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Friday, January 23, 2009

Last Night in DC

Posted by on Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 5:00 AM

3a61/1232689396-lincolnmemorial.jpeg

In a November interview with 60 Minutes, a week and a half after the election, Steve Croft asked Michelle and Barack Obama how their lives had changed since the election.

MICHELLE: You know, it's calmed down a bit. I mean, we're— We're back into more of a routine.
BARACK: There's still some things we're not adjusted to.
MICHELLE: Like what?
BARACK: Like—
MICHELLE: What do you want?
BARACK: Me not being able to take a walk.
MICHELLE: Oh, well, you know...
BARACK: No, I mean, those are things that—
MICHELLE: I don't walk as much as he does. So I guess I don't miss it.
BARACK: Yeah, I mean, you know.
MICHELLE: You want to go for a walk?
BARACK: I do. I'd love to go for a walk.
Although it's cold today. But...
MICHELLE: Yeah, I wouldn't go with you.
BARACK: I know. Well, that's something I don't think I'll ever get used to. I mean, the loss of anonymity. And this is not a complaint. This is part of what you sign up for... [I miss] being able to just wander around the neighborhood.

Of all the things he's said in interviews before and after the election, this is the one exchange that I think about most, that makes me feel closest to the guy, and last night in his honor I took the Metro into the city, got out at Federal Triangle, and went for a walk. To see Lincoln.

The National Mall is a lot less crowded now that it was three days ago, but in the dark all the Porta Potties are still standing there, thousands of them, the stuff inside them probably frozen. There's a ritualistic-looking circle of 170-odd Porta Potties to the southeast of the Washington Monument; there are hundreds and hundreds of Porta Potties lining both sides of the frozen reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial; there are hundreds more lined up along Constitution Avenue and strange clusters of two or four scattered elsewhere. A young lady who had to go slowly opened the door to one and said, "Oooh, it's scary in there!" The guy with her said, "Use your cell phone," meaning, use it as a flashlight. A third friend said, "Don't drop it!" There are stacks of rented fences all over, and lots more rented fences that haven't been stacked yet. There are weirdly empty vendor tents, their white flaps blowing in the freezing wind, and big rented lights lighting up empty patches of grass.

From afar, the Lincoln Memorial looked like the site of a party, looked very Hollywood, with flashbulbs going off constantly, though it wasn't until I got closer that I saw how mobbed the place was, swarming with people. Many of them were wearing white-and-red striped scarves, like Waldo from the Where's Waldo? books.

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There was a young woman with a sign that said WE CHOOSE LIFE. I played dumb. She explained, "We came here for the March for Life rally today." The Waldos—most of them young, many of them guys—were pro-life activists. Then came another wave of people (dozens and dozens) in orange beanies that said, "Diocese of Rockford March for Life" and, on the back, "Life HQ!" Then another wave of people, maybe four-dozen strong, in blue lanyards that said "Fall River Diocese: 2009 Pro-Life Pilgrimage."

A self-appointed tour guide was leading the people in orange beanies around the memorial, dispensing wisdom about the monument, not all of it true. He said, "There's a certain section on the other side"—referring to the side of the memorial in which Lincoln's second inaugural address is carved—"that will mean a lot to you. So, if you want to move to the other side..." And they all started walking, and I surreptitously followed. When we got there he pointed to the section in the address about how both the North and the South prayed to the same God, hoping that He would help them vanquish the other...

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

"Pretty amazing, isn't it?" the self-appointed tour guide said. "Both sides claim God was on their side. Does that make you think of a different issue, other than slavery?"

"Oooh, yeah!" a lady replied.

"They don't talk like this anymore," the tour guide went on. "You mention God three times in a speech now, you're over with." It took all I had not to tell them that Lincoln didn't believe in Christ or the afterlife, in spite of his public rhetoric, or to ask what they all thought about that surprising word in Obama's inaugural address earlier in the week: "nonbelievers."

Hanging out there was becoming unenjoyable, though the anti-abortionists were happily running all around the monument, looking for the typo in the carved letters (and constantly misidentifying it), jumping off the steps three people at a time to get mid-flight shots for their Facebook pages, saying insane things to one another ("My cousin got date raped and it actually helped the healing to have the baby"), and running out onto the frozen reflecting pool. After 10 or 15 kids were out walking on it, all the way in the center of it and not stopping, an adult came down and barked at several guys standing on the edge and thinking of joining them, "Christians! Stop, stop! Stop!"

I continued with my walk, up to the White House, where a group of young adults and their parents were standing against the gate wearing green hoodies that said "You formed me in my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. —Psalm 139:13." They were holding candles and murmuring, "Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now in the hour of our death. Amen." Some of them were dripping the wax onto the sidewalk, making shapes. I imagined the Obamas inside, jumping on the bed, screaming out variations on Can you believe we live in the White House now? Can you believe how comfortable this bed is? Can you believe it?

I headed north on Pennsylvania. The Washington Monument veined in the bare trees. White buildings glowing orange in the street lamps. Heaps of trash bags at the curb. Empty bleachers still sitting there days after the parade. Empty folding chairs. Limp bunting. More Porta Potties. A hot-dog vendor shuttering his cart. The mixed-up clutter of square and circular windows of the Willard Intercontinental Suites, all lit up. Casimir Pulaski on his horse, black against the bright buildings behind him. Historical photos as window displays in a CVS Pharmacy. The Capitol Building lit up like a souvenir at the end of the avenue. A big banner on an office building reading "WELCOME MR. PRESIDENT" and another one a few floors below it reading "THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT," no commas on either of them. A man saying to his wife, "Now we need a relaxing vacation. This wasn't a vacation. We need to get away."

 

Comments (59) RSS

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1
Now that 'science' is going to be reintroduced to WashingtonDc expect to hear a lot about abortion.
"Science' tells us that conception produces a new member of the human race. Abortionist have managed to use political clout to skate over that fact and kill at will.
Hopefully under Obama ethics will catch up to science.
Posted by abortion takes a human life on January 23, 2009 at 5:25 AM · Report this
2
Well written. As I am on the eve of beginning my ob/gyn residency where I plan to dedicate my life to working for women's health and rights, all I can think is thank god I got the hell out of D.C before I saw any of those people....
Posted by D on January 23, 2009 at 5:25 AM · Report this
3
The juxtaposition of Lincoln and the pro-lifers is interesting.

In Lincoln's day the great moral issue was slavery- a monstrously evil and immoral practice that none the less was legal. Slave holders used pseudo-science of 'natural' white superiority and scripture to 'justify' slavery and assuage their conscious but relied on raw political power to keep it legal.

Likewise abortion is a monstrously evil practice (it is hard to imagine a more 'innocent' victim than a yet to be born infant; more dastardly conspiring killers than the infants own mother and a physician sworn to 'do no harm'- I suppose only if intentional torture and pain were inflicted could it be a blacker crime) that never the less is legal.
Both were marked by stark Supreme Court rulings that galvanized public opinion: Dred Scott in 1857 and Roe in 1973.

Seemingly just and advanced societies are able to harbor in their bossoms great injustices but do so at great cost.
The Civil War and subsequent century of civil strife were part of the price the nation payed for slavery.
Slavery had been tolerated in American society for centuries and in the Republic for over eighty years before the opportunity to eliminate it was taken. We look back now at slave holders and the justification they offered with outrage but they got away with it for years. Up to the Civil War one could not publicly denounce slavery in many circles without incuring scorn or worse.

Abortion similarly divides our nation and provokes strong feeling and outrage.
However there will come a time in the future when the scales will fall from the eyes of America and abortion will universally be seen for the moral outrage it is and those who advocate it and their justifications will take their place next to slave holders in the nations shame and scorn.
Presently it is possible for abortion advocates to, with a strait face, publicly state that we do not know when life begins. That will not last.
Obama has promised to bring rationality and science into public policy.
Science is stark and clear about when human life begins.
The question of when to recognize the humanity of that human life is a moral, ethical and legal question.
But, for the first time, recognizing the scientific basis in when life begins will alter forever the debate on abortion (and embryo research).

Long Live Science.
We can hope ethics will keep pace.
More...
Posted by Christopher on January 23, 2009 at 6:56 AM · Report this
4
The Washington Monument, like an enormous, veined whozeewhatsit in the bare trees.
Posted by Frizzy's Enormous Whozeewhatsit (Collectors' Edition) on January 23, 2009 at 6:59 AM · Report this
5
These people have been clogging up the metro for two days, and they're way worse than the inauguration tourists. My boyfriend got stuck sitting next to some southern belle in bright red lipstick and red tennis shoes who insisted on spending their twenty minute metro ride pontificating about murdering babies... obnoxious as hell, really.
Posted by abpend on January 23, 2009 at 7:21 AM · Report this
6
President Obama should hold bi-monthly meetings with ordinary citizens to show he wants to stay in touch and address their concerns.If he misses his walks he should get a nice treadmill. I know it's not the same but it will help. Religionists have lost because their cause is bad for women's health and liberty. It's just that simple. If they are so concerned about the fetus, why have they spent millions and millions denying gay people their rights instead of spending that money on pre-natal care? If they were as righteous as they claim to be, why do Republican Presidents always increase infant mortality rates?

Posted by Vince on January 23, 2009 at 7:23 AM · Report this
7
The bible instructs priests to conduct abortions (using "bitter water") on women.
Posted by DENVEROPOLIS on January 23, 2009 at 7:46 AM · Report this
8
Well observed. Nicely done. Thank you (comma) Mr Frizelle.
Posted by J9 on January 23, 2009 at 7:48 AM · Report this
9
Agree with you, Christopher, on the Long Live Science line. Have to disagree with you on the rest, though. I'll voice a few contentions, but won't go too far into it: I don't think we'll really resolve the entire debate in a Slog comments thread.

My first disagreement is that it isn't clear (scientifically) when life begins. Even if we all did agree that it begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg (and again, not everyone agrees with this), when does the result of that become an actual person?

The reason why this debate will continue (probably indefinitely) is that many people, myself included, don't automatically assign a human (with all the requisite rights) to the fertilized egg until much later in the pregnancy cycle. At that point, I happen to view it as a bundle of cells.

In this way I don't personally see early abortions as an act of murder (at least, no more of a murder than getting a tumor surgically removed). As horrible as that may sound, however, the Pro-Choice movement isn't primarily (to me) about ethics as much as individual rights.

Since the matter is far from settled, both in terms of the definitions _and_ the consequences of the actions, Pro-Choice aims to let women make the definitions and decisions as they see fit. Better said, "people can't agree on this, so rather than make a legal mandate we'll let people decide for themselves." Really, more fitting names for the movements are Pro-Choice and No-Choice, since one side lets individuals choose what to do and the other simply legislates their view.

To paraphrase a popular bumper sticker, if you don't like abortions, don't have them.

Moreover, despite all the debate over the ethics, the definitions, etc. keep in mind that _People will always have abortions, regardless of the law._ When I was in a school production of Cabaret another student asked if they had abortions back in the 30's. My director responded appropriately: "They've had abortions as long as they have been coat hangers."

Even if No-Choice "wins," you'll never actually win, you'll just drive the practice underground, where it will become an unregulated black market, which endangers the lives of the women who do it.

Anyways, food for thought.
More...
Posted by Paul M. on January 23, 2009 at 7:48 AM · Report this
10
Thanks Paul, for your wonderful argument. By all means, the "pro-life" people can argue all they like, but when it comes to me and my uterus it should be me, and only me, that makes the decision what goes on there.

I'd be more sympathetic to the "pro-lifers" if they actually gave a crap about what happens to children after they are born rather than just when they're in the womb. Spend your money on promoting child care and become a foster parent if you care so much about children.
Posted by Karla on January 23, 2009 at 8:00 AM · Report this
11
Paul, thanks for you comments.
You sum up the present situation well.
It does remind me of the nation's attitude toward slavery in the 1850's where one side argues for state (individual) rights and 'you don't have to own slaves if you don't want' but gradually the abolitionist pricked enough consciouses that people came to care what happened in other states. To us today it seems starkly obvious that slavery is wrong but the nation had not recognized that in the 1850's. I think in the future the 'if you're not sure let the woman decide (to kill her child)' position will be seen to be just as starkly wrong as slavery is to us today.
It seems black and white to me because my educational background is in biology and health care and from the standpoint of Biology it is simple; fertilization creates a living organism, it is a Homo Sapien.
The tricky part is deciding what, if any, rights to grant this entity. America in 1850 granted Blacks few rights, a decision no one would defend today.

My hope with the Obama administration is that the 'science' can be settled and we can all recognize when 'life' begins, then move on to an informed debate on how to treat that life.

Frankly I find it impossible to imagine that if biologist are allowed to deal with the scientific question free from political and social pressure (from both ends of the spectrum) that an answer will not be forthcoming.

Long Live Science.
Posted by Christopher on January 23, 2009 at 8:21 AM · Report this
12
paul m., i also support the right to choose, but you sound rather callous when you say that abortion is no more murder than getting a tumor removed; it's at least *a little* bit more murder than getting a tumor removed. but the bottom line is: whose rights win out when you have "rights in conflict" and the winner is, logically, the one whose life is not dependent on the other.
oh, and abortion predates even coathangers--so much for the myth that if you outlaw it, it goes away. what are these lifers smoking?!
Posted by ellarosa on January 23, 2009 at 8:29 AM · Report this
13
No one imagines abortion will go away if it is outlawed. But it would make the statement that society recognizes and values and seeks to protect all human life (even teeny tiny unloved-by-their-mom people). And people who take that human life could be punished.
Outlawing murder and slavery and gang rape of lesbians hasn't ended any of those; should we throw up our hands and legalize them?
Posted by no speed limits or taxes, either on January 23, 2009 at 8:35 AM · Report this
14
Karla,
everyone is happy for you to control your uterus.
we are hoping you will be responsible with your uterus.
if you choose to create a human life in there we hope you will give it humane care.
please don't kill children in your uterus, it makes the child and all other humans who love life sad.
all humans have a responsibility to watch out for all other humans, especially the weakest and most vulnerable, especially if their mom wants to kill them.
if you don't want kids in your uterus please don't put any in there.
we are all pulling for you, Karla, but especially for any kids who might find themselves in your uterus.
Posted by you can't spell 'uterus' without 'US' on January 23, 2009 at 8:44 AM · Report this
15
Wow! Where'd you get all the pro-lifers in this comment thread? It's like somebody hired them to splash their ignorance and short-sightedness all over your post. Too bad too. Because it was a nice post.

Let's start with outlawing war, which kills way more innocent people than abortion does. We'll go on from there.

But then again, maybe our supposed focus on preserving life at all costs isn't absolute after all (given all the exceptions we make for it). Maybe it's only directed at teh evul women. Wonder why that might be.
Posted by slag on January 23, 2009 at 8:56 AM · Report this
16
I thought all the right-wing trolls would go away when the election was over. Sigh...
Posted by Abby on January 23, 2009 at 9:00 AM · Report this
17
PS Can't spell "idiot" without "id".
Posted by slag on January 23, 2009 at 9:01 AM · Report this
18
It's "now AND in the hour of our death," you heathen. And how could you let an opportunity to heckle pro-lifers go like this??
Posted by EmilyP on January 23, 2009 at 9:02 AM · Report this
19
I would like to know how the anti-choice commenters here feel about birth control. Do you support (strongly) comprehensive sex education and free access to birth control for all? If reducing the number of abortions is your goal, your energies are far better spent working towards these goals than towards the prohibition of abortion altogether.
Posted by Anthony Hecht on January 23, 2009 at 9:03 AM · Report this
20
17
we don't get it
Posted by iot on January 23, 2009 at 9:04 AM · Report this
21
Nice post, Christopher. And thanks for the clarification EmilyP. I was wondering why those folks would think that this was the hour of their death.
Posted by Julie in Eugene (formerly in Chicago) on January 23, 2009 at 9:05 AM · Report this
22
Pennsylvania Ave does not go north, it kind of goes e-w with a bit of a SE-NW tilt, if you were at w.h. then walked on Pa. Ave and saw inaugual parade stuff you were going ESE.
And if you paid attention you would realize that none of the "State" avenues in DC go strictly N S E or W they all diagonalize the Carteisan grid.
Posted by Pierre L'Enfant on January 23, 2009 at 9:06 AM · Report this
23
15
short-sightedness

like liberals aborting most of their own kids so the rising generation is increasingly pro-life
Posted by I think the abortionist missed a few... on January 23, 2009 at 9:07 AM · Report this
24
20
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

23
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (only in an "at you" not "with you" kind of way)
Posted by slag on January 23, 2009 at 9:11 AM · Report this
25
It always amazes me how many Westerners I talk to who have never been to D.C. There's an aura of power and greatness there that's hard to explain to someone who's never been there. Oh, sure - you look at that photo of the statue of Lincoln and go "wow," but actually being there and seeing it is something else entirely. And to be able to stand in front of the White House and Capitol, well, that's a whole other level of "wow" yet.

If you're going to be there a little longer, Chris, Arlington and the Library of Congress are must-see places too. And, of course, the Smithsonian (I could get lost for a week in there).

Sounds like you're enjoying yourself. And hey - an entire post without a single mention of abortion. Imagine that!
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on January 23, 2009 at 9:12 AM · Report this
26
If you want to get into the ethics of life and death, and tell us that every life is sacred, you should be more concerned with ending all war and murder first. After all, there is no debate about the personhood and rights of an adult.
Posted by Greg on January 23, 2009 at 9:17 AM · Report this
27
@3 et al.
"bossom" = "bosom"
"payed" = "paid"
"strait face" = "straight face"
"consciouses" = "consciences"
"blastocyst" ≠ "child"

Sure that little cluster of cells created at conception is technically "human" in that it has human DNA. But so do toenail clippings. Hey, if cloning becomes advanced enough, we can start talking about how every discarded nail clipping and kleenex is a potential human life, and that will technically be true. But in both cases, a very particular set of circumstances must follow if a fully-formed person is to result. A potential person only has potential rights. When those rights come into conflict with the rights of an actual, non-potential person (i.e. the mother), it stands to reason that the actual person's rights take precedence.

When a squirrel eats an acorn it isn't chopping down a tree.
Posted by flamingbanjo on January 23, 2009 at 9:19 AM · Report this
28
Christopher-- how would you feel if I told you you were legally required to donate a kidney, part of your liver, and some bone marrow to someone else so they could live? You're helping another person live, we can even make it a young child. But it wasn't your choice. You're being forced to do it ,and not even at a convenient time for you. It will take a year or so of your life focusing on this, making sure you don't touch alcohol or even advil, preparing for surgeries, recovering from them. Your body will never quite be the same, you won't be quite as healthy as you were before. There's not a high chance it will kill you but there is a chance it could. Either way it will affect your life and freedom drastically for the next year or two, and it will affect you in ongoing ways for a few years after that.

Now, if your answer is that you would donate those things to save a random kid, that's nice of you. Do you support a legal system that requires everyone to do that on demand?
Posted by Handle on January 23, 2009 at 9:21 AM · Report this
29
Great post. Thank you for writing it.

Posted by tabletop_joe on January 23, 2009 at 9:25 AM · Report this
30
I'd also like to point out that there are different ways to view the abortion debate. People usually argue about whether a cluster of cells counts as a baby, and personally I think it doesn't. But even if you think it DOES count, that isn't the real issue here. The real issue is what do you do when the rights of two people (or maybe-people) come into conflict? We have a choice here between the rights of an adult woman to choose what to do with her life and her body, and the rights of an embryo to suck life from an unwilling person. It would be nice if there were a way to take an embryo out and grow it in an incubator into a baby (except for the population explosion that would cause), but since there isn't any way for an embryo to survive outside of a uterus, the rights of the host should come before the rights of the parasite. If a woman CHOOSES to give of herself to support a parasite growing into a separate human that's nice of her, but it should be her choice.
Posted by Handle on January 23, 2009 at 9:35 AM · Report this
31
I think of undeveloped fetuses like acorns. Acorns have the potential to become oak trees, but an acorn and an oak tree are two completely different things. To NOT allow the acorn to develop into an oak tree is NOT the same thing as chopping down an oak tree.

This is how I intend to explain it to my children, who are 8 and 9, the next time somebody tells them that Barack Obama is a baby killer (yes, it's already happened).
Posted by pro-fam/pro-choice on January 23, 2009 at 9:36 AM · Report this
32
@3Christopher,
This thread is quite interesting and civil considering the subject matter. My only comment is that while I agree with "Long Live Science", beware that some of science's conclusions may, in fact be politically incorrect. Many scientists (doctors) certainly argue strongly that human life begins at conception. Others don't. But consider this: if one can say abortion is murder than one can conclude capital punishment is (state sponsered) murder too.

Pres. Obama (like myself) supports abortion rights and capital punishment. I think the goal is to reduce both instances.
Posted by lark on January 23, 2009 at 9:36 AM · Report this
33
"Science' tells us that conception produces a new member of the human race


Science tells us that pregnancy doesn't begin until implantation you fucking nimrod. And, by the way, your religion (I'm assuming Christian) has often postulated that "life" begins with quickening in a woman's womb. Early term abortions occur well before that point.

There's also the fact that 50 percent of "life" gets flushed down the toilet, and that is entirely God's will. Why do you hate God?
Posted by keshmeshi on January 23, 2009 at 9:38 AM · Report this
34
like liberals aborting most of their own kids so the rising generation is increasingly pro-life


"Pro-life" women get just as many abortions as us liberals. They may even get more since they tend to not believe in contraception and since they're congenitally stupid.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 23, 2009 at 9:40 AM · Report this
35
@23:

Yeah, good thing us libruls have been aborting all our young 'uns for the past 36 years; makes it so much easier for you "pro lifers" to pop kids out of yer wifes' vaginas like clowns from a little teeny car, and thus overwhelm the national electorate.

And of course it goes without saying, President McCain and Vice President Palin have YOU in particular to thank for their overwhelming victory last November.
Posted by COMTE on January 23, 2009 at 9:40 AM · Report this
36
On a totally different note, thanks for this. How weird will it be for these kids to look back in twenty years and to think that they felt it super important to come to DC on January *22*, not Jan 20. Even if they came on the 20th to talk about being pro-life, what a missed opportunity??
Posted by arts&letters on January 23, 2009 at 9:42 AM · Report this
37
Always a lovely conversation.

Explain again the part where 1) every life is precious, and 2) how Universal Healthcare is "Socialist".

I walk past raving, incompetent homeless everyday - presumably as precious a life as any other. But no - when speaking about abortion the argument always hinges on "innocence". That people have to "earn" human dignity.

I understand that this is a manifestation of their idea of "original sin" - that the blastocyst is innocent only until it passes through the birth canal. After that, it is summarily consigned to hell unless it accepts Christ. Which is how so many of these people can be pro-life and pro-death-penalty.

Can we please stop listening to these Death-Cults already?
Posted by John Galt on January 23, 2009 at 9:48 AM · Report this
38
Can you be pro-abortion and anti-choice? There simply must be some middle-ground.
Posted by That annoying interest troll on January 23, 2009 at 9:55 AM · Report this
39
@33: That's a good point about 50% of pregnancies ending in miscarriage (many of these pregnancies are unknown to the mother). So in a sense nature - or God if you believe in him - is an abortionist like none the world has known. (This is a good thing, since most of these embryos are not viable.) I view abortion as an extension of this natural process.

Posted by pj on January 23, 2009 at 9:58 AM · Report this
40
Ok pro-choicers, calm down. Insulting pro-lifers doesn't help this discussion at all. That goes for pro-lifers too, but in this thread its the pro-choicers that are acting like jerks.

The question of when life begins is a very important one and both sides should take a breath and try to figure this out. We have to stop this head-butting competition, its getting us nowhere.

Pro-lifers are going to have to accept that their moral opinions (usually informed by their religion) cannot be forced upon our entire society. Pro-choicers are going to have to accept that life does begin in the womb, somewhere between conception and birth, probably around 24 weeks. Yes, of course health exceptions apply.

While we're fighting about this, let's agree on the need to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. That will reduce the abortion rates. We know that abstinence-only education doesn't work - sorry if that conflicts with your religion, but the statistics are clear. We have to make birth control available and provide comprehensive sex education in schools.

Also, lets refocus the debate away from the morning after pill. I know its important, but its not the most important issue on the table.
Posted by blank12357 on January 23, 2009 at 10:10 AM · Report this
41
John Galt @ 37, I love your post.

I think often of what George Carlin said about this:

(Paraphrasing) "Have you ever noticed that so many people who are against abortion are in favor of the death penalty? They go on and on about the right to life - They aren't interested in preserving the right to life, they're interested in preserving THEIR right to decide who should live and who should die."

Another piece I could never get my head around is the rape/incest exception to their position. If they really believe that all human life is sacred and begins at conception, how did they decide that these particular unborn innocents are *less* sacred than others? If you're anti-choice on the belief that all human life is sacred and begins at conception, there can't be any gray areas. The EGO of these people - to think that where they've chosen to draw the line is what's fit for everyone.

Man, it just sickens me!!
Posted by pro-fam/pro-choice on January 23, 2009 at 10:17 AM · Report this
42
So, I’m sure everyone can agree that it is obviously unethical to kill a baby that is 9 months in the womb, just before it is born. Unfortunately, the other end of the spectrum is more controversial. I personally, see no problem with killing a two-celled organism (just as most people, Jains excepted, would see no problem killing a fly). It is a potential human being, not an actual human being.

So, then, the interesting question for me becomes, if two-celled organism is okay, but 9-month fetus is not okay, when does that switch happen? In other words, when can you definitely say that abortion is “not okay”? When does a fetus gain full personhood rights?

As keshmeshi said, some religions have postulated that the quickening (first time you can feel the baby move) is when life begins – this can occur anywhere between 14-21 weeks. Some Muslim scholars believe that abortion is acceptable up to 120 days (17 weeks).

Interestingly, if you do some research about fetal development, there are a few different things that scientists believe occur just after that time (though research findings on timing of developmental milestones do, of course, vary). One is that the fetus can begin to feel pain – studies peg this at somewhere between 18-26 weeks. Fetal viability (ability to survive outside the womb) – 21-22 weeks is the absolute earliest that a fetus has been born and still survived. There’s also something about the development of the cerebral cortex and the ability to generate higher level thinking that happens around then… but I have to get back to work now.

Thus endth the summary of the Bioethics paper I wrote in college. You may now return to your regularly scheduled Slog.
Posted by Julie in Eugene (formerly in Chicago) on January 23, 2009 at 10:20 AM · Report this
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28
How many women in America become pregnant against their will? o.o1% maybe? You concede that adults don't have the right to kill children THEY CHOOSE to create and we'll let the tiny tiny minority of forced pregnancies have all the abortions they want.
deal?
Posted by Harmon on January 23, 2009 at 10:27 AM · Report this
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"So, I’m sure everyone can agree that it is obviously unethical to kill a baby that is 9 months in the womb, just before it is born."

Eh... not so much. I lean towards an "inside the woman" / "outside the woman" line. Mainly for convenience's sake.
Posted by daniel on January 23, 2009 at 10:36 AM · Report this
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@43. I assume you're referring to women who are raped. I don't know the statistics on overall pregnancies and how many are the result of rape, but that isn't really the point.

I do not think that having sex constitutes choosing to have a child. Any woman who is using some form of reasonably reliable birth control, has sex, and becomes pregnant, has become pregnant against her will. If my birth control pill fails to work, or if a condom breaks, and I get pregnant, I did not CHOOSE to create that child. So, I'm happy to see you'll concede that I can get an abortion with no problem in those cases.

I do think that if a woman just doesn't bother to use birth control and then gets pregnant and gets an abortion, that is sad and should be avoided. But (a) I still wouldn't want to force her to have a kid, and its not like someone that irresponsible would be the best mother, (b) there's no realistic way to test who got pregnant in spite of taking reasonable precautions and who forgot to take precautions, so there's no realistic legal way to distinguish between the cases.

I'd also argue that if a teenager is not given access to proper sex ed, and thus doesn't know how to use protection properly and gets pregnant, that also does not count as CHOOSING to get pregnant.

If a woman chooses to get pregnant, purposely, I agree that she is more morally obligated to carry on the pregnancy (barring unexpected health issues, serious fetal defects, etc). But I don't think that moral obligation fits well into a legal context. Realistically the law can't know if I intended to get pregnant or not, so to be safe they have to take my word for it when I say I didn't want to get pregnant.
Posted by Handle on January 23, 2009 at 10:41 AM · Report this
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@44 - Daniel -

Really? You don't think that you're committed to the course you're on at some point? I know, I know - where that line is and whether you've crossed it is the main bone of contention in this thread.

While I can't disagree with the notion that any woman who can't get her shit together enough to make a decision before going into labor is probably not up to the task of being a parent, I'm curious to hear more about how you came to your position on this.

I wouldn't even abort a litter of squirrels if they were viable outside the womb.
Posted by pro-fam/pro-choice on January 23, 2009 at 10:50 AM · Report this
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@44 - The inside/outside distinction may still be relevant in cases of the health of the mother (i.e., if it's the life of the mother or the life of the fetus, the mother still gets to choose who lives, the fetus doesn't get a say), but other than that, I don't think many people would agree with you.
Posted by Julie in Eugene (formerly in Chicago) on January 23, 2009 at 11:02 AM · Report this
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You are 100% right, science will step on the toes of PC.
It will be interesting to see if in Camelot things really have changed or will we now just pervert science to reflect the prejudices of a new group; secular humanist.
Posted by don't fear science on January 23, 2009 at 11:06 AM · Report this
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I don't think the baby's truly viable until it gets a job.
Posted by That annoying interest troll on January 23, 2009 at 11:14 AM · Report this
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If you do not believe that human life begins at conception then what is the living thing? What species is it? It is alive from conception and grows- what is it?


It is a Homo Sapien, a human. Living organisms do not change species midstream. You may choose not to recognize its humanity but that is an ethical question, not a biological one.

repeat:
Conception creats a new member of the species Homo Sapiens.

Posted by don't make it more complicated than it has to be on January 23, 2009 at 11:21 AM · Report this
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@50 - Fetal cells have homo sapien DNA, sure. But what about your toenail clippings? What about when you get a mole removed? What about the sperm or menstrual fluid you wash down the toilet? What about when they start growing organs by themselves in labs? (I believe they've already done some of that)

Not everything with human DNA counts as a human life.
Posted by Handle on January 23, 2009 at 12:01 PM · Report this
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there are conflicting reports and opinions on lincoln's spiritual life or lack of. the majority seems to point to an existence of faith.

great post though.
Posted by boob on January 23, 2009 at 12:04 PM · Report this
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Hey boob, at 52, can you cite your sources?

From Fred Kaplan's recent biography "Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer": "Deeply versed in the Bible, he rejected the literal truth of supernatural claims... Lincoln continued to be a non-churchgoer and not, in any meaningful sense, a Christian at all. A rationalist and a skeptic, he did not, and was never to, believe in the divinity of Jesus, the atonement, the resurrection, or the immortality of the soul."

From the same source: "As president, he was to have no objection to the rhetoric of Christianity as a vehicle to assist in the nation's redemption, and he encouraged all churches to rally to the Union. But his own views required that the God of his invocation be, at His most limited, a formal reference, and, at His most engaged, a mysterious and distant diety."

And here's Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln historian: "In his early life so many people around him had really clear understandings of the afterlife that he did not share, which was unusual at the time. He was once asked after his girlfriend Ann Rutledge whom he loved died, ‘Don’t you believe that you might see her again?’ and he said, ‘I wish I did but I’m afraid I don’t.’ So I think because of that he began to adopt what seemed like an old Greek notion, that at least if you accomplish something worthy then at least your memory lives on and you really are not just dust in the grave, and that was the ambition that powered him through so much."
Posted by Christopher Frizzelle on January 23, 2009 at 12:27 PM · Report this
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@14 - I am responsible with my uterus. Thank you for your concern, no baby gets in there without my say so. The problem is, there are circumstances where I don't have a say so.

Speaking as someone who had a very difficult choice to make once, where I was raped at a very young age, didn't report it and got pregnant (long story short) I thank God I could make that choice.

The choice is never easy, but should be the mothers. Everyone else does not get a vote.
Posted by Karla on January 23, 2009 at 2:04 PM · Report this
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I think science should work to re-engineer human biology so that men can become pregnant and carry a fetus to term, just like women.

The abortion debate will end exactly five minutes after the first successful male pregnancy is announced to the media.
Posted by COMTE on January 23, 2009 at 3:00 PM · Report this
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Comte - not just, are men able to get pregnant, but, that after sex, men have just as much a chance of getting accidentally pregnant as women. "Abortion is murder" and "I don't want to wear a condom" would never be uttered again...
Posted by Julie in Eugene (formerly in Chicago) on January 23, 2009 at 3:13 PM · Report this
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They call me MR Comte.
Posted by COMTE on January 23, 2009 at 3:15 PM · Report this
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Did you notice that the amount of garbage left ON the mall's walkways and streets after the ProLife march was about on par with the inauguration garbage?

They didn't leave piles near the cans but instead opted to just leave their shit wherever they dropped it. I peeled a few of their stickers off the glass bus stops, broke up and ripped apart signs left all over the entrance to the Museum of American art (arrrrrggggghhhh), moved empty cases of DASANI water off the sidewalk. All this after the parks department with hundreds of volunteers cleaned up the mall in that frigid weather.

I found those fucking signs as far away as the Reagan building, it was so weird.
Posted by carissa on January 24, 2009 at 4:30 PM · Report this
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Did you notice that the amount of garbage left ON the mall's walkways and streets after the ProLife march was about on par with the inauguration garbage?

They didn't leave piles near the cans but instead opted to just leave their shit wherever they dropped it. I peeled a few of their stickers off the glass bus stops, broke up and ripped apart signs left all over the entrance to the Museum of American art (arrrrrggggghhhh), moved empty cases of DASANI water off the sidewalk. All this after the parks department with hundreds of volunteers cleaned up the mall in that frigid weather.

I found those fucking signs as far away as the Reagan building, it was so weird.
Posted by carissa on January 24, 2009 at 4:31 PM · Report this

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