The Other Scarlet Letter

The Other Scarlet Letter

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Do you hate abortion? Me too. Every form of the procedure sickens me, and has since the first one I ever heard about, when I was 10 years old.

My mother had come home early, distraught and bathed in tears, from her job as a teacher in a special high school for pregnant teenagers. Her school had let out early, following the news that a 15-year-old student had just died in the hospital from sepsis, a few hours after delivering a second-trimester, stillborn fetus she had impaled the night before with a knitting needle. It was 1972, a year before Roe vs. Wade.

No, it was not appropriate to explain abortion to a 10-year-old. And perhaps it was my overexposure as a child to the nasty realities of the world that continues to inspire my utter impatience with the nonsense running out of some peoples’ mouths, in particular moralizing politicians who are probably cheating on their wives, but that’s another story. The starkness and radicalization of my upbringing gave me a hair-trigger for spotting and calling out hypocrisy and collective self-delusion – especially when both are so obvious, no one else in the room seems to see them.

To wit: those who claim to be “pro-life,” whatever the hell that means, should get real about how the real world works. The “pro-lifers” in Congress leading the charge to dismantle Planned Parenthood should try listening to their own rhetoric about the inexorable power of market forces. Demand will always seek and find supply; and as demand for abortions will never go away on its own, neither will those who “supply” them, be they overseas physicians for the wealthy, discreet, chart-buffing physicians for the middle class, back-alley butchers for the poor, or desperate, do-it-yourself teenagers. Anyone who thinks I am kidding – and who has not had the benefit of an OB/GYN rotation in a public hospital and/or a politically furious mother with poor boundaries – should read or watch the blistering Revolutionary Road through to its bloody end.

The ugliness of abortion is one of the ugly facts of life, and it always has been. We just happen to talk about it now, the same way we talk about other previously taboo medical subjects like cancer, depression and erectile dysfunction. Perhaps I was hit on the head with too many economics textbooks, or maybe it is my inability to join in the decades-old group-pretend about the colossal waste of lives and money that is “the war on drugs,” but the rock-bottom fact of this ugly problem is simple: making abortion illegal and/or unfinanceable for poor girls and women will not make it go away; it will make it go underground, later-stage, bloodier, and far more horrifically violent to the very fetuses the “pro-life” people claim they want to protect.

So let’s start with a little bit of common sense, drowned out completely in the latest screaming match over abortion: the best way, paradoxically, to increase the already appalling number of elective abortions in America is to financially disable Planned Parenthood, as many in Congress have been hellbent on doing this week. Planned Parenthood is not “Planned Abortionhood,” as the demagogues would have us believe. It is a safety net provider of health screening, sex education, and birth control for three million American women every year, most of whom live in economic gray zones between Medicaid and good insurance and thus have nowhere else to go for pap smears and free condoms.

If the crusaders for the “unborn” actually wanted to eliminate abortions, they would be doing everything in their power to expand Planned Parenthood’s funding and full range of services. They would seek to fund this and every other avenue for the provision of basic health services for vulnerable girls and women. They would, of course, also hold their noses and support the health care reform bill – any health care reform bill – that increases access to basic health care services for poor women. They would work to create massive new systems to enable the adoption of unwanted babies of girls and women who choose not to abort. And they would be doing everything in their fiscal power to increase sex education in our schools.

Give girls and women access to all of that, and then you can run your mouth about what they should do with their bodies.  By contrast, if you are against providing girls and women with access to services that will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country, then you are either naïve, or stupid, or a shameless hypocrite who obviously cares more about punishing girls and women for their sexuality than you do about preventing abortion, and you should shut up for a minute and take a hard and honest look at your own attitudes about sex.

Now That I Have Your Attention

Among the tactics of the “pro-life” zealots who masquerade as “pregnancy counselors” and entrap terrified girls and women struggling with unwanted pregnancies is this brutal condemnation: “if you abort your baby, you will regret it for the rest of the life.” While this is tantamount to emotional terrorism, it also happens to be – for some unknown number of women who do terminate a pregnancy – sadly and painfully true. And while it would be a coup de grace if these same zealots and their clinic-bombing militia wing diverted their considerable free time and energy from the harassment of girls and women to the adoption of their unwanted children, the burden of course would be too great for them alone.

Luckily, there is a more scalable solution to the nation’s abortion conundrum, lurking not that far from the picket line in front of the women’s health clinic. In many cities, it is actually housed in a different wing in the very same clinic, the one where otherwise infertile women spend tens of thousands of dollars a year flooding their bodies with hormones and technology, in the hope that they might establish and carry to term a pregnancy their body obviously does not really want. In wildly disproportionate numbers, of course, these pregnancies do not go to term; many fetuses conceived through in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination come in twos, threes and fours, are born prematurely, and end up in the NICU, costing all of us hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

Welcome to the wild, wacky US health care system! OB/GYN residents get a special case of whiplash as they cross over, usually on one magical summer day, from residency into private practice, and they confront a near inversion of the world where they trained to the world they were training for: many of the poor, uninsured women they see in residency women’s health clinic struggle to deal with unplanned pregnancies; many of the well-off, well-insured women they see in private practice struggle to get pregnant.

And so – just sayin’ here – how difficult would it be to solve one problem in part by solving the other?  Large numbers of girls and women do not want children but also do not want to abort, while just around the medical complex’s corner, large numbers of parents will spend small fortunes and endure miserable, protracted interventions trying to have children. I understand that a major part of parenting involves the primacy of one’s own progeny; but everyone I know who has run the fertility technology gauntlet to no end, only to relent and adopt children, has all said – to a couple – “Why did we go through all that? Why didn’t we just do this in the first place?” And indeed, they appear to love their children every bit as much as parents with their own progeny.  How hard would it be to connect one set of desperate people with another?

Apparently, harder than it sounds. Around the country, there are a small number of poorly funded and barely promoted programs that match unwanted pregnancies with eager adoptive parents. But these programs, usually the only recourse for male couples and the last resort for other couples who have failed with fertility technology and want native kids, are highly marginalized. Might this have something to do with – surprise! – markets and money?  With the fact that overseas adoption is a huge cash business?  With the fact that the “fertility business,” and the high-risk pregnancies and complicated deliveries they tend to yield, generate billions per year in cash income for fertility specialists and third-party payer revenue for hospitals?

If the fulminators in Congress who claim to hate abortion wanted to do something useful about the problem, this would be the place to start. Social workers and normal deliveries are far cheaper than fertility specialists and NICU time; everybody wins, right?  Well, everybody except the doctors and hospitals, of course, which have been known, on occasion, to lobby Congress. But really: is this rocket science? Or is it simply another thing that is so obvious, no one has thought of it?

Or Maybe You Just Hate Hester Prynne More than You Hate Abortion

Meanwhile, back at our regularly scheduled screaming match.

As mentioned at the outset, since the age of 10 I have experienced and understood the visceral hatred of abortion shared by many Americans. And I commiserate fully with all who oppose everything about abortion (if not who oppose abortion rights) because of a spontaneous, heartfelt love of babies that is our humanity at its most tender. I too have held the miracle of a newborn in my weathered old hands, imagining with every nerve in my fingertips that I could feel its soft, warm, pink head growing right there, the cells dividing riotously, a precious new life emerging. And yes, this most blessed of all sensations makes the idea of anyone venturing into a pregnant women with their own hands and aborting a fetus at any stage absolutely repugnant to me.

But it is this very repugnance that should inspire us to do the exact opposite of what those who claim to be “pro-life” are trying to do right now. We should be doing everything in our power to stop unwanted pregnancies from ever occurring in the first place – and blocking girls’ and womens’ access to health care services at places like Planned Parenthood is exactly not how to accomplish this goal.

So let’s put a fine point on it: anyone who claims to hate abortion but does not support expanded funding of sex education, birth control, and women’s access to basic health care is a hypocrite. They are lying to themselves, imposing their own neuroses about sex on the rest of us, and actually helping to make the problem worse. They are miserable Puritan scolds who, unconsciously, obviously care more about punishing girls and women for their sexuality than “protecting the unborn.” They are stuck in the 17th century, with the cruel and mindless mob in The Scarlet Letter, one of the quintessentially American novels for woefully good reason. Worst of all, they are inadvertently helping stimulate demand for abortion.

It is safe to say that all reasonable Americans yearn for the elimination of elective abortion in America.  Some of us are grown up about the realities of the problem. We understand that girls and women have sex, many while under-age and out of wedlock, whether or not that happens to meet with our moral approval. We also understand that the best way to prevent abortion is by increasing rather than shutting down their access to birth control, education and health care benefits. Others by contrast would rather vilify, chastise and control women. They would rather force the government not just into their bedrooms, but all the way into their uteruses.  How odd that, on a different day in Congress, some of these very same people might actually mouth a homily or two about the virtues of market forces, individual liberty, and limited government.  They should be forced to wear a scarlet “H” – for hypocrisy – on all their clothing.

The rest of us who are willing and able to connect the dots between the heinousness of abortion, the realities of human behavior, and how markets actually do work recognize one overriding fact about abortions: they did not start with Roe vs. Wade, they will not stop with its overthrow by the mob, and they will not stop with the dismantling of Planned Parenthood. Abortion has been around for centuries, since the discovery of high-saline baths and “special teas” that induced uterine contractions.  Also around for centuries has been the realization that markets work, and that restricting supply in the face of fixed or increasing demand always results in black markets, the criminalization of desperate citizens, and often immense dislocations and suffering.

The best way to drastically reduce the number of abortions in America is simple: ruthless honesty about its causes and our own political compulsions; massive mobilization of systems to increase adoption; and doing everything in our power to increase girls’ and womens’ access to health care services, like Planned Parenthood, to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

J.D. Kleinke is a medical economist, author, and health information industry pioneer. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, JAMA, Barron’s, the British Medical Journal, Modern Healthcare, and numerous other publications.  His books include “Bleeding Edge: The Business of Health Care in the New Century” (1998), “Oxymorons: The Myth of a U.S. Health Care System” (2001), and “Catching Babies” (2011), a novel about the training of OB/GYNs that will be published in March.

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77 Comments on "The Other Scarlet Letter"


Guest
Feb 26, 2011

“They would rather force the government not just into their bedrooms, but all the way into their uteruses. How odd that, on a different day in Congress, some of these very same people might actually mouth a homily or two about the virtues of market forces, individual liberty, and limited government. They should be forced to wear a scarlet “H” – for hypocrisy – on all their clothing.”

I fully agree. Another excellent essay from Dr. Kleinke, whose essays I have read and admired in various publications for several years.

I might ask however on a separate topic what transpired during his involvement with Dossia starting sometime around 2005 or so to the end of his relationship with it and with Intel which has been a prime motivator of the project.

Guest
Feb 26, 2011

This is excellent. It would make an excellent brochure.
Is that a feasible idea? Permission and all that?

Guest
Feb 26, 2011

How exquisite!
Women do not by and large seek abortions because they are having difficulty placing an unwanted infant. They seek abortions because they don’t want to be pregnant and have a baby, period.
“Educating” poor or young and impressionable women about the “heinousness of abortion” and “the visceral hatred of abortion shared by many Americans” and its “repugnance”, just so they agree to become a living incubator (for a fee?) for richer and older women or men who desire a baby, is no less repugnant than the overly dramatized, and largely incorrect “idea of anyone venturing into a pregnant women with their own hands and aborting a fetus at any stage”.

Planned Parenthood should be fully funded, and more programs providing safe abortion services should be funded as well, because it is nobody’s business how a woman utilizes her body, and a bunch of “cells dividing riotously” do not make a baby, unless the woman in whose body they are dividing says so.

If people have such great “spontaneous, heartfelt love of babies”, then may I suggest that a great many number of American babies live in abject neglect and poverty, and would greatly benefit from all this love if it only cared to extend itself beyond the uterus and into homes, day-care, schools and everywhere children are.

Guest
Katie
Mar 3, 2011

Whatever happened to extending resources to women to keep their pregnancies and the resulting child?
Why must poor, young women either be heartless murderers or generous incubators?
Where is the option of providing resources so these individuals can parent?

That being said, I wholeheartedly agree that abortion is most assuredly about not being pregnant as opposed to not being a parent. Women should have no more obligation to rent out their uteruses, provide biological support, and endure labor than the rest of us have an obligation to give up our “extra kidney” or bone marrow.

Guest
Nate Ogden
Mar 3, 2011

but we do have an obligation to provide these women support, medical care, and what ever else they want? This is the part of the argument I never grasp, no one has a right to tell a women what to do with her body but women do have a right to tell everyone else what they do with theirs? What if I don’t want to go to work today to earn money to pay taxes to fund her care? Why is that my obligation?

Guest
David
Feb 26, 2011

I think you miss the point of the the Pro-Life movement. If you die while trying to murder your unborn child, then you got what you deserved, because you are a murderer.

I do not subscribe to this, but it is a common refrain whenever the the negative effects of a lack of abortion services is mentioned.

Guest
Feb 26, 2011

Thank you Margarlit for expressing my thoughts. Funny how in the entire article there is no mention of men’s role in making women pregnant. I guess they are absolved of any responsibility in the worldview of some men. And to extend your point about suggesting that women act as incubators for those who may want to adopt, from what I’ve observed making markets for buying & selling babies hasn’t worked out so well.

Guest
Feb 26, 2011

By making a compelling and sincere attempt to find safe footing in one of the most contentious issues of our day, Dr. Kleinke appeals to the better angels of everyone’s nature. He very carefully said “Large numbers of girls and women do not want children but also do not want to abort, while just around the medical complex’s corner, large numbers of parents will spend small fortunes and endure miserable, protracted interventions trying to have children.” I don’t find anything he said suggesting that anyone “agree to become a living incubator (for a fee?) for richer and older women or men who desire a baby.” And no, he didn’t say anything about the men planting the seeds.

Appealing to pro-life extremists he speaks a language they might understand, advancing a strong argument against defunding Planned Parenthood and encouraging effective sex education. Read this paragraph again:

If the crusaders for the “unborn” actually wanted to eliminate abortions, they would be doing everything in their power to expand Planned Parenthood’s funding and full range of services. They would seek to fund this and every other avenue for the provision of basic health services for vulnerable girls and women. They would, of course, also hold their noses and support the health care reform bill – any health care reform bill – that increases access to basic health care services for poor women. They would work to create massive new systems to enable the adoption of unwanted babies of girls and women who choose not to abort. And they would be doing everything in their fiscal power to increase sex education in our schools.

I don’t know how many readers have actually tried to speak rationally with extremists from the pro-life side of the issue, but I can assure you that this paragraph is very bitter medicine for them to swallow. When Dr. Kleinke uses language like “heinousness of abortion” and “the visceral hatred of abortion shared by many Americans” and its “repugnance” he is addressing that crowd directly in language they will understand. Whether or not it is true, or whether he means it, is beside the point. It is language that might get someone’s attention.

I’m old enough to recall similar conversations about race with my racist peers before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and I can assure you that having a rational conversation trying to change the mind of an extremist who truly believes he or she has heard the voice of God, is no easy assignment. (In those days we used the primitive phrase “women’s liberation” which was almost as inflammatory as “desegregation.”)

Ya’ll cut Dr. Kleinke some slack. He’s one of the good guys. We need more people like him.

Guest
Bobbi Buell
Feb 26, 2011

GREAT WORK, J.D…THESE VERY PEOPLE WHO CLAIM THEY WANT TO PRESERVE “LIFE” ALSO CARRY GUNS AND BELIEVE IN THE DEATH PENALTY. SO, IT’S NO SURPRISE THEY WANT TO GET RID OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD TO REDUCE ABORTIONS…

Guest
Feb 26, 2011

“Do you hate abortion? Me too.”
___

I assume you narrowly mean the intentional “therapeutic” variety, i.e., either the elective surgical or pharmaceutical px’s.

Guest
J. Stefan Walker, MD
Feb 26, 2011

This piece is well-argued and intriguing, with sincere sentiment no doubt apparent in its tone. It strikes a chord with my own developed sense of intellectualism, realism, and progressive belief system about how, logistically, we in healthcare and politics can make the world better. However, I am struck with a sense of fear at how we can – in our sincere efforts and arguments – kind of jump over the main point of arguing, striving, working, and health-caring in the first place: I just can’t see how making killing fetuses easier and safer, and more efficient, will somehow reduce the killing of fetuses. Working, as I do, with many frail, dementia-laden elderly, I honestly believe that – if we can all cheer for an eloquent essay such as the above, for its logic and hitting all the right notes – soon we will find equally sound arguments for efficiently doing away with the demented, the terminally ill, etc. etc. Unlike the author, I do not impune the motives herein; I think them sincere enough. But we are but deceiving ourselves. Some things are simple – but not explainable. Liberal as I am, I must align myself with those against elective abortion…but hopefully heed the author’s apt chastisement of our collective fault in failing to care more for the real causes of the problem.

Guest
Feb 27, 2011

I just can’t see how making killing fetuses easier and safer, and more efficient, will somehow reduce the killing of fetuses. Working, as I do, with many frail, dementia-laden elderly, I honestly believe that – if we can all cheer for an eloquent essay such as the above, for its logic and hitting all the right notes – soon we will find equally sound arguments for efficiently doing away with the demented, the terminally ill, etc.

Well put, Dr. Walker. This is the slippery slope reservation in a nutshell. I wrestled with it a long time myself. As a Christian I find abortions, all kinds, morally reprehensible. But I also believe that the only true morality is that which is chosen, not compelled. For what it’s worth, here has been my journey.

The saying that if men were angels there would be no need for government is more than a clever aphorism. In a perfect moral universe everyone chooses to do right, but mortals often must be forced to make right choices. The argument always shifts from what is moral to what is legal. But it doesn’t take long to realize that morality and legality are often not congruent. This is where the abortion issue becomes polarized. At one extreme are those who regard any fertilized egg to be legally human, subject to legal protection from being killed. (Here in Georgia an elected representative has introduced a bill that would criminalize miscarriages under certain circumstances, making abortion and miscarriage covered under the “prenatal murder” statute.) At the other extreme are those who will not give ground to any constraints, even up to the onset of full-term labor. Both extremes are immobilized by slippery slope reservations, fearing that any compromise will lead to an opposite extreme.

I myself fall between those extremes, being both anti-abortion and pro-choice. I see my role as similar to what I think Dr. Kleinke is advocating, as mediator between the extremes. As a non-medical senior caregiver in my post-retirement life (and potential future candidate?) I am as sensitive as you to the euthanasia question. I followed the question closely from Nancy Cruzon to Terry Schiavo and came to the conclusion that end-of-life decisions are best left up to individual cases, with the decision left to individuals in consultation with family members, doctors, clergy, lawyers and whomever they CHOOSE to have involved. (In recent years, as I’m sure you know, better and more widespread final directives have been developed as well as the hospice resource.)

I hope to see the day when the law will be clarified at the federal level, overriding the incoherent mess that has developed at the state level. The “Hyde Amendment” is a step in that direction, although at the present even that piece of the puzzle is under assault by the extreme pro-life camp (adding the word “forcible” to the definition of “rape” or eliminating insurance coverage of abortions altogether). As the law now stands, all abortions are basically legal up to the time of delivery, a situation I find morally repellent, no matter how legal the procedure might be. A reasonable compromise would be legalizing abortions up to a certain point, after which progressive restrictions protecting the life of the baby (I hate that word fetus) until birth. Part of the language of Roe makes reference to the historic benchmark of “quickening,” the moment when a pregnant woman could feel movement in her womb, as the past legal definition of when a potential future citizen was on the way. They also suggested the word “viability” as a possible legal metric, although with the advance of science that term is getting longer with every neonatal advance.

I hope this helps move the conversation forward. I do not expect the moral questions to be finalized, but sometime while I’m still alive I would love to see the matter resolved legally.

Guest
Pat
Apr 2, 2012

The issue is NOT whether or not people can act as moral agents (or not) by committing an act that destroys a tiny human being made in the image of God (who really belongs to God, not the mother), but several of the following:

1. they ask the wrong question. The right question is, “Does any government have the right to give a person permission to murder an unborn child?” It’s not WHO, but WHETHER.

2. Women deserve legal protection from abortionists. Laws against abortion target abortionists, not women. Abortion is dangerous, and ALWAYS damages a woman’s body, without exception. But women who “choose” abortion never give their INFORMED consent, because they are not told of the development of their baby, nor of the horrible risks involved in abortion. The fact is, by the time most women even know they are pregnant, and time to react and decide what to do, the baby has had a heartbeat and brain waves for days, and even now has eyes and fingers. Surgical abortion does PERMANENT damage to the reproductive systems of 35% of the women who have one, THAT WE KNOW ABOUT. The idea that anyone would penalize a woman for the NATURAL DEATH of her baby through miscarriage is just a red herring people throw into the mix to confuse things.

Right now, abortion is legal. They say it is supposed to be a private decision. Well, let it BE a private decision. I don’t owe it to any woman to pay for her contraception or abortion any more than I owe it to smokers to pay smokers’ rates on insurance to reduce what they have to pay. Either it’s private or it’s not. You can’t have it both ways.

Keep your eyes open. Family members and doctors are often perfectly willing to neglect or actively kill a patient. Family members don’t want the care eating up the estate. No, this should not be left up to family members and doctors. And far too many people are signing a Living Will, not knowing what legally it REALLY says, but it’s permission to KILL someone either through neglect or active means. And even if they may think it’s what they want at the time, they may change their minds, and then what? The signed Living Will is Out There. And people will decide they are incompetent to change their minds, or worse yet, they are unable to convey their wishes. Euthanasia and neglect are just as unethical as abortion. Disabled people deserve legal protection from people who would neglect them or kill them.

It’s not about what is morally repugnant. It’s about the fact that our Creator gave us the UNALIENABLE right to life, and ALL law must support that.

Guest
Bobbi Buell
Feb 27, 2011

It is amazing that the greatest percentage of anti-abortion comments are from men. Whether you are medical professional or not, you certainly have no idea what it is like to be sixteen and pregnant. Nobody likes abortion…but being someone who had one illegally, I do not want men to send my daughters and granddaughters to the same back alley. Clearly, elective abortions should be reduced, but all woman must have a choice that does not include coat hangers and knitting needles. Anyone who thinks it won’t happen again delusional.

Guest
Pat
Apr 2, 2012

Bobbi, let me make myself perfectly clear. I AM FEMALE. So just right HERE, the greatest percentage of anti-abortion comments are from women. I know many people don’t know what it’s like to be sixteen and pregnant. But the truth is, what we have NOW are abortion mills, which are exactly like the back alley mills you have named, except for one thing: abortionists are no longer afraid of getting caught, so they are a LOT more careless, and MORE women are being maimed and killed. There will always be some who will have abortions no matter what. And there will always be rapists. It makes no more sense to deprive women of legal protection against abortionists than it does to make rape legal. Since I don’t think “it won’t happen again” and instead I think “it’s happening NOW, in spite of legality”, I don’t share your delusion. And by the way, that photo of the woman dead with a coat hanger abortion? That was inflicted on her BY HER BOYFRIEND. Boyfriends are the major source of coercion to force women into abortions they don’t want.

How about the sixteen year old? If she stops letting men use her sexually, she won’t get pregnant in the first place! Funny how nobody ever mentions the perfect birth control: abstinence. Your scenario is a false dilemma. Please argue logically. There are other alternatives. Several, in fact.

And you know what? Unlike our “president”, who doesn’t want to “punish” his children with a baby, I don’t want to punish them with an abortion. A baby is a blessing, not a punishment. You didn’t see it that way, but that doesn’t mean you were right.

Guest
Feb 27, 2011

Interesting observation about men. That is likely part of the dynamic animating extreme opposition to the procedure. It’s certainly why I am pro-choice despite any other reservations I have.

Here a couple of old links I put together a few years back when I was looking into the origins of the procedure.
The original Hippocratic Oath included injunctions against abortions and “at the time of the Persian Empire abortifacients were known and that criminal abortions were severely punished.”

http://hootsbuddy.blogspot.com/2004/12/abortion-debate-continued.html

A poem by Ovid, the Greek poet, expresses grief at the idea that the mother of his unborn child has taken something to induce a miscarriage.

http://hootsbuddy.blogspot.com/2004/12/prayer-against-abortion.html

The controversy has roots in pagan times. That is why I’m not optimistic for any clear resolution in my lifetime.

Guest
Pat
Apr 2, 2012

John, just one question: WHY are you pro-choice; WHY do you want to abandon women to abortionists? It’s not just unborn children who are being attacked. Abortion is an attack on us WOMEN as well. We deserve better, and we deserve legal protection.

Guest
Apr 2, 2012

Pat, I really want to give you a reply you might grasp but my command of the language is inadequate to the challenge.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Changing the subject slightly, the tenor of the strident polemics with which you continue to plaster this fourteen-month old comment thread, indicates to me that you seriously need to seek counseling. I’m only a layman, an old guy retired from the food business, but I have a lot of life experiences and have come in contact with a lot of people.

Don’t take my word for it. Do yourself a favor and make a copy of Dr. Kleinke’s article and all these comments as well. Don’t edit or leave anything out, including screen names and dates. Then take what you have made and ask two or three people whom you trust and respect to take time to read it carefully and tell you what they think.

Don’t try to prejudice opinions in advance. Allow them time to read it at leisure, even leaving their responses for another day if possible. And save your emotions for later as well.
At least one of them should be either a pastor or a physician.

I’m not trying to dodge your questions or change your mind.
I’m truly trying to offer you good advice. And I wish you well.

Guest
Pat
Apr 2, 2012

John,

What you wrote is what is known as an ad hominem attack, and it’s among the most scurrilous ones I have seen as far as I am concerned. And you did it in “caring and concerned” terms. You are basically calling me insane, and telling me I should seek help. This avoids what I have actually SAID, and is an attempt to poison the well, another logical fallacy. If you can’t argue logically or from the facts, you’ve already lost. As for what I might grasp, I think I have a good enough mind to grasp a lot of things, but what I can’t figure out is how ANYBODY would abandon women to such a BARBARIC and HEINOUS act as abortion. It is SICK! Go watch an abortion being done, and then come back and tell me otherwise.

I would have to say that anybody who can watch an abortion being done and then come back and say they see nothing wrong with that, is the one who needs help.

It horrifies ME that people aren’t HORRIFIED by abortion. They should be. The world around me has gone insane. I’m not the one who needs help, here.

And by the way, I have already ASKED pastors and physicians I trust, and they think I’m not being graphic ENOUGH.

Hey, I work with women who are agonized over the abortions they have had, even to the point of being suicidal. It is CRUEL to do that to ANY woman, and I wouldn’t wish that off on my worst enemy. It is the ultimate form of slavery, because it enslaves a woman’s SPIRIT.

My husband says my response is milder than he expected! :)

Guest
Apr 3, 2012

You are basically calling me insane, and telling me I should seek help.

I am, in fact, telling you to seek help but I am not by any means calling you insane. That is categorically untrue. In fact, I made it clear that I am merely a layman and I urged you NOT to take my word for it.

If you have the courage to do as I suggested and find others, including a minister or a physician, who find my response to be an ad hominem attack, poisoning the well or any other logical fallacy, I apologize in advance and you are free to dismiss me and all I have said as evidence that I have a hopelessly delusional, deranged mind.

I can only repeat what I said before.
I’m offering you what I consider good advice and I wish you well.

Guest
Pat
Apr 3, 2012

John, excuse me a moment while I undertake a deep sigh. Why should *I* seek help for being able to SEE that an abortion is a form of RAPE on a woman, with medical instruments, and a brutal AXE-MURDER of her own child? It is a crime against humanity. It is those who REFUSE TO SEE what abortion really is who need to seek help.

I don’t need courage to “seek help”. I don’t even need courage to call this ATROCITY what it really is. I already have that courage, and I’m calling it exactly that.

You go watch a film of a surgical abortion being done. I double dare ya! Many women have TOLD me abortion is a form of rape.

My husband says, TELL HIM AGAIN. OK, here goes: I have already TALKED to pastors and doctors about this, and they agree with me. They think I’m not being forceful ENOUGH.

Your “good advice” is that I should turn a blind eye to how TWO people are being irreparably harmed, and just accept that this has been done to a billion women and their children, worldwide. No thanks!

If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a capital offense. I wish you disturbing dreams until you face what abortion really is.

Guest
Mike
Feb 27, 2011

First, I’m always a little puzzled by expressions of extreme distaste for all forms of abortion. Is this merely a rhetorical ploy here? I must say that I do not share this kind of gut repulsion or dislike.

I think the way most people (like me) feel is that abortion in the first trimester is extremely unproblematic, second trimester is more of a moral dilemma, and third trimester, for some, does approach a zone of moral repugnance…. but even then, not always, if there are extenuating circumstances.

So are you JD really so appalled by abortion, or just burnishing your anti-abortion credentials in order to advance a very reasonable argument about prevention services and alternatives to abortion?

If you really are so repulsed by abortion, fair enough. Some people feel that way, and if reminding those who oppose pregnancy prevention services that (some) abortion rights advocates don’t like abortion either helps advance the cause of prevention and adoption by showing that we “get” what they get (or at least some of us do) then I suppose that is all for the good.

The problem in the abortion discourse however is that there are two sides, one of which must defend moral ambiguity… (first trimester is deeply and profoundly different from third trimester…. and there is NEVER a bright clear line at which “completely unproblematic” becomes “completely problematic” or “wrong”). In contrast the other side can mount unambiguous absolutist arguments.

Defending abortion rights therefore gets very dicey unless we are willing to defend moral ambiguity and against moral certainty.

It is very hard to defend moral ambiguity in a street demonstration or a bar fight, and there is no denying that the American abortion debate is a knock down drag out bar fight by now. But I’m not sure that we can win this one if we fail to vociferously insist upon moral ambiguity and the variations in the meaning and problematicity of abortion through gestation. That may seem tactically and strategically difficult, but it has the advantage of truth. (Although your repulsion from ALL abortion suggests that perhaps it is not your truth.)

We should not be repulsed by abortion, per se. We should learn to distinguish politically/medically/philosophically between stages of abortion, and politically, as hard as it is to say it, we have no choice but to defend those differences in public discourse.

—-

Second, the idea of increasing adoption rates is not new. The suggestion that fertility clinics are perversely incentivized not to do this is a useful and astute insight. Thank you for putting that idea out there.

However my read of the right wing talk o’sphere is that, for example, Obama’s overtures on pregnancy prevention, words in 2008 to the effect of “let’s work together on the areas we can agree on”, just as you say above, have not been met with actual political response or practical efforts. It is commendable to stand up and repeat in the new context what has been said before, including in the 2008 election, but the catnip of anti-abortion politics is just too potent to resist for certain politicians speaking to certain districts and constituencies.

Your effort to concede the horribleness of abortion, in order to make the case for pregnancy services therefore gives away too much (in my opinion), because abortion is not always horrible at all, while offering a bargain that we already know the right has slapped down.

I admire your optimism therefore, but think you concede too much (including what I believe is the simple truth that early abortion is not and should not be considered to be morally problematic), and expect that you will get little for your trouble.

I admire and appreciate your effort to take on the issue.

Guest
Tina Biner
Mar 30, 2011

Well said Mike, it’s about time that after reading enough comments someone put that forward. J. Stefan Walker says “I just can’t see how making killing fetuses easier and safer, and more efficient, will somehow reduce the killing of fetuses.” It doesn’t reduce it at all. Planned Parenthood is one way to diminish abortions. Reduction of income disparity within a society can be another inverse correlate to abortions. Early childhood exposure to morality education from family/peers/institutions can curtail abortions. Making abortion safer and easier protects a woman if she so chooses to utilize medical advancement to reverse the outcome of a biologically driven process for which she has failed to prevent a pregnancy either through ineffectiveness of birth control or lack thereof.

How many times does one find themselves at a loss for words when they have found out a friend has miscarried either right before or right after the magical 12th week, when everything should be going along smoothly enough to make the announcement. Particularly, if you have not experienced it, you want to say (but you don’t), I’m so sorry but I hear more and more that’s it’s not uncommon for these things to happen, not all fetuses make it to full term. The varying degrees of reaction from slight disappointment to devastation make clear that this is a deeply and singularly personal issue that is futile to legislate out of existence across a nation. It is simply too easy to become pregnant relative to the investment and responsibility required to responsibly raise a child to adulthood.

What if science found evidence that a woman could wish away a pregnancy by mentally and emotionally denying the continuation of the pregnancy, and physically punishing her body either by lack of sleep, poor nutrition or excessive exercise, and what if those measures resulted in a miscarriage? Is this morally reprehensible? Where to draw the line? Not by thought but only by deed? What more is a first trimester fetus, than only a thought? It is the thought of a potential child that is either mourned or met with relief in an early term miscarriage. For a woman who does not want to be pregnant, the thought is a nuisance that she may grow to love or sadly resent.

Late term, or post-quickening is a separate issue. One really feels for a woman or couple who has lost a late term wanted pregnancy. Where the pregnancy is still unwanted at a late stage is where adoption should be strongly advocated. At that point the pregnancy is apparent, so the remaining issue is labor. This is where we as a society need to revisit the documentary The Business of Being Born so that nulliparous women can understand that with midwife guidance, they are entering a realm of physical challenge, not a medical runaway train ride. Every effort should be made to place those infants.

Are pro-lifers really honest about who they think should be raising crack babies, fetal alcohol syndrome babies, disabled or sick babies with genetic abnormalities evident from genetic screening or ultrasound? Are all babies so precious that they would find room in their homes? Or were some souls meant to be reshuffled into a better life, rather than endure the harsh realities of one our society is ill equipped to support despite all the rhetoric.

Guest
Pat
Apr 2, 2012

Mike,

There is nothing morally ambiguous about the abortion issue. Nothing. Go WATCH an abortion on YouTube or wherever. Go WATCH the butcher RAPE a woman with medical instruments, AXE-MURDER her baby, and then drag out the pieces one at a time. It’s SICKENING, and anybody who thinks otherwise is simply refusing to face facts. It doesn’t matter how old the baby is. It is still the same HEINOUS act, and it is as much an attack on the mother as on her baby. WE DESERVE BETTER.

Guest
Feb 27, 2011

@ Margalit – as usual, we are in violent agreement, especially about your main point – but I never said nor implied that a woman become “a living incubator (for a fee?) for richer and older women or men who desire a baby.” I merely acknowledged that some unknown percentage of girls and women would in fact rather carry to term and give the baby away for adoption than abort; our system is too drunk on fertility money to accommodate them; and worst of all, these same girls and women are then trotted out in their horrific grief by the “pro-life” movement and used (again like Hester Prynne) as an example to terrorize other girls and women into carrying to term, when they themselves may want to terminate their pregnancy.

@ John B – thanks for pointing that out, and based on your comments, I trust you to “brochure” this accurately!

@ Bobbie – you are incredibly courageous for your second statement, and if you’re same Bobbie Buell I know from my day-job, I am not surprised by this or by your candor.

@ Mike – we could go into a long and medically interesting debate about the risks of first-trimester abortion, esp. multiple D&Cs, and an even longer and more interesting debate about the moral component. But what should be encouraging for all is the fact that you and I can differ about the moral component and yet agree completely about the political realities. Not unlike those in the “pro-life” movement who claim to be Christian – despite a glaring absence of compassion or charity for girls and women in profound pain and need – my own moral view on abortion is galvanized by own deeply held religious convictions. Relevant to this difficult subject, here are two of the many reasons my own religion resonates for me: it has the clarity to place the law mandating the preservation of human life above all other laws; it also has the wisdom to accept that what we even define as “life” itself is subject to constant revision, based on the emergence of new scientific knowledge and medical technologies, and on a complex calculus not of absolutes but of enormously difficult trade-offs between, say, the known life of a woman confronting an unwanted pregnancy and the unknown life of a fetus that may come into the world, from day one, as an “unwanted child.”

More importantly, everyone – it does not matter what Mike and I think or believe. A woman’s decision to have an abortion is a solemn, private matter between her, her care providers, and her God. Her right to control her body and her destiny is built upon the most foundational principle of America, no matter how much Mike or I or anyone else does not like that fact. Beyond that difficult philosophical truism, I tried to point out in this pragmatic post that we have no control over her decision anyway – and the more we try to control the situation, the worse we make it.

The most compassionate and charitable way to minimize the pain and suffering for all involved is to reduce the number of times girls and women in this country have to confront this awful decision – by increasing their access to health care, birth control and education, and by staying the hell out of the way the rest of the time.

Guest
Tina Biner
Mar 30, 2011

@J.D. Kleinke and @Margalit, I appreciate the articulation of both your thought processes on the subject, regardless of nuances here or there I might not agree with, if we could align our positions and carve out the greatest common denominators we might have something here. Touche, Touche!

Guest
Feb 27, 2011

With this last statement, J.D., I most violently agree :-)

Guest
Mar 7, 2012

what a difficult sbeujct to write about!! I will let you in on one little secret .The law does not recognize a fetus in utero as a live being only when it is out of the womb. The only exception is homicide. I learned this by pursuing the government for help when my daughter suffered moderate to severe brain damage in utero during a life threatening car accident. I am probably not the person to answer this type of question because it seems as if all these pro-life ‘rs (including Bush) don’t get it. No one told me anything was wrong with my baby I had to figure it out myself and ever since I have had difficulty getting help for her. The individual that caused this accident didn’t even get a ticket and no compensation for her injuries this is the American laws in action. It is funny how people can take the stance of pro-life but once a life comes into this world that is different or has special needs everyone turns the other cheek!! These poor kiddos seem to be disposable in our wonderful country. I am a registered nurse and now find myself unable to work due to lack of care for her. I am a single parent of 5 I have always been able to provide for my family by myself until this occurred and everywhere I go to get help I get the runaround sorry you don’t qualify It’s no wonder why we have so much crime in this world.. God help me for saying this but sometimes abortion might be the best thing for the unborn considering the lives they may be entering. Some pregnancies are unwanted (yes they should be using birth control) but we all know people are out there having sex Why would we encourage mothers to have these children And what if the kiddos suffer some type of abnormality? Most people in America would not want these type of kids I have many stories about this sbeujct. the whole situation sickens me. They always advertise adoption like it is some glamorous wonderful heart felt thing going on but what they don’t talk about is these families that use these kids as a paycheck ..don’t ever hear much about this but it is happening!!!! I can go on and on