February 1, 2006

Abortion Dialogue

There's a back-and-forth on Slate that's shaping up pretty nice-like. Basically what it comes down to is that the dude, William Saletan from the NYT, has a lot more philosophical trouble with the actual act of abortion than the girl, Katha Pollitt from the Nation. That fact pretty wholly informs their arguments about how to best buttress the pro-choice movement.

I personally think that an abortion is a pretty big deal, and thus most of Pollitt's argument is incomprehensible to me. Probably her craziest paragraph is this:

"The trouble with thinking in terms of zero abortions is that you make abortion so hateful you do the antichoicers' work for them. You accept that the zygote/embryo/fetus has some kind of claim to be born. You start making madonna-whore distinctions. In the New York Times Magazine Eyal Press, a contributing writer to this magazine, writes of his father, a heroically brave and dedicated abortion doctor: "Had the women...been free-love advocates for whom the procedure seemed a mere matter of convenience, he would not have been so angry" at the antichoice protesters who hounded him and his patients. Why not? Because a sexy single woman should suffer for not suffering?"

Saletan calls her out on the first part: pretty much everybody sees a distinction between a zygote and a fetus, and most of those people would vote pro-choice if we demonstrated understanding of that, and we fucking need those people to vote.

I have more trouble with the second thing, about the "sexy single woman"- first of all what the fuck is up with that rhetoric? Why is it important that the woman is sexy? Implicitly she's making the case that a woman's claim to continue being sexy outweighs a fetus's claim to be born. That's pretty stupid. Additionally I feel like it's condescending to the woman having the abortion, who 99% of the time is doing so with a lot of guilt and trepidation. It's a big deal, folks.

However she's obviously not completely thick and she makes some decent points in her Nation article so maybe she'll come back and bring it. Either way it should be edifying reading.

Also, who the fuck is "Michael?" It says on his site that he's a "cadet." What the fuck is that? Does that mean he's going to have command/control over human lives, in battles and shit? That is not a good look at all. After that sweet-looking Tyrese movie came out I was totally stoked about the service for a little while, because I love fistfights, but now I'm not sure. Justify your thug, Michael! Write back!


  1. Michael's actually a good friend of mine from back home in Indiana. He's an ROTC cadet.

  2. Pollitt's point by asking this rhetorical question seemed to me to be quite clear: the doctor's attitude was that the antichoice protesters were wrong because his patients fell on the 'right' side of the madonna/whore split. She's not being condescending towards the women who regard the choice as a difficult one; she's pointing out that the doctor is being condescending towards the women who do regard it completely casually, acting as arbiter over who's made the decision to abort or not in the 'right' way.

  3. noumena, I think Saletan's point is that we can, we should, and politically we must condemn the morality of casual abortions. As long as society makes contraception—including emergency contraception—readily available, a casual abortion is a morally irresponsible act. Saletan argues that most Americans would be willing to see it legally protected, but not blithely accepted.

  4. "As long as society makes contraception—including emergency contraception—readily available, a casual abortion is a morally irresponsible act."

    Is emergency contraception really widely available? If not, shouldn't you have said "if" rather than "as long as"?


  5. Anonymous9:58 PM


    When someone says "I figured out what you 'really meant,' but there was ambiguity and therefore you erred," usually that means that there wasn't that much ambiguity to begin with.

    "Tim," I don't think anyone thought Seal was making the broad claim that society makes contraception readily available.

    Clear enough to me.