Heather Hastie on abortion

July 19, 2019 • 9:30 am

Today Heather Hastie has a long and informative post on her website Heather’s Homilies. Click on the screenshot to read it:

If you want to get up to speed on the abortion debates (and antiabortion laws) currently roiling the U.S., you’ll find everything you need to know on this post. Heather concentrates on how Trump and the Republican party are dismantling women’s access to abortion, a trend that both she and I strongly decry.

I’ll give just one excerpt. Really, this post is must reading for all Americans and those who don’t know how a Constitutional right is being insidiously eroded in the U.S.:

The Myth of “Pro-Life”

Those who oppose abortion say they are doing so to save the lives of all the babies who would have been born if there was no abortion. This is absolute codswallop. The stupidity of it perhaps makes me even angrier than the attack on women’s rights, That’s because of what the truth really is.

Making abortion illegal does NOT mean no more abortions. What it means is:

1.Women being forced by desperation into breaking the law.

2. Women DYING from what is a simple medical procedure when carried out by a properly trained medical professional.

3. More women, especially poor women, suffering long-term medical complications.

4. More women being trapped in poverty.

5. More children suffering because their parent/parents have more children than they can look after financially, physically, emotionally, or mentally.

6. People, especially women, being trapped in unfulfilling (or even abusive) relationships because couples stay together, “for the sake of the child/ren.”

7. Places like Planned Parenthood forced to close. That means a lack of information about, and access to, contraception as well as other healthcare needs. It also means women who don’t have an abortion, which is most of their clients, lose access to healthcare.

Making Abortion Illegal Increases the Number of Abortions

But most of all, the evidence is that making abortion illegal does NOT reduce the number of abortions. The US’s Guttmacher Institute produced a comprehensive study: Abortion Worldwide 2017 (pdf here). It states:

Abortions occur as frequently in the two most-restrictive categories of countries (banned outright or allowed only to save the woman’s life) as in the least-restrictive category (allowed without restriction as to reason)—37 and 34 per 1,000 women, respectively.

Yes, you read that correctly. There are more abortions where it is illegal or heavily restricted than where it’s freely available.

And a tee-shirt she shows:

76 thoughts on “Heather Hastie on abortion

  1. It’s always struck me that all the objections to abortion I’ve heard are fundamentally religious. I’e always thought that abortion shouldn’t be illegal on an Establishment objection. At the same time I’ve also always thought that if there are two lives dependent on a body (embryo and mother), the mother had first right of use, and should be able to decide on her own if she wanted to have a baby or not. There’s not logical reason for giving an embryo primacy.

    1. There are secular arguments against abortion, mostly based on the idea that human life is human life and once you start down the road of determining who is “fit” or “worthwhile” the slope inevitably becomes slippery. Human rights rests on the assumption of innate human dignity, period. We do not sacrifice people because they’re inconvenient. Period.

      This is often accompanied by the argument that insensitivity or line drawing on the value of such dignity leads to a coarsening of society and the gradual withdrawal of human rights. Which line of argument is obviously negated by comparing the pro-choice advocates to the increasingly crude and authoritarian so-called pro- lifers.

      So I don’t buy it — though, to be fair, the people I know who have made this argument have been strongly in favor of promoting contraception as much as possible. And at least one of them admits President Trump is far too high a price to pay.

      1. But that begs the question (in the traditional sense of that term) whether a zygote (or embryo or fetus) constitutes “human life” (or, to put it in more legalistic terms, qualifies as a “person”).

        That is a question upon which, to say the least, reasonable minds might differ. That is why I would fight to my last to prevent any woman from ever being forced to have an abortion, just as I would fight against any woman being forbidden from having one.

        1. Similar to the pro-life talking points brought up by Sastra, there is this very closely related pro-life argument. I had to admit this one uses logic and reasoning (unlike many of their arguments in this area):
          (a)We say that human life is a profound thing, and that it is a great immorality to deliberately end human life in most circumstances.
          (b)Since we don’t know when human life begins, it makes sense that we err on the side of extreme caution.
          This means that we should ban abortion in at least most circumstances.

          I will be happy to be rebutted.

          1. (b)Since we don’t know when human life begins, it makes sense that we err on the side of extreme caution.

            That presupposes that there is an ultimate answer to this question. There isn’t. There is no Supreme Being or supreme authority that can reveal that answer to us. Medical science can inform us on matters such as viability or whether a fetus experiences pain, but it cannot answer the question “when human life begins.” Like it or not, that is an ontological question we humans have no choice but to resolve for ourselves.

            The “err on the side of extreme caution” argument strikes me as akin to Pascal’s Wager.

            1. It is a instance of the so-called precautionary principle, which has some merit in some contexts. Here, however, it relies on two false premisses: that there is a point at human life begins, and also that if there were it would make a difference.

              The latter one is controversial: I for one always consider as far as possible degrees of properties. I also think there are too many humans, so not wanting to produce any more is a good thing for the most part. (Note however that it does not follow that making more is always a wrong thing.)

            2. Yes, it is like Pascal’s Wager. It has other problems too. The obvious next step is to preserve all semen and all eggs, because perhaps life begins before fertilization, and we should err on the side of certainty.

              And of course they don’t apply the principle elsewhere. How many a corpse has been trotted off to the morgue on the say-so of only a single doctor, surely we should err on the side of certainty; perhaps 300 doctors would be enough. And so on.

              1. Yes, the issue boils down to what is a reasonable position to hold on when “life” begins. It is a political as well as biological decision and has pretty successfully been decided by Roe vs Wade. The first trimester we can say you are not a human being. The second is iffy, and the third we’d rather not say.

          2. ‘erring on the side of extreme caution’ should mean that we do NOT force any individual (woman) by law to carry a foetus she doesn’t want unless we could *prove* it’s a ‘human life’ (which you’ve just stated we can’t).

            ‘caution’ does not include inflicting severe distress and pain on a person and potentially ruining their life.

            How’s that?


          3. Ignoring where ‘human’ life actually begins isn’t the main argument the commandeering of another’s body and potential health and well being for the sake of this supposed other.

            No matter how much human life is valued it seems that it is assumed that we all have bodily autonomy, such that no other can force us to give up our own body or parts of it or our health for the sake of another if we don’t want to.
            I might voluntarily give a kidney to a loved one but we would never countenance any kind of coercive action like that.

            That’s what abortion rights come down to for me.
            Bodily autonomy.

            That a zygote or fetus is not a person nor anything like it is another question.

            1. Whether the fetus is a person is an anxious question. Problem is, we should probably say being a “person” is hard to define for all cases, and a fetus likely becomes a person as it grows. The development process is confusing if you want discrete categories.

              1. Yes, person can be hard to decide in all cases but for most in the abortion situation, not so much.

                After the bodily autonomy argument, my next argument is that we should regard the entities involved as they are, and not what they may become.
                A zygote or embryo or fetus does not have any features of personhood.

                To me it is beyond absurd to penalize an actual thinking feeling entity, that has consciousness, has hopes and dreams and a history in the world.
                Who has fears and dread and hope and memories etc, for the sake of an enitiy that has none of that and is in many cases merely a blob of cells and then a bigger blob of cells.
                That is what it IS and that is how it ought be evaluated.

              2. I tend to agree. But, it will always remain an issue for many on both sides. It’s hard to avoid thinking of a fertilized egg, or fetus, without regard to what it might become. The point of Row vs Wade, I think, is that it seeks a compromise by saying, as a fetus grows it becomes more human. So, arbitrarily, trimesters are used to differentiate the restrictions imposed. I like it from a political point of view, although I can see the desire to remove restrictions.

  2. Since we’re on a topic that SCOTUS will likely weigh in on soon, perhaps this is an apt occasion to pause and bid a fond adieu to John Paul Stevens, the retired associate justice who died this week at age 99. Stevens was the last of justices from the WW2 “greatest generation” — indeed, one of the last of that generation to have held a high position in government — and the last Supreme Court justice to have served in the US Armed Forces in any capacity (a reflection, I think, of one of the fundamental divides in our society).

    Stevens was a political Independent and a 1975 appointee of Republican president Gerald Ford. Early in his career on the high Court, Stevens was a centrist and referred to by some as “the wild card” for his idiosyncratic legal theories. But the longer Stevens stayed on the bench, the more he drifted to the Left, as the Court itself drifted to the Right (with five new Republican appointees following him over the next 15 years). By the time Stevens retired in 2010, he was widely regarded as the staunchest liberal on the Court.

    This leftward drift has been a recurring pattern for Republican appointees — starting with Eisenhower’s appointment of Earl Warren and William Brennan, continuing with Nixon’s appointment of Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell, Reagan’s appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, and Poppy Bush’s appointment of David Souter.

    It’s because they feel so snakebit by this series of tergiversating Republican appointees that conservative activists are now so fixated on a commitment to appointing hard-right SCOTUS justices as the sine qua non for any Republican presidential nominee. And it’s why potential Republican appointees are now vetted and re-vetted by groups like the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation (especially as regards their views on social issues like abortion), and then field-tested for a few years on the lower federal bench before being deemed worthy of the Republican SCOTUS shortlist.

    That’s certainly been the case for the last four Republican appointees, and it’s likely to remain so for every Republican appointee for the foreseeable future.

    1. I didn’t know much about him until hearing and reading the recent obituaries. He is a man I would have greatly admired in life, and I’m sorry it took his death for me to find out about him.

    2. The leftward drift of conservative appointees makes me think, once you are in a position to make real decisions affecting millions of people, you would become more empathetic (such as for a pregnant woman). That means, I suppose, that early on they were less empathetic. God forbid.

      1. As Ken points out, the leftward drift of conservative appointees no longer exists because of their extreme vetting.

        1. Right you are, Historian, though I think there are adumbrations that John Roberts has moved to the center. How much of this is due to his being chief justice and, thus, having concerns over the legitimacy of the Court that bears his name — hell, even William Rehnquist drifted toward the center from the extreme right-wing views he espoused as an associate justice once he became “the Chief” — and how much is due to an actual shift in ideology, who can tell?

          I do see a parallel, however, between the way the rightwing drove Harry Blackmun evermore leftward with the vehemence of its attacks on him over Roe v. Wade, and Roberts’s movement to the center since Donald Trump began attacking him personally and the federal judiciary generally.

      2. That was true most plainly of Harry Blackmun, a staunch conservative when appointed, who went on to author the majority decision in Roe v. Wade, and who famously declared, near the end of his tenure on the bench, that he would “no longer tinker with the machinery of death” regarding capital punishment.

        I think it was true of most of the others, too.

  3. “As far as I’m concerned, if you oppose abortion, don’t have one.” —Heather Hastie

    I’m disappointed to see Heather haul out this worn-out sophism. This is like saying “If you oppose murder, don’t kill anyone.” It reflects Heather’s missing of the main point here: the pro-life camp considers abortion to be murder, the taking of a human life. They see no difference between killing a fetus and killing a child or an adult. I doubt Heather would argue that we should make murder legal based on what effect this would have on the murder rate, nor that she would object that our laws against murder constitute forcing our opinions on others. We outlaw murder because we believe taking another human life to be wrong, not because we believe doing so will stop or even decrease the incidence of murders. Ditto, as far as the pro-life camp is concerned, for abortion.

    I mention all this because if you’re going to be taken seriously in a debate, you need to make an effort to understand your opponents’ position. On that score, despite her excellent research, Heather fails miserably.

    1. Your argument rests on the pro-life camp’s assumption that a couple of cells constitute a human, which is patently nonsense.

      There is no reason why anyone else should accept the pro-lifers’ (religiously inspired) definitions.

      I wouldn’t expect the control freaks of the pro-life camp to *ever* allow anyone else to have an abortion. The hell with them.


    2. … the pro-life camp considers abortion to be murder, the taking of a human life.

      No doubt true, Gary. But it’s a belief based upon unevidenced metaphysical suppositions, ones not shared by a broad swath of the American public. By what right do those who believe abortion is murder foist their unevidenced suppositions on women who do not share them?

      1. “By what right do those who believe abortion is murder foist their unevidenced suppositions on women who do not share them?”

        I suppose by the same right that those who don’t believe abortion is murder foist their beliefs on those who do. Or perhaps by the same right that we foist on murderers our belief that murder is wrong.

        After all, if one is a materialist—as I think you claim to be—the proposition that anyone has a right to life constitutes an “unevidenced metaphysical supposition.” And while I’m aware that you think I’m a bit “soft” on things metaphysical 😊, I venture to say that if either of us believed that abortion amounted to murdering innocent children we’d feel morally obligated to do something to stop it. At least I hope we would.

        1. “I suppose by the same right that those who don’t believe abortion is murder foist their beliefs on those who do.”

          NO. Another false equivalence. NOBODY who doesn’t believe abortion is murder is forcing anyone else to *have* an abortion.

          “I venture to say that if either of us believed that abortion amounted to murdering innocent children we’d feel morally obligated to do something to stop it.” And if any of us sincerely believed that adultery was an offence against the gods that would justify our stoning wayward women? Sincerity of belief is not a virtue. I will grant the Inquisition – or Hitler – all the sincerity in the world and I will still say that they were wrong and evil and the world would have been better if they had been destroyed.


        2. … by the same right that we foist on murderers our belief that murder is wrong.

          Difference is, people don’t need to indulge metaphysical belief to be opposed to murder. One needn’t believe that Moses carried stone tablets inscribed with the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” (the Fifth Commandment, according to the Catholic version of the Decalogue you and I learned, Gary 🙂 ) down from the Sinai peak to be opposed to murder, just as one needn’t believe that Jesus gave a sermon on the Mount to accept the Golden Rule.

          All it takes is enlightened self-interest. We have prohibitions against murder (and theft and bearing false witness) because if we were free to do these things to others, they would be free to do them to us. We can ALL accept the pragmatism of these reciprocal prohibitions regardless of our metaphysical beliefs vel non. Indeed, our understanding of the need for these prohibitions necessarily preceded their metaphysical justification, as Socrates demonstrated to Euthyphro.

          (I think on some level abortion opponents implicitly understand this difference — and, thus, implicitly understand the need to support moral asseverations with consequentialist justifications — since the movement’s more extreme and dishonest elements make up lies about abortion rendering women more susceptible to breast cancer and more susceptible to depression later in life.)

          The contention that abortion constitutes “murder,” on the other hand, depends almost entirely on an acceptance of “ensoulment” — an unevidenced metaphysical supposition, if ever a one there was.

          1. But Ken, this conflicts with your answer to EdwardM. There is no issue with “ensoulment” in the 9 month fetus. It is perfectly possible to believe that aborting a late stage fetus is murder without believing the same thing about a blastocyst. Ensoulment is ridiculous, but the ridiculousness of it is no argument against other, less extreme, positions.
            In any case I think the Mirandaga’s main point is correct: you need an answer to the murder belief if you want to change minds.

            1. I thought I made clear in my response to EdwardM that I am willing, as a matter of pragmatic politics, to compromise on third-trimester abortions — as long as such compromise doesn’t involve grave risk to the life or health of the woman, or forcing her to give birth to a non-viable or severely deformed fetus, or the imposition of criminal sanctions on women faced with such an unfortunate decision (since I still don’t think it qualifies as “murder”).

              My preference would be for abortion to be safe and rare and to occur as early as possible in a woman’s pregnancy — but that requires access to comprehensive sex education and the easy availability of birth control and early abortion, things the anti-abortion forces vehemently oppose.

        3. The ‘materialist’ worldview is accompanied by a large amount of moral philosophy and discussions on ethics.

          Given the evident worthlessness of commandments from on high, I will choose to follow reason and deliberation in forming my beliefs.

          This is not the place to go into discussions on personhood but one simple notion, that seems quite apt in this situation is that of suffering.

          In a simplified case of abortion, the consideration as to what ought happen, based on levels of suffering, the case for abortion is clear.

          No abortion, massive suffering on the part of the women.

          Abortion, perhaps some small suffering on the part of the women but zero suffering on the part of the aborted.

          I regard people who disregard this simple fact and insist on visiting such trauma and suffering on another person as a real evil.

    3. the pro-life camp considers abortion to be murder, the taking of a human life. They see no difference between killing a fetus and killing a child or an adult.

      While many may say this- I’d be willing to wager the farm that very few of them actually believe this. The fact that exemptions for rape and incest exist shows that this is not what they believe. The fact that there are proven ways to reduce abortions that they will not support shows that this is not what they believe. The fact that over a third of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion should also give pause to the religious pro-lifer, and yet it does not. And speaking of religion, by their fruits we shall know them. And their fruits right now, in the US, are laws punishing women in cruel ways for being sexual beings.

    4. If you’d read it, you would know my arguments aren’t that simplistic, and that part dealt with my reasoning when I was 8 years old.

      Or were you just looking for something to criticize because I don’t agree with your own position on the subject?

  4. I told Heather over at her post that I very much liked her views on this subject and it was not just because she did such a good job on it. It was also for the important reason that she is a woman. There is something odd going on when I hear the abortion arguments from men all the time. In fact I tend to ignore their reasoning, whatever it is. I do not see that it is their choice to make or determine. This is basically a health issue and a health decision and that should be made by the patient. Until men start having babies instead of just creating them I just don’t need those opinions and frankly, we have heard all of them.

    1. I don’t think there is necessarily anything “off” about a man having an opinion on abortion. Obviously none of us have ever experienced pregnancy but that doesn’t make our views irrelevant.

      There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a man being anti-abortion as long as they can articulate an argument against it. My personal opinion is that none of the arguments outweigh the arguments that abortion should be allowed*.

      I think Heather does an excellent job of setting the arguments out for the pro-choice case, not because she is a woman, but because her arguments are sound well researched arguments. The sex of the person making them is irrelevant.

      1. There is nothing wrong with you, a male, having a view, just as I, a male, have a view. But a view is as far as it goes. Do you want to step in and tell women what they can do or can’t do when pregnant? As a male we could get cancer. If you get a cancer how about going to a lawyer to determine what you should do about it. Or maybe a politician?

        I don’t know how I could have made my opinion clearer. I am not the patent in a pregnancy and I don’t know of any man who is. But certainly, if you get pregnant, you should make the decision.

      2. The line I would draw is that every man is entitled to an opinion on abortion. (Indeed, I think it an obligation of good citizenship to have an informed opinion on such a topic.) But no man should ever have veto power over any woman’s decision to have an abortion.

        1. I agree with you on the essentials of autonomy. If I am not mistaken, you are a lawyer and therefore practiced in the art of arguing hypotheticals.

          Suppose a woman insists on an abortion when she is …let’s say… in labor with a full term healthy baby and her life and health are not in danger. The abortion will kill the baby and not harm the mother.

          Until the cord is cut, the baby may be killed at the say-so of the mother? No one else in this circumstance is permitted to interfere? Is that your argument?

          1. I think your hypothetical is fanciful, in that I don’t believe there’s ever been such a case.

            But your question was asked in good faith, so I will give you a good-faith answer: I think it would be unethical for a doctor to kill the fetus under such circumstances, likely a violation of the doctor’s Hippocratic oath.

            The vast majority of third trimester abortions (which are very, very rare in the first place) are performed because the fetus is not viable or severely deformed, or because continued pregnancy poses a serious risk to the life or health of the woman. I seriously doubt any woman is deferring an abortion simply so she can enjoy the burden imposed by pregnancy until the very last minute.

            I trust women and doctors to make appropriate decisions on such matters. Accordingly, I see no need for criminal statutes to intrude on their decision-making. On the other hand, I have no problem with OB/GYN professional boards adopting professional regulations regarding when late-term abortions are appropriate, or with those boards administering professional discipline to doctors who run afoul of those regulations.

            I also have no objection to such professional boards maintaining statistics on late-term abortions by having doctors report them and the reasons therefor. If it turns out I am mistaken — if it turns out women are seeking, and doctors performing, late-term abortions purely as matter of convenience and as a form of birth control — and if such conduct is not amenable to deterrence through professional regulation, I would be willing to consider revisiting my current opposition to criminal legislation in this field.

            1. I wasn’t asking so as to poke at you (or anyone else). I understand that this scenario is very unlikely. I also understand that some questions are not even permitted to be asked and that’s a shame.

              But it IS an example where the argument that “no man should ever have veto power over any woman’s decision to have an abortion” might break down. I think everyone here understands that there are no clear answers. Abortion is not one of those issues for which there even could be.

              I also agree with you that men, despite our inability to actually get pregnant, have a right and duty to be heard on the issue but, in the end, the decision must taken (in most cases!) solely by the woman. Thank you.

              1. I think there are clear answers.
                Interesting difficult questions with quite clear answers.
                The clear answer is it is up to the women.
                It IS her body.

                Almost any discussion or argument can be bogged down by reductio ad absurdum or appeals to more and more extreme boundary conditions.

                Postulating a boundary condition as you did just serves to mire the argument, as is actually the case, and the reason for it.

                In reality, if there ever were such cases so be it, but it wouldn’t and shouldn’t change the validity of a women’s rights to bodily autonomy. And her other rights.

  5. The term pro-life is bullshit.

    People who describe their anti-abortion position as “pro-life” are often also pro-capital punishment, which is, of course, anti-life.

    Frequently they are also against things like stem cell research which is also anti-life, in the sense that they are denying us the opportunity its to do research that may save lives.

    Also, if you are an American “pro-lifer” who is against universal healthcare or for keeping immigrant children in cages, you are anti-life, not pro-life no matter what your views on abortion are.

    1. They are also generally opposed to in vitro fertilization, which allows otherwise infertile couples to give birth to a child, since it results in the destruction of excess embryos.

    2. “People who describe their anti-abortion position as ‘pro-life’ are often also pro-capital punishment, which is, of course, anti-life.”

      The abortion issue is complicated enough without dragging in the equally complex issue of capital punishment by way of argument. The principles involved in the two issues are far from parallel, and the attempt to make them so really speaks to the weakness of the pro-choice position from a strictly logical standpoint. Ditto for the other red herrings in the pro-choice creel.

      Generally, it’s easy to get distracted by the fact that many of the people in the pro-life camp are idiots, as if this invalidated the pro-life position. It doesn’t: when idiots speak the truth, it becomes an obligation of wisdom to agree with them. IMO, the only way to counter the pro-life position is to concede the main point—that abortion is the taking of a human life—and then expand the range of circumstances under which taking a human life is permissible. This is essentially what we do with assisted suicide. We don’t argue that the life of a terminally ill person is worth less than that of a healthy person and therefore disposable.

      This is what the pro-choice camp just doesn’t get—namely, that they are not going to win the debate based on appeals to logic but on appeals to compassion. (E.g., the “right to control our own bodies” argument doesn’t hold water: I have a right to move my finger, but if my finger is on the trigger of a loaded gun aimed at your head, that right is significantly curtailed. No right is absolute, but if you’re going to take on the big kahuna—i.e., the right to life—you’re probably better off ditching the rights rhetoric altogether.)

      1. Well said in general, but I don’t agree one needs to agree a fetus is a person. There is an adjective/noun thing here. It’s human, but not a human.

        Along the general lines of arguments that persuade, rather than just signal, I ask conservatives to consider how much power the state must have to truly outlaw all abortions. A woman who is pregnant only a short time is not visibly pregnant. She can procure an operation or a drug very easily. If you are serious about your law you need to avert such situations. The amount of surveillance required is astonishing. She must be tested each morning if you are really serious.More often in fact. Even steps to check every few weeks entail a leviathan state no conservative should want.

        1. And then the miscarriage scrutiny could start. She drinks too much, miscarried, killed the human- manslaughter. Or, she already had a miscarriage, miscarriage begets miscarriages…she should have known after #2…or maybe it should be #3. That slope be slicker and steeper than ice on Everest.

          1. Indeed.
            Related to this is the common law tradition. Common law would not concern itself with cases before “quickening”, ie perceptible movement.

      2. I agree. In addition, consider all the prohibitions on what you can eat, drink, smoke, and say, who you can have sex with and how, when you must go to war, whether you can commit suicide, etc. that have existed and still exist. Like it or not, there is not and probably never has been anywhere on earth an established right to control one’s body. It’s a weak argument.

        1. Do you think those prohibitions could be extended to the right to the fruit of one’s own labor? To the right to practice birth control? To the right to travel freely within the United States? If not, why not?

          I think you’re approaching this from the ass-end. Adults should be deemed to have ownership over there own bodies, including the freedom to “eat, drink, smoke, and say, [and] have sex …” as they alone see fit unless there is demonstrable harm to another person or persons.

          1. Absolutely agree, Ken. AdamM has got it bass-ackward. Because ‘freedom’ is infringed upon in innumerable ways, that does not make the whole concept invalid.

            There IS a ‘right to control ones own body’, almost everywhere in the world. (The opposite is slavery).

            Like all rights, that is not absolute. The right to something is usually curtailed when it affects others. One cannot ‘control ones own body’ to kick someone else.

            But when it affects ONLY ones own medical issues it is almost absolute – it even extends to accepting or refusing life-saving medical procedures. And it should certainly extend to getting rid of diseases, parasites, and a clump of unwanted cells that are going to multiply uncontrollably and cause suffering, danger, and wreck ones life.


          2. I’d be surprised if they haven’t already been extended in some of those ways in the past. Taxes, eminent domain, wartime confiscations, interstate commerce considerations, etc. have all restricted the right to the fruit of one’s labor. I don’t know about the others offhand.

            But I’m not arguing what should be, only describing what is. To say “abortion should be legal because women have the right to control their bodies” is an argument based on a false premise. It’s exactly like saying “drugs should be legal because people have the right to ingest whatever they want”. As much as we might wish that to be the case, it isn’t, so it’s not a good argument.

            By all means, argue that we should have these rights. (I would agree.) But to assert that we already do is to ignore reality. It won’t be a simple fight since the question of whether there’s harm to others is exactly the point of contention…

            1. I thought it clear that I was making a normative rather than descriptive argument. You seemed to be making a normative argument too — that the law should remain as it is, because that’s the way it’s always been.

              That “there is not and probably never has been anywhere on earth an established right” (in this case “to control one’s body”) is the same argument that was made at one time against the abolition of slavery and in opposition to women’s suffrage.

              In any event, a limited right for women “to control their bodies” when it comes to matters of reproduction has been the law of the land in the United States since 1973.

              The question this nation now faces is whether that right should be expanded or contracted or (more pressingly at the moment) abolished completely.

      3. “when idiots speak the truth, it becomes an obligation of wisdom to agree with them”

        I don’t think I’ve heard any truth from the pro-life idiots in a long, long time.

        “IMO, the only way to counter the pro-life position is to concede the main point—that abortion is the taking of a human life”

        WHY? That is bullshit. A cluster of cells is NOT a human and only a religiously-inspired idiot would ever claim it to be. Why would anyone in their right mind concede such an absurdity to the opposing camp?

        You’re just implicitly pushing the Catholic position that life begins at conception. I don’t see any mention of souls yet but I can feel them hovering around the argument.


        1. “You’re just implicitly pushing the Catholic position that life begins at conception.”

          And your implicitly trying to trivialize the magnitude of a woman’s decision to have an abortion by pushing the materialist view that an unborn baby is just a clump of unwanted cells. I may be wrong, but I would guess that the number of women who think in those terms when deciding to have an abortion is relatively small. If I’m “pushing” anything it’s the need to find a middle ground along the soul/cell continuum: I don’t, in fact, buy the Catholic position that abortion is the equivalent of murder, but neither do I buy that it’s the equivalent of getting a manicure (or personicure).

          1. There’s a “squick factor” involved in abortion, Gary, and the later an abortion is in a woman’s term, the squickier it is (similar, though not identical, to the squick factor that would keep most people from dining on bush-meat made from our fellow great apes).

            Now, I don’t think we should ignore our subjective feelings of squickiness; there may be solid evolutionary or cultural reasons for them. The squick many people feel toward serpents and snakes, for example, is likely related to some of them being poisonous and, thus, posing a threat to our ancestors on the veldt. And the squickiness that some people experience while watching me gorge on oysters is likely related to the danger of sickness such foodstuff can pose if handled improperly, especially in the days before refrigeration.

            But we shouldn’t be slaves to the squick factor, either; we should always be willing to examine and reexamine the reasons for it, to see if they still obtain.

            More crucially, we shouldn’t fall prey to making up post hoc metaphysical backstories to justify our subjective experience of sqickiness, the way the Old Testament did with its demonization of serpents in the story of The Garden and its prohibition on the consumption of shellfish — and as religious people do now w/r/t abortion.

            1. Good point. I would add that the squick factor is probably one reason many altruistic individuals do not get into medicine. The ones who do often have to get over it in order to become useful med students and then physicians. Overcoming an evolutionary based fear is important in achieving many important human goals.

              1. That’s more or less what I would expect. Much as children who believe in ghosts are likely to feel more stress walking through a cemetery at night.

            2. “Now, I don’t think we should ignore our subjective feelings of squickiness; there may be solid evolutionary or cultural reasons for them.”

              And I would say that there may be a solid spiritual reason for them, but thanks for the concession that we shouldn’t ignore them. Squickiness is the flip side of awe, the reason for which you and I would similarly dispute.

              But we’re back to an impasse that we’ve already exhausted—namely, the degree to which we should trust our experience. There is a continuum of confidence that we should entertain concerning our convictions, especially those convictions that are not empirically refutable, such as a belief in spiritual reality. You (and our host) and I have vastly different takes on the importance of trusting one’s subjective experience. This may be because I’m a poet, and if there’s one quality a poet needs to nurture it’s an almost exaggerated sense* of trust in one’s own judgment, subjective though it necessarily is. The alternative—to subordinate one’s judgment to the judgment of another that doesn’t resonate with your own—is death for an artist of any kind. So that’s my story and I’m squickin’ with it. 😊

              *“exaggerated sense”: this phrase reminds me of one of the warnings for some oxycodone I was taking for back pain some years back–namely, that one of the side-effects was “an exaggerated sense of well-being.” When I showed this to my then teen-age son, he laughed: “Papa, you always have an exaggerated sense of well-being!” Alas, it’s true.

              1. There is a continuum of confidence that we should entertain concerning our convictions, especially those convictions that are not empirically refutable, such as a belief in spiritual reality.

                I understand we are at loggerheads on this particular issue, Gary, but would simply add, apropos the particular issue at hand, that one person’s empirically irrefutable “belief in spiritual reality” seems to me a damn poor basis on which to deny someone who doesn’t share that belief control over her reproductive decisions.

                Let me also add that, in recognition that there is a “continuum” on such matters, I would oppose just as adamantly any materialist proposal to enact a law that might require a woman to have an abortion, such as the one-child policy in China.

              2. “one person’s empirically irrefutable ‘belief in spiritual reality’ seems to me a damn poor basis on which to deny someone who doesn’t share that belief control over her reproductive decisions.”

                Not sure how you got from here to there, Ken, but hope you don’t think I’d ever advocate such a position. I’m about as “live and let live” as they come: my “belief in spiritual reality” is just that—mine—and I would never attempt to impose it on others. For one thing, I’m always aware that I might be wrong, and I don’t want the responsibility of persuading others to my views.

              3. I didn’t mean you personally, Gary; I meant the anti-abortion movement’s belief in an empirically unevidenced “spiritual realty” wasn’t a good reason to criminalize abortion.

                I was endeavoring to cast the argument in terms of “one person’s spiritual belief is no basis to restrain another person’s freedom” (in the same sense we might speak abstractly of “one man’s meat” being “another man’s poison”).

                I apologize for the confusion caused by my failure to make the point more felicitously.

        2. “Why would anyone in their right mind concede such an absurdity [that the fetus is a human being] to the opposing camp?”

          Because sooner or later that “absurdity” is going to win out and if you’ve put all your eggs in the “it’s just a clump of unwanted cells” basket, you’re going to be left without a leg to stand on. Better to pre-empt the opposition and contend that, even if the fetus is a human being, there are still good reasons to allow abortions. In short, pick a battle you can win.

      4. I’m not bringing capital punishment into the argument, I’m pointing out that the term “pro-life” is bullshit, that’s all. A lot of people who are anti-aboirtion aren’t pro-life in other circumstances. The term was invented by anti-abortionists to cast negative assertions on their opponents. “We are pro-life ergo they are anti life”. The term pro-life as a label for the anti abortion position is dishonest.

    3. “The term pro-life is bullshit.”

      I agree with you, Jeremy. It’s just that the anti-abortion camp wanted something that sounded more positive, but as usual with euphemisms, they ended up with something so broad it’s vague and, taken literally, meaningless.

      I have to say ‘pro-choice’ is equally nonsensical outside the context of the abortion debate, but I think, in context, it was quite a clever choice of term, and accurate.

      But I also agree that, even in context, the attitudes of a substantial chunk of the ‘pro-life’ camp are puritanical, dictatorial, and generally inimical to the quality of anyone else’s life, sufficiently so as to render their adopted term not only misleading but completely hypocritical.


  6. I too am pro choice and deplore what many Republicans are trying to do. That said, Heather’s logic is sometimes bad. In her rebuttal to the assertion that the anti abortion crows want to save the lives that would be lost she cites several effects that depend just precisely on those lives not being lost; for example 5 and 6.

    1. Logic fallacies? C’mon man…this entire issue on both sides are prone to that. Emotion won’t leave this issue, and either will problems regarding logic. Example 5 and 6 should be known and considered…no need to cite the logical to diminish reality.

  7. Besides the well made point that good contraception is far more effective at reducing abortion rates than criminalization, I have two favorite points to make.

    One is that wealthy people can always get an abortion. It’s just a two week trip to Switzerland (or many other countries), if you have the money for it. Criminalizing it in the US affects only lower income people.

    The second is that there are a fair number of Republicans that have or will use in-vitro fertilization to have children. This procedure has the awkward side effect of producing multiple embryos, all of which could produce babies, and then only one is used. The rest are, um, frozen or something. One GOP politician actually said “they don’t count, because they are not inside a woman.” It kind of changes the claimed rationale a bit.

    1. Under the Alabama law, getting rid of those extra embryos doesn’t count as abortion because they’re not inside a woman.

      That just tells me their primary concern is controlling women. We’ve been getting far too uppity since we got the vote, and contraception has turned us into whores! We need to get back to the role for which God designed us: staying home and looking after our husband’s home and children while remaining calm, pleasant, and well-dressed at all times.

  8. I suspect that before long Abortion Support Network will have to start up a US branch.

    (ASN existed to offer immediate practical and financial help to women in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to travel to England for legal abortions. Now that the Republic and the Isle of Man have finally entered the 20th century, and Northern Ireland is (hopefully) about to be dragged kicking and screaming into same, their workload there is declining).


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