Better Late-Term Than Never


Slate's Will Saletan, author of a new book on the abortion debate, has a piece about the mechanics of partial-birth abortion in which he chides journalists for misrepresenting the procedure in question:

I'm no fan of second-trimester abortions. They're horrible, and if you can avoid having one, you should. They can be particularly disturbing when they're done by extracting the fetus intact, in a manner that looks like birth. But they aren't births.

Whole thing here.

Is the partial-birth ban the start of a rollback of abortion in the U.S.? The Nation thinks so.

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade earlier this year, I suggested that legal and legislative decisions regarding reproductive rights tend to track pretty well with public opinion, a reality that leaves both pro- and anti-abortion camps less than satisfied.

NEXT: Speed Reading

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  1. Why not just illegalize abortion in all cases except where the life of the mother is in danger of death?

    Don’t want a kid? Plenty of people do. It’s called adoption.

    If you make a kid, you’re responsible to see that it is taken care of.

    Personal responsibility. Who knew libertarians were against it?


  2. I am not pro-choice, I am pro-abortion. There are far too many crumb snatching, yard monkeys running around in this world. Abort! Children are noisy, stinky and have to be fed continuously. And, unlike a dog, you can’t just throw them in the backyard and go to the movies. Abort ye fools! Anyone who thinks having a child is a good idea has no business having a child.

    Robert – So its better to give birth to an unwanted child and have it become a burden on society? Now that’s pretty unlibertarian.

  3. I’m in an anomalous position myself. I think abortion probably is the taking of a human life, but I’m skeptical of all the statist remedies proposed by the pro-life people for preventing it. Just as I have no objection to capital punishment in principle, but am absolutely opposed to it being another weapon in the hands of the existing State.

  4. I believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    One side of the abortion debate is firmly on the side of life, and that’s a good thing. The other side is firmly on the side of liberty, and that’s a good thing. But both sides get so angry and worked up that they’ve forgotten the pursuit of happiness.

    So to help balance things out I refuse to take a stance on abortion. That way I remain calm and happy. Put me in a room with a pro-lifer, a pro-choicer, and all 3 inalienable rights will be represented 😉

  5. I’ve always said that I’m pro-choice by default. By this I mean two things:

    1) As troubled as I am by many of the implications of the pro-choice position, I’m far more troubled by the implications of the other side.

    2) Abortion is too important an issue to put in the hands of government.

  6. Er, whatever.

    I agree with RC, and I think the line should be when qulaified doctor thinks that the fetus/infant/little gift from god/reminder of the rape can live on its own with reasonable medical intervention (i.e., no artificial womb) if forcibly delivered. Up until that point, it’s not really developed enough to be a person. It’s less firm than 3/6/8.5 months, but arguably gets the job done and allows for some human judgement.

    I’ve often wondered why fundamentalists Christians don’t practice “conception day” instead of “birthday”, since they think that’s the beginning of life.

  7. Robert,

    Where were the parents who wanted to adopt these kids?

    If there were no children currently waiting to be adopted (often in pretty shitty places), you might have an argument. Not that it would be a very libertarian one, simply having the feds criminalize behavior you don’t like, but you’d have one nonetheless. Unfortunately there’s more than 100,000 kids currently waiting to be adopted in this country.

  8. Or perhaps a “qualified” doctor could do it. Your choice.

    And the “whatever” was directed at the “deliver all kids no matter what” post.

  9. My wife and I plan to adopt in a few years. I’ll tell you why we’re wary of domestic adoption:

    1) We would prefer an infant. Not just because we want to enjoy the really cute stages of infancy and toddlerhood. Infants have no baggage (OK, they can have birth defects and whatnot, but no emotional baggage, no memories of bad situations, etc.). But domestic infants are hard to come by. The reasons why can be debated and argued but it really doesn’t matter to us, what matters is we are wary of adopting children with baggage.

    2) Before anybody calls us heartless for not wanting baggage, we’d be much more willing to accept an older child with baggage if the adoption was closed, all contact with the birth parents was terminated, and the adoption happened immediately. But what usually happens is older kids move into temporary situations while a court decides whether or not to send the kids back to the crack addicts who inflicted cigarette burns on them for crying too loud. And even if you get to adopt you might have to negotiate an “open adoption” where the incompetent and abusive parent gets to retain some involvement.

    We aren’t afraid of having to handle the behavioral problems associated with the baggage, but we are afraid of taking a kid in, falling in love with the kid, and then losing him/her to the people who previously abused him/her. We won’t deal with that, not when there’s a baby in China who also needs a good home and there’s no chance that the birth parents will ever try to rip the child away from us after the emotional bond is formed. Both kids need loving parents, but one of them we can definitely help, the other one we might be able to help.

    (At this point some libertarians will object to courts taking kids away from abusive parents on the grounds that courts shouldn’t get involved in families. Kids are a responsibility, not an inalienable right, and anybody who abuses a child has not lived up to that responsibility. Say what you will about the many times when child protection bureaucrats wrongly go after good parents, the fact is that there are still plenty of legit cases out there.)

    If somebody can point us to a domestic adoption agency that can protect us from these problems, and guarantee that we will have complete parental rights from day 1, we’ll gladly take in a domestic child, even an older child. But we will not allow ourselves to be held in limbo by a dysfunctional court system!

  10. “Put me in a room with a pro-lifer, a pro-choicer”

    Sounds like an updated version of No Exit!!!

  11. So its better to give birth to an unwanted child and have it become a burden on society?

    Who said anything about it becoming a burden on society? This only happens if “society” (meaning the state) takes on child-raising responsibilities, which it shouldn’t do. No, the kid should only be a burden on its parents, whether natural or adoptive.

    I am a little confused by chthus’ response. He/she seems to be saying that aborting a 9 month old “fetus” is OK if you can show there are no adoptive parents waiting in the wings. I fail to see how the presence or absence of adoptive parents affects the question of whether or when a “fetus” becomes enough of a person that terminating it is no longer tolerable.

    Plus, who said anything about having the feds criminalize it? I can read the Constitution, and I am skeptical that the feds have the authority to do so (although the 14th Amendment might do the trick).

    Jim, who claims that Abortion is too important an issue to put in the hands of government. Well, I regard the preservation of my life and property to be two of the most important issues around, and I damn sure want the taking of either to be illegal. Are murder and robbery too important to be put in the hands of government, too?

  12. In talking about this with a Pro-Choice friend of mine, I got down to the root of her anger in regards to this issue. It was not simply that she had the absolute right to her body, but it was that men had no right to tell her otherwise. When I presented a scenario of “what if only women voted and set this policy”, she was far more accepting of the possibility of dealing with a society in which abortion was illegal.

    This comments on the relationship between the abortion debate and feminism, where feminisim is a woman asserting her right to be a social equal with a man. I was surprised to hear how strongly her feelings were tied with the belief of anti-abortion being a dictate of men, not of society. It wasn’t relevant to her that the men in question in today’s society were duly chosen by an equally mixed electorate of men and women.

    I’m right there with R.C. My “line” is at 6 months.

  13. Madog, I think you make assumptions about the cognitive/ subjective state of another person (the baby) that cannot be proven and therefore may not be warranted. I know I make those assumptions but I too feel that way. I should mention that it was once believed that babies do not feel pain in anything like the way adults do and corrective surgeries (when deemed necessary) were routinely performed on unanaesthetized infants. Be careful what you assume, as the saying goes…

    Kevin, indeed. In the case of abortion, the proposed cure is uncomfortably close to being worse than the symptom. Robert, I agree wholeheartedly, in principal. The devil is in the details. For pragmatic reasons, I guess I agree with RC.

    Hank, I suppose you were attempting to be funny. If not, you are an unqualified idiot and at the same time a persuasive living argument for retro-active abortion.

  14. Thoreau, well said in your last two posts.

    Here’s the thing about the three goals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: that we *usually* regard their importance in that order. That is, one person’s pursuit of happiness get’s trumped by someone else’s right to liberty but not at the expense of someone else’s life. I can think of few circumstances where we allow liberty to supercede life: self-defense, war, judicial punishment. In which case, it becomes an issue of when a fetus deserves the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  15. Americans have very odd debates about abortion. 🙂

  16. Ex-patriot French posters have very odd notions of what’s odd! 🙂

  17. The pro-choicers argue this from the standpoint that they don’t feel any limitation at all on the right of abortion is constitutional. Is anyone aware of any right that is recognized as completely absolute and without exception? Even the right to not be discriminated against based on color won’t get a white kid an NAACP scholarship. We accept all manner of limitations (which in this discussion I take to include contexts under which the right does not apply, as well as literal limitations) on every Constitutional right we have recognized. Search-and-siezures which are unreasonable in one context are reasonable in another. And let’s not even get started on that Patriot garbage.

    The thing that upsets me about pro-choicers most is that these are the same people who’ll gladly limit your rights to have guns, use drugs, smoke cigarettes, eat trans fat, and enjoy a modicum of privacy from a perpetually inept government. But when it comes to this lone topic, all of the sudden there’s an absolute right to be observed somewhere. I’d really like to know what objective asscrack that notion was pulled out of.

    Not that I’m against abortion, as a means of population control it’s great. The human organisms that are having abortions shouldn’t be reproducing in the first place.

  18. Ex-patriot French posters have very odd notions of what’s odd! 🙂

  19. Why don’t Americans simply have a referendum on the issue?

  20. What?! Direct democracy?! Are you mad? Thus lies the way of California…….

  21. RC,

    I wasn’t arguing that it matters if there are adoptive parents waiting, I was making the point that Robert’s oversimplified argument of just putting kids up for adoption was not really a valid argument at all without taking into account the thousands of kids that are waiting. Not that I would agree with adoption as a blanket solution to all abortions, but if there were more parents waiting to adopt than kids waiting to be adopted (not the current case) i would give that argument some consideration.
    As for who wants to criminalize all abortions, it was again Robert I was referring to:

    “Why not just illegalize abortion in all cases except where the life of the mother is in danger of death?”

    The question of whether a 9month old fetus/child should be given protective status by the state, as anyone out of the womb is, should indeed be considered regardless of anything else. If killing a 3,6,9 month old f/c is wrong, then it’s wrong whether the mom is a 35yo socialite who doesn’t like how her clothes fit now that she’s pregnant or if it’s a 12yo who was raped and will die if the baby comes to term.

    I personally think the line should be drawn at six months.

  22. The term is “expatriate.” I am still a patriot of France! Vive la France! Vive la France!

    And it does seem odd to me that you would spend thirty years or more debating this issue in your court system; hold a referendum, and decide the issue. I guess in your case it would be a constitutional amendment – have competing amendments I suppose.

  23. Jean,

    Because, if you’re a libertarian, the fact that abortion is unpopular has no bearing on whether it should be legal. That’s what they mean by pro-choice, as abused as that term is. It should be your choice, not “society’s”

  24. Although I refuse to take any personal stand on abortion, I will make one observation about what would happen if Roe vs. Wade were overturned. Well, really 2 observations.

    If the Supreme Court explicitly ruled that abortion is a state issue, or if a Constitutional amendment were passed saying abortion is a state issue, then abortion would effectively be legal for all Americans. Why? Because all it would take is a single state with liberal abortion laws, and a pro-choice organization with good fund-raising abilities to help those women who can’t afford to travel half way across the country. Abortion would only be an issue in a handful of states, since in most states there would probably be a consensus one way or the other. And even divided states would probably find a livable compromise (e.g. very limited access). So it would largely cease to be an issue.

    The most burning question in the abortion debate would then be whether a state can bar pro-choice groups from helping women cross state lines to do something that is legal in their destination state but illegal in their state of origin. And since it’s legal for travel agents to help people plan trips to Nevada for hookers and blackjack, it would be legal to help women cross state lines for abortions.

    On the other hand, if the Supreme Court or a Constitutional amendment declared that Congress could legislate on abortion…um, wait, never mind, they don’t need authorization, they’d just say that abortion is interstate commerce… Anyway, as I was saying, if it became an issue for Congress, both sides would turn every Congressional race into an apocalyptic battle over abortion. At least right now House races are less contaminated by the abortion issue, since it’s been commandeered by the Supreme Court, which is appointed by the President and Senate.

    I’m not saying how I personally feel on abortion itself, but if making it a state issue would shut people up then I guess I wouldn’t mind making it a state issue. I find both sides equally annoying and irrational (the activists, that is, not Joe Schmoe Prochoicer or Joe Schmoe Prolifer).

  25. Thoreau,

    We signed on with a domestic adoption agency here in Texas last May (semi-open; The mother selects the adoptive family from a profile that you produce. We meet each other, but no last names are exchanged, no one knows where anyone leaves, the agency thoroughly screens the birth mother to make sure this is what she wants, steps are taken to makes sure that the sperm donor has no interest in his by-blow, etc.). In November, we brought home a little boy from the hospital two days after his birth.

    Granted, until the mother signs away her rights when the kid leaves the nursery (she has until 48 hours after the birth), she could always back out and decide to keep it. But so far, this agency has never had this happen. They screen the mothers pretty well, and if any of them have hesitations about giving up their child, then they are gently shown the door. In July, the court approved our adoption (little more than a formality) and we now have a birth certificate that lists our names as the parents.

    We backed off of a foreign adoption because of too many stories about “necessary gratuities” (bribes, if you will) that must be paid out along the way.

    We looked into full open adoptions, but were basically creeped out by that process. In one instance, we met an adoptive family that subsequently hired the birth mother to be the child’s live-in nanny.

    Adoption in this country is basically a “Baby For Sale” program. When we first looked into it back in the 80s, we received form letters from North Carolina law firms stating that for “only $23,000” they could guarantee us a healthy white baby in nine months or less. I couldn’t shake the impression that they would toss a few hundred bucks some hillbilly chick’s way (she was probably going to get knocked up anyway) and then take her kid nine months later.

    It’s a process that is rewarding as well as one that makes you want to take a shower afterwards. Good luck.

  26. Americans are afraid of direct democracy. Our entire goverment system from the very beginning has been aimed at minimizing the direct power of the people. It’s probably a plus, comparing the stability of our goverment to that of others (How many Republics has France had?).

  27. Cool, chthus. The “R” in “R. C.” stands for Robert, so I was triggered.

  28. I’ll note that a substantial number of Libertarians are actually against abortion, for reasons having to with where you define life as beginning.

    As for my position…. um. I feel that any position has to factor in at least these 4 things:
    – the legal status of abortions
    – the difficulties behind enforcement (and morality of) “forced pregnancy”.
    – the relevant criminal charges if an attack on a pregnant women results in the death of the fetus
    – the possibility of criminilizing some forms of miscarriage that may be believed to be related to neglect.

    The hardest part is compromising points one and two (absent invention of a foolproof, side-effect free universal contraceptive), but 3 and 4 are also part of the issue.

    I’d probably conmpromise at abortions not being legal past viability (you could force induction to end the pregnancy early through early birth or C-section); and any assault that kills the fetus past the point of viability would be liable for charges of manslaughter (murder only if the offender definitively was aware of the pregnancy).

    Life of the mother exceptions apply; rape/incest provisions do not [all women retain an ability to end the pregnancy on demand regardless of circumstance; they merely forsake the curent ability to kill the fetus prior to birth]. A fetus that fails to develop a braiin (for example), would remain nonviable at all stages, and therefore always be eligible for an abortion.

    The key here is that even though I’m not comfortable with a fetus, which to me is clearly a human life even before viability, being killed, I’m also not comfortable with the government enforcing pregnancy (and possibly by extension, “good pregnancy habits”) on women.

    I suspect even most pro-abortion people would accept the above compromise if they were sufficiently assured that it was a definitive end and not the first step on a slippery slope to a ban (a circumstance in which I find they have a lot in common with pro-gun types).

  29. Craig,

    Your “good pregnancy habits” reminds me of when my pediatrician wife had to deal with a mother (an elementary school teacher, no less) who could not understand why her toddler was fast becoming a poster child for Ritalin. The mother admitted to drinking a 12-pack of Dr. Pepper daily during her pregnancy (confirmed by friends of ours who taught with her), and showed up for one appointment with the child clutching a bottle of brown liquid.

    “What’s that in his bottle?” my wife asked.

    “Dr. Pepper,” mom replied. “That’s all I drank when I was pregnant. Is it bad for him?”

  30. ok.. the whole can the fetus “survive” outside of the womb argument seems ludicrous. My wife is about to give birth in a few weeks. Having watched it wiggle on the ultrasounds and all of that would firmly put me in the “living” category. In addition, my bank account currently shows that the kid that is coming can’t survive without us even outside the womb. When is a person truly self sufficient? As for life… (I suppose this ties in to the woman in a coma, but I’m not going to touch on that) at what point do you establish that someone is human? Is it the essence or is there a “brightline” Is someone with very limited mental abilities “human”? Along some lines, you could argue that someone with Downs is not human. They do not fulfill the necessary criteria of chromosomes. Just some thoughts.

  31. Yelowd,

    I have met animal-rightsers (righters? rightists?) who would prefer using persons with Downs over lab rats in medical experimentation because the “Downies” do nothing more but consume resources while the lab rats have a vital function to perform in the ecosystem (what that vital function is, they never quite get around to saying…)

  32. Jean Bart,

    Are you serious or just being a smarty ass?

    Assuming it might be the former, I’ll explain. Since the Supreme Court decided that abortion (up to a certain point anyway) is a Constitutional Right, it has been taken out of the people’s hands, the same way the people cannot vote on whether a person may have free speech or not. If something is a constitutional right, the people have no power to make it illegal, even if 99.9999 or whatever % of the people want it to be illegal.

    OTOH, abortion is not one simple thing. There’s a variety of issues surrounding abortion. Those opposed to abortion have been using these peripheral or wedge issue to chip away at this “right.”

    Furthermore, there is no constitutional provision for a national referendum, and laws of this type are supposed to be determined at the state level.


    Hell, even if we could and did have a national referendum, that would only “decide” the issue if the margin were so pronounced that the losing side were discouraged from ever trying again.

  33. Madog,

    Well, from the time of Clovis in the 5th century to 1789, France was ruled by a monarch. From 1789, things have not been so uniform.

    1789-1792: Constitutional monarchy – Louis XVII becomes a citizen; he is then executed for trying to flee and raise a revolt in foreign nations

    1792-1804: The First Republic – a weak government that makes Napoleon Consul in 1799

    1804-1815: The First Empire

    1815-1830: Restauration – Louis XVIII is installed on the throne

    1830-1848: Constitutional Monarchy under Louis-Philippe I

    1848-1852: The Second Republic

    1852-1870: The Second Empire – Louis-Napoleon, known as the President-Prince under the Second Republic, becomes Emperor Napoleon III

    1871-1940: The Third Republic – started as a quasi-monarchy, but is proclaimed a Republic in 1875 – its a very unstable government, only punctuated by stability on occassion (1917-1920 government); the government changes over a hundred times during this period

    1940-1944: ?tat Fran?ais – A fascist dictatorship installed after the defeat of France in June 1940 – French Parliament dissolves handing all power to Mar?chal Philippe P?tain; also termed Vichy; made a fraud in 1942 when the Germans seized southern France (one of the reasons why the term ?tat is not used to refer to the government to this day is because of the fascist linkage to the term – the term R?publique is used instead)

    1944-1946: Provisional Government of the French Republic – created out of Free France movement of Charles de Gaulle; fails to create a new constitution to replace that of the Third Republic; de Gaulle leaves the government in 1946

    1946-1958: Fourth Republic – constitution of the Third Republic is as flawed here as it was under the government before WWII; there are more than twenty different governments in twelve years; the threat of a military coup ends the Fourth Republic; de Gaulle asked to come back to power to save France

    1959-present: Fifth Republic; de Gaulle uses his popular appeal to create a new Constitution that vests more power in the President (under the Third Republic the President was very weak – thus the crisis in leadership); the President of France becomes the most powerful executive officer in any Western government; the office becomes one of popular election in 1961 (originally the Parliament appointed him); term for President changed from seven to five years by referendum in 2000; Chirac will be the President of the Republic until 2007; since its (the Fifth Republic’s) promulgation France has had the most successive stability of government since before 1789

    It is interesting to note though that France’s economic, cultural, etc. growth was not harmed to the degree that would be expected by this tumult; this is largely because of credit due to Napoleon and his “Code Civil”; which provided a legal stability to contracts and the like that one would not expect; in fact Napoleon’s total overhaul of the entire French legal structure, which was a balkanized mess prior to the Revolution, was likely his greatest achievement, and certainly the one that had the greatest benefits over time, as it not only changed France’s legal structure, but the legal structure of much of the world

  34. fyodor,

    Well, I’m not an American, so I am not fully knowledgeable on all things American. Thus I ask questions.

    Have you ever considered a national referendum; meaning your nation?

  35. fyodor,

    So you are telling me that even by constitutional amendment that the Supreme Court’s will cannot be trumped? Is that what you mean by completely out of the hands of anyone else? That sounds completely irrational if that is the case.

  36. JB,

    Ah, so you’re serious. Then glad to be of assistance.

    As for a constituional amendment, yes it most certainly could trump a Supreme Court decision.

    However, the authors of the Constitution purposely made such an animal very difficult to accomplish. I believe a constitutional amendment must pass both houses of Congress by a two thirds vote and then be ratified by two thirds of the state legislatures. I don’t know if anyone has ever tried setting such a procedure in motion regarding the abortion issue, but they would have an uphill battle to say the least. Furthermore, only legal-abortion opponents would have any incentive to do such a thing since the Supreme Court’s decision went against their position. Proponents are generally concerned with maintaining the status quo.

  37. Digamma wrote:

    Libertarians who favor legalized abortion but feel the policy should be set by state legislatures have very few friends in the national abortion debate.

    Actually their ?friends? would be every pro-lifer who wants Roe versus Wade overturned and the issue returned to the States where it belongs.

  38. fyodor,

    I think your Supreme Court made a wrong choice then in making its decision in Roe; not because I am against abortion though.

  39. R. C. Dean wrote:

    For the life of me, I can’t think of a satisfactory formulation, but I can’t shake my instinct that, at some point, the “fetus” becomes a person, such that abortion becomes murder.

    Why not draw the line at when life begins the same way we draw it when determining when life ends ? brain waves?

    I?m not religious either but I?m pretty much pro-life while favoring keeping it at the State level. I oppose the PBA ban just as I oppose the ridiculous Roe decision. Constitutionally this is a State issue and ought to be decided via the State legislatures rather than judicial fiat.

    The only thing that ought to happen at the national level is to end taxpayer funding of abortion and groups which promote abortion (something that any true pro-choicer ought to favor) and overturn Roe v Wade to return the issue back to the State level.

  40. Texas Tom:

    The animal rights advocates will probably change their tune this week. Instead of test on people with DOWNS, they will advocate testing those in persistent vegetative states after 6 months!

    Wait a minute, what meant to be humours has now giving me ideas. WHy not? If pre-med anatomy students can poke at cadivers (cadavers?) to study, why not test that new shampoo formula on PV’s?

    (ok, still being humours!)

  41. Thorley wrote:

    Actually their ?friends? would be every pro-lifer who wants Roe versus Wade overturned and the issue returned to the States where it belongs.

    In the long run, I don’t think pro-lifers would be too happy with abortion returning to the state level. It’s virtually guaranteed that some of the states would keep abortion fairly available. In states with bans or very restrictive laws the odds are that pro-choicers with good fundraising abilities would be able to help women who can’t afford to travel across state lines to get abortions. It would be impossible to stop adult women from doing it or stop people from helping them, just as you can’t stop a travel agent from helping somebody travel to Nevada for hookers and gambling.

    The only way to really outlaw abortion in this country is at the federal level. I’m not saying Congress actually has the power to do this according to the Constitution, and I know that most pro-lifers probably think banning it state by state is a good start. But after several years of women crossing state lines and rendering local abortion laws meaningless, the pro-life movement might change its tune on federalism. And since everything is now considered part of “interstate commerce”, and since Congress already feels no compunctions about abortion laws, a federalist approach to abortion laws would be short-lived if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

    OK, maybe they’d start by trying to outlaw groups that help women travel across state lines, or at least put some severe restrictions on it (e.g. declare that women can go whereever they want, but fetuses are wards of the state until birth and can’t be taken out of the state without permission). But any such draconian measures would probably be struck down, so in the end they’d have to push for Congress to ban abortion.

    So any alliance between pro-choice/pro-federalism people and pro-lifers would be short-lived.

  42. I disagree with your contention that “everything” is interstate commerce. Having already established that guns in school aren’t interstate commerce (U.S. v. Lopez) and neither is rape (U.S. v. Morrison,), I see no reason to think abortion is, either, and fully expect the new ban to be struck down if it is challenged on that basis. More on that here.

  43. Jean Bart,

    Well, a lot of folks would agree!! But I’m not all against “judicial review,” as it’s called, in principle, that being the notion that the Supreme Court has the prerogative to overturn laws enacted by the federal or state legislatures based on said laws violating the constitution in one way or another. I wonder: is this unheard of in the other Western democracies? Several years after Roe, one of the Justices said that he had expected the decision to lose its controversial nature the way other initially controversial decisions eventually did, such as Brown vs. Board of Education which overturned legalized school segregation. But it hasn’t happened that way….

  44. Thorley/Thoreau,

    I believe Cal Thomas has advocated that the Supreme Court should declare that life begins at conception.

  45. I almost never engage in abortion discussions, since the issue is intractable and my position is unpopular among those with whom I usually otherwise agree, including most other libertarians. Abortion, to me, is morally indefensible outside of threat to the mother’s life and rape.And to me, it matters little whether it is executed at 2 mos, or 8.5.

    The entity in a pregnant woman’s uterus, unlike Terry Schiavo, is daily moving toward greater cognitive ability, and within a few weeks of birth, will be interacting with others. How many would think removing the feeding tube from Schiavo would be moral *if* it were likely that in six months she would be restored to cognition and an ability to socialize? Would it be ok to rob her of that possibility as long as we did so during a “window of opportunity” like a *temporary vegetative state?

    But I have no good ideas as to how abortion could be criminalized without many bad conseqences. So, for pragmatic reasons, I cannot usually bring myself to advocate that it be illegal.

  46. The Economist had a great article a few months ago comparing how America legalized abortion with how European countries did it. Many European countries held hotly-debated referenda on the matter. The United States, on the other hand, got its abortion policy set by judicial fiat.

    As a result, said the Economist, the US is in an endless limbo over the policy. European pro-lifers lost their debate fair and square, while American pro-lifers (somewhat correctly) feel excluded from the process. Meanwhile, in EVERY election, the Democrats insist that American pro-choicers vote for them on the fear that we are one Supreme Court retirement away from the back-alley coathangers.

    Libertarians who favor legalized abortion but feel the policy should be set by state legislatures have very few friends in the national abortion debate.

  47. Society/civilization could achieve a higher plateau if it could reach a consensus on the pecking order of sovereignty. Highest should be the individual, next the family. Far, far down the list could be gummint. (As an anarchist, it would not make my list at all.)

    Then we could move beyond the endless, hopeless debate about abortion, euthanasia, the war on drugs, and on and on.

    I’m sure it wouldn’t put an end to blogging, but I can’t venture a guess as to the topics.

  48. Personally I am against abortion as a form of birth control, and when it comes to the so-called “partial birth abortion” I wonder why that person cannot make up their mind earlier in the gestation process. But why should my feelings be laid out on someone else. This issue should be debated in a forum that we all could participate in and the U.S. legislature and especially an un-elected court is not that forum.

  49. I’m with you Digamma. I’m pro legalized abortion (and anti euphemism) and I think Roe v Wade was a catastrophe. Y’know, my Stalin-apologizing former brother-in-law once gave me the scare scenario in which he claimed that abortion rights were more in danger now than back in the sixties and seventies. My first reaction was to be skeptical but only later did I realize he was probably right and that I should’ve suggested that Roe v Wade was likely very much responsible for that!

  50. I wonder how common this thing is. My dad is a doctor and he said this procedure is done when the fetus has some sort of serious defect and would likely not survive anyway – like not having a brain or something.

    I don’t know what the Democrats would do without abortion to scream about every two years. Kind of all they have at the moment. I tend to think it’s a bit of a red herring because the only possible way I see for abortion to be made illegal would be a constitutional amendment . . . which is never going to happen. The Supreme Court had its chance to overturn Roe in that Casey case and they didn’t do it.

  51. The Nation thinks a lot of silly things. They’re basically a collection of the most self-righteous columnist from your local college newspaper all growed up. Sorta.

  52. Every massively defective baby deserves to be born and cling hideously to it’s pain filled life for a few horrible hours or days until it’s poor body finnally gives out, the way God intented.

    Here’s an interesting question: If euthenasia is legalized, and applies to people in comas or who are incompetent, etc, can a fetus be euthanized, even if abortion is illegal?

  53. I believe that women should have the right to abort, up to a point. I do not think, just to put a marker down, that it should be legal to “abort” a “fetus” at any point up until the umbilical cord is tied off and the baby takes its first breath.

    Amazingly enough, I know a number of people (I live in a liberal college town) who have told me that a mother should have the right to have her baby killed so long as the umbilical cord is still attached. Its not a “person”, see, so long as it is part of the mother, and it is part of the mother until the cord is cut.

    Of course, establishing in the law at what point a mother is not permitted to have an abortion is a tricky proposition, requiring the drawing of a bright line. One such bright line is “quickening” (when the fetus starts to move). Another is “viability”, which got a nod in Roe v. Wade but has since been discarded.

    For the life of me, I can’t think of a satisfactory formulation, but I can’t shake my instinct that, at some point, the “fetus” becomes a person, such that abortion becomes murder.

    Just to defuse some of the abuse in advance, I am not in the least bit religious.

  54. RC is right, it would be best to draw a line (kind of like, at 18 you can be drafted and go fight and die if need be. Yes it’s only men that have to register, but you see the point. It could be 17, it could be 19, but it’s not, it’s 18).

    I think a national referendum of sorts would be interesting for getting this line (sure, throwing it to the states would be better, but the fed isn’t pulling it’s nose out anytime soon). Folks choose 0,3,6,9 months, then we take the average. I’m guessing the average would be somewhere around 4.

    There are of course 1001 things wrong with this idea, please do let me know what is your favorite.

  55. Bans on abortion. What could go wrong? Every other ban has worked/is working so well.

    Regardless of how you feel abortion, is banning it the right answer? What ever happened to education and suggestion?

    Many Republicans claim to be about smaller governement, but suppor government bans on things. I guess it gets smaller in some areas and larger in others-sort of an equilibrium.

    I can see it now, the pro-gun anti-abortion hate (as I do) gun control and would have no problem disbanding the ATF. But a government enforced ban on abortions needs an agency with initials to crackdown on violators. I’m guessing the former ATF employees would probably end up working for the Bureau of Reproduction or whatever name the agency was given.

    Dems are no better. A woman is free to do what she wants with her body, but not free to carry what she wants (think:gun) on her body.
    Some even support (as I do) an end to the war on drugs. So you would also be free to have plants you want in your basement, just not whatever guns you want.

    In their zeal for gun control, they forget that many gun deaths are actually caused by prohibition of drugs. By ending the war on drugs they could kill two birds with one stone.
    Not to mention that they forget that a “war on guns” would bring all the excesses they claim to deplore in the “war on drugs”.

    The lefties and the righties are actually the same, they just push their People Control methods in different ways.

  56. Most Obvious Statement of the Year Award Nominee: “Is the partial-birth ban the start of a rollback of abortion in the U.S.? The Nation thinks so.”

  57. EMAIL:
    DATE: 05/19/2004 03:07:25
    A little nothing goes a long, long way.

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