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Author Topic: Talking About Abortion  (Read 6087 times)
RummyLu
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« Reply #20 on: January 27, 2012, 12:00 pm »

What if women who'd had abortions were more vocal about their own experiences? Do you think that would be something most people would be receptive to? Would it come across as offensive? I can imagine the latter- if you believe abortion is murder, would it just be like listening to a murderer justify themselves?
These two Hairpin articles from abortion providers were, I thought, very enlightening and humanizing. I'm curious about how someone who takes a pro-life stance would feel about them.

This is an interesting idea, and I do think it would be an incredibly positive thing, however I can't imagine where it would be appropriate in the current climate. There is still a 1950's air of "women's troubles" about the whole thing, where you only speak about the nitty gritty details in whispers. I mean, it actually took me until my mid 20's to realize that there are medical and surgical abortions and the difference between the two, and I grew up within a progressive female orientated education system, so that's not cool. Although that said, speaking to my alumni over Christmas some of them felt that the school actually focused too much on the idea of women in the workplace and put a negative spin on the idea of us following "traditional" paths for women so maybe that had something to do with it, I don't know.
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Luna Fortuna
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« Reply #21 on: January 27, 2012, 12:16 pm »

Luna, do you mind if I ask why you say this?  I ask because it seems like an awfully rough position to keep, because honestly if you believe in a human right but you are bothered by people you know exercising it then it's going to be pretty awkward when somebody you know wants to get an abortion.

That's not a hypothetical; someone top-tier close to me had an abortion. Why would I be bothered? I am pro-choice. Extrapolating that I would tell a woman in crisis that I don't like abortion very much is sort of one of the reasons I don't associate myself with the devoutly pro-choice movement, similar to implied acceptance of late-term abortions. It just doesn't represent me.

This idea that moral opposition to abortion is the only reason to be partially opposed gets to me. When I said that I don't like elective abortion in terms of my life and the lives of the women closest to me, it's not because I look down on women who get abortions; it is because I was my mother's third unplanned, unmarried, unprepared pregnancy by three partners, five kids total, and our environment was, "You know what, it's not always ideal, but fuck it, we're a family." My family is fantastic. Why would I grow up to oppose seeing through unexpected pregnancies? Itís always my kind of people for whom abortion is the answer. I absolutely support any measures the women in my life need, but I will help my sisters and friends keep their babies if thatís what they choose. I kept my opinions to myself when my younger sister recently announced her unplanned pregnancy. When she told me she was keeping it, I sent her a baby book with a note telling her Iím proud of her and a big check to help her prepare. That doesnít mean Iíd ever vote against her unrestricted access to safe procedures.

Excuse all the personal sentiment, but I thought it was the only way to make clear that we can be pro-choice, anti-abortion, and left cold by the language commonly used in these debates. Terms intended to make abortion-pursuers sympathetic sound to me like one middleclass educated lady instructing another middleclass educated lady to protect my community from ourselves. Unfortunately. Like I said, Iím trying to work through it. I am pro-choice! We want many of the same policies. This is simply an example of off-putting dialogue.

Betty, I know what they intend by calling it the War on Women, and my reaction remains the same. This might just be a topic that doesnít work with direct confrontation. I canít think of any way to approach someone with opposing views to successfully draw them over to your side. All you can do is set an example, become more vocal about abortions like you said, or about positive experiences with unplanned pregnancies carried to term, and hope people observe and draw their own conclusions.

This got long, sorry.
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Luna Fortuna
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« Reply #22 on: January 27, 2012, 12:32 pm »

To be clear, I didn't mean that only poor women get abortions, but that the lower income brackets are always referenced in the abortion debate. No one presses to keep abortion safe and legal for the twenty-year-old Ivy League students, even though they have equally good reasons for getting one.
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RummyLu
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« Reply #23 on: January 27, 2012, 01:10 pm »

I'd assume that provided abortion is legal in the country they are wanting one, those wealthier women have access to better healthcare and are generally more educated regarding their options. Or were you just saying that to help make your point? Sorry I am riddled with sinus infection at the moment and reading is hard.
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Luna Fortuna
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« Reply #24 on: January 27, 2012, 01:15 pm »

Just making a point. The pro-choice language doesn't come across to me as intended due to my background, I think. It's almost like being talked over, child-style.
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RummyLu
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« Reply #25 on: January 27, 2012, 01:16 pm »

Ah ok, I get what you mean. Sorry for any misunderstanding.
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fermun
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« Reply #26 on: January 27, 2012, 01:55 pm »

I grew up very Catholic and I was very pro-life, but that started to change when I was about 12 or so and started reading about the views that the Catholic Church had through time. That got me off of the idea that life began at conception, if the Catholic Church believed that life began sometime after conception for thousands of years with theologically sound reasoning, then I was not so certain myself. That prompted me to study the secular pro-choice arguments and one of them that really struck me was that abortion rates didn't seem to change much based on legality of abortion, the only thing that changed was how dangerous they were. Due to this I moved from a hazy view of "sometime after conception" to a belief that viability was a good determining factor, in line with Roe v. Wade. At some point I came across the disease anencephaly. Anencephaly is when a fetus develops without a forebrain, and thus is braindead before birth, but still viable. This prompted me to analyze my views further and I came to the conclusion that what I value is what Carl Sagan expresses in the article Spermus linked. I value thinking human life. This means that for me, life begins at consciousness.

This puts me at the far end of the pro-choice spectrum as consciousness doesn't undeniably appear until about 1 minute after birth and the biological processes that allow for the fetus to wake up only begin at labor. A fetus has no ability to think or feel pain, and as such I don't feel it is immoral to prevent it from attaining a state where it can. I'm a bit hazy still on exactly where to draw the line, but in my opinion, it is certainly immoral at the first breath and certainly not immoral prior to the beginning of labor.
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« Reply #27 on: January 27, 2012, 02:35 pm »

Hey Fermun, if I understand correctly you don't believe abortion prior to labor is problematic because the fetus can't think or feel pain before that point. Would you mind tossing me any links that support that idea, or just briefly explaining what reasoning led you to that deduction? From what I've read on the subject I always thought it was a bit earlier, most likely for the pain thing but especially the beginning processes of human thought.
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fermun
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« Reply #28 on: January 27, 2012, 02:53 pm »

Thinking is the more important part of my belief, and certainly a fetus can not think because it is maintained in a state of hormonal- and neurochemical-induced sedation that prevents wakefulness. Older studies tend to use premature births as analogues for a fetus, and these are problematic as a direct analogue because a birth is a huge change. Here's some articles that discuss it:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20356798

http://journals.lww.com/pedresearch/Fulltext/2009/03000/The_Emergence_of_Human_Consciousness__From_Fetal.1.aspx

http://altweb.jhsph.edu/bin/g/y/paper79.pdf

http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/294/8/947
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Not A Spatula
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« Reply #29 on: January 27, 2012, 03:31 pm »

Thanks. To be honest, taking those articles in full faith I still don't understand the sureness of your opinion, but I do appreciate any neutral scientific information.
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HyperGlavin
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« Reply #30 on: January 27, 2012, 05:48 pm »

I take to heart all of the comments saying they hate the "parasite" or "tumor" comparisons. I think that's what kept me from responding to the "killing a child" comment, because saying, "well, it's not a child" has less to do with the law and everything to do with dismissing someone's feelings about an unborn fetus. What about making the distinction between when a fetus can viably live outside the womb? I mean, that is what the Roe v. Wade decision is based on, that's where the trimester issue comes up. Generally if late-term abortions are legal, and in most places they are not, it is only in the case of the mother's health. And you know, if women had access to abortion without excessive waiting periods, and were able to get accurate health information without being misled by pro-life pregnancy centers, elective late-term abortions would pretty much cease to be a thing.
So I guess what I'm asking here is if those discussions of viability fall into the same category of arguments as the "parasite" comments do, or not.

I certainly hope not, as this is one of the defining views of the pro-choice side and if pro-lifers aren't going to be receptive of this view because the very concept of, and justification for, disagreeing with them is offensive, then there is literally no way you can have this discussion rationally or sympathetically.

I'm all for giving people as much benefit of a doubt as is warranted and I see no reason to call anyone out here, but come on, we are adults here. Part of maturing is learning that we have to deal with difficult concepts that may offend us occasionally. It is impossible to avoid that altogether on this topic.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2012, 05:54 pm by HyperGlavin » Logged

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« Reply #31 on: January 27, 2012, 09:49 pm »

I feel like your are referring to a very narrow spectrum of people that consider themselves pro-life. Granted, they are the most vocal. I, at least, am not talking about those people because they'll never be convinced. Along the same vein, I am not asking pro-choicers who feel so strongly they cannot concede even word choice to make a more sympathetic and convincing argument for those who disagree with them. If that is not your style, that's fine. But I think anyone who wants to convince someone who has a different view than them on this topic could think more critically about the way they approach it. And if I was talking to pro-life people I would be saying the same thing (like don't call pro-choicers "babykillers"). It has little to do with being mature or taking offense to easily.
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HyperGlavin
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« Reply #32 on: January 27, 2012, 10:33 pm »

I wasn't referring to word choice. I was referring to the discussion topic itself, as per Betty's question. To lump every discussion on a topic on the same level as the worst arguments within that discussion is basically a flat-out dismissal of the topic as unworthy of consideration at all. It's like David Wong with his Plane-On-A-Treadmill lunacy, which has everything to do with being immature and taking offence too easily.

And I must reiterate: I'm not trying to point fingers at anyone here, but with regards to language, there's only so far you can break it down that you're no longer defining your point so that others can understand it.

Sometimes, people make a war.
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« Reply #33 on: January 28, 2012, 12:50 am »

Okay, maybe I just don't understand what you mean. Of course lumping and making generalizations is bad, but this is a topic that more frequently than others (not always and almost never around here) gets extremely heated and devolves into irrational argument.

I am pushing the language point a lot because it is something I have a very close experience with. It is people talking in language that did not make me feel isolated that helped me to change my opinion. So maybe I am in the minority there, but I don't think I am that unique and I hope others can have that same experience that I did. It's not even this topic in particular that I emphasize language and attitude on, this is one of many.  Maybe online I miss things that would sound completely different face-to-face, but I feel like white liberals and especially those that are male (I really don't know many white males, much less liberal ones, in person) discuss certain topics in a way that might isolate marginalized groups that they would like to help. This is just one of the topics I feel this way about, and specifically, I feel like it is latinas brought up Catholic that could benefit from this issue being framed in a particular way using certain language that does not make them feel demonized or isolated.
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« Reply #34 on: January 28, 2012, 09:14 am »

I agree with Cat; I think language is really important in framing a debate and in making arguments in ways that don't leave people feeling demonized or foolish or like there's no common ground. Being able to talk about viability is certainly important, but I want to know if there's a way to do so without it sounding calculating or cold to people who strongly believe in the right to life at conception, or shortly after conception. I love that Carl Sagan piece- it is well thought out and well argued, but I wonder if it would seem cold to someone who is primarily pro-life.

It seems like the most likely common ground would be on issues of birth control access and healthcare and sex ed- it's the policy-makers who have turned those things into points of contention for the pro-life movement, but I imagine most individuals who are pro-life would actually be in favor. I'd say that maybe discussion of viability of the fetus is something that shouldn't be brought up right away, but the pro-life framing of the debate does often resolve around killing babies- like that chant in my first post, from some protesters in DC this week because of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Is a conversation hopeless if it starts off on those grounds?
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« Reply #35 on: January 29, 2012, 08:47 pm »

The one thing that I really did like out of Sagan's piece is that he correctly identifies that the humanity of the fetus is really the only issue.  To be frank, I've always found the discussions of choice and women's freedom to be complete red herrings.  I'm of the belief that anybody that identifies as pro-life should be willing to have a respectful discussion of whether a fetus is a human, without simply relying on religious backing for it.  That said though, any discussion of freedom of choice as the fundamental issue presupposes that the fetus is not human (otherwise choice is irrelevant), and thus doesn't begin from a meaningful place for both sides of the discussion.  Most disastrous arguments I've read/heard about abortion become disasters in the first place because unlike Sagan, the parties fail to identify the relevant issue of dispute.


I agree with you Betty that it seems like common ground issues of access to birth control and sex-ed seem to be good starting points.  In fact that's essentially the implication of Obama's stance (or at least his political pose) on the issue.  Basically, what I see as the relevant element there is that we're all basically saying "Can we agree that women using abortions as birth control is not ideal, regardless of what we think about the nature of a fetus?"  As I've alluded in some of my other posts here, my personal religious beliefs aside, I find it naive to approach the issue from the perspective that all women should be trained to carry the responsibility of fending off all men til they're ready to have babies.  If, as many conservatives do, you want to make the "how do we prevent abortion?" answer be about personal responsibility, then you should be providing as much room for responsible behavior as possible.  Arguing that pre-marital abstinence is the only responsible course is unnecessarily engaging religious beliefs into the debate, and shuts down pro-choice listeners the same way that presuming the fetus is just cells shuts down pro-life listeners.

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HyperGlavin
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« Reply #36 on: January 29, 2012, 09:12 pm »

I just want to put it out here that I agree with JRB on this one. We butt heads so much over a lot of shit that I feel that needed to be said.
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« Reply #37 on: January 29, 2012, 09:17 pm »

When they're talking about the War on Women, they're talking about pro-life legislation that not only seeks to ban abortion, but to restrict access to healthcare, to contraception, and to comprehensive, factual sex education. Anyone serious about reducing the number of abortions should oppose those restrictions, but the forces behind the pro-life movement do not. And there is no other motivation behind those restrictions but to keep women from retaining control over their bodies. It sounds hyperbolic and I completely understand why casting it as some kind of epic battle turns people away from the conversation- if I were talking about women's health rights in casual conversation, I absolutely wouldn't use that language. It's worth remembering that the legislation extends far beyond abortion bans, though, into exerting control over a woman's bodily freedom.

While I understand the perspective on this that you're communicating, I just want to point out that people who oppose contraception and comprehensive sex education do so because they believe A) those behaviors are sinful and B) it's their duty to pass laws making America Jesus's country.  (Why they oppose healthcare from a religious perspective I can't explain beyond the fact that the Republican party is selling this as a political package and that opposing government anything is a plank of theirs, so it gets tossed in for good measure.)

I've said already that I completely disagree with that perspective, but I'm just trying to say that the reasoning for those peoples' perspective isn't due to indifference toward women.  It's about loving Jesus and not understanding why every woman in the world doesn't want to love Jesus as much as they do.  Therefore, talking about a "War on Women" isn't a meaningful way of attacking those beliefs, because they honestly believe that Jesus wants them to bring those "sinful" women to God. Again, regardless of how ridiculous that is, I'm just suggesting that the "War on Women" approach is counterproductive.

From my perspective, the only meaningful way to address the disagreement there is to explain why freedom of religion and separation of church and state are good things, and why they wouldn't like to live under Sharia Law just because Islam was the predominant religion in the country.  Practically speaking, that argument may also be futile, but at that point you may as well not be arguing with them anyway.  My only point is that it seems to me that what you really want to achieve is to convince those people that pragmatic discussions of reducing abortion (regardless of actual legality) are the most productive approach to the "problem" of abortion.  And that pragmatic approaches require recognition of why unplanned pregnancies occur with a realistic view of how to reduce them.  Otherwise, trying to explain the "War on Women" just results in you appearing to be ignorant of or intolerant to their deep seated religious beliefs.

On a personal level, I've had some success getting "pro-life" voters to take a larger view of pro-life in that way, in some cases resulting in support for pro-choice politicians based on an increased likelihood of reduced abortions as a result of their policies.
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Bettytron
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« Reply #38 on: January 29, 2012, 10:52 pm »

I'm not sure if I made it clear here or in the other thread, but I completely agree that trying to explain the idea of a War on Women isn't going to change anyone's mind. I think it's only useful as a rhetorical tool for inspiring people who're already pro-choice into action. Beyond that, I agree, it seems to sidestep the issue at the heart of the debate.

I've said already that I completely disagree with that perspective, but I'm just trying to say that the reasoning for those peoples' perspective isn't due to indifference toward women.  It's about loving Jesus and not understanding why every woman in the world doesn't want to love Jesus as much as they do.
I guess the problem here is that this interpretation of the Bible or of their place of worship's teachings is hostile to women- it puts the responsibility of childbirth and rearing on women while taking away the tools they need to handle or control it. And I certainly wouldn't go up to someone and tell them that their deeply held beliefs are sexist, because that won't change anyone's mind. People who oppose contraception access also aren't interested in separation of church and state- they're the same people who feel that this is a Christian nation, and that these very traditional beliefs are the only way to keep our kids safe. It's dogmatic!

I agree with both of your posts above. I do think that using the pragmatic view of reducing abortions by any and all safe healthy means is the goal for everyone. It's a really important common ground and it's backed up by fact over and over. There are myriad charts pointing to correlation between lower teen pregnancy rates and comprehensive sex ed. And Obama's "legal, safe, and rare" stance on abortion, plus the recent addendum that requires insurance companies to cover b.c. for all women, no copays or deductibles, are huge. I can see those kind of measures having long-reaching influence on how we look at reproductive rights. I still don't know how one would get through a conversation with someone who just believes that everyone should be abstinent unless they're trying to reproduce, but I guess it's worth remembering that those are fringes, whose minds would never be changed. Probably plenty of people support abstinence-only generally, but could probably at least hold a straight-forward conversation on the subject.

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« Reply #39 on: January 30, 2012, 10:12 am »

Quote
That said though, any discussion of freedom of choice as the fundamental issue presupposes that the fetus is not human (otherwise choice is irrelevant)

I disagree. Choice only becomes relevant if we presuppose that the fetus is human. Otherwise, there's no point in even bringing up the concept of choice - unless the fetus is human, there's no moral force opposing abortion. It would be like promoting the right to amputation as a choice.

There are actually two interlocking debates going on here:

1. Is a fetus human? (If the answer is "no," then you can skip Step 2. You're going to be pro-abortion rights whatever happens there).
2. If the fetus is human, then what are the rights of the mother?

Plenty of pro-abortion rights activists have tried to sidestep Step 1 by saying that, even if the fetus is human, the mother still has the right to abortion because she gets to choose what happens to her body. Here's an example. That's where "choice" becomes relevant - being "pro-choice" as opposed to just "pro-abortion rights" means that you think that the woman has the right to choose even if the fetus is human.
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