Safe and legal. And rare.

Most, if not all, people would agree that almost all medical procedures outside of the standard, regular checkup would best be rare. Setting bones hurts, and casts itch. Cancer treatment is lengthy, painful, emotionally wrenching, and expensive. Myomectomy is awkward, uncomfortable, and messy. Given the choice between breaking a bone/having cancer/having endometrial polyps and not doing those things, most people would choose not to, and thus not require the aforementioned medical procedures.

Ideally, we’d live in a world where we all had access to affordable healthy food, clean water, and preventive health care; clean air, plentiful sidewalks, and safe neighborhoods; and more societal understanding and less judgment–just imagine how the need for nonelective medical care would plummet in that kind of a utopia. But the vast majority of us don’t live like that, and when we pull a muscle or develop diabetes or have a heart attack, the availability of safe, legal health care can be a lifesaver. And outside of a few truly horrible types of people, few would argue that we need to outlaw balloon angioplasty because we’d all rather people not need it, because ouch and ew. Safe, legal, rare angioplasty is seldom up for debate.

Until you talk about abortion. Turn the subject to abortion, and suddenly the only answer is to destroy these women in order to save them. You don’t hear a lot of arguments that angioplasty should only be available for patients with congenital defects, because everyone else “got themselves into that position and now has to deal with the consequences.” (God has a plan.) Or that heart transplants should be outlawed because of the documented tendency for depression and anxiety in transplant recipients. No one pretends to try to protect people by making Prilosec or insulin pumps harder to obtain. (If Prilosec is so great, why would doctors bother curing acid reflux?) But to the anti-choicers, abortion is both the symptom and the disease. It doesn’t matter how a woman became pregnant or why she wants an abortion. Banning abortion outright solves the problem, because the lives of actual women are of no concern.

Many things can go wrong to bring abortion into the picture. A woman doesn’t have access to birth control. She has access, but she doesn’t know how to use it properly. She has access, but she’s been given deliberate misinformation. She has access, but her partner pressures her to not use it or sabotages it outright. She uses birth control, but it fails. She’s raped, but the hospital won’t give her emergency contraception. She can’t afford to be pregnant. She doesn’t want to have an abortion but is afraid of her parents or her partner. She has a medical condition that would make pregnancy life-threatening. She’s carrying a very-much-wanted fetus that will never make it to term or will live a short, excruciating life. These are all things that can be addressed, albeit not always resolved outright, through social programs, support, education, effective health care policy, responsible and responsive law enforcement, and basic respect and human decency. Taking better care of women will result in less need for this medical procedure and make it less traumatic in cases where it is needed. Which is important–if you actually care about women.

So yes, we should want abortion to be rare–not because there’s anything wrong with it as a procedure, or because it’s horrific or universally traumatizing, but because we’d generally rather not have to pay money and undergo minimally invasive medical procedures if we can avoid them. Um, hi. It’s also often a sign that societally, we’ve missed a few holes we need to fill in. You don’t fix that by outlawing the solution–you fix that by fixing the problem, creating a world where women who don’t want to be pregnant don’t have to get pregnant and women who want to carry their pregnancies to term are able to do so. And until you’ve fixed that–and forevermore after you’ve fixed that–your only option is to protect the hell out of a woman’s right to choose what’s best for her life.

Since abortion first had a substantive presence on the Democratic Party platform in 1992, the standard line has followed Bill Clinton’s classic “safe, legal, and rare,” sometimes in so many words. The 2008 Democratic Party platform dropped “rare,” and it’s stayed gone in 2012. And with good reason–“rare” practically invites antis to derail and reframe. “Well, if abortion is so great, why do you want it to be rare?” It’s a stupid question for anyone bright enough to also wonder why we might want to see fewer tonsillectomies or ACL repairs. It’s also not a sincere question; it’s a “gotcha.” And there is no good answer to that that fits on a bumper sticker or in a video soundbite. Let that question–that stupid, stupid, insincere question–out of its cage, and the antis have a handy weapon. “Abortion is so bad, even the baby-killers don’t like it!” The only safe thing to do is avoid the question, avoid diluting the argument, and focus on the other equally crucial aspects of reproductive rights. Safe and legal. Access without exception. Health safety rights agency choice choice choice.

In doing so, though, we have to recognize that it kind of lets the antis off the hook. It bypasses the fact that while they claim their goal is just to eliminate abortion, they’re obviously full of shit, because they’re ignoring a host of women-focused initiatives that would help do just that in favor of the one option that harms women. It bypasses the fact that we’re talking about lives and they’re trying to score points. Because the answer is, “You’re goddamned right abortion should be rare. And the very fact that you’re using that as some kind of a ‘gotcha’ question shows that you don’t actually give two shits about women.” Too long for a bumper sticker, really, and too… emphatic for the evening news. But honest. Back to the drawing board.

This entry was posted in Health, Politics, Reproductive Rights and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

102 Responses to Safe and legal. And rare.

  1. (BFing)Sarah says:

    [claps wildly]

  2. valentifan69 says:

    “Well, if abortion is so great, why do you want it to be rare?” It’s a stupid question for anyone bright enough to also wonder why we might want to see fewer tonsillectomies or ACL repairs.

    I dunno. You’re right early stage stuff, like Mifepristone, isn’t really a big deal. It’s like tonsillectomy, or circumcision, or minor surgeries. But we wouldn’t go around putting in place large social interventions to avoid minor stuff like that – so why worry about abortion either?

    I suppose all things being equal we’re like less rather than more tonsillectomies. But if someone was talking about putting in place social programs, support, education, health care policy, responsive law enforcement, etc to stop widespread tonsillectomies, it’d just be a joke. The costs would be totally disproportionate to the benefits, it’s much better just to let people have tonsillectomies. I can’t see why abortion’s much different.

    • EG says:

      But if someone was talking about putting in place social programs, support, education, health care policy, responsive law enforcement, etc to stop widespread tonsillectomies, it’d just be a joke. The costs would be totally disproportionate to the benefits, it’s much better just to let people have tonsillectomies.

      Cheaper, less traumatic to the body, and less risky to only do a tonsillectomy as a last resort. Usually antibiotics get the job done, and damn right I’m in favor of social programs, health care policies, and education that will get antibiotics to people who need them.

    • Kierra says:

      But we wouldn’t go around putting in place large social interventions to avoid minor stuff like that

      You mean like vaccines to avoid measles and chickenpox? Fluoridation to avoid cavities? Even “not that big a deal” stuff can have complications for a small percentage of the population or can compound over time to make big problems. Ounces of prevention and all that jazz.

  3. John says:

    To this citizen of the UK, I’m always staggered the USA is still even having this debate.
    We’ve had abortion pretty much on demand up to 24 weeks free of charge in NHS clinics for decades and the sky hasn’t fallen in…
    Take some heart from how utterly weird and unpleasant the USA’s Anti Choice brigade appears to much of the rest of the world.

    • TomSims says:

      I agree. Remember that America was founded by Pilgrims. They were the equivalent of the Taliban today.

  4. matlun says:

    To this citizen of the UK, I’m always staggered the USA is still even having this debate.

    From my viewpoint here in Sweden, it is the same. The whole abortion debate feels simply alien.

    • Beauzeaux says:

      Here in Canada it finally appears to be settled. No prominent politician wants to open the discussion — nothing to be gained from it. Doesn’t mean it won’t ever be attempted but the longer it’s legally available, the harder it will be to take it away.

      I lived in the US until 2004. The US political process has long been deformed and debased by pressures from the various religions. After all, there’s really no serious argument against abortion except that god doesn’t like it.

      The insertion of “rare” is a sop to the non-churchgoing, urban intellectuals who like to say they support women’s rights and all but isn’t abortion just a little Ewwww? This includes some women who know they can be trusted with the decision but are not too sure about all those other women. (My position until 1965 or thereabouts.)

      My position is that abortion should be free (it is, of course, here) at the request/demand of the woman. And I trust women will make the right decision for themselves. Maybe some won’t. But some people make bad decisions about tonsillectomies too.

      • robotile says:

        But in Canada are people allowed to make decisions about their tonsillectomies?? In the US, all you hear about Canada is DEATH PANELS and SOCIALIST MEDICINE!

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        AND HAVING TO WAIT MONTHS FOR CANCER SURGERIES

      • Storyphile says:

        Beauxeaux I think the operative word in your opening sentence is “appears.”. Just recently we (Canada ) have had at least one Conservative MP trying to reintroduce the debate by sponsoring a bill to define when a fetus becomes a “human being”. The good news is our Conservative Prime Minister is too politically savvy to support it, at least not openly. But it does make me feel like some of our right wing politicians are looking at the Republicans to the south and drinking some Tea Party koolaid.

      • Becky says:

        True, but it went down 203-91. That’s a pretty solid majority in favour of not re-opening the debate – including almost half of the Conservative Party (although unfortunately not my MP).

      • rain says:

        The good news is our Conservative Prime Minister is too politically savvy to support it, at least not openly.

        No way those MPs would step forward with those private members’ bills (plural, since the day after Woodworth’s got voted down, up popped another one) without the go-ahead from Harper.

        As the USian experience shows, that’s how it’s done:
        War on Women Timeline

        I realize you wrote “at least not openly”, which is somewhat accurate, but the idea that there’s nothing to worry about because Phew! Harper voted against it, bothers me to no end. It is not good news. Beauzeaux’s claim that “it finally appears to be settled. No prominent politician wants to open the discussion — nothing to be gained from it” is wrong, wrong, wrong. What we’re seeing here in Canada is the beginning of an American style assault on abortion rights.

      • Andie says:

        For Gord’s sake, the Minister for women or whatever the hell she’s called voted FOR the caucus to study ‘when life begins’.

        You bet your ass we can’t afford to be complacent.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Life begins when an organism is able to metabolize and reproduce by itself. So, I dunno, age 15-ish? :D

      • Storyphile says:

        Rain, I agree with you that Canadians can’t afford to be complacent on this issue. It wouldn’t surprise me AT ALL If it was discovered that Harper was giving this a covert nod, despite his comments about not reopening the abortion debate. I just think that Harper looooves his majority government and he is smart enough not to risk losing political support by openly endorsing controversial views that directly affect privileged baby-bearers just as much as they affect minority baby-bearers.

  5. Bagelsan says:

    What about “safe, legal and mostly unnecessary”? That would do for just about any medical procedure, really.

    • robotile says:

      The US should emphasize options for avoiding pregnancy more than we do. The big difference between abortion and angioplasty or cancer treatment is that there are more than a handful of options out there that are 92%+ effective at reducing unintended pregnancy, so it seems like low hanging fruit to ensure education, access to BCP & IUDs, etc. to reduce the need for abortion. I actually do think the goal should be safe, legal, and rare– just like for any unpleasant surgery that is easily avoided (why I baby proof my stairs, for instance, rather than letting my kid fall down. Sure the doctor could patch up that broken arm, but why not try to prevent that in the first place if it’s easy). Of course, there shouldn’t be any blame or any obstacles for people who need abortions, just like folks who get an angioplasty shouldn’t be blamed for needing that.

      • robotile says:

        To be clear, I am not saying that a fetus is the same as a baby and that we should therefore be baby-proofing our wombs (unless we want to). That was just the first example of “ounce of prevention vs. pound of cure” example I came up with.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Absolutely. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. But that doesn’t mean get rid of all the cures!

      • Bagelsan says:

        Lol, that’s what I get for commenting before refreshing. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, people! IT’S WORTH REPEATING.

  6. Lizzie says:

    Short answers: “I want people to not need abortions for the same reason I want them to not need hip replacements.” Or: “If cars never crashed then we wouldn’t need seatbelts. But some do, so we do.”

  7. Skye says:

    What boggles my mind about militant anti-choicers is they honestly seem to believe that abortion is a relatively new invention, and that before Evil Feminists thought it up, every pregnancy was carried through, wanted or not.

    They don’t seem to get that if it’s made illegal, abortion will continue anyways. While they don’t give a damn about the women who will die from back alley abortions (they’re all just slutty slut sluts who should’ve kept their legs shut, amirite?), you’d think it would occur to them that the pregnancies will be terminated in the process, too.

    If they really wanted to “save babies”, they’d be focused on creating a world where unwanted pregancies rarely occur. Kind of says it all, eh?

    • Ruchama says:

      I’ve been working on some genealogy research, and I recently got a copy of an ancestor’s death certificate from NYC in 1907. On the back, there are some guidelines for how the doctor was supposed to fill it out, including a list of causes of death that couldn’t be written in without further explanation. Like, you couldn’t just put that someone had died from “infection” — you had to put what sort of infection, how it was contracted, and which organs got infected and failed, ultimately leading to the death. It was a pretty short list — maybe 20 or 30 items. One of them was abortion. So death by abortion was common enough in early 20th century New York that the printed death certificates had specific instructions on how to record it.

  8. Steph Herold says:

    Some recommended reading on why the “rare” framing is wrong: Rethinking the Mantra that Abortion Should be “Safe, Legal, and
    Rare”
    by Tracy Weitz.

    For those who don’t have time to read it, the main points are:

    – By saying that you want abortion to be “rare,” you’re passing a negative judgement on the people who perform abortions and the women who have them. This judgement is harmful to people who have abortions and clinicians who perform them.
    – Saying that you want abortion to be rare implies that there is something wrong with abortion, that abortion is somehow different from other parts of health care.
    – Wanting abortion to be rare suggests that training clinicians to provide abortions is unnecessary. In reality, we need more abortion providers to increase access to safe abortion care.
    – The “rare” framework legitimizes the need for abortion restrictions, and these anti-abortion laws have the most dire consequences for people with the least resources.
    – The “rare” framing sets up the unrealistic expectation that there’s a magic number of abortions that are acceptable, and once we reach that number, abortion will cease to be a divisive issue in American culture.

    As Dr. Weitz puts it, saying that we want abortion to be rare “does not achieve the underlying goal of reducing the social conflict over abortion and has real consequences for women’s health and well-being, including reducing access to care, increasing stigma, justifying restrictions, and establishing unattainable goals.”

    Where do we go from here? Dr. Weitz has four suggestions:

    – Accept that abortion is a polarizing issue in the U.S.;
    – Acknowledge that abortion has and will always be part of the human condition;
    – Validate the rights of women to equal participation in society and control over their reproductive lives; and
    – Engage in the hard conversations about abortion regarding the moral status of life, the extent of the rights and autonomy of women, the limits of the state to intervening in personal decisions, and
    the role of religion in public life.

    • Ruchama says:

      On the first two points: there are plenty of medical procedures that I want to be rare, without passing any kind of judgment on the patients or the doctors. Bypass surgery would be a lot more rare if medical management of heart disease worked better. Saying “I think we should focus on developing better heart medications, and figuring out what sort of diet and exercise programs actually do work to control heart disease and then creating societal support for those, so that not so many people will end up at the point where they need bypass surgery,” isn’t saying anything negative about heart surgeons.

      • robotile says:

        Steph Herold, I actually think that the first four points you mention don’t necessarily follow from a “rare” framing. We set goals for lots of medical procedures or outcomes to be rare without reducing the number of people trained to deal with them, negatively judging those who have the procedure or perform it, or setting up restrictions on who can have it. The last point, it seems, doesn’t have an answer–when have we reached “rare enough”? But that is a question for lots of medical conditions and one thats tough to answer for any number of things.

      • Beatrice says:

        Sure, there are a lot of procedures that we would like to be rare. The main difference is that when you talk about heart surgery you don’t frame it as “I want it to be rare”. You gave an example how we go about it yourself.

        When it comes to abortion, instead of talking about ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies (access to contraception, education, rape prevention, plan b), it all gets down to “fewer abortions”. And it does sort give an impression that there is something wrong with abortion.

        I don’t have time right now to read the link, but I agree with points Steph Herold gave in her comment.

    • NuclearGrrl says:

      Once again Miss Herold, you have missed the point of this entire position. The real argument here is that abortion should not be treated as some special medical procedure warranting some specific language. Relegating abortion to the rank of any other medical procedure is not the same as attaching a negative connotation to it, nor implying it is unnecessary. Suggesting we create a society where the demand for medical intervention is reduced does not imply medical students should not be trained in intervention techniques, and does not suggest regulation.

      On the contrary, saying that abortion is the one, special procedure that we should tiptoe around when we talk about preventative medicine bestows on it a special status and encourages disapproval.
      Our overall sociological framework should be focused on minimizing the frequency with which people require medical intervention by making our society healthier. Our society should encourage and empower people to take control of their lives through education and increased access to health care services. When we encourage people to take control of their lives by living healthily and to the fullest, we reduce the medical burden on our health system and lower health care costs for everyone.

      Our goal is not to “reduce social conflict.” Or goal is to create a healthier society! The fact that we are talking about abortion does not change the economics of the game or the strategy for success. A healthier society naturally requires less medical intervention, meaning fewer abortions as well.

  9. josielemonpie says:

    this!
    I have a lot of conversations with anti-choice people who are very “no abortion ever!” but then when I say “Well hey! Accurate and comprehensive sex education combined with access to contraceptives is a great way to decrease abortions!” it turns out it’s not actually about abortions anyway, and then they tend to get upset when I suggest that preventative actions are better than invasive medical procedures since apparently that means I’m saying pregnancy is a disease or something.
    when I hear “rare” I don’t hear “abortions are bad”, I hear “having the resources to prevent something is far preferable to having to go through a more complicated medical procedure.” just like I would say that I would rather brush my teeth than have to get a tooth removed. it’s still very weird to me that even when people are so anti-abortion they continue to be anti-preventative-medecine for it.

    • Beauzeaux says:

      it’s still very weird to me that even when people are so anti-abortion they continue to be anti-preventative-medecine for it.

      It’s religious. They believe their god doesn’t approve of
      1. Sex (except for procreation).
      2. Sex outside of marriage
      therefore
      No sex until you’re married and nothing to thwart god’s plan in the number of your spawn.

      That’s why the fiercest of the anti-abortionists are also anti contraception, amd anti sex education.

      • josielemonpie says:

        which is still so hard for me to get. I grew up conservative evangelical (Canada, Saskatchewan), and have gotten into these discussions, and it’s always with the same white, middle-class guy who’s read all the Mark Driscoll shit and keeps spouting “rationality”, “objectivity”, and “logic”. but when I say that then we should rationally conclude that plenty of people will not wait until their preferred time (marriage) to be sexually active and that rationally, not every person is interested in having children but plenty of people are interested in sexual expression and experience, so we probably shouldn’t legislate in ways that only allow for a very narrow experience, somehow I am illogical and emotional. they cling to these words like they’re life preservers but they don’t know what they mean.

      • Ruchama says:

        I had a really frustrating conversation with a very religious Catholic friend who was arguing that birth control is bad because, if birth control is available, it lets people start thinking about sex as something they can do anytime, rather than as something that leads to babies, and then that leads to marital rape, because husbands will want to have sex all the time and won’t need to worry about whether it will mean more kids to feed.

      • that leads to marital rape, because husbands will want to have sex all the time and won’t need to worry about whether it will mean more kids to feed

        Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?

      • EG says:

        So your friend believes that all husbands are rapists?

      • (BFing)Sarah says:

        Yea, wow! I was raised by very religious Catholics in a very religious Catholic family (complete with hearing the “abortion procedure” at the age of 12 from a pro-life brochure) and I have never heard that one! I was always fed the line that it prevents a husband and wife (because those are the only TRUE kinds of marriages, a’kay?) from being “truly intimate and becoming one” together. And because it is obvi thwarting god’s plan that you have a bazillion babies and name them all names that begin with “J.”

  10. roro80 says:

    In my university, and I presume others too, there would be demonstrations by anti-abortion groups in which they would display these gigantic posters of aborted fetuses. I remember thinking “yeah, that’s really disgusting, but it would be just as disgusting seeing an open heart surgery or knee replacement.”

    • Beatrice says:

      It is questionable whether those were even human fetuses. To up the shock value, these people often show photos of animal fetuses far along into the gestation while claiming “it’s your baby when you’re four months along”.

    • Cactus Wren says:

      I’ve been told as well that many reported thefts of fetal remains from hospital pathology labs have been connected to anti-choice organizations.

  11. BlackHumor says:

    But I don’t want heart transplants to be rare; I want heart ATTACKS to be rare. Heart transplants should happen exactly as often as necessary. They’re far more common than they were 40 years ago, but I don’t think anyone thinks that’s a bad thing, because before that everyone who needed one died instead. Lot of people’s lives have been saved because heart transplants became more common.

    So it’s not actually the procedure that we want to be rare at all, which is why I DON’T want abortion to be rare. I want the things that cause people to get abortions to be rare. There should be exactly as many abortions as there are women who need abortions, and no fewer.

  12. Michelle says:

    To Caperton and everyone else at Feministe,
    I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am to you for publishing this post. At 17, my boyfriend at the time forcibly inseminated me and I made the heart-wrenching decision to have an abortion for the sake of my unborn child, despite how badly I wanted a baby. Since then (I’m now 23), I’ve been bombarded with ignorant people judging me for my decision with no knowledge of what it’s like to have to make it. Not to mention I am bombarded on a daily basis by ignorant comments made in politics and the media by completely unqualified people (read: men) who are trying to make these decisions for me and others. It makes me so outraged, I often can’t stand it. Because I am so emotionally involved in the issue, it’s often difficult for me to calmly state all the myriad factors in this argument (which is so much more complex than most people realize). So I have to say Thank You, for putting so eloquently that which I cannot. Writers (and public forums) such as yours are absolutely crucial to this archaic yet important debate.

  13. Angie unduplicated says:

    Birth control should be cheap, legal, and commonly available.
    I’ve noticed (forgive me if you haven’t) that marijuana is illegal as hell, but that it is commonly available through a variety of sources. Back in the day of the Second Wave, several feminist groups had their own illegal but well-used and sterilized suction equipment. Training NPs and PAs should be common practice.
    Getting the maximum number of non- pillbilly females/feminists into pharmacy school should be a priority. If oxycontin and hydros can be all over the street, so should contraceptive pills. I’m not seeing that. Pharmacists are cooperating with drug dealers but not with women. If I didn’t have wrinkles all over my face, I would be getting an extra BC Rx and passing it on to somebody.
    We need to be in defiance, open and covert, of every and all attempts that men make to enslave female bodies.

  14. msgd says:

    This thread and the responses in it are completely absurd. Comparing abortion to knee surgery? LOL

    You are intentionally killing a human being.
    Killing it can be perfectly morally fine. A human being is not necessarily a person. It can’t think or feel, and doesn’t care that you kill it. Declaring that womens’ bodily autonomy is more important than any theoretical rights of a zygote is totally legitimate and morally defensible. There are many, many tactics to defend abortion. But that doesn’t mean that abortion is like knee surgery.

    I don’t know how to interpret this whole comment as anything except willfully ignorant. There isn’t even outlined a single argument against abortion to be used as a straw man. Anyone reading this without prior knowledge of the topic would have literally no idea what abortion was or why there was even a debate at all.

    You want it to be rare because it is just as unpleasant as other minor surgery. That is exactly the argument you are providing here. The reason you can’t do that in person is because it clearly doesn’t even begin to address their point. I am baffled.

    • Beatrice says:

      Well no, abortion is not like knee surgery.

      A friend of mine had a knee surgery. She had to rest a long time after the surgery. Since she couldn’t go to work, her boyfriend was the sole breadwinner for those looong months. Difficult times.

      Actually, an abortion would have probably be easier on her, in comparison.
      (unless some asshole tried to make her feel guilty about it)

      Why should I address their point? Their point is that abortion is murdering an “unborn baby”, that a woman who has an abortion is a murderer who should better die rather than abort (even if the fetus is going to die anyway).

      There is nothing worth seriously considering in anti-abortion arguments.

      • msgd says:

        You did manage to bring up the main argument, but then you just declared that it’s not worth considering. That’s great. That’s fine. But it doesn’t give anyone who doesn’t already share your viewpoint to give it any consideration either.

        There is nothing wrong with admitting that abortion is a difficult issue with many potential moral concerns. It doesn’t weaken your position. It strengthens it; because you are able to legitimately answer potential arguments, instead of having to just hand-wave and attempt to be rhetorically superior.

      • EG says:

        Abortion is only a difficult issue with many moral concerns to some people. It’s not at all to me, for instance. I see no reason to acknowledge the so-called “legitimacy” of forced-birthers’ positions until they acknowledge the legitimacy of mine.

      • msgd says:

        Again, that’s fine. You are free not to discuss the issue. But all you’ve done is declare that you will not discuss the issue.

      • Beatrice says:

        I don’t have moral concerns about abortion.

      • shfree says:

        I don’t have any moral concerns about abortion either, it’s part of health care. The only reason why I would want abortion to be rare is because surgery is unpleasant in general, and ideally you want to minimize the need for surgery to begin with. However, that doesn’t mean it should be restricted in the slightest. I don’t think I should my dad should have been denied access to an orthopedic surgeon just because stayed home and walked on his ankle for half a day after he fell down instead of going to the ER right away, or because he wasn’t careful when he was walking on the icy sidewalk.

        And I will always, always blow off the “morality” argument when it comes to abortion, because it simply isn’t germane to the discussion. Pregnancy directly impacts a woman or transman’s health, and how zie chooses to deal with that pregnancy is entirely up to that individual. And if that individual chooses to make whether or not to have an abortion a moral decision, that is their right, and I’m not going to say boo about it. But I will be damned if I think it is at all appropriate for a third party get all into someone else’s grill about whether or not to terminate, even on a theoretical level.

    • (BFing)Sarah says:

      But the idea that a zygote is a human being is an opinion, and nothing more. You can draw an arbitrary line in the sand as to when a zygote or fetus becomes a separate human life, but people can always make the argument for a different line. If you consider the zygote to be just another part of a woman’s body, then it really is no different from heart valve surgery, a myomectomy, or a knee replacement. I’m not making the argument that the procedures are the same (personally I think that we need to make unplanned pregnancy rare because it is often a painful decision no matter what you do), but its not an inconsistent one to make if you DO consider a zygote to be the same thing as a fibroid–something you really do not want in your uterus. Therefore, in that case, a myomectomy would be a medical procedure that is comparable to an abortion.

    • Kristen J. says:

      No you are not “intentionally” killing another “human being.” You are intentiaonlly removing a separate organism from a pregnant persons body. Whether that organism dies in the process is incidental and not ethically relevant unless you believe that one organism is entitled to the unlimited use of another organisms body.

      Whether that organism is a “human being” is a red herring and fundmentally irrelevant to the ethical question.

    • msgd says:

      Look, look. I’m not here to play devil’s advocate for all of these arguments. I don’t need to be convinced that they’re wrong. I’m just saying that they are arguments, and that people in almost any field will widely agree that there are moral issues of some kind that are strongly implicated by abortion.

      Beating your hand on the table and saying that no one can even begin to think differently without ostracism is – rightfully – to invite immediate suspicion. This isn’t the kind of thing that should be indoctrinated, it is the kind of thing that should be understood. Admitting that it is a more challenging thing to understand than why murder is wrong doesn’t mean that it can’t be true in the same sense.

      • Beatrice says:

        For the tenth time, these arguments are not valid arguments against abortion. I can discuss them with someone without giving them credence, but you insist that I should.

        Since you claim that you are pro-choice, I don’t care to waste time explaining to you how fetus is not a baby, or how cancer cells are human too, or how god doesn’t bread a breath of life into an embryo turning it into a tiny little person.

        I’m starting to doubt your claims of good will, since you want to accuse us of indoctrination.

        To repeat, since you have some trouble understanding : I can discuss things with an anti-choicer, I will discuss them, but I won’t give credence to things that are simply not true.

        I’m going to discuss their belief about moral implications, but I’m not going to “admit” that there is some doubt about the morality of abortion because there isn’t.

        You know what are moral issues surrounding abortion? That women are denied agency when it comes to their own bodies. That they can’t even get plan b since it will prevent potential creation of a zygote that might potentially become a fetus which might potentially become a baby…. or (the zygote) could potentially be extracted with the first period.

      • msgd says:

        Maybe we’re using “give them credence” in a different way.

        Let me try an analogy. If you ask someone “Bob steals food to feed his starving family: is that okay?” and they start their response with “Well, stealing is generally wrong…”, you are not justified in immediately jumping down their throat and declaring that this is an unambiguous case with no moral implications of any kind, and they are a fool for thinking otherwise.

        Almost everyone will agree you can steal food to prevent death. That doesn’t mean that there is NO argument to be made against it, or that no person can possibly conclude otherwise.

      • EG says:

        That doesn’t mean that there is NO argument to be made against it

        I find those arguments sadistic and fundamentally immoral, and thus I have no interest in spending any time discussing them. As far as I’m concerned, they have no traction, and I have nothing in common with the perspective of somebody who takes them seriously.

  15. Beatrice says:

    msgd,

    There is no issue. I don’t give a fuck about someone’s religious concerns. “God says abortion is murder” isn’t something I’m going to consider a serious argument.

    Unless they can come up with arguments worth consideration, I’m going to wave them away as ridiculous and malicious, just as they deserve.

    • Beatrice says:

      Which of course does not mean I won’t discuss abortion with an anti-choicer waving their Bible. But I hold no respect for their “concerns” and I’m not going to take them seriously.

    • msgd says:

      It doesn’t seem at least morally suspicious to you to intentionally kill another human? Or to take an action that will lead directly to that person’s death? Even if you have a way to explain why it’s actually okay, you don’t see that it is at least morally suspicious? That someone might have some feeling that it might be wrong under at least some circumstance?

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        Sure, if fetuses were people.

        It seems like you can’t be bothered to do the research to prove that pro-choice has done their homework. That’s not our responsibility. The idea that we need to lend credence to every dumb anti-choice argument every time it’s raised is tomorrow.

        Did you know it’s going to rain in NYC tomorrow? Check weather.com. But… have you proven gravity? I mean, rain is only an issue if you believe in gravity. And maybe you have personally proven gravity, but I haven’t seen you prove gravity, ergo, AFAIK, you haven’t given the requisite forethought into whether water is ACTUALLY going to fall from the sky.

        We are not your google; we are not your archivers; we are not required to rehash the same argument over and over again every time somebody feels like asking the same question over. and over. and over again.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        Hm. Misworded one sentence. …You guess which one, once my post goes through mod, haha.

      • msgd says:

        My only claim is that it is NOT the case that any person having abortion explained to them for the first time would immediately say “Oh, well that sounds totally fine with no moral issues involved at all.” There is at least SOME indication that there might be moral concerns involved.

        Even trying to contrast “people” from “human” involves using specific language designed to illustrate a nuanced point about agency. It isn’t something that you just know about by being a speaker of English.

      • EG says:

        My only claim is that it is NOT the case that any person having abortion explained to them for the first time would immediately say “Oh, well that sounds totally fine with no moral issues involved at all.”

        And if a child who is hearing about abortion for the first time wants to discuss it, I am happy to. I’m not going to waste time on adults.

      • EG says:

        It doesn’t seem at least morally suspicious to you to intentionally kill another human?

        No. Because the question you pose isn’t “Doesn’t it seem intrinsically suspicious to you to intentionally kill another human.” It’s “Doesn’t it seem intrinsically suspicious to you to have an abortion,” and those are two different questions. A better analogy would be “Doesn’t it seem intrinsically suspicious to you to kill somebody in self-defense?” And my answer would be no. No, it doesn’t.

      • Kristen J. says:

        Or “Doesn’t it seem morally suspicious to force people to be living organ donors?”

        See, we can also engage in rhetorical framing too!

  16. msgd says:

    You’re just declaring that you don’t want to think about the issue. That’s fine I guess.

    Basically, I happen to agree with your position, but I don’t think you, personally, have a much better reason for holding it than your opponents do for holding theirs. If you don’t have an answer for all of the objections to your claim, then you’ve just picked a random side. Being able to explain what you think and why you are right is not just important for arguing with strangers, it’s important so that you have a real understanding of your world-view. Especially for people in this kind of community.

    • Beatrice says:

      Let me see. The “other side” mainly holds their positions because “God says so”. So I think my reasoning of That’s bullshit and No, it’s not a person, but a fetus is a bit more cogent.

      • msgd says:

        Many modern moral philosophers make totally secular arguments against abortion with no implication of religion at all.

      • shfree says:

        Except that philosophy has no place in a third party’s healthcare decisions, full stop. So to philosophize about abortion on a theoretical level is something that I see is a waste of time, and flat out misogynistic.

    • EG says:

      I’m not declaring that I don’t want to think about the issue; I’m saying that I see no issue there. Different people from different cultures, you may have heard, have different senses of morality, and mine gives me no moral qualms about abortion at all. I can also tell you, as I have said on numerous occasions, that I can see no moral justification for the fundamentally immoral act of forcing a woman to endure pregnancy and childbirth against her will.

      Being able to explain what you think and why you are right is not just important for arguing with strangers, it’s important so that you have a real understanding of your world-view. Especially for people in this kind of community.

      Oh, thank you, Teacher! I had never before developed a clear understanding of my world-view. Obviously, not saying what you want to hear in this particular thread means that I cannot explain what I think and why I am right. Please, may I sit at your knee and hear more of your wisdom?

  17. VG says:

    It would be nice if the issue were as simple as both sides would have us believe. I grew up in the era of abortions being illegal but have spent most of my life in the post-Smith era. I have contemplated my mixed feelings ever since and still have not reached a point where I feel comfortable with my feelings on the issue. I support the right of individuals to be in control of their bodies (in all circumstances) and have seen “up close and personal” the consequences of illegal abortions as well as the plight of the family unable to provide for its children. Until recently, I was pretty much “pro-choice” down the line, but recently have had some doubts. One of the big questions has always been about the beginning of life. In a conversation with a fellow liberal physician, we stated almost simultaneously that the only “red line” between not alive and alive is the moment of conception; everything after that point is a continuum. We have yet to be able to define at what point along that continuum the preference moves from the autonomy of the mother to some degree of at least a moral obligation to the fetus. Abortion is different from knee surgery. Whether one considers the fetus a living being or only a potential living being, there is an ethical dimension to an abortion that knee surgery doesn’t have. And that’s why we should want it to be rare.

    • Beatrice says:

      Whether one considers the fetus a living being or only a potential living being, there is an ethical dimension to an abortion that knee surgery doesn’t have. And that’s why we should want it to be rare.

      A woman generally doesn’t decide to have an abortion just for kicks (unless she’s made of straw, those have abortions for all kinds of reasons like “I want my waist back”), so rare abortions for me mean rare unwanted pregnancies. I’m much more concerned about the woman in question than a fetus.

      You are interested in the ethical dimension?
      Here you go:

      I want rape to be rare (and by extension abortion after getting pregnant by rape).
      I don’t want women to be abused by their husbands/boyfriends/family (and by extension don’t get abortions because they don’t want to raise a child in that kind of environment).
      I want women to live in better financial circumstances and have better safety net for when something goes wrong (and by extension have all the kids they want instead of aborting a wanted fetus because she doesn’t have enough money for a baby).
      I want women and men to be taught about contraception (and by extension have far less unwanted pregnancies).
      Etc.

    • EG says:

      In a conversation with a fellow liberal physician, we stated almost simultaneously that the only “red line” between not alive and alive is the moment of conception; everything after that point is a continuum.

      Historically speaking, two other “red lines” have been quickening and birth.

      • Cactus Wren says:

        And only one of the three is obvious to the observer. Whether “quickening” has occurred is, of course, a matter of the pregnant individual’s perception and reporting. As to conception: if a woman’s had sex fifteen times in the past two months, is she pregnant? How can you tell? Has she conceived? Is there a fertilized ovum in her body? Has it implanted? Twinned? More-than-twinned? Are there several? Are two melding together to form a genetic “chimera”? You can’t tell, not without in some sense invading her body.

        But — preposterous pro-lie* straw scenarios aside — I can’t imagine any real scenario in which one could look at a living entity and say, “Has it been born, or not? I can’t tell.”

        * That is not a typo

    • (BFing)Sarah says:

      We have yet to be able to define at what point along that continuum the preference moves from the autonomy of the mother to some degree of at least a moral obligation to the fetus.

      This is EXACTLY why we need to leave the decision of whether to continue a pregnancy up to the person that is pregnant. Because everyone defines the line between ‘cells’ and ‘living being’ differently and because we CAN trust women to make that decision on their own, without government or other intervention. Women are both entitled to make that difficult call and infinitely qualified to make that call. No one is more qualified than the person that is pregnant to make that decision. She is the one who knows what she wants to do, she is the one who knows what she can do, and she is the one who will go on living after that decision. Why do those that are anti-choice assume that pregnant people cannot make that decision without lawmakers telling them what they can and cannot do?

      Look: I went through a terrible, unplanned pregnancy. I chose to do it both because I financially could do it and because I felt like I was ready to do it. But, I would never, ever, ever force another woman (or another PERSON) to go through a pregnancy, or ANY pregnancy against her wishes. First of all, we have no programs in place in this country to help a woman who is in a crisis pregnancy that requires bedrest, particularly when it involves bedrest in a hospital. Pregnancy is a medical condition, and sometimes things go very, very wrong. We have no programs to help a woman whose medical bills due to a crisis pregnancy are so high she goes bankrupt. We have no programs in place to help a woman on bedrest who is unable to pay rent. There is no program in place to keep her from being kicked out onto the streets. There is no program in place to make sure that a woman gets visitors in her home to help her get groceries together for her other children (although Meals on Wheels will sometimes help out). No way for a woman to get her other kids to school if she has been confined to bedrest. So, how then, can we POSSIBLY demand that any person carry a pregnancy to term? Our government doesn’t support the women who DO choose to (try to) carry their pregnancies to term, how could it possibly demand that all women do so out of a sense of ‘morality’! Give me a flipping break.

    • matlun says:

      … the only “red line” between not alive and alive is the moment of conception; everything after that point is a continuum.

      The whole point that there is no meaningful “red line”, no clear absolute criteria for when we have a new human being with independent rights. It is a biological gradual process. Any discussion of abortion must recognize this.

      From my point of view it is pretty clear that
      * Shortly after conception, the embryo is just a clump of cells. To claim that we should recognize its human rights at this level is absurd.
      * Just before delivery, the late fetus is morally the same as a newborn infant.

      Reasonable jurisdictions also recognize this in law. Ie early abortions are unproblematic and have no interesting moral dimension. Very late abortions on the other hand are restricted. Along the line there are gradual changes in the rules reflecting the value we choose to assign to the fetus.

      The exact rules we decide on is fairly subjective. In the end it is a political decision and not a scientific one.

  18. Tramenilla says:

    Wouldn’t it be funny if, after years of denying women’s bodily autonomy because of religious beliefs, there suddenly came out some kind of medical link between abortion and an increased risk of some sort of medical condition?

    And then the religious right-wingers used that to say “See? It just makes medical sense to force our anti-abortion views on everyone because of this thing that’s only now coming out, after decades of us denying it for our own personal religious reasons!”

    And anyone who argued would be laughed at or called biggoted against religion?

    That’d be exactly what was on display on the circumcision thread!

    • EG says:

      Except for the whole bodily autonomy thing, of course. You don’t see so many infants getting abortions, after all.

      • Tramenilla says:

        These are both cases of “religion trumps bodily autonomy.”

        The only difference is, in that other thread, people either ignored the bodily autonomy issues, or, in some cases, flatly declared that bodily autonomy wasn’t important.

    • Jill says:

      Guess what this thread is NOT about: Your personal MRA soapbox! Goodbye.

  19. doberman says:

    Hmm… I’m not particularly bothered by abortion (and I’m one who has plenty of problems with feminism). I think that if abortion were really the murder of a person then everyone would be against it. People have an innate sense of right and wrong. If half the country don’t think that abortion is wrong then frankly we have to conclude that the whole debate has come about due to religious and philosophical wankery, not because of any genuine moral concern.

    Fetuses don’t even have the intellectual capacity of some animals, and we have no problem killing them.

    • Rhoanna says:

      I think that if abortion were really the murder of a person then everyone would be against it.

      I think that if infanticide were really the murder of a person then everyone would be against it.
      I think that if capital punishment were really the murder of a person then everyone would be against it.
      I think that if lynching were really the murder of a person then everyone would be against it.
      I think that if genocide were really the murder(s) of a person(s) then everyone would be against it.

      And that’s just the murder-related ones. There’s also rape (in various circumstances), slavery, etc. People have disagreed, and continue to disagree on the morality any number of actions. The presence of people (even large numbers of people) supporting something hardly proves that it isn’t murder/immoral.

      • doberman says:

        In all the examples you give the vast majority of people are against it (except capital punishment, which is because it’s not immoral). People have an innate biological sense of right and wrong.

      • EG says:

        Speaking as somebody who’s just been researching the NYC Draft Riots, no. No, they don’t.

      • Partial Human says:

        You may believe that capital punishment is moral, but out here in NotUSA I’d say the majority disagree. Capital punishment just doesn’t happen in most of the world. In 2011 only 18 countries carried out executions.*

        My views are simple. Taking a person’s life is immoral. Removing a ZBEF** isn’t. Forced pregnancy and birth are immoral, and anyone who would sanction them is amoral.

        Easy.

        Nothing is solved when the State kills someone, whereas abortion actively saves lives. Even if it becomes illegal it will never go away.

        * 2011 – The following 18 countries carried out, or are believed by Amnesty International to have carried out, executions in 2011: Afghanistan (2), Bangladesh (5+), Belarus (2), China (2000+), Egypt (1+), Iran (360+), Iraq (68+), Malaysia (1+), North Korea (30+), Saudi Arabia (82+), Somalia (6), South Sudan (5), Sudan (7+), Syria (1+), UAE (1), USA (43), Vietnam (1+), Yemen (41+).

        ** Zygote/blastocyst/embryo/foetus.

      • doberman says:

        Except that it makes good logical sense to have capital punishment. Take a serial killer for instance. You have two options: lock him up for 20/30 years and then when he gets out he’ll kill a couple more people. Or kill him right then and there. You save two lives.

      • matlun says:

        People have an innate biological sense of right and wrong.

        There may be some truth in this in the sense that peoples “gut feelings” about right and wrong are influenced by both biology and environment, but there is no guarantee that this gut feeling will give the morally correct result.

        Consider all of Rhoanna’s examples as well as for example slavery or honor killings. At one time or another people and cultures have considered these morally good, which shows that the “innate biological sense” – even if it exists – can easily point in the wrong direction.

      • Past my expiration date says:

        You have two options:

        “You” who? I have more than two options.

      • EG says:

        Except that it makes good logical sense to have capital punishment. Take a serial killer for instance. You have two options: lock him up for 20/30 years and then when he gets out he’ll kill a couple more people.

        So…every other first world country has a higher rate of death-by-serial-killer than the US?

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        Don’t be ridiculous, EG. US-born-folks are genetically predispositioned to be serial killers. It’s obviously a numbers game. That’s why people outside the US just.don’t.get.it. Gene privilege.

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