Posts Tagged ‘Abortion’

The cruel logic of treating abortion as murder

September 1, 2015

For a long time the leaders of the Republican Party have said that “abortion is murder,” but, until now, they haven’t meant this literally.

130306_prolife_abortion_605_reutAll the Republican presidential candidates from George H.W. Bush to Mitt Romney have opposed abortion, but made exceptions, such as for women who are pregnant as the result of rape or incest.

No such exception would be allowed by Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson, Rand Paul or Mike Huckabee, according to a report by Thomas B. Edsall of the New York Times.

If you honestly believe that abortion is murder, it is logical to say, as Huckabee did, that friends of a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay who became pregnant after being raped by her step-father has no more right to commit murder than anybody else.

Edsall noted that the top 15 Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina, all agree that life begins at conception.  This sounds strict to me, but Edsall pointed out that, to some of the most powerful anti-abortion groups, it is not enough.  To these groups, life begins at fertilization.

The difference is that conception begins when the fertilized egg is implanted in the womb.  Most fertilized eggs fail to be implanted.

The importance of this difference is that the “morning after” birth control pill works by preventing implantation of a fertilized egg.   Experts disagree on whether IUDs prevent implantation of fertilized eggs.   Extremist anti-abortionists think such forms of birth control are the same as abortion.


Donating fetal tissue for science is pro-life

August 4, 2015

tissue-gateI can understand being opposed to abortion under any circumstances, although I respectfully disagree.

But granted that abortion is legal, I don’t see any additional harm that is done by donating the fetal issue for use in scientific research.

Suppose somebody is the victim of a homicide.  Suppose the victim’s loved ones donate the victim’s organs for transplants or medical research.  Does that sanction homicide?

Suppose a convict on death row decided to become an organ donor.  Does honoring the convict’s wishes imply endorsement of the death penalty?

I’m an organ donor myself, and although the idea of my carcass being cut up by medical students has its gruesome side, I won’t be around to see it.

A friend of mine, also an organ donor, said she likes the idea of literally living on after death in someone’s heart.  In fact, most organ donations are used for research and medical education, but this, too, is a good contribution.

Likewise, I can see how a woman, having had an abortion, can take consolation in the thought that the tissue of the fetus can be used in scientific research.

If Planned Parenthood helps her do that, it is a good thing, not a bad thing.  Such research could save human lives.  It is pro-life.


Wing-nut conspiracy theorists have done it again: The truth about the Planned Parenthood hoax revealed by Bob Cesca for Salon.

The Memification of Planned Parenthood by Robert Tracinski for The Federalist.

Fetal-Tissue Research and the Long Fight to Defund Planned Parenthood by Julie Ravner for The Atlantic.

Fetal tissue research has been with us a long time — and it’s saved lives by “Hunter” for Daily Kos.  [Added later]

A nun on the meaning of being “pro-life”

July 31, 2015

Slide1_3Source: Daily Kos.

Hat tip to Bill Elwell.

Nothing in this statement implies that Sister Joan Chittister supports the pro-choice movement.  Rather she indicates where pro-choicers and pro-lifers ought to agree..

Abortion USA: the basic facts

April 19, 2013

The Guttmacher Institute is a non-profit organization devoted to research and education in birth control, sexual education, reproductive health, reproductive rights and population issues.  Recently the institute published five infographics summing up the basic facts about abortion in the United States today.

1.   Nearly half of American woman have unwanted pregnancies and nearly one in three will have an abortion before age 45.

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2.  Poor American women are five times as likely to have abortions as higher-income women.

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3.  Black and Hispanic American women are more likely than white American women to have both unplanned births and abortions

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4.  Most abortions are paid for out-of-pocket, even though most abortion patients have health insurance.

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5.  Many American women must travel long distances and overcome government barriers to obtain abortions.

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Click on Roe at 40: New Infographics Illustrate Key Facts for more detail.

Are journalists biased in favor of abortion?

April 19, 2013

Back in the 1980s, when I was a reporter for the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, we had a managing editor who used the newsroom e-mail system to provoke discussion and bring the newsroom closer together as a group.  One day he conducted a poll on whether we were pro-choice or pro-life.   Some of us declined to answer, but of those who did, all (including me) were in favor of abortion rights, except for one person.

Did this raise questions about whether we could be balanced our coverage?  Maybe it did, although we seemed to get the same number of complaints from the pro-choice and pro-life sides.   To the extent this was a problem, I don’t know what we could have done about it, except to try extra-hard to be fair to the side we didn’t agree with.   Nobody asked my opinion on this or any other controversial issue when I was interviewed for the job, and for obvious reasons I don’t think newsrooms would benefit from affirmative action policies for conservatives.

Journalism is a field which attracts people with particular sets of values, as does medicine, law, teaching, police work, military service and entrepreneurial business, and these values affect your outlook.   That’s just how things are.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell

Dr. Kermit Gosnell

The reason I write about this subject today is that a lot of people evidently think that (1) the murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell should have got more coverage than it did and (2) the reason it didn’t is that journalists are biased in favor of abortion.

Based on my newspaper experience, I think you have to turn to Chaos Theory to explain why some events become national news and others are only local news.   If bias caused the Gosnell case to be under-reporter, this bias affected the right-wing press such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal as much as it did CNN and the Washington Post.   In any case, it is front-page news now.


Back-alley abortions in the 21st century

April 19, 2013
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In my home town in the western Maryland panhandle in the 1960s, a women who wished to terminate a pregnancy had no place where she could legally go.  But it was said (I don’t know if this was true) that if she were to pay a certain lawyer an agreed-on sum of money, he would tell her to be on a certain street corner at a certain time of night.  There she would be met and driven blindfolded to a farmhouse in Pennsylvania, where an abortion would be performed.

Those of us who believed abortion rights hoped, after the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973, that places like that would be closed down, and that, in the words of President Bill Clinton, abortion would become safe, legal and rare.   But what has come to light in the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor now on trial in Philadelphia for first-degree murder, is like the worst nightmare of back-alley abortions.

Dr. Gosnell has not been convicted nor made his defense, so I won’t call him a murderer, but the Grand Jury indictment says that he delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy and killed them by severing their spinal columns with scissors.  He is accused of overdosing his patients with dangerous drugs, spreading venereal disease with infected instruments and causing the deaths of at least two women with incompetent surgery.

He was charged as a result of an FBI raid based on a tip that Dr. Gosnell’s “Women’s Medical Society” was illegally selling prescription drugs.  According to the Grand Jury, here’s what the FBI found: “There was blood on the floor.  A stench of urine filled the air.  A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs.  Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets.  All the women had been sedated by unlicensed staff.”

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Abortion after the 24th month of pregnancy is (rightly) illegal under Pennsylvania law, which is consistent with Roe vs Wade.  Killing an infant capable of living outside the womb is murder by any definition.   The existence of Dr. Gosnell’s clinic represents a failure of enforcement of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the reasons for that failure are a legitimate issue.   But I would like to raise a different question.  Why in the era of Roe vs. Wade would poor women pay cash to somebody such as Gosnell?

Part of the answer is that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the anti-abortion movement have been doing their best to make it as difficult as possible for women to get abortions from legitimate clinics in an early state of pregnancy.   Medicaid funding for abortions is denied under federal and Pennsylvania law except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother.  The out-of-pocket cost of an abortion is equal to a month’s income for people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

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Some women are afraid to run the gantlet of anti-abortion protestors at Planned Parenthood or other legitimate providers of abortion.  Abortion doctors have been murdered by anti-abortion terrorists, and others face death threats.   There are only 13 clinics in all of Pennsylvania that provide abortion services, down from 22 two years ago.

If you want to prevent more horror stories such as Dr. Gosnell’s, you should be willing to allow abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy by qualified obstetricians, in which abortion is safe procedure and does not take the extinguish the life of a human mind in a recognizable human body.  And if you want to reduce the number of abortions, you should encourage the dissemination of birth control information, encourage adoption and work for an economy in which any man or woman willing to work can get a job with a wage sufficient to support a child.


What is reproductive justice?

October 19, 2012

The reproductive justice framework – the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments — is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions.

via SisterSong.

I recently learned a new buzzword—”reproductive justice”—which is being promoted by a black women’s group called SisterSong, and recently has been taken up by my own religious denomination, the Unitarian Universalist Association.  The idea behind the phrase is that a women’s right to choose whether or not to have children goes far beyond the right to an abortion.  It means that women who want to have children ought to be free from the fear that they won’t be able to feed, clothe and shelter the children, that the children won’t be able to get medical care, that there won’t be day care when they go off to work, and so on.

I’ve read the platforms of the political parties on this subject, and it is one in which there is a real and meaningful divide.  The Democratic Party and even more so the Green Party endorse reproductive justice.   The Libertarian Party defines the issue as one of individual rights and responsibilities.  A woman has the right to get an abortion or not, as she chooses, the Libertarians say, but then it is the individual responsibility of the parent or parents to care for the child.

The Republican Party platform says the issue is not the right of the mother, but the right of the fetus, or unborn child, to be born.  It endorses help for mothers to make sure they are able to bring the child to term and then, if the mother is unmarried, to enable the newborn child to be adopted into a two-parent family.

I don’t quarrel with the two-parent man-woman family as an ideal, or with encouragement of adoption.  I know a woman who was an adopted child and, as an adult, sought out her birth mother.   The birth mother was a mentally ill person who would have been unable to care for her, so she is thankful to have been adopted.  But there aren’t enough adoptive parents to go around, and of course not every child is adoptable.

I agree with SisterSong, and I like the Democratic and Green party platforms on this issue, but I also think reproductive justice is as much about the responsibilities of parenting as it is about the rights of women.  I know a woman my own age who has tried to befriend a young unmarried mother who lives in the same apartment house.  She could teach the young mother much about housekeeping and child care, but neither the mother nor the irresponsible father think they need help or advice.  I think people like that are a problem, and I don’t know of any government program that is a solution—not that I advocate abandoning the children to their fate.

I imagine that if any SisterSong members read this post, they would respond that they know their responsibilities as mothers very well, and don’t need any admonitions from an elderly, childless, well-off white man such as myself.  Maybe so.  I hope I do not propagate the stereotype of the black unmarried mother drawing welfare.  To the extent that what I describe is a problem, it is not a problem of just one ethnic group.

Click on SisterSong for their web page.

Click on Why I Don’t Think Abortion Is Murder for an earlier post on the abortion issue.

Click on Honey Boo Boo Nation for thoughts on the limitations of reproductive justice.

Click on highlighted words for the full Republican, Democratic, Green and Libertarian party platforms, or read the portions of the platforms relevant to the reproductive justice issue below.


Why I don’t believe abortion is murder

February 27, 2010

Right to life activists say that abortion is murder, while proponents of abortion rights say it is a matter of individual choice.  But if abortion really is murder, it can’t be a matter of individual choice.  Nobody thinks there is a right to commit murder to preserve your own life or health, nor a right to murder infants who were born as the result of rape or incest.

So is abortion murder?  Is it the taking of a human life?  My own belief is that a human life consists of a human mind in a human body.  My life extends to long as my brain functions; when that ceases, there is no point in trying to keep my brain-dead body functioning, even though the body has my DNA and meets the definition of biological life.  Similarly, my human life did not begin until I had a functioning brain and mind, capable of awareness of myself as an individual, and not did my rights as an individual begin before that point.

Religious opponents of abortion say that human identity is a question of soul, which is different from mind and brain, and that the soul enters the body or emerges at the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg.  However, in the normal course of events, most fertilized eggs perish in what is called “spontaneous abortion.”  If you believe that God created the world and its biological processes, and you also believe that God loves individual human beings, it seems hard to explain why God would create a process in which the vast majority of human souls perish almost as soon as they come into existence.  It is easier to think that the fertilized egg is only a potential human soul.

Many Christian leaders have taught that life begins at “quickening,” the independent movement of the fetus in the womb.  Click on this article and this article for some of the historic background; click on this article for an argument that human life begins with the first breath.

I am a member of a reading group which read Dante’s Divine Comedy a couple of years ago. Somewhere Dante says that the human fetus begins as a “vegetable soul,” capable of growth, develops into an “animal soul,” capable of independent movement, and later becomes a “human soul,” capable of self-awareness. This is what I think, too. It fits with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade, which distinguished between the first trimester of pregnancy, in which there was a right of abortion; the second trimester, in which there was a restricted right; and the third trimester, in which there is virtually no right.

I wish I knew how to write about these matters without sounding so cold and clinical.  And being a male, I know nothing about what it is like to be pregnant or to be a mother; I am not even a parent.  I don’t think abortion is nothing – only that it isn’t murder, and that it isn’t necessarily the worst choice to make. Like former President Clinton, I would like to live in a world in which abortion is “safe, legal and rare.”

Now I will turn to what I think is the strongest argument against abortion.