Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

18 September 2008


Humanity and Humility
The Issue of “Life”


I had hoped to avoid discussing the issue of abortion. It has generated so much heat and so little light. It is partly responsible for electing the worst president in our nation’s history. I had hoped that this election would squeak by focusing instead on issues that that directly affect everyone’s life and that a president can manage directly, not just indirectly through occasional appointments to the Supreme Court.

But I appear to have hoped in vain. Two recent commenters forced me to reassess my reticence. Both raised abortion, with some degree of passion, in comments to posts that had nothing to do with abortion.

That’s typical of the issue: it arises unbidden in the oddest places. For many voters and for many years, it has overwhelmed rational thought on everything else.

So I feel I have no choice but to address it. The two comments that inspired this essay are reproduced verbatim below, with the unrelated posts to which they were made linked.


The first thing that strikes me about abortion as a political issue is oversimplification. The language we use to discuss abortion has become inherently deceptive, as each side of the debate seeks every unfair linguistic advantage, using all the formidable political tools of modern advertising, public relations and “communications.” In an earlier, more innocent age, we used to refer to these techniques as propaganda.

Insofar as it has any impact on politics, the current abortion debate is a debate about criminal law. Should abortion be a criminal offense for the doctors and nurses who perform it, and possibly for the patients (mothers) who undergo it as well? And, if so, under what circumstances? That has been the debate since Roe v. Wade in 1973, and that is why the courts play such an important role. In Roe the Supreme Court announced a women’s constitutional right to abortion, in effect precluding Congress and the state legislatures from criminalizing abortion within the limited scope of that right.

Yet you would never know this from the language used in the debate. Opponents of criminalizing abortion speak of “choice,” as if a woman seeking an abortion were making just another selection of consumer products in the supermarket. Of course that’s a lie: the woman’s decision affects the father, the rest of her family, the community, and the possibility or actuality of a new life.

Proponents of criminalizing abortion speak of “life” as if their opponents were advocating death. They ignore the fact that there is no consensus in politics, religion, science or folk wisdom about when life begins. They also ignore the fact that often the abortion decision is not one of life versus nonlife, but of life versus life: the mother’s mature life versus a potential new one. It’s so easy to see an issue as black and white if you ignore all its complexities.

But the most abominable oversimplification is the word “abortion” itself. We use the same term to describe entirely different procedures with entirely different practical, medical, family, social, economic and scientific risks and consequences. They range from the “morning-after” pill, which works by preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, through “dilation and curettage,” in which a collection of insentient cells is scraped from the uterus, to late-term procedures in which a recognizable fetus is dissected and extracted.

To describe these wildly disparate events using the same term is a best inaccurate, at worst dishonest. It’s like having a debate about medical care that lumps tonsillectomy together with heart and bone-marrow transplants under the heading “surgery.” Whenever anyone uses language so fuzzy and all encompassing, you can be sure they have a political agenda and are bent on propaganda, not understanding.

Humanity and Humility

The second thing that strikes me about the abortion debate is the lack of humanity and humility on the part of zealous advocates for both sides. Both sides often fail to understand how wrenching for all concerned an abortion or unwanted childbirth can be. Few recognize how enormously varied are the circumstances in which women consider abortion, and how tough the realities with which they have to deal.

Proponents of criminalization set up a “straw woman.” She’s an affluent scatterbrain who dallies with various men, gets pregnant, doesn’t know who the father is, can’t make up her mind, and ends up considering abortion late in her term, when the fetus has a beating heart and kicking feet.

We’ll leave aside the factual question of how common this scenario really is. But isn’t this hypothetical “scatterbrain” a human being, too? Doesn’t she feel the baby’s kicks, feel the weight in her belly, wonder how the man (if any) she really loves will react, and fear that she’ll be left to raise a new life all alone? Doesn’t she, at times, curse her ignorant and helpless fate?

If she is really affluent, can’t she just go to Canada or elsewhere abroad to have her abortion? Does that possibility make the decision any less wrenching for her? Yet both sides treat her not as a human female caught in a terrible dilemma, worthy of sympathy and understanding, but as cannon fodder in an abstract argument or quest for political power. How human is that?

As we move farther from the “straw woman” scenario, the woman’s human dilemma becomes steadily more acute. There is the young illegal immigrant, impregnated by her husband shortly before an immigration raid, now being held in detention and awaiting deportation at a time unknown to her. Her husband was not swept up in the same raid, and she doesn’t know whether she will ever see him again. Does she want to carry her child in a holding pen and give birth in prison, under conditions that she imagines to be the same as those in squalid Mexican jails? If she decides not to bring the child into a holding pen full of tubercular illegals awaiting deportation, can you blame her?

Then there is the religiously pious honor student, raped on her way home from class. Should she be forced to carry and bear a rapist’s child, putting her schooling, her upcoming college career and her entire future on hold for at least nine months (or more if she choose to raise the child or if the adoption process is slow) because someone raped her? Doesn’t anyone remember how long nine months are in the life of a seventeen-year-old?

At the end of the spectrum are the late-term abortions. Proponents of criminalization speak of “partial-birth abortions” and describe them in horrendously bloody terms, as did commenter Sam below. But they neglect to mention that medical ethics and standard medical practice reserve these difficult and dangerous procedures for cases where the mother’s life or health is seriously at risk.

Risks to life and health of course are never certain. They are always matters of probabilities. But suppose the doctors say the chances of the mother or child surviving are both “fifty-fifty.” Suppose the mother—the woman you have loved for ten years—squeezes your hand, looks deep into your eyes, and says,
Honey, I’m 44 years old. I’ve been sickly all my life, and I’m tired. I’ll never be able to have another child. I want to bear this child, and I’m willing to take the risk.”
Or suppose she says,
“Honey, I’m only 23. I’m too young to die, and we can try again later. The doctor says my next birth might be a lot easier, or we can adopt. But I want to be here to raise my children.”
Shouldn’t the circumstances and the mother’s wishes make a difference? It seems to me that those who claim one abstract rule fits all lack both humanity and humility.

Men do not bear the awkwardness, vulnerability, hardship and pain of pregnancy, childbirth, or lactation. Despite women’s liberation, most men perform only a small fraction of the chores required to rear children. Many men—such as celibate priests—know of these things only through reading and their imagination. They never experience them, even vicariously.

Neither our law nor our politics accounts for these undeniable realities. I have often thought that only women should vote on matters of childbirth and abortion. Yet it seems to be men—especially priests—who have the strongest and most inflexible opinions on those subjects. If that doesn’t show a lack of humanity or humility, at very least it is surpassingly odd.

The subjects of humanity and humility require one last point to be made. Much of the passion on the anti-criminalization side comes from women. The source of that passion is easy to understand. Even women who wouldn’t think of aborting their own offspring see attempts to control their options by criminalizing abortion as a continuation of the male dominance, heedless of their wishes, that has existed for most of human history. They also see criminalization as a failure to recognize and respect their greater contributions to having and rearing children, and therefore their right to help make child-related decisions.

There is some justification for this perception. The modern sociology and economics of pregnancy and childbirth are incredibly complex, especially in a nation that (depending on demographic group) has absent fathers in up to half its families, has neglected the safety net for the poor for over a decade, and has tried to replace proper education on sex with ideological wishful thinking based on abstinence and piety. Yet some believe the answer to these deep and complex problems is to tell women—whom men have controlled for most of human history—“Do what we tell you, or we’ll put you or your doctor in jail!”

To me, that approach has always seemed more appropriate to a totalitarian state than an enlightened, democratic society. Now that women have had the vote for nearly a century, is it any wonder that many of them are expressing emotions ranging from distaste to outrage at the ballot box?

A politically skilled society, let alone an enlightened one, would solve the problem of too many abortions differently. Rather than threatening free people with criminal sanctions, it would provide support, care and concern. It would encourage women to give live birth, even when they don’t want children, by providing neutral, non-religious counseling, high-quality pre- and post-natal care, and financial support to those who need it during pregnancy, all at no or reduced cost. That society would work much harder to get absent fathers to contribute to fixing the mess they created by depositing sperm and leaving. In short, it would recognize the fact that economic factors often compel women to abort and would work on those factors, rather than add the threat of criminal prosecution to the long list of an already overburdened woman’s concerns.

That sort of approach would reflect not just humanity, but what we used to call good politics. Throwing people in jail to achieve social and economic ends recalls debtor’s prison, which civilized democracies abandoned centuries ago. Throwing people in jail to achieve religious ends recalls medieval tyranny that Western culture would like to forget.

The Issue of “Life”

Like the term “choice,” the term “life” is fundamentally dishonest, at least as used in the abortion debate. It avoids the two most central questions in the debate. First, when does life begin? Second, what happens when the mother’s life is at stake, so the issue is not just life versus nonlife but life versus life? To avoid these issues is dishonest oversimplifying, quite apart from forsaking humanity in favor of abstractions.

Even on an abstract level, abortion is “murder” only if performed after fertilization, and only if life begins at fertilization. That’s what orthodox Roman Catholics believe, and that’s why the Pope opposes abortion in any form. It’s a simple syllogism: life begins at fertilization, so any interference with life thereafter is murder.

There are two problems with that syllogism. Over the last four centuries, the Catholic Church has lost credibility on issues of science and public policy. About 400 years ago it threatened to excommunicate Galileo for believing and teaching that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Now every educated person knows the Church was wrong and Galileo right. If the Church had had its way and had suppressed Galileo’s research, all of our artificial satellites and much of our global communication system would be figments of outlaws’ imaginations.

The Church once forbade anatomical research on cadavers as desecration. Today, medical students everywhere dissect cadavers as part of their education. But the change came late in many countries. In the interim, medical research migrated to the Protestant countries of Northern Europe. The result: even today, no one with a serious illness goes to Italy, Spain or Latin America for treatment if treatment in England, the United States or Germany is available.

The second and most important problem with the Church’s syllogism is our form of government. Our Founders decreed unequivocally that religion would not dictate our public policy. Our First Amendment prohibits laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

With that simple prohibition, we Americans ducked all the terrible religious wars and pogroms that plagued Europe for the last millennium. In our country, it is “we, the people,” not priests, ministers, rabbis or imams, who set public policy. If we have any national belief in common at all, it is in science, not religion.

But there is no public, medical, scientific or social consensus as to when life begins. There is not even any broad religious consensus. Many people believe life begins at birth. Strict Catholics and some evangelicals believe it begins at fertilization. Most doctors and scientists admit with some humility that they just don’t know.

As science has advanced, thinking people who trust evidence, not faith, have come to see life, its development and evolution as continuous processes. They are skeptical of any insistence on discrete, abstract beginnings and ends.

We’ve found life in superheated vents deep under the sea and where there is little or no free oxygen. Our space scientists expect to find life, any day now, far from our world on Mars, Europa or Ganymede. The more we learn about life, the more humble we become, and the more we recognize that simple, abstract propositions (such as “life begins at fertilization”) are inaccurate and useless for practical purposes, except in fomenting religious and political discord.


So how do we solve this knotty problem if we have no consensus on when life begins and if our Constitution and way of life forbid one religion or faith from dictating to the rest of us? We solve it the same way we Americans have always solved difficult legal and social problems: practically.

If we had evolved directly from birds or reptiles, the issue of when life begins would be a lot simpler. We would probably all agree that life begins when the mother lays an egg, because the egg can be incubated and give rise to new life without the mother’s further contribution or help.

But we are mammals. Our own eggs appear, are fertilized and grow inside the mother. The growing offspring stays there for nine months—the longest gestation period in the animal kingdom. From a practical perspective, this makes our unborn offspring utterly dependent upon the mother for sustenance, protection, and life itself. Until very recently, if a mother died, the offspring inside her died, too.

The Supreme Court recognized these practical features of human biology in Roe v. Wade. It recognized the mother’s practical control over the new life until the stage of viability, i.e., until the offspring could survive on its own without the mother’s participation or help. Until that time, the Court reasoned, the mother could abort, but not later.

The Roe Court’s decision did not pretend to be moral or religious. It just recognized the mother’s practical control and indispensability, and the unborn offspring’s utter dependence on her body, mind and will.

Yet Roe, too, had a practical problem. With the rapid advance of medical science, the line of “viability” kept shifting. It is now possible, at least in theory, to keep a fertilized egg viable outside the mother, either by implanting it in someone else’s uterus or perhaps even by raising it in a test tube. It is even possible to fertilize an egg artificially, without any father’s natural sperm. So subsequent court decisions on the issue have moved away from the viability test.

Not only is viability a moving target as science advances. The cost of achieving viability outside the womb grows exponentially the shorter the time after fertilization. While it’s now possible in theory to keep virtually every fertilized egg viable by artificial means, the cost of doing so would be prohibitive.

So insofar as abstract bright lines are concerned, we are now completely at sea. There is no consensus among scientists or the general population on when life begins. And viability outside the mother has become useless as a practical test, because the onset of viability depends on how much you want to spend. As we are rapidly discovering in the fields of war, energy, health care and infrastructure, our financial resources are not unlimited.

So the best we can do, it seems to me, is cobble together a rough practical consensus, which we have already done. No one “likes” abortion. Joe Biden says he “hates” it. But we recognize a woman’s right, in consultation with the father (if known) and her doctor, to make that difficult choice. We encourage any exercise of that right to come as early in the term of pregnancy as possible. We hope it will come with the “morning-after pill” or a quick and relatively riskless dilation and curettage, when the fetus is nothing more than a mass of undifferentiated cells, without a heart to beat or a brain to think.

As the term proceeds, the right to abort becomes weaker and more subject to legal and practical restraint. No ethical and properly trained doctor recommends (or wants to perform) an abortion later rather than earlier. Later procedures are more expensive, difficult, complex and risky to the mother’s health. Every doctor who performs an abortion tries to schedule it as early as the mother’s mental and physical health allows.

As for late-term abortions, both medical ethics and standard practice limit them to cases in which abortion reduces or eliminates a grave risk to the mother’s life or health. In those cases, the issue in not a matter of life versus nonlife, but life versus life—the offspring’s versus the mother’s. At the same time, we try (albeit not now hard enough!) to minimize abortion by requiring counseling, making adoption easier, and giving poor people help in prenatal advising and care.

That, it seems to me, is about the best we can do. We Americans are a practical people. When we differ on abstractions, we try to agree on practical solutions to our problems. At least we have in the past.


In matters of public policy, it’s always helpful to analyze the consequences of alternatives. What would happen if proponents of criminalizing abortion got their way? What would happen if they found their “holy grail” and overturned Roe v. Wade?

The immediate effect would be the demise of a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. Each state and the federal government would be free to criminalize abortion fully, partially or not at all.

The lack of anything remotely resembling a national consensus today would make outlawing abortion nationwide extremely unlikely. As time went on, however, some states would probably outlaw abortion within their own borders. Then a patchwork of state laws would arise, with different restrictions in every state.

Undoubtedly states like California, Illinois, Oregon, New York and Washington would still permit abortions. Some states in our nation’s interior would not. Canada and Mexico City still would. So women wanting abortions and having the means to travel would still be able to get them—the more easily the closer they lived to our permissive states or to our borders. Poor, ill informed and immobile women in restrictive states would be the ones affected by the prohibition.

Some poor women unable to travel would forsake abortion and give live birth. Others would try illegal channels or “self help,” often injuring or killing themselves in the process. A small but nonnegligible portion of health-care income would migrate from no-abortion states to legal-abortion states. Some “pro-choice” doctors might relocate to legal-abortion states, and some “pro-life” doctors might relocate to stricter states. As international statistics have shown, the rate of abortion in general would be unlikely to change significantly.


What strikes me most about this scenario is how puny are the results. After four decades of passionate struggle and activism, this is the very most the pro-criminalization (“pro-life”) movement could be expected to achieve: a pyrrhic legal victory, a small decrease in the abortion rate and a balkanization of American abortion rules and medical practice.

If I were adamantly against abortion, I would not spend my energy, let alone much of my life, in so futile an endeavor. Rather than work hard to criminalize abortions and control others’ behavior through criminal law, I would write, speak and set up institutions to support women bearing unwanted children and to promote adoption, so as to influence others’ behavior and encourage young girls with unwanted pregnancies to give birth. I would create far less heat and do far more good.

Similar considerations apply on the other side. Those who adamantly support women’s freedom fail to recognize that the worst outcome for them (a uniform federal prohibition) is extremely unlikely. Realistically speaking, the worst (from their perspective) that can happen is a national balkanization, in which most of the big, industrial states still permit abortion and some of the small, rural, religions ones do not. That’s the greatest restriction that our form of government and present demographics would allow. The zealous advocates of abortion rights should ask themselves whether avoiding this sort of inconclusive, partial restraint is worth so much political energy and social discord.

And therein lies the greatest tragedy of our abortion mess. It is not just the effort wasted in seeking to control others’ behavior through criminal law, or in seeking to avoid criminal sanctions that would never be more than limited, partial and localized. It is the utter neglect of problems far more important to our nation’s welfare, our own lives, our childrens’ future, and perhaps our nation’s very survival.

While we were passionately debating abortion, our nation began sliding down the slippery slope of decline. We are waging two wars, both badly. One we never should have started. The other, if it runs on too long, may ultimately determine whether one of our own cities goes up in nuclear fire. Our infrastructure is falling apart, bridges are literally falling down, and our air-traffic-control system is obsolete. We are spending over a billion dollars a day on foreign oil, and we are borrowing money to buy it. Our system of secondary education is falling behinds our competitors’, and our lead in college education is falling. We have the most inefficient and least fair health care system in the industrialized world. Our military-industrial complex is so bloated, inefficient and corrupt that it will have taken four years to write a contract for a new tanker plane. And, if you haven’t noticed, our economy is stalling, unemployment is rising, and our entire financial system is in jeopardy.

These are real problems. They affect each of us directly and personally, in our pocketbooks, our careers, our homes and our collective future. We expect our presidents and members of Congress to help solve these problems, and a few presidents have done just that.

In contrast, abortion affects only a small fraction of us: those who have or will have unwanted pregnancies and their loved ones. Furthermore, presidents have little power to control abortion; they best they can do is appoint people to the Supreme Court whom they hope will follow their political agendas. Members of Congress have virtually no influence on criminalizing abortion, precisely because there is no national consensus.

Yet as the comments below suggest, there are people who consider abortion an overarching issue and select candidates for president and Congress solely or primarily on that basis.

Under present circumstances, that sort of electoral decision is irrational. I find its lack of perspective breathtaking. It is something I have never been able to understand.

If you lived in a community with dilapidated streets, unreliable electric power, increasing crime, failing schools, a corrupt and lazy police force, and dishonest and nasty neighbors, would you stay there just because you agreed with your pastor’s religious views? Would you refuse to move to another, community—one vastly superior on all these measures—just because the pastor there didn’t share your views? That’s how irrelevant to practical issues of real life I find the political side of the abortion debate.


In his recent must-read book, True Enough, reporter Farhad Manjoo describes how ordinary people make decisions on complex matters of expertise. As numerous studies have shown, they evaluate opposing positions based on style, not substance. They assess the likeability, attractiveness and credibility of the messengers and may consider their credentials or expertise. Seldom, if ever, do they try to analyze what the messenger says or apply their own reasoning or common sense. Sometimes that’s the only realistic approach, for detailed understanding of experts’ positions often requires years of specialized training and study.

It seems to me that this phenomenon explains some, if not most, of the political importance of our abortion debate. The things that really matter in people’s lives—war, terrorism, energy, health care, schools, infrastructure, and the economy—have become too complex for most people to follow. They aren’t interested in and don’t have time for the details, and the experts’ constantly conflicting opinions confuse and trouble them. So they tune out and focus on things that seems “simple” to them, like a preference for “life” over “death” or women’s long struggle for equal opportunity and political power.

But unfortunately nothing in our modern world is simple. As I’ve tried to show in this essay, even the supposed biblical simplicity of the sanctity of life becomes complex when you look unflinchingly at the details, the unthinkable variety of circumstances in which the issue may arise, and the complicating effect of rapidly advancing medical technology. Simple abstract ideas no longer seem so pure and self-evident once you probe beneath their surface and gaze on truth full blown.

Yet so many people in our great land still spend so much time obsessing about abortion in the abstract, as if it were an issue divorced from the rest of human life. They read religious and political tracts. They try to gather statistics and facts to support their preconceived views, as commenter Sam apparently has done below. They argue and debate.

At the end of the day they have spent enormous energy on a subject that affects only a fraction of our population, only part of the time, and that politicians can do little about. If they spent as much time thinking and arguing about things that matter to all of us most of the time, and that political leaders can control, then we might be able to pull our nation out of its precipitous decline.


Here are the two comments that inspired this piece:

Comment 1: (posted 9/5/08 to my post Barack Obama’s “Inexperience”)

I just want to make sure everyone understands that John McCain has publically declared that he wants Roe vs. Wade overturned. With the likely new judge appointments this term he has a real shot at making this happen. He disguises this radical move by claiming he simply wants it to be a “states issue”.

This whole concept that clearly constitutional issues should somehow be resolved at the state level is ridiculous. It’s just smoke and mirrors to confuse you and make it seem like overturning very important decisions is “ok”. Don’t buy into the lies and deception. . . they KNOW these issues will end up right back in the highest court almost the second they are overturned. And guess what happens then, the court will HAVE to make a new decision. . . scary stuff when you know it’s being done for political reasons and not for the reasons of truely trying to intepret the consitution in the most intellectual way. There is a lot at stake in this election!!!

BTW, Obama got good experience :)


Comment 2: (Posted 9/6/08, to my post on Joe Biden)

I hope you will permit me to respond to your response, either here or through email. Time-wise I will take each topic separately from your reply.

In reference to your policy statement of women’s rights, You state, “I find other’s passionate intensity on the subject, pro and con, terrifying.” So do I.

Obama’s open advocacy for unrestricted abortion goes beyond any traditional discussion, as the facts detract considerably from what you portray to me and your reading audience.

Barack earned the highest rank of A+ from the National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood. Your man supports partial-birth abortion when the butcher punctures the skull and Hoovers (sucks) out the infants brain to ease the rest of the infant through the birth canal, only to be flushed away as waste.

Well, well, how does one counter the emphatic words of Mrs. Michelle Obama? She vowed her husband would fight the “tireless” fight to keep partial-birth abortion a “legitimate medical procedure!” True to form, Obama demonized the court for its attempts to deny women their equal rights on partial-birth death.

You say, “Barack Obama does not support infanticide and any form of abortion.” the facts explicitly contradict! During his time spent in the Ill. Senate he helped block, three times, bills that would protect an infant”s life, born-alive outside of the womb. Wow! A live breathing human being survivor should be thrown out with the waste and detrital simply to protect the mother’s mental health and abortion rights. Once the infant is in a cold pan, where is its right to live?

Should he treat the most susceptible as a mineral, a vegetable, but not as a species homo-sapien… human animal? This individual has no human rights? This individual whom cannot forage for nutrients nor protect itself from environmental insonsistencies, nor the wrath of like-mind Obamas. So much for individual rights after birth.

This is the same ‘audacity of hope’ who stated, “Oh, I have supported restrictions on Late Term Abortions many times.” No one has been able to locate those opinions, arguments, or votes!

I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.” Barack’s answer was given in response to. “At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?”

A human being has the ultimate right NOT to have an instrument shoved into its skull is beyond Barack Obama’s pay grade? Then what is it based on?

Obama was Chair of the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Comm. The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act was up for a vote and it defined a baby born-alive as a result of an abortion to be a human being deserving legal protection. Although the bill was written to guarantee a women’s right to choose was protected. So much for his knowledge of constitutional law - Barack Obama voted against the bill!

In 2001 Obama was the lone senator to speak out against SB 1095, that applied only against already born-alive premature infants. The fact remains there was NO conflict between right to legal abortion and the bill. The exact same bill went before the U.S. Senate and was passed 98 - 0!

Sen. Barbara Boxer, the highest ranking pro-choice advocate, stated the bill did not pose any threat to Roe v. Wade.

It is a shame of the man himself that history has dictated Barack Obama to be an extremist in support of ALL forms of abortion. To infirm and conclude history’s facts, Obama has gone to the extreme rationale of promising to a Planned Parenthood group in July, 2007, “the first thing” he will do as president - the utmost top priority - is to sign into law, the Freedom of Choice Act!!! (to restrict every & all federal and state laws on abortion - abolish all laws of informed consent to include parental consent - taxpayer funding of abortion - relegalize partial-birth abortion). And that’s his top priority as President of the United States? Gimme a break!

“...so he can concentrate on problems that the federal government can help solve, like Osama bin Laden, health care, our decaying infrastructure...” Sure looks like, talks like, walks like abortion on demand as his priority.

Instead of just explaining intelligently, you had to lower yourself to a childish priority of belittling and demeaning, using superlatives such as, “your ignorance”, “your self-righteousness and deminization”, “its absurd characterization”, “utter irrelevancy”, “evident lust”, “lack of humanity”, “factual ignorance”.

And last, why in the Sate of Illinois, and while Obama was a senator there, did “fetal tissue” need a birth certificate and then a death certificate?

Thank you for the opportunity to respond Mr Jay. I’ll clarify “despicable heathen enemies” in a few days.


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  • At Fri Sep 19, 10:41:00 PM EDT, Blogger CJCalgirl said…

    Dear Jay, As usual, your essays are a breath of reason in a wasteland of useless rhetoric. My contribution is simple. I have given birth to a wonderful daughter who is handicapped (probably due to vaccinations) since she was 'normal' until she was 18 months old, have had a miscarriage, and have been faced with an unexpected pregnancy that required me to make the unfortunate decision to abort.
    Fortunately, Roe v. Wade existed for THIS pregnancy, and as a single parent, I was not facing the decision to become a criminal, or face further economic hardship giving birth would have given me. This pregnancy occurred simply because a doctor told me it was unlikely I would get pregnant again, and even though it was a difficult decision, I know I made the choice that provided the security my existing child needed. You are correct, this is a complicated decision, but not a complicated issue. For each woman, every option should be available WITH
    OUT judgement from anyone else on the planet. As a thinking feeling human as well as a mother I know personally how tough this decision is. I do not fear we will lose this right even though extremists on each side are vociferous in their rhetoric. What I do fear, is the simplistic, shrill, and jingoistic propaganda that tries to pass for intelligent debate. Thanks again.

  • At Sat Sep 27, 10:50:00 AM EDT, Blogger jay said…

    Dear CJCalgirl,

    Thank you for your poignant and persuasive comment.

    I wish other women would post similar comments. Then maybe men (who are the chief proponents of absolute positions on this issue) could see how agonizing and quintessentially personal these decisions are. They also might begin to understand that a single, absolute, abstract rule for infinitely variable circumstances would fall far short of any kind of human justice.

    I also wish both sides of the debate would be more practical. No matter what happens, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will never be illegal in every state—not in my lifetime, not in yours. Women who make the difficult decision to abort will always have that option somewhere in the U.S. And travel within our country is neither difficult nor particularly expensive, whether by air or bus. You don’t even need a passport.

    So people who make this issue a “litmus test” for voting are essentially throwing away their vote. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues its sixth year, bin Laden lives, Al Qaeda thrives, we face a repeat of the Great Depression, millions are losing their homes and jobs, we are paying over $10 billion a day for foreign oil, and our infrastructure continues to fall apart.

    Religious folk should also consider the practical consequences of enforcing their religious values by law. We have the world’s safest multiethnic society for all religions precisely because we don’t allow any one to dominate. In contrast, religious and ethnic violence occur regularly in India (Hindu on Muslim, and vice versa), Russia (Christian on Muslim, and vice versa), Indonesia (Muslim on Chinese), and Iraq (Sunni on Shiite, and vice versa), among many others.

    If you think life in your neighborhood is difficult now, imagine what it would be like if your neighbors of different faiths were out to kill you. That’s what happens when people take absolutely contrary positions on religious ground and refuse to compromise. That’s the underlying source of Al Qaeda’s and the Taliban’s menace.

    After a millennium or religious wars (a repeat of which, with nuclear weapons, could extinguish humanity), we Americans discovered the secret of religious harmony. We let all religions practice their faiths freely, but we allow no one to dominate or dictate to the others. Why subvert the principle that has made us the strongest, freest and most envied society on Earth?

    The future of our nation is at stake in this election, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with religion. Unless a majority of voters can understand that point, we may miss the last best chance to save the last best hope of Earth.



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