On balance, I favor legal abortion and have supported that for many decades in many ways. Keep that in mind and please do not falsely impute beliefs to me.

However, I try to understand the thinking on all sides. And in that context, I think that your concept that men have no standing in regard to abortion kind of begs the question. By which I mean assuming one conclusion in a contested issue, as part of the reasoning to support that same conclusion.

Suppose we assume that it has been proven or can be axiomatic that a fetus is just a bundle of cells with no human rights. From there we can reason that the only human being involved in abortion is the mother, and that only females (who might become pregnant) should have any say on whether the mother can abort that non-human bundle of cells or not; males should abstain from discussion or voting on the matter and leave it up to females.

But there are those who in good faith believe that a fetus is already a human with rights even before birth, not just a non-human bundle of cells. So they believe that abortion involves balancing the needs of two humans, not just one. So for such people, there is zero reason for males to avoid discussion or voting on abortion, because protecting the rights of an unborn human is equally the duty of both males and females. - just as both males and females should be able to vote on a bill legalizing infanticide.

So the "males should stay out of this" only makes sense if you have already decided that fetuses are just a bundle of cells. But before that, deciding whether a fetus is a human being or not would be a question in which both males and females would have standing.

Both males and females would have a vote on legalizing infanticide. The sex of the person voting or discussing it, is not relevant to deciding whether that's homicide or not. And that's how the anti-abortion folks see it.

And pro-abortion males mostly do act as if they believe they have standing, whatever they say about it being up to women. They don't in general abstain from the discussion or from voting, to turn the issue over to just women alone to decide.

What I think some pro-abortion folks really want is for pro-abortion men to vote for abortion, but anti-abortion men to abstain. But that's inverting the logic - it's the pro-abortion men whose belief system would suggest their own abstention, and the anti-abortion men whose belief system ethically requires them to participate.

How do I resolve this? I'm pro abortion AND I believe the both sexes have standing to weigh in on the question of whether fetuses are humans or not (but *IF* and after it's decided that they are not human beings, then only the individual pregnant women has a right to decide whether to terminate it - not other women nor men). So I support men and women discuss it, and support both sexes to vote, without any hypocrisy.

Expand full comment
Jun 25, 2022·edited Jun 25, 2022Author

"So the "males should stay out of this" only makes sense if you have already decided that fetuses are just a bundle of cells."

No, I don't think so. We're not talking about a couple who have gotten pregnant and are trying to decide whether to proceed with the pregnancy or not. Here, we probably agree that the man absolutely deserves a say. Though ultimately, it's still going to be the woman's decision. Because she's going to take on 100% of the risk and suffering related to bringing that baby into the world. A vote on infanticide wouldn't be a woman's rights/health issue. Which is why we'd agree that all voices would be equally valid in that debate.

But as regards abortion LAW, we're talking about something that, practically speaking, doesn't affect men at all. The existence of a law that protects women's right to an abortion doesn't infringe on a man's right to weigh in if he gets a woman pregnant and wants to keep the baby (and I'd be willing to bet that more often than not it's the man asking the woman to have an abortion). So I think it's fair that women lead the charge on the legal debate.

There are many societal issues where there's overlap. Or at least where we can all be affected by the outcomes of a law. But abortion laws are among the few where only one group is really affected. So I have no problem with the idea that that group decides the boundaries of the law.

You're right, about pro-abortion males acting as if they believe they have standing. But, of course, the exact same is true for anti-abortion males. And there's a significant difference between saying,

"I will never have to deal with the significant and potentially life threatening implications of this decision, so I defer to those who will,"


"I will never have to deal with the significant and potentially life-threatening implications of this decision, but it doesn't feel good to me, so I want to force all those who ARE affected to do as I say."

Expand full comment

You may think it trivial but men do have an interest. Eighteen years of child support or a loveless marriage as a result of an unintended pregnancy. Just as a woman's life is changed in a big way, so is a man's, where abortion is a pragmatic solution.

Expand full comment

True. But child support laws are a separate issue to abortion laws. I fully support men's right to weigh in on the former.😄

Expand full comment

Suppose that two unmarried people have consensual sex, taking supposedly responsible care not to cause a pregnancy, but it happens anyway.

Under current law, only the woman has any right to decide whether to bear the child. (Of course, it would be polite for her to discuss the matter with the father and take his views into account, but entirely optional).

However, if she decides to have the child, the man has no rights - none at all - in regard to that child. He has only responsibilities, no corresponsing rights. The woman can give it up for adoption or keep it. If she keeps it, the man is legally on the hook for child support for 18+ years, even if he is never allowed to see that child, much less make any decisions regarding it's upbringing.

If the woman agrees, he can choose to marry her, to have some rights.

If we change the scenarios and say that the woman intentionally lied about being on birth control, EXACTLY the same results apply as described above.

(There was even a case where the woman surreptitiously sequestered the used condom to use in impregnating herself without the man's knowledge, and won child support in the courts. A strange case; the man counter-sued based on not having given consent for his semen being used in that matter, but the court ruled that the semen was functionally a "gift" without restrictions on how it was later used)

I do not see this as impacting only the woman. It may impact her more on average (not in all cases), but both parties are hugely impacted and have a legitimate interest.

Now you would have a better case if the law allowed the man's rights and responsibilities to align more closely. Like if he agrees to the woman carrying to term, he is financially responsible; but if disagrees and favors an abortion, he would not be responsible for child support if the woman decides to give birth anyway as a single parent. That is, if a child is wanted by both gamete suppliers, both would be responsible for it; if only one (the woman) wanted the child, they would have both sole parental rights and sole parental responsibility. In this context, the woman would still have full control of whether to have an abortion, but not unilateral control over whether the man would be burdened with child support for a child in which has has zero rights. Note: I am not advocating this here, just saying that IF it were how things work, then your argument would be much stronger.

What I am saying is that child support cannot be completely disentangled from abortion, in the specific context of who has standing because of the impact on their lives, until and unless the previous paragraph were to become the norm.

Expand full comment

Yep, I addressed this in my reply to Dave below. I think it answers your point.

But in case it doesn’t, I refer you to this Dave Chappelle joke that makes more or less the same point, only funnier.


Expand full comment

That's pretty much what I said above about having "standing".

AFTER and IF society accepts that sperm suppliers will not be held responsible in any way for an unwanted pregnancy so long as abortion is available, then a stronger case can be made that male fertilizers would thereafter not need to bear any undue consequences from abortion and could be well argued to have no standing *based on the impact upon themselves*, individually or collectively.

And in that case, and IF no fetus at any stage is considered to be a human being, the decision about abortion would strongly impact only one human being - the pregnant woman.

There are two major IFs above which cannot be entirely swept under the rug, tho.

(And just to head it off - nowhere have I asserted anything about "from the moment of conception", nor do I personally find that relevant.)

Expand full comment

How are they separate? I can't prove it, but I'd say that most abortions are about not wanting an unplanned child. Huge change in their lives, financial, etc. Both man and women are affected by that. Many men will be negatively affected by the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Expand full comment
Jun 25, 2022·edited Jun 25, 2022Author

The former is about who bears responsibility for the wellbeing and financial support of a child once it's been born. The latter is about whether a woman should be forced by law to carry a foetus for nine months, against her will, with all the psychological and physical implications that carries.

With or without Roe, men can challenge their obligation to pay child support. Without Roe, some women will have no choice but to carry a child they don't want. And then *also* have to deal with their obligations to the child.

I'm not saying men aren't affected if they father a child. I'm saying women are affected long before the man is. In ways the man will never be.

Expand full comment

So by your reasoning, would an infertile woman (including post-menopausal) have any say on abortion?

I will never have to personally deal with the consequences of, say, industrial safety regulations. Does that mean that I should have no input on them, not allowed to discuss the tradeoffs involved, nor to vote based on whose policies I prefer?

I'm also never going to have children. Does that mean I should have no say about child abuse laws?

What does "lead the charge" mean in concrete vs poetic terms? Does it mean that only legislators who personally work in dangerous industries should be allowed to opine or legislate on industrial safety? Only legislators who have children can vote on laws affecting children? Only female legislators can vote on laws about womens sports, and only male legislators can vote on laws about men's sports?

I find that kind of reasoning extremely fragile and impractical, to be generous.

> "You're right, about pro-abortion males acting as if they believe they have standing. But, of course, the exact same is true for anti-abortion males"

But the former can reason that they should not have standing (if and only if they believe that abortion involves only one human being, the mother, and since they cannot become mothers and thus have no interest in the matter at the societal level), in which case, to discuss and vote on it as males is internally hypocritical. While the latter (who see this as a balance of rights between two human beings, one of which cannot defend their own rights) are not at all internally hypocritical in championing what they see as the rights of the unborn.

I'm in a third category - I support abortion, and I think that both male and female citizens are fully empowered to weigh in on the societal issue of whether abortion is homicide or not, whether they agree with me or not.

Of course I want to listen well to women (on all sides), and I do appreciate that fertile women have a special stake in the matter. But an anti-abortion person believes that the fetus is another party with a special stake in the matter, and I can understand that viewpoint as well.

Expand full comment

“So by your reasoning, would an infertile woman (including post-menopausal) have any say on abortion?”

😁 This is veering dangerously close to the “but what is a woman reeeally” style of argumentation. So as I know you’re reasonable, I’m happy to defer to whatever definition of “woman” or let’s say “female” you normally use. As long as we agree that they’re materially different from males, and agree on the reasons why, I don’t mind the existence of exceptions.

Abortion is not the same as industrial safety or athletics or child safety laws. If you can come up with an example thats similar to members of a particular group of people (and only that group) losing control of their bodily autonomy for ~9 months, no matter how traumatising it might be for them, and then having to go through a medical event that, even in the normal course of things, costs some number of them their lives, then we can compare.

But otherwise, I said in the post, my view on the abortion debate is based on the unique way the issue affects women (and only women) and the dangers it presents to them. My feelings on this can’t and shouldn’t be broadened to any other issue that isn’t equally exceptional.

Speaking of which, yes, abortion rights do only apply to women. The claim that the foetus is another individual from the moment of conception is a faith claim. If there is any logical or scientific evidence to support the claim that a zygote is a person, then I’m all ears. But I don’t think laws, particularly laws that affect those who definitely are people, should be based on unprovable, internal convictions.

Expand full comment

(Steve, I am honesty not following *any* connection to "what is a woman?". Either you are seeing something which I am not, or you have misunderstood my point to be asserting something which I am not. Elucidate if you wish.).

You have argued that since only biological females can get pregnant and bear the burdens of that, males should not have standing on the issue of abortion. So I asked if those females who cannot get pregnant any more than males can (eg: post-menopausal or otherwise infertile) should have standing on that issue, following your reasoning.

You didn't answer that question yet. Let's clear that up before building further.

Expand full comment
Jun 25, 2022·edited Jun 25, 2022Author

"Steve, I am honesty not following *any* connection to "what is a woman?"

When I talk about women's issues in trans debates, and use the word "woman," somebody will almost always ask something along the lines of, "well what *is* a woman? How do you define woman? Is a post-menopausal woman still a woman? Is a woman with Turner syndrome still a woman?" And then we waste hours nitpicking a separate, unrelated tangent instead of the main point.

The overwhelming majority of females have been, will be, or are currently directly affected by any decision made on abortion. Zero males are. Under any circumstances. So I don't think debating the intricacies of female exceptions is valuable.

Expand full comment

So is that your way of indirectly saying that infertile women and post-menopausal women, under no more threat from an unwanted pregnancy than a man, should be able to weigh in on abortion, but men should not be?

Post-menopausal women is a HUGE category, not an "exception". This is nt anything close to a rare anamoly like Turner Syndrome, let's not pretend otherwise.

My point is that your rationale for excluding all males and including all females is weak. First you say because they are the ones affected by pregnancy, then you broaden it to their being the same sex as those who may be affected by a pregnancy even if they themselves are not. One could as logically expand the interested parties to include those married to people who can become pregnant rather than or in addition to expanding to include all sharing the same sex.

In any case, you are free to avoid all discussions or donations or voting in regard to abortion if you really believe what you are saying. I by contrast feel the issue is society wide, and so will continue to encourage the men I know to actively support abortion rights - in discussions, in protests, in donations, in voting. I will not ask them to be quiet and leave it entirely to women. (Tho as I said I definitely advocate listening to women about the issue). To each their own.

But it would be nice to at least admit that this very article and comments are in serious conflict with your professed abstinence.

Expand full comment

We are a representative democracy. I see a great sorting process ahead.

I do not want 9 unelected people deciding matters of great moment. I want them to be judges, supporting the laws of the land, not making them up.

I would contribute to a fund helping a woman who wanted an abortion to cross state lines as needed to get what she needs. I would support leaving states that don’t reflect the type of pregnancy alternatives a woman wants.

I’m not in favor of dismissing swathes of women as ‘brain-washed’ because they believe life begins at conception.

The debate on abortion was halted after 1973. Even as progressive a stalwart as Ruth Bader Ginsburg felt this was wrong. We are likely in a better position (with many more women in power positions) to have the complex debates needed to figure this out.

We do indeed live in interesting times.

Expand full comment

"The debate on abortion was halted after 1973. Even as progressive a stalwart as Ruth Bader Ginsburg felt this was wrong."

Absolutely. The real problem, in my opinion, is that Alito is right (even though I think the legal opinion he wrote was surprisingly flawed and, in places, flat out wrong). Roe is shaky law at best. And is framed around a physician's right to make decisions for their patients, instead of a woman's right to make decisions about her body and her life. As you say, Ginsburg saw this problem too.

As I suggested at the beginning of this piece, to me, this is an issue of equal access to the opportunities life has to offer. Women face a hugely disproportionate burden when it comes to childbirth. That's nobody's fault. But abortion law, like any other law, should be about giving everybody as equal an opportunity as possible to participate in life.

At some point, of course, that "everybody" includes the baby. Which is where the debate really lies. But it seems reasonably settled within the medical community that that point is somewhere around the third trimester (contrary to Alito's claims, abortion was legal throughout the US until 1829, if performed before 15-20 weeks). So the people who are arguing that the point is conception need to say explicitly what basis they have for that claim. And the answer can't be, "God," or "that's just how I feel."

Expand full comment
Jun 27, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Thank you.

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

Gah! I meant *first* trimester. Third trimester is obviously a little late in the game.😅

Yep, the abortion claim, at least according to all the research I’ve done, is true. This is the first link I found with a quick Google search, but the same info is repeated in many places (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/04/arts/roe-v-wade-abortion-history.html).

The line for abortion was the “quickening” (the point where the baby’s movements can be detected), which was placed around 15-20 weeks.

In 1829, New York made post-quickening abortions a felony, and pre quickening abortions a misdemeanour (Illinois made them a misdemeanour in 1827 so technically they were the first state to criminalise abortion). The AMA pushed for further criminalisation after that.

Expand full comment

> "I do not want 9 unelected people deciding matters of great moment. "

OK, let's break that down. It was 9 unelected people who decided Roe v Wade, overturning laws which had been democratically passed by millions of people. Are you saying you consider that to be invalid?

How about 9 unelected people legalizing gay marriage? Overtuning anti-sodomy laws? Legalizing inter-racial marriage? Still against it those unelected people deciding matters of great moment?

Many of those ruling are based extensions to a "right to privacy" which does not exist in the Constitution, but was invented up by the Supreme Court. I think that such a right to privacy is a great idea, and I appreciate all the above extensions of that or of actual Constitutional rights. But my rational mind can still admit that they can be described as examples of "ruling from the bench" rather than "just following the law as written".

Let's be consistent. The truth is, we're fine with 9 unelected people having vast powers over the society whenever we agree with them, but find it atrocious when we do not. That is not a coherent intellectual or political philosophy.

I support abortion rights, and I live in a state which strongly supports them via the democratic process. And I too would help women come here for abortions (or pass pro-abortion laws in their own states). But I don't make a big deal about "9 unelected people", as if that was somehow illegitimate - but only when I disagree.

And you are right - there are far more women in power today than in 1973, which gives me some hope, but it's going to be a long struggle for abortion rights. It's MUCH easier if the court will impose the solution I prefer nationwide in one fell swoop, but we've lost that option for now.

Expand full comment

"Let's be consistent. The truth is, we're fine with 9 unelected people having vast powers over the society whenever we agree with them, but find it atrocious when we do not"

You make a very good point here, but I think the issue is more that people will always react more strongly when rights are taken away as opposed to when they're given.

There have long been claims of "judicial activism", levelled at the Supreme Court, as you say, that's always going to be the case when they make decisions that are unpopular with certain people. But in an ideal world, the Court would be apolitical, and *certainly* not ideological. That doesn't feel as if it's the case here.

The problem, at least as I see it, isn't so much that Alito objected to the legal foundations of Roe vs Wade, it's that the rights and protections Roe provides women will be lost, which will unquestionably cost some women their lives, and there is no will to put those rights on a more appropriate legal footing.

Expand full comment

As I say almost daily about software development standards, consistency is not its own virtue. Consistency is only good when it is around good practices, good morals.

The conservative justices came to the bench with a hit list and they are not only indifferent to the harm they cause but eager. Couching this harm in terms of legal minutiae is a contemptible lie, and the almighty Constitution comes from a world so unlike the present it may as well be from some medieval European dukedom. It comes from a world where slavery was unquestioned, a world without nuclear weapons, machine guns, satellite surveillance, television, anesthetics, a germ theory ... or abortion.

I don't give a flying rat ass for consistency. I want government to create a fair and just society where people can lead reasonably stable and secure lives and have at least some chance of fulfillment.

Expand full comment

So if I understand it, you support 9 unelected people in making law from the bench, so long as you agree; but find it outrageous if they do so and you disagree.

What is hypocrisy, other than inconsistency? One set of rules for you, and a different more favorable rules for us. Perfectly OK, so long as it advances your personal concept of social justice (a fair and just society where people can lead reasonably stable and secure lives and have at least some chance of fulfillment).

What I would question is whether that philosophy of justified hypocrisy has ever created or sustained such a society. How stable is a society where everybody gets to be inconsistent if it serves their subjective sense of fairness? Where there is no binding underlying charter restricting the power of a simple majority to impose their will on the minority - or indeed guaranteeing any semblance of democracy?

If I'm misunderstanding your position, I'm open to hearing more nuance. But at the moment, this seems to be very consistent with the worst approaches of both the right and the left.

I believe that basing a society on concepts like the rule of law, and equal rights under an evolving charter, and aspiring to have the same rules for everybody, will turn out to be different in substantial aspects from consistent indentation rules for code.

I want to note here that I do not see democracy as a solid heuristic for creating wise policies; often the results can be very unwise or unintelligent. The primary values are in partially closing a feedback loop where the folks feeling the consequences of a policy have ongoing input into what that policy is (versus being rules by an autocrat who can isolate themselves from such consequences), and in obtaining buy-in (functional legitimacy) from the populace based on their ability to vote and to change the government at a later time, thus allowing adaptive changes in government direction with a peaceful transfer of power. Democracy is a heuristic not for wisdom, but for relatively stable cooperation among people with differing opinions. And blatant hypocrisy (disdain for consistent application of the rules) is sand in the gears of democracy.

Expand full comment

> "it's that the rights and protections Roe provides women will be lost, which will unquestionably cost some women their lives"

You and I agree on that.

However, for those who believe that a fetus is a human being, the number of fetuses "killed" each year VASTLY outnumbers the number of women's lives to be saved, by many order of magnitude. So the argument that legal abortion will save some women's lives does not hold much traction as a resolving principle.

Expand full comment
Jun 25, 2022·edited Jun 25, 2022Author

"However, for those who believe that a fetus is a human being,"

Again, you're weighing faith claims against concrete realities. That's why I think this argument is a non-starter.

None of us is qualified to pinpoint the moment that a foetus becomes endowed with the full rights of a human being (although we don't currently extend any rights to foetuses until they're born), but I think that except for "life of the mother" exceptions, first trimester abortions were accepted by the vast majority of people as a workable compromise between the potential rights of the foetus and the actual rights of the mother.

We're only having this conversation now because the rights of the mother are being overruled entirely.

Expand full comment

Don't be surprised if laws appear within days defining any assistance in obtaining an abortion as felonies on a level with corroboration in murder. These people are playing for keeps.

"We are a representative democracy. I see a great sorting process ahead.

I do not want 9 unelected people deciding matters of great moment. I want them to be judges, supporting the laws of the land, not making them up."

America *was* a representative democracy. The beginning of the end came with television and its concomitant isolation, and has reached its end with (1) Republican research into overriding self-interest with resentments and (2) Democratic self-deception in believing that voters act rationally.

Five of the six SCOTUS justices who just removed an essential right were appointed by right wing presidents who lost the popular vote. And at least two of them are psychotic.

Expand full comment
Jun 25, 2022·edited Jun 25, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

"Brainwashed" may sound diminishing or condescending but when it comes to religion I think the definition is soundly met. Children are raised with a terror of saying anything against matters of faith; parents take them to church at young ages and scare the shit out of them with the weird sight of those they regard as authority figures obediently standing and sitting and kneeling, all in a threatening atmosphere of intense reverence.

Everything about religion is off-limits to reflection and question, exempt from examination and logic (especially logic). Anyone not wholly on the side of Jesus is pure evil, and the indoctrination of religious "values" is for many ineradicable. NO educated person should believe in God; this is as supernatural as ghosts, witches, and magic. But even many scientists are unable to tunnel out.

My own atheism came at the age of eleven, fifteen seconds of unrestrained thought that began with wanting to go back to sleep instead of Sunday school and ending with the realization that I got nothing out of the experience because I didn't believe a word of it.

That kind of unrestrained thought is simply unavailable to most people, and not just women.

Look at the religious absurdity of "pro-life"; life begins at conception (ova and spermatozoa are dead?), a blastula is a human being (yeah, a homunculus), abortion is sin (70% of embryos fail to implant in the endometrium and die). I say and will continue to say that anyone educated and who still believes in this pretty lie is, yes, brainwashed. We have thousands of years' experience at this and a predilection that's easily manipulated

I don't seek to insult those who believe but they all know as well as I do that religion is absurd, they won't abandon it because it inspires emotions they enjoy experiencing (neurochemical explosions sort of like cocaine). Just look at that glint of freshly washed brains when they start with the thee and thou and "the Lord Jesus Christ."

Take this away and abortion ceases to be any kind of moral issue.

Expand full comment

""Brainwashed" may sound diminishing or condescending but when it comes to religion I think the definition is soundly met."

😄I agree (my atheism kicked in at around twelve). Though, of course, society brainwashes us all in a variety of ways. But I don't think you need to be religious to be pro-life. I have no problem understanding and even sympathising with secular pro-life arguments. My pro-choice position is based on the fact that, on balance, I think it's the best solution to this impossible ethical dilemma. Not that I think the pro-life position is all religious quackery.

A foetus will, in almost all cases, develop into a human being if left undisturbed in its mothers womb. There is unarguably a point, somewhere after conception but before birth, where we're talking about a real, viable human being. Nobody knows where that point is, which means all decisions about abortion are kind of groping in the dark. Groping in the dark, unfortunately, is the best we can do on most issues. We're not smart enough creatures to do better. So it's not surprising if some people come to different conclusions.

Expand full comment
Jun 27, 2022·edited Jun 27, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Because it is "groping in the dark" as you put it, and because there are so many opinions on this and we can't all agree, why not leave the choice to the persons involved? Why do strangers get to decide the course of my life simply because I have sex that results in a pregnancy? Why do they get to impose an arbitrary morality? Reducing the rights of women simply because they can bear children is just patently unfair. It reduces us to our biological essentials. I am not a walking womb. I am a human being and I deserve the same rights and freedoms as men (I know you agree on this).

The saddest part of this whole thing is that most of those who posture on the side of pro-life, don't truly care about the kids being born. They only care in the abstract. As Thomas Sowell says - abstract people in an abstract world. Most unwanted children end up in the foster care system, dead, or have to survive some greater or lesser level of abuse. Some are adopted for better or worse. Not all adoptions are idyllic. I was an unwanted child and I was abused by bio, foster, and adoptive parents. I know what it is to be that child that falls between the cracks and who is kicked around because no one truly wants to bear the weight of raising you and your very existence is inconvenient. My life has been hell for the most part. No one seems to care about the quality of life for the children born into the world. Wild animals in nature have more care and rationality on dealing with the survival of progeny in limited-resource environments.

I'll be damned if I call my life sacred. It's not. It never was and it never will be. It would have been better for all concerned had I never been born. I am here and am making the best of it. But I know full well the weight of not being wanted and what it does to your life. I would not wish this journey on my worst enemy. Just being alive is not enough. If there is no love, but only duty, life is a desert.

Expand full comment

This is an excellent post and comes from an unexpected angle. All this gush about the awesome sacredness of life ignores the Quiet Desperation aspect. Forty-odd thousand American commit suicide every year, a level of misery severe enough to end one's own life for every one of these there are probably millions whose lives are at best a matter of coping.

I had a friend in Seattle who had grown up in an orphanage and never adopted. He was a mess. I know him on Facebook now and he's still a mess.

I just want to acknowledge the courage of your candor.

Expand full comment

"Because it is "groping in the dark" as you put it, and because there are so many opinions on this and we can't all agree, why not leave the choice to the persons involved? Why do strangers get to decide the course of my life simply because I have sex that results in a pregnancy?"

This is a fabulous question that, to be honest, I'm not sure I have an answer for. I'm struggling to figure out if this is the same as the many other laws that decide the course of our lives, but I feel like it is and it isn't.

The closest comparison I can think is age of consent laws. Nobody knows when a child becomes an adult. There's no clear before and after. In fact, for some, it's undoubtedly *after* they're legal and adult. But we treat children differently under the law in ways that both advantage them and restrict them. We don't allow them to decide for themselves, even though it's their life that's affected.

Women don't need to be protected in the same way as children, of course. But wouldn't you agree that there's a point where the baby does? Where it's a real human being who will bleed if you prick it and laugh if you tickle it and die if you poison it. And that this point comes *before* it's out of the mother's stomach.

Abortion laws are about that very healthy instinct society has to protect children. That instinct should have as little impact on women as possible. But the facts of biology mean it's very difficult for it to have none at all.

Expand full comment

"But I don't think you need to be religious to be pro-life."

Perhaps, but take religious views out of the argument and it becomes very fragile.

We have to be irrational about breeding. Otherwise only people with nothing interesting in their lives would have children and we would be on our way to CM Kornbluth's "Marching Morons" world. Lactating mammals feel an intense protectionism toward their young that is known to be hormonal.

And, again, most fetuses are not viable. Only 30% implant and many miscarriages come later.

Expand full comment

"Perhaps, but take religious views out of the argument and it becomes very fragile."

*All* the philosophical arguments are fragile.

Abortions should be legal until the third trimester? Why? Because miscarriages are most common during that time? What does that have to do with the millions of foetuses that doesn't miscarry? Life begins at conception? How do you make that claim without invoking God or faith? Where is your evidence that this is life in a more meaningful sense than the life of an amoeba, say? Abortion should be legal until the baby is born? How is that any different from murdering a newborn baby? What changes between the moment the baby is inside the body and the next moment when it's outside?

The only argument that has any real weight, at least as far as I can see, is that banning abortion outright will undoubtedly lead to the anguish and death of some number of women. Women who have already been born, women who are definitely conscious and able to survive outside their mother's wombs, women whose rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are already fully enshrined in law.

I don't really see any other argument that can't be "whatabouted" into oblivion.

Expand full comment

That's clearer.

I would add as well that sex isn't always rationally chosen. People have sex when inebriated. when excited or turned on, and even with contraception freely available people will forget. I'm lucky to have never gotten HIV.

Until we are willing to make infertility the rule and every pregnancy the outcome of a consciously chosen plan there are going to be unplanned ones, so abortion needs to remain legal.

"Abortion should be legal until the baby is born? How is that any different from murdering a newborn baby? What changes between the moment the baby is inside the body and the next moment when it's outside?"

The same difference between having sex with a teenager eighteen years old minus a day and the same teenager eighteen plus one day.

That, and cutting the umbilical. And the baby using its own lungs.

Expand full comment

So to be clear - are you arguing that abortion on demand should be legal up to one day before childbirth? You do appear to be so arguing.

However that would be out of step with the law in all developed countries (and of course nearly all underdeveloped ones), and out of step with the overwhelming majority of Americans (a clear majority approve of abortion with limitations on timing, but a substantially larger majority oppose abortion without limitations).

Expand full comment

I think that the argument for a cutoff date for abortion mostly pertains to the fact that at some point in the pregnancy the fetus is undeniably human. It looks like a little human and reacts to external stimulus in ways that indicate it can feel pain. That happens disturbingly early in the pregnancy which supplies pressure for early cutoff dates. Certainly, only the disingenuous could deny that at the 3rd trimester. https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/fetal_development_stages

Expand full comment

Invertebrates react to stimuli and feel pain too. Nobody is arguing to protect nematodes for that reason.

An orangutan fetus probably looks every bit as human until shortly before birth. Yet we are sending them to extinction for palm oil.

How far back do you want to push these cutoff dates because fetuses start to resemble babies? The fact that these protections apply to mindless fetuses but not to self-aware beasts with minds and emotional lives is invalidating. For me, anyway.

Expand full comment

My comment pointed to the idea that much of the anti-abortion policy position is an appeal to emotion. We humans are emotional creatures and often less logical than we wish to believe. I wasn't arguing a position, I was describing one that was high on the list of the path to revoking Roe v. Wade.

Expand full comment

I am not religious. But I'm less smug about my superiority.

I have my own irrational values. For example, I decry cannibalism, or murder, or rape. But not all societies agree with me, and there is nothing in the laws of physics which makes those things wrong. If I'm ruthlessly honest with myself, my opposition to murder is no more rational than an anti-abortionist's opposition to abortion. You could equally say about both that "it inspires emotions they enjoy experiencing (neurochemical explosions sort of like cocaine)." We have made different judgement calls, and have somewhat different values, but neither of us are operating entirely rationally, and we both have brain chemicals and social conditioning at work.

Expand full comment

“If I'm ruthlessly honest with myself, my opposition to murder is no more rational than an anti-abortionists opposition to abortion.”

Do you really see these two things as equivalent societal dangers? Do you think the implications for civilisation would be equal if they were both made completely legal? This is a pretty astonishing position.

Also, please, no personal attacks. “Smug” is fairly benign as far as that goes, but it’s a slope I don’t want us to slip down.

Expand full comment

The subject is whether certain values are rational or irrational and I contend that we non-religious types have many irrational beliefs and values as well, so we should be less convinced of our superiority to religious people.

Nowhere in that philosophical point was there any metric of societal danger.

I think you are abusing the analogies, as I was discussing asserted facets of rationality/irrationality with the analogies, and you remove them from that context and tried to compare their effect on society - a different topic and NOT the facet for which I was asserting the analogy.

This reminds me of a very common bad faith argument technique which you have likely encountered in online discussion. One person asserts that the relationship between A and B is similar to the relationship between C and D. One might agree or not, but instead of addressing that, another person says "Oh My Gawd, did you just compare A with C? I cannot believe how offensive (or wrongheaded) that is!.... ". Of course, the first person did NOT compare A with C.

It's an effective but dishonest way to deliberately miss the point and derail it. (This came up with, say, Gina Carano's firing from Disney). And I'm not saying that YOU did this, just that it reminds me of others doing this.

All analogies, even the best ever made, will fail if one chooses to instead compare a different facet of A and B than the facet which was asserted to be relevant. I speak of irrationality as a partially shared trait, you note different societal implications if they legalized - completely irrelevant to my point. I was NOT, NOT, NOT asserting that abortion is the same as cannibalism in all regards, which I hope you can recognize. But one can ALWAYS without exception find some other difference between any two analogized things; that however doesn't address the asserted similarity in a separate area.

Expand full comment

“I think you are abusing the analogies, as I was discussing asserted facets of rationality/irrationality with the analogies, and you remove them from that context and tried to compare their effect on society”

If we’re talking about moral evils, one of the most rational ways I can think of to compare them is how they affect society. In fact, it’s the *only* rational way I can think of to compare them. I’d argue that this is the basis for the entire legal system.

The severity of crimes is weighed against others, not by some arbitrary internal moral sense, but by the impact they have. Murder is more heavily punished than littering because the former crime has a greater impact on society.

I don’t see at all how I removed your statement from its context. I just applied a measure for rationality to it. If you’re using a different measure of rationality, that’s totally fine, you could just explain what that is.

I’m not attacking you, I’m not trying to have a fight or catch you in some kind of “gotcha”, I’m not trying to derail the point. I’m asking you a question based on my interpretation of something you said.

Expand full comment

>"If we’re talking about moral evils"

But I was not talking about moral evils, much less ranking them - I was talking about the irrational basis for values. I could have instead used examples of things I am irrationally supportive of rather than opposed to; evilness as NOT the point.

My point was to confess that my own abhorrence of cannibalism, etc is just as irrational as somebody else's abhorrence of abortion (based on religion or not). I was responding the what appears to be distain for the irrationality of religious beliefs, assertions that such beliefs are sustained by and based upon neurochemical reactions etc - and pointing out that some of my own "axiomatic" base values are just a much sustained by and based upon neurochemical reactions, rather than being objective facts of the universe.

I was not in any way talking about (rationally or irrationally) comparing moral evils, a different subject, nor severity of crimes. I made no assertions about "relative degrees of evilness", only about both some of my values and some of the values of anti-abortion folks both being derived from non-rational underpinnings.

TL:DR: I cannot honestly claim that my beliefs about murder/cannibalism/etc are entirely objective or rational, in contrast to the irrationality of the beliefs of anti-abortion folks. No discussion of relative evil or merit is involved.

Expand full comment
Jun 25, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

I am curious about what avenues you see as appropriate to discuss and debate abortion that would give it the seriousness that it deserves. Also if you don’t think it is being discussed seriously enough now which part or why? I am not asking to argue but out of curiosity. I feel like the women discussing the looming health repercussions and the unequal distribution of care are very serious, but are there aspects being missed? I also feel the discussion of states rights on abortion vs gun rights is a legitimate avenue of thought. What are you thinking?

Expand full comment

"I also feel the discussion of states rights on abortion vs gun rights is a legitimate avenue of thought. What are you thinking?"

😁 I gave serious thought to pointing out that this happened the day after the Supreme Court struck down a law restricting open carry in New York, but I didn't want to muddy the waters in the comments with gun debate.

There are a few key avenues that I see. First, and arguably most important, is the Equal Rights Amendment (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Rights_Amendment). Women's equality is not guaranteed by law. But writing it into law risks making some of the other legal protections that women currently have unconstitutional.

As with abortion, there is a range opinion among women about whether the trade-offs are worth it. But as I say at the beginning of this piece, I see abortion rights as an equality issue as much as a healthcare issue. Currently, women can't use the law to make the equality argument.

Then, of course, there's the issue of when life begins. There is no answer to this question. Just as there's no answer to when a person becomes mature enough to drink or join the army or buy a semi-automatic weapon. Age of consent laws are largely arbitrary, but we have them because we need them. The same is true for abortion limits. These arguments should be based on reason and scientific evidence, not religion or personal feelings or fear.

And lastly, as with almost all important issues sadly, there are the absolutists. The people who argue that anybody who sees the issue differently to the is evil or stupid or "brainwashed." This is mainly what I mean when I say "the seriousness it deserves", because these types of positions make serious discussion all but impossible.

As I said, I'm pro-choice, but I can easily see and sympathise with pro-life arguments. I understand why they're concerned. I don't think they're brainwashed. And the ability to at least see the position of the other side is the first step in being able to talk to them. Abortion rights are one of the most complex ethical problems a society needs to solve. Pretending that any answer is simple or morally unambiguous is a failure to take the issue seriously.

Expand full comment

"Then, of course, there's the issue of when life begins."

This is a critically inaccurate framing. Life began billions of years ago in the primordial oceans. Life does not arise from dead material (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spontaneous_generation).

The issue is at what point the protection of human life begins. Most reasonable people would agree that a fetus with gills and a tail and no nervous system isn't quite there. Nobody agrees with killing babies after birth. Cotton Mather railed so passionately against woman taking their infants to bed with them that there is little doubt this was a post-parturition abortion. Infanticide in modern vernacular,

"Beginning of life" is a forced-birth framing.

Expand full comment
Jun 25, 2022·edited Jun 25, 2022Author

"This is a critically inaccurate framing. Life began billions of years ago in the primordial oceans. Life does not arise from dead material "

😅 I feel quite confident you know what I meant Chris.

Expand full comment

Yes I am confident that you don't believe human gametes are dead until they form a zygote. Which just makes me wonder why you used the right wing trope of *life* beginning. You're usually more precise than that.

The issue is when a fetus/baby acquires legal protection. It has been alive the entire time. If I had my druthers I would say at the onset of self-awareness, which I remember in my own life, and I was post-birth and still crawling (yes I actually do remember, thinking wordlessly, "why am I crying?") but that is a dangerous forumlation so I am content with humanity being granted at birth.

Expand full comment

"𝘐 𝘨𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘱𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘢𝘺 𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘶𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘦 𝘊𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘵 𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘤𝘬 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘢 𝘭𝘢𝘸 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘱𝘦𝘯 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘕𝘦𝘸 𝘠𝘰𝘳𝘬, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘥𝘯'𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘥𝘥𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘨𝘶𝘯 𝘥𝘦𝘣𝘢𝘵𝘦."

This is why I am opposed to political parties - the coupling of unrelated things under a tribal banner. I am pro-abortion though I think that at some point that it would be disingenuous to deny that it's an unemerged human and there should be a reasonable point in the pregnancy attached. I am also pro-gun. While I think that the SC ending abortion rights was a bad decision, I think that striking down NY's use of you must show us need (and we will disagree) as a way of preventing people from defending themselves was a proper one. There is no human right more fundamental that self-defense. Making these issues left/right, or whatever you wish to call the divide is without logic.

I'll not turn this into a 2nd Amendment discussion, but when you start one, you'll certainly hear from me. I only mention it in support of the idea that people's opinion of the Supreme Court depends upon their agreement with its decisions, rather than the fundamentals of a Constitutional Republic. Basing that opinion on it agreeing with a political tribe's shibboleth is daft. Ideas should walk on their own legs.

Expand full comment

If I thought self-defense was at the heart of the gun debate I would agree with you, but it seems completely tangential to me. Someone who lives in an unsafe neighborhood should be allowed to own a gun but then I see a picture of some Texas jerkoff with 400 assault rifles or read about someone who wears three guns in the living room and, no, it is not about self defense.

Self defense would be a quiet concern, and even military marksmen will tell you to call the cops and go out back.

I don't believe in ensemble politics either. I am definitely of the left but I detest the SJWs and even found myself nodding along with Cocaine Don Jr. as he twitched and ranted about sensitivity training in the military around "they."

I have my own fanaticisms too ... legible code, precise communication, decent music. But I have never wanted to own a gun. I borrowed one for three days when I was handling a lot of money and it kept me awake.

Expand full comment

I can respect your thought. What's at the heart of the matter depends upon who's heart. Firearms have always been in my world, and I view them as tools. All issues come with complexity. I don't want to carry a gun everywhere, been there done that, but I want to be able to when I perceive good reason for it.

Expand full comment

I have no argument with you and don't want to start one. I have never been around guns much but I have been around a lot of gun nuts ("gonna get me a gun then don' nobody gonna fuck wit' me") and had too much exposure to Second Amendment fanatics who go from "good morning" to "so should we ban bathtubs too?!?" in four sentences, all theirs. I could never shoot a deer but there are people who shoot sleeping bears.

You sound like a reasonable guy with whom I have a mild disagreement but you know that there are millions of Americans to whom firearms are an obsessive fetish (and, yes, I do know what fetish means), and given that about 30% of adult Americans would fail a psychiatric exam, I think the 2A is grotesque in its folly.

Let's not hijack Steve's blog. I'm at cheopys@gmail.com if you'd like to chat, and Steve I would appreciate a hed zup from you as well.

I've had a gun pointed on me by a guy who wanted my cash and I just laughed and told him I was in college and didn't have a cent and he laughed too and left me alone.

Expand full comment

I'd answer that the issue is so bound up with the off-limits of religion and with astounding hypocrisies that honest discussion between people on opposite poles of the debate is not only futile but infeasible.

Sorry, Steve, I know you want to believe that all rhetorical chasms can be bridged and I commend your idealism but can no longer share it. Not in this.

Not when the same people who regard the abortion of even the earliest pregnancy as equivalent to murder yet are every bit as absolute in opposing support after transition from fetus to baby; America is the only industrialized nation lacking a federal program for infant nutrition and you would need to search hard to find a "pro-life" advocate who would agree to using a nickel of "my money," or Elon Musk's, to assure that the baby doesn't die of starvation within a week.

I remember when these people were willing to consider exceptions in cases of rape and incest; now even the certain death of the mother as an exception is increasingly in doubt. As with so many other issues in our disintegrating epistemological universe the fanaticism and absolutism simply do not allow compromise. Not only is religion involved but the role of moral and legal views as tribal membership.

I think most people on here are pro-choice; we're not likely to have any knock-down drag-outs. Personally I am pro-abortion; not just pro-choice but in favor of anything short of murder and involuntary neutering to slow down the growth of human population. The fact that it's just as urgent to bring new lives into a world choking on its own wastes as it was when we were a few thousand hunter-gatherers shows just how intractable the issue has become.

Expand full comment

"I'd answer that the issue is so bound up with the off-limits of religion and with astounding hypocrisies that honest discussion between people on opposite poles of the debate is not only futile but infeasible."

😁 No, I agree with you. I think conversation with people at the poles of any issue is broadly futile. My belief is just that the majority of people don't sit at the poles. Extremes are extremes precisely because they're rare.

As we've discussed before, around 80% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in some or all cases. None of these peoples are extremists. And I think they'd accept a solution that didn't 100% conform to their personal feelings, as long as it wasn't too far.

The people who won't accept *any* compromise (as in those who argue women should be able to abort until the moment of birth or that taking the morning after pill is murder) probably aren't worth talking to. But they also represent a tiny slice of public sentiment

Expand full comment

As with the Israeli peace movement, the reasonable people don't run the show. In any of our modern issues—guns, abortion, 2020 election, environment—it's not the moderates who are the problem.

You could count me as almost in the up-to-the-onset-of-labor crowd, being perfectly comfortable with the simplicity of human rights acquired at birth, but I would much MUCH rather there was never an unplanned pregnancy, that contraception was freely and anonymously available, but the same people opposed to abortion are every bit as strident in opposing contraception.

And they are the people at that pole.

Expand full comment

"As with the Israeli peace movement, the reasonable people don't run the show."

I don't know enough about the Israeli peace movement to comment, but I'm confident there's no useful comparison to be made between that struggle and the abortion rights debate except that, sure, there are unreasonable people everywhere.

But again, there's a depth in the anti-abortion position that you keep trying to flatten. Some people who oppose abortion also oppose contraception. Absolutely. These people are very likely to be religious. But that doesn't mean that everybody who's pro-life is anti-contraception or a religious fundamentalist.

It's pointless to talk about an issue if you only ever address the most extreme people who disagree with you.. Exactly as pointless as the people who paint all pro-choice people as soulless baby killers. Especially because, as I said, the people at the pole aren't the majority view. The minds that can be changed are in the middle.

I'd definitely prefer that there were never any unplanned pregnancies too. But I suspect it's going to be a long time before contraception is 100% effective.

Expand full comment

A majority of Israelis want reconciliation with the Palestinians and an end to the occupation. This majority does not run the government. The government is overwhelmingly made up of settler-born bigots,

Do I have to make the same point on every issue? When I write about software I get told what Kent Beck wrote in his stupid book, and I need to point out that nobody has read it and they work in an absurd way.

I am aware that most prolife people don't oppose contraception, They are not the ones making the laws, nor are they they public face of the movement.

I am aware that many Republicans (a minority but still about 30%) know that Trump lost the election. They are not leading the party.

It's not that I am pointing at the most extreme and saying "they're all like that," it's that I am pointing at the most extreme and saying "they are running the show." It's the Empty Greens who point at the SJWs and say they're representative of all liberals.

In software there is this exceedingly dumb fad where writing tests has been elevated over writing software. The book says that it's better to write the tests first, and that developers should write the tests before the code, ignoring that they will have the same blind spots in both. I don't think the book says developers should have *sole* testing responsibility. But most practitioners of this idiocy do believe that.

So what does it matter if the book doesn't say that? That's what people do.

What does it matter if a majority of the people who think abortion is immoral are OK with contraception? Their leaders oppose contraception. You are aware I am certain that Thomas already said contraception was an "error." They will make contraception illegal and the prolife majority won't care. They've gotten what they wanted, and it isn't about compassion for anyone.

Expand full comment
Jun 25, 2022·edited Jun 25, 2022Author

"Do I have to make the same point on every issue?"

😅 I know the feeling. I also feel as If I've made the following point countless times. Let's go one layer deeper.

How is societal or legal change achieved? What motivates politicians to effect change? How do minority or niche issues break into the mainstream? If you answered "public opinion," you are correct.

The people "running the show" didn't want women to have the right to vote or to have abortion rights (or even what's left of them). They didn't want slavery or segregation to end. At least not initially. Abraham Lincoln forcefully put down three attempts, by his own men, to end slavery. They didn't want gay marriage to be legalised. Barack Obama had to be convinced to drop his publicly stated anti-gay marriage stance.

You can effect change without persuading the extremists. None of these injustices were resolved by unanimous agreement. But you will definitely have to persuade people who are reasonable but unconvinced. The good news is, these people, on almost every issue, are the majority.

So apologies if I mischaracterised your position by implying that you're tarring everybody with the same brush as the extremists. But what you *do* seem to be doing, is arguing that because there are insane, unreasonable people out there, some of them in positions of power, persuading those who aren't in power doesn't matter. But, in fact, it's the only strategy that does matter. And it's been proven to work time and time again.

Expand full comment

Abortion just before birth: unless we have evidence that the almost-baby has a mind, I don’t see the immorality. It’s not the killing of the somatic fetus that I see as the sin, it’s the individual with its experience and identity. People euthanize loving pets that have thinking emotional lives because it’s cheaper than treatment.

Suppose the baby has no cerebrum. Is it murder to pull the plug? There is no person there, and never will be; just human DNA.

Expand full comment
Jun 25, 2022·edited Jun 25, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Practical matters. Most of the justices have decades to live, their impeachment is a nonstarter, the overturning of Roe is just the beginning. We can expect a federal law defining abortion as murder where every miscarriage may mean an arrest; amniocentesis is likely to be banned since the knowledge of carrying a fetus with Down Syndrome or without a cerebrum motivates abortion. The conservatives have lost on the social wars so they are nuking the enemy capitol with the Catholics on the Supreme Court. Same sex marriage will be ended and retroactively annulled; contraception will be banned;

In the meantime, women should divorce conservative men or at least deny them sex and children; companies should relocate out of red states and leave them jobless; underground railways should be set up to fund travel and treatment for women in troglodyte red states.

But America has been heading down a very dark path for forty years and it just got a lot darker,

Expand full comment

> "women should divorce conservative men or at least deny them sex and children"

Um, are you trying to take away their agency? You forget that many conservative women are actively or passively anti-abortion. They would be more likely to divorce liberal men who have the attitudes you do.

Understand, I am pro-abortion. But I'm not under any delusion that all conservative women agree with me on that and are willing to break up their marriages if I want them to because of my beliefs, not their own. They are often as much or more interested in having kids than their partners, so "denying" their spouses a family would be perceived as cutting off their noses to spite their faces - when they don't even want to spite their faces!

Guess what? Conservatives have more marriages and more children than liberals do. Your prescription is p*ssing into the wind, alas.

We will see how far the Supreme Court goes. I do dread the future, in part because of the potential nightmare scenario you lay out (yes, I agree that would be terrible), but also part of my dread is that the extremes on both sides will egg each other on, both sure that 100% of the blame for the radicalization is on the other side. There is so much smug certainty, so little awareness or reflection. On both ends of the spectrum.

Expand full comment

How can I follow or otherwise subscribe to you? I'm already following Steve. To use an old line, do you come here often?

Expand full comment

Thanks. I do not have my own substack, but I do read a number of authors here, and sometimes comment. I probably comment more on Steve's substack than any others; there are some very good and civil commenters I enjoy as well as Steve himself. (I also comment at times on medium and quora)

I'm not sure if one can "follow" somebody's comments here. Perhaps someday I should create a more coherent expression of the ideas I find worthwhile, rather than scatter them around so much.

Edit: I just created a substack (so the above is somewhat untrue) but have not yet submitted any posts. I may add some recommended substack authors.

Expand full comment

That's great news! Add me to your subscribers as soon as you can !:0)

Expand full comment

In order to believe what Lisa says about the motives of anti-choice people, you also have to believe that the anti-choice position is obviously false, so no one could reach out by careful objective deliberation. I am passionately pro-choice, but not because I think the anti-choice advocates are all liars and fools. There are people on both sides of this issue that think the answer is obvious, and can be found by consulting common sense and/or scientific fact. For several years, I taught a course on abortion that was designed to destroy this self-confidence, by showing how confusing this topic is when you think clearly about it. That is the strongest argument for why this is really a religious question, and why the state has no business making this decision for anyone else. My uncertainty does not weaken my commitment to the pro-choice position. On the contrary, it is because the issues can’t be easily resolved either way that having an abortion must remain a matter of personal choice: Not because the question is simple but because it is too complicated for anyone to be sure what the right answer is.

This series of linked essays is based on the texts from my abortion course, and the discussions we had in class. My goal is to enable the reader to experience first hand just how difficult these questions are. At the end of that course, most of my students concluded that they were anti-abortion and pro-choice. It is my hope that paraphrasing our class discussions will help foster a level of tolerance which is regrettably lacking in the current public debates on this topic.


Expand full comment

I just enjoyed reading your series on Medium. No doubt it was not intended to be digested in one binge read, but that's what I did so there is too much to parse here. It did cause me to think about the idea of a right to what quality of life? Does that matter?

I can't believe that I spent the whole day, minus my morning walk, on the internet. My banjo is looking at me disapprovingly.

Expand full comment

It was beyond my wildest hopes that anybody would do that, but I'm very glad you did.

Expand full comment

For what it's worth, my thoughts go to what can be done. You may or may not have an interest. https://medium.com/@dmurray110/the-doom-of-political-parties-acec668393df

Expand full comment

Thank you!

Expand full comment

Many years ago on a long drive we stopped at a small town in Oregon to go to a restaurant. It was one of those towns that probably has a single employer, where high school graduates report for work the first Monday after high school.

There was a young couple a few tables away, the wife rocking one baby and pregnant with another. Her eyes were as vacant as a Trump hotel and her rocking looked as self-aware as a flatworm.

But what was most striking was the husband, A world of despair and misery in his eyes. He was maybe 19 but knew his life was over. I didn't talk to them bit I would bet that he had gotten her pregnant and married her because to abandon her with his child would be unconscionable; and now his choices were over. He would never go further in school, never have a life with travel and opportunity. It was as depressing as anything could be.

Not getting an abortion had stopped his life in its tracks.

Expand full comment

As a woman with a history of the right ( and no right as a teenager) to choose the massive implications of caring for and raising another human being (with no support from family or otherwise), this decision slays me to my very soul. My deepest empathy to all women, too young and not so young who will not have the right to choose their own freedoms in life and will have to suffer the consequences (as will their child) until the day they die.

Expand full comment

I often don't argue with the position Lisa is advocating here, because we're both on the same side about the important issue, and it seems to me we should focus on fighting together against those people who want to deny women the right to choose. But just to get this out of the way: It's just not true that a preponderance of men are anti-choice. Preponderance means "more than half" and the polls show that most men are pro-choice. The reasons for that are pretty obvious, if you try looking at this from most men's point of view, especially young and unmarried men. As Dave Murray points out, If you are a man and your sexual partner gets pregnant, your life will get very seriously bent out of shape if you had no interest in raising a child with that woman at that point of your life. Yes, it will be worse for the woman. Whatever burdens are placed on the man are equally on the woman, and then compounded with all the things that happen to her body. But unless the man is a psychopath willing to skip town on the woman, the burdens placed on the man are still enough to make it very much in his interest to keep abortion safe and legal. The only people for whom that isn't true are a few impotent old Patriarchs who are in no danger of getting in this situation. Those people are powerful and dangerous, but they are definitely a minority of the male population.

Expand full comment

Yes. Because we are not just meat. We are mind and emotion as well. The psychic weight of supporting children doesn't just burden the individuals involved but will impact the quality of care the child receives as well and influence what type of human being the child becomes. I rarely hear about this in the abortion debate.

I'm not saying no one should ever have to bear burdens. Life throws enough of those our way even without artificially imposed ones. Care should be taken to avoid pregnancy. Contraception should be free or insurance supported and promoted to the rooftops and back again. But, even with all of this in play (it's decades off at least because of those who think contraception allows women to get away with having a good time. Funny how this judgement is never leveled at men.) mistakes will still happen.

Why do we not have a duty of care to the unwanted child to consider the quality of it's life? Is it humane to bring an unwanted child into a world when you know it will be unloved, abused, kicked around? Why doesn't this matter or factor into the debate?

Expand full comment

This song https://youtu.be/JdmGO-GvHyo was released in 1968, five years before the Roe v. Wade ruling. If you are under fifty you have no memory of the zeitgeist when that song had meaning that you may not be able to completely grasp. If you "got a girl in trouble" the choices were, "do the right thing" and marry her, or if that was deemed to be not the right thing (it often wasn't) she went away for a while to stay with Aunt Sally where she had the child that was put up for adoption (never spoken of). I had a girlfriend who told me she would never marry a guy who knocked her up because she never wanted to hear the words during a heated argument, "I wouldn't have married you except for that little bastard." Or you could be the person in the song.

That was just the world of teen pregnancy. Adults also had/have reasons to not bring another child into the world. Listen to the song (really listen) and try to let those times sink in. How do you think that people have never known a time when safe abortion was not an option are going to deal with a return of those times? Will cities burn during another summer of peaceful protests?

I'm not part of the "it's men trying to control women's bodies" thinking crowd. There are truly people who are opposed to abortion as a matter of conscience. I'm of the "it's none of my f'ing business," or the government's way of thinking. I'll spare you the list of evil shit (yes, I'm getting worked up) that the government has been involved in pertaining to "medicine." A paragon of virtue.

I've got a friend, an evangelical (not dissing religions) who is very outspoken in his opposition to abortion. In the Navy he served on a nuclear submarine with a mission to annihilate cities with millions of people, including pregnant women, if his government commanded it. We humans are a mass of contradictions, all in good faith. But then we are also a bunch of assholes seeking to give government the power to do *to* the political opposition and then become horrified when the opposition gets that power. I'll stop my government has too much power rant before I go anarchist.

Expand full comment

I don't trust our government any more than you do but it stands as our only protection from the corporations and the financiers.

Without government we would be living in corporate barracks working 18 hour days in exchange for calories alone, getting smaller every generation because smaller people can subsist on smaller amounts of crop residue and pink slime. We would be sent outside the gates to starve at the first sign of weakness or by age forty.

This is the world that the free market party aspires to.

Do you doubt this?

Expand full comment

Some observations counter to that idea.

A job at a dormitory sock factory was a step up from stepping barefoot on water buffalo shit in a rice paddy. One person's sweat shop is another's opportunity. Are you looking down or up? An Italian factory in Thailand where they could sell their socks cheaper in Italy with a side effect of adding to the Thai economy.

My first trip to China was Shanghai in the 90s. I was there to provide training and support for a commercial airline avionics maintenance shop. The building was not airconditioned. There was a glass greenhouse looking thing in the middle of a big room that was for the equipment. People came to work on bycicles or what looked like military trucks. The main street was four lanes, two each way, and on the weekend, they put up barriers to extend the sidewalk to the outside lanes for vehicles.

My last trip was to Xi'An to train and support a joint venture flight controls shop. A very different China. They had decided to transition from export only factories to a local consumption one which meant they had to pay people enough to buy the products. I went into a store with a seven-story escalator. The 7th story was a food court full of sit down real non-junk restaurants. Cars everywhere which made it a bit like Bangkok or Tokyo; faster to leave the car at home and take public transportation. A huge thriving economy. Capitalism at work.

Where it didn't serve America well was that we moved manufacturing out of the US. We went from a manufacturing giant, as far as jobs went for the semi-skilled, to a service industry. If your service takes skill and knowledge, finance or tech, you can make money though software can be outsourced globally too. That leaves the "Why did I have to learn math in school? I never use Algebra." crowd doing minimum wage jobs that were once upon a time my high school part time job. 𝗣𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗻'𝘁 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘂𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝘂𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁 𝗰𝗮𝗽𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗺 𝗶𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝗻𝗼 𝗰𝗮𝗽𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗹. The living wage factory jobs are largely gone and any service job that can be done over the internet is in competition with lower wage workers overseas.

Government doesn't protect anyone from that. Government does support crony capitalism where the ultimate insider traders (Congress) pass laws and regulations that determine who the winners and losers will be and buy the right stock early.

My big complaint with government is its claimed monopoly on the use of deadly force and the ability to incarcerate. Big business can't get away with sending men with guns to take you away or kill you.

How does that relate to the abortion issue? What do we do with all these people who cannot sustain themselves because they offer nothing to society? We don't just need to shrink the population for Mother Earth, but we outgrew capitalism as it serves the masses. I'm aware that that sounds a bit elitist but find the lie.

Expand full comment

Google Pinkertons, 1892


BTW elitism doesn't faze me. I can't help but be elitist about some things, like music. I find some widely accepted ideas like "common sense" to be offensive af; the only acknowledgement I can bring myself to make of the idea is at the level of "don't hold your hand in a fire."

BTW ...

"If you don't pay your taxes, men with guns will show up at your house, initiate force and put you in jail."

"This is not initiation of force. It is enforcement of contract, in this case an explicit social contract. Many libertarians make a big deal of "men with guns" enforcing laws, yet try to overlook the fact that "men with guns" are the basis of enforcement of any complete social system. Even if libertarians reduced all law to "don't commit fraud or initiate force", they would still enforce with guns."


Expand full comment

I'm aware of that history.

Back in the early 80s my wife has a job sewing blue jeans for Levi Strauss. It was far and away the best paying job around for an industrial seamstress. $8/hr ($22.51 in 2022 dollars) where the minimum wage was $3.25/hr. Someone started an effort to unionize. I have no idea how much that mattered in the decision to shut down all the US plants and move them offshore, but that's what happened.

I had just taken a new expat job (a bit of irony) and we were moving away. She would have been quitting anyway but timing is everything. They gave her a generous eight-week payout when they shut it down. Back in the union busting days you point to if you demanded more than an employer could pay and stay in business they couldn't move offshore. I guess losing the best job you could find was better than facing the Pinkertons. Not an excuse for sending in the vigilantes.

Expand full comment

I'll get this out of the way up front. I had read the Lord of the Rings trilogy five times before the publication of The Silmarillion. Reading it answered some enigmatic questions and I read it one more time. Thanks for the link, I'll probably investigate it for reasons other than your purpose in posting it.

I assume, correct me if I'm wrong, that the point is that the Supreme Court is the one ring and should be casts into the fire of the mount of doom. I can understand your thought when it is packed by people with ideological agendas given my small l libertarian view that governments of all kinds have too much power given their tendency to abuse that power.

Expand full comment

No, my point was what Galadriel says about the Second Kindred, the Men: "above all else, desire power."

That is so true.

In my ideal world there would be an absolute ruler of unimpeachable benevolence who would never succumb to the desire for power or the enjoyment of cruelty, This is of course impossible. But we could get so many problems fixed.

Expand full comment

'𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘦"

There's the rub. We are both realists; wish in one hand and crap in the other and we know which hand fills faster. Conflict over power is always claimed to be good vs. evil, but it turns out to be us vs. them where good guys is not an absolute.

I think that the best that we can do is limit the power that those in power enjoy.

Expand full comment

My vote for benevolent dictator goes to Lord Vetinari of Ankh Morpork.

Expand full comment

Lisa comes from a hyper-religious background so when she hears 'pro-choice' she thinks 'Christian' (not that Christians are the only religion where the conservatives think women have no right to their own bodies).

You're right, a woman can be 'pro-life', believe that abortion is murder, and not necessarily be a brainwashed little handmaid. In fact, I think mindless pro-trans women on the left like Emma Watson are every bit as brainwashed by misogynist men as Bible-thumpers (or Torah-thumpers, or Koran-thumpers, or...)

I think I could even get behind the right-to-life position in a different world, maybe a future world (I hope) where men and women are a lot more equal (and everyone else). Where I differ is to whether any baby has a 'right' to life, and in fact the reasonable question may be asked, "What sort of life will this baby have if I allow it to be born?" How about *quality* of life? Will the mother have to raise it on her own? Will she want to raise perhaps a rape baby? How much support will she have? This is where so-called 'pro-lifers' fall so far short. It's not really about babies' lives, it's about controlling women. Period. The fact that Clarence Thomas wants to go after birth control next demonstrates it's all about returning sexual decisions to men and, I don't know, reinstating those Homes for Wayward Women of yore. As long as he's going after hippie-era decisions, I await his announcement that it's time to rescind the ban on interracial marriages again, do the 'right' thing, and divorce his ofay wife ;P

(He'll have a lot of support from his white fanboys & girls on this)

I'm with Lisa on the evils of patriarchy and I agree with her that men don't contribute enough to get 50% of the decision. I say if they don't want 'their' baby aborted that they use whatever birth control is available to them (to the *man*, this is *his responsibility we're talking about) and don't whine if he doesn't and she gets pregnant and wants marriage/an abortion/18 years of child support.

In a future world where women and men really are far more equal, I'd be more inclined to give men more of the decision-making process. Right now, esp with the pushback after only roughly a century and change of women's equality, men in general aren't even close to being ready for that, and won't be for several generations, at the least, to come.

I don't think you don't have the right not to speak out about abortion just because you're a man. I have the right to speak out about anti/racism even though I'm white (and funny, no one objects unless they disagree with me :) ) We need to challenge the idea that you have to be X to speak critically about X, especially since X never likes to be criticized and will never hear it from their own.

Cripes, Twitter is a bloody mess today. <great tweets> describing why ending Roe v Wade is a bad thing> followed by, "And if you don't agree you're a total cunt."


Expand full comment

Twitter is loaded with impotent calls to action. Hold a march. Sign a petition,

I couldn’t take the conservative gloating, I’m staying off there:

Expand full comment

Top posting for a reason.

"Not that I think the pro-life position is all religious quackery."

I do think so, for one simple reason: the position has no resemblance to any Schweitzerian reverence for life. It does not extend to animals. It's only about the sanctity of *human* life, and if that isn't a religious view then the only other possible explanation is an execrable bigotry.

When I was ten we visited the Smithsonian. In one exhibit there were a few dozen taxidermied animals, shrunken and sad with age. A few of them were labeled "Extinct." It was one of the most disturbing moments of my life; about 20 minutes later I vomited, the only time in my life I have reacted that way. All my political views began with that exhibit.

I am more misanthropic than the elder Franz Liszt. I love animals; when I die all my money will go to the Loro Parque Fundación in Spain to help keep some parrots from extinction. I donate to anti-animal-cruelty causes and shelters for abandoned pets.

I despise how our species is wiping out all the others because everyone wants babies. The global animal population has fallen over 50% since 1970.

This is why I am pro-abortion more than pro-choice. I'd prefer a global population substantially lower than when I was born.

Expand full comment
Jun 25, 2022·edited Jun 25, 2022Author

"the only other possible explanation is an execrable bigotry"

Well, then I guess I'm an execrable bigot. I believe human life (at least 1 to 1) is more valuable than other forms of life on Earth. If I had to choose between saving an individual human being and an individual animal I would, in 100% of cases, choose the human. This isn't a religious conviction, simply, at least to me, a logical one.

I'm a pescatarian because I don't personally want to eat animals (though I don't see it as an absolute moral evil). I'm resolutely against all forms of animal cruelty (I don't even approve of horse-riding). I don't visit zoos because I find them grotesque. But I'd object to each of those scenarios a hundred times more if a human being were the subject.

I'm sure that some of the people who would agree with me would agree for religions reasons. But if you think the "only" other explanation for somebody valuing human life above animal life is religion, then I'm living proof that that's not true.

Expand full comment

I didn’t say that the life of a ladybug is equal to a human life. But I have never heard from a prolifer who wasn’t completely indifferent to the extinction of wildlife. So all the parrots, giraffes, great apes and whales die out. So what? We should put people first.

This makes me very misanthropic.

If I could trade the return of one of my dead cats or parrots for one of the Capitol rioters, I’d revive every pet I ever had.

Expand full comment

Morality is on a continuum.

Expand full comment

Certainly, the world's extreme population is a problem. Famine, pestilence and war have failed to hold population in check. After the birth of our second child, I dutifully got a vasectomy. The problem you mention, and global warming can probably only be fixed with the death of at least four billion people, maybe more. It's not in me to propose that gruesome solution. I was a hunter and a volunteer to go to war. Now I have a pidgin shitting all over my front porch and I won't knock the nest off because she is sitting on an egg or tiny chick that I don't want to kill. How's that for contradiction?

Expand full comment

LOL! I'm a vet as well. And my husband and I rescue spiders from our house. A glass and piece of cardboard and a quick toss outside wishing them luck. One time we did this and a lizard that I hadn't noticed made a quick meal of the poor guy. Good for the lizard.

But we don't grant the same clemency to ants, earwigs, or silverfish or mice. Where do you draw the line, you know? We each decide.

You might be interested in a documentary called The Biggest Little Farm. It is an experimental farm in Ventury County where they restored several hundred acres by leveraging biodiversity and making peace with the everything eats everything ethos. It's a fascinating watch and very educational.

Expand full comment

I found a venomous snake in the house a few days ago. I put him outside too.

I read Albert Schweitzer a long time ago, and I remain a believer.

Expand full comment

Also, I almost forgot. We rescued a baby rattler once through relocation to a non-house-adjacent part of our property.

Expand full comment

We have also rescued bats. Those were the worst because they were so terrified. One got caught in our bathtub with glass doors and with radar bouncing everywhere he/she just panicked. Another one found it's way into the bedroom and it took us 30 minutes with a cardboard box and broom to snare it without hurting it and shoo it outside. We have since stopped the holes from the attic through which they were finding their way in. The best defense against house critters is not letting them get in in the first place (if possible - nothing is 100%).

Right after we moved up here (mountainous woods), a mother mouse found her way into my interior fan housing and made a nest because I only drive my car every 2 weeks. We live remotely and trips to town are planned. I didn't realize this and turned on the fan, killing all of the pups. It just gutted me and I quickly located and sealed the holes in the frame that allowed access. I am not super squeamish about death - particularly if it is useful in the sense that it feeds another life form. But senseless death takes me out. Not a fan of trophy hunting, for instance. But feeding your family? That's different.

We do trap mice to keep them from eating stuff inside our vehicle engines (they will chew through plastic and wires, for instance) because we don't have a garage yet. But we put them out for the foxes and bobcats. They are always gone the next morning. So, they don't go to waste and serve to further another life.

Expand full comment

The death of four billion people (more like six, and coupled with a world war level effort at carbon sequestration and move away from fossil fuels) need not be a mass murder. I'm not calling for mass murder, nor for withholding medical care for those who will die without it.

It begins with recognition, however unpopular, that we need to have a lot, lot, lot fewer children. For most people this would make life suicidally meaningless; their children are the only important thing in their lives.

Sorry but I think the survival of life on earth is more important than that.

People are starting to die from heatstroke. Crops are beginning to fail. And the wrong people are choosing to go childless.

Expand full comment

Love your honesty here. Good stuff.

Expand full comment

This Dobbs case is not the first horrid Supreme Court Decision. There was Plessy v Ferguson and the Brown v Bd of Education which withheld from Blacks the inalienable right of liberty, thereby implying that Blacks were not fully human. Brown was actually more racist than Plessy. People, however, do not analyze; they merely emote over the outcome like it's a horse race. Roe v Wade was a the best decision in the 20th century.

USA v Miller (1939) must have been written by someone who was drunk. It lay the ground for Heller and much death. I plan an article on it.

Citizen United decided that fictitious persons (corporations) should be treated as if they were living human beings and human beings should be treated like trash.

We ow the Dobbs decision to one word and three women: Pelosi, Hillary, and Ginsburg. Against the advise of law enforcement, Pelosi has been ginning up the Alt Right with her Identity Politics knowing that they are very violent. Their violence makes money for her. Whites not only shoot people, they VOTE. Hillary brought into Identity Politics think that would bring her the woman's vote and called Rust Belt Whites 'deplorables" so they voted for a mentally ill lunatic as President who put three unqualified right wing fanatics on the court. And there's Ginsburg who was too selfish to resign when Obama could have appointed hr replacement. I have nothing to good to say abut the GOP, but all the crucial mistakes were made by DEMS are for craven reasons. for her next trick, Pelosi will turn all of Congress deep red.

Expand full comment

"human beings should be treated like trash."

And women should be treated like livestock

"called Rust Belt Whites 'deplorables" so they voted for a mentally ill lunatic"

My memory is different "Hillary" has been the subject of what is likely the longest-running and best-financed vilification campaign in human history and I don't think her remark budged the meter needle because it was already straining against the right pin.

Expand full comment

That's right. That remark had no effect on Hillary's Poll numbers. It just caused the people who hated her to hate her more.

Expand full comment

I think maybe had she not gone along with the first-name Happy World thing she might have done better. That "Hillary" and "Bernie" shit seriously pissed me off, and still does. "Senator Clinton" would not have been confused with her husband.

Expand full comment

Not to mention that Hillary became "We came, we saw, he died. Ha-ha-ha!" Killary Clinton.

Expand full comment

She lost me with the proud declaration of her capitalism. It may have been expedient buty it was tasteless. I never voted FOR her anyway, I rarely vote FOR Democrats, I vote against Republicans because they are almost all horrid people.

Expand full comment

I think I may have voted for someone three or four times over my lifetime. The rest has been against someone. It's hard for me to like politicians in general.

The thing with parties is that there are things I dislike in all of them. I can't imagine the mentality, or lack of it, in someone who actually likes everything about any party.

Expand full comment

Actually, it changed my mind on voting for her. I'm from the rust belt and experienced first-hand the decimation of community that happened there in the 70s and 80s.

Expand full comment