Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

Legal abortion: Like slavery? Or the war in Iraq? Or maybe the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories?

Let's ask three random men...

Megan McArdle and Hilzoy are engaged in some interesting back and forth on what constitutes reasonable political recourse with reference to the abortion issue. McArdle:

My argument is that abortion, like slavery, is becoming in this country an issue upon which people have no reasonable political recourse.  I’ll go further, and say that the process by which 7 judges enforced their consciences on the American public was itself borderline illegitimate; it was first, not in their proper job description, and second, a bad way to run a government.

Yes, in theory pro-lifers could pass an amendment.  And in theory, the Palestinians have access to the political process too, as right wing blogs often point out–all they need to do is elect a coherent government that Israel is willing to negotiate with.

To deny that intellectually serious and honest people can look at abortion and see murder (made worse for many by being the murder of an unbaptized innocent) is itself intellectually dishonest. And while I absolutely agree with Hilzoy that:

(e) If you are committed to our form of government, you must leave some room between (1) the claim that some policy it adopts is wrong, even very wrong, and (2) the claim that you can kill people to prevent this wrong thing from happening.

…for a person who sees the however many thousands of abortions are performed each year as casual, industrial murder, that’s pushing “very wrong” to an extreme. I don’t want to apologize for the sometimes violent reactions, Wikipedia gives some sobering numbers on anti-abortion-related terrorism / threats of violence in the US:

* In the U.S., violence directed toward abortion providers has killed at least 9 people, including 5 doctors, 2 clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort.[4]

* According to statistics gathered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), an organization of abortion providers, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers.[8] The attempted murders were:[9][10][4]

* The first letters claiming to contain anthrax were mailed to U.S. clinics in October 1998, a few days after the Slepian shooting, and since then, there have been a total of 655 such bioterror threats made against abortion providers. None of the “anthrax” in these cases was real.[13][9]

But, to put things in perspective, since Megan drew an analogy to the Palestinians… compared with the number of Israeli casualties from the Palestinian response during the Al-Aqsa intifidah of the early 2000s (generally thought to be >1,000), the fact that in the US, a country in which upwards of 60 million people presumably believe that abortion is murder and unequivocally wrong (approximately 6 times the total estimated world population of Palestinians), there have been 9 confirmed anti-abortion murders since RvW, I think it’s safe to say that there is a great deal of “commitment” among the abortion-is-murder group for, as Hilzoy puts it in the quote above, “our form of government.”

Of course any act of terrorism is heinous and intolerable, but it is important not extrapolate the Tiller murder, which I’m still convinced was the act of a psychopath and not merely an ideologue (we’ll see if that gets borne out), out onto people who do exercise their rights to protest in legally sanctioned ways, and do not go further. O’Reilly is a case in point.


3 Responses to “Legal abortion: Like slavery? Or the war in Iraq? Or maybe the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories?”

  1. I really appreciate the honesty and fair-mindedness of this post. Coincidentally (or not!), just this morning I gave a rousing speech* (the gist of which follows) to all of the nation’s most fervent pro-life and pro-choice citizens.

    I talked about how a majority of women who have abortions do so because of a lack of resources and support networks, and how that’s not really much of a “choice”–at least I’m sure it doesn’t feel like it to them. Furthermore, parents lacking resources and support are a prime source of the hundreds of thousands of American children in foster care and awaiting adoption. So if you want women to have a real choice, or if you want women not to choose adoption, you should be part of the solution: adopting or fostering children, volunteering your time, donating regularly to a child-supportive cause.

    If you’re an employer you should support parent-employees through daycare services. If you’re a politician you should be putting family-supportive policies and programs in place. If you’re a reporter you should be asking those politicians where the funding for such programs is coming from–too often it’s from the de-funding of other much-needed programs. The entire child welfare system is desperately underfunded; social workers across the nation are desperately overburdened and can hardly be expected to do a great job given their circumstances; they burn out like flies at a bug-light. If you’re a voter looking for a pro-choice or pro-life politician to support, find out how much he or she has supported pro-family legislation in the past.

    If you consider yourself strongly pro-life or pro-choice and you’re not doing something for the many, many desperate children and parents in our society today, you’re just in the peanut gallery.

    *I gave this speech into the bathroom mirror while drying my hair. Afterward, a several-years-into-the-future version of myself introduced my adorable 3-year-old adopted black son to the reporters and other audience members in attendance (the speech was given in the White House press room or someplace quite like it), and then exited to thunderous applause.

  2. All excellent suggestions. The other piece of the puzzle is honest sex ed and easily available no-questions-asked contraception.

  3. Howdy! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where
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    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble
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