Monday, October 13, 2014

How Do You Understand Someone's Position on Abortion?

In the past week or two, an article entitled How Do You Change Someone's Mind on Abortion? Tell Them You Had One has been making the rounds. The title is slightly misleading; the bulk of the article focuses on gay rights activism, specifically, the connection between personally knowing an LGBT person and increased support for same-sex marriage. But the article touches on abortion supporters' attempt to stretch that reasoning to their own cause (emphasis mine):
Abortion is typically considered a moral concern, about the bounds of life, or a legal one, about the nature of rights and liberties. [Planned Parenthood marketer Dave] Fleischer hypothesized it could be understood instead as a matter of personal identity, and that resistance to abortion really is stigma towards the women who have—or could have—them. “My hunch is,” he says, “talking about real lived experience is extraordinarily helpful in developing empathy and support.”
If so, perhaps American society had just never been exposed to the sustained organic contact that Allport argued 60 years ago could begin to dismantle a deeply held prejudice. After all, whites with retrograde views on race find themselves working on the same factory floor as blacks; straight people learn a beloved cousin is a lesbian. But how often does anyone, particularly among those who consider themselves pro-life, learn that a friend or relative or co-worker has had an abortion?
The validity of that hypothesis is never examined. Perhaps that's because, as one of Fleischer's door-to-door canvassers puts it in the concluding line of the piece, it's easy "to talk to strangers, because you don't care what they really think."

The irony here hits mind-exploding levels. "Those anti-choice strangers must think the way they do because they've never met someone who's had an abortion and therefore don't understand how women who have abortions really think and feel. At least, that's our best guess; we haven't actually asked the antis about their thoughts or feelings. But we totally understand how they don't understand us."

There's a lot that could be said in response. Various veteran pro-life leaders have noted that this is just the latest in a long line of I-had-an-abortion-style "stigma-busting" campaigns that invariably fizzle out, that this is basically just a cheap copycat of Silent No More, etc. They're right, and there's no point in echoing them. So for this blog, I'd just like to give Mr. Fleischer a friendly tip.

Sir, your whole premise is wrong.

I do know women who've had abortions. I know men who have been involved in abortions. I know former abortion workers. I know escorts. And I know people who are strongly pro-abortion: not merely "pro-choice," but people who have an unswerving conviction that if they were to have an unplanned pregnancy, they would absolutely without a doubt abort. 

Believe me, when you are outspokenly pro-life, you hear from all of these groups and more. You hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. You meet people who would give anything to go back in time and make a different choice, and people who hate your guts for daring to suggest that there's a moral aspect to the "minor surgical procedure" they had. It's all out there, and it's messy, and it's discouraging at times, but I try my best to treat everyone the way I'd like to be treated.

I know pro-choicers despise slavery comparisons, but what I'm about to say is not comparing the moral wrongness of abortion to the moral wrongness of slavery, so hear me out. The debate about abortion has something in common with the debate about slavery: it pits family members, friends, and neighbors against each other. Some anti-slavery campaigners came from slaveholding families. (A semi-fictionalized exploration of this phenomenon can be found in the fantastic novel The Invention of Wings.) Things got messy. Things got emotional. Things most definitely got personal. But those complications did not deter abolitionists. Even if they wanted to support their slaveholding loved ones, they could not, because they saw the slaves.

And so it is with us: we see the preborn children. That is what we think and that is how we feel. We don't hate you. We don't see you as "less than" or consider having an abortion to be a "personal identity" that we reject. We don't want to be in the conflict we're in, but we are.

And if you ask me, a campaign that fails to even recognize the nature of this conflict is pretty much doomed from the start. The same-sex marriage model just doesn't work here.


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I can see your point, but...I dunno, I've seen people claim that newborns aren't people as well, and I think once you start making human rights dependent on qualities that come in degrees, or say that you have to qualify for human rights, you're undermining any basis for equality. And there are other groups we dehumanize or discriminate against, the elderly, those with disabilities. etc. I'm not sure it's possible to simply dehumanize one group of people (or maybe a better way of putting it would be "de-personize one group of humans")without having more far reaching effects than intended. There's a poem written by Martin Niemoller, a Protestant pastor and opponent of Hitler, about how one group at a time was taken away, but it didn't stop with one groups, it keeps listing others, and it finishes "Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me." And as MLK Jr. said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." said...

Nope. Still no equivalence unless the toddler is directly inserted into the woman's body and hooked up to all of her organs.

And whether or not women are "equipped" for pregnancy is irrelevant - it is not a state of health, as that long list of side effects that you pretended did not exist have proved.

And you cannot handwave away birth. Toddlers don't cause their parents to bleed to death, or rip their private parts to shreds said...

I can see what you're trying to get at, but don't really agree.

For one thing, I have always added the caveat that even early abortion is not completely ethically neutral. Abortion rights are a conflict of the rights and needs of 2 parties. However, given my materialistic world view (as written in a different reply to you), denying the potential of a future to a being which cannot appreciate anything yet, to me seems like the "right" that should be of less priority than the woman's right to live as she sees fit. If I were religious and felt that each fetus was a gift from God, I would probably feel differently.

And speaking of general human equality, don't you feel it strange that main-stream pro-lifers are the ones denigrating LGBT folk, sometimes say some surprisingly racist stuff (Phil from Duck Dynasty) etc.? The pro-choice people also tend to be more educated (2x likely pro-life if high school diploma, almost 2x likely pro-choice w/ graduate degree), more likely to support LGBT rights, more likely to accept empirical science (evolution, man-made climate change etc.). These views are generally associated with people who view the problems of humanity and the earth as shared ones, don't you think?

Do you believe LGBT people should be afforded the same rights as straight folks, just out of curiosity? said...

I'm not saying it's equivalent, I'm saying the differences aren't big enough to be morally relevant. Why does it matter if the child is inside of her? It is using her body parents just the same whether it's inside or out. She can't walk around and care for her child and just leave her internal organs behind. They are functioning to produce energy and nutrients which, ultimately, is going to fuel her child and not herself. And it isn't as though there's some sliding scale of autonomy over one's body parts, where you have greater autonomy over those closer to the inside of you but less to your hands and feet and breasts. Yes, birth is very difficult, but you are waving away what I said about the years and years (and years) of childcare, which absolutely weighs heavily on the body-taken together, I think they are equal to the steps necessary to care for the unborn. And how many women cite the difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth as a reason for abortion, vs. those who cite the difficulties of childcare? Many, many more cite the latter. And while there is some risk of death in childbirth, there's some risk of getting in a car accident on your way to take your sick child to the hospital. The possibility of danger arising is not the same as there being a situation where a current and immediate risk has presented itself. Besides, if it were possible to simply transport the child out of the mother at the end of 9 months, would you revise your position?

Also, while I realize this doesn't apply to pregnancies that result from rape, 99% of the time the child was created, placed in a condition of dependency, and placed in the womb by the mother's own actions, when she knew that the direct consequence of her actions could be. The right to full bodily autonomy is waived by personally and knowingly creating a person who needs her womb to live, and putting that person in it. said...

I just don't consider the fetus to be a future being. I consider it a real, actual being, here and now, regardless of it's age. I don't think that a newborn has any less of a claim to life than a 10 year old even though she cannot appreciate life in at all the same way, and I don't think that a fetus has any less claim to life than a newborn.

I will say that opposing gay marriage, or considering acting on homosexual attractions to be wrong, is not the same as actually considering homosexual people to be inferior. Not by a long shot. I dislike the term "homophobia" because it implies that espousing a view that's any less than "being gay is awesome look at me and my gay BFF!!" makes you hateful. I'm sure some people who oppose gay marriage/homosexual behavior DO think gays are inferior or all-around immoral, and those people are morons, but honestly, nobody I know thinks that way. I'm not 100%, but I'm inclined to support gay marriage, even though I am also inclined to think acting on homosexual attractions is wrong (just as acting on many other sexual attractions can be wrong, depending on who and why and when and what the relationship will be like). But I don't think any less of gay people, have no problem befriending them, and don't think that they're inferior, or less loved by God, or that it is remotely acceptable to persecute them, call them names, treat them rudely, or anything like that.

Anyway, I'm rambling, what I was getting at is simply that most abortion supporters consider the unborn to be morally inferior or sub-human, but in my own experience at least, most people who oppose gay marriage and/or homosexual behavior are far from thinking gays are actually sub-human.

Honestly, the fact that abortion "rights" has been married to the idea of being progressive and scientific and all that is....just incredibly odd to me. I consider abortion backwards and barbaric, and I think it relies on principles that we have otherwise learned to be wrong (discrimination, violence, etc.). (On a side note, there's also evidence that Republicans donate more to charity, a lot of charities and humanitarian efforts are religious, etc. And not believing in global warming doesn't mean you don't care about the environment, it just means you're ignorant of the urgency of the threat.)

Anyway a lot of issues, including abortion, are unfortunately lumped together and we tend to think that there's two "sides" to politics, and if you're on side A you have to support X, Y, and Z, and if you're on side B you have to support M, N, and O. It's ridiculous, and I think it makes people assume certain viewpoints without giving them thought, because it's what they're supposed to think. For example someone might support abortion because, as a progressive liberal feminist, they're "supposed" to. It's expected, and they don't give the other side any thought, they believe what they've heard over and over, that the other side is misogynist and oppressive and violent and blah blah blah. Obviously this can go the other way too, and it applies to a lot of different issues. said...

Its not because issues are "lumped" together. People who are able to think about multiple facets of an issue tend to support doing something about the climate, understanding and accepting the evidence behind evolution, and also see that in abortion, what's at stake is not ONLY the fetus. People who accept abortion rights are able to weigh the interests of 2 parties, and make an informed decision. The fact that highly educated people are more likely to be pro-choice should also be a statement that people who are more likely to see more than 1 side to an issue, are more likely to be pro-choice.

>> I just don't consider the fetus to be a future being. I consider it a real, actual being, here and now, regardless of it's age.

Sure, its here, but it has no capacity to "experience" its existence. For me, when weighed against the already extant human being who is carrying it, my choice is to weight the wishes of that person more than the fetus. I am in no way ignoring the fetus.

>> Gay marriage
I commend you on thinking outside the limits of your religion. Yes, I am making a big assumption, but most religions do not look kindly upon LGBT. I just also think its strange that gay couples do adopt lots of the products of "pro-life" thinking, and many times will adopt harder to place children. Yet so many of the people who are pro-life want to deny these adoptees a right to a secure family life. It doesn't seem like a consistent pro-life position.

>> homophobia
I don't know if you've ever saw things growing up, but I've seen some pretty vicious physical beatings of gay-perceived kids. That's homophobia. Right-wing groups who are pro-life and also spread lies about gay people, maybe not physical violence, but that's homophobia. True, general people may not be so venomous, but they've accepted the cool aid. And I consider that milder homophobia.

>> Republicans donate to charity more
Could be, but what kind of charity? The ones that go to Africa and support "kill the gay" legislation? The ones that also go to Africa and preach against birth control? Sure, its not good to paint the Right in one swift stroke, but some of the "charities" I don't consider doing any particular good for the world. Also, given that super rich people like Gates, Zuckerberg, Wozniak, Jobs are all left-leaning atheists who give lots and lots of money, I don't know if that evidence is necessarily backed by fact. said...

Yes, it is morally relevant, unless of course you can't distinguish between rape (intimate use of your body parts) and willingly interacting with someone in a non-intimate way. said...

Can you distinguish between someone groping a woman's breasts without her consent, and the law requiring the woman who is snowed into her house to breastfeed her baby, even if she would rather not, in order to keep her baby from starving? One is unjust assault. The second scenario is not assault, either by the government or by the baby. said...

No one thinks that the fetus is the ONLY life at stake. If anything, most pro-choicers I have talked with consider the fetus to be virtually a non-entity, worth of no concern.

Why does that fact that the fetus is presently unaware mean it is okay to kill? The fetus's entire life is going to be lost in abortion, whereas without abortion the mother will experience inconvenience and some suffering, but she will not lose her entire life. It is the fetus who is being robbed of his or her entire life experiences, every smile, every new learned thing, every heartache, every lesson, every love. Everything. Like we've discussed before, you don't have to be AWARE of your rights in order for them to be violated, and you don't even have to consciously suffer in order to be wronged. (As in someone who is spied on naked, who never becomes aware of it.) A newborn can experience, yes, but it can experience less than a 10 year old, so why should it be equal? For that matter, I think my dog is probably more self-aware and mentally capable and able to fear death than a newborn, particularly if that newborn cannot feel pain. But I would never in a million years save a dog over a newborn baby.

Highly educated people once thought slavery was okay. New ideas are always met with hostility, and laughed at, at first.

I'm not doubting there are people who honestly qualify for the term homophobic, and those people are no friends of mine. I just wanted to clarify that there's a distinction to be made, and not being entirely accepting of either gay marriage or homosexual behavior doesn't automatically translate to hating or disliking gays.

Regarding donations....I don't think many people support "kill the gay" legislation, period. Like...almost nobody. Even fewer would classify such an organization as a charity. I know of many politically right wing and/or Christian charities that do incredible work. Salvation Army, Active Water, Samaritan's Purse, I know a Christian couple that are in Africa now doing AIDs relief and helping to get women out of prostitution by helping them find better jobs, etc. etc. said...

>> robbed of every love ... etc.
yeah, sure, also possibly a life of abuse, neglect, poverty etc. But that's not the point. Sure, I don't doubt that it is denied a future experience, but the fetus at the point is not hurting, does not realize it is being denied and will NEVER know it has been denied. This is where our different world views are at odds. My world view is that we are just a bag of chemicals. Our arrangement into this form is not special. Its only once they've been arranged into this form, I've gained cognitive and emotional abilities, and only then does life mean anything to me. When a woman is ready to raise a child, she will have one, and can let that child experience all the wonders of life. That seems good enough for me.

As for slavery, I beg to differ. The highly educated people (the Northern states) realized that slavery was not good and not compatible with an industrialized mode of production. It is the less educated (the Southern states) who held on to slavery.

Sure, I don't doubt that Catholic charities do good work. But they also spread misinformation in Africa about birth control, and contribute to the spread of AIDS in the first place. Religion is fine, but when dogma gets in the way of evidenced-based health policies, I see it doing more harm than good. said...

Slavery was advocated by all kinds of people, and not just in America. I mean good grief, Thomas Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal" and he owned slaves, and we've got a huge monument to him and revere him and put him on our money. Anyone can hold discriminatory viewpoints.

Yes, I mentioned every heartache. I'm not saying that the child's experiences will all be good but they are HIS experiences to live. And he is inherently a rational, aware, moral being; those traits are an intrinsic part of his identity, contained in his genetic code. He just isn't old enough to fully express them.

If you believe the only thing wrong in killing someone is that they can value their own life or experience suffering, I'm still not seeing why it is wrong to kill an unconscious, un-feeling, non-self-aware newborn baby.

And I don't see why a newborn baby would be worth more than a dog, when the dog clearly has more current awarenes, empathy, reasoning skills, etc. Wouldn't you save a newborn baby over a dog?

Do yo believe in human equality? We differ vastly in our ability to appreciate life, in our mental abilities, in our awareness and intelligence and ability to feel and reason and empathize...If our right to life is based on such things, how can we all have an equal right to life? said...

>> Wouldn't you save a newborn baby over a dog?

MY dog over a newborn who I do not know? I would choose my dog. A random dog vs. a random newborn. I'd probably go with the newborn.

>> The slavery issue

No, I'm saying the ones who realized slavery was wrong are probably not the comparatively ignorant ones. There were certainly times when both the educated and ignorant were wrong about slavery, but I think the impetus for most social change is usually from thoughtful people.

>> Do yo believe in human equality?
Sure. But I just don't see the need to view early fetuses as human when they can't yet appreciate it. My world view is one fetus is as good as another. Nothing special about any given fetus. If you deny 1 a chance at life, have one later when you are prepared to give it a good life. Denying the -->potential<-- for a good life to something which can neither regret it now or ever is totally meaningless to me. said...

The fetus's entire life is going to be lost in abortion, whereas without
abortion the mother will experience inconvenience and some suffering,
but she will not lose her entire life.
Purple Slurpy has already made a fine response here that I'd like to supplement.

First, let us note that the mother may very well lose her entire life if the pregnancy or childbirth kills her. Even with modern medical technology, pregnancy and child birth can turn south on a dime in ways that cannot be predicted, cannot be prevented, and cannot be stopped. Forcing gestation on her is literally playing Russian roulette with her very life.

Second, even if pregnancy or childbirth doesn't outright kill her, the woman may wind up *permanently* disabled. And, again, even with modern medical technology, it will happen in ways that cannot be predicted, cannot be prevented, and cannot be stopped. Pregnancy is not about a bit of inconvenience and some minor suffering, it is about taking real risks to one's life and health--risks that you would force her to take.

As a sidenote, anyone who is willing to dismiss the pain of labor and childbirth as "some suffering" ought to immediately be dismissed as a cruel, inhuman monster. I was my sister's coach for her first child. I saw what she went through for thirty-six hours. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, let alone some poor woman who hasn't so much as even committed a crime.

But what if, as you might say, modern medical technology has reduced the risks to a point where they have become acceptable, especially in light of the fact that an abortion will deprive a prenate of its entire future? The risk is still not zero, and that is the only number that matters.

But let's say the risk is actually zero, what then? All we need to do is look at what happens to those who willingly carried through an unintended pregnancy. More often than not, this results in a life of poverty. Loss of education and career prospects. Consequences to familial and other social life. And whatever negative physical, psychological, and spiritual impacts that continue long after birth. As a practical matter, once lost, these are things that cannot be regained.

In short, pregnancy has such an impact on a woman's total well-being that you may as well be robbing her of her entire life. And unlike the fetus, she will know it. And she will consciously suffer. said...

Can you see the difference between one who has voluntarily undertaken the rights and responsibilities of parenthood and one who has not? If the former can be required (and that is a big IF) to breastfeed, it is a matter of holding her to her word. If the latter can be so required, that makes her a slave. said...

Also, while I realize this doesn't apply to pregnancies that result from
rape, 99% of the time the child was created, placed in a condition of
dependency, and placed in the womb by the mother's own actions, when she
knew that the direct consequence of her actions could be. The right to
full bodily autonomy is waived by personally and knowingly creating a
person who needs her womb to live, and putting that person in it.
Both main statements here constitutes begging the question. The mother had sex. That's it. Pregnancy, IF it occurs, is nature's doing. And even if it could be assumed that having sex is both necessary and sufficient to get pregnant, it does not follow that the woman has AUTOMATICALLY waived bodily autonomy by the act of having sex. said...

Anyway, I'm rambling, what I was getting at is simply that most abortion
supporters consider the unborn to be morally inferior or sub-human

When you objectify a woman in service of a fetus, you consider her to be morally inferior and subhuman, even if you won't admit it. said...

We aren't talking about blizzard, last I checked.

What we are talking about is something being INSIDE your body, using your organs, without your consent, vs physical labour.

But hey, let's play it your way. Forcing a woman to remain pregnancy if not outright slavery is at least indentured servitude because you are forcing her to labour on behalf of another, at great risk to her health and life, without remuneration.

Tell me BB, you support forced pregnancy in the case of rape, are you going to pay the hospital bills of the rape victim? What if she comes down with eclampsia, can't work, loses her job, her insurance, and her property - are you gonna help out? Are you gonna give her 100k? Yeah..thought not. said...

After all, people can be
charged with negligent homicide if they let their children starve,
freeze, etc.
Um, that would pretty clearly fall under unjust killing category. With regard to abortion, it is begging the question since whether abortion is an unjust killing is the very issue.

But let's set that aside and move onward. Children, like all human beings, certainly do have a right to food, nutrition, shelter from harm, etc. But that is a societal obligation, not a personal one. That is, you have a right to food, shelter, etc., but this does not mean I am obligated to provide you food from my pantry, shelter in my home, etc. It is enough to pay my taxes and do my solid best to ensure those taxes are being used feed, shelter, and clothe those who need it.

I certainly may voluntarily undertake that obligation for another person. And once voluntarily undertaken, I can be held to that obligation until such a time as the person can either take care of themselves or I can safely pass that care onto another person or the state, as the case may be. Anything or anyone who tries to force that obligation on me for any reason turns me into a slave.

I consider the unborn and born to be moral equals, just as I consider all other humans to be moral equals (regardless of age, abilities, mental capacity, gender, race, etc.), so I believe abortion is unjust killing just as much as it would be unjust killing to kill a newborn or toddler.
No you don't. Not really. Your willingness to turn women into slaves alone speaks otherwise. What you are in fact doing is assigning the prenate more moral value than you are to the woman carrying it. said...

What do you consider to be a greater evil? Enslaving people, or killing them? said...

Thank you. That was literally my first thought. said...

No, as a matter of fact it's NOT against human rights. And the sex of the fetus is immaterial. It's not about the fetus. said...

A total CROCK. Pregnancy isn't a state of wellness. If it was, women have been subjected to the biggest SCAM ever devised in human history by all these men and women of medicine who butter their bread by taking care of pregnant women. Occam's razor suggests that isn't the case, doesn't it, Joshua? Especially in light of the fact that as recently as 150 years ago, pregnancy was one of the most dangerous things a woman went through in her life. Does this sound like a state of wellness to you? I can assure you that one of my pregnancies was definitely NOT natural, NOT healthy, and NOT a state of wellness, and truthfully none of them were. I only have definitive evidence for one of them. How dare you. How DARE YOU focus on a mindless animal entity, while ignoring the sentient, sapient, breathing, THINKING human being that stands in front of you? You mealy-mouthed, cruel, dismissive, authoritarian little weasel! Reverse your severe cranial-rectal inversion and maybe enough oxygen will get to your brain that you can think clearly. said...

So??? said...

Go tell someone who cares. said...

Yeah... NO, it is NOT "a person." said...

Do you see the preborn children living in foster homes? Do you see women being stripped of their inalienable right to determine their own physical future? While women are the only ones with the capability to carry babies but they can't get pregnant without the help of someone providing sperm. Where is the loss of basic human rights for men? This is nothing but pure discrimination and trying to impose your religious beliefs on millions of others.

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