case we'd solve our moral issues with science once again... and then moral fascists could move on to the next issue like preventing incubated babies from attending public school or something.
posted by muddgirl at 7:06 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is how we establish the norms for our culture.

I participate in threads like this specifically to help establish norms: the norm that it is NOT OK for people (particularly men, but women too) to call out women's private reproductive decisions AND the norm that it is NOT OK to dump all blame for reproductive decisions people (again, particularly men, but women too) don't like it on the woman's sexual choices when there's a man involved, e.g., the woman should have closed her legs, but no mention of the man keeping it in his pants.

Our cultural norms are disposed to blame the woman and police her behavior. These are norms I want to terminate with prejudice.
posted by immlass at 7:06 PM on March 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


palomar - Again you seem to think that I'm interested in putting a judgment down on specific individuals. As I mentioned upthread I am not. Really. In some instances it is apparent when someone has made a decision that can not be considered responsible, and most of the time it isn't. My argument from the get go has been that something is lost when we refuse to point out even in hypotheticals, that some reasons are less valid than others.

-----

five fresh fish - That's nice. Your earlier post had this charming line, "I fail to see any reason why there should be any particular upset over a woman choosing what nature so frequently accomplishes unassisted". But the fact is people (not just the mothers - and the book does deal with both parents' grief) do suffer from these losses when they come from nature, and so it is hardly surprising that there is some "particular upset" over this.

-----

So my conclusion is that another person's reasons for getting an abortion not something I get to talk about, or judge, because the only practical consequences of that judgment would be things that I don't want to see happen.

But aren't there also practical consequences from the refusal to make those judgments, or is that a one way street? And so telling all women that they made the responsible choice, as done in this thread, is the better option? That's equivalent to saying that choosing to abort for any reason whatsoever is a responsible choice.

A lot is being made of my ignorance of motive, but this goes both ways. I didn't originally argue with a neutral stance, the claim was that "having an abortion is an act of taking responsibility". Apparently few seem to find that of any signifigance. But it's blanket approval of the act (not access to an abortion, but the act itself) without knowledge of motive.

A similar claim was made that "in the US it's not treated lightly enough". It's interesting that the comment which encourages making a decision lightly about ending an embryo's existence is not seen as having any negative practical consequences worth speaking of, while the consequences of my suggestion that we recognize the merit of motives and consider them carefully, will bring only woe.
posted by BigSky at 7:13 PM on March 21, 2011


This has been a really educational thread, I have heard some perspectives I've never encountered before that have given me lots to think about and it has been remarkably civil. I think that's really great.

Ditto.
posted by pwally at 7:15 PM on March 21, 2011


BigSky, that's because you keep judging. Statements like "In some instances it is apparent when someone has made a decision that can not be considered responsible" are a judgement.
posted by palomar at 7:17 PM on March 21, 2011


My argument from the get go has been that something is lost when we refuse to point out even in hypotheticals, that some reasons are less valid than others.

I think the disconnect is that no one is sure what is GAINED when you DO point it out. To what purpose does pointing it out serve, precisely? Do you just....want it acknowledged that "it's a shame that this had to happen, but alas"?

Because that's happening already, as it is. The fact that it's a shame that this has to happen really doesn't do much to alter the fact that sometimes it just plain does have to happen. So to what end does acknowledging its gravity actually serve?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:19 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd also be interested to know what is gained, and was also going to ask, what exactly is it that is lost?
posted by Miko at 7:34 PM on March 21, 2011


misha:
The anti-choice argument rails at the fact that some (I think a very, very small percentage of) women DO have more than one abortion

and anniecat:
I, too, am tired of dealing with this fictional lady who uses abortion as birth control that anti-choice people want to use as an example.... if fictional lady wants to use abortion as birth control, it's fine by me.

Just for the record, nearly or approximately half of the abortions obtained in the U.S. in a given year are repeat abortions.

I realize the response may be "so what?" Still, there's no reason to pretend this occurrence is a small or use words like "fictional lady" to downplay the prevalence. It happens a lot.
posted by torticat at 7:35 PM on March 21, 2011


It is interesting to note that if abortion were always such a grievous and personally devastating experience for everyone, there probably wouldn't be very many people who did it more than once.
posted by Miko at 7:37 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just for the record, nearly or approximately half of the abortions obtained in the U.S. in a given year are repeat abortions.

Cite, please?
posted by That's Numberwang! at 7:55 PM on March 21, 2011


Still, there's no reason to pretend this occurrence is a small or use words like "fictional lady" to downplay the prevalence. It happens a lot.

Getting more than one abortion doesn't mean you're using it as birth control.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:57 PM on March 21, 2011 [15 favorites]


Guttmacher gives the half number. They are the main organization compiling abortion-related statistics and performing analysis, and are reliable.
posted by Miko at 7:59 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the Guttmacher link:
According to the 2006 Guttmacher Institute report Repeat Abortion in the United States, women having a second or higher-order abortion are substantially different from women having a first abortion in only two important ways: They are more than twice as likely to be age 30 or older and, even after controlling for age, almost twice as likely to already have had a child. (Among all women having an abortion, six in 10 are mothers.)

Just as with women having their first abortion, however, the majority of women having their second or even their third abortion were using contraceptives during the time period in which they became pregnant. In fact, women having a repeat abortion are slightly more likely to have been using a highly effective hormonal method (e.g., the pill or an injectable). This finding refutes the notion that large numbers of women are relying on abortion as their primary method of birth control. Rather, it suggests that women having abortions—especially those having more than one—are trying hard to avoid unintended pregnancy, but are having trouble doing so.
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on March 21, 2011 [30 favorites]


But aren't there also practical consequences from the refusal to make those judgments, or is that a one way street? And so telling all women that they made the responsible choice, as done in this thread, is the better option? That's equivalent to saying that choosing to abort for any reason whatsoever is a responsible choice.

Sure, the practical consequences are that any woman who wants to have an abortion has one, regardless of her reason for doing so. I'm perfectly comfortable with that. You seem not to be - which is fine. I wasn't trying to explain why you're wrong, just why some of the people on this thread seem to be talking past each other.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:06 PM on March 21, 2011


With this notion of "responsibility" the logical conclusion seems to be that a child is an "irresponsible" woman's punishment for having sex. How life affirming!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:13 PM on March 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Mommy, where do babies come from?

Well, Sally, when God hates an irresponsible woman very, very much...
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:21 PM on March 21, 2011 [43 favorites]


And then there's the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't aspect of the whole responsibility thing: if people argue that the "responsible" choice is to carry children to term and raise them, when we know that doing so earlier in life is highly correlated with poverty, and then also argue that we should refuse to support social services, affordable health insurance/Medicaid, housing support, WIC and the like for women and their children because it's "irresponsible" of them to have so many children, they're trying to have it both ways.
posted by Miko at 8:24 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Getting more than one abortion doesn't mean you're using it as birth control.

True. I was initially responding to misha's post, but then saw anniecat's and maybe didn't read it closely enough, though it still strikes me as dismissive.

Another interesting stat: 6 in 10 women who obtain abortions are already mothers, and women having second (or more) abortions are almost twice as likely already to have children than women obtaining their first. (This comes from Guttmacher too.)

I'm sure that's largely just a function of the passage of time in the lives of these women. But it also indicates that, even with the best sex ed in the world, this matter will still be with us, and on a not-negligible scale.
posted by torticat at 8:28 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


palomar, there is no reason to think this means that the women are using abortion as birth control. Suppose a woman wants children, but has a risk of a genetic anomaly, and has had abortions when that condition presents itself? Or her birth control didn't work, she tried another kind and that didn't work?

Before my kids were born, I always said that if I got pregnant and there was, say, a serious impairment, I would have an abortion. Because that is the logical thing to do. When I was actually pregnant with my second child, I had a scare that meant that could have become a reality--and I realized that I Did.Not.Want. an abortion. Thankfully, I did not have to face the decision in the end. I don't think I was wrong for looking logically at the situation before it ever happened. I also don't think it was wrong of me, given the actual situation, to re-examine what I thought and felt. Every woman should have the choice to decide. But you might think, in either case, that I was wrong. Fine. You have that right.

I actually feel, just as Big Sky does, that it is irresponsible to use abortion as a method of birth control. But I will still defend the right of any woman to do as she chooses with her body, even if I don't support her particular choice. That's what being pro-choice means. I don't have to agree with every woman who ever had an abortion, I just have to agree they had the right to do so if they choose.

To say no one should ever judge anyone is a nice ideal, but I think it is a bit unrealistic, given that many here are judging Big Sky for not believing what you think he/she should. And now you can judge me too, and that's okay with me. As long as you don't legislate your morality.

I feel that some of you are taking this quite far into the territory of wanting to be the thought police and tell people they CANNOT think something is irresponsible or that some things should not be done casually or what have you. What does it matter what others think, if they support your right to choose when the time comes that you personally face a decision like this?
posted by misha at 8:31 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


even with the best sex ed in the world, this matter will still be with us, and on a not-negligible scale.

I agree with you in principle that the problem of unplanned pregnancy will always be with us to a greater or lesser extent, but not on the assumption that just because you've already had one or more kids, you've had "the best sex ed in the world." It's definitely possible to have kids and still be very uninformed or inexpert about the ways birth control works (and doesn't), or to have very poor medical counseling and advisement about family planning, or to be broke, or to be abused, or to make a dosage mistake. Realistic sexual health education and greater access to affordable health care and contraception are proven to reduce the instance of unwanted pregnancy, and we should continue to emphasize them.
posted by Miko at 8:35 PM on March 21, 2011


I was initially responding to misha's post, but then saw anniecat's and maybe didn't read it closely enough, though it still strikes me as dismissive.

My read was that, while abortion obviously is a kind of birth control, what people like to invoke is the spectre of the woman who just goes and gets abortions instead of using any other kind of birth control: the woman who uses abortion as her first-line birth control measure.

The problem is that people quote repeat abortion statistics as if this could only happen if the woman who gets multiple abortions wasn't doing anything to prevent her pregnancies. Since it is not true that a woman properly using birth control would never have cause for multiple abortion procedures, it seems like a mask to skew interpretation of those statistics in an acutely negative way. So I think people on the pro-choice side of the debate tend to react badly to the suggestion that multiple abortions implies sexual naivete or that any woman would willingly choose abortion in place of all other birth control measures, never mind multiple times.
posted by Errant at 8:35 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Take a look as well at Reasons Given for Abortions: Nebraska, 25.83% No Contraceptive Used. And you're signing off on all of those as the responsible choice?

Rolling the dice and having sex for pleasure without contraception, banking on a relatively risky and expensive (compared to say, a condom) surgical procedure as your sole means of preventing parenthood does indeed seem like an ill-thought-out plan to me and yeah, a pretty irresponsible one. The thing I don't understand is the transference of blame from the moment of the lapse in judgement that creates the elevated risk, where there are two people involved who should each know better, to the moment when one of those parties is forced by an accident of biology to pay the emotional, physical and financial price for the shortsighted gamble that was undertaken by both. The person getting the abortion may not have made responsible choices up to that point, but her male partner is not less culpable or a more responsible person by virtue of not being the one with the uterus, and there's nothing inherently ethical or responsible about bringing yet another human child into the world.

As for that 25.83% stat, do you really think it tells the whole story? Having encountered some people with spectacularly poor life-planning skills, I don't really doubt that there are rare impetuous individuals who are liable to cavalierly throw caution to the wind and who do view abortion as a last-ditch, after the fact contraceptive. I'd be very surprised, though, if their numbers were not dwarfed by those in situations where ignorance, coercion, or flat out material desperation played a greater role than irresponsible hedonism. And even in the cases of those foolish Libertines, you might call them irresponsible for taking the risks that led to the pregnancy, but once it's happened can you really call the decision to abort it an irresponsible one?
posted by contraption at 8:46 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, a woman should be allowed to end her pregnancy in the first trimester if sunlight makes her sneeze -- that is, for whatever reason she wants. Through the second trimester, she should only have an abortion if she really, truly, decides to. And after that, it's her choice.

Which is to say, women should make the decision at pretty much any time. The truth is, plenty of women get abortions, when they get them, in the first trimester (and this number is dwarfed by the number of miscarriages, many of which happen merely as a "late period"). Far fewer get abortions in the second trimester, and very few in the third trimester. Women who get abortions in the second or third trimester are usually doing it for a darn good reason. Women getting abortions in their first trimester honestly shouldn't have to provide any justification whatsoever, but women in their second or third trimester shouldn't either, because if we say, "You can only have an abortion for this reason" or "You can't have an abortion for this reason" then we are getting into dangerous territory where we could easily be preventing women from going through a procedure that they need.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:55 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


For your abortion rate and ratio (but not reason) stats: If for some reason you don't trust the Guttmacher Institute, you can also look at CDC's most recent US Abortion Surveillance numbers (from 2007) - Table 19, html version, pdf, both are pretty big documents.

About Mr. Johnston's article: the reason not to trust his numbers is that he's self-published on the internet, so his opinions have escaped peer review. (AGI's two relevant journals are peer-reviewed.)
posted by gingerest at 9:04 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


What does it matter what others think, if they support your right to choose when the time comes that you personally face a decision like this?

Why do people need to express this judgement in a thread about legal abortion rights (like the one on the blue, not necessarily this one on the grey), is what I wonder.

There was a thread on the blue a while back where somebody got mad and picked up his ball and went home, saying that women were lucky he was pro-choice and something to the effect of if his opinions weren't given enough weight and his feelings got any more hurt, he would turn anti-choice and start working against abortion rights (or maybe he was going to donate to some anti-choice thing already because he was so upset). I was thinking about that thread the whole time I was reading timsteil's comments that kicked this thread off. Personally, yeah, there's a lot of "who gives a fuck what random people on the internet think?" even if they are Mefites, but I care what community standards are on this site and don't want judging women's abortions to be acceptable conduct here.
posted by immlass at 9:24 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


palomar, there is no reason to think this means that the women are using abortion as birth control.

I'm sorry, I wasn't saying anything like that at all, are you sure you meant to address that to me?
posted by palomar at 9:25 PM on March 21, 2011


Yes, this is all well and good, but what can we do to prevent women from using Ortho Tri-Cyclen as a form of birth control? It's well known that hormonal birth control is murder.

Some women are so irresponsible.
posted by stet at 9:27 PM on March 21, 2011


Rolling the dice and having sex for pleasure without contraception, banking on a relatively risky and expensive (compared to say, a condom) surgical procedure as your sole means of preventing parenthood does indeed seem like an ill-thought-out plan to me and yeah, a pretty irresponsible one.

Abortion isn't really risky at all and certainly not as risky as having a baby.

Abortion is safer than actually having a baby.

I wouldn't judge a woman for choosing not to use hormonal birth control as I had terrible experiences navigating that, trying this and trying that pill, and I often see threads on the green where women discuss their own experiences with hormonal birth control. I wouldn't judge a woman for choosing not to use a copper IUD because it makes cramping worse during menstruation, and a lot of women suffer pretty terrible cramps already (enough to have to miss work or school). Hormonal birth control isn't as simple and easy as it seems. The number of women willing to endure six months of bleeding, weight gain, acne, the increased risk of blood clots and all of that always struck me as unfair. The expectation that they should struck me as unfair too.

And even non-hormonal birth control can cause problems, especially for women with latex and spermicide allergies. Even if they aren't allergic to condoms, condoms break, come off during sex, etc.

My point is, it takes time to figure out birth control methods and there are hits and misses and accidents along the way. One birth control method is withdrawal. One is the rhythm method. So my suspicion of that statement of "she's irresponsible and didn't use birth control" is that birth control is equated to hormonal birth control when the use of hormonal birth control can be complicated for women.

Also, birth control includes things like withdrawal and the rhythm method. Not as effective as hormonal birth control, but hormonal birth control isn't for every woman.
posted by anniecat at 9:59 PM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I drifted off and retyped....
posted by anniecat at 10:00 PM on March 21, 2011


Here is an example of a person who, perhaps, regards abortion as viable birth control and sees the product of her elective activities somewhat more casually than most.

I am *glad* she can have abortions. I am *glad* she won't bring children into the world. I am *glad* she didn't continue the pregnancy she decided to release for public scrutiny.

What would she do with children? Why would I want someone who can look at life the way she does to be FORCED to have children?
posted by batmonkey at 10:38 PM on March 21, 2011


This was a while ago, but I happen to think it's worth focusing on:

BigSky: “Yes, I do consider them fundamentally different. Answering the question of how this can be so and still justifiable is far beyond my abilities. Since you're pressing the issue I can only wave my hands and claim that tough choices must sometimes be made. The image of the Great Chain of Being is perhaps of some use as well. I won't get into a debate about when and where lines should be drawn at which creature for what reason. That road goes straight to hell. The image makes sense for those who share its premises, and meaningless to those who don't.”

Look, I wasn't hoping to back you into a corner, I want to point out; I actually wanted to draw this out a little because I think it's an essential issue that it's easy to overlook. And it might be the only thing of substance that timsteil's comments pointed towards. Moreover, I don't believe the road of considering this "goes straight to hell." It might be unpopular here, but I'm prepared to accept that. Again, I think this is worth talking about. Moreover, I will not say, as many here have said repeatedly, that any and all talk about responsibility and duty is "judgmental." I happen to like judgment as long as it's sound, and I think we could use a whole lot more talk in our society about responsibility and the duty we have to each other, and maybe a bit less about our "rights" and "freedoms."

But what does that mean in this context? It already begins to sound like I'm saying that abortion is not a right or that women shouldn't be allowed the freedom to choose. Let me hasten to add that that's certainly not what I think; I only believe that there might be some association here with responsibility and duty. That's why I wanted to talk about it in the first place.

I actually do not believe it's out of the question to say that it's possible that a woman who faces a pregnancy – any pregnancy – has a duty to society, to the people around her, and to that potential child. Heck, I'll go ahead and say it: I believe pregnancy confers some responsibility, whether that pregnancy is terminated or not. I think a woman's first and foremost duty and responsibility is to herself, and to her well-being; but there are others. And I don't think it's silly to say that many pregnant women faced with the decision about what to do might have a responsibility to consider its impact on the other people in their lives, up to and including men. Pregnancy is the domain of women, and decisions regarding it are (or should be) solely those of the pregnant woman; but, like it or not, pregnancy matters to men. And I can imagine pregnancy-related cases where men deserve to be given some consideration.

I don't agree, BigSky, that there is some mystical, centrally important thing about pregnancy. But I do think it matters to men, and that sometimes women owe it to the men in their lives to consider them when making these decisions. I would not say, however, that there are many women who don't; nor that there are abortions happening much of anywhere that happen irresponsibly, without the thoughts and feelings of those around the pregnant woman being taken into account. Generally, what happens much more often is that abortion is prevented when a women knows damned well that it's the best thing for her first and foremost and also for everyone else involved.
posted by koeselitz at 11:07 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nothing, and I do mean nothing, cemented my firm pro-choice views like losing pregnancy after desperately wanted pregnancy. (I've been pregnant six times, I have two children.) We have little enough control over reproduction as it is. . . let's not take away the sliver we have.
posted by KathrynT at 11:35 PM on March 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Esther Friesner won the 1996 Nebula Award for her story A Birthday, about a society's attempt at compromise between keeping abortion legal and reserving the right to pass judgment about it. I am inexpressibly sad that 15 years later it still feels relevant and prescient. I hope in 15 more it will have aged badly, showing its cracks as so much silly fearmongering.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:52 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's becoming more than clear that one of the biggest issues our society faces is all the Irresponsible Women. Women who have "casual abortions"? Irresponsible. Women who have babies they can't afford? Irresponsible. Women who have too many children? Irresponsible. Women who don't spend enough time at home with their children? Irresponsible. Women who don't work and expect society to support them and their broods? Irresponsible. Women who open their legs on the weekends? Irresponsible. (Though some may extrapolate this to even women who open their legs during the week.)

The challenge that faces us is how do we create more responsible women? Historically, the more responsible gender has thrown its hands up in despair over this problem. It seems like nothing can be done. We've tried laws that limit the parameters of female reproduction, we've tried religious and social moral policing... and still irresponsible women insist on having or not-having babies under conditions we find capricious and/or immoral. The obvious answer would be fewer women... but this leads us into murky territory. If we find the reasons of irresponsible women for abortion repugnant, can we then justify our own more well-reasoned for sex-selective pregnancy termination? Perhaps not.

What are we left with then? Women just seem to lack the responsibility gene for whatever reason, so it falls to the men to repair the damage to society caused by all this irresponsible behavior, and since logic and reason are lost on women, and we can't just create baby farms in which we control breeding behavior absolutely (or can we... hmmmm) the unfortunate alternative does seem to be harsher, more stringent reproductive laws... at least until some future date when science will allow men to control the process entirely.

Responsibility Panels to okay or reject requests for abortions after administration of polygraph testing (to discourage "gaming the system")

Mandatory Sterilization for irresponsible women who don't meet the criteria established by the Responsibility Panel.

Loss of Benefits for irresponsible women who refuse to bear children during the optimum window for responsible reproduction within the aegis of a sanctioned marriage.

Loss of Benefits and Refusal of Employment for irresponsible women who refuse to marry.

Protective Custody for unborn children whose irresponsible mothers do not conduct their pregnancy according to criteria set by the Responsibility Panel.

Off the top of my head. This at least would be a beginning. Of course we need more family laws as well to cover post-natal female irresponsibility, but that's a topic for another discussion.
posted by taz at 12:41 AM on March 22, 2011 [47 favorites]


You know taz, as I read your list - I'm not sure if you are being ironic or not? I mean these are pretty much things that already happen to varying degrees. (Sorry if this is obvious to everyone except me.)

I'm reminded of lines from Euripides' plays Medea and Hyppolytus in which the male desire to control childbearing and eradicate women's role in reproductive functioning, or even existence, all together.

Jason: Yea, men should have begotten children from some other source, no female race existing; thus would no evil ever have fallen on mankind.

Hyppolytus: Great Zeus, why didst thou, to man's sorrow, put woman, evil counterfeit, to dwell where shines the sun? If thou wert minded that the human race should multiply, it was not from women they should have drawn their stock, but in thy temples they should have paid gold or iron or ponderous bronze and bought a family, each man proportioned to his offering, and so in independence dwelt, from women free.
posted by honey-barbara at 1:54 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey I thought I'd share my idea on curbing abortions and unwanted pregnancies. How about the government or some rich dude like Warren Buffett or something has a program where any man or woman who gets permanently sterilized gets a check for $10,000? Is this ethically dubious? It seems perfect to me at 2am after a few beers.

The exact dollar amount would need to be carefully calibrated so as not to bring the birth rate down for otherwise ready and willing parents who might consider the jackpot. But really, I'm having trouble figuring out of this is a good idea or completely evil.
posted by floam at 2:08 AM on March 22, 2011


And maybe a smaller stipend you could get paid when you get an abortion. That'd never fly in the US, but for fucks sake they shouldn't cost a dime.
posted by floam at 2:10 AM on March 22, 2011


(Don't worry, Taz was being satirical.)
posted by NoraReed at 2:10 AM on March 22, 2011


How about the government or some rich dude like Warren Buffett or something has a program where any man or woman who gets permanently sterilized gets a check for $10,000? Is this ethically dubious?

I think another problem with the whole abortion debate is people seem to assume that a woman who wants an abortion now would never end up wanting a child in the future. It's as if there are two classes of women: the loving mothers and the promiscuous abortion-getters.

Many, many women who get abortions are either mothers, already, at the time of their abortions, or plan to become mothers in the future. Because of how closely connected childbearing is with financial, educational, and employment opportunities, it's really not at all correct to say sterilizations would be a feasible alternative to abortion for all but a slim minority. And (while I know you didn't mean it this way, floam) saying that sterilization is an alternative to abortion reinforces the conceptual divide our society seems to accept between "good women who become loving mothers" and "irresponsible sluts who end up needing abortions."

The sooner we can see getting an abortion, not as a statement about a woman's moral identity, but instead as a statement about the (not permanent) opportunities and resources available to her in society, the better.
posted by meese at 5:31 AM on March 22, 2011 [14 favorites]


I sometimes ponder the fact that if I hadn't made the decision that I did at 22 I could possibly have a 21 (going on 22) year old son or daughter. My reasons for making that decision are mine and mine alone. If I decide to share those reasons (or not), that is my choice. I was able, even in 1989 in Queensland, Australia, to make that decision. What I will share is that if I hadn't been able to go to a safe and legal clinic I would have tried to do something to stop myself from being pregnant and that would undoubtedly not have been safe.

Although I ponder that hypothetical child from time to time, I don't suffer remorse. I was lucky enough to have had a choice. I chose to stop that pregnancy and I was lucky to have been able to do so.

There's more I could say but I don't wish to make myself more of a target for *anyone's* judgement, whether in some peoples eyes it's justified or not. As I said in a previous thread, I believe abortion is the most personal of decisions and I will never accept that anyone, other than the person who is carrying that potential life in her body, should have the right to make decisions about what to do with that potential. I know that the mere fact that I wasn't prepared to go through with the pregnancy makes me a Very Bad Person in some people's eyes. I can't and wouldn't change what I did to pacify them. It was my decision and I see no need to attempt to justify it by offering up my reasons for doing so.

I know that people will always judge others and have opinions on what they believe others should or shouldn't do. I've always said that everyone has the right to believe in whatever they want. It's when they wish to deny and indeed completely trample over someone else's right to believe in something different that I object. Why does someone else's belief trump mine, particularly when it is such a personal thing? People who believe abortion is murder mourn a potential life. I believe that women should be able to choose whether a potential should be allowed the opportunity to come to fruition or not. Why isn't my belief just as valid as theirs?

I believe that safe abortions should be available to anyone, for whatever reason, who needs it.
posted by h00py at 5:51 AM on March 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


I was lucky enough to have had a *safe* choice.
posted by h00py at 5:53 AM on March 22, 2011


Esther Friesner won the 1996 Nebula Award for her story A Birthday, about a society's attempt at compromise between keeping abortion legal and reserving the right to pass judgment about it. I am inexpressibly sad that 15 years later it still feels relevant

On the other hand, this 16-year-old article (pdf, and long) remains relevant, as well, and suggests Naomi Wolf would be more in sympathy with BigSky and even timsteil than than with some of the absolutists in this thread.

E.g., "...the affluent men and women who choose abortion because they were careless or in a hurry or didn't like the feel of latex—are not the moral equivalent of the impoverished mother who responsibly, even selflessly, acknowledges she already has too many mouths to feed."

(I'll add that personally, I identify with what Wolf describes as "the American Everywoman: she is in the lost middle of the abortion debate.")
posted by torticat at 6:26 AM on March 22, 2011


Naomi Wolf is certainly not someone I look to for leadership on the question of abortion, because her thinking on the topic is cluttered and extremely sentimental, to me. Yes, she would perhaps be more in sympathy with BigSky in principle. In the New Republic piece, she took a position that was controversial, basically for being wishy-washy, and it was the cause of a lot of discussion at the time it came out. Ultimately, though, she still formally comes down on the side of the necessity for safe and legal abortion when women decide they need it.
posted by Miko at 6:54 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


^ My comment above was in response to EmpressCallipygos and Miko.

Even those who are opposed to anti-abortion legislation (and Naomi Wolf is certainly one) may have an interest in how the discussion is framed. I am not sure what Wolf intended to "gain" by that article apart from more honesty in that respect. Perhaps, too, more recognition that for the vast majority of Americans, at least, there IS a moral component to abortion, and the pro-choice movement should acknowledge and deal with that.

Near the end of the article she talks, too, about the scapegoating of abortion providers, which she believes comes at least partially as a result of pro-choicers' denying the moral responsibility of women themselves in reproductive choice.
posted by torticat at 6:55 AM on March 22, 2011


In the New Republic piece, she took a position that was controversial, basically for being wishy-washy, and it was the cause of a lot of discussion at the time it came out.

Of course it was controversial. "Wishy-washy" is an opinion. And I think your "cluttered" is my "nuanced." :) I am curious, though, in what way you find her "sentimental"?

At any rate, her premise, that abortion should be safe and legal but that it's a serious and messy matter that doesn't lend itself to easy or absolutist conclusions, is one that is genuinely shared by a majority of Americans, and I would guess most of the Western world. Stripping out the moral component is one way to deal with it, but perhaps not the most honest way for most people.
posted by torticat at 7:06 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Perhaps, too, more recognition that for the vast majority of Americans, at least, there IS a moral component to abortion, and the pro-choice movement should acknowledge and deal with that.

But I still wonder why it needs to be acknowledged and dealt with? What is gained by acknowledgement, and what does it mean to "deal with" the views, other than to recommend that if you have those views you take action in all the other, more effective ways to ensure that women and babies have everything they need to live good lives, can control their fertility to the extent possible, and aren't penalized for childbearing?

I do think there's a moral component to abortion, but I just don't view it as always the grievous tragedy that some seem to feel it is. It doesn't make sense in my worldview. In some religious systems, the fetus at certain early stages - in some systems, until birth - is simply not recognized as a human life yet. Those are legitimate enough systems too.

And I'm not sure we can really claim that we do revere life universally or that it's always a good to do so, or that potential human life is so very precious to the universe that it should be always be protected at all cost. There is a human exceptionalism there that bothers me. It's also connected to the entire morality of life and death, and I don't think anyone can claim good consistent handling of life and death on the part of our species - why aim for perfection in only the area of reproduction?

These are moral views too, and yet there's no similar acknowledgement or dealing-with my views that I can expect from people who, based on inclination alone, seek to convince me that an early stage fetus is an independent human being with a right to live.

This is what having different views means; I acknowledge that people may have those views, but they're not my views, I don't think they're particularly valid, and I'm not sure what it would mean to "deal with" them, other than to say "I understand your argument, but I reject it on X, Y, and Z grounds." That's why we really are left with only the legal structure to work with - frustrating as it is, if we can never reconcile these views, they are going to continue to have to be irrelevant to the discussion of whether women can have some degree of self-determination about what happens to their bodies.
posted by Miko at 7:08 AM on March 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


floam: “Hey I thought I'd share my idea on curbing abortions and unwanted pregnancies. How about the government or some rich dude like Warren Buffett or something has a program where any man or woman who gets permanently sterilized gets a check for $10,000? Is this ethically dubious? It seems perfect to me at 2am after a few beers. The exact dollar amount would need to be carefully calibrated so as not to bring the birth rate down for otherwise ready and willing parents who might consider the jackpot. But really, I'm having trouble figuring out of this is a good idea or completely evil.”

Ha ha ha. Yeah, that's a hilarious idea, right? Except it's already been done. Admittedly you get less cash, but the cash-for-sterilization thing has unfortunately been tried, both in the US and in the UK, by one Barbara Harris. See also this thread.

And yes, it's completely evil.
posted by koeselitz at 7:20 AM on March 22, 2011


Miko: This
I was arguing that the foundations - to me, the moral foundations as well as legal - rest in an individual's right to determine what happens to his or her own body, and not in any potential gain or loss to others

finally made clear to me what you were arguing in that long long Meta a little while ago. So thanks for summing it up again. It's been an itch in my brain. Not sure why I didn't understand before.
posted by bardophile at 7:30 AM on March 22, 2011


But I still wonder why it needs to be acknowledged and dealt with?

Well, okay, to quote at length, although you are of course already familiar with the argument:

Using amoral rhetoric, we weaken ourselves politically because we lose the center. To draw an inexact parallel, many people support the choice to limit the medical prolongation of life. But, if a movement arose that spoke of our "getting over our love affair" with the terminally ill, those same people would recoil into a vociferous interventionist position as a way to assert their moral values. We would be impoverished by a rhetoric about the end of life that speaks of the ill and the dying as if they were meaningless and of doing away with them as if it were a bracing demonstration of our personal independence.

Similarly, many people support necessary acts of warfare (Catholics for a Free Choice makes the analogy between abortion rights and such warfare). There are legal mechanisms that allow us to bring into the world the evil of war. But imagine how quickly public opinion would turn against a president who waged war while asserting that our sons and daughters were nothing but cannon fodder. Grief and respect are the proper tones for all discussions about choosing to endanger or destroy a manifestation of life.

War is legal: it is sometimes even necessary. Letting the dying die in peace is often legal and sometimes even necessary. Abortion should be legal; it is sometimes even necessary. Sometimes the mother must be able to decide that the fetus, in its full humanity, must die. But it is never right or necessary to minimize the value of the lives involved or the sacrifice incurred in letting them go. Only if we uphold abortion rights within a matrix of individual conscience, atonement and responsibility can we both correct the logical and ethical absurdity in our position and consolidate the support of the center.


Now you may disagree with Wolf's assessment of the "proper tone" for the discussion, or that we are "impoverished" if we don't adopt it. Myself, I find her argument humane and humanist (but then, you are concerned about "human exceptionalism" so I guess we agree to disagree on that).

As an example of what I consider to be an impoverished, truly callous perspective, I'll point to this comment from the other thread. This is in regard to whether a fetus should be given anaesthetic before late-term termination. And this response compares the (possible) discomfort of such a fetus to the discomfort of a pregnant woman? Ugh.
posted by torticat at 7:33 AM on March 22, 2011


misha: "To say no one should ever judge anyone is a nice ideal, but I think it is a bit unrealistic, given that many here are judging Big Sky for not believing what you think he/she should. And now you can judge me too, and that's okay with me. As long as you don't legislate your morality.

I feel that some of you are taking this quite far into the territory of wanting to be the thought police and tell people they CANNOT think something is irresponsible or that some things should not be done casually or what have you. What does it matter what others think, if they support your right to choose when the time comes that you personally face a decision like this?
"

The "irresponsible" argument is pretty much an attempt to paint women with the same brush that blames them for "inviting" rape. It's a way of unfairly weighting responsibility and blame against them that perpetuates gender oppression, because the ultimate goal of that argument is (of course) to remove a woman's right to control and manage her own body and its integrity under the guise of "protecting them from themselves."

This same argument has classically been used by the powerful to deny various rights to the powerless: "You can't let them get a job / drive / own land / be free men / be elected / run a church / vote! They wouldn't be able to handle the responsibility!"

Racism and misogyny remain problematic whether they are being given voice or being legislated.
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on March 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think it's the 'full humanity' thing that's at issue, absolutely. You either believe it has the potential to be a person, or it is a person from the very first time it alters a woman's hormone levels. Carrying a baby to term is a life changing thing. I believe an individual has the right to decide which life changes they go with and I don't think anyone else has a say in it.
posted by h00py at 7:41 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Even those who are opposed to anti-abortion legislation (and Naomi Wolf is certainly one) may have an interest in how the discussion is framed. I am not sure what Wolf intended to "gain" by that article apart from more honesty in that respect. Perhaps, too, more recognition that for the vast majority of Americans, at least, there IS a moral component to abortion, and the pro-choice movement should acknowledge and deal with that.

I think the disconnect, then, is in outsiders assuming that the woman seeking an abortion hasn't already done that privately. Or that she feels that her own grief, confusion, and the like is something she does not consider to be for general public consumption. Or that she is so terrified by the prospect of becoming a mother, or pregnancy itself, that it vastly outweighs the notion that "this is potential life and worthy of respect". (I know I put that in quotes, but that does not mean I dismiss that notion.)

I agree with the medical fact that an unborn embryo, at any stage from blastocyst to live birth, is potential life. However -- I also feel that each individual relates to that medical fact in a different way. I personally feel that there is a sliding scale in how "heavy a deal it is" if one wishes to terminate a pregnancy depending which stage of a pregnancy you're at, but I also understand that each individual also has their own such sliding scale. I just as firmly believe that the reasons for each individual's own reaction to the medical fact of potential life, and the makeup of this "sliding scale," are based on circumstances unique to their own lives, and there is no way I could possibly understand all of those circumstances because I am not them.

So the only thing left for me to do is grant them the mercy and compassion of believing that they are relating to a situation according to their own circumstances, their own beliefs, and their own needs, and that they are granting the situation as much dignity and respect as they specifically choose to. Maybe they're processing the experience at home where I can't see it because it ultimately isn't any of my damn business. Maybe they are treating it cavalierly because their hearts are just plain not strong enough to think about that yet, but will be in the future. Maybe they are being pressured to this abortion by an abusive husband, and are just putting on a show of it being "nothing" to hide the fact that their own hearts are breaking. I can't know. But I can grant them the dignity of assuming that they are doing the best they can with the tools, resources, and emotions available to them in that specific moment -- and at the end of the day, that is all any of us can do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on March 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


I have some distant family members that are about as Fundamentalist Christian as possible with a daughter my age. They lead their church every Sunday. The daughter confided to me a few years ago that she became pregnant in high school. Against her will, her parents made her abort, and this was before abortion was legal in her state. I'm sure her case is not singular. So imagine how many hidden stories exist beneath the Bible Belt.
posted by effluvia at 7:58 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


And this response compares the (possible) discomfort of such a fetus to the discomfort of a pregnant woman? Ugh.

The woman is far more important than the fetus.
posted by anniecat at 8:06 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


These last few comments resonate with me. It would seem we all agree abortion should be legal and safe and available. Moreover, I think we all agree that it should be all those things for both the most responsible of us and the least responsible as well. That your reasons for seeking to terminate your pregnancy are your own and we have to trust that we all know what is best for our own bodies and lives. I can live with that and I think legislation on the matter should respect that.

But beyond the legislation, you have to know that the belief is nuanced for a lot of people. There is a huge gulf between an embryo and a fully fledged human. And that gray area is where an awful lot of pro-choice people draw lines; where a woman's bodily autonomy runs up against someone else's life (a life that can survive without her sustenance at some point). Trying to understand each other's position, as we've done here, is a good thing since I don't think either the pro-life or the pro-choice all or nothing crowd is going to win this one anytime soon. I don't think you have to believe that abortion is a fundamental right no matter what, no matter how far along, no matter the reasoning, to be pro-choice.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:14 AM on March 22, 2011


Using amoral rhetoric, we weaken ourselves politically because we lose the center.

This may be true, but it's a political argument, not a moral one, and I feel that abortion is already handled too much in the political process. I actually don't think we should frame our arguments so often in terms of voter issues - when we do, whether or not abortion is available will always depend on political winds and electioneering strategies. That really doesn't reference a true moral standard of any kind. An argument based on what we need to do to "win the center" has an amoral tone to me.

I see the right to abortion as one based in the rights assigned Americans in the Constitution, in the 4th and 9th amendments, and the arguments that make sense to have about it are therefore constitutional arguments, not political ones designed to win the center. The fact that this relatively settled law is continually dragged out for attack has a lot more to do with the changing political winds, and the hay that can be made of rallying people to support inane, useless, and complex regulations on a legal process,

I feel that I get pushed into what seems to some a callous stance in these discussions. I'm actually not a callous person, and quite sensitive to how some people feel about and imagine zygotes and fetuses. The thing is, as EmpressCallipygos pointed out so well, it's highly individual, and it doesn't seem right for individual sentiments which vary to such a great degree to be required as proof of goodwill or sincerity in this argument. At the same time that I am an adamant defender of human freedom and dignity, I also recognize that decisions around the morality of life and death are incredibly complex. I have yet to meet anyone in life willing to be totally morally consistent on protecting all life in all cases at all costs, because to do so in practice would, frankly, make a person a monster. It's clear, then, that we do make distinctions and place relative values on life and potential life in different cases and at different times, just as Wolf acknowledged with regard to war and euthanasia, and I'm more interested in reasoning about that morally than in taking absolutist stances that demand revering all life always, in and of itself. She does two things well in this piece - the straw man and the slippery slope - but there's no need to accept that a slippery slope is the necessary result of making distinctions about the moral decisions that occur at different life stages.
posted by Miko at 8:18 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't think you have to believe that abortion is a fundamental right no matter what, no matter how far along, no matter the reasoning, to be pro-choice.

Perhaps not (fetal age at the time of termination has a big impact on people's reasoning, and a long history of being a benchmark in ancient and common law, and that's actually how Roe v. Wade is written), but I wonder on what grounds you would say that there should be restrictions on reasoning, and how that would still be pro-choice?
posted by Miko at 8:21 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Always weird to me when people use loving babies as a reason to be anti-abortion. I love babies and children (a baby is sleeping on me right now and I can confirm that his head smells delicious), and I want all of them to be born into safe, loving homes where they're wanted. Embryos don't feel pain or sorrow. Babies and children do. That is one reason why I am pro-abortion. It is good that we can prevent suffering. The prevention of suffering is much more important to me than the sheer quantity of life created.

Being pregnant makes me thankful for abortion, too--the first trimester of this pregnancy was one of the most physically and emotionally taxing things I've ever been through and I would never force it on someone--just so they can have a baby they don't want to have. What purpose would that serve? So someone like the OP can ruffle their hair every once in a while? Children already exist! Go play with them, fight for their rights, their food stamps, their PE classes!
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:23 AM on March 22, 2011 [33 favorites]


@Miko Good point, I really wouldn't restrict reasons so much as I would timing. Early in pregnancy, the just because argument is enough for me and it sure as hell ought to be enough for everyone else. I may not like the repeats so much and I may be sad about them but it isn't up to me and I wouldn't want to offer up my own reasoning process to public scrutiny either. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify myself.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:28 AM on March 22, 2011


As an example of what I consider to be an impoverished, truly callous perspective, I'll point to this comment from the other thread. This is in regard to whether a fetus should be given anaesthetic before late-term termination. And this response compares the (possible) discomfort of such a fetus to the discomfort of a pregnant woman? Ugh.

I didn't read that as callous. A little flippant, perhaps, but not callous. For me, it points to something that we don't often talk about explicitly, which is why the potential life of the fetus or embryo should be give equal or more weight than the actual life of the woman carrying it.
posted by rtha at 8:33 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


What purpose would that serve?

I think they think it might be Jesus or someone who might cure cancer.

I read a Po Bronson story where this guy from Alabama had a daughter who got pregnant at 15, and the daughter said she wanted to have the baby, reasoning that, "The baby might grow up to cure cancer."

Highly, highly improbable that the baby of someone who thinks the reason to have a baby is because it "might cure cancer" will actually grow up to cure cancer. It would sound worse if she said, "This baby might grow up and be a quarterback for the NFL."

For me, it points to something that we don't often talk about explicitly, which is why the potential life of the fetus or embryo should be give equal or more weight than the actual life of the woman carrying it.


I agree and it's kind of horrifying that the importance is conferred on the fetus. Didn't they once ask fathers whose wives were delivering in Catholic hospitals that if anything went wrong during delivery whether the father wanted to save the baby or the mother? Or was that a bad dream?
posted by anniecat at 8:42 AM on March 22, 2011


a life that can survive without her sustenance at some point

At what point is that? The point where it can drive itself to the grocery store and pick up a bottle of formula?
posted by anniecat at 8:47 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


My pro choice position is absolutist, in the sense that I support any woman's right to get an abortion at any point before birth, for any reason. I also support protecting that right from being infringed by mandatory counseling, requirements for government permissions, or heckling protesters, among other intrusions on it.

But I'm not personally satisfied that abortion is a good thing. I suspect, given the potentiality for life involved, that it is not. If I had my perfect Bearwife World, abortion would be safe, legal -- and rare. I don't disagree with other commenters in the thread that this judgment, if shared by our society, may encourage some to go undercover, to engage in the disapproved behavior secretly rather than refraining from it. (And adultery is a good comparison.) But I still think saying that the right to abortion is necessary to preserve autonomy, does not mean one must concur that abortion is a good thing.

I'd add that abortion, like other things which aren't illegal but also aren't good (e.g. adultery and deception) do affect other people in ways that can be hurtful. I'm not willing to give a putative father any power to prevent an abortion, but I sure understand how hurtful and dreadful that powerlessness can feel.

Lastly, I realize that the tendency of anti-abortion people to use their disapproval to infringe on and destroy abortion rights makes pro-choice people cringe when they read and hear negative judgments about abortion. But I am not willing to critique people for expressing their judgments in a civil fashion, because the right to speak and express is also absolutely basic. (Indeed, it is a big reason a lot of us are here in MetaFilter having this discussion.)

And, as a sort of postscript, another personal story from me. Because as the years went on I personally became so uncomfortable and unhappy with ever getting an abortion myself, I had an interesting breakup that centered on this subject. My law school boyfriend and I got into a discussion about what we would do if I ever got pregnant. I told him about my reservations about abortion, and said I was pretty sure my decision would be to carry to term. It made him furious. He couldn't believe that I might saddle him with fatherhood he didn't want, to summarize what he had to say. He was sure he had the right to demand that I get an abortion I didn't want. But clearly he didn't, did he? Because then he would have been controlling my body as much as someone who were to refuse my choice to get an abortion.
posted by bearwife at 8:50 AM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


> At what point is that? The point where it can drive itself to the grocery store and pick up a bottle of formula?

Oh, come on. You couldn't survive long without the complicated transit system that ensures fresh food delivery so let's not move the goalposts like that. Fetuses in the third trimester can breathe outside of the womb, which is a good reason why abortions should only be allowed then if there is truly some kind of exigency.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:51 AM on March 22, 2011


I agree and it's kind of horrifying that the importance is conferred on the fetus. Didn't they once ask fathers whose wives were delivering in Catholic hospitals that if anything went wrong during delivery whether the father wanted to save the baby or the mother?


I remember reading in the very interesting book Drugs, Devils and Doctors about the time when the church forbade anything that might ease birth, as the woman was after all supposed to give birth in suffering, but they invented syringes with cross-shaped openings at the end, to be used to anoint the baby's head with holy water for the benefit of its soul when it was clear that the mother was going to die in childbirth and take the baby with her.

Other than that (which still fills me such anger I can't even express it), complications in childbirth can lead to that question - sometimes one can only save one at the cost of the other.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:51 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


At what point is that? The point where it can drive itself to the grocery store and pick up a bottle of formula?

Are you claiming that after birth, ONLY the biological mother can care for a child? Not the father? Not a grandmother or uncle? Not a state interest like an orphanage? Not a foster parent?
posted by muddgirl at 8:53 AM on March 22, 2011


Burhanistan: " Oh, come on. You couldn't survive long without the complicated transit system that ensures fresh food delivery so let's not move the goalposts like that. Fetuses in the third trimester can breathe outside of the womb, which is a good reason why abortions should only be allowed then if there is truly some kind of exigency."

Not a great metric since the lungs are one of the last structures to develop in the womb. Babies who are born early in the third trimester do not always survive, even with the help of a hospital NICU. Babies who are born several weeks prematurely often cannot breathe on their own without medical intervention for anywhere from hours to weeks. Preemies may also experience a higher frequency of lung problems in later life.

It's hard to predict whether a premature baby will be able to survive outside the womb. The longer they are allowed to develop there, the better their chances for survival and diminished problems in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. There are no set standards, and every baby is different. My kids were born on the same day, 4 weeks premature, having had the same gestation period and presumably similar development cycles. My son has some lung issues. My daughter doesn't. When it comes to measuring a fetus' right to exist by whether they can survive outside the womb.... don't count your chickens.
posted by zarq at 9:01 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Because then he would have been controlling my body as much as someone who were to refuse my choice to get an abortion.

Absolutely yes. I support reproductive freedom and autonomy and that means not forcing women to abort or be sterilized either.

There's a ton of judginess around women's decisions to bear children under bad circumstances. The whole "welfare mom who can't keep her legs closed and has babies for state money" stereotype is one of flip side of the bad woman who aborts. Another is the woman who sacrifices her good future (college/job/etc.) by getting pregnant "too early" or without a man in the picture. These are judgements that people probably can't help making in their secret hearts but think but really need to keep to themselves.
posted by immlass at 9:10 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Another is the woman who sacrifices her good future (college/job/etc.) by getting pregnant "too early" or without a man in the picture.

Don't forget the woman who puts off having children, in order to become self-sufficient and educated, only to then become pregnant "too late" and face complications.
posted by meese at 9:13 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I support reproductive freedom and autonomy and that means not forcing women to abort or be sterilized either... There's a ton of judginess around women's decisions to bear children under bad circumstances.

I would extend this past abortion and sterilization to coerced adoption, which has become less common in the US since Roe v. Wade and a cultural shift towards acceptance of single motherhood, but is still reported by some young mothers who are susceptible to CPCs or "Christian" adoption agencies.
posted by muddgirl at 9:16 AM on March 22, 2011


> He couldn't believe that I might saddle him with fatherhood he didn't want, to summarize what he had to say.
> He was sure he had the right to demand that I get an abortion I didn't want. But clearly he didn't, did he? Because
> then he would have been controlling my body as much as someone who were to refuse my choice to get an
> abortion.
> posted by bearwife at 11:50 AM on March 22 [+] [!]

Demand? Certainly not. He can ask, before the issue comes up for real, and if he doesn't like the answer his options are to get used to the risk of becoming a daddy and meet it with good grace if it happens, or to quit having sex, whether the relationship can continue in that circumstance or not. Period, no other choices, full stop.
posted by jfuller at 9:18 AM on March 22, 2011


Don't forget the woman who puts off having children, in order to become self-sufficient and educated, only to then become pregnant "too late" and face complications.

...and then be castigated for the selfishness and expensive waste of pursuing fertility treatments or eschewing adoption.

But clearly he didn't, did he?

Never - abortion law assumes this and it's never been successfully challenged.
posted by Miko at 9:26 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you claiming that after birth, ONLY the biological mother can care for a child? Not the father? Not a grandmother or uncle? Not a state interest like an orphanage? Not a foster parent?

No, I'm saying that the expectation is unfairly on the woman who carries the fetus to term when she may have preferred to abort it. My understanding was that supercapitalist (and I may have midread) was making a reference to late-term abortions and what I think I misread was that the fetus reaches a point where it can sustain itself on its own though it is still in the mother.

What I really want to say and feel pressured to go about in a roundabout way of saying is that I think it's fine if some people want to think pregnancy, childbearing, and all that has to do with some "miracle" or is somehow really significant or sacred, but I intuitively feel that the fetus is a parasite. If other people want to believe that it's a life altering experience or an experience that should alter your life and should be viewed as a good thing, that's their choice. However, we see plenty of harm done to children who would have been better off not having been born in the first place.

I personally think that those people shouldn't confuse their love for their children born and unborn with people who think pregnancy is a burden and the fetus is a parasite. But if someone says, "The fetus is a parasite" then everyone assumes the thinking has to be "every fetus is a parasite" when that's not true.

I had a coworker who was anti-abortion and he kept saying over and over again, "Children are a blessing." I wonder if half of the US's problem is the inability to give enough weight to the reality; children are a blessing to some parents and a burden to other parents.

Sure the grandmother, father, aunt, or the state can take care of a baby unwanted by a mother, but the mother is susceptible to pressure of others who might goad her into mothering a child that was unwanted. It's easy to be guilted into assuming a role you never wanted to take on in the first place. Even now, we all have to be guilted into thinking that every fertilized egg is a potential for life or else we're going to be thought of as lacking humanity.
posted by anniecat at 10:10 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't do it!
posted by timshel at 10:11 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


My pro choice position is absolutist, in the sense that I support any woman's right to get an abortion at any point before birth, for any reason.

So just to be clear, bearwife, you would be in favor of allowing a woman to abort a viable infant at 36 weeks versus simply having the infant delivered and placed in an adoptive home? I'm not trying to be inflammatory, but really understand if the intensity of protecting a woman's autonomy really goes to this length with very many people.
posted by docpops at 10:30 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry I misunderstood you anniecat - I thought you were making the all-too-common argument that a baby is just like a fetus, and therefore we can require a women to support a fetus because presumably we require them to support a live baby (even though we really don't).
posted by muddgirl at 10:32 AM on March 22, 2011


So just to be clear, bearwife, you would be in favor of allowing a woman to abort a viable infant at 36 weeks versus simply having the infant delivered and placed in an adoptive home?

The problem with thought experiments like this, Docpops, is that even though people are absolutists about it, vanishingly few women actually pursue late-term abortions just on a random whim like this -- there usually is some driving medical necessity.

Also, you speak of "simply having the infant delivered". This makes it sound like ordering a damn pizza. Childbirth is not "simple" -- it's a very large demand on a woman's body. And speaking as a woman, I'd sure as hell like the option of not being forced to put my body through that demand.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:36 AM on March 22, 2011 [14 favorites]


misha: To say no one should ever judge anyone is a nice ideal, but I think it is a bit unrealistic, given that many here are judging Big Sky for not believing what you think he/she should.

I don't know if this was intended to include my comments, but if so, I'd appreciate pointers to the remarks I made that might have given this impression. I did not intend to express judgment of BigSky "for not believing what I think he should believe." I think people should, ideally, believe whatever the results of honest, open, thorough information-seeking lead them to believe; I also think that people are entitled to hold whatever shallowly-considered beliefs they wish. I thought I was seeking information from BigSky. What are the concrete goods he thinks result from more widespread and aggressive vocalization of "valid" and "invalid" abortion distinctions? The concrete harms resulting from a small groundswell of people like me refraining from same? Casual abortions will become more common and normalized, rather like breast implants have become normalized and unremarkable compared to say 15 years ago -- is that the argument?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:48 AM on March 22, 2011


It's not a thought experiment necessarily, more of an inquiry into how we consider the notions of autonomy and life itself, especially given the strength of bearwife's comment. And part of the point of raising such an issue is that at a certain point the abortion risks and delivery risks essentially start to become duplicated, as far as the risk to the woman.

What is interesting about this thread to me is the breadth of sub-viewpoints on a topic that everyone seems to agree fundamentally on. It just doesn't seem like there is much room for a male with strong feelings on the fluidity of life's beginnings to get much traction here, regardless of their bonafides when it comes to working in the trenches of women's healthcare, which I won't go into since it won't matter in the end.
posted by docpops at 10:50 AM on March 22, 2011


Question-based on what Empress just said... when they do a really late term abortion, assume for the moment we are all on board with doing it, what does that entail? I ask because I truly don't know. I guess I'd assumed that at 28 weeks, 32 weeks, etc...you have to deliver the fetus, one way or another right? I mean.... there isn't an alternative way to performing a third trimester abortion without inducing labor or c-section, is there? I admit to ignorance on this, just asking. Is it labor like having a baby is labor? How awful that must be to experience-hard for anyone, I'd imagine.

Sure a fetus is a parasite by definition, but it's one that most of society has more respect for than your garden variety tapeworm, particularly as it reaches the point at which it is a fully developed human-something most parasites will never achieve (Charlie Sheen notwithstanding). As far as driving itself to the store, by that definition, everyone that has ever needed help to live (the elderly for instance) should be put on an icefloe and be done with it if they can't go buy their own Ensure. I assume that what I'm hearing here about the incredible rarity of late term abortions is accurate which is good news to me. But you aren't going to get me on board with supporting a woman waiting eight months to make up her mind just because. We have the right but I am okay with asking that we exercise it in a timely fashion. If that causes me to lack the purity to claim pro choice well.... I guess I'll have to live with that.
posted by supercapitalist at 10:54 AM on March 22, 2011


So just to be clear, bearwife, you would be in favor of allowing a woman to abort a viable infant at 36 weeks versus simply having the infant delivered and placed in an adoptive home? I'm not trying to be inflammatory, but really understand if the intensity of protecting a woman's autonomy really goes to this length with very many people.

I'm guessing that in asking this question you're also asking us to assume that the infant is not only viable but doesn't have significant and serious health impairments that could cause further suffering, and that you're also assuming the woman is mentally and physically healthy and the pregnancy / childbirth aren't presenting any health risks aside from the usual ones, and that the woman also had the option, had she wanted to accept it, to find, pay for, and undergo an earlier, safer abortion, and that she was free from any kind of coercion during the entire pregnancy. The thing is, as the Dr. Tiller thread so painfully showed us, these conditions aren't always in place. Because I don't have the information to know when they are and aren't, or even the abilility to objectively weight that information if I did have it, the only thing I can respectfully do is allow the women and the providers they see to make those decisions. So yes, I'm favor of allowing it too. Few people, as EmpressCallipygos notes, will ever pursue this kind of abortion; and few doctors will ever be available to manage it. It's for extreme cases, is now and always has been. When people's situations have become desperate enough to take this difficult and protacted and dangerous measure, it's very clearly none of my business to get involved in that decision. There are better minds than mine on those cases.
posted by Miko at 11:00 AM on March 22, 2011 [20 favorites]


I mean.... there isn't an alternative way to performing a third trimester abortion without inducing labor or c-section, is there?

There is, sort of, and you can Google it. And you can notice, while you're Googling, that the descriptions of the procedure will vary dramatically depending on the agenda of the person describing it. You're unlikely to find a dispassionate description of what's involved because the issue is so fraught in the US and women who have had to have it done rarely want to open themselves up to the crazies of the internet by admitting they've had it done. I had friends who had to have one and it was one of the most life-changing things they'd ever been through and that includes the birth of their three subsequent kids.

It just doesn't seem like there is much room for a male with strong feelings on the fluidity of life's beginnings to get much traction here


What do you think they need traction for? For changing people's minds? Or just for people to say "Hey I understand what you're saying but I've made a different set of choices in my life and my political decisions." I see a lot of people saying the latter, but I don't see why the former should be up for debate, as I've said earlier. I personally feel that there is nothing that anyone from MetaFilter could say (sorry gang) that would change my mind on this issue although I've been surprised at my mind-changing before. So what sort of traction is needed?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:02 AM on March 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


supercapitalist, read the Tilley thread I just linked - there are some explanations of the procedures used in there. Yes, sometimes there is labor, so the woman may have to labor to deliver a dead or dying baby. The procedure sometimes takes days. There are different ways of doing it, c-section not being all that common as far as I can tell.

If you think it's a bad idea, I highly, highly recommend that you read some of the personal stories shared, and linked to, in that thread.
posted by Miko at 11:02 AM on March 22, 2011


Thanks for the links, both of you. I will definitely check it out. I have read once or twice a story about a very late term abortion, always in the case of a severe health issue for mom or baby, and they are truly heartbreaking for everyone involved. If I wasn't clear above, I haven't any issue with those instances. And I do believe the posters who have said that they represent the vast majority of very late term abortions. Like I said, this thread definitely gave me lots of new info.
posted by supercapitalist at 11:08 AM on March 22, 2011


Kansas Stories - personal stories of late term abortions.
posted by Miko at 11:08 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


First of all, a fetus is absolutely a parasite. Straight up. No question.

But you aren't going to get me on board with supporting a woman waiting eight months to make up her mind just because.

How about trusting that a woman is making the best decision she can given the resources and information she has available? Because in theory, I'm with you. I feel like most women know the instant the stick turns pink if they're going to get an abortion or not, and that if they can't be arsed to get to the clinic in the first four months, then there should be consequences to that lack of decision-making.

But real life doesn't always work that way. People learn at their 22 week scan that the baby has a deformity, and they elect for an amnio which can't be scheduled for another three weeks, and then it takes two weeks for the results to come back, and now you're in the third trimester. Women develop severe and rapid-onset HELLP syndrome that literally requires that the baby be delivered in hours, with blood pressure too high to survive labor and platelets too low to survive a C-section. Women go in for the latest in a long string of ultrasounds because things have been looking "not right" for a while, only to discover at 32 weeks that there's finally been enough development to conclusively say that there are serious problems. Women get cancer while pregnant. Women's circumstances change.

I, personally, find the idea of terminating a healthy pregnancy in the eighth month horrifying. I assume most people do. And that's why we have to leave it legal, because there are women for whom the horrifying choice is the only appropriate choice. You can never legislate out all the edge cases. The minute you start saying THESE are the OK reasons, other reasons are not OK, you leave women without care at a time when they are vulnerable and need it the most.
posted by KathrynT at 11:11 AM on March 22, 2011 [25 favorites]


And I think in many of the instances where it doesn't seem so medically obvious that a baby won't survive or will have a terribly quality of life, other things can be at play - particularly mental health for the mother or situations of abuse or coercion. Not something I'm willing to write off. Again, these things are so individual, detailed, and private that I'm absolutely certain they're not my business. That's the stuff of medical ethics and should be handled in those chambers, not in courts of law.
posted by Miko at 11:11 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


jessamyn,

Perhaps traction is the wrong word if it implies changing minds. That said, when someone posts their opinion here I would think a part of them sometimes is hoping to change minds, or maybe not, but at least be heard, if only because it's important for the human psyche to feel heard and acknowledged. People dialogue and discuss for all sorts of reasons, and often minds are changed, just maybe not yours. But who is to say that someone reading this thread years from now won't benefit from a specific kernel of information or idea?
posted by docpops at 11:13 AM on March 22, 2011


It just doesn't seem like there is much room for a male with strong feelings

It seems like people get hung up on this point of feeling that it's because they're male that their feelings don't matter. It's not. It's because nobody's feelings matter. The argument is not about people's feelings, because people's feelings vary and are culturally relativistic and religiously influenced and generally a mess. We don't need autonomy for women because of people's feelings, and we don't take it away based on people's feelings - whether the people are my pro-life aunt or some Operation Rescue person or my best friend or some Planned Parenthhood advocate's. Feelings just aren't the basis for a legality discussion. They're the basis for individual life discussions with people in your own relationships, and the basis for philosophical discussions, but not for prohibitions.
posted by Miko at 11:15 AM on March 22, 2011 [31 favorites]


First of all, a fetus is absolutely a parasite. Straight up. No question.

So is every human until roughly adolescence, if I understand your implied definition. That's sort of a grotesque sentiment.
posted by docpops at 11:15 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Of all the women that I know who have had an abortion, none of them treated it lightly

Hi there! I had an abortion and it wasn't a big deal. I found out I was pregnant (birth control failure, for those looking to judge), knew I didn't want to be pregnant, had an abortion, and that was it.

> I have seen people refer to their abortion as "no big deal." Maybe they are just putting on a brave front

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not. I've had a planned, wanted pregnancy that I thought might have to end in an abortion for medical reasons, and I know what it's like to care deeply about a fetus and to lose sleep over its future. My unplanned, unwanted pregnancy was nothing like that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:15 AM on March 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


So is every human until roughly adolescence, if I understand your implied definition.

No, kids can be raised and fed by other people than their biological mom, and can actually seek to meet their own needs pretty early on, so that doesn't follow.
posted by Miko at 11:17 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


So is every human until roughly adolescence, if I understand your implied definition. That's sort of a grotesque sentiment.

No. I mean that it lives in my body and draws sustenance from my blood, my tissues, and my bones. There's no definition by which the relationship isn't parasitical. This isn't some sort of baby-hating antipathy that's motivating this; I'm nursing my four-month-old son literally as I type. It's just a pure fact.
posted by KathrynT at 11:18 AM on March 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


The "irresponsible" argument is pretty much an attempt to paint women with the same brush that blames them for "inviting" rape. It's a way of unfairly weighting responsibility and blame against them that perpetuates gender oppression, because the ultimate goal of that argument is (of course) to remove a woman's right to control and manage her own body and its integrity under the guise of "protecting them from themselves."

I disagree with your contention. I think it is clear from my comment that I am absolutely, utterly pro-choice. Every woman has the right to have an abortion. But do I think that people sometimes exercise that right irresponsibly, yes. Men AND women.

If a woman makes a choice to have sex, chooses not to use any form of birth control, and then has to have an abortion, she is being irresponsible, in my opinion. This was a preventable consequence she simply refused to face before making a decision to have sex. Ignoring consequences and just doing what you feel like doing with no thought for what might happen is irresponsible. (Please do not bring up cases of rape; no one, NO ONE has suggested that if a woman does not have a choice in the matter she has in any way behave irresponsibly.) Using birth control, including condoms, is not acting irresponsibly. How is it unfair to just say that?

How is suggesting people behave responsibly unfairr? If you are suggesting that, by saying the woman is irresponsible I am perpetuating gender oppression, I am not. I think that the man has been irresponsible for not using a condom if he doesn't want a child, too. Not everyone is trying to perpetuate gender oppression just because they don't believe exactly what you believe.

Everyone has a right to make a choice. When you make that choice, you are responsible for what happens as a result. Choices have consequences. That's all that the people who say don't take things lightly mean. If you have unsafe sex, or sex without birth control, you could get an STD or become pregnant or your partner could. You SHOULD take that seriously!

I really don't see how it is beneficial to anyone to suggest that having an abortion is like sneezing, as I believe koeselitz said upthread (by the way, palomar, I see that I misattributed something someone else said to you. I'm sorry). Abortion is a surgical procedure. It SHOULD be taken seriously.

Off the topic a bit, but also tangentially relevant: In the U.S., we speak a lot of rights that we have, or that we think we should have, but we rarely speak about the duties and responsibilities we also incur simply because we live in a community. We all have to live together. It would be good if we kept an open dialogue and showed respect.

We do not seem to have a sense of community responsibility at all.

We do not care for our own poor, or feed our children. We don't want to pay higher taxes. We worry more about what we have coming to us than what we are doing to make everyone else's lives easier.

Look at how surprised everyone seems to be that the Japanese are not looting and try to make productive use of their time (like whittling chopsticks) even when they are homeless themselves. There is a sense of both personal responsibility and community responsibility there (think of the young men carrying the elderly from the wreckage on their backs) that warms my heart.

I think a dialog about choices can also carry with it a dialog about the consequences of the choices we make.
posted by misha at 11:19 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Misha, is it irresponsible to take antibiotics for gonorrhea if you caught the disease because your BC method didn't protect against STDs?
posted by KathrynT at 11:22 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was a preventable consequence she simply refused to face before making a decision to have sex. Ignoring consequences and just doing what you feel like doing with no thought for what might happen is irresponsible.

What if she did face the consequence, calculate the odds, think it through, and decide to take the risk that she might get pregnant, knowing that an early stage abortion was something she could afford and handle without too much trouble? Especially if she also knew there was not an STD hazard from her partner? Is that irresponsible? If she understands and accepts the consequences - actively chooses to take the logical consequences when they come?
posted by Miko at 11:22 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Misha: I feel that some of you are taking this quite far into the territory of wanting to be the thought police and tell people they CANNOT think something is irresponsible or that some things should not be done casually or what have you. What does it matter what others think, if they support your right to choose when the time comes that you personally face a decision like this?

I posted this FPP a couple of years ago. I thought it had potential for opening up new grounds for discussion of the complexities of abortion, or at least, that it could offer space for people to tell their stories and feelings about how they experienced abortion. Especially, for people whose feelings fell into gray areas.

That discussion got derailed early and thoroughly. A few people were absolutely certain about how some of the girls/women whose conflict-ful stories I linked in the FPP, could and should have been less careless. Many people questioned whether there were sound grounds for such dead certainty. The whole thread became a back and forth about that. The few people who piped up with thoughts about "Yeah, for many women, there is a gray area, and it's important to create social space for letting us/them talk about it because..." or "Nah, there wasn't a gray area for me, because..." or "If there's a significant mass of women who have had abortions who feel there's a gray area, what are the concrete implications?" or "My experience of deciding to abort and having it done was gray in these ways, black in those ways, and white in these other ways"...thank you.

I think the creation and nurturing of more shame-free, judgment-free spaces for girls and women to share how they feel about their own abortion decisions would probably make our society better. What might result if, say, just half of the abortion decision stories there are to tell, were freely and widely shared? It might make transparent how common it is to have an abortion, how many upstanding citizens from all walks of life and religion have them, how many already-mothers have them, how often pregnancy can result from complex pressures like eg those in a relationship with an abusive partner and it can also result from doing multiple birth control methods right, how many girls and women would prefer to give birth and raise their own child if only their economic or interpersonal or environmental or what-have-you situation were such that they felt there were reasonable grounds for hope that the potential child's happy quality of life...

Yeah, there would be stories like batmonkey's example, too. I have private opinions about those kinds of examples but it's not clear to me how expressing them aggressively would do more good than harm. Perhaps I'm wrong, but at the moment I think that greater transparency and sharing would demonstrate that such stories are outliers. Greater transparency and sharing will not happen when a majority of people aggressively vocalize how they can't fathom why girls and women might not know how to use b.c. properly, might not have access to b.c. at all, might have an abusive mind-fucking partner, might not know they were pregnant, might have strong family or religious pressures affecting their attitudes about b.c. use at all.... All this as if they've never heard of perfectly-used b.c. failing, too.

So what does it matter that so many condemn certain abortions they hear about as invalid? They have every right to. And, I respectfully submit that as a result, there's no room to have other conversations that could break new ground. Observations like "she's talking about her decision to abort casually, how callous" or "she must have been careless with b.c., how irresponsible" or even as with batmonkey's example, "she's a porn star, she must know about b.c., and yet Sheen or some other dude impregnated her, yeesh" move the conversation into what productive place, exactly?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:24 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, I'm really sympathetic to the duties-and-responsibilities argument, but who are these duties to? To whom am I, an adult woman, responsible for this decision, other than myself and any God I choose to worship? I honestly don't get the "duty" part of some of the discussion. I honestly don't think it's my duty or responsibility to carry and give birth to a child, for anybody, unless I choose to. And if I choose to, it's not a duty or responsibility at all, it's my will. I honestly just don't get where "duty" enters into this decision.
posted by Miko at 11:25 AM on March 22, 2011 [20 favorites]


If a woman makes a choice to have sex, chooses not to use any form of birth control, and then has to have an abortion, she is being irresponsible, in my opinion.

Okay, but so what? I mean, in the real world, so what? What does it mean that some women have "irresponsible" abortions and some have "responsible" abortions? The only thing I can think is that it means we need better sex education and free or extremely cheap and widely available methods of birth control.

Everyone has a right to make a choice. When you make that choice, you are responsible for what happens as a result. Choices have consequences.

Yes. And? The consequence of being sexual active in an irresponsible way should be...what, exactly? Having to carry the pregnancy to term? Giving the kid up for adoption? Raising it even if you're not ready/can't do it? Or is it "just" shame, and the judgement of others that you are irresponsible?
posted by rtha at 11:25 AM on March 22, 2011 [18 favorites]


I'm learning a tremendous amount here that I would never have learned otherwise. I appreciate the openness.
posted by docpops at 11:27 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


No. I mean that it lives in my body and draws sustenance from my blood, my tissues, and my bones. There's no definition by which the relationship isn't parasitical. This isn't some sort of baby-hating antipathy that's motivating this; I'm nursing my four-month-old son literally as I type. It's just a pure fact.
posted by KathrynT at 2:18 PM on March 22 [+] [!]


Sustenance, as studies show, also draws from the beat of your heart, eye-contact, cooing noises, your scent, your murmurs, your strokes. Very unlike parasites, in the more conventional sense. As I'm sure you know.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:28 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sustenance, as studies show, also draws from the beat of your heart, eye-contact, cooing noises, your scent, your murmurs, your strokes. Very unlike parasites, in the more conventional sense. As I'm sure you know.

There's no eye contact until after a baby is born. Separate discussion. And many of the things that nurture infants and take place after they're born don't have to come from their biological mothers. And anyway, how do we know parasites don't enjoy that kind of thing and flourish when it's present? It would kind of stand to reason. Organisms thrive when environmental conditions are good for them.
posted by Miko at 11:31 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Abortion is a surgical procedure. It SHOULD be taken seriously.

If abortion can be done at home by taking a series of pills under a doctor's supervision/care does this still mean it has to be taken as seriously? I'm not trying to quibble with your point, but there's a continuum of "things that happen after conception" that range from "egg doesn't implant" to "spontaneous miscarriage" to "RU-486 induced miscarriage/abortion" to "surgical abortion" to "late term surgical abortion" to childbirth.

Ultimately, different people have all of these things impacting them in different ways. It's all too easy to be on the outside looking in and thinking you would have done things differently. As I said upthread, I do this every day when I'm at the supermarket and in contact with other people. But to me there's a huge chasm between me being critical of other people's choices inside my own head and trying to take that outside my own head to engage them, engage society, or engage lawmakers to move the "what is acceptable" line somewhere else.

Ultimately we have norms that affect how people make their personal decisions in various societies and then we have laws which restrict our various choices and decisions. I think there is, and should be, a vast space between how peopel personally feel about an issue and when they think their personal feelings need to be taken to legislators for them to make laws that will affect everyone's access to whatever that thing is, whether it's cheeseburgers or abortions or drugs made from placentas or stem-cell research. The abortion debate is terrible and messy because people think that their personal feelings should be part of the legal debate as more than just anecdata and I guess that's where I step in and say that I don't agree.

Aside: I like to think of the idea of a parasite doing their parasitical things because they enjoy it, so thanks for that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:32 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


If a woman makes a choice to have sex, chooses not to use any form of birth control, and then has to have an abortion, she is being irresponsible, in my opinion.

Why? I am genuinely not seeing the irresponsibility in it. Why does it make a difference if she uses the pill or has an abortion? I'm sincerely asking. Is it the higher relative cost - a financial irresponsibility? If it was paid solely through her own earnings, would it then be responsible? Again, I'm totally sincere. I do not understand your point.
posted by desjardins at 11:34 AM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


aargh, I meant "she's talking casually about her decision to abort casually, how callous"
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:37 AM on March 22, 2011


We could argue all day about what exactly constitutes a parasite, but here's one definition:
The harm and benefit in parasitic interactions concern the biological fitness of the organisms involved. Parasites reduce host fitness in many ways, ranging from general or specialized pathology (such as parasitic castration), impairment of secondary sex characteristics, to the modification of host behaviour. Parasites increase their fitness by exploiting hosts for resources necessary for the parasite's survival: (i.e. food, water, heat, habitat, and dispersal).

Although the concept of parasitism applies unambiguously to many cases in nature, it is best considered part of a continuum of types of interactions between species, rather than an exclusive category. Particular interactions between species may satisfy some but not all parts of the definition.
posted by rtha at 11:38 AM on March 22, 2011


Sustenance, as studies show, also draws from the beat of your heart, eye-contact, cooing noises, your scent, your murmurs, your strokes. Very unlike parasites, in the more conventional sense. As I'm sure you know.

I. . . don't get your point. I'm not saying a BABY is a parasite, and I'm not passing some kind of value judgment here. I have two kids whom I love tremendously, and I was happy to endure the parasitical relationship in order to get them. Doesn't mean they weren't parasites when I was carrying them.
posted by KathrynT at 11:39 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's unwise to use parasites as analogy unless you're speaking from a negative connotation. Otherwise, use something more neutral like "dependent" or something.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:40 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's unwise to use parasites as analogy unless you're speaking from a negative connotation. Otherwise, use something more neutral like "dependent" or something.

But even the negative connotation is just a bias. Parasites have their place in nature, and they aren't negative in and of themselves, just when they're an inconvenience for us. We all have parasites we aren't even aware of.
posted by Miko at 11:44 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I started thinking about the "responsibility" issue, but I got stuck. I think there's a semantic difference between calling a woman having sex without birth control 'irresponsible' vs. acknowledging that it's a situation that could (but won't necessarily) result in unwanted consequences. I prefer the latter. But then, acknowledging that it's a situation that could lead to unwanted consequences makes it sound like you're saying it's 'risky.' And we all know that risky sex is sex we can disapprove of.

I can't think of any way to phrase it without it sounding pejorative. I notice I said 'phrase' it -- I don't mean 'frame' it. I can frame it easily. There are a lot of reasons that woman might not have used birth control -- maybe it's waiting at the pharmacy for pick up. Maybe she thought there was a condom left in the box, but there wasn't. You find yourself there, and sometimes it's hard to stop the boulder from rolling downhill, so they go ahead. (And come on, it's not entirely her responsibility, let's not forget.) Etc. and so on.

It is, for me, a language problem. But I can't figure out how to make it go away.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:46 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah, parasites as they are biologically defined have their place in the whole continuum/spectrum of natural phenomena, but when used in discourse "parasite" means an unwelcome siphoning of resources. Splitting hairs and all.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:47 AM on March 22, 2011


Why? I am genuinely not seeing the irresponsibility in it. Why does it make a difference if she uses the pill or has an abortion?

Same reason it's irresponsible to step on nails even though a tetanus shot would make it OK?
posted by floam at 11:47 AM on March 22, 2011


The negative connotation is exactly the reason I speak up about it, Burhanistan. It's to make the point that pregnancy is a burden. It's a burden that many women are willing and eager to carry, myself included, but a burden nonetheless.

Too often in abortion discussions, people are willing to conflate disliking pregnancy with disliking babies, and it's just untrue. My super-Catholic "life-begins-at-conception" neighbor also refers to fetuses as parasites, because they are. Maybe some people are uncomfortable looking at pregnancy as a parasite-host relationship, but that doesn't alter reality.
posted by KathrynT at 11:48 AM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


when used in discourse "parasite" means an unwelcome siphoning of resources. Splitting hairs and all.

Trust me, when I was sleeping 20 hours a day, had a violent and sudden aversion to anything meatlike, and had to call my husband in to poke through a sink full of vomit to see if I needed to re-take my antidepressants. . . it was pretty damn unwelcome.
posted by KathrynT at 11:50 AM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


If a woman makes a choice to have sex, chooses not to use any form of birth control, and then has to have an abortion, she is being irresponsible

Did you miss the multiple stories about women who became pregnant while using birth control, or are you just choosing to ignore them because it's not as clean and simple a story as "those irresponsible sluts who choose not to use birth control"?

when used in discourse "parasite" means an unwelcome siphoning of resources

To a woman who doesn't want to be pregnant and doesn't want to have a child, guess what?
posted by Lexica at 11:53 AM on March 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


when used in discourse "parasite" means an unwelcome siphoning of resources

Right, and I think in this discourse we're being asked to consider a fetus in a non-entirely positive light, and to recognize that it is living off and depleting a person. It's a useful analogy in this conversation, and I think it makes sense to use the word and not to avoid it because our knee-jerk reaction is "parasites are negative." That's why it's playing an interesting role in this conversation. If a fetus is not parasitic, why not?

acknowledging that it's a situation that could (but won't necessarily) result in unwanted consequences

Sure, but ALL sex can result in unwanted consequences. Almost anything can result in unwanted consequences - we take risks continuously anyway. Geez, driving results in unwanted consequences every day, and yet we judge it OK to drive, even though there's a terribly good argument that it's irresponsible and brings us a whole host of negative consequences, like fossil fuel use and damaging air pollution, frequent accidents, injuries, and deaths, destruction of neighborhoods and unsafe roadways, isolation, weird international trade agreements, etc.

Stepping on the nail might be irresponsible, but it might just be that your mind was elsewhere, you were barefoot in the garden and the gas grill lit your porch awning on fire, you ran into the garage to get a fire extinguisher, and YES you should probably have put your flip flops on first. Irresponsible? Er, maybe. But I go barefoot all the time in summer and occasionally step on stuff. I know there's a medical system as my backup. I'm not sure I think this is a horrible thing.

Why does sex come in for a level of examination that none of our other daily (well, normal, regular) acts seem to demand?
posted by Miko at 11:54 AM on March 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Maybe some people are uncomfortable looking at pregnancy as a parasite-host relationship, but that doesn't alter reality.

Indeed, this is why I used to joke during my pregnancy that I was living "The Invasion of the Body Snatcher." The fact that the pregnancy was planned and wanted, and that the resulting child is much adored, has in no way diminished the feeling of loss of control over my own body. So even though I flinch a little at the use of the term 'parasite,' I acknowledge its absolute appropriateness.
posted by bardophile at 11:59 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Same reason it's irresponsible to step on nails even though a tetanus shot would make it OK?

I don't understand this analogy, because stepping on nails is almost always accidental and not sought out, but sex, except in the case of rape, is purposeful and (at least hoped to be) pleasurable. Stepping on nails might be clumsiness or inattentiveness, but it's not irresponsible.
posted by desjardins at 12:00 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Same reason it's irresponsible to step on nails even though a tetanus shot would make it OK?

I'm having trouble with this analogy. "It was really irresponsible of you to step on that nail!" I'm not able to think of a scenario when someone would say that. This I can easily understand: "It was really irresponsible for you to leave nails on the floor like that -- someone could've stepped on one!" Or, even, this: "It was really irresponsible for you to go walking barefoot in here -- you could've stepped on the nail!" The problem with the case, as you present it, is that we say someone is irresponsible either when they intentionally do something they shouldn't have or when they don't do something they should have intentionally done. So, to say it's irresponsible to step on a nail, I'm left asking: why would someone intentionally step on a nail?

Maybe they're an extreme masochist, and they get significant pleasure out of it. This masochist knows that stepping on the nail will then require them to get a tetanus shot. So, the masochist weighs the pros and the cons: the pleasure of stepping on the nail vs. the pain, expense, and annoyance of having to get a tetanus shot. They decide it's worth it. Was that irresponsible of them? It doesn't seem so -- they knew the risks and the rewards, and they made an informed decision. Granted, it's not the same decision I would have made, but the mere fact that they have different desires and life-plans than I do doesn't mean they acted irresponsibly.
posted by meese at 12:02 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe some people are uncomfortable looking at pregnancy as a parasite-host relationship, but that doesn't alter reality.

Yes, I'm one of those people, and although of course I understand what you are saying in the biological sense of the word, it's pretty hard for most non-scientists to not hear negative connotations when the word "parasite" is used -- and I respect your right to think it's just the most obviously pure-fact thing in the world -- the parasites/burden word-choices, I mean -- but without turning this into a semantic duel, I did not feel burdened (physically or emotionally) by pregnancy, and felt I was "feeding off" the fetus and then the baby, as much as it fed off me.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:14 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, as much as they fed off me.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:15 PM on March 22, 2011


Whew!

Okay, let me clarify something: having the abortion isn't what I feel is irresponsible. The choice not to use birth control is what I considered irresponsible. I thought I made that clear when I said that the man was also irresponsible for not using a condom, but I guess not. Again, PRO-CHOICE, even when I don't care for the choices.

Now:

Misha, is it irresponsible to take antibiotics for gonorrhea if you caught the disease because your BC method didn't protect against STDs?

Hello, strawman! I assume you are just asking for my opinion, right? I would say that having unsafe sex without knowing the STD status of your partner is an irresponsible choice, not taking antibiotics once you have it. That's responsible. Also informing your partners that you have an STD before having sex, which I believe is the preferred option of them all. But again, those are your choices, and I support your right to choose. I can also personally feel that practicing safe sex is responsible. Surely you are not going to tell me that I have no right to think that?

What if she did face the consequence, calculate the odds, think it through, and decide to take the risk that she might get pregnant, knowing that an early stage abortion was something she could afford and handle without too much trouble?

Well, I think this is another strawman. Do women actually do this? I've never met a woman who consciously chose abortion as her preferred method of birth control. I suppose it happens. And is getting an early stage abortion really that affordable and easy to do? I'd be surprised to discover that, too. I think sometimes it is difficult for women to do this because there are so few providers who are willing to perform abortions due to the militant actions of the anti-choice people. So then, she is tying up resources that could go to other women who are medically in need of abortions for other reasons. But again, that's her choice. I wouldn't call it irresponsible, personally, since you ask, as she has thought through the consequences of her actions.

I am genuinely not seeing the irresponsibility in it. Why does it make a difference if she uses the pill or has an abortion? I'm sincerely asking.

Well, the pill would be pro-active, I guess. But, again, I'm just saying that actions have consequences, so she should think about her actions. Taking birth control before having sex if you do not want or cannot afford abortion is showing you understand this basic concept , whether you are a man or a woman. I certainly don't think anyone should have a child they cannot or do not want to raise; again, I'm PRO-CHOICE.

Is it the higher relative cost - a financial irresponsibility? If it was paid solely through her own earnings, would it then be responsible?

I personally pay taxes for, and support, clinics that perform abortions and have made voluntary donations to Planned Parenthood as well. I don't think we should curtail the reproductive rights of women. I can understand, though, because I can see both sides of this issue, that some people may be upset if they are financially supporting abortions for people who cannot afford to have children, because a lot of people wait until they can afford children to have them, or choose not to have kids. But, realistically, these same people should be just as upset that birth control like the pill s not always affordable and easily available to most people. Now that I think about it, this actually points to more men needing to take control of birth control, as condoms are much less costly than the pill, and have fewer potential side effects. So, again, I do not accept the argument about trying to oppress women by mentioning irresponsibility.

The abortion debate is terrible and messy because people think that their personal feelings should be part of the legal debate as more than just anecdata and I guess that's where I step in and say that I don't agree.

Agreed, jessamyn, which is why I specifically said that I do not think we should try to legislate morality or in any way curtail a woman's right to legally choose to have an abortion, whatever her circumstances.
posted by misha at 12:17 PM on March 22, 2011


Stepping on the nail might be irresponsible, but it might just be that your mind was elsewhere, you were barefoot in the garden and the gas grill lit your porch awning on fire, you ran into the garage to get a fire extinguisher, and YES you should probably have put your flip flops on first. Irresponsible? Er, maybe.

My analogy sucks, but here's what I'm getting at and what has me scratching my head:

Desjardins specifically was responding to the scenario quoted which was not an accident: "makes a choice to have sex, chooses not to use any form of birth control, and then has to have an abortion", and then she questioned how that scenario is not responsible:

Why? I am genuinely not seeing the irresponsibility in it.

I just think that seems a little too far — of course abortions are a thing we need and everyone should be able to get one no matter what, right? But if you don't want a baby, wouldn't you not be acting responsibly by eschewing using birth control, which can avoid the impregnation in the first place, cost less, and have effects on your health? Of course the birth control can fail, but it usually doesn't, and if it does you can move up to the next most involved step on the ladder to prevent a baby being made. The hypothetical person that relies, purposefully, only on abortion seems to me to be "living on the edge", not acting in their own best interest, and not responsible.

We can't all agree that birth control is the responsible thing to do to avoid child birth if that's what you want?

And yes I realize that this doesn't matter at all because hardly anyone does this and it doesn't matter as far as the policy goes. But the commenter specifically said something that just doesn't sit right with me.

I COMPLETELY understand the many reasons why abortions are necessary and why even someone being very vigilant may need or want one. I'm all for them! I think they should be paid for by the government and very available with no barriers to entry. I just think it's most responsible to rely on front-line birth control if you don't want a baby. I may be warped due to being a dude and mostly only having that option.
posted by floam at 12:18 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


So just to be clear, bearwife, you would be in favor of allowing a woman to abort a viable infant at 36 weeks versus simply having the infant delivered and placed in an adoptive home?

Sorry, off doing other things for awhile, so this is a very belated answer in a thread that has already taken some other interesting turns.

Answer is: yes, I would favor that, much as I personally dislike abortion, and even though my dislike increases greatly as the fetus moves toward viability. The why is simple -- you absolutely cannot forbid the right to abort before birth without violating bodily autonomy. And a person who is already born has an absolute right to make their own decisions about their own body, even at that late stage. Otherwise . . . it's a compelled birth. The woman's body has been reduced to being a vehicle, a housing, for a person who still hasn't been born yet.

Really, the right to abortion boils down to this. Either women control their own bodies, or they don't.
posted by bearwife at 12:20 PM on March 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


I don't mean to take a position, but perhaps a better substitute for floam's analogy might be along the lines of, 'Same reason it's irresponsible to leave a board with nails sticking up through it lying around; i.e. taking the pill is like picking up the dangerous board and tossing it in the dumpster where it's unlikely to harm anyone, whereas abortion is more like taking your friend to the E.R. after he's stepped on the nail in the board you left around."

??
posted by jon1270 at 12:21 PM on March 22, 2011


and have fewer potential effects on your health
posted by floam at 12:22 PM on March 22, 2011


At any rate, her premise, that abortion should be safe and legal but that it's a serious and messy matter that doesn't lend itself to easy or absolutist conclusions, is one that is genuinely shared by a majority of Americans, and I would guess most of the Western world.

I want to roll back a few hours and address this, because it's really bothering me. I just don't understand why a pro-choice position is getting painted as simplistic or absolutist. Because we're saying "everyone should be able to have abortions"? I suppose that's an easy soundbite, I've used it myself, but characterizing the entire position as consisting of this and only this is incredibly unfair.

The pro-choice position says, over and over: you want to reduce abortions? More sex education, more equal distribution of resources, better health care, better quality of life. We want these things too. These are the things that reduce abortion and improve the general welfare. Those are messy, complicated solutions to the messy, complicated problem, but that's what "safe, legal, and rare" requires.

It just really bugs me when people try to paint the pro-choice position as reducing complexity. It's the pro-life movement that wants a Gordian solution to the troublesome knot: no abortions, ever. Maybe they'll add a little nuance: unless you were raped, in which case ok, but maybe not even then. Or maybe if the pregnancy will harm you, but then again, maybe not. No, let's just go with no abortions, ever.

That is an absolutist stance. That's trying to elide the messy debate with a one-stop solution. That is what simplicity looks like. From the pro-choice movement and the fundamental establishment of personal autonomy flows counseling, informed decisions, options, choices. There's nothing absolutist about that.
posted by Errant at 12:27 PM on March 22, 2011 [20 favorites]


If it was any fun to stick nails into your foot, a lot more people would be showing up for tetanus shots.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:30 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I did not feel burdened (physically or emotionally) by pregnancy, and felt I was "feeding off" the fetus and then the baby, as much as it fed off me.

Certainly a real though subjective feeling that I've heard others report, but the biological relationship does tell a more complex story - lots of feel-good hormones, but also demonstrable nutrient depletion, etc.

I think this is another strawman. Do women actually do this? I've never met a woman who consciously chose abortion as her preferred method of birth control.

I wasn't suggesting it was her preferred method, but that it is a backup.

And yes, women do this. I know this because I have been this woman. There were definitely a couple of times in my 20s when I was not on the Pill, and during which I made a couple calculations about where I was in my cycle and decided that I'd go ahead and have sex, accepting the level of risk as I understood it, and cross my fingers. That meant accepting the possibility of maybe having to have an abortion, or taking the morning-after pill. I suppose it happens. I knew I could afford it if it came to that. Of course I hoped it wouldn't, but I was prepared to accept the risk. I feel this was a fair decision for a mature person to make, and not really anybody else's business.

And is getting an early stage abortion really that affordable and easy to do? I'd be surprised to discover that, too. I think sometimes it is difficult for women to do this because there are so few providers who are willing to perform abortions due to the militant actions of the anti-choice people. So then, she is tying up resources that could go to other women who are medically in need of abortions for other reasons. But again, that's her choice. I wouldn't call it irresponsible, personally, since you ask, as she has thought through the consequences of her actions.

You can actually go to your primary doctor or GYN and get a medical abortion or referral for same in many cases, avoiding the whole protestor/clinic thing, and not tying up any more resources than if you had a cold or a vaginitis or something. Women who have the funds to depend on public clinics and services can always get abortions fairly easily. Also, we should have enough resources to meet whatever the reproductive health needs of the population are; being in competition for scarce resources creates negative health outcomes for women, so rather than worry about "tying up" resources, we should be examining any places in which there is a shortage of resources, and working to increase their abundance and access.

Well, the pill would be pro-active, I guess. But, again, I'm just saying that actions have consequences, so she should think about her actions. Taking birth control before having sex if you do not want or cannot afford abortion is showing you understand this basic concept , whether you are a man or a woman.


Yeah, but if early stage abortion bothers you the pill should too - some formulas basically do the same thing as an abortion, cutting off the development of a fertilized egg. I'm never sure why people think taking the pill regularly is considered more responsible, for instance, than just taking a morning-after/emergency contraception pill as needed.

condoms are much less costly than the pill

That really depends how many you need to use and whether you have insurance. For a while I could get the pill for $10 a month. Also, for me, the side effects of the pill are actually good. I'd rather take it than not.
posted by Miko at 12:40 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


**Correction: "Women who have the funds to not have to depend on public clinics and services can always get abortions fairly easily. "
posted by Miko at 12:43 PM on March 22, 2011


Reading over this I think I probably am going off a different idea of "responsibility". This was just all precautions any wise person ought to do to take care of themselves and watch after their own interests. Responsibility to yourself. I don't think it's some duty women/partners should owe the rest of society.
posted by floam at 12:48 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, this thread picked up.

WRT this:
I mean.... there isn't an alternative way to performing a third trimester abortion without inducing labor or c-section, is there?

Jessamyn:
You're unlikely to find a dispassionate description of what's involved because the issue is so fraught in the US


That's a little silly, Jessamyn; a description by the AMA of intact D&X can be found here (pdf), and a description by the American Pregnancy Association of the more common D&E procedure is here. These are not hard to find.

It might be worth noting the AMA's ethical position on this with regard to third trimester abortions, which is included in that pdf:

In recognition of the constitutional principles regarding the right to an abortion articulated by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, and in keeping with the science and values of medicine, the AMA recommends that abortions not be performed in the third trimester except in cases of serious fetal anomalies incompatible with life. Although third-trimester abortions can be performed to preserve the life or health of the mother, they are, in fact, generally not necessary for those purposes. Except in extraordinary circumstances, maternal health factors which demand termination of the pregnancy can be accommodated without sacrifice of the fetus, and the near certainty of the independent viability of the fetus argues for ending the pregnancy by appropriate delivery.

posted by torticat at 12:50 PM on March 22, 2011


torticat - The Naomi Wolf article was new to me and is a much better expression of what I was trying to write about in a few scattered paragraphs. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

-----

Those interested in the Esther Friesner story mentioned by nicebookrack would be better served by following this link where it is available complete despite some formatting errors.

A number of people have pointed out that the judgment of a woman who uses abortion as birth control (assuming for the sake of argument that they agree with such a judgment to begin with) falls unfairly on only those who are unlucky in taking the same risk, i.e. unprotected sex, as a much large group, the majority of which escape any consequence. This is true, it is an instance of one of the more disturbing problems in philosophy - moral luck.
posted by BigSky at 12:56 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do notice, though, that though the AMA operates within Roe v. Wade it does not recommend that a judge make those individual decisions, nor in its careful use of conditional language does it attempt to cover all cases.
posted by Miko at 12:56 PM on March 22, 2011



I want to roll back a few hours and address this, because it's really bothering me. I just don't understand why a pro-choice position is getting painted as simplistic or absolutist. Because we're saying "everyone should be able to have abortions"?


No. What I consider absolutist on the pro-choice side is the idea, expressed a few times in this thread, that a woman ought to be able to have an abortion at any point up to birth for any reason whatsoever.

I don't agree with that, and I'd be fine with laws prohibiting late-term abortions except in cases, as the AMA says above, of serious fetal anomalies incompatible with life.

Roe v Wade didn't take an absolutist position, and I am comfortable with the way Roe weighs the vying interests involved in pregnancy. I don't see how "any abortion, any time, for any reason" is any less absolutist than "no abortion ever for any reason."
posted by torticat at 12:59 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do notice, though, that though the AMA operates within Roe v. Wade it does not recommend that a judge make those individual decisions, nor in its careful use of conditional language does it attempt to cover all cases.

I notice. You should note that the AMA felt it ethically important enough to make a recommendation on the matter. They didn't have to. If their statement had been made in this thread, would the response have been "But why? What's to be gained by making that recommendation? What does it matter in the real world"?
posted by torticat at 1:07 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


To elaborate a little further on what torticat is saying - if a 90 year-old with cancer currently cannot preserve their autonomy to commit suicide except in rare instances and only with a somewhat byzantine procedural preamble, how is a woman's autonomy to end a viable infant's life at term something that should enter into this debate?
posted by docpops at 1:08 PM on March 22, 2011



To elaborate a little further on what torticat is saying - if a 90 year-old with cancer currently cannot preserve their autonomy to commit suicide except in rare instances and only with a somewhat byzantine procedural preamble


I think your suggestion that a 90 year old can't take their own life because of legal barriers is disingenuous -- don't you? There are no legal consequences. First, there is no way to prosecute, punish, or imprison someone who is dead. Second, in real life assisted suicide just isn't prosecuted. It isn't even investigated. I actually wrote my law school note on liability for assisted suicide. Even back then, these cases just aren't adjudicated.

However, barring abortion has real and terrible consequences.

And, I am never too crazy about arguments predicated on the idea that if we do one wrong (deny bodily autonomy to the elderly and terminally ill) it is OK to do another (deny bodily autonomy to pregnant women.)
posted by bearwife at 1:15 PM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


if a 90 year-old with cancer currently cannot preserve their autonomy to commit suicide except in rare instances and only with a somewhat byzantine procedural preamble, how is a woman's autonomy to end a viable infant's life at term something that should enter into this debate?

"If I don't have mine, then you can't have yours?"

You're right, both are issues of body autonomy and any socially liberal viewpoint should accept that humans have the ethical right to decide. The fact that assisted suicide is illegal doesn't change the fact that people also have the right to an abortion.
posted by muddgirl at 1:17 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, assisted suicides have tremendous consequences, for the survivors or doctors involved, depending on the zealousness of the local prosecutor, which you have to be aware of. We expect and hope for abortion opponents to consider compromise on the idea of abortion and yet a view that posits autonomy of the "host" at all costs (i.e. terminating a fetus well past viability) seems like a non-starter.
posted by docpops at 1:19 PM on March 22, 2011


The thing is, they are leaving it to the doctor and the woman to make the determination. They are recognizing the state interest but they aren't predicting or prohibiting any specific outcomes. They are covering their asses but leaving individual practitioners and their patients the freedom to do what they need to do.

I am comfortable with the way Roe weighs the vying interests involved in pregnancy.

I think Roe is an admirable and workable political compromise, but I don't for a moment think that those nine justices figured out the secret to when life really begins, to know exactly which heartbeat transforms abortion from a reasonable medical intervention to a crime. So it's arbitrary. They relied on the long tradition of outward clues about fetal viability to build the scaffolding. It seems to make a lot of people fairly comfortable, but it is not a watertight philosophical system. Fetal development varies, as we saw above, and it is interesting to consider how 24 hours could separate an abortion subject to extreme and restrictive regulation from one that is reasonably easy to procure. In general, comfort with the system in place means accepting a somewhat arbitrary set of standards based on 40-some-year-old medical information - not everyone is willing to do so. Some might reasonably be willing to accept this as a pragmatic compromise in practice, but not as wisdom or ideal social policy in principle.

In general Roe recognizes the right to privacy and allows restrictions on abortion in the third trimester on a state by state basis. It's still possible to get an abortion in the third trimester (in a few places) and it's still possible to challenge third-trimester restrictions. In other words, recommendations aside, Roe in theory does allow women who need them to seek and get third-trimester abortions, and respects the right of women to work with doctors on making decisions about them.

I think the system is basically fine in theory, because third trimester abortions are so freaking rare anyway, but in reality it's working very poorly because politically motivated first and second trimester restrictions are creeping in, making abortion at those earlier and less invasive phases harder and harder to gain access to.
posted by Miko at 1:20 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


First, there is no way to prosecute, punish, or imprison someone who is dead.

But it's still a crime. We've also got autonomy to do murder-suicides without retribution.

But if we're looking at practical consequences, how about that lost life insurance money? And if a doctor helps that 90-year old who wants to die but can't do it herself in many states, he's in trouble.
posted by floam at 1:20 PM on March 22, 2011


assisted suicides have tremendous consequences, for the survivors or doctors involved, depending on the zealousness of the local prosecutor, which you have to be aware of

if a doctor helps that 90-year old who wants to die but can't do it herself in many states, he's in trouble.


Is this the silly part of the thread? I used to prosecute, and before that I did a lot of research on assisted suicide. I invite either one of you to point me to actual cases where assisted suicide is being prosecuted, as to survivor, lay assistant, or doctor. And just what doctor other than Dr. Kervorkian, who basically painted a huge publicized target on himself, has been prosecuted? Assisted suicide is not even reported, much less investigated or prosecuted in the U.S. Nor are DNR directives or living wills byzantine in implementation -- they are very easy to fill out and to have carried out.

As for insurance -- it belongs to the insured, not their beneficiary. Anyone can decide to do something that may affect their beneficiaries. It's not illegal anywhere to reduce beneficiary benefits.
posted by bearwife at 1:31 PM on March 22, 2011


But if we're looking at practical consequences, how about that lost life insurance money?

There may be some special circumstance or specific example you're thinking of that I don't know about, but generally speaking life insurance policies carry a suicide clause that allows the insurer to deny payment if the insured commits suicide within two years of opening the policy, to prevent short term insurance fraud. If a 90-year-old contrives to commit obvious insurance fraud, that's kind of its own situation; if someone who has been insured all along takes their own life, that's just another dead person accounted for by the risk-mitigation folks in actuarial all along.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:31 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


To elaborate a little further on what torticat is saying - if a 90 year-old with cancer currently cannot preserve their autonomy to commit suicide except in rare instances and only with a somewhat byzantine procedural preamble, how is a woman's autonomy to end a viable infant's life at term something that should enter into this debate?

I think that 90-year-old woman should be able to preserve their autonomy to commit suicide, and I think it is wrong to legislate otherwise, as has been done. I find suicide restrictions and abortions restrictions equally repellent for similar reasons, except that abortion restrictions have a practical negative effect on a much, much larger segment of the population. Which is probably why they come up so much more often.

No. What I consider absolutist on the pro-choice side is the idea, expressed a few times in this thread, that a woman ought to be able to have an abortion at any point up to birth for any reason whatsoever.

I don't agree with that, and I'd be fine with laws prohibiting late-term abortions except in cases, as the AMA says above, of serious fetal anomalies incompatible with life.


Can you find me examples of late-term abortions that did not have serious fetal anomalies as their root justification? Who are these mythical people who decide to abort for seemingly frivolous reasons a week before term? These restrictions are, practically, like saying "you can't sleep under the bridge, unless you're poor". Who else was going to?

But I have argued that those mythical women should be able to get their frivolous abortions, and the reason I have argued that is because otherwise there comes a point where a woman's body belongs to the state. How long a period of sexual slavery should we allow ourselves to be comfortable with? A week? A month?

Even if that woman has no intention whatsoever of doing anything other than what would be mandated by late-term laws, there is a moral and ethical distinction between free choice and compulsory obligation. I do not believe that lifting restrictions on late-term abortions will lead to a rash of late-term abortions. What lifting restrictions on late-term abortions will do is confirm that the state has a vested interest in the full and unsevered autonomy of its citizens. No one should have to go before an authority to prove that they are deserving of full and equal agency when they have done nothing wrong.
posted by Errant at 1:34 PM on March 22, 2011 [22 favorites]


in real life assisted suicide just isn't prosecuted. It isn't even investigated. I actually wrote my law school note on liability for assisted suicide. Even back then, these cases just aren't adjudicated.

This line seems awfully weak to me. Regardless of how often such cases are actually prosecuted, it seems certain that the mere possibility of their loved ones' / potential helpers' prosecution causes some terminally ill 90-year-olds to hesitate or refrain from asking for such assistance, and also causes some of those loved ones / potential helpers to refuse when asked. It may be true that such fears only exist because of ignorance of actual likelyhoods, but such ignorance does exist, and thus such fears do have an effect on the choices people make and the suffering they endure.
posted by jon1270 at 1:35 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but if early stage abortion bothers you the pill should too.

It doesn't. Never said it did, that I recall.

condoms are much less costly than the pill

That really depends how many you need to use and whether you have insurance. For a while I could get the pill for $10 a month. Also, for me, the side effects of the pill are actually good. I'd rather take it than not
.

True, I was just going by my own experience there. I did have good insurance, and it covered my pill, but first the co-payment was, I think, $20, and then we changed insurance (spouse changed jobs) and the insurance we had didn't cover the cost at all.

For me, the side effects of the pill were not so good. Depression, migraines, weight gain, etc. I was glad when I didn't have to take it any more.
posted by misha at 1:38 PM on March 22, 2011


Errant,

I have no idea of any cases of late-term termination. My comments were in response to Bearwife's assertion that termination at any stage is the only acceptable option because any other is a violation of autonomy. I was merely trying to understand the specificity and breadth of this idea within this person and perhaps the mefi population, since I advocate vociferously for choice but was a little taken aback by her position. It's fine either way - I'm not trying to start a fight.
posted by docpops at 1:38 PM on March 22, 2011


And, I am never too crazy about arguments predicated on the idea that if we do one wrong... it is OK to do another

Meant to say that I completely agree with you there.
posted by jon1270 at 1:39 PM on March 22, 2011


I think Roe is an admirable and workable political compromise, but I don't for a moment think that those nine justices figured out the secret to when life really begins,

I agree. It's political compromise, not scientific (and if anything, the science has moved more n favor of the fetus, as viability is earlier now than it was back then). I think a compromise something like that is necessary, though.

So it's arbitrary. They relied on the long tradition of outward clues about fetal viability to build the scaffolding. It seems to make a lot of people fairly comfortable, but it is not a watertight philosophical system.

Of course it's arbitrary. But Miko, using birth as the dividing line is arbitrary, too. Childbirth can happen at any point over like a four-month span of time. A woman could receive a shock or trauma, go into early labor and deliver, and voila! her baby has rights that, had the woman not had that trauma, the baby wouldn't yet have, even though it's exactly the same creature in either case. It's somewhere in there that RvW recognizes that the fetus begins to have rights that vie with those of the mother rather than being trumped by them--and notes the interest of the state in protecting those rights.

This is what I mean when I say it's messy. The only bright line is conception, which is why pro-lifers use it. After that, it's all a continuum.

It seems to make a lot of people fairly comfortable, but it is not a watertight philosophical system.

Totally agree; I just don't think using birth as the only dividing line is a watertight philosophical system, either.
posted by torticat at 1:40 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


docpops: Sorry, I was addressing your statement in the first bit and then torticat in the second bit, my apologies that that was unclear.
posted by Errant at 1:41 PM on March 22, 2011


it seems certain that the mere possibility of their loved ones' / potential helpers' prosecution causes some terminally ill 90-year-olds to hesitate or refrain from asking for such assistance, and also causes some of those loved ones / potential helpers to refuse when asked.
I think you will find that research in this subject finds this practice to be prevalent, and unreported. I am not going to refresh my results from extensive research in the 80s for this thread, but I'm quite confident nothing has changed in the past 30 years. In fact, several people have published books about helping their terminally ill parents die. (Note the failure of said people to be prosecuted or even suggested as subjects of prosecution.)

Also cutting against this argument is the widespread availability of end of life planning tools, including living wills, powers of attorney for medical decisions, and DNR orders. (Not to mention the overt legality of assisted suicide in places like Oregon.)

Maybe we could see some citations and facts to support these shibboleths in the midst of a discussion about a right that really is under current attack -- all to show, as we've discussed, that two wrongs make a right?
posted by bearwife at 1:42 PM on March 22, 2011


Totally agree; I just don't think using birth as the only dividing line is a watertight philosophical system, either.

I do. At birth, the child is a real and separate entity who anyone can care for. It's a legal person, whether it became so via trauma or normal delivery. It's an excellent dividing line and not one I find at all ambiguous. Personhood doesn't begin until birth in any reasonable sense. It just can't. If that birth comes four months early - so be it; you have a person. Until that, you have at best a potentially viable fetus. Birth is a concrete, visible, and undeniable event that is a clear dividing line separating the way an entity may be treated and the possibilities for its care, in the way "Day 60" is not and never can be.
posted by Miko at 1:49 PM on March 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


I think you will find that research in this subject finds this practice to be prevalent, and unreported.

I don't doubt this. What I'm suggesting is that it might be substantially more prevalent if not for laws (even unenforced laws) that make it illegal. But of course that's a hypothetical that's tough to gather data on.

Also cutting against this argument is the widespread availability of end of life planning tools, including living wills, powers of attorney for medical decisions, and DNR orders.

Certainly those winds blow in an encouraging direction, but I don't think they're satisfactory substitutes for actual, legal rights.

As I said above, I completely agree with you that 2 wrongs don't make a right. This threatens to be a derail, which I don't mean it to be.
posted by jon1270 at 1:58 PM on March 22, 2011


I don't see how "any abortion, any time, for any reason" is any less absolutist than "no abortion ever for any reason."

Sorry, torticat, I forgot to address this point. There is a difference between making options available and mandating obligations. "Any abortion, any time, any reason" is in no way a prescription for abortion; there is a world of difference between "should be able to" and "should do so". "No abortion ever" is proscription, and it has at its core the assumption that women cannot make choices on their own that are socially and personally beneficial. Alternately, it presumes that the existence of a fetus invalidates a woman's sovereign agency. There isn't anything absolute about saying that everyone should have access to the broadest possible spectrum of options and choices when it comes to their medical health; practically speaking, a pro-choice position provides for a greater plurality of options and outcomes than a pro-life position does.

So I guess I'm saying that the pro-choice movement advocates absolute freedom. If that's the absolutism you find troubling, I can see why you characterize it that way. I guess it doesn't really bother me to hold to inalienable liberty as a strong constant.
posted by Errant at 2:06 PM on March 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


bearwife, no offense intended, but as someone from within the legal realm, if you think doctors aren't terrified of medical boards and DA's over this issue you aren't paying attention. My original point was to say that as a society we are continually evaluating the issue of medical autonomy. It's never as black and white as some would like, although I wish it were sometimes.
posted by docpops at 2:07 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


if you think doctors aren't terrified of medical boards and DA's over this issue you aren't paying attention.

Some are, of course. But I can assure you end of life care, up to and including ways to safely commit suicide, is readily available. Some medical personnel are less scared than others. And doctors aren't absolutely necessary for successful suicide either. It is remarkable how many resources there are for someone who wants to die, actually.

I'd be a lot more scared to be an abortion doctor, myself, by the way. We can all think of current cases illustrating why.
posted by bearwife at 2:15 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's also really enlightening to look at the history of abortion law in the US - how did we even get here? All abortion was legal throughout most of human history, in the US up into the early nineteenth century. The reasons it came into the realm of regulation and medicalization at all are unarguably political, economic, and oppressive. Wish I had more time to write a bit about this, and how long it's taking us to push off this encroachment, but I'm headed out for a while. Simply put, women should have agency throughout their pregnancies to determine its course, in consultation with medical professionals.
posted by Miko at 2:56 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quick history link
posted by Miko at 2:57 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, when I was a teenager, my dad said that having sex with men diminished me, that I was like a bucket full of water and each time I had sex a little bit was taken out, as though pleasure with someone else was destructive to me, and to all women, rather than edifying.

I haven't kept my legs shut since. You know why? Because he was wrong. And you're wrong. It isn't my sole responsibility to keep from getting pregnant by keeping my legs shut. If a man doesn't want to make a baby with me, he should wear a condom every single time he has sex instead of asking me coyly if I'm on birth control, or not even bothering to ask and begging me to let him do it bare. There's your reality.

I know how babies are made. Make sure your grandson does too.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 3:05 PM on March 22, 2011 [23 favorites]


Oh hey a new fpp.
posted by rtha at 3:29 PM on March 22, 2011


I don't know why or when, but I have come to the personal belief that maybe yeah, even from the first two cells, maybe there is a little spark of something going on there.

timsteil


Well of course there's something going on there. But what's going on there is not as complex as what's going on in many of the microscopic organisms futzing around in the gunk at the bottom of your garden pond. So maybe you need to consider that you are being just a tadge irrational in the level of sanctity you seem to be ascribing to this mere couple of cells. Perhaps a few primers on cell biology might help with this.
posted by Decani at 3:37 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


decani - your comment makes you sound like an asshole. Aside from the fact that mitosis is one of the most complex and incredible processes ever discovered, timsteil is allowed to have an opinion without you being a patronizing ass. And I would imagine it's an opinion shared by most people on this thread who also feel strongly pro-choice. I don't know how he could have made it more clear to you or anyone else that his comment extended from a personal belief that wasn't intended to intrude on anyone else's views. It's hardly inflammatory to look at cell division and ascribe life. Go talk to the NASA geeks pitching a tent over a couple hydrogen atoms buried in the Martian soil instead.
posted by docpops at 3:45 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


torticat: If their statement had been made in this thread, would the response have been "But why? What's to be gained by making that recommendation? What does it matter in the real world"?

I doubt it, considering no one in this thread has asked those questions regarding the late term abortion issue. But perhaps I misread or altogether missed something. I did ask those questions of the "What's wrong with distinguishing between responsible and irresponsible abortion, and aggressively disapproving of the latter, and why won't you participate?" issue, and gave my reasons. Now, having finished reading the Wolf piece and noted her understandable distaste for what I gather was, in her circles, a typical abortion reason -- a "rite of passage for affluent teenage girls" -- I ask again, are y'all saying that widespread aggressive denunciation of such reasons makes our society better off overall, on grounds that widespread vocal disapproval effectively shapes better social norms? or something
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:59 PM on March 22, 2011


decani - your comment makes you sound like an asshole. Aside from the fact that mitosis is one of the most complex and incredible processes ever discovered, timsteil is allowed to have an opinion without you being a patronizing ass.

posted by docpops at 11:45 PM on March 22


That's an unfortunate reaction.Hopefully you're one of those people who gets to call people names without getting a shitload of grief around here. But my comment was correct though, wasn't it? You're indulging in straw-manning: I didn't say mitosis wasn't complex and incredible. I said that more complex things were going on at the bottom of a garden pond. A fact. Right? Neither did I say timsteil wasn't allowed to have an opinion, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't try to suggest that I did. What I said was that timsteil's opinion wasn't terrifically rational. And it isn't. If you think it makes me an asshole for pointing that out, I think I can live with that.
posted by Decani at 4:15 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


are y'all saying that widespread aggressive denunciation of such reasons makes our society better off overall, on grounds that widespread vocal disapproval effectively shapes better social norms?

Not exactly. I'm saying that 1) I don't have a problem with socially disapproving of things that aren't really good, and to me abortion is one of those things. I do hope social disapproval tends to moderate the incidence of things that aren't good, like adultery. 2) Everyone is entitled to their own judgments anyway, and I'm happy to hear when the expression of said judgments is civil but 3) I'd really like to defer a general social discussion of how bad abortion is until the day comes that it really is safe and legal everywhere. We aren't there, as to which witness the FPP that just went up in the past hour about the new law in South Dakota, and the links in the original FPP on the blue that inspired this MeTa spinoff.
posted by bearwife at 4:16 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did I miss the part where it said, "Astro Zombie Relentless (Attempts at) Comedy Show?"

I thought that's what this site was for?
posted by Jacqueline at 4:31 PM on March 22, 2011


Adultery seems hale and hearty. Abortion will always be around, as well. Socially disapproving of either isn't going to do much to mitigate either, or we'd see far less of both at this point in history.

I think it IS interesting to remember (as pointed out earlier) that abortion was completely legal for a LONG time. It wasn't a big deal. The reason it is now is because of an organized campaign to shame people about it (including misinformation at every turn). I don't see how that's helpful.
posted by agregoli at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Funny how so often when one scratches a Libertarian, you find a moralizing little authoritarian just under the skin."

Hey, I'm a Libertarian and I think abortion is great and wish that more people had chosen to have one!

I think perhaps the "Libertarians" you've encountered are actually just the "Republicans Who Lack The Social Skills To Get Along In A Major Party So They Join A Third Party That's Willing To Put Up With Their Shit Because We're So Desperate For Supporters" brand of "Libertarians."

I miss the days when our party literature prominently featured the motto "Pro-Choice On Everything!"
posted by Jacqueline at 4:39 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The hypothetical person that relies, purposefully, only on abortion seems to me to be "living on the edge", not acting in their own best interest, and not responsible.

Health risks of hormonal birth control from the Mayo Clinic:

How do birth control pills affect your risk of cancer?

Scientific evidence suggests using birth control pills for longer periods of time increases your risk of some cancers, such as cervical cancer and liver cancer, but it also decreases your risk of other types of cancer, including ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer.

The effect of birth control pills on breast cancer risk isn't quite clear. However, some studies do show a link between pill use and breast cancer. Key factors seem to be how many years you take the pill and how recently you last used the pill. In one study, use of birth control pills led to a higher risk of premenopausal breast cancer in women who took the pill for four or more years before having a baby. Other evidence suggests that 10 or more years after you stop taking the pill, your breast cancer risk returns to the same level as if you had never taken birth control pills.


Do birth control pills affect blood pressure?

Birth control pills may increase blood pressure. The risk of high blood pressure in women who take birth control pills also increases with age and the duration of use.

If you take birth control pills, have your blood pressure checked regularly. If you already have high blood pressure, consider an alternative form of birth control. If you do choose to take the pill, have your blood pressure closely monitored by your doctor.


From a news article about a study by the AMA:

The low-dose forms, taken by most of the more than 10 million U.S. women using oral contraceptives, contain less estrogen than the pill introduced 40 years ago and are thought to be safer. Still, women taking them were nearly twice as likely as non-users to suffer a stroke, while women using higher-dose pills faced nearly a threefold risk.

At the time, they say women are unlikely candidates for strokes during their reproductive ages, but another study came out recently saying that there has been a sharp increase in strokes for that demographic.

Strokes are a known risk factor for higher-dose pills but previous research had been less clear about lower dosages — pills with less than 50 micrograms of estrogen, said Dr. S. Claiborne Johnston, a co-author of the report and assistant professor of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco.

“The key is about whether this risk matters,” given how effective the pill is at preventing pregnancy, Johnston said.


If oral contraceptives were replaced by condoms, an estimated 687,000 additional unintended pregnancies would result each year, the study authors said. Some of those women likely would have abortions, and those who didn’t would face health risks associated with pregnancy plus “major psychological and economic consequences” of unintended children, Johnston said.

Stroke risk linked to the pill thus appears to be outweighed by its benefits, the authors wrote.


See, the women that would be okay would be the ones who could have abortions. The women who are "living on the edge" are the ones who remain pregnant and have children.

I personally don't think increasing a woman's risk of having a stroke or forming a blood clot is okay. And that's not even mentioning the side effects of being on the pill that women just have to deal with.

Are There Side Effects of Birth Control Pills?

Yes, there are side effects of birth control pills, although the majority are not serious.


I think I'd like to be the judge of that. For me, I think mood swings are serious, I think bleeding nonstop for six months is serious, I think having regular migraines is serious, I think feeling nausea is serious, I think retaining enough water to gain ten or fifteen pounds until you hit menopause and can stop taking birth control is serious.

Yet we're told by healthcare professionals that it's really not serious, that the benefits outweigh the risks and discomfort.

I'd rather just have an abortion for when the cervical cap or condom fails.
posted by anniecat at 4:43 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


> We could argue all day about what exactly constitutes a parasite, but here's one definition:

That's a definition of biological parasitism, and a pretty good one. I notice it places "between organisms of different species" in the very first sentence, which argues against mammalian pregnancy being an instance of parasitism. It may not be absolutely necessary to the definition for the parasite and the host to be of different species but among all the vertebrates there's only a single known example (Ceratias holboelli, a deep-sea anglerfish) of same-species parasitism.


> But even the negative connotation is just a bias. Parasites have their place in nature, and
> they aren't negative in and of themselves, just when they're an inconvenience for us.
> We all have parasites we aren't even aware of.
> posted by Miko at 2:44 PM on March 22 [1 favorite +] [!]

It's surely true that the relationship between fetus and mother in mammals has a lot of features in common with the relation of biological parasitism, but there's another definition that's relevant: Parasitism (social offense). The business of this bunch of homo sapiens calling that bunch homo sapiens "parasites" has a history and a lot of, um, baggage (e.g. "those parasitic welfare cheats", "those parasites, the Jews") the effect of which makes it quite impossible to call a fetal homo sap a parasite without dragging in a load of extra-scientific negative connotations, intentionally or not. And that's quite apart from the negative connotations that arise because genuine biological parasites like tapeworms peg people's ew-meters pretty universally.

Just a bias? That's some pretty strong medicine there. I think Burhanistan was right up yonder about choosing terms that don't whip up the beast of bias unless that's actually what you want to do. It's like I don't invoke any Elder Gods by name unless I'm actually trying to call one of them up. That would be a helluva thing to do just because of some random oops moment.
posted by jfuller at 5:00 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to make clear, here, that my example wasn't a judgment of the woman as a porn star or Sheen hanger-on, but as someone who is not in a space to have children and knows it, and, even though she chooses abortion as her birth-control method, I wouldn't have it any other way for a million reasons, but the most important is that no one should be forced to have a child, and no one should be forced onto parents who do not want them.
posted by batmonkey at 5:10 PM on March 22, 2011


bearwife: but 3) I'd really like to defer a general social discussion of how bad abortion is until the day comes that it really is safe and legal everywhere

Agreed. Actually I wrote that last comment with other people in mind. The lurkers or active commenters who think it's important to have that discussion now, and in other abortion threads. To my mind, it's a perfectly sound argument that widespread social disapproval of, eg, "summer rite of passage abortions" could moderate their occurrence, within a community where most people have social ties to each other. Not so much in a larger community. Especially when that disapproval encompasses multitudinous and contradictory ideas of "invalid" and "valid" reasons, and many of the disapproving assessments are based on a shallow grasp (at best) of the factors involved in the target's impregnation and decision to abort. I can't see how that leads to anything but silencing, denial, and erasure of the whys, whos, and hows of abortion.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:11 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, batmonkey, I did take your example as you meant it, but that may not have come through in how I used it. If so, apologies.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:14 PM on March 22, 2011


Yes, there are side effects of birth control pills, although the majority are not serious.

I think that the pill is great for a lot of women, and I certainly felt like I was being a responsible adult by staying on it even though I dealt with chronic low-level nausea and eventually migraines while I was taking it. Ending up in the hospital with a major blood clot without any other risk factors associated with developing one certainly goes a long way in explaining why I cringe every time I hear people flippantly telling women as a whole that if they didn't want to get pregnant they should have been on the pill and inferring that they're stupid and irresponsible not to be. Birth control is more complicated than that for a lot of women, and it's maddening how dismissive a lot of people are about this fact.
posted by stagewhisper at 5:19 PM on March 22, 2011 [22 favorites]


The business of this bunch of homo sapiens calling that bunch homo sapiens "parasites" has a history and a lot of, um, baggage (e.g. "those parasitic welfare cheats", "those parasites, the Jews")

Clearly no one is talking about that.

the effect of which makes it quite impossible to call a fetal homo sap a parasite without dragging in a load of extra-scientific negative connotations, intentionally or not.

That's absurd.

The fetus is living inside the mother. The Jews, the welfare cheats, etc., are not living inside a person. Society is not a person, not matter how artistic you want to get with with metaphor. The fetus isn't a person and the woman's body is not a democratic society with racists and classists.

If the fetus isn't a parasite, then the tapeworm isn't a parasite. In fact, this one guy says that hookworms will cure you of all autoimmune diseases, and the hookworm is still a parasite. The fetus is still a parasite.

This guy had a parasitic twin. Should he have left the twin in there and called it "brother"?
posted by anniecat at 5:26 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I cringe every time I hear people flippantly telling women as a whole that if they didn't want to get pregnant they should have been on the pill and inferring that they're stupid and irresponsible not to be.

It is somewhat telling that not being on the pill is now seen in some circles as sexual irresponsibility, when going on the pill 40 years ago was seen as ... yep, you guessed it, irresponsible promiscuity. The goalposts always move to where they can pin the most women to the ground.
posted by Errant at 5:27 PM on March 22, 2011 [51 favorites]


The goalposts always move to where they can pin the most women to the ground.

QFmfT.
posted by KathrynT at 5:30 PM on March 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


I entered this thread thinking I'd be kind of repeating my usual position, which is holding the line on legal abortion. But the thread may have actually made me more radical in principle. As a result of some of the views expressed here which caught me a bit by surprise, I may no longer feel it's enough to hold the line at Roe v. Wade. I've been surprised to learn that a lot of people who use the term 'pro-choice' to describe themselves and their positions actually don't trust women with choice, and are actually willing to place some pretty strict and arbitrary legally enforceable limits on a woman's personal decisions about reproduction - not just settle for them, as the best we can likely get in this political climate, but actively support and provide justification for them.

And the more I think about it, the more I believe that whatever the motives or rationales, this is simply inconsistent with considering women (at least adult woman) full, equal, and autonomous citizens able to make their own moral and ethical decisions.

I'm now leaning toward the view that the only truly right thing to do would be to remove the entire matter of abortion from the realm of public law, except to regulate treatment centers and licensure for medical professionals - the kind of thing that is done for all other medical offices - and to prevent anyone from interfering with another person's medical services. Decisions about pregnancies should take place in private, outside the reach of laws and debates about who's responsible, who deserves it or doesn't, who's stealing who else's resources, who's got the kinds of genes we like or don't like, in consultation with the medical professionals who have the knowledge and skills to counsel and facilitate the decisions. Like all other medical decisions.

Looking at the historical precedents, it is really strange we are arguing about this in the first place. Abortion has been yanked from its proper context, as a part of individual health care which should be personal and private, and thrown into the ring as a political and social football too often deployed not to protect us as a society from some putative collective more moral wrong, but to discover new ways to bully, control, and manipulate women and disempower them politically and personally.

If all abortions were to be made legal, they would still need to be obtained through interaction with medical professionals, and those professionals would, I'd expect, develop or rely upon their usual sets of medical ethical principles and protocols in assisting their patients at arriving at the best decisions for their individual situations. I wouldn't foresee some kind of manic abortion Wild West where women suddenly start having abortions for fun and leisure - ridiculous - and if that's what anyone would fear or envision, I would question their ideas about what women want and how women behave. I wouldn't foresee a stampede toward late-term abortion - who the hell would want one in any but extreme circumstances, and in any case, each of those relatively rare cases would be handled with medical counsel. If there were concerns about "irresponsible" use of abortion, those could be handled in the medical community and community-based healthcare solutions could be devised to prevent the vast majority of abortions that might not have needed to happen (and we already know what so many of those are, and have them in place; where we don't, we need them).

When you think about all the other medical and health decisions you'll make over a lifetime, it does seem strange that this one area is singled out for such a great degree of interference and regulation and restriction. Anyone who has sat among tubes and wires with an accident victim, an organ recipient, an aging relative in hospice, a premature infant, an injured veteran, a stroke victim, a severely disabled individual, anyone who has made serious decisions about their own care or the care of others, should easily be able to recognize how strange and offensive it would be to have your choices dictated by something other than the constraints of nature and medical understanding. We all know they are usually not (except where insurance has something to say - another insult).

So yeah, I think I might be changing. Law isn't the way to manage this system of access to abortion, because debates about who gets to make the law and about whom and when and why and for what reason and who gets to decide for others whether their abortion is right or fair or responsible or smart become quickly sickening, and in fact shocking in the way they reveal a deeply ingrained bias toward the control and distrust of women.
posted by Miko at 8:05 PM on March 22, 2011 [48 favorites]


Miko, a bright-line rule is not always a good rule. They're great for certain things -- age of majority, speed limits -- but not for everything. You could, for example, say that check fraud is only a crime if the check is dated on a Tuesday, and it would be very easy to administer, but not very just. Instead we get into messy details like intent that don't have ready answers and admit of plenty of disagreement.

I think birth is a meaningful dividing line in the way that means a lot to the majority of commenters here (the baby is out), but not in a way that means a lot to people who, like me, do think that at some point in fetal development, there are competing interests here (a baby that is about to leave the birth canal is just the same, in itself, as a one-day-old newborn).
posted by palliser at 8:49 PM on March 22, 2011


people who, like me, do think that at some point in fetal development, there are competing interests here

The bright line is not necessarily that there are no competing interests (opinions about that vary by individual) but that birth is the point at which the interests of the mother are not always legally more important than the interest of the fetus. Even if the fetus has a competing interest, the right of a woman to control her own body and terminate a pregnancy that she does not desire to continue should legally override the right of the fetus to life, until the time of birth. This is something that a lot of people are squicked out by but it's because they don't trust women to make morally correct decisions and therefore feel it's necessary to legally restrain women from doing bad things.

My body, my choice. Trust me to make the right one.
posted by immlass at 9:02 PM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


See my most recent comment, above. I don't think I care any longer what it means to you or what your feelings are about fetal development. They're your feelings; by all means, feel them; but please keep them to yourself. I think I want the opportunity to decide this kind of thing for myself, with my doctor; I don't think I want to give you the opportunity to legislate your feelings about fetal development in such a way that you get involved in my personal medical decisions. I think I'm done being co-opted into debates about when, exactly, it's okay for me to lose control of my body. I think I'm done worrying about coming to some kind of strategic agreement about when it's okay to take women's choices away. Thanks to this thread, I'm done.
posted by Miko at 9:05 PM on March 22, 2011 [26 favorites]


Can you find me examples of late-term abortions that did not have serious fetal anomalies as their root justification? Who are these mythical people who decide to abort for seemingly frivolous reasons a week before term?

Didn't mean to bail on this, Errant, I just can't keep up.

Also, I think the focus of conversation is shifting around a lot, which makes discussion hard. For example, I was arguing against "any abortion, any time, any reason," which does not reflect the current state of the law. So I don't know that I need to find examples, since I was talking about a hypothetical (but one embraced by some in this thread).

If I did need to find examples, it would be hard because of the ambiguities and incompleteness of abortion reporting. Guttmacher doesn't subdivide its reporting past the 20th week, which barely grazes the very earliest possibility of viability. Self-reporting by doctors is not necessarily reliable.

FWIW here's a quote from Suzanne Poppema, National Abortion Federation board member, about 3rd trimester abortions: "We said they're exceedingly rare; that they're almost exclusively done when there's a fatal or very severe anomaly and/or when the mother's health is at risk." (That was from the late 90s when Ron Fitzsimmons came out with his explosive "confession" that the incidence of late-term abortions--specifically in the form of IDEs--had been under-reported and that the majority of such were obtained by healthy women with healthy fetuses, pdf cite here.) Going back to Poppema's quote, which was very careful because the pro-choice movement was under scrutiny at the time: "almost exclusively"? What about the others? (Yeah, I know, we're talking about tiny numbers here; but you asked.)

But I have argued that those mythical women should be able to get their frivolous abortions.... How long a period of sexual slavery should we allow ourselves to be comfortable with?

Say you have a healthy pregnant woman at 37 weeks (full-term) who decides she wants to terminate. Maybe her reasons aren't even frivolous: maybe she's lost her job and her partner has left her and she has no support system remaining. Nonetheless, I've got no problem with the law prohibiting her from having an abortion: Adoption is her option at this point. And I think it's ludicrous to suggest a prohibition of that kind is enforcing "sexual slavery." Guess we just disagree.
posted by torticat at 9:07 PM on March 22, 2011


We're all going to have to, if you still see yourself (or maybe the government as long as it agrees with you) as the one capable of making the decisions about whether someone's reasons for abortion are good enough.

Remember that old saying about how you can't be "A little bit pregnant?" I'm starting to believe that you can't be a little bit pro-choice, either.
posted by Miko at 9:10 PM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


And the more I think about it, the more I believe that whatever the motives or rationales, this is simply inconsistent with considering women (at least adult woman) full, equal, and autonomous citizens able to make their own moral and ethical decisions.

Late in pregnancy, there are two interests at stake. The state's interest in protecting that of, say, a full term but as yet unborn baby has nothing to do with denying the autonomy of the woman; it has to with protecting what is now a fully developed human life.

You're not permitted to poison your spouse--even if he's abusive! Does that mean the state is denying your autonomy to make your own moral and ethical decisions?

As a result of some of the views expressed here which caught me a bit by surprise

...and I find that surprising, as the people in this thread who are opposed to or wish to be cautious with late-term abortion have been quite moderate. IMO.

On preview I see palliser already said what I said, and also that you bowed out, Miko.

I guess there are reasons this tends to be a polarizing issue.
posted by torticat at 9:17 PM on March 22, 2011


Remember that old saying about how you can't be "A little bit pregnant?" I'm starting to believe that you can't be a little bit pro-choice, either.

Miko, you are usually so thoughtful, but that is just completely unfair and offensive. You have taken the position that a woman (hypothetically, and speaking in terms of the law) should be able to have an elective abortion up to the point of birth, and that anyone who is not okay with a legal framework of that kind cannot genuinely claim to be pro-choice??

Wow.
posted by torticat at 9:24 PM on March 22, 2011


you are usually so thoughtful

I thought Miko was pretty clear in her lengthy comment just a little bit upthread about how she arrived at her conclusions. I think it's pretty unfair and offensive of you to claim that she's not being thoughtful now because you don't like the content of her thoughts.
posted by palomar at 9:33 PM on March 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


Didn't mean to bail on this, Errant, I just can't keep up.

No worries, torticat, I happen to have been sitting here compiling all day, I wouldn't expect other people to have the time I currently have.

For example, I was arguing against "any abortion, any time, any reason," which does not reflect the current state of the law. So I don't know that I need to find examples, since I was talking about a hypothetical (but one embraced by some in this thread).

Sure, but so was I. I don't think this hypothetical "cold feet" near-term woman exists, which is why I asked for examples. It's not intended as a gotcha, more as the point that it's really difficult if not impossible to fathom what is lost by lifting late-term abortion restrictions, if one is of the mind that most if not all women would not abort under these circumstances except if it were absolutely necessary.

I think you probably agree with that too, given your quote and your admission that if it refers to anything, it refers to tiny numbers. But the fear of even those tiny numbers causes so much pain and complication for women who have genuine, pressing medical needs and cannot assuage those needs. For fear that there might be a vanishingly small group of women who abort late for reasons other than medical ones, all those other women are left to hurt and die or suffer their children's inevitable deaths.

Simple utilitarianism tells us this is immoral: in an attempt to prevent a minor evil, we create a much larger and state-sanctioned one. We don't really know of women who would have aborted late despite a relatively healthy pregnancy, but we certainly know of women who were forced to carry certain stillbirths to term or to cripple themselves giving birth to nonviable masses. I am not at all comfortable with restrictions that cause that kind of harm to protect against a problem no one can prove exists.

But third-trimester abortions are really the tip of the sword, the edge case. You say at 37 weeks, a woman should have to give birth; what about 36? 35? Is a woman at 21 weeks really now no longer able to control the body she had just a week ago? How many weeks of unwanted pregnancy shall a woman suffer before we tip over into calling it forced?

I just can't find a limit on abortion anywhere that doesn't inevitably remove the personhood of a woman, for however long a time, and I'm just not ok with being complict in removing the personhood of a woman for even a day. It doesn't matter whether or not that's ever likely to come up, because it's probably not; simply by accepting those restrictions, I am affirming my complicity in that statement, and I won't do that.
posted by Errant at 9:38 PM on March 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


palomar, I don't find a stance that takes an extreme position and then says "You're either with me or against me" to be thoughtful. Sorry. There are lots of shades of gray in this discussion, and there ought to be space for respectful disagreement (and the minority viewpoint has been quite respectful here).

If the pro-choice movement were comprised only of people who agree with what Miko has argued here, it would be a very small movement indeed, and it never would have achieved what it has.
posted by torticat at 9:45 PM on March 22, 2011


For me being pro-choice is about favoring the woman's bodily autonomy in situations to do with pregnancy and reproduction above all other interests, including but not limited to:

- the interest of her male partner (the potential father) who may want her to carry or terminate against her wishes.
- the interest of the state in forcing her to continue or terminate her pregnancy.
- the interest of doctors who may wish to force medical treatment on her for the benefit of her fetus that she may not consent to, or who may equally withhold treatment on the grounds that it might damage or terminate the pregnancy.
- the interest of the state or individuals who may prevent her from obtaining and using contraception or force her to use contraception.

There's a related autonomy-oriented social issue where pregnant women's bodies are suddenly socially public property and they get harassed for doing all sorts of things that might harm "the baby" that also chaps my hide. All the harm to women that comes from putting women's autonomy in second place to competing interests is, as Errant said, real harm happening to real women right now in this country.

As a matter of principle, and on the utilitarian grounds Errant discusses, I am and will remain staunchly pro-choice, and agree with Miko in questioning the pro-choice commitment of people who are squishy on regulating third-trimester abortions. I'm happy to ally with people who are "pro-choice only when their choices don't squick me too much" but I always remember these are folks who think I'm a second-class citizen with my interests subjugated to their morals if I ever get pregnant.
posted by immlass at 9:48 PM on March 22, 2011 [14 favorites]


(and that is my third restatement on this issue, so I'm out also.)
posted by immlass at 9:49 PM on March 22, 2011


As a matter of principle, and on the utilitarian grounds Errant discusses, I am and will remain staunchly pro-choice, and agree with Miko in questioning the pro-choice commitment of people who are squishy on regulating third-trimester abortions. I'm happy to ally with people who are "pro-choice only when their choices don't squick me too much" but I always remember these are folks who think I'm a second-class citizen with my interests subjugated to their morals if I ever get pregnant.

immlass said it better than i could. thank you.
posted by palomar at 9:51 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're not permitted to poison your spouse--even if he's abusive! Does that mean the state is denying your autonomy to make your own moral and ethical decisions?

No, because it causes harm to another person. Not a potential person: an actual person, who lives entirely independently of you and your body.

Adoption is her option at this point.


You should really go read some of xarnop's comments and follow the links s/he's posted. Adoption is not without consequences, and to say that they are not all good is an understatement.
posted by rtha at 10:00 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Errant: We don't really know of women who would have aborted late despite a relatively healthy pregnancy,

I linked to this essay, "The Tragedy of Abortion Rhetoric," in a previous thread, but it remains relevant:
My clinic was special. It was one of the three free-standing facilities in the country at the time that routinely performed abortions well into the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy. Yes, we performed the much talked about, often loathed (even in liberal circles) late-term abortion. . . .

Do late term abortions often end perfectly viable pregnancies? Of course they do. . . .

We all agree, say the politicians, that the best solution to this problem is to have fewer abortions, period.

I don’t agree with them. I think the only solution is for all of us to become very serious about creating a world where the children who already exist have a decent chance at growing up healthy and in control of their own destiny. . . .

Many of the women I had the honor of talking to before they had their abortion told me they would prefer not to terminate their pregnancies but they simply could not afford to bring a child into this world. They wanted their pregnancy, they loved their pregnancy, but they could not in good conscience ask their child to suffer the same poverty they were suffering.

Women who terminate in their second trimester often do so because they are uninsured or their employer-sponsored insurance plans exclude contraceptive and abortion benefits. They can’t raise the money for a first trimester abortion, which often means they have to desperately scurry to borrow money for more expensive second-trimester procedures.

Some women simply have no idea they are pregnant until they are well into their second trimester. We receive ridiculously mixed messages about our sexuality. We are taught that it is our responsibility to be attractive and sexy, then we fight legislation to teach sex education in the public schools. How many adult women do you know at this very moment who can’t give you an accurate, concise explanation of how her own reproductive system works?

Many women don’t receive crucial genetic testing results until their second trimester. I vividly remember holding the hand of a lovely biologist who learned at 18 weeks that her fetus would not survive the rest of her pregnancy. She was given the “choice” of terminating at that point or waiting to deliver her dead baby several weeks later.

Determining the morality of a stranger’s actions is pretty easy when you don’t know the facts. And when it comes to abortion we never want to know the facts. The facts make us squeamish. The facts point us to the truth that while we profess to hold “life” in the highest esteem we do precious little as a culture to ensure the most basic quality of life for our most vulnerable.
. . .

I have watched the abortions you don’t want to think about. I have also watched beautiful, brilliant living children subjected to unspeakable horrors that I wish I didn’t have to think about. I’ve seen politicians and ministers and good respectable people question the morality of women who have chosen abortion over failing a child they would have loved dearly.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:04 PM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Poor timsteil. I see a guy working overtime to convince himself that there's no way he'll ever have to find himself witnessing another abortion procedure.
posted by 2xplor at 10:19 PM on March 22, 2011


Guys, timsteil isn't bad. I don't want to get into it, but I got an email from him and I think he feels that he's got some thinking to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:25 PM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


You're not permitted to poison your spouse--even if he's abusive! Does that mean the state is denying your autonomy to make your own moral and ethical decisions?

Of course you are not permitted, since you have the alternative of walking away. Ask yourself how a pregnant woman can walk away from the fetus. (another convert to pro-choice all the way)
posted by francesca too at 11:28 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


For whatever it's worth, I don't think he's bad. I think he said some deeply fucked-up shit that is very difficult to overcome, but I meant what I said in the other thread about really hoping he can look back on this and see what he did wrong here. I do also think he owes a lot of people an apology, and I'm not referring to myself.
posted by Errant at 11:38 PM on March 22, 2011


Here's hoping that thinking timsteil's doing works out well for him, even if he still disagrees on principle. He said some pretty offensive shit, but I think it's clear it grew from something that's a source of pain to him. If he can sort it out, that'd make one less unhappiness in the world, and that can only be a good thing.
posted by harriet vane at 12:17 AM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


You have taken the position that a woman (hypothetically, and speaking in terms of the law) should be able to have an elective abortion up to the point of birth, and that anyone who is not okay with a legal framework of that kind cannot genuinely claim to be pro-choice??

The term itself is a mushy one, and anyone who wants can and does use it, as I now see, but on reflection about the points of view in the thread, I think it would really be more honest to say something like "I support limited abortion rights" or "I support access to abortion, with certain restrictions" or "I support the structure outlined in Roe v. Wade." I do now think it's disingenuous to say "pro-choice," because that implies a support of the woman in making a choice, and that's not what the body of law regulating a woman's reproductive options does. It restricts choice. In that way, calling support of existing law "pro-choice" is doublespeak. I admit I had never noticed this before; this thread surfaced the underlying arguments that support legal restriction and the graduated approach even for people who support abortion rights at least at some times, and they are arguments that undermine women's individual freedom and autonomy by placing her interests second to those of someone else, and by making decisions about her individual body a matter involving the state.

As for politics, immlass said it very well. It's in everyone's interest that we have the greatest possible access to abortion, so my political approach will continue to mean allying with people who are working to maintain or expand access but who also happen to believe it's okay to limit my rights and the rights of others, because there's a greater good to be had than if I didn't make that alliance. But it's going to be hard to forget about, and I'm glad to be more aware today that there are serious philosophical problems with the most basic concept of regulation of unique, private, and individual reproductive health decisions by arbitrary law.
posted by Miko at 5:35 AM on March 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


> autonomous citizens

Oxymoron. Limiting one's autonomy is the very essence of citizenship. If one expects utter, unlimited personal autonomy on any issue ever, one cannot live in a state. Or even in proximity to other people.


> Really, the right to abortion boils down to this. Either women control their own bodies, or they don't.

They don't. In a time and place where the state can lay hands on anyone's body for any reason from attempting to board an airplane to spitting on the sidewalk, no one controls his or her body to such a degree. That level of autonomy is not available to anyone except a hermit on a desert island, and making it one's demand merely jacks one's chances of disappointment up to 100%.


> Feelings just aren't the basis for a legality discussion.

In a society in which the law is meant to reflect the condensed will of all the people, and is written by elected representatives for whom one may vote for any reason whatever (including vague feelings) or no reason at all (e.g. a coin flip). feelings cannot be excluded from contributing to the basis of legality because nothing can be excluded. You might exclude feelings from appearing in a discussion of legality, but the best you can hope for there is that they will be concealed, and reappear dressed up as rationalizations.


> I do now think it's disingenuous to say "pro-choice," because that implies a support of the woman in making
> a choice, and that's not what the body of law regulating a woman's reproductive options does. It restricts choice.

Bingo. But you should probably keep this locked up in your heart; because going public with it and telling people who support Roe v. Wade as written that calling themselves pro-choice is disingenuous (and consequently that thinking of themselves as pro-choice is self-deception) looks like a smooth, straight route to extreme isolation for the few who would pass muster under your strict construction.


Actually having to point out such well- and widely known circumstances of life here on the ground to anyone over 13 is what gives me such a sense of dreamy unreality in this and like discussions.
posted by jfuller at 7:18 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, because it causes harm to another person. Not a potential person: an actual person, who lives entirely independently of you and your body.

rtha, a full-term fetus, which is the hypothetical I was using, is not a "potential" person, he or she is a person. This is one of those cases where reality (or science) does not, in fact, have a liberal bias.

U.S. law already permits late termination in cases where things have gone seriously medically wrong for the fetus or the woman. I merely objected to the idea that, ideally, those laws would be loosened to permit a healthy woman with a healthy full term fetus to abort. I know it's an extreme case and a hypothetical, but it's the extreme case being defended by others here, and I don't get it. There are times when the law expects people to surrender a certain amount of autonomy in the interest of responsibility to others. This is, and ought to be, one of those times, and it is recognized in Roe and by the majority of pro-choice people in the U.S. (and in the West in general, I believe.)

If no woman would ever actually terminate under the circumstances I suggested, then there's no reason to worry about the restrictions, as they're not getting in anyone's way in real life. Having them on the books, though, does affirm society's interest in developing life, and the increasing demands of that life on legal protection, within limits, over the course of gestational maturation.

Adoption is not without consequences, and to say that they are not all good is an understatement.

I'm aware. I think that an elective abortion of a healthy full term fetus would not be without consequences, either, for your typical woman. Lest that sound paternalistic, all I mean that you have two highly unappealing options here, but one of them is ethically more sound because it protects two lives. IMO, again.

Ask yourself how a pregnant woman can walk away from the fetus.

In the case I asked about, she would, being full term, have labor induced and then give the baby up.

This doesn't apply to cases earlier in pregnancy, but it applies to the edge case I was talking about, and that's ALL I was talking about with the poisoning-your-spouse comparison. Like docpops earlier, I was trying to figure out just how far the "bodily-integrity-of-the-woman" argument would be taken, and I did get my answer to that.

Miko, immlass, Errant, I follow your argument but just disagree. Thanks for the discussion.
posted by torticat at 7:22 AM on March 23, 2011


EmpressCallipygos: “Guys, timsteil isn't bad. I don't want to get into it, but I got an email from him and I think he feels that he's got some thinking to do.”

Yeah, I want to say – even though I said that stuff about how 'this is how misogyny starts' up above (and I really believe that) I don't bear timsteil any ill will at all; I debated whether it was out of line for me to say that stuff, but I think he opened that door himself, so I went ahead and walked through it.

But I had a good conversation with my girlfriend about this last night, and really, the world is a better place if more people do what he's done and actually share how they're feeling and how they got there, rather than just angrily shoving their opinions in our faces. The comments timsteil made were a bit jagged, it's true, but he was being genuine, and he was open enough to tell us precisely how he came to feel that way. I think there's something good in that, though the highlighted comment that made everyone angry was a bit hurtful.
posted by koeselitz at 7:35 AM on March 23, 2011


I merely objected to the idea that, ideally, those laws would be loosened to permit a healthy woman with a healthy full term fetus to abort. I know it's an extreme case and a hypothetical, but it's the extreme case being defended by others here, and I don't get it. Th

My answer to this is: There's nothing much to get; it's simply nobody else's business. It may have to happen sometimes in situations you are unable to imagine. Rather than create a blanket restriction which is unable to take those situations into account, let the woman involved and the medical community handle it. Stay out of it. It is a personal medical decision, the woman and her doctor(s) are responsible for its consequences, and it has nothing to do with anyone else. There might be times when this ends up being really tragic (all times, probably). But in a world in which there were no restrictions on abortion other than for medical safety, I think the overall harm done would be far less than the harm done today or in a system of total prohibition.

jfuller, though I'm well over thirteen and sorry for the difficulty you are experiencing in trying to get me to accept something I'm finding truly unacceptable just because 'that's how we do it', I agree with you as far as pragmatism goes, but not in principle. You've introduced the slipperiest slope there is in recognizing that governmental control infringes on people's lives, but I no more support illegal searches than I do intrusions into reproductive health, and at any rate, forcing a pregnancy is definitely even more invasive - a scale argument has to recognize it's about the most invasive thing that can exist. In any case, I do believe that not to allow women the freedom to handle these decisions privately is to cement their status as second-class citizens who need to be controlled, based only on plumbing. I just plain reject it. it's unfairly discriminatory and wrong. There was a time when attempting to board a train car or sitting on the sidewalk meant that if your skin color was the wrong one, you couldn't control your body to such a degree. We don't maintain that body of law any more, because it was unfairly discriminatory and wrong.

At this point I don't think I can be convinced that matters about whether or not a woman undergoes an abortion should be dealt with in the realm of legislative politics at all; I think it's a perversion of individual liberty that they ever became so.

Do I understand that it's not likely I'll ever see an absence of law restricting abortion in this country? Do I understand that we've pretty much arrived at accepting a system that does not give women the freedom to determine what happens to them physically at certain times in their lives? Sure I do. The difference is that now I know that I disagree in principle with those who think it's OK to control women, who don't trust their ability to make the right and best decision under the counsel of medical professionals, who, in other words, consider their judgment inherently superior to the judgment of other women and their far more knowledgeable medical professionals. Which just boggles my mind, but there it is. I don't think I need to keep it in my secret heart - who would I be protecting? I think people should be comfortable being accountable for what they really believe, and that we can certainly still agree on things we mutually support in the political realm.
posted by Miko at 7:35 AM on March 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


Well I'm sorry to hear that the pro-choice side is feeling that my street cred, as it were, is insufficient to claim pro-choice. I had always sort of assumed (without basis, I admit) that most pro-choice people were like me-abortion should be legal and safe but not comfortable with it late in pregnancy except for the heartbreaking (and exceedingly rare) cases mentioned in this thread. I didn't expect a philosophy that feels there is only one person at stake in the equation, right up until the moment of birth. If you've already been pregnant eight months and there isn't anything wrong with mom or baby, I don't think it is obscene to expect a woman to hold it for one more month to preserve what is, to me at least, a life. To me, that is a life worth protecting, yes at the expense of someone's personal liberty for a brief time in such a way that it does not hurt her any worse than an abortion at that point would anyway.

So thanks for a great discussion, but I too have a lot to think about. If this is what the pro-choice movement is truly seeking, I am not as pro-choice as I thought I was, because it isn't such a bright dividing line to me. I don't think it will change the way I vote or anything because I sure don't want our legislators making the decisions and no one is likely to give me the magic wand anytime soon but it has made me stop and rethink my beliefs and that maybe I'm not as consistent as I thought I was.

Also, if at any point anyone felt that I was being snarky towards them, apologies abound-it's an emotionally charged issue but I tried to stay on point. Time to get back to work.
posted by supercapitalist at 7:49 AM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interestingly, the law sets up the de facto situation we're arguing about anyway. If folks like torticat support Roe v. Wade, then they support this set of findings on it:


  • even after fetal viability, states may not prohibit abortions “necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother;”
  • “health” in this context includes both physical and mental health;
  • only the physician, in the course of evaluating the specific circumstances of an individual case, can define what constitutes “health” and when a fetus is viable; and
  • states cannot require additional physicians to confirm the physician’s judgment that the woman’s life or health is at risk.

    So in theory (because it is so difficult these days to get a late term abortion anyway), if the hypothetical 'cold feet' woman's doctor agrees that to give birth would negatively impact her mental health, this abortion already can proceed under existing law. In any case, I've been reading around about late-term abortion cases related to mental rather than physical health issues, and I'll tell you, they tend to involve fathers, stepfathers, brothers, stepbrothers, or other older men impregnating underage, usually significantly underage (12, 13, 14) and often developmentally disabled girls in situations of chronic abuse. So no, regardless of whether from the outside I think I understand whether the mother's life and health is materially threatened, I'm not willing to assert that I or anyone else or the state is the entity than can best figure out what needs to happen to promote the optimal human health outcomes in these situations.

    So since this is the de facto situation anyway, what would be the harm of removing these restrictions altogether? These are extreme situations already, ones in which I think the best decisionmaking authority is unquestionably the woman and the medical professional, not the state.


  • posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on March 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


    If no woman would ever actually terminate under the circumstances I suggested, then there's no reason to worry about the restrictions, as they're not getting in anyone's way in real life. Having them on the books, though, does affirm society's interest in developing life, and the increasing demands of that life on legal protection, within limits, over the course of gestational maturation.

    The danger here, though, is the shifting-sands issue of "if things have gone seriously medically wrong". Because -- is there a clear, universal definition of "seriously medically wrong" that would apply equally in each and every possible case, and will continue to apply equally in future?

    That was the biggest tipping point for me, when I was only ten. I remember overhearing my mother and some of her friends discussing a case where a pregnant woman they knew had suddenly developed a serious and life-threatening allergy to the child she was carrying. This blew my mind -- I had no idea that that kind of thing could even ever happen. And as I listened, it sounded like neither had mom or her friends -- or the pregnant woman in question -- or, even, the woman's doctors. This was some weird fluke medical thing that had gone wrong and they were just kind of punting to save her life.

    And that's what struck me -- the human body is so finely, finely tuned that the slightest little thing going offkilter can have huge consequences, and as advanced as we are in the science of medicine, we still have barely scratched the surface when it comes to knowing what can go wrong, how to prevent it, and how to fix it. I also personally seem to specialize in weird "gray areas" with my own medical record - the "strep throat" which showed every symptom of strep except for a "positive" result on my throat culture, the OB/GYN visit which had three doctors come in to puzzle over my results because they couldn't quite figure out whether I needed a colposcopy or not because I fell smack on the dividing line between "yes" and "no", the emergency surgery when my tube basically tied itself and the doctor explaining that "we don't know why, but sometimes this just....happens." There are always weird outlier cases where we don't know what's going on, couldn't have predicted it, and can't know what the odds really are. At some level, doctors are always just punting.

    And if that's the case -- how can we ever come up with a single, definitive, one-size-fits-all definition of what "something has gone seriously medically wrong" even means? All we have to go on is each womans' own doctors' judgement in that moment, and one doctor and patient may decide one thing one way, while another doctor and another woman may decide differently. And if we tried each and every one of those women and doctors who decided in a way we didn't agree with, isn't that going to hopelessly snarl the courts? Isn't it better to just trust a doctor when he says, "no, seriously, I had to do this" and not challenge him on it?

    ....I came up with that line of thought when I was ten. I've never found any convincing enough argument to convince me otherwise.

    And that's why these restrictions may not ever be able to be as cut-and-dried as we hope.
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 AM on March 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


    Also to clarify my position, I do think it's true that it's important to consider the very close to independently existing human life in cases of late pregnancy. I just trust that doctors, who work under oath, and women, who are experiencing this situation directly, are the best people to do that considering.
    posted by Miko at 7:55 AM on March 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


    If this is what the pro-choice movement is truly seeking, I am not as pro-choice as I thought I was

    The "pro-choice movement" is made up of a lot of different people. Miko is one. I am one. If you believe that abortions should be safe and legal, then you are one. Miko and I probably DO hold an extreme position within the "movement." But I am saddened by the fact that "I trust women and their doctors to make the best medical choices for themselves at any point in a pregnancy" is considered an extreme position to hold.
    posted by muddgirl at 7:56 AM on March 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


    I am saddened by the fact that "I trust women and their doctors to make the best medical choices for themselves at any point in a pregnancy" is considered an extreme position to hold.

    To be fair, it was sounding as if your position was more like "I trust women ALONE to make the best choice at any point", and that a consultation with a doctor wasn't part of the equation. Which is...an opinion. I'm not sure it's one shared by many, but it's an opinion.

    In other words: I think we're actually most of us on the same page, but some of us are on different paragraphs.
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 AM on March 23, 2011


    They don't. In a time and place where the state can lay hands on anyone's body for any reason from attempting to board an airplane to spitting on the sidewalk, no one controls his or her body to such a degree.

    The state can do that in order to (ostensibly) stop or punish or mitigate harm to other people. People who are not dependent in any way on sustenance from the pregnant woman.

    I have, as far as I know, the legal right to cut off my own arm. While I could be involuntarily committed for doing so, I cannot be jailed. It is not a criminal offense to cut off one's own arm just for the hell of it. Being involuntarily committed versus being jailed may seem to be a distinction without a difference, but I think the difference is an important one: It is not illegal to do a destructive thing to one's own body if that destructive thing will not cause material harm to another person.

    For what it's worth, I don't believe that anyone who thinks that late-term abortions should not be allowed except in extreme cases is anti-choice. We are all on a continuum. I've moved farther on that continuum thanks to this thread, but I don't think of anyone who hasn't as a traitor or anything like that. In other political and social causes, I have made coalition with people on issues where we mostly, but don't entirely agree except for the thing we make coalition about. I try very hard to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Also to clarify my position, I do think it's true that it's important to consider the very close to independently existing human life in cases of late pregnancy. I just trust that doctors, who work under oath, and women, who are experiencing this situation directly, are the best people to do that considering.

    What Miko said pretty much encapsulates my feelings on late-term abortions in particular.
    posted by rtha at 8:05 AM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


    And I'm just newly coming to this understanding and probably sounding kind of extreme as I feel it out, but I'm definitely going to find common cause with people who support choice at any point in pregnancy, even if it's only the first trimester - I just think philosophically my personal position has changed to one that supports it all the time, so that might mean parting company on these specifically philosophical issues even as I end up working on better policy within the existing legal system that we have.

    I do think in today's world of medical complexity there's got to be a medical context for abortions of all kinds, so my caveat would always be in consultation with doctors. I'm aware that some people don't support that idea and think that even doctors shouldn't have a say, they should just provide services without commentary, and I don't agree with that (it seems incredibly medically risky and cuts off an important stream of information). I personally think that the more serious the problems get, the more a doctor's knowledge, perspective and recommendations are needed and their ethics should come into play.
    posted by Miko at 9:41 AM on March 23, 2011


    Interestingly, the law sets up the de facto situation we're arguing about anyway. If folks like torticat support Roe v. Wade, then they support this set of findings on it:
    # even after fetal viability, states may not prohibit abortions “necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother;”
    # “health” in this context includes both physical and mental health;
    # only the physician, in the course of evaluating the specific circumstances of an individual case, can define what constitutes “health” and when a fetus is viable; and
    # states cannot require additional physicians to confirm the physician’s judgment that the woman’s life or health is at risk.


    Miko, I understand that, with the correction that "mental health" was added in Doe v Bolton; it wasn't explicitly stated in Roe.

    So, two things:
    1) I stipulated in my question "healthy mother and healthy fetus," so this is irrelevant anyway.
    2) However, sure, I disagree with Doe v Bolton as is could be applied to the mental health of a woman carrying a full term fetus, who could have labor induced and give the baby up rather than destroying it.
    posted by torticat at 10:47 AM on March 23, 2011


    I do think in today's world of medical complexity there's got to be a medical context for abortions of all kinds, so my caveat would always be in consultation with doctors. I'm aware that some people don't support that idea and think that even doctors shouldn't have a say, they should just provide services without commentary, and I don't agree with that (it seems incredibly medically risky and cuts off an important stream of information).

    Thanks, Miko -- I think the disconnect was coming from a perception that you DID agree with not even doctors having a say.
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on March 23, 2011


    I would be surprised if MDs wouldn't be involved in a late term abortion because they're more complicated (from what I understand). However, I think they shouldn't be allowed to lie to their patients to further their agenda, as seems to be a protected right these days, (but only as regards pregnancy!). Lying to your patients is some fucked up shit.
    posted by small_ruminant at 10:53 AM on March 23, 2011


    http://www.theonion.com/video/oklahoma-doctors-can-legally-pretend-to-give-abort,19425/
    posted by palomar at 11:03 AM on March 23, 2011


    I think I want the opportunity to decide this kind of thing for myself, with my doctor; I don't think I want to give you the opportunity to legislate your feelings about fetal development in such a way that you get involved in my personal medical decisions.

    Yes, this. I completely agree with this. I am pro-choice because I think a woman is the ultimate authority over her body and her reproductive rights. I also think a doctor could best explain to her the risks and benefits of birth control, early-stage abortion and later-stage abortion, etc. NOT some "counselling" center with a clear agenda that does not consider her best interests.

    What I would like to see is more laws protecting doctors from persecution for performing abortions, or helping chronically ill patients with assisted suicide if they have made a considered decision that is what is best for them. The doctor's ultimate responsibility is to his patient, and we should respect that.
    posted by misha at 11:04 AM on March 23, 2011


    Tell me about your experience as an abortion provider within the medical community.

    Doctor: Although the majority of physicians favor legal, safe abortion, they also tend to think of it as a shameful kind of care to provide. In general, status within the medical community has to do with faculty appointments and research grants. People who provide abortion are frequently excluded from faculty positions at academic universities for political reasons (even at a non-religiously affiliated university, all it takes is one anti-choice department member to keep someone out for good).

    It’s hard to be somewhat of an outcast in one’s own community. It’s hard to see the president of the American College of OB/GYN make statements about his personal distaste for abortion, and to see your entire sub-area of expertise nearly entirely excluded from conference programs. It’s hard to know that some of your colleagues disrespect you for what you do and think your job is “dirty” somehow, and while they’re glad you do it, they’re glad they don’t have to.
    posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:08 AM on March 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


    Miko, I understand that, with the correction that "mental health" was added in Doe v Bolton; it wasn't explicitly stated in Roe.

    That's why I said "This set of findings" on Roe - it was clear they weren't in the Roe decision itself and hadn't yet been tested at that point.

    I disagree with Doe v Bolton as is could be applied to the mental health of a woman carrying a full term fetus, who could have labor induced and give the baby up rather than destroying it.

    What if it was determined by the doctor that this approach would not bring any resolution to the mental health issue? If the doctor thought someone were mentally damaged enough to not be able to avoid stalking such a baby or its adoptive parents, or enough to offering to keep it and trying to kill it later, for instance? Or that going through the full labor and delivery and/or adoption process could cause her to be the victim of further abuse, or become suicidal? I don't even know what some of these situations might even be, but I'm uncomfortable with prohibiting a doctor from studying the individual situation and making a recommendation, and it seems the Supreme Court stopped short of doing so, as well.

    One thing that haunts me continually in these discussions is some historical research I did a few years ago which involved me going through the local newspaper of one small new England town for one full year, 1876. About every two to three weeks there was a notice about an abandoned baby, found dead in most cases, or a few times found alive, with a notice seeking its mother or information about the crime. It really shocked me how in a town of less than 8,000 there could be so many, and so many routine and relatively unremarked-upon, situations in which babies were either killed various ways or placed outdoors to die of exposure, in creeks and woods or abandoned barns and the like. It was quite clear that this, in the late 1800s, was the result of lack of access to contraception and abortion - that women who felt unable to deal with the baby would either actively kill, or just abandon it. It happened so often. A woman in extremis can be capable of doing things to a baby she's forced to deliver that may have aneven more terrible outcome than a doctor-facilitated abortion.
    posted by Miko at 11:58 AM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Thanks, Miko -- I think the disconnect was coming from a perception that you DID agree with not even doctors having a say.

    I agree that perception might exist but I'm not sure why; since very early on yesterday and throughout the thread I have been talking about the decision in the context of medical ethics.
    posted by Miko at 12:04 PM on March 23, 2011


    For anyone that's curious, here is information from Planned Parenthood on what happens during an abortion.

    Also from the same page:

    The risk of death from childbirth is 11 times greater than the risk of death from an abortion procedure during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

    After 20 weeks, the risk of death from childbirth and abortion are about the same.


    Additionally:

    Common Discomforts [of Pregnancy] (which I think would be more aptly called "Awful Side Effects" because I don't see how anybody can minimize nausea, hair loss, hemorrhoids, sciatic nerve pain, and migraines to "Common Discomforts.)

    Pregnancy Complications

    Complications during Labor and Birth (You have to scroll down halfway down the page)

    Risks of a Cesarean Procedure

    A Comparison of Risks of having a Vaginal Birth with Risks in having a Cesarian Section

    Then there's also PTSD from giving birth and post-partum depression.

    I'm going on about this because I'm still pissed at the wide-eyed girl in my college Anthro class who said that women are at their healthiest when they're pregnant. I believed her, too, until maybe a few years ago when a coworker who was pregnant developed gestational diabetes and another one had pregnancy induce hypothyroidism. The wide eyed college girl from Anthro class never mentioned gestational diabetes or ending up with fistulas or prolapsed uteruses after birth or PTSD from labor or postpartum depression or anything like that. I almost suspect that people went out of their way to misinform women about the realities of pregnancy and its effect on the body.

    I had a friend who was looking forward to the idea of one day in the future being a mom, and was all kinds of curious about pregnancy and what happens afterwards. However, since this was many years ago when we were all ill-informed, her main curiosity was how many stretch marks she would get, because she (and I too) thought that stretch marks would be the most serious damage that pregnancy would have on her body. Our health class told us that the vagina goes back into shape (yet no mention of tearing during vaginal delivery, go figure). There was no "I'm really worried about being constipated for nine months and it leading to hemorrhoids" or "I'm really afraid of developing gestational diabetes" because we didn't know about it. I remember how I thought the worst things about labor would probably be the pain (as portrayed by Rachel on Friends and numerous other actresses who huffed and puffed and screamed angrily) and the possibility of defecating during labor, which some girl who lived on our floor whose mom was an OB told us all about.

    And get this: I went to a famous all-women's college. From the marketing materials, I could have sworn they were dedicated to educating me, especially in the women's health class (though it was only 2 credits so maybe....well, it was an awful lot of money for 2 credits anyway. They owe me.)
    posted by anniecat at 12:10 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


    The problem with these issues are that focus on reality is lost in rhetoric and politics.

    What are the statistics for late term abortions? Do they show that there are a high number of late term abortions currently performed (in a relative sense)? And of those performed, what are the percentage that are performed for 'change of heart'?

    Does it make sense to infringe upon the potential public health (and the needs of those that actually fit into the right 'profile' that should be allowed to have 'late term' abortions) to legislatively regulate who and who can't?

    Because once you legislate who and who can't, and when that legislation is based upon subjective criteria, it can be used to challenge even those procedures that should have been allowed in the intent of the law. And given the short time frames, it can be used to delay an abortion long enough, and put the mother through additional stress until the goal has been achieved (forcing the birth) simply through delay.

    So, I ask, is the legislation really necessary? For someone who is pro-life, that's self evident. But for pro-choice people here wrangling over the issue such as supercapitalist ("I didn't expect a philosophy that feels there is only one person at stake in the equation, right up until the moment of birth. If you've already been pregnant eight months and there isn't anything wrong with mom or baby, I don't think it is obscene to expect a woman to hold it for one more month to preserve what is, to me at least, a life. "), it really comes down to a question of if you think the legislation is really necessary, given the statistical facts (which, of course I don't have in front of me, so...)

    Strictly speaking, even if you are pro-life, if you are someone that subscribes to limited government and falls on the Constitutionalist side of things, you should be pro-choice just on the political stance of invasive legislation.
    posted by rich at 1:03 PM on March 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


    I had always sort of assumed (without basis, I admit) that most pro-choice people were like me-abortion should be legal and safe but not comfortable with it late in pregnancy except for the heartbreaking (and exceedingly rare) cases mentioned in this thread.

    Late-term abortions are rare, but within that set, the heartbreaking cases are not the rare ones.
    posted by Adventurer at 3:04 PM on March 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


    A man has a right to state his wishes, he does not have the right to enforce them.
    posted by clavdivs at 10:56 AM on March 24, 2011


    But I am saddened by the fact that "I trust women and their doctors to make the best medical choices for themselves at any point in a pregnancy" is considered an extreme position to hold.
    posted by muddgirl


    Me too - doesn't seem that radical to me at all. It seems just and the only thing that actually gives women true respect as people.
    posted by agregoli at 5:57 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


    If you've already been pregnant eight months and there isn't anything wrong with mom or baby, I don't think it is obscene to expect a woman to hold it for one more month to preserve what is, to me at least, a life.

    What fantasy world are you living in where healthy pregnancies are being routinely ended at the 35-36 week mark? Statistics will show that late-term abortions are crazy, crazy rare, and when they happen it is not because a woman who has already probably experienced the worst of the pregnancy (although not the actual birth, of course) has suddenly decided that a watermelon shaped belly clashes with her shoes.

    Assuming the baby and mother are both healthy: if a woman is that determined not to have a baby, what would you prefer: that the baby dies one month before it is actually born, or is murdered one month afterwards?
    posted by Deathalicious at 8:12 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I don't think I care any longer what it means to you or what your feelings are about fetal development. They're your feelings; by all means, feel them; but please keep them to yourself.

    No need to patronize me by authorizing me to "feel my feelings," and I actually didn't use the word "feel." I said "think": based on a reasonably educated understanding of the science of fetal development, I have come to certain moral conclusions that I am not sorry to see reflected in legislation. Other moral conclusions are reflected in laws, too. There's certainly nothing particular to women in my sense that government has the authority to replace individual moral judgment with society's collective moral judgment in certain situations; that's basically the point of laws generally. I have no idea how someone squares the rightness of any laws at all with the idea that it should never be "necessary to legally restrain women from doing bad things" (immlass's words, not yours). It's necessary to legally restrain people from doing bad things, including women.

    A more complete statement of what I think is the moral justification for restrictions on late-term abortion is that the mother has placed the late-term fetus in its current situation by failing to abort earlier on (note: not by getting pregnant in the first place!) -- even if only through negligence -- and now has a duty to carry to term, except in the tragic cases that form the vast majority (maybe the entirety) of late-term abortions.

    My framework is incomplete in the case of minors -- the 14-year-old being forced to deliver her stepfather's child -- but it's not an undue imposition on the autonomy of adult women. To suggest that they should never face a consequence for inaction (failure to abort early on) is itself to infantilize them.

    I agree with you that doctors are the real gatekeepers here, even under the law as it currently exists, which is fine with me.

    Finally, I'm expressing my opinion, just like you were; you're not being "co-opted into debate." Debate or don't, it's your choice.
    posted by palliser at 1:48 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


    but it's not an undue imposition on the autonomy of adult women

    Well, according to you it's not. Autonomous adult women may disagree.
    posted by rtha at 2:21 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


    Autonomous adult women may disagree.

    Not just women, for whatever that's worth.

    and now has a duty to carry to term, except in the tragic cases that form the vast majority (maybe the entirety) of late-term abortions.

    Duty to whom, under what oath? Why does that duty not apply to "tragic cases"? Who evaluates whether a case is sufficiently tragic? What if that evaluation runs counter to the legal restriction?

    Or, to put it another way: I have no moral or legal obligation to make babies. Why do women?
    posted by Errant at 3:13 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


    based on a reasonably educated understanding of the science of fetal development, I have come to certain moral conclusions that I am not sorry to see reflected in legislation.

    Others have come to different moral conclusions, through giving the issue just as much or more thought and taking on just as much or more knowledge, and are sorry to see yours reflected in legislation. Which leaves us with a disagreement, and with the question: on what grounds would we consider your conclusions superior to others'? You can call these conclusions your thoughts, your feelings, or your beliefs, but no matter what you call them, if you're offering them as underpinnings for law, why should they be held in greater esteem than someone else's? What is their inherent worth?

    Other moral conclusions are reflected in laws, too.

    Yes, indeed. That's one of the problems of laws and lawmaking by humans. Sharia law, for instance, is rooted in moral conclusions, as was South African apartheid. Even the world's most cruel and inhumane and unjust laws, present and past, have been supportable by a moral argument that boils down to "events are more right when viewed my way." But as you must admit, the enshrinement of a moral argument in law doesn't automatically make that argument sound or just. Laws reflect an underlying philosophy. In this instance, I am coming to believe that abortion law is contrary to the underlying philosophy of law in the United States Constitution.

    I have no idea how someone squares the rightness of any laws at all with the idea that it should never be "necessary to legally restrain women from doing bad things" (immlass's words, not yours). It's necessary to legally restrain people from doing bad things, including women.

    It was pointed out above that laws restrain people generally from doing bad things to other people and things outside themselves, not to entities which don't yet independently exist. Many people justify the rightness of having "any laws at all" with this recognition, understanding that law is one way to curtail or prevent outcomes that are directly harmful to other people. Abortion can't be shown to be directly harmful to other people, as people are defined, and may in fact prevent outcomes that are directly harmful to other people (such as infanticide, as we have been mentioning).

    American constitutional law has increasingly recognized personal bodily autonomy. It does so relying upon the 4th, 5th, 9th, and 14th amendments. It used to be illegal to purchase prescribed birth control pills from a doctor. Rulings based on Constitutional support for personal autonomy changed that. It used to be illegal, not very long ago at all, for a same-sex couple to have penetrative sex. Rulings based on Constitutional support for personal autonomy changed that. It used to be legal for a state institution or a hospital to practice a policy of sterilizing developmentally disabled people so they could not reproduce. Rulings based on Constitutional support for personal autonomy changed that. It used to be illegal for someone whose life was maintained only by external systems and had low quality of life to be allowed by her caregivers to die naturally. Rulings based on Constitutional support for personal autonomy changed that. Right now, an important issue that's up in the air is the constitutionality of "presumed donor" laws, under which if you are a terminal patient, and the treating doctor is unaware of your organ donor status or of any opposition on your part to being a donor, the doctor can harvest your organs for donation without prior consent from you or for a family member. This is an issue the Supreme Court has yet to resolve, but certainly is a similar case in which personal bodily autonomy is challenged by the state.

    In each and every one of those cases, someone on the opposing side mounted a moral argument, rooted deeply in their personal beliefs and considered judgments about the issues. In all but the last, support for the principle that an individual has the right - the liberty - to determine what happens to their own physical body and to be free from intrusion by the state into their private health, death, and life decisions has been upheld. Continually tested, but upheld.

    So liberty, autonomy, is the philosophical foundation I'm working from. I think the question of abortion should entirely removed from being subject to constraints on women under the law, and I think there are legitimate and strong foundations for that in the Constitution. That we choose to challenge those foundations right now doesn't convince me that we'll do so forever.

    The role of doctor, in my mind, is not so much "gatekeeper," though they could function as that, but as medical health counselor and treatment provider - what was described and supported in Doe v. Bolton. I support that. I support the idea that decisions about all abortions should not be restricted in any way by the state, and that the matter should reside completely in the hands of individuals concerned and their trained, licensed medical professionals.

    I am not in the least worried about wrong decisions will be made. They could perhaps be made under a system that fully recognizes individual control over his or her body; but the total harm would be far, far less than what we see under today's twisted, bizarre, and invasive approach, or under the prohibition approach of the past, which brought us dead babies left outdoors and women throwing themselves down stairs or bleeding out on bathroom floors. We have awful, terrible outcomes to reproductive problems every single day. We would have less if we depoliticized this issue and placed it back where it belongs, in health care management. I trust women with this decision. I believe that this would make it much more likely that in every case, the right outcome, sad as it may at times be, will prevail. I trust women and their doctors, far more than I trust politicians, the utterly uninvolved, moralists or busybodies who fret about what everyone else might be doing that might be bad. This kind of decision should not be the decision of strangers or of the state. I consider supporting total reproductive freedom essential to ending a double standard for patient privacy and medical care, and to according full humanity, and full citizenship, to women.
    posted by Miko at 4:36 PM on March 25, 2011 [7 favorites]

    Abortion in Canada is not limited by the law (on-demand, no time limit). While some non-legal obstacles exist, Canada is one of only a few nations with no legal restrictions on abortion.
    Catholics for Choice Canada and the Coalition for Choice:
    Anti-abortion activists in Canada typically mimic the efforts of their American counterparts. Some have suggested that “partial-birth” and late term abortions should be banned in Canada...such a ban would infringe on women’s constitutional right to the security of the person. At the same time, it would award politicians more rights than pregnant women as well as their doctors - making medical advice secondary to political legislation. All medical care, including abortion care, should be based on clinical standards with the goal of meeting patients’ needs and minimizing risk to patients. Physicians should not face criminal prosecution or imprisonment for providing clinically appropriate care for their patients. Canada is one of only two countries in the world with no laws restricting abortion. Because of that, Canada serves as a respected role model for abortion care internationally. Abortion is a health procedure and as such, can be left up to the discretion of the doctor and patient. It requires no extra regulation, in the same way that childbirth or heart surgery require no extra regulation. It would be reactionary and counter-productive to pass any restriction against abortion, because that would endanger women’s health and lives, and infringe on women’s equality rights.
    The Case Against Abortion Restrictions:
    Canada, one of only 3 countries in its particular position, provides an excellent case study with respect to the argument against restrictions on abortions. As of the R. v. Morgentaler decision in 1988, Canada began a time of no legal restrictions on abortion... What the decision in Morgentaler means is that technically a woman can walk into a clinic at 35 weeks and abort. Legally, there is nothing stopping her. Practically speaking, even if a woman were to ask to terminate a healthy fetus at 35 weeks, chances are next to zero that a doctor would do it. Realistically, and most importantly, women don’t do that. This is where the “trust women” phrase comes into play. You, me, the government, everybody, needs to trust that women will do the right thing. Women who want abortions will get one done as soon as possible. Unfortunately, in the US, a woman will often have to pay for an abortion out of pocket. This means she has to spend time raising money, which can lead to her being later in the pregnancy at the time of the procedure. In Canada, where most abortions are covered by health insurance, many women are able to have an abortion as soon as possible, since they don’t have to spend time raising money towards the cost of the procedure. This means that more Canadian women have abortions in the first trimester. That is the best argument for why abortions should be publicly funded.

    When you look at the (Canadian) statistics, abortions rates after 12 weeks are extremely low, and negligible after 20 weeks. From ARCC:

    90% of abortions in Canada are performed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and just over 9% of abortions take place between 12 and 20 weeks of gestation. A mere 0.4% of abortions take place after 20 weeks of gestation. These are considered late term abortions.

    What this tells us is that there is no need for restrictions on abortions. Late-term abortions (after 20 weeks in Canada) are typically done on wanted pregnancies, thus restrictions are simply harmful to women who are going through the worst time in their life. If the government covers the cost of abortions, women will have it as soon as they can get an appointment.
    According to Guttmacher, the statistics in Canada are almost the same - a very little bit better - than those in the US. The big difference is in the 20 weeks plus area: in Canada, 0.4%; in the US, 1.5%. It is possible that the many obstacles and restrictions we have in place here do indeed cause some percentage of women to have to delay their attention to their pregnancy - whether because of inadequate health care, lack of money, difficulty traveling or getting legal permissions, or more than one such factor.

    But also not unrelated, teenage pregnancy and unintended pregnancy rates and teenage birth rates are themselves far lower in Canada than in the US. United States teenage birth rate was 53 births per 1000 women ages 15 to 19 (the highest in the developed world), while in Canada it is just 16 births per 1000 women. When you look at the pregnancies that also end in miscarriage or abortion as well as birth, it is a whopping 75 per 1000 in the United States, only 33 per 1000 in Canada.

    In reflecting that a relatively barrier-free health care system provides young women with access to cheap contraceptives, and that any contact point a young woman has with contraceptive prescription is an opportunity for education, and that women in Canada then are probably better educated and cared for from the time of first sexual activity, it is no surprise that they know that abortion services exist and can avail themselves of those services early when they're needed, causing less of the small number of delays that might come about due to legal barriers and restrictions such as those permitted under US law. It also seems that in part because of this, not only does unrestricted legal abortion not cause more late-term abortions, it causes fewer.*

    *Some sources note that because late-term abortion services are very hard to find in Canada, some Canadians travel to the US to have them done at the few places here that do them. However, though done on US soil these are still counted in Canadian statistics, because they're covered under national health insurance. So the variance on late-term abortions of more than three times the number of late-term abortions for US patients is a real one.

    I didn't know this was Canada's approach when I started getting involved in this thread, and it's fascinating that my hypothetical "what if we just didn't regulate" is in fact in place and functioning well in a country not very different from my own in terms of its population composition and social challenges. I think this argues that what I can now call "the Canadian approach" is worth thinking seriously about as part of a comprehensive and well-functioning reproductive health system that considers people equal under the law.

    Maybe one day we'll have one.
    posted by Miko at 8:18 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


    I had no idea we have no restrictions whatsoever!

    Well, there's proof positive that people generally go for the least harm.

    The big difference is in the 20 weeks plus area: in Canada, 0.4%; in the US, 1.5%.

    An order of magnitude difference. Good gods.
    posted by five fresh fish at 8:50 PM on March 25, 2011


    Fully aware that my moral judgments have no particular weight with the rest of the world. I use my judgment to decide what I think our society should look like. As I said in my very first comment, you are making a moral judgment here based solely on the mother's autonomy, as that is your only concern; and I'm making a moral judgment based partly on the mother's autonomy and partly on the fetus's right to bodily integrity, to a certain degree, after a certain point, based on fetal development. (And if that sounds fuzzy, it is, because I think there's no good bright-line rule to follow here, just standards based on societal norms.)

    And yes, there are people who are real experts on this subject, with experience in the field, who don't think that pregnant women are always the final word on whether abortion is still a morally acceptable option under the circumstances -- you know, like Dr. LeRoy Carhart:
    The day before Tiller's death, a woman came into Carhart's Nebraska clinic 28 weeks along. Carhart asked her what she would do if she had to carry the baby to term. "She didn't say she was going to kill herself," he says. "She said she would put it up [for adoption]." He turned her away.

    Carhart has a few firm lines; he won't, for example, do elective abortions past 24 weeks, because the fetus is likely viable. "It just makes sense to me," says Carhart. "After a certain point in time, the fetus is viable and we have to look at it differently than if it were not viable."
    Is he not pro-choice, because he told a woman who no longer wanted to be pregnant that she would have to carry to term? He's a hero to reproductive freedom, but there he is, telling a woman that she's just going to have to continue her pregnancy for another 12 weeks. A sexual slaver, under the absurd standards this thread has set for what "pro-choice" means.
    posted by palliser at 9:38 PM on March 25, 2011


    Is he not pro-choice, because he told a woman who no longer wanted to be pregnant that she would have to carry to term?

    No, and I don't think anyone here would say that. He said he himself would not do the procedure; he did not tell her that it was illegal and she could not have it.

    and I'm making a moral judgment based partly on the mother's autonomy and partly on the fetus's right to bodily integrity, to a certain degree, after a certain point, based on fetal development. (And if that sounds fuzzy, it is, because I think there's no good bright-line rule to follow here, just standards based on societal norms.)


    I think that, on an individual basis, that's all well and good. It's when it comes to legislating where that bright line should be, for every woman, regardless of what she (and her doctor) decide is best for her that we run into trouble.

    A thought experiment (one I've been thinking about myself because of this thread): should a woman be required to give an organ to her child in order to save the child's life? I'm talking about an already-born child, to be clear. Let's say the mother is the only person on the planet who can donate this organ, and without it, the child will die. Should she be required, by law, to do so?
    posted by rtha at 10:41 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Man, that's unclear. What I mean is yes, I think the doctor is pro-choice, and I think other people here would agree.
    posted by rtha at 10:52 PM on March 25, 2011


    the prohibition approach of the past, which brought us dead babies left outdoors and women throwing themselves down stairs or bleeding out on bathroom floors

    Many women still turn to self-induced abortions now:
    There are accessible clinics, and the procedure is legal. But within many women's homes, their communities, their churches and their minds, a trip to the abortion clinic amounts to a damnable transgression. In fact, abortion is so stigmatized, many women don't even realize it is legal. . . . "What we're dealing with now is thirty-five years of women being very publicly shamed by antichoice protesters," says Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood. "Underground abortion is one of the consequences."'
    Other details on present-day self-induced abortions from a recent CBC radio piece, including a "menstrual extraction" device invented in the 1971 for those wanting to DIY (or...have a friend do it? Not clear if one woman can do it on herself) at home.
    posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:34 AM on March 26, 2011


    The day before Tiller's death, a woman came into Carhart's Nebraska clinic 28 weeks along. Carhart asked her what she would do if she had to carry the baby to term. "She didn't say she was going to kill herself," he says. "She said she would put it up [for adoption]." He turned her away.

    Carhart has a few firm lines; he won't, for example, do elective abortions past 24 weeks, because the fetus is likely viable. "It just makes sense to me," says Carhart. "After a certain point in time, the fetus is viable and we have to look at it differently than if it were not viable."


    What, I wonder, would he have said if she had said she would kill herself? And, I also wonder, why is it always "he" who makes the terminal decision? "He" turned "her" away is the essential story of female inequality.

    By the way, let me suggest that "it just makes sense to me" is not the language of a scientist.
    posted by Errant at 2:01 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Okay, Errant, I guess you're one vote for "maybe not so committed to female equality." Dr. Carhart, the man who daily faces down the threat of murder for his commitment to abortion rights.

    rtha, in regard to your question -- "should a woman be required to give an organ to her child in order to save the child's life?" -- in the framework I explained above, the pregnant mother's duty to carry a late-term fetus to term arises from her failure to abort at an earlier date, which placed the late-term fetus in its current predicament. That's analogous to other legal standards where you can be obligated to subject yourself to some risk and inconvenience to save someone whose life you have placed at risk. That analogy doesn't hold for the example you presented of a sick child in need of an organ.

    Aaaaand as others have said, I'm now repeating myself in different words. Happy to continue reading responses, but I'll bow out of the discussion now.
    posted by palliser at 7:07 AM on March 26, 2011


    Is he not pro-choice, because he told a woman who no longer wanted to be pregnant that she would have to carry to term?

    No, he's a doctor, and he's deploying his professional judgment and medical ethics. That's exactly the situation I'm arguing in favor of. That kind of interaction between doctor and patient is where this decision belongs. As rtha pointed out, this statement isn't being because the law restricts his judgment. He doesn't need a law to make this judgment. He's a doctor, operating under accepted protocols and medical ethics and bringing to bear a lifetime of medical experience. He's assessing the situation and making a recommendation and explaining it to the patient. Yes, it still remains possible that she could find another opinion (time-wasting, and unlikely given the fact that medical ethics and licensing requirements apply to every doctor), or kill herself or try to self-abort, or try to kill the baby after it's born, but the medical consultation did its job and there was no need for a law to dictate the outcome.

    As I said in my very first comment, you are making a moral judgment here based solely on the mother's autonomy, as that is your only concern

    It's not my only concern, but in a free constitutional democracy I think it's the supreme concern.

    and I'm making a moral judgment based partly on the mother's autonomy and partly on the fetus's right to bodily integrity, to a certain degree, after a certain point, based on fetal development.

    The fetus doesn't have rights, though. At most under the law it has potential interest from the state after viability. You're positing that it should have rights, and I'm saying that I think it should not, as it does not exist indepedently. Should it be considered? I absolutely think it should. Should harm be minimized? I absolutely think it should. But, as one source i was reading put it, you "can't have two sets of rights in one skin."

    When you say " there's no good bright-line rule to follow here, just standards based on societal norms," that raises the question of why your suggestion for a bright-line rule at some point mid-pregnancy is superior than mine or the next guy's, who might place the bright line at six weeks or nine weeks. You suggest that there's an arbitrary date at which the line should be considered to have been crossed, that you are knowledgeable enough to determine, regardless of extenuating circumstances or variability in fetal development. Whereas I suggest that the moment of birth is actually when we no longer have any "fuzzy" ideas based on "societal norms," but we have an actual person with rights which are undeniable. Saying that something so evidentiary is not a "good bright line" is a strange argument.

    But I think we have to look at the pragmatic argument I'm making, though, not the moral one. The pragmatic argument says that the method Canada is using - no restrictions or prohibitions, strictly a medical matter, embedded in a well-funded and maintained public health system which values access - actually results in fewer late-term abortions. Not just a few fewer, as five fresh fish points out; but in the US there is actually a need for nearly four times the number of late-term abortions. So the question then becomes: if it's late-term abortions you deplore, do you feel the laws we have are working? Are they reducing the number late-term abortions? The answer is no. Under the system we have, for which you seem to be advocating, we have more late-term abortions. There can be no doubt that this is partially because we have such poor access to earlier treatment with contraception and early abortion - because, in fact, that we with our present laws are contributing to what you see as the "failure" of women to abort their unwanted pregnancies earlier. (I find that "failure" language disturbing, by the way, again punitive of women already in a lousy situation as well as hinting that abortion should have been required somehow, and also inadmissive of complications, such as the fact that some conditions like Rh incompatibility can't even be detected without 18-to-20-week amniocentesis and that then, diagnostic and treatment scheduling can contribute to further delays - something that features in almost every late-term abortion case I've read about).

    So it would seem that decriminalizing abortion can lead to situations in which there are far, far fewer abortions of the type you personally dislike. Why not support that? Do you actually support this system under which we have more of them?
    posted by Miko at 7:41 AM on March 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Pasiller, there are some other interesting excerpts from the Carhart thread you linked. Like, right before the quote you pulled:
    Past viability, no doctor will terminate a pregnancy without a compelling reason. But what is a compelling reason, and who decides? Some would count a serious fetal abnormality, mental or physical; others would not. What if the baby has a 50 percent chance of surviving outside the womb? A 30 percent chance? While most of us navigate these questions in theory, Carhart deals with them in practice. At Tiller's clinic, he saw a rape victim in the third trimester of pregnancy. Every time she felt the baby move, she said, it brought back the rape all over again. She'd made three suicide attempts. Carhart performed her abortion. "If a woman is going to kill herself, then I think you have to look at it for her health," he says.
    ...patients he had seen as a medical student, in the days before Roe: women whose botched abortions, anywhere from the first to the third trimester, left them with perforated uteruses, intestines protruding from the vagina, or untreatable pelvic infections. The way Carhart remembers it, it was a good week for the emergency room if only five women died
    Carhart began challenging partial-birth-abortion bans, first the one in Nebraska and then the federal law. The bans, which state legislatures began to pass in the mid-1990s, generally targeted a procedure called intact dilation and extraction, in which the dead fetus is removed intact after the skull is crushed. It is a rare procedure, used in 2,200 of the 1.3 million abortions performed in 2000, and only in cases where doctors believed it was the best option for minimizing risks to a woman's health, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Carhart worried that the Nebraska law, passed in 1997, wouldn't just ban intact D&E but was vague enough to criminalize other types of abortion. Backed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Carhart filed a suit against Nebraska's attorney general. The case made it to the Supreme Court in 2000 and was decided in his favor, overturning the Nebraska ban for both its vagueness and its lack of an exception for women's health. When Congress passed a national ban in 2003, Carhart challenged again and returned to the Supreme Court. The court then ruled against him, leaving a national ban intact today.
    It sounds like he's pretty much in favor of not restricting his decisionmaking with law.
    "Abortion is not a four-letter word," he says. "I'm proud of what I do."
    ...If women need this service, Carhart reasons, who is he to say no? If he won't provide these complex and challenging abortions, who will?
    posted by Miko at 7:51 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


    the fetus's right to bodily integrity

    Oh, forgot this point. If the fetus has this right under your moral argument, if there is such a thing as a right to bodily integrity, then the woman must have it too, right? Why should the fetus' be more of a right than the woman's? How does that square with equal rights?
    posted by Miko at 7:55 AM on March 26, 2011


    Okay, Errant, I guess you're one vote for "maybe not so committed to female equality." Dr. Carhart, the man who daily faces down the threat of murder for his commitment to abortion rights.

    No, I was making a larger point about how it always seems to be a him telling her what she can or can't do with her body. I respect Carhart and his work very much and also disagree with him. I disagree with lots of people I respect; I don't think that means I'm accusing them of anything other than having a different view. I see that you've exited the thread, so thanks for your contributions, but I didn't want to let this one slide.
    posted by Errant at 11:05 AM on March 26, 2011


    Crisis pregnancy center opens across from LeRoy Carhart's Germantown abortion clinic
    posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:42 PM on March 28, 2011


    According to Rick Santorum stop laughing, you!, those of us having abortions are failing in our duty because we haven't produced enough children who will become Social Security-supporting worker bees.

    He says the system has design flaws, but the reason it is in big trouble is that there aren't enough workers to support retirees. He blamed that on what he called the nation's abortion culture. He says that culture, coupled with policies that do not support families, deny America what it needs _ more people.
    posted by rtha at 11:58 AM on March 29, 2011


    I have kids, rtha, so do I get to have bonus abortions? What's the worker bee replacement rate? Can I sell my bonus abortions, a la carbon trading?
    posted by The corpse in the library at 1:54 PM on March 29, 2011


    Geez, we don't have jobs for the people we already have. I'm supposed to pop out progeny to fund Rick Santorum's retirement? How are they gonna make any money for him?
    posted by Miko at 2:06 PM on March 29, 2011


    rtha: "According to Rick Santorum stop laughing, you!, those of us having abortions are failing in our duty because we haven't produced enough children who will become Social Security-supporting worker bees."

    I can't wait to hear him try to explain how women who have miscarriages are also Failing America. What a fuckwit that man is.
    posted by zarq at 2:17 PM on March 29, 2011


    Ooh, corpse, I can see a whole new business opportunity!

    Also, Santorum snicker seems to think that the only way to get more people in the U.S. is by birthing them. Maybe he's right? There's no other way to have the U.S. increase its population, right?
    posted by rtha at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


    There's no other way to have the U.S. increase its population, right?

    By some means other than natural birth? Business opportunity? rtha, are you suggesting that we use the genetic material from aborted fetuses to create a clone workforce and save Social Security? That's brilliant! Capitalism will save us yet!
    posted by contraption at 10:19 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I like your thinking, young man! Do you have a device that does such a thing? Inquirious minds must wish to know! What I am asking of you is whether there such a contraption, contraption? Is there?
    posted by five fresh fish at 10:37 PM on March 29, 2011


    I confess that no specific means had occurred to me, contraption - but your proposal is intriguing, and could very well be our way out of this dreadful mess. Yay, capitalism!
    posted by rtha at 5:51 AM on March 30, 2011


    The "pro life" contingent can't can't complain since each embryo yields multiple human lives, and the motherless clones can be put straight to work mining clean coal and building iPhones. Everyone wins!
    posted by contraption at 8:20 AM on March 30, 2011


    A truly golden lucky day, and blessed are we to have geniuses walking among us here.
    posted by Meatbomb at 9:03 PM on March 30, 2011


    Man, if we can't save Social Security with the people we have, a bunch of babies aren't going to be able to do it.
    posted by iamkimiam at 12:48 AM on March 31, 2011


    They can if we make 'em work! Babies will work for a lot less than adults in overseas sweatshops. Basically, just Melba toast and some TV breaks.
    posted by Miko at 5:53 AM on March 31, 2011


    I'm thinking about breasts. For the babies, too. Melba toast is actually fairly pricey, but if we can find a good supply of lactating breasts this plan would really be set.
    posted by five fresh fish at 8:25 AM on March 31, 2011


    Melba toast is pretty cheap...when it's made by babies!
    posted by rtha at 8:46 AM on March 31, 2011


    Don't be so short-sighted, iamkimiam, of course there'll be some startup time before they can pull their ownweight, say 8-10 years, but this is an investment in our future I'm talking about.
    posted by contraption at 9:07 AM on March 31, 2011


    We just need to find some VCs with true vision is all.
    posted by contraption at 9:10 AM on March 31, 2011


    And a really, really good lobbyist.
    posted by contraption at 9:10 AM on March 31, 2011


    I'm not sure about the breasts. I mean, think of the potential for the infant formula market - through the roof! I'm gonna buy some stock now. Of course, wet nursing could provide some job creation too. Perhaps we could diversify - Alphas get nursed, Betas get the formula, everybody wins!
    posted by Miko at 9:39 AM on March 31, 2011


    Hey, you know, I work in a complex that's occupied mostly by VC firms and I ran into one this morning in the parking lot. The body's still there!

    Just kidding. No, I ran into one of the guys who works in the firm next door and informally pitched this idea to him and man did his eyes light up! We're going to do lunch next week. I'll bring up the lobbyist thing, but I reckon they already have their own, crated in their lobby.
    posted by rtha at 9:51 AM on March 31, 2011


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