A couple comments from first-timers at the Palace came in the other day on one of SJ’s posts from a few weeks ago, and both were captured by the WordPress spam filter. I scanned them briefly: they seemed legit, so I approved them. But after re-reading them again in light of SJ’s original post (and my own response to it in comments), something seems amiss: they are both about abortion, a subject mentioned in neither SJ’s post nor my comment thereon. I mean, it’s hardly the case that there are no posts at the Palace on the topic of abortion, where such comments would be perfectly appropriate. So perhaps they are indeed spam, of a type I’ve not seen before.
Nevertheless, I responded to one of the comments briefly in SJ’s original thread, and I will respond to the other comment here. Because spam or no, the arguments made in it are ones I’ve heard many, many times before, and hopefully my responses will prove handy for readers who may encounter the same.
Here is Brian’s comment in its entirety:
this is an extremely difuciflt issue for me. When my teenage daughter got pregnant I wanted her to abort and she told me loud and clear, NO. Now my granddaughter is one year old and I have to admit, my daughter was right. I think in the moment when a couple chooses to have sex without protection they have taken their decision pro choice ends here where a new, third life has started. But then there are the what if like rape, severe brain damage/disability of the fetus, etc. It is extremely hard to come to a satisfying opinion. And I also see your point that a legal abortion at a US clinic is better than illegal bullshit. I don’t envy any pregnant woman who is confronted with the question wether or not been there done that.For me one of the American cultural mysteries is the fact that those who oppose war the most are also those who support the killing of unborn life and those who are pro war are those who want to protect unborn babies. Shouldn’t the ones who support the killing on battlefields be the one who support the killing in clinics? And those against ending life in wars, shouldn’t they be the ones with the most compassion for unborn life? One of the things hard to understand for alien XYZ alias Munichmaedchen.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
this is an extremely difuciflt issue for me.
I’m sorry to hear that. It’s really not a difficult issue for me at all.
When my teenage daughter got pregnant I wanted her to abort and she told me loud and clear, NO.
Just to be clear: your daughter making her own decision on the matter is the pro-choice position.
Now my granddaughter is one year old and I have to admit, my daughter was right.
I can see why you would feel that way, and I am sure your granddaughter is wonderful. But your conclusion, “my daughter was right,” just does not follow from your premises. What if your daughter had decided to abort? Well, here you’d be a year later saying exactly the same thing: your daughter was right. This granddaughter of yours simply never would have existed, and your daughter would be pursuing an education, perhaps a career or any number of other opportunities and interests, instead of being bogged down with the responsibility of a child at such a young age.
And speaking of grandchildren who never would have existed, by having this child, you must realize that your daughter has summarily rendered non-existent certain other children, the children she might have had if she had chosen to abort. A few years down the line when she was a bit more mature and financially stable, perhaps she would have met a great partner and decided to have children. But now, those other children that would have been? Gone. Do you really have any doubt that you would have fallen madly in love with those children, too? And then, looking back on your daughter’s decision to abort when she was a teenager, wouldn’t you be saying that she had made the right decision?
I am not arguing that your daughter made a wrong decision. I’m saying it does not follow that the existence of your granddaughter makes it a right decision. Any decision she made would have been “the right decision”—for her.
I think in the moment when a couple chooses to have sex without protection they have taken their decision pro choice ends here where a new, third life has started.
Nonsense. First of all, that is a deeply unhealthy, anti-sex, anti-pleasure point of view. Consenting to have sex is not consent to pregnancy and childbirth. Period. Why should it be? Couples have sex all the time for all sorts of reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with childbearing. There is no good reason to yoke sex and childbirth together and plenty of good reasons not to—starting with the fact that the decision to bring a child into the world has enormous, life-long consequences for its parents, and undertaking it willingly and deliberately leads to better outcomes for everyone concerned. I am not making an ideological argument here, I am making a factual statement. The U.S. fertility rate is about 2.01 children per woman. Are women having sex just a few times in their lives in order to get pregnant, then calling it quits after bearing 2.01 kids? Of course not. The vast majority of the time—by far—women (and men) are having sex for reasons other than childbearing. And assuming the sex is consensual, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Second, the idea that this “new, third life” is something precious to behold is also belied by pesky facts:
The NIH reports, “It is estimated that up to half of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among those women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is about 15–20%.” [citations at the link.]
We are talking about untold billions of pregnancies that end, by definition, without any action on the part of women to terminate them. Why is it somehow more concerning for a woman to end her pregnancy deliberately, i.e., for a reason? Incidentally, I think I know the answer to that question—and it ain’t pretty. But still, I ask it in all sincerity. Why? And the interesting corollary: why are anti-choicers not putting even the slightest amount of thought or energy into saving and re-implanting even a single one of these billions upon billions of spontaneously aborted embryos? Aren’t they precious special snowflakes, too? Nature’s answer is a loud and clear no: dead human embryos are a dime a dozen, and nobody thinks anything of it. Why is there suddenly such grave concern for a particular embryo only when a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant?
This brings me to the mother of all abortion analogies (ironic pun very much intended). In no other situation does anyone ever argue that it is right to make use of another living human’s body against their will. None. Hell, we do not even make use of dead human bodies against their previously expressed wishes: we don’t harvest the organs the dead no longer need in order to save other peoples’ lives. We don’t strap people down and strip their bone marrow to save cancer patients. We don’t forcibly take a kidney from anybody—not even prisoners on death row—and kidneys are desperately needed. We don’t extract life-saving blood from anyone who does not volunteer to donate it. To do any of these things would be abhorrent, even though people are dying every day because we don’t. This human right to be free from such personal violence and coercion is so basic that everyone understands it, intuitively and viscerally.
Except in the case of pregnancy. Only in this instance—pregnancy—is it somehow perfectly all right for some other entity to make use of another living human being’s body against her will. Worse still, the entity that would demand such use of someone’s body? It is an entity without awareness, one that cannot plausibly be afforded the same rights and moral considerations as an autonomous human being with consciousness, loved ones, dreams and desires. So I’ll tell you what: when we are all in agreement that it is perfectly acceptable to forcibly extract blood from you, continuously for nine months—and justify doing so simply because you had unprotected sex, no less—then maybe we can talk about what a fine idea forced pregnancy is.
But then there are the what if like rape, severe brain damage/disability of the fetus, etc. It is extremely hard to come to a satisfying opinion.
When anti-choicers waffle about rape victims, they are conceding some rather interesting points. It’s a tacit admission that pregnancy and childbirth are not, in fact, like a walk in the park; they’re more like a violent invasion. In this “rape exception” view, a rape victim gets a pass on abortion restrictions precisely because pregnancy and childbirth are traumatizing. She is, after all, an innocent victim who has suffered a violent crime against her person, so the logic goes, and unless you’re a demented sociopath like Rick Santorum, it would seem callous and cruel to force her to endure the physical and psychological trauma of pregnancy and childbirth. But that calculus has problems with it. First, it puts the lie to any professed concern for the value of this “new, third life”: if it really is a special little snowflake that has the status of personhood, and the inherent right to override another person’s bodily autonomy, why should a rape victim get a pass? No one gets a free pass to commit a crime just because they were the victim of another one. So if you are an anti-choice advocate who finds that forcing a rape victim to carry a resulting pregnancy to term somehow bothers you, ask yourself what happened to all that compassion for the embryo. And think long and hard about the answer.
But the second issue the “rape exception” brings into shining focus is even more telling. If a rape victim is an innocent victim with respect to her pregnancy, what is the pregnant woman who is not a rape victim guilty of, exactly?
And so, this “logic” goes, we cannot give her a pass on abortion restrictions because quite unlike our rape victim, this woman actually committed an act so utterly depraved, so despicable, so vile—OMFG she had sex!—that really, the only just punishment society can mete out to her is twofold: (a) strip her of the bodily autonomy enjoyed by everyone else in all circumstances, ever (even when they’re dead), and (b) force her to bring an unwanted child into the world.
Seriously? The anti-choice view is like a black hole of wrong. It’s wrong from every conceivable point of view: the unwanted child, the woman, her family, the society.
And if you find it “hard to come to a satisfying opinion” on the subject of forcing a woman you don’t know to carry to term a fetus with severe brain damage or some other horrible malady, then I’ll assume you would be willing to take it upon yourself to care for the child that results from such a pregnancy for the rest of its life. Jeezus. I find it vastly easier to come to a “satisfying opinion” on that issue than on what to order for breakfast.
And I also see your point that a legal abortion at a US clinic is better than illegal bullshit.
Good. This is something that many anti-choicers flat-out refuse to acknowledge. As I pointed out the other day, “outlawing abortions doesn’t stop them, it just makes them unnecessarily dangerous for the women who are going to have abortions anyway.” It is simply a fact that women with unwanted pregnancies die where abortion is illegal. Watch this video if any doubts remain about whether women, their families and their societies are better off without access to safe, legal abortion on demand.
I don’t envy any pregnant woman who is confronted with the question wether or not been there done that.
For me one of the American cultural mysteries is the fact that those who oppose war the most are also those who support the killing of unborn life and those who are pro war are those who want to protect unborn babies. Shouldn’t the ones who support the killing on battlefields be the one who support the killing in clinics?
I’ll venture that part of the reason you are mystified by the pro-choice/anti-war position is that you have bought into some rhetoric that bears little resemblance to those actual views, and even less resemblance to reality. It really isn’t at all confusing when you think it through.
I do not purport to speak for everyone in the pro-choice camp: I am just one activist, albeit a fairly well-informed one. But just for starters, I’m pretty sure no one supports “the killing in clinics” or “the killing of unborn life.” That is a gross mischaracterization of the pro-choice position. No one is parading around cheering on abortions; Hallmark doesn’t make “Congratulations on your awesome abortion” greeting cards. They’re not fun (although they are indeed like a walk in the park compared with childbirth). What is happening in a clinic is that a woman is exercising a basic, fundamental right to refuse another entity the occupation and use of her body followed by an inevitable, violent expulsion therefrom. She has withdrawn her consent—that is, if she ever consented to pregnancy in the first place. [Helpful reminder: consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy and childbirth.]
If anyone else suggested that I should be forced to submit my body against my will to nine months of potential discomfort and pain, followed by an act that might include the skin and muscle between my vagina and anus being torn open, I don’t think we’d mince words about whether they were using violent rhetoric.
To which I would helpfully add:
Substitute “skin and muscle between my testes and my anus being torn open” for “skin and muscle between my vagina and anus being torn open,” and we’d certainly not be mincing words. Would we?
So while no one is parading around cheering on abortions, plenty of people are cheering on the violent ideology of forced pregnancy and childbirth. Is it really all that baffling that many of the same people are cheering on wars?
It is not a coincidence that militarism and misogyny of the forced-birth flavor flourish together. They are both violent ideologies, and feed off of each other symbiotically. I have written about this before:
[C]ultural memes like “war” tend to travel together in synergistic groups just like genes do, and thus wherever we see a warrior culture for men we will also see a breeding-sow culture for women. (Exhibit A: the Old Testament.) Warrior cultures also tend to be war-based economies, and it is easy to see why it would be extremely beneficial to such a society to control the means of production: women quite literally produce soldiers in their bodies (and more breeding sows, of course). That is: war and misogyny are memes that travel together in virtual lockstep, organically reinforcing each other.
Each is an emergent property of the other.
(See also: this very interesting piece at Alternet on veteran science journalist John Horgan’s book The End of War, in which he “applies the scientific method to reach a unique conclusion: biologically speaking, we are just as likely to be peaceful as we are to be violent.”)
As far as articulating the anti-war position is concerned I am kind of a lightweight, especially compared to, say, these people. I can only express my own views, with the obvious caveat that others who are also anti-war may or may not share them. I deplore war, and feel strongly that the only morally justifiable use for it is self-defense. (This is manifestly not what the U.S. government has been engaging in since WW II.) I am of the opinion that in nearly all cases, a non-violent solution to any conflict exists, one that is superior in every conceivable way to violent action. War necessarily unleashes death and human suffering on a massive scale. You know what else unleashes death and human suffering on a massive scale? Banning abortions.
The pro-choice and anti-war views are not incompatible. Unfortunately, the anti-choice and pro-war views are not incompatible, either.
As to your final question:
And those against ending life in wars, shouldn’t they be the ones with the most compassion for unborn life?
Those against ending life in wars would, I think, have the most compassion for the living, breathing person with an unwanted pregnancy. By comparison, a potential life is a distant consideration. And I could not help but notice that in this fuzzy unborn “babies” vs. killing-on-battlefields calculus of yours, the living, breathing person with an unwanted pregnancy is entirely absent. Speaks volumes, really.
One of the things hard to understand for alien XYZ alias Munichmaedchen.
Try starting with an understanding that “women are people.” They are not society’s forcibly designated incubators for generating unwanted children. If you are capable of understanding that, I think you will find that a lot of other things make perfect sense.
[h/t the Pharyngula commentariat, for sharpening my thoughts as well as my rhetorical fangs.]