Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Abortion, the issue that just won't go away

Musings on a divisive issue.

Abortion, is the issue that just won't go away, no matter how much we wish it would.

I remember saying in a class with a majority of young women once, "Why the hell are our politics captive to this issue? An alarming number of voters make their choice among candidate based solely on his/her position on abortion. I mean, how many of you are planning to have an abortion?"

There arose an indignant howl around the room, "But it's about the choice!"

This is one of those things I'm in the mushy middle about.

Interestingly, I read some time ago that the plaintiff in Roe v Wade now describes herself that way. (And who incidentally, didn't get that abortion - by the time the case was decided the baby was born and adopted out.)

By mushy middle I mean, I'm not too concerned about an early first-trimester abortion when the fetus has a central nervous system something akin to an earthworm's.

(And don't tell me about its "potential" for becoming a human being. Lot's of things have potential for becoming something else. The fact is - it isn't, at least not yet.)

In the second trimester I'm starting to get worried at the state of fetal development. (And please, keep in mind that this timeline is very vague, I'm not an embryologist.)

When my wife was pregnant with our first, we never considered abortion. We wanted the baby very much. But just because I have a morbid streak as wide as my back, I had to ask her, "When did the idea of abortion become impossible for you?"

She replied, "When I first heard the heartbeat."

By the third trimester I'm very nervous about the difference between a late-period abortion and a 6-7 month preemie saved by heroic medical efforts.

And as for "partial-birth abortions," if some skillful propagandist hadn't invented that term, we wouldn't even be having this debate. A "partial-birth" abortion is infanticide that just misses being legally murder because the "doctor" shoves the baby partway back in while killing it with an icepick to the brain.

("Doctor" is in scare quotes because I'm convinced that like surgery is said to be a profession that sometimes attracts sublimated sadists who realize on some level that they have to channel their fascination with gore into something useful - or wind up facing Jack Ketch on a scaffold some day, one who practices "partial-birth abortions" may be a sublimated serial killer. More on that later.)

(And don't bother writing in to accuse me of tarring all surgeons with that brush. I said "attracts," I didn't say "all" or even "many.")

Interestingly, in one of my classes in Bulgaria, composed of eighteen intelligent young women, I quoted a woman on this issue who told me, "A woman has a right to an abortion five minutes before she goes into the delivery room."

"Yeah, that's right!" they all said.

(Never mind that an abortion that late is technically called "a Caesarian section.")

So I started to describe the partial-birth abortion process. Within one minute they were begging me to stop.

Like a lot of things, my opinions on this issue have changed as I got older and my circumstances changed.

When I was a young man who, as young men will do, spent a lot of time chasing tail - and mostly not getting any, I kept company with a fair number of women who the idea of marrying gave me cold shivers. If you've ever been a young man, you know what they'll put up with to get laid.

Of course, back then I was foursquare in favor of abortion under any circumstances. To put it bluntly, I wanted an out if I ever got that bad news.

Now that I have children of my own... the idea of abortion doesn't look so good to me.

Of course, if I ever become fabulously wealthy and keep mistresses, it might start to look good again.

Abortion is one of the issues that deeply divides libertarians. I remember at one of our English camps in Lithuania the subject came up. My son's godmother told us that she'd had an abortion forty years before.

She hadn't wanted one, but had lost fifty pounds during the pregnancy and the doctors told her it was either the baby - or her and the baby.

She said, "It may sometimes be a necessary choice, but don't ever let anyone tell you it's an easy or trivial one."

A young lady standing nearby said, "Thank you."


  • At 7:21 PM, Blogger Ted said…

    People have surgery to have other parts of their body removed quite often.
    When this particular part is born and breathing, then (and only then) is it murder.
    Much of the emotionalism surrounding this issue comes from failure to recognize or respect the one directly affected by the situation, especially since she (and the taxpayers, in most circumstances) are going to be the ones bearing the burden the next 20 years.

  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…

    What bothers me most about this issue is that people think that legislation will change things. I do believe that we communicate important cultural norms and values by way of what we legalize and outlaw. But for an issue like abortion, if we are truly concerned about the welfare of the children and not worried so much about scoring political points, then the efforts should be upon convincing people that abortion is so horrible that they would never consider getting one.

    Roe is a good example. She now opposes abortion, because some Christians took her under their wing and changed her mind. I fear that too many Christians have lost sight of the goal because they are so focused on the political points.

    George Bush was right when he was running in 2000 - the way to end abortion is to change the heart of man. If people do not want to get an abortion, then there won't be any.

  • At 5:34 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    The thing about late-period abortions is, evidently some of them do start to breathe on their own - and have to be killed.

    Liberty magazine once published Ron Paul's account of his experience of one such, where the medical personnel put the now-breathing baby in a pan on the floor and studiously avoided looking at it while it breathed for a while and died.

  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…

    How does that not violate the professional ethic of a doctor? A breathing baby is allowed to die without making any attempt to save it? Holy crap. Have fun in hell.

  • At 9:16 AM, Blogger Ted said…

    Amen, Joe!

  • At 9:50 AM, Blogger Eduardo said…

    This "part of the body" has its own unique and distinct DNA. It even has its own gender at conception, its own neural system (however rudimentary) after a single week and its own beating heart after five.

    Whatever IT is, it is not a part of the host body.

  • At 10:03 AM, Blogger Eduardo said…


    You are right that the hearts of people must be changed, but that can sometimes follow political change. You will find few who argue for slavery now, though many did passionately before and after abolition. Many even used Ted's arguments regarding emotionalism and direct impact.

    Which is not to say that there is a one to one correspondence between slavery and abortion on a philosophical let alone practical level. But the identification of what it means to be human and who we include in the circle of human rights is an idea which has never been fixed, but rather is one that is constantly expanding. We understand "All Men" to include any color or race. We understand it to mean both genders. Those are innovations, frankly, that serve as signs on our road to humanity.

  • At 4:49 PM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…


    I do agree that political change is an important element. I simply think that we've placed too much emphasis on it. There needs to be equal effort in changing minds and changing laws. Each reinforces the other. A law seen as unjust will be violated. An act seen as acceptable will not be outlawed.

    We must convince people that the act is unacceptable and consolidate those moral gains with political progress, so that we achieve a society where abortion is seen as unacceptable and laws exist to outlaw it are seen as just, reinforcing our collective belief that abortion is wrong.

  • At 10:03 AM, Blogger Angie said…

    It is the established law of the land. Frankly, it is a constitutional right now. Roe "found" it in the 14th Amendment.

    I fear that the only way to change that now is by an Amendment and that just isn't going to happen absent a HUGE shift in thinking. After a shift that huge, an amendment wouldn't even be necessary.

  • At 3:49 AM, Blogger Eduardo said…

    You should know that yesterdays post was written by me, not someone named Angie. She left herself logged on when I was surfing. Delayed commenting being what it is... I noticed much later. Suffice to say, lessons have been learned.

    I thought that the correction was especially necessary given the conversation and the imprimatur that a woman's name might bring to my comment, when it was not intended.

  • At 5:40 PM, Blogger Ted said…

    If you are willing to support it, feed it, educate it, clothe it and house it BY YOUR OWN LABOR, without illegally entering my country and having the woman you knocked up mooch off my government to have it done for you, I will gladly concede.
    If you are sir, please spread that philosophy among your "fellows".

    Nobody owes you anything.
    Deal with it!

  • At 7:33 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…


    I'll interject an observation and an anecdote.

    Observation: classical liberal/libertarian theory has never dealt very completely with the rights, duties and obligations of, and towards, children and the mentally handicapped.

    (Wish I could find another term for that. Homo Erectus appears to have been a modern man from the neck down, and about half a modern man from the neck up. Nevertheless, he dealt with a harsh environment that not many moderns could without a welfare state...)

    Anecdote: a friend of mine and I were talking with an objectivist acquaintance once, lo these many years ago.

    We were discussing Murray Rothbard's take on abortion, which was: it doesn't matter if a fetus is a human being or not - no one has the right to compell another to support him/her.

    One of us pointed out that this principle, logically extended, would hold that anyone could, by right, abandon their children.

    The Objectivist replied heatedly, "That's right! I have the right to abandon my children on a street corner and whatever happens to them is not my concern and nobody has the right to tell me any different!"

    At that point, his four-year-old daughter walked in and said, "Draw me a picture Daddy."

    "Not now honey."


    Whereupon he took her into his lap and cuddled her.

    We of course cracked up.

    "Oh you're a hard man Don!"

    Theory do tend to collide with reality sometimes, don't it?

  • At 7:22 PM, Blogger Eduardo said…


    We are talking about acknowledging whether certain inalienable rights should be extended to the weakest members of our society.

    The preservation of those rights is a legitimate aim of government as established in our Constitution.


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