Sunday, May 04, 2008

Strawman Arguments and Abortion

Fewer issues get more strawmen thrown up about it than abortion. Now comes this ad from the National Institute for Reproductive Health, a branch of the former National Abortion Rights Action League. Watch the construction:

Where to begin? Well, to start with, John McCain has been inconsistent (to put it politely) on his opinion of Roe v. Wade. In an attempt to increase is credibility with conservatives, McCain has argued for about a year that Roe should be overturned. Previously, he had supported Roe. Frankly, I don't know if he supports it or not.

But the worst part of this ad is the strawman built up that if Roe were overturned, women would go to jail. This is just an outright lie. States have laws against physicians performing abortions, not against women seeking or even obtaining them. It's disingenuous for pro-abortion sorts to use this type of scare tactic to try to get women not to vote for McCain.

As usual, the most interesting information is in the comments.

That’s rigt. Make abortions illegal and you’ll see more deaths caused by shady people. A study in Norway by one of the leading papers showed that almost all abortions was performed due to poverty.
People with adequate income have an option, poor people don’t.

This argument ignores the big hole in its center. Studies in this country on why women get abortions list plenty of reasons, but most of those reasons amount to convenience ("it's not a good time for me," usually leads the way). Pro-abortion supporters lump a whole variety of answers into the "women would be poor" category, including "I'm in school" and "it would hinder my advancement at work." These aren't really arguments that these women are poor. They are arguments that having a baby would be inconvenient.

This is one of the reasons I always ask pro-abortion people if they consider sterilization. Most of the time, the moonbats are shocked and horrified that I would make the suggestion, but, as I point out, if having a child would truly and irrepairably harm this woman, you would think she would take the most logical steps to avoid ever, ever, ever getting pregnant: abstinence and/or sterilization. There are problems with sterilization; mainly that many doctors will not perform that procedure on anyone under about 30. I think an adult woman should be able to opt for a tubal at 21 if that's what she wants. That's real choice.

But no, most pro-abortion supporters act as though women don't have any choice in becoming pregnant. Either they are a victim of circumstance or a victim of failed birth control. The fact is, except in the case of rape, women have control at the very basic level: they can refrain.

Amanda Marcotte argues that this is the "sex is no fun" argument levelled by people who don't like sex. But that's not true. It's the "pregnancy is your responsibility" argument. Every person decides for themselves how much of a risk pregnancy is and whether the fun is worth it. It's just that people who are pro-life don't consider babies to be expendable.

Now for another silly comment.
Excellent ad. Says just enough in just the right way. No woman wants an abortion, but some woman have no choice. We did not fight for this right back in the sixties to have to keep on fighting in the 21st century. A woman’s body doesn’t belong to the state - it belongs to her.

This comment is wrong, as well. As I mentioned way back in 2006, there are plenty of women who wouldn't say they didn't want an abortion.
CourtneyMD: What the fundies fail to realize is that all abortions are obtained for the exact same reason: because the woman chooses not to carry the pregnancy.

Everything else is merely a circumstance: a circumstance of conception (rape, incest, birth control failure); a circumstance of finances, future plans, relationship, personal health, family completion, etc; a circumstance of embryonic health/viability. A circumstance is merely a set of attendant conditions. Circumstances change, but the basic motivational driver does not: this particular pregnancy is simply not worth the risks and burdens.

Cycles: In the charts above, I don’t see a category for "I don’t like kids." Oh the horror. I don’t like kids. I’m not "Not ready for a(nother) child/the timing is wrong." I’ll never be "ready." The "timing" will always be wrong.

I also don’t see a category for "There are already too many damn kids on the planet."

Just browse any abortion thread on Pandagon or any feminist site and you will get dozens of women who didn't mind at all having an abortion. In other words, for those women, there was no tragedy or pain. It was a 20 minute procedure.

More comments:
Here is the real issue: Who is going to adopt the flood of unwanted children that will occur due to a repeal of Roe vs. Wade. The rich including the religious right wing rich will ship their pregnant daughters off to Europe for an abortion - who is going to adopt the unwanted black or Latino babies? No one in the burbs so let’s just have that child grow up in a ghetto and be abused and have their best job opportunity be prostitution or selling drugs. When are the blue collar folks going to wake up?

This commenter should read Pandagon. Then he/she would know, as Amanda does, that pro-lifers just want more white babies for adoption. And note the slippery slope that if black and Latino babies are born, they will automatically end up criminals and gang bangers.

In general, this ad will attract only people who are pro-abortion--and thus, unlikely to vote for John McCain--in the first place. The "they want women to go to jail" meme has become the argument du jour from this crowd on why Roe should remain the law of the land.

But Roe is horrible, incoherent and illogical. Don't just take my word for it. There are plenty of liberals and scholars and justices who have criticized the decision on a variety of fronts, including that in usurping state power to regulate abortion, it created the modern pro-life movement. More than even the moral problems I have with abortion, this is my main objection to the liberal predisposition to using the courts to decide what should be legislative debates: it makes popular opinion irrelevant and deprives us of the sort of persuasive debate that should be conducted. And that really is a crime.