It’s that time of year…

| April 13, 2009 | 14 Replies

Spring on a large university campus means but one thing: crazy evangelicals. Since I attend (arguably) the largest university in the country, I get my fair share of kookery. Most evangelical preachers simply stand on a grassy area and preach, for hours, about the damnation that sinful, depraved college students face. Some gather crowds and screaming voices of dissent, but many are as easily ignored.

But every spring, the evangelical season is rung in by a group so passionate they cannot be ignored: the abortion protesters. They cover the campus in the blight of propaganda- their commitment is clear. This year, I decided to take a few photos of the madness, and string them into a quick youtube slideshow. Check it out, and note the response of the pro-choice counter protesters:

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Category: American Culture, Bigotry, Community, Culture, Current Events, ignorance, photography, Politics, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Sex, Uncategorized

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Erika is a PhD student in Social Psychology living in Chicago. Here on DI she most often writes about current events, psychology, skepticism, media and internet culture.

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  1. Tony Coyle says:

    I'm appalled but not surprised at the tactics of anti-abortion groups.

    They conflate murder and genocide of real, live people, with abortion. They choose, admittedly horrific, images to engage a visceral response knowing that people are emotional creatures.

    They fail to understand that abortion is not a primary choice of anyone.

    The same people demanding an end to abortion, are the same people demanding abstinence only 'sex education' (it's not education).

    Abortion is an action of last resort.

    No-one wants to have an abortion.

    As a man, I can only know about abortion second hand. Those of my friends and acquaintances who have had abortions (there have been a couple), and the first-hand accounts I've read, have all been consistent in this: abortion is not their first choice, or their second, or third – it's their last recourse.

    Many abortions could easily be avoided if the 'morning after' pills were more widely available – but these same 'pro-life' people have denied that avenue of relief to many.

    More abortions could be avoided if appropriate contraception were readily available and understood. But these same people have successfully lobbied to ensure that pharmacists and front-line medical practitioners have no obligation of care if it 'goes against their beliefs' – in other words the practitioner can deny contraceptive advice and products if they so choose!

    No contraceptive method is 100% effective. Combinations become increasingly effective. But for complete protection a woman must be empowered end educated to manage her own body.

    That means well-founded education including counselling (you don't need to have sex just because contraception is available – it is your choice).

    It means unlimited access to contraceptives, provided in a supportive setting, with access to education regarding the benefits and challenges of each method.

    It means a culture that does not simultaneously consider sex to be 'dirty' while promoting and sustaining the world's largest porn industry.

    It means recognizing, as a culture, that sex is a beautiful part of who we are, and that we now have the ability to enjoy that aspect of our nature without worrying about an unwanted pregnancy.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Does gruesomeness prove moral wrongness? If so, close-up photos of surgery would prove that we should never have appendectomies.

    It seems that the argument should be about what the gore is ABOUT, not about the gore itself. But it is the gore that is featured. Are those photos of human animals? Yes, they presumably had 46 chromosomes. But the bloody photos are only one small slice of a complex situation. The photos tell a stunted argument, in my opinion.

    The bloody images remind me of the movie, The Passion of Christ, and resulting arguments (I did hear these) that the intense carnage somehow made the historical/theological arguments on which the movie was based all-the-more true. I didn't see any connection whatsoever.

    I'm not suggesting that photos of dead fetuses aren't relevant to the abortion argument. They are. But they are merely one part of a complex argument that needs to consider those images in full context.

    • There was a time surgery was considered a violation and morally reprehensible, along with autopsy. Probably just as well then since sepsis was such a danger.

      As we are exposed to things in context, we learn to judge by more rational standards. How else does one explain the cliched revulsion of some folks to depictions of intercourse but not a glimmer of repugnance to Sam Peckinpah films?

    • Tony Coyle says:

      I agree Mark.

      I think sex can look beautiful (I also think that most porn looks ugly). I like action movies, but I'm repulsed by 'gore-fests' (the SAW series, for instance). I'm also capable of distinguishing between the 'play fights' of most action movies versus reality.

      Unfortunately, it appears that many extremists are not so endowed.

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    Disgust is the unthinking basis for morality, as we point out regularly:

    Ordinary disgust taints moral judgments (Jul '08)

    Disgust as a basis for morality (Jul '07)

    Disgust is a powerful subliminal tool for recruiting converts and repelling opponents.

    Such displays are essentially a divisive maneuver with the hope of both winning converts and drawing a line in the sand to define a despicable "them".

    Last month I predicted and continue to expect an upsurge in such behavior.

  4. Erika Price says:

    I find it strange that the counter-protesters only stood up to question the use of the Holocaust in this display. True, one of the counter-protesting groups was solely a Jewish student organization, but should they not identify and be appalled with the use of slavery/Jim Crow imagery as well?

    As for the abortion protesters themselves, they actually curbed their rhetoric a bit this year. Last year, little children of about four or five years were also "willing participants" in the protest. A little boy was handing out pro-life pamphlets and saying things like, "Please don't kill me."

    That manipulation and indoctrination of the young disgusts me far more than any gory surgery shots ever could.

  5. Danny says:

    "No-one wants to have an abortion." I know you're making this statement based on anecdotal evidence, though perhaps there is research to back this. Though, my anecdotal evidence with my brother's ex-girlfriend showed me that it was a choice of convenience.

    Carnage and emotional responses aside, it seems the question needs to be answered before we debate who gets which right to choose. And the question is, when does the embryo/fetus/baby receive human status? If not at conception, then at a certain point along the continuum of pregnancy, or only after leaving the womb? I understand some people's reluctance at calling a simple cell at human life, but it's quite difficult for me to not think of a 7 month old baby in the womb as not a human. Could someone clue me in on what the consensus is on this?

    Its a sticky subject because unwanted pregnancies due to rape/incest is a horrible thing to contemplate. And I'm truly torn with trying to legislate that a woman be required to carry a child against her will in these cases. However, IF the embryo/fetus/baby IS human, then how do we give them a say in the matter?

    • Erika Price says:

      Danny: it sounds like most people agree with your revulsion at terminating a 7 month old pregnancy, as made clear by the existence and persistence of late term abortion bans. Even pro-choice advocates often agree with such a ban, I think. But there is no clear line in the sand that makes a good divider between "human infant" and "not human infant".

      People find their comfort levels in different places- because of this nuance, we see a controversy. The law does not handle nuance very well. Neither do people with extreme ideological opinions on this issue.

    • Most late-term abortions, despite what the prolife movement claims, are due to sound medical reasons that have little or nothing to do with "convenience."

      You have a variety of conditions, including gestational diabetes leading to hypertension, heart disease, the possibility of stroke; you have RH issues; you have septicemia; but then you also have medical conditions like cancer, requiring chemo, which almost always has a deleterious effect on an embryo; bloodthinners for other conditions; there's calcium leaching; and on and on.

      These are all complex medical issues and doctors have always had a say over the termination of a pregnancy in these instances because they are mortal conditions, and either the fetus goes, or the mother dies, which means both die.

      The prolife movement has blown this all out of proportion. It was a PR gift when they started beating on late term abortion, which by the way Roe v Wade allows states to regulate, if anyone would bother to actually read it. The confusion comes down because there are unreliable numbers because it is not a reportable proceedure—in other words doctors are not required to report it to any state authority. Remember when this first came up in the 90s? The numbers were all over the place. The prolifers chose their own.

      The issue really comes down, morally, to this: no human being has the RIGHT to live at the expense of another. Perhaps that's ugly, but it encompasses everything from simple property rights to laws concerning revenge, extortion, and curel and unusual punishment issues.

      When medical technology gets to where we can take a newly fertilized embryo and grow it to term in a vat, this issue will likely disappear.

      But then it will be replaced with all these cloning questions the general public also seems to misunderstand.

    • Tony Coyle says:

      I agree that this is a difficult subject, and I stand by my earlier statement: No one wants to have an abortion.

      In the case of your brother's girlfriend: I'm pretty certain she would not want to have another abortion, and would now rather use appropriate contraception. From everyone I've spoken with, and from my reading, it's not an experience anyone wants to repeat.

      Regarding "when is late term 'too late'"

      I remember quite well the dialogue around abortion when I was younger in the UK – and the perhaps callous but generally agreed definition was founded upon one major principle – is the infant viable and capable of self sustaining life (perhaps with the aid of ventilators).

      The state of the art at that time considered 28 weeks the baseline for viability. Viability is now (almost 30 years later) at 24 weeks. As the medical capabilities improve, I am perfectly in favor of reducing the allowable term (to 20 weeks, maybe 18). Beyond that point the viability of the fetus is severely compromised: the likelihood of major developmental challenges increasing exponentially with each week. There is a reason gestation normally takes 9 months – that's how long it generally takes to make a fully developed human (not just something that has the gross features of a human).

      I would prefer to take my advice on viability from professionals, rather than ideologues.

      Late term abortion should be a rare occurrence, and the studies show that it is – but perhaps not as rare as it could be. The vast majority (greater than 90% in most countries) of abortions occur before the 14th week (see wikipedia, Late Term Abortion.

      In my opinion (and the opinion of many researchers and professional in the field) the only reliable route to fewer abortions is a more educated populace, and more widely available contraceptives of all kinds (including the morning after).

      An anecdote for you, in case you think I'm pro-abortion (I'm not – it's the lesser of two evils): In the USSR, during the cold war and after, abortion was a normal occurrence. Contraception (pill, IUDs, etc) was expensive and rarely available. Condoms reuse was endemic, despite the fact they were poorly made and thus fairly ineffective even when new. Spermicides were limited to 'garden' remedies. This environment led to many unwanted pregnancies, and the vast majority of Russian women had at least one abortion before their 20th birthday. Luckily for these women, their abortions were at least properly supervised and performed.

      I do not want the Russian model to be the model of the future.

    • Dan Klarmann says:

      I'd argue that up until an independent outsider can be certain another is pregnant, it should be strictly up to the host/mother to determine the parasite/child status of any organism living within her. She has months to decide before anyone else would notice, and should have the right to decide and act quickly on her decision.

  6. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Even though them call themselves "Pro Life", many of the pro-life crowd also support the Death penalty and unjustifiable wars.

    And too, there are some "Pro-lifers" that feel their morality elevate them to the position of judge and execution, so that they may bomb or torch clinics where they suspect abortions may have occurred.

    To be truly pro-life should mean more that simply opposing abortion by any means possible. It should also include:

    Opposition to foreign wars, police actions, preemptive strike, or whatever euphemism for going to another country and killing the local so we can steal what they have.

    Opposition to the death penalty.

    Support of humanitarian aid to those that need it.

    Support of a health care system that rewards the care providers for improving the quality of life for all the patients, as opposed to rewarding the providers for refusing medical attention.

    Support for population control, because we are rapidly approaching the day when the resources can no longer sustain our numbers. In fact we may already be there.

    In effect, to be truly pro life, people should support birth control.

    • Danny says:

      Mark: When medical technology gets to where we can take a newly fertilized embryo and grow it to term in a vat, this issue will likely disappear.

      Agreed, but still uncomfortable with this notion. Though, as you alluded I have not studied up on this issue.

      Tony: From everyone I’ve spoken with, and from my reading, it’s not an experience anyone wants to repeat.

      Understood. I didn't want to treat her situation flippantly because she chose what she thought was the lesser of two evils, so I know what you mean by she didn't "want" it.

      Niklaus: To be truly pro-life should mean more that simply opposing abortion by any means possible.

      Agreed, taken to the extreme pro-lifers should avoid stepping on insects. However, it's not that simple.

      But as Mark said, "The issue really comes down, morally, to this: no human being has the RIGHT to live at the expense of another. Perhaps that’s ugly, but it encompasses everything from simple property rights to laws concerning revenge, extortion, and curel and unusual punishment issues." I believe this ought to be the reality, but until it is then I'm afraid the strict pro-life view you talked about Niklaus will never be. Case in point, though I am generally pro-life (and pro birth control), and I'm not pacifistic because I know that "us or them" situations are real. I think war and preemptive strikes should always be the last option and will always be ugly, but if someone in another country has made up their mind to kill someone in my family (or someone in my country) then I don't see any alternative than defense by violent means (this situation is, of course, only after earnest peace measures and diplomacy). Notice my scenario for war is only in cases of "either us or them dies." War should never be done to loot and plunder.

      We shouldn't have to live in a world where sometimes we have to choose to either let a loved one live or someone who hates that loved one, but I'm afraid this is our reality. But, I'm still trying to be the change I want to see, and there may come a time when war is not a reality.

    • Tony Coyle says:

      well said, Niklaus.

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