What Really Motivates The “Pro-Life” Movement?

At least some segments of the "pro-life" movement seem more concerned with policing morality than they do with protecting life.

In my post regarding the extent to which Republicans are running away from the new abortion laws passed by Alabama and other states, I asked a question regarding pro-life activists who make exceptions to their opposition to abortion not only for maternal health but also pregnancy resulting from rape or incest:

Indeed, if someone is pro-life it is hard to understand why they would accept exceptions for rape or incest. If you really believe that life begins at conception and that the rights of a fertilized egg are superior to those of the pregnant woman then why should it matter that the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest? Note that I do not agree with this position but it seems to me that if one holds the moral position that life begins at conception, then one should be applauding this law. The fact that so many pro-life advocates, conservatives, and Republicans are not is telling not only because of what it says about their political strategy but what it says about their own intellectual consistency and just how sincere they are in their belief about when “life” begins and how our abortion laws should be shaped around that. It also makes clear that, contrary to the argument of many “pro-life” activists, the question of when “life” begins and when rights attach to the potential human being growing inside a woman’s body is not capable of answering in an easy and straightforward manner.

In a post at Slate that I linked to in that post, William Saletan offers one hypothesis:

Why do so many conservatives demand a rape exception? One reason has to do with sex. A lot of people think that women who choose to have intercourse should bear the consequences, including motherhood. But rape victims didn’t choose to have sex. So it’s unjust, from this perspective, to make such women carry their pregnancies to term.

You can see this mentality at work in the GSS. One question in the survey asks, “If a man and woman have sex relations before marriage, do you think it is always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?” Over the four-decade average, 35 percent of people have said it’s always or almost always wrong. Let’s call those people sexual conservatives. At the other end of the spectrum, 43 percent of respondents have said it’s not wrong at all. Let’s call those people sexual liberals. (Lately, the numbers have shifted to the left. In 2018, 24 percent of people said premarital sex was always or almost always wrong, while 61 percent said it wasn’t wrong at all.)

On abortion, sexual conservatives differ from sexual liberals in ways that resemble the gap between political conservatives and political liberals. On the initial question—whether abortion should be allowed for any reason a woman chooses—sexual liberals are far more likely than sexual conservatives to say yes. Only 16 percent of people who say yes to this question are conservative on premarital sex. Four times as many, 64 percent, are liberal on premarital sex. But when you advance to the second question—whether abortion should be available to survivors of sexual assault—the gap disappears. Among people who agree that there should be limits on the permitted reasons for abortion, those who support abortion for rape victims are as likely to oppose premarital sex as to defend it.

I think Saletan is onto something here.

As much as the pro-life crowd says that their opposition to abortion is linked to their belief that life begins at the moment of conception, it seems quite apparent that for many of them their position has to do with something else. This is especially true when you take into account that many of these same people jump all over themselves to make clear that their position that “life begins at conception” apparently doesn’t apply if the conception is due to rape or incest. It’s understandable that they’d make room for an exception for abortions that are medically necessary to save the life of the mother, but why should an embryo or fetus conceived via rape or incest have fewer rights than one conceived via consensual sexual intercourse? (Please note that I am not saying that I think rape and incest victims should be forced to carry their babies to term.)

One argument that can be made, I suppose, is that pregnancy resulting from rape is non-consensual while pregnancy due to straightforward recreational sex is consensual, but that doesn’t necessarily explain their position. It also doesn’t explain the incest exception, because it’s always possible that a pregnancy resulting from incest could be consensual and the parties involved could be adults. Nonetheless, the position that the “pro-life with exceptions” crowd takes would allow women in this position to have an abortion while denying it to a woman who may have forgotten her birth control, had a little too much to drink one night, or who, despite the best of intentions, got pregnant even though she didn’t intend to.

Another possibility is that pro-life advocates know that appearing to say that victims of rape or incest should not be able to get an abortion is not good public relations for them. As it stands, it’s clear that the American public supports a woman’s right to choose, at least in the first trimester, by an overwhelming margin and that they support exceptions for rape and incest by the same overwhelming margin. While opposing abortion in those circumstances would be intellectually consistent with the insistence that “life begins at conception,” holding to that position as a matter of policy would be politically disastrous for them. Something we can see in the public reaction to the overly restrictive new law passed in Alabama that does not allow for such restrictions.

For some segment of the “pro-life” community, though, I think Saletan is right that the opposition to abortion has more to do with their position on sexual morality than it does with being intellectually consistent or politically correct. By and large, after all, these are in some cases the same people who oppose making birth control more easily available and insist that the only sex education that needs to be taught in public schools is “abstinence-only” education that refuses to recognize the fact that hormone-laden teenagers are, for better or worse, likely to end up being sexually active.

In addition, the correlation between people who are “pro-life” and what Saletan calls “sexual conservatism” can be seen in the survey results that he cites in his article. As Saletan puts it, their position clearly appears to be
that “women who choose to have intercourse should bear the consequences, including motherhood.” While pro-lifers will likely deny this is true, it certainly does appear as if that, for many pro-lifers, their opposition to abortion has as much to do with the idea that people who have sex for reasons other than reproduction should be punished for their immorality as it is on the idea that “life begins at conception.”

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Gender Issues, Law and the Courts, Society, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Monala says:

    The other tell-tale sign is that many of these bills exempt embryos created in IVF labs, many of which end up destroyed or donated to science if they’re not used to impregnate a woman. An Alabama state senator even admitted when asked that, “The embryo in a lab doesn’t count, because it’s not in a woman.” A guy I argued with about it said IVF embryos doesn’t count because it’s about intent. A woman having an abortion intends to kill, but someone doing IVF intends to have a baby, even if they end up killing embryos in the process.

    These arguments make no sense if the social conservatives are being honest. If an embryo is in fact a full person with the same right to life as a baby after birth, then it shouldn’t matter that that embryo is in an IVF lab. And the Alabama senator gave the truth up when he said it doesn’t count because it’s not in a woman. So it is indeed about controlling women, not about saving babies.

    48
    3
  2. steve says:
  3. Kathy says:

    As Saletan puts it, their position clearly appears to be
    that “women who choose to have intercourse should bear the consequences, including motherhood.”

    It’s simply not possible to escape the consequences of sex if it results in pregnancy. Why I can’t see is why abortion is not seen as a possible consequence.

    Sex can also result in venereal disease. Should people who engage in consensual sex not for procreation be denied treatment, then, because they should bear the consequences, including disease and death? Is treatment not a consequence?

    26
    2
  4. Grumpy realist says:

    @Monala: if this mentality holds, such people shouldn’t care if fetuses and ezygotes and embryos are taken out and dumped into a uterine replicator, even if the technology isn’t completely at point. I suspect that 99.9% of women having abortions are doing do because they want the zygote/embryo/fetus OUT OUT OUT, not to kill it.

    I also want uterine replicators to be developed because it’s going to put a big kibosh on adoptee’s rights yelling.

    4
    2
  5. gVOR08 says:

    I’ll again cite George Lakoff as saying conservatives think in terms of simple morality, not complex causation. They know abortion is bad because they’ve been telling each other for decades that abortion is bad. It’s faith. Expecting some honest, reasoned, and consistent position is unrealistic.

    Republicans are very good at messaging. Terrible at governance and inveterate liars, but very good at messaging. “Pro-life” is their chosen identifier, although I suspect few of them oppose war or the death penalty. And they certainly have no intention of doing anything to support the mother and the new “life” they insist she bear. “Antiabortion” is more accurate than “pro-life”.

    24
    1
  6. Steve V says:

    It is affected all too much (as everything is) by the tendency to demonize those on the other side of a political position. Pro-lifers imagine a world where liberals are having sex all over the place and using abortion as a convenience. When one of their own accidentally gets pregnant, then it was never because of promiscuity and the abortion is always Ok in just this one instance. I.e., it’s ok for us, but not for you.

    19
  7. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Kathy:

    Should people who engage in consensual sex not for procreation be denied treatment

    A lot of the opposition to routine HPV vaccination is based on precisely this premise.

    25
  8. Bill says:

    If you really believe that life begins at conception and that the rights of a fertilized egg are superior to those of the pregnant woman then why should it matter that the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest?

    Did you ever think it is because sincere people who oppose abortion don’t want to be called @#$5! for taking the consistent position instead of a inconsistent one.

    Talking about inconsistency. The pro abortion crowd usually don’t support capital punishment. Kill/Don’t kill.

    Don’t get me started on the Diocese of Palm Beach (Under the direction of Bishop now Cardinal O’Malley) who opposes abortion but who wanted to stop the health insurance of a mother (and diocesan employee) on hospital pregnancy bedrest. If the Catholic Church has the choice between its money and helping a mother and her unborn child, they’ll pick the former!

    If you wonder what this Roman Catholic’s opinion on abortion is, I find it distasteful and wish it was a rarely done thing, plus I think the Roe opinion written by Blackmun to be badly written, but I think it should up to the woman. I wish abortion wasn’t so much of our political debate for the last 46 years.

    11
    10
  9. Not the IT Dept. says:

    And you’re only twigging to this now? It’s seemed pretty obvious to me for the past 40+ years.

    13
  10. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’ll again cite George Lakoff as saying conservatives think in terms of simple morality, not complex causation.

    Simplistic, I would say. A laundry list of do and don’t without explanation or reason, completely oblivious to the actual effect on actual people.

  11. DrDaveT says:

    The existence of “morning after” contraception allows for a more nuanced exploration of the psychology of the anti-abortion crowd. I want to see a poll that distinguishes among opinions about
    1. women who use contraception
    2. women who use “morning after” preventatives
    3. women who choose abortion after they know they are pregnant

    I suspect without proof that opinions about #2 would be midway between #1 and #3, which is (again) not consistent with any of the alleged anti-abortion rationales.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy:

    Sex can also result in venereal disease. Should people who engage in consensual sex not for procreation be denied treatment, then, because they should bear the consequences, including disease and death?

    I think you were trying to make a point by holding this up as ridiculous but unfortunately this actually is happening in the US. There has been a vaccine against HPV for a decade or so but religious conservatives in the US argue against it because it promotes promiscuity. These people actively increase their daughters chance for cervical cancer because otherwise they will end up as sluts. I honestly can’t even wrap my head around it.

    20
  13. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: when I worked in hospital labs and got an HIV test every 6 months I had some hillbilly relatives who were offended at the notion of getting HIV tests because they thought it meant they were the sort of people who would be getting HIV in the first place.

    I don’t have to tell you who they voted for in 2016, do I?

  14. Matt says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: Yeah that was my thought. It’s especially obvious if you are female and have ever been to a family planning clinic that was being protested. Generally you’ll be called a whore/slut and more even if you’re not there for an abortion. There are people who protest the family planning clinic here even though it doesn’t provide anything abortion related. You still get called names and yelled at.

    As stated earlier a lot of the resistance to mandating the HPV vaccine is basically summed up as “it’ll turn them into whores if they don’t have consequences to having sex!!!!”. Like teenagers worry about consequences when engaging in sex or a variety of other activities..

    The “pro-lifers” who are religious tend to view the morning after pill as an abortion too. Which is kind of interesting because that means God is the biggest provider of abortion ever as the majority of pregnancies fail early on…

    EDIT : I would like to clarify that one of the religious groups is very polite when protesting the Planned Parenthood clinic. Unfortunately all the other groups can get rather vulgar.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy:

    Simplistic, I would say. A laundry list of do and don’t without explanation or reason, completely oblivious to the actual effect on actual people.

    Indeed. Going a little further into Lakoff, it’s deontology v teleology. They do believe that if they do right, by their rules, good things will follow. In the extreme it allows them to believe that if they cut taxes god, or the invisible hand, or something, will reward them by lowering the deficit. It’s faith of one sort or another, not reason. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that seems to be the way they work.

  16. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’ve read about that, and it makes as little sense as saying that seat belts encourage reckless driving.

    I’m more concerned about the rising tide against contraceptives. Right now it seems they object to paying for contraceptives for poor people. But the trend, if it continues, will end with bans on contraception. Or the attempt to ban them. I don’t really think they can.

  17. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    You know, early on in the “war on terror” days, many conservative pundits complained, rightly, that Islamists wanted to turn the clock back to the VII Century CE.

    But of course, it’s easier to see the mote in your neighbor’s eye than the beam in yours. So they don’t see they want to turn the clock back to en even earlier time.

    I don’t claim to understand Christianity (gods be praised for that!), but the belief of courting God’s favor so He will favor you, or your tribe, is definitely a pagan belief. Engaging in the “right” actions to court the deity is little different from making animal sacrifices or votive offering to Zeus to court his favor.

    9
    1
  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In addition, the correlation between people who are “pro-life” and what Saletan calls “sexual conservatism” can be seen in the survey results that he cites in his article. As Saletan puts it, their position clearly appears to be that “women who choose to have intercourse should bear the consequences, including motherhood.” While pro-lifers will likely deny this is true, it certainly does appear as if that, for many pro-lifers, their opposition to abortion has as much to do with the idea that people who have sex for reasons other than reproduction should be punished for their immorality as it is on the idea that “life begins at conception.”

    Take note, time and again, time and fucking again, people on both sides of this debate miss the central point that always and forever it is the WOMAN’S responsibility to avoid pregnancy, that should she get pregnant it is SHE AND SHE ALONE WHO SHOULD BE PUNISHED FOR HER IMMORALITY and that the MAN WHO GOT HER PREGNANT GET’S A FREE RIDE.** Rape and incest are just the fig leafs they throw out there to show the absolutists aren’t totally unreasonable.

    ** Men skip out on child support all the time (as tho that were actually their “fair share”). You know this.

    @Bill:

    Talking about inconsistency. The pro abortion crowd usually don’t support capital punishment. Kill/Don’t kill.

    Yeah, you are a Catholic who needs to get out a little more. More than a few of the Evangelical “pro-life people under certain circumstances” (well over 50%) that I have met are not only OK with the death penalty, they actually think it is the work of god. They are also very much pro gun and a fair # of them are now speaking of civil war over this issue. Correct me if I am wrong, but was it not Jesus who said, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”?

    Also, take a moment to read Numbers: 5. Your God is not very pro life at all, but then if you had actually read the Bible (Genesis: 19 anyone?) instead of just listening to the very selective quotes read by your priests you’d already know that.

    And yes, for the record I am an ex-Catholic who literally had the religion beaten out of me by a nun. Why do you ask?

    ETA when I say, “‘ people on both sides of this debate miss the central point that always and forever it is the WOMAN’S responsibility to avoid pregnancy,” what I mean is that people continually argue it from this point of view as tho they except the legitimacy of it. I know a whole lot of people don’t but they don’t trash that phrasing of the argument right off the bat.

    ETA 2: If i have been a little harsh Bill, I apologize because having read your comment for a 3rd time I see you aren’t toeing the CC line.

    Sigh.

    6
    1
  19. Gustopher says:

    There are probably countless rationales, all mixed together, from being willing to accept 95% victory as a first step (if you could reduce the Holocaust from killing 10M Jews to a mere 500,000, you would grab at it), to blaming loose women for getting pregnant, to some nuanced thing about responsibility, to a desire for more oral or anal sex.

    That last one is probably an outlier, but there are people who avoid vaginal sex so they will still be a virgin, but do use every other available orifice.

    All the different reasons are there, often in the same people, which is why they appear inconsistent. And people are pretty simple-minded and don’t consider their own inconsistencies. They aren’t robots — as we learned from vintage Star Trek that robots would spin around in circles saying “does not compute, does not compute” until they explode — so they can hold multiple, contradictory views simultaneously without even noticing it.

    The fetus isn’t responsible for being created, but a murderer is responsible for their actions, so pro-life and pro-death-penalty can happily coexist.

    Opposing social services to force people to be responsible gives the appearance that they care about babies up until they are born.

    Etc, on and on. In the end, they oppose abortion because it’s icky. The procedure is icky, the people who need it are icky, the doctors are icky… their preacher tells them it’s icky and they believe it, and they construct a facade of logic around that. It’s like how most Americans won’t eat organ meats or bugs.

    Sometimes I wonder if the concept of the fetus was changed in our culture by the star child from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    1
    1
  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher:

    The fetus isn’t responsible for being created, but a murderer is responsible for their actions, so pro-life and pro-death-penalty can happily coexist.

    Ummmm, no. It is not the murderers choice to be put to death, it is ours.

    John 8:7
    7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

    5
    2
  21. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Also, take a moment to read Numbers: 5. Your God is not very pro life at all,

    It all goes back to Euthyphro’s Dilemma. Socrates asked him whether the good is loved by the gods because it is good, or whether the good is good because it’s loved by the gods.

    If the former, what need for gods? If the latter, is the good actually good?

    Modern Christians seem to fall on the latter option, but fail to ask Socrates’ follow-up question.

    As an atheist, I see no dilemma at all. The gods, all of them, are human creations. And the justification that God said so, or that it’s God’s will, is completely irrelevant. It means some long-dead people said so or willed it.

    I do understand belief in “God”. But then, when Christians devise earthly punishments for what they deem to be “sin,” I have to wonder at their lack of faith. Don’t they trust their God to render a fair and 100% just judgment?

    10
    1
  22. EddieInCA says:

    If a man has sex with 100 women, he can create 100 pregnancies and 100 babies.

    If a woman has sex with 100 men, she can only be pregnant once at a time (she can have twins or triplets or more, but those chances are slim).

    So why are we harping on women about abortion, and not men?

    15
  23. Scl says:

    This article is half correct. Its true that pro lifers have to deal with this inconsistency but I don’t think its because they don’t believe what they say about the unborn, it’s because the situation is much more emotionally tricky. How do I know this? Because they would still say that abortion is wrong if a married woman had one. If this was all about premarital sex then they would would be perfectly fine with a married woman having an abortion, but they’re not.The truth is rape is so traumatic it is hard for anyone to think straight when talking about it.

  24. An Interested Party says:

    These arguments make no sense if the social conservatives are being honest.

    As so many social conservatives support Trump, their honesty is quite doubtful…

    So why are we harping on women about abortion, and not men?

    That fancy word that starts with “m” and ends with “y”…what’s that old saw, something about if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament…

  25. michael reynolds says:

    The deal evolution made with homo sapiens is that we’d get the big brains but only at the cost of a very long gestation, and a hard, risky birth followed by an extraordinarily long period where the child is utterly dependent. A pregnant woman is by definition a vulnerable woman, a woman in need of protection. Protection from wild animals, protection from starvation, and in modern times, protection from other men.

    Pregnancy reinforces the patriarchy. Patriarchs and women comfortable in a patriarchal systems oppose abortion and in most cases, contraception. That’s why their professed position doesn’t make sense, because conservatives lie about everything, especially their deeply-held beliefs. They talk morality, but it’s all about power.

    17
    3
  26. Bill says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Yeah, you are a Catholic who needs to get out a little more. More than a few of the Evangelical “pro-life people under certain circumstances” (well over 50%) that I have met are not only OK with the death penalty, they actually think it is the work of god.

    I get out plenty. What I pointed out, isn’t exactly original. The Almanac of American Politics did it around 15-20 years ago when writing about a member of the New Hampshire Congressional delegation who had a consistent opinion.

    BTW I have used this quote here before. It comes from The Godfather Part II. ‘We’re all part of the same hypocrisy.’

    t

  27. JohnMcC says:

    @michael reynolds: Probably ought to begin with the usual lefty disclaimers about my personal (and political) conviction that women must have the final decision on pregnancy, but….

    In an evolutionary perspective, a pregnant woman in our band of hunter-gatherers is an event of huge significance for everyone in the band.

    That’s why the Constitutional basis of Roe-v-Wade is the privacy rights found there. The old rules of hunter-gatherers and small wandering tribes don’t apply anymore according to our fundamental law. In any given family, the old rules might well still apply. I imagine that there’s a Grandma and/or Grandpa somewhere right now hoping and praying that their daughter or d-in-law decides to keep the baby — because TRIBE! and FAMILY! — and I have no problem with that Grandpa/Grandma at all. I suppose that would fit into the definition of a ‘patriarchal system’. OK. Still seems ‘normal’ and ‘human’ to me.

    1
    1
  28. @Scl:

    they would still say that abortion is wrong if a married woman had one.

    This is entirely consistent with the general principle that social conservatives have that sex is only proper when its for the purpose of, or leaves itself open to, procreation. The idea of sex as an expression of intimacy, or indeed just for fun, and not just for having babies goes against the religious beliefs that inform their position.

  29. michael reynolds says:

    @JohnMcC:
    It is normal and natural. Hence the planet-wide disruption we’re seeing – rules derived from evolution which are at their base ‘go forth and multiply’ are no longer useful in the civilization we’ve built. Evolution is bumping up against civilization.

    In the million year history of h. sapiens we discovered agriculture last month, cities last week, and in less than a blink of an eye we expanded human power and awareness a billion fold with technology. We remain in many ways just hominids in small bands wandering the savannah in search of termites and carrion. . . but all the carrion we need is in the local Safeway, and sometimes we fly to the moon. There is stress between what homo sapiens learned and did to survive its first 990,000 years, and the civilization we built in the last 10,000 years.

    12
  30. grumpy realist says:

    @Scl: Oh, it’s even worse than that: it’s always “MY abortion is perfectly legitimate because I’m a righteous, god-fearing woman who just got into a little accident and needed help, but YOUR abortion is happening because you’re an evil nasty slut and you shouldn’t be able to have one.”

    ….amazing how so much of the so-called “morality” of the pro-lifers flies out the window then it’s their own precious bodies/daughters that get stuck with an unwanted pregnancy…..

    10
    2
  31. R. Dave says:

    One argument that can be made, I suppose, is that pregnancy resulting from rape is non-consensual while pregnancy due to straightforward recreational sex is consensual, but that doesn’t necessarily explain their position.

    Why doesn’t that explain their position? It seems to me that it’s just applying the same basic intuitions underlying common law assumption of risk and duty to rescue doctrines. Setting aside various nuances for the sake of simplicity here, if you commit a willful act that creates a foreseeable risk of harm to a third party, you assume the risk and the law imposes a duty to prevent or remedy the harm. If life/personhood begins at conception, then, since sex obviously involves a foreseeable risk of pregnancy and abortion would obviously cause harm to the third party baby, consensual sex constitutes an assumption of that risk and a duty to prevent (or in this case, refrain from causing) that harm. In the case of rape, though, it’s not willful act by the victim, so there’s no assumption of risk and therefore no duty to prevent the harm.

  32. Justin says:

    @Kathy: I remember them saying that. Ironic given they want to turn the clock back to the 1830s.

  33. Kit says:

    Interesting article from yesterday’s Guardian: Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses to describe abortion bans

    The Guardian will no longer use the term “heartbeat bill” in reference to the restrictive abortion bans that are moving through state legislatures in the US.

    Editors and reporters are encouraged to use the term “six-week abortion ban” over “fetal heartbeat bill”, unless they are quoting someone.

  34. R.Dave says:

    @Kit: That strikes me as the wrong approach. The timing of the ban is based on the developmental milestone not the number of weeks, so I would think the references should reflect that.

  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Bill:

    If the Catholic Church has the choice between its money and helping a mother and her unborn child, they’ll pick the former!

    That position is not unique to the Catholic Church, the conservative movement is riddled through with it.

    1
    1
  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve:

    they thought it meant they were the sort of people who would be getting HIV in the first place.

    That argument came up while I was in Korea when the government mandated HIV testing for foreign teachers. I offended one of my coworkers by commenting that I saw the government’s point–non-monogamous transient populations are a significant at-risk group.

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Matt: Wait a second; women go to family planning clinics for services other than abortions? When did this start–I mean the women wanting to plan their families thing?

  38. Ted Shoemaker says:

    @Bill:
    Let’s be honest. You can love a position or hate it, but let’s not misrepresent it. Pro-life people consider the embryo’s right *to live* as superior to the woman’s right *to choose*. Most of us would agree that one’s right to live is greater than another’s right to choose.

    2
    4
  39. Kat says:

    @Monala:
    I was heartbroken when I read the law exempted IVF. I just don’t get it? If we believe the science that as far back as a hundred years states life starts at conception then why why why is IVF exempt? Is a human child worth less because he/she was created through no fault of his/her own outside the womb. Do those babies have less worth then those in an environment that he or she has a chance at survival?? I think it is completely wrong that IVF was exempted from this law and I have a hard time supporting it now. If it doesn’t include ALL human beings then there is another motive involved.@Monala:

  40. michael reynolds says:

    Neither side’s position is entirely logical or consistent or morally unassailable, which is one reason the only sensible answer is to mind our own business and let women work it out with their families and their doctors. You don’t force women to raise a rapist’s baby because you think maybe your position is superior, you have to be pretty damned sure you’re pretty damn right, and without bringing particular interpretations of certain religions into it, there can be no certainty.

    5
    1
  41. Han says:

    @R.Dave: Except that a 6 week embryo doesn’t have a heart yet. “Heartbeat Bill” is a misnomer or a lie, depending on how charitable you’re feeling. https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/9kxzg5/so-called-heartbeat-bills-are-a-lie-and-doctors-want-you-to-stop-calling-them-that

    4
    2
  42. MarkedMan says:

    @Kat: I’m not sure if you are being serious or sarcastic but FWIW “science” doesn’t “tell us that life begins at conception”. Sure, science tells us that cells are organisms that can be separated from the body but the ova and the sperm were alive in that sense before conception. For that matter every time you scratch yourself or sneeze you are shedding all sorts of living cells.

    Now some people who believe in souls say that when that particular sperm wiggles its way into that particular egg god gives it a soul but that is a religious concept, not a scientific one.

    I may be wrong, but I don’t think ensouling-at-conception thing is part of traditional Roman Catholic or Orthodox doctrine. Aside from the millennia of referring to the first intake of breath as the start of life there would be the problem of all the auto-abortions (fertilized eggs that never reach birth). No one knows how often this occurs but the number certainly dwarfs the number of induced abortions. I’m no Catholic theologian but I did spend twelve years in Catholic schools arguing about such things and I suspect the people charged with developing doctrine would want a century or two to think about what it means if god gives souls to billions of “babies” who will never have the chance to be baptized and therefore ascend to heaven.

    3
    1
  43. Grumpy realist says:

    @Ted Shoemaker: ….except that here the fetus’s life depends on living off the bloodstream of an already-existing adult individual.

    When so-called Pro-lifers allow themselves to be coshed in alleys so their kidneys can be taken out and used to support other individuals I’ll believe they have the courage of their convictions.

    5
    1
  44. DrDaveT says:

    @Ted Shoemaker:

    Let’s be honest.

    By all means. You first.

    You can love a position or hate it, but let’s not misrepresent it.

    See above.

    Pro-life people consider the embryo’s right *to live* as superior to the woman’s right *to choose*.

    No, they don’t. If they did, they would insist just as strongly on the right to live for every fertilized embryo in a fertility clinic, and would universally assert that rape/incest are irrelevant to the embryo’s right to live. But, with occasional exceptions, they don’t. That was kinda the whole point of the original article.

    (Also, they would not feel the need to shout “Slut!” and “Whore!” at women visiting abortion clinics, but maybe that goes without saying…)

    12
    1
  45. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I may be wrong, but I don’t think ensouling-at-conception thing is part of traditional Roman Catholic or Orthodox doctrine.

    IIRC, ensouling was usually associated with ‘quickening’, the first sensible movements of the fetus.

  46. DrDC says:

    @R.Dave: It’s because what is seen in the ultrasound isn’t truly a heartbeat at 6 weeks. The fetus doesn’t have a functional heart at that gestational age. It’s electrical activity in a collection of cells that will eventually become a part of the heart, but not a heart.

    1
    1
  47. Hal_10000 says:

    I have to disagree with the basic tenet here. People’s political views are sometimes inconsistent. This is hardly a revelation. And I think it’s dangerous to start mining those inconsistencies for some kind of insight into people’s thoughts rather than just accept that people are inconsistent.

    To make a counterexample, the pro-choice side says, “my body my choice”. But they don’t really believe that. Many of them think sex work should be illegal. Many support keeping drugs illegal. Most support restrictive ages on drinking, smoking, etc. It’s reasonable to point out that inconsistency. But should I pray it up and start saying this proves that the pro-choice side likes killing babies? Or that it reflects how much they hate personal responsibility?

    Yes, there are some out there for whom this is about sex. But for the vast majority — remember, half the country is pro-life, including millions of non-religious people — this really is about what they see as the destruction of a potential human life.

    The moral questions in abortion are difficult and thorny. People draw their lines in different places. It doesn’t really tell us a whole lot about their secret thoughts.

    (As an aside, pointing out that many pro-life people are also pro-death-penalty means nothing. The death penalty involves a convicted murderer, not an innocent potential person. And the reverse question — why pro-choicers are OK with destroying a fetus but not a convicted murderer — is much more morally tricky.)

  48. DrDaveT says:

    @Hal_10000:

    The death penalty involves a potentially innocent person, not an innocent potential person.

    FTFY

    Thank you, though, for clearly distinguishing between people and potential people.

    2
    1
  49. Hal_10000 says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Indeed, this is why I am against the death penalty, because of the potential of executing an innocent person. My stance on abortion is difficult to square with that, but it comes from the same source: I don’t trust govt to make those kind of moral decisions.

  50. Gustopher says:

    @Hal_10000:

    People’s political views are sometimes inconsistent. This is hardly a revelation. And I think it’s dangerous to start mining those inconsistencies for some kind of insight into people’s thoughts rather than just accept that people are inconsistent.

    I think that the inconsistencies actually tell us a lot more about the person — poke hard here, and you will find what do they really value, as opposed to what values they are parroting from their culture.

    It would be nice to see a rigorous study of pro-lifer beliefs that does this, rather than idle speculation though.

    To make a counterexample, the pro-choice side says, “my body my choice”. But they don’t really believe that. Many of them think sex work should be illegal. Many support keeping drugs illegal. Most support restrictive ages on drinking, smoking, etc.

    The general belief is that as an adult you should be able to do what you want with your body, so long as it doesn’t hurt everyone else. Sex work and drugs are connected to violent crime and lower property values, and children cannot consent to smoke cancer sticks.

    I think there is a huge divide on whether the fetus is consider a person or not, and this affects whether your ability to do what you want with your own body, without adversely affecting others, allows abortion.

    I think there might be a broad consensus for a libertarian-with-a-small-l right to do what you want with your body where it doesn’t hurt others. Half the pro-life, and the vast majority of the pro-choice folks. Just differing on what constitutes hurting others.

    Look how quickly society is moving on gay rights and transgender rights. When the harm is shown to be a complete fiction, most people fall into support, or lack of opposition, pretty quickly.

  51. DrDaveT says:

    @Gustopher:

    When the harm is shown to be a complete fiction, most people fall into support, or lack of opposition, pretty quickly.

    I have to quibble with this part. As you’re probably tired of hearing me say, this only applies to people who judge policies by their outcomes. People who care whether the claimed harm to others is true or not are already liberals — they judge policies by whether they make people’s lives better or worse, and can be swayed by evidence. Conservatives don’t care whether the asserted harms are real or not — they know that the particular behaviors in question are wrong/sinful/bad/evil/icky, and should therefore be prohibited. Even if permitting them would make life better for everyone in the long run. Citing ostensible harms is just a rhetorical trick that they know works better against liberals than “thou shalt” does.

  52. Gustopher says:

    @DrDaveT: I want to agree with you, but support for same sex marriage just fell into place across all demographics (give or take) once it was a reality and the sky didn’t fall. Support for trans rights is having that same sea change.

    I’m generally not prone to optimism, but this is pretty remarkable.

    In another twenty years, no one will care if Donald Trump was born female, or which bathroom he uses. It’s a non-issue now, of course, because he is incontinent and just goes in his Depends, but maybe in 20 years there will be major medical breakthroughs in incontinence.

  53. Mom says:

    Huh. So here’s a couple dozen men with all kinds of views on abortion even though they’ve never been pregnant, never given birth, never been expected to drop their livelihood or personal safety in order to raise children for 18 years, and never been punished for attempting to simultaneously raise children on their own and support those children with a decent job.

    Why isn’t your impulse to stand back from the whole question and say, “You know, I really can’t speak from knowledge, here, and I’m not likely ever to have to deal with most of the consequences of making a new person, so perhaps I’ll just let people who know what they’re talking about hold this conversation and determine what’s important in it”?

    I do know about all those things firsthand. Here are some things I can tell you:

    1. Evopsych is garbage. You can drop anything that starts with “from an evolutionary perspective”. All you have to do is look at who promulgates that stuff: it’s almost universally men who’re really fascinated with the idea of coming up with sex rules. Some reality instead: there is no “tribe” in America. If you’re a pregnant woman, nobody cares except, if you’re lucky, your family and a handful of people who’re paid to care. Beyond sentimental politeness and your friends’ wanting to be good friends, most people will view your pregnancy as a massive inconvenience or something that doesn’t have to do with them at all. If you’re pregnant and poor, or pregnant and very young, or pregnant and old, or pregnant and very fat, you will get dirty looks. There’s a fair chance you’ll lose your job. The father may be happy, or may be abusive, or may just split. The medical establishment that will help make sure you don’t die when you give birth will more likely than not treat you as an item to be processed. If you don’t look appropriately happy, though, you’ll be referred for psychiatric evaluation, because if the staff see that, fail to flag it, and you wind up harming the kid, they don’t want to get sued.

    If you’re lucky, family and friends will see that you and the baby are housed and cared for well. Even so, it’s unlikely you’ll have time to rest and recover before you’re expected to be up and taking care of other people and proving that you haven’t suddenly turned into a garbage employee who needs punishing. If you’re unlucky…then you’re pretty unlucky. In most cities housing lists are closed; good luck getting public housing, work accommodations, childcare, anything but WIC. If your child is special needs then genuinely nobody will care unless you have very devoted immediate family. They will vote against your child’s life-and-death needs, they will not care for more than a few minutes that you can’t pay for your child’s care, the odds are overwhelming that the dad will collapse under the pressure and leave, and you will be a 24 x 7 x 365 emergency nurse. The rest of your life will evaporate into trying to take care of your child more or less on your own, and unless your family is wealthy and likes you, you will be the kind of poor that’s looking at quarters like they’re real money.

    If your child is fine and healthy, you will then be the responsible party for making sure that this child is invisible while a child and emerges fully fledged as a useful human whom someone else can semi-enslave. If your local schools are terrible, it’ll be your fault that your kid gets to 18 without knowing much: clearly you didn’t care and/or were ignorant. No matter what sort of hardship befalls you or your child, the excuse people will make for not helping is that this was “your choice”.

    Oh, and if you point any of this out, you will be accused of hating your child(ren), possibly all children, and be told that you probably shouldn’t have had kids at all, if that’s how you feel. At no time will the person telling you this recall that everything you’ve said is about how other adults react to mothers of children that are not their own, not about the children themselves. That all gets white-noised right out.

    There is no tribe all wowza about a pregnancy. That does not exist.

    2. Women are not actually morons and know that a fetus is not only alive but an incipient baby. Women are also the ones with the actual responsibility of protecting and raising children. (I have yet to see any male big talkers about pregnancy and abortion get involved with any of the work that’s necessary to see that reasonable child support is awarded and collected for all children, for instance.) Women are frequently aware of what an Everest of work and money that will be and how it will knock their own lives (and existing children’s lives) sideways, or be frankly impossible for them. If you’ve ever defended “stand your ground” over mere household items, then you’ve got no business protesting women doing the same for their futures and their existing children’s futures.

    3. Women probably aren’t listening to you anyhow because the stakes are too high for us: we’re busy dealing with the immediate situation and likely consequences of a baby. That’s why I hope those Missouri Planned Parenthood women and docs are using the forced unnecessary vaginal exams to help women learn about their own anatomy, how abortion works, and what constitutes medically safe and unsafe abortions.

    That is the news from momland. I would lay any odds that I have worked harder and longer and under more punishing circumstances than any man here. I do not care if you were military or a medical resident or whatever. The only way you’d have better claim to talk about work that’s this intense for this long and with stakes this high is if you’ve spent years of your life as sole caregiver and provider to someone with serious medical needs. Then you know and you’ve got my respect as someone who understands what these roles cost and why we do it, or don’t.

    1
    1
  54. idigweeds says:

    @Kathy:

    In point of fact, seat belts do encourage reckless driving. Not saying this has anything to do with reckless sex.

  55. Matt says:

    @idigweeds: I wouldn’t be surprised as the presence of the security device can be felt when used and could subconsciously effect the driver. The relevance of that to the HPV vaccine is non existent.