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Monday, September 20, 2010

Saletan accuses pro-lifers of "punitive dissonance"

Background: Teresa Lewis is a death row inmate in Virginia. She was convicted of masterminding a plot to kill her husband and stepson, although she did not pull the trigger herself. There's considerable controversy over Lewis' mental capacity. Her supporters say that she's borderline mentally retarded; the prosecution says that's ridiculous. But the real media draw is Lewis' sex: if all goes according to Virginia's plan, she will be the first woman executed in that state in nearly a century. Governor McDonnell recently denied her clemency. (For the record, I do wish that he had granted clemency, but that's just because I'm opposed to the death penalty as a general matter.)

At Slate, William Saletan has an article entitled "Punitive Dissonance," in which he notes that Virginia's partial-birth abortion ban punishes abortionists, but not clients. Comparing Lewis' situation to that of a woman who masterminds her unborn child's death but doesn't "pull the trigger," he accuses McDonnell of hypocrisy.

I think Saletan's argument breaks down right about here:
The standard pro-life rationale for not prosecuting women in these cases is that women don't understand what's being done to their babies. But McDonnell has worked hard to make sure that they do understand. Nine years ago, he introduced legislation stipulating that 24 hours before an abortion, the doctor must offer the woman "printed materials" depicting the fetus, its "physiological characteristics," and "the methods of abortion procedures commonly employed." Those rules were enacted in 2001 and have been Virginia law ever since. Even if a woman refuses the materials, the law requires the doctor to tell her the "gestational age of the fetus" and to offer "further information concerning the procedures" that will be used.
Because surely someone who performs a partial-birth abortion in violation of state and federal law is going to transform into Dudley Do-right when it comes to the informed consent law. Right?

We must also remember that, even when consent is informed, free choice may still be lacking: more than half of American abortions are coerced.

Saletan's sights aren't just set on McDonnell, but on the entire pro-life movement:
Why the discrepancy? The answer is obvious: Like other pro-lifers, McDonnell doesn't really believe that fetuses have the same right to life as the rest of us.
Okay, Mr. Saletan. Since you know so much about what I believe, could you let me know why I've dedicated years of my life to protecting the unborn? (To oppress women, no doubt. Please.)

The issue here is not what pro-lifers believe, but what the Supreme Court believes. When the federal government defended its partial-birth abortion ban, it could not argue that it was protecting the right to life of late-term fetuses; Roe and Casey had effectively closed that door. It instead had to rely on secondary interests, among them maintaining the integrity of the medical profession. This interest would justify punishing abortionists, but it wouldn't justify punishing clients.

Saletan is eager to bash pro-lifers for alleged inconsistencies, but let's bear in mind that he doesn't actually want us to become more consistent. What he wants is for us to become pro-abortion; in other words, he wants us to accept some of the greatest inconsistencies the human mind has ever devised.

I hope Saletan someday meets a woman who regrets her abortion. He'll quickly realize that she's been through punishment enough.

37 comments:

Nulono said...

What of the women that are proud of their abortions? Where's their punishment?

secularprolife.org said...

Currently? Nothing. I suppose, when the right to life is restored, courts could take lack of remorse into consideration. But as a general matter, I think punishing the abortionist, who always knows exactly what he is doing and is never coerced, is the better strategy. I'd rather let many remorseless people go free than imprison one person who has remorse, who was forced by a boyfriend, who trusted the abortionist when he said it was a "clump of tissue," etc.

Yonmei said...

Since you know so much about what I believe, could you let me know why I've dedicated years of my life to protecting the unborn? (To oppress women, no doubt. Please.)

Of course. Could you have any other reason?

Opposing IDX (falsely known as "partial birth abortion") is direct evidence that you only care about hurting women, not in the least about "protecting the unborn".

IDX is a late-term abortion technique. Late-term abortions are performed when medically necessary. When the US government made it illegal for doctors to remove a fetus nearly intact, they just ensured that the late-term abortion would be performed differently. Less safely, in some instances, but pro-lifers are fundamentally motivated by misogyny, as this blog continuously demonstrates.

Never could figure out why pro-lifers like you actively prefer to have a late-term fetus cut up inside the uterus and removed piecemeal, and hate the safer IDX method, but misogyny - any form of irrational, bigoted hatred - will lead to strange points of view.

Nulono said...

A few things.

1. The baby is delivered breech up to the neck still alive. How is the baby NOT "partially born"?
2. ACOG acknowledged PBA is not medically necessary (and it is a multi-day process).
http://lifenews.com/nat6412.html
3. If you think elective late-term abortions never ever happen, you're at best misinformed.
4. It's most likely true that the PBA ban will just make abortions take place by different methods without actually preventing any (this was the Court's logic in upholding the ban after all), and because of this fact many pro-lifers, myself included, don't see it much of a victory.
5. I'm pretty sure that we know our motives better than you do. If a man got pregnant, we'd be against him getting an abortion too. If a woman got pregnant with a puppy or a marmoset, we (minus, perhaps, the pro-life animal-rights folk) wouldn't be against her getting an abortion. You're committing a logical fallacy known as Bulverism.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulverism

Yonmei said...

The baby is delivered breech up to the neck still alive. How is the baby NOT "partially born"?

So you're saying a late-term abortion of a dead or dying fetus is just like birth? Hm. Why don't you call yourself "anti-birthers" then, since you think abortion is just like birth?

ACOG acknowledged PBA is not medically necessary (and it is a multi-day process).

ACOG is a pro-life organisation. Of course it's going to claim that IDX isn't "medically necessary" - otherwise, the doctors who joined ACOG would have to admit they'd rather see women die or be permanently disabled than perform IDX. Why do you suppose any non-prolifer will give credence to the kind of lying propaganda that pro-life organisations generate?

If you think elective late-term abortions never ever happen, you're at best misinformed.

And yet, prolifers are rarely if ever able to show any evidence for their claimed "elective late-term abortions" except what comes from their own propaganda sites. Whereas you can find all the evidence you need for late-term abortions performed at medical need on any site discussing women's own personal experience of late-term abortion.

Further, even if you could come up with some example - actual, documented example - of a woman having a late-term abortion for what you deem to be nothing but her own will, not for any reason you consider valid, you would still not have answered the point that late-term abortions are - as even pro-lifers (the more honest variety at least) have to agree - performed out of medical need, on wanted pregnancies.

It's most likely true that the PBA ban will just make abortions take place by different methods without actually preventing any (this was the Court's logic in upholding the ban after all), and because of this fact many pro-lifers, myself included, don't see it much of a victory.

So why bother? Just because you get a buzz out of thinking of a woman with a dying fetus inside of her, having to have that fetus cut up inside her to be removed piecemeal? Why do you hate that woman, and the thousands like her, so much that you want to put her through that instead of letting her hold the body of her child after the abortion had to be performed? Where does your callousness come from? I can't imagine the utter inhumanity in which you live.

Or is it just twins you hate? IDX let a doctor selectively abort the weaker fetus to save the stronger fetus, in twin pregnancies where both would have died. You like the idea of twins dying in the uterus?

I'm pretty sure that we know our motives better than you do.

I'm pretty sure your motives are what cause your actions, and your actions are all anti-women, not aimed at preventing unwanted pregnancies and so preventing abortions.

I'm pretty sure you're either a hypocrite, a misogynist that just doesn't even see women as human, or a liar. Because that's the only way your actions as claimed in your own comments make any sense.

Yonmei said...

Longer comment in response to Nulano went to spam queue. Should have broken it up piecemeal, like Nulano wants to do to fetuses inside the uterus.

Nulono said...

Yonmei, see 4.

Yonmei said...

I did. You've claimed you support abortions if performed to save the mother's life. You're against IDX. So you do actually prefer to have the fetus cut up piecemeal inside the uterus and removed in bits.

If by "4" you mean you're against all late-term abortion however performed, you then do want to have women die, with the dead or dying fetus inside her, and your claim that you supported abortion to save a woman's life was a pro-life lie. How do you plan on stopping doctors from trying to save their patient's life? By threats of murder, as Doctor Tiller was killed?

How does that fit in with your pretence that you're "against all violence"?

Nulono said...

See 2.

Yonmei said...

What, the one about a pro-life organisation providing pro-life propaganda that pro-life doctors who refuse to perform late-term abortions aren't really doing so because they're criminally indifferent to the health of their women patients.

Yeah, that was convincing.

Yonmei said...

Outside the little floaty bubble of pro-life propaganda, women die when they don't have access to safe, legal abortion.

IDX was developed because it is a safer method of late-term abortion than cutting a fetus up inside the uterus and removing piecemeal.

Pro-lifers oppose IDX. So pro-lifers prefer having the fetus cut up inside the uterus and removed in bits. Either that or they oppose all late-term abortions because they prefer to have the fetus die inside the dead woman's uterus.

Of course some pro-lifers just prefer to live inside that floaty little bubble, and male pro-lifers, with proper care from their female partners to protect them from the knowledge that women they know have abortions as often as anyone else, can do so much more easily than female pro-lifers - who need to come out of the bubble to have abortions, if at no other time.

Nulono said...

Pro-lifers oppose all elective abortions, even female pro-lifers.

Nulono said...

I wasn't aware the conclusion of an expert panel commissioned by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists qualified as "pro-life propaganda".

Yonmei said...

Pro-lifers oppose all elective abortions, even female pro-lifers.

Female pro-lifers are as likely to have an abortion as any other woman. Women have abortions when they have an unwanted pregnancy. Regardless of what political views they want to impose on other women, no woman wants to be forced through pregnancy against her will.

Yonmei said...

I wasn't aware the conclusion of an expert panel commissioned by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists qualified as "pro-life propaganda".

Sorry, I think we both got confused. My confusion was momentary, yours appears to be more long-term.

You linked to lifesite news - a prolife propaganda site which provided you with misleading information.

I (not being American) confused your "American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists" which I knew opposed the ban on IDX, with the "American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists" - which is a small special-interest group within ACOG (ACOG has 52,000 members: AAPLOG is 2,500 ) and which presumably supported the ban.

To avoid having my comment go to the spam queue, I'll cite ACOG's opposition to "partial-birth abortion ban" in my next comment.

Yonmei said...

See, this is where pro-lifers are handicapped in argument: because you have to go to pro-life propaganda sites to provide support for your arguments, there are always direct sources to refute your claims. Whatever panel in the 1990s found, ACOG in the 21st century after professional experience of the uses of IDX actively opposed the pro-life bill.

The intact variant of D&E offers significant safety advantages over the non-intact method, including a reduced risk of catastrophic hemorrhage and life-threatening infection. These safety advantages are widely recognized by experts in the field of women's health, authoritative medical texts, peer-reviewed studies, and the nation's leading medical schools. ACOG has thus concluded that an intact D&E "may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of the woman, and only the doctor in consultation with the patient, based on the woman's particular circumstances can make that decision." [ACOG Statement of Policy on Abortion (reaffirmed 2004)]

ACOG objects to the 2003 federal ban because it exposes women to serious, unnecessary health risks and does not include any exception to protect women's health. In addition, ACOG objects to the Act's vague and overly broad terms because doctors will be unable to determine whether their actions are prohibited by the Act. As a result, the Act will deter doctors from providing a wide range of procedures used to safely perform induced abortions.

"The term 'partial-birth abortion' was purposely contrived to be inflammatory," said Dr. [Douglas W. Laube, MD, MEd, president of ACOG] "While proponents of this law say that it addresses a particular procedure, it has been specifically written to describe and encompass elements of other procedures used in obstetrics and gynecology."
ACOG news release, September 2006

Yonmei said...

Hm. An intervening comment, in which I explain my initial confusion about ACOG versus its small pro-life special-interest group, has gone to the spam queue.

But I am interested to know if Nulono will dismiss the direct evidence of medical professionals if it's not on his side.

Yonmei said...

Hm. Both comments citing ACOG's opposition to the so-called "partial birth abortion ban" have now gone to the spam queue.

Nulono said...

Interesting assertion. Let's see if you can back it up with statistics.

Yonmei said...

Interesting assertion. Let's see if you can back it up with statistics.

Do you think so few women are pro-life, or that all pro-life women are celibate, or that all pro-life women know how to use contraception and never use it incorrectly?

One in three American women have abortions by the time they're 40.

Apparently, 51% of Americans now identify themselves as "pro-life".

There is no evidence at all that the women who identify as pro-life are miraculously exempt from the factors that trend towards abortion. If you think you can prove this is so, oh, go ahead - but insofar as the pro-life movement is against abortion and sex education, a pro-life woman (especially a young woman) is much more likely to need to have an abortion because of unwanted pregnancies than a pro-choice woman.

Yonmei said...

Further, you're a pro-life extremist, Nulano. As other commentators have made clear, many people who identify as pro-life do in fact believe that abortion should be legal and available - and while even extremist pro-life women can and do talk themselves into believing that their abortion is moral - personal testimony from clinic staff about pro-life protesters who show up for abortions - non-extremists don't even have to do that. They think abortion should be legal when it's necessary, and any woman who's pregnant and doesn't want to be knows her abortion is necessary.

Yonmei said...

So, got any statistics to prove that half of American women who identify as pro-life magically aren't included in the 1 in 3 American women who have abortions?

Nulono said...

1 in 3 is less than 51%, FYI. I'm gonna need statistics to back up your claim, not anecdotal evidence. Even if it's true, so what?

You point out that sometimes pro-life women have abortions.
What a shocker!

These women are panicking and under severe emotional duress, so of course they aren't likely to stick to their principles.

If this proves anything, it just proves some pro-life women are hypocritical. It doesn't mention all the pro-lifers that don't get abortions.

Consider their logic:
P1. Sometimes, people that are under severe psychological duress will make selfish decisions that are not in keeping with sound logic and their moral code.
C: It's perfectly fine to strip unborn babies of their most basic human rights, and to slaughter them by the millions for the socioeconomic well-being of their parents.

That doesn't make much sense.

Yonmei said...

If this proves anything, it just proves some pro-life women are hypocritical.

Oh, all pro-lifers are hypocritical. They all hypocritically pretend that it's all about saving fetuses, when it's self-evidently from your own testimony all about abusing and punishing women - you're actively hostile to organisations that prevent abortions.

It doesn't mention all the pro-lifers that don't get abortions.

Men don't get abortions, that's true. But pro-choice men don't get abortions either.

1 in 3 is less than 51%, FYI. I'm gonna need statistics to back up your claim, not anecdotal evidence.

Nulano, you haven't got statistics to back up your claim that women who identify as pro-life are miraculously free of the factors that ensure 1 in 3 women in the US have abortions before they're 40.

Only 18% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal. We can assume all of them identify as pro-life. That leaves 33% of the Americans who identify as pro-life who are actually in the real world pro-choice - they want abortion to remain legal and available.

The minority of American women who agree with you - who think all women who get pregnant and don't want to be should be forced to make babies against their will - may themselves never have had an abortion. It's possible. It's also possible that they're just big hypocrites: the pro-life movement strongly encourages hypocrisy.

Yonmei said...

37% percent of women obtaining abortions identify as Protestant and 28% as Catholic. But only about 24% of the US population is Catholic. The Catholic Church promotes as extreme a pro-life message as you do, Nulano. I'm pretty certain most Catholic women are going to identify as pro-life if anyone asks them in a poll. (That's Guttmacher Institute figures, if you're interested in looking them up for yourself.)

Being outright misogynistic without a religious cause to hide behind, like this blog, is actually relatively unusual. Secular pro-lifers who think women should be forced just because, are usually not as blatant about it. Religious pro-lifers who can claim God wants them to do it, can hide behind "church doctrine"...

Yonmei said...

If you're interested in why women have abortions, Nulano (or if anyone else following this thread is interested, since I can't see why Nulano would be, regarding women as baby machines to be used till broken) there's a fascinating study here. Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives. But most of all - as the study makes clear from the start - women have abortions because they didn't plan to get pregnant.

As global statistics make clear, if you support women having informed, free access to contraception, and encourage both women and men to use contraception reliably and regularly, you reduce the abortion rate. Which is why Planned Parenthood is the single most effective preventer of abortions in the US, and why it's clear pro-life organisations and the pro-life movement are not in favor of preventing abortions.

Extremist pro-lifers like Nulano are in fact more likely to oppose women having access to contraception, pretending to believe that the Pill is "really" an abortifacient, or arguing that instead of using contraception, women should just "choose abstinence". Demonstrably, no one who argues for that cares about reducing abortions - they just hate the idea of women enjoying sex.

Yonmei said...

Wondering when my other comments about ACOG are going to come back from the spam queue ... as I see my longer comment with link to stats has also gone to the spam queue.

Nulono said...

Catholicism isn't necessarily a system of beliefs; many are raised Catholic but don't believe it and identify as Catholic for tradition.

As for the statistics, I already explained that the standard pro-life opinion (exception for life of the mother) would not fall under "illegal under all circumstances". Plenty of pro-life women don't have abortions. They are not immune from the factors that push women to have abortions, but they trudge through it rather than have an abortion.

You are the one who posited the claim that pro-life women were just as likely to get an abortion as anyone else. This still stands as a bald assertion.

Yonmei said...

As for the statistics, I already explained that the standard pro-life opinion (exception for life of the mother) would not fall under "illegal under all circumstances"

Actually, in all developed countries, it does. You can't pass a law requiring doctors to stand back and let women die, though the Catholic Church and other extremist pro-lifers would like it if you could. (On this blog, an extremist pro-lifer was objecting to the Kenyan Constitution allowing abortion to save women's lives: and I don't recall you writing any comments objecting to this and supporting the Kenyan Constitution so I guess you're just fine with Kenyan women being forced to die rather than access abortions, even if you think American women should get to live...)

In developed countries, then, "illegal under all circumstances" means "illegal to save the woman's health, future fertility, because she was raped, because the fetus is going to die before or after birth". (John McCain lost the election, in the eyes of a lot of women, when he used "health of the woman" as a mocking catchphrase.)

And when it comes down to a woman's health and future fertility, in a developed country, who gets to decide what risks she'll take with her health and her future fertility, but herself? Pro-choice saves women's lives, health, and future children. Pro-life destroys them.

Yonmei said...

You are the one who posited the claim that pro-life women were just as likely to get an abortion as anyone else. This still stands as a bald assertion.

Yes. A bald assertion that if half the women in the US identify as pro-life, that means they have the same constraints on their lives as the other half of the women in the US - they're just as likely to have abortions whether they identify as pro-life or pro-choice.

You want to believe that pro-life women are magically free of those constraints? Back this up with statistical evidence that women who identify as pro-life don't have abortions.

Nulono said...

Someone who believes abortion should be allowed in life-saving circumstances would fall under "legal in some circumstances".

And as has already been explained, we aren't against the part of the Kenyan constitution allowing life-saving abortions; we're against the part allowing the legalization of abortion under other circumstances.

If you'd read Doe v. Bolton, you'd see how the word "health" has been twisted by the SCotUS.

As for pro-life women, they ARE NOT free from these constraints. Plenty of pro-life women have unintended pregnancies but do not abort because their consciences won't let them.

Yonmei said...

Someone who believes abortion should be allowed in life-saving circumstances would fall under "legal in some circumstances".

Only in your dreams.

You see, letting a woman get really, really close to death before you perform an abortion to save her life, means - in pro-life countries - that she often dies anyway. I know in your little prolife bubble world pregnancy doesn't kill women, but outside that world one woman dies every minute of pregnancy or childbirth.

If you're for abortion being legal, it means more than just your thin little "Okay, if she's going to die..."

Yonmei said...

And as has already been explained, we aren't against the part of the Kenyan constitution allowing life-saving abortions; we're against the part allowing the legalization of abortion under other circumstances.

Ah, so you're against democracy, in this instance. The Kenyan Constitution allows for the possibility that in the future legislators may decide that they want to pass legislation allowing women better access to abortion than the tiny little chink of "okay if she's going to die anyway". Your anti-democracy pro-life forces want the Kenyan people not to have the ability to elect pro-choice legislators. Of course this additionally means Kenyan women will continue to die in the same numbers, which you like because you're pro-lifers, but you also want Kenyans not to have the ability to control their own lives: racist anti-democracy activism.

Yonmei said...

If you'd read Doe v. Bolton, you'd see how the word "health" has been twisted by the SCotUS.

It's your idea of "health" for women that's twisted and bitter. You just don't seem to like women very much, and I guess that goes with your wanting women sick and damaged.

Yonmei said...


As for pro-life women, they ARE NOT free from these constraints.


Yes, so they have abortions, just like women who identify as pro-choice.

Plenty of pro-life women have unintended pregnancies but do not abort because their consciences won't let them.

Plenty of pro-choice women have unintended pregnancies and don't abort because they decide it's not right for them.

Being pro-life is about what you think other people should do. It says nothing about what your conscience will decide is right for you to do.

Being pro-choice is about empowering women to make the decision right for them.

secularprolife.org said...

Sorry for my extended absence. My life outside the internet interfered :-) All comments should be out of the spam queue at this point.

William Saletan has picked up this post and other pro-life responses to his article. He did ask if I would want Lewis' life to be spared, when the original post clearly answers that question in the affirmative. Other than that, he's generally being accurate and fair. http://www.slate.com/id/2268200/pagenum/all/#p2

I just want to make one point about the Kenyan constution, namely, we're not being anti-democracy about this. Polls indicate that a strong majority of Kenyans would like to amend their constitution to change the abortion language. Many voted for the constitution because it had some good points and was better than nothing, with the understanding that they could clean it up later.

Yonmei said...

To be be fair, you're being more anti human rights (as ever) and misogynistic about the Kenyan Constitution.

But I noticed a complete muddle in US pro-lifers claiming that the Kenyan constitution was pro-abortion.

All the Kenyan Constitution does is leave it open to the possibility that someday, if pro-choice human rights legislators are elected, it will be possible to allow Kenyan women access to safe legal abortion without changing the constitution.

If you're a pro-lifer who takes joy in the sheer number of Kenyan women who die in illegal abortions, as evidently the misogynistic crowd on this blog are, well: that would be terrible. But if you're a humanitarian, a person who values human life and does not wish to see women die so awfully and unnecessarily, it's good to have that tiny window of hope.

Polls indicate that a strong majority of Kenyans would like to amend their constitution to change the abortion language.

Polls indicated that a strong majority of Ugandans would have liked the Anti Homosexuality Bill to pass, so that gay people could have been put to death for their sexual orientation. You think that would be good, too?