Thursday, July 21, 2005

"Cheap Response to Comments" II

John W writes:

think that your prediction regarding the political ramifications of overturning Roe v. Wade might be off a bit. Consider Justice Thomas' dissent in the recent medicinal marijuana case. Breyer, Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Scalia( ?!?) claimed that someone growing pot in their California backyard, for their own use, shifts the national demand curve for marijuana, and thus affects interstate commerce. Clearly they would have to rule that the abortion laws of individual states affect the national market for diapers, Disney DVDs, Star Wars merchandise, etc.

So a federal ban on abortion (without an amendment) would be constitutional. Thus abortion would be on the table in every federal election from now on (if the federal ban wasn't in place, it could be; if it's in place, it could be repealed). I agree that this would likely benefit Democrats, as it would shift the focus from the morality of abortion (where the majority of Americans agrees with the pro-life side ) to the question of whether or not women who have abortions should be imprisoned (where the majority agrees with pro-choicers).


Must admit I hadn’t even considered that possibility, and given the solid 6-3 majority in the medicinal marijuana case, with O’Conner on the right side in my opinion, replacing her with Roberts might not effect using the Interstate Commerce Clause as a justification for making everything federal. I have to admit, Scalia as a part of that majority is very puzzling. Maybe he had a bad day. We’re all entitled to one. But note carefully, my liberal friends, especially those who joyously partake of the easy slander against Clarence Thomas – that he is a little Scalia clone. Here is a case where a black conservative jurist, often viciously and despicably tarred as a house slave simply obeying “massa,” voted against Scalia. And it happens more often than you think. In fact, it happens more often than Ginsburg disagrees with Souter and just as often as Breyer disagrees with Souter. Next time you go to slander Thomas, please keep in mind that such a slander either makes you intellectually very lazy or racist (or both).

Also, the imprisonment of women who would illegally get an abortion is not a necessary consequence of making abortion illegal. Simply making it illegal for an abortion clinic to exist would achieve the desired effect without having to imprison women. Most doctors don’t want to perform them, and those that do tend to be very poor quality doctors (this is a fact, as the procedure is extremely mundane and therefore uninteresting to a good doctor).


Professor Vic writes

would concur with JohnW. I think politically the Court decision in Roe v. Wade has provided nice cover for pro-life politicians who knew they could rail against abortion as much as they wanted without any chance of actually having to outlaw abortion.
There is a huge difference between theory and practice here or as JohnW says, the morality of abortion vs. actually punishing those involved. It's easy to take a tough stand on an issue when you know your law will never be enacted.

This is totally a guess here, but I would say that if the Republicans in the federal government were to pass a ban on abortion that was upheld by a reconstituted Supreme Court, it would cost them both the presidency and both houses for years to come.
As one final note to Geraldy, while there is much to be said for the Court leading "us back to our Christian roots," there is certainly no unanimity of opinion among Christians about what "our" roots really are. Ask the Protestants and the Catholics in N. Irelands, Christains both, about what their common roots are.

Obviously, Geraldy's reading of the Bible leads him/her to believe that abortion is murder, but a reasonable person could also read the Bible and come to a different conclusion. For example, in Exodus 21:22, the Bible says that a man who strikes a pregnant women and kills her shall be put to death but a man who strikes a pregnant women and only causes a miscarriage shall only be fined. That's the closest thing to abortion I can find in the Bible and my interpretation of that passage leads me to believe that killing a fetus isn't murder. So whose Christian roots do we go back to?
We could also go back to "our" Christian roots that held that owning slaves was acceptable (also in Exodus 21), but I don't think anyone whose holds up Brown v. Board of Education as a shining example of the Court as a leader moral change would support those particular roots, either.


The politicians who rail against abortion have legislated against it – in the case of partial birth abortion, for example – so don’t be so quick to assume that they are cynically making an issue out of something they never have to support. It may be true of some, but I doubt it is true of many.

As for “whose Christian roots do we go back to?”, a little discussion of history would be in order. The political demand for abortion came with and as a consequence of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, which was hastened by the pill. Prior to that time, the risks of pre-marital sex were greater, and so people were more discriminating about who they’d have it with; pre-marital sex certainly existed, but it was usually between people who were prepared to marry and therefore provide for and protect any child that came as a result of it. The pill led to the classic Peltzman effect – make a risky behavior safer and people will engage in more of it, and in this case doing so more indiscriminately. The end result was women getting pregnant younger and through partners both unwilling and unable to step up to the plate.

Now, as the father of a daughter, surely you can see that these changes in society have not bettered it. Illegitimacy rates, divorce, teen-age drug use, teen-age suicide, abortion rates – all of these things are worse, far worse, than they were in 1950 – and in my view this is not a coincidence. You will have to worry about what your daughter or her friends might do from the time she is 12 years old. Think about that for a minute. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, but the problem is that a substantial portion of our village has been trying (rather successfully) to have an orgy for 40 years in the town square. People, and most especially innocent children, pay the price for that. But going back to 1950 America, not so long ago, the political demand for abortion would have been extremely limited.

That said, our shared Christian heritage didn't restrain us from voluntarily choosing our current position; making abortion legal didn't make it compulsory. So one could argue that it was easy for us to act chaste when the economic costs of not doing so were potentially very high, and that Christianity was not as large a factor in our behavior in society as was the economics of pre-marital sex.

Making abortion illegal may be dealing with a symptom rather than the underlying disease, but nothing in Exodus supports the underlying disease.

As for Bible quotes, try these two: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”, and “whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me.” (Not bad for a Catholic, heh?)

geraldy said...
Professor Vic,
I don't need my Christianity to tell me that abortion is wrong. If one doesn't see that killing over a million babies a year is morally wrong, then one has to wake up.
Abortion is merely the most tangible government manifestation of everything that is wrong with our society. A truly Christian nation would not have sex scenes hidden in video games, rampant pre-maritial sexuality and licentiousness, and pre-teens playing Clinton-Lewinsky "games." By supporting the outlaw of abortion, we make a good start in addressing the fundamental problems of our society.


The last sentence gets to the crux of it – can the genie be stuffed back in the bottle? The Peltzman effect I alluded to earlier stemmed from a study by Sam Peltzman of the effects of putting seat belts into cars on death rates caused by accidents. Surely seat belts save lives, right? Well, they may in an individual case, but not in the aggregate, as people tend to drive faster when the risks of doing so have declined. Peltzman found this very result – that seatbelts did not reduce accident related fatalities (which is not to say that they didn’t provide benefits – namely the ability to increase your speed without increasing your chances of death). One economist remarked after this study that if the goal were exclusively to reduce accident related fatalities, car companies should be required to have a very sharp metal spike coming out of the steering wheel. I think making abortions harder to get would have the same effect – increase the risks of a behavior that is ultimately very damaging to kids, and the genie might go back.

10 Comments:

Blogger pbryon said...

Is abortion the mother of all issues because of its ties to human life? I presume so, but what we're really talking about here are legislating out damaging behaviors because of their inherent or resultant moral worth. Marijuana is illegal, cigarettes are legal. Pornography is legal. Breastfeeding in public is illegal in some places. Prostitution is legal in Nevada. Alcohol is legal. Seat belt use is mandatory.

What's the law of the land, what's the law of the states, what's appropriate to legislate against, and what isn't? It all makes my head spin sometimes.

Legalize it all, let natural selection sort 'em out. Oh wait, that brings us to evolution, and that's another whole topic entirely!

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Jim O said...

It seems to me that a lot of hot-button issues stem from societal shifts on the 60s & 70s, and as Hatcher say, can the genie be put back in the bottle?
I think the answer is yes, but the amount of effort and damage that we would do to ourselves with all of the shoving may be more than the genie is worth.
What would be the effect of outlawing ceetain behaviors? More prisons? From what I have seen, prisons don't do a good job of rehabilitating prisoners, although they certainly are a wonderful deterrent. So are we trying to adjust the behavior of the casual user, to whom the threat of prison WOULD be a deterrent, or are we trying to affect the behavior of incorrigibles? Does the drug war hold any lessons on legislating behavior?
There are many things about modern society I think are tragic, but I don't think outlawing them is the solution. Teach your children, and the demand will dry up.
It may that I have certain pollyanna tendencies, but I look forward to the day when humans don't feel the needs to anesthetize themselves from pain, when we grow up as a species and a society, and when the expectations we have for ourselves and each other don't cause apprehension and stress so much as excitement and enthusiasm. Then maybe we can relegate these problems to the ash-heap of history.
In the meantime, first do no harm, either legislatively or through other force. I may be my brother's keeper, but I do not want to be his jailer.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I understand it, abortions, in some form, have taken place in virtually every society in recorded human history. So conservatives, who generally have a greater belief that the lessons of history should not be disregarded lightly, understand that criminalizing abortion would not come close to ending the practice. While I grant Hatcher's point that a ban would change the incentives, and thus likely decrease the number, it seems that it would still be in the six figures, if not seven, on an annual basis ( of course, an interesting idea would be for everyone to work together to push that number as low as possible, by supporting policies that have been proven to do so : universal health insurance , at least for children; comprehensive sex ed; over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill( I think that it's been proven that this pill is not an abortifacient, but I'm kind of shaky on that)).

But I digress. The point is
that , if one supports the criminalization of a particular act,
one must consider how that law would be implemented. Women turn to doctors now because that's the safest available choice. A ban would take that option away, but some other avenue would move to the top of the list. Volunteers would teach themselves how to perform
abortions , and do so in the woman's home. Or a clandestine network would arise to distribute RU-486. Would you write the law so that the person who passes on the pill , for no personal gain, is a criminal , but the woman who then takes the pill is not ? Or would you also outlaw the woman's act, but make that law symbolic? So that we'd undermine the rule of law with the passage of legislation that, even at the moment of its passage , we would have no intention of enforcing?

Personally, I can't conceive of a philosophy of law that would criminalize an act but not impose criminal sanctions on the only individual who, at the margin, determines if the act will take place. Our legal system, based on personal responsibility, would demand that the woman face the stiffest punishment. So until someone on the pro-life side can enlighten me, this pro-choice individual will continue to assume that , when we discuss a ban on abortion, the imprisonment of women who have them is the issue at hand.

JohnW

11:10 AM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

Throwing the woman in jail if she has an abortion is not the only option. How about punishing the doctor?, or revoking his or her medical license or something of that nature?

I agree with Jim O's claim that "There are many things about modern society I think are tragic, but I don't think outlawing them is the solution. Teach your children, and the demand will dry up". But I don't think abortion falls into that category.

Re. universal health care & abortion, I'm sorry, but I absolutely cannot buy the claim that universal health care would reduce abortions. Try not to be offended if I say that's just ridiculous. A Planned Parenthood statistic from around 1993 indicated that only about 7% of the abortions in the USA were attributed to the "hard cases" (rape, incest, etc.), and that the other 93% were for convenience/birth control reasons. That being the case, no amount of health care money is going to change that.

I'm very particular about that since I once had a discussion with a left-wing Catholic priest who claimed that universal health care was the answer to the abortion problem. Oy. From a Catholic priest.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous geraldy said...

I think that the number of abortions is related to two factors: liberal ideology and fundamental changes in our society and economy. Because marriages are delayed, many women seem to spend their entire 20s sleeping with men at the drop of a hat. They, of course, take jobs outside of the home and meet men at bars after "work." Even though it is highly un-PC to say this: I think that it was better when women spent their 20s at home raising children. This kind of patriarchal society worked for thousands of years and all of a sudden feminists think that they can change fundamental human nature.

As Mary Ann Glendon has argued, feminism and widespread birth control in the seventies created two types of female behavior: man-hating (the demand to exclude men from having any control over children they conceived) and man-chasing (the attempt to lure men by freely offering sex).

To change these tendencies, we do have to look at wage rates. It is a sad consequence of market forces that fathers frequently cannot earn high enough income to support families on their own. Of course, this could also be the result of a consumerist demand to own two fancy cars, huge houses, and many VCRS. I don't know which side the data actually supports.

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, all these comments come from, now I am just assuming so don't get upset here, white, bald, fat old men who believe that only a masculine perspective is in order. Yippee for women who have broken through and revolted burned their bras and otherwise are fed up of the Man running their lives, and is the such of pretty much calling them whores (not in so many words Geraldy). Remember you were all in college as some point in time and unless you were science or engineer students, tried to get laid at a "drop of a hat" (great over generalization) with out regards to outcomes. Be ashamed of yourselfs for laying the blame on woman, they can't get pregnant with out some Ahole doing the deed for them.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous geraldy said...

Such name-calling from "anonymous"! I confess to being a white male, but the others certainly don't apply!

Typical meaningless, ungrammatical, man-hating feminist rhetoric, though. The fact of the matter is that, throughout history, women have been the gatekeepers in determining whether sex was going to occur. Feminism has perverted this traditional role.

Sociobiology agrees with what I am saying. Women produce a limited number of eggs in their lives and it is crucial that they find an appropriate mate to fertilize them. Wanton "hooking up" goes against this nature.

I won't absolve men from responsibility for engaging in illicit sexual contact, but history and science both prove my point that women may be more responsible. I'm sorry if these facts aren't "PC."

9:11 AM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

I was a science major in college--and an engineering major before that--and I had no car, no fake ID, & wasn't in a fraternity. So basically, my chances of getting laid at the drop of a hat were about as good as my chances of getting struck by lightning during a snowstorm. That having been said, I don't blame women for the abortion problem, but I do think Geraldy had a point about the "married women" aspect. I don't know any statistics to back this up, but, is it fair to say that most abortions are had by unmarried women? If that is the case, and I imagine it is, then it might be conceivable that the demand for abortion is higher partly because people are getting married later in life don't want the babies that are conceived before they are married. It's possible.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, Geraldy, you really needed to get laid more often in college, man hating rhetoric, what you spurt is pure misogynistic propoganda. Where is the empirical data for your claims, other than the fact that yes, obviously, women will only produce a certain amount of eggs in their lifetimes, duh. However, that point is only relevant if the desired outcome is reproduction, if no off-spring are desired than you can kiss socio-biology good bye.
As to your claim that women have more control of fertility you obviously have no clue, do some research. Women since the pill has been available have come to realize that yes they control fertility, not before, consult some socio-biologist or better yet a historian. Look up fertility rates, job opportunities and the such but lay the blame squarely on men where is deserves to be. When a society is patriarchical, like most, than that is where blame lies

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you are obviously female because you lack the balls to provide your name

It IS a patriarchal society, but that doesn't mean squat. Plenty of female babies are getting sucked out of wombs in a vacuum hose too; ever think that the reason some folks oppose abortion is not to limit the "choices" of either parent but to protect the life of the child? And by the way if the men have so much to do with it, why not legally require the consent of the father for any abortion?

Be ashamed of YOURSELF for making so many disgusting assumptions about the folks commenting on this blog and about men in general.

Blogger Boy

9:07 AM  

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