The Lost Children

by Jeff Taylor on January 22, 2010 · 43 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Culture, High & Low,Politics & Power

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Jacksonville, AL.    On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions that forced legalized abortion on all 50 states: Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.  Together, they represented a serious defeat for the unalienable right to life, the constitutional system of federalism, and the principle of democracy.  The court unleashed something deeply regressive.

There are many ironies in the movement for legalized abortion.  Although it is backed most strongly by those with an affinity for the secular, objective values of modern science, it was science that led to the creation of state laws against abortion in the nineteenth century.   Advances in medical technology and knowledge led physicians to understand that life begins at conception, not at the point at which the pregnant woman can feel the baby kick (usually 18-21 weeks gestation).   The point of “quickening”—referring to life—was originally a religious theory that saw God infusing the fetus with a life-bearing soul.  It was thought that the baby was not yet alive until the woman felt internal flutters or kicks.  Biological knowledge corrected the theory and identified the existence of human life at the point of conception.   For this reason, the American Medical Association began encouraging the protection of unborn babies from the very beginning of development.  Sadly, by the 1960s, the AMA joined the ABA in rejecting science and embracing injustice.

Pro-choice advocates claim to speak especially on behalf of poor folks, people of color, and women, yet the movement was primarily founded and funded by rich white men.  Historically, abortion in the United States has nothing to do with women’s rights or Democratic liberalism.  Its roots were in the eugenics movement and the Playboy philosophy before it was adopted by feminists in the late 1960s (largely through the instrumentality of Betty Friedan of NARAL and NOW).  Abortion was correctly seen by feminists in the nineteenth century as a symptom of patriarchal oppression and exploitation of women, not as a prerequisite for women’s equality.  It was understood to be a sign of women’s inequality.  From Mary Wollstonecraft to Alice Paul, the greatest feminists and suffragists from the late 1700s to the early 1900s all viewed abortion as the sad destruction of the woman’s own child.  They were pro-life in the broadest sense of the term.  The Revolution, a newspaper owned by Susan B. Anthony and edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, called abortion “shameful, revolting, unnatural” and “inhuman.”

In December 1965, Playboy became “the first national magazine to advocate legal abortion” (Catharine A. MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified, 261).  The Playboy Foundation has been funding pro-abortion groups ever since.  Pregnancy has always been an unsexy inconvenience for Hugh Hefner and other sexual objectifiers of women.  Abortion was not universally legalized in 1973 as a result of demands by women.  It was bestowed as a “gift” by seven men.

All seven men were unelected by the people.  This befits the twentieth-century foundation of abortion in the elitist population control movement, with its inherent racism and classism.  Given the views of Margaret Sanger and her male colleagues, there is a reason so many abortion clinics are located in the inner city and why the Black Power movement opposed abortion as genocidal.  The social context also helps to explain why African Americans are the most pro-life ethnic group, why poor people are more pro-life than wealthy people, and why women are more likely to be pro-life than men.  A movement dominated by rich white men has limited appeal beyond the confines of unelected judicial benches.  Ironically, “Jane Roe” (Norma McCorvey) and “Mary Doe” (Sandra Cano), supposed plaintiffs in the original cases, are now pro-life activists.

The eugenicists were largely Republican in politics, including the Rockefeller family.  Six of the seven justices who voted for Roe and Doe were Republicans.  Half of the two Democrats on the court voted Nay (Byron White).  Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the leadership of the Republican Party since Nixon has never done anything substantive to end or even limit legalized abortion.  Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, pro-choice justices have been appointed, funding for Planned Parenthood continues, and morally conservative Christians are exploited for electoral purposes.  The GOP establishment either privately supports abortion or just doesn’t care.  It would be a great political loss to the party if abortion is ever overturned because it would mean the loss of a convenient wedge issue that is cynically used against Democrats.  In addition to Feminists for Life of America, one of my favorite pro-life organizations is Prolife Across America.  Neither is religiously sectarian or politically compromised.

On the anniversary of the Moloch cult being blessed by our most undemocratic branch of government, the tragic personal cost of abortion is summed up by a perceptive piece at RedState.com.  I have little faith in the Republican Party as a vehicle to reach the desired goal, but I join the authors in their desire to see Roe v. Wade join Scott v. Sandford as an aberrant footnote to our nation’s history.  “On this day, we remember the nameless and the forgotten, and we lament our inability to even grasp the sorrow or the extent of their loss. Requiescat in pace.”

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Cecelia January 22, 2010 at 7:51 pm

thanks – timely review of the history and could not agree more with your observations especially re: tyhe Repubs.

avatar Bob Cheeks January 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Jeff, may God bless you for this essay.
The Republicans deserve your criticism alas, it is the commie-Dems who layed up the abortion plank in their sanguinary platform. As far as the Rockefellers they are more or less opportunists. West Virginia senator,Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat, is pro-Abortion and said when the Clinton health care package failed, that “…you’ll get gummint healthcare whether you want it or not.” Well, Jay, old palsy, it may be a while.
Your argument that “…morally conservative Christians are exploited for electoral purposes” by the gutless Neocon/GOP is true enough and I expect that the tea-partiers are going to have a word or two about that, but those docters and nurses that actually chop up the infant are by and large Democrats and in the case of the nurses, probably union Democrats.
Democrats butcher children, Neocon Republicans merely look away.
Again, thanks for posting this, I appreciate it.

avatar Bruce Smith January 23, 2010 at 10:12 am

At root I would argue that our decisions in life are based upon a split between compassion for people and contempt for people. These are emotionally driven thoughts which then often have a super-structure of rational justification added to them. My argument for this viewpoint is based in part upon the findings of neuroscience:-

http://thethirdculture.wordpress.com/category/computational-neuroscience/

The other part I base my argument on is observation of human behavior. This week’s ruling by five Supreme Court judges that it was a breach of free speech to prevent corporations from running political advertisements during election campaigns is a case in point. Law is meant to represent the will of the people and on the basis of at least one private poll an over-whelming majority of Americans do not agree with the ruling of these five judges:-

http://politics.newsvine.com/_question/2010/01/21/3788203-do-you-agree-with-the-supreme-court-ruling-allowing-corporations-and-unions-to-spend-freely-in-political-campaigns-

The implication is that these five judges are in contempt of their own or the People’s Supreme Court, or more simply made their decisions with contempt for people. Accordingly it seems reasonable to argue they have provoked a constitutional crisis the logical resolution of which is that the powers of the Supreme Court must be curtailed because the sovereignty or, will of the people, must reside in a democratically elected assembly. Indeed I would go on to argue that the Senate should be abolished since it is does not truly represent the will of the people (a small population state has as much voting clout as a more populous one, etc.) but that is another argument. If the People are in the business of curtailing the powers of the Supreme Court on the basis that the will of the People expressed through the House of Representatives should prevail over the Court then the right of the Supreme Court to determine abortion law is up for review by the House.

Emotionally with exceptions I am against abortion. However, I can see that although compassion drives this in several ways I must guard against contempt for people in having my particular emotional outlook. I can see, for example, that abortion should be allowed where it threatens the life of the mother to allow the pregnancy to proceed. I can also see that from a psychological health viewpoint there could be grounds for terminating a pregnancy, clinical depression, for example. I am also aware though that termination on the grounds of rape could be abused if only this and the above two arguments were the sole grounds for abortion. This last point then reminds me of a woman’s right to choose since trying to get an abortion by false accusation of rape indicates the reluctance of a woman to go to term and happily and successfully nurture the child for eighteen years. This would suggest to me that if I am arguing the House of Representatives should determine abortion law and not a few judges in the Supreme Court who are liable to make contemptuous law as often as they make compassionate then how the House of Representatives compassionately approaches the issue is important. I would, therefore, argue that the issue that it should be the sole prerogative of females to decide the law on abortion should be determined through a national referendum of both male and female voters. Everything should then proceed from that point. This is paradoxically the most compassionate approach because whilst getting members of society to acknowledge the sanctity of life will make for a more compassionate society the whole issue of abortion seems to be stuck around who is the most compassionately eligible to vote on the matter. If society chooses that compassion is better served by having both sexes or the female sex only vote on abortion law then the female sole prerogative argument can be forgotten and the subsequent decision/s over abortion becomes less encumbered.

avatar Jason Peters January 23, 2010 at 11:46 am

Jeff–

It is refreshing to hear someone say plainly that the GOP has been thumbing a ride from the abortion issue. Republicans have duped a lot of people–and in doing so secured their votes–by professing to be against an atrocity they have no intention of doing anything about.

I have often thought that there might be some clarifying benefit from trebling the issue to include war and the death penalty. My sense is that most pro-lifers are batting only .333, whereas most pro-choicers are batting .666.

If there’s a grim little joke in that, it nevertheless says something about the Right’s unimpressive commitment to life.

The desideratum, of course, is to bat a thousand.

Your concluding lamentation–our inability to grasp the sorrow–is a fine touch.

avatar D.W. Sabin January 23, 2010 at 11:54 am

The Supreme Court should be “un-democratic”. If we respected this , it’s proper role, we would not have the Court descending into political action in service to democratic urges and bypassing both the legislative function and prudence itself through decisions such as Roe v. Wade….not to mention the general hand-off to Special interests of the action this past week.

Rather than calling it by the clinical descriptive “abortion”, we would be well-served by referring to it as what it is: Infanticide. A culture that sanctifies infanticide within a regime of pampered abundance is a culture that has lost all measure of recognition for the abiding mysteries and great treasure of life. Ditto a culture that fatalistically accepts poverty by institutionalizing it. This is precisely why the apparatchiks decorate the argument with the garment of “rights”. Who could argue with an individual’s essential rights to control their bodily functions and rights of reproduction? Well, I could when it is violating the rights of the weakest amongst us, reducing the life spark to a clinical yea or nay and exhibiting a pathology of forgiven murder.

That said, amongst the most publicized opponents, there is too little said about the historic litany of horrors of illegal abortion, about real applicability in cases of medical trauma, about the depths of torment involved in cases of rape and about those who take it upon themselves to be judge, jury and executioner and murdering someone obeying the current laws of the land. Perhaps i am misinformed in this regard, it wouldn’t be the first time, nor obviously the last.

In the end, we deceive ourselves when we assert that we are living in democratic nation. First, we live in what was once a a Republic. Second, we fail to meet the most basic responsibilities of a right-ordered democracy and lastly, though not yet as thoroughly retrenched and independent as Japan’s, our Bureaucracy is gaining and it swoons to the blandishments of Special Interest who are masters of obfuscation and political theater. In Wedge Issues We Trust…… then the Government goes about its business, enriching itself as a parasite, sowing cynicism and doing its level best to balkanize the populace in order to avert a serious ordering along the lines of a States Rights-centric Federalism. Big Government and Big Business were once considered antagonists but they have married in this materialistic age and have roundly confused our sense of “rights” with an idea that our rights are in fact our “conveniences”, thus insulting the very definition of “rights” . Rights are not a convenience, nor a natural occurrence springing out of the halcyon mists of the past. They are something earned by a people who must exert effort to retain them and part of this effort involves a higher calling in discourse, knowledge and compassion. We fail in this test and so the Supreme Court takes it upon itself to arrive at some kind of lesser evil …all gussied up and beribboned as “rights”. It is altogether unsurprising that a nation which awards individual human rights to a Corporation deems it prudent to deprive them from the babe in the womb. The Corporation can reach into and clutch our political process just as the Government can reach into the womb and clutch the unborn in its hand and declare it has no rights….in order to preserve a malleable definition of rights determined in committee….and now Board room.

This windyness is all to obscure the fact that I feel myself largely incapable of deciding anything on this issue based upon the press releases granted us in the vicarious agora. As a result, I retreat to default and come down on the side of life.

avatar Amy Julia January 23, 2010 at 8:25 pm

I’m grateful for this posts, and agree with what you have to say. I’m curious to know more about where you got your information, however. Books? Articles? I know there are a few links, which is great, but I’d love to have a better bibliography of the evidence you cite–that African-Americans are more pro-life, for instance, or that the early feminists were pro-life. If you have those easily available, could you send them to me via email?

Thanks,

Amy Julia

avatar John Médaille January 23, 2010 at 10:35 pm

The eugenicists were largely Republican in politics, including the Rockefeller family. Six of the seven justices who voted for Roe and Doe were Republicans. Half of the two Democrats on the court voted Nay (Byron White). Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the leadership of the Republican Party since Nixon has never done anything substantive to end or even limit legalized abortion.

You might even have gone further, to point out that two states permitted abortions before Roe, New York and California, the bills signed by Governors Rockefeller and Reagan. Indeed, abortion on demand was just part of the libertarian rhetoric of “getting the govmint out of the bedroom.” Reagan became a convert when he saw the tremendous power of this issue. And the GOP has been riding it ever since. 70% of the judges in this country were appointed by Republicans. They have no intention of letting this issue die. They will toss the right a bone from time to time, but they will not repeal Roe.

avatar Aaron Schroeder January 24, 2010 at 12:53 am

A second, here, for a more comprehensive bibliography, as a number of relatively recent studies I’m familiar with seem to contradict your data.

See, for instance, this 2008 study from the Guttmacher Institute: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/2008/09/18/Report_Trends_Women_Obtaining_Abortions.pdf. (Not sure how to hyperlink on FPR, so you may have to copy and paste the URL.) The study finds that, in the U.S. in 2004, white females had abortions at a rate of 10.5 abortions per 1000 women, whereas black women had them at a rate of 50 abortions per 1000 women. And further, consider this 2002 study (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3422602.html), which finds that lower and lower-middle class (below 200% of poverty) women account for 57% of all abortions, despite accounting for only 30% of pregnancies. One wonders, then, how you can conclude that “African Americans are the most pro-life ethnic group” and that “poor people are more pro-life than wealthy people” in light of such data.

To comment more broadly, I don’t mean to come down on either side here, but this is just a bad argument against abortion, rife with (bad) innuendo, red herring, and ad hominem attacks. I’m all for the interesting, substantive lines of argument from the pro-life position that yield some progress in the debate. Indeed, other essays on this site have made such contributions. This, unfortunately, does not belong to that contributory class.

avatar Bob Cheeks January 24, 2010 at 7:45 am

A question: Given that the commie-dems have institutionalized abortion/infanticide within their own party, is it a sin for a “Christian” to be a registered Democrat?
Comments?

avatar dave January 24, 2010 at 2:11 pm

One of the problems with discerning the will of the people is it’s variability, at least as far as I can tell.

I think wedge issues work, politically, partly because most Americans don’t really pay close attention to politics. Sounds silly to say, but while everyone might have an opinion on the health care debate or so on, I doubt many know what is actually in the bill. And who knows what other bills are in committee?

Candidates have, in effect, a blank slate upon which to define upcoming elections. They are manipulative, but the blank slate is our own doing.

avatar Jeff Taylor January 25, 2010 at 10:40 am

Cecelia, Bob, and Jason, Thank you for the encouragement. The Democrats are less hypocritical than the Republicans on abortion but that’s only because the national leadership more openly glorifies the supposed right. So which is worse? Phoniness or open embrace of wrong? I guess it was Rochefoucauld who said, “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.”

Bob, I don’t think it’s a sin to be a registered Democrat or Republican, but—either way—you’re picking your poison. I declared myself a Republican in 2008 so I could vote for Congressman Paul even though I disagreed with the party establishment on almost everything.

Jason, I agree that war and the death penalty can be linked to abortion. Personally, I have a consistent ethic on life. At the same time, such linking can muddy the water. There is a difference between killing an adult convicted of a heinous crime and killing an infant in the womb who is completely innocent. As reaction to my Martian Invasion essay proved, the idea that humans should abstain from violence against other humans is controversial at best. Certainly a minority position among Americans, including traditional Christians. I’m glad you liked the concluding lamentation. I borrowed those words from the RedState.com authors. Reading their piece is what inspired me to write something of my own.

D.W., I agree that the founders gave us a republic, but I would prefer a democracy. The federal judiciary is undemocratic. Some of us see that as bad, while others see it as good. I agree, also, that abortion is infanticide, but using that kind of language often shuts down the discussion before it starts. Or even if you’re not aiming for discussion with pro-choicers, there’s the problem of marginalizing yourself in the eyes of people on the fence. But, objectively, you are right. Opponents of abortion do have to resist the temptations of glibness and self-righteousness. Over the years, I have had close friends who have had abortions and others who have been strongly pro-choice, which makes it more difficult to be so condemning and smug on a personal level. Thank you for your eloquent, if depressing, summary of our culture of Big Government and Big Business.

John, I assume Reagan’s conversion to the pro-life cause was sincere but it doesn’t say much for his thoughtfulness and leadership when he was gullible enough to believe what he was told in 1967. You mention Nelson Rockefeller’s role in New York. He was supported in that move by Senator Robert Kennedy, by the way. Many of the states which “liberalized” their abortion laws in the pre-Roe years were led by Rockefeller Republicans—e.g., John Love (CO), Daniel Evans (WA), Tom McCall (OR), Winthrop Rockefeller (AR). Other Rockefellerites were active at the national level, including John D. Rockefeller III and Robert Packwood. Tossing the right a bone, yes. Usually just a rhetorical bone. Unfortunately, the National Right to Life Committee has sold its soul to the GOP.

Aaron, The Guttmacher Institute was founded as the research arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). I have no reason to doubt its statistics, but it cannot be viewed as an objective data analyst. It is an advocacy group for the abortion industry and the population control movement. The statistics you cite are not surprising and do not contradict the point I was making. I was referring to public opinion, not frequency of abortion, when writing “African Americans are the most pro-life ethnic group” and “poor people are more pro-life than wealthy people.” Sorry that I was unclear. The eugenics movement, from which the abortion rights movement arose, did not target affluent whites. It targeted poor blacks, poor whites, and other supposedly “undesirable” minorities. As I say, that’s why so many abortion clinics are found in inner city neighborhoods. It’s not surprising that their efforts have paid off in attracting a largely poor and black clientele.

It’s widely understood that African Americans are more religious than European Americans, proportionately speaking. Same with poor people vs rich people. I assume that repeat abortion receipients and religious-minded folk are not the same people. In other words, most blacks who obtain abortions are not the same people who tell survey takers that they strongly oppose abortion. Similarly, the fact that some black men “marry” each other in a handful of states does not negate the fact that most blacks consider the concept unnatural and immoral.

Dave, I don’t think most politicians want to “discern the will of the people.” More a problem of volition than ability. The will of the majority was easily discerned on the Wall Street bailout of 2008 but that didn’t stop the politicians from doing the opposite. I do agree that We the people often have ourselves to blame because of our ignorance and weakness.

Amy, I didn’t cite many sources because I was trying to keep the essay short. A multitude of sources for the concepts and facts are found in a book manuscript I wrote 15 years ago: A Liberal Analysis of the Abortion Rights Movement. Because I wrote it in 1995, some of the public opinion sources are a bit dated, but there is no reason to think that cultural attitudes of various groups have changed in any major way. I will cite my sources in a follow-up comment. Thank you for asking.

avatar Patrick Ford January 25, 2010 at 11:46 am

See here for some recent polling data: http://people-press.org/report/549/support-for-abortion-slips

This supports Mr. Taylor’s claims that minorities favor legalized abortion less than whites, but it undermines the assertion that men are more favorable toward abortion than women. It does not categorize by income, but it does by education level, which substitutes fairly well for income data, and those statistics do seem to support the claim support for abortion increases with income.

Aaron, try to understand the argument before casually tossing out accusations of bad faith and bad scholarship.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm

You could not be more wrong. Roe v. Wade had nothing to do with eugenics. It was a sound, conservative ruling, based on the well established constitutional law which protects American citizens from government interference in their private lives. We ALL expect to keep government out of our lives, but, we differ around the edges, wishing to insert government interference into certain aspects of our neighbors’ lives, while insisting that our neighbors should NOT insert government interference into our own lives as THEY see fit.

The notion that “life begins at conception” is sloppy. Life begins long before conception. Abortion may stop a beating heart, but so does dissecting a frog in biology class. The real question is, when does a HUMAN life, independent of the mother, exist in the womb? There are many who sincerely believe that if the strands of DNA are all lined up, 23 chromosome pairs, inside a single cell, that is a human being. I respectfully disagree. Abortion is never a decision to be made lightly or casually — and I know there are some who advocate that it can or should be. There is plenty of good cause to advocate caution, and those who believe it is inherently evil have every right to urge that understanding on their fellow citizens. However, as a matter of law, until there is a self-aware, cognitive, person, metabolically independent of the mother, or close to it, the police powers of the state should not be invoked.

Roe v. Wade forces nothing on the states. It restrains states in the exercise of their inherent police powers. James Madison advocated at the time the Constitution was first drafted that states, as well as the federal government, should be restrained from interfering with individual liberty. He lost that argument, and the Supreme Court insisted that the Bill of Rights offered no protection for an individual citizen oppressed by tyranny at the state level. The Fourteenth Amendment essentially vindicated Madison, restraining states in the exercise of their police powers. Thank God, and thank God for Roe v. Wade.

avatar Bruce Smith January 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I know this is slightly off-topic but why did the Democrats not have a clearly thought-out and agreed Health Care Bill prepared during the eight years of a Republican presidency and ready to be voted through upon Obama taking office? Why also did they not have a clearly thought out strategy for dealing with the controversy of abortion given the trend against it and the fact its a health care issue? Why does a sort of dilettante elitism pervade both Democrat and Republican policy formation rather than democratic grassroots formation?

avatar Jeff Taylor January 25, 2010 at 3:33 pm

In writing my essay, I intentionally left out any direct reference to God or the Bible. In some ways, religious arguments against abortion have been unhelpful to the wider cause because they provide so many convenient red herrings (e.g., separation of church and state). I don’t oppose abortion because I “believe” life begins at conception. I oppose it because I know life begins at conception. Religious dogma vs scientific knowledge. While I can cite Jeremiah in opposition to abortion, I think it’s better to cite Jefferson when we’re speaking to a wider audience. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” vs “Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . . among these are Life.” I’m a Christian and I’m unapologetic about that, but theological arguments against abortion are effective only for those who share our religious assumptions. Mostly it’s just preaching to the choir. I try to use biological, historical, and political arguments in undercutting the abortion rights position. You don’t have to be a faithful Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Pentecostal, or Mormon to understand what I’m saying. You don’t even have to be a conservative Republican. If anything, my arguments are mostly aimed at liberal Democrats and Greens.

Sources:

AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION and AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION -
(examples of the predominantly wealthy-white-male U.S. establishment)

The Hippocratic Oath, used as an ethical standard by physicians for over 2,000 years, says, “I will give no deadly drug to any, though it be asked of me, nor will I counsel such, and especially I will not aid a woman to procure abortion.” (W.H. Ogilvie, “Medicine and Surgery, History of.” Encyclopedia Britannica. William Benton, 1967. v. 15, p. 95.)

The Declaration of Geneva, drawn up by the World Medical Association in 1948, says, “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of conception…” (J.C. Willke and Barbara Willke, Abortion: Questions & Answers. Hayes Publishing, 1988. p. 188.)

In June 1967, the AMA’s House of Delegates passed a resolution calling for the “liberalization” of state abortion laws. (Donald Janson, “A.M.A., in Reversal, Favors Liberalization of Abortion Laws,” New York Times, June 22, 1967, pp. 1, 79.) This was a reversal of the position on abortion held by the AMA since 1871. The 1871 policy statement condemned “the wholesale destruction of unborn infants.” (Willke and Willke, Abortion, p. 189.) The Roe v. Wade majority opinion was written by Justice Harry Blackmun, former AMA general counsel and former Mayo Clinic general counsel.

In 1972, the ABA endorsed abortion on demand: “The A.B.A.’s 307-member House of Delegates, a traditionally conservative body heavily weighted with elderly corporate attorneys, approved the abortion proposal without debate and with only 30 dissenting votes.” (Fred P. Graham, “Bar Group Supports Eased Abortions,” New York Times, February 8, 1972, p. 37.) One of the pro-abortion votes in 1973 was from Justice Lewis Powell, former ABA president and former general counsel of the Rockefeller-founded-and-funded Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. In a confidential memo sent to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce director two months before he was nominated to be a justice, Powell wrote, “Few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation . . . One does not exaggerate to say that in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the ‘forgotten man.’” (National Journal, January 5, 1974, pp. 16ff.) Was Powell delusional or dishonest? At this point, he had already been a corporate attorney, corporate director, and ABA president.

EUGENICS AND POPULATION CONTROL –

Emily Taft Douglas, Margaret Sanger: Pioneer of the Future. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970. (pp. 58-59, etc.)

Robert M. Veatch, ed., Population Policy and Ethics: The American Experience. Irvington, 1977. (p. 173, etc.)

Thomas M. Shapiro, Population Control Politics: Women, Sterilization, and Reproductive Choice. Temple University Press, 1985. (pp. 33-34, 47, 56, 137-65, etc.)

Elasah Drogin, Margaret Sanger: Father of Modern Society. CUL Publications, 1986.

George Grant, Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood. Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1988.

Angela Y. Davis, Women, Race & Class. Random House, 1981. (pp. 202-21, etc.)

Laurel Richardson and Verta Taylor, eds., Feminist Frontiers II: Rethinking Sex, Gender, and Society. Random House, 1989. (pp. 315-16.)

Zillah R. Eisenstein, ed., Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism. Monthly Review Press, 1979. (pp. 107-50.)

Germaine Greer, Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility. Harper & Row, 1984.

PLAYBOY PHILOSOPHY –
(sexism and misogyny)

Sweet, Pro-Life Feminism. (pp. 156, 180, etc.)

“Abortion Rights League Backed,” Playboy, March 1979, p. 12. (NARAL’s “first national fund raiser in support of women’s right to choose” was held at Playboy Mansion West and hosted by Hugh Hefner.)

Lindsy Van Gelder, “Playboy’s Charity: Is It Reparations or Rip-Off?” Ms., June 1983, pp. 78-81.

Andrea Dworkin, Right-Wing Women. Perigee, 1983. (pp. 88-105, 148-52.)

Catharine A. MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law. Harvard University Press, 1987. (pp. 93-102, 144-45, 248-51, 261.)

EARLY FEMINISTS WERE PRO-LIFE –
(seeing forced pregnancy and resulting abortion as symptoms of women’s inequality and oppression—i.e., abortion was part of the disease, not part of the cure)

Mary Krane Derr, Linda Naranjo-Huebl, and Rachel MacNair, eds., Prolife Feminism: Yesterday and Today. Sulzburger and Graham, 1995.

+ articles in The American Feminist via FFLA website (http://www.feministsforlife.org/history/index.htm)

BLACK POWER AND GENOCIDE –
(racism, white supremacy and paternalism)

Veatch, Population Policy and Ethics, pp. 170, 177.

Mimi Hall, “Social Reformer or ‘Racist, Bigot’?” [Sanger] USA Today, October 11, 1991, p. 4A.

“The First National Congress on Optimum Population and Environment,” Population Bulletin, November 1970, pp. 5-6.

J.C. Willke and Barbara Willke, Handbook on Abortion. Hayes, 1975. (pp. 150-51.)

Mary Krane Derr, “A Light to Shine: Fannie Lou Hamer,” Harmony, December 1993, p. 4.

Mary Meehan, “The Other Right-to-Lifers,” Commonweal, January 18, 1980, p. 15.

Greer, Sex and Destiny. (p. 382, etc.)

Nanette J. Davis, From Crime to Choice: The Transformation of Abortion in America. Greenwood, 1985. (pp. 254-56.)

Thomas W. Hilgers and Dennis J. Horan, eds., Abortion and Social Justice. Sheed & Ward, 1972. (pp. 231-39, etc.)

J.C. Willke, Slavery and Abortion: History Repeats. Hayes, 1984. (p. v, etc.)

Gail Grenier Sweet, ed. Pro-Life Feminism: Different Voices. Life Cycle, 1985. (pp. 61-64.)

Harold Hughes, “When Does Life Begin?” Congressional Record, Senate, May 31, 1973, p. 17560.

Ernest B. Furgurson, Hard Right: The Rise of Jesse Helms. W.W. Norton, 1986. (p. 232.)

Jim Wallis, ed., “Abortion: What Does It Mean to be Pro-Life?” Sojourners, November 1980. Reprint. (p. 16.)

“A Plan of Genocide,” The Final Call [Nation of Islam], September 14, 1994, p. 16.

PUBLIC OPINION: AFRICAN- AMERICANS MORE PRO-LIFE THAN WHITES –

National public opinion polls reveal that there is a higher level of pro-life sentiment among blacks than among whites. (Jerry L. Yeric and John R. Todd, Public Opinion: The Visible Politics. 2nd ed. F.E. Peacock, 1989. p. 68.) (Raymond J. Adamek, Abortion and Public Opinion in the United States. NRL Educational Trust Fund, 1986. pp. 13-14.)

In a study conducted during the 1980s, modernist Protestants (virtually all white) were 62% pro-choice, while black Protestants were only 35% pro-choice. (Wade Clark Roof and William McKinney, American Mainline Religion: Its Changing Shape and Future. Rutgers University Press, 1987. pp. 112-13, 206-07.)

In 1984, the General Social Survey (GSS) asked Americans if they agreed with the statement, “Women should be allowed to have an abortion for any reason.” 40% of the whites responding agreed with the statement, while only 27% of the blacks agreed. (David C. Saffell, Readings in American Government: The State of the Union. Prentice Hall, 1991. p. 52.)

In 1988, Feminists for Life of America sent a survey about women and abortion to Democratic National Convention delegates. Results showed that delegates supporting Jesse Jackson were more likely to be pro-life than delegates supporting Michael Dukakis. Jackson delegates from Southern states and New York—where they were more likely to be black—were more likely to oppose abortion rights than Jackson delegates as a whole. Of those responding to the FFLA survey, 25% of the Jackson delegates overall and about 33% of the Jackson delegates from the South favored some form of Human Life Amendment. 40% of the Jackson delegates overall and 53% of the Jackson delegates from the South favored an Inclusive Equal Rights Amendment (ERA and HLA). (“FFL Opens Closet at Demo Convention; Pro-Lifers Fall Out,” Sisterlife, Summer 1988, pp. 1, 6.)

PUBLIC OPINION: POOR PEOPLE MORE PRO-LIFE THAN WEALTHY –

National public opinion polls reveal that there is a higher level of pro-life sentiment among lower-income individuals than among upper-income individuals. (Yeric and Todd, p. 68.) (Adamek, p. 12.) (Neil S. Newhouse, “Abortion: Cutting Across Party Lines,” The Polling Report, September 4, 1989, p. 6.)

The Connecticut Mutual Life Report on American Values in the ‘80s discovered that 65% of the general public believed that abortion is “morally wrong,” while 35% of the general public believed that abortion is “not a moral issue.” In contrast, 42% of the business leaders believed that abortion is immoral, while 58% of the business leaders believed that abortion has nothing to do with morality. (Willke and Willkie, Abortion: Questions and Answers. p. 263.)

A 1985 survey revealed that 68% of college-educated professionals favored “allowing women to have abortions,” while 28% opposed. The largely pro-choice professionals were not liberal in the traditional sense of the word. They tended to be upper-income and anti-labor. (James MacGregor Burns, J.W. Peltason, and Thomas E. Cronin, Government by the People. 13th ed. Prentice-Hall, 1987. p. 254.)

A 1990 Wirthlin Group survey showed that almost all members of union households did not want the AFL-CIO to ake a position on abortion, but if it were going to do so, more union members were in favor of a pro-life position than a pro-choice position (43% vs 31%). (Dave Andrusko, “Pro-Abortion Forces Turned Back; AFL-CIO Remains Neutral on Abortion,” National Right to Life News, August 16, 1990, pp. 1, 4.)

Note above Roof & McKinney references to the study of modernist Protestants (62% pro-choice) vs black Protestants (35% pro-choice) in the 1980s. Modernists belong to the wealthiest Christian grouping; blacks belong to the poorest Christian grouping.

In December 1994, Fortune commissioned a poll of chief executives of America’s largest corporations. Of the CEOs responding, 59% were “adamantly pro-choice, agreeing with the statement that ‘a women should be able to get an abortion if she wants one, no matter what the reason.’” (Richard I. Kirkland Jr., “Today’s GOP: The Party’s Over for Big Business,” Fortune, February 6, 1995, p. 53.) In contrast to big business leaders, the majority of common people have always opposed legal abortion except in relatively rare cases (life of mother, rape, incest). For example, according to a poll conducted by CBS News in January 1995, 60% of Americans believed that abortion should be strictly limited or not permitted. (“Poll Shows Most People Still Favor Abortion Rights,” [sic—depends on how you define AR], Columbia Daily Tribune, January 23, 1995, p. 2A.)

PUBLIC OPINION: WOMEN MORE PRO-LIFE THAN MEN –

National public opinion polls reveal that there is a higher level of pro-life sentiment among women than among men. (Yeric and Todd, p. 68.) (Adamek, pp. 8, 13.) (Saffell. p. 58.) (James Q. Wilson, American Government: Institutions and Policies. 3rd ed. D.C. Heath, 1986. p. 104.)

A 1990 Wirthlin Group survey of AFL-CIO members indicated that 43% were pro-life. Pro-life sentiment was even stronger among female union members surveyed: 52% were pro-life. (Andrusko; “Pro-Labor, Pro-Life,” Sisterlife, Spring 1990, p. 16.)

Pro-life feminists are not surprised that men are more favorable toward abortion than women, on balance. [Obviously there are many exceptions and it is true that the strongest grassroots pro-choice activists are women.] Abortion can be a great convenience for men. It can be used to hide incest, to keep prostitutes in working order, to prevent the necessity of child support payments, to maintain the sexy image of one’s partner, and to select a proper (male) heir. Many men support legalized abortion for distinctly un-feminist reasons. Hugh Hefner, Bob Packwood, and Bill Clinton are case studies. Male chauvinist pigs. Strongly committed to “choice.” No contradiction there.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 25, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Jeff, I received your latest response to various comments by email, and read through it, although not carefully parsing every entry on your impressive bibliography. I can’t tell if you were responding, in part, to my comment or not. I can’t find a connection though. I also find no productive reason to debate religious doctrine. I can debate the meaning of Jeremiah, but ultimately it has no bearing on the civil or criminal law of an earthly government. The Hippocratic Oath reflects Greek philosophy at the time it was written. The AMA position taken in 1871 was part of a drive for professionalization and standardization of the practice of medicine, which protected us from both snake oil salesmen and competent midwives, and included the increasing adoption of abortion laws which did not exist at the inception of the republic, nor for some decades thereafter. I don’t see the relevance of balancing polls and popularities to a constitutional issue, nor do I see much relevance to exactly what Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell were doing before they became justices. The right to be left alone by the state is the primary constitutional issue.

Bruce Smith’s inquiry is an interesting one. I’m not sure the Democratic Party as such was particularly prioritizing a major health care reform bill in the first place. Barack Obama’s campaign was not the epitome of his party’s center of gravity, and that had something to do with why he won. He sacrificed a lot of his credibility by playing politics as usual trying to get his own majority to deliver a health care bill at all, and what came out of that isn’t terribly impressive. My own state’s Democratic senator said publicly last week that if it keeps getting watered down, he could reach a point where he would have to vote no. He did vote no on the financial bail-outs, not because it wasn’t necessary, but because there were no provisions to re-regulate the financial industry to prevent a repeat. Along the same lines, I doubt that they were thinking ahead to “what if abortion becomes a big deal?”

I don’t, personally, have a problem with with the pro-life Democrats insisting that there be no funding of abortions. Roe v. Wade does not find an affirmative right to abortion, merely a right to be left alone to make the decision, free of police interference. It is the nature of politics that candidates come in whole packages. None of us get to slice and dice, mix and match, to come up with The Perfect Representative, who after all would be perfect only for me, not for the rest of my fellow voters.

avatar Jeff Taylor January 25, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Siarlys, I didn’t respond to your comment because it appeared while I was still working on mine. I appreciate that we can disagree without being insulting. As you say, we all have to share the planet so it behooves us to figure out a way to understand and respect each other–even though we’ll never agree on many things.

Although Roe v. Wade did not arise solely because of eugenics, I see a direct link. The eugenics movement morphed into the more-respectable sounding population control movement following the bad publicity garnered by the Nazis, and the population control/family planning crowd gave birth to the abortion rights movement in the early 1960s. It’s the same cast of characters–Planned Parenthood, Rockefeller Foundation, etc. I especially recommend the Shapiro and Greer books in this regard. Roe was never based on women’s rights, as radical feminists have always recognized (Greer, MacKinnon, Dworkin, etc.).

I disagree that Roe “was a sound, conservative ruling, based on the well established constitutional law.” I see the opposite. It was a radical departure in many ways and even many supporters think it was built on shaky if not flawed legal reasoning. How well established could it be when it was built directly on the foundation of Griswold v. Connecticut–the birth control decision handed down in 1965 (a mere eight years prior)? The ABA did not endorse unrestricted abortion until February 1972, just a year before Roe. None of that sounds conservative or well established to me.

The motivations of Blackmun, Powell, and the other five men are relevant for precisely this reason. I believe Blackmun arrived at his conclusion before he ever heard the case and then he and his clerks concocted a weak legal justification. I suspect that the votes for abortion on the high court were motivated mostly by upper-class mores. They had no moral scruples about abortion, so why not make it easier for the poor to be “helped”? It was misguided noblesse oblige, mixed with throwing a bone to the women’s libbers.

I don’t think racism consciously entered into the minds of the justices. After all, two of the pro-abortion men were Thurgood Marshall and William Douglas. But the population control movement provided the context in which legalized abortion came to the forefront of medicine, law, and government…thereby becoming socially respectable (from an upper-class perspective). If the Population Council, the President’s Commission on Population Growth and the American Future (chaired by J.D. Rockefeller III, as appointed by Nixon), PPFA, and NARAL had not been there pushing the issue in elite circles throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, it would not have gotten the attention of the Supreme Court.

I, too, believe in a right to privacy. The right to be left alone. Instead of talking about penumbras, the honest approach would be to appeal to the Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” I also believe in a right to choice. It was bestowed by God and is known as free will. It is the foundation of individual liberty. But the right to privacy and choice do not trump the right to life. There is a reason Locke and Jefferson began with life in listing the unalienable natural rights. It is the most basic right of all. If government cannot protect life there is no rationale for the social contract (unless you’re a materialist obsessed with property, I guess, but that doesn’t cut it for me).

Privacy is important, but we do not legally allow homicide in the privacy of our bedrooms, homes, hospitals, or back allies. Choice is important but we do not give people the right to choose to kill others, rape others, steal from others, etc. As you know, there are individuals who enjoy doing such things, but privacy, choice, and freedom do not exist in a vacuum and they are not absolute. We live in a community and we have obligations to others. Others include our Creator, who gives us our rights as human beings, and our children, whom we bring into existence through conception.

This leads me to our most basic difference in perspective. I am convinced that life begins at conception and you are not. I don’t know what you mean when you say, “Life begins long before conception.” You have a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm before conception. Those are products of human life, but they are not separate, unique, independent forms of life. I don’t know anybody who claims a spermatozoon is a human life. It can help to produce one, but it is not one by itself. It is a cell produced by a human life and it is capable of reproduction. There is a significant, qualitative difference between a sperm cell, an egg cell, and a fertilized ovum.

Just because a zygote-embryo-fetus is small and unseen does not mean it lacks life with unique DNA. Those are just scientific terms for an unborn baby at various stages of development (arbitrarily assigned by science for purposes of classification). Turning from medicine to literature, I agree with Horton: “A person’s a person, no matter how small!”

If you concede that abortion may stop a beating heart (which it does, after an early point in gestation), you’ve acknowledged that human life is present…it’s just very small and may or may not succeed in being born. Birth not guaranteed and many embryos die, but there is a big difference between “spontaneous abortion” (miscarriage) and “induced abortion” (intentional destruction). As an animal rights supporter, I disapprove of frog dissection, but it’s a stretch to compare frogs with unborn human babies.

You write, “as a matter of law, until there is a self-aware, cognitive, person, metabolically independent of the mother, or close to it, the police powers of the state should not be invoked.” But that’s just an arbitrary view. When does human life begin, if not at conception? Does it vary from human being to human being? If so, this seems to be getting into the realm of sociology, not biology. Science is usually not so murky and subjective. I don’t know what “metabolically independent of the mother” means. Do you mean “viability,” as the Supreme Court pontificated in Roe? The unborn baby, from conception, has independent DNA, cell structure, and growth.

Obviously, the baby is dependent on her/his mother in the womb, but that’s also true outside of the womb. I have a 14 month old son. He’s not “independent of the mother.” If his mother or father do not feed him, he will not survive. Is he “viable”? That’s a silly social construct that seven Supreme Court justices made up to rationalize their personal preferences (with some assistance from willing scientists and sociologists). Children remain dependent on their mothers for many years but that does not give mothers carte blanche to do with them as they choose.

I disagree that “Roe v. Wade forces nothing on the states.” It did indeed force legal abortion on all of the states. You can turn the equation around and say, “It restrains states in the exercise of their inherent police powers,” but it’s the exact same values, just expressed negatively instead of positively. The Tenth Amendment forbids Roe v. Wade from the get-go. Police powers were always reserved to the state governments.

If Madison wanted to restrict the police powers of the states, that’s to his discredit. I do know that Madison made a promise in Federalist No. 45:

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

That’s the promise. (We know how it has turned out in practice.) Madison contends that state powers will be resereved in regard to the “lives, liberties, and properties of the people.” Note that the right to life comes first once again. So there’s no contradiction between the Constitution and its founders and the pre-Roe situation in which most states criminalized abortion (penalizing the abortionists, not the women), some states allowed abortion in some circumstances (including the big loophole “health,” which meant not only physical but mental and emotional), and a few states allowed abortion on demand (no restrictions at all).

I thank God for the end of slavery and for the Fourteenth Amendment, but I don’t thank him for the eventual Supreme Court interpretation of that amendment. Its loose interpretation and the resulting doctrine of incorporation produced a gigantic loophole for increased, and unconstitutional, federal government power vis-a-vis the states and the people. It’s anti-federalism and anti-democracy. One may believe that centralized power is best to provide “protection for an individual citizen oppressed by tyranny at the state level,” but I do not. I think the cure is worse than the disease. Even in extremely bad circumstances, Americans have had the right and/or ability to cross state borders, thereby escaping from a tyrannical or immoral sociopolitical system. But nationalizing political power eliminates that option and reduces our choices.

Slavery was awful, but the Underground Railroad and other devices allowed some slaves to escape to freedom. There were free states to which those in slave states could hope to escape. When the federal government overrode states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment with the Fugitive Slave Act and Dred Scott decision, it made things worse. That’s why the abolitionists in Wisconsin succeeded in getting the state legislature to endorse the pro-states’ rights, pro-nullification Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1859. States’ rights was never just for slavocrats and segregationists. A unitary or consolidated system of government may be more efficient and may sometimes prevent abuses at lower levels, but I don’t want it. We’ve gone too far in that direction. It’s undemocratic and unconstitutional (of course, when the federal government sets itself up as the ultimate source of interpretation, you will rarely see the latter being pointed out by the high court–it’s like having a coach of one of the two teams serving as a supposedly impartial umpire or referee for the game).

I agree with your point that the AMA was working partly out of self-interest in promoting “professionalization and standardization of the practice of medicine, which protected us from both snake oil salesmen and competent midwives,” but the feminists who fool themselves into thinking that abortion laws in the 1800s were simply men trying to seize reproductive power from women are missing the bigger point. Abortion laws “did not exist at the inception of the republic, nor for some decades thereafter,” because people mistakenly thought human life began well into the pregnancy (“quickening”). Biological and medical advances proved otherwise, which is why the AMA changed its position. They may have been turf-protecting sexists as well, but they were correct in this regard.

It wasn’t just men vs women, since, as I’ve pointed out, all of the leading feminists of the day decried the prevalence of abortion. Women did not have the right to choose to abstain from intercourse or abortion. The answer, in the view of the feminists, wasn’t more abortion. It was more equality and liberty for women–married and unmarried. BTW, in addition to midwifery, the AMA also tried to squelch osteopathic medicine. My great-great-grand-aunt was an osteopath in the early 1900s: Dr. Susan Ina Patterson.

We can’t agree on the basic goodness or necessity of Roe, but I enjoy reading what you write and I respect your knowledge. I’ll second your thought that “It is the nature of politics that candidates come in whole packages. None of us get to slice and dice, mix and match, to come up with The Perfect Representative, who after all would be perfect only for me, not for the rest of my fellow voters.” Are you referring to Russ Feingold re: the Wall Street bailout and health care reform (i.e., giveaway to Big Pharma and Big Insurance)? He’s one of my favorite senators. I’d vote for him for president. Last week he came out against Bernanke. But, as good as Feingold is, he isn’t perfect. He’s wrong on abortion.

I used to live in Minnesota. I see you live in Wisconsin. I don’t miss the Midwest winters, but boy do I miss the summers!

avatar Aaron Schroeder January 26, 2010 at 9:35 am

Patrick,

So your contention is that my accusation of bad faith is unfounded, because I overlooked the rough correlation of income level with education level?

And even if that correlation were as relevant as you suggest, your study confirms my argument against Mr Taylor’s more nefarious claim that “why African Americans are the most pro-life ethnic group.” Somehow, your criticism overlooks that confirmation.

My broader point, however, is that the force of Mr Taylor’s argument relies upon several casually dropped logically fallacies. For instance, “Sadly, by the 1960s, the AMA joined the ABA in rejecting science and embracing injustice.” I don’t know where the leap from “protecting human life” to “embracing injustice” comes from. Few in the pro-choice camp claim that we should be able to kill fetuses that are people; for instance, if we were to come across a fetus with an especially long gestation period, one such that it had the ability to survive on its own, had some semblance of communicative ability, consciousness, and the capacity to bring about certain things that it willed, I don’t think very many people in the pro-choice camp would say that the woman carrying that fetus had the right to abort it. The point is that humans aren’t ipso facto people, and having a unique genetic code isn’t a guarantee of being a person, either. (E.g. Terri Shaivo)

If there’s interest in advancing some notion of virtuousness and abortion, or the argument from potential personhood, by all means, those would be interesting avenues that might further this debate. But to argue that the “Moloch cult” has been protected by the judiciary (and further, to rely on Dr Seuss as the spokesman for your position) , or that ‘Playboy culture’ was any more responsible for the passage of abortion rights hardly advances the discussion. Indeed, this essay is, largely, a case study in the genetic fallacy. That is, even if Mr Taylor’s outlandish claim that the abortion rights was catalyzed by “rich white men,” it wouldn’t eliminate the force of almost any pro-choice argument on offer.

avatar Jon January 26, 2010 at 9:56 am

Great article, loved the points about the GOP, but a little too heavy on democracy. “Pure” democracy can degenerate into the tyranny of the majority; we have some republican principles to protect us from that happening. Of course there is danger on both sides: elitist ideas can sometimes move forward under our system, but pure populism can also be dangerous, just study the rise of Hitler. No government system is or can be perfect; a balance is needed.

avatar D.W. Sabin January 26, 2010 at 10:35 am

Jeff,
Be careful what you wish for in a “democratic ” judiciary. The idea of it would seem to place a lot of balls in the air and weaken the Rule of Law to a point which it would appear to be just another episode in the American Idol that we seem intent upon devolving into, politically.

The reason we have reached this late date of the so-called “world’s oldest operating democracy” is because we were never a democracy. We have been democratic in certain operations but the creaky checks and balances of the Separation of Powers….now being undermined by the Sunbeams for the Unitary Executive and a flummoxed Congress kept us from satisfying momentary whims or surrendering to a panoply of seductions.

Any time someone asserts their intent to “promote democracy”, one should simultaneously reach for their buck knife and cover their wallet. Perhaps I have a bad attitude. Upon reflection, strike the word “perhaps”.

Would that we still operated ourselves as a democratic republic.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 26, 2010 at 10:45 am

Jeff, to begin I must freely concede that there is no more profound difference than for one participant in a conversation to say “This is a human being,” while another says “No it’s not.” Assuming we both agree that murder should be aggressively suppressed, prevented, discouraged, and severely penalized, we remain very far apart on what is murder. After attempting to respond in some depth to your direct response, I find it is far too long to burden a Comments page with. So, I have posted most of it at

http://aleksandreia.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/continuing-the-life-and-choice-dialog-on-a-familiar-anniversary/

The only thing you said which truly puzzles me is “If Madison wanted to restrict the police powers of the states, that’s to his discredit.” Even Hamilton, in Federalist Papers #28, pointed out that it is more difficult to raise up powers against tyranny in a small territory than in a large one. State governments are no less capable of tyranny against the liberties of the citizen than is the federal government. Madison thought, and I believe he was profoundly correct in doing so, that the rights reserved to the people needed to be clearly distinguished from the rights reserved to the states.

The Supreme Court has observed many times that the police powers of the states are virtually unlimited, except as restrained by a specific measure of the federal constitution (e.g., from the beginning, no state may adopt ex post facto laws), or by the state constitution. Unrestrained, that is a frightening foundation for tyranny, and has been used as such many times. The histories of South Carolina and Arkansas in the early to mid 19th century provide excellent examples, as do the cries of “State’s Rights” when the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were finally enforced, 100 years after ratification.

From this viewpoint, there is a huge difference between affirmatively imposing legal abortion on the states, and restraining the states from imposing criminal laws on women who seek abortion. There is nothing the state has to do. There is no affirmative right to abortion, only a right to be left alone in making the a decision. Now if Roe v. Wade had somehow found a constitutional basis to require every state to pay for any abortion any woman wanted at any time for any reason – which it did not – that would have been an imposition on the states. I grant you that the crowd grouped around NARAL and NOW projects the attitude that there IS a “right to abortion,” and they are always quibbling over funding for that very reason, but that is a figment of their own wishful thinking. It is not in Roe v. Wade.

I would not have a problem with eugenics if we had perfect knowledge, exercised by a perfect judge. As we all know, there is only one perfect judge, who is also the only one with perfect knowledge. He does not speak to us publicly in unambiguous edicts. He speaks in subtle terms to the individual human heart, and throws back to us the free will to sort out what it all means and how we should imperfectly try to behave. There is no way any eugenics law could be written which was not subject to massive abuse. There is no framework of constitutional law which could allow the legislative and executive branches to dabble in eugenics, which would not, by implication, serve as a precedent for all kinds of other powers to devolve to the government. We can agree that that door should not be opened.

But I believe the police powers of the state should be restrained to the extent that individual sets of parents, who differ on what is right and just and compassionate for their family and the new life growing within the womb, can make their own private decision. Any decision could be a mistake. The parents who make the decision will have to live with the results, good, bad, ugly or indifferent. But I no more believe that The State can order a woman to carry her pregnancy to term than I believe that The State can order a woman to abort because her baby would become a burden to society.

avatar D. Stonehouse January 26, 2010 at 11:23 am

Interesting article and comments. Just some random thoughts:
1. The scientific argument against abortion is a non-starter. Everyone who has taken high school biology is aware a unique separate life starts at conception. They are aware the baby has a unique genetic make-up, separate from the mother. They are aware the baby is taking in nutrients, growing, and developing along a set trajectory that nine months later will come screaming into the world. Everybody knows this, and a large part of the population choses to ignore it. Explaining it over and over is a waste of time.
2. If I understand correctly Mr. Jenkins is making what libertarians would call the self-ownership argument. Most pro-choice libertarians use self-ownership as a justification. There is, however, a deeper, more fundamental libertarian position that negates this view. The foundational principle of libertarian thought is the prohibition of initiating force against another human being. As mentioned above, babies are genetically unique and therefore separate from their mothers. While libertarians claim their philosophy is based on reason, in this instance like most of the population they chose to ignore reality in favour of the abstract.
3. Finally, a personal anecdote. Nine years ago my wife and I were forced to face the abortion question head-on. During an ultrasound an abnormality was found on our 17 week old baby that was a marker for Downs Syndrome. The doctors suggested we do an amnio test and a triple test to confirm the diagnosis. They also gave us a lot of literature on how an where to procure an abortion. The amnio test comes with around a 1 in 100 chance of causing a spontaneous abortion. In the car after leaving the doctors’ offices I asked my wife if we were going to have the tests. She said,”what’s the point, we’re going to have the baby any way. We’ll deal with it if it happens.”
Four the next four months, it was nothing but fear and worry. In September, 2000, our daughter Grace was born normal and healthy. But I learned a big lesson from the whole process. When you get down to it, abortion is all about fear.
Young girls have abortions because they fear having a baby will ruin their future lives. Older, more established people have abortions because they fear having a baby, healthy or with risk, will take away from what they already have. Eliminate the fear and the number of abortions will decline quickly. The answer, of course, lies in families and communities.
One final note: I am irreligious and most of the people I grew up with are in the same boat. But we grew up in families and a community where abortion didn’t happen, If you got a girl pregnant, you married her and fast. If you didn’t, you would be taken out behind the neighbourhood hockey rink and have some sense beat into you by your friends. On the other hand, the marriage and baby were celebrated, and your friends and family helped out finding jobs, places to live, babysitters, etc. You need communities like that with the implicit understanding that whatever happens your family and community will help out if abortion genie is ever to be put back in the bottle.

avatar Patrick Ford January 26, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Aaron,

I was responding to your initial claim that the data you cited “contradicted” some of Taylor’s claims. Specifically, you wonder “how [one] can conclude that ‘African Americans are the most pro-life ethnic group’ and that ‘poor people are more pro-life than wealthy people’ in light of”:

1) the fact that African-American women procure proportionately more abortions than white women and

2) the fact that lower and lower-middle income women procure proportionately more abortions than women with higher incomes.

There is no contradiction here (the apparent incongruity can be explained very easily: while more blacks than whites are anti-abortion, those blacks who are not procure abortions at a much higher rate than the proportionately larger group of whites who are pro-choice; similarly for income).

You correctly point out that the data I cite doesn’t support the contention that blacks are the most pro-life ethnic group. Taylor should have said that blacks are more pro-life than whites, which seems to be the point he was trying to make, which the data supports, and which your cited data does not in fact contradict. Perhaps he misspoke, but his point was obvious, and the fact that Hispanics are more pro-life than blacks doesn’t really seem germane. The study I linked to didn’t cite income data, and I didn’t want to spend too much time looking, but I think I can safely say that income and education are highly positively correlated in the U.S. I could probably find data to support that, but it would probably be just as easy to find data directly supporting Taylor’s assertion that those with lower income tend to be more pro-life (the data is probably in Taylor’s bibliography somewhere).

Since you didn’t cite any other data or adduce any other contradictions, I assumed (fairly, I think) that the critique you offered in your second paragraph, charging bad scholarship and bad argument, was based primarily on the alleged contradictions cited above.

Your second post elaborates helpfully on your critique. As for your charge that Taylor’s work of tracing the origins of the pro-abortion movement is unhelpful, I suppose it depends on your point of view.

You think he’s wrong about the origins, but I think his bibliography should make a pretty convincing, or at least entirely plausible, case that the movement originally was based less on a noble desire to advance women’s freedom than a sometimes vague, sometimes perfectly explicit (e.g., Sanger), desire to cleanse our society of the less savory members.

If he is right about that (again, I understand we disagree here), then bringing those origins to light seems to have the potential to make some people rethink their position on these things (which is surely one reason why NARAL, et al., react so violently to these sorts of accusations). I think if more people learned of the (at least) questionable motivations behind the original push to legalize abortion in the twentieth century, together with the fact that abortion is much, much more common among precisely those classes of society that any good racist eugenicist would want cleansed, I think this would diminish, if not “eliminate,” the force of many pro-choice arguments. Taylor doesn’t seem to be trying to construct a logically unimpeachable argument against abortion, he seems to be trying to convince more people that abortion is not a morally legitimate practice. You might not be convinced, but I think many would be.

In any event, that kind of genetic argument does pose problems to be addressed; it is not fallacious unless one tries to construct a syllogism out of it.

avatar Bruce Smith January 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Here are Charles Darwin’s semi-dubious views on the issue of eugenics:-

For each tendency of society to produce negative selections, Darwin also saw the possibility of society to itself check these problems, but also noted that with his theory “progress is no invariable rule.” Towards the end of Descent of Man, Darwin said that he believed that man would “sink into indolence” if severe struggle was not continuous, and thought that “there should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring,” but also noted that he thought that the moral qualities of man were advanced much more by habit, reason, learning, and religion than by natural selection. The question would plague him until the end of his life, and he never concluded fully one way or the other about it.

Source:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Descent_of_Man,_and_Selection_in_Relation_to_Sex

I’m sure that any Christian would want after 150 years to support Darwin’s emphasis on “habit” or norms and laws as we would call them today.

avatar Patrick Ford January 26, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Stonehouse,

Good points. But as Aaron suggested above, the disagreement really comes down to who, or what, qualifies as deserving the same considerations that are normally extended to persons, including protection of the law from undue harm. In addition, many pro-life arguments rest on the (supposedly unique) tension existing between the possible rights of a child in the womb and the rights of the mother on whom the child’s life depends.

You rightly point out that most people know that biologically speaking, a new, genetically distinct life begins at conception. Some, as you say, choose to ignore this fact because it makes them uncomfortable. Many, however, freely acknowledge this but then make one of the following arguments:

1) Membership in the human species (which belongs to a fertilized egg) and personhood are two distinct categories. Rights obtain only for persons.

a) We don’t really know when the transition to personhood takes place, but based on this ignorance, we should defer to the judgment of the mother or parents. (I, for one, would thing that someone who was agnostic on this point would want to err on the side of life, but hey. . . .) Or:

b) Personhood begins at point x, and rights are obtained then.

2) Even if the developing embryo is a person from the moment of conception or sometime thereafter, the rights of the mother trump the rights of the child; the relationship of dependency in the case of pregnancy is unique enough that our normal standards of rights-based language do not apply (in other words, the developing child is not “separate” enough that its right to life trumps the mother’s right to do what she pleases with her body and its “contents”). This argument for “justified homicide” (their term, not mine) is gaining in popularity as the old “it’s just a blob of tissue” silliness becomes less popular.

The first arguments are either endlessly complex and abstract, with little connection to our common understanding of the ideas employed, or they plead ignorance as justification for permitting what very well might be (“but hey, it might not be”) murder.

The other arguments, as a very few pro-abortion ethicists like Singer have admitted, work just as well for young extra-uterine children as they do for unborn children.

avatar Peter B. Nelson January 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Thank you for this, Mr. Taylor – I am thrilled to see my favorite new site, FPR, committed to justice for the unborn.

A minor point: I know it’s pretty much open-season on the GOP around here (for good reasons) but please, everyone, let us be charitable; especially to those who agree with us. After all, even Republican politicians have souls; so oughtn’t we show them the same compassion and charity we show the unborn? Love our enemies, and all that?

I suspect that underlying this animus is an attempt, by some, to rationalize their support for the pro-abortion party by trying to convince themselves that 1) the other party isn’t *truly* opposed to infanticide, and 2) the other party is even more pro-death on every other issue. All I can say to that is: tell it to the Judge.

avatar Marianne January 26, 2010 at 3:04 pm

What baffles me most about gung-ho abortion supporters (I would not include S. Jenkins in this category) is their unstinting belief that the Roe v. Wade cause was one of charity. After all these decades one wonders how abortion partisans haven’t peered through the ideological fog and beheld this unchanging reality: Affirming a woman’s fear that neither she, nor her partner, nor her family and friends, nor any combination thereof, is or can become capable of rearing a new life, and then encouraging her to instead delete forever that new life, is simply NOT NICE. In fact, it is anti-charity, as charity is love by another name. Truth in advertising would demand that Planned Parenthood redo their promotional brochures. I would suggest something like, “Pregnant? Feeling Alone and Scared? For just about the price of an I-Pod, PP can make you unpregnant, though a lot more alone. Your choice.”

It’s a pretty sweet business, when you think about it. Entice a woman to your clinic, collect a bit of change, hollow her out, send her out, never think of her face again. Such simple and lucrative benevolence.

Mr. Taylor and others are so correct in calling the GOP’s collective bluff here. It is impossible not to feel that the average Republican schmuck in Congress is, in his heart, quite relieved that abortion continues to eliminate dumpsters full of ghetto-fated babies every year. After all, he must think, what do the poor contribute to the political life of our country? They hardly bother voting–even for the welfare measures they leech from… Politicians have very little use for the lower classes other than to point dramatically to their plight and, eyes all moist, entreat “the American people” to help stop it. Well, according to me, when fancy guys in suits talk about “ending poverty,” they likely think it’s just as well if the impoverished people themselves were to simply cease to be. Why not let the undesirables contracept and abort themselves out of existence? Especially when Democrats are willing to do the dirty work.

For their part, the Dems suffer from an acute case of the charity/anti-charity confusion I described above. It’s more aggressive than the silent perfidy of the Republicans, and therefore more dangerous.

And though I agree with Mr. Peters that pro-lifers all too often have a strangely attenuated idea of “Life issues,” I think the batting averages are off. Capital punishment and War are issues that civilized nations have always struggled mightily with, whereas abortion has been forthrightly understood as the indefensible shedding of innocent blood. The garment is seamless, but dyed in three unequal parts.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 26, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Perhaps we need to stop telling each other what this or that side or camp or party stands for, and recognize that we are all unique human beings and individual citizens, none of whom conform to any standard template. We have rights of association, but no association perfectly reflects the thoughts of any given member.

D.Stonehouse understands half-correctly what I said. There is an obvious tension between the libertarian concern with the mother’s freedom from state interference and the child’s freedom from assault (even by its own parents). That tension would be less in a culture that considered children literally the property of the family patriarch, even to the point that he could beat one to death without community interference. But, that is not, thank God, our cultural standard. So there is a tension which must be acknowledged. I consider some level of physical and mental independence or autonomy to be necessary before the mother’s freedom from state interference ceases to be paramount. For what was known in 1973, “quickening” wasn’t a bad boundary — the notion that at a certain point, the body slowly being assembled inside the mother began to move and exhibit some self-motivation. That line may well have to be moved back based on present knowledge, but I find the presence of EEG waves, and/or metabolic independence of the mother (could it live without a heart-lung machine and IV feeds if removed from the mother0 to be an acceptable measurement.

Stonehouse and his wife made precisely the choice that Roe v. Wade protects: they weren’t going to abort, so no need to have more tests done. They were also lucky. If it were up to me, I might have had the tests done, because if they were ALL positive I might have favored abortion. But, I was not the father of that baby, and more important, I was not the mother of that baby. So it is NOT my choice.

As to Darwin, he has no claim except in the news media, ever hungry for labels to pin on human thought, to the branch of biology to which he made a modest contribution. He was right about a few things, wrong about many others. He is not the founder and finisher of anything, and his opinions are entirely irrelevant to this debate.

avatar Bob Cheeks January 27, 2010 at 8:11 am

Butchering the next generation based on some faux-”right” typifies the thinking of the moribund left. Any culture that slaughters its young is doomed. Any political party that makes infanticide a foundational concept is the home of either the ignorant, sinful, or confused.

avatar Jeff Taylor January 27, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Siarlys, You’ve summed it up well: “There is no more profound difference than for one participant in a conversation to say ‘This is a human being,’ while another says ‘No it’s not.’ Assuming we both agree that murder should be aggressively suppressed, prevented, discouraged, and severely penalized, we remain very far apart on what is murder. ” I followed your Alexandria link and read your complete response. We reach a different conclusion, but I admire your seriousness of thought and agree with some your points.

In addition to differing on the definition of person, I think we’re a ways apart in our evaluation of the dangers of state government vs national government. I stick by my contention that if Madison wanted to restrict the police powers of the states, that’s to his discredit. It calls into question his consistency, if not honesty, based on what he promised in Federalist #45.

Hamilton’s point about it being “more difficult to raise up powers against tyranny in a small territory than in a large one” in #28 is disingenuous, in my opinion. It’s not true and I don’t think he believed it himself. Democracy, not tyranny, was his big fear. Madison and Hamilton were arguing in favor of a large republic because only that scenario could justify a new form of government in America supposedly built on a foundation of popular sovereignty. It wasn’t believable then, as the Anti-Federalists pointed out, and it’s not believable now. A large republic invariably devolves into a monarchy or aristocracy, and the balance that included a democratic element is lost. Hamilton was fine with the devolution since he favored a simpler and less democratic constitution all along.

I do agree with your argument that “State governments are no less capable of tyranny against the liberties of the citizen than is the federal government,” but if tyranny comes, I’d rather have it confined to a smaller space and number of people, with more free alternatives available, than to have it nationalized. Also, I think it’s easier to correct tyranny on a smaller scale. If it’s hard to fight city hall, it’s harder to fight the state capitol, and it’s impossible to fight the White House-US Capitol-Supreme Court bldg.-and-Pentagon.

Jon, You’re right that there are dangers to pure democracy, but its track record in ancient Athens, medieval Genoa and Florence, and modern Switzerland, compares well to other forms of government. Hitler did not come out of a context of democracy. Germany has never had true democracy–certainly not in the imperial or Weimar Republic days. There’s a difference between being a demagogue and a populist. Hitler was never a populist.

D.W., Again, I’ll agree that there are all kinds of abuses perpetuated in the name of democracy. But I’d rather put the right to declare war up for a referendum by the people than leave it in the hands of one ambitious man, for example. We really have monarchy in our foreign relations and I don’t think that’s turned out very well during the past century. I’d rather have an elected legislature make law than have an unelected judiciary intrude so often–without even the possibility of Congress overriding the judicial veto.

Thank you for your personal story, D. Stonehouse. I can relate to some of the things you so poignantly write.

Patrick, Thanks for the support.

Bruce, I appreciate the Darwin quote, although I tend to agree with Siarlys that his views may not have a lot of relevance on this debate.

Welcome aboard, Peter.

Bob, I agree with you that the Democratic Party has needlessly harmed itself by embracing, often with great enthusiasm, the cause of abortion. It’s not coming from a place of principled support for civil liberties because the national leadership’s record in that regard is spotty at best. If the Dems cared about individual freedom, Russ Feingold would not have been the only Democrat to have voted against the Patriot Act in 2001. Of course, every Republican senator backed it. It was the Democratic Party that gave us conscription under Wilson in 1917, the Red Scare in the late 1910s, the first peacetime conscription in 1940, the Brown Scare in the early 1940s, concentration camps for Japanese Americans in 1942, and a second Red Scare in the late 1940s (pre-McCarthy–the period should more accurately be called the Truman Era since the American version of Il Duce got the ball rolling).

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 27, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Now that we know exactly where our difference lie, I will just say once more that so long as large numbers of people differ so widely, our laws should allow us to pursue our respective principles, and advocacy, no matter how shockingly far apart they are. I personally consider it unconscionably cruel to carry a pregnancy to term when the mother had a severe rubella infection, but I respect the right of parents who believe it is the right thing to do to make that choice, and to take full responsibility for the consequences of their decision. Who else could make that choice? I no more trust nanny-state social workers to tell them they MUST abort than I trust district attorneys to tell another couple that they MAY NOT. On that basis, I find Roe v. Wade a reasonable basis for the law, with the understanding that people with sincere pro-life convictions (or even insincere ones — how could anyone prejudge which is which?) have free speech rights, just as much as those with pro-choice convictions.

By the way, you got my state and senator right, and yes, he is the best of the lot. I believe he is also the senator with the smallest wealth and income. The senator with the mostest is also a Democrat last I read — Dianne Feinstein, never my favorite, but modestly better than what the California Republicans have ever come up with.

avatar Smith January 28, 2010 at 10:52 am

Darwin’s dilemma is relevant to the debate on abortion. Darwin during his travels round the world had witnessed or at least received reports of “savages” enjoying torturing fellow human beings to death. Darwin’s dilemma was whether this propensity to torture was innate or the product of social norms. What Darwin failed to realize I would argue is that even supposedly “civilized” human beings permit sociopathic, or destructive, behavior to provide solutions to problems. In regard to this it is not too difficult to recognize that all physical abuse is ultimately psychological abuse. Everyday in America in most large towns and cities when you watch and listen to local TV there is an endless litany of murder and grievous bodily harm incidents committed that day or recent days. Most of these incidents involve the use of firearms and the daily volume of murders exceeds the volume of abortion infanticides. American society, however, has allowed the Second Amendment to be judged as a right of the individual to purchase and use guns with lax gun control regulation. As such it has permitted the sociopathic, or destructive, use of firearms which in certain neighborhoods of towns and cities has created a climate of fear (psychological abuse) which for some makes the idea of attempting to rear children in such areas a dubious one. However, this unhappy state of affairs has been seized on by certain individuals as a means to justify abortion in order to reduce both the murder and general crime rate:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legalized_abortion_and_crime_effect

Indeed some sociopathic individuals like Adolf Hitler took the idea of abortion a step further and adopted a Social Darwinist influenced eugenics program to “improve” society. This sociopathic approach continues to this day and is alive and “well” in America:-

http://www.thestate.com/local/story/1123844.html

http://libertarianrepublican.blogspot.com/2010/01/sociali-darwinist-republican-sc-lt-gov.html

What attitude, therefore, should society adopt to resolve Darwin’s Dilemma or rather address the roles played by natural and institutionalized sociopathy? It is not too difficult to recognize that trust plays a large role in social cohesion. To build trust you need a compassionate outlook towards others as I posted earlier but Americans I believe are not compassionate by norm at the moment even though I believe the majority are instinctively compassionate by nature like most human beings. Why should I say this? The book “The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better.” by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett now published in the United States shows higher levels of inequality in this country than any other developed country. Here is the link to the author’s book spin-off website:-

http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/about

Such inequality in a country further reinforces sociopathic norms leading to anti-social behavior. The Financial Crash, for example, was the product of sociopathic behavior with the production of fraudulent financial instruments, aggressive underhand trading and exploitation of credit creation freedoms by banks to generate bubbles in real estate, commodities (gasoline prices) etc. Accordingly, the issue of abortion I believe has to be seen within in the wider context of failing to understand sociopathy in its use and effect upon a country. The regulation of abortion can only be resolved by democratic decision with widespread participation by citizens since it has to be judged against a background of so many other factors. You can vote for tighter control of abortion out of compassion for life but others may judge the commitment of society to remove sociopathy and inequality too shallow to condemn human fear of this lack of commitment. In short the demand for abortion whilst appearing selfish and uncompassionate may be a response to the level of sociopathy allowed within a society. If you argue that abortion shows disrespect for human life then you have to acknowledge so much else in American society does too!

avatar Jeff Taylor January 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Bruce, I definitely agree with you here: “If you argue that abortion shows disrespect for human life then you have to acknowledge so much else in American society does too!” Thanks for fleshing out your Darwin argument.

avatar Peter B. Nelson January 28, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Some annual death counts in USA:
by death penalty: 52
by murder: 17,000
by cancer: 562,000
by abortion: 1,200,000

avatar John Médaille January 28, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Bruce, some great links there, especially to the light gov of South Carolina. That’s what “conservatism” has become: the crudest 19th century liberalism. I lectured on Malthus today and used the lt. gov. as an example. I actually appreciate his forthrightness; he says what many “conservatives” think.

Mark Shea had some interesting things to say about the “pro-life” people gushing over the pro-abortion Scott Brown over at InsideCatholic: http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7563&Itemid=48

avatar Siarlys Jenkins January 28, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Torture and eugenics are two different things. I’m against both of them, but we do not get clarity out of throwing everything into one big pot. A person could be absolutely opposed to torture, and still think it is a good idea not to allow an inheritable disease to be passed on to another generation. Eugenics could be done in a very humane way: “Sir, ma’am, your DNA tests show that any recombination would pass along a gene for CREEPING PAINFUL DEGENERATING WHATYOUMAYALLIT. Therefore, you must be sterilized. However, we have here a list of adoption agencies, and you have a special pass to the top of the list for as many babies as you want to adopt. Birthright is always running short of adoptive couples for all the babies they save.” No gratuitous pain inflicted at all.

Why don’t I support that? Like I said, we don’t have the perfect judge with perfect knowledge to make daily and hourly earthly decisions about that kind of thing. Before calling on the government to make benign decisions, the prequisite question is, do we want the government exercising the powers necessary to make that decision at all? Nope, I don’t. But I think it would be a fine, unselfish thing for anyone who KNEW they were carrying a gene for a really serious disease like ALS to refrain from inflicting it on future generations.

Now, on to torture. Recent anthropology shows that torture emerged along with The State, as inequality produced elites, necessarily in a primitive society rather brutal elites, who established their power by killing and inflicting excruciating torture on rivals. This has tossed notions of the gentle Mayan scholars out the academic window. It is also how Sumer and Akkad became states. It looks like Native North Americans got the habit from the short-lived Cahokian metropolis, which never quite made it to permanent statehood. It isn’t a natural human proclivity, it is all about politics. Another Darwinian mystery settled by continued inquiry. I had to read up on this for an article on “War, Early Origins of…” Check out the work of Keith Otterbein, including How War Began.

avatar cdx February 1, 2010 at 2:09 am

CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. May 14-17, 2009. N=1,010 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.
“The 1973 Roe versus Wade decision established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Would you like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn its Roe versus Wade decision, or not?”

Yes, Overturn 30%
No, Not Overturn 68%
Unsure 1%

CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll. June 24-26, 2005. N=1,009 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.
“If one of the U.S. Supreme Court justices retired, would you want the new Supreme Court justice to be someone who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade — the decision that legalized abortion — or vote to uphold it?”

Vote To Overturn 29%
Vote To Uphold 65%
Unsure 6%

Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Nov. 19-21, 2004. N=1,000 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.
“As you may know, President Bush may have the opportunity to appoint several new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court during his second term. The 1973 Supreme Court ruling called Roe v. Wade made abortion in the first three months of pregnancy legal. Do you think President Bush should nominate Supreme Court justices who would uphold the Roe v. Wade decision, or nominate justices who would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision?”

Overturn 31%
Uphold 59%
Unsure 10%

(source http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm )
———————

In those numbers lie the true political facts the Republican Party faces. Close to 50% of Americans are personally ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’ and otherwise entertain wishful personal notions about how public life should be arranged. But for many their dislike of abortions doesn’t mean that they support imposing abortion bans on other people. On the question of whether they really want Roe overturned, they balk.

A supermajority, and one that apparently grows at roughly 1% per year, doesn’t actually want Roe overturned. If trend continues (and there’s no reason it shouldn’t, because the reactionary elderly will continue to die away) the anti-abortion movement stands to collapse as a force in national politics in about five to ten years.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins February 1, 2010 at 1:25 pm

The numbers cited in the above polls reflect my personal thinking pretty well. I count myself in the large majorities mentioned. However, the conclusions to be drawn from these polls are not so clear cut.

First, even asking the questions that were posed is a travesty on our system of government. For any president to appoint Supreme Court justices on the basis that they will, or will not, uphold or overturn any given body of laws, is an abomination. If I were president, I would go so far as to seek out people with substantial records of legal knowledge and experience who were NOT part of the advocacy bar for any issue that remained highly contested. Of course everyone has opinions, and justices are only human, but stacking the deck does not fulfill the purpose of a separate judicial branch. We might as well put every constitutional question up to a majority vote. Incidentally, in case anyone is raising the issue of Thurgood Marshall, by the time he was appointed to the court, the controversies most associated with his career had been resolved by all three branches of government.

Second, it is not necessarily true that an older reactionary generation is dying off, while a younger, progressive generation is filling out the polls. There are a good number of younger, fervently pro-life people coming along, who are not distinguishable as a voting bloc, because they have a variety of different perspectives on almost any other issue, but who will have an influence on the public sentiment concerning Roe v. Wade.

A few years ago, two young ladies in their early teens approached me after church and asked me to sign a hand-written petition each had prepared asking Congress to outlaw abortion. I had know both of them since they were about seven years old, I knew both their families well, one of them had invited me to her elementary school graduation. So, this was not a simple and easy request to say no to. They had just returned from a retreat where the subject was apparently highlighted. I sat down and carefully explained that the only thing congress could do about abortion is to put women who seek one and doctors who perform one in prison, and that I did not favor that policy. There are many reasons women have abortions, some reasonable, some not so reasonable, some perhaps downright evil, but a criminal law would probably not make things better, and could create many evils of its own.

It all depends on how the question is presented — which also influences the poll numbers cited above. The pro-life movement has not been in a position for many years that it had to answer the question, what laws will you seek if Roe is overturned? The likely answers would not attract large political majorities. On the other hand, if the focus is taken off of overturning Roe or restoring criminal penalties, I have little to argue with the pro-life movement about. Pro-life people have rights to freedom of speech, and are quite skilled at using them. The numbers of abortions could be reduced considerably, and if it was done by offering credible ongoing support to women considering abortion, if they will only carry their pregnancy to term, quite responsibly. Freedom of choice does not necessarily mean choosing abortion.

avatar Nadine February 21, 2010 at 3:15 pm

What I have never understood is why people have unprotected sex if they don’t want to get pregnant. The real issue is that people are making decisions and not wanting to deal with the consequences of their decisions.

N

avatar Siarlys Jenkins February 21, 2010 at 8:52 pm

That’s one issue, and an important one. It often gets swept under the rug of “personal autonomy.” I wouldn’t say it is THE issue. One reason people have unprotected sex is they don’t think. That was true long before medically skilled, sterile, abortion was available. It is still true today. It wouldn’t hurt at all for health education (including sex education) to emphasize that abortion costs money, it is invasive, it can be damaging, its really not a good idea to be casual about unprotected sex just because it is available. Every decision has its price.

Contraception does have a failure rate, so protected sex isn’t fool proof.

Then, there are decisions about abortion made by devoted married couples who do want children, on the basis of test results not available until second trimester. The most obvious example is finding there is a genetic disease, such as Down’s syndrome. Around 93% of parents who receive this diagnosis choose to abort, with the other 7% fervently devoted to the notion that a Down’s syndrome baby is a blessing from God which they must accept. I’m not knocking the latter perspective, although I don’t share it. The parents make the choice, and they live with the responsibilities it entails.

Finally, there are rare instances where late in pregnancy, a condition develops which could kill the mother if the baby (by that time it is a baby by any possible definition) is not destroyed. Less than one percent of all abortions are performed in the third trimester, and some of those may be abusive of the standard “life or health of the mother.” Necessarily, they are heart-breaking no matter how you look at them. But sometimes it is the only way to save the life of the mother.

There is no doubt that some common sense, self-control, and responsibility, could reduce the number of “unwanted pregnancies.” I doubt very much that outlawing abortion is either an appropriate way to encourage that, nor likely to be particularly effective.

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