If states embrace Romney’s so-called ‘moderate’ stance, they would ban maybe 90% of abortions

Me in the Nation, and a pretty chart made by the editors.

In 2004, Lawrence Finer, Lori Frohwirth, Lindsay Dauphinee, Susheela Singh, and Ann M. Moore surveyed women patients at eleven large abortion providers.  Their numbers, though imperfect, are pretty compelling when one considers the actual impact of proposed policy changes in the event Roe vs. Wade is overturned. The table below indicates women’s “most important” reason to seek an abortion. It presumably captures urgent cases such as a serious threat to women’s health. (Great graphic. One typo. “>0.5” should be “<0.5.”)

There’s one immediate implication to these numbers. Governor Romney is more civil and rhetorically moderate than Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock. Yet if states were to embrace Romney’s preferred policyof banning abortions with exceptions for rape, incest, and (I infer) serious threats to maternal health, they would ban almost all abortions in America.

I say more about these issues, in The Nation, today.

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.

14 thoughts on “If states embrace Romney’s so-called ‘moderate’ stance, they would ban maybe 90% of abortions”

  1. The first six reasons are predictable before conception, so they can be summarized as “male refused to wear condom.”

    1. I get the impression that men think birth control is foolproof. It isn’t. Every single birth control method fails sometimes.

      In any case, so what if the couple didn’t use birth control?

    2. What’s your point? Either the woman has a right to control her body or she doesn’t. Current law says she does, and that her right to control her bodyis weighed against the right to life of the child, which under current law (and I would argue under common sense) is something the pregnancy increasingly gains as it progresses from conceptus to newborn. Under Romney’s current calculus (as opposed to his prior, even stronger position), the mother has no right to control her body, and the pregnancy is from the moment of conception a human life with full rights to life that can only be weighed against the mother’s right to life, or lost as a consequence of the pregnancy’s own intrinsic lack of a capability for life.

      Note that in the above I didn’t figure in the Rape Exception. This is because that exception has no intellectual consistency with the rest of Romney’s position at all, and is transparently there as a cynical ploy.

    3. And equally as, “woman refused to use (long list of birth control options)”. Since, absent failure, both parties to the sex act have to refrain from birth control to arrive at the occasion for an abortion.

      I agree, the numbers are compelling. Problem is, they compel entirely different things depending on your view of abortion. If you regard it as no big matter, they compel you to regard Romney’s position as outrageous. If you regard abortion as an outrage, they starkly reenforce how many abortions are for bad reasons.

      So, we’ve established that the pro-life position looks bad to pro-choicers, and visa versa. Thank you for that startling revelation.

      1. Brett:
        Yes, pro-choice people have contempt for the notion that the law should enforce the idea that a newly fertilized oocyte is a human life with all the rights and protections that implies. Or, at least, I have such contempt, and I feel others should. Figuring out when during the pregnancy the embryo and then fetus gains this status is an argument we can have – but if you’re going to put it at the blastocyst stage or before, you’re going to have to rely on theology, and I don’t share your theology and don’t think it should have the force of law. And the Republican stance would impose this theology on the country.

        1. Personally, I’d put it at the development of a functioning nervous system, or viability, which ever came first. Thing is, the first six reasons get invoked at every point from conception to enrollment in grade school, so it’s not a matter of when you think abortion is problematic, you’re going to have to reject them as justification at SOME point, or you’re willing to engage in what virtually everybody would characterize as infanticide.

          So the issue isn’t that they’re definitively acceptable reasons to have an abortion. That’s a non-starter for anybody but Peter Singer and his ilk.

          The issue is where you draw the line, and on what basis. I’m cool with attacking Romney on THAT basis. *I’d* attack him on that basis.

          But that chart is essentially orthogonal to the actual argument. Everybody but the loons agrees at some point most of those reasons for an abortion don’t cut it. And by loons, I mean the scary in a Goodwin invoking kind of way loons, like Singer.

          I think Romney is crazy to draw the line where he does. But the problem with leaving it at that is that there are plenty of people who embrace the opposite craziness, and THAT craziness involves dismembered babies, not women annoyed at becoming mothers.

          Which is something that needs to be taken seriously in this discussion; This “pro-choice” business had provided cover for some deeply disturbed and scary people to push policy their way. Which is why it’s actually considered controversial to require that infants surviving abortions not be murdered.

          Acknowledge your own side’s loons, or be seen as embracing them.

          1. To the extent such loons exist, they’re not drafting legislation, and they’re not talking openly about their lunacy from the podium as candidates for office – not even at the primary level, let alone in the general election. And it’s awfully silly to say that the first six reasons for an abortion apply equally well to a six-year-old child, or for that matter to a third-trimester pregnancy, as the mother is not legally able to use such an argument to justify terminating a third-trimester pregnancy (nor for killing a six-year-old child). And there’s no significant drive to give her those rights, certainly none remotely comparable to the drive from elected officials on the right to strip from her the right to evict a ball of undifferentiated cells.

            The issue here, the whole issue, is that the Republicans are fundamentally dishonest with their cynical appeals to the religiously motivated pro-life community. They appeal to that community’s worst impulses by humiliating women with mandatory browbeating sessions and with the manual rape of unnecessary vaginal ultrasounds. They use the most graphic language to ban procedures that are incredibly rare, and used only in dire circumstances. And meanwhile, while defending the alleged right to life of a single-celled-human, they don’t defend the neediest among us, and they don’t offer equal protection in the case of rape (which isn’t the fault of the conceptus they allegedly believe is a person), and they don’t offer equal protection in the case of IVF (which as practiced in this country generates supernumerary embryos that are either directly discarded or frozen until they are later discarded). The debate that you and I are ready to have, about when we must as a society intervene to protect human life, they aren’t interested in having. They’d rather malign the women seeking abortions as sluts and murderers.

          2. “And there’s no significant drive to give her those rights, certainly none remotely comparable to the drive from elected officials on the right to strip from her the right to evict a ball of undifferentiated cells.”

            Now, that’s a bit disingenuous itself. As you state, the reasons a woman can legally assert for getting a very late term abortion are limited. OTOH, you can go all the way back to Doe v Bolton, decided the same day as Roe v Wade, where the Court ruled that you could question whether a tonsillectomy was really medically justified, but questioning the necessity of an abortion was off limits. Considerable effort has been expended by the mainstream pro-choice movement to make sure that no means can be in place to detect pretextual “medical necessity” in late term abortions. You know, like the claim that not wanting the baby would rise to the level of mental illness if thwarted, making it medical necessity? Or just lying about medical conditions.

            Elective late term abortions are not a null set, (I’m sure you remember Ron Fitzsimmons. Who “lied through his teeth”?) and the mainstream pro-choice movement expends considerable effort to assure this.

            And, again, I point out that simply requiring that babies that survive late term abortions not be murdered is opposed by the mainstream pro-choice movement. In fact, Obama himself voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection act. Why is such a thing even controversial?

            Just as the pro-life movement leadership are extremists in an organization whose numbers are provided by people with less extreme positions, the leadership of pro-choice organizations aren’t really mainstream in their views, either. They just have to hide it, a bit.

            This is a common dynamic in most interest groups, extremists using the support of more moderate masses to advance their cause.

          3. brett, you are racing past warren terra’s larger point in order to narrow the focus to something you think you have the advantage on but that larger context is vital to the entire argument. the loons in the republican party are either in congress trying to write legislation, are candidates for congress, are running for president, or are being considered as nominees for the supreme court by a potential romney administration. the loons on the other side are marginalized and have little to no say in actual legislation. i can acknowledge my side’s loons but i also acknowledge that have little to no power to alter the political dynamic of abortion regulation and legislation. if you can’t see that you aren’t being honest with yourself and if you do see it but pretend it doesn’t matter you aren’t being honest with us.

  2. That chart is a tiny little bit pessimistic, because it focuses on the most important reasons. If the Ryan/Romney/Akin/Mourdock camp wins, the focus won’t be on the most important reasons, but on the most important *permissible* reasons. So there might be some of the respondents whose most important reasons become impermissible who also have “permissible” secondary reasons.

    As for the comments, it seems amazing to me how some people seem so willing to go from “I question your moral/medical decision” to “I am willing to pass laws that sentence you to jail or death for making a decision any way other than what I say.”

    1. As for the comments, it seems amazing to me how some people seem so willing to go from “I question your moral/medical decision” to “I am willing to pass laws that sentence you to jail or death for making a decision any way other than what I say.”

      It’s interesting how many more people have a problem with this when it’s not their moral/medical preference getting enacted as law. (Compare laws banning smoking in bars.)

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