September 19, 2005

Liberal media strikes again

From the New York Times' big state of abortion article: "While public conversation about abortion is dominated by advocates with all-or-nothing positions - treating the fetus as a complete person, with full rights, or as a nonentity, with none - most patients at the clinic, like most Americans, found themselves on rockier ground, weighing religious, ethical, practical, sentimental and financial imperatives that were often in conflict."

Um, the first part of that sentence is certainly an accurate description of the public conversation as framed by the right-to-lifers, who want everyone to believe that the opposite of anti-abortion is pro-abortion. But what's that word that the other side actually uses all the time? Oh, right, choice. As in, you know, weighing religious, ethical, practical, sentimental and financial imperatives that are often in conflict.

Most Americans aren't on some "rockier ground" in the middle, they are firmly pro-choice. Indeed as this article makes clear, even many women who are anti-abortion are pro-choice when it comes time to vote with their wombs.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Yep. More "he said, he said" from the mainstream media (or - since pro-lifers usually put women out front to blunt the obvious patriarchal overtones - "she said, she said").

I beg to differ. While I'm not generally a fan of the New York Times, I think they have a definite point here. The _extremes_ of the abortion debate are framed by people holding all-or-nothing views. From the pro-choice side, taken to the extreme, it really does become pro-abortion. These are the folks who actually advocate abortion as a form of birth control, and may even go as far as advocating infanticide for deformed babies. (See: http://www.overpopulation.com/faq/people/garrett_hardin.html) This is not to say that most pro-choice folks hold these views, but "most people's views" aren't what the NYT was referring to. If it is incumbent on mainstream pro-lifers to distance themselves from abortion clinic bombers and others who would perform acts of violence in the name of pro-life goals, I believe it is also incumbent of mainstream pro-choicers to distance themselves from those who actually are pro-abortion and even pro-infanticide.


Thanks, Jeff, but I think you're off here for a few reasons. First of all, the Times isn't talking about extremes, it's talking about who "dominates" the public conversation. The groups and individuals you're referring to most definitely do not. I'd say you'd be hard pressed to find anyone quoted advocating those views in a mainstream newspaper in the last few years -- a pretty good mark of where the public conversation is. No leading abortion rights group holds those positions. Nor do any pro-choice elected officials. But mainstream anti-abortion groups and right-wing politicians do hold the complete person, full rights views. So these are not reasonable opposites.

What's more, I disagree with your claim that mainstream pro-choice groups need to distance themselves from pro-infantcide groups, as if there's a connection between them at all. Obviously most pro-lifers do not believe in violence against clinics or doctors, but the bombers do hold mainstream abortion-is-murder views taken to their extreme, so pro-lifers should make clear where they draw the line. Pro-infanticide individuals, on the other hand, are starting with a completely different philosophy than pro-choicers, one having to do with eugenics or overpopulation, not reproductive freedom. The reproductive freedom argument taken to the extreme is... extreme freedom. Abortion on demand without apology -- and even that is a slogan you rarely hear any more, which just goes to show how well the lifers have framed the debate.

Mr. Radosh,
Thank you for your timely and reasoned response. You are right that the pro-choice and the pro-abortion positions are actually two distinct positions, but I disagree that there is some fundamental difference between the philosophy behind the two. Both start from the same philosophical premise that the embryo/fetus is less than human, if not in a biological sense then in a humanistic sense - which is what the NYT was getting at. The fundamental distinction, it seems, is why legal abortion is necessary in the first place. The pro-choice person would say it's necessary as a part of essential human liberty, while the pro-abortion/pro-infanticide person would say it's necessary to prevent the suffering of deformed babies, or to prevent a presumed ecological catastrophe as a result of overpopulation. One is essentially libertarian in nature, the other is utilitarian. Viewed this way, they are actually two sides of the same coin.

In the public discourse concerning abortion, one frequently encounters the pro-choice position justified in utilitarian terms, e.g.: Legal abortion means there are fewer unintended pregnancies, therefore fewer children born into poverty, therefore there's a lesser strain put on social services intended to help the poor. See some of the utilitarian arguments given here:
I really don't think Planned Parenthood is way outside of the mainstream when it comes to the national discourse. I fully understand and appreciate the libertarian arguments made in defense of the pro-choice position. It's the utilitarian arguments that offend and scare me.


I think you were exactly right in your last comment, Daniel, but I also think you were too hard on the Times piece. The fact is that, despite your characterization of this country as "firmly pro-choice," most Americans are at least ambivalent about the act of abortion. Most Americans also believe it should be legal. The fact that many hold both positions simultaneously is the "rockier ground" referred to in the article.

If you and I were to discuss this at length, we would no doubt agree that the mainstream position allows for a gap between one's personal opinion of abortion and the position one believes the government should take. We might also agree that the "given-inches-taken-miles" history of the far right forces the left to take a hardline position when it comes to advocating public policy on the issue. (For instance, how do you argue logically against a worldview that frequently forbids both abortion and all forms of birth control, the most effective tool in preventing abortion). But the fact remains that the political discourse does not reflect the personal views of a plurality of Americans and I think the Times story was an accurate reflection of that.

Abortion must be made legal. No mother ever wants to undego abortion unless it is extremely necessary. The government must not interfeare in someone's choice of abortion if it is absulotely necessary to be done.Abortion must be left to individual choices.

Yeah, I didn't mean to be too hard on the Times. The article was fine -- necessary, even, for what it revealed -- it was just that sentence that irked me. But what I meant when I said Americans were firmly pro-choice was that, as this article makes clear, even people who think abortion is wrong want the option for themselves when they need it. I think once RvW is overturned (yes, I'm that pessimistic right now) and abortion is made illegal again, we're in for another major crisis as good Christian women realize what they've lost. It will be ugly and painful (and fatal) for many individuals, but eventually it will be legalized again, this time by legislatures rather than courts.

There's a video somewhere on the web of abortion protesters being asked the simple question: if you believe abortion should be illegal, should women who have abortions go to jail? Virtually every one of them says no, and, more tellingly, seems never to have even considered what would happen to the women. Making abortion illegal is one of those causes people believe more in theory than in practice, though unfortunately they won't realize this until it's too late.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion would not be made illegal instantly. Instead, abortion would be a question left to the states. Citizens in liberal states like California and New York would hardly notice the difference.

Are you just reading from Fox News talking points or something? The whole point of this article -- reported from Little Rock, Arkansas -- is that even people in anti-abortion states need and want access to abortion, even if they don't vote that way. By using the word legislatures in the plural I meant exactly that it will first be made illegal in numerous states, and then made legal in them again once women and their families realize the pragmatic consequences of legislating morality. And believe it or not, people in New York and California do notice when women suffer in other states -- sometimes even in other countries.

"Choice"? Tell me, what "choice" does the unborn infant have in the matter? I fully respect a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy to which she did not consent (i.e., rape). The rest of you ought to grow up and learn the meaning of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Wow, I never thought about it that way, TS. "Choice," huh? Personal Responsibility, eh? Hmmmmmmm. Yeah, OK, I get it now.

I think you've opened a lot of our eyes around here today.

Not likely. Spiritually you are sighted as a bat.

I'm doing a buy one get one abortion promotion out of my squalid Greenpoint loft. Bring your slutty friend from Jersey and lots of disinfectent.

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