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July 20, 2004

When Is An Abortion Okay, and Who Gets To Decide?

I generally don't let to get involved in abortion debates because they tend to devolve into pissing matches between people who throw terms like "baby-killer" and "save-the-fetus Nazi" at each other. However, Amy Richards' story caught my attention. Richards is a feminist writer and the co-author (with Jennifer Baumgartner) of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and The Future. Last year, she discovered that she was pregnant with triplets, and chose to have a selective abortion. She aborted the twins and kept the stand-alone. Amy's story sparked outrage in two posts at Hugo Schwyzer's blog. The posts about Richards' abortion came immediately after a post about a family struggling to deal with their child's leukemia, so many commenters (and Hugo himself) came across to me as more judgemental of Richards' dilemma and subsequent choices than they otherwise might have been.

Richards wasn't so overcome with guilt over aborting two of her eight-week old fetuses that she sought counseling from a group like Project Rachel. (Project Rachel is a pro-life organization that provides counseling for women who feel guilt and shame over their abortions. It supports the medically unrecognized Post-Abortion Syndrome. I consider such "therapy" and the use of such specious "syndromes" harmful for women.) Nor was she torn between wanting to give birth to babies and the possibility that her health would be negatively impacted. Instead, she learned with shock that she was pregnant with triplets and quickly came to what I believe was a valid and responsible decision. While she requested her boyfriend's input he did not have the final say. The final say was hers, as it should have been, because in the end any responsibility for the care and upkeep of any of those fetuses should she choose to give birth would rest primarily on her shoulders.

I think her matter-of-fact and seemingly emotionless description of the position she found herself in as well as her lack of guilt and lack of personal problems following the abortion is what some of Hugo's commenters (and Hugo himself) found so off-putting about Richards' story. If any of the commenters had already known of her feminist background, they may have let their possible dislike of her ideology affect their opinions. Under what circumstances would those who are against abortion permit one to happen? If the woman would suffer medical complications? Richards would have had minimal complications. What about people who are pro-choice who were off-put by Richard's story? There were a couple in Hugo's comments. If you are pro-choice but you believe the woman describes her abortion in clinical, distant, and seemingly cold language, do you consider her less sympathetic? For those who are pro-life, if she was wracked with guilt over her decision and talks about how she continues to suffer ten, twenty years after the abortion, is she more sympathetic in your eyes? I saw those kinds of women testify at a "partial birth" abortion bill hearing in Massachusetts. They blamed their problems on abortions they had many years ago without considering that many horrendous extenuating circumstances, such as abuse they had described, were more likely behind their troubles than their abortions. Are other reasons a woman may choose abortion selfish because someone else says they are? Here is Richards' description of her reasoning:

    My immediate response was, I cannot have triplets. I was not married; I lived in a five-story walk-up in the East Village; I worked freelance; and I would have to go on bed rest in March. I lecture at colleges, and my biggest months are March and April. I would have to give up my main income for the rest of the year. There was a part of me that was sure I could work around that. But it was a matter of, Do I want to?

    I looked at Peter and asked the doctor: ''Is it possible to get rid of one of them? Or two of them?'' The obstetrician wasn't an expert in selective reduction, but she knew that with a shot of potassium chloride you could eliminate one or more.

    Having felt physically fine up to this point, I got on the subway afterward, and all of a sudden, I felt ill. I didn't want to eat anything. What I was going through seemed like a very unnatural experience. On the subway, Peter asked, ''Shouldn't we consider having triplets?'' And I had this adverse reaction: ''This is why they say it's the woman's choice, because you think I could just carry triplets. That's easy for you to say, but I'd have to give up my life.'' Not only would I have to be on bed rest at 20 weeks, I wouldn't be able to fly after 15. I was already at eight weeks. When I found out about the triplets, I felt like: It's not the back of a pickup at 16, but now I'm going to have to move to Staten Island. I'll never leave my house because I'll have to care for these children. I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise. Even in my moments of thinking about having three, I don't think that deep down I was ever considering it.

Hugo was quite upset over what she said, especially "'This is why they say it's the woman's choice, because you think I could just carry triplets. That's easy for you to say, but I'd have to give up my life.'' He was angry that she chose to abort the twins to preserve her "precious autonomy." Others were less kind, calling her "pure evil" and "Amy the Killer."

Maybe I just read her article differently from the angry commenters. Her Costco/mayonnaise comment struck me as flippant not because she was insensitive but because at the time she was probably scared. I thought that she took a clear and realistic look at what was in store for her if she chose to give birth to all three. She weighed the pros and cons, with input from her boyfriend, but in the end the decision rested with her. I didn't take her reasoning, quoted above, as selfishness or coldness. I took it as realistic and thoughtful. This was clearly a decision she did not take lightly. She is right that she would have been confined to bed and that her life could very well have become much more difficult, and yes, her life is one well worth considering when deciding whether or not to have children. To reduce weighing the pros and cons to negative self-centeredness and casually deciding to "kill her children" does not take into consideration the position she found herself in and the difficult decisions she had to make. That's what choice is all about.

I had an abortion when I was twenty-four. I was not long out of college, on my first job, and dating my future ex-husband. I was still living with my parents. I made only $11,000 per year. I knew that there was no way I could raise a child. I knew I was pregnant the moment the morning sickness started. It was constant, 24 hours per day. I had my abortion at eight weeks. It hurt like hell and I was scared out of my wits. I was fortunate to have a good doctor and good medical insurance. I'm sure some people would say that I did it for selfish reasons. That's fine. What they think does not personally affect me, nor is my life beholden to what strangers think I should do with it. I don't think I have to have dire medical complications while pregnant in order for it to be "okay" for me to have an abortion. It was a valid choice that I made, one that I made with a clear head and input from my future ex, one that I did not undertake casually as if I were discarding the week's trash, and one that I do not regret to this day. I am not a "victim" of specious medical syndromes related to abortion, nor do I see children who would have been the age my child would have been if I had given birth and wonder "what if?" I gave birth to my son a couple of years later. No, I do not consider him my second child. I get a little angry at people who would look at me and likely condemn me for wanting to preserve my autonomy and my life because my abortion did not meet their standards.

In his second post, Hugo brought up two things that I believe are irrelevant to Richards' abortion - the man's choice and Richards' description of growing up without a father. He suspects, without any real proof, that Richards' mother likely told her to never rely on a man because he says that's what the young women of single mothers that he has met have told him. Again, I didn't take Richards' description of her home life the way he did. I didn't take her "I never missed not having him" as an emphatic "never" the way he did. I saw it as a simple statement of fact, not a hidden code that she regretted being "fatherlessness." I know that family values ideologues would have jumped all over her statements as "proof" that she is damaged goods because she "grew up fatherless" when there is absolutely no proof of any such thing. It came across to me as if Hugo was trying to find something lacking in her family background that would explain, to his satisfaction, why she would choose to have such an abortion and to discuss it the way she did. Those comments from him seemed to be more about him and less about Richards. I took her opening paragraph to say that she already recognized the hardships that went with raising children alone, since she saw families from all walks of life, including her friends who were raising their nieces and nephews because their sisters became pregnant out of wedlock. Richards saw the difficulties of single parenting and she did not have any romantic notions about it.

Lastly, I don't consider Hugo's anger at "a legacy of male betrayal, irresponsibility, and abandonment" relevant to Richards' story. Her boyfriend did not abandon her. He certainly was not irresponsible, and he did not betray her. He didn't bolt when she said she was pregnant. As far as calling for men's rights in abortion, a quick reality check to that line of thought lies in looking at the misogynistic men's rights group Choice4Men and the backlash men's rights in abortion movement. This movement calls for men's rights to overshadow a woman's right to decide what to do with her own body. These men wish to control women's reproductive freedom, for their own benefit. The movement is about avoiding responsibility when men should take it and complaining about being "forced into daddyhood."

Posted on July 20, 2004 at 03:34 PM | Permalink


One of the things I really like is being disagreed with in as intelligent and thoughtful a manner as this, Trish; thank you. You've made it clear where I need to sharpen my arguments.



Posted by: Hugo at Jul 20, 2004 6:29:20 PM

Thanks so much Hugo. I had no doubt you would take my post in the manner in which I had intended. I tried to ping you when I wrote it but I'm not sure if it went through. Been having computer problems.

It would be great if we could have a truly thoughtful discussion about abortion from all sides. I have some more information about one group that has done just that that I'll post tomorrow. It will definitely interest you.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jul 20, 2004 6:56:24 PM

Good post. Lots of food for thought.

First bite: I'm the (single parent) daughter of a married woman who always advised me to never rely on a man. Many women advise their daughters in this way; so what? I'm not so dense as to see why some men get their shorts in a bunch upon hearing this phrase, but to them all I can say is...it's not about you! It's about making sure one's daughter grows up with the ability to support herself if and when needed. Look through the financial-advice columns (Suze Orman, Michelle Singletary, etc); there's still plenty of women out there in the so-called post-feminist world who don't know a damn thing about their own family finances! I don't want my daughter growing up to be one of them, so she'll be getting the same advice from me. The message isn't "men are deadbeats" the message is "take care of yourself". Clear?

Second bite: There sure seems to be a lot of self-styled medical experts out there--at least if you follow the links. My opinion on abortion follows the majority opinion in the United States--that is to say, don't want one myself, but don't want to see it made illegal---I find the scenario of women in the emergency room ripped open by coathangers or lye douches or any of those other pre-Roe homegrown remedies to be at least as offensive as the so-called pro-life crowd finds abortion to be. Not to mention the whole round of hypocrisy surrounding the "pro-life" movement, and their general fundamentalism and misogyny...but I'm getting carried away...

Some of the posters kept going on about the whole "minimal risk" aspect...'scuse me, but minimal risk to whom? Few triplets are carried to term. I gave birth to a child at 25 weeks gestation. Reading about survival stories in a magazine or hearing abour them from a friend-of-a-friend is a whole helluva lot different than living them. My daughter was an alphabet soup of complications. She spent the first six months of her life in the NICU. There were many times she was near death, and words cannot describe how I felt watching her suffer...and selfishly wanting her to live. She did live. And now, no one would know she was a preemie. I know a woman, younger than myself, who went through this with triplets. She was also fortunate...her daughters are also the kind of healthy, smiling kids that are featured in photo ops on prematurity. The viewing public, however, does not seem to want photo ops with certain other survivors. Not everyone has a happily-ever-after story. When I see callous references to how "selfish" Ms. Richards supposedly was for choosing to carry one....I think "save the Monday-morning quarterbacking for the fucking game, pal." Frankly, I'm glad I didn't have her choice...I would have kept all three and probably lost all three. Why is that considered better? Why are three caskets considered better than one healthy child?

Third bite: The conversation moved with lightning speed into focusing on her single-parent status. Notice that? And pathologizing her upbringing. Makes me think some folks have more of an agenda than just speaking against abortion. Oh, and how her boyfriend was such a hero for offering to marry her. You know, I don't think either she or her boyfriend was trying to be a hero...they're just two normal people, trying to live their life. No heroes. No demons. Just folks.

Posted by: amarettiXL at Jul 20, 2004 7:01:10 PM

is it so wrong to carry a baby to term and give it up for adoption. There are perfectly good parents who for whatever reason cant have children who would love to have a child. Being pregnant i wouldnt think wouldnt keep most women from doing work..there are laws today that protect this. i think the old addage that you cant make it is no longer true. Just think about it is all im saying. i know i cant change a single mind..but this is a different world than it was 15 yrs ago..

Posted by: at Jul 20, 2004 8:21:01 PM

i feel like i should comment, but all i have to say is: great post trish!

Posted by: upyernoz at Jul 20, 2004 9:36:28 PM

Well said, am. So many people love to sit in judgement on women's choices, and the standard is usually this hazy "selfishness", which reveals to me that thinking of one's self is beyond the pale for women. Giving over your life and career and health are considered minimal costs to women--why? What's more important than your life and your health? Your ability to martyr yourself for the cause of motherhood?

Posted by: Amanda at Jul 20, 2004 10:57:15 PM

It wasn't so much that the abortion was for selfish reasons; in the end any abortion will, to some extent, be for selfish reasons, with the exception of having selective abortions to allow some or one child to live when their lives are threatened by the other fetuses.

What got me was the cavelier attitude. She sees the three heart beat and goes "Can we get rid of one?Or two?" this wasn't thought out. How long did it come for you to make your decision? It wasn't
a matter of working it out or giving it some deep thouht. it was so callous and lacking in any sense that she was about to destroy two lives.

That is what i don't understand. It didn't seem to me she felt backed into a corner or that there really wasn't anything else she could do, but that she simply didn't care. this was easier, go for it.

I have no trouble giving birth or getting pregnant (though at 46 if I set out and try maybe I will) but if the article about her was indicative of most people who seek abortion, than my mind on the issue has changed, radically. By her.

I've always thought that most people come to these decisions after thinking about them good and hard. Two fetuses are two potential babies; they aren't toppings on a burger.

I don't like abortion, never have, but always thought the way to combat it was through social reforms, enhnacing the opportunities for mothers and mother's to be so that finances never have to be a factor, and science, so no woman needs to endanger herself to give birth. But I read that, and I kept thinking about the article and Amy and a few other things she said and I wondered if this wasn't a result of free acceess to abortion.

So is this the making of a pro-lifer? I don't know. i'm still mulling it all over. But like i said, it has changed my perspective, quite a bit.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at Jul 21, 2004 5:08:13 AM

Rachel Ann, I agree that the way to reduce abortion is through social reform. Indeed, that is what has already been going on for some time...fewer women are seeking abortion than in years past because we have more options. At the time Roe was instituted, it was perfectly legal to deny jobs to pregnant women, deny schooling to pregnant--or nonpregnant---women....with life conditions like that, it's no wonder many women saw abortion as the most workable solution.

I'd hardly say there's been a sea change in attitude though. A quick trip through the blogosphere will reveal many so-called "pro-life" folks who believe that single mothers (like myself...you know, the ones who didn't choose abortion?) are mortal sinners who should be punished. How? Well, I've seen calls for a return to the days of throwing pregnant women out of school, calls for denying pregnant women jobs, and---my favorite!---a return to calling children bastards!

That this is not the route to go, you don't need a trip in the time machine to determine. Just look at the many countries where abortion is illegal. Doesn't mean abortions aren't taking place, does it?

Anyway...when I read about Ms. Richards, the first thing I flashed on was premature birth, because that was my experience. Fertility specialists often recommend selective abortion for multiples not because of any health risk to the mother, but the risk of prematurity. This is a common practice. Perhaps she made that quick comment in the doctor's office because of her familiarity with that situation...I don't know, and neither do you. It's a medical decision. And not yours or mine to make.

Posted by: amarettiXL at Jul 21, 2004 7:38:00 AM

Anonymous--giving a child up for adoption is not like giving away a pair of shoes. I know someone who had to do it, and it almost destroyed her.

Pregnancy affects a womans body and health. Carrying *triplets* magnifies these risks. It's all very well and good for men to want to choose for me to carry a pregnancy to term, *they* aren't the ones who face the physical risks. If I was in her shoes and wanted a baby, I'd probably do the same thing. Multiple births can hurt the (surviving) babies and can put the mother in great peril. If that makes me a cold, selfish, murderer, so be it.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Jul 21, 2004 9:29:49 AM

What amazes me is how many people feel entitled to judge...and want their judgments turned into law. I read a comment that said that this woman was "certainly going to hell". It's so nice to have an in-track to God's mind.

Posted by: Emma at Jul 21, 2004 11:21:01 AM

If the reason for the abortion had been because she felt that three was dangerous to herself, and that it was better to give birth to one healthy child rather than three not healthy children, I wouldn't have been appalled. But that isn't how her reasoning souonds to have gone. it wasn't about the risk, there really wasn't even much thought. It was three is too many for my life style. That is what I think a lot of
people are feeling.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at Jul 21, 2004 11:44:40 AM

Could you say more about why you think Project Rachel is harmful to women? I see women start to really thrive who have gone through this approach to reconcilation after abortion. Do you know some women who have been harmed by Project Rachel?

Posted by: Emily at Jul 21, 2004 2:11:28 PM

I'm astounded that this woman's decision is called into question because she didn't put on a display of grief that passed an arbitrary smell test. Whatever--if she really didn't give a shit, she would have aborted all three and started over. Why is it that in order for women to have rights they have to pass certain emotional tests? It's almost like we're saying, okay, you can get the abortion but you have to at least pretend that you wanted nothing more than to have this baby but you just couldn't?
If there is some social obligation to display a certain amount of grief before an abortion is acceptable, then that grief will simply become ceremonial, much like how the Japanese have an official abortion ceremony that's much like a funeral.
And then what of those who miscarry? Will they be considered callous unless a certain number of tears are shed?
I don't think it's ours to tell someone else how to feel or even how to pretend they feel about things like this.

Posted by: Amanda at Jul 21, 2004 3:34:55 PM

Rachel Ann, I don't mean to be rude, but...why isn't a woman's life(style) important? Why is it that the moment a woman becomes pregnant she becomes a walking incubator who should not consider her own life and what it can become? I know that if I found myself pregnant with triplets and came to the conclusion that I could support one well, two barely, and three in abject poverty, I might just choose as she did.

This is what bothers me the most about this discussion. Women are "free" to choose--but we MUST put everyone else ahead of us in the lineup for consideration, otherwise we are "disgusting" and "evil".

And yes, dropping the abortion rate is easy: the lowest abortion rates in Europe are in countries that have (1)abortion on demand and (2)sex ed in schools. Good luck getting the second one past the "pro-life" crowd.

Posted by: Emma at Jul 21, 2004 3:45:52 PM

The fact is that in this nation we have abortion on demand for any reason. That means that we are going to have women who abort their children so that they will not have to move to Staten Island and shop at Wal-Mart. Just as we currently have women in immigrant communities who abort children because they are girls.

The question is how long can we, as a society and a culture, continue with this policy in the face of steadily increasing information, images, measurements and other data that makes it clear that the aborted are genuinely human beings. The contention that they are not increasingly appears akin to the claims of white supremacists in the Jim Crow American South. Blacks are inferior because "everyone" knows the are, preborn infants aren't really infants because "everyone" says they aren't.

Ignore the images on the ultrasound, hush the heartbeat monitors. We decide who lives and who dies and for what reason....but how look can we keep this up?

Posted by: David Morrison at Jul 21, 2004 3:57:22 PM

I'd love to hear more from those who want to correct Amy's thought process when she was confronted by disastrous news, to get more in line with your fantasy of how it would be permissible to selectively reduce a multiple pregnancy.

Raising a child with disabilities, which is very often the case for multiples who are nearly always premature, is difficult. It's expensive to your budget and your heart. It's really, really hard, and those of you who got lucky and had healthy babies have no idea what you're judging.

As the adoptive mother of one of those 'healthy' preemies who are now surviving thanks to modern science, I can tell you that it's pretty unusual for parents to actively choose a special needs child to adopt. Sorry to sever the bumper-sticker logic, but adoption is not an alternative to abortion.

As a self-employed seasonal consultant, I can also tell you that the question of whether my financial health would recover from the loss of an entire season of revenue is not to be taken lightly.

My impression of this post was that Amy was able to think through all that faster than some folks might, but it's hard to object to her reasoning or her decision. If you don't agree that it should be her decision, made using the facts at hand, it must sound quite unacceptable.

Posted by: at Jul 21, 2004 4:16:45 PM

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of choice per se, after having two kids of my own I still fail to understand the cavalier and dismissive attitude toward adoption.

I had my earliest sonogram at 11 weeks. I was amazed at how tiny but perfect and complete my son already was at that point. I could have aborted him, legally, but I never would have been able to bring myself to do it. Why do so many women find it easier to get over stopping that life at three months than giving it birth and sending it to a good home and family only six months later? Does securing the death of that life give some kind of sick closure to the episode? In my case, at least, the abortion would have come closer to "destroying my life" than the adoption, because I would have come out of the adoption with my self-respect intact in spite of the pain. There is nothing wrong with adoption. The woman who chooses it is to be admired for doing not just what she has a "right" to do but what is the kind and merciful thing to do.

Posted by: contessa at Jul 21, 2004 4:26:09 PM


Lifestyle is not concrete; it can change any moment. Her child that she chose to bear could very well have been born with disablities that would have tied her up for life. Many things can happen to change a life style.

For many years I have answered the "willy-nilly" charge of pro-lifers with "very few women get an abortion because it will interfere with their ski trip." But I had never been confronted with a woman for whom that was true--and it did strike me as cruel.

Emily, from After Abortion had some interesting things to say (on the feministing site. For some reason I can't connect to the feministe site) and her words were the first ones that made me feel differently about Amy Richards.

I know people who have twins, and one who had triplets. Yes it was hard, but the children are basically well now. They may have mild disablities, but that is true of a lot of children, especially premies for whatever reason.

Again, I think it was the casualness with which she made this choice; it could be that the article did not do her justice, or Emily's take, which is her flippancy may have masked inner turmoil, could also be true. But it seems to me that this would be a decision that requires some heavy thinking; sitting down with paper and pen, talking to the doctor about health consequences, calling the places where she lectured and seeing if there wasn't some way she could lecture after the baby was born or give some lectures in the house, or see if she could go by cab for a limited time to lecture or what have you.

Her decision in the end may have been the same, but at least it would have come with some deep thought.

I can't ever go back to feeling the way I did about abortion again.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at Jul 21, 2004 4:31:47 PM

Oh and btw,

The pro-life side has produced some cold hearted people as well. I remember watching a congressional hearing (about ten years ago maybe?) on abortion; there were several speakers, but I remember most this one man. He was asked, by Senator Biden I think, but I could be wrong, what about a case where the mother's life is endangered. His answer was basically a shrug and a "what can we do about it" and "I think women are angry at the Creator" and you could see the Senators face just go wide with disbelief, and I think the pro-life woman sitting next to this callous man shrank back too.

Just as an aside there.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at Jul 21, 2004 4:36:56 PM

i think this is more an issue of people being uncomfortable with her supposed lack of remorse or despair than it is over aborting two of her fetuses. she didn't respond to her choice with guilt, shame, or regret, therefore she must be evil. i think it has less to do with "killing a child" than it does with trying to dictate how women should feel about it.

if you have an abortion but feel shame or sorrow over it then you're still a good and decent person but if you just make a "selfish" decision and don't think twice about putting your life ahead of the fetus' then you're bad.

i on the other hand have no problem with what she did, why she did it, or her feelings about it. i support a woman's right to abortion in practice, as well as in theory and i do not struggle with reconciling her reasoning with my own. she has a legal right to an abortion, EVEN when she exercises that right.

xoxo, jared

Posted by: ms. jared at Jul 21, 2004 6:14:29 PM

>As far as calling for men's rights in abortion, a quick reality check to that line of thought lies in looking at the misogynistic men's rights group Choice4Men and the backlash men's rights in abortion movement. This movement calls for men's rights to overshadow a woman's right to decide what to do with her own body.

I took a quick look...and I don't see anything about it that I would consider mysogynistic. I am a woman and fully capable of becoming pregnant, and if I were ever in a position to decide whether to continue a pregnancy, I would like to have the right to do that without a man being forced into the equation.

Posted by: Panser at Jul 21, 2004 9:23:39 PM

I agree whole-heartedly, jared. So much so that I am beginning to warm to the idea of having some sort of grief ceremony for abortion. If we just had a standardized ceremony for people to perform to demonstrate that yes, they dislike having had an abortion but it had to be done, it might be easier on people. Funerals are great for that reason--when someone in your life dies, your feelings might be all over the place. But a funeral gives you a codified way to express grief and protects you from the prying eyes of others who might not deem your minute to minute feelings up to snuff.
I can see how this might solve alot of the problems that we seem to be having with our feelings that those who have abortions don't demonstrate the proper regret or grief or whatever.

Posted by: Amanda at Jul 21, 2004 9:59:56 PM

I'm stunned. The article stopped me cold. If this is the result to feminist yearnings wew are literally throwing the baby out with the bath water. What more important decision could a woman possibly make? I can't reconcile the loss that she speaks of ( move to Staten Island? )with the gravity of what she has discarded with such ease. And, bye the bye, I assume the rest of her life has been and will be perfect in everyway. Boyfriend? Why bother getting married? You might not want to be married at sometime in the future, so lets dispence with that triviality. This woman has confronted a basic essential part of life and , yes femininity, as nothing more than a speed bump. God help her , and I mean that, if something else comes her way like sickness, mental illness, betrayal, disappointment, any of the age old calamities, to rock her world -she is made of fluff. Self-centered, self-involved, and self rightious. But the saddest thing for me is to know how influential she is with young people today. As the mother of five boys I am sick to think Peter, who was summarily dismissed when he asked "shouldn't we consider having triplets" was never given the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and be the man of someone's dreams, by her side for the all the good and the bad that comes from parenting. But then Amy would have to see children as a gift from God, not a self fullfilling product of some sort-wrapped in convenience. Behold the era of trophy kids. So sad,such poverty. It makes me weep.

Posted by: noel at Jul 21, 2004 10:09:18 PM

I'm stunned. The article stopped me cold. If this is the result to feminist yearnings wew are literally throwing the baby out with the bath water. What more important decision could a woman possibly make? I can't reconcile the loss that she speaks of ( move to Staten Island? )with the gravity of what she has discarded with such ease. And, bye the bye, I assume the rest of her life has been and will be perfect in everyway. Boyfriend? Why bother getting married? You might not want to be married at sometime in the future, so lets dispence with that triviality. This woman has confronted a basic essential part of life and , yes femininity, as nothing more than a speed bump. God help her , and I mean that, if something else comes her way like sickness, mental illness, betrayal, disappointment, any of the age old calamities, to rock her world -she is made of fluff. Self-centered, self-involved, and self rightious. But the saddest thing for me is to know how influential she is with young people today. As the mother of five boys I am sick to think Peter, who was summarily dismissed when he asked "shouldn't we consider having triplets" was never given the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and be the man of someone's dreams, by her side for the all the good and the bad that comes from parenting. But then Amy would have to see children as a gift from God, not a self fullfilling product of some sort-wrapped in convenience. Behold the era of trophy kids. So sad,such poverty. It makes me weep.

Posted by: noel at Jul 21, 2004 10:09:29 PM

The history of all the advances in women's reproductive health has been fought out along these same lines, often in these same words.

Midwifery (prenatal care), prevention of puerperal fever, forceps, analgesia in childbirth, contraception, abortion, and coming fast, cloning, post-menopausal motherhood, and, not so fast, artificial wombs.

The fact that we are now arguing about which abortions are "deserved" means we are more that half way through the debate. Remember when unmarried women couldn't obtain contraception? [Well, there was a day when...] That was the battle before abortion. While there are still those who denounce the easy availablity of universal contraception, it's not really main stream any longer. The morning after pill debate is the last gasp.

The arguments are always the same and usually follow the same pattern. The underlying fear is the same also: true equality for those not like us. It's hard for many to admit that this fear underlies all other arguments, but if you look at the words used against every social advance, and the order in which the new advance becomes acceptable for various social groups, it's impossible to refute.

Interesting thread. Good blog.

Posted by: clio at Jul 22, 2004 2:12:41 AM

Noel, keep haranguing us on our feminine duty to marry and have children. One day that thetoric will start working.

Posted by: Amanda at Jul 22, 2004 2:12:46 PM

Contessa, I'm glad that you could give up your baby for adoption (although you have yet to really *know*, since it appears you haven't had to do it yet). The woman who comes out of it is revered--until she laments her decision; then she's selfish. (Wham, bam, thank you for the baby, ma'am. Now shut up and go away.)

I know someone who had to surrender her child for adoption. All of the kind words and platitutdes did not make it better. She told me that if she knew how things would have turned out, she would have gotten an abortion. I guess that makes her cruel in your eyes. In mine, she's human and she's had far too much pain to deal with. I'm certainly glad that I've got the freedom to make the choice, and not have other people's morality imposed on me.

Posted by: Sheelzebub at Jul 22, 2004 3:09:30 PM

Excellent point, ms. jared. This isn't an uproar over "selective abortion", this is an uproar over a woman not feeling a need to go on and on and on about how devastating and emotional she found the choice to be. She could have described a standard abortion like this, and the reaction would have been the same. How dare she see herself as more than a vessel.

Posted by: Carrie at Jul 24, 2004 1:25:56 PM

It isn't about how she sees herself. I don't see myself as "just a vessel" either; it is about seeing the fetus as more than a nothing to be tossed aside at whim. Not about how Amy saw herself; about how she saw the potential human beings inside of her.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at Jul 25, 2004 4:40:59 PM

Excellent post about a critical issue! I've been reading your work all over the net . . . I'm impressed with your writings.

The rest of this post is for anyone who vehemently opposes Amy's choice or who hates pro-choicers, in general:

I participated in the "March for Women's Lives" march on Washington, DC, in April of this year (as a pro-choicer). I learned a lot. One of the first things I learned was that we need to reclaim the term pro-life.

Pro-choice persons are NOT anti-life; they are pro-life for women AND children, and their aim is to make every child a wanted child. I did not choose abortion, but it must remain safe and legal for my daughter and other women.

The one thing I've found as truth: anti-choice people will gleefully support a woman who changes her mind--for the next hour. But when push comes to shove (literally), they will not be there to buy diapers, formula, groceries, pay utilities, rent, health insurance and healthcare expenses, buy school clothes and other necessities for her children, or scrape around to try to send them to college. The responsibilities do NOT go away or get easier because one thinks one made the right choice and had the child.

Does anyone know how many children are abused in households where they are not wanted? I will not start popping statistics; however, don't forget that Richards chose to carry one to term. Her health is at less risk, and this child will not have to split the "goods" three ways. It hurts to do that when you are hungry. This child will be a wanted child; although that guarantees nothing, its odds look pretty damn good.

Don't go off on adoption as an option, for I am an adoptee. My bi-mother lived a life of agony after being forced to give up her child. To make matters worse, she went on to have five more children who lived in the spittoon of poverty their entire lives--not to mention that all have moderate brain damage from lead contamination in their water supply. Pitiful living conditions were conducive to the leaching lead. No health insurance kept them away from much needed medical care.

Remember this one thing:
While an anti-choice person would insist that all pregnant women give birth, pro-choice people would never force a woman to have an abortion.

Posted by: Jaggwire at Jul 25, 2004 7:57:38 PM

People grow up in tough conditions every day..some actually make something out of themselves. You act like there are no exceptions to your thinking that adoption is a terrible thing. that is proposterous and your know it. for every one of your so called horror stories there are 50 good stories. Quit making excuses that dont wash. If it is your bottom line decision to murder a fetus if you feel like it..simply for your benefit, have the balls to say it. For that is what it is in its simplest form and you know it.

Posted by: dave at Jul 26, 2004 8:23:15 AM

I'll offer this disclaimer upfront: I am against abortion (though I would not accept the label "pro-life" for philosophical and rhetorical reasons that need not divert this discussion). You may factor in this fact as relevant or not in reading my comments.

The abortion debate has been framed within the rubric of competing (that is to say, adversarial rights): the woman vs. the father/society/the fetus (if you accept any notion of rights for the fetus), with the argument being about whose rights should prevail. (Admittedly, the father's rights have really never played a very strong role in the argument, but the notion does come up from time to time.)

This adversarial rights paradigm is a failed one. It sharply divides sociopolitical discussion. It pits two parents (in the NYT Magazine account) against one another--even when both willingly, knowingly and calculatedly engaged in behavior which would conceive a child. But most importantly it is a failed paradigm because it forces a closure of the discussion without ever addressing the most important questions of all.

I think only the most partisan of abortion advocates would seriously entertain the notion that from the moment of conception the thing that has been conceived is not a human life. Clearly it is (it's not some other species of living organism). Rather there is, and should be, debate about whether or not that human life which has been conceived is a person. Because if the fetus (and here I use a blanket term to cover the unborn child from conception right up to delivery, though I know there are more technical terms used at various stages of the pregnancy) is a person, then that understanding will and rightly must frame the political debate. More than just a debate about rights, what obligations and responsibilities do we owe to persons? In what ways do we want to shape our society? What we think about persons will offer that paradigm.

Some have, rightly, I think, castigated the woman in the NYT Magazine story as shallowly narcissistic. Having just become a father in the last year, having seen what my wife endured and rejoiced during that year, I want to be sympathetic to this mother-to-be of triplets. But given all the attendent circumstances, it is very hard to be sympathetic. I am expected to accept that a single person's reluctance to alter her lifestyle and career choices is meant to negate all the other desires and rights of all the other persons involved—her boyfriend and her three children. At no time in the article is an argument made that these three fetuses are not babies. From the moment she was aware she was pregnant, through to the understanding she was pregnant with triplets, her language clearly reveals that she thinks of these fetuses as babies, humans, persons.

This understanding of personhood—irrespective of whatever rights we want to allot a mother, the father, and the child conceived by them—is Orwellian. And frankly, cannot be lived to its ultimate conclusion.

Let's turn the argument around on the mother. What would we say to a boyfriend or husband who, when faced with, say, an incurable convalesence (say quadraplegia), decides that it would be too much for him to alter his lifestyle and career, so he decides to “selectively reduce” the number of girlfriends he may choose from. You would be right to snicker and roll your eyes at such a scenario. What fool could ever adjudge such a situation to be moral, let alone legally protected?

And this is just my point. This argument lacks any acknowledgement of the one factor that matters most: Are fetuses human persons? Why or why not? Adversarial rights paradigms will not help us because they assume what they set out to prove

So I ask you: Should this woman have done what she did, if we assume that the other two fetuses are *persons*?

Posted by: Clifton D. Healy at Jul 26, 2004 9:19:46 AM

I don't think it's a valid argument to bring up adoption in the abortion context because the children most in need of adoption are older and they already have families, albeit dysfunctional ones. Reunification with blood parents and relatives is a desired goal, although it may not necessarily be one that is really in the best interests of the children. These children are difficult to adopt because they have existing problems related to how they have already been raised and from the time they spend in foster care. From what I understand, single mothers who give birth tend to keep their babies. There is a premium on infants for adoption. I don't think the "she can just give up the baby for adoption" really takes the nature of adoption and especially foster care into consideration.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jul 26, 2004 10:13:20 AM


I posted a similar run of questions on Upyernoz (http://upyernoz.blogspot.com/2004/07/next-level.html). But here we go.

I am anti-abortion (same caveats as Clifton).
I am anti-death penalty.
I am anti-war.

I am against the death penalty for the same reasons I am against abortion in most cases. It has to do with how we imagine ourselves to be part of or apart from community. The woman in the essay saw herself as singular, with no connections to another...even her boyfriend. So, she thought only of how her life would be changed. There is in this story, I think, a false sense of "ownership" of our lives. We try and try to control our existance...and with some apparent success, but we deny the realities that there is very little we can control and we actually miss out on a great deal, limiting our freedom, by aborting or selecting fetuses in the way that this woman exemplified for us.

Where issues of health are concerned, I am a little more willing to speak about abortion. But abortion is always a tragedy. It is always a sign of our limitations and not our freedoms.

Perhaps, once upon a time in a galaxy far far away, consequences had the possibility of being gifts and not curses. Perhaps triplets were her gift. Though it is her decision under current law to turn down that gift by ending the lives of two of her children, I think it speaks to serious problems in how we understand freedom and personhood.

We are individual, but not autonomous.

Posted by: AngloBaptist at Jul 26, 2004 11:20:34 AM

Forgive my seemingly nasty remarks about adoption. I led a wonderful life as an adoptee, and some mothers who relinquish their babies do also.

Amy's quote made her sound somewhat flippant. But let us not forget that those words came from the pen of a journalist--the words she/he chose to include in the article. I've spent many hours untangling the balls of knots that some journalists wound tight against me. There is no such thing as objectivity. That's why so many people sit on both sides of the fence and crow over abortion issues.

What I'm saying is that the abortion argument has as its nucleus the woman's right to choose what to do with her own body. If she does not wish for her body to be a "vessel" for a child to pass through, then so be it.

I carried two children to term, and with the last (a birth-control baby, at that), developed a condition that nearly killed us both--too late in the pregnancy to terminate it. If I had again become pregnant before the scheduled date of my tubal ligation, I would have had an abortion. I would not have asked for, or cared about, my husband's blessing. (I would not choose abortion as birth control, on the other hand, even if he had wished for me to do so.) My body, my life, my choice.

Religion cannot and should not be called upon as a judgement tool, here. To force another to alter her life based on religious principles to which she may not even subscribe goes against her constitutional rights.

Altering someone's life is, and should be, a personal choice. When it happens in other ways: i.e., drunken drivers/car accidents, assault, etc., it is considered criminal. Pregnancy alters the life of the woman affected. If she feels she cannot bear the 19 to twenty years of her life that must change (the nine months of free rent, notwithstanding), she should have to apologize to no one.

Posted by: Jaggwire at Jul 26, 2004 11:59:42 AM

If she feels she cannot bear the 19 to twenty years of her life that must change (the nine months of free rent, notwithstanding), she should have to apologize to no one.

So you agree its not about if its a human..it doesnt matter one way or another if its a human..you just think its more important for the woman to have a choice after the fact that she spread her legs. i get you!

Posted by: at Jul 26, 2004 12:18:58 PM

Abort Dave. Make the world a safer place!

Posted by: at Jul 26, 2004 2:55:28 PM


Posted by: at Jul 26, 2004 3:48:21 PM

Is it me, or is everyone ignoring the fact that she and her boyfriend willingly, knowingly and calculated engaged in behavior known to cause conception of human life? She willingly conceived human life--triplets instead of a single baby. She wants to escape the consequences of her own freely chosen act by aborting two fetuses she helped to conceive.

What does that say about personhood? That you only are valuable if you don't get in the way of what I want? What does that say about fatherhood? That you can only be the sort of father I want you to be, if at all? Do other persons only exist to fit my own desires and plans--no matter how deeply held?

If you don't ascribe personhood to these fetuses? Why not? On what grounds?

Posted by: Clifton D. Healy at Jul 26, 2004 4:25:49 PM

she wanted ONE child. she intentionally tried to conceive ONE child. she became pregnant with THREE and decided to terminate two of them to create the ONE she had intended on. it is within her LEGAL right to do so, just as it is within every other woman's to CHOOSE abortion for WHATEVER reason before viability. they were 8 weeks old when she aborted them so she was WELL within her legal and even "moral" right to do so.

what's the difference between aborting one or aborting twins? it's her choice to control her reproductive future which includes HOW MANY and WHEN. she wanted ONE, she had ONE. the end.

xoxo, jared

Posted by: ms. jared at Jul 26, 2004 5:48:12 PM

The solution is abstinence as wisely prescribed by our President, Mr. Bush. All Heed the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Sixteen Virtues.

Posted by: at Jul 26, 2004 5:59:21 PM

President Bush sent the national media into a frenzy last week when he endorsed the anti-AIDS program instituted by Uganda, known as the A-B-C model, which teaches abstinence, monogamy, and if necessary, condoms. The media has taken the President's statement -- which by the way mirrors precisely what we at Family Research Council have been saying for years -- as a presidential endorsement of condom use. One anti-abstinence expert was even quoted in the New York Times as saying, "I can't believe the President actually used the c-word." President Bush has not endorsed condom use. He has merely restated a long-standing policy of most pro-lifers that young adults should be primarily taught abstinence and monogamy

Posted by: media at Jul 26, 2004 6:14:41 PM

Again, sure am glad there's so many self-appointed medical experts out there who think that carrying triplets is such a walk in the got-damn park. Interesting that the same people who carry on about how selfish Ms. Richards was, would be hailing her as a saint if she was burying three preemies...or just one or two, if she were lucky.

Back in the day, you didn't hear too much about triplets. Know why? They didn't survive. Not very damn often. Now we have better medical care, so more have a chance, but this really doesn't improve your odds very much. The odd are still piss-poor.

Posted by: amarettiXL at Jul 26, 2004 7:56:38 PM

I think it more and more telling that none of the respondents here want to focus on the only thing that truly matters: are these fetuses persons?

Why are we so afraid of this question?

Posted by: Clifton D. Healy at Jul 27, 2004 9:38:27 AM

Fetuses are not persons in the sense that you and I are persons. Fetuses are indeed human life, but have yet to evolve into fully realized and functional human beings. If they were, they would not need the woman's body to live.

Now another question: Are pregnant woman persons or are they merely vessels for fetuses?

Posted by: Ophelia Payne at Jul 27, 2004 12:05:46 PM

i'm with ophelia. i think women ARE persons and fetuses are POTENTIAL persons.

i also believe that women have the right to refuse to have our bodies used to sustain potential persons against our will.

my question is why do reproductive rights opponents focus solely on the fetus and refuse to see the woman it is attached to?

xoxo, jared

Posted by: ms. jared at Jul 27, 2004 12:16:24 PM

At last! Thank you Ophelia and Ms. Jared for finally entering into a conversation about the important things.

For the record: Yes, of course, I believe women are fully human persons, and it should be obvious that I come from a conviction that fetuses are also fully human persons as well.

Now, let me ask you (either or both of you): On what basis do you make your claim that fetuses are only potential persons, and not persons at all in the sense that you and I are persons?

Posted by: Clifton D. Healy at Jul 27, 2004 12:59:48 PM

I don't think we can talk about the nature of a fetus without taking into consideration the person who sustains it - after all, a fetus is a fetus because it lives only by virtue of the woman. The difference between a baby and a fetus is that a baby is an autonomous being, and the fetus retains a semblance of personhood only in it's potential as an autonomous being. This is why viability has been the key issue in abortion politics.

Not to evade the question, but to put it in a larger sphere:

These kinds of questions serve as a red herring for a larger issue, that we live in a world that doesn't value women or their children. For evidence, see the War in Iraq in which we can justify the death of women and children ripped limb to limb by explosives. See the AIDS epidemic in which the rape of a virgin is believed to cure AIDS, and in which the fastest-growing population of AIDS patients are heterosexual women and their children.

We don't value these women and children, among other groups of women and children, enough to worry about the sanctity of their lives, but we'll hem and haw over the personhood of days-old zygotes in the wombs of Western women.

What a world.

Posted by: Ophelia Payne at Jul 27, 2004 1:17:30 PM

I'd also like to add that for a merely 1000-word essay, written by someone else, Ms. Richards cannot be held accountable for the so-called "flippantness" and "selfishness" in the way she comes across. While the morality of her actions can be debated, we must acknowledge that these were not, in fact, her words. Much of the outrage is misdirected.

Posted by: Ophelia Payne at Jul 27, 2004 1:23:42 PM

Jaggwire, the way you dismissed adoption as an option not to be taken seriously is what I still can not understand.

You said your birth mother suffered agony after having to give up her child. Anyone can understand that. But--would she have suffered no agony at all if only six months earlier she had ended for all time that totally innocent and totally unique life (you), knowing that there would never again be another life exactly like it born into this world with all the same character traits, talents and abilities yet to blossom? If not, then why?

I thought about all this when I was in the hospital having my 2nd. Across the hall were two teen girls with new babies, and their families cried all day outside my door about how unprepared they were to be mothers. As much as I loved that new little girl in my arms, I knew that if I could not have cared for her then yes I could have given her up to a family that could, and if I suffered for it then so be it. My actions created her and in my eyes that gave me a moral duty to act in her best interest, the same way it gives a father a moral (and legal) duty to support his child whether he wants it or not. I would have suffered more if I had forever ended her life before she ever had a chance.

I'm not disputing the right to choice here. I'm only wondering how the abortion option could be less painful than the adoption option.

Posted by: Contessa at Jul 27, 2004 4:44:32 PM


No, I don't deny the pressing questions of the treatment of women and children both locally and globally. But focusing on the question of personhood is hardly a red herring. Personhood is at the very root of what we take to be just and unjust acts toward another person.

I'm simply trying to focus the question on personhood and why it is that you do not think a fetus is a person (or only potentially so).

You appear to claim that viability is the issue. Since a fetus cannot (at the earlier stages of pregnancy in any case) live outside the womb, its dependency renders it a non-person or at least not fully a person.

So am I right in understanding that you base your thinking on personhood on the measurements of viability and dependency?

Posted by: Clifton D. Healy at Jul 27, 2004 4:52:07 PM

It isnt they have no argument that will hold water. they simply thumb their noses and say too bad i can do what i want i have the law on my side. For now that is. For now.

Posted by: at Jul 27, 2004 4:55:01 PM

To the contrary, I feel that viability is where perhaps the clearest line can be drawn. The rest are too subjective to be debated with any sort of communion or clarity, especially by those who disagree, primarily because our beliefs are rooted in suck different camps.

More tomorrow. I'm out the door.

Posted by: Ophelia Payne at Jul 27, 2004 8:17:41 PM

That would be "such."

Posted by: Ophelia Payne at Jul 27, 2004 8:23:16 PM

viability depends on science ..it changes...care to rethink that?

Posted by: at Jul 27, 2004 8:42:47 PM

I have been a neonatal nurse for over 15 years now and I have seen tons of single births, twin births, and triplet births and a handful of quadruplets. I have seen premature births, post term births etc. So I have seen more than a fair share of what happens to babies born too soon, too many etc. I'm still very anti-abortion. I've seen too many of what some people consider "miracles". However, I don't judge anyone who has one. I would rather society change and be more accepting towards adoption. There are so many americans who go overseas to adopt a baby or child who spend tens of thousands of dollars on adoptions there because of the state of adoption here in the US. I have given birth four times myself, almost died with one of them and have also adopted one. I know that in the various NICU's I have worked in across the country, its rare for them to not be able to place an infant with an adoptive family, even the ones we have who are severely brain damaged. From my experience as a nurse and dealing with people who have had abortions, most of the ones I know of are people who had one because it was inconvenient to give birth and that bothers me. Lots of irresponsibility. Women who have five or six or seven abortions and use it as their latest form of birth control. I admit it, it bugs the crap out of me. But I don't live in their heads and I don't have to answer to them or for them, to each his own. As far as if I would ever consider abortion "ok" being anti-abortion, I could see if the mothers life were in danger, or the child would have something incompatible with life. The only other exception I could see is in a situation like I saw a few months back, where a ten year old girl was pregnant, the victim of molestation by a family friend. Her rotten family had her take the baby home and take care of it and some idiot in the government agreed with them.

Posted by: Phoebe at Jul 27, 2004 11:46:19 PM


Okay, then, viability. We'll grant that medical technology can change the exact moment of when that is, as will different circumstances. This is a problem, of course, in trying to clearly define/describe what we mean by personhood, but we can set that aside for now and deal with the principle at hand.

Let me be sure that I understand what you're saying: You think that personhood is dependent upon a human life being able to be self-sustaining and independent. If a human life cannot sustain itself and is dependent upon another for that sustenance, it is not, then, a person.

Is this a correct understanding of what you mean?

Posted by: Clifton D. Healy at Jul 28, 2004 9:25:50 AM

Is it fair to ask the same woman to drastically change her life—a life she chose and is good at and loves—for the sake of bearing children that were unexpected?

Note that I use the word "bearing"—in all the nattering on about adoption, one of the author's key points is being ignored. If she were to have kept all three fetuses, she would have lost a significant amount of income during the pregnancy—whether or not she gave one or two of them up for adoption. In the near term, her income would have been dramatically affected; in the long term, her career as a speaker might well have never recovered.

Also, is it even appropriate for a woman to give birth to children that she knows she cannot support? This point gets me every time—so many in the pro-life camp proclaim that every life is a necessary and needed one. But if the mother of that child cannot support the child, what is she to do? Adoption is certainly one answer—but perhaps not a good one for the impoverished woman who cannot afford decent prenatal care, who may be on drugs and give birth to a drug-addicted child, or who, like Amy Richards, may be giving birth to children who are at high risk for health problems. Those children are not likely adoption candidates, as another comment mentions above.

Adoption is not a panacea for the problem of unwanted pregnancies. After all, the woman still has to carry the child to term, which may be, in and of itself, the problem.

Posted by: at Jul 28, 2004 1:06:18 PM

Not necessarily. As I said before, viability is where the clearest line can be drawn exactly because most other reasons for or against are subjective moral issues. Because much of the basis for pro-life argument is based in religious morality, I find it difficult to even find common ground to debate from. Our differing versions of morality frame our arguments.

We aren't even talking about the same issue here when we look at the root of the debate. I will not argue that a fetus is not human life and that the creators of the fetus have no responsibility for it, because I agree with you that they do.

I suppose the bigger question that I ask myself is who has a greater interest in protecting their respective futures: the fetus or the pregnant woman? Because a fetus is a potential human being and the pregnant woman is a cognitive individual, I conclude that her interests in self-preservation override the fetus' interests. Because few people believe in any positive effect from infanticide (and because true late-term abortions post thirty weeks are fairly rare) viability is my personal line.

I'm wondering about your feelings on pregnant women who find themselves in this quandry. Where do you draw the line for a woman's rights and why? Let me preclude that we all understand birth control techniques and abstinence, and say that I'm not sympathetic to the "she made her bed" argument.

Fair warning, yes?

Posted by: Ophelia Payne at Jul 28, 2004 1:27:38 PM

I conclude that her interests in self-preservation override the fetus' interests.

Sounds like you agree a fetus is a human life,or are you simply stating that you wont argue that?

In other words you could by that conclusion insert any human life as being less important than her interests in self-preservation. But that brings up your definition of self-preservation. Does that mean you only support abortion when a life is at stake? You arent arguing that just because having a child "could be" a potential threat to ones life is reason enough to abort?
You could also be saying that since donald trump makes alot of money that he might be detremental to your self-preservation, so its ok to off him??

Please clarify your position on these things, ophelia, dear. I suspect either way you answer now darling ...you are exposed as the hypocrite that is pro-abortion!

Posted by: dave at Jul 28, 2004 2:51:39 PM

Okay...heated up a bit in here.

My two cents: We can argue all day about personhood. The reality is that there are varying perceptions/mores etc around the issue of personhood. Ya may not like it, your own system may have room for only one perception, but that does not change the political reality in this country.

What I see as a huge problem in all of this is that there is no legal definition of personhood. We simply do not have one. If there were such a legal definition, maybe this debate would have a different tenor. As it stands, we only agree that there are several perspectives based on myriad mores. All we have is something descriptive and that leads us with a debate about rights where horrid decisions have to be made. Someone, either the mother or the fetus, will become objectified and rendered "right-less" in our present system depending upon the personhood as understood by the onlooker.

The system thusly sucks.

end two cents

Posted by: AngloBaptist at Jul 28, 2004 3:26:03 PM


I do understand your uneasiness about injecting morality into the issue (but of course one cannot avoid it), and I do not intend to get into some sort of debate about how one morality is supposedly superior than another.

Let me see if I can clarify the origins of my argument.

The abortion debate is framed in terms of rights: the right of the women to abort her baby/fetus supersedes any other right that may accrue to any other involved party. But our understanding of rights presumes something about personhood. If I head out and blow up someone's automobile, I won't be charged with murder, but with destruction of property. A car is not a human person, it doesn't have rights. If I walk up to a stranger on the street and sock him/her a good one on the jaw, I'm liable to assault charges because I've violated a human person's rights. On the other hand, if I sock a stranger on the jaw, because he's pulled a knife on me and is threatening me, I may well be excused for my attack under the terms of self-defense. My rights as a human person were violated by his actions, and therefore my violent act is not necessarily a violation of his rights but an act of self-preservation.

In other words, rights talk presupposes some understandings about human persons. This is why I think the paradigm of adversarial rights in which to discuss abortion is premature. We haven't even begun to really consider, in public discourse, what is and isn't a human person, and what sort of obligations and responsibilities, as well as rights, accrue to all those human persons involved.

Now, you say that viability is your personal limit, but because it is something that is objectively verifiable (the fetus either can or cannot live outside the womb), whereas other assertions, most of them anyway, are subjective and based on contradictory moralities and religious convictions.

Fine. You and I no doubt have different "first principles", convictions upon which we base our arguments. We can table those and attempt to get an an "objective" standard. And that's what I'm trying to do here: determine an objective standard by which we can answer this question and inform the larger debate.

You say that my description of your position on personhood, being based on viability, is not quite correct. Where would I need to correct it?

Posted by: Clifton D. Healy at Jul 28, 2004 3:42:29 PM

well, as always, dave is brimming with intelligent and insightful commentary...

clifton, i know this applies only to the united states, but maybe it'll offer some kind of defining line for you as far as rights go. there are a number of reasons i believe in a woman's right to an abortion, but there are also smaller points on the matter that i think apply regardless of my personal feelings.

the U.S. contitution states: "all persons born or naturalized in the united states, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the united states and of the state wherein they reside."

my thinking is citizens are granted rights which are constitutionally protected, and a citizen is someone BORN or naturalized in the united states. therefore, fetus' have no rights because they are not born so obviously the woman's interests outweigh the potential person/citizen growing inside of her.

it doesn't say "conceived in the united states", it says "born". i think it's as good a place as any to draw the line on whose rights are protected.

xoxo, jared

Posted by: ms. jared at Jul 28, 2004 4:54:31 PM

What I see as a huge problem in all of this is that there is no legal definition of personhood. We simply do not have one. If there were such a legal definition, maybe this debate would have a different tenor.

Actually, there is a legal definition of personhood. It certainly hasn't stopped the debate, though. ;)

A fetus is not a "person" under the law. It does not have rights as an individual or as a person. A fetus is considered by the law to be a "human being," i.e. a being that is human. That does not imply rights as an individual, or that a fetus is a "person" as opposed to "chattel," property. Fetal homicide has to do with one human being killing another human being - but that human being does not have to be a legal person. That's why in the Lacey Peterson case her family was considering file suit on her behalf and on the fetus's behalf. Her fetus was a human being but not a person in the eyes of the law. It would be considered property.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jul 28, 2004 5:28:00 PM

Ms jared, I think that was actually the thinking on Roe v Wade. I'm not sure, though.
Anyway, I think there is a truth to the idea that if a fetus is the same as a living, breathing person, then there is an argument to be had for its protection. That being said, I don't think you can argue that it's a full person separate from its mother, especially during the first few months when it's a ball of cells without a brain. The reason that everyone is tip-toeing around that is because they don't want to offend a religious belief or some other belief that it's more than that--and they are getting beat up for their kindness.
I've said it before and I'll say it again--if we really believed that a child was lost when a pregnancy aborted, we would have funerals for miscarriages.
If you want to do that, feel free. But one person's religious beliefs cannot be imposed on the rest of us by law. Contraception is forbidden by the Catholic Church, but they can't force us all to adopt their beliefs. If you think conception is simultaneous with ensoulment, fine. Don't have an abortion. But that should not be binding on the rest of us.

Posted by: Amanda at Jul 28, 2004 5:50:54 PM

Contessa, asking someone "What if you were aborted?" is the same thing as asking "What if you were never born?" There are infinite possible people out there who will never be born--every time a woman has her period, a potential person has disappeared. If my parents had called it an early night I would have never been born. What could that possibly mean?

Posted by: Amanda at Jul 28, 2004 5:58:06 PM

ms jared..that is perhaps the most ignorant thing i have ever read..you question my intelligence and insightfulness?

so under your reasoning...it's ok to murder illegal mexicans?? They have no rights by your theory correct? they were not born here or naturalized.

Put your thinking cap on and try again.

funny how the death of a freaking owl. or a tree just busts your butts but when its a fetus..well it has no right...in your world a tree has more rights doesnt it.

Posted by: at Jul 28, 2004 6:09:25 PM


Posted by: at Jul 28, 2004 6:52:58 PM

abortion isn't murder, dave, it's a medical procedure.

and illegal immigrants aren't entitled to many rights in the UNITED STATES because they weren't born or naturalized here. (which is why i clarified that my point only applied to the united states.)

illegal immigrants were however, BORN which is what separates them from the UNBORN. and in many other countries they already HAVE the right to an abortion.

xoxo, jared

Posted by: ms. jared at Jul 28, 2004 7:20:10 PM

well you say abortion isnt murder? if you did to an illegal or lets say a japanese tourist what you do to a fetus during your so called medical procedure, it indeed would be murder. crush the head of any tourist with a pair of pliars and see if you dont get charged.

put that thinking cap back on. youve still got work to do!

Posted by: dave at Jul 28, 2004 10:10:10 PM

I knew you would be here davis. Its very late. I'm supposed to be asleep. House rules. But I agree with you on this one. 20 years ago down in San diego, a woman I had relations with, became pregnant. she wanted to abort because I was a con. I said you ever try to do that and that could have repurcussions. She took heed my message and today I have 2 kids. All whom love their dad and mom. All doing very well in society. I'm no role model but their mother was given the chance to raise them. help from family and monies made over the years.
I still maintain that these women on this blog have a lot of guts though. many threatened by the church, anti-abortion groups, and guys like me. I tell them to do what they want as long as it is not in my back yard.
Can't forget murder for hire. legal you know. they pit nation against nation, country against country and let the fireworks begin. Beheadings, torture, bombings, troop pulling, flesh burning, and the latest recall; malaria potion. Now this stuff rocks. Keeps uncle sam in the dough. Keeps taxpayers like you to look after us. Gulf War 1. Bin there done there, bought the T-shirt.

Posted by: franco at Jul 29, 2004 1:04:47 AM

Yeah, I have to say if I were in her situation and had a man threaten me for having the audacity not to recognize that by having sex with him I relinquished my bodily rights forever to him, I wouldn't cave.

Posted by: Amanda at Jul 29, 2004 7:57:13 AM

ms. jared:

Fine. Let's take that as an objective marker--being born makes you a person.

Now, on what basis does one assert that? What is it about birth that, prior to birth, one is a non-person, but hours later, post-birth one is now a person? What changes during birth, does the fetus undergo, such that within a matter of hours it passes from the status of non-person to person?

Posted by: Clifton D. Healy at Jul 29, 2004 3:10:49 PM

prior to birth you are still inside of another person. PART of another person in fact, and utilizing her resources for sustenance and growth. upon birth, you are no longer attached to her and can survive without using her as a resource. those are the clear differences in my opinion.

xoxo, jared

Posted by: ms. jared at Jul 29, 2004 3:28:31 PM

I would think that most men are not like me. Like I say, my character is flawed.I was not blessed a blue collar upbringing like davis. education and certain morales I lack. However, I do not consider an abortion a sin or a crime. The former just constitutes the latter.
This issue for me is hotter than say. gay marriage. At the time I had no children. My rather abruptive lifestyle would have either seen me dead from war or imprisonment. Finances, family I could trust were abailable on both sides of the fence. The mother quit drinking after the first was born. She had to. Temper. Between family members and herself my kids have finished school and myfirst is in sociol work. I see them once a year and e-mail. They know what I am, and I am not proud of that. I am approaching 50 now and will see freedom hopefully in 2 years or less.
Just wanted to let you know that i never physically abused my wife over the abortion thing. psychologically, yes. And as I said before, Its up to the man/woman to come to their conclusions. In my case i did a six pack for threatening the mother. Not right, but thats the way I am.

Posted by: franco at Jul 29, 2004 3:57:11 PM

Ms. Jared:

Okay, then, let me see if I understand you correctly. Since birth severs the direct physical tie between the fetus and the mother, forcing the fetus to a different form of sustenance that need not be directly dependent on the mother, then this event makes the fetus a person.

Now, if I understand you correctly, that the birth makes a fetus a person, let me follow up with a clarification. Would the difference of a vaginal birth have any qualitatively different effect in a fetus becoming a person as opposed to a caesarian birth? (I don't suppose that it would, but I want to make certain I understand you.)

If I have it right so far, let me try to clarify this a bit further. Is it that the fetus is inescapably dependent upon the woman, and must live within her womb till birth that is at issue? I mean, for example, let's say that not only can we conceive fetuses in test tubes, but we can "grow" them in artificial wombs unconnected in any way to the woman's body. If we could eliminate this dependency would this change your principle of when personhood begins, or would it still be the case that until that fetus can live outside of any womb (artificial or not), that is to say, until it is born, it is not a person?

I apologize if this seems as though it's straying into science fiction. But I'm just trying to draw the lines distinctly enough to fully understand your principle.

Let me know if I understand you correctly, and where I don't, please correct my understanding.

Posted by: Clifton D. Healy at Jul 29, 2004 10:14:41 PM

People have for years wrongly referred to the abortion issue as a women’s rights issue. We have hotly debated the cause for years that a woman should have the right to choose to have a child or not. Where are the father's rights in all of this?

The father should also have a say in whether or not a baby comes to term. We need to fight to give the father a voice in this matter. If BOTH parents do not agree that the child should go to term then it should be aborted...plain and simple.

Republicans are trying to stop fathers from being a part of the decision making process. If we (Democrats) can get enough pro-choice candidates in office we stand a chance of getting legislation through that will give the mother AND the father an equal voice in this life-altering decision.

Posted by: ProChoiceDem at Sep 30, 2004 3:32:59 PM

it is not a choice, it is a baby! God wouldn't have chosen to give you that baby unless he had a plan for that.it is going against his will that you have chosen to murder, yes MURDER that child. what if your mom didn't want you and she was like "just you know, suck her legs off through a vacuum, i mean i just don't want to handle her." YOU ARE UNBELIEVABLE! it is so wrong! AND YES it is MURDER! YOU ARE KILLING A LIVING BREATHING HUMANBEING! you should go to ... church!

Posted by: anonymous at Mar 10, 2005 11:21:03 AM

"The father should also have a say in whether or not a baby comes to term. We need to fight to give the father a voice in this matter."

AND we will...as soon as someone can explain to me WHY we should give someone equal say in a matter when their ENTIRE contribution to the while thing is a 2-second, quick-drop, sperm deposit...

WHEN men contribute something MORE then that, then they can come and talk about an equal say in anything that happens...as it is they have far too much say...

Posted by: NYMOM at Mar 10, 2005 12:13:14 PM

"The father should also have a say in whether or not a baby comes to term. We need to fight to give the father a voice in this matter."

Why do we always assume that the father wants the child, and the mother wants the abortion? What if the father is married to someone else or is otherwise unwilling for the baby to be born, while the mother does want the child. Should he have the right to order an abortion?

Posted by: silverside at Mar 10, 2005 12:50:14 PM

"Why do we always assume that the father wants the child, and the mother wants the abortion? What if the father is married to someone else or is otherwise unwilling for the baby to be born, while the mother does want the child. Should he have the right to order an abortion?"

Well according to these characters yes...

Actually Bridget Marks' boyfriend had his WIFE call her to try and threaten Marks into having an abortion...NOW him and his wife have custody of those two poor little girls...

But you're right that's the flip side of giving men rights...they can want the child and force you to bear it; but what if they do NOT want it...can they just have you arrested and forced to have an abortion?

It's sounds like that crazy JR Ewing in the show "Dallas"...Remember that...he was always threatening his wife, Sue Ellen, if she got pregnant, he's have her locked up in a mental institution and given a forced abortion...we thought at the time he was nuts...now we see he could have been a prophet...

Posted by: NYMOM at Mar 10, 2005 1:24:29 PM

"AND we will...as soon as someone can explain to me WHY we should give someone equal say in a matter when their ENTIRE contribution to the while thing is a 2-second, quick-drop, sperm deposit..."

Excuse me but doesn't 21 years of monthly child support payments qualify as a "contribution"?

Posted by: LarryT at Mar 21, 2005 2:12:39 PM

But now men don't want to do that anymore, that's what this whole Choice for Men and these endless custody fights, and abductions, even grandparents rights is a direct result of this, as many of these grandparents are really functioning as surrogates for men trying to help them get custody in order so they can avoid paying child support...

If a mother has to pay $10,000 to $20,000 every couple of years in a custody/visitation dispute, your child support is simply not worth it...

So what value do you contribute in that case, especially if women can afford to raise child alone?

Outline it for me...and I want to hear about real hard value here, not these vague Disney ideas about what a father SHOULD be contributing as per the media...

I want real hard contributions, what are they...

Posted by: NYMOM at Mar 21, 2005 4:57:18 PM