Home | About | Donate

Turning the Tables on the Abortion Fight


#1

Turning the Tables on the Abortion Fight

Gloria Totten

Forty five years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision declared abortion a constitutional right, far too many are ready to compromise and give up women’s right to abortion. Columns in the New York Times, Daily Beast, Mother Jones suggest that it’s too late to save abortion access.


#2

I support access to abortion for women without reservation.

having said that, just a minor corrective here, Roe did not establish a right to abortion. Roe was a privacy decision specifically, much of the rationale taken from the Griswold case that preceded it by a few years.

It might seem like a small difference, given that the end result appears the same. But it’s not, because much of the foundation for reactionary attacks on abortion are framed to attack the actual substance of the decision—which was that states had no compelling interest to invade the privacy rights of women in their healthcare processes.

In other words, if it could be “proved” that states did, in fact, have a compelling interest, than abortion could be restricted. That concession was necessary in order for Blackmun to arrive at the trimester system he developed. Roe is, in most respects, a compromise decision.

Again, not that big of a deal, but it’s something that people should bear in mind where abortion rights come from in the Constitution.


#3

Women’s rights, men have no say!


#4

NO, we women have to fight for our rights, AGAIN


#5

I am disgusted by having so many nasty little men (and some demented women) crawling around my uterus. They are trespassing, and they clearly care nothing for my health or even my life. Do I, therefore, have the right to shoot them?


#6

I feel foolish to have never seen the issue put so clearly:

When it comes to healthcare, it is only women and women’s health that is legislated so forcefully. And it is only women’s health that is blatantly treated as a political issue.

I will henceforth try to remember that this (and, as @drone1066 so usefully points out, the lack of any government’s compelling interest in meddling with the private decisions of this small portion of the populace) is the only question. I will try not to engage with activists on the other side on any other factor. How does the privacy, agency, and health (physical, psychological, economic) of an autonomous person ever get trumped by some spurious interest of others or the state?


#7

They suggest the abortion-restriction forces have been running a smart, relentless, well-coordinated campaign that has been highly successful. That’s not the same thing.

“Some even argue that Democrats should give up the fight for once and all, for the sake of focusing on other priorities.”

Brooks was not saying Democrats should give up the fight for abortion access. He was only arguing that there is a political cost to defending unpopular late term abortions. And with certain kinds of late term abortions (specifically, those which are elective and medically unnecessary) I think he’s got a good argument. But those are abortions which already fall outside of the protections of Roe and Casey.

“it is only women’s health that is blatantly treated as a political issue”

Really? Guns, gay rights, marijuana, immigration, energy, pollution, trade, and warfare aren’t political issues?

“needing the consideration of largely male politicians”

This issue isn’t the gender of the legislators. The issue is whether they are being representative. Is there any state in the union where a majority of the women want unrestricted access to late term abortions where the legislators from that state support having restrictions?

“Access to all forms of healthcare is not a political game and should not be treated as such.”

If you include unrestricted late term abortion access under “all forms of healthcare”, then it will definitely be highly politicized. Saying it should not be will have no effect at all.

“we can fight back against the aggressive meddling of anti-choice politicians and remove abortion from the table as a political bargaining chip or means of controlling women’s decisions.”

Republicans want Democrats to fight back on the issue of unrestricted access to late term abortions because that is political gold for them. It fires up their base and rains money into their coffers. It is a battle the Dems cannot win because it doesn’t have public support, not even among women, and any gains that are made will only make the opposition stronger.

“Standing down in the face of attacks or taking abortion off the table will never be viable political options and will never be tolerated as such.”

The late term restrictions are not about taking all abortion off the table. Only certain kinds. A very small minority of them in fact. But it is also about conservatives suckering pro-choice absolutists into fighting on the battlefield of their choosing. A battlefield where they hold all the advantage.


#8

Totten was not talking about “late term abortions,” which are probably the worst bogeyman to distract from the actual discussion. Stop it. No abortion in the 3rd trimester is nearly expected or in ANY way lightly pursued. They are always heartbreaking medical emergencies. If you had been possessed by another being in your body, one for whom you had reordered your life for half a year and perhaps already sacrificed your health, one you longed to continue nurturing as it grew through joyful childhood, you could not politicize the decisions that women, their doctors, and their families make in these situations.


#9

I take it you did not read the David Brooks article she cited and specifically rejected. In it, the only kind of abortion he was talking about was late term abortions. I didn’t find anything particularly challenging about Brooks article, so I’m going to assume that Totten’s reading comprehension capabilities were easily sufficient to follow and understand what Brooks was saying, so that suggests three possibilities. One is that Totten could have understood Brooks point had she actually read his article, but she couldn’t be bothered and she was only going by things that maybe she’d heard about it–in which case, her fault for not doing her homework. Another is that she read it, understood it, and actually agreed with his thesis, but she deliberately chose to mischaracterize his article because it worked better to do it that way for her article–in which case, her fault for being dishonest. Or, she read it, and sincerely disagreed with it, and rejected it as part of giving up on the fight for abortion access in general because she considers late term abortion access to be integral to abortion access in general–in which case, your fault for mischaracterizing Totten’s position.

“Stop it”

It appears that would have been more appropriately directed at Ms. Totten or yourself. I don’t care which, but my presumption in my response to her article was that she was not lazy or dishonest.


#10

I remember when I first read the majority decision in grad school. An eye opener for me (and also one of the finest judicial decisions ever rendered. the thing is high art).

given how we have laws, for example, against suicide (I know, I know…:)) that are constitutional, that indicates there is some threshold where state intervention in physical ownership of one’s body is legally justified. A lot of public safety and health laws, for another example.

The right wingers insistence on these highly emotional campaigns based on dishonest definitions have probably been their biggest obstacles to their own success. They keep trying to play that “murdering babies!” card, they’ll keep losing in court.


#11

Does that mean there some kinds of abortion that you have no reservations about supporting, or does that mean you support unrestricted access to all abortion for any reason? The former would be fine, but not remarkable. The latter would be remarkable, but I think it would be really hard to justify.

“Roe did not establish a right to abortion. Roe was a privacy decision”

Which many people consider its Achilles heel. The privacy principle that it was predicated on was not set forth in the Constitution, so they had to spin it up out of prior court interpretations. Even after Roe, somehow that privacy argument failed to extend to other private acts which continued to be prosecuted. And in real terms, our privacy has been eroding and shrinking since Roe. Worst of all, the implication of Roe is, or really should have been, that wherever women have stepped outside of the privacy protections by being public about their abortions, the state then has a legitimate basis to follow up on that as a confession of a crime. It has mostly been by wink, nod, and general consent that this has not happened–a lot.

The Casey decision has now largely supplanted Roe, and through a bit of sleight of hand, the plurality opinion (not the majority) affirmed that Roe did establish a constitutional right to an abortion, which seems to be more a de-facto recognition of its effect than a literal reading of the logic of the opinion. And the carefully-argued guidelines in Roe were replaced with a new set that was meant to clean up some of the practical problems with the Roe guidelines, but there was a lot in Casey that didn’t look like they even tried to construct a constitutional basis for it.

“The right wingers insistence on these highly emotional campaigns based on dishonest definitions have probably been their biggest obstacles to their own success. They keep trying to play that “murdering babies!” card, they’ll keep losing in court.”

The appeal to emotion has probably been the biggest factor in their success. That’s why they want to have all these battles and debates over late term abortions, particularly where they are not medically necessary. It’s one of the few areas on the abortion issue where public sentiment is with them, it’s outside of the protections set up by the courts, and it makes for a great fight that energizes their base. They never really lose in court. When the court rules against them, they use that for fundraising and strengthening their political base. And whenever the court rules in their favor, that measure is greenlighted for cloning in all the other red states. They are playing the smart game and the long game. They are using top-down coordination to do bottom-up legislating at the state levels, they are using the abortion issue to keep their Evangelical and Catholic base glued together, instead of fighting each other like they used to do, and if they keep at it long enough, eventually they stand a good chance of flipping the top court–at which point Roe becomes vulnerable and the entire edifice built around it could come crashing down.

And the key to that whole strategy is the intransigence on the Left in refusing to give in and concede that not all late term abortions are defensible.


#12

No. such. thing.

And since you are the only one here talking about “late term abortions,” I cannot fathom why you continue to talk about those raising this fallacy in 3rd person rather than 1st. Read Justice Ginzburg’s dissent from the “partial birth” decision, which only forced doctors and their heartbroken patients to endure a more brutal procedure with greater risk to the woman.

Third-trimester abortions are never — NOT EVER — performed outside of hospitals, and they are always medically necessary because the fetus could not survive delivery or not for long and carrying a dead fetus or any fetus is a threat to the life of the woman. Hammering at this tiny piece of this issue just adds to the heartbreak of every woman who has had to undergo this profound loss. It’s hard to tell from back in the 1920s, but I believe my paternal Grandmother underwent a surgical abortion late enough in pregnancy that she knew the gender of the fetus, and I believe it was that that broke her spiritually so that she in turn ruined the childhood of the only child she did bear to term, punishing him for not being the golden-haired girl she had lost. Pregnancy is a profound medical condition with myriad complications, but it is also a psychological experience of such profundity that it’s difficult for anyone who hasn’t been there — themselves, not observing from however close — to grasp it. It is not a place for anyone else to meddle.


#14

You can add punctuation, handclaps, exclamation points and even do it in all caps, and none of that will do anything to make it true. Your claim here has been flatly contradicted by some abortion providers themselves. For example, Dr. Martin Haskell is credited with developing and disseminating a late term abortion procedure, and in a 1993 interview with American Medical News, Haskell said: “I’ll be quite frank: most of my abortions are elective in that 20-24 week range…. In my particular case, probably 20% are for genetic reasons. And the other 80% are purely elective….”

Even among opponents of late term abortion restrictions, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of them claim that absolutely zero percent of post-viability abortions are elective. What I hear them say is things like they are “generally” or “usually” or even “mostly” done for medical reasons–which is a backhanded admission that they aren’t always. But what they, and you, fail to realize is that characterizing them that way only helps the case for bans on late term abortions for purely elective reasons. What you are suggesting is that these will be laws that nobody will ever violate. In which case, great. No harm, no foul. So why would you support a contentious fight against a ban on something that never happens–especially if that fight is politically costly?.

“And since you are the only one here talking about “late term abortions,” I cannot fathom why you continue to talk about those raising this fallacy in 3rd person rather than 1st.”

I’m not an anti-abortion activist. I’m in that great middle swath of public opinion that rejects the notion that a clump of cells is a full-fledged human, but also rejects the idea that a viable fetus is just some disposable tissue. I think early abortions should be as safe, easily obtained, and unimpeded as possible, and I think abortions with a medical justification at any stage should also be protected. But, like most people, I find the idea of elective late term abortions to be a step too far.

“Third-trimester abortions are never — NOT EVER — performed outside of hospitals,”

  1. Irrelevant and 2. I didn’t see where anyone said they sometimes were.

“and they are always medically necessary”

Just because something happens in a hospital setting, that doesn’t mean it was medically necessary.

“Hammering at this tiny piece of this issue just adds to the heartbreak of every woman who has had to undergo this profound loss.”

It takes two sides to have a political fight, so if this controversy really is adding to the heartbreak of these women, then both sides are contributing to that, including you. So the question is, who is more culpable for inflicting this heartbreak. The people who are doing it for the sake of protecting viable fetuses from needless destruction, or the people who are fighting back for no good reason. If elective late term abortions are such a tiny piece of the issue that they never, ever happen and you want the fighting over this issue to stop, then the solution is simple. Stop fighting it.

“It’s hard to tell from back in the 1920s, but I believe my paternal Grandmother underwent a surgical abortion late enough in pregnancy that she knew the gender of the fetus, and I believe it was that that broke her spiritually so that she in turn ruined the childhood of the only child she did bear to term, punishing him for not being the golden-haired girl she had lost.”

Wow, that story really did not help your case at all.

“Pregnancy is a profound medical condition with myriad complications”

Yep.

“it is also a psychological experience of such profundity that it’s difficult for anyone who hasn’t been there — themselves, not observing from however close — to grasp it.”

I find that entirely plausible.

“It is not a place for anyone else to meddle.”

If we were talking about a medical condition which only involved one person, I’d agree. I’ll even grant that it is reasonable to accord a viable fetus a dependency status less than that of fully independent personhood. But I think society does have a reasonable compelling interest to extend some consideration to a viable fetus which is partially independent of the person carrying it, with that independence continuing to grow as the fetus progresses towards full term.


#17

To veer back on topic, there’s no reason to set up regulations on other people’s health decisions, and therefore no need to have exceptions to such regulations.

And no one would go through what 6 months or more of pregnancy takes and then terminate it except for medical necessity. It’s impossible to imagine that situation unless you’ve been there.


#18

I see. So when conservatives trot out the adorable pictures of the fetuses at 20 weeks and beyond, and cite the quotes from actual abortion providers saying that many of these late term abortions are purely elective and medically unnecessary, you can trot out your “no reason to set up regulations” response and see how well that flies.

Did you really think no one thought of or tried that one before? That was step 1 in the Dem master plan of how to lose on this issue,

“And no one would go through what 6 months or more of pregnancy takes and then terminate it except for medical necessity.”

Great. Not a problem. Medical necessity would be a perfectly acceptable reason.


#19

Please provide links or shut up. You have no idea the damage you may be doing.


#20

Well, since you said please–start towards the top of page 16:

https://books.google.com/books?id=GVlutMEYRjcC&pg=RA2-PA16&lpg#v=onepage&q&f=false

See in particular the quote from Dr. Haskell towards the bottom of the page.

So that’s a Congressional report, including a quote published in a medical profession journal from a leading doctor in the field who had actually developed a late term abortion procedure, talking about his experience in performing late-term abortions.

And against that, you’ve got “there’s no reason to set up regulations”. Who do you think most people are going to find more credible–Dr. Haskell (and other doctors and abortion providers) or you?

“You have no idea the damage you may be doing.”

Right back at you.


#21

Sorry to butt in here but your link is about partial birth abortions that are illegal, Not late term abortions. Also, of note one of the few if any practicing physicians that specialized in late term abortions was murdered by pro-life advocates. Dr. Tillerman. Again, 91% of abortions are in the first or second trimester.


#22

Partial birth abortions were always late term abortions. And abortion rights activists fought tooth and nail to keep partial birth abortions legal, and they not only lost that battle, they lost big in the court of public opinion, and dragged the Left down with them. And estimates of how often late term abortions were elective that came out during the hearings on partial birth abortions are never going to go away because everyone knows that the partial birth abortion procedure was simply replaced by other late term abortion procedures–and we are reminded of that frequently by clueless and tone-deaf abortion rights activists grousing about how a good and effective procedure was taken away leaving doctors with only alternatives which are harder on the woman.

But if you think you can find credible evidence that the previously high rate of elective late term abortions dropped to zero after the partial birth abortion ban went into effect, by all means, have at it. (Bearing in mind that if you do succeed in finding such evidence, that will only bolster the case for the legitimacy and efficacy of the partial birth abortion ban.)


#23

No I think you need to check your statistics before posting and you are very insensitive to subject. This is about real people.