I don’t write much here anymore. That’s probably pretty obvious. There’s a complex of reasons. For one, I have writing output in other places, for other purposes. Also, my belief that online “discourse” is valuable declines rapidly as each new outrage and crisis rises and falls (so we’re talking about, oh, every 36 hours or so). I mostly think that anything I write will be so decontextualized, I’m not sure how valuable it will be to anyone. Thus… I don’t come here often.
Roe v. Wade got overturned. So I’m here.
I have to admit, I did not think I’d ever think we’d see “here.” I am on record in this space as being against elective abortion for a variety of reasons. But it just seemed like, despite the fact that many, many or even (in various polls at various times) most Americans have been deeply uncomfortable with the kind of maximalist approach to abortion that our country has had, we would never see anything change. There definitely have not been enough Americans to expect a Constitutional amendment, which feels like what would be necessary to overthrow a Supreme Court decision. I did not foresee the Court flipping on the issue.
Of course, there is historical precedent for exactly that happening. Both slavery and segregation were defended as institutions by the Supreme Court… until the Court reversed itself. We sort of forget that that happened. I know I never really thought about it as a possibility on this issue (and, apparently, neither are Very Angry Pro-Abortion people). But… here we are.
I always hoped that we would one day recognize, in this country, that abortion is a moral evil. I don’t think you have to be Christian or even theistic to believe that. So my hope was that we would come together and decide we cannot abide its existence. The fact that we have arrived here is, therefore, a surprising gift and also disappointing. No longer is abortion viewed as a federally protected Constitutional right. Nor do I think it should be. Plenty of progressive, pro-choice legal minds (not all, probably not most, I hasten to add), acknowledge that Roe v Wade as a legal decision, was shaky at best and probably just bad. I think it’s good that we’ve come around to that legal argument. What’s unfortunate is that we very clearly do not agree, as a people, that not only is this not a legal right, but it is a moral evil. I don’t need to provide evidence for the assertion that we don’t agree.
So here we are. On fire. More of the same. Emphasis on the “more.”
Typically, I’m quite amenable to being a listening ear, a sympathetic ear, for my more progressive friends and family. Probably, to many people, I appear to actually, at times, be a progressive. I was very openly opposed to the celebration of President Donald Trump (before and after having the title). Yes, I still am, even on this side of Dobbs. That makes me out to be a liberal to many people. And I am still quite happy to continue to listen to my progressive friends. It’s mostly because I have been listening that I want to write today.
I am really, really tired of what I’ve been hearing.
To be clear, I really do understand and have sympathy for people’s anger and fear. That seems completely understandable to me. For half a century, a significant portion of Americans have been repeatedly told, over and over again (and in increasingly totalizing terms), that abortion is morally acceptable, often good, and is their legally protected right, which ensures a more just world, especially for women, especially poor women. If you believe that wholeheartedly, this decision is a disaster. And since it was unimaginable, it’s scary that this disaster could happen. That is completely understandable and I have a lot of sympathy for that anguish.
What I have a problem with is the slander. I know that slander is justified by everyone, left and right, as long as you pick the correct target. I personally hate that. I spend a lot of time calling out the slander from the right, because the people on the right are generally my people. But I’m really, really tired of the ***slander from the left right now. Because I do think it is so obviously aimed at trashing people’s reputations and character with easily false and disproven claims. It’s also so grating how these same few talking points have become a kind of liturgical confession by the Very Online segments of the left. I have read, I swear, the same few statements from hundreds and hundreds of different people. It’s the confessional Litany of Our Anger right now.
Line 1: “They don’t care about life. It’s about control.” Perhaps there’s a cabal of men (and women, I guess?) who really just care about women being under the control of men. I do not know a single anti-abortion person that actually thinks or feels this. Now, I am entirely willing to grant that systems can be constructed along these lines and work this way without the emotional support or affirmation of the people in them. I get it! But you also have to listen to the actual people that you are saying are doing this. And maybe MAYBE for most anti-abortion people (I’ll grant you this term and not use “pro-life” anymore), their substantive argument is NOT about the sexual behavior and choices of women. It is about the fetus. There is zero acknowledgement of this concern. Anti-abortion people are, again and again, saying a fetus is a human life that should be protected. Pro-choice people (see? I will let them have their term in a spirit of fairness) do not even engage this argument. They just say, “This is about me doing with my body what I choose.” Can I suggest why I think that is?
Most pro-choice people have no ability to answer the anti-abortion argument where it is being offered. And I’ll be perfectly frank: I don’t think it’s a matter of training. I think it’s because there is no answer to the objection.
I absolutely support and affirm the right of a woman to have control and autonomy over her body. I want that for all women everywhere. And I absolutely acknowledge that that right has been in question for a lot of women in a lot of places for most of history. It’s a legitimate concern! A woman should be able to do what she wants with her body.
Abortion does not happy to a women’s body. Abortion happens inside a women’s body. But the procedure itself happens to the fetal body and results in, not the removal permanent portions of the woman’s body (the placenta is removed, of course), but the removal of the contents of her womb, which is not her body.
Now the crux of the thing is the claim that her rights extend to the fetus because the fetus is inside her own body. And I recognize that that condition absolutely forces a more complex ethical conversation than most anti-abortion people are willing to concede. But there has to be an acknowledgment of absolute, inarguable fact: the fetus is a living human. It’s scientifically not up for debate. That organism is definitely alive (it has a metabolism and cell growth and internal biological processes and etc., etc.) and it is definitively human and it is definitively NOT the mother. All of this is inarguable.
Living humans get human rights.
That’s the crux of the anti-abortion claim. And it’s a pretty strong one. It is not crazy or controlling or misogynistic to see that claim, to see those facts, and act to protect the barest minimum of human rights: the right to not be killed. It is incumbent on the pro-choice side to explain that the correct belief is “Most living humans get human rights.”
No one even tries. Instead… slander.
Line 2 “If it was about life, then it would be about universal health care and paid leave and etc., etc. They’re not pro-life. They’re pro-birth.” First of all, “pro-life” does not universally equal “GOP.” Let’s be clear about that. Roman Catholics are staunchly pro-life and Catholic social ethics are very much NOT GOP. And it’s not just the Catholics, thank you very much. My last blog post here was a plea for pro-life people to push for these kinds of policies. I hope that Senator Romeny’s latest proposal will be speedily advanced and then quickly built upon. I’m all for it.
I think it’s completely fair to be angry about a lack of social help from the GOP. I think it’s fair to insistently ask, “How are you going to care for these people?!” It’s a good question, a fair question.
But come on. This is an argument in bad faith.
If I were to magically grant you ALL of the federal programs you asked for (many of them are good, but to assume that the federal government is going to be the best for all of the things that end up on this list… that’s quite a leap), would you then be likely to say, “This is acceptably pro-life now. It’s lovely that you want to end abortion. I concur”? No, of course not. People like me could grant you the whole wish list and the argument would still be, “Abortion should have no restrictions.”
People spouting this line generally don’t care if anti-abortion advocates are consistent. They care if they oppose abortion and don’t advocate for these other social programs. But if you do the latter and not the former… that’s the only way to find acceptance.
Let me be clear: I think our society is grossly antagonistic to vulnerable people. Not just the unborn, but the vulnerable of any category. I think we should advocate for programs, even *GASP* government programs, that help make this society more hospitable and receptive to the powerless and not so completely hellbent on profit. And yes, “hellbent,” is the right word.
But I’ll take advances towards that end anywhere I can get them. A better system of immigration? Yes, please. An expanded social safety net for poor mothers? Please do. Financial incentives for having families? Do it!
End abortion? Yeah. Now. I don’t need everything to be in place across the board. Politics doesn’t work that way. Better is better.
This is better.
Line 3: “Ectopic pregnancy requires abortion! Miscarriages require abortions! Septic pregnancies require abortions!” Let me tell you why this is slander:
I knew all of that stuff in high school. The morally correct choice (I believe) for an ectopic pregnancy is an abortion. When your choice is “one person dies” or “two people die,” you choose the former. I’ve known that since I was 16. I don’t know any anti-abortion person that does not know that.
Are there potentially badly-written laws in states that might criminalize a DNC after a miscarriage? I don’t know. Are there? Really and truly? If there are, those laws should be amended. Obviously. And every anti-abortion person I know would agree on that! Some abortions actually are medically necessary to save the life of a woman. That exists! We know that!
One: They are the vast minority of all abortions performed in this country. You can get that from Planned Parenthood’s own statistics. Two: Elective abortions, not truly medically necessary ones, are what are in view here.
Pretending like anti-abortion people are too dumb to understand ectopic pregnancies or do understand them and want women to die is… slander.
If you are adamantly for abortion rights, I am not saying you’re not allowed to be angry and afraid. Not at all. I get it. But hysterical name-calling and lying about each other (and yes, “pro-life” people do this too) is bad for all of us. It doesn’t help a thing. Slander is bad for our neighborhoods and our communities and our nation. You do not like being slandered. I don’t like being slandered. Let’s treat each other like we’d like to be treated ourselves.
Let’s find points of common interest. I want a society where far more people look at the prospect of pregnancy and say, “I can do this. My society encourages me and enables me to do this.” I think pro-choice people want that too. There are probably a number of things we can agree on and we ought to work together on those things. Planned Parenthood wants things I do not want. But they want some things that I do as well. Could we work together on those things?
I think we would be much better off if we were able to imagine such scenarios and begin working together on them. I hope all of us can more often imagine such a world and actually work it out between us.
God help us in this country as we figure this out. If we don’t figure it out, there is very likely even more turbulence ahead. I hope none of us want that.
***A commenter (below) I think made several good points about why this is not the correct word. Slander requires more intention than what is likely present for the vast majority of people. The comments feel slanderous because of their inaccuracy, but I think people so rarely know others different from them, that the may actually believe they’re representing them correctly. That’s not slander. It’s incorrect, but not slanderous. So I should not have used that word. I’m leaving it in the post so it doesn’t feel like I erased my errors. The (bad) decision was mine and you should be aware of that. I do hope we can move towards communities where people actually do understand one another, even when they deeply disagree. I think that’s a much healthier place to be.
June 30, 2022 at 1:31 am
I won’t argue with your first argument where you critique the claim that “It’s about control.” I have told abortion rights folks that I don’t think that statement really gets at what is going on.
But your “slander” claim in general seems like a real stretch to me. I mean, yes there are people making generalizations, but you make generalizations too!
You say: “This is an argument in bad faith,” in reference to certain claims of abortion rights folks. This is a generalization about the intentions of people making claims like the ones you describe. As someone who has and will make those claims, I tell you it is not in bad faith. I’ll explore that more later. In any case, by your own standards, your statement is slander.
You say: “Most pro-choice people have no ability to answer the anti-abortion argument where it is being offered.” Did you do a national poll or is this just based on your anecdotal evidence/personal experience? I can answer this and know tons of people who can answer it better than I can. I wouldn’t call this slander, but I think it is according to your definition. To use your words you are “Pretending like [abortion rights] people are too dumb to understand” their own ethical position.
If the problem is slander, it’s not clear to me why you spend almost your entire piece talking about the supposed “slander” of abortion rights advocates, make your own generalizations about abortion rights folks, and barely nod to the fact that anti-abortion folks regularly engage in “slanderous” behavior:
Anti-abortion people say “It’s about Eugenics” (https://www.instagram.com/p/CfaEzhtOyZs/). If it’s unclear, it’s not.
They say and imply that liberals actually just want to kill babies (https://twitter.com/DogRightGirl/status/1540339938356473857), also, uhm… No.
They suggest that this is mostly about people just wanting to have sex without consequences. Also, no.
In any case, let me take a look at your second and third arguments. I’ll start with the third.
#3 isn’t slander because it’s okay for people to be worried about how this is going to play out in real life. The quotes you shared are not saying anything about anyone else. By definition they are not slander. They are true statements expressing concern.
I guess you’re saying that by saying these things, they are suggesting that maybe anti-abortion folks don’t know these things. I think it is reasonable that someone who is an advocate for abortion rights might think that some anti-abortion people don’t know or understand this (there is probably at least a small number who don’t). It may be indicative of these abortion rights advocates not having a diverse friend group, but not slander.
Also, you say that you “really do understand and have sympathy for people’s anger and fear.” But I don’t think you do. When discussing the implications of the law for pregnancy complications that endanger women’s lives, you go on to disregard those of us who are facing the unknown consequences right here and now. As for myself, someone with a ton of privilege, I was definitely worried about what this might mean for my family and for my wife who is pregnant. You talk about simply changing laws if they are bad, without realizing that the ambiguity of these laws and the lack of legal precedent is reasonably viewed as a real and immediate threat. It is absurd for you to suggest that women should stop worrying and simply trust the good intentions of the party that gave us President Trump.
I called my Republican state senator’s office last week, before Dobbs even happened, and asked for clarification on the trigger laws. I was concerned about my wife. I asked that the state do everything it could to make it clear to doctors that the state will protect them when saving a woman’s life. The assistant was understanding and helpful and reached out to the legal department before getting back to me with more information saying that the law is absolutely supposed to protect those doctors, and by doing so, pregnant women like my wife. I told the assistant that my concern was the lack of precedent, and whether or not doctors would feel confident about how this could play out in the courts. How close to death does a woman have to be before a doctor can legally intervene? It’s not totally clear. Yesterday, post-Dobbs, my wife and I talked with one of the OBGYNs that is caring for her, and he said that they are trying to figure out all of this, and there is a lot going on, but that we can rest assured that they will do what’s necessary to save women’s lives and they will address legal consequences if necessary (but hopefully it isn’t ever tested in court). The information and reassurance from our legislator’s office and also one of our doctors made us feel better. Thankfully, this pregnancy is moving along great, and hopefully it keeps going that way. Thankfully it sounds like these laws are going to protect us in our situation. But I didn’t know that a couple of weeks ago. I share this to say that I think it’s totally understandable for people like us to be like, “Whoa, did you think about us when you wrote this law?” and then to remind people that abortions are conducted for life-saving reasons.
And then #2… Whether or not anti-abortion voters support social services that help women and families in theory, they have aligned themselves very strongly with those that vehemently oppose them. It is not slanderous to suggest in a tweet or Facebook post that this political alignment is reflective of the personal priorities and values of most of those individuals. When abortion rights people say that anti-abortion people only care about babies up until the time of birth, they are pointing out what I think is a pretty real hypocrisy. Is it a generalization? Of course. And generalizations tend to be problematic. But I have seen how time and time again, proud pro-life Republicans oppose efforts to protect lives and provide care for children. The “pro-life” judges who said that states should regulate abortion said that states should not be able to regulate guns, and this is likely to result in an increased loss of life across the country. In my state, the same party that wrote our abortion-related trigger laws also rejected the Obamacare Medicaid expansion that might have helped save at least some of the 16 hospitals that closed down in our state in the last 12 years.
Access to sex-ed and contraception are strongly opposed by the Republicans of my state. It very much seems like many of them see a pregnancy as a just punishment for a woman that decided to have sex. Their argument against sex ed and contraception is: “If she didn’t want to get pregnant, she shouldn’t have had sex!”
You say that you “absolutely support and affirm the right of a woman to have control and autonomy over her body,” but most Republican government officials in my state are not interested in helping women to make decisions about their bodies that keep them from getting pregnant in the first place, unless that means abstinence. And when women do get pregnant, our Republican officials want to make sure she gives birth to that baby. If it’s a financial burden, she should have thought about that before she had sex, they say.
While it may not be just Catholics who have a more consistent ethic of human life, I’d be willing to bet they come out way ahead of evangelicals as far as the ratios go. I don’t have the stats, but I’d be willing to bet they are more likely to support gun control, elimination of the death penalty, and expansion of social services. And despite Catholic doctrine, I even bet more of them come out in favor of access to birth control. This does matter to me. As much as I disagree with many of these Catholics, and also protestants who are more like you, I am much less upset by your anti-abortion position than I am that of the people who are against abortion, and also vilify welfare recipients, glorify guns, express disgust for immigrants, oppose any increase in public funding for education and childcare, and are perfectly happy letting millions of Americans live without health insurance. As a matter of fact, you all frustrate me. Those other people make me furious.
You said that most abortion rights people don’t respond to the argument that a “fetus is a human life that should be protected.” You go on to write as if those arguments, those responses don’t exist. And they DO. They’re simply complex. I’m not pro-abortion. I want to live in a world with very, very few abortions. But when it comes to a developing human inside the womb, I think it’s a very complex ethical issue. It doesn’t fit super well into a tweet or facebook post, and most good policy decisions about complicated issues don’t.
That said, I’ll take a stab at it.
Do I think that every sperm and egg has the same value as a six-month old? No. And I don’t think anybody does. But when that sperm then fertilizes the egg and they combine in one microscopic zygote, is this suddenly a being with the same value as a six-month old? I guess you say yes, but I say no.
Imagine a hypothetical test:
I am forced to push either BUTTON A or BUTTON B:
BUTTON A: Causes the abortion of 100 different one-celled zygotes (fertilized eggs) in the wombs of women who do not want to be pregnant and would want to terminate their pregnancy.
BUTTON B: Causes the death of a random six-month old.
I will push BUTTON A. Every single time. 100% sure. No looking back. It seems to me that most “Pro-Life” people would say that they would push BUTTON B. I think that is absurd and immoral, and I strongly doubt their resolve. If in fact, they would push BUTTON A, they have to cede the fact that they don’t equate a fertilized egg with the ethical human value of more than 1% of a fully developed human baby. 1 zygote ≠ 1 baby
So instead let the zygote cells multiply. Three days later, there are 100 groups of 16 human cells in one-hundred wombs. I still push A, with little consideration. Would you really push B? I honestly find that shockingly immoral.
Six weeks later, the zygote has become an embryo. It has a heartbeat. It’s less than an inch long. Weighs less than a fraction of an ounce. Here, I’m not gonna lie, I think about it a little more– but fairly confidently push BUTTON A.
Once we get to the fetus stage, it starts getting more complicated for me. I’m probably still pushing A fairly confidently in the early stages, maybe 10 to 11 weeks. But I’m being forced into a decision that is getting ever more ethically difficult. And at some point I will flip my decision and choose BUTTON B. It’s pretty clear to me that I would not choose the life of one six-month old over 100 fetuses about to be born.
So, back to the real world. I’ve got no problem whatsoever with pregnancies being terminated in the early stages of pregnancy, and that’s the VAST MAJORITY of terminated pregnancies. And it would be an even greater majority if there were easier access to abortion, better health care access, sex ed., etc. These unconscious, developing zygotes and embryos are clearly not the same as fully developed human beings and don’t get the same rights. Women, as fully-developed, conscious human beings have more rights than embryos do. It gets less clear for me in the fetus stage, but I think there’s a lot of ambiguity and nuance, and I feel pretty confident in leaving this decision up to women while also intentionally supporting efforts that help as few women as possible end up needing to make that decision.
This makes me think of where you sad, “But there has to be an acknowledgment of absolute, inarguable fact: the fetus is a living human. It’s scientifically not up for debate.” This is absolutely debatable and not provable by science! Science doesn’t say what “a human” is. It can say that cells are alive and contain homosapien DNA, but is that really all that “being human” is about? In that case, imagine you pay me for a tomato plant and I go and cut a branch off of one of my tomato plants and give it to you. You’re like, uhm, “Where’s my tomato plant?” And I’m like, “That is a living growing tomato plant, not up for debate. Scientifically proven.” And you can probably take that tomato branch, put it in water, make sure it gets sunlight and see it grow to possibly give you a tomato or two before winter. But was that branch really a tomato plant? No, I don’t think so, regardless of its living status and DNA. That said, I personally am fine with you referring to an embryo as a human, I just think it’s a VERY underdeveloped human and that matters a lot for my own moral stance. To me “what is it to be human” is a question for religion, philosophy, etc. That’s part of why I am not as upset with you if you take your position also, unlike many other abortion opponents, have a more consistent overall ethic of human life.
So, in a society that believes in allowing many faiths and philosophies, this is complicated, policy-wise. There is a lot of moral ambiguity here. A lot of humility is necessary to properly set policy related to this issue. It’s also uncomfortable as policy always is when you have to start evaluate the lives of humans at whatever stage of development. Moral ambiguity and humility are not very popular in the US. On either side.
You say that the developing human is not part of the woman’s body. I tend to see it that way too. But I also realize that this embryo or fetus has a huge impact on the woman’s body. Doctors had to literally remove part of Emily’s body as a result of our first child’s birth and she was in bodily pain for more than a year afterward. Pregnancy can have devastating effects on women’s bodies. I actually find the “viability” of the fetus to be a compelling factor in the ethics of all this, because if a fetus can’t survive without the woman’s body, I think it’s clear that it’s not a fully-developed human being. It’s an unusual situation where we will force a person to allow their body to be used by another person. We don’t force people to donate kidneys to save lives. We don’t force people to donate bone marrow when it could save lives. We don’t even force people to give blood when there’s a blood shortage. But we will force women to use their body to sustain the life of someone else.
And I think that brings me to my last point. You and I are arguing this but we’re not women. We’ve never worried that we might get pregnant. We’ve never been pregnant. We’ve never carried babies to term. The closest abortion laws have ever felt to me was this month, when I began to worry about what this meant for my wife—but not for me directly. But even then, that personal experience of the threat made it so much more real. I simply don’t think that as men we can ever really fully understand this. So, while I have expressed a lot of my thoughts on this here, and it’s been a good opportunity for me to do some thinking about my own position, at the end of the day I think decisions like this should be left to women.
Well, I only respond because I respect you. I know that you mean well, even if I disagree with you. And I told Emily that this took so long to write because it’s complicated and also because you’re smarter than a lot of people.
June 30, 2022 at 3:52 pm
Ok I’m going to try to respond here. You’ve written a response nearly as long as my original, which is difficult, so I applaud you. However, it also might mean I miss something pertinent, for which I apologize in advance.
A couple points generally:
1. At various points, I think you’ve convinced me that the word “slander” is not correct. I’m going to post an addition at the bottom to acknowledge that. I won’t take it out because I want people, instead, to see what I originally wrote and then see why I think I was wrong. I think there’s a legitimate unknowing going on that precludes it being true slander. I think this actually reveals a larger problem, but that word is probably not right. What I should have said, more accurately, is that these things FEEL slanderous and I think sometimes actually are. But feeling does not equal accuracy.
2. I explicitly said I would not be dealing with similar behavior from anti-abortion people. I acknowledged it exists. I’ve spoken against it in the past. I actually explicitly talked about it with my church this past Sunday without even addressing the same kind of behavior from pro-abortion folks. I think I have a fairly clear record in lots of spaces, including this one, in which I take my team to task for their misbehavior. But I don’t have to both-sides all the time and this was not something I wanted to do here. I really try and try to be patient with the kind of antagonism that I see and receive in more progressive spaces. I mostly bite my tongue and just say “Well, we should do better.” But it’s getting super old. I do not feed the right-wing media ecosystem because I find it mostly toxic and don’t want to participate. What I’m left with is what I think is a lot of misrepresentation, willful or otherwise. That’s frustrating and tiring and that’s what I’m writing about here.
-I do not think liberals like killing babies and I tell people not to say that. It’s wrong, both in terms of accuracy and morality. I do think that modern pro-abortion people need to do some hard thinking about the eugenic nature of abortion, however unintentional. Certainly, that was rattling around there in the past (as is true of contraception and plenty of other medical procedures… lots of racists had medical degrees and stuff). I don’t think that means this is a fruit of a poisoned tree scenario. That’s not what I’m referring to. I would simply say that the existence of people with Downs Syndrome, for example, has, in some places, been nearly eliminated. And one kind of elective abortions that happens, to one degree or another (I’m not at all sure of percentages), is precisely because of genetic abnormalities or physical disability or similar. This is not explicitly eugenic (“We want to purify the gene pool”)… but the results are awfully similar. And I think that should be acknowledged.
-I think it’s fair to say it may be difficult to trust local, state, and national governments, considering recent history. Totally. My comments were not to say, “Just trust the government.” I asked a real question. Are there actually laws on the books that do not make clear that some abortions are medically necessary? That was a real question. When I said they should be amended, I meant it. I was not commenting on the difficulty of such amendments or their likelihood. Morally, they SHOULD be amended. But I also think there’s a narrative that there’s all these laws out there that would make a DNC illegal. I would just like an example of such a thing. Because I’d like to oppose it! My expectation is that the message you received from your state government and your doctors is the norm. There’s lots of required medical interventions that could happen and I do not think, medically, they are in the same class of procedures as an elective abortion. Laws that don’t reckon with that should be changed. HOWEVER, the sense in which I hear this argument used, and the sense in which I was speaking against, is that anti-abortion people don’t know these things and don’t care about women miscarrying or whatever. And that is just not true. Your concerns about laws are legitimate and I would fight with you for any of those to be cleaned up. I think most anti-abortion people would do likewise.
-As I’ve made clear here elsewhere, I think policy disconnect between being opposed to abortion and services provided is generally a bad strategy. The private sector cannot provide sufficient support on a charity basis, though religious anti-abortion people tend to be, by far, the most charitable people in a given neighborhood. I just don’t think that’s enough. And I think alignment with the GOP, to be lockstep on all their political philosophies for the sake of abortion, I think that’s a bad strategy (without even touching the gun issue, which is just… infuriating). Again, my objection is not that people have a problem with that. I have a problem with that! My objection is that the argument is framed in such a way that, obviously you are not pro-life if you don’t hold to this particular political vision on these whole package of problems. And I think that’s bunk. Even if I think those people are wrong, I would not say that they’re not “actually” pro-life (which is what is either explicitly said or implied). I would say they are not sufficiently pro-life in policy. But to say “well you’re just not pro-life if you don’t advocate for xyz.” Uh… no. I think it’s pro-life to advocate for the end of abortion. And expansion of medical access. And child credits. And paid leave. And… etc. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition to “earn” the label or whatever. I especially find this annoying, like I said, from someone who has no interest in the definition of being pro-life to include “end elective abortion.” That’s why I think this is an argument in bad faith. Maybe the solution is… no one gets to be called pro-life? If the standard is truly that it’s all or nothing, I guess that’s the only conclusion for most people. No one is pro-life. I mean… we could go that route. I just don’t think it’s necessary or effective.
-To be clear: I DO think there are complex and substantive ethical arguments for the legitimacy of abortion. What I meant is I don’t think MOST PEOPLE can come close to articulating them. And I don’t need people to have a PhD in ethics here, but I mean SOMETHING to be able to say to this line of questioning would be an improvement. OBVIOUSLY I am not literally saying that “no one” can talk about this. Come on. Most people that I’ve interacted with in person or otherwise, though, truly cannot. I basically get a shoulder-shrug in response. “It’s her body.” Boom. End of story. Even though, of course, it’s not. Not entirely.
I understand the point of your Trolley Problem/Button Test here. And obviously the point of such hypotheticals is to force a choice. The best response, of course, is to not press any button. I know that’s not how these things work, but it’s the right answer. Don’t morally participate in such a scenario. Anyway, I think what’s important is the rationale of your choice. To me, it’s illustrative of the problems you face here. For one thing, it is NOT scientifically debatable that a zygote or embryo or fetus is a separate human life. Look, it has all the biological characteristics of being a human. Pull the DNA, look at the biological processes… SCIENTIFICALLY… that’s a human. Now, you’ve conflated that with a philosophical question of what it means “to be human.” Essentially, you’ve raised a personhood question. That is, as you say, a philosophical or religious question. Which I welcome! I think those are great fields of inquiry and I invite all people to be so invested. However, that’s not what I pointed towards. I pointed toward the scientific reality that that organism is a living human organism. Just like, yes, that little tomato shoot IS A TOMATO PLANT, even if it is not what you expected it to look like. At a cellular level, that’s precisely what it is.
So the question is, when is it legitimate to terminate the life of a human organism? I assume that, implicit to your description, is this question of when it can reasonably be considered a person. Maybe you’d say it some other way? I don’t know.
But I think your description gets to the problem that is created. I think, personally, that your rationale boils down to a) visibility b) stage of development (physical and cognitive) and c) independent viability. Correct me if I have missed a piece. Personally, I find those categories to be insufficient for the task because you cannot carry it forward. The severely mentally handicapped or brain-injured cannot articulate at times and possibly ever. They are entirely dependent on the care of others and would die without the attention of others. Their independent viability is insufficiently established. What about those who are in a coma and being kept alive by machines (leaving aside questions of end of life care)? I mean… what about that six month old?! You know the truth: without you, your kid would be dead. They are born and out of the womb and their LUNGS work… but they would die within days if you simply left them where they were. By some measures, it will take several years for our children to achieve true independent viability.
Look, you know that I’m NOT saying you want to kill the mentally handicapped or the severely injured or little children. Of course not. But I am saying that the criteria of evaluation that you’ve established cannot adequately eliminated, for example, the practice of infanticide. The ONLY difference is… visibility. A two day old infant’s only difference in resource-suck is that it is not through permanent biological attachment via an umbilical cord and they are not located within another body (and I know that latter point is important and I’ll come back to that). Otherwise, they are just as dependent as ever and it absolutely costs women (and, finally, men too) to keep a two day old infant alive. The explanation given, I think, does not sufficiently defend their safety. Again, I 100% know you don’t believe in infanticide, not even a little bit.
MY rationale, though, does extend to the most vulnerable more cleanly. If a human is alive, they deserve protection. And that’s it. I think the pushback is that that rationale is not simple, it’s simplistic. Fair enough. We disagree. I am not venturing into an analysis of precisely how an embryo is different from a baby. Genetically, they’re not different. In so many ways, they are different. Clearly. But I think when you start wandering back down that way, you’re left with insufficient ethical and moral resources for all people elsewhere.
Let me be clear: Women DISPROPORTIONATELY bear the cost of children for a long time. It is profoundly NOT fair. I absolutely agree with this. I think the most compelling argument is one you allude to, that of the scenario where someone involuntarily hooks themselves to your body and says, “If you unhook me, I will die.” Look… that’s not fair. I totally agree with that. However, I do think the moral imperative, the act of moral triage, requires a minimization of the worst harm. If you cannot do the most good, do the least harm. And the MOST HARMFUL THING you can do is to kill someone. Don’t do that thing. So I would say that while acknowledging that the woman is not experiencing the chief good. In times of moral uncertainty, I would say that avoiding the worst harm is the best one can do.
And this is precisely why “women should get to decide” is an insufficient response, in my view. Human beings without an advocate deserve advocation. Women should get to control their bodies. But they should not have sole determining decision for human bodies that are not theirs. This is the correct function of the law. The law governs the interactions of bodies. So while I will never be able to properly understand the cost that your wife (or my wife) has born and while I will never be personally endangered by a pregnancy I didn’t expect, that does not preclude legal intervention. The law ought to intervene in all manner of inter-body interactions to make sure the rights of individuals is preserved. That’s what the justice system ought to do and that’s what ethical reasoning ought to consider.
I think your response is really considered and I appreciate the pushback. Thank you for giving me so much of your time. I know time is at a premium. I am so glad your wife is ok. And also that you’re pregnant again! I had no idea! I’m so happy for you guys and I hope things continue to go as smoothly as possible. The last time we saw you, there were no kids in the picture and now, soon, there will be two! That is so cool. I’m really, really happy to hear that. I hope you know that, despite our clear disagreements, that I love you guys and I look forward to seeing you again. It’s been so, so long, and I hate that. Hopefully we’ll see each other again soon and we can talk about things both serious and silly. If you need to start things off by telling me I’m a jerk, please know that I will agree with you. Hopefully we can move on from there. Love to you all.