Support Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is once again the target of Congressional attack. No organization has done more to promote reproductive autonomy or maternal and child health.

I’ve been meaning to blog about something, but Gail Collins beat me to it in a great column today.

I respect my friends and neighbors who identify with a pro-life perspective. Yet I hope the pro-life movement reconsiders the tremendous harm it has done—and is now doing–in its campaign against Planned Parenthood. No organization has done more than Planned Parenthood to advance reproductive rights and maternal and child health in America. By providing contraceptive services, pap smears, and STD screening, Planned Parenthood provides a critical service across America. (See postscript below the fold)

Yes, Planned Parenthood performs abortions. They don’t use federal funds for this. Women have a constitutional right to these procedures. Like most Americans, I support abortion rights, which are so important for women’s equality. I also believe that low-income pregnant women should have the same rights that more affluent women do, to decide intimate questions free from bullying or economic pressure.

And, rather obviously, there would be many fewer abortions if youth and low-income women and men had greater practical access, with less social stigma, to the contraceptive and reproductive health services that Planned Parenthood provides. I grew up in a yuppie, liberal Jewish community in which (I’m told) high schoolers sometimes had sex, yet where teen pregnancy was rare. I would bet $5,000 that we had far fewer abortions than occurred among students at the socially conservative parochial schools a few miles down the road. Our society’s collective ambivalence and stigma surrounding contraception doesn’t reliably prevent sexual activity. It does have a way of making that sex less responsible and more dangerous for both individual human lives and population health.

Seventy percent of American teenagers have sex before their 19th birthday. I can’t say that I’m overjoyed by that statistic. Many teen sexual relationships are pretty crummy. As the father of two teen daughters, I despise the commercially-eroticized Jersey Shore culture that too many of our kids are marinated in. Yet teens are having sex. That’s the reality. And many other Americans who are not teenagers need the kind of information, services, and help Planned Parenthood has provided for decades very well.

We can address these realities by making sure that people get this help, or we can engage in magical thinking and hope for the best. That’s not working out very well. We can honor the historic compromise in which Planned Parenthood uses federal resources to provide essential non-abortion services. Or we can allow a small band of intolerant people to put a notch in their belts by demonizing a worthy organization, its employees, and the people who use its services.

I’m contributing $100 to Planned Parenthood. I hope you do, too.

Postscript: My own experience of this debate is that Americans are less polarized than one might think based on teh blogosphere or this thread. And most people on all sides would like to see a more civil and less partisan debate over matters so intimate to our humanity.

Most people who identify with a pro-choice perspective are concerned by the number of abortions in America. Quite a few, in their own personal lives, would not choose to have an abortion except under what they themselves consider very pressing circumstances.

Most people who identify with a pro-life perspective believe that abortion is a great moral wrong, that there should be fewer abortions, and that there should be fewer abortions for what many people believe are bad reasons. Few believe that abortionists should be compared with Ted Bundy or that abortion is equivalent to murder. Most people, even those who would support greater restrictions on abortion than I would, believe that abortion should be legally permissable in certain cases such as pregnancy due to rape or incest.

Those in the pro-life community who want to persuade women not to have abortions should still be concerned about the campaign against Planned Parenthood. In the first place, access to contraceptive services can reduce abortions. Second, there is a coarsening incivility to American politics exemplified by demonstrators bellowing at pregnant women entering a clinic. Third, many of the efforts to harrass Planned Parenthood staff and patients contribute to an atmosphere of violence and intimidation that should concern every American across the spectrum. If the goal is to have fewer abortions by persuading people that abortion is wrong. Bullying and intimidation do not advance that cause. Neither does economic pressure directed against economically vulnerable women.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

46 thoughts on “Support Planned Parenthood”

  1. Right on.

    I have a thing against getting my news from Youtube, so I haven’t watched that video. (This stand may be counterproductive. I’ll think about it.)

    Meanwhile, I have to ask: isn’t it still better for teenage sex slaves to get healthcare? Of course it would be better if men realized it’s wrong to pay for sex, and I guess calling the police on people like this is the thing to do, except, then don’t they just go without healthcare?

    I’m not so sure it’s easy to know what to do about this. We still put hookers in jail in this country — I don’t know why — so are we so sure that calling the cops right away is the best approach? I’m not so sure. I’m just asking. I hate slavery, of course. But what is the best way to fight it? This issue makes me so angry I probably have a blind spot.

  2. Andrew: Yet I hope the pro-life movement reconsiders the tremendous harm it has done—and is now doing–in its campaign against Planned Parenthood.

    There is one thing you can count on: They won’t rest until they stomp it out of existence like ACORN.
    Republican ideas never die, they just get a new pair of Nikes…
    That is the reason why the Right seems to be wining the war even when they lose a battle.
    They get louder, meaner, more insistent. I respect them that. And wish we had similar players like…
    But how many of the Left have ever even heard a Mike Malloy rant?
    And those that have? They mostly distance themselves…

    And so on the Left…
    Single-payer awaits another Age of Man…
    And gun control hardly gets a vet, even after a winsome congresswoman and a astronaut husband, takes it in the forehead.

    Whoever said the best offense is a good defense…
    Wasn’t any good at politics. They got Fox News screaming non-stop offense, we got what?
    George Soros sitting the last one out?

    Go fish…

  3. Planned Parenthood is one of the most deceptively evil organizations out there today. All under the guise of doing good, they meanwhile are busy advising pimps on underage sex trafficking, providing secret abortions for minors, and covering up the statutory rape of underage girls. As a father of three daughters, I hate this organization in the strongest sense of the word. Planned Parenthood has paved the way for monsters like Gosnell in Philadelphia to do what they do. Meanwhile, where the hell are parents? Where are the calls from liberals for parents not to abdicate their role in the sexual development of their children? Instead we find parents shrugging their shoulders and saying “oh well, I don’t like all this over-sexualization stuff but that’s just what the kids are doing”. And so they let someone else handle the problem. That’s a cop-out in my opinion.

  4. As the above shows…
    My line: Republican ideas never die, they just get a new pair of Nikes…

    Was too tame…
    (And I knew it even as I typed it.)
    It should have read instead:

    Republican ideas never die they just get a new pair of seven league boots…

    Other that that….
    Bux demonstrates the truth of my thesis most buxomly…

  5. I would like to say that Bux is full of s**t, but I know we are supposed to be civil. Planned Parenthood does not do what Bux asserts. I have three daughters and I was very involved in their lives (they are now adults) and I had many good talks with them. However, you don’t know teenagers if you think that you can keep them from having sex if they decide to do it. Get real. So part of the good talks are about contraception, even when you tell them you would rather they wait. But a lot of kids don’t have parents like that. I didn’t. And one of the few places that young people and mature women can get affordable support and good information and assistance is Planned Parenthood. I have taken more than one teenager there who would not talk to their parents about sex because they felt they would get nothing more than screaming. I think that I helped possibly to prevent unwanted pregnancies and unwanted babies being born to girls who were not mature enough to be parents.

    The fact that one Planned Parenthood employee was an idiot who got fired does not make the organization bad. Girls and boys need a place to go where they can trust they will get good information and confidentiality. So stop with the demonizing.

  6. I can accept, as a general proposition, that good does not come from adolescents having sex. Sexual union is an adult activity, and those who have sex should be prepared to live with the consequences of having sex. Minors are, as a rule, poorly prepared in this regard.

    For those adolescents who do have sex, however, harm is significantly less likely to occur to those who take precaution appropriate to avoid disease and/or pregnancy. I suspect that here in the real world, if a parent’s choice is between a daughter (or son) having sex while using a condom or having sex while not doing so, any parent (at least any parent who is not himself a participant in that sex) would prefer the former.

    What about it, Bux?

  7. I’ve always wondered who was in charge of producing versions of the Ten Commandments with that pesky “false witness” bit left out. Someone must be doing it. Otherwise how could so many people who consider the Bible authoritative be so eager to believe slanders – “doctored” videotapes, for example – about people and organizations they dislike?

  8. I favor abortion on demand, I used to work for Planned Parenthood in San Francisco. This is fine for me, because I do believe than ensoulment happens after birth, through the interaction of the infant with other humans. If I didn’t, if I thought ensoulment happened at conception, then I would be required to oppose Planned Parenthood as a murderous organization, despite the good things it also does. So, Harold, I don’t think you are showing respect for pro-lifers in suggesting that they should overlook the Planned Parenthood activities which they regard as monstrous evil.

  9. Bux, there are laws reguarding patient confidentiality, reporting crimes and how these two concerns should be balanced. If you have problems with those laws, by all means, fight to have them changed. However, it is dishonest to blame Planned Parenthood for following those laws.

  10. The Wingnut Bible is a godly document, and probably omits the “false witness” stuff. Or maybe it will discover that it is a mistranslation, like Exodus 21:22. (KJV: “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.”) http://www.conservapedia.com/Disputed_Biblical_Translations

    In other words, Mark, don’t hold wingnuts up to the Bible. They’ll wriggle out of it, somehow: even KJV.

  11. It is merely my opinion, but whenever I encounter someone who claims to know when “ensoulment” occurs, I wonder what other unknowable things that person is willing to speculate about.

    For those who contend that this event occurs at conception, how many souls do identical twins have?

  12. (I’m trying this once more because a flubbed attempt at coding a link ate the last one). I wrote about this a little while ago here: http://supervidoqo.blogspot.com/2011/02/for-good-times.html

    Basically, I’ve heard horror stories form some of the kids I work with. The other day, while speaking with a group of young mothers, one of them told me a friend of hers has 3 different babies with 3 different fathers, and her boyfriend 4 babies with 3 different mothers. Another girl (16yrs.) told me she and her boyfriend were “trying”, even though she hates his guts and always complains about him, because she’ll at least “have something to remember him by”. Statistically, these babies will have it very rough.

    None of this will matter to anyone who accepts the pro-life religious narrative. But to the rest of us, the real tragedy is how many more kids are coming into the world that won’t really love them and will not be prepared to take care of them.

  13. Planned Parenthood provides more than sexual health services. I have personal experience to relate.

    When my COBRA coverage ended I was in a hard place for getting health care. I’m a 49 year old man, have low grade or “pre” hypertension controlled by an ACE inhibitor for several years. Studies published in JAMA suggest that aggressive treatment of hypertension when it is still relatively low (130/90) has a salutary effect on cardiovascular health and reduces incidence of heart attack.

    My prescription ran out. I wasn’t eligible for Medicaid due to having some assets. The local planned parenthood clinic accepted me as a patient, refilled my prescription and did blood work (cholesterol, liver and kidney function). All at a cost of $15 out of pocket. I did a follow up visit because the kidney function part of the blood work showed elevated Sodium levels, and I wanted to verify that the 1800 mg of ibuprofen my previous physician had recommended for osteoarthritis inflammation was the cause (it appear to be so, I’d discontinued use and Sodium levels were back to normal). Again I was charged $15 for visit and lab.

    I have health insurance again starting on Monday thanks to a new job. I won’t be using Planned Parenthood for health services, but they are very high on my list for charitable giving when I’m in a position to do so.

  14. “…whenever I encounter someone who claims to know when “ensoulment” occurs…”. See? THis is why I visit this site. People who opine on the invisible and unknown fascinate me. The fact that they’re so blatantly willing to push their delusions on others is squalid. I know squalid isn’t a word typically used to express the belief that someone has an unkempt, unattractive, and unhealthy state of being, but it works for me.

    I do wish these fundamentalists would quit pretending to be gods. Since it’s becoming all the rage, I’ve begun to relegate the bullies to that spectrum of society in which they best fit; Outside.

  15. So I should be forced to pay to support abortions? Seriously? It’s one thing to choose to have one, it’s another to force someone else to foot the bill. I’m sure I should also be forced to support under-age sex rings http://www.liveaction.org/traffick, quality work there at planned parenthood.

  16. G – you should be “forced” to support, with your tax dollars, whatever the majority votes on, provided it is constitutional. It is called constitutional democracy. Not believing in it is unAmerican. Pacificts must pay for war. Racists must pay for children of all colors to be educated. And, yes, the majority has decided that pro-life people must pay for some abortions. That is democracy. You don’t get everything you want. Nor do I.

    Now, it just so happens, that tax dollars only go to pay for abortions in a very limited number of cases – when the pregnant woman’s life or heath are in danger or when she was the victim of rape or incest; ONLY IF she qualifys for government funded heathcare. No “elective” abotions are paid for with your precious tax dollars.

    In fact, the government dollars going to Planned Parenthood are used to PREVENT abortions, by making birth control available and to reduce the chance of miscarriages (spontaneous abortions) and still births by provinding pre-natal care. The vast majority of Americans either support this status quo or want to increase access to and government funding for abortion.

  17. I’m pro-choice, but if I thought abortion was murder, I don’t think I could support an organization that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people a year on the grounds that it provides a bunch of social services at the same time. This seems rather like pointing to Ted Bundy’s great work as a campaign volunteer. Saying “why can’t you ignore the abortions and focus on all the good they do?” seems like you’re not actually engaging with the core of the pro-life argument.

  18. But the good that Planned Parenthood does includes preventing abortions by helping with contraception and sex education. If so many anti-abortion advocates were not more anti-women and anti-sex (at least for women) than they are anti-abortion, then they’d prevent more abortions too.

  19. I have sympathy for McArdle’s position in theory, but I think it relies on a premise I’m not ready to concede: that the anti-abortion position is rational. Sure, if they believe abortion is murder they’re justified in refusing it funding; heck, they’re probably justified in committing atrocities to prevent abortion – but only if that belief isn’t crazy. I’m not so ready to concede that any reasonable empirical thought process can lead one to consider a zygote to be a person. When an embryo becomes a person is a hard question, but anyone who insists that you respect and indeed legislate based on their belief that it happens while the embryo is still a ball of undifferentiated cells isn’t engaging in such a debate, they’re attempting to impose their theology.

  20. Henry, how many abortions has Planned Parenthood prevented, and where is your research to show that Planned Parenthood does a better job of preventing abortion than other pro-life organizations, or good parenting, or simply doing nothing? What is their net ratio of abortion supports to abortion preventions? I’m delighted to hear that you are interested in preventing abortions. We don’t need Planned Parenthood for that though.

  21. McMegan has done something absolutely spectacular here – ‘Ted Bundy’s great work as a campaign volunteer’ Far better than the old, ‘Well, at least he made the Italian trains run on time’.

    Folks are really talking past each other: abortion on demand advocates seem generally unable to take seriously the view that it is murder, and move from that to what is required morally in a society which allows it. I’m partially color blind, myself, but I am prepared to believe my sister when she tells me that something I think is green really has a lot of blue in it.

  22. Warren Terra: “When an embryo becomes a person is a hard question.” I’ll take that to mean, “When an embryo’s rights — not what we label an embryo — outweighs a woman’s right to control her own body is a hard question.”

    Bux: I did not claim to have such research, only that preventing abortions is among the good things that Planned Parenthood does. And I am not claiming now that it prevents more abortions than it performs, as there would be no way to measure that.

  23. Warren, yours is a terribly ideological interpretation of biology. To bring up the zygote is misleading because the zygote stage literally lasts for less than a week from conception. Now I believe conception is the point of origin for life, but to engage in what you call serious debate, I’m willing to sacrifice four or five days for life to start, for argument’s sake. Now let’s look at the first month of embryo development, in which both brain and heart development occur. The brain and the heart are biologically at the core of life. You dismiss this as a “ball of undifferentiated cells” (which is just a parroting phrase that pro-abortionists like to throw around to dismiss life as non-life), but just because you don’t like how small it is or weird it looks does not mean that it doesn’t have the core functions of life. Like Dr. Seuss says, “a person’s a person no matter how small”. By the way, what is an “empirical thought process”? I’m familiar with a logical thought process informed by empirical evidence. And don’t pretend that those who support abortion are any less ideological in their approach to this issue.

  24. Bux’s latest comment proves the point that I tried to make in my comment to Warren Terra. The biological stage of an embryo does not settle the abortion question. It is, at most, a factor to weigh in determining when, if ever, the rights of an embryo supersede the rights of a pregnant woman. And that question can never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction, because it is not an empirical question.

    Another reminder: one’s answer to the moral question need not be the same as one’s answer to the legal question, because, for pragmatic reasons, the law need not attempt to prohibit everything that one considers immoral.

  25. Bux: “I’m delighted to hear that you are interested in preventing abortions.”

    Of course. Having an abortion can be distressing to a pregnant woman, even if, on balance, she concludes that it is moral.

  26. @ Bux
    When I referred to a “ball of undifferentiated cells” I meant a stage prior to heart and brain development. The clue was in the “undifferentiated”. While the heart may be “at the core of life”, the question is the importance of that life, its rights as a human. After all, there’s lots and lots of life – even within a human body there are more bacterial cells than human ones, and they’re affecting your lifestyle profoundly – but it’s our shared humanity that we’re trying to protect, not “life”. By any reasonable, non-mystical interpretation it’s the brain that matters, not the heart; just ask Robert Jarvik. Note that while the heart does begin to develop at the end of the first month after fertilization, development of the brain is slower – the first signs of are at about six weeks, and it doesn’t approach its mature state until about 24 weeks. If you were to assign a maximalist protection to any genetically human organism with any sign of a central nervous system, this would mean banning abortion starting at about six weeks, well within the first trimester – not that I’ve checked that number in a couple of decades. Such regulation would prevent most abortion, and I’m not in favor of that policy, because at that point the brain is still quite undeveloped, but there’s a solid, if extreme, basis for it.

    On the other hand, claiming as Bux does that fertilized oocyte is a person is just mystical nonsense, a position with no rational argument for it and one that requires ignoring all the other totipotent human cells to which no such rights are granted. There are lots and lots of totipotent human cells – teratomas (which we try very hard to kill), embryonic stem cells in culture, induced pluripotent stem cells in culture, in vitro fertilized (IVF) oocytes (the majority of which will be discarded immediately or frozen and eventually discarded), or of course a normally fertilized oocyte. Even of normally fertilized oocytes, roughly half will never implant. Some will make identical twins – two different people made from the same alleged person. Calling a single cell a person just isn’t a defensible position.

    @ Henry

    Bux’s latest comment proves the point that I tried to make in my comment to Warren Terra. The biological stage of an embryo does not settle the abortion question. It is, at most, a factor to weigh in determining when, if ever, the rights of an embryo supersede the rights of a pregnant woman. And that question can never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction, because it is not an empirical question.

    But that’s just the point. Maybe we can’t agree on the answer to that question; indeed, I suspect we can’t. But the point is, we’re not asking that question. Instead, we’re granting legitimacy to people who refuse to ask that question, who refuse to set bounds on what biological stage might qualify as a person. Even Bux says that he’d find it hard to rationally defend laws restricting access to emergency contraception – but I’m sure he’s aware that his political movement is committed to such a policy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were, as well. Even if we were to grant Bux’s perception that the heart is important (which, obviously, I don’t), that would leave no reason to prevent abortion within the first three-to-four weeks post-fertilization. But that’s exactly the debate we’re not having; instead, we’re taking seriously people who insist that life begins at conception.

  27. My own experience of this debate is that Americans are less polarized than one might think based on teh blogosphere or this thread. And most people on all sides would like to see a more civil and less partisan debate over matters so intimate to our humanity.

    Most people who identify with a pro-choice perspective are concerned by the number of abortions in America. Quite a few, in their own personal lives, would not choose to have an abortion except under what they themselves consider very pressing circumstances.

    Most people who identify with a pro-life perspective believe that abortion is a great moral wrong, that there should be fewer abortions, and that there should be fewer abortions for what many people believe are bad reasons. Few believe that abortionists should be compared with Ted Bundy or that abortion is equivalent to murder. Most people, even those who would support greater restrictions on abortion than I would, believe that abortion should be legally permissable in certain cases such as pregnancy due to rape or incest.

    Those in the pro-life community who want to persuade women not to have abortions should still be concerned about the campaign against Planned Parenthood. In the first place, access to contraceptive services can reduce abortions. Second, there is a coarsening incivility to American politics exemplified by demonstrators bellowing at pregnant women outside a Planned Parenthood clinic. Third, many of the efforts to harrass Planned Parenthood staff and patients contribute to an atmosphere of violence and intimidation that should concern every American across the spectrum.

  28. Sigh. Sloppy writing.After writing most of my comment I looked at a few Wikipedia pages, so I have “checked that number in a couple of decades”. I thought I’d rewritten everything in my comment, but missed that part. I blame my sloppiness, and the relatively small size of the text entry box compared to my logorrheic writing style.

  29. “I have sympathy for McArdle’s position in theory, but I think it relies on a premise I’m not ready to concede: that the anti-abortion position is rational. Sure, if they believe abortion is murder they’re justified in refusing it funding; heck, they’re probably justified in committing atrocities to prevent abortion – but only if that belief isn’t crazy. I’m not so ready to concede that any reasonable empirical thought process can lead one to consider a zygote to be a person. When an embryo becomes a person is a hard question, but anyone who insists that you respect and indeed legislate based on their belief that it happens while the embryo is still a ball of undifferentiated cells isn’t engaging in such a debate, they’re attempting to impose their theology.”

    While I think rights for zygotes is a crazy position, you’d be hard put to convince me that calling an infant which is developed enough to be born and breath on it’s own an “embryo” is any more reasonable. I’d say, a pox on both your houses, but only one of those houses is insisting on funding it’s view of things with my taxes.

    And, yeah, democracy means paying taxes to support abortions if you lose the election. It means paying taxes to support death camps with people being marched into ovens, if you lose elections, too. Democracy is a weak defense of anything that’s actually bad.

  30. “we’re taking seriously people who insist that life begins at conception.”

    Warren, but life does begin at conception. That’s a biological fact. That does not mean that the particular form of life that exists at conception should have priority over a woman’s right to control her body, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the law should give it priority. Perhaps you consider my point merely a semantic one, but I think that speaking of when life begins or when it becomes “human” serves only to obfuscate.

  31. Now I believe conception is the point of origin for life

    Are the sperm and the ovum alive?

    If not, how can something alive come from two things that are not alive? When it comes to evolution, fundies are absolutely, positively insistent that such a thing is impossible.

    If so, then the origin of life is PRIOR to conception, which makes no sense whatsoever.

    Which is why questions of “when does life begin” are nonsensical and irrelevant.

    you’d be hard put to convince me that calling an infant which is developed enough to be born and breath on it’s own an “embryo” is any more reasonable.

    Didn’t you study biology in college? “Infant” is not a biological term. “Embryo” is.

    I’d say, a pox on both your houses, but only one of those houses is insisting on funding it’s view of things with my taxes.

    Uh, most of these so-called “pro-life” organizations are 501(c) tax free. So going with the fungibility of money theory, you are already supporting them with your taxes, as you have to pay the taxes that they don’t.

  32. Phil is right that the sperm and ovum are alive. I should not have said that life begins at conception. I should have said that life exists at conception. The life of a sperm, ovum, zygote, embryo, fetus, and person (post-birth) are not the same thing, and that is why, as Phil says, “questions of ‘when does life begin’ are nonsensical and irrelevant.” The question of when it is moral to destroy the life of a sperm, ovum, zygote, embryo, fetus, or person (post-birth) cannot be answered solely on the basis of what kind of life it is.

    It is even moral to kill a person after birth in some circumstances, such as when the person is born without a brain and will die shortly thereafter. Such a baby was born in 1992, and a court refused to allow the baby to be killed in order for the baby’s organs to be transplanted to save the lives of other babies, whereas waiting for the baby to die made transplants impossible. Charles Krauthammer wrote that even a baby without a brain can feel pain (and he’s a doctor, so I’ll defer to him on that counterintuitive claim), and he argued, amazingly, that that was a reason to keep the baby alive.

  33. “Which is why questions of “when does life begin” are nonsensical and irrelevant.”

    Great point, Phil. If we’re going to be technical, “life” is a relative term in it’s own right, and at some point we’re getting down to differentiating segments of DNA. I think Henry is right to point us towards other, more meaningful descriptions (I hesitate to even bother with “definitions”) of life.

    Bux: we’re *all* being ideological. It’s the name of the game. You come into the abortion debate with a large set of ideological assumptions. Generally this has to do with whether you accept a particular religious narrative or not. It’s hard to debate the issue when the real disagreement lies much further “upstream”.

  34. > Most people who identify with a pro-life perspective believe
    > that abortion is a great moral wrong, that there should be
    > fewer abortions,

    So why then do those same groups of people generally oppose sex education for teenagers and all forms of contraception for women just as vehemently as they oppose abortion?

    Cranky

  35. Dave Schutz: You could believe ensoulment occurs at conception and still support Planned Parenthood’s major programs of contraception and sex education, which are clearly preferable to abortion. Unless, that is, you also adhere to a belief in a form of Natural Law that regards “artificial” means of birth control (condom, diaphragm, pill, tubal ligation, vasectomy) equally unacceptable.

  36. “And, yeah, democracy means paying taxes to support abortions if you lose the election. It means paying taxes to support death camps with people being marched into ovens, if you lose elections, too. Democracy is a weak defense of anything that’s actually bad.”

    Way to move the goal posts! The question was why should I have to pay taxes for something which I disapprove of, not why should abortion be legal (my answer to that would be because women have a right to bodily autonomy and thus can demand separation from an embryo or fetus). Moreover, I specified constitutional democracy, wherein the rights of individuals are protected (admittedly, imperfectly) from the tyrany of the majority. And really, your hyperbolic holocaust imagery is offensive.

    “While I think rights for zygotes is a crazy position, you’d be hard put to convince me that calling an infant which is developed enough to be born and breath on it’s own an “embryo” is any more reasonable.”

    The embyonic stage ends at ten weeks. No “embryos” can breath. Is it too much to ask for people arguing for forced birth to learn the absolute basics of prenatal development? I assume you were referring to a fetus that can breath (and, no, it is not an infant until it is born – words have meanings). Currently, abortion is only allowed post-viability when a woman’s life or heath is in serious danger. Although some pro-choice people do belive that elective abortions should be allowed post-viability, that is a very fringe position and no one is fighting to change that status quo in that respect.

  37. The thread is old, but might have a bit of life in it, yet. Some posts have hinted at the moral blindness of the pro-choice advocates. (To the credit of the posters, several seem to be pro-choice themselves.) Fair ’nuff, but time to turn the cheek. As Cranky hinted a few posts upthread, the pro-lifers have their own blindness–to the motivations of some of their confreres. I can see two motivations for opposing abortion: a moral motive based on the human status of the zygote/implanted embryo/quickened being/viable fetus/newborn, and a desire to punish unregulated female sexuality and generally keep wimmins in their place. You can find many individuals who are clearly motivated by morality. But there is plenty of evidence many opponents to abortion are misogynistic. (No, Bux, I don’t know your motives, but having daughters doesn’t get you off the hook.)

    The result is a difficult discourse, with both sides convinced, on moral grounds, that their side is morally unproblematic, and the other side is eeeeeevil. Which is why the abortion issue will be around and nasty for a long time.

    (And apologies to Eli upthread, for the Conservapedia link. But anybody who looks at Conservapedia is assuming the risk.)

  38. @ kate

    The embyonic stage ends at ten weeks.

    This appears to be true for standard usage in humans, but the definition of “embryo” is much broader. Per wikipedia:

    An embryo (irregularly from Greek: ἔμβρυον, plural ἔμβρυα, lit. “that which grows,” from en- “in” + bryein “to swell, be full”; the proper Latinate form would be embryum) is a multicellular diploid eukaryote in its earliest stage of development, from the time of first cell division until birth, hatching, or germination

    I’d quarrel with “diploid” there (I can think of some species that are normally tetraploid and doing just fine), but that’s certainly the use of “embryo” that I’m used to encountering, albeit I encounter it mostly in terms of invertebrates. There may be some people who are trying to play games and rhetorically make a 9-month-gestation pregnancy appear to be less of a person by using the word “embryo”, but there are going to be other people who just use the word “embryo” because it is technically accurate. More to the point, Brett is up to his old game of pretending that he can’t read Roe v Wade and so doesn’t know that, barring terrible medical necessity, termination of a pregnancy after the second trimester and especially after the fetus is independently viable has never been legal under Roe v Wade, not from the day the opinion was issued. An “infant developed enough to breathe and live on its own” is protected under the decision. Previously Brett has insisted that because it’s legally difficult to second-guess medical necessity these proscriptions are meaningless, but this is more of the sort of “bloodthirsty abortionist” propaganda that results in people like Bux affecting surprise that people who which to protect access to abortion would nonetheless like to see fewer of them happen.

    @ Henry

    Warren, but life does begin at conception. That’s a biological fact. That does not mean that the particular form of life that exists at conception should have priority over a woman’s right to control her body, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the law should give it priority. Perhaps you consider my point merely a semantic one, but I think that speaking of when life begins or when it becomes “human” serves only to obfuscate.

    My whole point in that comment was to make a distinction between “life”, which isn’t terribly special, and “humanity”, which I tend to think is. I’m a human, and I’d like to see my fellow humans protected and prosper; my fellow life forms, less so. Unfortunately, I got sloppy and used the common phrase “life begins at conception” to refer to the anti-abortion mantra, when I really should have included that critical parenthetical qualifier, and made it clear that it was the assertion that “[human] life begins at conception” I disagreed with. And this doesn’t serve only to obfuscate: there’s lots of life out there, including a lot of totipotent cells that have the potential to become a unique and special human person. But until that potential has started to be realized, they’re just cells. Figuring out when that potential has meaningfully started to be realized is hard, possibly insoluble – but the debate in this country is with people who refuse even to frame their position in such terms, instead insisting that human life must be protected before it exists, all the way back well to fertilization; even before fertilization in some cases, as Cranky points out.

  39. “[H]ow many abortions has Planned Parenthood prevented[?]”

    The number is of course unascertainable, but I am confident that no conception, which would have occurred but for Planned Parenthood’s provision of services to those who did not want to conceive, has ever resulted in the abortion of an embryo or fetus. I have difficulty taking seriously those who oppose both abortion and contraception.

  40. dave schutz posits that “abortion on demand advocates seem generally unable to take seriously the view that it is murder[.]” If abortion is murder, then a surgical abortion is by its nature premeditated, and it is ordinarily done for hire. I submit that those anti-abortion folks who are unwilling to sentence women who pay doctors to perform abortions as harshly as men (or women) who hire assassins are sentenced are similarly unable to take seriously the view that abortion is murder.

  41. “Currently, abortion is only allowed post-viability when a woman’s life or heath is in serious danger. Although some pro-choice people do believe that elective abortions should be allowed post-viability, that is a very fringe position and no one is fighting to change that status quo in that respect.”

    A very fringe position that was common enough for Dr. Gosnell to prosper for years doing the sorts of abortions we’re confidently told all the time just don’t happen.

  42. So let me get this straight. Paying taxes to kill, with guns, tanks and bombs, tens of thousands of people who had the misfortune be be born in a country whose government was, rightly or wrongly, determined to be a danger to national security: fine. Paying taxes to destroy embryos that are (through no moral fault of their own) threatening the life or health of an already-born citizen: a horrible miscarriage of democracy.

  43. Yeah, let’s get this straight: Paying taxes… a horrible miscarriage of democracy. Paying taxes for something genuinely necessary to keeping the democracy from being replaced by invading oppressors, no less horrible, but, alas, necessary. I’d be all in favor of breaking up our ‘defense’ budget into a genuine defense budget, paid by taxes, and an agression and OTHER peoples’ defense budget, paid for by donations. The latter would, by any honest accounting, be larger than the former. Don’t see it happening, however.

    Taxes paying for abortions? Horrible, AND I can’t see how it’s necessary. In fact, from a pro-choice standpoint, it’s stuid tactics: You really, when you do something other people find offensive, need to at least give them a way of not being complicit in it. Makes it easier for them to turn a blind eye to what you’re doing.

    But it’s not about giving the women a choice, I suspect, so much as it is about rubbing the fact that they can’t do anything about it in the face of opponnents.

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