Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Government Guide to Reducing Abortion

[If you are easily offended by language, ideas, or reality, please skip this post.]

The Washington Times sets the stage for us:

That strategy [to continue chipping away at the legality of abortion] was reflected in his [the president's] annual phone call yesterday to the March for Life in Washington, which was led by pro-life activist Nellie Gray.
[What follows is my rendition of the quote, not an actual quote.]
"The America of our dreams, where every woman is abused ... in life and oppressed in law, may still be some ways away," he acknowledged from Camp David. "But even from the far side of the river, Nellie, we can see its glimmerings."


[The actual quote:

"The America of our dreams, where every child is welcomed ... in life and protected in law, may still be some ways away," he acknowledged from Camp David. "But even from the far side of the river, Nellie, we can see its glimmerings."]

Until the glimmerings of that blessed day are upon us, let us see what else has been going on the Mall:

The president made it clear that despite the polarizing nature of the abortion debate, he places a premium on politeness.


But of course, pas être, paraître. Who cares if the debate is about stripping women of the ability to have a say in medical decisions that will significantly impact their risk of death? As long as we all mind our manners, magically, women's health won't be affected. The premium should always be [and apparently, as far as Mr. Bush is concerned, it already is] placed on appearance, not reality.

"I want to thank you, especially, for the civil way that you have engaged one of America's most contentious issues," he told the pro-lifers in remarks broadcast on the Mall. "A true culture of life cannot be sustained solely by changing laws. We need, most of all, to change hearts."


Look here, it's not enough to subject women to laws that strip them of the ability to make medical decisions for themselves, increase their risk of death, and treat them like incompetent buffoons. We need, most of all, to insure they accept this subjugation with an open and willing heart, a smile on their face, a twinkle in their eye, and a spring in their step. Also, a heartfelt "thank you!" wouldn't kill them. [The laws might, but come on, when's the last time anyone died from being polite and cheerful?]

That statement was widely interpreted as a reluctance to challenge Roe v. Wade directly, a posture the president first articulated in a 2003 press conference.
"I don't think the culture has changed to the extent that the American people or the Congress would totally ban abortions," he told reporters in the Rose Garden then.


However, it appears that just killing physicians, violence and harassment at abortion clinics, and enacting a federal refusal to treat women law is not enough. Neither is conferring privileged legal status, when it comes to violence, to one group of citizens--pregnant women [well, if you can really consider women citizens; I say let's stick with calling them little darlings, so as not to muddle the demarcation between, you know, actual people and women]--over ordinary, nonpregnant little darlings. [At least we still have them lowliest of creatures, infertile and hysterectomized women, to be attacked and killed at will, since they're clearly worth even less than then normal, nonpregnant ones.] Nor is it enough to forbid pregnant women to obtain a divorce. Some anti-abortion activists yearn for even more control over women:

But pro-life activist Stephen Peroutka, who participated in yesterday's march, said, "That's a tough thing to say to the 4,000 babies who will be aborted tomorrow - that this is not the right time to outlaw abortion.


Indeed, since only embryos and/or fetuses are aborted, finding, not to mention communicating, with imaginary babies could prove to be a tough thing. And, although Mr. Peroutka doesn't consider this matter serious enough to use facts [nor does the reporter bother to check], I say we limit ourselves to making up babies, but draw the line at making up numbers. The actual number of daily abortions is not 4,000, but rather ~2,338.

"When is the right time - when public opinion polls say it's the right time?" he [Peroutka] asked. "Shouldn't he be a leader and make it the right time? Let's stop leading by public-opinion polls."
Mr. Peroutka credited the president with reigniting the debate over abortion, even if he hasn't gone far enough in banning the practice. He called for Mr. Bush to adopt a take-no-prisoners approach to abortion in his second term.


Shades of totalitarianism anyone? Note to Mr. Peroutka: be careful what you wish for, it may come true. Today a Dear Leader's diktat might only oppress insignificant women. However, tomorrow He might decide to ban practices that would affect men.

But White House press secretary Scott McClellan suggested that the president will continue to take a nonconfrontational approach to the abortion issue.
"I think that he's made it very clear that whether we agree or disagree on the issue of abortion, that we can all work together to take practical steps to reduce the number of abortions," the spokesman said yesterday.


So, the President of the United States has made it clear that we are to work together to take practical steps to reduce the number of abortions. I don't know about you, but I for one am trembling with abject gratitude for the government's interest and guidance. [Hey, it's never to early to start ingratiating yourself to people who'll soon have the power of life and death over you. If you're smart and want to survive, may I suggest you follow suit, and start kissing some government popo.]

My opposition to politicians having a say in individuals' medical decisions notwithstanding, let's see how the government proposes to reduce the number of abortions:

According to the White House, those steps include passage of the Child Custody Protection Act and the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act.
The first measure would make it illegal for an adult to transport a minor across state lines to avoid a parental-notification law in the girl's home state.
The second measure would require abortion doctors to inform mothers how painful an abortion will be to an unborn child at least 20 weeks old and to offer anesthesia for the fetus.


So, according to our most benevolent leaders the way to reduce abortion is to: 1) enact some more laws that don't work; and 2) lie to women, and offer to increase their intraop risks. [If some of the anesthesiologists out there could blog a little about the difference between administering anesthesia to a pregnant patient vs. a nonpregnant one, the inherent difficulties and risks, drug delivery to the fetus, and what anesthetizing a fetus during an abortion procedure would entail, that would be most instructive.]

To reduce the number of abortions, instead of misguided politics and dreamy religion, how about some science? Emergency contraception (estimated to prevent 800,000 abortions per year). Education [one based on facts, not wishful (.pdf) thinking]. Increasing the availability of existing birth control methods to American women. Encouraging R&D of new methods.

[Let me make it clear that I do not expect the government to develop new birth control methods. That's the job of the private sector. But, at a minimum, I do expect the government not to obstruct, misrepresent, delay, and interfere with the availability of existing methods, and the development of future ones.]

Finally, just in case the (R) designation next to a politician's name lulls you into a false sense of security, allow me to bring you back to reality:

Mrs. Clinton, in a speech to about 1,000 abortion rights supporters at the state Capitol, firmly restated her support for the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, Roe v. Wade. But then she quickly shifted gears, offering warm words to opponents of abortion - particularly members of religious groups - asserting that there was "common ground" to be found after three decades of emotional and political warfare over abortion.

...

In addition to her description of abortion as a "tragic choice" for many," Mrs. Clinton said that faith and organized religion were the "primary" reasons that teenagers abstain from sexual relations, and reminded the audience that during the 1990's, she promoted "teen celibacy" as a way to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.


Politicians, no matter what their party affiliation, should not decide what's medically appropriate for you. You are as capable as any politician [if not more] to make decisions about your health. And only you, as opposed to a stranger, not matter how divinely inspired, or politically skilled he/she might be, will always know best what is in your interest when it comes to your health.

(via Drudge)



15 Comments:

At 8:06 PM, Blogger Dr. Charles said...

I wonder what President Bush would recommend to his partying daughters if they were to become pregnant... not that we'd ever hear about it. I find the new democratic urge to compromise in favor of a common ground the latest evidence that they have lost something. It's a slippery slope to legislate morality, and it makes me sick.

 
At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I almost hate to nitpick because I agree with your point and 99% of what you have to say. My one disagreement is this:

You said:
"Neither is conferring privileged legal status, when it comes to violence, to one group of citizens--pregnant women..."

See, the thing is, if that's what the Unborn Victims of Violence Act was doing, conferring protected status on pregnant women (and of course, they would have to change the name of the act), I would be all for it. Since the number-one cause of death for pregnant women is homicide (generally at the hands of the father of their child), I see no problem with designating pregnant women as a particularly vulnerable class of individuals who need extra protection under the law. (Similar to the additional penalties for violence against a police officer. In order for society to function smoothly, additional deterrents are needed to protect cops.) That would be truly pro-woman legislation.

But that's not what the UVVA does. It's problematic, not because it protects women (that's only an indirect benefit), but because it designates fetuses as seperate beings from the women in who's bodies they reside. The UVVA is saying, in essence, that it's only worthwhile to protect pregnant women because of the "extra-valuable" fetuses they are carrying. The women themselves? Eh, who cares?

This is the kind of thinking that leads, for instance, to a charge of "kidnapping" when someone slits a pregnant woman's throat and cuts her full-term fetus out of her uterus. Kidnapping, because the death of the woman is only tangential.

Anyways, I'm sorry to rant, since I imagine I'm preaching to the choir. As you can tell, this gets under my skin.

Thank you for a great blog. I've been telling everyone I know about it.

-Maayan (mroth at andrew dot cmu dot edu)

 
At 11:09 PM, Blogger Dr. Charles said...

here's a timely link - it's a lot of reading to get through it, but you'd probably find interesting:
http://harpers.org/GamblingWithAbortion.html

 
At 11:16 PM, Blogger ema said...

Dr. Charles,

Absolutely! Despite my general low expectations when it comes to politicians, I must say I find the Democrat's willings to horse trade with women's repro health troubling.

Maayan,

I should've made it clear that I didn't read the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. My objection was to conferring special status to a person based on the state of their uterine lining. From what you're describing, it's worse than that. It's actually conferring special status to the contents of the uterus, and not the pregnant woman. Ugh!

As to the idea of special protection for pregnant women akin to the one police enjoy, in order to stem the # of homicides against them, point taken. As far as I'm concerned, I'd put it in the "something to consider" category because I don't have enough info to fully evaluate it.

Please, rant away. I know the feeling :-).

 
At 2:47 AM, Blogger Pseudo-Adrienne said...

Dr. Charles said: "I wonder what President Bush would recommend to his partying daughters if they were to become pregnant..."

I'm pretty sure he would either a.) send them away to one of those over glorified maternity homes and lie to the press and say they're off doing missionary work in Central America instead, or b.) conveniently become pro-choice and urge them to have an abortion or take an emergency contraceptive pill.

Though I want emergency contraceptive pills to made legal in all fifty states and distributed over the counter, if Bush just out-of-the-blue came out and openly supported OTC emergency contraceptive pills in all fifty states, and said something like "think about our daughters" while doing so (not specifically mentioning his daughters of course), I would be highly suspicious.

But I would still be very grateful that he pulled his head out of his ass for once, and did something beneficial to ALL women and not just the female misogynists of the IWF (Independent Women's Forum). It's amazing how often people conveniently change their opinion on an issue when shit happens to them or someone close to them.

 
At 5:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing more tedious than a medically educated liberal who thinks his/her opinions receive the sanction of science. I have no idea about the truth re: abortion. The following, however, is clear to me:

1. Fetuses, even zygotes, may have some moral status. It is not insane, unreasonable, or lunatic to say that their status=those of born babies. (tho the opposite position is also reasonable)

2. If they have such status, the State has a duty and right to protect them, even if such protection comes at the expense of female bodily integrity & control.

This logic is never disputed. All liberals can do is pour scorn on point (1). That's not going to help create a solution for the entire country. Congratulations, Dr./Ms. Period for pouring gasoline on the flames of the culture wars!

 
At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with the anonymous poster above. Furthermore, if the unborn are "made-up babies," how do you explain the raging debate in anesthesiology over how to provide anesthesia for them prior to their being killed? Or is that also part of this notional conspiracy?

There are at least two Dr. Charleses here btw!

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger ema said...

Anon1,

There is nothing more tedious than a medically educated liberal who thinks his/her opinions receive the sanction of science.I must admit, as a rule, I tend to find this type of person quite amusing.

1. Fetuses, even zygotes, may have some moral status. It is not insane, unreasonable, or lunatic to say that their status=those of born babies. (tho the opposite position is also reasonable)Not sure what you mean by "moral status" as applied to zygotes/fetuses? If you mean "a person might hold a belief that a zygote/fetus is the same as a newborn, (though others might not), and we shouldn't judge either position insane/unreasonable/lunatic" I agree.

2. If they have such status, the State has a duty and right to protect them, even if such protection comes at the expense of female bodily integrity & control.There's no "if" about it. For people who hold that particular belief, they do have such status. For those who do not, they don't. The State doesn't have a right to impose the beliefs of one group of people on another group. As to duty, the State has a duty to insure the roads are paved, contracts are enforced, and a couple of other things, and that's it. The State shouldn't dictate beliefs or morality, and above all, it shouldn't make your medical decisions for you.

This logic is never disputed.What logic?

All liberals can do is pour scorn on point (1).I'm not all that familiar with the liberal position on personal beliefs. In my opinion, as a rule, it's best to refrain from passing judgment on other people's beliefs.

That's not going to help create a solution for the entire country.When it comes to personal beliefs, I don't think you can have (or should have) a uniform solution for the entire country.

Congratulations, Dr./Ms. Period for pouring gasoline on the flames of the culture wars!Heh, off topic, but I like Dr./Ms. Period. Not my intention to inflame the culture wars (what are the culture wars, anyway?), but rather to point out that an individual a) is quite capable of making decisions about his/her health, and b) will always have his/her best interest in mind [as opposed to, you know, politicians and/or assorted strangers].

Anon2 (?Dr. Charles1),

Furthermore, if the unborn are "made-up babies," how do you explain the raging debate in anesthesiology over how to provide anesthesia for them prior to their being killed? Or is that also part of this notional conspiracy?There is no such thing as an "unborn". Maybe you meant "in utero". I'm not sure what you mean by if the unborn are "made-up babies,"? I am not aware of any raging debate; any sources you can point me to? What national conspiracy?

There are at least two Dr. Charleses here btw!To cut down on the confusion, may I suggest you use Dr. Charles1.

 
At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your cultured obliviousness to the central failings of yr argument crystalize why we will not as a society "move on" over the issue of abortion. Dr. Period states:

"The State doesn't have a right to impose the beliefs of one group of people on another group. As to duty, the State has a duty to insure the roads are paved, contracts are enforced, and a couple of other things, and that's it. The State shouldn't dictate beliefs or morality, and above all, it shouldn't make your medical decisions for you."

Total nonsense. The State does impose moral views--and has every right to do so. For instance, it imposes the view that it is wrong to kill people and "dictates" this morality to those who might disagree, like, say, Satanists, Nazis, murderers what have you.

Thus, if you believe zygotes=people, and if you believe that the State has an obligation to protect people's lives, then you have no trouble with abortion bans.

My point is not that abortion is correct and wrong. It's that people like you, Dr. Period, are simply sounding off in your solipsistic echo chamber. By intellectual delusion, you are blinding yourself to the power of your opponent's position and dooming the possibility for real dialogue on this issue.

 
At 7:08 PM, Blogger ema said...

Total nonsense. The State does impose moral views--and has every right to do so. For instance, it imposes the view that it is wrong to kill people and "dictates" this morality to those who might disagree, like, say, Satanists, Nazis, murderers what have you.The State imposes that view not because it is moral, but rather because it's utilitarian. When it serves the State's interest to prohibit murder (Satanists, Nazis, etc.), it does so; when it serves its interest to sanction murder (executions, etc.), it does so.

Thus, if you believe zygotes=people, and if you believe that the State has an obligation to protect people's lives, then you have no trouble with abortion bans.If you believe zygotes=people, you shouldn't have an abortion. You should also recognize that other people have beliefs that differ from yours, and you should respect that. But above all, you should not want the State to impose bans based on beliefs. Today the ban might be based on a belief you hold, and you won't have any trouble with the ban. However, tomorrow the State's ban might be based on a belief which is anathema to you.


My point is not that abortion is correct and wrong. It's that people like you, Dr. Period, are simply sounding off in your solipsistic echo chamber.Um, I have a blog with unrestricted access to comments. You are here. How's that for an echo chamber?


By intellectual delusion, you are blinding yourself to the power of your opponent's position and dooming the possibility for real dialogue on this issue.Ideology has a place in theoretical arenas, like politics and religion, not in medicine. When it comes to a person's morbidity and mortality, it's not about power and righteousness; it's about minimalizing those risks as much as possible. My eagle eyes see that people differ in their beliefs, but I do not understand the insistence on imposing one particular set of beliefs. And I do not understand the willingness to allow the State to make medical decisions for you.

 
At 2:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, well, at last Dr. Period is coming clean. We now learn that:
"The State imposes that view [murder should be punished] not because it is moral, but rather because it's utilitarian."

Of course, as I hope Dr. Period learned in freshman philosophy class, utilitarianism is, itself, a moral philosophy. (J.S. Mill and J. Bentham wrote on it, as I'm sure you recall) Thus, by her own omission, the point is not whether the State should or should not impose a moral belief. It's which one. That's a question which all of us (crazed Southern Baptists and fanatica feminist gynocologists) have a right to influence.

Further, it's a question that permeates ALL of society, including medicine. The personal is political--so is the medical.

 
At 4:11 AM, Blogger ema said...

Ah, well, at last Dr. Period is coming clean. We now learn that:
"The State imposes that view [murder should be punished] not because it is moral, but rather because it's utilitarian."
I'm glad you're so appreciative of my mention of the factoid about the State & murder, but I must tell you, it's rather common knowledge.

Of course, as I hope Dr. Period learned in freshman philosophy class, utilitarianism is, itself, a moral philosophy. (J.S. Mill and J. Bentham wrote on it, as I'm sure you recall) Thus, by her own omission, the point is not whether the State should or should not impose a moral belief. It's which one. That's a question which all of us (crazed Southern Baptists and fanatica feminist gynocologists) have a right to influence.Let me see how I can put this delicately, since you are a guest here; you are being a tad presumptuous. Not everybody has had your educational opportunities and privileges [heh, note the benefits of living in a State where beliefs aren't imposed]. In any case, your point was that the State already legislates morality because it prohibits murder. I simply pointed out that it doesn't--it both prohibits and sanctions it. The *essence* of the point is whether the State should be allowed to impose a particular set of beliefs. I say "No". You say "Yes". And still, I have no idea why? Granted, philosophy and religion are not my strong suits, so maybe I'm missing an essential element here. Is there something in the Southern Baptist doctrine that requires the surrender of one's beliefs to the State?

Further, it's a question that permeates ALL of society, including medicine. The personal is political--so is the medical.Not at all. For both a crazed Southern Baptists and a fanatical feminist gynecologists [where do you meet these people?], the risk of dying from a term pregnancy is significantly higher than that from an abortion. Their beliefs, politics, religions, and personalities are irrelevant.

 
At 4:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Period wrote: "Let me see how I can put this delicately, since you are a guest here; you are being a tad presumptuous. Not everybody has had your educational opportunities and privileges"

Dr. Period, I suppose, said that that because I referred J.S. Mill and J. Bentham. You don't need to be privileged to read them, my dear. You only need a library card, patience, and minimal intelligence. And, how can I put this delicately, you are being a tad presumptious writing on political/philosophical issues without at least a passing knowledge of basic political and philosophical theory.

Your response was not a response, I'm afraid. You say medicine should not be enforcing morality and should be "utilitarian." Well, utilitarianism IS a morality; it is the philosophical belief that utility/pleasure should be maximized above all considerations.

Who are you to determine what should be the philosophical basis under which the American medical system is run? Do you pay for it? Did you invent the amazing technical advances that made it possible? Did you risk your own capital to create new drugs? Do you protect the nation from foreign invaders who would no doubt destroy hospitals? No, of course not. You're merely a doctor.

All of society must have a say on how medicine is run because all of society makes it possible. Before you denouce pro-life Christians for "imposing their morality," you need to explain, my dear Doctor, why your vision of morality--and medicine--should be imposed on them.

 
At 8:35 AM, Blogger ema said...

Your words (emphasis mine):

Of course, as I hope Dr. Period learned in freshman philosophy class, utilitarianism is, itself, a moral philosophy. (J.S. Mill and J. Bentham wrote on it, as I'm sure you recall)Now you elect to move the goalpost:

Dr. Period, I suppose, said that that because I referred J.S. Mill and J. Bentham. You don't need to be privileged to read them, my dear. You only need a library card, patience, and minimal intelligence.Either way, I will cut you some slack, because, as a person who has had the extraordinary privilege of being born (I assume), and of living in a State where beliefs aren't imposed, your limitations are understandable. You have no frame of reference. In a State where beliefs are imposed, a library card, patience, and minimal intelligence are insufficient to insure you get to read whatever you wish. I say again, don't presume your experiences in a free State in any way give you an inkling into what it really means to live in a State where beliefs are mandated.

And, how can I put this delicately, you are being a tad presumptious writing on political/philosophical issues without at least a passing knowledge of basic political and philosophical theory.You needn't be delicate, but you do need to be specific and accurate when venturing into this territory.

Your response was not a response, I'm afraid. You say medicine should not be enforcing morality and should be "utilitarian." Well, utilitarianism IS a morality; it is the philosophical belief that utility/pleasure should be maximized above all considerations. Incorrect. I say the State should not be enforcing beliefs. I have no idea what you (not I) mean by medicine should not be enforcing morality and should be "utilitarian.".

Who are you to determine what should be the philosophical basis under which the American medical system is run? Do you pay for it? Did you invent the amazing technical advances that made it possible? Did you risk your own capital to create new drugs? Do you protect the nation from foreign invaders who would no doubt destroy hospitals? No, of course not. You're merely a doctor.I assume these questions aren't directed at me, since determining the philosophical basis under which the American medical system should be run, financing the medical system, inventing medical technology, risk of capital, and protecting the nation from foreign invaders have nothing to do with the issue under discussion, namely: Should the State be allowed to impose a particular set of beliefs?

All of society must have a say on how medicine is run because all of society makes it possible. Before you denouce pro-life Christians for "imposing their morality,"... Medicine is not a democracy. It is run by scientific evidence, not societal say. Please find one example where I denouce pro-life Christians for "imposing their morality,". What I do denounce is the State imposing the beliefs of one group on another group who does not hold those particular beliefs.

...you need to explain, my dear Doctor, why your vision of morality--and medicine--should be imposed on them.Your request is illogical. My position is that one person's/group's particular vision of morality (mine, yours, that of "pro-life" Christians, etc.) should never be imposed on another group. [And the only way to insure that is to keep the State out of the business of imposing beliefs.] The explaining needs to be done by those who wish to impose their vision of morality on others.

 
At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mistake-- you said government should be utilitatarian. Fine. My points hold. Utilitarianism IS a philosophy/belief system/view on morality. You want government to imposed it on everyone. Why? Who died and made you queen? No one.

 

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