Why diversity is important

With not one, but two examples from the pundit class.

First up: Matt Yglesias, in response to some posts from Jessica and Scott about the Guttmacher study Jill wrote about here.

The other day, Jessica Valenti was touting a questionable bit of statistics:

A new study by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization shows that abortion rates are similar in different countries whether the procedure is legal or not. Shocking, I know. Of course, what wasn’t similar was the risk to women’s health.

Scott Lemieux went even stronger to say that “the only thing that criminalizing abortion accomplishes is to ensure that some number of women will be maimed or killed.” The trouble with these kinds of cross-national statistics, though, is that there are all kinds of correlating variables and there’s no way for the kind of survey we’re talking about to isolate the impact of legal change on abortion. In the United States, when abortion was legalized in the 1970s, the number of abortions went up.

What’s more, I’m not really sure why one would think that the case for reproductive freedom hinges crucially on the idea that making abortions safer, more affordable, and more convenient to obtain has no impact on the number of abortions people get. After all, if nothing else the very dangerous nature of the abortion procedure in the abortion-banning countries constitutes a sound consideration against getting an abortion in those places.

Scott responds on the substance here. What I’m interested in right now is the privilege on display — Matt, who will never have to face the question of whether to have an abortion, dismisses the Guttmacher study as “questionable.” And why? Because, gosh, it just doesn’t make any sense that women would seek abortions where they’re illegal and dangerous!

It’s quite telling that Matt can’t get past the mathematical modeling of it all to reach the understanding that the reason that reproductive-rights advocates argue in favor of safe and legal abortion is that women will get abortions regardless of whether or not they’re legal, and they will get abortions regardless of the possibility of injury or death, because the alternative for them is worse. IOW, criminalizing abortion does not make abortion stop. It simply makes it more dangerous. Given that, there’s absolutely no point in criminalizing abortion, and indeed, making it safe, legal and affordable isn’t going to increase the number of abortions significantly (beyond any temporary increase due to pent-up demand from women who were not quite as sanguine about taking the risk of an illegal and unsafe abortion). In any event, Matt doesn’t seem to grasp that what you gain from legalizing abortion is a decrease in the number of women who die from unsafe and illegal procedures. Even if the number of abortions rises temporarily, isn’t that a good reason to legalize? But again, Matt does not have to think that way, so he does not.

Example #2, Tucker Carlson and Cliff May, via Liss:

On the October 15 edition of MSNBC’s Tucker, discussing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-NY) presidential campaign with Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, host Tucker Carlson said: “Gene, this is an amazing statistic: 94 percent of women say they’d be more likely to vote if a woman were on the ballot. I think of all the times I voted for people just because they’re male. You know? The ballot comes up, and I’m like, ‘Wow. He’s a dude. I think I’ll vote for him. We’ve got similar genitalia. I’m — he’s getting my vote.’ ” After asserting that “the Clinton campaign says: ‘Hillary isn’t running as a woman,’ ” Carlson stated: “Well, that’s actually completely false, considering the Hillary campaign — and I get their emails — relentlessly pushes the glass ceiling argument. ‘You should vote for her because she’s a woman.’ They say that all the time.” May responded: “At least call her a Vaginal-American.”

Carlson replied: “Is that the new phrase? Boy, that’s nasty. I don’t think I can say that.” Robinson interjected, “No, you don’t say that,” to which Carlson responded: “I shouldn’t say that? I’m not going attempt it. No, no.”

Carlson also asked: “Do you think that people who are voting on the basis of gender solidarity ought to be allowed to vote in a perfect world? Of course they shouldn’t be allowed to vote on those grounds. That’s like — that’s moronic. I’m sorry. I know I’m going to get bounced off the air for saying it, but that’s true.”

Tucker Carlson, brave gender warrior, fighting against the forces of feminism.

Mind you, his listening comprehension needs a little work. The actual statistic was that 94 percent of women were more likely to vote in an election featuring a woman, not that women were more likely to vote for a woman just because she’s a woman.

Which makes perfect sense, given that it can be rather dispiriting to be given a choice of conservative white dude vs. liberal white dude at the polls every time. And that’s what Presidential elections have been up ’til now. The person at the top of the ticket can have a powerful effect on whether you feel motivated to vote, and if you never see anyone who looks remotely like you on the ballot, you might start feeling that you and your interests will never be represented, so why bother?

Carlson, of course, fails to grasp this. Probably because he’s always had a choice of someone who shares his genitalia in Presidential elections. He doesn’t even have to give a thought to whether his interests will be represented by the guy at the top of the ballot, because that guy has a similar frame of reference on the world. Not to mention, nobody ever proposes taking away the vote of people like Tucker Carlson for being “irresponsible.”

Both of these examples provide a primer on just why it’s important to have people with diverse life experience in positions making or influencing policy or opinions. Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for example, bring personal experience with reproductive decisions, employment discrimination (read up sometime on how O’Connor, who’d been editor in chief of the Stanford Law Review, was offered a secretarial position at William Rehnquist’s firm), sexism and the like which no other person who has ever sat on that court could ever have. And the same with race, class, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification and a whole host of other categories — as long as the punditocracy, lawmakers and policymakers are primarily white middle- and upper-class men, those viewpoints are not going to get the kind of airing they deserve. And instead, you’re going to have those white middle- and upper-class men dismissing or simply ignoring viewpoints that don’t fit within their own conceptions about how things work, which of course is necessarily colored by their privilege.*

And in both these cases, we have male pundits expounding on issues that affect women and dismissing them simply because they can’t see past their privilege. Yglesias at least has commenters, who can (and have) set him straight, but Carlson and May have no such check. And so they just blathered on about how silly it is for women to feel like their participation in the democratic process matters, talking about women without talking to women.

As for May’s comment — I’m just not going to go there. You know it’s hopeless when you start to sound like Jesus’ General is writing your talking points.
__________
* Of course, one of the most persistent criticisms of mainstream feminism is that the same thing happens, only with white middle- and upper-class women doing the talking, or expounding on issues without taking into account the views of people who live what they’re expounding on. A very clear example of this occurred in this thread, about the hysterectomy being proposed for Katie Thorp, in which a number of people, who probably consider themselves good feminists and pro-choice, talked about the bodily autonomy of people with disabilities as if it were an inconvenient fiction, and as if people with disabilities weren’t actually reading the thread.


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

40 comments for “Why diversity is important

  1. harlemjd
    October 17, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Did Yglesias’ statistics on abortions in the U.S. pre- and post-Roe allow for women who could afford to travel outside of the United States for a safe and legal abortion? Assuming his stats are true (and I would imagine the legality and safety of the procedure had some effect, just less than he thinks), more abortions happening in the U.S. is not the same as more American women having abortions.

  2. zuzu
    October 17, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    I have no idea. But I think you’d also need to look at how many D&Cs there were, since that was a common way for women with access to doctors and money to pay were able to obtain abortions without them being called abortions.

  3. ekf
    October 17, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Carlson also asked: “Do you think that people who are voting on the basis of gender solidarity ought to be allowed to vote in a perfect world? Of course they shouldn’t be allowed to vote on those grounds. That’s like — that’s moronic. I’m sorry. I know I’m going to get bounced off the air for saying it, but that’s true.”

    Right. And white people shouldn’t be allowed to vote for white people when there is both a white person and a black person on the ballot. Right? Like when Ron Kirk ran for the Senate seat against John Cornyn in Texas and a bunch of white assholes purposefully voted for Cornyn to stop a black man from being elected as a Senator? Those people should have been disenfranchised, right, Tucker? Right? [crickets]

    Makes me fucking sick that Carlson and his enema-effluent-spewing comparables think that (a) they control the franchise, (b) they are nonetheless put-upon by the people whose franchise over which they claim control and (c) can’t see how much their fucking disgusting and undeserved privilege blinds them to basic social justice.

  4. ellenbrenna
    October 17, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    In the United States, when abortion was legalized in the 1970s, the number of abortions went up.

    How would you know? Since it was illegal in most of the country. How do you measure something that is illegal.

    Do you measure maternal maiming and deaths and get your numbers that way. I am not just giving Yglesias a hard time, I am genuinely curious how does the Guttmacher Institute measure something that is illegal in some parts of the world? Did they compare like countries an African country where it is legal and one where it is illegal to come to the conclusion that there is no difference?

  5. Hector B.
    October 17, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    I’m probably going to hell for it, but I thought Vaginal-American was funny. Of course people vote for candidates they identify with. Even Republican Greek-Americans supported Dukakis, because they were so proud to see one of their own running for President. In California, Armenians lined up behind Deukmejian. The first Mayor Daley stayed in power for decades by making the Democratic ticket reflect Chicago demographics: a Pole for city clerk, black congressmen for the black community, liberal Jewish congressmen for Hyde Park, etc.

    The only concern is the obvious one: is the woman the best candidate for women? If Phyllis Schafly or Ann Coulter were the first female Presidential candidates, I would expect women to vote for their male opponent any way.

  6. October 17, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    Vaginal-American, get it?! Because women have vaginas! And women can’t be regular Americans with rights and stuff! Ha ha! Hey Tucker, tell that story about how you roughed up that guy who hit on you in the bathroom again – it was so hilarious!

    Groan.

  7. October 17, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    And I wonder why I always have so little to add over at Matt et al.’s sites (no I don’t). I bump up against the lack of diversity in academia (my current “profession”) all the time, incl. re: class and religious diversity (as a Catholic of-the-working-class woman). That’s a field that’s just another extension of the mainstream political blogosphere-punditry-policymaking realm. Sigh.

    I actually just wrote in an Ezra thread this morning, where he was marveling over how local politics matters (newsflash), that it certainly does, in large part because that’s the first place where we can realize political diversification. Starting at the local level is the best place to increase representative diversity in terms of gender, race, etc. (As I mentioned there, I wrote a paper about incr. women’s rep. in govt. and proportional voting systems during an internship at the rockin’ Electoral Reform Society in London).

    Last week I wrote a post about attending a Hillary Clinton event in Boston where I was a) startled at how un-diverse it was (except for age, it was pretty much white and female), and b) how noisier the crowd was over electing a woman president v. electing HRC, per se. I very foolishly assumed I was one of a few women making the trade off of supporting centrist Hillary for what I hope will be wider systemic change of finally breaking through that barrier.

    But wow was it stark how homogeneous that crowd was, and it was comparatively inexpensive – tix were as low as $20. Politics for me is all about conflict, protest, change and coalition building among non-male, non-white potential allies. I see black women are the newest “fad” in electoral politics now that Hillary and Obama are running. Sigh again.

    I think I’m just rambling here, not contributing much. The taken-for-granted gendered lens men enjoy is so obvious to me I can rarely deal with the theoretically objective analyses folks like Matt think they’re applying to information like this case re: abortion rates. Although often I start yelling.

  8. October 17, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Great post, as usual, but…

    Given that, there’s absolutely no point in criminalizing abortion, and indeed, making it safe, legal and affordable isn’t going to increase the number of abortions significantly (beyond any temporary increase due to pent-up demand from women who were not quite as sanguine about taking the risk of an illegal and unsafe abortion).

    Huh?

    I don’t think this makes any sense, given that women are only pregnant for nine months at a time. It’s not like making divorce easier, where you’re going to have people who’ve been trapped in bad marriages for five, ten, twenty years all getting divorced at once… I don’t know whether legalization increases the number of abortions or not (and I don’t think it much matters), but it definitely doesn’t makes sense to me that there could be a temporary spike due to “pent-up demand.”

  9. Mnemosyne
    October 17, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    “What’s more, I’m not really sure why one would think that the case for reproductive freedom hinges crucially on the idea that making abortions safer, more affordable, and more convenient to obtain has no impact on the number of abortions people get. After all, if nothing else the very dangerous nature of the abortion procedure in the abortion-banning countries constitutes a sound consideration against getting an abortion in those places.”

    Why, yes, if you don’t have a uterus and don’t live in those countries, I suppose you would spend a lot of time scratching your balls wondering why on earth a woman would do something so dangerous and irrational as have an illegal abortion. Because there’s no possible way that she could already have more children than she can care for, or that she had a fistula after she last gave birth and this pregnancy could endanger her life, or that she’s a rape victim.

    Nope, I’m sure that all of the women in those countries are completely irrational since they persist in having abortions even when they know how dangerous they are. Thanks for clearing that up, Matt.

    Oh, and fuck you.

  10. Steve
    October 17, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Maybe I am unique in that I identify less with the typical grouping tags
    ie: Color and gender and more with the thought patterns. But then again I am a slightly right leaning Libertarian.

    As for abortion, it is fair to consider the mathematics and to ask why. The fact I will never have to ever have an abortion makes a question about abortion or a question of statistical accuracy no less valid. If such were true, then no pacifist should be able to question any military action of any kind.

  11. October 17, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    I read a book published in the 60s, pre Roe v Wade, a while back. I can’t remember the author, except that he is still publishing today… might be Michael Crichton, but maybe not.

    Anyway, part of the plot was about (illegal) abortion and one of the characters mentioned how there were over 1 million abortions a year – all, or most, illegal, I guess? So probably many unrecorded, just estimated.

    Fiction, of course, but the numbers came from somewhere. Point is, though, thats about the same number cited per year, legally, since Roe – so I imagine it’s not the number of abortions that has gone up so much as the number of those being recorded.

  12. Thomas, TSID
    October 17, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Tucker Carlson is a terrorist sympathizer.

    That is all.

  13. Thomas, TSID
    October 17, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Steve, what we’re seeing here is explained by standpoint theory: there are perfectly reasonable explanations for why what Jessica says makes sense; that Yglesias doesn’t think of. That is because his ability to model the world is limited by his worldview, and specifically, by his experience of privilege.

    Most of us have limited understandings of the world, such that things that are rational to the actors that do them appear irrational to people who lack the perspective to see all the factors in the actors’ calculations. For example, if one believed that the police always responded promptly, acted professionally and investigated fairly, one might expect that every women who was raped would report it to the police. Only when one knows that this is often not the case will one have a solid understanding of low reporting. Many het white males’ experience with police, however, will lead them to assume that police are generally prompt, professional and fair: one’s social position limits one’s understanding of the positions of others, and those frameworks are sometimes tough to move past.

  14. Pingback: Soberish
  15. Esme
    October 17, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    That is the most clear and concise explanation of standpoint theory I’ve ever read, Thomas. I will be using that wording in future.

  16. October 17, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    After all, if nothing else the very dangerous nature of the abortion procedure in the abortion-banning countries constitutes a sound consideration against getting an abortion in those places.

    Hah! You’d think, wouldn’t you! It’s not like I expect white dudes in middle class America to understand the abject poverty and desperation of so many women all over the world. Need I point out how these things drive people to do all sorts of things not entirely safe?

    Of course they shouldn’t be allowed to vote on those grounds. That’s like — that’s moronic. I’m sorry. I know I’m going to get bounced off the air for saying it, but that’s true.”

    Gee, that sure is the drawback of a fair and equal society, huh? People get to do shit you wouldn’t do (but actually do, whether they’re willing to admit or not).

    What is it with these people? They just won’t be happy until we live in a society where non-whites are only seen in other countries or happily dusting the fine china and women are only seen in gentlemen’s clubs or quietly reading bibles on the divan, lightly fanning themselves if it’s a warm day because they don’t dare unbutton those high collars for fear of scandal.

    Honestly. Sometimes the ingrained ignorance and presumption of these something-or-others makes me want to tear my hair out and then cry myself to sleep… if, you know, crying weren’t something I had a complex about.

  17. Josh
    October 18, 2007 at 1:23 am

    How dare a man make the obvious point that, all things being equal, one would expect fewer abortions in countries where they are illegal!

  18. Ema, Witch of Otawi Street
    October 18, 2007 at 5:27 am

    Re: Voting

    Even if a female candidate does not run on a feminist or gender-equality platform – hector B’s example of Phyllis Schafly or Ann Coulter running for president – such issues are more likely to be discussed during the campaign. (Similar with African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, disabled, queer etc. candidates)
    Just because journalists will assume that such a “special” candidate will have strong views about the “special interests” associated with that group. And of course, the “standard” candidates will have to respond, too. That means, more people will see their interests addressed and thus more people will participate.

  19. October 18, 2007 at 7:06 am

    It’s the “all things being equal” bit that’s the sticking point, Joshie-boy.

  20. October 18, 2007 at 7:36 am

    How dare a man make the obvious point that, all things being equal, one would expect fewer abortions in countries where they are illegal!

    He’s welcome to make that point. But when the results of a study conflict with “what one would expect,” we expect him to recognize it.

  21. Unree
    October 18, 2007 at 9:13 am

    I think I know the book Nanette is referring to–“A Case of Need,” by Jeffrey Hudson, pseudonym of Michael Crichton (1969). Recommended, although IIRC there’s an appendix at the end saying “There are six arguments in favor of abortion rights and six counterarguments,” a list MOST uninformed by feminism or a woman’s point of view.

  22. Nicole
    October 18, 2007 at 9:33 am

    The idea that criminalizing abortion makes it more rare is one of those things that sounds like common knowledge but actually has no basis in reality. Hell, my grandmother had two abortions, one before Roe and one after. The only difference was that the first could’ve killed her. (Or for those who don’t think her sinful, martial sex-having, not-capable-of-caring-for-another-baby life didn’t matter — it could’ve orphaned my mother and uncle. Or for those who, like so many Republican pro-lifers, care a hundred times more about “pre-born” children than existing children — it could’ve prevented my aunt from being born years later.)

    Anyway, it does tell you something about people who claim that wire-hanger-type abortions are basically a deterrent, like the civilized death penalty rationale. “If we electrocute this guy, it’ll stop the next one from breaking the law. If this woman has to induce her own miscarriage, the next one will keep her legs closed.”

  23. Nicole
    October 18, 2007 at 9:36 am

    …Yes, perhaps that should’ve gone in the other thread dedicated to this topic, but that “obvious point” comment really pissed me off.

  24. Thomas, TSID
    October 18, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Josh, read what I wrote above about standpoint theory. If you don’t know all of the variables in someone’s calculation, you’re going to have a hard time assessing if it’s rational. If you see a result that defies expectations, it may be because the expectations were based on incomplete information about the forces at work.

  25. Nicole
    October 18, 2007 at 9:38 am

    And “martial sex-having” should be “marital sex-having.” Although that sounds like a really fun karate class.

  26. Peter
    October 18, 2007 at 9:48 am

    How dare a man make the obvious point that, all things being equal, one would expect fewer abortions in countries where they are illegal!

    But it isn’t an obvious point. As people have pointed out, it includes a lot of presuppositions. The biggest one is that the primary reason for abortion is convenience. To go way to the extreme, you would not expect fewer people to eat in countries where eating was made illegal.

    There are some things in life where setting the bar higher makes fewer people climb over. There are others where setting the bar higher just means more people have to climb higher, at whatever personal cost to themselves.

    The other thing the “obvious” point misses – that should be even more obvious, is that legal abortion is pretty high up on the list of things involving reproductive freedom. I don’t have statistics, but it seems obvious to me that there is likely a very high corrollary between illegal abortion and limited access to contraception.

    So even if there is an effect of lowering the percentage of abortions in places where it is unsafe or illegal, a dramatic increase in the number of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies will easily drive the raw numbers way high.

    And don’t for an instant kid yourself that if abortion became universally illegal in this country, the whole pro-life machine would pack up and go home satisfied. They have already linked contraception to their culture of death idea, and if they succeed with abortion, their whole focus will shift to contraception. They are already working on illegalizing it.

  27. Patrick
    October 18, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Not to point out the obvious, but one can claim that something is a “sound consideration” for not doing X while acknowledging that sometimes the balance of reasons comes out in favor of X.

    Certainly the danger of illegal abortion is a prima facie reason for not getting one. But saying this does not imply all women who get an illegal abortion are irrational (though it does imply that some could be, but this isn’t controversial unless you are committed to the claim that people are always rational).

    And certainly one can defend a claim that one feels is plausible by appealing to contravening data.

  28. Suz
    October 18, 2007 at 11:45 am

    “I think of all the times I voted for people just because they’re male. You know? The ballot comes up, and I’m like, ‘Wow. He’s a dude. I think I’ll vote for him. We’ve got similar genitalia. I’m — he’s getting my vote.’

    And yet the fact that he would NOT vote for a candidate because they have different genitalia, is completely missed.

  29. October 18, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    “Not to point out the obvious, but one can claim that something is a “sound consideration” for not doing X while acknowledging that sometimes the balance of reasons comes out in favor of X.”

    Not to point out the obvious, but when one claims that something is a “sound consideration” for not doing X, while also expressing skepticism over how often X is chosen in situations where “that something” would be an issue….

    One is full of shit if one later claims to have suggested anything other than “you mean there are usually considerations other than X? Does not compute!”

    *************

    Daisy,

    I may just be speculating here, but my understanding of that blip is not that it comes from women who are pregnant when abortion is legalized, but that legaliazing abortion creates a social shift that results in a short rise in abortions for various reasons.

    The lower abortion rates in places where abortion is legal isn’t just due to the larger use of contraception, it’s also due to the fundamental reasons why abortion and contraception are legal. Codifying into law a woman’s right to control her own body makes her more likely to assert that right in other ways.

    With regard to the woman who helps create the blip in abortion rates: She may have sex when she might not have before, but is still getting used to birth control, so failure rate is higher. She may be more likely to abort, but is still working on leaving the guy that insists she be barefoot and pregnant. She may feel it’s less of a risk to her family to have an abortion now that it’s legal, but still hasn’t managed to convince her husband that contraception is ok. Etc.

    Have you read In a Different Voice? One of the interesting things about Gilligan’s interviews with women considering abortions is how, no matter what they choose, the decisions they are less likely to regret are the ones they make for their own happiness, rather than to fulfill others expectations. And no matter what side of the abortion fence they end up residing on, it’s clear that having gone through the process of having to make such a decision for themselves* tends to make them more responsible people overall. They are less likely to see themselves as helpless and therefore more likely to make the kinds of choices that make needing an abortion less likely – to the extent that this is possible. It’s more the “thinking it through” rather than the actually having to make the decision that does this. In a world in which women are not supposed to consider any choice other than not having an abortion, women are less likely to think through such hypoetheticals – beyond “how do I survive?” in any case.

    Oddly enough, treating women like morally mature adults tends to encourage women to act like morally mature adults. The blip comes from a lot of women learning to act morally mature all at once. That isn’t to say that women aren’t morally mature compared to men, just that the patriarchy encourages women to act like children in certain ways, and so scaling back the patriarchy encourages women to act like adults in certain ways. Unsurprisingly, how they view their roles as girlfriends, wives, and mothers is one of these ways.

  30. October 18, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Fiction, of course, but the numbers came from somewhere.

    Well, yes, they probably came from THE AUTHOR’S IMAGINATION, this being fiction and all.

  31. Josh
    October 18, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    But when the results of a study conflict with “what one would expect,” we expect him to recognize it.

    Which is exactly what he did.

    Josh, read what I wrote above about standpoint theory. If you don’t know all of the variables in someone’s calculation, you’re going to have a hard time assessing if it’s rational.

    I did. I don’t see the relevance of standpoint theory. However many variables go into a person’s calculation, if you remove one variable that weighs against taking a particular action, one would expect that, in the aggregate, more people will take that particular action. It seems to me that Yglesias rather than his detractors is the one who is assuming women behave rationally by responding to relevant incentives.

    As people have pointed out, it includes a lot of presuppositions. The biggest one is that the primary reason for abortion is convenience.

    I don’t see how it presupposes that. It simply presupposes that removing one barrier to obtaining an abortion will result in some women having abortions who otherwise wouldn’t have.

  32. Patrick
    October 18, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    Mickle

    “Not to point out the obvious, but when one claims that something is a “sound consideration” for not doing X, while also expressing skepticism over how often X is chosen in situations where “that something” would be an issue….”

    That is just a silly interpretation of Matt’s claim insofar as there is any coherent interpretation at all. It is obvious that there are other reasons besides the legality and danger of the procedure why one might or might not get an abortion. And this decision might or might not be rational (though obviously the rationality of the decision shouldn’t be used as a reason for governmental intervention).

    The idea that Matt doesn’t understand that is ludicrous. It is deliberately and perniciously uncharitable (as he points out in his more recent post) to think otherwise. His claim is that legalizing abortion, thus making it safer, socially more acceptable, and less likely to result in prosecution will tend to increase the number of abortions while decreasing the number of people dying due to abortions.

    This is a plausible claim. One that is not directly contradicted by the study (though it does disconfirm it a bit). And Matt then provided a data point to support his claim.

    You can:
    1) Say the study truly contradicts Matt’s claim
    2) Say his data point is erroneous or questionable

    and conclude that he is wrong. It is simply careless to the point of negligence to ascribe the immensely stupid view to him that legality (and safety) are the only factors that people consider while deciding whether to have abortions.

  33. redhorse
    October 18, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    I will admit that as the top Democratic candidates began to solidify, I did say to my husband, “It’s so cool that we actually have a black man and a woman running, as well as white men, and most of the discussion I’ve seen has been on their position on Iraq or healthcare, not on whether an abundance of pigment in the skin or a lack of male genitals makes you unable to be President or not.” And we both nodded and said, “Yeah, that is cool.” And then we went and decided that while we will vote, in the end, for whoever the Democratic party agrees to nominate, in the primary, we like Edwards’ positions best. Not because we’re picking on skin or genitals, but because he’s putting the poverty problem high on his agenda.

  34. October 18, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    Matt called the stats from the study “questionable.”

    The stats in the study demonstrates that the legality of abortion does not drive abortion rates.

    He gives no real reason for why he thinks that these stats are “questionable”. The only opposing stat he gives is generally considered to me an anomaly, and it turns out actually is highly questionable. He also waves his hands around and makes some comments about “correlating variables” – as if the the correlation between such variables and the legality of abortion wasn’t the study’s, and Jessica’s, point to begin with.

    Plus, please note that he called the stats themselves questionable, not just the conclusions being drawn from them. Which means that he not only finds it questionable that there could be a link between all those “correlating variables” and whether or not abortion is legal, he also seems to find it questionable that that the correlation be anything other than so strongly the opposite from what is being proposed that it is inconceivable that legality does anything but trump all other considerations.

    It would be one thing if he said the conclusions being drawn from the data were wrong, but he is also asserting that the data must be incorrect. (If that’s not what he meant, he needs to learn to write better.)

    In the absense of any other reason given as to why this data is questionable, what other conculsion can a rational person draw expect that Matt believes either that

    a) women only consider the legality of abortion

    or

    b) the other considerations are routinely drawfed by the legality of abortion

    both of which can be sarcastically summarized with ““you mean there are usually considerations other than legality? Does not compute!”

  35. Pingback: bastard.logic
  36. zuzu
    October 19, 2007 at 12:08 am

    It seems to me that Yglesias rather than his detractors is the one who is assuming women behave rationally by responding to relevant incentives.

    The problem is that he can’t see the full range of incentives that are relevant, so he thinks that women would respond more to illegality than they do. Because, again, he’s never going to know the sheer terror that a pregnancy scare can produce. He’s never going to have to worry about having another mouth to feed, or whether this will destroy his health, or being tied to an abusive husband, or what have you.

    Women *are* rational actors. Risking your life to get an illegal abortion is a perfectly rational choice when the consequences of a pregnancy are great enough. Illegality is, really, far down the on the list of many women’s considerations in having an abortion. Mostly, illegality presents a problem of supply, not of demand.

  37. October 21, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Very obvious that Matt Y. (and Josh B. of GA) will never have to worry about being pregnant, let alone having an abortion.

    Matt Y. claims that the number of abortions went up in the 1970s (a decade starting from 01/01/1971 to 12/31/1980). Hogwash. After Roe, number of abortions went down, NOT up. Before Roe, all abortions were illegal in all 50 states (even in states like New York and California) and all US territories.

    And Matt needs a reality check and look at what is happening in Nicaragua. Eighty-two women, at least confirmed, are dead. And I suspect that the government in that country is blatantly covering up the maternal deaths, because if they are not trying to cover up the maternal deaths, then the number of women who died from pregnancy-related complications in the 11 months since their total ban on abortion went into effect would be much higher.

Comments are closed.