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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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40 Responses

  1. Lauren O
    Lauren O September 8, 2008 at 3:05 am |

    Like you say, there’s a big difference between the personal beliefs of a politician and his/her actual policies. I don’t care when Joe Biden think life begins. I care what he thinks about Roe vs. Wade. Has he spoken about that anywhere? I don’t see it in that NYT article, but maybe I didn’t read hard enough.

  2. Alex
    Alex September 8, 2008 at 4:41 am |

    Wow, that nytimes article really misconstrues what was said in that interview. The rest of the quote was:

    “I’m prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.”

    Followed by: “I voted against curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view.”

    You can watch the full interview here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032608

    And here’s the transcript: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26590488/

  3. White Trash Academic
    White Trash Academic September 8, 2008 at 7:25 am |

    Wow. Way to go NYT. It’s funny how hearing the whole context of the quote prompts a completely different reaction. Way to go MSM!

  4. natmusk
    natmusk September 8, 2008 at 7:29 am |

    I agree with Alex, Biden did say that life begins at conception, however he clarified that it was a religious belief and therefore had no place in politics.

  5. AmericanPapist
    AmericanPapist September 8, 2008 at 8:26 am |

    Breaking: Sen. Joe Biden follows in Pelosi’s footsteps…

    On today’s Meet the Press,…

  6. DaisyDeadhead
    DaisyDeadhead September 8, 2008 at 10:07 am |

    Thing is, when someone gives a graceful and humble reply (IT’S ABOVE MY PAY GRADE) then they eat him alive for admitting he doesn’t know everything. In the end, these are individual and personal questions or they aren’t. And Biden’s view (expressed in the quote in Alex’s post) is the majority-opinion in the country, but somehow the pro-lifers have set the terms of these debates and these ethical/moral questions.

    We MUST be able to turn these questions around on them. As it is, one can establish superior morality simply by stating I BELIEVE LIFE BEGINS AT CONCEPTION, well, so what? What does that have to do with anything?

    It’s like the instant moral status that is conferred when you say “I don’t eat meat” … the difference is that you are actually expected to follow up on that and not eat it.

    By contrast, the pro-lifers don’t have to do a damn thing and aren’t expected to.

  7. Conrad
    Conrad September 8, 2008 at 10:25 am |

    There are a couple of points in your post that don’t make sense to me. First, you say you’re “totally cool” with Biden’s personal belief that life begins at conception, and even suggest that this is a respectable position both morally and scientifically However, you later call it “very disconcerting to hear the Democratic vice presidential nominee adopting right-wing talking points about abortion.” I don’t get it. If Biden was expressing his sincerely-held, personal religious view that life begins at conception, how can you then turn around and say he’s “adopting right-wing talking points”?

    Second, you assert that Republicans “oppose even basic birth control.” I would suggest there are VERY few Republicans who are flat-out opposed to birth control (i.e., don’t use it, want to see it banned, and/or wish it didn’t exist). I think what you may be referring to are Republicans who are opposed to the idea of schools teaching children about birth control, or distributing birth control to children, especially without informing the kids’ parents. But that’s quite a bit different from simply opposing birth control. The abortion issue is divisive enough already. Let’s try to be fair in representing the views of our opponents.

    Third, I don’t really understand the position that seems to say, on the one hand, that we should “leave it up to women to decide whether or not they carry a pregnancy to term,” while on the other hand try to “Decrease the abortion rate through contraception and education.” If it’s entirely a matter of individual choice whether or not to have an abortion, why should taxpayers’ funds be used to try to decrease the abortion rate? Either the state has a legitimate interest in reducing the incidence of abortions or it doesn’t. I assume your position would be that it’s none of the government’s business whether a woman has an abortion, and that those who would disagree with that is simply trying to impose his or her religious beliefs on others. But if that’s the case, then why is it okay for the government to say, alright, let’s spend x millions of dollars to try to reduce the abortion rate? For what reason? If government has a right to say, “abortion is bad, let’s reduce it,” then what logically precludes the government from trying to reduce the abortion rate through direct regulation rather than through education and providing adoption services, etc.

    Not to beat this horse to death, but let’s use the 1st Amendment as an analogy. Everyone would agree it’s none of the government’s business if I choose to practice Islam. So what would you say if the government, while keeping it legal to practice Islam, nevertheless decided there were too many Muslims in this country and therefore decided to spend taxpayers’ dollars educating people on religions other than Islam. I assume you would find that completely unacceptable. I don’t see the difference between this and abortion. If it’s none of the government’s business whether women have abortion, then the government shouldn’t be in the business of discouraging abortions. What am I missing?

  8. Cara
    Cara September 8, 2008 at 10:45 am |

    But if that’s the case, then why is it okay for the government to say, alright, let’s spend x millions of dollars to try to reduce the abortion rate? For what reason? If government has a right to say, “abortion is bad, let’s reduce it,” then what logically precludes the government from trying to reduce the abortion rate through direct regulation rather than through education and providing adoption services, etc.

    Um gee, I don’t know. Maybe because there are reasons to decrease the abortion rate that don’t have so much to do with saving babies as they do with preventing women from undergoing a surgical operation, albeit a relatively very safe one, that they could otherwise avoid? (See, I would have loved to avoid having gall bladder surgery due to not needing to have it, but would have obviously been very pissed if the government decided that I could not have it.) Or maybe to do with the fact that many women would prefer to carry to term and only choose abortion because, for example, they cannot afford to raise a(nother) child, and so reducing the abortion rate in those instances is a very good thing?

    See, sometimes it is actually about women.

  9. feminist finance
    feminist finance September 8, 2008 at 10:51 am |

    Conrad appears to be trolling (?) but I also asked myself his question 1. What is disconcerting about a politician saying they have a particular moral or religious belief but that because it’s a personal religious belief it’s not fair to impose it on others? “Life begins at conception” is a valid statement of theology. It has been one failure of progressives that they have been so unable to make the argument as to why a statement of theology should not be the deciding factor in establishing a statement of public policy in a pluralistic society. Not everyone needs to believe personhood doesn’t begin until birth. We ought only be concerned with outcomes (advocacy for or agaisnt reproductive freedom) and not with an individual’s theology which is, of course, none of our business just as out uteruses are none of theirs. We ought to be saying, “right on!” when Biden says that his beliefs are his but that criminalizing abortion just because goes against his own beliefs in unacceptable. Not, “there goes another Catholic, parroting the party line on when life begins” when in fact it’s not the party line: it doesn’t end with some variation on “my way or the highway.” I thought I saw the transcript Alex posted before reading the article you linked and I thought Biden’s answer to that question was great, very honest and thoughtful and fundamentally pro-choice (though we can certainly pick around the edges where he opposes public financing of abortions for poor women).

  10. William
    William September 8, 2008 at 11:53 am |

    “Tell people not to have sex. Don’t give them education or contraception. Make abortion a crime,” which is basically the Republican platform. And yet we’re still adopting their frame when talking about this issue.

    Exactly. If the Democrats want to paint themselves as the party of change its time to put their money where their mouthes are. The Republicans have taken an extreme position that demands a complete and unflagging commitment to a specific set of simplistic values. Why on earth do the dems keep granting their assumptions? Wheres the radical criticism? Wheres the moral relativism we hear so much about?

  11. JivinJ
    JivinJ September 8, 2008 at 12:31 pm |

    Hi Jill,
    Could you explain how all the efforts prolifers put into preventing the destruction of human embryos for embryonic stem cell research fit into the “controlling sex and women” motivation you’ve put on us? What about Terri Schiavo? Was that about “controlling sex and women” too?

    I think your claim that there is “no concern” among prolifers regarding embryos which fail to implant is clearly false. How often do you post here about prolife organizations which oppose birth control because they think it could impede the implantation of human embryos?

    Also, zygotes/fertilized eggs don’t implant. Embryos which are about week old implant.

  12. Conrad
    Conrad September 8, 2008 at 12:41 pm |

    Cara: I think your answer is a bit of a cop-out. When pro-choice politicians talk about how they would really like to reduce the abortion rate, they’re not saying that because they think abortion is medically less safe than childbirth, or because they plan to offer women government benefits so they can afford to carry their pregnancies to term. (If the politicians’ proposal for reducing abortions is to increase access to birth control or promote adoptions, then they obviously aren’t doing anything for the mother who wants to have more children but simply can’t afford it.) The truth is, politicians (like Bill Clinton, for example) talk about reducing the abortion rate as if that would be a positive good. Either they really believe there’s something wrong with abortion, or they’re trying to fool pro-life voters into believing they share their values.

    It just seems to me that if the basis for the pro-choice position is fundamentally libertarian — it’s none of the government’s business if I have an abortion — then consistency demands that pro-choice politicians not advocate government policies whose essential purpose is to reduce the abortion rate. Otherwise, you are accepting the premise that it IS, in fact, a legitimate governmental objective to reduce the number of abortions, and the only real basis I see for that government interest is moral discomfort with the idea of abortion.

  13. Cara
    Cara September 8, 2008 at 1:07 pm |

    Conrad — is Jill Bill Clinton? Or a politician? How about me? Because if not — and I do believe that neither of us is a politician of any sort let alone a certain ex-president of the U.S. — then it would be your answer that is a cop-out. You didn’t ask about the mainstream Democratic pro-choice position. You asked about the position expressed here, which would be the liberal feminist one. I have no real interest in defending the former, and in fact criticize it regularly. I responded to the latter by giving my answer to the question, which also happens to be the same as my interpretation of Jill’s remarks. If Jill actually meant something different than what I described, she’ll have to cover that one.

    p.s. you need to educate yourself on the “pro-life” position on birth control before you speak about it. You’ll find many, many posts on that matter on this very blog.

  14. choice
    choice September 8, 2008 at 1:20 pm |

    I really hate when men talk about abortion as if they know what the choice is like.
    Really, talk about coming out sounding like an asshole.
    There’s no way t avoid that.
    Best to realize that women will kill themselves trying to have illegal abortions if the right to choose is taken away.
    Biden and Obama do not impress me regarding feminist issues. Not as long as they beenfit from sexism within their own party.
    not when they stood by and let the fight get dirty and misogynistic.

    They may have my vote, but they do not have props from em.

  15. napthia9
    napthia9 September 8, 2008 at 1:25 pm |

    “1. What is disconcerting about a politician saying they have a particular moral or religious belief but that because it’s a personal religious belief it’s not fair to impose it on others?”

    I don’t find politicians promising not to impose their religious beliefs on others disconcerting, but I do think it’s idiotic to admit to believing abortion is morally wrong while trying to drum up political support for keeping abortion available. Pro-choice advocates do and should point out that religious beliefs about abortion should not affect political policy for everyone; but not in the context of Their Personal Beliefs. That makes it to easy to argue against- it looks as if they lack the strength of their convictions, and the sensible “but politically I think” part of their quote inevitably gets lost. On the other hand, if the same explanation is made impersonal and used as a criticism of anti-choice politics, then it’s rhetorically stronger, more convincing, and capitulates less.

    So Biden and other pro-choice people in his position should respond: “I happen to believe that using religious belief to decide important/controversial policies is un-American/poor/bad” instead of “Yes, I agree it’s murder, but I’m not going to do anything about it.”

  16. Meghan
    Meghan September 8, 2008 at 1:29 pm |

    Also Conrad, even as abortion is safer then giving birth, not having an abortion is safer still. I’m sure most women who have unintended pregnancies would preferred to have prevented the pregnancy in the first place but options to terminate the pregnancy should remain available.

    I’m not sure, say, public education on the importance of washing your hands would mean that antibiotics are a immoral thing.

  17. Lauren O
    Lauren O September 8, 2008 at 1:43 pm |

    I think your claim that there is “no concern” among prolifers regarding embryos which fail to implant is clearly false.

    About half of fertilized eggs don’t implant. That means the other half are just naturally ejected during menstruation. I have never heard pro-lifers weeping for the Holocaust of naturally unimplanted zygotes the way they weep for the much smaller number of aborted ones. That would be a consistent position to take, akin to mourning the number of cancer victims who didn’t choose to die like naturally unimplanted zygotes didn’t choose to, in the pro-life view, “die.”

    In fact, come to think of it, I hear a lot of pro-lifers going on about stem cell research, but I’ve never heard them criticizing fertility clinics, even though fertility clinics operate on technology which requires several fertilized eggs to be thrown away for every fertilized egg that is brought to term by a woman.

    I suppose, though, that just because I’ve never heard pro-lifers take those stances doesn’t mean there aren’t a few out there who are unhinged enough to believe them.

  18. MaryC
    MaryC September 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm |

    “Either they really believe there’s something wrong with abortion, or they’re trying to fool pro-life voters into believing they share their values.”

    Or, they’re trying to find common ground on a highly polarized and emotionally charged topic.

  19. Ah, Sanity
    Ah, Sanity September 8, 2008 at 2:04 pm |

    […] conception. Since I’ve hammered this point too many times already, I outsource my response to Jill at Feministe, who reminds us that “when life begins”—despite being tossed about as though […]

  20. Conrad
    Conrad September 8, 2008 at 2:58 pm |

    Cara: Obviously you don’t have to defend any beliefs/positions that you don’t hold. That should go without saying. I had understood Jill to be advocating the “very moral position of the Democratic party [of] . . . decreas[ing] the abortion rate through contraception and education.” I was pointing out that the willingness to use government resources for the stated purpose of making abortions more rare seems to imply at least some recognition that abortion is (a) morally questionable, and (b) for that reason, government’s business. Therefore, if one’s pro-choice position is based on the libertarian notion that abortion is none of the government’s business, then it seems inconsistent to advocate using government resources to discourage people from having abortions. Note that I’m not really expressing a POV on the issue, simply pointing out what I see as the inconsistency between saying this is none of government’s business on the one hand but then advocating government involvement to discourage abortions on the other.

    Granted, if abortions were seen as medically unsafe, then that would possibly justify one’s wanting to reduce the abortion rate even if one didn’t accept the pro-life view on the morality of abortion. But that’s also tricky, in my view, because the concern that abortion is a medically risky procedure could easily invite restrictions based on concerns for the safety of the mother rather than on concerns over the “rights of the unborn,” which is where the debate has been centered over the years.

  21. Dr William Dyer
    Dr William Dyer September 8, 2008 at 4:36 pm |

    Ok, so we can say at this point Obama and Biden are willing to openly state it is up to the individuals involved to decide on their life issues for things like abortion. They embrace the idea that people can differ on beliefs and co-exist peacefully in the same society. What Biden says are his personal views and thinking if he was to be in such a situation are worth consideration in its own.

    Whenever it is claimed to take place, ensoulment and its baggage are just assumed to be there by many, even Biden. The large body of exploration and discovery gives a set of data where in asserting something based on the presence of a soul makes as much sense as planning on starting a unicorn farm. There nothing to go on when it comes to demonstrating the existence of souls; and yet in this vacuum, belief of a soul is left to effect and dictate actions as if real.

    Biden is well-educated and more or less has had access to the best that a modern society has to offer in terms of information on the world around us. Yet, Biden has chosen to use the teachings of an organization who actively works to hold onto ideas and understandings of the universe generated by a society that is two millennia in the past. Biden, a leader in a group that claims to have the mantle of progressive governance in of one of the most advanced societies ever, currently displays a core understanding of the human condition little beyond his chosen source. While the Republican ticket may represent something much worse in most every way, Biden is not completely removed from the ideas that they hold when it comes to life.

    Obama and Biden are a really wonderful step forward if America takes it, but I am still waiting for leadership that demonstrates an understanding of things based on the evidence at hand.

  22. Jeff
    Jeff September 8, 2008 at 7:15 pm |

    To say that religion has no place in politics is untrue. Beliefs are what make politics. You might not want a particular church running the government and I don’t either but that is not the same as religion/philosophy and politics. And to say that abortion is a “moral issue” and cannot be “imposed on others” is cowardly. We stand up for what is right with murder, rape and incest and those are all based on marality. The “can’t impose morality” argument is that same, lame agrgument that was used to not stand up against slavery and civil rights. Not to mention that telling someone that they cannot impose their morality sounds like you are trying to tell me that I am wrong. You wouldn’t be imposing your morality in that would you?

  23. William
    William September 8, 2008 at 7:30 pm |

    Or, they’re trying to find common ground on a highly polarized and emotionally charged topic.

    What common ground is there? One side says that basic human liberty is murder which should be punishable by law, the other says a human being’s bodily autonomy ought not to be the province of the government. There are some things where meeting in the middle simply isn’t ok.

  24. RoRo
    RoRo September 8, 2008 at 8:06 pm |

    William, Conrad — There are lots of reasons why it would be better to prevent a pregnancy than get an abortion.
    1) It costs less.
    2) It’s less painful
    3) A trip to the pharmacy to get a pack of pills/box of condoms is way less difficult than taking time off work and driving somewhere that may be quite far away for an abortion.
    4) I think most here would agree that even though it’s a choice that is vital to put into the hands of the woman, nobody ever said it was an easy choice.

    Maybe let’s put it like this: heart disease costs this country a lot of money, a huge amount of personal pain and suffering, and many lives each year. So much so that it is in the national interest to educate the public about it, how to prevent it, and insurance companies even often give insentives to go join a gym. Yes, we could give everyone a triple-bypass (which is an excellent thing for those who need it, sometimes through absolutely no fault of their own), but wouldn’t it be better if we just decided go around all that and educate people, giving them the resources to prevent disease in the first place? (Ok so the analogy isn’t perfect, as some people WANT to get pregnant, etc)

  25. Amie Newman
    Amie Newman September 8, 2008 at 8:28 pm |

    Jill, thank you for your thoughtful piece. This issue is not about fertilization, conception or when life begins. To be anti-choice is to oppose legal abortion on the basis of wanting to control women’s lives. There are many who oppose abortion, personally (as Joe Biden has said), and they would never conceive (sorry for the pun) of imposing this personal belief on others. The legalization of abortion, ultimately, is about allowing and trusting women to act as their own moral agents without government interference – without the government delving so deeply into women’s lives that women cannot control their own destinies. Criminalizing abortion has never, currently does not, and will never work as a method of reducing the number of abortions and while those who are anti-choice believe that it would somehow change the way women view their own bodies, reproduction, pregnancies, etc. it doesn’t and it won’t – it only reduces the number of safe abortions, thereby harming women, harming families and burdening society with terrible human and financial costs. We see this around the world where abortion is illegal and compared to legal.

    The best road for us to travel is to steer the conversation away from deep inside women’s bodies (literally) where no person has a right to regulate and towards what kinds of laws we, as a society, are willing to support in a democratic system.

    I don’t care what one believes about when life begins – it’s a personal decision. What I care about is creating a society where we value women enough to know that we understand these issues better than anyone – that women who get abortions are women who are mothers are women who will be mothers. Until we re- focus completely on reducing unintended pregnancies because we know that for women around the world unintended pregnancy can mean the difference between life and death, poverty or stability, starvation or ensuring that your children are fed, we will be barking up the wrong tree.

    Anti-choicers who are 100% committed to making sure that women’s rights, that family’s rights are taken away in service to their own personal ideology will always be disappointed – they can attempt to enact all the laws in the world but you’ll never stop women from being their own moral agents.

    Thanks for writing about this, Jill. As usual you are right on target!!

    Amie Newman
    RH Reality Check

  26. Brokaw Let Biden off the Hook | The Sundries Shack

    […] at conception. Pro-life folks are pointing and yelling “A-ha!” and pro-choice folks are in a bit of a pout and looking for Biden to revise his […]

  27. Brokaw Let Biden off the Hook | The Sundries Shack

    […] at conception. Pro-life folks are pointing and yelling “A-ha!” and pro-choice folks are in a bit of a pout and looking for Biden to revise his […]

  28. Mary
    Mary September 8, 2008 at 9:37 pm |

    What common ground is there? One side says that basic human liberty is murder which should be punishable by law, the other says a human being’s bodily autonomy ought not to be the province of the government. There are some things where meeting in the middle simply isn’t ok.

    I agree, but pragmatically speaking, there is no way one side of this argument is going to wake up one morning and agree with the other. I think taking one side of the argument, not budging, and expecting the other side to “come around” is not realistic. If not to try to find the practical, realistic points of agreement – what would you suggest be done instead? I am not being a smartass with this question.

  29. SoMG
    SoMG September 8, 2008 at 11:25 pm |

    The whole argument about fetal personhood is a distraction anyway. Basing abortion rights on fetal non-personhood is soooooo 1970s. Today we claim the right to kill anything or anyone, person or no, who is located inside our bodies. Including unborns AND already-borns who (hypothetically) crawl in. We claim this right for women and (hypothetically) for men. If you’re inside the boundary defined by my skin, then you live or die at my sufference, even though you’re a person. This is part of the meaning of the word “my” in the phrase “my body”.

    We further claim the right to withhold the contents of our bloodstreams from unborns, just as we are entitled to withhold them from already-borns even at the cost of their lives. Additionally we claim the right to avoid major medical/surgical traumas (such as childbirth) even at the cost of innocent unborn persons’ lives’, just as we are entitled to avoid them even at the cost of innocent already-born persons’ lives (by refusing to donate potentially life-saving transplantable organs). Any one of these three rights would justify abortion on demand and we claim all three.

    Abortion on demand may be homicide but it is JUSTIFIABLE homicide.

  30. Conrad
    Conrad September 9, 2008 at 9:03 am |

    I agree with Dr. Dyer that there is no scientific evidence indicating the existence of souls. That belief resides exclusively in the province of faith.

    I would further submit that Amie’s statement that “to be anti-choice is to oppose legal abortion on the basis of wanting to control women’s lives” is also, fundamentally, a statement of faith, unsupported by objective evidence.

    One could assert exactly the same thing about Southern slaveholders in the 19th century: “To be an abolitionist is to oppose slavery on the basis of wanting to control plantation-owners’ lives.”

    Obviously, laws denying access to abortion have the effect of “controlling the lives” of those women who would otherwise choose to have an abortion. Similarly, traffic laws “control the lives” of people who would choose to drive 90 mph in a school zone. However, the object of the law isn’t the control over people’s lives, it’s to ensure the safety of kids in the school zone.

    If people want to find common ground on the abortion issue, a good place to start would be to check your paranoia at the door.

  31. William
    William September 9, 2008 at 9:37 am |

    I agree, but pragmatically speaking, there is no way one side of this argument is going to wake up one morning and agree with the other. I think taking one side of the argument, not budging, and expecting the other side to “come around” is not realistic. If not to try to find the practical, realistic points of agreement – what would you suggest be done instead? I am not being a smartass with this question.

    No, I get your question and that you’re not being a smartass, its something I’ve struggled with as well. I suppose my answer about what there is to be done comes from a slightly different angle. I would challenge one of the assumptions you (and, honestly, most people involved) seem to be making: that because there is an argument there is a lack of clarity. SCOTUS has, despite being a relatively conservative body, ruled in favor of abortion more than once. A pretty solid majority of people in this country are in favor of abortion. There are some people who disagree with abortion but really their opinions do not matter. This is a settled issue. Just as some people got up in arms over the Brown v. Board of Education decisions, some people are up in arms over Roe v. Wade and it’s implications. The fundamental reality is that the pro choice side won the war, they managed to get abortion declared a constitutional right. They’ve won the consciousness of a solid majority of the American people. Continuing to engage a relatively small minority of little tyrants because they’re loud and have managed to gain a chokehold on one of the major political parties puts defenders of abortion rights in a position where they have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

  32. The Confabulum » Blog Archive » Talking Past Each Other

    […] Jill from Feministe: […]

  33. spike the cat
    spike the cat September 9, 2008 at 1:11 pm |

    “I would further submit that Amie’s statement that “to be anti-choice is to oppose legal abortion on the basis of wanting to control women’s lives” is also, fundamentally, a statement of faith, unsupported by objective evidence.”

    Amie’s sentiment is correct and can be validated by examining various historical and social rationales for societies and regimes within the last century that have implemented governmental policies in the attempt to manipulate reproductive practices and ultimately demographics.

    Many such restrictive policies have been in response to declining birth rates, overpopulation or nationalism. But as with policies molded by religious morality, the primary target demographic is the same: women of childbearing age.

    The ability to control one’s own reproductive destiny is indeed one of the most important factors in a woman’s life. And her choices have social, cultural and economic ramifications for generations to come. It is indeed a grab for control.

    Consider the further evidence about what we are talking about:

    “What is most striking about these recent studies of abortion around the world is that whether it is legal or not, women are just as likely to get an abortion. The World Health Organization, with AGI, found in 2007 that abortion rates are “virtually” equal in rich and poor countries. Looking at abortion trends from 1995 to 2003, researchers concluded that regardless of restrictive abortion laws, women sought abortions.”
    Nowfoundation.org

    Objectively speaking, restricting access to abortion in light of this data, is indeed plenty evidence of a desire to control the female populace.

  34. William
    William September 9, 2008 at 11:47 pm |

    I would further submit that Amie’s statement that “to be anti-choice is to oppose legal abortion on the basis of wanting to control women’s lives” is also, fundamentally, a statement of faith, unsupported by objective evidence.

    There is no such thing as objective evidence, there are only the arbitrary rules based upon the values of the most powerful members of a given society. Talking about, or expecting, objective evidence is something to be done with science. This is politics/philosophy/ethics. Objective data is limited by the fundamental assumptions made by the participants in any given discussion.

    Obviously, laws denying access to abortion have the effect of “controlling the lives” of those women who would otherwise choose to have an abortion. Similarly, traffic laws “control the lives” of people who would choose to drive 90 mph in a school zone. However, the object of the law isn’t the control over people’s lives, it’s to ensure the safety of kids in the school zone.

    Thats a false parallel. When discussing the law the only data that really matters, outside of periods of revolution, is what has happened before. The current state of the law is to view a fetus as a clump of cells and an walking child as a human being. Those definitions are certainly up for discussion, but until you change the working definitions you have to abide by them. In our society we make laws, in theory, based upon the defense of human liberty. A man doing 90 in a school zone is endangering the life of another human being (as defined by the law), a woman having an abortion is doing nothing more than exercising her time honored right to bodily sovereignty. In order to change that you need to first change the law so that a fetus is considered a human being, then make a compelling argument as to why the rights of that human being trump the rights of the human being whose body it has invaded.

    If people want to find common ground on the abortion issue, a good place to start would be to check your paranoia at the door.

    Yeah, some of us liberty loving folks get a bit twitchy when someone shows up who has an argument which boils down to “your body can be commandeered by someone else any time they please so long as they need it to live.”

  35. Conrad
    Conrad September 10, 2008 at 11:03 am |

    “Amie’s sentiment is correct and can be validated by examining various historical and social rationales for societies and regimes within the last century that have implemented governmental policies in the attempt to manipulate reproductive practices and ultimately demographics.”

    That’s an impressively-worded paragraph, but it boils down to mere assertion. Today’s abortion opponents aren’t bound by the “historical and social rationales” that derive from other places and times.

    “Many such restrictive policies have been in response to declining birth rates, overpopulation or nationalism. But as with policies molded by religious morality, the primary target demographic is the same: women of childbearing age.”

    Obviously, any abortion regulation will have women of childbearing age as its “target demographic.” That’s like pointing out that plantation owners were the target demographic of the Thirteen Amendment.

    “The ability to control one’s own reproductive destiny is indeed one of the most important factors in a woman’s life. And her choices have social, cultural and economic ramifications for generations to come. It is indeed a grab for control.”

    Let’s speak in plain English. When you talk about “the ability to control one’s own reproductive destiny,” that simply means the decision whether or not to have children. I agree that the decision whether or not to have children is one of the most important decisions (“factors”?) in ANYONE’s life (not just women). And by “ramifications for generations to come,” you’re referring to the unremarkable fact that a child born today could, in theory, have children of his or her own and thus help propagate the parents’ bloodline indefinitely. I won’t dispute that observation, although I question its relevance to this discussion. Your third sentence, however, is a complete non sequitur. First, abortion bans do not ipso facto mean that men and women no longer control the decision of whether or not to have children. People can still choose whether to mate, whom to mate with, and, using birth control and family planning, when to get pregnant. Second, just because abortion laws relate to procreation, it doesn’t follow that such laws are created solely for the purpose of controlling women. Simply asserting, or repeating the assertion, that abortion laws are about controlling women doesn’t make it so.

    “What is most striking about these recent studies of abortion around the world is that whether it is legal or not, women are just as likely to get an abortion. The World Health Organization, with AGI, found in 2007 that abortion rates are “virtually” equal in rich and poor countries. Looking at abortion trends from 1995 to 2003, researchers concluded that regardless of restrictive abortion laws, women sought abortions.”

    I think you are fooling yourself if you think that a comprehensive ban on abortion in an affluent, modern country like the U.S. wouldn’t severely reduce the abortion rate. In any event, your argument seems to cut both ways. If the existence of abortion laws have no measurable effect on the incidence of abortions, then how do such laws “control” women?

  36. SoMG
    SoMG September 10, 2008 at 9:31 pm |

    Conrad, you wrote: “I think you are fooling yourself if you think that a comprehensive ban on abortion in an affluent, modern country like the U.S. wouldn’t severely reduce the abortion rate. ”

    If it did, we’d never know. Illegal abortions are invisible. All you would ever be able to say is MAYBE the ban is working.

  37. William
    William September 10, 2008 at 9:37 pm |

    I think you are fooling yourself if you think that a comprehensive ban on abortion in an affluent, modern country like the U.S. wouldn’t severely reduce the abortion rate. In any event, your argument seems to cut both ways. If the existence of abortion laws have no measurable effect on the incidence of abortions

    A ban on abortion would reduce the rate of abortion for SOME women. Already in rural areas abortions are difficult to obtain, which puts them out of the reach of poorer women. Women who have the resources can travel to obtain their abortions. Under an abortion ban the same thing would happen. Poor women would be shit out of luck when it came to safe abortions, but middle class and urban women would be able to find a way. My guess would be that if there was a rape exception the number of reported rapes would skyrocket, if there was a health exception the number of problem pregnancies would spike, and women of means would make up the difference by heading to Canada or forming groups like JANE in Chicago. In the meantime poor women would still seek abortions, they’d just end up like poor women in other parts of the world where abortion is illegal.

    how do such laws “control” women?

    All laws are about control. Thats why we have laws, to control behavior between individuals. Police, prisons, and all the other things that go with breaking the law are designed to provide disincentives for behavior society would like to discourage. Perhaps you’ve not often found yourself on the wrong side of a law, but the booking process and the behavior of police is designed with coercion in mind. The stated goal of prisons can be seen in the language we choose to use when describing them. They are “correctional” facilities, the idea being that a stay in them will correct behavior society has deemed unacceptable. Everything is set up to send the same message: do as society says or we will hurt you until you comply.

    A ban on abortion, whether it worked or not, would be something meant to control the behavior of women. In this case it would be something meant to tell women that their choices are to either undergo sterilization, celibacy, or risk being an incubator. The message is that recreational sex and bodily sovereignty are trumped by the high subjective value placed upon potential life as an end in itself. It is saying that new life, no matter the outcome, is always more important than liberty or the pursuit of happiness. On a deeper level it is saying that the lives and existences of women are inherently subservient to the needs of the next generation, that any plans or desires they have must always come second to their assigned social and biological function. It is a way of telling women what their place is and where they are in the social hierarchy. It is a way of controlling the discussion about that role by forcing dissenters to argue from a disadvantage, to have to overcome the idea that they are advocating murder or other criminal activity, to have to overcome orthodoxy and inertia before their arguments can even be heard.

    Perhaps you might not see things that way. Perhaps the world has done well by you. Perhaps you have never had the experience of seeing society align against you and bring it’s full weight into pushing you back down to your assigned station. Thats called privilege.

  38. Conrad Bibby
    Conrad Bibby September 10, 2008 at 10:29 pm |

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments.

  39. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 11, 2008 at 12:48 am |

    I don’t particularly like abortion, and I would have no problem with no one ever needing or wanting one again. I don’t really know, morally, how I feel about the fetus end of things; what stage I personally would consider it human, what rights it should have, etc.

    But that doesn’t matter: sure, legal abortions allow fetuses to be killed, which some people call murder. I don’t know about that. What I DO know is that outlawing abortion kills women. And that *IS* MURDER. And it takes away rights from people that I *know* should have them.

    So I’m going to support policies that prioritize preventing actual, provable murders of women over maybe-sorta-theoretical “murders” of cell clumps, while still hoping that eventually the debatable latter ones will end as well. So I don’t see a contradiction at all, in upholding a woman’s right to get an abortion while working towards them no longer being needed.

    So, in answer to the question “do you value the woman’s life more than the fetus’ ‘life’?” I say: um, hell yeah. Why should I value a woman’s life less than ANYONE else’s?

  40. I’m Not En-Raptured « Kittywampus
    I’m Not En-Raptured « Kittywampus April 12, 2009 at 10:55 pm |

    […] faith a private matter – unless it impinges significantly on how they would shape policy. So Joe Biden personally believes life begins at conception; he personally has serious qualms about abortion; yet he wouldn’t stop others from choosing […]

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