En Tequila Es Verdad/progressive conservatism/post/2009/01/26/1822

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January 26, 2009 6:22 PM - Woozle

Woozle said...

Abortion Thread

Looking at your graphs and the source data:

Some notes:

1. The first time-slot is "1977-92", so presumably this is the total number of incidents across those 16 years. This might make it appear that levels of activity have come down significantly since then, but if I'm reading this right there was actually a spike in 1993.

You left 1977-92 off your graphs entirely, which is a reasonable way of dealing with the problem, but this also hides the fact of the spike -- which isn't to say you've distorted the data; I'm just pointing out the apparent existence of the spike.

I suspect anti-Clinton backlash was a large contributing factor -- and we may yet see a similar anti-Obama backlash effect.

2. I don't think it's fair to say that "Abortion clinic violence is almost non-existent these days." Just looking at the "assault & battery" numbers, there was a major dip in 2008 (many of the figures declined sharply that year) -- but the numbers for the previous two years are higher than ever. What will we see this year?

3. We agree that there should be more careful and balanced analysis. Here's a quick graph of several key incident types, normalized, and with the earliest and latest figures corrected for time-span -- just as a first hack at getting a clearer picture of the patterns.

"True ‘violence’ meaning someone injured or an attempt to injure them is at the lowest levels since the early 1990’s." Just looking at actual "assault & battery", this is only true if you look only at last year (2008). The figures for 07 and 06 were higher than any other years, by a good margin.

"Obama’s position of unlimited access puts him in a group of just 9% of Americans."

Exactly where has Obama stated this as his position, or given any indication by word or deed that he supports it?

"I still don’t see anything that supports a claim that abstinence-only actually increases the number of pregnancies."

Do the math:
1. Abstinence-only causes no reduction in the amount of sex.
2. Abstinence-only causes a reduction in the amount of contraception used.

I don't have any numbers which directly show an increase, but neither are there any numbers showing no increase (or a decrease). I think what this indicates is that the question has not been asked (as far as actually getting some data) -- possibly because the answer is dead obvious, but I really don't know.

This is now the only question on my list to ask Guttmacher, which I hope to get to soon.

"To support that claim that would mean that kids with no education of any kind would actually have less pregnancies than kids with abstinence-only."

We're not talking about the effect of ABE vs. no sex ed at all; we're talking about ABE vs. proper sex ed. Even ABE might have a slight positive impact over no sex ed at all.

No, I do not want to leave out abstinence altogether; I think I specifically said that any decent sex-ed program will cover it and emphasize that it is by far the most reliable way to prevent pregnancy.

"In the mind of a pro-lifer that is akin to giving someone the ‘moral choice’ of murdering their next door neighbor."

What if she feels differently? Would she consider it a "gift"? But I'm venturing into personal territory here, and I don't need to go there just to score a point... and she may well agree with you.

"In the case of abortion ‘easier’ is the primary motivation for most abortions i.e. their life would be ‘easier’ without an unwanted pregnancy."

If a particular choice would be easier, that automatically makes "ease" the primary reason for doing it? Farblegarp. Just because something is easy doesn't automatically mean it isn't also the best choice for other reasons.

And you're again implying that there's minimal emotional cost to getting an abortion. For many women, the economic "ease" is greatly offset by the emotional pain of losing a potential child. Anti-abortionists would choose to translate this potential child into an actual child whom those women are killing, thus making it even more difficult to make a rational choice.

"But I do believe that people assume risk when they have sex for fun and they should accept the results."

Fair enough -- so it really comes down to whether any particular abortion (with all its attendant details -- how old the fetus is, what the circumstances were) is a moral crime, and if so how severe.

I'd like to see a lot more examination of individual (even hypothetical) cases and circumstances, rather than broad dismissal. (Both sides are guilty of this to some extent.)

"The murderer has free will to not commit the murder… the unborn child has someone else’s will imposed on them."

What if the death-row inmate is innocent? It seems to happen on a regular basis that new technology solves an old murder, and suddenly the guy (or gal... remember Bush's "please don't kill me!" mockery?) they were going to execute for it can't possibly have done it -- and yet conservative politicians will refuse to grant a pardon or argue for a new trial because we've got to be "tough on crime". WTF??

"I guess it depends on where we draw the line. Do you put most ‘liberals’ in the 9% group that favors no abortion restrictions or in the 82% that would allow some restrictions? Are those allowing restrictions true liberals or centrists/moderates?"

I think most liberals are simply in favor of keeping Roe v. Wade, providing public funding for abortions in the first trimester (and for threats to the mother's health in later weeks), and not requiring parental notification for teen pregnancies. (Checking the polls would give more reliable data than just asking me what I think liberals think, however.)

"...but I do believe that many people who seek abortion see it as Step 2 if Step 1 fails, meaning they have already accepted abortion as a solution beforehand."


"Ummmm…yeah. We generally don’t believe that a broken condom releases someone of their moral obligation."

What moral obligation is this, again? A moral obligation to make sure that a microscopic blob of protoplasm becomes a fully-fledged human being? Why stop there -- what about a couple's "moral obligation" to give every ovum that same opportunity? Why don't sexually-active women have a "moral obligation" to take fertility drugs, to maximize the chance that they have twins or triplets? How dare they use contraceptives and let those precious Eggs of Life go to waste! (This is, of course, essentially the Catholic position. "Every sperm is sacred...")

Abortion is an emergency backstop, if the primary method fails -- yes. That's what it's for.

You see harm in this policy; I don't. Sometimes, we just don't want another kid in the world.

However, my understanding was that you're willing to compromise on the legality of first trimester abortions, even so. This may be part of a viable solution.

I'm not sure where you stand on public funding, and I think I've gathered that you prefer parental notification for teens.

Political compromise aside, we still will never agree on the underlying morality -- and the arguments between "pro-lifers" and "pro-choicers" will continue -- unless you are willing to reconcile your beliefs with objective reality.

This whole discussion started because you claimed Progressive Conservatives were more flexible -- willing to compromise -- on this issue than are liberals.

Perhaps you're right: you seem to be more willing than I am to compromise your ethical beliefs for political expediency. What is the good that you hope to accomplish by such compromise?

I suspect that one of the gains is that it saves you from opening up your beliefs to rational examination, saves you from the risk of finding that they actually do more harm than good. You can still cling to those beliefs, but wave the banner of being flexible and willing to compromise whenever they are challenged.

You compromise politically in order to ensure the survival of your rationally untenable beliefs. This may be the essence of conservatism.

Your beliefs seem to be based on verbal rules -- "life begins at conception", "killing an innocent person is always wrong; killing a murderer is ok". Liberals tend to form their beliefs on the basis of what seems most likely to accomplish larger goals (aka principles) -- such as "doing whatever causes the least harm" -- and the resulting beliefs are always accountable to those goals.

A liberal might believe, for example, that legalizing abortion up to the moment of birth was the best option -- but if you could show that this causes greater harm than good, a rational liberal will change that belief.

Which is not to say that there are no reasonable grounds for compromise even if we can't agree on principles.

For example: it might be worth it for pro-choicers to agree to a set of permanent restrictions on abortion if all the anti-abortion groups will agree to a "ceasefire" -- stop campaigning to further reduce abortion rights, reduce their "practically nonexistent" attacks on abortion clinics to actual nonexistence, stop spreading lies and distortions to win more uninformed warm bodies to their cause, and start working for solutions which reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

That might sound like "political expedience", but it does benefit the people who would be paying most of the cost (i.e. pregnant women wanting abortions), so it might be a fair trade, depending on the details. I don't think we'll be likely to agree to anything more restrictive overall than what we have now, however.

"My understanding from friends who have adopted is that they assume all financial burden. That’s partially why it is a very expensive process because you can’t claim the birth mother on your health insurance (‘progressive companies’ could get big brownie points from changing this policy for their workers)."

I agree that this would be a good and progressive solution. I can't imagine any principled liberal being against it, either. I'd also favor changing the insurance laws so that the adoptive child is counted as a member of the adoptive family as soon as there's a contract for the adoption. If you focus on pushing for solutions like these, you can truly be called "progressive" and "conservative" at the same time -- and you're likely to get much more sympathy from liberals.

I suppose adoptive parents are forbidden to offer prospective abortion clients bonuses (beyond just medical care expenses) for not aborting. Perhaps even allowing the kid to stay with the biological mother, but with visitation rights or something (all these bits can be part of the final negotiated price).

Obviously this might lead to a pattern of women "holding fetuses hostage" for more money if it weren't carefully regulated... but it seems like the sort of "free market" solution which ought to appeal to a Progressive Conservative. You want more fetuses to become babies? Put your money where your mouth is. Take away the "I can't afford to go to college if I have this baby" excuse; make it "I can't afford to go to college unless I have this baby."

But I really don't think you can call your position "progressive" if all you're doing is working to roll back hard-won freedoms. "Progress" is positive change -- change which makes people's lives easier and better -- not increasing restrictiveness.