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Jan 25 2012

Both sides of the coin

Most people who support a woman’s right to choose when to have children call themselves just that – pro choice. While most rankle at the lazy characterization of “pro-abortion”, I’m personally okay with it. I am for abortion access. I think every time someone makes the choice to have a child it should be celebrated, and every time someone decides that now is not the right time, that’s a smart move too. I feel no sense of moral panic at the consequences of my stance. Anyone who would use abortion as birth control (the religious right’s nighmare scenario) isn’t someone I want raising a child, not even as some kind of twisted form of ‘just deserts’ punishment.

As I’ve explained before, it is wildly inaccurate to call the opposite side – the anti-choice side – anything else. They’re not “anti-abortion”, since restrictions on abortion do not reduce the overall number of abortions. And they’re not “pro-life”, because when women seek out abortion services outside of a licensed medical practitioner, the results can be fatal:

A rising proportion of abortions worldwide are putting women’s health at risk, researchers say. The World Health Organization study suggests global abortion rates are steady, at 28 per 1,000 women a year. However, the proportion of the total carried out without trained clinical help rose from 44% in 1995 to 49% in 2008.

The fact that doesn’t filter through to the clinic-picketing placard-holding, pamphlet-distributing, pseudo-fascists that comprise the “embryos are corporations people” camp, is that making something illegal does not make it stop. You could lock up every doctor in the world, and people would still conceive unwanted children – this is to say nothing of the number of children who cannot be brought to term because doing so would likely kill the mother. Prohibition leads to illicit activity, not a reduction in the level of activity, which is precisely what this study suggests.

So now we are in a familiar territory for a guy who looks at health care systems – harm reduction. If you think that abortion constitutes a harm, and banning it outright only increases the “proximate” harms (i.e., harm to people that is related to abortion, but is not abortion per se), then the path you should be pursuing is one that, while reducing the proximate harms, pares down the “primary” harm:

Well gosh – would you look at that? It’s almost as if countries that have ready access to abortion provide climates in which abortion becomes less necessary. It’s certainly the case that restricting access to safe and legal abortions does not make for lower rates. If one was interested in actually reducing the number of abortions, focussing on the legal issues is a red herring that only puts women – usually poor women – at greater risk to their health.

So, as I said before, I lose no sleep over being pro-abortion. I say have as many abortions as you need. It maybe doesn’t need to be said, but holding any other stance would be unforgivably hypocritical – I will never need to have an abortion myself. I say let the women make the decisions, and I will shut up as soon as the men on the anti-choice side do the same.

Where I am uneasy is when I start examining the unexpected consequences of my own beliefs:

Kale says that in countries such as India, China, Korea and Vietnam, female fetuses are commonly aborted because of a preference for sons. Though by no means widespread, the practice is carried out by some immigrants to Canada, Kale says.

His editorial cites a small U.S. study of about 65 immigrant Indian women that found 40 per cent had terminated earlier pregnancies, and 89 per cent pursued abortions in their most recent pregnancies after learning they were having girls. Previous Canadian research has suggested that sex selection is occurring in Canada in certain groups when families have had girls and are seeking a son. The practice has created a gender imbalance in these communities.

So before I delve too deep into this story, I feel that it’s important to point out that “some groups” refers specifically to immigrant groups. I am immediately more-than-baseline skeptical whenever people talk about “those others” doing some horrible thing like this. It is the same with “honour killings” – they’re only called that when immigrants do it (particularly immigrants from those sandy loser countries where all the terrorists come from, donchaknow). Similarly, it’s pretty easy to point fingers at immigrant groups without taking all of the explanatory factors into account.

That being said, assuming that the studies the story cites are sound, my “abortions for some, miniature American flags for others” policy suddenly doesn’t look so progressive and fem-friendly. It rather abruptly turns into a mechanism by which more chauvinistic cultures can propagate their sex bias that wishes to be welcoming to newcomers while eliminating gender discrimination. It is a fine line to walk, and an “open doors” abortion policy fails to address the real(?) danger of abortion as sex selection.

So how can I reconcile the fact that abortion access is a good thing for society with the potential for abuse? Is it hypocritical for me to decry putting limits on abortion access with one breath, then turn around and demand closer scrutiny with the next? Is it potentially racist to suggest that “certain women” should be under special scrutiny when seeking these procedures? Can the answer really be, as the article suggests, to refuse to disclose the sex of the child until it is too late to abort?

I am not sure what “the answer” is (and maybe one of you will have a brainwave in the comments), but it seems to me that like any other kind of sexism, the answer must come from social pressure rather than legislation. While we can pass laws banning sex selective abortion, those laws are nearly impossible to enforce. What we can do, however, is create a climate in which all people understand that sons and daughters are equally valuable. In so doing, we can reduce all forms of proximate harms while maintaining the integrity of both a woman’s right to choose, and a baby girl’s right to be loved as much as her brothers are.

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62 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    I put this in another topic on another blog – but Libby Anne did a good takedown of the anti-abortion crowd at her blog, Love, Joy, Feminism

  2. 2
    Arno

    I don’t think there is a problem if an individual mother decides that she would be willing to give birth to a boy, but not to a girl. The values informing her choice are another thing, but you can’t address them by outlawing the abortion anyway.

    If such situations get so widespread that a large-scale gender imbalance results (which probably is not realistic for Canada, but for India), then there is a justification for measures – I’ve no clue what measures, though.

  3. 3
    Makoto

    Ultimately, I think you’re right – it will come down to people deciding that they should celebrate their children, and part of that will mean keeping safe abortions available for whoever needs them, for whatever reason they decide they need one. Yes, it can be abused, but anything can be abused.

    I’m far more scared of a world where women are forced to either bear children they don’t want, or to seek out unsafe abortions that put their life at risk, over a world where some groups decide to use safe and available abortions for reasons I don’t agree with.

  4. 4
    Mimmoth

    Anyone who would use abortion as birth control (the religious right’s nighmare scenario)

    That’s like getting root canals instead of brushing your teeth; it’s basically its own punishment.

    Even if you wanted to promote wise oral care habits–even if you wanted to use the law to do so–restricting root canals would be the wrong way to go, because even people who brush and floss sometimes need a root canal, and when they do, making them jump through hoops to get it is cruel.

  5. 5
    tariqata

    Thank you. I’ve been bothered by this since the story broke, because if one really dislikes the idea of abortion for the purpose of sex selection (which I do), it seems obvious to me that “the answer” has to be to show that there is no reason or need for it. That’s vague, of course, because I’m not entirely sure how we, as a society, do that. But I am sure that prohibiting the disclosure of the child’s sex before 30 weeks does not demonstrate that girls and boys are valued equally; it just demonstrates a lack of trust, both in women and in some targeted communities – and it smacks of a nasty kind of essentialism, since such a policy would effectively communicate that some cultures simply won’t change in response to new information or conditions.

  6. 6
    Dianne

    That’s like getting root canals instead of brushing your teeth; it’s basically its own punishment.

    Can I steal this analogy?

  7. 7
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    I would hope that “progressive” ideas that tend to be associated with a pro-choice inclusive culture (more generally: equality for women), would limit the cultural desires to abort non-XY fetuses, which would seem to be linked with patriarchal thinking.

  8. 8
    Dianne

    The obvious measures to take when sex selection is starting to unbalance the population is to make the undesired gender (usually girls) more desired. Usually people who abort fetuses of one gender (unless they’re doing it for medical reasons) do so because they fear that if they have a child of the “wrong” gender then they’ll be unable to provide for it-or it will be unable to provide for them. So increasing women’s access to education and jobs will do much to reduce the desire for sexual selection and will, slowly, make the practice all but disappear. Sure, some people will still decide that they want only a boy or only a girl, but that will be an oddity rather than a population unbalancing trend.

    Banning abortion because of the fetus’ gender will likely only lead to infanticide or abuse of children of the undesired gender. I remember seeing an article about how many girls in rural India were underweight and malnourished whereas their brothers were healthy. That’s what banning abortion because the idea of sexual selection squicks you leads to. It squicks me too, but not as much as girls slowly starving because their parents don’t want them does.

  9. 9
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Well, I can’t say that I am thrilled by the idea that people think that being a woman is such a horrible thing comparable to a vicious chromosomal anomaly that the pregnancy is better terminated.
    But then there’s the other thing: If the pregnancy is not terminated, the result will be a baby-girl whose parents basically see her as having an incurable birth-defect. I wouldn’t want to push that on an innocent child.
    It must work the other way round, via education and feminism. Educate people.
    But don’t think it will be easy or quick. Remembering the shit I got when I had a second girl in 2009 in a western society (and not from people with the famous “migratory background”), I can tell you we still have a long way to go.

  10. 10
    carlie

    What we can do, however, is create a climate in which all people understand that sons and daughters are equally valuable.

    That is exactly what I was going to say. Any restrictions on abortion wouldn’t address this concern. If sons are more valued AND abortions aren’t legal, then it creates the new problem of daughters who are neglected/abused/abandoned/etc. That particular problem has to be addressed at the source of what is valued, not at the top end of “what do you do with a problem like an unwanted girl fetus?”

  11. 11
    Stuart

    This ‘problem’ seems to assume that actual women are being harmed by this practice. But, once again, FETUSES ARE NOT PEOPLE. True, sex selection at first glance seems wrong, but it’s difficult to say who is actually wronged by it. No actual person is harmed. A potential person is prevented from existing, but if you think potential people carry any moral weight at all, you should be against all abortion.

    Abortion for sex selection purposes is a symptom of a larger social problem, and addressing that problem is worthwhile, because the problem has other effects that are serious and do affect actual people. But to focus on the abortion-related element of the problem is to buy in to the arguments of the anti-abortion crowd.

  12. 12
    dianne

    Any restrictions on abortion wouldn’t address this concern.

    Quite the opposite. Restrictions on abortion say that women are less valuable and less capable of making their own decisions. Restricting the reproductive choices available to women sends the message that women are no more than baby factories–and incompetent baby factories which have to be watched every minute at that.

  13. 13
    peicurmudgeon

    While establishing laws and regulations here in Canada (or the US), we must focus on what is happening within our borders. It seems from the post and comments above that the question of abortion based upon gender is a carry over from cultures that place different values on gender than is common in Canada. I am not trying to minimize the existence or impact of sexism in Canada, but we are moving in the direction of an egalitarian society.

    Are there any statistics on the number of gender based abortions in the second, third, etc generations of immigrants from these cultures? If the number decreases, it is self-limiting and will be less of an issue in the future.

  14. 14
    abeille

    A friend of mine grew up in India; she tells me that its illegal for a doctor to disclose the sex of the child.

    She told me that it was easy enough to find out though and most did. (“underground ultrasound clinics”)

  15. 15
    Forbidden Snowflake

    True, sex selection at first glance seems wrong, but it’s difficult to say who is actually wronged by it. No actual person is harmed.

    The gender imbalance created by sex-selective abortions on a massive scale is harmful, though. To women, at that.

  16. 16
    witless chum

    As far as terms, pro legal abortion and anti legal abortion would be the most precise. Because that’s all we’re talking about, whether the abortions will be legal or not. The antis can’t wish abortions away because they don’t like them.

  17. 17
    Trebuchet

    The worst thing about the anti-choice groups is that pretty much all of them simultaneously oppose the two best ways to limit abortion — effective sex education and birth control.

  18. 18
    Crommunist

    I hardly think that’s the worst part about them – I’d vote for the regular abuse of women and the murder of doctors – but your point is taken.

  19. 19
    VeritasKnight

    I don’t see the problem with sex-selection abortion, not from a long-term standpoint. If gender preferencing becomes the norm, then most immigrant families are unlikely to pass on similar values to the next generation – since there will be less of one gender, inter-culture marriage will be less popular. It should balance out in the end.

    Educating all people is the ultimate key here.

  20. 20
    Alverant

    I disagree. If a woman wants to have a child (son or daughter) but is pressued to have an abortion because the child is the “wrong” gender is indeed harmed. Being pro-choice means giving women an actual choice free of outside pressure.

  21. 21
    Alverant

    I remember reading in a sci-fi book where sex-selection via genetic manipulation created a “boy boom” which resulted in an over-abundance of male children. When these children became adults looking for mates, their society started changing. Some women started acting self-important as if they were doing a guy a favor just by talking with them. Also homosexuality became more accepted as did marrying outside the culture.

    So eventually the problem will fix itself. But in the meantime there are women who were pressured into having an abortion and that’s anti-choice too. Being pro-choice means allowing women the freedom to make their own choices without undue influence be it for or against.

    Also, just because something can be abused doesn’t mean it’s not good for society. Consider alcohol, millions of people abuse it but millions more don’t. Should we ban it just because a minority of users don’t know when to stop?

  22. 22
    astrosmash

    I’m curious. How is it that in these cultures women don’t gain value through relative rarity? I suppose the reaction by men could be greater competition between men, and/or greater coersion of women. It’s weird…China’s culture of official communism doesn’t seem to endorse this thinking at all as far as I can tell. Boys and girls seem to get the same level of education all the way through…I suppose this issue stems more from some kind of folk hangover. I could be real wrong here. I dunno

  23. 23
    astrosmash

    yeah, except, in light of Crommunist’s excellent posts on System Justification Theory, The women in these cultures likely buy into the diminished value of women

  24. 24
    astrosmash

    was just gonna bring that up. Glad I read through first.

  25. 25
    Cynthia

    Another great post that makes me think about an issue from a new angle. Thanks again. And thanks for being a pro-abortion man who’s not afraid to say so.

    I don’t know how you manage to always say something that makes me go “Hmm, never thought of it that way”, but you do.

    Maybe it’s living in Canada?

  26. 26
    Crommunist

    I appreciate your kind words, but there is really no call to thank me for being who and what I am. I am glad that my efforts are appreciated, and that is enough for me.

    Also my secret is to write what everyone already thinks, run it through Google translator into French, and then back into English. Boom! Instant “new perspective” at a minimal effort.

  27. 27
    Leon

    Well gosh – would you look at that? It’s almost as if countries that have ready access to abortion provide climates in which abortion becomes less necessary.

    I would imagine that’s largely a result of religious policies on contraception. It’s become very clear that as soon as it looks like the religious nutjobs are starting to get their way toward banning abortion, they start to agitate against access to contraception as well.

  28. 28
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Anyone who would use abortion as birth control (the religious right’s nighmare scenario) isn’t someone I want raising a child

    Agreed with everything in your post except for this. I don’t know what you mean by “use abortion as birth control”. That’s what abortion is. The point is that any safe form of birth control a person chooses to employ is good birth control. If a person chooses abortion (whether medical or surgical) over, say, condoms and the pill, what difference does it make? There’s nothing unethical about that, and nothing that makes her less qualified to be a parent. Somehow, despite your rational stance otherwise, you’ve bought into the idea that having an abortion is in some way a moral failing.

  29. 29
    Forbidden Snowflake

    How is it that in these cultures women don’t gain value through relative rarity?

    Women don’t gain value through rarity any more than they gain equality through parity.
    When women are viewed as a commodity, rarity isn’t going to make them be viewed as people: it’ll just make them a rare commodity. And if you want to know how well that works out, just ask a white rhino.

    I suppose the reaction by men could be greater competition between men, and/or greater coersion of women.

    Or more human trafficking, kidnapping, forced polyandry…

    It’s weird…China’s culture of official communism doesn’t seem to endorse this thinking at all as far as I can tell. Boys and girls seem to get the same level of education all the way through…I suppose this issue stems more from some kind of folk hangover.

    That’s my estimate, too, but I can’t say I know much about this.

  30. 30
    freemage

    Why, good sir, are you suggesting that part of the solution (or at least, to determining how dire the need for a solution is) lies in… science?

  31. 31
    Crommunist

    Sorry, I probably should have made the point that the nightmare scenario is women who eschew contraceptive methods and just run to “D&Cs R Us” whenever they have an “oopsie”. The kind of causal serial-aborter that is largely the figment of fevered conservative imaginations.

    But yeah, I can’t see it as anything other than irresponsible to repeatedly use medical services for a preventable condition (my friend who is a midwife will kill me for calling pregnancy a ‘condition’). If you’re not taking reasonable prophylactic precautions to prevent pregnancy (and you don’t want to be pregnant), then I have to question your thought process. Just because the safety net is there, doesn’t mean that it’s responsible to throw caution to the winds.

  32. 32
    freemage

    I think Trebuchet’s point is that while only a minority of self-identified pro-lifers consciously advocate such violence as you mention (whether they do so unawares is another issue, of course), it is well beyond a majority who demand that we approach issues like contraception in the worst way possible from the notion of seeing a reduction in the number of abortions.

  33. 33
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Ibis, I fully support everybody’s right to have a choice, but that doesn’t mean that all choices are equally sensible.
    Not using “normal” birth control because you can get an abortion is a pretty stupid choice, it is not rational from a medical or economic perspective.
    And there are some people where I’m rather glad if they have abortions instead ruining the lives of actual children.

  34. 34
    freemage

    This echoes a lot of my thoughts following the Kermit Gosnell scandal. The notion that making abortions illegal will suddenly stop abortions from happening was categorically disproven by Gosnell. If you can stomach it (and seriously, it should probably have a trigger warning of some sort, it’s so bad), read the descriptions of the clinic–’unsanitary’ doesn’t begin to cover it. The notion that a woman who was anything less than utterly desperate would see that place and have a reaction other than running away, screaming, is absurd on the face of it.

    And that desperation was born entirely from the nickel-and-dime approach to whittling away abortion rights that has been the pro-life tactic for over a decade. If a woman needed a late-term abortion, there was simply no place else to go. Imagine how much worse it would be if the Dr. Gosnells of the world were actually trying to avoid police notice, as well….

  35. 35
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Except that outside of sci-fi books, gender disparity isn’t actually leading China, India, etc. go greater equality.

  36. 36
    Crommunist

    I actually wrote a piece about Dr. Gosnell. Calling it a “scandal” is soft-peddling it a bit.

  37. 37
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    The point is, it’s not your place to judge for someone else what constitutes reasonable precautions–there are all kinds of factors that go into making decisions about birth control and when we say “pro-choice” we mean free to make choices that I wouldn’t necessarily make (but might if I was in the same position).

    Why jump to the conclusion that they are being irresponsible? Personally, I think a person who uses abortion even as their sole birth control method seems much more responsible than the multitudes of people who get pregnant and decide to have the child no matter what their own circumstances.

    Furthermore, there are surely many, many more people who “misuse” the safety net to a far greater degree than the odd person who might choose (for reasons that apparently make sense to them) to have abortions if they get pregnant rather than use condoms or other contraception as a preventative. I don’t think you’re out there telling them that you don’t think they should be parents.

  38. 38
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    The thing is, I wouldn’t assume that the rare person who has the option to avail themselves of contraceptive methods, and Plan B, and medicinal abortions, and yet repeatedly puts themselves through serial surgical abortions is doing so for no reason. And if the reason is just stupidity, well, it’s still more responsible and easier on the social safety net than birthing those children.

  39. 39
    Crommunist

    Personally, I think a person who uses abortion even as their sole birth control method seems much more responsible than the multitudes of people who get pregnant and decide to have the child no matter what their own circumstances.

    Which sort of knocks your “any evaluation of the responsibility of others is contrary to pro-choice” argument into a cocked hat. There are any number of decisions that I think show a level of irresponsibility that would make me question someone’s fitness to raise children. Have you read more than one Twilight book? Have you ever used the word “chillaxin”? Do you wear cowboy boots to your office job? And yes, if I was talking about fitness to parent vis a vis any of those people, I’d probably be just as likely to be “out there” saying so.

    That being said, I do recognize the merit in your point. It does seem hypocritical to say “everyone should be able to choose” and then turn around and say “but if you choose differently from how I would, you shouldn’t be allowed to choose.” It is a regrettable self-negation that I will have to spend some time considering. That was meant to be a throwaway comment about the unicorn-like nature of people who use abortion as their sole method of family planning. I don’t think that person exists, and if ze does I’d have serious questions about hir thought process.

  40. 40
    abeille

    That was meant to be a throwaway comment about the unicorn-like nature of people who use abortion as their sole method of family planning. I don’t think that person exists, and if ze does I’d have serious questions about hir thought process.

    Why the genderless language?

    Do men get abortions as their sole method of family planning?

    (teasing)

  41. 41
    Crommunist

    Yes, in a comparison between “having repeated abortions of unwanted children” and “bearing unwanted children”, it is more responsible to choose not to have a child you don’t want/aren’t able to support. I think that was my point – I would rather people who have abortions for reasons that I might disagree with (and is the nightmare scenario) have access than say “you’re not responsible enough, therefore you have to have a child now.”

  42. 42
    Crommunist

    Transmen might, yes.

  43. 43
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Well, that’s what I said, isn’t it?
    I think it’s a stupid choice to go for surgical abortion instead of using contraception if both are readily avaible.
    But I’m rather glad they’re doing it instead of ruining the life of a child.
    Some choices are bad choices.
    Having the abortion isn’t the bad choice.
    Not using contraception is.
    Being pro-choice doesn’t mean I condone every kind of behaviour someone might choose.
    Maybe I should explain:
    My stance on abortion is two-fold:
    First and most importantly I fully support the right to choose for every woman, regardless of her reason.
    Second, I care a lot about children. And if abortion doesn’t take place, a child results. And people can do shitty things to children, and I’d rather not have that happen.
    So, instead of dumping a child into a life of misery, I am really glad if the whole affair ends before it really started.
    And I’m with the Crommunist on that:
    Certain decisions make you look like somebody whose decision-making skills need to be brushed up before they’re tried on a child.

  44. 44
    UrsulaMinor

    Yeah – Unfortunately this is already happening. There are regions of India and China where the sex at birth ratio skews as high as 121::100 (male::female). Its at a point where it is so bad that the world sex at birth ratio is almost 107::100

    (The natural sex at birth ratio is at 105::100 – probably to account for a higher rate of death among males before adulthood)

    I got these figures from here: Maria Hvistendal’s book Unnatural Selection:

    http://www.amazon.ca/Unnatural-Selection-Choosing-Girls-Consequences/dp/1586488503

    As to what to do about it, your guess is as good as mine. Although the position to take on this issue that struck me as extremely rational after reading this book was one espoused by an Indian abortion doctor. It was along the lines of: You get to decide whether or not you want to be a parent,and how many kids you want if you do. After that though, you don’t get to decide what your kid will be.

  45. 45
    Allytude

    Sex-selection abortions(or as they are called in India, female feticide) do not happen because the women have the choice to abort, rather because their families dictate the sex of the child they should bear. And it is better to abort a female fetus than to give birth to a girl child who will constantly be treated inferior. Revealing the sex of the fetus has been banned in India, it is not helping the sex ratio much.

  46. 46
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Do you call going to the emergency room for a cold the “nightmare scenario”? What about failing to get a flu shot and subsequently having to get admitted to the hospital for flu-related complications? Would you say that someone who customarily skates or cycles without a helmet who gets more than one concussion and has to have hospital care as a result shouldn’t be having children?

    I realise it was a throwaway comment, but it’s a comment that plays into the idea that there’s something especially unethical and immoral about having an abortion.


    And just to give you an example of someone for whom abortion might be a more reasonable option… I had a friend who was allergic to latex and had bad side effects from the pill. I’m not sure if she looked into IUDs or other options. She wasn’t all that active sexually so that might have played into that. She was on disability and lived in a small one bedroom apartment, living cheque to cheque. In the fifteen years that I was her friend she got pregnant twice. As it happened, she had both kids, but if she had had two abortions instead? Big deal. She used more OHIP dollars due to her mild hypochondria than that would have cost (and probably a birth control prescription for those years would have been more expensive too).

  47. 47
    Crommunist

    Not my nightmare scenario. The scenario that always gets invoked as the typical case by the anti-choice crowd, but is actually an edge case. Like the red herring fight over abortions that happen after 25 weeks – it’s something like 4% of abortions that happen that late, but they comprise essentially 100% of the anti-choice rhetoric.

    And yeah, if someone was having repeated concussions because they refused to wear a helmet, I’d question their decision-making faculties. Wouldn’t you?

    But yes, I recognize that the initial comment came from a stupid, unthinking place.

  48. 48
    Kim

    I love that you reconsider what you’ve said when people call you on it. I understand that is normal behaviour for you, but it is so rare in the world at large.

  49. 49
    Crommunist

    One of my goals in life is to be wrong about as few things as possible. The only way to do that is to listen to people when they tell me I did something stupid.

  50. 50
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    One of the reasons that “nightmare scenario” strawman works so well for the anti-choice crowd is because (at least in my experience) pro-choice people rarely question the underlying assumptions that abortion is less moral an option than contraception and should only be used as a last resort. In fact it may not even be the less responsible option for some people. The other strawman you mention works for the same reason.

    I brought up the concussion thing as an example of possible poor judgement* but one that doesn’t generally lead to someone to immediately conclude that so-and-so is too irresponsible to be a parent. In fact, we might give Joe the benefit of the doubt and say he’s really unlucky to have hit that rut in the ice the first time, and who would have predicted that he’d get knocked over by a first-time skater and hit his head again the next year?

    Really, it’s only when women’s reproductive organs are at issue that the black robes and gavels come out and people get all judgey.

    This plays into the question at hand. If someone wants to abort because she’d rather have a child of the other sex, that’s her prerogative. It’s not anyone’s place to sit in judgement of her motive. She can make a decision about her own body and her own life. It’s no different than a woman who chooses to have an abortion because she is working at a job where she is getting paid less than a guy doing the same work–the problem is one of the underlying society. What we can do is change the environment in which they make their decisions. Reduce poverty, fight for pay equity and parental benefits, educate women and girls. In other words, keep working towards equality.

    But yes, I recognize that the initial comment came from a stupid, unthinking place.

    Thanks for listening. I appreciate it.

    *I realise it’s not the best analogy. First of all, most experienced recreational skaters *don’t* wear helmets, despite the risk. Second, there don’t seem to be many factors that would go into the helmet vs. no-helmet decision. Third, having a concussion might itself affect one’s judgement. But anyway, there it is.

  51. 51
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    I generally call them “anti-woman”, because they don’t care if women are injured or killed, they just want the almighty BABIES to be born, no matter the cost.

  52. 52
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I’m going to call the person who ends up with injuries due to not wearing a helmet fucking stupid.
    I’m not going to make them the scapegoat of rising healthcare-costs or demand that they should pay for their treatment themselves.

    I’m going to call people who don’t get their vaccinations and end up in emergency rooms and hospitals fucking stupid.

    And if those things are a pattern, I’m going to call into question their ability to make such important decissions for another person.

    That’s why I also question the parental abilities of people who’d like to have a “designer baby”*. Not because there’s anything wrong with a blue-eyed blonde baby-boy, but because there’s something wrong with people who think that they can control every aspect of their child, because children aren’t made on demand reborn-babies.

    And I’m questiong their ability to be parents, not her ability to be a mother, because it takes two to tango.

    *I’m not talking about people screening for diseases.

  53. 53
    Pen

    Speaking of things that happen when abortion is illegal and unsafe, infanticide was the traditional solution. This is something that Christians who hark back to the good old days have conveniently forgotten. In Europe, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (very Christian times), infanticide and death from more or less deliberate neglect were so common the foundling hospital system was established in a number of cities to try to prevent it. The hospitals became a mere system of official infanticide in which everyone knew that abandoned babies had very low expectations of survival. In some cities at some times, thousands of babies a year, a significant percentage of all births, were abandoned to this fate.

    Many other cultures have practiced some system of infanticide alongside attempts at contraception and abortion (usually unreliable and unsafe) and draconian and dehumanising attempts at avoiding over-reproduction through abstinence. Infanticide can also be sex-selective. Although it seems that male infants may be naturally slightly more vulnerable than females, there are places today where the rate of female infant mortality is mysteriously much higher than male infant mortality. In history this was more commonly the case.

    Really, we should be so grateful for our ability to prevent unwanted pregnancies safely and before the fetus becomes a person (really!) who is capable of suffering. As for sex selection today – I think the only way to change it is to work on attitudes, and for some cultures, on the economic and social disadvantages the culture places on raising girls.

  54. 54
    BinJabreel

    I think I’m going to start doing that with more of what I write. I feel like it will make it classier.

    “I think I’ll start doing more of what I write. I feel like it will be more chic.”

    … I think it might’ve worked, but it does seem to have had an adventure along the way.

  55. 55
    LeftSidePositive

    Great analogy.

    In general, the “they use abortion as birth control!!!” trope is, of course, wildly inflated. The only times where anything even resembling that occur is when women have no money for birth control, no access to medical care and/or pharmacies to get more reliable birth control, and especially when they are forced/coerced by their partner not to use birth control–birth control sabotage and refusal is a huge problem in abusive relationships. Indeed, women seeking abortion have higher incidence of domestic violence than the general population: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2009.178947

    So, it’s not that women who “use abortion as birth control” (that is, need multiple abortions) are lazy/immoral/irresponsible–they’re generally in really desperate life situations.

  56. 56
    ischemgeek

    I think I agree with the folks above who have supported education and empowering women as the answer to this. I haven’t fully thought it out yet (so I’m just airing immature from-the-hip thoughts here). Frankly, I’ve met many Westerners who say they’d abort if their kid was a girl so I don’t think it’s solely an immigrant issue. Back in my Grandma’s time, the answer was to keep having kids until you had the boy you wanted (no, I’m not making this up, she told me in so many words). Now we have more liberal laws that enable these people to avoid having nine or ten kids before the coin flips the way they want it to.

    I think the answer is to make “it’s a girl” not have the same emotional impact as stepping on something the dog left in your yard (which is what it seems like for the ones who would do this that I’ve talked to). How? I don’t know. But on an admittedly emotional level, it strikes me as a less paternalistic and overall better solution than putting restrictions on why you can choose to abort (which would send the message that women can’t be trusted to decide on an abortion for the right reasons).

  57. 57
    Dianne

    Do you call going to the emergency room for a cold the “nightmare scenario”?

    Nightmare, no. Annoyance, yes. There’s nothing much that can be done for a cold except for over the counter symptom relief. Stay home if you have a cold. Unless you need a note for work from your doctor. In that case, go get one during business hours. Unless, of course, you don’t have a doctor and can’t get in as a new patient for 3 months (not atypical in the US…can’t speak for elsewhere in the world.)

    Actually, going to the ER for a cold is somewhat analogous to using surgical abortion for birth control: not ideal, but lots of reasons why it might be the only reasonable option in the real world.

    What about failing to get a flu shot and subsequently having to get admitted to the hospital for flu-related complications?

    Nightmare. Flu can spread and kill other patients-as well as, of course, the original patient. Hopefully the staff has all had flu shots, minimizing the spread of the disease, but, well, SARS spread to at least one person who was just walking past the index patient. Mother nature is quite the bioterrorist. Get the verdammt shot.

  58. 58
    freemage

    I’ll agree with that–”travesty” might be a better term for it.

  59. 59
    Ƶ§œš¹

    While I agree with you in spirit, it is fair to say that the rare woman who has the resources (access, money, control) but is still careless with preventative birth control methods does exist.

  60. 60
    Ƶ§œš¹

    Very good post. I’m a big fan of harm reduction. Something that comes to mind, though is the problems of applying this to something like murder.

    If it could be shown that legalizing/decriminalizing murder would reduce the murder rate, would it be a good idea? There are a number of reasons why it wouldn’t be a popular choice, particularly when we consider an individual victim’s sense of justice. Considering that the anti-choice/anti-abortion crowd considers fetuses to be fully human, pointing to harm reduction may be be an unconvincing tactic.

  61. 61
    David

    Are you aware that FTB is currently advertising for http://nationalprolifealliance.com ?
    I’m getting mixed messages here.
    Not actually getting mixed messages, of course. I realize the need to take advertising revenue, that you probably don’t control the actual ads being displayed on your blog, and that your beliefs do not necessarily always coincide with everything that FTB as a whole does to continue operation, I just saw the ad and thought “lolirony”.

  62. 62
    Crommunist

    If you see the ad again, can you get a grab of the AD’S URL (not the one it sends you to – it should look like a long string of characters preceded by a Google address) and e-mail it to me (crommunistatgmaildotcom)? We can notify the server and have it removed.

    You are correct that we have limited control over the ads, but we can ask to have certain offenders removed.

  1. 63
    Linksplat – 26/01/12 « Cubik's Rube

    [...] People who want abortion to be illegal aren’t even opposed to abortion, if you actually look at the practical effects of their policies. They’re neither pro-life [...]

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