Category Archives: Abortion

Knowledge vs. Belief

I started to write this post after Jim posted Unknown unknowns over at Stonekettle Station, which was a post in response to the tempest in a teapot that represented the 24 hour news cycle reporting on the clinic standoff and shooting incident in Colorado Springs. I shelved it for various reasons at first, none of them really earth-shattering. Of course, a week later and we have the inexplicable mass shooting in San Bernardino, which instantly eclipsed the previous story.

I could easily spin this into an screed against the gun lobby and their paid cronies in Washington DC who won’t let the CDC even study gun violence in an effort to figure out how to address it, considering that we have had more than one mass shooting every day of this year (2015) which has to be some kind of record that no society on the face of this earth is really interested in breaking…

…but that isn’t the article I want to write. This isn’t going to be the article I started out writing, either. The issue is much bigger than the specific subject of what we know or don’t know about a specific person set on doing wrong, or having been caught doing wrong. It is even bigger than the problem that Jim was trying to address, the 24 hour news cycle, which I agree probably represents the greatest threat to human civilization in the modern age. The need to fill time, to produce facts and counterfactuals when no hard facts are known about the specifics of the incident in question, can lead to greater and greater flights of fancy.

I turn the TV off when that feeding frenzy starts. It is hard enough to separate the wheat from the chaff on good days.  On bad days like the two events above bring, listening to the news just feeds confirmation bias until you end up looking and sounding like an idiot.

I will include the specific arguments for the Colorado Springs incident in this post, but the point that I’m seeing come into focus now that the shooter has appeared in court and indicted himself is the argument about what we know vs. what we believe. How we can know what we think we know, and how is that different than belief?

That is the reason why the 24 hour news cycle is such a threat. Being not much more than the talking heads that sold soap in the early days of television, the current crop of news faces appear to have even less familiarity with what facts are and why fact-checking is important. They are after all just selling soap.  Keeping the most number of eyes on the screen is how they sell soap, and so the factual content of what they say isn’t the important part of the equation.  That they tell you things that reinforce your beliefs on a subject so that you will keep watching is.

Most of the white-looking people in the US trust the police intrinsically, for example.  Most of us older types were raised on police dramas portraying the cops as the good guys who enforce the laws and keep the peace.  It is very uncomfortable for most of us to be confronted with stories if entire police departments covering up the details of killings done at their hands. And yet, time after time over the last few years, we have been shown just how human police departments are everywhere in the US.  Be it Chicago, Baltimore or Saint Louis, just about anywhere USA, there are examples of police who brazenly violate laws and procedures who are then protected by their brothers in uniform.

This really isn’t news.  If you’ve been paying attention you would have run across stories by people like Radley Balko who have been documenting police excess for several decades now.  The police are after all only human.  If you were in their place you would act no differently than they would, because that is what humans do.  But that doesn’t excuse the excess, it is a point of data that needs to be accounted for when deciding what you know or don’t know about any given subject.

For the black or brown people who are almost always the bad guys in police dramas, the revelation that cops are only human really isn’t news either. They’ve lived with the reality of constant police scrutiny for generations. So much so that stories abound of fathers and mothers cautioning their children not to become police statistics.  So it is no wonder that the chant black lives matter resounds with them. The counter offered by clueless whites that all lives matter is heard by these same people as just another call for them to sit down and be quiet. How is this possible?  How can realities and beliefs about these realities be so widely separated?

When it comes right down to it, what you know with certainty is a very small number of things. Whether it is night or day. Whether it is cold or hot. You know these things because you can test them directly with your senses. Solipsists will argue that you can’t even know those things because we are all just brains in jars at best, but I’d like us all to pretend that the shadows on the cave walls actually represent something real, and try to make sense of that.  If that much can’t be granted, then there is little point in continuing to read this.  Even less in my continuing to write.

Beyond what you can test yourself (fire burns) there are grades of factual knowledge which you can probably safely rely on.  At each point where the facts exchange hands, the ownership of that data has to be documented to be trusted. This is why, when doing research, it is important to seek out source material and not just rely on wikipedia.  The more obscure the subject matter the less reliable secondary sources are.

When watching the news on television or reading news stories on any other site than AP, Reuters or UPI you are already dealing with information that has been through at least three hands if not dozens. When you’ve gone beyond the point where the witness is being interviewed in person, you are dealing with evidence that wouldn’t be accepted in court. That doesn’t mean it is without value, it just means the news you are being offered could be just this side of fantasy.

It might even be pure fantasy. Case in point, the FOX/conservative/anti-abortion counter-narrative about the Colorado Springs shooter.  When I logged on Blogger that night, the first thing I saw wasn’t the Stonekettle Station article. The first article that caught my eye was a piece over at Friendly Atheist in which Ted Cruz voices the notion that the shooter was some kind of leftist.  No, I could not make something that stupid up myself.  Let me quote a bit;

 Cruz is basing that characterization on a supposed voter registration form in which Dear was listed as a woman. Whether it’s a mistake, or Dear was just messing around, or simply not the right form, we don’t know, but no other evidence indicates that he was transgender.

There’s even less evidence that he was a “leftist.”

The problem that I had with Jim’s Unknown unknowns piece now surfaces. Jim mentions this story in opposition to the reports (which he attributes to Planned Parenthood) that the shooter was heard to say “no more baby parts” as he was being arrested.  But the contrast between the veracity of these two stories is as marked as they are in opposition to each other.

The statement no more baby parts was repeated by an officer to a reporter directly on scene, who dutifully passed it on to their viewing audience. While that is hearsay and not evidence admissible in court; the officer if he were to appear in court could repeat the statement and it would be admissible.  It would also be accepted by an overwhelming number of juries who trust police officers to be truthful (see above) even in the face of so much evidence that police will lie to protect their own.

Since this case isn’t about one of their own, and since the police showed remarkable restraint in bringing a cop killer in alive, I was inclined to believe the statement of the arresting officer.  That the shooter (not alleged, he plead guilty) repeated a version of the same statement at his hearing just confirms the motivation that lead him to commit the crimes he is guilty of.

On the other hand, the preferred story of conservatives/anti-abortionists is based on what? Essentially no evidence whatsoever, more wishful thinking than anything else.  And yet it is repeated by a Republican Presidential candidate as if it was the unquestionable truth.

That is the nature of belief. It doesn’t require facts.  Facts are counterproductive because they can be questioned. If facts are presented that counter a belief, it only takes the briefest scrutiny to discover or manufacture an anomaly which the believer will use to discard the entirety of the factual information presented. Ted Cruz wants to believe that the shooter couldn’t be one of his fellow anti-abortionists. Ted Cruz believes that leftists are dangerous people, and that LGBT people are a threat to his way of life.  The story he repeats is ready-made to fit into his preconceived view of the world, and it matters not one bit that the story makes no sense on its face.  That the average liberal and LGBT person would be in support of Planned Parenthood and consequently wouldn’t see a need to attack one of their clinics never enters into the mind of a conservative repeating this laughable story.

Given the history of attacks on Planned Parenthood, and the current cloud of controversy artificially created by anti-abortion activists faking videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling body parts, the story of a shooter in a clinic almost serves itself up ready-made as a vehicle to attack the religious right and conservatives in general. Of course they would want to craft a counter-narrative (however flimsy) to give themselves an out, a way to disavow accountability for their actions over the last twenty years and more.

A conservative could easily counter all of the above (most probably will) with the adult equivalent of I know you are but what am I?  Since about the time that Reagan was elected, conservatives started to complain about the liberal media. Even I, for a time, fell for this notion that the media was somehow biased in general against conservatives. As the years have progressed, and conservatives have created their own outlets like FOX news, conservapedia, and uncounted news sites including the whacko fringe like prisonplanet and infowars, it has become clear that conservatives aren’t satisfied with simply presenting news from their point of view.  No, what they want is their own set of facts which are unassailable.  Unassailable because they aren’t based on anything real.

Another example is the softer, nicer language of pro-life and pro-choice adopted by the two sides of the endless argument over abortion. Having softened the language, pollsters can get majorities of citizens in the US to say they are pro-life. Who would be against life?  I’m pro-life, I’m also pro-choice; militantly pro-choice.  The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans still believe that abortion should be legal gets lost in the conservative rush to declare the opposite, that the majority of Americans oppose abortion. This conservative view on the matter simply isn’t true as polling shows.

What has occurred since the creation of FOX news is the division of the US into two camps; one of those camps thinks they are right, and the rest of us are liberal.  In their attempt to prove that the rest of the media is based on a liberal conspiracy, conservatives have consciously created a conspiracy of their own. A conspiracy where they tell lies which they know are lies, because the ends justify the means.

When you evade the truth, when you spin tales to hide your true goals, what you get are people who believe your lies so firmly that they will act on them as if they were truths.  You get what transpired in Colorado Springs yesterday, to the embarrassment of every single person who identifies as pro-life. Remember that the next time you hear the phrase liberal media.

The Planned Parenthood Frame-up

I don’t watch gotcha films. I don’t watch gotcha films on any subject, not just on this subject. The reason I don’t watch gotcha films is because there is no way to know whether or not what you are seeing is in any way real. The protest that “these videos are unedited” is a claim which cannot be verified, in a general sense. It is possible to fake almost anything you’d like to these days, and that ability only becomes easier with time.

What I rely on instead is my established ability to sift through a large amount of written language and recognize currents through various writers and posts.  I take people at their word for goals and drives, and filter what they then say against those stated goals looking for what they say that isn’t crafted to further those goals.

That is why my first stop on visiting a site is generally the about page. This is so that I can see who funds the site, what the stated goals are, what the makeup of the management of the site looks like.  With that knowledge in hand, it then becomes possible to determine what any entry on the site is placed there to achieve.

Case in point, the recent melt-down involving Planned Parenthood selling body parts from abortions they’ve performed. As the article on the subject over at Snopes.com points out;

Fetal tissue may only be used or sold post-abortion with the consent of the woman undergoing the procedure. Although some researchers may obtain fetal tissue directly from abortion clinics at their own medical facilities, others have to purchase it from middlemen who pay fees to providers such as Planned Parenthood for specimens and then resell those specimens to researchers. Planned Parenthood maintains they charge only what the law allows (i.e., what they need to cover their expenses in such transactions), while the middlemen charge a markup to cover their processing costs. But regulation of these types of transactions is somewhat murky.

So what the Republican candidates for President are tearing their hair over, and what the morons who lead the House of Representatives want to shut the government down over, is already illegal in the first place. It can’t get more illegal than it already is; and since Planned Parenthood and its leadership have not been charged with violating any laws, I’d bet that what we are witnessing is just more demagoguery and not real revelations on the issue.

I am a certified fan of Planned Parenthood and a fan of it’s current leader, the daughter of a former Texas Governor. Planned Parenthood provides vital and irreplaceable services for the poor all across the US, and services for women’s health (be they rich or poor) which cannot be obtained from any other provider in many areas of the US. If your response to this declaration is that abortion is murder, I direct you to my previously posted article titled simply Abortion, and to the hopefully soon completed EPHN article on the misunderstanding of what human life is. Abortion is a protected procedure that every woman will contemplate at some point in their lives.  Those women who deny this are lying to you and possibly even to themselves.

h/t to Brian Bloomer

It is worth noting that the incident which is most often quoted, the one related by Carly Fiorina in the second Republican Presidential debate, never actually occurred in any of the video that Ms. Fiorina could have seen. So she was lying on national television during a debate.  This really isn’t news because candidates lie all the time (Lips are moving? They’re lying) but usually it’s about things that they’ll do if elected.  Rational types might hold out the hope that threats to end legal abortion in the US are equally lies since the President cannot override decisions set down by the Supreme Court, but there is plenty of other mischief that an activist President can do with his or her office.

The videos that started this whole fiasco are a frame job even so, cooked up by avowed anti-abortion activists (and a right-wing hate group) looking for material to indict Planned Parenthood with.  They have no remorse for the people whose lives they destroy in the process, either;

Arguably the worst aspect of this scam video, beyond the harm it will do to reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood, is the reality that Dr. Nucatela’s life is all but ruined for the foreseeable future. At this moment, anti-choice extremists are likely fanning out around the internet, collecting damaging information about her; finding out her home address and contact information; discovering whether she has children and where they go to school; planning rallies outside her house; or worse. Based on wrongful charges, she now represents Enemy Number One for googly-eyed radicals, fueled by visions of aborted fetuses and the false impression of Planned Parenthood as the Walmart of black market fetus organs.

Real people with real lives in the real world whose lives are ruined because of these faked videos. Faked in that the materials sold are not sold for profit, and are a part of a vital network of research and transplantation that saves lives.

If you doubt that this is true, then I highly recommend the episode of Radiolab titled Gray’s Donation which goes into precisely how many lives the materials from a single aborted fetus can be impacted in a positive manner.  A fetus that had no chance for life because of the birth defects he would have suffered from, in the specific instance of the Gray’s investigation.

That is the practice that this anti-abortion hate group wants to end. Let these facts sink in for a minute.

I’ve taken the time to write this because I was recently sent a link to an article on Rational Review News (a site I used to follow pretty regularly) that was so patently false on its face that I found it hard to believe that the same guy I used to rely on for libertarian news could be so demonstrably wrong on the subject. Proof that, if nothing else, the Balkanization of internet information continues unabated. Clear thinking and understanding of a subject has never been more critical than it is today, nor has it ever been more wanting, apparently.


The net effect of this blatant targeting of Planned Parenthood over the subject of compensation for the cost of obtaining research materials is that Planned Parenthood will no longer accept compensation for the costs of providing them. That cost will now have to come out of other sources such as donations to Planned Parenthood, because the research work will continue and the materials will continue to be available.

Stand with Planned Parenthood,
Support this lawsuit.

One can hope that the effect of exposing this obscure process to light will lead to more transparency on the subject, but I personally doubt it.  Few people really are interested in the details of transactions that occur all around them without their noticing.  Subjects like this only occasionally see the light of day, and the outrage in response is predictable and almost humdrum in its monotonous outrage. If the individual who is outraged over fetal tissue used for research were to spend time investigating the subject of medical history and the process of obtaining materials for research historically, the outrage over the acquisition of cadavers for medical schools would be something we’d never hear the end of.  Because that, historically, was a very dark process indeed.

The anti-abortion industry having beaten this dead horse long enough will simply find another soft target to attack in their never-ending drive to stop abortion in all cases.  They really aren’t interested in truth, reality or the constraints of biology or biological life.  The procedure is evil in their eyes, and evil should not be tolerated. Their own blindness to the reality of human life ensures that the fight will never end, because women who do not want to have children will continue to end pregnancies whether the procedure is legal or not.  Whether the woman is pro-life or pro-choice, the choice occurs anyway.


The long and tortuous process of holding these fakirs accountable for their damaging actions continues to unfold in various state courts,

After the videos surfaced last year, Dan Patrick, the Texas lieutenant governor, a Republican, asked the Republican district attorney in Harris County to open a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood in August. A grand jury ended up indicting Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, and taking no action against Planned Parenthood. 

The New York Times, Last Charges Dropped Against Abortion Foes in Making of Planned Parenthood Video July 26, 2016

As the title of the source article states, the charges in Texas were dropped. Texas as a political entity hates itself in a very weird and self-destructive way. This comes out in events like the above, with religious crusaders elected to office attempting to score religious points in a political arena simply don’t understand what the law says even though they are trained lawyers. Luckily for justice, there are other states who aren’t as consumed with self-loathing as Texas,

Prosecutors filed 14 felony counts of unlawfully recording people without their permission — one count for each person — as well as one count of conspiracy to invade privacy.

Becerra, a veteran congressman who became attorney general in January, said his office “will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”

“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra said. 

The Los Angeles Times, Two antiabortion activists behind undercover Planned Parenthood videos charged with 15 felonies March 28, 2017

The problem in all these cases, and there were cases being investigated in several states after the videos were released, is that the concerns and laws protecting privacy are butting heads with the first amendment right of the press and freedom of speech. It is a near-impossibility for a public entity like Planned Parenthood to win a case of slander or libel against the perpetrators of these fraudulent videos. It might be possible to seek damages from them if they weren’t essentially penniless conspiracy fantasists in the first place. The chances of any case being successfully prosecuted against them on any grounds fades to a faint hope when you understand the hurdles placed in the way of justice in this case.

Justice would require that  Daleiden and his conspirator Sandra Merritt go in front of groups of people who think like they do and explain why what they did was wrong. This is the form justice should take, because I don’t think that they or their supporters understand the injustice they engaged in. The harm that they have committed in their blind ambition to see abortion ended in the US and across the world. Real people harmed in real ways by their delusions about life in the womb. It is criminal that they cannot be shown reason that will convince them on this subject. 

Abortion; As Natural as Life Itself

I keep getting hung up on the fact that the subjects of abortion and when does human life begin? are still an issue. I am genuinely baffled by this because it has never (and I do mean never) been something I suffered moral quandaries about.  The reason it has never been an issue for me is the subject of my soon to be completed chapter on EPHN which goes into the murky world of what human life is and why most opinion on the subject is completely wrong, but since that chapter will not be about abortion but the distinction between life and human life, that leaves me with a ton of text that I’ve written over the years on the subject of abortion itself that really needs to be published or republished under its own heading.

I’ve lost several Facebook friends over the years because of this subject, largely because I cannot let falsehoods stand unchallenged.  This argument goes back to the dawn of my internet experience (much like the subjects of gender and homosexuality) and spans complete shifts in most of my other opinions on other subjects.  This one, though.  This one I know what reality is on the subject.  Reality is harsh, it is brutish, and it isn’t fair.
Reproduction slideshow

The natural world doesn’t worry about those things. In evolutionary terms, procreation is fundamental to an organism’s success. It really doesn’t matter how many of the species is killed just as long as a mating pair survives long enough to mate and produce offspring. That is the reason that sex exists, and that is the reason that sex feels good. Any other interpretation of the reasons for the process are a matter of individual delusion or group ritual (which is phenomenally about the same as mass delusion) there are social reasons to engage in sex outside of procreation (pair bonding as one example) but those reasons do not negate the actual purpose of the act.

After a similar fashion, the natural world has no problem with abortion.  Three quarters (or thereabouts) of all fertilized eggs do not produce live offspring.  Half of all pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion. The vast majority of potential human lives never see the light of day with human eyes, because nature is a harsh judge of viability.

Until very recently in the civilized parts of the world, infant mortality was astronomically high. It was commonplace for women to have 8 to 10 children and yet only 3 or 4 make it to adulthood. In some parts of the world these deathrates still occur.

It is the mark of several decades of arguing this subject that I can rattle off these facts without having to consult reference material to back it up. The links to this information have long slipped my mind, and searching for the current location of it is time-consuming and largely pointless.  If you doubt the facts, please take the time to verify them. Here is your fair warning in advance; If your source has anything to do with the anti-abortion industry, I will reject it.  They have been shown to be lying time and time again.

So abortion and child death are the normal state in nature.  Predators single out the sickly young animals as their first targets for consumption. They are easier to take down, and the herd animals will leave them behind.  Predators that live birth large litters of young will frequently eat the smaller, sicklier young themselves. Nature is brutish in this way.

Into this world we too are born.  But as the lucky few of the lucky even smaller few, we exist in a world of science. We have science-based medicine to thank for the dramatic reduction in child deaths, mothers dying in childbirth, epidemics that halve the populations of entire nations of people. We have government to thank for civilizing the vast majority of the world’s population, enforcing laws that are (Hopefully. As the future continues to regress into the past I remain hopeful) grounded in common sense and science.

At the very least, the courts which try laws and the violators of law have rules based on solid science and evidence. Which is where we get to the issue part of the abortion issue.

Among the generally reasonable people who just want to get through their day so that they can have time at the end of the day to relax, there is a very large section of the population who don’t understand how much of our society is actually based on science; don’t realize that the very technology used to write this blog, the technology you used to get here to read it, means that science is based on objective reality.  That the existence of this technology means that the real world is as I’ve described it, for the most part.  These people are magical thinkers. I haven’t written that blog entry (one day I will) but for the purpose of this article suffice it to say that these people are not satisfied with reality as it exists. They’d like very much to believe that reality is something which can be bypassed or altered.

These people see that they want their children. They see that they love their children, and they cannot conceive of a world where children are not wanted at best, and are a liability at worst. They are outraged at the notion that people might engage in sexual activity without intending to have children. They are inflamed with righteous indignation that women are avoiding the punishment of having to raise the children that they’ve created because science and medicine have created an escape for them from harnessing the powers that nature already uses to get rid of the majority of offspring in the first place.

Largely the magical thinker is a member of a religion; and in the US that religion is overwhelmingly one of the hundreds of variants known colloquially as christianity. Christians are convinced that their god is opposed to abortion even though the natural world (which he also made if he exists) utilizes abortion on a much greater scale than we humans could ever achieve. Attempting to show these christians that their holy book makes no mention of abortion is largely a futile effort. Most of them accept Catholic dogma on the subject, even though the majority of US christians are protestants whose ancestors spent precious blood escaping from Catholic rule.

Most of them are also unswayed by arguments that Judaism (the precursor to christianity) rules the beginning of life as the taking of the first breath; that the soul enters the body with that breath of air. Why this argument doesn’t sway is anybody’s guess, because science tends to agree with the idea that breathing air allows for consciousness to occur. Consciousness which is the hallmark of human life;

…Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components, nerve cells. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex that provides consciousness with its highly elaborate content, begins to be in place between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. Roughly two months later synchrony of the electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythm across both cortical hemispheres signals the onset of global neuronal integration. Thus, many of the circuit elements necessary for consciousness are in place by the third trimester. By this time, preterm infants can survive outside the womb under proper medical care. And as it is so much easier to observe and interact with a preterm baby than with a fetus of the same gestational age in the womb, the fetus is often considered to be like a preterm baby, like an unborn newborn. But this notion disregards the unique uterine environment: suspended in a warm and dark cave, connected to the placenta that pumps blood, nutrients and hormones into its growing body and brain, the fetus is asleep. 

Invasive experiments in rat and lamb pups and observational studies using ultrasound and electrical recordings in humans show that the third-trimester fetus is almost always in one of two sleep states. Called active and quiet sleep, these states can be distinguished using electroencephalography. Their different EEG signatures go hand in hand with distinct behaviors: breathing, swallowing, licking, and moving the eyes but no large-scale body movements in active sleep; no breathing, no eye movements and tonic muscle activity in quiet sleep. These stages correspond to rapid-eye-movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep common to all mammals. In late gestation the fetus is in one of these two sleep states 95 percent of the time, separated by brief transitions. 

What is fascinating is the discovery that the fetus is actively sedated by the low oxygen pressure (equivalent to that at the top of Mount Everest), the warm and cushioned uterine environment and a range of neuroinhibitory and sleep-inducing substances produced by the placenta and the fetus itself: adenosine; two steroidal anesthetics, allopregnanolone and pregnanolone; one potent hormone, prostaglandin D2; and others. The role of the placenta in maintaining sedation is revealed when the umbilical cord is closed off while keeping the fetus adequately supplied with oxygen. The lamb embryo now moves and breathes continuously. From all this evidence, neonatologists conclude that the fetus is asleep while its brain matures.

These same magical thinkers rail against the decision of Roe Vs. Wade completely oblivious to the benefit that they gain from having a right to privacy established in the Constitution (amendment 9) granting them the privilege of private conversation with their doctors and attorneys. They are equally oblivious to the biology behind why the third trimester of a pregnancy is the only part of a pregnancy which the government should rightly have any say over; and then only on the presumption that more inhabitants of the state are good for the state.

With the passage of the ACA, the argument about abortion has devolved somewhat.  Now it isn’t enough simply to think abortion murder (which it demonstrably isn’t. But I’ll get to that) Now the opposition to abortion has lost a bit of it’s holier-than-thou mask and completely endorsed the Catholic dogma against birth control, morning after pills, and women’s healthcare in general.  Conservatives and the Religious Right (once derisively labeled the Reich. They can have the word right and the right side of the aisle for all I care now) have become well-nigh hysterical on the subject of abortion and women’s health choices, largely because of the dual nature of a record decline in the number of Americans who attend church and the fact that most resistance to abortion is religiously motivated;

In spite of the small shift toward opposition to legal abortion, the basic contours of the debate are still intact, with most major groups lining up on the same side of the issue as they have in the past. For example, most people who regularly attend religious services continue to come down in opposition to abortion, while the large majority of those who rarely or never attend religious services still support legal abortion.

The survey also reveals continued polarization over abortion. Even as the public expresses support for finding a middle ground, most Americans are quite certain that their own position on abortion is the right one, with only a quarter (26%) saying they ever wonder about their views on the issue. This is a slight decline since 2006, when 30% expressed doubts about their own view on abortion. Furthermore, many people on both sides of the issue say that the opposite point of view on abortion is not a “respectable” opinion for someone to hold. Nearly half of abortion opponents (47%), including 62% of those who say abortion should be illegal in all cases, say that a pro-choice view is not a respectable opinion for someone to hold. On the other side, 42% of abortion supporters (including 54% of those who want abortion to be legal in all cases) say the pro-life point of view is not respectable.

 Attend church services weekly; 73% favor making all abortion illegal. There’s your pro-life movement, and that movement is shrinking at a regular rate; is already smaller than it has been at any time in US history, and is only going to get smaller as time goes on.

Their declining numbers leads to attempts to tie resistance to abortion being legal to humanitarian feelings, but that is a lie perpetrated by the desperate;

The current secular consensus, however, is that all stages of human life do not merit equal protection. As mentioned above, it’s an uncontroversially easy choice to allow a woman to live, not her fetus, when that choice is forced by a dangerous pregnancy. 

 Which also addresses why abortion is not murder; because not all stages of life are protectable or even demonstrably human in any way beyond basic genetic makeup.  Human life is governed by several necessary components; volitional will, conscious mind, corporeal existence, breath and heartbeat. That abortion stops a beating heart is only an observation that the autonomic functions of the brain stem have been established.  The brain itself is not functioning in any meaningful way until well into the third trimester; and even then the brain (if it even exists) is in a sleep state until after birth.

In the first trimester (when the vast majority of abortions and chemical interventions take place) there isn’t even a beating heart yet.  This doesn’t stop the punishment obsessed from inflicting the requirement for ultrasound examinations and various other forms of near-torture on the woman who is contemplating an abortion;

Halfway through my pregnancy, I learned that my baby was ill. Profoundly so. My doctor gave us the news kindly, but still, my husband and I weren’t prepared. Just a few minutes earlier, we’d been smiling giddily at fellow expectant parents as we waited for the doctor to see us. In a sonography room smelling faintly of lemongrass, I’d just had gel rubbed on my stomach, just seen blots on the screen become tiny hands. For a brief, exultant moment, we’d seen our son—a brother for our 2-year-old girl.

Yet now my doctor was looking grim and, with chair pulled close, was speaking of alarming things. “I’m worried about your baby’s head shape,” she said. “I want you to see a specialist—now.”

My husband looked angry, and maybe I did too, but it was astonishment more than anger. Ours was a profound disbelief that something so bad might happen to people who think themselves charmed. We already had one healthy child and had expected good fortune to give us two.

Instead, before I’d even known I was pregnant, a molecular flaw had determined that our son’s brain, spine and legs wouldn’t develop correctly. If he were to make it to term—something our doctor couldn’t guarantee—he’d need a lifetime of medical care. From the moment he was born, my doctor told us, our son would suffer greatly.

That is how you can get to the second trimester and not act to terminate a pregnancy. It isn’t laziness or inconvenience or even wanton disregard.  It is that these things take time to determine. This poor woman’s story isn’t even rare or particularly hard to sympathize with.  Nor was it over;

“I’m so sorry that I have to do this,” the doctor told us, “but if I don’t, I can lose my license.” Before he could even start to describe our baby, I began to sob until I could barely breathe. Somewhere, a nurse cranked up the volume on a radio, allowing the inane pronouncements of a DJ to dull the doctor’s voice. Still, despite the noise, I heard him. His unwelcome words echoed off sterile walls while I, trapped on a bed, my feet in stirrups, twisted away from his voice.

“Here I see a well-developed diaphragm and here I see four healthy chambers of the heart…”

I closed my eyes and waited for it to end, as one waits for the car to stop rolling at the end of a terrible accident.

When the description was finally over, the doctor held up a script and said he was legally obliged to read me information provided by the state. It was about the health dangers of having an abortion, the risks of infection or hemorrhage, the potential for infertility and my increased chance of getting breast cancer. I was reminded that medical benefits may be available for my maternity care and that the baby’s father was liable to provide support, whether he’d agreed to pay for the abortion or not.

Most second and third trimester abortions fall into this category.  In fact, only 5% of third trimester abortions occur because of delay, even delay with a valid reason.  95% of third trimester abortions occur because of a defect in the fetus that would be life-threatening, and that couldn’t be diagnosed until this late stage of pregnancy.  So the overwhelming majority of women seeking abortion in the third trimester are needlessly subjected to shaming measures in the misbegotten hope that they will carry to term and deliver a child which will die shortly after birth.  The best outcome for these pregnancies if they were not aborted is that the child produced will grow up into an adult who will always be a burden on society.

This makes third trimester abortion resistance nothing more than a smoke-screen, and a harmful one at that. The laws which the well-meaning have gotten passed have only served to torment women who want to have healthy children, but have been unlucky enough to have a pregnancy that tests positive for birth defects. Most of them desperately wanted to have their children but have finally accepted the inevitable. They are then subjected to torment by protesters outside the clinics they don’t even want to go to, and then tormented by law by healthcare practitioners who are chained to requirements over which they have not control.

When I said reality is harsh, it is brutish, and it isn’t fair I wasn’t joking.  And I wasn’t even talking about abortion then.

I was talking about the ease with which it is to find oneself pregnant. The notion that all children are wanted, or that all women see their pregnancies as a blessing (or even a potential life) is soft-headed bullshit, just to be blunt.  Ask any poor child starving anywhere in the world (even in the US) if they felt their existence was valued, that life was worth living, and you are likely to be shocked by the answer.

…And that is today, when abortion is legal and generally available.  If you travel to Southern Asia or Africa or South America to regions where women are still treated as property, you will run into the kinds of offspring that used to be common everywhere around the world.  Children that women were forced to have because no alternatives were available to them.  Unwanted children who turn into criminal-minded adults that are a plague on society as a whole.

This is a statistical fact laid out by the authors of Freakonomics. the wiki page describes it this way;

The effect of legalized abortion on crime (sometimes referred to as the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis) is the theory that legal abortion reduces crime. Proponents of the theory generally argue that since unwanted children are more likely to become criminals and that an inverse correlation is observed between the availability of abortion and subsequent crime. Not only that, but children born under these conditions are usually less fortunate as enough preparation was not put in place for their birth and upbringing. In particular, it is argued that the legalization of abortion in the United States, largely due to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, has reduced crime in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Opponents generally reject these statistics, and argue that abortion has negative effects on society or decrease in crime is brought about in other ways.

If you don’t believe this, read the book.  I have read the book, and several books after that.  I have researched the counters and the later revelations on the influence of lead in gasoline on violence in society.  Nothing seen so far disproves the hypothesis that abortion had a noticeable effect in lowering crime rates in the US; and it bears thinking that perhaps freeing women from chattel states throughout the parts of the world where they are still deemed property, and providing them with access to modern healthcare including abortion and contraception might lead to more stable societies in those areas.

Because reality isn’t fair.  It makes sex irresistible to the people among us (the young) who are least able to provide for the offspring sex produces. The cost of raising a child is astronomical (projected as over $245,000 in 2015) where is the average 16 to 18 year old going to find that kind of money? Are we, as a society going to foot that bill?  Anyone?  Ready to ante up the cost of raising all the unwanted children all over the world as a means of stemming the plague of abortion? where will we house the extra millions who need to be housed, feed them, clothe them, etc., when the world population already tops 7 billion and the maximum projected supportable population (with current technology) is 10 billion?

No, I really want to know! You want to stop abortion, but you don’t want to pay for the consequences of removing that option from the table. Tell me how we stop people from having children they can’t raise without allowing them to decide if they can afford children or not.  Because any plan that doesn’t include those calculations is just magical thinking, and this is the real world.


Now to the personal; a bit of proof that I do understand where anti-abortionists are coming from.

I have two children of my own.  So when I say that people who oppose abortion fail to grasp objectivity on this subject (barring rock-solid counter evidence) my subjective, anecdotal experience with my own children bears this out.  

My children were persons from the time I knew they existed, and I would have been devastated if anything had kept them from becoming the people that they are today.  No amount of knowledge concerning the limited nature of their selves while in the womb and even several years after their birth could modify the way I thought of them, treated them.  They were always going to become adults, people, responsible humans if only I managed not to screw things up.
I got lucky.  Or maybe it was just plodding, methodical planning.  In any case, they’ve grown up well and I’ve never had to make the kinds of choices that other potential parents have had to make.  We could have waited and things could have been easier, but you play the hand you are dealt.  That is a mantra I’ve lived with all my life.
As for the rock-solid evidence that counters my understanding of reality, I know what form it would take.  Prove the existence of the soul.  I don’t mean have faith that we have one, I mean scientifically prove its existence.  That is the evidence that would counter court decisions and scientific evidence accumulated to date.  Ensoulment is what believers hang their hats on when they talk about personhood being a part of the fertilized egg.  Most of them have enough caution not to bring that up as proof these days.
Believers have been trying to prove the existence of the soul since science was discovered.  All of them have come up empty, and there were a lot more scientists who believed when science was young than there are now that we have progressed as far as we have today.  
But that is also another blog entry.

The Ethics of Brain Death

I’ve been meaning to post on this subject for a few weeks now. Abortion politics has bleed over into End of Life decisions, clouding the issue of what life is or isn’t as established by science and medical practice.

As Arthur Caplan discusses with Lindsay Beyerstein on Point of Inquiry, The Ethics of Brain Death: The End of Life, the State, and the Religious Right. In that episode of Point of Inquiry he points out that the case of Jahi McMath represents a potential violation of ethics for the doctors involved,

The family of a 13-year-old California girl who was declared brain-dead after suffering complications from sleep apnea surgery has secured for her the feeding and breathing tubes for which they had been fighting.

Christopher Dolan, the attorney for the girl’s family, said doctors inserted the gastric tube and tracheostomy tube Wednesday at the undisclosed facility where Jahi McMath was taken on 5 January.

The procedure was a success, Dolan said, and Jahi is getting the treatment that her family believes she should have received 28 days ago, when doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland first declared her brain-dead.

Jahi underwent tonsil surgery 9 December, then began bleeding heavily before going into cardiac arrest and being declared brain dead on 12 December.

Her mother has refused to believe Jahi is dead and went to court to prevent her daughter from being taken off a ventilator.

The GuardianFamily of brain-dead California girl 

…Represents a potential violation of ethics for the doctors involved, since the child in question has been pronounced dead by clinicians in the state. Has been pronounced dead, but remains on life support until current day.

He also talks about the Marlise Machado Muñoz case (NPR story) in which Pro-Life Republicans in Texas have crafted laws that keep this woman’s body alive, costing the hospital thousands of dollars daily, on the off-chance that the fetus she died carrying isn’t also damaged (and it looks like it is) so the cost is quite literally wasted. Someone else actually needs the space that her corpse is kept in.

Facebook Musings backdated to the blog.

On Evolution, Science and Healthcare

Dear Corporate Leaders; It’s called “evolution”

Nothing, not even viruses *just happened* (never mind that the existence of life is not what evolution describes. Perhaps life is everywhere in the universe, just waiting for the right conditions to spring up. No one knows) evolution describes, and is the only explanation that fits, how the many forms of life on this planet came to exist. It’s a lot like gravity. It doesn’t depend on your acceptance or belief to function as it does; it just does. If you understand it you can create things like animal companions that meet specific needs (in that sense breeders have understood evolution for centuries) and modern medicine, including drugs like the morning after pill that prevents conception (the myth that The Pope declares begins life) and hormone drugs that treat various feminine diseases as well as preventing pregnancy.

…and anything that calls itself a *health care plan* should include those drugs.

The government should handle all parts of public health. Vaccinations, regular examinations, emergency care, maintenance drugs, etc. We,the people, should take back control of our government from the MIC, and force it to spend the taxes it already takes from us, on US. There is more than enough (we’d all get tax breaks, even) to pay for the kinds of services that Europe already enjoys. They have better healthcare in Mexico than we do here. If the wealthy want Cadillac service, they should be allowed to purchase it on their own. Public health should not be left to the whims of the individual and the budgets of the poor.

Evolution, as I said, is not subject to belief. My belief, your belief, the Pope’s belief. It is a process that occurs whether we will it or not. God has no hand in it, because if god interferes with the real world, that interference can be measured. No such influence has ever been detected. Spinoza might have a point (and Einstein loved Spinoza) about the universe being god, but that god is not the god that most people believe in. Humans evolved from earlier (I won’t say lower because that’s another misunderstanding) forms of hominids which we have documented in the fossil record. It’s simply the way it IS. If we ever have a hope of retaining our (imagined) place in the world, we are going to have to embrace science.

I’ll never understand libertarians who deride government and their ability to use force; and at the same time trumpet corporations while they use force. It is the same force, exercised by the same types of legal fictions, one (The Government) creating the other (The Corporation) If libertarians are opposed to coercion, force and fraud then they necessarily must place both corporations and government in the same category of *evil which must be stopped*. Just another reason I don’t bother to call myself libertarian anymore.

Public health is *exactly* what the government was formed for, if we’re talking about healthcare. If you care about public health, you should care that all individuals get immunized, get regular checkups, and are provided with maintenance medications for ailments. Emergency care requires investments in infrastructure, training and employment of professionals. It realistically requires government oversight.

To not have the government involved in public health is to not have a government at all. Anarchy not minarchy.

(Published herehere and here on Facebook. Two of my most commented upon status updates to date)

When Does Life Begin?

Reposted here from the FTL forum.


Always, when discussing Abortion (as I have a few times) the question of whether an abortion is murder or not revolves around when life begins; after all, a civilization does not condone murder of the innocent and still remain a civilization in anything but name. So inevitably, the concerned individual asks these questions of himself. Does life begin at conception? (the typical religious answer) When the brain shows activity complex enough to signal consciousness? When the child is born? When the individual develops? (2 or 3 years of age) When does life begin?

How about the missing option? That life has no beginning point. Living tissues from the parents combine to make a living creature that grows in independence until one day it borrows the car keys and crashes the family car, moves out on it’s own and doesn’t call except when it needs something, and eventually confines you to an old-folks home. C’est la vie.

Well, if life doesn’t have a hard and fast beginning point (as the argument usually evolves) when does interrupting the process of growth constitute muder? That is a tricky question. I think we can afford limited legal protection of the fetus sometime in the third trimester, because that is when limited consciousness occurs.

A parent who kills their own child under a certain age (2 or 3) should not be guilty of murder in the normal sense. Psychologically, they are killing a part of themselves, and this changes the crime from the normal homicide to something else. Sterilization of those types of people should be a punishment option. People who kill children should not have more children that they can then also abuse.

A person is entitled to be free from aggression against his or her life.

“Free from aggression” is a dangerous phrase. What about punishment? Time-out? Every method for modifying behavior at a parents disposal can and will be seen as aggression by the child. I know that you mean aggression in a life or death sense, but the best of intentions can be perverted to the worst of uses.

Children remain emotionally and mentally attached to their parents long past the point when they can realistically be called children. (I really hate it when people refer to 16-18 year olds as ‘children’. They aren’t. In the same sense, I know plenty of 20 year olds who don’t deserve the label ‘adult’. Hence the phrase…) Young adults should be able to declare themselves emancipated when they deem that the time has arrived. Until that point they remain tied to their parents in some form, and so cannot be “Free from aggression” in the normal child rearing sense.

Although you may argue that the woman has the right to rescind her consent to carry the baby, once the fetus has reached the level of consciousness required to qualify as a person, then the child’s rights must also be considered.

In a theoretical/legal sense, perhaps. Realistically, I have to fall back on the “How do you protect children from their own parents” point that always seems to get overlooked. Unless you are willing to separate parent and child forcefully, you really can’t. Someone else mentioned an outreach program designed to intervene in late term unwanted pregnancy cases. A program designed to reimburse the mother-to-be for agreeing to carry the child to term and then adopt it out.

…That sounds like a good solution on the surface. I would still object to labeling a woman who had a late term abortion (or the doctor who performed it) a ‘murderer’. There are plenty of medically valid reasons why a pregnancy cannot be carried full term; reasons that might not be detectable until late in the pregnancy. If you have to make a choice, better to save one life than loose both.

Abortion Argument in the News Again; Must be Election Season

(Originally posted here)

I see this subject pop up at every election cycle. I doubt this time around will be any different.

I’m so tired of this argument; I’ve been involved in online debates on this issue for more than 10 years. I’m tired of it because ‘I’ know the right answer; but neither of the entrenched sides of the discussion care to recognize it, no matter how many times I re-explain it.
Abortion wastes potential life (not a ‘life’ itself. That requires brain function and breath; facts which the ‘pro-lifers’ gloss over in the quest to ‘save’ the unborn. Question: how do you save children from their own parents? Even the born ones?) and so should not be used casually; especially medical abortion. Waste of potential, of any kind, is repugnant; but there is more than one potential at risk here.

A woman has the right to use and abuse her own body as she sees fit. Dictating to her the ‘sacred’ nature of the potentials she is faced with is an invasion of her privacy. (Question: why isn’t male masturbation illegal? It too wastes potential ‘life’) If ‘she’ has no privacy, does ‘he’ deserve it? If individuals have no privacy, then neither do businesses. Can you imagine corporations opening the inner workings of their board rooms to public scrutiny? Can you imagine why Roe v. Wade remains; and will continue as a decision?

The right answer is that gov’t has no business being involved in abortion; it shouldn’t be banning it, and it shouldn’t be paying for it. It is wholly a decision of the individual involved; she does not
have a ‘right’ to expensive medical procedures, nor does the husband have a ‘right’ force his will on her (Don’t like it? Don’t plant seeds where they aren’t wanted) It is a private matter; and the right to privacy exists whether you will it or not.

There is a need to determine, as a measure of justice, when life can be proven to exist (without destroying privacy) so that those who are in fact taking life meet with the justice they deserve. I haven’t heard a logical answer, other than the one handed down by Wade, from anybody to date. I would resist any statement, by any group I was affiliated with, other than one that encompasses this simple fact; a declaration of what life is; and the need to hold it as a supreme value.
Anything else is a waste of time, and violation of rights which I hold sacred.


Mea culpa review, 2017. Mercifully my libertarian delusions about tax dollars and government health expenditures fell by the wayside of my deeper understanding of what money is and what society is. What good governance entails. It could have happened sooner, but I’ll take the enlightenment anyway I can get it.

The last article I wrote on this subject was this one, in which I come out unambiguously on the side of choice, science having pretty much taken us to the edge of survivability for the fetus outside the womb. What is needed now, if the anti-abortionists want to prevail on this subject, is an artificial womb. With that invention the woman need no longer carry the baby to term herself, it can be implanted in the artificial womb and the lifers who think every sperm is sacred can just foot the bill for raising all those previously aborted children.

I’m sure they’ll jump at the chance to pay for that. 

It’s not about Abortion

But the abortion issue plays so well.

Had a yellow dog reply to me the other day “I hope Roe is overturned before 2008!” In response to my entry on the impending Democratic Victory at the polls.

The elections that will be impacted are the 2006 elections (2008’s will probably also go against the Reps, but that’s still 2 years off) The complete lack of focus on the part of the sitting government is what is going to cost the Republican’s plenty, not the reversal of Roe. On the subject of what is important to Americans right now, Roe and Abortion isn’t even on the map. Nor do I think it will be reversed or even severely impacted.

Oh, they could change the “on demand” status, and the Religious Reich would crow to the heavens about the “victory” they’d achieved. But science and precedent aren’t behind a reversal of the current ruling. I don’t see how the SCOTUS can see it’s way to a ‘reversal’. Which means that Abortion stays legal and will be privately funded (in fewer places) and that the more logical chemical approaches to ‘family planning’ will take the front seat.

The issue should die there. Why? I made this argument a long time ago, you can’t have a murder if you don’t have a body. There is no body with a morning after pill (the method of choice these days) or one of the other early use chemicals. So attempting to inflict the morality of “life at conception” through the use of law is just another downward spiral. Just brings on the major societal change that much sooner.

The fact is that what people do find important isn’t being addressed. The war, the lackluster economy, etc. The fact that, even with half the income of America at the gov’ts disposal, it still takes years to get a city rebuilt. (N’Orleans)

There is some serious dissatisfaction out there, and I don’t see the Republicans addressing it. Come to think of it, I don’t see mainstream Democrats addressing it either.

Boston Legal ‘Abortion’ episode

This furor over abortion (again) reminds me of last weeks Boston Legal (the ep. “Smile“) and the rape victim suing the Catholic hospital because they failed to provide her with the ‘morning after’ pill when she requested it.

Specifically I am reminded of the exchange between the characters of Shirley Schmidt and Denise Bauer when, at the end of the episode it is revealed…

…Well, don’t read any farther if you want to be surprised when watching the episode.

Here are the lines from the transcript:

Denise Bauer: So?
Shirley Schmidt: I just spoke with her mother. She’’s having an abortion. While it’s still legal.
Denise Bauer: Girl who said she would never even consider it. She hands Shirley a bottle of beer.
Shirley Schmidt: Well. What’s the alternative? Having custody battles with your rapist? Sorry. That was really tasteless.
Denise Bauer: It’’s all tasteless. The more science comes up with alternatives to the misery of abortion the louder the opposition.
Shirley Schmidt: Course it’’s about power. It’s always been about power. They drink. Shirley motions with her bottle. These guys have any friends?
Denise Bauer: Not for long.

So the do-gooder at the Catholic hospital in fact contributed to someone having an abortion, all because of the scientifically indefensible belief that life begins at conception.

Misery does love company, I guess.

Democratic Victory

Every conservative that I know makes a point of saying they are a “fiscal conservative”. They are, nearly to a man, worried most about the size and cost of government, and want to see it get smaller. Ask any American on the street prior to 9-11 what was most important for the government to focus on, and they would probably respond with some variation on “re-instituting fiscal responsibility”.

Over the last 8 years, Bush and the Republican gov’t he leads have passed one (miniscule) tax cut, while jacking up the budget and the deficit to record levels.

At the pace that ‘progress’ is being made in the Middle East, Mr. Bush will leave office with the U.S. still mired in Iraq, with the neighboring nations posturing militarily in an attempt to make us blink, putting us in the most volatile foreign policy situation since FDR died in the White House, leaving Truman to finish WWII.

…And Republicans across the nation are consumed with what? Passing Anti-abortion measures so that they can try to coerce the SCOTUS to overturn Roe V. Wade.

This despite the fact that the average American, while perhaps not being favorable on abortion themselves, still favors a woman’s right to choose the procedure. I don’t know which political page they are working from, but this spells ‘Democratic Victory’ in the next election, in the book I’m reading from. I’m batting a thousand so far.

Which reminds me, I’m sticking to my previous assessment on the subject. The only thing I’m curious about is how the new members of SCOTUS will justify striking down the most recent ill-conceived fascist notions concerning abortion law. As if this hasn’t happened before.

So, in the end, the only thing Bush will have achieved in 8 years: handing Democrats control of the government for the first time since Reagan took office. Way to go, George.