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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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37 Responses

  1. anon commenter
    anon commenter November 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm |

    People don’t actually believe that children in Africa are the moral equivalent of newborn babies in the first world – if they did, there would certainly be major pushes for research in how to prevent millions of children in Africa dying from horrible diseases every year.

  2. Jadey
    Jadey November 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm |

    It seems like the losses themselves are partly propelling the movement – it’s so easy to twist into a classic ‘underdog’ narrative, which is incredibly motivating and a powerful message machine. Which is not to say that fighting the movement is wrong, but as your article points to, so much of this is about the discourse, and not facts or reality, and as long as the narrative makes sense to some people, they’re going to keep supporting it.

  3. anon commenter
    anon commenter November 14, 2011 at 2:59 pm |

    Thank you for illustrating my point.

    No, actually I have to thank you for illustrating my point.

  4. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar November 14, 2011 at 3:34 pm |

    It’s been a stalemated situation for almost forty years, and though our political culture has moved far to the right in that time, support for public Roe has held up remarkably well. The anti-choicers are frustrated that they haven’t gotten what they wanted, and they’re now willing to take increasingly desperate measures. For some, that’s violence, though the violence really peaked in the 1990s with Clinton when they saw an executive branch that was against them after twelve years of anti-choice Republicans. Now, with another pro-choicer in the White House, they’ve finally abandoned one of their major strategic pillars: make it about abortion, not birth control. Abortion has always been very split, birth control has long enjoyed prohibitively wide support. Fetal personhood in law holds the promise of giving them everything they want, really moving the needle for the first time in forty years. But it also may be their grand overreach, the one that finally forces everyone to choose sides: pro-contraception is pro-choice, anti-choice is anti-contraception. If that becomes the way the sides are split, they lose in a rout.

  5. Athenia
    Athenia November 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm |

    I think the rhetoric “life begins at conception” is really killing their argument. They are talking that rhetoric to its logical end and surprise! Not even the people are throw that line out believe that life begins at conception.

    The real slogan is “We believe girls and women who have sex should face the consequences.”

  6. Phenomenology of a Mailbox
    Phenomenology of a Mailbox November 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm |

    Pro-lifers don’t actually believe that a fertilised egg is the moral equivalent of a newborn baby – if they did, there would certainly be major pushes for research on why more than half of all these cellular human beings are flushed out of the body and die.

    We already know why so many of them don’t implant. I think what you mean to say is that if we actually believed that “fertilized eggs” were infants, we would want to ensure that all of them stick.

    The problem I see with this argument is that it treats all deaths of beings with our moral status as negative. In reality, some types of death are morally negative, such as those that are caused by disease, while others, like dying of old age, are in no way negative or undesirable. This is why we ought to try to cure AIDS, for example, and should work towards creating a world where no one dies of it, but should not (and have no reason to) try to cure old age.

    The moral of the story is, it doesn’t follow from the fact that a given condition brings about the deaths of countless human beings that it is something we should try to prevent or cure.

  7. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm |

    “We believe girls and women who have sex should face the consequences..”
    Even if they were forced, or they end up dying.

  8. Celeste
    Celeste November 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm |

    The moral of the story is, it doesn’t follow from the fact that a given condition brings about the deaths of countless human beings that it is something we should try to prevent or cure.

    The lack of concern over failure to implant is a major problem I have with the pro-life rhetoric. I disagree with your statement above. I think the correct analogy is that of a 3-year old dropping dead of indeterminate cause, with no visible injury or disease.

    And what is much of cancer treatment, heart disease treatment, but an attempt to cure old age? No one actually dies of old age, they die of stroke, cancer, heart disease, and general deterioration of various organs. These are the things most commonly referred to as “old age.”

  9. Bushfire
    Bushfire November 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm |

    Great article, Jill!

  10. EG
    EG November 14, 2011 at 7:51 pm |

    Phenomenology of a Mailbox: In reality, some types of death are morally negative, such as those that are caused by disease, while others, like dying of old age, are in no way negative or undesirable.

    Just out of curiosity, how old are you? I’m fairly certain that, in forty years, if I am fortunate enough to hit 75–no, strike that. In fifteen years, when my mother hits 75, I’m going to find the prospect of her dying of old age very negative and infinitely undesirable. My grandmother died at 79, I believe, and the last thing she told my dad was that she was. not. ready. to go. Of breast cancer, by the way.

    Celeste: And what is much of cancer treatment, heart disease treatment, but an attempt to cure old age? No one actually dies of old age, they die of stroke, cancer, heart disease, and general deterioration of various organs.

    Quoted for truth. It’s not like there’s a preset age that one reaches and then, hey, you’re just so old you have to pop off regardless of how your health is (interesting article about people who live to be extremely old in New York magazine this week or last week, by the way). You develop cancer. Heart problems worsen. You have a stroke. And each and every one of those things is something that medical researchers have been studying and developing ways to treat/prevent.

  11. Robert
    Robert November 15, 2011 at 2:02 am |

    EG: Justoutofcuriosity,howoldareyou?I’mfairlycertainthat,infortyyears,ifIamfortunateenoughtohit75–no,strikethat.Infifteenyears,whenmymotherhits75,I’mgoingtofindtheprospectofherdyingofoldageverynegativeandinfinitelyundesirable.Mygrandmotherdiedat79,Ibelieve,andthelastthingshetoldmydadwasthatshewas.not.ready.togo.Ofbreastcancer,bytheway.

    (Why does quoting remove spaces from the quoted text?)

    Death, and mortality in general, is a topic that could use a discussion all its own. My thoughts on it have come to this: It sucks to lose loved ones, and it sucks to contemplate the stark inevitability of it happening to you one day. But would you really want to live in a world where most of the people who believed in, say, slavery were still alive, and still wielding the levers of power?

    Mortality isn’t a fun topic, and we certainly have a strained relationship with it as a culture (especially as a culture that venerates youth). But it’s not a stretch to say we would be much worse off if everyone were immortal. Human culture may leave a lot to be desired, but it would suck even worse if it weren’t subject to the hurdle of needing to constantly be taught to the next generation—you’d see a lot more ossified, irrational prejudice, and a lot fewer “fuck that noise” moments.

  12. EG
    EG November 15, 2011 at 8:48 am |

    Robert: But it’s not a stretch to say we would be much worse off if everyone were immortal.

    As that’s not an option, I’m not too concerned about it. When it becomes imminent, likely, or hell, even possible, I’ll bother to develop an opinion.

    The reality is that, unlike what Phenomenology of a Mailbox wrote, death by “old age” is considered to be a negative and unwanted event in our society, and we do devote resources to preventing it.

  13. Ilene Flannery Wells
    Ilene Flannery Wells November 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm |

    Yes, it is about the frustration of women having control over their reproduction, regardless of what happens to the child after birth. Some of these same “pro-lifers” are followers of Evangelical “Christians” who think it is ok to take a switch to a 7-month old to stop the child from “manipulating” them by crying.

  14. Portia
    Portia November 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm |

    I note that Person = corporation in law.

    So, the personhood “act” actually dehumanises all men, women and children and reduces them to the level of a commodity.

    Now why would por lifers want more children to be born?

    Follow the money, Follow the birth cert, follow the baptism cert…….all the way to Vatican Central Control.

  15. Tony_
    Tony_ November 15, 2011 at 5:37 pm |

    Interesting article, but my first instinctual reaction to this is that it’s a strategic mistake. It basically reverses the frame shift initiated in the mid-1990’s when the anti-abortion rights crowd started talking about ‘partial-birth’ abortion. That really helped them throw up the deception that they really cared about the fetus and it was all about the fetus, because they could point to all the person-like traits that fetuses further along in development exhibit. Picture of bloody fetuses, et cetera. When the focus reverts back to the early stage of embryonic development, it becomes a much harder case to make because people can’t identify that embryo with a person. The inherent absurdity of their position becomes apparent (every sperm is sacred, et cetera), and the focus start shifting back to the consequences for women. But your article helped me to see the other side, which is that if they do win this debate, then the potential fruits for them are much greater.

  16. rain
    rain November 16, 2011 at 10:52 am |

    Here’s a handy chart from Alas, a Blog.

  17. Karen
    Karen November 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm |

    One thing that has not been discussed about “personhood” laws is that it would give embryos the right to sue their mothers, including miscarried embryos. Anyone want to live in a world where miscarried embryos can sue a woman for, say, going horseback riding? breastfeeding?

    Also, I’m 48.5 years old. Believe me, I view the “whips and scorns of time” as something entirely negative and which I want cured TOMORROW. (Frex, I would love to ditch the major bifocal lenses that make reading this post possible.) I don’t want immortality, I want to avoid cancer and heart disease, and I want to know my grandchildren.

  18. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm |

    I find this article to be extremely lacking in research. Before attempting to combat the opponent, I ask that you do some research on their opinions. Pro-lifers do not believe that every egg is a human, but instead that those fertilized by a sperm are, so of course we are not concerned by the monthly loss of unfertilized eggs.

    I pose this scientific question to you: how can a fertilized egg, which has two unique sets of genes, one from the mother’s egg, and one from the father’s sperm, be a part of the mother’s body?

    Using the definition from the medical dictionary (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/person)
    A person is “The composite of characteristics that make up an individual personality; the self.”

    It is easy to see that the fertilized egg, having all the characteristics of a unique person, is, scientifically, a person.

    So, the only question that remains is:
    Would you allow murder for the sake of career, convenience, reputation, or comfort of a pregnant woman? Is discomfort and difficulty for nine months not worth saving a life?

  19. Jadey
    Jadey November 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm |

    Anonymous: “The composite of characteristics that make up an individual personality; the self.”

    Considering that ‘the self’ or the ‘personality’ (much contested terms among the philosophers and social scientists who actually study these phenomena) at the very least requires some sort of neurological capacity and mental consciousness (and, to those who feel that they are socially-constructed processes, some form of social interaction – hell, plenty of people, reproductive politics unknown, have argued that self-hood doesn’t fully develop until early adulthood!), then a fertilized egg most clearly does not fit that definition in the slightest. It is in fact the least helpful definition you could have dug up for your cause, to the point that I peed myself laughing a little when I read it. Unless you are assuming the automatic conference of a soul which contains the aforementioned self upon the moment of fertilization, in which case there is no point consulting a medical dictionary, because that is a theological and not medical concept, and as an argument has no more traction here than an oiled ham on a slip-n-slide. Hell, even as far as theological perspectives go, you’d have a hard time finding many pro-lifers even who are willing to argue that consciousness begins as conception. At least wait until there’s a synapse or two.

  20. EG
    EG November 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm |

    Jill: this isn’t a pro-choice 101 blog, and your assertions are so silly I can’t begin to address them.

    Well, but I’ve got a free moment, so I can!

    Anonymous: how can a fertilized egg, which has two unique sets of genes, one from the mother’s egg, and one from the father’s sperm, be a part of the mother’s body?

    Given that it is occupying my uterus, which is a part of my body, it’s kind of a moot question. After all, if somebody with a completely different set of genes puts his finger in my nose, he doesn’t get to leave it there because of our genetic dissimilarity. So…who cares? Nonetheless, I will answer. It is a part of my body as soon as it attaches to my uterine wall. Because it is attached, not separate. My blood nourishes it. My oxygen nourishes it. My uterus and stomach muscles protect it. It is a part of me.

    Anonymous: A person is “The composite of characteristics that make up an individual personality; the self.”

    It is easy to see that the fertilized egg, having all the characteristics of a unique person, is, scientifically, a person.

    True fact: scientists almost always use the definitions found in free online dictionaries. Leaving that aside, I fail to see how a fertilized egg has all the characteristics of a unique person. Here are some of the complete-person characteristics I had, even as an infant: the ability to interact in an emotionally meaningful way with other people, the ability to respond to the stimulation of at least one one of the five senses (actually, in my case, all five); preferences (yes, even infants have likes and dislikes); the ability to attempt to regulate sensory input (as soon as an infant can turn its head, it will turn its head away when it feels like it is being overloaded visually); electrical activity in the brain.

    All a fertilized egg has is a complete set of chromosomes.

    Though this does raise the issue of identical twins. Once the egg divides, can the resulting cells be aborted, in your morality, because neither one is “unique”? Should the criminal penalty for murdering an identical twin be less than that for murdering a fraternal twin or a singly-birthed person, since the identical twin was not unique? I mean, we’d still have a walking-around and breathing human being with all the same characteristics of the dead one, right?

    Anonymous: Would you allow murder for the sake of career, convenience, reputation, or comfort of a pregnant woman? Is discomfort and difficulty for nine months not worth saving a life?

    Nah. You’ve got the question totally backwards. It goes like this: would you allow somebody to forcibly occupy another person’s body against his/her will, making use of his/her biological systems and organs for its own ends against his/her will, causing the other person to risk death, permanent physical injury, and ensuring pain as well as the utter disruption of every single aspect of that person’s life? Should fertilized eggs get more rights than born human beings?

  21. igglanova
    igglanova November 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm |

    OH OH an anti-abortion troll!

    That definition of ‘person’ directly undermines your own point. Fertilized eggs don’t have personalities.

    Damn, that was just too easy.

  22. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive November 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm |

    Anonymous: I pose this scientific question to you: how can a fertilized egg, which has two unique sets of genes, one from the mother’s egg, and one from the father’s sperm, be a part of the mother’s body?

    Because it’s inside her, doofus.

    Anonymous: A person is “The composite of characteristics that make up an individual personality; the self.”

    You know what would be a really handy “characteristic” to make an “individual personality”? A brain! You see, Anonymous, my dear, a “brain” is an organized collection of cells that are electrically excitable due to a fascinating and complicated combination of neurotransmitter vesicles, receptors, and ion channels, assisted by numerous auxiliary cells like oligodendrocytes that insulate and modify the location and excitability of ion channels along axons for action potential propagation. A fertilized egg does not have one of these, and at the age most abortions occur an embryo/fetus does not either (or it is so underdeveloped as to be meaningless for “mak[ing] up an individual personality”), and, judging by your comments, neither do you.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nauLgZISozs

    And, since you’re so gloriously scientific, howzabout you explain to us the “personhood” of a HeLa cell or any collection thereof. Does each HeLa cell have its own personhood? Is it imbued with the personality and consciousness of Henrietta herself? If cells don’t have personhood after they’re part of a conscious person, why would they have personhood before? Do vials of HeLa cells develop their own unique personalities when they’re shipped off to different labs? If you use HeLa cells or cell products from two different sources in your experiments, what happens if the “personalities” of the two+ cultures of HeLa cells don’t get along? And how do you tell? Inquiring minds want to know…

    Anonymous: Is discomfort and difficulty for nine months not worth saving a life?

    If you feel this way you are more than welcome to endure your own discomfort for nine months to birth your own child, but leave your crackpot pseudoscience out of my laws and off of my body.

    Otherwise, remember that I am in no way legally compelled to sacrifice my own body, life, or comfort in the form of blood transfusions, bone marrow grafting, solid organ donation, loss of liberty, or endurance of pain for a unique, conscious, independently-living actually-alive person, so why should a ball of cells get perks that grownups can’t?

  23. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive November 16, 2011 at 9:03 pm |

    Jadey, EG, igglanova: awesome, of course!! And here I was thinking this trolling would go unanswered!!

    Oh, and Anonymous–I’m sure you can see how deep and perplexing your brilliant questions were by the fact that three people handily debunked them all in the time I was typing and looking up a YouTube clip!

  24. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive November 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm |

    I originally posted this on Shakesville, but I think it’s relevant here too. It’s not just that women have too much *sexual* freedom that reactionaries are trying to control with fetus-fetishization, it’s ANY kind of freedom:

    [TW for police brutality, misogyny, denial of autonomy and reproductive rights]

    I just saw a commenter on HuffPo (a self-declared NYPD cop!) declare that the pregnant woman who was pepper sprayed should be “arrested for child abuse” for being present amongst all the “disease” at Occupy Seattle. Several other commenters concurred that it is apparently “irresponsible” to be pregnant around a protest, and apparently you do not get to exercise your first amendment rights while pregnant because any police brutality visited upon you is totally your fault.

    So, good news for all the advocates against the “personhood” amendments: you were right, this fetishization of fetal “personhood” is seeking to limit the freedom of pregnant women engaging in totally normal life activities (especially if they belong to “improper” groups). Bad news: you were right.

  25. EG
    EG November 16, 2011 at 9:22 pm |

    Thanks, LSP!

    That crap about how upon becoming pregnant, a woman loses her rights and is subject to special laws really pisses me off. Who is to say what best practices are when it comes to pregnancy? Doctors don’t agree, obviously, and the general advice varies every few years. Is every pregnant woman in France abusing her child by drinking a glass of wine with dinner? What if I disagree with my doctor? Does becoming pregnant mean I no longer get to make my own decisions and value judgments? What if I decide that the OWS protests are important enough that I’m willing to take the potential risk to my fetus? What makes the judgment of a bunch of internet assholes better than mine? What if I’m pregnant but continue to live in a violent neighborhood? What if I’m pregnant and a cop and I continue to do my job, which may well involve dealing with violent people?

    I have first amendment rights and I have the right to decide what risks are worth taking and which are not. Pregnancy should not relegate women to the status of vessels. The use of my uterus does not take priority over the use of my brain.

  26. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm |

    I can’t address all the fallacies in your arguments, and I doubt you would listen if it did. Instead, I offer you this website:
    http://www.abort73.com/
    If you are opened minded and learn about how abortion is performed, and perhaps learn a little more of the science behind pregnancy, you may learn something.
    Thank you for your time.
    God bless you.

  27. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable November 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm |

    Anonymous: If you are opened minded and learn about how abortion is performed, and perhaps learn a little more of the science behind pregnancy, you may learn something.

    LOVE IT WHEN CLOSE-MINDED PEOPLE SAY THIS. It’s like fucking Santa Claus while Jesus watches. Pure happiness.

  28. EG
    EG November 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm |

    Anonymous: I can’t address all the fallacies in your arguments,

    That’s because there are none, son.

    Anonymous: If you are opened minded and learn about how abortion is performed, and perhaps learn a little more of the science behind pregnancy, you may learn something.

    Hmm. Volunteered at a midwifery center for a year. Have read numerous books on pregnancy and midwifery. Read the history of Jane in Chicago, paying special attention to how abortions were/are done. Best friend had an abortion using local anesthesia, so she could stay awake and be informed about each step of the procedure, which she then told me about. What more would you like me to learn?

  29. EG
    EG November 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm |

    Oh, forgot to add: have closely witnessed two full-term pregnancies and attended ob-gyn appointments with the mothers in question, observing sonograms and the like, paying special attention to the mothers’ physical and emotional experiences.

    Conclusions drawn from all of the above: forcing someone to endure pregnancy and childbirth against her will is sadistic and barbaric. Being able to do it when she wants to, however, is wonderful. Further conclusion: abortion is not only necessary, but a moral good.

  30. shfree
    shfree November 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    Anonymous:
    If you are opened minded and learn about how abortion is performed, and perhaps learn a little more of the science behind pregnancy, you may learn something.

    I know exactly how abortions are performed. I worked at a clinic for two years that performed abortion procedures up to 19 weeks and six days. It was my job to explain whatever procedure we offered to anyone who had questions about it. So I am well aware of the process, better than you. And you know what? The only reason why I’m not working at that clinic anymore is because I moved out of state.

  31. Raincitygirl
    Raincitygirl November 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    Hi Anonymous, I have two different cousins who nearly DIED giving birth. Both of their lives were saved only by timely medical interventions and lots of tranfused blood. Also saved by good luck which could easily have gone bad instead.

    Do not even think about telling me how nine months is no big deal. My cousins chose to continue their pregnancies and give birth, they accepted the risk willingly. They were not coerced into it by ignoramuses who think pregnancy is no big deal and every woman who’s ever had sex should be forced to RISK HER LIFE. In conclusion, frell right off, sweetie. The grown-ups are talking.

  32. Jadey
    Jadey November 19, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    PrettyAmiable: LOVE IT WHEN CLOSE-MINDED PEOPLE SAY THIS. It’s like fucking Santa Claus while Jesus watches. Pure happiness.

    And here I thought Christmas couldn’t get any better.

  33. librarygoose
    librarygoose November 19, 2011 at 5:14 pm |

    Raincitygirl: frell right off,

    …Did you watch Farscape?

  34. Raincitygirl
    Raincitygirl November 19, 2011 at 5:32 pm |

    I did indeed. I frelling miss Farscape. I even called my new iPhone Aeryn Sun (because she is rugged, and tough, and wears a lot of black).

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