Why Do All These Women Care About Abortion?

E. J. Dionne is noting that politicians tend to flip-flop on abortion a lot, and suggests this is because it’s not that important a political issue except to each party’s base. And, in a way, he could be right. Most politicians don’t care about abortion. Why would they? The average politician everywhere is an upper-class male with a post-menopausal wife who has access to contraceptives.

In the US, there are only two serious Presidential candidates this issue means something to. Not coincidentally, one of them is the only woman in the race (the other is a genuine Dominionist). In the 2004 primary, when the only woman in the race was a lightweight, the only contender who cared about the issue was a doctor who had interned at Planned Parenthood and later encountered pregnant teens in his practice.

In such a climate, it’s not surprising that people who think the entire political arena will be a lot more civil if only women and the men who care about their concerns shut up. Fifteen years ago, the same sentiments were aired in connection to black people, and indeed the Democratic Party became the party of welfare reform and the drug war. The sentiment is always the same: unless an issue predominantly affects rich white American men, it’s not worth fighting over.

But then again, there could be other reasons why politicians flip-flop on abortion. One is confirmation bias: politicians flip-flop on everything, but Dionne is looking for a reason to dismiss only abortion. Edwards is woefully inconsistent on foreign policy, McCain is inconsistent on everything, and Romney’s campaign’s choice line is about a position he disagreed with in 2002.

Candidates usually don’t care about any issue but one or two core ideas. For Edwards, everything but poverty is secondary. For Clinton, it’s mostly foreign policy; she’s fairly consistently hawkish. For Brownback, it’s religious fundamentalism, which explains his relative centrism on economics and foreign policy. It’s very rare to find someone like Feingold, who consistently fails to flip-flop even on issues that aren’t central to his political identity.

But suppose Dionne is right and this trend is more marked for abortion. There’s an alternative explanation that he doesn’t even mention: the political gamut on abortion. Abortion is perhaps the only political issue in the US on which the political gamut spans all possible views; debate on other issues is very narrow.

The average poll shows that there’s at least a substantial minority for every position on abortion in the US from “available on demand” to “legal only to save the woman’s life,” as well as for every sub-issue, such as parental notification and state funding.

No other issues displays this breadth in the US. On foreign policy, Americans are divided on whether to approve every military action, or every military action except those executed with total incompetence. The gamut on unions runs from opposition to strong opposition. The gamut on health care runs from major reforms to a total overhaul, with Milton Friedman’s view and even support for the status quo being out of the question. On education, the issue of funding equality isn’t even on the radar.

In that light, it’s not surprising candidates will flip-flop on abortion, since their views are likely to be almost right in the middle. Anyone with even a slight left-of-center attitude toward economics, like me, can be relied on to support the Democrats, who are still to my right on the issue. But in a debate when the two mainline views on abortion are very far apart, a politician is very likely to be in the middle, where he’s likely to waver.

It could be that this is what Dionne is rooting for. A lot of pundits would like to see fewer distinctions between the parties, which would allow them to make broad policy pronouncements without antagonizing anyone. For the people, more distinct parties mean more choice at the ballot box; for the punditry, they mean being required to take concrete positions on controversial issues.

This is probably why the media loves Obama so much. Regardless of what he does in practice, in theory he calls for greater party cooperation, which is good for any media spectator who wants to gain political power without going through the trouble of convincing large numbers of voters that he’s right.

55 Responses to Why Do All These Women Care About Abortion?

  1. SLC says:

    Re abortion

    Maybe the reason most men don’t really care about abortion is that it doesn’t affect them.

  2. muppt says:

    ya, just like women don’t care about penis infection.

  3. SLC: I’ve seen TONS of male abortion protestors. When abortion clinics were being bombed and vandalized, most of the time it was men. (This is not to say that all men are opposed to abortion, by the way).

    muppt: And men care about yeast infections?

  4. Alon Levy says:

    Oh, it’s not that no men care about abortion. It’s that women tend to care more, at least when people ask them on the phone. Apparently, pro-life women are likelier than men prefer modes of agitation that don’t involve harassing or killing anyone.

  5. Ausblog says:

    I think men are more likely to lean pro choice to help their strike rate , also pro choice woman aren’t going to insist on using protection,….no responsibility required….and they don’t have to wear a raincoat….( I’ve heard many say they hate the smell of burning rubber ).

    I’m a male, pro life, athiest….with more integrety than many……..

  6. Ausblog says:

    World estimations of the number of terminations carried out each year is somewhere between 20 and 88 million.(likely 55 to 60)

    Over 3,500 per day / Over 1.3 million per year in America alone.

    50% of that 1.3 million claimed failed birth control was to blame.

    A further 48% had failed to use any birth control at all.

    And 2% had medical reasons.

    That means a staggering 98% of unwanted pregnancies may have been avoided had an effective birth control been used.

    People have to stop using abortion as birth control.

    People should be able to choose to use birth control,
    so as to avoid having to make another choice.

    I’d like to see effective birth control made available to all who can’t afford it.

    DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU CAN GET AN IMPLANT (in arm)
    THAT IS SAFE, 99.9% EFFECTIVE AND LASTS FOR THREE YEARS?

    Implanon is new to the US but has been widely used in Aus for about five years.
    The only bad report iv’e heard is if your a smoker you can’t use them due to increased risk of cardiovascular conditions.
    Good incentive to give the cigs a miss…………
    any way my daughter has one, and no problems,
    no pills to remember,and she is protected from unwanted pregnancies for three years.

  7. Lynet says:

    I’d just like to point out that I am definitely on the pro-choice end of the spectrum, but I am incredibly fussy about birth control. However, it has to be noted that I am pretty sure I would dislike having a baby at least four times as much as I would dislike having an abortion. That doesn’t mean the latter quantity is small. It isn’t.

  8. SLC says:

    Re Obama

    Somewhat off subject but todays’ Washington Post has an article (link attached) saying that Governor Kaine of Virginia will endorse Obama today. This is interesting because there have been some rumors that Warner was rethinking his opt out position. This indicates that these rumors are untrue.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/14/AR2007021401272.html?sub=AR

  9. Great generalization, Bruce. Yep, I’m pro-choice and I don’t have to worry about pesky birth control or condoms, becuase I can have an abortion any time I want to! Yeah, because abortion is such a pleasant thing.

    Birth control IS widely available to people who can’t afford it- you can go to any planned parenthood and get bc for free or almost free. And as far as the implant goes, it has been available here for years. I remember hearing about it in sex ed in high school. And it always sounded awful. In my opinion, an IUD is a better way to go- and it will last 5 or 10 years, depending on which one you get

  10. Alon Levy says:

    Jessica, that wasn’t Bruce, or at least not the Bruce who regularly comments here, blogs at http://www.crablaw.com/mdweekly.html, and occasionally comments on Feministing.

    Ausblog, spoof one of my regulars again and you’re permanently banned. I don’t care if Bruce is your real name; if commenters on Majikthise can pick screen names that don’t conflict with other commenters’, then so can you.

  11. Alon Levy says:

    SLC, honestly, I’m kind of miffed Warner isn’t going to run. I’ve always considered him second in quality only to Feingold, on account of a) his proven record of competence at the state level, especially when it comes to budget-balancing, and b) his electability. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find his record on judicial nominations, because if it indicates commitment to protecting a woman’s right to choose, that alone makes him more reliably pro-choice than anyone who’s running (and that includes Dennis Kucinich, a pro-lifer who flip-flopped when he declared his intention to run in the Democratic Presidential primary in 2004).

  12. Christina says:

    Anybody who thinks abortion is an issue where women are all behind it obviously has only met women who stand on one side.

    Women are more polarized than men on abortion. They take stronger stands. And they’re actually more likely than men to take a stand AGAINST abortion.

    There are two kinds of women. Those who love their children, and those who support abortion. And those of us who love our kids wish the ones who love abortion would quit counting us in. It’s slander.

  13. Alon Levy says:

    Anybody who thinks abortion is an issue where women are all behind it obviously has only met women who stand on one side.

    You’re right. That’s why I’m not saying women are more pro-choice than men. I’ve consistently said on this blog and on the large feminist blogs that women care more about the issue than men regardless of their position (which is on average about the same), and American polling data bears me out.

    Those who love their children, and those who support abortion.

    I suppose my mom hates me and my sister, then.

  14. LCforevah says:

    Christina, you present ideas like a five year old. Every woman I know is pro choice. Every one, xtian, muslim, agnostic atheist. Still, it’s anecdotal that that every woman I’ve talked to is pro choice, and I can’t use it to “prove” my own pro-choice stance. All polls taken from the GENERAL population shows that about 70% of both males and females are pro-choice.
    Stop making sweeping statements without statistical proof.

  15. ausblog says:

    Seems the only way to get people to use birth control is to restrict abortions to cases of rape or incest, or to save the life of the mother.

    These are the changes that are coming your way very soon, Roe v Wade will be overturned, mark my words.

    The writing is on the wall for abortion.

    Alon………your 18……..there is much you will realise in the years to come………

  16. Alon Levy says:

    Ausblog, the fact that you can’t argue without age-bashing me doesn’t bode well for your level of intelligence.

  17. Alon Levy says:

    Oh, and in the Netherlands people use birth control more than in Poland, even though NL has one of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe and Poland has one of the most conservative.

  18. blair says:

    Ausblog, it’s great that you support access to birth control. I only wish all the people who spend so much time working to overturn roe v. wade (and harassing women trying to get medical care) would spend more time working to access to birth control and fighting for comprehensive sex-ed in schools. Oh and maybe universal healthcare (atleast for children and pregnant women if they care so much about babies). But they don’t. Because their position isn’t about “life”. It’s about controlling women and punishing them for having sex. Oh, yeah, and if you’re interested, over half of the women who have abortions are already mothers. And those groups fighting roe v. wade? If they’re successful at overturning it, they’ll come after legal birth control next.

  19. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Ausblog, the fact that you can’t argue without age-bashing me doesn’t bode well for your level of intelligence.

    That, and he uses extraneous elipses, can barely put together a coherent sentence on his own, spams threads with cut and paste bullshit from pro-life sites, and has earned the honor of my giving his name to an award bestowed only upon the most incomprehensibly ignorant morons I come across. I think that might be one of the best arguments I’ve ever made.

  20. Sweet Tea says:

    There are two kinds of women*; those who fabricate and slander as a matter of course, and those who don’t.
    As a loving mother of four and a staunch supporter of every woman’s right to have or not to have the exact number of children they wish, I submit that Christina is one of the ones who do.

    * men, too

    First time I’ve seen this blog (don’t even know how I got here… Pandagon? Sadly, No? those are the only other tabs I’ve got open, so I reckon it’s one of them) and while I generally don’t jump in and start commenting on the first post I see on a blog, Christina’s comment made me wanna reach through the monitor and throttle her.

    Ausblog’s suggestion that because I’m pro-choice I must be irresponsible, ostensibly because I’m not merely pro-choice, but rabidly pro-abortion (as if I’m hoping I can get myself preggers again because I can hardly wait to get an abortion), as wrong as it was, is nothing new. I’ve seen patriarchal jumpers-to-conclusions express the exact same ill-informed sentiments several times before.

    But Ms Christina.. oh how I wish she’d have been sitting in my living room and had said that load of crap to my face.

    As to the original post, I don’t think it’s just abortion, pols seem entirely too vapid these days (I’m only in my early 30’s so maybe it just _seems_ pols from the past had more substance to ‘em.) Vapidity leads to namby-pambyishness, which is just around the corner from wishy-washy.. and how can flip-flops be far behind?

    Somehow I’m reminded of Republicans beliefs as to whether or not it is OK to debate an ongoing war now vs. when Clinton was president.

    Beliefs are fungible, especially for political expediency.

  21. Neil says:

    You don’t hear as much about it with men, but they often regret their abortions. I had a college friend who was tortured for years because his girlfriend had an abortion.

    Also see Hip hop singer regrets abortion for a powerful music video.

    One of the sad truths of the abortion debate is that it is mainly sound bites and political posturing. People have forgotten to address the main issue, namely “What is the unborn?” If it is a human being, then we ought not kill it. If it is not a human being, then do whatever you want with it (hint: it is a human being, with unique DNA, 46 chromosomes, etc. – also check out a 4-D ultrasound).

    I am sympathetic to the plight of women in crisis pregnancies (I volunteer at and donate to a Crisis Pregnancy Center, counseling the guys and teaching a parenting class). But while crisis pregnancies have a lot of psychological complexities, they are morally quite simple.

    Basic pro-life reasoning is rather simple:
    1. It is immoral to kill an innocent human being
    2. Abortion kills an innocent human being.
    3. Therefore, abortion is immoral.

    Drill into each word and you’ll see how tight this argument is. The unborn is obviously a human being (she ain’t a puppy). She is a living human being with unique DNA, 46 chromosomes, etc.

    The good news is that God’s grace and mercy is available to all those who have been involved in abortions in any way. Check out your local Crisis Pregnancy Center. I think you’ll be surprised at just how much they do for families in need.

  22. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Basic pro-life reasoning is rather simple:
    1. It is immoral to kill an innocent human being
    2. Abortion kills an innocent human being.
    3. Therefore, abortion is immoral.

    Drill into each word and you’ll see how tight this argument is. The unborn is obviously a human being (she ain’t a puppy). She is a living human being with unique DNA, 46 chromosomes, etc.

    That reasoning is only “tight” because your hiding your assumptions and assuming what you are trying to prove. A dead body also has unique DNA, 46 chromosomes, etc., and therefore your definition destroys itself.

  23. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Correction: first “your” should be “you’re”.

  24. Neil says:

    I don’t see how that destroys itself or assumes what I’m trying to prove. The dead body you refer to is a unique human body. But it is already dead. The unborn are alive. If they weren’t alive and growing, no one would want an abortion.

  25. Tyler DiPietro says:

    I don’t see how that destroys itself or assumes what I’m trying to prove. The dead body you refer to is a unique human body. But it is already dead.

    You just answered your own implicit question. You (arbitrarily) presented a list of criteria for what constitutes a “living human being”, but a dead human being also meets them, and therefore it recursively invalidates itself

    The unborn are alive. If they weren’t alive and growing, no one would want an abortion.

    Which is irrelevant. Insects are also alive and growing, yet stepping on them isn’t generally regarded as significantly immoral.

  26. Neil says:

    Your dead guy example is that of a dead guy. So he wouldn’t be alive. Which means he would not fit my example of a “living human being.”

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you missed the “etc.” at the end of my extensive two item list of traits of living humans. I’m not used to people debating that part of the argument, so I used a shortened version of it.

    I think we would agree that the key words are “kill,” “innocent” and “human being.”

    Kill: Do you disagree that abortion kills something that is alive? If not, I have plenty of pictures that might persuade you – both of post-abortion carnage and 4-D ultrasounds.

    Innocent: Do you think the unborn have committed any capital offenses deserving of death?

    Human beings: If they aren’t human beings, what are they? Again, the 4-D ultrasounds can be helpful for non-scientific types. Unique human DNA, 46 human chromosomes and other distinctly human characteristics help the case as well.

    Seriously, many pro-choicers will agree with my reasoning and be candid enough to admit that abortion takes an innocent human life. They have just moved on to argue that the unborn are human but haven’t achieved “personhood.” (Or they argue that a woman’s freedom trumps the need to protect an innocent human life. Indeed.) When one group gets to decide who has personhood and who doesn’t, watch your back. Their definition is convoluted, of course, and can be rebutted as well.

    P.S. Nice post on Deepak Chopra. Hey, we agree on something!

  27. Neil says:

    P.S. Your insect argument is what is irrelevant, because you are separating it from the fact that we are dealing with human beings, not insects. The point isn’t that killing is always immoral, but that killing an innocent human being is. But you knew that, right?

  28. Alon Levy says:

    Neil, you’re assuming that personhood equals humanity. It’s pretty close in most cases, but there are exceptions. If we found that another species were self-aware, we’d have to extend personhood to members of that species, at least in part. A lot of ethicists accord great apes certain moral standing, and even if they don’t see them as sentient enough to warrant rights equal to those of humans, they still worry about e.g. scientific experiments done on them more than about scientific experiments done on non-primates.

    As it happens, sentience is something that requires extensive biological development, much of which only happens after birth. For example, take neural development. Neurons are all present by about week 16, if I’m not mistaken, but self-awareness requires a large number of synapses, which take longer to develop. Human fetuses only have enough synapses to feel pain around week 31, at which point they’re in the same category as zebrafish.

    Obviously, the law needs something clearer than the fuzzy continuum ethicists and developmental biologists provide. The gray area starts in week 31 and ends a few weeks after birth, so taking birth, roughly its midpoint, to be the line of demarcation is the most sensible.

    The ultrasound pictures you refer to are just another example of emotional argument. Yes, fetuses look similar to humans. So do monkeys. The DNA argument only establishes potentiality, and stops making sense once you consider the possibility of other intelligent species, or of artificial intelligence (what rights should a Turing-testable AI have?), or of aliens.

  29. Sweet Tea says:

    First off, that “Basic pro-life reasoning” could possibly (if it weren’t for another matter I’ll get to in a moment) be a tight pro-birth argument, but not necessarily a pro-life one, unless the person making the argument is also anti-war – not without being hypocritical and/or immoral.
    Pregnancy crisis centers (and, since you’ve asked folks to check out a center, I’d like to point out that I have used the services of one, and while I appreciated the bag of diapers and the maternity clothes, I wasn’t planning on getting an abortion anyway and could have done without the “counseling”) don’t seem to be anywhere near as concerned about life as they are about birth. I believe it’s long past time to drop the lie of pro-life and go with pro-birth, or better yet, forced-birth, for the sake of intellectual honesty.

    But most importantly a pregnancy, which is what is aborted, isn’t a human being..duh. And for that matter a fetus isn’t either. Or do you also believe an egg is a chicken?

    But that’s just my opinion, and that’s OK. I’m the only one that matters — with regard to my uterus, my pregnancy, my potential child. If your religion or upbringing or reasoning or what-the-hell-ever tells you that a fetus, or even a very recently fertilized egg is a human being, I suggest you don’t abort.

    Tyler’s exactly right (and I know that’s some formal logical fallacy… ) and unexamined assumptions held by those who wish to control others is exactly what got us a failed drug war, a failed Iraq war, and has lead to a plethora of presumptuous and pernicious penalizing policies.

    It seems, Neil, that you believe that if a person is against forced birth then they must not have thought it through. If someone hasn’t agreed with your POV they must not be looking at it from the right perspective.
    That’s why can you write three simple sentences and believe you’ve nailed us all..or is that you, Mr. Colbert?

    As to the nature of your sad truth, Neil, I think you’ll find, if you were to open your eyes, that you are entirely wrong. Most everyone who has ever discussed, debated, agonized over, or even spent a few minutes just thinking about abortion has spent time contemplating exactly what you say they’ve forgotten, namely the nature of the unborn.

  30. Neil says:

    Wow, loads of bad pro-abortion reasoning there. I’ll just hit a couple.

    First, have you considered that if all your scientific knowledge leaves you with a fuzzy continuum that perhaps the real answer isn’t so fuzzy? How about “life begins at conception?”

    If you were about to implode a building and asked, “Is anyone left in the building,” and the answer was “I don’t know,” then hopefully you wouldn’t blow it up (sorry for the run-on sentence – I need to get back and watch Psych).

    In the same way, if you don’t know for sure when life begins, wouldn’t the prudent and obvious thing be to err on the side of life?

    4-D ultrasounds just an emotional argument?! Fetuses look similar to humans?! How about: Fetuses are humans! Human fetuses. Just like human toddler, human teens, etc.

    People in comas aren’t self-aware, but we don’t kill them.

    Some kids can’t feel pain. Can we kill them? Of course not. So pain receptors don’t determine humanity.

    Re. the mom with 4 kids who wants people to be able to choose family size: What if you wanted to choose 3 instead of 4 – would it be ok to kill one? Of course not. So the question isn’t whether it is ok to choose the exact family size. We aren’t talking about contraception. The question is whether the unborn are human.

  31. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Your dead guy example is that of a dead guy. So he wouldn’t be alive. Which means he would not fit my example of a “living human being.”

    A dead guy meets the two criteria I saw. Adding “living” narrows it down to those things which presumably meet the ad hoc definition of “living” used by biologists (zygotes, blastoci, and whole host of things which cannot realistically be thought of as people). What you are doing is starting with the concept and compiling a presentation of attributes that you subjectively think that thing should have, which is otherwise known as question-begging.

    I think we would agree that the key words are “kill,” “innocent” and “human being.”

    Then you would be wrong, as “innocent” is an entirely irrelevant attribute to what is being discussed. The fetus isn’t targeted for any sort of criminal punishment, what is being debated is a woman’s right to terminate the pregnancy. And “human being” is a conflation of the noun describing things that are “human” (a group that would also include dandruf and sperm) with something you want to arbitrarily define. A “human being” is a metaphysical notion, and you’ve provided only a foggy list of criteria for what meets it.

    Kill: Do you disagree that abortion kills something that is alive? If not, I have plenty of pictures that might persuade you – both of post-abortion carnage and 4-D ultrasounds.

    And here we have the typical pro-life “argument from gross pictures.” We are presumably to assume that something that looks like that is a “human being”. So would a zygote, a blastocyst, and an embryo presumably still fit the definition you’re working with? A close-up shot of a collection of undifferentiated cells wouldn’t have the same effect, however.

    And as well, you’re not providing a definition of “alive”. Something that is “alive” presumably meets the biological criteria for life (responds to stimuli, is made of cells, is capable of adaptation, is homeostatic, etc.). The picture doesn’t demonstrate anything in that area other than the bizarre fascination of pro-lifers with gross pictures.

    Innocent: Do you think the unborn have committed any capital offenses deserving of death?

    Since as aforementioned, punishment isn’t under consideration, but a woman’s right to terminate the pregnancy, this is completely irrelevant.

    Human beings: If they aren’t human beings, what are they? Again, the 4-D ultrasounds can be helpful for non-scientific types. Unique human DNA, 46 human chromosomes and other distinctly human characteristics help the case as well.

    They don’t help anything, and you’re once again arbitrarily conflating two different things. Your basic claim appears to be “these things look really human, and they also have DNA and chromosomes!” which isn’t as much an argument as an concantenation of loosely linked attributes. Explain why exactly terminating what you see in the picture is inherently immoral. You haven’t yet done that.

    When one group gets to decide who has personhood and who doesn’t, watch your back.

    “One group” (our democratic government) already gets to do this, so this argument is moot.

  32. Tyler DiPietro says:

    How about “life begins at conception?”

    A zygote doesn’t look like what is in the pictures you linked to, but that is what you get at conception.

  33. Neil says:

    Gotta love the euphemisms: “a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.” That is much prettier than the “right to crush and dismember an innocent human being.”

    If this issue weren’t so serious your view would be laughable. I would love to have you guys on a polygraph test and ask if you think the unborn aren’t living human beings.

    The good news is that these debates give the vast middle a view of just how bizarre the pro-abortion logic becomes, as in, “They aren’t fully human until the last 10% of them comes out of their mother. Until then, you can stick a fork in their head and suck our their brains and it is a completely moral act.”

    Back to the land of reason.

    Peace,
    Neil

  34. Sweet Tea says:

    Now lookie here, Mr. Neil.. you can take a sledgehammer to an egg and whack away at it til the cows come home, the law will not allow you to do that to a chicken. I understand you have your reasons to believe that chickens and eggs are the same thing and can be treated equally, but I must point out that there is, none-the-less, a difference, and not just in the eyes of the law. Can you imagine why that is?

    Just the same, it would be OK if I’d have decided to stop at three for me to get an abortion, it is not OK for me to, after the fact, decide that three was all I wanted and murder one of those children.

    And as to whether or not we are talking about contraception (I have to conclude I was correct in my previous post, you do need to open your eyes) while you may have steered the thread to discuss your preferred angle on this issue, don’t pretend that contraception was not discussed or that your argument is the only one that it is acceptable to discuss, m’kay little man?

  35. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Gotta love the euphemisms: “a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.” That is much prettier than the “right to crush and dismember an innocent human being.”

    Tu quoque much? Why is my “euphemism” any less valid than your arbitrarily imposed qualities? You’re just begging the question again.

  36. Alon Levy says:

    First, have you considered that if all your scientific knowledge leaves you with a fuzzy continuum that perhaps the real answer isn’t so fuzzy?

    The fuzzy continuum begins around week 31 of pregnancy. So, yes, if you want to ignore scientific knowledge, go ahead and pretend personhood begins 31 weeks before things start getting muddy. The precautionary principle you suggest implies that abortion should be legal in the first 7 months of pregnancy or so. Since there’s no such thing as an abortion of convenience beyond about week 24, you’re just asking for a superfluous law.

    And, as it turns out, the analogy you use for the precautionary principle is flawed. It’s not a question of “We don’t know whether a 35-week-old fetus is a person or not.” Rather, it’s “We know exactly what that fetus is capable of, which puts it roughly on a par with a small mammal. However, the clear-cut

    I would love to have you guys on a polygraph test and ask if you think the unborn aren’t living human beings.

    I’d appreciate it if you didn’t frame the issue. If you can’t argue from facts and logic, and need to resort to a sympathetic word choice, maybe your argument isn’t as strong as you think it is.

    In this case, you keep using the phrase “living human being,” even after I pointed out that this is not what determines moral status. It’s an approximation to the philosophical standard of personhood that people use because it works in most cases. Applying it to the question of abortion, where it fails, is like saying that Allison Janney is shorter than Martin Sheen because women are usually shorter than men.

    Yes, fetuses are living beings, just like bacteria. And yes, their DNA identifies them as homo sapiens. But humans are more than a clump of chromosomes. If they weren’t, any stem cell, embryonic or adult, would have full moral status. In the first 5 or 6 months of pregnancy, fetuses fail any number of tests that distinguish organisms from other organic matter, such as viability. Even after they could pass for organisms, their level of mental development is still too low to qualify as persons.

  37. Neil says:

    Sweet Tea,

    I’m sure you’re 4th child is comforted to hear that.

    It is hard to get past the irony of your post. You say my eyes are shut, I’m totally wrong, my real problem is that I think others haven’t looked at it from the right perspective, etc. But you think your perspective is correct, your eyes are open, and so on, I assume.

    Actually, I’m pretty sure we kill chickens and eggs all the time and it is quite legal to do both. Mmmmmm . . . Chik-Fil-A.

    So you weren’t pregnant with a human being? Interesting. That’s a rather magical trip down the birth canal that converts the “We have no idea what this is, but it definitely isn’t a human being” into a precious baby. Especially the last 3 inches, which take it from a state where it can be legally killed via “partial birth abortion” to where killing it could put you in jail for life (or possibly the death penalty).

    Tyler,

    You can play with your argumentation and logic dictionary all you like, but you might want to try learning what the terms actually mean first. Once again, you have misapplied them.

    I didn’t say it your phrase wasn’t an accurate description. I was just pointing out how sanitized descriptions of abortion are still abortions.

    If you think my qualities of life and humanity are arbitrary, you’ll have a field day with Alon’s “self awareness” and such.

    Alon,

    What magical thing happens at 31 weeks of pregnancy? Plenty of babies were born before that date and have survived.

    Just because you “pointed out” that being a living human being doesn’t determine moral status doesn’t mean it is true. Same thing with your “self awareness” argument with primates and such.

    And your “level of mental development” test is arbitrary and a little scary. Plenty of people with low mental abilities are still persons of worth.

    A human’s worth isn’t determined by her size (in fact, we typically afford more protection to children than adults), level of development, environment (a 35 week old human in the womb has the same value as one who was in the womb 34 weeks and born last week) or dependency on others.

    The fetus is just a stage of development, such as infant, toddler, etc.

    One last thought: If the mystery fetus that was in your mother’s womb 6 months before you were born had its arm ripped off in utero, how many arms would you have today – even though you are a person?

  38. Tyler DiPietro says:

    You can play with your argumentation and logic dictionary all you like, but you might want to try learning what the terms actually mean first. Once again, you have misapplied them.

    No I haven’t, you’re implication was essentially “You’re manipulating language too!” That’s the very definition of tu-quoque.

    I didn’t say it your phrase wasn’t an accurate description. I was just pointing out how sanitized descriptions of abortion are still abortions.

    No, you didn’t. You decided to pull out your own euphemism that was more favorable to your position that abortion is immoral and an act of murder. Inuendo isn’t an argument.

    If you think my qualities of life and humanity are arbitrary, you’ll have a field day with Alon’s “self awareness” and such.

    Here we have another tu quoque argument, and this guy tells me I have to learn about argumentation. You can’t make this stuff up.

  39. Tyler DiPietro says:

    The fetus is just a stage of development, such as infant, toddler, etc.

    So is a zygote, so is a blastocyst, and so is an embryo. What’s so special about the fetus that makes is specially immune to termination?

    One last thought: If the mystery fetus that was in your mother’s womb 6 months before you were born had its arm ripped off in utero, how many arms would you have today – even though you are a person?

    So we’re subject to contingencies beyond our control, and things could have happened differently. What is supposed to follow from this.

  40. Alon Levy says:

    If the mystery fetus that was in your mother’s womb 6 months before you were born had its arm ripped off in utero, how many arms would you have today – even though you are a person?

    If the mystery sperm that was in your father’s testicles a day before you were conceived had had a chemical mutation shutting off the genes contributing to limb formation, how many arms would you have had today?

    Plenty of people with low mental abilities are still persons of worth.

    It’s not “low” but “no.” I’m talking about people without brains, like many babies born in certain polluted areas (who die within hours of birth), or people whose brains are liquified.

    A 31-week-old fetus isn’t a mentally retarded adult. Even at birth, a normal baby has a smaller mental capability than a severely retarded adult.

  41. Tyler DiPietro says:

    What magical thing happens at 31 weeks of pregnancy? Plenty of babies were born before that date and have survived.

    But survival isn’t what is being talked about, mental development is. Babies born prematurely continue to develop just as they would in utero, but are at far higher risk of mental retardation, cerbral palsy, vision and hearing loss, gastro-intestinal problems and many others. They are still only potential persons.

    And your “level of mental development” test is arbitrary and a little scary. Plenty of people with low mental abilities are still persons of worth.

    “Low mental abilities” is a bit vague, have an actual example on hand?

    A human’s worth isn’t determined by her size (in fact, we typically afford more protection to children than adults), level of development, environment (a 35 week old human in the womb has the same value as one who was in the womb 34 weeks and born last week) or dependency on others.

    So because you assert it, it’s true? So if we are to assume that a “human’s worth” isn’t determined by size or development, does that mean that a colony of undifferentiated cells is accorded the same rights as an 8 year old, a 20 year old? This argument is ridiculous.

  42. Neil says:

    Wow, you guys are fantastic! It is like stepping back in time. Seriously, the pro-abortion rhetoric has moved passed the nonsense about whether a 30 week old fetus is human or not (even though you seem to grapple with that concept). I would love to debate you guys wtih a bigger audience. It would start like this:

    “Here is a video of a 30 week old fetus. Tyler and Anon don’t even know if it is a person or even human. They think that you could crush and dismember it at will and it would be a morally neutral act. They don’t think it feels pain, either, and even if it did they don’t think anesthesia for the unborn would be necessary. If we did an old-fashioned saline abortion you would see it thrash around mightily as it burns to death, though. And if we did a regular abortion it would struggle as well.

    You can ask them, but I’m pretty sure they think it should be legal for your 13 year old daughter to have an abortion without your consent.

    They think I am manipulating you by showing an image of the unborn because it just happens to look like a human being. But I think you all realize that a photograph or video of the object in question is one of the most relevant things possible.

    We could look at earlier ultrasounds as well. Nearly every abortion stops a beating heart, and you can see it onscreen.

    If you have any mentally handicapped relatives or friends, note that Tyler (at least) thinks they are only potential persons.”

    It would just get more fun from there. You could wax philosophical about self-awareness and such and then release some endorphins. Meanwhile, the middle ground would have their re-set button pushed and realize that abortion kills an innocent human being. They would realize that the wildly pro-abortion media (90% plus) has deliberately shielded them from a great deal of information and offered a steady stream of inaccurate stereotypes about pro-lifers.

    Tyler, sorry, but I’m not going to waste time with every one of your distortions. Here’s a random sample of one: My using “crushing and dismemberment” wasn’t a euphemism. A euphemism is “the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.” My phrase was the opposite: A blunt phrase to more accurately describe what was being done.

  43. Neil says:

    Alon – re. your mystery sperm reply – congratulations, you get it! There is a continuation from one phase of human development to another. The sperm is just a sperm, of course, and not a unique human being.

    But thanks for acknowledging that anything done to the unborn, such as removing a limb, would be manifested in the child when she is born. And if the unborn is killed, the child wouldn’t exist.

  44. Sweet Tea says:

    Neil, you are totally missing the point I was making which was not that we can’t kill chickens or eggs but simply that an egg is not a chicken. You are reading way too much into it.. probably because that allows you to point out that we kill both of them, which is neither here nor there.

    The law is indifferent to eggs. The law protects even the humble chicken from abuse. Sure those are both foods (I can’t believe I have to make this statement, it seems obvious enough), but they are not equal under the law.

    You may not murder a human, you may not treat a chicken inhumanely.
    You may abort a pregnancy, you may smash an egg.

    You may still be hung up on the fact that both chickens and eggs are destroyed to make food, if so, could you explain to little ol’ me why the law will not allow me to just treat a chicken in any way I wish, but does not care what I do to an egg?

    As you seem unwilling to admit that there is even a difference between an egg and a chicken, remind me to never eat at your house.

    As to the correctness of my perspective, you are damn right, I most certainly am correct, where my uterus is concerned. I suggest you have the same right.

    Digging down into the details of exactly where to draw the line is counter-productive for a society, or even a group of random people on the internet, as opinions and beliefs will always differ.
    Which is why I say, leave it to the woman and her doctor.

  45. Sweet Tea says:

    And if a child doesn’t exist, how could it have been done any harm?

  46. Lynet says:

    I would be less concerned with whether abortion stills a beating heart and more concerned with the extent to which abortion stills a thinking brain. Thus, for me, the relevant facts (having searched the internet for information on embryological and fetal development) are:

    1. The cranial neuropore closes at about day 24 (measuring from ovulation, rather than from last period). The brain can’t possibly begin to develop before this point, as evidenced by the fact that if the cranial neuropore fails to close, you get an anencephalic baby which has no sort of working brain at all. So if you know you’re pregnant that early, I really can’t see anything remotely wrong with aborting at that stage.

    Cardiac muscle contraction begins at 21-23 days, incidentally. But I just don’t think that’s relevant if the baby doesn’t have a brain yet.

    2. The brain has its first detectable brain waves at Carnegie Stage 19, 48-51 days post-ovulation (week 7). At Carnegie stage 20 (51-53 days), the brain is connected to small nerves and muscles and the baby can make spontaneous movements. The baby is still less than 2cm big, though, so, while it’s admittedly “argument from incredulity”, I find it hard to believe the baby is thinking in the usual sense. A brain that tiny…

    Let’s face it, worms can make spontaneous movements, too, and while I do try not to step on them when the rain washes them onto the pavement, I don’t actually grieve if I step on one by accident. Others would be less concerned than me, and I would not censure them for that.

    3. At the beginning of the second trimester, at 10 weeks, the basic brain structure is completed (I presume this means hindbrain, midbrain, forebrain, different halves of the cerebral cortex, etc.). The brain mass is about to increase rapidly. At this point, the baby is 4cm big (I say ‘baby’ because ‘baby’ is the word that comes to mind, and I agree that deliberately making my language less humanising would be a sneaky way to try to make a point).

    4. Sensory brain waves begin to activate at 24 weeks.

    http://www.visembryo.com/baby/10_weeks.html has this interesting remark:

    “From 12–23 weeks, the brain has a smooth surface, with two or three layers differentiated in the cerebral cortex.

    At 23 weeks and earlier, the cerebral ventricles are large, afterwhich they gradually become smaller. The subarachnoid space overlying the cortical convexities are slightly dilated at all gestational ages, but most at 21–26 weeks.

    During the last 3 months, connections between neurones will amass while growing longer and thicker.”

    Some of that is a bit confusing and technical. However, it does seem to me that this provides good evidence that much of the brain development to do with recognising sensory input, and developing complicated functions and reactions and so forth, happens in the final 3 months – that is, after the 23rd week. I think there would be a good argument for pushing the ‘fuzzy continuum’ back at least as far as week 23; the baby wouldn’t be fully human (in the sense of being a ‘person’) at week 23, but it would be about to develop some of the things that make up personhood. Restricting abortion to before that date except in very dire cases where the mother’s life is threatened (or where the baby is anencephalic or something else like that and therefore isn’t developing into a person and will die anyway) seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    At the really conservative end of the scale, Portugal’s 10-week thing looks awfully safe. I find it hard to believe that a 4cm baby is capable of thinking or feeling in the usual sense. So if you want to restrict it even before 10 weeks, you’re asking the mother to give up some pretty significant things for the sake of something that almost certainly can’t think or feel yet.

    References:
    http://www.visembryo.com

    http://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryo.htm

  47. Lynet says:

    OK, hang on, wait, maybe 4cm crabs and lizards (or can you get mice that small? If you don’t include the tail?), maybe they do feel (I’m vegetarian, by the way). But they’re fully developed 4cm thingummies. Whereas sensory stuff apparently doesn’t happen to human fetuses until 23 weeksish (actually, visembryo has the baby recognising materal sounds (I don’t know in what sense) at 22 weeks despite saying sensory brain waves don’t happen until 24 weeks, but still, it’s a far cry from 10). And I bet 4cm lizards don’t do any particularly complicated thinking.

    I’d say:
    10 weeks is incredibly safe
    20 weeks is pretty well safe
    23 weeks is probably still safe
    24 weeks is entering the somewhat difficult zone.

  48. Alon Levy says:

    They might feel… zebrafish feel pain, in a way, but it’s still uncontroversial to conduct scientific experiments on them. But as you say, there’s a difference between embryos and fully developed organisms. Self-awareness is a property that requires development that appears to happen only outside the womb.

  49. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Tyler, sorry, but I’m not going to waste time with every one of your distortions.

    Translation: I have no argument to support my ridiculous position, so I’m gioing to beat and hope people reading are stupid enough not to notice.

    Here’s a random sample of one: My using “crushing and dismemberment” wasn’t a euphemism. A euphemism is “the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.” My phrase was the opposite: A blunt phrase to more accurately describe what was being done.

    You are correct about the improper use of “euphemism”, so I’ll admit fault there. The desription you used was more along the lines of sanctimonious bombast. You once again assume what you are trying to prove by saying your description was “more accurate”. You remind of the Wizard of Oz parody argument for theism where the proponent simply repeats “I want god to exist, I want god to exist, I want god to exist! Therefore god exists.” No amount of belief makes something a fact.

  50. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Corrections (just got back from work, so my typing is a bit sloppy).

    Translation: I have no argument to support my ridiculous position, so I’m [going] to beat [my chest] and hope people reading are stupid enough not to notice.

    You are correct about the improper use of “euphemism”, so I’ll admit fault there. The desription you used was more along the lines of sanctimonious bombast. You once again assume what you are trying to prove by saying your description was “more accurate”. You remind [me] of the Wizard of Oz parody argument for theism where the proponent simply repeats “I want god to exist, I want god to exist, I want god to exist! Therefore god exists.” No amount of belief makes something a fact.

  51. Alon Levy says:

    Tyler, the proper term is “dysphemism.”

  52. ausblog says:

    egg+sperm = human being

    At the point of conception is when life began for you. This was the start of your existence. Your own personal big bang. Three weeks after conception heart started to beat. First brain waves recorded at six weeks after conception. Seen sucking thumb at seven weeks after conception.

    Soon after you were conceived you were no more than a clump of cells.
    This clump of cells was you at your earliest stage, you had plenty of growing to do but this clump of cells was you none the less.

    Think about it.

    Aren’t you glad you were left unhindered…. to develope further.
    Safe inside your mother’s womb until you were born.

    Shouldn’t they all….be so lucky………..

    ….Why doesn’t everyone choose to use an effective contraceptive ?

    Choose to use an effective contraceptive
    to avoid having to make another choice..

    There are many to choose from…….something to suite everyone.

    Prevention is always better than the cure…speak to your GP today…

  53. Tyler DiPietro says:

    Tyler, the proper term is “dysphemism.”

    Mine was actually more along the lines of dysphemism, because “a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy” is more nuetral than “OMFG DISMEMBERING PEOPLE!!!!”, I stand by my accusation that Neil’s description (along with everything he’s posted) is sanctimonious bombast.

  54. Neil says:

    Has is really been two years since this thread? Time flies.

    Just for the record, I’m too pro-science to be pro-choice. Life begins at conception, and that is a scientific fact — http://abort73.com/index.php?/abortion/medical_testimony .

    And abortions do involve crushing and dismembering human beings.

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