Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How can we trust James Dobson to interpret the Bible

when he can't even comprehend a couple of simple Barack Obama sentences?

Here's what Barack Obama said, according to this CNN article:

Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount? So before we get carried away, let's read our Bible now. Folks haven't been reading their Bible.

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values. It requires their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason.

Here is a portion of Dobson's response. As you read, consider this: What part of Obama's speech contains these suggestions?

Dobson said the suggestion is an attempt to lead by the "lowest common denominator of morality."

"Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?" he asked. "What he's trying to say here is, unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.

"What the senator is saying there, in essence, is that 'I can't seek to pass legislation, for example, that bans partial-birth abortion, because there are people in the culture who don't see that as a moral issue,' " Dobson said. "And if I can't get everyone to agree with me, than it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture. Now, that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."

I've read both of these quotes multiple times, and nowhere does Obama say anything LIKE what Dobson says he says. Obama merely says that religiously-based arguments (like pro-life arguments), when brought into the public sphere, need to be based in morality that is understandable/palatable to non-Christians as well. This is absolutely possible for any issue, including arguments to ban abortion. A pro-lifer merely needs to make statements/arguments about when life begins, about how we ought to treat those who are dependent on others, and even about the gruesomeness, cruelty, and possible pain to the fetus that may be caused by late-term partial-birth abortion.

Believe it or not, it is possible to have a reasoned discussion about the abortion issue. (Of course, there hasn't been one in this country in years--which is why I hate virtually everyone on both sides of the issue.) Obama's suggestion would actually both increase and improve discussion about this and many other issues, which is always good for a democracy. Some of the arguments I suggest above are winners and some are losers, but they're all morally and philosophically based rather than exclusively based on religion. I bet Dobson could handle saying any of them--and Obama would welcome hearing them.

But the point here is that never--not even once--does Obama say Dobson cannot pursue laws based on his religious beliefs. Anyone with an eighth-grade reading level can see that.

I'm assuming James Dobson is a smart guy with impeccable reading ability. Unfortunately, that means that his words are an intentional obfuscation rather than a demonstration of mere misunderstanding. And that's too bad, because while the latter is a mistake, the former is a sin by any reading of the Ten Commandments.

The man is bearing false witness against his neighbor.


realsupergirl said...

Actually, I think Dobson understood Obama just fine. Yes, he's trying to reduce him down to soundbytes and catch phrases, but I think he's got him right - and the problem is, he doesn't get it.

Democracy DOES, in fact, require finding a "lowest common denominator" or morality. That is the only way for democracy to work. Anything else inevitably leads to oppression.

Does it mean people can't try and legislate their beliefs? No. But it does mean that when a decision has been made - a Supreme Court decision, in particular - their democratic duty is to back to fuck off. This country is not THEIRS, but OURS. And that means they don't get to set the moral common denominator, they have to negotiate it with all of us Jews, queers, atheists, polygamists, etc with whom he does not share common values. Because the definition of democracy is living with people with whom you fundamentally disagree as one nation.

TeacherRefPoet said...


By this logic, nobody ever challenges Plessy vs. Ferguson. It's our duty to "back the fuck off" when faced with a Supreme Court decision, right?

Obama is stating that discussion about big moral issues is a good thing, provided it's couched in non-religious terms. In other words, it's in the "negotiation" you talk about. Some ideas shift, some stay the same, and some become law.

I think the definition of democracy isn't nearly living with people you disagree with...it's talking with them. Obama is correctly saying that this must happen in non-overtly-religious terms. You're saying the same. That's different from your demand that people stop talking about issues that have been "decided" (which nothing ever is, I think).

realsupergirl said...

I think I agree with you and Obama on this.

But the point I was trying to make is that it is not that Dobson doesn't understand what Obama is saying - he understands just fine. He has a very different expectation of what this country should be, how it should run - one that undermines the very foundations of this great American experiment in democracy. And he's not the only one.

Joe said...

I'd like to suggest that this example gives you a really good opportunity to put on Dobson's shoes and walk around for a minute.

(And not feel like you have to burn your feet off afterward.)

Another way to think about this is the definition of what "democracy requires". Obama and all of us are on the same page that it requires us to get past mere identity politics and make appeals to reason and shared values, whatever their source.

But there are a great many people on both sides of the religious spectrum who see a belief in America that you're just not allowed to talk about religion in politics. Period, full stop. "Democracy requires" that religious people hide it and talk in code.

That should be scary. It should worry us any time we hear someone told that a part of their identity is out of bounds for political discussion.

How can I evaluate your argument if you're not allowed to tell me where it comes from? I'll admit to having a problem with Obama's word "translate" - I'd have preferred something like "expand" or "connect."

And I bring this all up because I think it's important to consider how afraid Dobson and the other modern-day Pharisees are. They think they've been cut out of the debate. They look for evidence of it everywhere. And drawing other people into their paranoia is a major source of their power.

If we want to stop Dobson and his ilk, we have to engage them. And to engage them, we have to understand them.

Paula said...

I believe that life begins at conception. I'm also pretty sure that I live in a society where collateral damage is acceptable under some circumstances. It has always seemed to me that the real issue is adequate sex education in school and accessibility of safe, reliable contraception. I would argue that Dobson's objections to these two things prohibit him from taking the title pro-life.

TeacherRefPoet said...

Joe, your point is on the money--I think Dobson and other passionate fundamentalists (is there any other kind?) don't like Obama's central tenet that we can't make religious arguments central in our political debates. The only thing I disagree with is RSG's statement that Dobson -correctly- interpreted Obama's statement when he essentially said Obama argues that he's not allowed to fight for what he believes AT ALL. RSG...what in Obama's quote says that? That's why I accuse Dobson of intentionally skewing Obama's statements. Obama never said that--because he doesn't believe it. He even has taken the step of walking over to anti-abortion picketers at his speeches, listening to them, and inviting them in to hear him speak. Theater? Maybe. But even as theater, it's light years ahead of where we've been on this and many other issues.

Paula makes a great point that the "pro-life" lobby only seems to want to protect us until birth (except for Terri Schiavo). That bugs me too. I try to value life at all times. But your excellent points find no purchase in our current atmosphere, and I think some of it is due to the centrality and overtness of religion to the argument.

Joe, saying that religion is where an argument or philosophy got its start in someone's head--well, I'm not sure anyone, even the most hard-line secularist, would be bothered by that. But the structure of the argument after that, says Obama and says me, needs to be couched in a different type of morality. That feels like "translation" to me, but to be honest, I don't feel like too much is lost in the translation. But then, I'm not a fundamentalist.

realsupergirl said...

I am not disagreeing that Dobson skewed Obama's comments - but that's politics. And perfectly fair game in a democracy.

What I was speaking was the fundamental underlying problem I see with integrating the religious right into American democracy. They don't want to be a part of democratic process - they want to change the game entirely. But Joe's point is well-taken - they are doing so by coming from a position of pseudo-oppression - that is, they have been somehow "cut out" of the debate. I don't buy this, any more than I buy white men on talk radio complaining about how oppressed they are if they have trouble finding a job, but it's important to acknowledge that this is what they think.

Abortion is a great example of how democracy has to work. People who are anti-abortion want to infringe on other people's rights to do what they want with their bodies. You can believe what you want about abortion - I personally think it's a pretty traumatic experience for many women, but also see it as vital and lifesaving for most women who choose it - but that doesn't give you the right to tell anyone else what they can do with their own body.

And the Supreme Court affirmed this. This is one of a myriad of issues where the religious right need to back off and accept that we live in a democracy - not a theocracy - and that means living with things you find morally repugnant.

TeacherRefPoet said...

RSG--Thanks for the comment. I have more later (right now I'm at a lunch break at an in-service), but I so passionately disagree with your last statement that I have to comment now.

You say that living in a democracy "means living with things you find morally repugnant." Sorry, but this is 100% off. A democracy gives us an opportunity to change things we find morally repugnant, whether for religious or other reasons.

Case in point:

"I'm sorry, Dr. King. I know you find racial segregation morally repugnant, but it's been settled by the Supreme Court in Plessy vs. Ferguson. Besides, your reasons are religiously based (you're a reverend, after all). We don't live in a theocracy, so you need to live with this thing you find morally repugnant."

Or how about this:

"I'm sorry, women of the 1970s. I know you find anti-abortion laws morally repugnant, but you have to learn to live with it. The law is very clear on this."

If people did not fight against what they find morally repugnant, well, there wouldn't be Roe v. Wade, civil rights legislation, gay marriage in two states, or any number of other positive developments. That's why I find your off-base statement so surprising.

The hard part is saying that people have a right--an obligation, even--to fight against that which they find morally repugnant EVEN WHEN THEY DISAGREE WITH YOU. And, like it or not, they do.

More later--

swankette said...


Anti-abortionists do not want to infringe on other people's rights, they want to protect life. They are not trying to tell people what they can do with their own body, they are trying to say that they do not have the right to make decisions for the other life that they are carrying at the time.

And there are PLENTY of instances where the Supreme Court has later been determined to be wrong (Plessy v Ferguson anyone?) or where I WISH they had been determined to be wrong (President Bush, anyone?). You can't make the argument that the Supreme Court is infallible on an issue that you are passionate about, without also saying they are infallible on these other issues as well.

For democracy to work BOTH SIDES have to listen to each other and hear what they have to say.

And here's where Obama has it right, and Dobson has it wrong in my opinion. It reminds me of a religion/philosophy class I took in high school. We were in small groups having a discussion on the morality of certain actions. We were discussing drinking - I think - and one of the fundamentalist Christians in the group said it was wrong and when questioned why could only parrot back a verse from the bible. An atheist friend pushed the issue as to WHY said fundamentalist believed this, and was never able to get farther than the bible verse.

When it comes to the big points of morality I think most reasonable people, regardless of their religion (or lack thereof) are on similar pages:
Murder - bad
Stealing - bad
Being nice to other people - good

The exact motivation for these beliefs and how we outwardly express our beliefs may differ, but those basic ideas are all pretty much there.

What Obama is saying (in my opinion) is that we need to focus on these bigger issues when having these moral debates.

Pro-life people feel abortion is murder. People agree murder is bad. That's where the argument should begin, not by spouting off Bible verses or how God loves the children or crap like that.

Pro-choice people feel infringing on an individual's rights are bad. Within this country people agree that's bad, it's what this country was founded on - at least in a grade school history class sort of way. That's where the argument should begin, rather than focusing on how they don't want others' religion and beliefs shoved down their throats.

If people start arguing from these broader points, that we all can agree on, it will be a lot easier to find the common ground. That's why Obama's my political boyfriend and I desperately want him to be President.

TeacherRefPoet said...

I 100% agree with RSG that Dobson and his crew want to change the game and move the Bible to the center of our political life. We can't do that, obviously. But that doesn't mean they don't get to state--even to shout--their opinions. Obama's statement simply says that, within the halls of government, religion cannot be central to the argument. (He also says why, pointing out that there are disagreements in interpretation of the Bible and any other sacred texts.) And I agree with RSG that this is unacceptable in a democracy, and that this is what makes it scary.

I also disagree that it's fair to skew others' words in a democracy. Dobson is willfully advancing a misinterpretaion and a lie here. Conversation and information feeds a democracy. Lies and misinformation kill it.

As to Joe's point that those who are religious don't like being asked to deny that part of themselves in their public discourse, I tend to agree with him. It's certainly not a problem on the level of racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, or about ten thousand other problems, but I don't like how I have to apologize for my religious beliefs. This might have to become a post of its own because it's such a complex matter...but, among my smart secular friends, the fact that I believe in God--and that Jesus was him--is viewed as offensive when I say it, in the same way Christians recoiled to "Piss Christ." This is strange...I wouldn't get that response if I were Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, or even Wiccan. But saying "Hey! I like church!" actually, honestly seems to offends a good chunk of liberal Americans. I think this is at the root of Dobson's misguided rant. I'll get to more of this later in the still-nascent religion post.

The ONLY solution is honest discussion between people who can disagree and be respectful simultaneously. I haven't seen any of the leaders on either side of the issue who are capable of doing this. Dobson shows his incivility here, but the pro-choice lobby is equally guilty. So I don't think this is going to happen in my lifetime.

TeacherRefPoet said...


I just saw the post on your blog that links here. What you said there--that we have to learn to live with things we find morally disagreeable--is true...and different from what you said here (that you shouldn't have the right to fight against it). That difference is wording leads to a significant difference in meaning, and I wanted to foreground that. Strange as it sounds, I agree with what you wrote there, and disagree here.

GrigorPDX said...

I'm probably oversimplifying things, but I think democracy requires two interrelated things:

A desire to cooperate with others and tolerance.

For democracy to work, the various sides of an issue must be willing to cooperate and to accede to the decision even if one is on the losing end. Simultaneously, one must be willing to tolerate things one finds disagreeable or the whole system falls apart.

Dobson and his ilk are neither tolerant nor willing to cooperate. In their world, we either accept their rigid dogma and do as they demand or we are their enemy. There is no middle ground or opportunity for compromise.

How can democracy exist in a political climate where negotiation is "accept our demands or get out", disagreement equivalent to treason, and the concept of a "loyal opposition" cannot exist?

TeacherRefPoet said...

Good points, Greg. You describe Dobson's fundamentalism perfectly.

It's important to point out that you're also describing the more dogmatic wing of the Democratic party. Those who attacked General Petraeus absolutely made "disagreement equivalent to treason" and advanced an idea that one who opposes them are not loyal, good Americans (or even good people). Do passionate Democrats believe a good person can be anti-abortion? I really don't think so. The thought process is actually similar to that of a fundamentalist practitioner of a religion. Smug my-way-or-highway dogma is not the exclusive domain the right. It's just more visible because they're in power right now. I pray we're able to be more tolerant of those who disagree with us when the tables turn. I'm not always confident we will be.

realsupergirl said...

Obviously, I am not saying people should not have the right to challenge that they think is wrong in a court of law. Glad we got that cleared up. ;)

In re: abortion, I am not sure what actions pro-choice folk have done to offend you. Anti-abortion folk have become violent, insulting, and spread misinformation. While I am sure pro-choice people are not perfect, and can be zealous in their beliefs, I haven't heard much about things they've done to compare.

I think that SCIENCE should be the determining factor in the abortion discussion, as in the discussion about stem cell research and teaching "creationism" as though it were science.

Fetuses cannot live outside the womb on their own until very late in pregnancy. This fact should negate any discussion about whether their "life" is more important than the woman who is carrying them. Late term abortions, which are rare (because they are dangerous to the woman) are only done when absolutely medically necessary.

Personally, I'd like to see a world when abortion is rare - but safe and legal. If the religious right truly was invested in preventing abortions, they would be supporting sexual education, since it has been proven over and over again that abstinence-only education does not work.

GrigorPDX said...

"Smug my-way-or-highway dogma is not the exclusive domain the right."

I agree completely. While I would place myself on the far left of the spectrum, those smug, latte-sipping, sanctimonious liberals like Nader annoy me nearly as much as the right wingnuts. The only reason they bother me less than the so-called "Moral Majority" is that their dogma is slightly less personally invasive and destructive to my civil rights.

Regardless, while I find myself to the left of most of the Democratic Party, I do not consider myself a radical. I am perfectly willing to live and work with people I disagree with and compromise with them on matters of policy in the interest of peaceful coexistence - a trait completely lacking in radicals of any stripe.

Hey you radicals out there: It's called "civilization" ... you barbarians should try it sometimes. It's rather pleasant.

swankette said...

RSG - not everyone who is against abortion is violent, insulting and spreading misinformation. And not everyone who is against abortion is a member of the religious right who is against sex education in school and the like.

More moderate voices don't speak up, because of the way they get lumped into the extremist opinion by pro-choice folks.

You make some valid points as to why abortion should be legal, but yours are not the only opinions out there. And the loud voices from the religious right are not the only anti-abortion voices out there, but as long as pro-choice folks lump all anti-abortion folks into one camp the more moderate voices won't be heard.

TeacherRefPoet said...


You call for science to give us a definition of when life begins. I'm not sure it can.

But this is a HUGE philosophical/ethical (not scientific) debate that neither side seems to want to have reasonably--because neither side seems to want to acknowledge that the other has valid points worth considering.

So let's do it. Let's have a reasoned discussion about when life begins.

As I see it, the anti-abortion side has three points that make at least as much sense to me as yours do. Can you tell me why your definitions of "life" and "baby" are better than theirs?

You give your own definition of life as beginning when an embryo/baby (depending on who you ask) can "live outside the womb on their own."

Well, your definition of "life" is totally acceptable. But it's not science--when has science defined "life" this way? can you cite a scientist?--and it's not without problems.

Babies can't "live on their own outside the womb" for at least 3-4 years after birth. Are they "people"? Are they "alive?"

Very elderly people can't always "live on their own." Neither can people on dialysis, people under anesthetic, people with procedures as simple as pacemakers, etc. There are key differences between them and early-stage fetuses, of course...most notably where they live. But capability of living on their own, which you seem to forward as the definition of "life," is not one of those differences. To convince me your definition is better, you'll either need to adapt it or to tell me why this anti-abortionists' definition is less valid.

For the second alternative definition of life and when it begins, let's go another scientific direction. Wouldn't one definition of a living being be something that is not dead and is the owner of its own, unique DNA? And wouldn't this include babies from the moment of conception? How is this an invalid definition of "life"?

The third argument is more intuitive and language-based. As a fellow poet, I'm sure you'll agree that words are critically important, so stick with me through this one.

Every parent-to-be I have ever known--whatever their take on the abortion debate--has referred to their child-to-be using the word "baby." No exceptions--not ever. In fact, it was during my very pro-choice brother and sister-in-law's first pregnancy that I went from solidly pro-choice to my current view (which I'd say is somewhere in the middle...but, like the issue itself, my view is too complex to sum up with a simple term one way or the other.) Some things I heard (and I'm sure you have too): "We had an ultrasound, and we saw the baby for the first time!" (This at about two months gestation, usually.) "Honey, I can feel the baby move!" (This at about 4-5 months gestation.)

Words matter. People instinctively refer to their unborn child-to-be using the word "baby." When the day comes for Swankette and me, we'll call it a baby. When the day comes for Kaphine and you, you'll call it a baby. I'd bet a C-note on it for either one of us. This isn't meant as an attack on you--it's just a prediction based on a lifetime of observing expectant parents. If either one of us wind up using the word "fetus" in the above sentences, we'd be the sole exception to that rule in my experience.

So let's expand this a bit and consider what this use of the word "baby" means in a broader sense. The way we use the word reveals that we refer to the -wanted- unborn using the word "baby" and refer to the -unwanted- unborn using the word "fetus." It means that we are, through our language, doing nothing less than deciding who human beings are. And even a cursory glance at history shows that people can't be trusted in that position. When people arbitrarily decide who is human and who isn't--who is wanted and who isn't--disaster always follows. And yet, with our language, we are doing exactly that.

But I've gone a little far afield.

To get back to the question at hand...when does life begin?

I really, really don't know.

But with so much (something might be a living person, or might not) at stake, I'm inclined to err on the side of caution and act as if life begins at conception.

I'm enjoying the civil discussion about abortion, since I didn't think one was possible. Do you have anything beyond what you've said that might convince me life begins sometime after conception? Do you see any shortcomings in the arguments here?

TeacherRefPoet said...

I missed another key question of yours, RSG, and sorry for that.

Re: "What has the pro-choice lobby done that's so bothersome?"

Well, they certainly haven't murdered anyone as a lunatic couple of "pro-lifers" have. (A murdering pro-lifer? Ugh.) But pro-choice rhetoric can be just as ugly as pro-life rhetoric.

Also, in my book, anyway, pro-choice protesters who hold up coat hangers are the equivalent of pro-life protesters who hold up pictures of fetuses. (The message: "Those who are anti-abortion are pro-hurting-and-killing-women." Classic false dilemma, and as cruel as any of them.)

And I had students a year and a half back researching for a paper on abortion who came upon a pro-choice website which foregrounded a grisly photo of a woman who had died in a botched back-alley abortion. That's the equivalent of the picture of a bloody fetus.

But, setting aside the extremes, pro-lifers generally are stereotyped by many pro-choicers as being either religious nut-jobs or woman-haters. Those stereotypes are ugly, and certainly don't apply to all those who oppose abortion. Nobody likes being called a brainless God-follower or a woman-hater when they believe they are standing up for the helpless.

realsupergirl said...

I'm sorry, but comparing an unborn fetus to an elderly person, or a toddler, just makes your whole argument look a little ridiculous.

A fetus cannot survive on its own before a certain point in pregnancy. Not even for a day. Yes, if we abandoned a 3 year old and stopped feeding it, that child would probably perish. Eventually. But that is very different than a fetus who cannot survive outside the mother's body for even a few hours, or an elderly person who needs an in home nurse.

And just because people refer to their unborn fetus as a "baby" does not make it any less a fetus, biologically speaking. People also refer to their dogs, their cars, their computers as their "babies" too. Shall we start legislating that people are no longer able to throw their computers away or junk their cars? Come on.

There are rational, logical reasons to be uncomfortable with abortion. As I said, my goal would be to make it as close to unnecessary as possible. What people who are opposed to keeping it safe and legal seem to forget is that it is often a traumatic experience for the woman, and therefore not one most women would undergo lightly. Read Carol Gilligan's book In a Different Voice to understanding the complex moral decision-making process that women undertake when deciding whether to have an abortion. Moreover, criminalizing abortion does not eliminate it - it only makes it more life-threatening.

As far as pro-choice folk stereotyping anti-choice folk - well, yes, that does happen. It is a side effect of a situation the anti-choicers brought upon themselves. By attacking the women who are making the difficult choice to terminate a pregnancy, they eliminate any possibility for discussion. Who wants to talk about something with someone who is going to be so hateful? And since many people who are anti-choice and anti-abortion parrot the same things that are said by these nutjobs on the far end of the extreme, people react to them as if they are also nutjobs. But you know, that's what stereotyping is: reducing someone down to a "type" based on generalizations and assumptions.

TeacherRefPoet said...


As a writer, you understand satire--so your rhetorical move to conflate satire (people calling their computers "babies") and honesty (people calling their as-yet-unborn "babies") isn't satisfactory. Set aside satirical usage of the word--people know their computer isn't a baby. The same is not true of expectant parents. Look one in the eye and say "You know, that's not really a baby in the womb, right?" Actually, don't. I don't want you to be hurt!

So I'll need something else to convince me that the use of a word doesn't matter. It does.

Your adjustment of your definition of "unable to survive on its own" to "able to survive for at least a few hours on its own" is a legitimate choice. But I need a comparative analysis. Why is this a better definition of "alive" than, for example, "a being which possesses its own DNA and has its own biological processes"? People can reasonably disagree about this definition. It is NOT set in stone--and pro-choice people are every bit as fundamentalist and orthodox as pro-life people in their definitions. Hence the ugliness and stereotyping on both sides...which, regardless of the justifications and name-calling, pisses me off whoever is doing it. If we're a decent democracy, it has to stop.

The point here is not to get you (or anyone else) to change your mind. As I've said, I'm in the middle. The point is this:

Do you believe that reasonable people can be pro-life? Or do you believe they are all hopelessly wrong and terribly lost?

realsupergirl said...

I believe reasonable people can be anti-abortion. That is, reasonable people can believe abortion should be minimized as much as possible.

The bottom line is, whatever people believe about the lump of tissue and blood in a woman's uterus, what that woman does with that lump is up to her and her doctor and her partner.

I do not believe that "reasonable" people believe they have the right to control what someone else does with their body. Because even if you believe that someone is committing "murder" by choosing to abort, well, that's between a woman and her doctor. She might miscarry, which is just a natural abortion. She might wind up abusing and neglecting the child, which is much worse than her choosing to abort. She might wind up dying in childbirth, which is certainly much worse than choosing to abort. She might wind up giving birth to a severely disabled child, and have no access to medical care to treat that child, which could be much worse than choosing to abort. She might have been raped, and then have to see her rapist's face every time she feeds her child, which could be much worse than choosing to abort.

It is a private decision.

I don't want the government telling people they can't change their gender if they want to, getting plastic surgery if they want to, and I don't want them telling women they can't choose to abort if they want to.

TeacherRefPoet said...


What about the positive "she might"s? Why did you leave those off? Like "She might be adopted and become TRP's kid sister? She might be adopted and become TRP's wife?" Or even "she might choose to keep the baby and become a close friend of Kaphine and Swankette"? Can only -bad- things result from an unwanted pregnancy going to term? Aren't there also positive possibilities? Aren't they important to consider? Why do you ignore them?

In any event, that wasn't the central argument here. I intended to limit the scope of this argument to the central one of the issue--when does life begin. We haven't settled that issue (and, I believe, nobody can settle it).

In the end, the -only- thing that I think the pro-choice lobby needs to understand to humanize the other side is that they believe deeply that they are protecting the helpless. Just like liberals like you and me are interested in protecting the helpless in Darfur or Detroit, pro-lifers believe that the unborn are alive and helpless and need protection. That's all. I don't think it's hard to respect that--to say "I respect that, but to me, the needs of women, especially in extreme situations, need protection." Why doesn't this sentence--especially the first part--ever get uttered?

Incidentally, if you want to win people over to your side, "if it's murder, so be it, as long as it's between a woman and her doctor" might not be the best direction to go. Ditto with the "She might wind up giving birth to a severely disabled child, and have no access to medical care to treat that child, which could be much worse than choosing to abort." Both of these are not going to swell the pro-choice ranks. I'm wildly, wildly troubled that you indicate it's better to be unborn that to be born disabled without treatment. Sorry, but I can't let this statement go. The world would not be better off without the disabled people I know. Perhaps you know some disabled people in your world who you could make you reconsider that very troubling statement. For me, it's my nephew...who is it for you?

I think this discussion has run its course, so I'll leave it with something you said earlier: your notion that abortion should be "rare, but safe and legal." We totally agree. In fact studies show that a significant majority of Americans agree on that. I just wish we could have civil conversation that could lead us there rather than continuing to each side demonizing the other. I still don't see that happening--ever. Nobody in our democracy seems to want to listen or try to empathize with anyone they disagree with.

Anyhow, thanks for the talk, which, on the whole, I've enjoyed.

swankette said...


"Reasonable" people do agree that a woman has a right to control what happens to her own body. But, if a reasonable person defines life as a unique being with its own DNA and own processes (which, you still have not addressed as to why this is an unacceptable definition of "life") then the choice is no longer a woman deciding what happens to her OWN body, it is deciding what happens to the body that she is caring for until it is biologically able to care for itself.

As for your examples as to why abortion should be safe and legal:
1) While I know that miscarriages are medically termed abortions, I don't understand what one has to do with the other?
2) There are many pro-life people who feel that exceptions should be made for rape, incest, danger to the mother, etc.
3) The access to medical care is more a statement on health care in America than on the choice of whether or not to carry a child to term. And it starts a very slippery slope - what is a "valid" reason to abort a baby and what is an "invalid" reason? I never, ever, ever want to have to have that discussion as a society.

And all of this assumes that the mother chooses to keep the child once she's given birth. Why do pro-choice people never loudly and aggressively support adoption? Why is it always presented as a binary to which the options are keep the baby or abort? I know far too many people who have had to resort to going overseas or approaching strangers to inquire if they might know someone who might be interested in putting a child up for adoption.

Although, writing this is probably pointless since you have already made up your mind and are uninterested in exploring other opinions on the matter. You made that clear when you accused me, and everyone else who is pro-life, of "attacking women who are making the difficult choice to end a pregnancy." Yes, there are those that do that, but not all pro-life people do, and it is offensive of you to suggest such a thing.

realsupergirl said...

"And it starts a very slippery slope - what is a "valid" reason to abort a baby and what is an "invalid" reason? I never, ever, ever want to have to have that discussion as a society."

And that is precisely why I passionately disagree with any government restrictions on abortion. It should be a private, medical decision.

Swankette, I suspect you are taking this intellectual debate personally, and I am sorry if I have said things that hurt you. I'm not sure that how that happened. I don't know where these pro-choice people who are anti-adoption are, but that certainly has not been my experience at all. But it takes a certain amount of emotional maturity to carry a fetus to full term and then give it up for adoption, and not everyone can do that, even if it is their best interest.

As far as what you said, TRP, I am certainly not suggesting that disabled people should be aborted, or anything even close to that. I was, however, thinking about the fact that poor people get the brunt of all things, including less access to health care and less access to abortion. I have worked with hundreds of people (can't provide specifics, obviously, due to confidentiality) who are supporting families on less than 20K a year. I do not think they should be compelled to carry to full term and try to raise a child they do not want, cannot afford to raise, or which has medical needs they cannot get proper care for, unless of course they want to take this added burden on. But this is the position poor people are routinely put into by Catholic priests, anti-choice picketers, and even doctors who are working in the ubiquitous Catholic hospital system. The fact that all these people also refuse to talk to young, sexually active teenagers about condoms and birth control is, in my mind, medical malpractice.

TeacherRefPoet said...


Your two sentences, side by side:

"I am certainly not suggesting that disabled people should be aborted, or anything even close to that."


"She might wind up giving birth to a severely disabled child, and have no access to medical care to treat that child, which could be much worse than choosing to abort."

The second sentence says that aborting a poor disabled child is better than carrying it to term. There's just no other way to interpret it. Do you not stand by that sentence? It's okay if you don't...I've certainly written things I later regretted before.

I'm 100% with you on the contraception. But it seems to me that humane policies to help the poor are a better solution if you believe that life starts at conception (as many people legitimately do).

swankette said...

Of course I'm taking it personally - you're saying some pretty mean and hurtful things about me in your posts. If I categorized all pro-choice people as mentally ill raging lunatics you'd take that personally.

So what is it that you, as a pro-choice person, are doing to make sure abortion is minimized?

realsupergirl said...

I don't think I said anything directed at YOU - in fact, until you outed yourself in your last post as being pro-life, I was not sure what your position was.

I did not think I was addressing YOU when I criticized pro-life people who actively try to restrict women who choose to have abortions. While I gathered you and TRP have issues with abortion, I thought perhaps you were both of the more moderate position of disagreeing but not imposing on other people.

As far as what I "do" - I spend the better part of my days counseling adolescent girls on how to be responsible when/if they choose to become sexually active. Oh, and adolescent boys as well.

realsupergirl said...

TRP, my second sentence was meant to present a possible negative outcome, not to say that was always the outcome, or that it would always be negative.

One of the main points I've been trying to make in this discussion is that the radicals on the anti-abortion, anti-choice front are completely hypocritical in their simultaneous efforts to criminalize abortion, but also prohibit sex education and protect the lives of fully grown humans (you know, if they're glbt, if they're women choosing to have abortions, if they're in jail, etc, etc)

Does it mean everyone who is anti-abortion is hypocritical in this way? No. But as I have said, not everyone who is anti-abortion is anti-choice, and I think that is as important a linguistic distinction as the ones you're tried to make. Anti-choice is wanting to control women's bodies. Anti-abortion is believing abortion is wrong and trying to reduce it. The vast majority of the people in the "pro-life movement" are anti-choice. Some, however, are probably merely anti-abortion, and perhaps that is where you fall. I am not sure where Swankette falls.