Not All Abortions Are Legal

Desperate women are finding some horrific ways to terminate their pregnancies. Some are being arrested for it.

Matt Duss and Amanda Marcotte both point to Michelle Goldberg‘s disturbing Daily Beast essay “The Return of Back-Alley Abortions.”

Underground abortions have returned to the United States, just as pro-choice activists have warned for years. And women have started going to jail for the crime of ending their own pregnancies, or trying to.

This week Jennie L. McCormack, a 32-year-old mother of three from eastern Idaho, was arrested for self-inducing an abortion. According to the Associated Press, McCormack couldn’t afford a legal procedure, and so took pills that her sister had ordered online. For some reason, she kept the fetus, which police found after they were called by a disapproving acquaintance. She now faces up to five years in prison, as well as a $5,000 fine.

Idaho recently banned abortions after 20 weeks, and McCormack’s fetus was reportedly between five and six months old. But according to Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, under Idaho law, McCormack could have been arrested even if she’d been in her first trimester because self-induced abortion is illegal in all circumstances. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an 8- or 10- or 12-week abortion,” says Kolbi-Molinas. “If you do what you could get lawfully in a doctor’s office—what you have a constitutional right to access in a doctor’s office—they can throw you in jail and make you a convicted felon.”

While horrific, McCormack’s case is not unique

If ever there was a misplaced adjective, this is it. While I’m squishy on very early term abortions–and even later term abortions in cases of severe fetal malformity–killing a viable fetus by ingesting some shit you bought on the Internet is what’s horrific, not the prospect of being punished for so doing.

In recent years, several women have been arrested on suspicion of causing their own abortions, or attempting to. Most have come from conservative rural states with few clinics and numerous restrictions on abortion. In America’s urban centers and liberal enclaves, the idea of women being prosecuted for taking desperate measures to end their pregnancies might seem inconceivable, a never-again remnant of the era before Roe v. Wade. In fact, it’s a slowly encroaching reality.

In 2005, Gabriela Flores, a 22-year-old Mexican migrant worker, was arrested in South Carolina. Like McCormack, she had three children and said she couldn’t afford a fourth, and so she turned to clandestinely acquired pills. (The drug she took, Misoprostol, is an ulcer medicine that also works as an abortifacient and is widely used in Latin American countries where abortion is illegal.) Initially facing two years in prison, she ended up being sentenced to 90 days.

In 2009, a 17-year-old Utah girl known in court filings as J.M.S. found herself pregnant by an older man who is now facing charges of using her in child pornography. J.M.S. lived in house without electricity or running water in a remote part of the state, several hours’ drive from the nearest clinic, which was in Salt Lake City. Getting there would have required not just a car—her area had no public transportation—but money for a hotel in order to comply with Utah’s 24-hour-waiting period, as well as for the cost of the abortion itself.

According to prosecutors, when J.M.S. was in her third trimester, she paid a man $150 to beat her in the hopes of inducing a miscarriage. The fetus survived, but she was charged with criminal solicitation to commit murder. When her case was thrown out on the grounds that her actions weren’t illegal under the state’s definition of abortion, legislators changed the law so they would be able to punish women like her in the future. Meanwhile, prosecutors have appealed J.M.S.’ case to the Supreme Court, and observers expect it to rule against her. She could still face a trial and prison time.

Granting that these women were not in the best position to make rational choices, one can be sympathetic to their plights and still repulsed at their actions. One doesn’t “find” themselves six months pregnant. And the inability to afford to raise the child doesn’t confer the right to kill it or do it irreparable harm. Having a thug murder your baby* is simply unconscionable. Being inconveniently distant from an abortion facility doesn’t change that.

This case is somewhat different:

A woman doesn’t even have to be trying to abort to find herself under arrest. Last year, a pregnant 22-year-old in Iowa named Christine Taylor ended up in the hospital after falling down a flight of stairs. A mother of two, she told a nurse she’d tripped after an upsetting phone conversation with her estranged husband. Though she’d gone to the hospital to make sure her fetus was OK, she confessed that she’d been ambivalent about the pregnancy and unsure whether she was ready to become a single mother of three.

Suspecting Taylor had hurled herself down the stairs on purpose, the nurse called a doctor, and at some point the police were brought in. Taylor was arrested on charges of attempted feticide. She spent two days in jail before the charges were dropped because she was in her second trimester, and Iowa’s feticide laws don’t kick in until the third.

People do some unspeakable things. Consequently, we’ve implemented procedures when red flags are raised. Woman and children who show at the hospital claiming to have fallen down stairs are often screened for abuse. Apparently, when they’re pregnant and express ambivalence about whether their baby survives, they’re sometimes screened for feticide. As with any other criminal justice matter, innocents are sometimes falsely accused.

These cases are a harbinger of what’s to come as abortion laws become increasingly strict and abortion clinics harder to access in the more conservative parts of the country. They demonstrate the lengths to which women will go to end unwanted pregnancies. But even more, they demonstrate that criminalizing abortion means turning women who have abortions into criminals.

Well . . . no. Or, at least, not any more than criminalizing any activity turns the people who engage in that activity into criminals. Abortion is legal, at least in the first 20 weeks or so of pregnancy, because we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s a clinical procedure conducted by highly trained medical professionals. It’s quite another thing when people take matters into their own hands.

Further, in most of the cases Goldberg recounts, it would have been illegal to kill the baby, anyway, because of the lateness of term. Even going back to Roe, which proclaimed abortion a Constitutional right under the broader right of privacy, thee was a sliding scale depending on fetal viability. There was essentially no right to abortion in the third trimester and essentially no right for the state to intervene in the first. That has evolved somewhat in the intervening years towards a pure viability standard.

Should we be doing a better job of educating poor women on their choices? Sure. And there’s a bizarre disconnect between abortion being both legal and supported by a majority of Americans and yet not readily available in many places. But not as bizarre as the notion that back alley abortions–the very thing that pro-abortion rights people have been touting all these years as the horrific alternative to legal abortion–is being portrayed as a legitimate alternative that society shouldn’t seek to punish.

___________
*It occurs to me that “baby” might be a prejudicial term here. But my wife and I have been through this process twice now, expecting the birth of our second girl on the 27th. Not only do we think of it as a “baby” and not a “fetus,” but every doctor and nurse we’ve dealt with throughout both pregnancies uses that language, too.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Gender Issues, Health, Law and the Courts, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Flag Gazer says:

    “Desperate women are finding some horrific ways to terminate their abortions.”

    I wish they would ‘terminate abortions’ — I think you meant terminate pregnancies.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Flag Gazer: Yes, thanks. Corrected. Editing error, in that I was originally writing something along the lines of “horrific ways to induce abortions” and changed to more neutral language.

  3. tom p says:

    But not as bizarre as the notion that back alley abortions–the very thing that pro-abortion rights people have been touting all these years as the horrific alternative to legal abortion–is being portrayed as a legitimate alternative that society shouldn’t seek to punish.

    So much disconnect in one post James. They argue rather, that desperate women who turn to these extreme measures (for what ever reason) are victims as well. You may disagree, but that is their point.

    In 2009, a 17-year-old Utah girl known in court filings as J.M.S. found herself pregnant by an older man who is now facing charges of using her in child pornography. J.M.S. lived in house without electricity or running water in a remote part of the state, several hours’ drive from the nearest clinic, which was in Salt Lake City. Getting there would have required not just a car—her area had no public transportation—but money for a hotel in order to comply with Utah’s 24-hour-waiting period, as well as for the cost of the abortion itself.

    According to prosecutors, when J.M.S. was in her third trimester, she paid a man $150 to beat her in the hopes of inducing a miscarriage. The fetus survived, but she was charged with criminal solicitation to commit murder.

    I for one find it hard to look at this poor girl as anything BUT a victim.

    My mother was a very conservative Catholic who went to work at an anti-abortion help line. After 6 months working there, she confessed to me that she had counseled several women to get abortions because their situations were so desperate, so hopeless, that a newborn child was just not possible (such as the homeless mother of 3 who was living in shelters because she had finally had enough abuse from her husband and was on the run from him….)

    This week Jennie L. McCormack, a 32-year-old mother of three from eastern Idaho, was arrested for self-inducing an abortion. According to the Associated Press, McCormack couldn’t afford a legal procedure, and so took pills that her sister had ordered online

    I do not know the full circumstances of Ms. McCormack’s situation. Life changes, sometimes disastrously, at the most impossible of times. I for one can not condemn her after reading a blurb in an article.

    Desperate women in desperate situations doing desperate things. Who’da thunk it?

  4. Roberta says:

    The medical personnel who attend you and your wife refer to your developing child as a baby because you do. You and your wife have chosen to have a child and are in a position to care for it. Can you really not imagine the desperation of these women who decide they cannot carry a pregnancy to term? And do you really think the line between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” abortions is drawn depending on the medical credentials of the person carrying out the procedure?

  5. TG Chicago says:

    Granting that these women were not in the best position to make rational choices…

    You wrote that right after quoting a story about a girl, not a woman.

    …one can be sympathetic to their plights and still repulsed at their actions.

    One could also focus their repulsion at the people who enacted laws making it more likely that these actions would occur.

    But not as bizarre as the notion that back alley abortions–the very thing that pro-abortion rights people have been touting all these years as the horrific alternative to legal abortion–is being portrayed as a legitimate alternative that society shouldn’t seek to punish.

    Where did you get the notion that anybody was advocating for back-alley abortions? Clearly the point of the article is to point out the predictable and predicted consequences of putting up roadblocks to legal abortion. The author of the article doesn’t seek to legitimize back-alley abortions; they simply point out that if legal abortion is made more difficult, you will see an increase in illegal abortions.

    If you find these abortion procedured to be horrific, then you should advocate for the loosening of anti-abortion laws.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @tom p: The outrage seems to be at, first, the laws making doing horrific things a crime and, second, that it’s not easier to get a legal abortion. I get the second, but not the first.

    @TG Chicago: I’m sorry, a 17-year-old should have the maturity to make responsible decisions and follow the law. And, no, I don’t think the fact that people do horrible things because they feel trapped by their choices is an argument for making doing horrible things legal.

    I tend to support legalizing marijuana use and am ambivalent about harder drugs. But I’m not the slightest bit sympathetic to those who rob and murder to support an illegal drug habit.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    James:

    So much stupid for such a smart man.

    Republicans in rural states deliberately raise every possible barrier to getting a legal abortion early. They succeed. The result is women unable to get early abortions who then do horrible things out of a desperation deliberately caused by your party. And you blame the woman, or in many cases, the girl.

    If you and your party had set out to deny early dental treatment and then outlawed do-it-yourself tooth extraction, would you be blaming the guy with the pliers?

    These are the utterly inevitable, absolutely foreseen consequences of Republican actions. This is Republicans using the power of government to deny women their rights, to take effective control of women’s bodies, to create this despair, and then to attack their own victims.

    It is contemptible. It’s something we’d expect from the Saudis. It’s of a piece with stoning rape victims. It’s medieval.

  8. Ben says:

    James, I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that back-alley abortions are a good thing. But no one would choose that method if they had a valid means at their disposal. So why should we throw these people in jail for years and years because they found that they needed to terminate their pregnancies by any means necessary, and there were no legitimate means within their reach?

  9. steve says:

    Had my first patient in the OR in over twenty years for a back alley abortion gone bad just recently. Critically low hemoglobin. Large transfusion requirements. While I see a fair number of young people die, I hate prom season, this is a really awful way to go, especially for the ones that already have kids. Not much worse than a young mother dying.

    Steve

  10. TG Chicago says:

    I’m sorry, a 17-year-old should have the maturity to make responsible decisions and follow the law.

    You’re entitled to that opinion (even though numerous scientific studies have shown that young brains are not wired to fully understand the consequences of their actions). However, you’re not entitled to call a 17-year-old a woman. She is a girl.

    And, no, I don’t think the fact that people do horrible things because they feel trapped by their choices is an argument for making doing horrible things legal.

    This is a strawman. That argument was not made. The point, again, is that by making legal abortion more difficult, you increase the number of attempted illegal abortions. Can you please speak to this point rather than wag your finger at a girl who made a bad decision?

    Simple question: as someone who is horrified by back-alley abortions, do you support or oppose the restrictive abortion laws that make them more likely?

  11. Lit3Bolt says:

    And which political party is trying to destroy Planned Parenthood? I forget.

    And if that 17 year old who was used for child pornography in Utah was supposed to be mature and responsible enough to follow the law, then perhaps she is also mature and responsible enough to control her own body, and not the state doing it for her.

    I regard abortion of a viable fetus monstrous and horrific. But I am pro-choice because I regard the state controlling peoples’ bodies against their will and forcing them into a disease state (and in the medical community, pregnancy is treated like a disease condition because of the many, many things which can go wrong) is equally monstrous.

    It comes down to the control and freedom and consequences of sex, which is why contraception should be widely and freely available to prevent these situations in the first place. Which political party is preventing that and creating these situations for mere political and/or spiritual gain?

  12. ponce says:

    If you want an easy way to spot a Republican religious freak who craves the power to treat women like cattle, just ask them if a 14 year old girl who has been raped by her dad should have access to an abortion if she needs one.

    America is crawling with Republicans who would say, “No.”

  13. anjin-san says:

    James:

    So much stupid for such a smart man.

    I am forced to agree. I remember how upset you were recently about problems related to a $400 crib you had purchased. Do you really lack the imagination and empathy to understand something of the reality that people who are less fortunate than you live with on a day to day basis?

    Perhaps the next time you are kicking it in Tuscany, enjoying a bottle of Sangiovese, you can pontificate about how a 17-year-old girl “should have the maturity to make responsible decisions ” when she is desperate, terrified, and almost certainly lacking the God given intelligence that you posses.

    You really need to get out more James. A grown man in his 40s should be a little less shallow.

  14. ponce says:

    You really need to get out more James. A grown man in his 40s should be a little less shallow.

    If James started worrying about America’s poor, he couldn’t be a Republican anymore…which is a requirement for people feeding at the military-industrial trough.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @TG Chicago, @Michael and @anjin-san:

    My paternal grandmother was 13 when she married and 14 when she had her first of five children. That was normal, at least in rural areas, as recently as the 1950s.

    We let 17-year-olds join the military with parental consent and at 18 on their own. Hell, we used to draft them for war at 18. Indeed, an 18-year-old can do pretty much anything but, oddly, buy alcohol. And we routinely put 13- and 14-year-olds in prison for crimes where we’ve tried them as adults. The notion that they’re children is just bizarre.

    As a matter of public policy, I support abortion rights very early in the pregnancy and in very limited circumstances (mortal danger to the mother and severe birth defects to the fetus) afterwards. I don’t support harassing abortion providers and young women choosing to have legal, early term abortions. But that doesn’t mean I can’t strongly condemn horrific, voluntary, and criminal conduct on the part of mothers, even unfortunate ones, who face obstacles.

    Do I understand that people who are poor and stupid have fewer options and are less likely to make sound decisions than wealthier, smarter people? Sure. But that doesn’t mean we don’t hold the former accountable. A goodly portion of our criminal class grew up in less than ideal circumstances. That doesn’t mean we should allow them to run rampant.

  16. tom p says:

    The outrage seems to be at, first, the laws making doing horrific things a crime and, second, that it’s not easier to get a legal abortion. I get the second, but not the first.

    As I said before, so much disconnect. Maybe it is just me and how I read their (and mine) complaints, but I could not help but notice the States that were cited in your quotes:Idaho, Utah, S Carolina, Iowa.

    “Should we be doing a better job of educating poor women well off white men on their real choices poor women in decidedly Red states face? “

    Oh, and fixed that for you James.

  17. tom p says:

    Do I understand that people who are poor and stupid have fewer options and are less likely to make sound decisions than wealthier, smarter people?

    So, poor people are stupid and wealthy people are smart? You want to try that one again James?

  18. Lit3Bolt says:

    A goodly portion of our criminal class grew up in less than ideal circumstances. That doesn’t mean we should allow them to run rampant.

    Wow. So let’s continue to deny them healthcare and jobs and criminalize any alternative they seek. Then let’s act puzzled and self-righteous when people we treat like a criminal class act like *gasp!* criminals.

    On the flip side, James, we will patiently await your equally pious screed against the criminals and terrorists who murder doctors who provide abortions, as well as the child pornographers, rapists, and religious fanatics who impregnate girls under 18. I suspect we’ll wait for quite some time.

  19. tom p says:

    We let 17-year-olds join the military with parental consent and at 18 on their own. Hell, we used to draft them for war at 18. Indeed, an 18-year-old can do pretty much anything but, oddly, buy alcohol. And we routinely put 13- and 14-year-olds in prison for crimes where we’ve tried them as adults. The notion that they’re children is just bizarre.

    I will agree with you that there is a certain stupidity in sending children off to war while threatening to put them in prison if they take naked pictures of themselves and send them to their friends.

    As to….

    putting a 13-14 year old in prison for crimes where we’ve tried them as adults

    That is absolutely insane. But what else do we expect from our judicial system caught up in a “war on drugs”.

  20. James Joyner says:

    @tom p: Oh, c’mon. I was responding to anjin-san’s statement that “she is desperate, terrified, and almost certainly lacking the God given intelligence that you posses.” As to the general state of things, yes, it’s easier to get rich if you’re smart and harder to avoid being poor if you’re stupid. No, the two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, mostly because of starting positions.

    And, yes, as I’ve written many times, our selective treatment of a given age as “adult” and “child” is pernicious. But my tendency is to move things in the direction of expanding rights for youth rather than delaying accountability. An average 17-year-old isn’t a child and shouldn’t be treated as one.

    @Lit3Bolt: You’ve clearly not read my blog much. My fealty to religious fanatics is shallow, indeed.

  21. anjin-san says:

    My paternal grandmother was 13 when she married and 14 when she had her first of five children

    Yea, and my dad was a fully grown man at 24. Family man, homeowner, professional career.

    Things change. When I was 24, the only thing I was interested in was having fun. I broke the law all the time (drugs).

    Eventually, I grew out of it, and became the mature, responsible pillar of the community you see before you today. It took a long time, and I am grateful that the people around me when I was young and irresponsible were a bit kinder and more forgiving than you sound. It could have ended differently for me. Enough of my friends from those wild days ended up in jail or an early grave.

    Well, let’s focus on important things. Like making sure that a little girl (and yes, from where we sit a 17 year old is a little girl) who is a victim of sex crimes is not allowed to “run rampant”.

  22. tom p says:

    Oh, c’mon. I was responding to anjin-san’s statement that “she is desperate, terrified, and almost certainly lacking the God given intelligence that you posses.”

    Oh c’mon James, they were your words, don’t lay it off on anjin-san.

    As to the general state of things, yes, it’s easier to get rich if you’re smart and harder to avoid being poor if you’re stupid

    In my experience, it has been much easier to get rich if you are born rich and to end up poor if you are born poor. Intelligence, or the lack there of, has very little to do with it.

  23. TG Chicago says:

    @Joyner:

    You seem to have missed this question:

    Simple question: as someone who is horrified by back-alley abortions, do you support or oppose the restrictive abortion laws that make them more likely?

    Can you please answer that one?

    Also, by your logic, I guess you oppose the fact that the guy is being charged for child pornography for what he did with the 17-year-old. Can you please confirm that?

  24. James Joyner says:

    @TG Chicago:

    I already answered that one two or three times in the thread. It should be easier to get birth control, counseling, pregnancy testing, and very early term abortions than it is in large swaths of the country. I understand why it isn’t but think it’s counterproductive. I just don’t think the hurdles justify killing the baby at 24 weeks, let alone through the non-clinical measures used by the women in the story.

    And, yes, 17 is old enough to give meaningful consent to sexual activity.

  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    I thing Chicago has posed the right question. I’d live to see an answer.

  26. ponce says:

    I understand why it isn’t but think it’s counterproductive.

    Shorter James:

    My fellow Republicans want to turn women into cattle, but I choose to overlook that fact.

  27. James Joyner says:

    @ponce: Now you’re just being an idiot. Many Americans have deep-seated abhorrence to abortion, which they consider the murder of an innocent human life. It’s not only a reasonable interpretation of the dominant religious strain in our country but was the overwhelming consensus of the culture until quite recently.

    I think it’s complicated enough an issue that, in the very early stages when the fetus has hardly formed, we should bow to the inevitable. And, oddly enough, that’s where the law has settled on the matter. But I don’t think it’s “treating women like cattle” to demand that they not kill their viable baby at the 20 week mark.

  28. G.A.Phillips says:

    Desperate women are finding some horrific ways to terminate their pregnancies.

    All are horrific if your the baby!

  29. G.A.Phillips says:

    My fellow Republicans want to turn women into cattle, but I choose to overlook that fact.

    ummm Republicans did not create this service to control the black and Asian population. A they sure the heck dint make it a so called right. Cattle you say?

    Why do you hate babies Ponce?

  30. ponce says:

    Now you’re just being an idiot. Many Americans have deep-seated abhorrence to abortion, which they consider the murder of an innocent human life. It’s not only a reasonable interpretation of the dominant religious strain in our country but was the overwhelming consensus of the culture until quite recently.

    Many humans have an abhorrence to associating with people of a race different than theirs, James.

    That doesn’t make it right

    That doesn’t mean we should excuse their attempts to enshrine their hatred into law.

    Does it?

  31. glasnost says:

    It’s a disgusting post, James. But I recognize it is disgusting by way of your shallow and lazy thinking, rather than by way of any fundamental inhumanity.

    First of all, you are conflating two distinct issues: aborting a ‘post-viability’ fetus and receiving an abortion from other than a licensed medical provider. Let’s do you a favor and clarify your logic: let’s assume that the fetus is not post-viable.

    At this point, your position is that these women are morally condemnable and deserving of criminal punishment for terminating their own fetus instead of using a doctor.

    I would love to see you justify this with any remote form of logic. It’s anti-libertarian. You support criminal penalties for people who don’t surrender themselves to medical bureaucracies and pay thousands of dollars. Basically, it’s criminal to be poor.

    What’s your baloney excuses, James? These people are criminals because they might hurt themselves performing abortion themselves? They are criminals because…. they might frighten a first-trimester fetus that can’t think or feel pain? Is this like an animal-cruelty application to a ball of cells?

    These people are being jailed for trying to avoid a nightmarish bureaucracy that punishes them ‘for their own good’ and exists for no other reason that to make it hard for them to perform a legal act. And you think support their punishment for no other reason than “the law exists, thus they’re criminals for breaking it. Fuck criminals!”.

    This kind of logic subsidizes legal tyranny the world over.

    Honestly, when it comes to domestic policy, you are one of the laziest bloggers I know. You rarely make more than a token effort to think about your point of view. It’s like reading a LiveJournal entry.

  32. James Joyner says:

    @ponce: I’m not sure how racism and a desire to protect the life of a helpless fetus are comparable.

  33. G.A.Phillips says:

    Many humans have an abhorrence to associating with people of a race different than theirs, James.

    That doesn’t make it right

    That doesn’t mean we should excuse their attempts to enshrine their hatred into law.

    Does it?

    WTF do you think abortion is truly about, damn
    ONE OUT OF EVERY TWO BLACK BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. TG Chicago says:

    Man, this is like pulling teeth. I think I finally figured out the problem. Joyner keeps arguing that we shouldn’t legalize back-alley abortions, which I find to be a non sequitur since I don’t see anybody advocating their legalization. So I went to the original article (I had previously only looked at the portions Joyner quoted). I think this is the part Joyner focused on:

    The antiabortion movement likes to see itself as pro-woman. Most of its spokespeople talk about protecting women from abortion, insisting they’re not interested in seeing them punished. “It’s tragic that this young woman felt that this was her only way out,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said in a statement in response to questions about the McCormack case. “The pro-life movement has never supported jail sentences for women who are victims of the abortion culture and abortion industry.”

    Tobias said her group calls on Idaho officials “to engage in more publicity about the network of pregnancy resource centers and about the existence of Idaho’s safe haven law—either of which would have helped this young mother and saved her child.” But she didn’t call on them to release McCormack or to change the laws under which she’s being charged. If these sorts of prosecutions aren’t what the antiabortion movement had in mind when it pushed wave after wave of state-level legislation, now might be a good time to speak up.

    Okay, that part flirts with the argument that back-alley abortions should be legal, or at least that they should be decriminalized. So Joyner isn’t as far off-base as I thought he was (though I wish he had quoted this part of the article originally). I personally believe the author was simply using the National Right to Life’s argument against them rather than actually advocating for legal back-alley abortions… but at least we’re in the ballpark.

    But still, it’s clear to me that the main thrust of the article is that onerous abortion restrictions lead to back-alley abortions, and the best way to reduce back-alley abortions is to reduce hurdles to legal abortion. Joyner seems to have come away from this article thinking that the main point was that back-alley abortions should be legal, but even including the part above, I don’t see how he came to that conclusion.

    Can we all agree that the main problem posed by this article is the restriction on legal abortion?

  35. tom p says:

    Can we all agree that the main problem posed by this article is the restriction on legal abortion?

    I can.

  36. michael reynolds says:

    Chicago:

    I not only agree, I think the conclusion is inescapable.

  37. tom p says:

    I said:

    So, poor people are stupid and wealthy people are smart? You want to try that one again James?

    James replied:

    Oh, c’mon. I was responding to anjin-san’s statement that “she is desperate, terrified, and almost certainly lacking the God given intelligence that you posses.”

    I said,.

    Oh c’mon James, they were your words, don’t lay it off on anjin-san.

    As to the general state of things, yes, it’s easier to get rich if you’re smart and harder to avoid being poor if you’re stupid

    In my experience, it has been much easier to get rich if you are born rich and to end up poor if you are born poor. Intelligence, or the lack there of, has very little to do with it.

    Seeing as James never answered my statement in the affirmative or negative, allow me to reply to the post he could not make:

    James, It is easy being rich and requires no real intelligence, just a pocket full of money and a bunch of sycophants wanting some of it. Being poor on the other hand requires a willingness to HUSTLE, HUSTLE, HUSTLE, (read: work) and if one is to get ahead the intelligence to recognize and differentiate between a real oppurtunity and just another scam.

    I for one managed to only do as well as middle class.

    Guess I am just not quite smart enuf (Lucky enuf???) to be rich.

    I know it is a b*tch James, but America is not, and never has been, a meritocracy. The sooner you face that fact, the sooner you will be able to deal with your daughters future.

  38. ponce says:

    @ponce: I’m not sure how racism and a desire to protect the life of a helpless fetus are comparable.

    James, your Republican compatriots hatred of women does stop at abortion.

    Consider all the religious freaks working in pharmacies who would deny women Plan B, which works by preventing conception.

    This feigned concern for the life of a fetus isn’t very convincing.

  39. TG Chicago says:

    @Joyner:

    And, yes, 17 is old enough to give meaningful consent to sexual activity.

    So should 17 be the age of consent? Or should it be in the 13-14 range, as your other comments imply?

    Also, may I ask how old your paternal grandfather was when he married your grandmother?

  40. G.A.Phillips says:

    So bored with Nazi Libtrash……..and what their crappy little minds rationalize…sigh…..

  41. James Joyner says:

    @TG Chicago and @Michael Reynolds:

    I agree that Goldberg is making the explicit argument that lack of easy abortion is forcing women into back-alley abortions. I’d have found her case more persuasive if she hadn’t picked some rather heinous cases of late-term abortion to illustrate the “horrific” nature of the practice of arresting women. If they were arresting women who’d gotten ahold of some black market morning after pills that they couldn’t afford legally, I’d be horrified. And I’d at least be sympathetic to the women if they were using home remedies early on.

    Goldberg, though, clearly thinks that women who carry babies into the third trimester and then pay thugs to punch them in the stomach have no other alternatives. Because of mean old Republicans, naturally. It’s just nonsense.

  42. James Joyner says:

    @TG Chicago: Probably 16 or 17. Many if not most states have some sort of sliding scale based on relative age of the partner, too. 17/34 is different than 17/19.

    I’m not sure how old my grandfather was. A teenager, I’m pretty sure. Neither had much education.

    Such young marriages were apparently common. The example that always stuck with me was from “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Loretta Lynn was 13 when she married Mooney, then 20, in 1946. They had four children before she turned 19. They stayed married until he died in 1996.

  43. michael reynolds says:

    Goldberg, though, clearly thinks that women who carry babies into the third trimester and then pay thugs to punch them in the stomach have no other alternatives. Because of mean old Republicans, naturally. It’s just nonsense.

    What are you talking about?

    If you make it impossible to get an early abortion then yes, you are responsible for driving women to do desperate things.

    This is classic Republicanism: you talk a good game about responsibility, but when it comes to taking responsibility for the predicted and indeed inevitable results of your own policies, suddenly you’re missing in action.

    I’m sorry reality refuses to conform to your ideology, but them’s the breaks.

    Republicans work against family planning, they work to make it increasingly difficult to get early abortions, they work against the morning after pill, they even work against sex education, and all the while Democrats warn it will result in back alley abortions. And you ignore us. And then it happens. And you find yourself blaming a 17 year-old victim of incest for being insufficiently resourceful to get around the roadblocks you put up.

    Explain the logic of that. Explain the morality of that. Explain how the GOP can simply absolve itself.

    Forget the staggering callousness of it and the smugness of it, it’s simply illogical.

  44. Liberty60 says:

    Other posters have made my points already about back alley versus legal abortions (the second prevents the first).

    But James’ point about age of consent regarding the Utah girl needs comment.

    True, in many cultures even to this day, 15 year old girls get married and carry children.
    What many people oftern overlook is the fact that in almost all these societies, such girls (and yes, they are still girls) are surrounded by a large extended clan of female relatives who act as a support network to provide advice, counsel, child care, medical care, and so on. Not to mention that they also live in societes where the father of the baby is bound to provide lifetime support via marriage.

    What separates these girls (and James’ own grandmother) from the Utah girl is that she was raped, isolated, abused, neglected, and of course terrified and traumatized.

    Primly sitting in our material and emotional comfort and sniffing about how immature and irresponsible she behaved is a form of monstrous cruelty, the sort Dickens wrote about.

    Its stuff like this that causes people to understand that conservatism is, at base, an elaborate ploy to justify callous selfishness.

  45. OzarkHillbilly (used to be tom p) says:

    Goldberg, though, clearly thinks that women who carry babies into the third trimester and then pay thugs to punch them in the stomach have no other alternatives. Because of mean old Republicans, naturally. It’s just nonsense.

    Says the above averaged income white male….

    Has it ever occured to you that they thought a better alternative would be found? And wasn’t? Let me see… paying some “thug” $150 to beat them up in the hopes of losing a fetus is better than taking a few pills and in the morning it will all be over?

    Does that come even close to your all time best good time? What, you think these women WANT to get beat up? That given the oppurtunity they would not have picked a “cleaner” abortion? James, you are not racist, you are not sexist, you are myopic. You can not imagine being in a situation where “paying a thug to punch you in the stomach” is the best alternative.

    Jimminy xmas, do you even listen to the words coming out of your…. fingertips?

  46. anjin-san says:

    A quote from James’ legendary “sky waiter” piece:

    Second, my wife and I, not the waitstaff, are the ones who have to live with the consequences that befall our daughter.

    It’s always a little different when consequence affect you and the one you love, no?

    As was noted above, when the consequences of Republican policies come to light, you – how can I put this tactfully – come up a little weak.

    Blame the victim. Where do we generally see that tactic employed?

  47. michael reynolds says:

    Its stuff like this that causes people to understand that conservatism is, at base, an elaborate ploy to justify callous selfishness.

    I resist reaching that conclusion, but it’s too often the truth.

    Yes, too often liberals are bleeding hearts, soft, overly emotional. But it beats the hell out of being smug, sanctimonious and callous.

    As I’ve said before, I think the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives isn’t IQ (although OTB’s “conservative” commenters put the lie to that) but rather that conservatives lack imagination. They can’t see any outcome but what already exists. They can’t see themselves sick or poor or desperate.

  48. G.A.Phillips says:

    Yes, too often liberals are bleeding hearts, soft, overly emotional. But it beats the hell out of being smug, sanctimonious and callous.

    Most liberals nowadays are all of the above.

  49. dutchmarbel says:

    I like the guttmacher video: http://youtu.be/rY-bQ6UzhNI

    I remember reading a blog a few years ago, by a married (educated, middle class) mother of 3 kids. She and her husband used condoms. One day (or night probabely) the condom broke. She tried to get an ‘day after pill’ but the pharmacy’s didn’t want to sell those. By the time she found a place that would be able to provide her, they term to use them had passed. So she hoped that they would luck out and she wouldn’t be pregant, because they could not afford another kid. Unfortunately, she did get pregnant. Getting an early abortion was really hard (money, time, travel) so she didn’t manage that and then, further on in the pregnancy, had to make much harder decisions.

    She was smart, educated, married, not poor – yet it was so impossible even for her to prevent and later abort the pregnancy immediately. That really shocked me.

    If you are 17 and live in an area without public transport, without acces to abortion providers (and probabely to contraception too), I don’t know how you are supposed to do that. Or get the almost 1000 dollars you probabely need to pay for it all. Paying someone 150 dollars to beat you hard enough so you might have an abortion sounds pretty desperate.

  50. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Can you really not imagine the desperation of these women who decide they cannot carry a pregnancy to term?

    I sure as hell can’t. They spread their legs wide for a few moments of personal ecstacy but when real life hits them later, the concept of personal responsibility somehow flies right out the window and they become poor victims of the anti-abortion crowd. Oh there are exceptoins I know (rape, etc.) but the vast majority just don’t bother to worry about the consequences of their actions as they are screaming “more…deeper…”. Victims my ass!

  51. michael reynolds says:

    Patrick:

    You really are a sick piece of work.

  52. matt says:

    Patrick you’re a completely worthless pile of excrement… Completely worthless…

  53. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Patrick:

    You really are a sick piece of work.

    Patrick you’re a completely worthless pile of excrement… Completely worthless…

    That’s the best you’ve got!? Ad hominem attacks are the last refuge for the intellectually deficient coward.

  54. Mark says:

    Joyner,

    You’re being rather selective here in the matter of conception. Last I checked my New Testament, one needed two to conceive.

    The female and, lo and behold, the male.

    Not much from you about Daddy’s making babies and then making tracks, physical, financial and otherwise.

    Or shall we discuss the military’s long-time issues of the soldier in the field sewing his wild oats and leaving behind little Juniors and Juniorettes in his wake?

    Nah, let’s not. Kinda would spoil your whole tizzy over the female not being able to make the right decisions. After all, like the Sarge used to say, sex is just the gal who can’t keep her thighs closed.

  55. Mark says:

    I sure as hell can’t. They spread their legs wide for a few moments of personal ecstacy but when real life hits them later, the concept of personal responsibility somehow flies right out the window and they become poor victims of the anti-abortion crowd.

    Joyner,

    Though I didn’t catch it earlier, thanks to Patty McGuire for proving my point…

  56. Mark says:

    Explain the logic of that. Explain the morality of that. Explain how the GOP can simply absolve itself.

    Reynolds,

    You want logic from the Conservative/Tea Party crowd? That’s rich. Sorta like asking for hair from Rush Limbaugh or reasonable, pundit-free debate from Chris Matthews.

    And please don’t mix GOP with Conservatives and Tea Partiers. The latter two have nothing to do with the former. They make call themselves GOP but they’re nothing more than right-wing extremists. The Avigdor Liebermans of the U.S. of A.

  57. matt says:

    Patrick : That’s all you’re worth when you attack a 17 year old girl who was physically mentally and sexually abused through her childhood and as a result becomes impregnated.. That’s all you’re worth..

  58. maya says:

    Looks like I’m a little late getting in on this, but there’s a lot of calling 20 weeks “viable” on this thread. 20 weeks is not viable. 23 weeks is generally considered the lower limit of viability, because a small percentage of kids will survive at this age–though many will have severe developmental problems for their whole lives. Not to mention, of course, these little ones are only “viable” at all with drastic medical interventions from the moment they are born.