Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Dialogue About Abortion: Part I

I’m trying something a little different at NewsCat this week. Almost as long as I’ve been blogging about abortion, one commenter “Jim in Cleveland,” who has seemed to be a pretty die-hard anti-abortion opponent, has been responding to my posts. After my last post I suggested to Jim that, instead of merely responding in comments, why don’t we have an e-mail dialogue about our positions and understanding of the abortion issue.

I wasn’t thinking of this as a debate, because we’re unlikely to change each other’s minds, but I do think with dialogue there can be a better understanding of the other person’s position and what attitudes inform it. My goal was to model this experiment after Slate.com’s Dialogues discussions, and the plan is cover this discussion over the course of a week.

I think the readers of my blog get a pretty decent sense of where I stand on the abortion position, I would support all abortion and no restrictions, up to and including the third-trimester. But beyond what I think about abortion, I’ve also marched to in support of pro-choice policies, given money to groups that provide poor women who cannot afford an abortion the ability to obtain one, and support political candidates on a sliding scale based (to some extent) how pro-choice their politics are. I’m also someone who writes about abortion and reproductive rights in general as part of my career outside of this blog.

So with that let’s let Jim in Cleveland introduce himself:

I am a 41 year-old Clevelander (go Indians!), am married with three kids, and work in the area of civil rights for the federal government. I am a cradle Catholic conservative, work with mostly liberals, live in a liberal city, and yes, some of my best friends are liberal. I have been pro-life for as long as I can remember, though like Rachel, I don't think there was one moment that crystalized my position. I think given the way I was raised, given my religious and moral beliefs, and given who I am in general, I could never have been anything but pro-life.

I don't think I could tell an interesting story, or quote any inspiring person, that would enlighten you as to why my position on abortion is what it is. I would have to add that I am a lot like most of the pro-life people I know--not some stereotype religious nut whose only answer to pro-choice positions is Bible quotes and pictures of ultrasounds, though I think Bible quotes and pictures of ultrasounds should not be discounted. I come to the pro-life position by logic, faith, and a sincere sympathy for the women whom I think abortion harms. I would never judge a woman who has had an abortion--instead, I judge the act itself.

In short, I hold and defend my pro-life position not just for the unborn, but for the women who have abortions, and for the culture that is harmed by abortion.
From NewsCat
Jim in Cleveland
Posted: Monday, October 15 at 8:32 AM

So Jim, thanks for agreeing to do this. I know you wrote to me that you had some definite thoughts about my last post about the study regarding the ratio of abortions worldwide, and I want to get to that. But first I wanted to ask you when did you first come to a definite understanding of what your position on abortion was? I’m 31, and I don’t have an exactly date or time that I knew I was pro-choice, but I recall that by high school I was definitely in the pro-choice camp. Certainly I remember getting angry at some things that the first President Bush did even when I was in junior high.

But my clearest early memory is when I was watching the news with my father and I recall asking him why he was pro-choice. His answer was “because I don’t want any politician telling my daughters what they can do with their body.”

I bring up this only to show that I definitely grew up in a pro-choice household and it’s clear that’s where my thinking on this issue originated from. But if anything I got even more liberal on this issue as I got older, if only because I started seeing it more and more as a personal affront to me (as someone who actually can get pregnant) every time there was an anti-choice piece of news.

So, Jim its interesting you talk about abortion harming women [from your intro, where I had asked you how your views were shaped on this issue and at what age], but the recent study that I wrote about is pretty explicit that abortion harms women a lot more when its illegal. In what sense do you think it harms them? Physically? I'm not trying to pick a fight early on, but it ends up sounding somewhat paternalistic. I think adults, both men and women, hate to hear someone else say to them "I know what'sbest for you."

From Jim in Cleveland
Posted: Tuesday, October 16 at 11:08 AM

Hmmm. I know this is your blog, so you make the rules. But I also don't buy your dad's statement about politicians telling my daughters what can be done to their bodies, and could question you on that. In other words, I think you could likely point out you don't agree with just about everything I say, and vice versa, so it may be more productive to stick to the issues at hand. To answer your question, though, I don't view it as paternalistic. I believe abortion harms women psychologically and physically, legal or not, and individually and as a group. To say it is paternalistic implies that being concerned about people for making the wrong choice is a bad thing. I don't want drug users to use because I think it harms them--is that paternalistic? I don't want people to drive drunk because I think it could harm the driver--again, paternalistic? Arguing that an action harms someone and not wanting them to do it is not paternalism.

And my statement was that abortion harms women, not the legality of abortion harms women. I make comparisons to make a point, not to say abortion is the same as drug use or drunken driving. Similarly, I think that prostitution is wrong and harmful to women, but I would bet where it is legal it is more safe.

One more thing, and I am not being facetious. I would suspect that half the fetuses destroyed are female. In that way, abortion sure as hell harms a bunch of women. I get that adults don't like to be told what is best for them. But that assumes the woman is the only victim in an abortion, and I did not say that. I only assert that abortion ALSO hurts the women involved, in order to discount the argument some pro-aborts have that men don't care about the women having the abortion, just the baby.


Anonymous said...

I am very excited to read the initial "Newscat Dialogues" !!!

PS to Jim in Cleveland - any team that beats the Yankees in OK by me.

Anonymous said...

I got an e-mail from a friend in Minnesota saying, "Thank you for saving us from more Yankee postseason drama.


Jim in Cleveland