Saturday, February 23, 2008

Abortion and "false consciousness"

The following rant is inspired by this sickening news story:

Artist hanged herself after aborting her twins

Last Updated: 2:03am GMT 22/02/2008

An artist killed herself after aborting her twins when she was eight weeks pregnant, leaving a note saying: "I should never have had an abortion. I see now I would have been a good mum."

Emma Beck was found hanging at her home in Helston, Cornwall, on Feb 1 2007. She was declared dead early the following day - her 31st birthday.

Her suicide note read: "I told everyone I didn't want to do it, even at the hospital. I was frightened, now it is too late. I died when my babies died. I want to be with my babies: they need me, no-one else does."
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The inquest at Truro City Hall heard that Miss Beck had split up with her boyfriend, referred to as "Ben" after he "reacted badly" to the pregnancy.

She saw her GP before the termination, but missed an appointment at a hospital in Penzance. She then cancelled, but later turned up to an appointment at a clinic at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske. The counsellor was on holiday so a doctor referred Miss Beck to a pregnancy counselling telephone service eight days before carrying out the abortion when she was eight weeks pregnant, the inquest heard.

The coroner, Dr Emma Carlyon, ordered that the identities of the doctor who performed the abortion and her lead consultant be kept secret.

The inquest heard that Sylvia Beck, the victim's mother, wrote to the hospital after her daughter's death, saying: "I want to know why she was not given the opportunity to see a counsellor.

"She was only going ahead with the abortion because her boyfriend did not want the twins.

"I believe this is what led Emma to take her own life - she could not live with what she had done."

The doctor said: "I discussed Emma's situation with her, and wrote on the form, 'Unsupported, lives alone, ex-partner aware'.

"It is normal practice to give a woman the number for telephone counselling when a counsellor is not available.

"I am satisfied that everything was done to make sure that Emma consented to the operation.

She added: "We have since appointed more counsellors so there is more holiday cover."

Katie Gibbs, Miss Beck's GP, told the hearing: "She was extremely distressed by the abortion procedure, and I didn't think she ever came to terms with it.

"She had a long history of anxiety and depression. Despite my best efforts, she was not willing to see a counsellor after the termination."

Her boss at the clinic, said: "The time that can be given to a woman by a counsellor is limited in a busy hospital.

"I am satisfied everything was done to make sure Emma was consenting to surgery. I don't feel there was any gap in the counselling service.

"There were lots of individuals who would be alert to any doubts. The comments made by Emma's mother are not about a doctor I recognise."

Mrs Beck told the court: "Emma was considered a talented artist, and sold a number of paintings.

"She was pleased when she became pregnant, but Ben reacted badly to the news."

Recording a verdict of suicide, Dr Carlyon said: "It is clear that a termination can have a profound effect on a woman's life.

"But I am reassured by the evidence of the doctors here."


The last sentences should send chills up your spine. A woman who would have loved to be a mother of twins comes to the monstrous decision to abort them, and the medical system carries out her obviously troubled wish with the efficiency and dispatch of a well oiled production line. The only regret from the medical authorities seems to be that there was a slip-up on getting her the necessary counseling after the abortion instead of before, as if the reality of exstinguishing the lives of her two children was something of small consequence that could be dealt with by a few counseling sessions.

I'm using the term "false consciousness" in this regard, a term coined by Karl Marx because if that term ever had any real applicable meaning, it is to the notion that it is in women's self interest to consider abortion an acceptable lifestyle choice of no more moral import than the choice of career or hairstyle. To paraphrase, false consciousness is:
Any belief, idea, ideology, etc., that interferes with an exploited and oppressed person or group being able to perceive the objective nature and source of their oppression.


Elective abortion, it seems, hasn't liberated women at all. It has mainly benefitted men by allowing them to avoid the responsibility of supporting children that they bring into the world through their own selfish sexual activities. There was a time when society didn't care how a man reacted to the news that he had conceived children. His fatherhood wasn't an optional role that he could choose to take or leave. But feminism changed all that. Feminism has conned two generations of women into believing that they have been liberated by the choice of raising children alone with no ability to make a moral claim on the father for support, or to choose to kill her children.

Is it sexist to say that women aren't by nature killers? That they have to be indoctrinated into committing such heinous acts by a morally corrupt society? If so, then I'm a sexist.

53 Comments:

Blogger Harry Eagar said...

At least in America, they do have a financial claim.

Hardly the same as 'support,' but there seem to plenty of women who want to be mothers but not wives.

As a father and husband, I don't find that admirable.

To tell you the truth, I found the level of scrutiny over her abortion excessive -- in modern feminist terms. If the decision is only the woman's and her medical adviser, what were all those other busybodies for?

February 23, 2008 11:01 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

A friend of mine's wife shot their two sons and herself.

Would that make her decision not to abort monstrous; would it invalidate the claims of social conservatives?

February 23, 2008 11:21 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry,
But they have to file a claim. Which means they have to hire a lawyer and go to court. Why is that even necessary?

If I could write the laws, they would say that every fetus has the right to be born, and every child born has the right to support from its father, meaning that the identification of the father for every child is a mandatory duty of the state to provide. Neither a potential mother or father could abdicate the duty of either of them to the support of the child. If the mother was a prostitute, then the state would track down the john and make him responsible. If the court deemed that he would make a more fitting parent than the prostitute mother, then he would get custody, whether he asked for it or not. Even if he had an existing wife and family. Say hello to your new sister, children!

I wouldn't give byes for sperm or egg donors, either.

Naturally, noone in this country will ever put me in a situation to legislate.

February 23, 2008 11:28 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Skipper,

How many children die that way, compared to how many die through abortion?

February 23, 2008 11:29 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Duck, I think somebody has written the laws you want for you.

Of course they have to 'file a claim.' How else does the process get moving?

It doesn't seem to be an onerous process. Collecting can be, but the rights are clear enough. Sperm donor pays.

It is hard for me to understand how in a modern, rich and educated society, anybody can become pregnant inadvertently.

Reading between the lines of the English case, it appears that the woman wanted to become pregnant but that the man did not want to be responsible for a pregnancy.

A preacher friend of mine was called on to deliver a eulogy for a young man who had picked up another man, gone to the beach and gotten his head bashed in.

The preacher did not know the decedent. His conclusion was: 'Be careful how you choose your friends.'

Good advice even for heterosexuals.

Presumably suicide-mom could have gotten pregnant by somebody else. Why didn't she?

February 23, 2008 11:52 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry,
I'm not understanding your point. Are you saying that long term heterosexual relationships should be considered just as dicey as anonymous homosexual hookups? Have we come that low?

The point I'm trying to make is that heterosexual pair-bonding is a normal human behavior. We should expect it, and want it to continue. But now that women are "liberated" they can't expect a man to actually commit to such a relationship and shoulder the burdens of it, including child rearing. So women are stuck either cohabitating with men in an uncommitted relationship or choose to live alone, since most men won't commit to marriage anymore. So it's buyer beware on the woman's part, is that it? You made your bed, now lie in it?

When did procreation become such a shameful activity?

February 23, 2008 12:07 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Skipper,
Not knowing the circumstances of your friend's tragedy, its hard for me to comment. But if you're saying that it shows that these two children would be better off never being born, I can't agree.

Was she forced to bear children that she didn't want? Did she suffer from mental illness? Whatever befell her, it doesn't follow that the fate of her children should be tied to her own. They had lives independent of hers. The best situation would have been for them to be removed from her custody, and for her to have gotten psychiatric attention. I don't see how this case argues for elective abortion.

February 23, 2008 12:13 PM  
Blogger erp said...

There are thousands of stable married couples who would have given anything to have been able to adopt those babies and who would have paid the woman's expenses and taken care of her until the birth. There is no reason to have killed them. It's tragic beyond endurance.

February 23, 2008 1:27 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'since most men won't commit to marriage anymore.'

Not true, I don't think.

Last year, I went with my son and his bride to the Manhattan Courthouse to witness their vows. It was a second marriage for both, and they didn't want any fuss.

Lots of men were committing to marriage that day. We stood in line a LONG time.

The expectations of the men and of the women were, I concluded, rather different but not incompatible.

A good number of the women were dressed in white gowns, veils, bouquets etc. Most of the men were in Bronx formal -- nylon Yankees jackets.

I doubt many of the women in long gowns had dreamed of sloshing through rainy streets to be herded through the not very well scrubbed halls of the courthouse. It doesn't appear that many of the men had thought much about it at all.

Yet they had come to some sort of meeting of the minds.

(Amusing sidelight: My new daughter-in-law is a very pale, blue-eyed blonde. The one extravagance my son allowed for the wedding was a pair of handmade red silk costumes he picked up in Bangkok.

(The bride in one of the oddest of all the odd couples -- they appeared to be well-heeled Koreans just taking a coffee break from some financial trading house -- came up to Rachel, complimented her on her beautiful outfit and asked, in clear but fractured English, if it was her 'national costume.')

No, Duck, my point is that if you want to get pregnant, it's easy enough to do. It's not the pregnancies nor the abortions that are so difficult and mysterious. It's the matchmaking.

I'm guessing this poor woman had a pretty good idea what her sperm donor thought about babies. Why didn't she ditch him for a more compliant mate?

February 23, 2008 3:45 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry,

There is no rational accounting for the human heart. Women always end up on the wrong end of the relationship deal. In the old days society wasn't against using some coercive muscle to persuade loutish men to live up to their obligations. Now we let them be as loutish as they please.

February 23, 2008 5:44 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

That might be pretty common. I have been reading, with increasing distaste, the letters of Vita Sackville and Harold Nicholson.

Now there was one pussy-whipped dude.

I've known others personally.

And I don't know that society in the past forced men to live up to their obligations. In the old days of drinking, whoring, gambling newspapermen, I worked with quite a few who were successfully escaping their parenting obligations.

February 23, 2008 7:32 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Duck, you are so far off in the weeds on this one, it's simply stunning.

The state should be responsible for positively identifying the father of every child conceived within its borders? And oversee each father's compliance with an obligation to support said child from birth, extending all the way to a responsibility to track down customers of prostitutes, make a determination as to who might raise the child in better circumstances and award custody based on its determination?

Whoa, bro. What happened to all the nanny state criticism, and the revulsion for government interference, and disdain for government's ability to administer anything of consequence?

This is the kind of work you think the state is cut out for?

Why, it's the most anti-liberty, anti-free market idea I think I've ever heard.

Positively scary, man.

February 23, 2008 11:20 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Why didn't she ditch him for a more compliant mate?

Geez, Harry, you really do believe all that drivel about sexual selection, don't you? What you don't understand about young women in love is a lot.

I can never decide what practical lessons are to be learned from such dramatic tragedies (Just what exactly was the lesson of Columbine?), but there is no doubt this one puts a modern tragedy in stark relief. Feminist cant notwithstanding, pregnant women without trust funds are in a position of dependency and their partners should be made to understand in no uncertain terms they either step up to the plate or coercion is on its way. We can argue about whether that should take the form of dull bureaucrats seizing bank accounts, fathers with shotguns, priests threatening damnation or whatever, and we can also argue what the guys are entitled to in return, but first things first--party time is over. If we don't do that, then let's at least admit openly we are officially declaring the freedom of adults trumps the needs of kids.

I enjoyed the movie "Juno" and can't decide whether the slaphappy dialogue is a plus or minus, but there is much that is life-affirming about it. What is a turn-off is the guys. The adoptive father is revealed as a deserting schmuck and the teen father gets to play a faux-angst "deer-in-the-headlights" role while he sits in his bedroom strumming his guitar. They both are simply allowed to wash their hands of the whole mess and the teen actually needs some comforting from the girl, the poor baby.

I recall when one of my kids was born, a poor, pathetic young new mother in the ward was in tears because her partner was supposed to come and pick her and the baby up from the hospital. He called to say he couldn't make it--out with the boys, I guess-- and she had no family or anyone else. I felt Duck's blind rage and would have gladly paid a local motorcycle club to go find him.

Pregnancy test kits should have little fortunes for the fathers like Chinese cookies, except they would all say the same thing:

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

February 24, 2008 3:47 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Whoa, bro. What happened to all the nanny state criticism, and the revulsion for government interference, and disdain for government's ability to administer anything of consequence?

It's not the state's role to tell you what to do with your own life. But it certainly is the state's role to tell you what you can or cannot do with, or to, other people's lives. That is its primary role.

Why, it's the most anti-liberty, anti-free market idea I think I've ever heard.

Markets are for things, not people. Your liberty to swing your arm ends where my nose begins. You have the liberty to become a father or not, but the minute you become a father, by impregnating a woman, whether you intended to impregnate her or not, you are responsible for the health or welfare of that new person, and the state has an obligation to protect the rights and liberties of that new person, which includes your obligations to it.

My system may not be very practical from an administrative standpoint, but you cannot argue that it is not just.

The state wouldn't have to underwrite all of the enforcement of this scheme if social norms provided the majority of the coercive moral force, as they used to.

Again, as far as liberty is concerned, the current norm gives total liberty to the man by putting all the restrictions to liberty on the woman. She is stuck with the decision to either have the children and raise them on her own, or kill them. Is that your definition of liberty?

February 24, 2008 6:29 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Whoa, let's look at what apparently went on here.

We have a woman who seems to have been barely functional, socially, whether through mental disease or defect, fecklessness or stupidity; who wanted children, even though she could barely look after herself.

But she doesn't do much preparation. She doesn't establish a relationship with a medical adviser. Doesn't make sure the sperm donor is on board with fatherhood. Doesn't have a second option if he isn't.

Her qualification to breed was, it seems, that she was (only just) smart enough to screw.

Suddenly realizing she's messed up, she rushes to the National Health and after cursory contemplation, aborts.

There was no rush to decide that weekend. She was only 8 weeks gone.

Having created a ridiculous situation, then made it impossible, she suicides.

Just exactly where did society fail this woman?

If she had gotten 'counseling' beforehand, what were the counselors' options?

She could have been advised to abort (with results we know); to give up the babies (which, considering who she behaved would probably not have sat well with her); or to have kept the babies on her own, with whatever money could be extracted from her lout (who, for all we know, was an unemployable chav).

So Mum blames the National Health? Where was Mum?

I have just finished Keith Thomas' 'Religion and the Decline of Magic' (must reading for anybody interested in the sociology of religion, I'd say), and he makes the point that in the 16th and 17th c. witch accusations, the accusers were always conscious that they had committed an offense against the accusee.

Looks like the same thing again to me.

Given the apparent situation, why would anybody think that either forcing the lout to marry her to mulcting him of child support would have been a desirable result?

February 24, 2008 10:26 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry, how exactly do you deduce all these psychological traits about her from that short article?

Just exactly where did society fail this woman?

By allowing her the option of murdering her children. By promoting the idea that abortion is a natural, moral thing to do with no more pshychological repercussions than trimming one's toenails.

Given the apparent situation, why would anybody think that either forcing the lout to marry her to mulcting him of child support would have been a desirable result?

Because (a) she would be alive and (b) her children would be also. And maybe the lout would actually be a good father and husband.

February 24, 2008 10:42 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Duck:

Go, guy, go, but it's not murder and never has been seen as such, even by those like those Catholics who like to claim it is. Buckley called that one years ago when he pointed out that the Cardinal of New York was meeting affably with pro-abortion politicians and asked whether he would have done so with Al Capone? If it really were murder, we hardly would have developed the ancient and less severe crime of infanticide. It's sui generis, which is why it is ideologically and practically bedeviling.

February 24, 2008 4:02 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Peter,
I'm not making the point from a legal perspective, but from the perspective of how this woman, and other women like her must feel about what they did. I personally know a woman who became extemely depressed over a miscarriage. She felt that she had murdered her own child. It doesn't make sense logically, but that just shows how strong the maternal instinct is, and how wrong it is to try to get women to deny their own moral instincts about life in the womb.

I did some other research today and came across this study showing that women who abort are far more likely to commit suicide or die in accidents than women who gave birth. So whatever reason can be given for performing abortions, it can't be for a woman's health, either mental or physical.

February 24, 2008 4:34 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Duck:

Not knowing the circumstances of your friend's tragedy, its hard for me to comment. But if you're saying that it shows that these two children would be better off never being born, I can't agree.

The circumstances are irrelevant. The story, and you, invoke the specter of cause and effect: horrendous decision --> suicide.

The problem is, one can easily provide an equally concrete example that goes precisely the opposite direction. Could my friend's tragedy be used to condemn traditional family values? Absolutely not.

Similarly, It is well within the realm of possibility that no matter what decision she made, she would still have ended up killing herself. Yet if that effect condemns the cause, then no recourse is safe.

My all too real example no more argues for elective abortion than your post argues against it.

There is a reason the plural of anecdote is not data.

If I could write the laws, they would say that every fetus has the right to be born, and every child born has the right to support from its father, meaning that the identification of the father for every child is a mandatory duty of the state to provide.

I'm sure there is a term for the kind of "rights" you propose, but I can't think of it offhand. It is the sort of thing, though, that is music to the ears of socialist-leaning organizations such as the EU or UN.

IMHO, the only correct use of the term is that which limits the power of others, or the government, over the individual. Those kinds of rights do not impose an obligation upon others. My freedom to speak is not your obligation to listen.

Your invocation here, though, creates a right for some that comes only through the obligation of someone else. Someone's right to a living wage is another's obligation to pay it.

It may seem self-evident that the very fact of its existence means a child is entitled to support from both parents: the child entails an obligation.

Cue the devil. He loves the details.

I'll pick just one. What if the mother doesn't want to identify the father? Does the state's duty to identify the father extend to waterboarding?


I think I agree with lonbud. If I wanted to expand the power of the state, and infantilise women while I was at it, then I would be hard pressed to think of a more thoroughgoing way to manage it than to invoke your new "right." More than anti-liberty, it is totalitarian.

But it certainly is the state's role to tell you what you can or cannot do with, or to, other people's lives. That is its primary role.

Cue, again, the devil. In what respect is an early term fetus a person's life? While you may wish to define it so, pointing out that the fetus is the sole, inescapable, inseparable, property of the mother is a compelling argument the other way.

Women are either full-fledged adults, or they are not.

Either they have the ability to make decisions regarding a pregnancy which is solely their property, or they become baby making slaves of the state.

The problem, of course, with this liberty is that some women will make choices we will find grotesque, for reasons we will find trivial or tragic.

Same problem as with any other liberty.

Peter said it better than I can: If it really were murder, we hardly would have developed the ancient and less severe crime of infanticide. It's sui generis, which is why it is ideologically and practically bedeviling.

So whatever reason can be given for performing abortions, it can't be for a woman's health, either mental or physical.

Keeping in mind that statistics completely break down at the level of the individual, it certainly can.

February 24, 2008 4:50 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

duck wrote: "The point I'm trying to make is that heterosexual pair-bonding is a normal human behavior."

It may not be abnormal behavior, but it certainly isn't instinctual - at least not for everybody. I don't think that those without religious indoctrination necessarily find it "normal". I don't.

duck wrote: "I did some other research today and came across this study showing that women who abort are far more likely to commit suicide or die in accidents than women who gave birth."

Did the study control for the rather obvious factor that those who are unbalanced and incompetent enough to require an abortion are, well, unbalanced and therefore more likely to commit suicide, or incompetent and more likely to die in an accident?

Duck, you sound like a religious preacher here. What happened to the anti-religious duck we've all come to know and love? For those of us who aren't religious, abortion is NOT murder and NOT objectively immoral, and is a perfectly good lifestyle choice. If you're getting over the religion thing, come on, get with the whole program and come to love abortion choice! One little anecdote about some woman who committed suicide means nothing. The plural of anecdote is not data.

February 24, 2008 10:20 PM  
Blogger David said...

Bret: I'm not sure that the connection between "religious" and "murder" is as clear as you think. I've known plenty of non-religious people who still think that abortion is murder, including some who are pro-choice. I suppose that "murder" could be said to beg the question, since murder is a wrongful killing. But I don't understand you to be saying that abortion is killing, but that only religion makes us consider abortion as killing and thus as murder.

That seems hard to square with your assertion that women who have abortions are unstable.

February 25, 2008 6:52 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Bret:

...that those who are unbalanced and incompetent enough to require an abortion

abortion...is a perfectly good lifestyle choice.

????

February 25, 2008 7:14 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Bret:

...that those who are unbalanced and incompetent enough to require an abortion

abortion...is a perfectly good lifestyle choice.

????

February 25, 2008 7:14 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

David & Peter,

Those women who are still saddled with the remnants of the baggage of religious dogma who still choose abortion are more likely to be unstable. Those who have not made it a lifestyle choice but still get into a situation where abortion is required are incompetent. Those women who rationally choose abortion as one of the many birth prevention options are not more likely to be either unstable or incompetent. Unfortunately, many women fall into the first two categories. There is also the compounding factor of post-partum blues which will naturally depress a woman for a bit after an abortion (and even more for a birth).

Sure, non-religious people may still consider abortion murder, but I contend that they're still saddled with religious dogma. After a few generations of atheism, such quaint notions will dissipate.

February 25, 2008 8:12 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Just playing the percentages, Duck.

She was not a young girl, she was well past the age at which we bleeding heart liberals held Harrold Carswell responsible for his behavior.

Would the lout have melted at the sight of the cuddly babies? It happens sometimes, but not often enough to bet your life on.

I don't agree, either, that in the good old days the result would have been different. The first option of the seduced and abandoned woman was to throw herself in the river.

++++

Lots of thing that did not use to be considered wrongful homicide now are, so history is probably not our best guide. Otherwise, we might find ourselves throwing girl babies alive into topless towers, like the Greeks did.

From a purely non-religious viewpoint, individual human life begins with the formation of the zygote. When else could it?

The conclusions to be drawn from that, in a rich society with advanced medicine, seem obvious, if inconvenient.

February 25, 2008 8:54 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

harry eagar wrote: "From a purely non-religious viewpoint, individual human life begins with the formation of the zygote. When else could it?"

I believe that the life isn't human until it's intelligence surpasses that of other mammels (a dog, for example) which occurs around 1 year of age.

February 25, 2008 9:42 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

I'm against trying to legislate affairs of the heart as a general matter. Attempts to codify rights and obligations so intimately prone to compelling subjective perceptions must inevitably fail to promote effective protection or justice for the people required live under them.

That said, I do believe in a father's moral obligation to support his children emotionally and financially, and would extend the financial aspect of his obligation to something that could be compelled at law.

As a society, though, I doubt we could do much better than provide effective mechanisms for assisting those abandoned mothers and children who have neither the financial nor social means for compelling paternal support on their own.

Where I think Duck fails entirely in this discussion is in considering the freedom to choose that we ought to accord every woman, and the support -- moral and emotional and mental -- we ought to give as a matter of course to those women who do make the difficult choice to abort an unwanted or unwise pregnancy.

In the case at hand, what kept coming up for me was the question, why, if this woman was so conflicted about the procedure, did she go through with the abortion?

It doesn't appear to me she was forced or that she didn't have other options to consider.

It looks more than anything like a very tragic situation involving an unbalanced person whose horrible outcome has been seized upon by radical anti-abortionists to fan the flames of a highly-charged issue for the purpose of making a political point.

The story adds little to the discussion about abortion and is unhelpful in putting competing interests in a light that makes reasoned judgment any less difficult than it already is.

February 25, 2008 1:21 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

That's a belief entirely disengaged from biological evidence, bret, and kind of dangerous. There are any number of humans more than 9 months old who do not display more intelligence than a dog.

++++

'extend the financial aspect of his obligation to something that could be compelled at law.'

This is something that has now come up twice. Are you guys under the delusion that, in America anyway, fathers do not face compulsory child support?

There is a largish federal agency devoted to this.

In Hawaii County earlier this month, the local prosecutor indicted a handful of deadbeat dads and announced that would be his regular enforcement tool.

Quite a few dads came by with back payments within days. One paid in $60K.

February 25, 2008 8:45 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Those women who are still saddled with the remnants of the baggage of religious dogma who still choose abortion are more likely to be unstable. Those who have not made it a lifestyle choice but still get into a situation where abortion is required are incompetent. Those women who rationally choose abortion as one of the many birth prevention options are not more likely to be either unstable or incompetent.

I thought I engaged in pop psychology, but Bret you take it to a whole other level. Do you have any evidence, besides your own biases, to base this upon?

Are men who inadvertently impregnate women unstable or incompetent?

Indulging in my own pop psychology, I'd argue that the women who feel intense remorse from aborting their children are the most psychologically healthy. Remorse is a healthy instinct, we can't be moral without it.

There is also the compounding factor of post-partum blues which will naturally depress a woman for a bit after an abortion (and even more for a birth).

But the Norway study shows that women who have given birth in the last year are much less likely to commit suicide than the general population. Giving birth actually lowers the incidence of suicide.

Sure, non-religious people may still consider abortion murder, but I contend that they're still saddled with religious dogma. After a few generations of atheism, such quaint notions will dissipate.

But the study is from Norway, which is on the cutting edge of the Brave New World of godlessness. Sorry Bret, but the moral instinct survives even without religion.

Are you a "blank slate" proponent? Do you think moral concerns like "fetuses are persons" are purely a matter of nurture (ie. culture), or do you recognize any genetic component to human nature?

Duck, you sound like a religious preacher here. What happened to the anti-religious duck we've all come to know and love?

I'm a morals preacher. I'm still as irreligious as before. Morals and religion are two separate entities, though religious people commingle the two. We can live without religion, but we can't live without morals. Without religion, morals have to be based on purely secular reasoning, and there are plenty of secular reasons to argue against abortion, as there are to argue against slavery, murder, rape and theft.

I don't mean to disappoint you, but Christopher Hitchens is also opposed to abortion. His reasoning, the same as mine, is that any definition of personhood that starts after conception is purely arbitrary. If we base our defense of human life on arbitrary grounds, then those grounds can later be shifted to accomodate any expedient political goal.

February 28, 2008 5:50 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Duck:

The secular reasoning against slavery, murder, rape, and theft is grounded in a perception of existence that any sentient being may attain.

I can understand and accept the moral foundations of opposition to those practices because I can perceive the wrong in them should they be inflicted upon me.

Abortion is different in that no one alive can possibly perceive the harm to a fetus, up to a certain level of development anyway.

In order to maintain that human life begins at conception and that every multicellular being is entitled -- on a moral basis -- to the same protections against harm that we accord to living, breathing human beings, how can you -- on a moral basis -- excuse stepping on a bug or annihilating the bacteria on your counter top with a handy-wipe?

February 28, 2008 9:19 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'I don't mean to disappoint you, but Christopher Hitchens is also opposed to abortion. His reasoning, the same as mine, is that any definition of personhood that starts after conception is purely arbitrary. If we base our defense of human life on arbitrary grounds, then those grounds can later be shifted to accomodate any expedient political goal.'

My position as well.

As for lonbud's other objection, in law we make it a tort to interfere with prospective economic advantage, so in law we can make it illegal to interfere with prospective human development, too.

The reason we give more moral protection to humans than to chickens is that we are (or have the potential to be) moral actors, and chickens do not.

It's possible to be a human without moral agency, by reason of mental defect, but you cannot run a society based on outliers.

As for this particular case, even if you are going to allow abortion, as moral agents the mother is expected to make some arrangements, which this one didn't.

She'd have been at fault even if she'd had the kids.

February 28, 2008 11:49 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

As a matter of law, one must be alive (or must be the legal successor in interest to one who had been alive), in order to have standing before a court.

Therefore, while there is a tort for interference with prospective economic advantage, it can only be asserted in a claim for damages by a living person or on behalf of a once-living person.

Abortion will never be outlawed under the theory of providing fetuses protection from tortious interference with prospective human development.

Actions for wrongful death have been barred to the successors in interest of stillborn children for this reason.

See Life Before Birth, by Bonnie Steinbock for a good discussion of the moral and legal underpinnings of this issue.

February 28, 2008 12:19 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Hmmmm.

Well, that explains Germany's blood money payments to Israel, I guess.

Interesting implications for those who demand reparations for ancient slavery, too.

February 28, 2008 1:43 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

There is no logical disconnect insofar as heirs of holocaust survivors and former slaves are both successors in interest to once-living people who suffered actual harm.

In the case of descendants of slaves, they may even be able to make a case for having suffered harm themselves as a result of the tortious acts inflicted on their forbears.

February 28, 2008 4:32 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Not everybody in Israel is the descendant of a Holocaust survivor.

Maybe not even a majority.

February 28, 2008 6:06 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Duck:

Christopher Hitchens is also opposed to abortion. His reasoning, the same as mine, is that any definition of personhood that starts after conception is purely arbitrary. If we base our defense of human life on arbitrary grounds, then those grounds can later be shifted to accomodate any expedient political goal.

Wonderful reasoning.

One problem, though. That reasoning makes slaves of women.

There are 32,000 pregnancies per year in the US that are a consequence of rape or incest.

Above, Peter put the problem very well: It's sui generis, which is why it is ideologically and practically bedeviling.

There is no argument regarding abortion that doesn't allow within the space of a deep breath repellant outcomes.

Either women are autonomous beings, or they are reproductive instrumentalities.

Which is it?

February 28, 2008 6:23 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

I'm not completely up to speed on the payment of blood money between Germany and Israel.

Are the payments government to government? Does every citizen of Israel get a piece of the pie?

If I was a descendant of a Holocaust victim it would piss me off considerably to know that someone could make a claim to reparations without having to prove succession in interest to a victim of the Holocaust.

February 28, 2008 7:08 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Government to government. Even Arabs benefit

February 29, 2008 7:23 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Yes, well, government is certainly wont to throw money at problems to make them go away.

Look what ours is doing now in the face of the credit and inflation debacles.

February 29, 2008 9:29 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

duck wrote: "Without religion, morals have to be based on purely secular reasoning, and there are plenty of secular reasons to argue against abortion, as there are to argue against slavery, murder, rape and theft."

There are also, according to history, plenty of secular reasons to argue for at least most of those things.
o Abortion: many, many have argued for the morality of abortion - bad to bring in unwanted children, etc.
o Slavery: practiced for tens of thousands of years. I doubt they thought they were being immoral. Certainly many of our founders did not think so.
o Murder: Hitler didn't think he was being immoral.
o Theft: Socialism worldwide is a form of theft, at least in the opinion of some. Socialists don't consider themselves to be immoral.
o Rape: Honor killings and rape for punishment are considered moral in many parts of the world.

From my perspective, Duck, it looks like your morals are informed by a western religious foundation. In a few generations, such soft ideas will be gone.

February 29, 2008 2:41 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

That is about the strangest, most jumbled argument for the centrality of Christianity to morality I've ever seen.

First, opposition to slavery arose from Enlightenment values which, while not always antireligious, were definitely antiChristian establishment.

Second, injunctions against murder far predate Christianity.

Third, capitalism also is considered theft by many.

Fourth, see first comment.

February 29, 2008 7:52 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

There is no argument regarding abortion that doesn't allow within the space of a deep breath repellant outcomes.

That is the tragedy of human existence. The challenge for humans, in the face of the tragic nature of human existence, is to ask "which is the least tragic route to take". The whole debate about abortion is poisoned by the lie that childbirth is in some basic sense a tragedy.

The tragedy of rape or incest is in the rape or incest. A pregnancy that ensues from that rape or incest makes the life for the victim tougher, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the pregnancy is the tragedy. And lets not fool ourselves into thinking that eliminating that pregnancy is an easy way to mitigate the tragedy of the crime. If our modern health providers were as objectively scientific as they claim to be, they would read the scientific literature on the subject, as in the Norway study that shows abortion is associated with higher rates of suicide and depression, and realize that providing an abortion to a woman who has already undergone a traumatic event quite possibly might be the exact opposite of the compassionate thing to do.

Either women are autonomous beings, or they are reproductive instrumentalities.

That has false dichotomy written all over it, as well as gross oversimplification and slanted semantics. Lets start with the slanted semantics; reproductive instrumentalities? Nice way to dehumanize the single most basic aspect of our existence as humans, the aspect that we all owe our existence to. Should we celebrate "Reproductive Instrumentality" day now instead of Mothers Day?

But if you must force a polar dichotomy, then I'll say that women are not autonomous beings. Neither are men. Autonomy is a libertarian fantasy. To the extent that we can talk about it, it is only in a relative sense, as in this social system grants more or less autonomy than that one. It's like saying this room is cooler than that room, but no room that is fit for human habitation will register a temperature of absolute zero. And no society can survive that is based on absolute autonomy.

Our current society has turned the thermostat on autonomy down to a setting that is causing a lot of dysfunction. We used to force young men into military service, now it is totally optional. I'm in favor of the volunteer military from an effectiveness and professionalism standpoint, but we haven't provided young men with any other expectations of obligation to society. Now fatherhood is, for all practical purposes, totally optional as well.

Since men no longer are expected to defend society or provide for its children, it seemed the least we could do for women was to allow them an equal share of autonomy by giving them abortion. The Norway study shows that it wasn't much of a gift.

March 01, 2008 7:26 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

There are also, according to history, plenty of secular reasons to argue for at least most of those things.

There have been plenty of Christian religious reasons as well:

o Abortion: Pro-Choice Christians

o Slavery: Noah's Curse

o Murder: Heresy trials, witch trials, inquisitions, pogroms, crusades, slavery, "Manifest Destiny"...

o Theft: Biblically justified slavery, Christian Socialism, anti-usury laws,...

This just proves my point. Religion doesn't determine morality, it just rationalizes pre-existing moral judgments.

From my perspective, Duck, it looks like your morals are informed by a western religious foundation. In a few generations, such soft ideas will be gone.

Bret, sometimes I think you're just a Christian mole. Your arguments sound like what one of OJ's strawman atheists would say.

Will there be monkey butlers in this brave new world?

March 01, 2008 8:08 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

The challenge for humans, in the face of the tragic nature of human existence, is to ask "which is the least tragic route to take". The whole debate about abortion is poisoned by the lie that childbirth is in some basic sense a tragedy.

The tragedy of rape or incest is in the rape or incest. A pregnancy that ensues from that rape or incest makes the life for the victim tougher, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the pregnancy is the tragedy.


That could be the most blithe sequestering of effect from cause I have ever seen. The tragedy of rape is the rape and all its consequences. Any consequent pregnancy is as inseparable from the rape itself as are physical injuries and the lifelong memory of the violation. It is repellant that you relegate the pregnancy to something that merely makes life for the victim tougher, particularly when you beg, but leave wholly unanswered, the question: tougher than what?

You fool yourself by saying eliminating the pregnancy is an easy way to mitigate the tragedy of the crime while not considering for a moment the certainty that the pregnancy in fact adds a measure of tragedy to an already tragic act.

Yet you take it upon yourself to conclude, no matter that the woman is bearing all the cost, and all the risk, that her desires come in second, no matter her situation, or her own moral viewpoint.

If our modern health providers were as objectively scientific as they claim to be, they would read the scientific literature on the subject, as in the Norway study that shows abortion is associated with higher rates of suicide and depression, and realize that providing an abortion to a woman who has already undergone a traumatic event quite possibly might be the exact opposite of the compassionate thing to do.

If you were as objective as you claim to be, you would not commit the fallacy of applying statistics to individuals. To wit: a large group of smokers will have more lung cancer victims than a large group of otherwise identical non-smokers. However, given an individual smoker and an individual non-smoker, those statistics are of no help whatsoever in determining which, if either, will get lung cancer.

Just so here.

Ignoring that, though, you make two further errors. The first is that you failto note that the actual risk is not the rate of suicide and depression from those choosing abortion, but rather the difference between the group choosing abortion, and the group that did not.

You then compound the mistake by failing to note, despite glaring reasons to suspect there might be a difference, that the statistic you do cite is for all women who have had abortions, not the subset of those women who aborted pregnancies due to rape or incest.

Either women are autonomous beings, or they are reproductive instrumentalities.

That has false dichotomy written all over it, as well as gross oversimplification and slanted semantics.


That is not a false dichotomy, it is an accurate and parsimonious description of the state of affairs you prefer. In your world, should a woman become pregnant she, despite completely owning the pregnancy, has, short of suicide, completely lost autonomy over the outcome.

That makes her an instrument for reproduction. You are the one who has dehumanized her by subordinating her preferences in the matter, no matter their derivation, to the pregnancy which is hers alone.

No one is truly, completely autonomous. However, I submit that no matter how hard you look, you will, absent totalitarianism, search futilely for another situation where the ownership and costs are so completely confined to the individual, yet the individual has no choice whatsoever in the outcome.

Now fatherhood is, for all practical purposes, totally optional as well.

Now? I suggest you investigate the derivation of the surname "Esposito".

Deciding that personhood starts at conception is no less arbitrary, and no more defendable, than a score of other boundaries. Its sole "attraction" is that its arbitrariness is confined to a brief span of time. Someone else could say "one minute after midnight of the 24th week" and be no more arbitrary than you, while avoiding uncertainties you ignore.

Just as you prefer to ignore that, to an individual woman, a pregnancy can indeed be a tragedy, the ending of which is, to her, the least bad of the possible outcomes. As much as you may abhor her decision to end a pregnancy, that pregnancy is hers, not yours or society's.

March 02, 2008 12:44 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

A report from the front lines, Foodland, Saturday night, about 8 o'clock.

I was in the checkout line, writing a check, and a bagger, about 16 or 17, came up, threw his head down on the counter, then lifted it and said, 'I got some scary news.'

Although he was speaking softly, so probably only I could hear him, I thought he was addressing the clerk. There is often a lot of byplay among them, especially the kids who work on Saturday nights, and comic histrionic regrets about not being able to go out are common. But she didn't notice him.

He was a rabbity-looking kid, but then I'm at an age where, at the mall, all the young girls look cute and all the young boys look goofy.

He then said, looking at nobody in particular, but again so softly probably only I could hear him, 'I think I get two girls pregnant.'

At first I thought he was bragging, but I didn't react.

Then he said, still hoping for some response, I guess, 'One goin' get abortion and she expect me to pay.'

At that point, I took my receipt and left.

March 02, 2008 12:58 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

The tragedy of rape is the rape and all its consequences. Any consequent pregnancy is as inseparable from the rape itself as are physical injuries and the lifelong memory of the violation.

I know a woman, not religious, who was raped and left pregnant at twenty. Man was a scumbag who is long gone. Her family (little money) pressured her to have an abortion, but she refused. She had the child and subsequently married and had others. He's seventeen now, good-looking, doing well, super-close to his younger siblings and the apple of his mother's eye.

Skipper, on this subject and other social issues you are as much a prisoner of ideological cant as the most dogmatic, unreformed marxist.

March 02, 2008 2:02 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

That is wonderful for her.

However, as noted above, the plural of anecdote is not data.

I am sure that I could, with just a little Googling, resurrect anecdotes pointing entirely the opposite direction.

The exercise would be not the least bit helpful in determining whether an individual woman should have any choice in the matter.

No matter. Your response, absent name calling, completely failed to engage my argument.

March 02, 2008 2:21 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

However, as noted above, the plural of anecdote is not data.

But I provided data, but you didn't want to hear that either. The data is clear; women who abort are much more likely to commit suicide than women who do not.

No one is truly, completely autonomous. However, I submit that no matter how hard you look, you will, absent totalitarianism, search futilely for another situation where the ownership and costs are so completely confined to the individual, yet the individual has no choice whatsoever in the outcome.

Well, I proposed making fathers accountable for the costs, at a minimum, and you thought that was totalitarian also.


The tragedy of rape is the rape and all its consequences. Any consequent pregnancy is as inseparable from the rape itself as are physical injuries and the lifelong memory of the violation. It is repellant that you relegate the pregnancy to something that merely makes life for the victim tougher, particularly when you beg, but leave wholly unanswered, the question: tougher than what?

Tougher than being raped and not becoming pregnant? I thought that was pretty obvious. So then are you willing to concede that rape compounded by the agonizing decision to abort a child which, though coming out of an act that is the opposite of love and from a man not chosen by the woman, is still the woman's own child, is part of the tragedy? That an abortion followed by a suicide, or by a lifetime of regret and remorse for her lost child, is a tragedy?

If abortion opponents are responsible for compounding a rape victims tragedy by forcing her pregnancy to come to term, why aren't abortion proponents responsible for the even worse tragedy of women who abort and then commit suicide?

The first is that you failto note that the actual risk is not the rate of suicide and depression from those choosing abortion, but rather the difference between the group choosing abortion, and the group that did not.

No, that difference is clearly represented in the results. Women who give birth, which would be the group that did not choose abortion, are less likely to commit suicide than even women who were not pregnant at all. They are the least likely to commit suicide. My guess is that it probably has something to do with having another person to be responsible for.

March 02, 2008 3:14 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Duck:

But I provided data, but you didn't want to hear that either. The data is clear; women who abort are much more likely to commit suicide than women who do not.

There two several reasons I insist that data is inappropriate.

First, as I already stated, statistics are meaningless for individuals.

Second, the stated difference in rates is 248%. Sounds pretty bad, doesn't it?

Until you calculate what 2.5 times a tiny number is.

What proportion of women who have abortions do not commit suicide, have serious accidents, or suffer significant depression following an abortion? And if that number is far, far greater -- which it is -- then why do you give that no weight whatsoever?

Well, I proposed making fathers accountable for the costs, at a minimum, and you thought that was totalitarian also.

I did? Where? To set the record straight, I am very much in favor of making fathers accountable for all costs, with the hope that women will that into account (presuming it actually happens) as a reason not to have an abortion.

So then are you willing to concede that rape compounded by the agonizing decision to abort a child which, though coming out of an act that is the opposite of love and from a man not chosen by the woman, is still the woman's own child, is part of the tragedy? That an abortion followed by a suicide, or by a lifetime of regret and remorse for her lost child, is a tragedy?

There is no avoiding tragedy. What about not having an abortion, followed by suicide, or a lifetime of regret, etc? The statistics you cite have not one word to say about relative risks for the subset of women who are pregnant by rape or incest. And even if you were to dig some up, you still make the fundamental error imposing the aggregate upon the individual, while ignoring all the ways that make any individual case unique.

If abortion opponents are responsible for compounding a rape victims tragedy by forcing her pregnancy to come to term, why aren't abortion proponents responsible for the even worse tragedy of women who abort and then commit suicide?

With the current state of affairs, neither abortion opponents or proponents are responsible for the consequences of an abortion.

The woman is.

However, should you achieve your desired outcome of absolute prohibition, then all the suicide, etc of those women who carried a pregnancy to term, no matter their individual circumstances, no matter how much they disagree with your arbitrary moral reasoning, is on you.

That's what you get for poking your nose into something that is absolutely none of your business.

March 02, 2008 4:44 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I am sure that I could, with just a little Googling, resurrect anecdotes pointing entirely the opposite direction.

Undoubtedly, but as the plural of anecdote is not data, why does your catechism prevail?

March 03, 2008 2:40 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

That's what you get for poking your nose into something that is absolutely none of your business.

Probably your strongest point. But then, why are you yourself pronouncing so definitively on the emotional and psychological consequences of pregnancy? You aren't coming across as someone who is doing much listening.

March 03, 2008 3:11 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Undoubtedly, but as the plural of anecdote is not data, why does your catechism prevail?

What is my catechism?

But then, why are you yourself pronouncing so definitively on the emotional and psychological consequences of pregnancy?

Nice strawman you have there.

March 03, 2008 10:35 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Duck:

But I provided data, but you didn't want to hear that either. The data is clear; women who abort are much more likely to commit suicide than women who do not.

There is yet another reason to question the validity of the data you presented: absence of deductive consequences.

If, in fact, women who abort are much more likely to commit suicide than those who do not, then there most be some corresponding effect in the suicide rates of women over time.

From before Roe v. Wade through 1997, suicide rates for women declined, from roughly 6.5 to under 5 per 100,000 women.

I have a hard time squaring the study's assertion with actual mortality statistics, at least with respect to the US.

(Other sources I looked at showed the downward trend continuing until 2004, when both female and male suicide rates increased. Since that is the most current data available, it is impossible to say whether that is a one-off, or the beginning of a reversal in the downward trend.)

March 04, 2008 3:59 PM  

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