Wendy Davis vs. Kermit Gosnell: Our Stupid Abortion Debate

Don't expect the press or politicians to care much what most Americans think about abortion.

Note: This article originally appeared at The Daily Beast. Read it there.

When God shuts one window in the culture war, he opens another.

If last week’s Supreme Court rulings cooled some of the passions about same-sex marriage by returning the issue at least temporarily to the states, then abortion has moved to the front burner after Democratic Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’s 11-hour filibuster of a Republican bill that would have banned almost all abortions in the Lone Star State after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The media response to Davis’s filibuster, which dominated Twitter and other social media last Tuesday, ran to the extremes that we’ve come to expect in any discussion of supposedly divisive social issues. Depending on your point of view, Davis is either a brave hero fighting for women everywhere or the second coming ofKermit Gosnell, the notorious Philadelphia doctor recently found guilty of murdering babies.

So despite decades of polling data showing that large majorities of Americans believe abortion should be legal under some circumstances, you could be excused for thinking there are only two possible positions when it comes to terminating pregnancies: either all abortions should be allowed, or none should be.

Yet the most striking thing about attitudes toward abortion is how stable they’ve been over the 40 years since Roe v. Wade. Gallup has been tracking public sentiment on the matter since 1975, when 22 percent of Americans agreed that abortion should be illegal under any circumstances and 21 percent believed it should be legal under any circumstances. Those numbers are now 18 percent and 28 percent respectively. In 1975 54 percent believed abortion “should be legal only under certain circumstances.” The number is now 52 percent and has never gone above 61 percent or below 48 percent. Over the past 15 years, the number of Americans calling themselves “pro-life” and “pro-choice” has narrowed to a few points, with 48 percent identifying as pro-choice and 44 percent as pro-life (in 2011, those figures were basically flipped).

Official political stances on abortion are absolutely Manichaean, however, with the Republican Party and most of its leading figures stressing that life begins at conception, a belief that would outlaw virtually all abortions except those necessary to protect the health of the mother. The Democratic Party platform—and most of its highest-profile members, including President Barack Obama—“strongly and unequivocally supports” abortion at any time and for any reason during a pregnancy.

Most Americans reject such categorical, extreme views and instead offer conditional support for abortion depending on when it’s performed. Gallup found that while 61 percent of Americans think abortion for should mostly be legal in the first three months of pregnancy and 27 percent felt it should be legal in the second trimester, just 14 percent agreed it should be allowed on demand in the final three months.

Unlike their political representatives, then, Americans hold a far more nuanced view of abortion, and one that comports with the reality of the procedure. Of the roughly 1 million abortions performed a year in America, about 90 percent take place within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and only 1 percent take place after 20 weeks (in fact, over the past decade, there has been a marked trend toward earlier abortions). That helps explain why 62 percent of Texans supported S.B. 5, the bill that Wendy Davis filibustered.

There’s no question that mostly Republican legislators in a variety of states are pushing to restrict abortion. The Alan Guttmacher Institute notes that states “enacted 92 provisions restricting abortion in 2011, nearly triple the previous record of 34 in 2005.” Yet most of these restrictions—which have to do with waiting periods, the use of taxpayer dollars, parental notification for underage women—ultimately have little to no effect on the number of procedures actually performed. And as Guttmacher acknowledges, the more extreme the restriction, the less likely it is to become law. Hence, Mississippi voters in 2011 voted down an amendment to the state constitution that would have defined a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization.”

In Culture War?: The Myth of a Polarized America, the political scientist Morris P. Fiorina documents how, contrary to the way we talk about many social issues, there is broad agreement over topics such as immigration, gay marriage, the environment, tolerance, and abortion. Forget what you think you know about red and blue states, he counsels. When you look at what most people believe, America is mostly purple. He also helps to explain how political discourse over these same issues is typically divorced from mainstream opinion. Part of the reason, says Fiorina, is that the operatives who control political parties and much of our media discussions are from the extreme edges of virtually any given topic. The result is a major disconnect between what most people think about various topics and what most politicians and media commenters espouse. No topic offers up a better example of that dynamic than abortion.

As a diehard libertarian, I’m not arguing that issues of basic rights should be put to a majority vote (for the record, I’m pro-choice). God, no.

But if you’re actually interested in persuading people to your point of view or effecting social change, it certainly behooves you to understand where they are on a given topic. You wouldn’t know that from the way politicians and the press talk about abortion. Sadly, as abortion reclaims its leading role in America’s culture wars, get set for a lot of heat and very little light. And virtually no interest whatsoever in what the majority of Americans actually think about the topic.

Note: This article originally appeared at The Daily Beast. Read it there.

Related Video: On May 26, Gillespie moderated a discussion on "Abortion & Libertarians" featuring Ronald Bailey, Mollie Hemingway, and Katherine Mangu-Ward. Watch it below or go here for downloadable versions and more info.

 

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  • John||

    I agree with you Nick. Most people, myself included, want some kind of a compromise where abortions are legal in the first trimester or so but late term abortions are not.

    Given that, then isn't the Dem filibuster in Texas over a bill to ban abortions past 20 weeks an example of the kind of extremism you are talking about? A ban at 20 weeks sounds like a decent compromise to me.

  • anon||

    So, exactly like now?

  • John||

    I am unaware of any state that bans abortion after 20 weeks.

  • anon||

    Wow, woops, I have no idea where I got that from; shows how much I know about abortion.

  • Rasilio||

    I think you could get around 80% buy in to a law that made abortions legal up to week 19, restricted to cases of medical necessity up to week 28 and illegal after that.

    In the case of the medical necessity issue the Dr could perform them but would have to have the case reviewed by a medical ethics board to determine if it was actually required and if not he loses his medical license, that is the restriction is on the DR, not the woman.

    Throw in a bit about tax dollars not being used to fund abortions but still allowing them to go to agencies who perform abortions to be used for other womens health services and that really only leaves the parental consent and notification in the case of underaged girls seeking abortions issue to solve

  • John||

    I think the issue would go away if you did that. But feminists have basically bought into infanticide. And they would never agree to any women actually being responsible for her own actions.

  • Inigo M.||

    Exactly. They can never let the issue go away. Neither side can afford to have the issue go away, really. Both the left and the right have a vested interest in keeping the issue alive and highly contentious, especially for fundraising purposes and to aid voter turnout for their side.

    Compromise based on common sense is something neither side really wishes to think about.

  • Michael Hihn||

    Casey threw out the original trimesters in favor of viability, including artificial or mechanical means. Why would a time limit make more sense than viability?

  • robc||

    27 percent felt it should be legal in the second trimester

    Hey Nick, what happened to the 88% lie you posted recently?

  • anon||

    Vaguely remember that being something about saving the life of the mother or something.

  • SIV||

    Virtually 100% of the people believe abortion should be legal at any time to save the life of the mother.

  • Rasilio||

    I don't think that is true because it is very hard to argue that an abortion would be necessary at say 36 weeks, even if it were necessary to terminate the pregnancy at that point inducing labor or performing an emergency C-Section would be equally viable options to an abortion.

    Realistically I am not aware of any real reason for ever performing an abortion past week 30 short of the mother getting cold feet and deciding she doesn't want the kid anymore.

  • bdaniel230||

    That is not true, or at least it is not true because I don't believe that abortion to save the life of the mother is necessary after week 28. Caesarian Section or induction can be used. I was born at week 27 and I do believe, though my adversaries may contest it, that I am alive. This is the sticking point at which I have a difficult time saying a woman has the right to choose. At some point the infant, fetus, child does have the right to life. I believe it was Justice White though it may have been Rehnquist that argued to not allow abortion to be used as the new contraception. Abortion should be used when contraception fails but also when the life of the mother is in danger. That danger will be presented at some point and whether an abortion takes place or a premature delivery takes place is the issue.
    I am not conflicted when it comes to this single point, a baby has the specific right to life.

  • robc||

    That isnt what Nick said though. He said 88% support abortion thru the 2nd trimester, which is complete bullshit.

  • Rasilio||

    I think the gap is between believing abortion should be unrestricted and allowing for some abortions.

    So it is probably that 27% believe in unrestricted abortion through (or at least into) the 2nd Trimester, and 88% would allow for some abortions through the second trimester but they would not be unrestricted.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Once medical science makes fetuses viable outside the womb at very early stages of development, which will happen, the abortion debate will get really interesting.

  • John||

    It should but it won't. Really the development of sonograms and the serious study of fetal development should have made it interesting. But it didn't. The pro abortion people are too fanatical.

  • anon||

    Yeah I agree with John on this one. I mean, shouldn't cloning have had the abortion fanatics up in arms about "well, every life..."?

  • John||

    Cloning has. And so does IVF. The anti abortion people are very consistent with the exception of cases of rape or incest. If it is a life, it shouldn't matter how the life was conceived. But they consistently back down on that point.

  • SIV||

    The anti abortion people are very consistent with the exception of cases of rape or incest

    That is an inconsistency you can sail a fleet of supertankers through.

    Banning abortion "except in the case of rape or incest" isn't pro-life. It is a political stance in favor of controlling women.

  • ||

    It's not an inconsistency if you are a libertarian.

  • robc||

    Why would a pro-life libertarian favor an incest exception?

  • ||

    Why would a pro-life libertarian favor an incest exception?

    Because, as Spearmint points out below, abortion is an issue pitting "a woman's right to bodily autonomy v. a preborn human being's right to life."

    When rights come into conflict, we arbitrate to determine whose rights are more important.

    IF the lump of cells is not yet a PERSON, then the host's rights take precedent. Abortion is okay until the cells become a person.

    IF

    the lump of cells is now considered a person, the child's rights take precedent over the person's who VOLUNTARILY created it.

    In the case of incest or rape, the child WAS NOT created voluntarily, and the argument could therefore be made that the mother's rights are bolstered in such an instance and could be placed above the child's.

  • ||

    Rape and incest essentially become, for ethical purposes, self-defense issues in terms of the NAP because force was involved. For volitional conception (even accidents) that doesn't really hold up. So from a libertarian position I could see the ethical reasoning behind the exception.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    If the incest isn't discovered until after birth, is it ok to kill the child?

    If the sex wasn't physical rape, but is found after birth to have been from the father tricking the mother, such as bigamy, is it ok to kill the child?

    If the rape exception is because the father was a criminal, is it ok to kill the child after birth if the father commits a crime after birth?

    Exceptions for rape and incest are a hypocritical can of worms.

    Exceptions for health reasons are too subjective and vague to be consistently or fairly enforced.

    Anti-abortion laws in any guise are too damned vague and consistently enforceable to be valid.

  • ||

    If the incest isn't discovered until after birth, is it ok to kill the child?

    Of course not. After the birth, the mother's rights are in no way violated by the existence of the child. She can simply give it away.

    There is NO hypocrisy at all.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    If the rape exception is because the mother did not ask to be pregnant, are there also exceptions for broken condoms?

    This is a whole new can of worms because there is no way to prove a condom didn't have a pinhole leak or had minor slippage. It is an unenforceable exemption because all it can do is take the mother's word for it.

    Unenforceable laws are a pox on humanity.

  • ||

    Just because the odds of getting pregnant with a condom are lower than without, doesn't make the act non-voluntary.

    There is a small chance the condom will break. You know that and by fucking you are voluntarily accepting that chance. You make a choice, you live with the consequences. If you do not accept the risk, don't fuck.

    Again...NO hypocrisy.

  • robc||

    In the case of incest the child WAS NOT created voluntarily

    ???

    If we are talking about statutory rape kind of incest, then that falls under the rape exception.

  • ||

    Agreed.

    The assumption must be that the incest was not consented to. However, the same argument could be made wrt the potential quality of life of the child. Those arguments start slipping into a very gray area rather quickly and shouldn't be given as much weight in determining whose rights should take precedent.

  • robc||

    The assumption must be that the incest was not consented to.

    In which case they wouldnt need a "rape and incest" exception but just a "rape" exception.

  • Xenocles||

    "IF the lump of cells is now considered a person, the child's rights take precedent over the person's who VOLUNTARILY created it."

    If the lump of cells is to be considered a person, its right to not be intentionally destroyed holds regardless of the circumstances of its creation. If we have answered the personhood question in the affirmative, it comes down to a matter of life or death for the fetus versus what is generally a matter of temporary but significant discomfort and inconvenience for the mother.

    If it becomes a matter of life or death for the mother I don't think the rights of the fetus change, but though it might be wrong in the abstract I won't condemn a person who chooses to save her life at the expense of another's. That's a hard enough position to be in that I think compassion is the only way to approach its victims.

  • Xenocles||

    "IF the lump of cells is now considered a person, the child's rights take precedent over the person's who VOLUNTARILY created it."

    If the lump of cells is to be considered a person, its right to not be intentionally destroyed holds regardless of the circumstances of its creation. If we have answered the personhood question in the affirmative, it comes down to a matter of life or death for the fetus versus what is generally a matter of temporary but significant discomfort and inconvenience for the mother.

    If it becomes a matter of life or death for the mother I don't think the rights of the fetus change, but though it might be wrong in the abstract I won't condemn a person who chooses to save her life at the expense of another's. That's a hard enough position to be in that I think compassion is the only way to approach its victims.

  • ||

    If the lump of cells is to be considered a person, its right to not be intentionally destroyed holds regardless of the circumstances of its creation.

    I reject that as a premise.

    I will argue to absurdity, to make the point. If me being born meant that you had to live for nine months in a pain amplifier, whose rights are more important? If a baby's life was dependent upon spending $3.4 trillion for a life saving operation, are you willing to sacrifice your property to save it?

    We have the right to life, liberty and property. Your premise is valid only if you place the value of life above ANY amount of liberty or property. I'd argue you can place a value on a human life and forcing someone else to endure a level of hardship may or may not exceed that value. I'd say that it is at the very least, arguable that forcing a rape victim to bring the result of that rape to term is coming awfully close to that limit.

  • ||

    If the fetus is entitled to individual rights the inconvenience to the mother is pretty much irrelevant. Nobody is entitled to kill another person due to inconvenience. The only acceptable justification for killing is self defense. That's IF you've accepted the premise that a fetus has personhood and consequently human rights.

    I still think the grounds for termination under rape/incest are better dealt with in terms of libertarian ethics as a quasi-self-defense argument under the NAP. But then, it gets hard to justify late term abortion in those cases. If you couldn't figure out that you were raped for 8 months, maybe you're just bullshitting to get out of the responsibility.

  • Michael Hihn||

    ""If the fetus is entitled to individual rights the inconvenience to the mother is pretty much irrelevant

    On what authority do you deny the entire concept of unalienable rights?

    Unalienable MEANS cannot be taken away or surrendered for any reason. Constitutionally, the woman's right to liberty is precisely equal to the fetal child's right to life.

    Jefferson was quite literate. He knew what he was saying. And the Continental Congress, despite 700 edits, never questioned the word unalienable.

    The Founders were not demeaning the right to life, they were elevating all fundamental rights to the level of life itself. Don't forget, the (unholy) Inquisition was still alive. Galileo had been sentenced to a lifetime house arrest. He wasn't killed, but we can bet the Founders were a lot more aware of the Inquisition than we are today. They were also far more conscious of the Salem witchcraft trials.

    Liberty matters.

  • ||

    There is no unalienable right not to be inconvenienced. You need a more substantial reason than inconvenience to terminate the life of another human being. Hence the If the fetus is entitled to individual rights precondition. Pay attention.

  • Xenocles||

    As I said, someone's rights are going to be violated in that situation. Thus we only have the option of minimizing harm. One choice kills someone. The other imposes temporary pain. The pain is significant, but it passes.

    Most ethical systems place life above the other two because of them, life is the only one that cannot be restored to a victim. It's true that time is also permanently lost but at least I can be set free sometime and offered some compensating property if unjustly imprisoned. My property can be restored to me if unjustly seized. But if you kill me, that's it.

    The analogy to a life-saving operation fails because the child is not being intentionally destroyed. There's a difference between not acting and acting. If you don't see this then surely you think that we should intervene in Syria or else bear the responsibility for all those people being killed. (A utilitarian, which I am not, would also note that the money for the procedure, however much it is in the exercise, might be used to save more lives if spend elsewhere.) As it is, we're talking about the choice to either kill the fetus or not. I say that if you're going to intentionally kill someone with your own hand you need a compelling reason, and that sparing someone nine months of pain is not a compelling enough reason.

  • ||

    You are mixing apples and oranges. I too agree that if you choose to get knocked up, you must bear the responsibility for those actions.

    The woman who is raped, had no say in the matter. YOU do not get to choose for her simply because YOU feel that her rights are less important than someone elses right to life. I say they are. Why are you correct and not me?

    While I know the following is impossible, the logic holds. If I had to endure the hardship of pregnancy so that your unborn child could live... sorry, that kid's dead. I refuse and I'd be within my rights to do so. I have no stake in the matter, nor have my actions caused the situation.

    You cannot force me to carry a child to term that I'm not responsible for any more than you can force me to donate my kidney to save your dying child. Not my responsibility. If I CHOOSE to, that's my business. You don't get to force me.

  • Xenocles||

    You are the one mixing inappropriately. All I'm doing is taking a bad situation that a third party created and trying to make the least bad choice. There's no reason to bring in artificial scenarios.

    As to why I'm correct and you're not, I've offered an explanation. The fetus wins because of the permanence of the consequences to it if it does not. And remember, we're assuming arguendo that the fetus is to be treated as a person here. That question is settled for the purposes of this exercise. So there are really only two options. First: kill a person because of a crime he had nothing to do with. Second: make the victim of a crime suffer a little more from the crime. That is an awful set of options, but it's all an agent has. All you've said is that the first option is correct because you (putting yourself in the position of the crime victim) don't want to suffer anymore. That's a perfectly understandable desire, but the question is whether that desire permits you to end the life of a person entitled to protection from murder (which, again, we are assuming to be the case). You have not provided justification for stripping the fetus of the rights it would otherwise enjoy as a legal person.

  • ||

    All I'm doing is taking a bad situation that a third party created and trying to make the least bad choice.
    First: kill a person because of a crime he had nothing to do with. Second: make the victim of a crime suffer a little more from the crime. That is an awful set of options, but it's all an agent has.

    I agree. It's an awful set of options. Why do YOU get to make that choice? Why wouldn't you want the decision to be up to the person who has been violated? Why would you wish to force it on them?

  • Xenocles||

    Because it is no longer about one person. Once you accept that the fetus is a person the decision becomes a conflict of desires and rights. The need for a third-party decision is almost unavoidable at that point, since the two parties directly involved are likely to come to an impasse.

    You are confusing the power to make the choice with the authority to do so. The fetus can't stop the woman from finding an abortion provider or, failing that, jamming a coat hanger into herself. That power does not give her the right to do so. If the fetus is to be treated as a person, he gets a say. Lacking the ability to speak for himself, we must assume that he desires to live. He can always kill himself later if we were wrong.

  • ||

    X

    You make a compelling argument. If I accept your premise that permanence of the action is the driving factor, you've got me. I'm not sure I agree on that, but I'm having a hell of a time coming up with an example of where the rights of one individual take precedence over another's where I have to actively take the life of the other and it's not in self defence.

    You've given me something to ponder.

    (BTW, I think I've been confusing the term precedent with precedence throughout this entire thread. My apologies...a public education is my only excuse.)

  • Xenocles||

    FdA-

    Thanks for the exercise. I had to think too.

  • Michael Hihn||

    "As to why I'm correct and you're not, I've offered an explanation. The fetus wins because of the permanence of the consequences to it if it does not. "

    You're wrong because you ignore the entire concept of unalienable rights -- which means that the right to liberty is equal to the right to life, as is the right to the pursuit of happiness equal to the right to life, ditto all the other unalienable rights .... constitutionally, which is all that matters here. Check any dictionary.

  • robc||

    As I said, someone's rights are going to be violated in that situation.

    Disagree. Rights are never in contradiction. If you think so, either you are wrong or weve got a Goedel situation.

  • ||

    You are going to have to expound on that rob.

    So you and I are sitting on a public bench. I have a right to smoke. You have a right not to have to breathe my smoke. Our rights are not in conflict?

  • Xenocles||

    robc-

    I have come to reject the concept of natural rights because there is no evidence that nature respects us in the slightest. The right to life has no effect on a man drowning at sea. Two starving men allegedly have the same right to life, but if there is only enough food for one at least one person must surrender his right.

    Thus we have rights as a human construct with the purpose of governing human interactions. All rights, as far as I can tell, are qualified. Your right to not be killed by another human is forfeit if you attack another human. Your right to liberty is forfeit if you would use it to infringe on others'. Your right to pursue happiness is limited by externals or your ability to rise above them.

    Thus being a human creation rights will rub up against each other from time to time. Our models always break down at the extremes, and our moral models are no different. In this case we have a woman who has suffered a loss of her bodily integrity already and faces the further intrusion of bringing a fetus to term. Potentially opposing her is the fetus who would presumably live. It can't express that desire, but neither could the newborn whom we have declared to be endowed with the right to not be killed. So we have a conflict until we determine which party's rights are to be respected in this situation. Perhaps there is no conflict in reality - what wins out was right all along - but it looks conflicted until we make the evaluation.

  • Michael Hihn||

    "Disagree. Rights are never in contradiction. If you think so, either you are wrong or weve got a Goedel situation.

    You're the one who's wrong, as we learned in junior high, typically expressed as your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose (figuratively)

    And no rights are absolute, like shouting fire in a crowded theater.

    Rights are often in conflict or competing. In this case, the mother's liberty and the fetal child's rights are (by definition) unalienable. That means they are (also by definition) equal -- hence the conflict.

  • Michael Hihn||

    "Most ethical systems place life above the other two because of them, life is the only one that cannot be restored to a victim.

    Not our founding documents and principles.

    Check the dictionary for "unalienable rights"

  • Michael Hihn||

    "Most ethical systems place life above the other two because of them, life is the only one that cannot be restored to a victim.

    Not our founding documents and principles.

    Check the dictionary for "unalienable rights"

  • Inigo M.||

    Very true, except that incest does not necessarily imply that conception was involuntary. What if the incest took place between consenting adults? The incest exception among the pro-life crowd has as much to do with the idea that inbreeding leads to bad genetic outcomes as it does with incest implying a coercive sexual relationship.

    But I agree with your assessment overall.

  • wareagle||

    how does that control women? Even most pro-lifers are not so heartless as to demand that rape/incest victims be forced to carry to term. Being pro-life is not the same as being anti-woman.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The pro-lifers should not be so heartless as to put to death a child for the sins of the parent(s). The reasoning goes out the window.

  • John||

    They shouldn't. But in fairness, pretty much anyone who publicly says that rape shouldn't matter is run out of the public sphere.

    They are doing this for purely tactical reasons. I don't think it is fair to call them hypocrites on it. Cowards maybe, but not hypocrites. Moreover, perhaps the pro choice people ought to be held accountable for saying that anyone who thinks rape shouldn't matter in abortion is somehow saying it is okay to rape women? Perhaps that would help everyone be able to have an honest discussion of the issue.

  • SIV||

    If unborn children have a right to life what does the circumstances of their conception have to do with it?

  • John||

    It doesn't SIV. See my 11:31 post above.

  • SIV||

    I was responding to wareagle

  • Inigo M.||

    "Being pro-life is not the same as being anti-woman."

    Tell that to a leftist. Hell, even not being willing and happy to foot the bill for someone else's contraceptives makes you anti-woman.

    And of course not being for equal pay legislation makes you anti-woman.

    It's so interesting how not being a statist automatically makes someone a misogynist. In a way, you gotta admire that bit of trickery.

  • Spearmint17||

    I think the extreme polarization does make sense when you really examine the abortion issue logically. It comes down to a woman's right to bodily autonomy v. a preborn human being's right to life. Everything in the middle - development, viability, etc. - is arbitrary.

  • ||

    Why spend time debating a question that currently has no objective answer?

    I couldn't give a single rat's ass whether abortion is legal or not. A complete waste of political energy.

  • anon||

    BUT YOU MUST CHOOSE TEAM RED OR BLUE!!

  • ||

    TEAM ORANGE! Rah! Rah! Rah!

  • ||

    GO TEAM GREEN! (Disclaimer: TEAM GREEN is in no way affiliated with the Green Party. They can go suck eggs from genetically modified chickens [GMC].)

  • MrWittyOne||

    GMO are from the democrats.....

  • John||

    Why spend time debating a question that currently has no objective answer?

    But it does. And more importantly, how you answer it has a lot of implications to other areas. What is life is a pretty fundamental question.

    I couldn't give a single rat's ass whether abortion is legal or not. A complete waste of political energy.

    You are either begging the question and assuming the answer is life begins at birth or you are being wildly disingenuous. There isn't an objective answer to when the 4th Amendment applies. But I would hardly call the debate about the issue a waste of political energy. Indeed, if there were an object answer, it wouldn't be a political issue. We don't debate the value gravitational constant in politics. Questions that do not have objective answers are what politics and political energy are for.

  • ||

    What is life is a pretty fundamental question.

    Life has nothing to do with it. An ant is life and I have absolutely no problem ending it. ONLY people have rights.

    You are either begging the question and assuming the answer is life begins at birth or you are being wildly disingenuous.

    What I'm doing, John, is adhering to my principles. The entire debate boils down to one question... When does a lump of cells become a PERSON? Whose rights should take precedent implicitly depends upon the answer to that question. And since there is no way of scientifically determining the answer to that question, there can be no principled opinion on abortion.

    ANY other answer, is simply a guess based upon emotion rather than fact.

  • John||

    When does a lump of cells become a PERSON? Whose rights should take precedent implicitly depends upon the answer to that question. And since there is no way of scientifically determining the answer to that question, there can be no principled opinion on abortion.

    That is ridiculous. There is no scientific answer to what a lawful search is and you can have an opinion on that. Is it your position that any issue to which there is no scientific answer one can have no principled opinion on?

    Moreover, science gives you lots of answers to this. It tells you that the cells have a full set of human DNA. It tells you when the fetus has brain activity, when it responds to outside stimuli, when it responds and feels pain.

    That seems to be pretty compelling evidence it is a life. Beyond that, science also tells you that a fetus' cognitive and physical abilities do not change because of a trip down the birth canal. So we are left with the current state of affairs where a child who is viable outside the womb is not a life and can be killed with impunity one moment and then the next be a full human being entitled to all rights because of a trip down a birth canal that we know in no way changes its cognitive or physical abilities.

    And yet, you still claim science doesn't give answers to this?

  • ||

    Define what a person is, then we'll talk.

    Moreover, science gives you lots of answers to this. It tells you that the cells have a full set of human DNA. It tells you when the fetus has brain activity, when it responds to outside stimuli, when it responds and feels pain.

    The cells in my finger are of human DNA. My finger has no rights.

    A fly feels pain, has brain activity and responds to stimuli. A fly has no rights. As I already pointed out, LIFE has nothing to do with it. AND it has NOTHING to do with viability. It is when that entity becomes a person that matters. Define when that is, and you have your answer to the morality of abortion.

  • John||

    It is when that entity becomes a person that matters. Define when that is, and you have your answer to the morality of abortion.

    Okay, feeling pain, possessing human DNA, having a functioning brain, being viable outside the womb are not relevant and compelling factors in making that determination? If you are not going to answer the question of "what is a human" with "something that has human DNA, a functioning brain, and can live on its own" how would you answer such a question?

    Define when that is, and you have your answer to the morality of abortion.

    I just did. To me the it is a living being that has a full set of human DNA, brain function, and can live outside the womb if required to. So by my definition abortion past that point is murder.

    Now, what is your definition and why is mine wrong?

  • ||

    Now, what is your definition and why is mine wrong?

    As I said in my original post, I cannot define it. I have no position. I know at conception it is most assuredly not a person as much as I know that at birth it is. Where it happens is anyone's guess. If there was some test, you'd have your answer.

    I'm not arguing when it happens. I'm arguing the principled process for determining at which point abortion is moral vs immoral.

    I'm happy to leave the choice up to the individuals involved until such time as the proper determination is made.

  • John||

    A fly feels pain, has brain activity and responds to stimuli. A fly has no rights.

    That is a pathetic piece of sophistry that is frankly beneath someone of your normal good sense and intelligence. A fly doesn't have human DNA. Your finger isn't its own organism. Just because one factor alone doesn't make a fetus a life doesn't mean all of the factors taken together don't mean it is a life.

    By your logic no one is a life. Why am I a human? Because I can think? So can apes. Because I have human DNA? So does your finger. It is not anyone of those things that makes me a human. It is all of those things taken together that do. The same is true of an unborn child.

  • SIV||

    beneath someone of your normal good sense and intelligence

    You haven't been reading the Rand-character's comments.

  • ||

    Ouch. I'm crushed. Especially coming from someone as principled as yourself SIV. GO TEAM RED!

  • ||

    So you'd agree that it isn't a person at conception then?

  • John||

    I am of the opinion that it is Francisco. But I also think that there is a strong argument that it is not until you see brain function and viability. But I can't see a rational argument how it is not a life if there is brain function and viability.

    If it is viable, that means when it is born, it is a life. But we know nothing about the child changes in the process of birth. It would be different if there was brain functions or some physical change that happens during birth. But there isn't. So we are left with saying a child one moment is a glob of cells deserving of no protection and the next is a full life deserving of all protection simply because it went down the birth canal. And that is completely arbitrary.

  • Inigo M.||

    But think about what would happen if Roe v Wade were actually overturned. Contrary to what the pro-choice contingent commonly believes, abortion would not become illegal. It would simply be up to each state to decide. Some states would no doubt impose no restrictions whatsoever, a few would probably ban most abortions, and the vast majority would fall somewhere in between.

    It would still be a political issue, but only at the state level.

  • ||

    Eating deep dish pizza is murder!

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Delicious murder.

  • cavalier973||

    It depends on how you define pizzahood.

  • ||

    Look, just make the morning after pill readily available at all locations and then, if you still get preggers, allow abortion until viability outside the mother. (use an average here).

    Done. I'm actually much more concerned about parents who have their children become wards of the state. I want to recover expenses from those idiots.

  • John||

    I think most people would agree to that. The fanatics on both sides however not so much.

  • Inigo M.||

    I think you're right about that. But the fanatics on both sides don't actually want the issue solved. It's too useful to allow it to go away.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Of all the issues on which to be moderate, you have to pick *this* one? You're not moderate on police brutality, or drugs, or eminent domain, or government spying. You don't write thumb-sucking pieces making the "moderate" claim that cops should rough up suspects a little, so long as they don't go too far. You don't offer to split the difference on ED by letting the government take *half* your house.

    How did moderation suddenly become so important when the issue involves declaring millions of human beings outside the protection of the law?

    And your moderation seems tilted in a choicer direction. Objectively, these laws being passed in state legislatures don't ban *all* abortions, they try to work withing the framework of federal court decisions to impose some minimal protections for babies and their mothers. When you use up your "extremism" rhetoric on these incremental bills, what rhetoric will you have left when someone proposes a full ban, or a personhood-from-conception measure?

  • John||

    James Toranto, made a similar point Wednesday and pretty much brutalized Gillespie on this point.

    But maybe Gillespie's oversight isn't so strange. He telegraphs that he is no moderate when it comes to abortion: "I'm not arguing that issues of basic rights should be put to a majority vote (for the record, I'm pro-choice). God, no." That's not an explicit endorsement of Roe and Casey, but he seems to mean for it to be read as one.

    While we agree with Gillespie's description of the overall national debate on abortion as a frustrating clash of extremes, he is wrong to characterize the Texas dispute in those terms. In this case, only the pro-abortion side, led by Sen. Davis, is extreme.

    As Powers notes, the bill Davis blocked "would have made it illegal for mothers to abort babies past 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in the case of severe fetal abnormalities or to protect the life or health of the mother." That "health of the mother" is a huge loophole, but probably necessary for the bill to withstand judicial scrutiny under the Casey regime. But to Gillespie's point, a partial ban on abortion after 20 weeks--more than halfway through the second trimester--is precisely the sort of moderate restriction that Gillespie claims to approve of most Americans' supporting (even if he himself does not).

  • anon||

    I don't think Nick covers his own opinion on abortion, just discusses "consensus."

  • wareagle||

    The Dem Party platform contradicts itself. You cannot support Roe AND a woman's right to abort at any point for any reason. The Roe decisions was clear in creating a window for the first trimester and abortions past that were for very specific reasons.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Americans hate to have to admit that there's something immoral that they think should be legal, but abortion seems to be one of those cases.

    It's like cheating on your spouse. Most people think it's immoral; almost no one brags about it; and, like with cheating on your spouse, most people don't think you should go to jail for it.

  • Inigo M.||

    Lots of things that are immoral can and should also be legal, and no one has a problem with it.

    For example, say you have a family to support, but you choose to take 100% of your paycheck and blow it on random and utterly useless crap. That would be immoral but certainly not illegal.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    I wonder if it would have been a "People's Filibuster" if the Tea Partiers had physically blocked the Obamacare vote.

    Pro-Choice Texans Back 'People's Filibuster' in Austin
    Thousands of Texans are rallying once again in Austin on Monday as lawmakers continue to debate a hotly contested anti-abortion bill that was blocked by a "people's filibuster" on the state Senate floor last week....

  • Xenocles||

    The actual filibuster would have been spun, as others by the GOP have been, as the work of an obstructionist minority bent on frustrating the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives.

    If the GOP had any brains they would take the same approach in situations like this, or whenever the President issues a veto threat for a bill that hasn't even hit the House floor.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Also, I'm not from Texas, but I did live in Mexico for a while, and although Davis’ filibuster stunt may have played well with the usual suspects outside of Texas, I have a hard time buying that the way to a Latino's heart is through abortion.

    Championing abortion probably isn't as bad as, say, trying to ban quinceaneras, but it's probably worse than making fun of the accordion.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    making fun of the accordion

    Leave Weird Al alone!!!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Those people love them some accordion.

    To them, there ain't nothin' funny about it.

    Oh, and they like the tuba goin' oom pah pah, too. They can't get enough of it.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "The Devil Went Down to Texas," by Los Lobos Nortenos

    "play your accordion hard..."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qIta_zQDds

  • Rasilio||

    I like this one bettah...

    The Devil Went Up to Boston

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Yes, technically it's better, but it's not Mexican.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Why do Mexicans listen to Bavarian polka music?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Because there's a huge German influence and a huge number of German people in Mexico.

    That's why they make beer there. That's why they have Bavarian instruments in their music. That's why girls' names like Olga are so popular there.

    Germany still has a big presence there. You still see Alemania societies all over the place that teach German.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Did not know that. Of course, most of my experiences in Mayheeco have involved Benzedrine, ketamine, tequila, street tacos, and nefarious women.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Well there's nothing wrong with tequila, street tacos, and nefarious women...

    It's an amazing place. I have to admit, too, when I was a little kid, I used to think of "Mexican" as a race of short little brown people, who...

    Actually, Mexico is racially diverse, and "Mexican" is a nationality, not a race. The people who leave their homes to come here and take low level crop picking, restaurant, and cleaning jobs--they tend to come from the groups that don't have a lot. And just like here in the United States, the people who don't have a lot tend to be disproportionately from groups that maybe didn't always get the best opportunities...

    So, anyway, there are millions of people in Mexico who are just as Caucasian as I am. It's just that they don't tend to be the people who find their opportunities in such a state that they'd rather brave the desert, the criminals, and the Border Patrol to come take a service job in the U.S.--so we don't see them as often.

    Or, honestly, when we do meet them, they're civil engineers or something, and we tend to think of them as "white"--rather than "Mexican".

  • Rasilio||

    Yeah the one thing that no one ever mentions about those "illegals" is that they are essentially the product of somewhat legally enforced racisim against the descendants of the Aztecs. The folks with nice respectable Conquistador heratige generally do pretty well.

  • Inigo M.||

    Very true -- and not just in Mexico.

    Did you ever notice that many of the political elites in Central and South America tend to look very much like white Europeans (i.e., descendents of the original Spanish and Portuguese settlers), while most of the poor tend to look more Native American?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    It's all the Hitler clone descendants.

    You didn't think they were all sent to Brazil, did you?

  • robc||

    That's why they make beer there

    or, more specifically, why they make Vienna-style lager there.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    " a Republican bill that would have banned almost all abortions in the Lone Star State after 20 weeks of pregnancy."

    And by using the words "Almost all" you fall into the same trap that you are trying to expose. If , as you state later, "only 1 percent take place after 20 weeks ", then the bill in question would have banned less than one percent, since it would not have banned all abortions past the twenty weeks mark.

    Wendy Davis is a Kermit Gosnell enabler. She, and her ilk, are so determined to thwart any and all restrictions on abortion that they end up defending practices that are tantamount to infanticide, and in doing so she weakens the Pro-Choice case with the public.

    I'm Pro-Choice myself. But I see clearly that we, the Pro-Choice advocates must, at a minimum, make sure that the Gosnells of the world are exposed early and prosecuted severely. The idiots on our own side who defend Gosnell on the grounds that he was providing essential services to poor women are doing us more damage than slam-dunking him into prison ever could. And by making a huge fuss over 1% of all abortions, and abortions that look one hell of a lot like child murder, Wendy Davis is more of the same.

  • John||

    Well said. Wendy Davis is a fanatic. If we are going to tell the pro life side to disavow their fanatics, the pro choice side should do the same.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Who are the prolife fanatics? The National Right to Life Committee? Americans United for Life? Personhood USA? Libertarians for Life?

  • John||

    Good question. I don't see any.

  • robc||

    Eric Rudolph?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    So to find the equivalent of a choicer legislator universally hailed by her faction, you need to find a killer repudiated by the unanimous voice of the whole prolife movement? Moral equivalence sure ain't what it used to be.

  • Rasilio||

    "you need to find a killer repudiated by the unanimous voice of the whole prolife movement?"

    Um, no he wasn't, I have heard a great many so called Christians speak fondly of him and his mission.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    What position did these Christians have in the prolife movement?

    And if *I* had tried to claim that Wendy davis's counterpart was a guy who set off bombs at, inter alia, the Olympics, I'd have been called all sorts of creative names.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Whether we are going to ask the Pro-Life side to disavow their fanatics or not, we need to make the Wendy Davis types sit down and shut up. In 'defending' less than 1% of abortions - a 1% that almost necessarily consists of fetuses at or close to viability - she endangers the remaining 99%+. Infanticide (and that is what Kermit Gosnell did, no matter how many Wendy Davis types say otherwise) is repugnant. Those who are in favor of a woman's right to choose cannot afford to taint their cause with it.

  • Rasilio||

    I don't claim to know what was going through Wendy Davis' mind however there was a hell of a lot more to hate about that law that she stopped than just the restrictions on abortions past 20 weeks.

    The biggest problem with it IMO is that it required abortions to be provided in fully licensed surgical centers, a law that would effectively shut down every abortion clinic outside of major cities and on that basis should have been shot down.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    So a large number of abortion clinics don't meet the kind of standards Pennsylvanians (those rednecks!) insisted on in the wake of the Gosnell horrors, and instead of being a reflection on the abortion industry, this is a reflection on the bill?

  • Rasilio||

    2 wrongs does not make a right, the fact that Gosnell is in jail is proof that he violated existing laws and is also proof that more laws would not have stopped him.

    There is no legitimate reason for this restriction in either Pennsylvania or Texas or anywhere else

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The fact that he was able to kill so many babies before being caught by accident is proof that Penn should have had in force the kind of laws they've now passed. Such laws could have caught Gosnell several innocent lives earlier.

  • Xenocles||

    I actually like this approach to banning abortion but only because it's turnabout for the left's latest approach to banning guns. It's pyrrhic but I'm beaten down enough to take some enjoyment from it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Anyway, if Texas is in play for the Democrats--even the Democrats seem to think it's because of all the Latin immigrants...

    And if they think Latin immigrants will love Democrats because the Democrats are so into abortion, then the Democrats better think again.

    There's some kind of cognitive bias where we assume people who support what we're doing support it for whatever reasons we want them to. But, believe me, if Mexican immigrants in particular are partial to the Democrats, it's mostly because they think the Republicans are hostile to them--for being immigrants.

    But Mexican immigrants aren't enthusiastic about the Democrats--because they like the Democrats on abortion? Are you kidding?!

    Democrats are still coming to terms in California with the fact that it wasn't the white Republican Christians who voted against gay marriage and passed Prop 8. The gay rights activists in California ares till trying to blame it on the Koch Brothers or the Mormon church spending the money to get Prop 8 passed. They'll blame it on anything--except for the people who voted for it.

    Because the demographic who put Prop 8 way over the top were mostly...um...yeah.

  • John||

    The entire Democratic coalition is based on hate and fear. Blacks have little or nothing in common with the rich white progressives who run the Democratic Party. Blacks tend to be socially conservative, serve in the military at high rates, and support all kinds of things Progs don't just object to but hate as a matter of culture. The only reason a third or more of blacks don't vote Republican is because Democrats have convinced them Republicans hate them. Democrats are now trying to do the same thing to Mexicans. Time will tell how well it works.

    Hate and division is all they have. It is the only thing that is keeping the Democratic party from exploding.

  • Ken Shultz||

    At any rate, if anybody thinks that Davis is gonna be the the first Democrat governor of Texas in a while--and thinks it's gonna be because Davis stands for abortion and the state's Mexican-American population loves that?

    I want to be on the other side of that bet.

    Who knows? Davis might be the next governor of Texas, but if she is, it won't be because the Texas' Latin population loves abortion.

    That's just not reality. The idea that Mexican-Americans support abortion or gay rights is the fantasy of progressives in New York and Massachusetts. They're just seeing what they want to see.

  • John||

    The thing is that even if Mexicans don't vote Republican, they can stay home. And yeah, I can't see Mexicans coming out in huge numbers to support a white pro abortion feminist.

    I doubt abortion isn't the only extreme view Davis has. I bet she has said all kinds of things about women and feminism that will go over like lead balloons with Mexicans. Can you see her explaining to a group of Mexicans how their teenage daughters should all be getting free birth control without their parents knowledge? Good luck with that.

  • Calidissident||

    Turnout isn't even very high for Latinos in presidential elections. Less than half of eligible Hispanic voters voted in the election.

  • ||

    This article seems familiar for some reason...

  • Torontonian||

    One can easily make a distinction between when life begins (conception) and when legal personhood begins (birth).

    A desire to do no harm to any living entity is certainly a moral issue (ask any vegan), but it's not a legal issue. Laws do not exist to enforce morality, but to protect the rights of legal persons.

    Consistent with this, my stance is: legal abortion at any time before birth, for any reason, with parental consent if below the age of majority (primarily to protect the clinician). However, zero tax funding for any elective abortion, since this forces people to pay for an act they consider immoral.

    If you want legal personhood to begin sometime before birth, be prepared for a whole raft of unintended consequences.

  • Xenocles||

    Unintended consequences follow from any arbitrary choice. The question is which set is acceptable.

  • Rasilio||

    "If you want legal personhood to begin sometime before birth, be prepared for a whole raft of unintended consequences."

    The problem here is that the only useful characteristic of birth is that it is visible.

    Allowing abortions on a woman who is in active labor at 40 weeks post last menstruation is just as much an unintended consequence as anything else and far more of an abomination because there are no physiological, psychological, developmental, or any other changes which will occur with that baby over the course of the next few hours before it is born.

    Simple fact is choosing birth as the bright line test is just as arbitrary as any other point but actually makes less sense than other possible choices.

  • anon||

    I got it guys. From now on, all abortions will simply be c-sections. If the baby lives, you can't abort it. If it doesn't, congrats, you've had an abortion.

    If it can't sustain its own life it's not a person yet. If it's not a person, it cannot have the rights of a person.

    The end.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I am incredibly pro-life (don't even believe in a rape exception), and I would have to accept this proposal. Abortion isn't merely kicking someone out of your house, it's chopping them up with an axe because they were chained to your floor and you were too inpatient to let them hang out until the locksmith you hired comes to let them out.

    As much as I hate the idea of the baby dieing outside the womb, I can't agree with making it illegal to let someone die.

  • RexGraine||

    Auric, as I understand it you're saying that evicting an unborn child would be acceptable from an autonomy perspective but that abortion is worse than mere eviction. Where that gets tricky is if children have negative rights obligating their parents (or guardians) to care for them. Most people don't think a mother could morally evict her two month old baby from her home and ''just let it die.'' If an unborn child has any rights (as I'm sure you think it does) then it would have the rights of a child, which seem to exclude being evicted and ''allowed to die.''

  • DarrenM||

    If life does not begin at conception, when does it begin? The existence of an individual member of the species Homo Sapiens (or any other species of animal) begins at conception. Is this not true? If this *is* true, how else can you define what life is to justify terminating that life at one's convenience?

  • Michael Hihn||

    "If this *is* true, how else can you define what life is to justify terminating that life at one's convenience?"

    It's not convenience, it's about unalienable rights, which means the rights of the fetal child are precisely equal to the rights of the woman. Check any dictionary. Jefferson was no dummy; he knew what he said, and so did the Continental Congress.

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  • MadIdahoMan||

    There are many Libertarians who are Pro Life, believing that human rights begin at conception.

    If you find you are one of the growing group of Pro Life Libertarians then I invite you to join us on our facebook page.

    https://www.facebook.com/ProLifeLibertarians

  • Michael Hihn||

    Both extremes, pro-life and pro-choice, deny the founding principles of equal and unalienable rights. Unalienable rights means that the woman's Liberty is precisely equal to the fetal child's Right to Life.

    Rights can be conflicting or competing as the example of your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose (figuratively).

    When rights are in conflict, the Supreme Court is empowered to draw lines, define boundaries, that best protect BOTH rights. The Court is obliged to defend rights of BOTH the woman and the fetal child.

    Having said that, and being pro-choice myself, my libertarian soul sees that the fetus needs more protection. Defining viability is not the same as DEFENDING it.

    If the fetus is viable, why is an abortionist allowed in the room? The woman has the right to expel, but there is no right to abort a viable fetus. The standard requires an attempted live birth, by an OB/GYN, with birth nurses and staff, and an incubator.

    That seems libertarian to me, but I wasted two national LP conventions on the platform committee, because Libertarians are pro-choice extremists first and libertarians second -- the platform committees at the time.

    A shame. These are issues where libertarians can establish liberty beachheads as opposed to the increasingly useless liberals and conservatives.

    **COPYRIGHT 2000-2013 BY MICHAEL J HIHN, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED**

  • ||

    For the record, the Texas bill did not ban abortion after 20 weeks, as is being reported everywhere. It did not ban any abortions at all. What it did was require clinics that did abortions after 20 weeks to meet the same medical standards as they would for other medical procedures, such as having a doctor on call with hospital privileges. Since this would actually cost money, the press assumed that clinics would simply stop performing the abortions instead of complying with these standards.
    So a bill designed to set the same medical standards for abortions as every other medical procedure is somehow a "ban"? What kind of person would expect women to be treated by actual doctors? Crazy.

  • bdaniel230||

    The most important point to me is that there is no clear place that we can determine when abortion should not be allowed. For me the important, and most ignored point by pro-choice activists, is the human right to life. When the fetus becomes a person who has a right to life is the point when belief occurs. My personal belief is when the zygot implants in the uterus it then has the right to life. If life fails or continues abortion should not be used as contraception for the incredibly lazy and stupid.

  • amauricio3d||

    The best for smartphones here;

    http://startmyripple.com/blitz.....oVEEcsZQ==

  • MrWittyOne||

    If abortions are murder than blow jobs are Cannibalism. (author unknown)

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