The crassness of a public abortion

| March 9, 2010 | 21 Replies

Today, I spotted a link to Mary Ann Sorrentino’s Blog on Salon.com. Sorrentino reports about a woman who decided to Twitter her RU486 abortion in real-time.

27-year-old Angie Jackson decided to use Twitter as a public stage for her private decision to terminate a pregnancy using RU486, the miscarriage-inducing drug legally available in the US for a decade. Jackson, who has a 4-year-old son with special needs, says that that difficult pregnancy and outcome made her decide long ago not to have another child. She was committed to aborting future pregnancies that might occur.

Sorrentino strongly disapproves of Jackson’s public display of abortion. She considers it “self-serving, exhibitionistic, and selfish: at best, it has “Bad Judgment” written all over it.”  I agree with Sorrentino’s characterization of Jackson’s craving for the limelight.

Before going further, however, I should make clear that I fully support a woman’s right to abort a pregnancy in the early months of the pregnancy. Although I consider an early term embryo/fetus to to be both human and alive, I don’t consider a human organism lacking a reasonably-developed brain to be entitled to the legal rights of personhood. As the pregnancy gets to be further along, the argument gets correspondingly stronger (in my mind) that the fetus is a person–I thus consider the idea of an elective abortion of a healthy fetus at 8 or 9 months (e.g., for sex selection) to be the ghastly equivalent of murder. Here’s more on my analysis of abortion and my rejection of the religious concept of the “soul,” an ancient concept that inspires many people who are anti-abortion.

As I read Sorrentino’s post, I thought about a question posed to me by a good friend who is anti-abortion. I mentioned to him that I believe in a woman’s right to abort for any reason in the early months of pregnancy.   As we discussed the issue further, I indicated that it was too bad that some women had multiple abortions–too bad there isn’t fool-proof birth control–shouldn’t the invention of 100% reliable birth control be a priority for our government, so that there would be fewer accidental pregnancies, and hence, abortions?

My friend stopped me and asked me why I would care about large numbers of early term abortions, given my position that an early term abortion is not tantamount to murder.   He asked, “If it’s not murder, why do you care that a woman uses abortion repeatedly – – 10 or 12 times in her life, to end pregnancies?  You’re claiming that an early term abortion is only as morally significant as trapping a mouse in a mousetrap, right?  If a human person is allegedly not involved, there’s nothing to regret when an early term abortion occurs.”   This friend then went on to assert that my moral queasiness was proof that I was being disingenuous in my pro-choice position, and that I knew in my heart of hearts that even very-early term abortions are morally wrong.   I protested that he was wrong, and I simply didn’t want to see woman going through a process that others demonized.   But I must admit that his point is a good one, and it got me thinking.

For now, I would like to play the devil’s advocate, and suggest (as my friend did to me) that Ms. Jackson’s public abortion shouldn’t morally bother those people who support abortion rights.   For those of us who say that we are convinced that the abortion of a 2-day old pregnancy is not murder, why is it considered crass or inappropriate to Twitter about it in real time?  If there is nothing wrong with an early-term abortion, why not pull it out of the closet and talk casually about the procedure?

I suspect that Ms. Sorrentino’s concern is probably that Jackson was exercising political bad judgment, not moral bad judgment.  I would certainly concur that Jackson was being politically foolish to the extent that she supports the right to choose.

Perhaps I’m projecting my own concerns about my own position on Ms. Sorrentino.   Even so, I do know many people who express moral queasiness regarding abortion, even though they support a woman’s right to abortion. This topic of moral queasiness is a fascinating topic for me.  Perhaps within this topic lies some desperately needed insight regarding the topic of abortion . . .

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Category: Reproductive Rights

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (21)

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  1. Brynn Jacobs says:

    I would like to suggest that the reluctance to countenance repeated abortions is not related to the morality of the act at all.

    Consider the case of an overweight individual who has had multiple lyposuction visits. You might also be opposed to seeing these types of repeated treatments for what is ostensibly closely related to lifestyle. After all, couldn't the overweight person simply diet, or eat properly to begin with? Wouldn't that be a much less drastic solution than repeated lyposuction appointments?

    I think it's a similar dynamic with the abortion scenario. Although there may not be a moral quandary involved for you, it still is a medical procedure which could be easily prevented through relatively minor lifestyle changes.

    I would also suggest that the desire to garner publicity for her abortion is a a reflection of greater societal factors than a personal failing. After all, doesn't American culture encourage “self-serving, exhibitionistic, and selfish" behaviors? From Facebook to "reality TV", there is a massive cultural push to make what used to be private into public information. This is another symptom of that.

  2. Scott Evans says:

    Dear God,

    Based on his statement, "… I should make clear that I fully support a woman’s right to abort a pregnancy in the early months of the pregnancy. Although I consider an early term embryo/fetus to be both human and alive, I don’t consider a human organism lacking a reasonably-developed brain to be entitled to the legal rights of personhood," I wanted to let You know that all decisions concerning the life and death of innocent human beings will be at the discretion of one Mr. Erich Vieth from now on. You no longer need to concern Yourself with such matters.

    Thank You.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Dear Scott Evans: For the many reasons I have stated at this site, I do not believe in disembodied sentience. Instead, I believe that "God" is a projection of the hopes, fears and fantasies of a person. If I'm right about that (I'm not asking you to stop believing in God, only to take the time to think through this hypothetical), would that change your opinion regarding abortion? Can you reorient yourself long enough from your judgmental stance to consider my viewpoint? I certainly do respect the right of pregnant women to NOT have abortions, if that is indeed what they want.

      In my opinion, it's not coincidental that so many people who are anti-abortion believe in supernatural beings. To believe that a 2-day old embryo or a that a God can think requires one to take the same immense leap: that thinking can occur in the absence of a physical neural network. No sort of processing, symbolic or otherwise has ever been shown to have occurred in the absence of a physical substrate. At this point, the argument often turns to the extent of the cognition of an embryo, to which I would respond bluntly. A 2-day old (or a 50-day old) embryo/fetus is less sentient, and has less ability to encode episodic memories than full-grown cows and even chickens, yet most fervent anti-abortionists eat cows and chickens.

      To recap–I believe that most (though not all) people who oppose early-term abortion do so based on their claim that some sort of meaningful thought process occurs in the absence of the biological machinery necessary to enable (the magnificent phenomenon of) representational thought. It is this same leap that serves as the shaky foundation for the belief that a God lacking in physical apparatus can "think." Hence, the common conjunction between the anti-abortion position and belief in a sentient God.

  3. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Scott–

    I suppose the thousands of innocent deaths annually through "acts of God" demonstrate a superior vision of morality in your opinion? Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, fires, etc… claim many thousands of innocent lives, based on the whim of this "god" of which you speak. He seems like a real jerk to me, I don't know why you keep choosing to believe in him.

  4. Scott,

    This cannot be said too often, in my opinion. Because of the quite public policy positions of nearly all the right to life (antichoice) movements, the issue is NOT over so-called innocent life (however you may arrive at that assessment) but about women and sex. It would seem self-evident that if we worked toward a sane policy concerning sex, one which enabled people to prevent pregnancy resulting from recreational intimacy, there would be no fetuses (or at least far, far fewer) over which to get so emotionally exercised. But such policies themselves are rejected as well as support for abortion rights, which leads me to conclude that what bothers the adherents to these positions is not so much fetuses lost as sex indulged. As long as that remains the case, no compromise is possible, because no common ground can be agreed to. Women consequently find themselves hostage to a moral position which leaves them little or no choice and therefore strips the prolife movement of any moral high ground due to a commitment to an irrational and unethical rejection of individual freedoms.

  5. Scott Evans says:

    Erich, whether you believe in a God or not doesn't mean He doesn't exist. If He didn't, you wouldn't know you're you since cells and molecules cannot be self-aware on their own. If there were no God but still people, we would only possess our five senses, but our five senses alone cannot tell us what's right and what's wrong. Anyone who pays even a minute amount of attention to the universe knows there is someone who created all this simply because of the order of it all if nothing else.

    So having said all that, whether there is a God or not, who are you to say who should live and who should die? Who died and made you king? What difference does it make what Erich Vieth believes about anything anyway? What do you base your opinions on? You're opinions alone? So what? Who cares? If there is no God, no Creator, then you, me, and everyone else are meaningless. I should be able to whack you or anyone else up-long-side the head with a 2X4 and no one should have a basis on why I was wrong to do that. So please tell me, Erich, why would it be wrong for me to do that? Give me one good reason. Or would it be wrong for me to do that if I felt like it?

  6. Scott Evans says:

    Brynn,

    Simple. Those aren't "acts of God."

  7. Scott Evans says:

    Mark,

    First of all, I'm not anti-choice. The pregnant woman, after making the choice to become pregnant, has two choices, to keep her baby or adopt her baby. If she kills the baby, she's still a mother but the mother of a dead child.

    Secondly, the issue is ALL about innocent life. Saying it's about women and sex is saying women are too stupid to figure out how they become pregnant. That's a truly sexist position, Mark.

    What if we worked toward a sane policy concerning sex? We're talking about adults here, not school girls. I'd love to hear of this sane policy of yours.

    Again, it's ALL about unborn babies lost. Hey, indulge in sex all you want (between married men and women ideally), just don't kill the innocent baby that may result. Simple.

    I'm all about individual freedoms as bestowed to us by God and the 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. constitution which include the right to life of the born and unborn alike.

  8. trebor says:

    Here is an article that I find interesting: http://kgov.com/bel/20091005

    After 4 years of being frozen, life existed from those two cells. A unique person started right there, all she needed was an mother incubator. Many people today give more rights to animals than they will have toward their own species. And because of this 50 million people (in America) have been killed. So, for me it comes down to this, Jesus is your cuss word so why not support killing His creation? For Scott and myself – Jesus is Lord. "For you (God) created my

    inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb (Ps.139:13 NIV)." PTL…

  9. Scott writes—"Secondly, the issue is ALL about innocent life. Saying it’s about women and sex is saying women are too stupid to figure out how they become pregnant. That’s a truly sexist position, Mark."

    Not at all. Birth control does not come naturally, one has to learn it, and in order to learn it, one must be taught. If public support and funding for sensible sex education programs is constantly attacked, cut, and undermined, how much education happens? Talk to some doctors at clinics about the stupidity of the uneducated. Also, the constant harping on the morality of consensual sex and the condemnation among the most vocal of prolife groups of contraceptive alternatives does have the effect of increasing indecision among certain groups of—again—poorly educated people.

    and—"What if we worked toward a sane policy concerning sex? We’re talking about adults here, not school girls. I’d love to hear of this sane policy of yours."

    Nothing that has not been tried and found to work. You institute sex education programs in all schools beginning at fourth grade—right before the onset of menarche—and repeat it every year, with full discussion of contraception, disease, sexual orientation, and (most especially and) the economics of child rearing. From junior high on, school nurses and/or clinics should be available for the students, including distribution of contracptives.

    It has been shown, time after time, in study after study, that such full and unencumbered courses—coupled with the availability of clinical services—reduce teen pregnancy, venereal disease, AND substantially delay first sex. The only reason to condemn and discredit such programs is to attack the idea that people—men and women—have a right to control their sex lives and when and IF they will procreate. The reasons for this likely have nothing to do with reason or even morality, since, as I said, onset of sexual activity is effectively delayed by such programs, but a Biblical attitude for what people ought or ought not to do.

  10. Scott writes:—"Erich, whether you believe in a God or not doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist."

    Nor does anyone's professed belief in a god prove one DOES exist. Tautology.

    and—"If He didn’t, you wouldn’t know you’re you since cells and molecules cannot be self-aware on their own."

    But we here are not cells and molecules and some of us are self-aware.

    and finally:—"If there were no God but still people, we would only possess our five senses, but our five senses alone cannot tell us what’s right and what’s wrong. Anyone who pays even a minute amount of attention to the universe knows there is someone who created all this simply because of the order of it all if nothing else."

    Doesn't follow at all. The senses do not, you're right, tell us right from wrong, but only sensible from insensible. The mind uses the senses to construct a reality and from that we derive concepts of right and wrong. Morality is a cognitive achievement and apparently we have figured it out without being told from without.

    Perhaps anyone paying minute attention to the universe would come to that conclusion, but paying just a modicum more and a little more after that shows that a god is not necessary to the process and that if such a being were in existence and had the responsibilities believers attribute to it, then the only sane conclusion is that this being has done a terrible job.

    That argument that what one cannot see, hear, touch, or taste may be real because we cannot prove otherwise is, frankly, weak and rather defeatist. You are making the extraordinary claim, that a boundless invisible being made everything and also cares what we do (and what we don't do), therefore the responsibility to prove it lies with you.

    Ah, but proof denies faith, and without faith, god is nothing…

  11. Scott writes:—"First of all, I’m not anti-choice. The pregnant woman, after making the choice to become pregnant, has two choices, to keep her baby or adopt her baby. If she kills the baby, she’s still a mother but the mother of a dead child."

    Sorry to keep coming back like this, but your phrasing here really annoys me.

    After making the choice to become pregnant…

    If that were the case, why would she even want an abortion? If, in fact, she had "chosen" to become pregnant, the implication is that she thought about it beforehand and is acting on intention.

    Following it up on your remarks about MY sexism, the inference here is that any woman who becomes pregnant has automatically chosen to do so, which encompasses a whole lot of assumptions, many of which don't hold up to scrutiny. What I infer from that remark is that you believe that any woman who indulges in sex and becomes pregnant has by default chosen to become pregnant, which is exactly the kind of attitude I was initially addressing. Oh, those terrible, shameless women who want sex! It is but fitting that they pay the price by becoming pregnant!

    There is rape. There is incest. Both of those are by definition coercive, so there is no choice involved. There is also date rape, which may in some instances skirt a line, but I suggest that doing something because your friends think it's cool is not something you do necessarily of your own free will.

    There is the failure of birth control—use of which would seem to me to a declaration, loud and clear, that there was no intent to become pregnant here.

    So that leaves women who have sex with the intent to become pregnant, who are the only ones who fit your description, and I seriously doubt they are flocking to get abortions.

  12. Scott writes:—"I’m all about individual freedoms as bestowed to us by God and the 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. constitution which include the right to life of the born and unborn alike."

    One last time (maybe): there is nothing in the Constitution that alludes to the unborn. Period.

    I would point out that there is a 9th amendment in the Constitution, which states that "the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

    I believe a good case can be made that no one has a right to exist parasitically on an individual. (I can hear the argument already, so let me say up front, this does not include the state, only individuals.) I don't care who it is, what the condition of their soul may be, what state their brain may be in, no one has a right to demand to exist parasitically on another individual.

    So no, fetuses do not possess such a right.

  13. Gabe S says:

    To Mr. Evans and Trebor, I am not going to get into all of the issues that you raise because they have been debunked by this website and many other atheist websites ad nauseum. However, as to your question as to who makes Erich Vieth think he is the one who decides moral issues, the answer is that he is. We all are. We have all agreed to social contracts based on what we all believe to be right and in the best interest of our species. This is done in an effort to maximize joy and minimize suffering for all humans, while having the least negative impact on the environment as possible. The difficulty is getting people like yourself to realize that you are the judge of morality and persuading you to let go of your ancient mythologies and imaginary gods.

    On the issue of abortion, I admit that I find all abortions to be somewhat immoral (except perhaps when a woman is raped and impregnated by her attacker). However, I also think that it is a personal choice and should be perfectly legal. The immorality that I see has more to do with irresponsibility and selfishness of the individual having the abortion and in some cases, the selfishness of our society in our reluctance to take in unwanted babies. Nonetheless, I do not think that abortion causes any suffering and therefore, it does not violate our social contract.

  14. Dan Klarmann says:

    God given rights to people? The inerrant old testament tells how to get and treat slaves, concubines, wives, and other people/property. It also specifies many people who must be killed. Not "dead in the Lord" but not-breathing. Most people fall afoul of at least one of the old death penalty offenses at some time.

  15. Dan Klarmann says:

    I don't consider a clump of cells to be a person, however clearly the cells contain human DNA. If a mother decides to consider the organism living inside of her to be a person, I emphatically support her choice.

    If a mother decides that the organism living within her is a parasite, likely to ruin her life, and only personally traumatic to remove, I support that less comfortable choice, as well.

    Abortions have always been with us; they are described in texts far predating the Bible. They will always be part of life. I know of several of my own ancestors who've had them (illegally). Anyone who says they don't know anyone who's had an abortion is either disingenuous or mistaken.

    The real question in a culture is, are they legal and relatively safe, or forbidden and more probably dangerous?

  16. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    The Utah state assembly recently passed legislation that would charge women who have miscarriages with murder.

    I submit, that in the interest of equality in reproductive law, the contribution of men to causing pregnancies is not being considered.

    So I challenge the Utah to craft similar legislation that applies only to the men in the state. This would mean that any man who ejaculates for any reason must be considered a mass murderer because each and every sperm has the potential to impregnate, but millions are allowed to die without getting to chance to fulfill this mission.

    This would also imply that masturbation would be premeditated murder. However, wet dreams could probably be defended as involuntary manslaughter.

    The end of life is determined by one of 2 standards, cessation of brain activity, or cessation of self-sustained cardiovascular activity. If we judge the beginning of life by the same criteria, the developing would not be considered to be alive before the brain or heart and lungs were fully functional.

  17. Alison says:

    Well, I don’t think that God dude is as all het up about abortions as you might think, since he gave me two, and then tried to give me two more. I showed him, though. The third and fourth times, I got me a really good perinatologist, and now those two fetuses I saved from divine abortion are lovely, intelligent teenagers.

    At least when I got an abortion for myself, I had it done before the fetus had developed any physical capacity for sensations. When God performed his abortions on me, those babies had hands and feet and heartbeats, and one of them had even started moving around. So from where I’m standing, I don’t see where people are getting the idea that God wants every baby ever conceived to be born. . .

  18. Erich Vieth says:

    Niklaus:

    To add to what you’ve written,

    The embryos from which human embryonic stem cells are derived are typically four or five days old and are a hollow microscopic ball of cells called the blastocyst. The cells of a blastocyct are completely unspecialized. http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/basics3.asp

    Until the human embryo is 4 or 5 days old, then, it consists of totally undifferentiated stem cells (there are no brain cells or heart cells). This means that it is absurd to say that birth control pills kill a being with a any sort of mind (unless you believe in supernatural souls, of course).

    There is no brain activity or heart activity at all until six weeks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embryo To claim that there is an form of sentience at this stage is baseless.

  19. Alan B. says:

    Sorry I am so late to the party, but I could not resist responding to Scott Evans who opined: "who are you to say who should live and who should die? Who died and made you king?"

    Good Lord, man, have you no respect for innocent irony meters? You blew mine to smithereens. As far as I can tell it is not Erich who is trying to impose his beliefs on others, just you. As far as I can tell, God has not weighed in on the subject of abortion. He has not taken out any full-page ads. He has not testified before Congress or State Legislatures. He did not file a brief in Roe v. Wade or any other court cases on the subject. It is only you and people like you claim to be speaking for Him. It is only you and people like you who claim to know his will and then wish to impose that interpretation on others. I find it very, very hard to imagine anything more arrogant than that.

  20. Mary Christian says:

    It is ironic and hypocritical that the Jesus-hating terrorist Scott Melvin Evans would comment. I know from personal experience.

    I live two blocks away from where Scott bullies people nearly every Saturday (Scott Evans calls his bullying and harassing behavior “sidewalk counseling”). We all know exactly who Scott is and every single time I drive by there (like this past Saturday morning), he is out there with a ridiculous looking small video camera mounted to his shoulder, makes terrible loud noises blowing on some horn, all in some vain attempt to overcome some major insecurities, and all while trying to videotape everyone and violating everyone’s right to privacy. My neighbors and I have researched these people and almost all of them are criminals!
    Scott Melvin Evans, Jo Anne Scott and Ken Tyler Scott (deadbeat dad), are all Jesus-hating “sidewalk counselors” and have disgusting, photo-shopped signs, bloody plastic children’s baby dolls, morbid “baby caskets”, and fake ‘abortion’ posters of bloody babies, and these are all over the streets in our neighborhood. They have giant signs of miscarriages and knowingly falsely present them as “abortions”.

    Recently, Ken had invited me out to join them after my neighbor’s church went out for the 40 days for life protest. I was appalled at what I witnessed out on the public street! Their tactics are awful and even anti-human.

    I have two daughters, both on birth control until they are ready to have my grandchildren (hopefully soon!), and if Scott harassed them like that, I would call the police on him. I met several of the other horrible bullies next to the driveway on that Saturday and got their names. They are out there regularly and are yelling nasty stuff too. They all try to emulate Scott Evans or Ken Scott’s aggressive, obnoxious, anti-Jesus behaviour.

    They know no boundaries, are very loud, obnoxious and aggressive and I can often hear them yelling and making noise from my back yard! NONE of my neighbors want to drive near these horrible images and activities, especially when we have our young children in the car. Everyone reading this take a minute and imagine how you would feel if you had these grotesque signs lining the streets in your neighborhood! We are sick of it. These “protestors” all seem to try to video tape and intimidate anyone who drives down Pontiac street here in Denver and will lie to and mislead ANYONE who they can get to stop to listen, or otherwise is within earshot.
    These “sidewalk counselors” are out there nearly every day, and apparently paid to be there by Bob Adolph Enyart of Denver Bible Church in Arvada.

    Fact: “Pastor” Bob Adolph Enyart is the kind of person he truly is the leader of the pack and Scott Evans and Ken Scott follow his every whim, doing the devil’s work.
    They are all blasphemous towards the sacred Christian Bible and are harassing many REAL Christians, most whom are going into a clinic for birth control and other needed medical services (many from our surrounding neighborhood!). They do so much harm to the anti-abortion cause, which should be peaceful. I personally would like to see us get to the point where abortion is rare or non-existent.

    GOD will be the judge of all of us one way or another, NOT these terrible bullies! Jesus was peaceful and would have never done any of this and would not have approved in any way. These “sidewalk counselors” are the new Westboro Baptist Church of our community and their arrogant ignorance is so sad and pathetic that it sickens me.

    These are the worst of the worst of anti-abortion (and anti-gay) extremists. Anyone that associates with these people will be judged the same way by the public and by God (as mentally ill, sadistic and psychopathic!) There is a special place in Hell for all of these people, but it’s just as well, since these “sidewalk counselors” hate Jesus and are doing the devil’s work.

    I am a member of a very large and REAL Christian Church south of Denver and our Pastor gave a wonderful sermon on Sunday about how these “sidewalk counselor” bullies blaspheme the name of the Lord. Our Pastor encouraged us to engage Voice of Choice (http://www.vochoice.org) to help attempt to get the protesters to see that this should not be about anyone’s stance on abortion, but to NOT BULLY and NOT HARRASS your fellow human beings.
    Hundreds of the parishioners have contacted Voice of Choice and offered their services to do what they could do to help. I hope you will do the same. Please pray for the protesters!

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