Conservative self-identifies with single-celled brainless organism

Among my usual flood of daily email, I frequently get tossed onto mailing lists for conservative think tanks. Why? I don’t know. I suspect that it’s for the same reason I also get a lot of gay porn in my email: not because I follow it or asked to be added, but because some tired d-bag with no imagination thinks its funny to dun me with more junk. The joke’s on them, though: I might keep it around and skim the stuff now and then to get inspiration for a blog post, and then click-click — a few presses of a button and I add the source to my junk mail filter, and never see it again.

No, I didn’t get inspired by gay porn today, but by drivel from some freakish conservative think tank called the Witherspoon Institute, about which I know next to nothing except that they’re another of those organizations that cloak themselves in the Holy Founding Fathers of America to promote illiberal non-freethinking anti-government BS. This latest is by a philosopher criticizing a book about modern reproductive biotechnologies. He doesn’t like ’em. Not one bit, no sir.

But you know an essay from a philosopher is going to be pretty much worthless when it opens and closes with references to… C.S. Lewis. I don’t know why that man gets so much happy clappy press from believers. I suspect he must have sold his soul to the devil.

Anyway, the bizarre part is in the middle, where Justin Barnard is poleaxed by the author’s, Steven Potter’s, willingness to destroy human embryos. Potter apparently considers several of the sides of the debate, but fails to come down on the side of the Religious Right, that is, that embryos are absolutely and undeniably full human beings from the instant of fertilization, instead espousing the dreadful notion that the definition of personhood falls into a huge gray area.

Potter’s own attempt to wrestle with the morality of destroying human embryos is philosophically, if not biologically, confused from the start. He begins by claiming that “each egg and sperm has the potential to make a person.” Biologically, this is simply false. Gametes, by themselves, have no intrinsic developmental potential for human personhood. Of course, Potter knows this. So his use of “potential” is likely more latitudinarian. Still, three pages later, Potter describes the zygote as having “remarkable potential.” “It can,” he explains, “turn itself into a person.” Ironically, Potter fails to recognize that this potentialist understanding of human personhood is at odds with his rather surprising admission of the embryological facts. Potter writes, “Of course we all began as a zygote. Everyone does.” What is shocking about this concession is what it so obviously entails–an entailment that seems lost on Potter. If I, the human being I am today, “began as a zygote,” then the zygote that began the-human-being-I-am-today was me–i.e., it was a human person. It was not merely a cell with “remarkable potential” to become me. It was me.

If anyone is confused here, it’s Barnard. Of course each egg and sperm has the potential to form a person, especially when we throw biotechnology into the equation, as the book he’s reviewing explicitly does. We already have techniques to revert and differentiate a sperm cell into an egg. For that matter, given time and research, we’ll be able to reprogram just about any cell into a totipotent state, and clone someone from a cheek swab. Does Mr Barnard regard every cell he sheds as a potential person?

Perhaps he wants to argue that a sperm or egg cell doesn’t have the potential for personhood without a human assist. But then by that limitation the zygote has to be excluded as well — no human zygote can develop to term without the extreme cooperation of another individual. Try it; extract a fertilized egg and set it in a beaker by your nightstand, and wait for a baby to crawl out. Won’t happen. A uterus and attendant physiological and behavioral meat construct, i.e., woman, is also an amazing piece of biotechnology that is a necessary component of the developmental process.

But the real blow to this whole “potential” argument is damaged irreparably by Barnard’s last few sentences — was he going for a reductio here? Is the entire essay an exercise in irony? ‘Cause that dope was dumb.

Yes, Mr Barnard began as a zygote. That does not mean the zygote was Mr Barnard. My car began as a stack of metal ingots and barrels of plastics; that does not imply that an ingot of iron is a car. My house began as a set of blueprints and an idea in an architect’s mind; nobody is going to pay the architect rent for living in his cranium or on a stack of paper in a cabinet. The zygote was not Justin Barnard, unless Justin Barnard is still a vegetating single-celled blob, in which case I’d like to know how he typed his essay.

Since Barnard claims to be a philosopher, I’ll cite another, a guy named Aristotle. This is a quote I use in the classroom when I try to explain to them how epigenesis works, in contrast to preformation. Aristotle did some basic poking around in chicken eggs and in semen, and he noticed something rather obvious—there were no bones in there, nor blood, nor anything meatlike or gristly or brainy. So he made the simple suggestion that they weren’t there.

Why not admit straight away that the semen…is such that out of it blood and flesh can be formed, instead of maintaining that semen is both blood and flesh?

Barnard is making the classic preformationist error of assuming that everything had to be there in the beginning: I am made of bones and blood and flesh and brains and guts and consciousness and self-identity, therefore the zygote must have contained bones and blood and flesh and brains and guts and consciousness and self-identity.

It didn’t.

Why not admit straight away that the zygote is such that out of it selfhood may arise, rather than maintaining that the zygote is the self?

In that case we have to recognize that the person is not present instantaneously at one discrete moment, but emerges gradually over months to years of time, that there were moments when self was not present and other moments when self clearly was present, and moments in between where there is ambiguity or partial identity or otherwise blurry gray boundaries. This is a conclusion that makes conservative ideologues wince and shy away — I think it’s too complicated for their brains, which may in some ways be equivalent to the gormless reflexive metabolic state of the zygote — but it is how science understands the process of development.

My mouse has two daddies


This is awesome news. Biologists have figured out how to enable two male mice to have babies together, with no genetic contribution from a female mouse. I, for one, look forward to our future gay rodent overlords.

It was a clever piece of work. Getting progeny from two male parents has a couple of difficulties. One is that you need an oocyte, which is a large, specialized, complex cell type, and males don’t make them. Not at all. You can tear a boy mouse to pieces looking for one, and you won’t find a single example—they’re a cell found exclusively in female ovaries.

Now you might think that all we’d have to do is grab one from a female mouse, throw out its nuclear contents, and inject a male nucleus into it, but that doesn’t work, either. The second problem is that during the maturation of the oocyte, the DNA has to be imprinted, that is, given a female-specific pattern of activation and inactivation of genes. If that isn’t done, there will be a genetic imbalance at fertilization, and development will be abnormal. What we need to be able to do is grow an oocyte progenitor with male DNA in a female ovary.

So that’s what was done, and here’s how.


Start with Father #1, whose cells all contain an X and a Y chromosome. Connective tissue cells were extracted from the mouse (in this case, an embryo), and then reprogrammed by viral transduction with modified copies of the genes Pou5f1, Sox2, Klf4, and Myc. This step produces induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), or cells that have the ability to develop into all (probably) of the tissues of the body. These cells are then grown in a dish.

The next step is to give Father #1’s cells a sex change operation. This turns out to be trivial: in culture, cells can spontaneously lose a chromosome by non-disjunction, and 1-3% of the cells will lose their Y chromosome, and convert to X0. No Y chromosome means it is now a functionally female cell.

There is a significant difference between humans and mice here. Sometimes (about 1 in 5,000 births) humans are born with only one X chromosome, a condition called Turner syndrome. These individuals appear to be entirely normal females, except for some minor cosmetic differences, an unfortunate predisposition to a few problems like heart disease, and of particular relevance here, are also sterile. Mice are different: Turner syndrome mice are fertile. Apparently, mice have a god-given edge in the gay reproduction race.

Once a population of Father #1’s cells that are X0 are identified, they are then injected into a female mouse blastocyst to produce a chimera, an embryo with a mix of host cells (which are genetically XX) and donor cells (which are X0). That they’re mixed together in the resulting offspring doesn’t matter; it may be a callous way of looking at it, but the only purpose of the host XX cells is to provide a female mouse environment to house Father #1’s X0 cells that end up in the ovaries.

That’s the result of all this tinkering: a female mouse is born with a subset of Father #1’s reprogrammed cells nestled in her ovaries, where they mature in a female body and differentiate into oocytes. The oocytes divide by meiosis, producing egg cells that contain either one X chromosome, or no sex chromosome at all (0).

Finally, Father #2 comes into the picture. Father #2 is an ordinary male, with testes containing cells that go through meiosis and mature into ordinary sperm containing either one X chromosome or one Y chromosome. These sperm are used to fertilize eggs from the chimeric female, which, by all the shenanigans describe above, are derived from Father #1. Both male (XY) and female (X0) progeny ensue. That this actually occurred was thoroughly confirmed by testing the progeny for genetic markers from both fathers…and it’s true. The only genetic contributions were from the dads, and nothing from the host mother.

Now you may be sitting at home with your dearly beloved gay partner and wondering whether you will be able to have babies together someday. Or perhaps you’re a narcissistic man sitting at home alone, thinking you’d like to have babies with yourself, if only you could convince a few of your cells to make eggs (this is another possibility: there is no barrier to this technique being applied in cases where Father #1 is also Father #2, except that it is incestuous to the max). I expect it will be possible someday, but it isn’t right now. There are a few obstacles to doing this in humans.

  1. We haven’t worked out that genetic reprogramming trick for humans yet, so we don’t have a technique for producing pluripotent stem cells from your somatic cells. Give it time, though, and keep funding adult stem cell research, and it’ll happen.

    Also note the rule of unintended consequences. The fundy fanatics have been anti-embryonic stem cell research for years, and one of their tactics has been to insist that adult stem cell research is far more important. In the long run, it is…and oh, look what we’ll be able to do!

  2. The reprogramming trick involves viral transfection, the insertion of mutant copies of a few specific genes. This is probably not desirable. All kids are mutant anyway, but this is adding a specific, constant kind of mutation to all of the individuals produced by this method.

  3. It still requires a woman, and a woman who has been embryonically modified as a blastocyst at that. Did you know women have rights, including the right to not be a vessel for a scientific experiment? It’s true. They also take years and years to grow to sexual maturity, so even if you got started right now it would be a dozen years before she started making oocytes for you, and by the way, she’d inform you that she only produces eggs for herself, not you.

    There may be ways around this, but the techniques aren’t here yet. To produce eggs, we really don’t need the whole woman, just the ovary: another goal of stem cell research is to regrow organs from cells in a dish, for instance to build a new heart or pancreas for transplantation. Consider ovaries on the list of organs.

  4. That difference between mice and humans, that X0 mice are fertile while X0 women are not, seems like a serious problem. We apparently need the pair of X chromosomes working together to provide the correct gene dosage for normal maturation of the egg. It just means that we need to add an extra step to the procedure for people, though: transfer by injection an extra X chromosome from a donor cell from Father #1 to the X0 cells, producing a composite XX cell derived entirely from a male.

  5. The fundies will go raving apeshit bonkers. So what else is new?

  6. OK, there are also some serious ethical concerns that would need to be worked out, independent of the Bible-thumping theocratic sex police. As you can see from the recipe above, this is a procedure that involves extensive manipulation of embryos, almost all of it experimental, and the end result is…a baby. We should be conscientious in our care in any procedure that can produce human beings, especially if there is risk of producing damaged human beings. This can also only be categorized as a kind of expensive luxury treatment, and it’s difficult to justify such elaborate work for solely egotistical gratification. Especially for you, nerd-boy masturbating alone at home. (But learning more about the mechanisms of reproduction is more than enough to justify this work in mice, at least).

Wait…all this is just for male gay couples. What about nurturing lesbians who want to have children together? That has another tricky problem: you need a Y chromosome to induce normal sperm differentiation, and lesbian couples don’t have any of those. At all. They’re going to have to go to a male donor for a genetic contribution, diluting the purity of the genetic side of the procedure. However, that has a technology in the works to help out already: see obstacle #4 above. We’ll have to isolate iPS cells from Mother #1, inject a donor Y chromosome into them, cultivate chimeric male (or chimeric testis in a dish) to produce sperm, and then fertilize eggs from Mother #2 with the Mother #1-derived sperm. Any sons produced by this procedure would have three parents, Mother #1, Mother #2, and the Male Donor who provided the Y chromosome, and only the Y chromosome. Any daughters, though, would only have two parents: Mother #1 and Mother #2.

Isn’t reproductive biology fun? It’s the combination of exciting science with terrifyingly deep social implications.

Deng JM, Satoh K, Chang H, Zhang Z, Stewart MD, Wang H, Cooney AJ, Behringer RR (2010) Generation of viable male and female mice from two fathers. Biology of Reproduction DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.110.088831.

Rebuked by Michael Egnor!

It’s kind of like having my fashion sense chastised by the Insane Clown Posse…I’m not going to lose sleep over it. He’s upset that I don’t think a blastocyst deserves the same consideration we give to a child or an adult human being — that I have baldly stated that I’m pro-abortion. Unfortunately, his argument against my position doesn’t hold up at all well.

Women have a right to control their bodies — the right to self-determination. Yet the right to self-determination is contingent. One does not have a right to kill another person. The right to life supersedes the right to self-determination. When a woman is pregnant, the rights of two human beings must be weighed — that of the woman, and that of the child. While decent people agree on the rights of the woman, what about the rights of the child? What is the moral status of a child (or an embryo or a zygote) before birth? Is the unborn child a person?

My answers:

Biology 101: Human life — the existence of a discreet individual human being — begins at conception and ends at natural death.

Morality 101: All human beings are persons, and all human beings (from conception to natural death) are entitled to the fundamental right of personhood: the right to life.

Denial of personhood to some human beings — to Jews, to blacks, to women, to unborn children — is profound evil, and is the same evil.

So, according to Egnor, this is a “discreet [sic, I presume] individual human being”:


So is this:


And they have exactly the same right to live as these:


Huh. I don’t know about you, but to me, that doesn’t exalt human life at all — it seems to do the opposite, and devalue the life of women.

Maybe when Egnor graduates to something beyond the 101 level, he’ll learn that human cells are not equivalent to a full human life. An “unborn child” (what a silly euphemism!) is not suddenly a person at conception: development is a gradual process of epigenesis, in which information and complexity expand over time, and the person does not form in an instant. There is no black-and-white boundary between non-personhood and personhood — it’s an arbitrary line drawn in a continuum.

An online abortion poll — for real

I’m about as pro-choice as you can get; I’m even willing to say that I’m pro-abortion, and would like to encourage more people to abort. But I’m also rather shocked by my fellow Minnesotans, Pete and Alisha Arnold, who have decided to allow people to vote on whether they should get an abortion. Way to trivialize a significant life decision, Pete and Alisha!

They have an online poll, and you can go vote right now.

Should We Give Birth or Have an Abortion?

Give Birth 77.3% (118,301 votes)

Have an Abortion 22.7% (34,741 votes)

Clearly, looking at those numbers, the ‘bots have been at work, trivializing the poll even more. I don’t care how you vote; what’s at stake is a mere embryo, so it’s no big loss if it’s flushed and incinerated, and I don’t have any illusions about whether this is deciding the fate of a human life — it’s not. There’s no person in Alisha’s belly yet.

I have deep reservations about voting on this at all, because it is not and should not be my decision. But I had to vote to abort, not because of any consideration about the embryo, but because I’m looking at Pete and Alisha, the full-grown, conscious, decision-making human beings who are considering whether to take on the responsibilities of a child. And no, they are not. I’d say the same thing to someone who decided whether to have a baby or not by a flip of the coin. If that’s how you make decisions about whether to commit a significant part of your life to a lot of hard work and the emotional roller coaster of child-rearing, then NO, you do not want to do it.

They’re already lousy parents, and they haven’t even created a child yet.

As several have already pointed out, this poll is not “for real”. It’s the work of a couple of libertarian anti-choice frauds. So go ahead, vote however you want, it doesn’t matter and the perpetrators are a pair of morons.

Heavens! Confrontation!

Imagine you’re pregnant. Imagine that you discover the fetus is doomed by serious birth defects, and is going to be stillborn no matter what. Imagine that you weepily go to the local reproductive services to have the futile pregnancy terminated. Imagine (and this is probably the easiest part) that you get there and discover a fervent group of fanatical, close-minded Christians waving signs with aborted fetuses on them, telling you that you’re damned for going into that clinic.

What would you do?

Well, obviously, you should find common cause with the protestors and tell them that you respect their opinions and really appreciate their input into your personal, and in this case tragically necessary, decisions. Maybe you should go to church with them and discover the richness of their spiritual life, and watch them bloom into awareness of your beliefs and values. Yeah, maybe.

Or you could march right up to them and let them know exactly how despicable their behavior is.

I don’t know. I kind of like the second option. It seems a little more realistic and honest. It also has the bonus of revealing how cowardly your opposition actually is — they’re not used to people standing up for their rights.

I had no idea this was even a question

Sometimes…sometimes you just want to kick some ass. And the only thing holding you back is the unpleasant task afterward of having to scrub your boots.

This is an actual article from USA Today’s “Faith and Reason” section, which doesn’t seem to have much reason behind it. It’s by Cathy Lynn Grossman, who claims to love talking about “visions and values, faith and ethics”, and yet, manages to provide the most nauseating commentary on the recent Nobel for in vitro fertilization yet, even worse than anything I’ve seen from the Catholics. Consider these repugnant questions from Ms Grossman.

Do you think a baby conceived in test tube is still a child in the eyes — or mind or hands, depending on your theology/philosophy — of God? Does the science behind this merit the Nobel Prize for Medicine or condemnation in the realm of faith and ethics?

Do you think a baby conceived in test tube is still a child in the eyes of God? Does the science behind this merit a Nobel Prize, or ethical condemnation? And what about the parents? Is their IVF choice selfish or loving? Are they creators — or merely shoppers?

I read the whole column. There’s not much there. I was looking for some indication that these were rhetorical questions that would be quickly dismissed, but there’s nothing…there’s a quote from the bioethicist Arthur Caplan about the impact of IVF, and there’s a bunch of standard Catholic nonsense deploring the commodification of embryos, but Grossman just raises this vile and ignorant question without a single remark about the obvious fact that the 4 million people who are here because of IVF are…people.

So what are these children? Soulless zombies? Or are they just damned?

The title alone is remarkably off. “‘Test tube babies’: God’s work or human error?”: those are our choices? These kids are mistakes?

I find it disturbing that some people consider the circumstances of a child’s conception to be serious grounds for contemplating their status as members of the human race. This is where magical thinking about undetectable spiritual entities leads you — to a different kind of dualism, where I am privileged because I’ve imagined that I’m granted a soul, while you are lesser because I’ve imagined that you have not…and by the way, you have no means to challenge my claims, which are entirely ethereal and supernatural and also accepted by the majority of the law makers and enforcers in my country.

And it’s incredibly offensive to go further and suggest that the parents of these children, who have gone to extraordinary expense and trouble to conceive, are mere “shoppers”, as if people who get pregnant in a casual evening’s rut are somehow necessarily conscientious ethical philosophers and serious about their children, while someone who sinks $10,000+ dollars into invasive medical procedures and subjects their body to a few months of stressful hormonal treatments must be getting pregnant on impulse.

There really are stupid questions. Grossman just asked a few, and is entirely oblivious to what they imply about her and her attitudes towards children born by methods of which she disapproves. What next? Shall we consider ostracizing a few bastards, too?

Of course they were quick to respond

The head of the Pontificia Academia Pro Vita, the specifically crazy anti-choice arm of the Catholic Church, has already issued a statement about the Nobel Prize awarded to an IVF pioneer. He’s against it, of course.

Among his peculiar complaints is the objection that it “didn’t treat the underlying problem of infertility but rather skirted it”, which is rather odd. This:

Couples can’t have children

Couples use IVF

Couples now have children

Looks to me like a rather direct way to treat infertility. Where they once could have no children, now they have children.

They also don’t like the fact that the procedure produces excess embryos which are then discarded, stored, or used in further research in reproduction. They prefer the natural method of intercourse, which produces excess embryos which are then flushed down the toilet to rot in the sewers.

The church is also deeply concerned that the technology has produced a market for women to sell a few cells from their ovaries, when everyone knows that women are supposed to be sold whole and intact and dedicate every aspect of their lives to their owners.

As yet, there is no word from Bill Donohue.

Never trust the anti-woman brigade to be honest

They are as bad as creationists. They often are creationists. Their anti-abortion ideology is so overwhelming that they will make up ‘facts’ and call them science. Here’s a recent example:

“I think it’s important to note with the term fertilized egg, that’s the same thing as using the N word for an African American,” said Mason. “Because it’s a dehumanizing term and it’s not based in science. The term would be a zygote, or an embryo, speaking of a unique individual.” Mason is hoping the passage of the amendment will lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“It’s a bad law,” said Mason, referring to Roe v. Wade. “It was not based in reason. They ignored the concept of the pre-born child being a person.”

That’s simply insane. You aren’t insulting a fertilized egg by referring to its status, and there is no one there to be insulted by your terminology. This Keith Mason wanker has no qualifications as a scientist — he seems to be little more than a self-appointed minister…which explains his propensity for lying.

We use the term “fertilized egg” all the time — so do farmers and grocers. I could show it to you in developmental biology textbooks.

While we use the term “fertilized egg” routinely, there is another term you won’t find in any of the texts or on the lips of developmental biologists: “pre-born child”. What a crock.

A child is not a notch on the bedpost

Them folk are not like us folk. I really had to twist my brain to read this article from Touchstone on “contradeception”, because I’m finding it hard to imagine how screwed up in the head you have to be to think that way.

It’s an article against contraception. When these quiverful zealots argue that they love kids, I can sympathize; when they say they are trying to outbreed non-Christians, I can sort of understand the logic, even though I think they’re wrong; but this story…children are like an afterthought. The reason you shouldn’t use contraception is because getting pregnant is public evidence that you are fulfilling your marital duties.

It’s a kind of busybody’s idea of heaven and earth…or perhaps a very monkey-like one. Everyone is supposed to monitor everyone else’s sexual behavior, and the purpose of marriage is to make it easy for everyone to track who is screwing who.

Sexual relationships, while enacted privately, are public property. The lover declares, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” This protects the relationship from internal and external breach. Those within the relation-ship are bound to each other by their promise of troth, held in trust by the neutral third parties who witness the promise. Those outside the relationship know that this new unit of their community is being rightly founded, and also that any attempt to besiege the promise is illicit.

And shunning contraception means everyone will be able to tell who is sneaking around, and who is getting the job done in the bedroom. Well, at least it’ll make it easier to monitor the women, but then, that’s what this is all about…making sure that female fidelity is evident.

And in former times, when the married couple fulf lled their vows to God and each other and their witnesses, they produced, at God’s favor, babies to prove it. The lack of a baby indicated either a broken body or a broken vow. While both called for the community’s prayer, the latter also called for the community’s assistance in healing the marriage for the benefit of everyone, for a broken vow means broken people. When a baby gave evidence of a union where no vow had been made, it was similarly in the interest of the community to correct the situation in the way that would most benefit all the parties involved.

Again, it’s all about letting everyone know that the woman is having sex, by making sure she’s pregnant all the time. If you have sex outside of marriage, you are “damaged goods” and must be prominently labeled as such.

In marriage, a couple gives over supervision of their marital health to those who approved their avowal. A sexual relationship between people who made no vows would normally not remain a secret for long. But contraception blinds the community by concealing the sexual act outside of marriage, or its absence within marriage, and by leaving goods damaged in various ways unmarked as such.

It really is the public notch on the bedpost model of the purpose of pregnancy!

Why must we have physical, public evidence of the faithful fulfillment of even those marital vows most of us can’t imagine neglecting, at least at first? Who would lie about such things? Well, who would talk about them? Allowing nature to manifest our faithfulness is certainly more graceful than a verbal report.

Except…Mrs Murphy could be knocking boots with the mailman every morning, in which case her swelling belly is not a testimony to faithfulness, and Mr Murphy could be making regular visits to the bordello out on county road 6. Pregnancy is not a good evidence of fidelity, but only of the fact that a woman is getting inseminated.

The whole article is this bizarre. Not rushing to have children, practicing family planning, implies that maybe you aren’t having sex as often as you should.

This is also why the Church perceives discord in the decision of a newly married couple to take a few years to “enjoy being married” before ending marital enjoyment with children. Apparently, we are expected to take them at their word that they are fulfilling the vows made before us, although they refuse to tender the token. In those storied former times, we’d have worried that perhaps the sweet things weren’t quite sure how things worked. For now, charity ordains that we fill in the child-shaped marital deficiency with the sad assumption of trouble conceiving, except in the great majority of cases, where bride and groom make no secret of being confirmed window shoppers at the baby mall. If you’re going to be married, be smart, after all. Be ever copulating but never conceiving. Their debt to their witnesses (to say nothing of each other) goes quite unacknowledged.

I married at 23, and we waited 3 years to have our first child. I swear that we were not celibate for that period of time, nor would any sane person have assumed we were. I did not feel a need to get her pregnant instantly as a way of staking a claim on my ownership of her uterus.

And yeah, we were copulating all the time — I thought we were paying a debt to each other in building a bond. We owe no debt to witnesses outside of the marriage. I suppose if they’d insisted, we could have gone at it on the picnic table at a family reunion, but seriously — it was none of their business. Apparently, by abstaining from flaunting our fertility we were treating everyone else disrespectfully.

So also is the public treated disrespectfully by the couple who, 2.1 children later, give no sign of continued faithfulness to their vow. Is he so disgusted by the sight of his wife’s birth-changed body that he will no longer suffer its embrace? Is she using her maternal exhaustion as an excuse to withhold herself from him? Can this marriage survive? The only way we know a marriage to be sexless is when it comes out in therapy, on the golf course, at play dates, on the pages of The Atlantic.

This whole thing is very disturbing. We stopped with 3 children, by intent — we love kids, but we wanted to give each one the attention they deserved, and we had to plan ahead for that expensive business of making sure each one got a good education. The good of the children, however, is not part of the equation with these people.

So we stopped having babies almost 20 years ago…and apparently, this blue-nosed wowser would think from that that I’m now disgusted with my wife’s body, or that my wife is withholding sex now that the tiring business of making children is done. You know, it’s none of your business what any two people’s private sex life is like, but anyone can note that despite the fact that she’s had a flat belly empty of embryos for a score of years, my wife is still with me and we’re still happy together.

Who’d have thought that you don’t need to be in a state of constant pregnancy to have a good and productive relationship? It’s sad to think that there are women out there who feel the measure of their worth is determined by the diameter of their abdomens.

Oklahoma…you have left me speechless

They’re considering a new law to keep women ignorant and ashamed.

The governor of Oklahoma is considering tough new abortion bills that would allow doctors to withhold test results showing foetal defects and require women to answer intrusive questions.

The results of the questionnaires would be posted online.

Women would also be required to have a vaginal ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the embryo or foetus in a third bill passed by the legislature on Monday.

So let me get this straight. If a woman in Oklahoma thinks she is pregnant, she can go in for “testing”…but she won’t get to know all the results. And she has to fill out a form so her sexual history can be posted on the web. And she’s going to get a pointless ultrasound and a lecture scripted by the likes of Prolife across America.

Why would anyone do that?