The abortion post we had to have – part #1

By skepticlawyer

When John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running-mate, there was immediate controversy over her opposition to abortion. Much of this controversy is both confused and confusing, and after yet again explaining to a non-lawyer friend that overturning Roe v Wade would not result in an immediate ban on abortion across the US, I decided to make my attempt at clarification. This is, I suppose, the abortion post we had to have.

There is so much law in this post – including a breakdown of the various US state positions – that I’ve decided to split it in two. The first post deals with abortion as a subset of property rights and what – broadly – are likely to be the consequences if Roe is overturned. The second post addresses specific state positions and the intersection of abortion with other difficult public policy issues, including our attitude to the disabled, the extent to which access to abortion rights should be at the behest of the legislature, rather than the courts and the intersection with issues specific to US health insurance.

My view

As is only fair, I’ll outline my view of the issue. I do this in part to indicate that my opinion has no bearing on what follows.

First up, I use the terms ‘pro-abortion’ and ‘anti-abortion’. ‘Pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ serve only to obscure the issue, attempting to manoeuvre opponents into an untenable position through word-play. Who is anti-choice – apart from the most doctrinaire Marxist? And who is anti-life, aside from the odd serial killer? The politicised terms are meaningless and derogate from the issue at hand. I refuse to use either.

Next up, I note that Libertarians argue that personal rights have their origin in self-ownership. I own myself – as Robert Nozick argued – and anything that derogates from my self-ownership is automatically subject to great scrutiny. That rather Kantian point aside, there is considerable evidence that most rights worth having – particularly individual rights – have their origins in a robust property rights regime: life and liberty, therefore, depend to a large degree on property.

A woman – like a man – has property in her own body, and the right to evict or even kill trespassers on that property. Abortion rights, therefore, are a subset of property rights. The right to abortion is based on the woman’s ownership of her body, and every part thereof, including her uterus and her vaginal canal; this ownership entails the right to decide how to use that part of her body, in accordance with her conscience, and no one else’s. In American terms, to take away this basic ownership of one’s body would be the equivalent of forcing upon women ‘involuntary servitude’, which was outlawed in the 13th amendment of the Constitution. Yes, to compel a woman to have children against her will is a form of rape by the state and therefore a form of slavery.

You may think that ‘self-ownership’ is an odd way to ground property rights. If so, I invite you to argue against slavery without it. How, without self-ownership, do you argue against the moral wrongness of the ‘good’ slave-holder – the kindly Shelby family assayed in the first few chapters of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin?

That said, the law of property recognises the doctrine of adverse possession. In short, the longer I permit someone – a trespasser – to remain on my land, the stronger their argument for a right of abode. The traditional limit in real property matters is twelve years, although courts often want more. Pregnancy as property operates by analogy: the longer a woman remains pregnant, the more onerous should be the conditions attached to her exercising her right to exclude. In a perverse way, the Roe court recognised this by dividing the standard nine month gestation period into three lots of three months each, with abortions in the so-called ‘third trimester’ being subject to the most onerous sanctions.

Roe v Wade and privacy

Unfortunately, by grounding abortion in a non-existent privacy right (14th Amendment? Huh?), the SCOTUS made its judgment vulnerable even for those of us who support abortion rights: it is emblematic of the old truism that hard cases make bad law. The court below, which grounded abortion rights in the 9th Amendment (the US Constitution’s ‘saving common law rights’ provision) was actually on surer ground. The 9th Amendment preserves common law rights not enumerated in the written document, and – ideally – is the locus for privacy-based arguments.

Roe is also vulnerable to the criticism that it represents judicial legislation – a derogation from the separation of powers. Nine justices changed laws that should be a matter for democratically elected legislatures. Before you accuse me of rampant populism, recall that this is exactly what happened in 2000, in Bush v Gore. Nine people – not hundreds of millions of voting Americans – made that decision. Regardless of your politics, this doesn’t represent a good outcome. In constitutional law, this sort of derogation from popular decision-making is referred to as a ‘democratic deficit’, and is comparable with the situation in those European countries (Ireland and Denmark apart) that prevented voting on the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty. There comes a point where it is necessary to ask the people. Every time you fail to do so is – in many respects – evidence of the extent to which you hold the people in contempt.

In short, I support abortion rights as an extension of property rights, but recognise arguments on the weakness of Roe‘s legal reasoning and the danger of judicial legislation. I accept (along with Camille Paglia) that abortion represents – at best – unlawful killing, and at worst, murder. However, the corollary of that position is that forcing a woman to term against her will is slavery.

May I remind readers that my standard position on matters like this is that PUBLIC POLICY IS HARD and that TO EVERY COMPLEX PROBLEM THERE IS ALWAYS A SIMPLE SOLUTION, AND IT IS ALWAYS WRONG. Slavery v Murder is a moral balancing act of some difficulty.

At this stage – and as a subsidiary point – I’ll draw attention to the libertarian linkage between abortion rights and self-defence rights. The right to defend against an intruder is at the heart of the Second Amendment right (to keep and bear arms); it is why juries, confronted with a householder who has killed a home invader seldom convict him. In those states with a strong libertarian tradition – like Alaska, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine – there are both liberal abortion laws and liberal gun-ownership laws.

In uber-libertarian Vermont, there are no restrictions on either abortion rights or gun ownership. In almost equally uber-libertarian New Hampshire (‘live free or die’ is the state motto), there is only a parental notification law, introduced because there are actually considerable arguments in its favour (which I’ll outline later in this post). New Hampshire also has open carry in all public places save courtrooms. By contrast, in left-leaning states with little libertarian tradition, there are liberal abortion laws and restrictive gun-ownership laws (California). In right-leaning states with little libertarian tradition, there are liberal gun-ownership laws and illiberal abortion laws (South Dakota). This may be rather difficult to assimilate, but in many respects self-defence rights and abortion rights are the flip-side of the same coin: both are intimately tied to broader property rights.

Roe v Wade, and the state of US law

The important thing to remember here is that while the makeup of the Supreme Court is the focus of most of today’s political calculations about the future of abortion in America, the role of the states would become pivotal if the landmark decision were overturned. Any substantial weakening of Roe v. Wade would trigger an epic battle between abortion forces. This battle would be fought in state capitols – and perhaps also in Congress. In other words: roll Roe v Wade and abortion would devolve to the states, and there would be a really, really ugly shit-fight. And, by and large, the anti-abortion side would lose: it is clear that most people in the US (and elsewhere) support a version of the old common-law ‘quickening‘ rule.

It was a long time before common lawyers attached any criminal meaning to abortion before quickening, and even when they did, it was only at the level of a misdemeanor. Likewise, in civil matters, the old common law rule was always that – to bring a suit – a child had to be ‘born and born alive’. Death in the womb precludes a right to bring a claim in tort; changes to this principle have always been legislative. An interesting Australian case on point is Watt v Rama. The common law – with its fealty to juries – has always had to be sensitive to their verdicts, which have never been patriarchal in the way many feminists assume. Take infanticide, for example. As one article on recent proposed changes to the UK’s Infanticide Act notes:

Until 1922, the killing of a child was a capital offence, but juries had become so sympathetic to women accused in such cases that the first infanticide law was brought in to cover newborn babies. In 1938, it was extended to the killing by a mother of babies up to a year old.

What is important to remember here is that the juries that forced this change to UK law were comprised entirely of males – at that point women could not serve. Both anti and pro abortion advocates are dealing with very old and entrenched cultural and social attitudes to life and its relative ‘worth’ in their attempt to change attitudes to abortion. Sure, it may be possible to change those old attitudes, but some honesty in appreciating the difficulty of any such change is merited. A degree of both infanticide and abortion has been widely tolerated – including by all-male juries – across all the cultures that have fed both common and civil law conceptions of life and the preservation of life, not to mention many cultures outside these traditions. This means – in practice – easy access to abortion prior to ‘quickening’, with greater restrictions (including the view that late abortions are homicide) later in the pregnancy.

Before Roe

In the early 1960s, five trendsetting states revised their laws to make abortion available in a variety of circumstances.  Mississippi legalized the procedure in cases of rape, and Alabama followed by Colorado, New Mexico and Massachusetts were the first to permit abortion when a woman’s physical or mental health was in jeopardy. Gradually, other states made minimal changes to their 19th century abortion laws, but most continued to allow the procedure only in life-threatening situations. As a result, hundreds of thousands of women resorted to illegal, self-induced – and sometimes deadly – abortions. It is important to remember, however, that restrictions on abortion prior to ‘quickening’ only became widespread in the 19th century.

The American Law Institute (ALI), a group of lawyers, scholars and jurists, began to call for abortion reform in 1962, urging states to permit abortion when a woman’s health was at risk, in cases of rape or incest, or if the fetus had a severe defect. In 1967, California became the first state to adopt ALI’s model law, and by 1972, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina and Virginia had followed. In 1970, four states – Alaska, Hawaii, New York and Washington – adopted the most liberal laws in the country, allowing a woman to have an abortion whenever she and her doctor decided it was needed. These are the ‘pre-Roe‘ states that allow statistical comparisons for researchers like Levitt and Dubner, with their groundbreaking study showing strong links between liberal abortion laws and large reductions in rates of violent crime.

If Roe v Wade were overturned

Lawyers differ on how many states are likely to make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Whether a state chooses to ban abortion will depend on what party controls the governor’s mansion and the legislature and on the social leanings of its citizens – if and when federal restrictions are lifted. There isn’t always a neat correlation between party and abortion positions, either. Think of Texas’ Republican, pro-abortion Kay Bailey Hutchinson or Louisiana’s anti-abortion former Democratic Governor (Kathleen Blanco).

Signs can be gleaned from states’ recent records on the issue, however. On the anti-abortion side, six states already have in place so-called ‘trigger laws’, designed to make abortion illegal if federal policy permits. Three other states have passed laws called statements of policy, establishing the illegality of abortion as an overriding state philosophy.

In addition, a few states have pre-1973 abortion bans still on the books, which legal experts say could be reinstated. Abortion bans passed by Louisiana and Utah in 1991 that were immediately struck down by federal courts also remain on the books in both states and may take effect if Roe v Wade fell. On the abortion-rights side, seven states have codified the principles of Roe v Wade in state law, and high courts in nine other states have interpreted the state constitution as independently ensuring a woman’s right to an abortion. It is also important to remember that any law – pro or anti – passed by a previous administration and thus not debated by the current state legislature and governor is vulnerable – even in otherwise very doctrinaire states.



  1. Nanu
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    “but ‘pro-abortion’ is just inaccurate”

    On this we can agree, but.. “anti-abortion” at least from my experience is for ‘most’ the first consideration. You need to get off your “those with sperm are evil” shit and look at the discussion. Its pretty 50/50 even on this thread. The norm is a for a couple to discuss their particular circumstances…but I expect you’ll seek the emotional argument as usual.

  2. Nanu
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Adrien –

    I think even for those without a particular faith apart from seeking as the view it the most “kindly” act or “humanistic” act, the voice for the voiceless is crucial. I may be stepping beyond the rational but I think for most in this debate who’ve never had to make that choice they should put themselves in a position of not having a voice. I know what I’d say…NEVER make it easy, make sure no matter how pragmatic or “obvious” the decision is..NEVER MAKE IT EASY. Thankfully, I don’t think it ever will be. If we lose that I think in a lot of respects, we’ll have lost everything.

  3. Nanu
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I should add, as someone who’d want to put the unborn & voiceless first in an ideal world… I don’t believe that abortions under proper medical supervision should ever be unlawful. As bad as society can be, on this I’m confident.

  4. Posted September 30, 2008 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    ‘You need to get off your “those with sperm are evil” shit and look at the discussion.’


  5. pete m
    Posted September 30, 2008 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    PC – I agree on the men being responsible too part, but here we seem to be focusing on the woman’s right to decide. Hence I restricted my comment to that.

    If you want men to accept the responsibility, well you just opened a can of worms – where is the male’s right in the abortion non abortion decision? While you say it is men who pressure women about it, it also goes the other way. Men who want to keep the baby but have no right to insist. Even if they accept 100% responsibility for that child, the woman can refuse to carry it for 6-8 months needed for birth. It is one of those cases of partnership where a decision must be made, and a non-decision is still a decision. Usually in partnership law a 50-50 split means the nays win. ie should we buy that new photocopier – if 1 says no, the decision is no.

    Doesn’t apply to well to this issue.

    So yeah, I agree men have just as much responsibility and a plethora of means to avoid conception, but on the contrary, as it is not their body, have 0 choice about the consequences, despite the fact that with a birth, they suddenly then are expected to be responsible again!

    conception – responsible – check
    abortion – not responsible and no say – wtf?
    baby – responsbie – lifetime of responsibility

  6. Posted September 30, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Stalker #52 – Good point.
    Pete M – It’s worth considering that often women seek abortions because they are pregnant because the dudes don’t take responsibility and refuse to let them do so. Just sayin’.
    PC – Every sperm is sacred. Every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted God gets quite irate. 🙂

  7. Nanu
    Posted September 30, 2008 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Adrien –

    I’m glad you were able to work through my signature typos & grammatical errors! 🙂

  8. Posted October 1, 2008 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    I apologize if this is a tad off topic, but your discussion is quite serendipitous, as I recently wrote about this issue in a non-Lawyerly, profanity laced manner.

    You have to look at the abortion issue in its much larger context.

    If you look at the entire agenda from the Right, there is far more involved than abortion.

    They’re not trying to save “Life,” as much as they’re attempting to define when life begins so they can control Sex.

    Gay marriage, stem cells, birth control, abstinence only, and abortion are all components of the same agenda.

    I’d love for an attorney (Hint, hint) to discuss the ramifications of what I call the Right’s “Sex Based Initiative.”

    As far as I can tell, if they ever got their way, the Federal Government would have complete control over human sexual behavior.

  9. Nanu
    Posted October 1, 2008 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    the Right’s “Sex Based Initiative.”

    You’re taking the piss surely! LOL!

  10. AJ
    Posted October 1, 2008 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    “The US leapfrogged that process, which has the merit of clarity (and believe me, lawyers love clarity), but has had to pay very heavily for it thanks to ‘democratic deficit’. Day O’Connor – although supportive of Roe in Planned Parenthood v Casey – also pointed out that Roe likely killed a nascent democratic movement towards abortion rights in the several states. I think she’s right, although whether the situation is retrievable now is a rather moot.”

    Then again, when the Supreme Court shut the democratic door on segregation, Jim Crow, miscegenation, etc. laws (that in their day were more controversial and divisive than abortion) America moved on pretty well, even though they didn’t get to work through it democratically. Who knows how things would have developed if the Court just completely avoided ruling on controversial political issues in America. Maybe things would have turned out better, maybe they’d be a lot worse or maybe they’d be the same.

    That said, my preference for the judiciary’s constitutional role is pretty much the same as the one espoused in John Ely Harts’ Democracy and Distrust , i.e. the court should concern itself with the venue for decision making and the integrity of the democratic process and leave the outcome of substantive issues well alone. However, I disagree with him on whether there is much textual support for such a reading of the US constitution. Moreover, even if there was, it doesn’t seem that mainstream liberal or conservative judicial thought, US political institutions or either major political party wants such an approach. Both the left and the right are happy to have the judiciary legislate when they agree with them.

  11. Posted October 1, 2008 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Both the left and the right are happy to have the judiciary legislate when they agree with them.
    I’m not. One of my first acts of heresy was a heated debate I got into viz some liberal law firm in the States that set out to establish ‘progressive’ precedent.
    The trouble, despite the obvious, is that ‘the other side’ will do it too. And then the courts become an extension of party politics. SCOTUS seem to going there.

  12. Posted October 1, 2008 at 11:03 pm | Permalink


    I assure you, I’m not “taking the piss,” nor am I buggering about.

    I’m very serious.

    We have a VP candidate who not only believes abortion should be illegal, she also believes birth control should be as well, because they’re “Abortifacients.”

    She believes the earth is 6000 years old, that dinosaurs lived with people, that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a untrue, and that we are living in the “End Times.”

    Her running mate is 379 years old with an extensive history of Melanoma.

    Oh, she’s also about as incurious as a mud slide.

    Okay, maybe I’m taking the piss, a bit.

    But I would love to hear an attorney’s point of view on the issues I presented in my previous comment.

    And since LE is the only attorney I trust (possibly because she lives on another continent), I thought I’d ask.

  13. Nanu
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Fairlane –

    Legally, you should get laid as much as you can while you still can. The Sexocracy is on its way.

  14. AJ
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Apparently Sarah Palin supports the court’s finding of a consitutional right to privacy… I think… Maybe. I dunno:

    “COURIC: Do you think there’s an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

    PALIN: I do. Yeah, I do.

    COURIC: That’s the cornerstone of Roe v Wade

    PALIN: I do. And I believe that –individual states can handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in in an issue like that.

    COURIC: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

    PALIN: Well, let’s see. There’s –of course –in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, that’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are–those issues, again, like Roe v Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know–going through the history of America, there would be others but–

    COURIC: Can you think of any?

    PALIN: Well, I could think of–of any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a Vice President, if I’m so privileged to serve, wouldn’t be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.”

  15. Nanuestalker
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    AJ –

    I “think” Palin was just saying that she can’t change the law and that as an elected official she must support the law as it reads today. Effectively she confirmed that her personal views are separate from her public obligations regardless of the fact they are opposite.

    With regard to Roe v. Wade, I’ve always regarded the decision as having created a ‘questionable’ right to life for the foetus under the Constitution. Its not a person so it actually doesn’t seem to fit into the Constitution in terms of a person or citizen that has any rights whatsoever. Likewise, I find the right to an abortion due to the right to privacy to be equally suspect.

    The Roe v. Wade decision in my view was political/moral compromise by the Supreme Court, it was in no-mans land and the Judges knew it. Considering that abortion existed when the Constitution was drawn up, why was the question of the abortion never addressed. I bet the founding fathers didn’t want to touch it.

  16. Posted October 2, 2008 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    She believes the earth is 6000 years old, that dinosaurs lived with people, that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a untrue, and that we are living in the “End Times.”

    Her running mate is 379 years old with an extensive history of Melanoma.

    What’s wrong with that? We need someone with a stern morality in control of the Bomb. Who better than with a man like McCain whose about to kick and whose fondest memory of life appears be the years he spent as a Viet Cong prisoner and a woman who thinks she’s going up to Heaven three seconds before the world blows up.

    That’s the trouble with commies like you, you’re so irrational.

  17. Posted October 2, 2008 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    it’s always going to be available
    The morality of the situation is between yourself, yourself and God (should S/he exist and if so care). Conservatives are attempting to reintroduce the moral consensus that existed supposedly before the 1960s by legislation which won’t work and, in the event that it could, is wrong anyway.

    The Religious Right are a bunch of neo-Calvinists who want to fulfil the Herd’s millenia long mission to turn us all into sheep. Earth to them: you can be sheep, we’re human beings (ie apes who’re trying to emulate more elegant animals). The irony of the creationists is that in denying their true nature they’re condemning themselves to be forever subject to it. Bill Hicks once observed that it was funny how they often look unevolved.

    The question is: what are the consequences of public policy? There the evidence is very clear. I think conservatives have a point about freewheeling self-indulgence and the lack of sexual decorum apparent these days (and coming from me that’s saying something) but the solution is in the ethical realm not the political one.

  18. Nanuestalker
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm…LE what was that waffle? 🙂 I knew you’d find a substantial although not entirely substantiated response for Fairlane! 🙂

    My two cents…it not a sex based initiative, its not new Fairlane, its plain old fundalmentalism. Count your blessing you have your rights enshrined in your Constitution, we in Australia don’t have such protections.

  19. Nanuestalker
    Posted October 2, 2008 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    By the way they ain’t Right- wing or Left- wing, they have their own special wing all to themselves and much like the Hotel California “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.”!

  20. Posted October 3, 2008 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    LE, I appreciate your comment, and I understand your ambivalence when it comes to the “abortion issue,” as I am also unsure of where I stand.

    But I attribute that to the black, and white nature of the debate.

    Neither side offers a real solution other than “No abortions, period,” or “Status quo.”

    As far as the “Sex Based Initiative” goes, I don’t think the average “Fundamentalist, Conservative,” whatever, is in favor of controlling sex, however, when you put all these issues together, instead of looking at them piece meal, the potential consequences are ominous. In fact, they’re straight out of some Orwellian nightmare- Control Sex, Kill Humanity.

    Yes, we have a Constitution, but, as we’ve seen, the Constitution can be circumvented.

    Bush said it was nothing but, “A Goddamned piece of paper.”

    The next president will be able to shape the Supreme Court for decades to come, and that’s exactly what the “Fundies” are counting on, control of our highest court.

    I think people underestimate just how “Conservative” (Backward) the United States really is, and as proof, I offer this nugget- 38% of Americans believe Creationism should replace Evolution in science classes. 64% believe it should be taught alongside Evolution.

    We’re drowning in stupid, and we have Nukes.

  21. DeusExMacintosh
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    I’m pro-abortion access and anti-death penalty but I don’t see that as contradictory as both my arguments are based on lack of perfection rather than idealisation of what does or does not constitute life.

    I’m pro-abortion access because there is no such thing as 100% effective contraception – even the most responsible belt-and-braces couples can have an accidental pregnancy.

    I’m anti-death penalty because I believe that absolute sanction requires absolute justice – and I don’t think that’s even possible in a human legal system.

  22. Nanu
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    Fairlane –
    I bag Americans all the time, its a hobby the rest of the world enjoys especially bagging the red-necks. But you do have a great legal system…not perfect OK, but the founding fathers engraved rights in its constitution that have stood up against attacks in modern times when the administration is in conflict with the judice system.

    {Too lazy to correct spelling & grammar if needed..sorry, but thats me being me! :_) }

  23. Nanu
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Shit I can’t even do a smiley right 🙂 🙂 …

  24. Nanu
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    “I’m pro-abortion access” …thats the way to put it. Good call.

  25. Nanu
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    I bet Uncle Ray will be pleased about that comment..LOL!

  26. Nanu
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    BTW..this is a really good blog, really good (& well written) posts and a really good discourse. Well done SL & LE.

  27. Nanu
    Posted October 3, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I asked this on the LP thread but never got an answer:

    I’m curious about what feminists who view abortion as a right, and anybody who’s somewhat militant in their opposition to Catholic doctrine in relation abortion, view of ‘female foeticide’ in the third world & developing countries.

  28. Posted October 3, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    You appear somewhat obsessed Nanu.

    You won’t find the LP femtrolls answering a question like that because all cultures are equal and it would be racist to criticise The Other. As you would know if you weren’t a bloody male WASP, we should never judge The Other by our imperial racist classist standards. Or something Ed Said said. Or thereabouts.

    Paging John Greenfield …

  29. John Greenfield
    Posted October 4, 2008 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    On this immediate association of pro-life with right-wing/conservative/baddies I have an interesting data point. An old friend of mine is a practicing Roman Catholic – actually, she’s quite a pro by now – who would not have an abortion under any circumsatnces, however will riot in the street if the state were to try to deny OTHER women access to appropriate technology. Why? She says Jesus Christ does not require her to go marauding about the shop dispensing justice, that is god’s job. Matthew 22:21 and all that.

    I know another bloke – American Roman Catholic priest – who thinks the US should legalise gay marriage. Why? 28:21, church/state. He, himself, would never marry gays in his own church, and fiercely opposes any liberalisation by the Catholic Church on such matters. What he really worries about is those who marry in the Catholic church and do not take their vows seriously enough.


    For the good of all bloggers here, don’t get me started. 😉

  30. Posted October 4, 2008 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Nanu’s question is actually a good one, and is also relevant to the aborting of disabled babies in the developed world. Lots of abortion legislation world-wide (including that in the UK) permits abortion in the last trimester when the foetus is disabled, but not when it is ‘healthy’; the eugenic element is unmissable.

    Also JG: tone down the gay boy bitchies, please; we do value your input, but you may just have to leave that feather boa at the door – Mel manages to 😉

  31. Posted October 4, 2008 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    ‘Nanu’s question is actually a good one’

    I agree. To answer it, one would first have to ask oneself why it’s the female foetuses that get aborted. If the answer is the large dowries, one must then ask why that. As if one did not know the answer to both questions.

    Personally I think a societal tendency to abort female foetuses contains the seeds of its own destruction and requires no intervention from other cultures, only the passage of time.

  32. Posted October 5, 2008 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    The scarcity argument is a good one. There is a close link between women enjoying enhanced rights (particularly in relationships) when there are fewer of them, although once again most of the research has been in developed countries, or the ‘upper’ end of the developing world.

    The gap only needs to be small, too – 100 men to every 99 women produces some very interesting distortions in the marriage ‘market’. My suspicion, however, is that for the numerically smaller group of women to get the economic benefit, there needs to be a ‘rule of law’ framework in place – relatively easy access to divorce, for example, and the ability to choose one’s marriage partner. If there was something you wanted to be imperialistic about – even if only with immigrant cultures – it would be working to undermine arranged marriages, as they prevent women in places with sex-specific abortion making use of their scarcity power.

    As to when the positions are reversed, Charles and Luoh have done terrific research on what high rates of male incarceration have done to black women’s relationship options in the US (where there are – as a result of incarceration – slightly more black women than men).

  33. DeusExMacintosh
    Posted October 5, 2008 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    I think India has made dowries illegal ‘officially’ but of course, this has been impossible to police at local levels because the police themselves support the local culture (Pakistan is notorious for this same problem).

  34. Nanu
    Posted October 8, 2008 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    To be honest it isn’t a question, its a deliberate argument destroyer. A line gets drawn somewhere. The Abortion argument as I’ve said before is innately personal, we just have to make the best of a raw deal. As Deus said before “I’m pro-abortion access” is the position, nobody is pro-abortion, it stinks but its a necessary evil even to when something as shallow as economics comes into play.

  35. Posted October 8, 2008 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I also think total freewheeling sexual self-indulgence ain’t always a good thing. There doesn’t have to be any commitment these days because one can avoid many consequences of sexual encounters. Sometimes this leaves one party to the relationship feeling pretty betrayed when they realise that for the other party, it was just a “fling” with no real emotion.
    I tend to agree. There’s a certain free-for-all in the sexual culture at the moment,. There’s a pretty clear procession from at least the 1960s echoed in the ’20s and the 1800 generation. I don’t agree with Conservative when they say the ’60s was the End of the World. But liberating oneself en masse from previous repressions does lead to a period of turmoil. We’re at the tail-end of that now.

    Viz casual sex, there’s ethical requirements for honesty and consideration and the rest. I do find it puzzling that anyone would go to a singles’ bar say to look for emotional commitment. But that said there’s a huge range of options for the conduct of sexual life between marriage for life and Disco Stu One-Night-Stand revue.

    The Religious Right are, in the main, anti-sexual freedom. Sex for them in extremis is a necessary evil. To receive pleasure from it; to explore it a la Anais Nin say, is evil. I’m repulsed by this self-imposed poverty of imagination.

    Still I regard the current sexual ethos vulgar and venal. There’s a complete lack of decorum, of manners, of style. There’s no tenderness. As Paglia has said where sexual freedom goes sado-masochism follows.

    Still I believe there must be an ethical culture that a. is honest about human sexuality and b. seeks to do more with it than use it to create property-progeny structures.

    Disco Stu doesn’t advertise.

  36. Posted October 8, 2008 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Skeptic – The scarcity argument is a good one.
    There’s man-drought in Melbourne apparently. Women are complaining there aren’t any eligible men. But there’s lots of single men. I don’t see what they’re complaining about.
    Oh you want a guy that has more than ten bucks and washes on a daily basis. 🙂

  37. John Greenfield
    Posted October 11, 2008 at 3:16 pm | Permalink


    Surely demanding one leave one’s feather boa at the door on Sleaze weekend is an egregious offence against some sort of human rights, or at least bitchy gay-boy rights!? 🙂

  38. evelyne casteres
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink


    I agree entirely with the men who protest against abortion. They should approach women who are abt to have an abortion to offer them to raise at their own expenses the future child until adulthood. Bunch of idiots. Most women who have abortion performed, are some times in a difficult financial position. Are we going back to the middle ages or what? Such an hypocrisy. I am 66 years old, a woman. I realize America is quite backward in many ways just like the muslim world. Control of women men cannot help it. Men control your dick.

    Best Regards

    Evelyne Casteres

  39. Posted June 6, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Men control your dick.

    No. No man nooooo.

    The whole set-up is based on the idea that we can’t. If the truth gets out and the chicks realize that’s bullshit then it’ll blow the whole deal.

    We’ll have to be, like, responsible n’ shit.

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  1. By skepticlawyer » My Enemy’s Honour on November 15, 2008 at 1:52 am

    […] in part because the ruling took the decision away from the legislature, thereby producing serious democratic deficit). Creationism, by contrast (even in its muted ‘intelligent design’ form) simply […]

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