Thoughtful discussion of abortion

Via and I wasted all that birth control, I found this truly thoughtful discussion at Arwen/Elizabeth’s site about a key question behind the abortion debate, namely when does a fetus become a human being with rights of its own. I’m not sure anyone’s opinion was changed, but people were listening, not shouting past each other.  (And Cecily is one of the world’s classiest people.)

I was particularly intrigued by the comments that some people made about how their positions on this issue were affected by their experiences of pregnancy.  I found that having my children made both the reality of the potential life growing within and the horror of forcing a woman to continue an unwanted pregnancy more vivid to me.  It didn’t change my position on what I think the laws should be, however.

The NYTimes today has an article on how pro-life counseling centers are buying ultrasound machines to use to convince women not to have abortions.  I know such centers sometimes (often?) get women in under false pretenses and put a lot of pressure on them.  But, if you’re going to trust women to make these decisions, I don’t think it’s right to protect them from reminders of the potential for life.  (Although personally, I couldn’t see a thing on any of my sonograms; the simple heartbeat was much more impressive to me.)

Hugo Schwyzer has an interesting post this week on what it means to be male, pro-feminist, and pro-life.  He concludes that his most important work is in the area of changing men’s attitudes and of supporting male responsibility. 

The Nation had a powerful piece a couple of weeks ago on how Mississippi laws have made abortion "out of reach, buried under state laws that make the process unnecessarily difficult, discouraged by a sense of shame enforced by practically every public authority, and inaccessible for many who lack money to pay for it."  This is clearly the strategy being used in Virginia as well.   Unfortunately, this approach makes the sort of honest back and forth discussed above almost impossible.

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Rad Geek People’s Daily is promoting a bit of googlebombing to ensure that searches for Roe v. Wade get you to the text of the decision rather than to an advocacy site. 

8 Responses to “Thoughtful discussion of abortion”

  1. Jen Says:

    Last year there was a National Catholic Reporter editorial about the “cheap grace” of those who oppose abortion but do nothing to help mothers raise the children they’re forced to keep. I listen very closely to anyone who talks about valuing all children, not just the unborn.

  2. t Says:

    Thanks for the links. You always seem to find the most interesting posts on the most interesting topics. Keep up the great work!

  3. Christine Says:

    Just came across two articles in the May 24, 2007 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine regarding the ban on partial-birth abortion and its affect on doctor decision to perform. It is really worth reading to anyone pro-choice and pro-women’s health. I have a little review at my blog.

  4. amy Says:

    I do think it’s wrong to push that sort of vision, Elizabeth. There are times when the right thing to do is going to be scarring and difficult in one way or another. Making it more so is a service to no one. If a woman wants or needs an abortion and she wants to close her eyes so as to do the deed in a way that will be less horrible, I say fine.
    I don’t believe I could support A. while caring for a newborn, and I don’t believe there’s virtue in taking one child to live in poverty in order to grow a second one. Nor do I believe growing a child in order to farm it out is responsible to that child; I don’t believe any life is better than no life. I believe it’d be responsible, if I were pregnant, to have an abortion.
    This does not mean I’d need the memory of the ultrasound haunting me the rest of my life. If some well-meaning idiots decided that it was “only right” that I see the child I was about to abort, I would do what I could to have my abortion in another place with less thoughtlessly cruel rules.
    The ultrasound thing disturbs me because of the women who won’t have thought about these things before they walk in the door. There are message boards full of women raising children in poverty and real deprivation, and the incidence of major problems is distressing. Serious and often untreated mental illness in both mothers and children. (Most fun are the noncustodial fathers who refuse to give the children their medication on their two-days-a-week or successfully intimidate the doctors.) Developmental disabilities uncompensated for. Moves every few months, dangerous neighbors, hero boyfriends who — who knew — turn out to be abusive. I do not think it’s helpful to press any woman’s buttons in order to give her and her children a shove downstairs to that life.
    The day that these organization set up meaningful 18-year housing stipends and health insurance, and reliable 18h/day childcare for all their victims, I’ll be glad to support them in tugging on heartstrings. Otherwise, no, sorry.

  5. Elizabeth Says:

    Christine, thanks for the mention of the articles. Sounds interesting.
    Amy, I do not think that women seeking abortions should be required to have ultrasounds before they can have the procedure done. But the original article was about organizations that offered free ultrasounds to pregnant women to try to influence their decisions. And I still think that if I’m going to trust women, I need to trust them all the way.
    The new Brain, Child has a very moving article by a woman who worked as a counselor in an abortion clinic, about her experience counseling women while at the same time dealing with her own loss of a wanted pregnancy.

  6. amy Says:

    Elizabeth, here’s what you’ve said:
    “But, if you’re going to trust women to make these decisions, I don’t think it’s right to protect them from reminders of the potential for life.”
    “I do not think that women seeking abortions should be required to have ultrasounds before they can have the procedure done. But the original article was about organizations that offered free ultrasounds to pregnant women to try to influence their decisions. And I still think that if I’m going to trust women, I need to trust them all the way.”
    I am not sure what you mean, then. Are you saying you support the groups’ attempting to influence vulnerable women, because the idea is we should trust women to protect themselves even in the most vulnerable circumstances? If so, how does that square DV issues? It seems to me you get to “we have to step back, and trust women to figure it out and leave” pretty fast.
    Yes, I agree, ultrasounds should be available if women genuinely want to have a look before making a decision about abortion. If they see the public-health announcements and make the calls themselves, for instance. But what you’re talking about is going to be coercion in many cases. Scripted, friendly, cup-of-tea coercion. Because whatever they may say, they are not interested in the woman; they’re interested in getting the baby born. And I don’t think it’s right to leave these organizations able to coerce women into potentially harmful actions.
    I don’t see either that “trust women to decide about abortions” entails “trust women to look after their own best interests at all times.” I mean if you do go that far you really have to include men, too, and then you’re as good a libertarian as they make. We could throw away large regulatory apparatuses.
    Or maybe I’m missing what you’re saying.

  7. Christine Says:

    I really don’t think an ultrasound will make that much of a difference if a woman is determined to have an abortion. My reasoning is that what about couples that see an ultrasound, but have to make the decision to terminate a baby that is severely deformed, has down-syndrome or any other host of medical problems. Unless one is getting that 3-d sono, which I find strange looking, a regular sono is not offering much emotionally except for the hearbeat. It is a difficult decision regardless.

  8. dave.s. Says:

    Kerry Howley had the following lesson in interpretive autonomy:
    Allen C. Lynch of the University of Virginia recalls visiting [Russia] when the American pro-life film The Silent Scream was shown on TV there. The film is very graphic and unsparing in its examination of the effects on the fetus, its object being to prompt in the viewer revulsion and disgust at the procedure. “It turned out that more Russian women,” wrote Professor Lynch, “became more positively attuned to the idea after having watched the film. Instead of the baby’s pain, Russian viewers noticed the clean hospitals, the state-of-the-art technology, the briskly professional doctors and nurses. Women marveled: “Wouldn’t it be great to have an abortion in the West?”

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