US Attitudes to Abortion

8 March is International Women’s Day. Although women have made enormous strides towards equality just in my lifetime, there are still millions of women who are subjugated and even in the West, still plenty of anti-women laws. There are many countries I could pick on, but given that the United States is currently in the throes of an election process that will have major ramifications for the rights of women in that country, I thought I’d go there. Specifically, I want to address some of the issues in the US around abortion.

In New Zealand, this subject is largely ignored. In 1977 the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Bill was enacted and no politician has been game to touch the subject since. It rarely even gets a mention in elections. Because all public hospitals are owned and run by government, religion doesn’t get to interfere beyond the odd protest, and even these are rare. The law isn’t perfect by any means but on the whole, women who want and need abortions are able to obtain them.

In the United States though it’s a much more contentious subject. Abortion has been legal since the (in)famous Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision of 22 January 1973. There has been push back from opponents ever since, and in recent years those opponents have been finding ways to limit access to abortion by taking control of the legislature in several states and enacting dubious laws. These laws are progressively making it harder and harder for women to obtain a termination, especially if she is young, poor or lives in a rural area.

2009 March for Life Wiki

2009 March for Life (Source: Wikipedia)

Also since the Roe v Wade decision, there has been a protest march every year on its anniversary, calling for it to be overturned. The number of participants on the so-called ‘March for Life’ has increased markedly in recent years. According to Wikipedia, up until 2010 numbers never got higher than 250,000. In 2010 and 2011 there were apparently around 400,000 marchers, 650,000 in 2012, and there are unconfirmed reports of 800,000 this year.

The increased attendance on the March for Life has been touted by abortion opponents as evidence of a sea-change in public opinion about abortion i.e. that a majority are now opposed. They point to such things as the Kermit Gosnell case and the undercover Planned Parenthood videos made by the misleadingly named Center for Medical Progress as bringing the reality of abortion to public notice.

(Gosnell owned an abortion clinic and was convicted, among other things, of killing foetuses that survived abortions. The Center for Medical Progress tricked Planned Parenthood staff into saying they would sell aborted foetuses for profit. See the links above for more information.)

The issue has become even more important than usual because of this year’s election. The Democratic Party runs on a pro-choice platform. In the GOP, candidates are technically able to make up their own minds but currently being pro-choice is not an option if you want to get elected, such is the grip evangelicals have on the party’s more tender anatomy.

Abortion USA 1995-2016However, a report released by Pew Research Center on 1 March 2016 shows that since they mid 1990s, support for abortion has remained greater than opposition to it in the United States. Overall, there has been little change in twenty years, with a slight majority (51%) saying it should be legal in most or all circumstances. (43% say it should be illegal most or all of the time.) The interesting thing is that when opinions are broken down by region, there has been a big increase in opposition only in the south-central states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas), which are also the only part of the country where opposition is greater than support.

Further, while those in New England have always been more likely to support abortion rights and those in the south-central states more likely to oppose them, the difference has become much more polarized. In 1995/96 the gap between the two regions was 18 points; by 2012/13 it had increased to 35 points. This matches the increased political polarization of the country, with the South Central states all being conservative, evangelical, and Republican strongholds.

Abortion Overall USA to 2015

Abortion Morality USA 2014The fact that opposition to abortion is largely based on religion can be seen in the graph on the right. Religion and religiosity, and therefore whether abortion is seen as a moral choice, appear to determine a person’s opposition to abortion.

One of the things I find very interesting about this graph is the relatively low levels of opposition to abortion in the Catholic community. The Catholic establishment is, of course, completely opposed to abortion in principle. The same failure to adhere strictly to Catholic doctrine can be seen in, for example, the widespread use of artificial contraceptives and support for same-sex marriage. (It’s good to see Catholics are more sensible than their leaders.)

I’d argue that the Catholic Church establishment’s constant hypocrisy, especially in relation to their failure to protect children in their care, means they can hardly criticize their congregation either. Also, the pope has made this a Jubilee year, meaning Catholics can get forgiveness for things like abortion that they can’t normally get forgiveness for. The elasticity of the morality of the Catholic establishment has been a feature of it for centuries.

The Guttmacher Institute released a report on 1 March 2016 that shows that 28 states have laws that force women needing an abortion, among other things, to wait between 1 and 3 days. Why this is considered acceptable is appalling. There is no other medical procedure for which this occurs. These laws, like the one relating to Texas abortion clinics that is currently before the Supreme Court (see below), are about nothing more than controlling women and forcing the beliefs of the lawmakers on a vulnerable, powerless group.

Abortion Overview 2016 1

Abortion Overview 2016 2

Most of these states also require parents to be at least notified and to give their consent when a minor requires an abortion. The terror with which that must fill some young women horrifies me.

I used to work in Quality and Risk Management in the biggest hospital in the southern hemisphere. One case I’ve never forgotten is that where the fact a young woman (supported by social workers) had had an abortion was discovered by her family. They were told by a family member (a nurse) who worked at the hospital, who discovered it by by breaching both hospital policy and New Zealand law. That family member then disclosed it to the girl’s parents and other family members, again in breach of New Zealand law. The girl was kicked out of her home, disowned by her very religious parents, and required to leave school. The family member lost her job (privacy breaches are considered extremely serious issues), but it was too late for the young woman concerned. I can see this sort of happening regularly when the law requires parents to be notified. At least in New Zealand, a social security benefit and other help was available – many US states do not have the same services.

Abortion has been made a major issue in this year’s presidential election. Republican candidates in particular are required to be not just anti-abortion personally, but prepared to force that position on all USians. When it comes to the general election, this position is going to come back to bite them. As I pointed out in an earlier post, if the Republicans want to win the general election, they are going to have to do a better job of appealing to women. Donald Trump already has strong negatives with women which he cannot overcome. The other two top candidates on the GOP side, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and both strongly opposed to abortion and talking about overturning Roe v Wade. On top of that, they and the fourth candidate are vowing to withdraw all funding for Planned Parenthood. These positions will cost all of them with women.

Planned Parenthood OpinionIt has become a mantra in the GOP that Planned Parenthood is some kind of Evil Empire, preying on women, forcing them to have abortions. Expressing your opposition to the organisation is seemingly a requirement to get support. However, once again, the reality is very different from what the Republican party thinks it is. Although there has been a reduction in support for Planned Parenthood over the years, the results of a Gallup survey from October last year, in the midst of the “selling baby parts controversy” showed a sizable majority still view it favourably.

Planned Parenthood Gender and Pol AffSupport for Planned Parenthood is stronger amongst Democrats, independents, and women which explains why Donald Trump has started speaking in favour of the organisation in the last few weeks. Trump can’t say anything to turn off his base, but he knows he needs to attract wider support, especially in the general election, and especially amongst women.

Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas in particular have been getting away with enacting laws placing an undue burden on abortion clinics in those states. On Friday, the US Supreme Court handed down an order in relation to the Louisiana law, requiring the court there to allow abortion clinics to re-open. If they follow the same logic they used in this case, the Supreme Court will also strike down the Texas law that it coming before it shortly. (Although it never does to rely on such things with the US Supreme Court.) Think Progress reports:

Friday afternoon [4 March 2016], the Supreme Court handed down a very brief order allowing several Louisiana abortion clinics to reopen after a conservative federal appeals court forced them to shut down. Yet, while the Supreme Court’s order was very short — only slightly more than a paragraph long — it contained 14 more words than such an order normally would. And those 14 words appear to be a direct swipe at the appeals court that shut down Louisiana’s clinics in the first place.

To explain, the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has handed down a series of decisions that appear calculated to dismantle nearly all of Roe v. Wade within the three states (Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) overseen by that court. In 2015, for example, the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole gave states sweeping power to restrict abortion, so long as the restriction is dressed up as a health regulation.

Among other things, this opinion blessed a provision of Texas law requiring abortion clinics to undergo expensive renovations in order to comply with regulations governing “ambulatory surgical centers,” even if the clinic does not actually perform any surgeries. Many Texas abortion clinics only offer medication abortions, which are induced by pills the woman takes orally.

An appeal of this Whole Woman’s Health decision is currently pending before the justices, and a majority of the Court appeared skeptical of the Fifth Circuit’s decision at oral arguments last Wednesday.

Just one week before the Supreme Court heard these arguments, however, the Fifth Circuit handed down another anti-abortion decision. In June Medical Services v. Gee, the Fifth Circuit granted an “emergency” motion reinstating a Louisiana law that was expected to shut down all but one of that state’s abortion clinics. The Louisiana law at issue in June Medical Services closely resembles a provision of the Texas law at issue in Whole Woman’s Health.

The Fifth Circuit’s order in June Medical Services was surprising, largely because the Supreme Court had already dropped some pretty big clues that a majority of the justices disapprove of the Fifth Circuit’s decisions forcing abortion clinics to close. Among other things, the justices stayed the Fifth Circuit’s Whole Woman’s Health decision pending the Supreme Court’s own resolution of the case — effectively enabling many Texas abortion clinics to remain open that would be closed if the Fifth Circuit’s order were still in effect.

Nevertheless, the Fifth Circuit decided not to take the hint that Texas-style attempts to shut down clinics should be placed on hold. Instead, the Fifth Circuit claimed in June Medical Services that it was free [to] ignore this hint because, when the Supreme Court stayed Whole Woman’s Health, it did so in a brief order without explaining its reasoning. …

Which brings us back to the 14 significant words in the Supreme Court’s most recent order. “Consistent with the Court’s action granting a stay in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole,” that order begins, the Fifth Circuit’s order reinstating the Louisiana law is vacated.

These 14 words are a subtle spanking, but they are a spanking nonetheless. They directly contradict the Fifth Circuit’s claim that it can ignore the Supreme Court’s previous stay orders if the lower court “cannot discern the underlying reasoning” behind those orders. And they rebut the Fifth Circuit’s logic on its own terms. Why shouldn’t lower courts allow Texas-style abortion restrictions to go into effect in the future? Because halting these laws is “consistent with the Court’s action granting a stay in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole.”

… the Supreme Court is now signalling very loudly that a majority of the Court is not pleased with the Fifth Circuit’s efforts to pare Roe v. Wade down to near nothingness.

It seems likely that at least some of the attempts by religious conservatives to take away women’s rights won’t succeed. It will also bring the issues of both women’s rights the right of the president to select Supreme Court justices front and centre in the election. A majority of USians think women should have those rights, and not recognizing this could ultimately lead to the death of the Republican Party.

For the sake of the cause of Women’s Rights in the United States in general, and for abortion rights in particular, let’s hope that the Democratic Party is successful in November’s election.

57 Responses to “US Attitudes to Abortion”

  1. Diana MacPherson says:

    Evangelicals in Canada often draw strength from Evangelicals in the US. I often cringe at the though of them getting real power her as they seem to have in the US.

    There have been some attempts made to get our abortion laws overturned but they have been unsuccessful and even the Conservative party knew it was political suicide to touch them!

    Canada has no limit on when an abortion can take place and it hasn’t resulted in women going crazy and having late term abortions constantly, as some would have you believe. Such abortions are risky and women aren’t exactly going to have them as something to do casually.

    I really hope the US turns things around. It’s getting scarier and scarier.

    • Diana MacPherson says:

      Apologies for my seeming aversion to typing the last letter of many of my words.

    • In 1999 in NZ, a centre left government (and atheist PM) took over and we got things like same-sex civil unions, legal prostitution, and a big improvement in sex education. Nine years later a centre right government took over, but the new PM was also an atheist and socially liberal, so social stuff has continued to improve, with such things as same-sex marriage, constant increases in minimum wages, a big increase in benefit levels, and condoms in supermarkets. The has been a decrease in abortion levels in recent years in NZ not because of any opposition to it, but because of the big improvement in sex education and a big increase in the availability in contraceptives.

      Psychologist Dr Valerie Taico wrote a blog post last year that it’s actually the conservative religious who have the most spontaneous and planned abortions because of their practices:

      • Ken says:

        That figures doesn’t it. One of the biggest hypocrisies of the religious in the States is that they would withhold both contraception and abortion at the same time. You don’t need religion to feel that abortion is wrong, but you definitely need religion, and very stupid religion at that, to decide contraception is wrong. “Just say no” (as the recently late Nancy Reagan might have said), only guarantees more pregnancies. I’ll believe these dolts care about the fate of a foetus when they put as much effort into providing contraception as they do preventing women from exercising their legal right to a safe abortion.

        • j.a.m. says:

          The Republican position on contraceptives is that they should be available without a prescription, and therefore at low cost. That proposal hasn’t gone anywhere, however, because it’s too threatening to leftist nanny-staters. And naturally it’s opposed by Planned Parenthood, whose profits would suffer. Talk about hypocrisy! As for condoms in supermarkets, that’s something Americans have long taken for granted.

          On the other hand, there is no justification for Planned Parenthood getting handouts from hardworking American taxpayers, and no justification for the state violating a third party’s conscience rights by compelling them to subsidize unethical practices.

          • paxton marshall says:

            I’d like to see your source for these claims, jam.

          • Ken says:

            This is indeed the new Republican position. It is their answer to pissed off women who, due to the Hobby Lobby decision, cannot get the pill via their employer provided health insurer for religious reasons. The duplicitous Republicans are just trying to have it both ways.

            The problem is that doing this would shift all costs onto women, leading to pretty predicable results in increased pregnancies among the working poor either can’t afford the pill at all, or whose income is not high enough to guarantee the regularity needed to make it effective. This is the exact group that contraceptives must target effectively if we want to make a difference.

            Almost the entire first world currently require a doctor to prescribe the pill because it is a contraceptive method with health risks that need to be managed. This view is changing, with many medical groups saying that it’s time to look at OTC provision. However, they also note that coverage is a key issue and that changes should only be made in conjunction with steps to ensure contraception use would go up as a result, not down.

            Of course, jam’s people don’t care about this because their goal is not really to reduce unwanted pregnancies, just to appear that they’re doing so for political gain. As for hardworking American taxpayers, they’ll save orders of magnitude more money by actually preventing unwanted pregnancies than allowing them to increase, so this is a lie as well.

            Finally, of course the state bloody well can compel us to subsidise practices we think unethical. Otherwise, the state would lose at least half it’s funding for it’s wars of aggression.

      • Ken says:

        Forgive the local politics, Heather, but while it is true the PM is an atheist and socially liberal on some matters, it is a big over generalisation to say that this govt has been good on social issues. They have in fact been bad, with a few unusual exceptions, like gay marriage. John Key is ultra pragmatic politically and usually has a great sense of what Kiwis will accept. He knows that a National govt that ruled like the previous one would not last long and he has forced that pragmatism on his party, who by now I think certainly know he is right. But he is no friend to the low waged or those on a benefit.

        The minimum wage is a clear example. This govt has increased it only with great protest and barely enough to keep pace with inflation. It goes to $15.25 next month, while the living wage will be $19.80 as of July 1st, effectively a huge taxpayer subsidy for businesses here. Meanwhile, youth and new entrants to the job market can be paid even less than minimum and anyone can be fired during the first 90 days in a new job without reason. Add to this the Nats have been fighting to retain zero hour contracts against great public pressure to outlaw them and their intent should become clear.

        As for the benefit rise, $25 a week is not big at all, and because the hand that giveth also taketh away, more than half of beneficiaries receive only about half that amount. This was not done out of any sense of social progressiveness, but cynically for political expediency. Senior Nats chuckled at how cheaply they “bought” the support of the Maori Party while inoculating themselves against a large issue for the left just before the election. More recently the Finance Minister crowed that he’d saved something like $12 million from the social services budget, even though child poverty has increased on his watch.

        Don’t be fooled, this is not a progressive government, despite Mr Key’s minor libertarian streak.

        • I’m not here to support the National Party, and I know you know the players much, much better than I do, but I also think there’re other ways to look at the situation.

          $25 is not a big benefit rise, but it’s bigger than any rise any other party has given i.e. $0. Also, $25 is a lot when you’re poor.

          The Nats haven’t been forced to make increases in the minimum wage – the latest one of 50c and hour was a political surprise. They have increased the minimum wage regularly, consistently, and by more than any other party in our history.

          Increases in the benefit and minimum wage are good economic policy in the current environment (and I need to get around to writing a post about why that is). I think Key convincing English of that with the evidence of economic improvements each time it’s done is the reason it keeps happening.

          As for the living wage of $19.80, it simply isn’t economically sustainable at the moment, especially if it’s done as one big jump. I agree it’s something we need to move towards. I don’t believe the fear-mongering about higher minimum wages leading to mass unemployment. If it’s done gradually there’s no evidence it leads to unemployment at all, but it is problematic if it’s done all at once. It’s fine for those parties who know they’re never going to lead a government to make promises around it, because when it doesn’t happen they always have National or Labour to blame.

          I have no problem with the 90 day law, in fact I think it’s a good thing. There is almost no evidence that it has been abused. There is plenty of evidence of employers taking a chance on people that might not have got a job otherwise because of the law. Overall, I think that’s a good thing.

          I agree with you completely in regards to zero-hour contracts.

          • Ken says:

            Where are you getting your figures, Heather? The last Labour govt raised the minimum wage from $7 to $12 over nine years. The Nats have gone to $15.25 over eight. Granted, inflation has been less, but Labour still comes out a good bit ahead. The Nats hate even having a minimum wage, which is why they established a sub-minimum for those they could. It was what they could get away with.

            I can’t find exact figures on the benefit, but Labour restored about half of the previous National govt’s massive decrease, certainly more than $25 per week. They also instituted Working for Families, which was credited with reducing the number of children in poverty from 28% to 22%. That’s still horrible for a country as rich as we are, yet the number has only gone up under the Nats.

            What the Nats did in the 90’s was even worse. They commissioned an academic study to determine what the lowest feasible benefit could be. The Otago Uni academics said that the theoretical minimum would be $X per week, assuming that the beneficiaries had the nous to purchase food effectively, etc, in other words, in a best case scenario. The Nats then set the benefit at 75% of this figure to provide an “incentive” to find a job. Sick social engineering is what it was.

            Re the living wage, no party, except maybe MANA, has suggested it be implemented in a single jump.

            My point again is that the Nats act on entirely selfish motives. If working people benefit, it is by accident, not design. Yes, that’s cynical, but less cynical than their actions described above. As I said, this National govt is more pragmatic than the last, due to Key’s approach in part, plus the fact we now have MMP, thank the lord.

            Zero hour contracts were outlawed today!

          • Saw that about the zero hour contracts – I’m thrilled!

            And I certainly wouldn’t defend what the Nats did in the 90s either. Their efforts re benefits were a disgrace and an embarrassment to the country. I remember being ashamed that my country would do such a thing, and it was sick social engineering. I also remember being worried that we were turning into the US with the attitudes to beneficiaries that were developing then. There are still people like that in the Nats today of course, but they’re no longer in control.

            I haven’t checked, but I’d be very surprised if Labour comes out ahead when inflation is taken into account, which is what I based my assumptions on.

            There are people in the Nats who don’t like having a minimum wage, but thankfully they’ll never get away with removing it, so I feel like we can safely ignore them. I would like to see it increased faster. I think another 50c/hour on 1 October wouldn’t be unreasonable.

            Whether the poor get more money because it’s good economic policy or because you want to be nice to them I don’t think it really matters that much, as long as they get it. You could argue that National’s way is better because the increases are sustainable and you can be confident they won’t ruin the economy. You can’t have that economic confidence with Labour, the Greens, ACT, or NZ First imo. (The Maori Party and United Future both seem reasonably sound economically.)

            The Nats have recognized, for example, that you can’t do what they tried to do in the 90s. These days they provide a lot of support to help people get jobs, and are much better at working with people. They’ve put some stuff in place at WINZ that are the sort of thing I’d expect Labour to come up with and was very (and pleasantly) surprised to see National doing.

            Yes, I laud Working for Families, implemented by Labour.

            I don’t think the increase in child poverty, as awful as it is, can be put down to National. Remember, they came into power as the GFC hit, and Labour’s poor financial management meant that NZ was already in recession, though the worst effects of that hadn’t yet hit. On top of that our 2nd biggest city had its CBD destroyed by an earthquake. National borrowed billions to ensure they maintained WFF and similar programmes, and instituted some new ones, which meant the effect on child poverty wasn’t even worse. Now that we’ve all but gotten over those two things, there’s been a big decrease in international dairy prices. Much of that has been ameliorated by increases in tourism and reduction in oil prices, but in a country the size of ours, there’s a limit to how much you can diversify. However, I agree National should and could do more.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, the reserve bank says inflation between Q4 1999 and Q4 2008 was a total of 28.1%, while between then and Q4 2015, it was 11.8%. Yet the minimum wage went up 71.4% through 2008 and only 27.1% since then. That doesn’t look as bad when the percentages are ratioed during each period, but the Nats are still behind. And I really don’t understand why you think opposition to a minimum wage is a minority position in the National party, rather than just an instance of political pragmatism. You will not see another 50 cents added to the minimum wage in October and the reason is plain.

            I won’t even start on WINZ. The horror stories are rife and have gotten more frequent under National.

            My purpose wasn’t to get into a general debate about politics or economics, but to counter your implication that the Nats had workers and beneficiaries at heart when making decisions. I won’t go on after this, but have to say that platitudes about how the right are natural economic managers really frustrate me. That their thinking isn’t challenged enough is part of what helped bring us the GFC and huge inequality. I know it’s easy to say the Nats are the only good economic managers, because that is the conventional wisdom. But it is a myth unless you are in the 1%, just like the myth that the Nats don’t pick winners, but just run an open economy. They do pick winners, and their decision to run an ever greater pollution economy by subsidising the oil industry, gutting the ETS and intensifying dairy beyond carrying capacity, is looking like a bad set of choices and they’re only going to get worse.

          • This is something I really don’t want to argue about either. I will say though that I don’t automatically think left is bad and right is good when it comes to economic management. In the 90s I was increasingly dismayed by the decisions of the National govt. For their first two terms after 1999, I thought Labour did a pretty good job overall. At the same time I was appalled at some of the stuff coming out of Don Brash’s mouth. It would have been a disaster if he’s got hold of the finance portfolio imo.

            When Labour was voted out, I was concerned that National would be even worse than Labour had become. I was pleasantly surprised. There is a lot they do that I would expect to be Labour policy. Perhaps it is because they continue to exceed my expectations that I sound like a devoted supporter (which I’m not). Currently, Labour gives me no confidence they would do a good job of managing the economy, and National has done a better job of societal things than I even would have imagined.

            I’m a neutral voter who makes my decision each election based on policy. And I haven’t always chosen just Labour or National either. No party has ever made all the same policy choices I would make, so I choose who comes closest to what I think.

      • paxton marshall says:

        Heather, that is a great article by Valerie Taico. It makes it clear that many more embryo “deaths” occur due to natural causes (God-induced if you are a believer) than to abortion, and that contraception not only reduces the rate of medical and surgical abortions, it prevents the death of a much larger number of embryos that would have died of natural (God given) causes.

        • j.a.m. says:

          This is a nonsensical argument. Yes, everybody dies. Natural death can occur at any age or stage of development. That fact does not constitute a justification for murder, genocide, or abortion.

          The ethical issue at stake arises when a completely innocent person is deprived of her right to life by means of a direct, intentional, and avoidable killing.

          • It’s not nonsensical when the reason many people oppose abortion is that their god caused the pregnancy, and that is the reason it must be carried through. That brings up all sorts of other issues:
            1. If the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, did God want the rape too?
            2. What about all those pregnancies that result in spontaneous abortion, often without the women even being aware she was pregnant? Did God just change his mind? How does that work with the argument that God is omniscient?
            3. What about the religions that don’t consider that a baby gains a soul until after it’s born, at a time dependent on its gender? How do you know that your religion is correct and theirs is wrong.
            4. If an embryo or foetus has a right to life, why do many who are anti-choice also support the death penalty? Why doesn’t a person on death row have a right to life? If you could go back in time and kill Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot in the womb, would you?
            5. Why does the potential life of an embryo without even a nervous system supersede those of the woman who is already a person, already has a life, already has hopes, dreams, and plans for the future? Why should her choices be taken away from her?

            I’ve got no problem with people being opposed to abortion. I do have a problem with them forcing their beliefs about abortion on others, especially via the law.

            A decision to have an abortion is one of the most difficult a woman will ever make. To have someone making judgments about a person as a result of that decision is simply ignorant self-righteousness.

          • j.a.m. says:

            The right to life is a basic and universally recognized human right. It’s not a sectarian doctrine. People can disagree about the stage of development at which that right should have effect, and it is not absolute. But it’s reasonable to ask people to offer a rational basis for their position, and to recognize that
            defending the right to life of innocents against direct, intentional, and avoidable killing is the minimum duty of a civilized society.

        • I can recommend subscribing to Dr Taico’s blog.

          • Mark R. says:

            J.A.M. everything you say is predicated by a “fact” that you hold sure: there is something ethereal and nebulous and the soul is real and distilled by religion; this is your stance, isn’t it? That’s why a lot of what you say holds little resonance and is beyond dumb. I’ve noticed that when readers ask for citations, you’re mute. Heather is amazingly cool to keep your presence here. I’d have flushed you down the proverbial toilet long ago. Abortion. Abortion. Abortion. Heart surgery. Heart surgery. Heart surgery. Health Care. Health Care. Health Care.

          • Diane G. says:

            Heather, I, too, love Valerie’s blog! I wanted to point out that you’ve been leaving the “r” out of “Tarico.” 🙂

          • Yes I have been! Thanks. Hopefully I’ll get it right from now on. 🙂

  2. paxton marshall says:

    Bravo Heather! This decision portends victory in the Texas case. Some have claimed Justice Scalia’s death was part of God’s plan. I’m not claiming that, but sometimes things break the right way.

  3. E.A. Blair says:

    “The Center for Medical Progress tricked Planned Parenthood staff into saying they would sell aborted foetuses for profit. See the links above for more information.”

    I don’t have a 100% understanding of all the details of this affair, but as I recall, the CMP people did not so much trick the PP staff into saying they would sell the foetuses – they asked ambiguous and misleading questions and, then the PP people didn’t take the bait, they edited the videos to get the outcome they wanted. If I’m wrong on this, please correct me. However, the last item I read on this case has the CMP facing charges and indictment.

    • That’s basically what I mean by tricked. I was trying to come up with one word that covered everything, and it’s not entirely accurate. There were slightly different situations in each case – there were several videos. Basically, they befriended the PP staff over a period of time, and in a social setting asked questions that the PP staff gave non-serious answers to that were then presented as serious answers. Also, the videos presented to the public were edited from several hours of video to give a misleading account of events. If the PP staff had been asked the same questions in a formal situation, they would not have given the answers they did. There was a lot more to it that that, but the link I provided goes into it at length.

      And yes, the CMP is being investigated in California over the videos, I think mostly for fraud and dishonesty type offences. I haven’t heard either that any charges have been laid as yet, and afaik investigations are ongoing.

  4. Ken says:

    Great piece, Heather. This topic can’t be discussed enough during the next eight months. The fact that the Supreme Court is already starting to overturn regressive lower court rulings on abortion laws in the southern states shows just how much is at stake this election for women.

    A comment on the NZ law, though. While it is true that there is little debate here on changing the law, we actually have a bad situation, because abortion is by default illegal, rather than up to a woman to choose. There are exceptions for the health and mental well being of the woman, which is applied by doctors so liberally as to mean the spirit of the law is actually being ignored, and that is the only reason the situation is tolerable. But it means many women are made liars by the current law and abortions are not at all straight forward for teenage girls whose parents must be involved. Yes, woman have it far better in NZ than in the US, but this situation demands improvement.

    • I agree completely Ken. It’s only because most of our doctors are a pretty decent bunch that we effectively have abortion on demand. I know for a fact that even GPs who personally oppose abortion will refer patients to other GPs who are not. It’s like assisted-dying. A big majority of doctors have admitted in a confidential Medical Council survey that they’ve provided the means to patients so they can take their own lives, there is big public support, but no current politician will touch the issue. The Contraception, Sterilization, and Abortion Act needs to be fixed, but I can’t see any current party risking that either.

      • Ken says:

        I agree no individual party will campaign on it, but there is a reasonable chance the next progressive govt will take action. Look for it in their fourth year.

  5. Diane G. says:

    Great job, Heather!

    RE Scalia–don’t know if you saw this or not: in one article about his family he was said to have joked that his nine (!) kids were due to he & his wife playing “Vatican Roulette.”

    It’s not a joke, Justice.

    All of the strictures being considered will, as always, affect the poorest and neediest the most. Were Roe v. Wade overturned, I’d imagine the situation would revert to that of pre-Roe, when abortion law was up to each state. So states like NY & CA allowed abortion but the so-called heart-land (heartless-land?) was largely intolerant. Of course, women of certain means were able to fly to where it was available, but the majority of those most desperate couldn’t begin to contemplate that.

    It’s long been cynically asserted that the leaders of the GOP don’t want to have Roe v. Wade thrown out so as not to lose one of their best emotion-roiling issues in election seasons. Certainly the past few Republican Presidents have paid scant attention to the issue once in office.

    People like Cruz really scare me, though. Happily, I don’t think he has a snowball’s chance in hell, but should he be elected gawd only knows what he might do.

    • Thanks Diane. It’s when it comes to social issues, especially women’s issues, that Cruz scares me the most. However, as you say, he has no chance of winning a general election.

      One of the things my brother and I always used to agree on when he was a Republican was that it might be a good thing for Huckabee (2008), Santorum (2012), or Cruz (2016) to win the nomination because the GOP would lose so bad it might cure the party of the pervasive idea that the reason they’re losing is because they’re not nominating conservative enough candidates. (Despite being a (now former) GOP supporter, he’s always been socially liberal.)

  6. j.a.m. says:

    There is no evidence that abortion laws are more of a motivating factor for Democrats this year than in previous elections. According to Gallup, the top issues for both parties are the economy, terrorism, jobs and healthcare, followed (among Democrats) by climate change and economic inequality.

    According to most surveys, there is no significant difference between women and men in attitudes toward abortion. And a voter’s overall political affiliation depends more on marital status than sex.

    Trump is an anti-life social liberal from way back. His enthusiasm for Planned Parenthood is hardly an 11th hour political calculation.

    The abortion industry has long cried wolf about a supposed political downside for defending the right to life. Meanwhile, thanks to Obama, in recent years the GOP increased the ranks of governors by 50% and added upwards of 900 state legislative seats, in addition to retaking Congress. It’s no coincidence that we’ve seen some progress in pro-life protections.

    Yes, the whole point of an undercover investigation is to get miscreants to make admissions they’d rather not. The take-down of Planned Parenthood’s barbarism was brilliant and heroic.

    • j.a.m. says:

      It seems fairly obvious that, by and large, voters who strongly favor liberal abortion laws tend to be concentrated in states that have such laws, and therefore they are the least likely to prioritize upholding Roe v. Wade above other issues. And then there are some who support legal abortion but do not agree it is a federal constitutional question.

      The abortion industry gives the Democrats a lot of dough, but the importance of all conventional funding sources seems to be in decline.

      • I provided the stats. In a majority of states, people are in favour of abortion. It is only in that one group of southern states that they are opposed.

        You have said that abortion is not a top issue for voters, and you are correct (although is does have a big effect on their feeling towards a candidate, and that influences voting a lot). Now you are asking us to believe that people move states based on the abortion laws. I really can’t imagine people thinking “I will live in California in case I need an abortion.” The very idea is ridiculous.

        If people who support abortion are those in states that have more liberal abortion laws, it is because they see around them the evidence that liberal abortion laws are better for society. Here’s another post by Dr Valerie Taico that discusses why this is:

        As for the “Abortion Industry” there is no such thing. In a previous post I provided the figures for Planned Parenthood’s funding (see here – you’ll need to scroll down a fair way). Only 3% of their work is providing abortions. 35% is related to contraception, which prevents abortions.

        • j.a.m. says:

          The point I was making isn’t about migration. Rather, the point is that in a democracy, laws (not opinion polls) reflect a population’s values. Therefore you can’t necessarily rile people up to oppose devolution of an issue to the state level, because a majority of each state’s population already approves of its own laws.

          Defending the right to life of innocents is the absolute minimum duty of a civilized society. Denigrating the right to life is the direct opposite of a social good.

          As for the infamous three percent, that junk statistic has been debunked repeatedly and comprehensively.

          • I’d hardly call that a debunking, and as far as it goes, the 3% is accurate.

            What concerns me more is there is a connotation to the constant narrative about the “life of innocents”. That connotation is that women, as opposed to foetuses, are guilty in some way. This is the same thing we get from Judaism/Christianity/Islam and most other religions – that we women are dirty, lesser beings that don’t deserve the same rights over our lives as men.

            One of the many Biblical myths that science has disproved is that we all descended from Adam and Eve. As such, we women didn’t inherit any original sin. We do not have to apologize for our existence in perpetuity.

            As I’ve already said, I’m OK with someone being anti-abortion – I even understand it. However, without legal abortion literally millions of women will either die or permanently injure themselves trying to self-terminate, or be at the mercy of unregistered abortion providers. Further, legal abortion doesn’t make abortion compulsory. It is merely an option. No-one has to have an abortion is they don’t want to. The issue is about CHOICE, so that if the woman decides that in her circumstances that abortion is the best option, then a safe procedure is available for her.

            Of course, there are plenty of people who don’t think women should have the right to make their own decisions about their own lives, let alone their own bodies.

          • Diane G. says:

            Heather, I think you’d be interested in this NYT article (and its graphic):

            “The Return of the D.I.Y. Abortion”


          • Really interesting article. Thanks! The correlations in those stats are striking.

          • Diane G. says:

            “It seems fairly obvious that, by and large, voters who strongly favor liberal abortion laws tend to be concentrated in states that have such laws, and therefore they are the least likely to prioritize upholding Roe v. Wade above other issues.”

            Completely wrong conclusion. People who strongly favor legal abortion are extremely concerned about its lack of availability in the more conservative states.

            “Therefore you can’t necessarily rile people up to oppose devolution of an issue to the state level, because a majority of each state’s population already approves of its own laws.”

            Wrong. Our Constitution, its amendments, and our legal precedents have all been carefully fashioned to protect minority rights from majority rule.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, I don’t agree with the premiss of this article.

            “I believe that abortion care is a positive social good. And I suspect that a lot of other people secretly believe the same thing.”

            I should well hope many believe this, but there’s no reason for them to do so secretly. Surely everyone who is pro-choice sees abortion care as a positive thing, which is why we fight so hard to maintain it as a safe, cheap and available procedure. You can replace “I’m pro-abortion” with “I’m pro-choice” in every one of her ten points and not have to change another single word.

          • Ken, I’ve never liked the title of the article, but continue to refer to it because she makes so many excellent points. I like what you wrote in your reply to Paxton – that’s mostly how I feel. I will always stick to “pro-choice” rather than “pro-abortion”. Ideally, good sex education, moral education (respecting others, women are your equals don’t rape them remembering rape is a power thing, don’t take advantage of someone when they’re drunk etc), and availability of contraception should reduce the need for abortion.

      • paxton marshall says:

        jam said ” People can disagree about the stage of development at which that right should have effect, and it is not absolute. But it’s reasonable to ask people to offer a rational basis for their position, and to recognize that defending the right to life of innocents against direct, intentional, and avoidable killing is the minimum duty of a civilized society.”

        I agree and i think the traditional position, taken by almost all societies, that life begins at birth, is a reasonable one. Before that the fetus is an appendage 0f the mother. I would even add a period after birth, when if a doctor certifies a serious defect that would prevent a normal life, the parents would have the option to terminate an infant’s life.

        • Ken says:

          Paxton, I’d say not that life begins at birth, but that unequivocal individual rights begin then, though that is an arbitrary point insofar as the particular life is concerned, just like any other point we might choose.

          The thing jam omits is that a rational basis for abortion has already been offered – and accepted – by society and the courts. He doesn’t like it, so denies it has occurred, but that’s just more rubbish. The fact is that there are two conflicting moral principles here, not just one. They are whether the life of a foetus should be protected vs a woman’s right to make decisions about her body. These two issues are not reconcilable so one must be compromised. I personally hate the idea of abortion, but I cannot agree the state should have the power to decide such matters for women. Only the woman involved can make this decision and for this reason I support her right to exercise her own conscience and do so.

        • Diane G. says:

          I’m in complete agreement with your stance, Paxton, and I couldn’t agree more with Ken that the framing of this issue shouldn’t be about when “life” begins (3.8 billion years ago?) but about something closer to “personhood.” Perhaps “human rights” is the right concept, but I agree with Paxton that certain severe birth defects should allow termination even post-birth, therefore I’d philosophically argue against the “unequivocal;” though to prevent abuse of such an exception perhaps we’d need terminology like that.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Why should the unfit or unwanted have any rights at all?

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Is it a right or a punishment to be brought into the world unfit and unwanted?

          • Diane G. says:

            “Why should the unfit or unwanted have any rights at all?”

            That is not what I said. One needs to remember that adults have rights, too, and consigning them to perpetual care of severely damaged children can be ruinous emotionally, economically, and socially, and may lead to the dissolution of the marriage and psychological damage to siblings.

            There are certainly severe disabilities that nevertheless are survivable and allow some quality of life; but forcing women to carry, say, an anencephalic child is beyond the pale.

          • It is certainly far more damaging for a woman emotionally, psychologically, and physically to have to carry a baby that cannot survive to term than to have a termination. To force her to do that is unconscionable.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Unjustly depriving a person of her right to life is the ultimate punishment, absolute and final.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            What, God can’t raise their little souls up to heaven?

          • j.a.m. says:

            I realize it’s hard to keep the threads of conversation straight, so please let’s try: Paxton advocated for “the option to terminate an infant’s life [i.e., after birth].” (Diane G. endorsed that view.) At that point, the issue has nothing to do with abortion or privacy or autonomy; it is unambiguously about infanticide.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            It’s not just about what words you use. It’s about the consequences for parents and child of a life of disability and hardship. Why should the government force this on anyone? I thought you right wingers were for reducing the role of government in our lives.

          • j.a.m. says:

            The distinction between abortion and what you (Paxton) are talking about — the outright murder of a child outside the womb — is more than just a matter of semantics.

            The state generally has no authority to interfere in the relationship between parent and child, but that does not vitiate the child’s right to life. And your question works just as well going in the other direction: Why is it that so-called “progressives” are only too happy to micromanage our lives and violate our consciences when it serves their social engineering ends, but then magically turn into libertarians when it comes to child killing?

            Of course, culling of the unfit and undesirable is the sine qua non of “progressivism”. The founder of Planned Parenthood compared it to weeding a garden. According to her charming notions of “race improvement”, the “weeds” include criminals, prostitutes, the mentally ill, and anyone “whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race.”

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Jam, it seems important for you to put labels on things. Why not just think of helping people achieve the best outcome they can, rather than trying to subject them to your idea of morality?

  7. Diane G. says:

    (In my comma above, picture the bolding ending with the end of the quote from j.a.m., i.e., after “laws.”)

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