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Thread: The silenced majority in America's crazed abortion debate

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    The silenced majority in America's crazed abortion debate

    Abortion is tragic in the strict sense of the term. It's an act that pits fundamentally irreconcilable absolute rights against each other — the pregnant woman's right to determine what happens to her own body without state interference against the right to life of the fetus she carries inside her womb. Anyone who adopts an absolute position on the issue, denying the moral weight of the case for the opposite view, does so through an act of willful, ideologically motivated simplification.

    In a country where laws reflected this tragic reality, abortion would be safe and legally available early on in pregnancy, while freely available birth control and generous support for pregnant women would contribute to making it as rare as possible. Restrictions on abortion would increase as the fetus approaches viability, with the termination of a pregnancy after viability allowed only in the rarest and most wrenching of cases — when the mother's life is at significant risk and/or doctors learn that the baby will suffer from severe, life-threatening health problems.

    Such an arrangement would build on the widespread moral intuition that the fetus is a matter of relative moral indifference early in pregnancy but develops into a being possessing full dignity and rights by the time of birth. For many people, this intuition makes a first-trimester abortion minimally unsettling but one during the third trimester morally monstrous, with second-trimester abortions somewhere in between.

    That the United States is moving away from policies that reflect these intuitions is a tragedy, too, though this time in the less precise, colloquial sense of word: It is a terrible misfortune. Our abortion crackup is a synecdoche for the political dysfunction that afflicts our politics as a whole, with activists on the extremes controlling the agenda on both sides and the reasonably conflicted majority in the middle increasingly silenced, its voice barely penetrating the debate in state houses and courtrooms.

    The center of gravity in public opinion on abortion very much reflects the moral messiness of reality. According to Gallup's long-running tracking poll on the subject, just 18 percent of the country wants the procedure banned in all cases, and just 29 percent want it legal in all cases. That's 47 percent in favor of purity on one side or the other. That leaves a bare majority — 50 percent — supporting a compromise view that keeps abortion "legal under some circumstances." It's also worth noting that, despite what many pro-choice activists like to imply about a male-driven crusade to transform the country into the misogynistic tyranny from The Handmaid's Tale, the Pew Research Center has shown that men and women hold quite similar views on abortion — with 60 percent of women and 57 percent of men in favor of keeping it legal in all or most cases, and 36 percent of women and 37 percent of men preferring in all or most cases to ban it. (The discrepancy between the two polls is mainly a function of Pew's decision to lump together those on the extremes and in the center — "all or most" — on each question.)

    Instead of public policy reflecting the rightly conflicted majority view — as it tends to do, for example, in much of Europe — we have a misshapen, increasingly grotesque situation in which only the extremes prevail.

    In Republican-controlled states, most in the South and Midwest, legislatures are passing draconian laws severely restricting abortion and sometimes banning it outright, with few, if any, exceptions for the life and health of the mother. They're doing so in the expectation that a federal court will block the laws, setting up an appeal to an increasingly conservative Supreme Court, where pro-life activists hope a majority of the justices will opt to overturn or gut Roe v. Wade (1973) and Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992), the cases that established and reaffirmed a constitutional right to abortion.

    Meanwhile, facing a pro-life movement emboldened by the Trump administration's efforts to advance its cause, other states (including Virginia, New York, Vermont, and Rhode Island) have passed or are working to pass laws that bolster or expand abortion rights. Those efforts, including others in Nevada and New Mexico, are being cheered on by a pro-choice movement that increasingly deploys arguments and rhetoric that deny the self-evident humanity and moral worth of the child in utero.

    Even if the Supreme Court fails to fulfill the most fervent hopes of the pro-life movement by fully and explicitly overturning Roe and Casey, it is quite likely to permit greater state restrictions on abortion than we've seen since the 1970s. The result will be a country governed by two very different legal regimes. In one America, it will be increasingly difficult, and in some cases impossible, to procure an abortion, with a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy, no less than the abortion provider, facing potential arrest, prosecution, conviction, and jail time. In the other America, a woman will be free to abort her pregnancy up to and perhaps beyond fetal viability with a minimum of legal oversight.

    In one America, the laws will recognize and protect the rights of the fetus alone. In the other, it will recognize and protect only the rights of the pregnant woman.

    As the nation learned in the 1860s, intractable divisions on matters of life, death, and personal freedom can be civically poisonous and ultimately incompatible with a minimum of national cohesion and peace.

    But, at least on abortion, the U.S. faces a different kind of tension and conflict today. Each extreme looks likely to get its way in certain states and regions. But what about the views of the silenced American majority that would prefer the law to recognize and protect, or at least strive to balance, however imperfectly, the rights of both the pregnant woman and unborn child? Not abortion banned outright — and also not abortion on demand, without restriction — but something between the extremes, something genuinely humane, acknowledging the tragic conflict and trade-offs? That moderate position may soon become a relic of a bygone age, like bipartisan compromises in Congress and media outlets that speak to all Americans instead of narrow factions.

    The convictions and preferences of tens of millions of conflicted women and men is likely to have little influence over the shape of abortion law in the coming years. In America, government is increasingly conducted as a clash among mobilized activists pursuing incompatible vision of moral purity. And in no area of policy is that truer than it is on abortion.


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    While I don't agree with everything written here, it's a good description of what's happening with the abortion debate in this country. I was interested that the article mentioned the abortion laws in most of the EU because a while ago I read something similar about that very thing as it pertained to the UK. That particular article focused on the fact that, as a country, the UK had their debate about abortion and passed legalizing it but with restrictions. The author went onto say that she believed if the US, as a country, had been able to have a discussion about abortion and possible restrictions...instead of the SC deciding it...then we would not have the strong divisiveness that is going on today over the issue.
    May we raise children who love the unloved things - the dandelion, the worm, the spiderlings.
    Children who sense the rose needs the thorn and run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards the sun...
    And when they're grown and someone has to speak for those who have no voice,
    may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things and be the one.

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    Michelle -
    While I don't agree with everything written here, it's a good description of what's happening with the abortion debate in this country. I was interested that the article mentioned the abortion laws in most of the EU because a while ago I read something similar about that very thing as it pertained to the UK. That particular article focused on the fact that, as a country, the UK had their debate about abortion and passed legalizing it but with restrictions. The author went onto say that she believed if the US, as a country, had been able to have a discussion about abortion and possible restrictions...instead of the SC deciding it...then we would not have the strong divisiveness that is going on today over the issue.
    That's probably true. Very few countries allow unlimited elective abortion. In Europe, it typically has to happen before 20 weeks.

    Limiting it to early abortions won't satisfy some but butchering the unborn days before birth doesn't sit right with most people and neither does refusing medical care for an infant who somehow survives the procedure.

    The SC decision was a bad one as almost all legal minds agree (whatever side they take on this issue).

    I wish that more time and money was spent on educating girls and women about the many adoption alternatives available today. Too many believe (paradoxically) that giving a baby up makes them a "bad" mother but that killing a kid somehow doesn't. Adoption now always leaves the door open a bit if a woman does later desire a relationship but it doesn't demand that relationship if she declines.

    It seems like a more humane choice for both.

    In the meantime, restricting it to early abortions seems practical if not moral. If you going to go down that path, it's better to do it before the baby can suffer.
    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gingersnap View Post
    That's probably true. Very few countries allow unlimited elective abortion. In Europe, it typically has to happen before 20 weeks.

    Limiting it to early abortions won't satisfy some but butchering the unborn days before birth doesn't sit right with most people and neither does refusing medical care for an infant who somehow survives the procedure.

    The SC decision was a bad one as almost all legal minds agree (whatever side they take on this issue).

    I wish that more time and money was spent on educating girls and women about the many adoption alternatives available today. Too many believe (paradoxically) that giving a baby up makes them a "bad" mother but that killing a kid somehow doesn't. Adoption now always leaves the door open a bit if a woman does later desire a relationship but it doesn't demand that relationship if she declines.

    It seems like a more humane choice for both.

    In the meantime, restricting it to early abortions seems practical if not moral. If you going to go down that path, it's better to do it before the baby can suffer.
    I heard a radio discussion of this today, the take away from which was that the number of babies carried to term and then given up for adoption is becoming negligible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newman View Post
    I heard a radio discussion of this today, the take away from which was that the number of babies carried to term and then given up for adoption is becoming negligible.
    A lot of that is better contraception. Most women don't rely on condoms for birth control anymore - they are more of a back-up or a disease delay strategy.

    Part of it is abortion or Plan B-type drugs. More so in some subcultures than others although it crosses all demographics.

    There's just such a stigma today when women give their kids into adoption but hardly a raised eyebrow for early abortion.
    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gingersnap View Post
    A lot of that is better contraception. Most women don't rely on condoms for birth control anymore - they are more of a back-up or a disease delay strategy.

    Part of it is abortion or Plan B-type drugs. More so in some subcultures than others although it crosses all demographics.

    There's just such a stigma today when women give their kids into adoption but hardly a raised eyebrow for early abortion.
    Mostly that, I think, plus the concerted effort for a long time now to remove any stigma from "unwed motherhood." When was the last time you heard a woman called an unwed mother?

    Apparently the mother's heartache for the absent child never ends. Absent meaning adopted.
    “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.... We really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.” —Saikat Chakrabarti, then AOC's Chief of Staff, explaining the Green New Deal for the hard of hearing.

    "We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them." —CNN's Don Lemon, showing how to stop demonizing people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Newman View Post
    Mostly that, I think, plus the concerted effort for a long time now to remove any stigma from "unwed motherhood." When was the last time you heard a woman called an unwed mother?

    Apparently the mother's heartache for the absent child never ends. Absent meaning adopted.
    I'm sure it's a very hard decision but I've known enough women who had early abortions and their heartache doesn't seem to end, either. Not at first, but in later years these women seem to have some major regrets and there is nothing they can do to ameliorate the situation.

    They mentally keep track of potential birthdays, graduation days, etc. They now (with more age and experience) realize that the situation that seemed life-ending (for them) at age 20 or 25 really wasn't. Some have already divorced/left the husband/boyfriend they feared would react badly. They may have been able to keep a second child and think of that child's dead sibling and what that life would have been like with two. Some were never able to have another child either because of scarring from the procedure or because they waited too long after that and they wonder what their lives would have been like if they'd made a different decision or had a now adult child that was adopted.

    It's a mess.
    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gingersnap View Post
    I'm sure it's a very hard decision but I've known enough women who had early abortions and their heartache doesn't seem to end, either. Not at first, but in later years these women seem to have some major regrets and there is nothing they can do to ameliorate the situation.

    They mentally keep track of potential birthdays, graduation days, etc. They now (with more age and experience) realize that the situation that seemed life-ending (for them) at age 20 or 25 really wasn't. Some have already divorced/left the husband/boyfriend they feared would react badly. They may have been able to keep a second child and think of that child's dead sibling and what that life would have been like with two. Some were never able to have another child either because of scarring from the procedure or because they waited too long after that and they wonder what their lives would have been like if they'd made a different decision or had a now adult child that was adopted.

    It's a mess.
    I've never had a woman share with me that her own abortion was a lasting source of such regret, not that I as a guy would be a likely confessor. But in the whoops and applause as accompanied the rallies at Tuesday's National Day of Action to Stop the Bans, I scarcely hear acknowledgment of regret, either, or even solemnity.

    Quite the opposite.

    Over the years the only such conflicted emotions I recall at the moment were testimonials by men to the effect that they supported abortion rights despite personal misgivings. I'm probably just forgetting women I know who said the same. My favorite line was from some pro-choice rally several years ago, from the mouth of a talented airhead actress, declaring to cheers, "I'm marching for abortion today because my mother couldn't get one."

    The oddest thing I heard today was Rep. Swalwell's nonchalance about the lives of his own children.

    Swalwell at Pro-Choice Rally: It Was My Wife’s Decision to Have Children
    "My wife Brittany also wants you to know we've got two beautiful children, Nelson and Cricket [nickname for Kathryn], but the decision to have children was her choice," Swalwell said to loud cheers....
    I wonder what his kids will get him for Father's Day. Hallmark could probably make a fortune with a "Thanks for Caring. Not." Father's Day cards. Perhaps we're fortunate the diffident Swalwell has promised to pick a woman as his running mate.

    Moving another step away from abortion itself, I'm more and more uneasy here, Ginger. How exactly is it fair that the question of carrying or aborting a baby is entirely and inviolably the mother's concern, and the father is irrelevant, except for a humongous financial burden that hinges on the woman's decision?

    Is Dad-to-be-or-not-to-be Eric Swalwell expected to plead his case a little, or just keep his lips zipped? When does persuasion cross the line into pressure and patriarchal oppression?

    (And lest someone suggests a baby daddy keep his zipper up, I'll say that's as laughable as suggesting the woman should keep her knees together.)

    Isn't it more likely men will turn away completely, saying, "OK, it's your call. But don't call on me. If I don't get a say, I don't have to pay"?

    Are we counting on men not to care one way or another whether his kid is born? Whatever, honey, you decide.

    Sounds more like making dinner reservations to me.

    How reasonable is it to expect men not to care if their child is born or buried, but to hop to the manly responsibilities of fatherhood, as we see constantly in TV commercials?

    Not very, I'd say.


    .
    Last edited by Newman; Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019 at 10:06 PM.
    “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.... We really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.” —Saikat Chakrabarti, then AOC's Chief of Staff, explaining the Green New Deal for the hard of hearing.

    "We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them." —CNN's Don Lemon, showing how to stop demonizing people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Newman View Post
    Isn't it more likely men will turn away completely, saying, "OK, it's your call. But don't call on me. If I don't get a say, I don't have to pay"?

    Are we counting on men not to care one way or another whether his kid is born? Whatever, honey, you decide.

    Sounds more like making dinner reservations to me.

    How reasonable is it to expect men not to care if their child is born or buried, but to hop to the manly responsibilities of fatherhood, as we see constantly in TV commercials?

    Not very, I'd say.
    .
    I am the kind of woman that other women express stuff to and I have sheltered women who had abortions (didn't support it but sat up all night with their cramps). Today, I don't know about how I should feel about that.

    Men are one half of this problem. They should theoretically step up and be wonderful Dads full-time in the house. That they don't is understandable now. They have no commitment to any hook-up sex. Who does?

    Millions of boys are being killed or growing up in female dominate households to no good end. Girls need Dads and boys need Dads even more. Yes, you can raise a competent, moral, well-adjusted child without one sex but it's a lot more difficult. Not insurmountable by any means but more difficult.
    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

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    I don't comment in public as a rule. This is because I don't enjoy clatter and frankly there are so few who are willing to discuss in unemotional terms. Then there is the problem of some of my relatives (not Celeste) on Facebook. Honestly, these are some very intelligent people who make some very poor arguments.

    On top of all that, I sincerely do not want to shame women who have had an abortion whether they regret it or not. MY other good reason for not posting a lot about it is that my position isn't entirely consistent or defensible.

    The arguments that drive me nuts:

    1- If you don't want one don't have one. A person of reasonable intelligence knows that this argument cannot be applied to any other harm done to another. You don't say "If you don't lilke burglary then don't have one."

    2- If you don't have a uterus then you aren't entitled to an opinion. This one is especially stupid but also offensive to some of the folks on the Left. Transwomen don't have a uterus (collective or individual).

    3- It's my body I can do what I want.

    MY dear cousin brother is dismayed by what he perceives to be my shift to the Right. IN fact, I'm pretty much as I always have been except that as I got older I started to care about something I didn't care about as a young man. Abortion is one of them.

    The worst clash of logic is probably that we probably are better off without all of those unborn people.
    I'm thinking that once, in 1953, a group of interesting people just happened to be in a coffee shop at the same time and a great discussion of issues, ideas, and the meaning of life occurred. Since then we have been waiting at Starbucks for Lawrence Ferlinghetti to say something heavy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Novaheart View Post

    The worst clash of logic is probably that we probably are better off without all of those unborn people.
    I was shocked to hear that one again this week-end, from a "reasonable" liberal, and old friend and wonderful person. As she put it, without abortion we'd have a flood of poor people, or words close to that. I replied quickly that she was "sounding a bit too much like Margaret Sanger there," and we didn't revisit it.

    Logic will drive you to extremes on this, I believe. Last night on TV I heard yet another person say that a person was created at "the moment of conception." I understand the truth of that—it's not a baby kangaroo forming in there—but it's surely overreach. A woman isn't relieved of quotidian chores at the moment of conception, pampered and protected; nor is she reduced to a carefully monitored incubator. More important, the zygote is not accorded constitutional rights. I don't think it's possible to do so.

    But somewhere along the way that changes, and I'm not at all sure logic will give us the divining rod we want.

    One common complaint of new mothers is the burdens of childcare rob her of the carefree single life and its stimulation. One might compare and contrast the words themselves, childcare and carefree. But the frustration has driven mothers to kill their children, to throw the child off a bridge for lack of a babysitter, for example. In the old days of legendary "shotgun weddings" the father/boy might have had similar misgivings, I speculate. Tough noogie-boogies, the shotgun wielder might say.

    Babies no doubt are such a burden. People who are pregnant and want the little roo call it a baby from the get-go. People who don't want it call it a fetus. In general we've drawn a logical dividing line on the word viable, but that's a moving target. I'll gladly assume that sometime soon we'll be able to nurture a zygote to healthy infancy completely outside the living mother. Then what?
    “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.... We really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.” —Saikat Chakrabarti, then AOC's Chief of Staff, explaining the Green New Deal for the hard of hearing.

    "We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them." —CNN's Don Lemon, showing how to stop demonizing people.

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