Should men shut up about abortion?

The letter to the editor shown below has been making the rounds; if anything can be described as “viral” on the Internet (and I dislike that word), it’s this. Of course it’s a favorite of All Regressive leftists and of my bête noir, the Huffington Post, which celebrated it with this short piece (click on screenshot to go to piece):

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And here are the three glorious sentences:

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I didn’t read the two anti-abortion letters that Ms. Seltz responded to, but have little doubt they were pretty right-wing and invidious. But I’m not convinced that telling men to “shut up about abortion,” without specifying what they should shut up about, is useful.

It’s incumbent on me, to avoid undeserved opprobrium, to say that I’m in favor of abortion—in fact more so that most “pro-choice” people. I not only think that abortions of all fetuses should be legal right up to birth, but, in cases where a newborn is severely deformed or diseased, and whose quality of life would be horrible, I’m even in favor of restricted euthanasia. In such case I think Peter Singer is right.

Further, although I’m not a woman, I think I can see where the sentiments in Seltz’s letter come from. Many women are simply exasperated by how men deal with the issue of abortion. Rather than discussing it, they try to control women’s actions, make laws that restrict what the Supreme Court has declared a legal act, harass women outside abortion clinics, kill doctors who perform abortions, and sometimes just plain lie in an attempt to restrict abortions (for example, spreading the myth that most women who have had abortions regret it). All of us who were heartened by the Roe v. Wade decision are dismayed about the repeated attempts of state governments to circumvent it.

But these actions, while largely promulgated by men—since men predominate in legislatures and courts—are not limited to men. If men should STFU, what about the many women who are “pro-life”? Do they have a right to speak simply because they have a uterus? What if they don’t plan to have children?

I also think that the argument for abortion has to be made not on grounds of “rights,” which are always conversation-stoppers, but on grounds of rationality and philosophy, cognizant of the problem that, at bottom, all ethics is grounded on subjective preferences. But I am convinced by the rational arguments, particularly those in Judith Jarvis Thompsons’ nice essay, “A defense of abortion,” which everyone should read.

That said, I’m unconvinced that man have to entirely shut up about abortion, and for several reasons:

  • There are both men and women who sincerely see abortion, particularly of later-term fetuses, as murder—largely on religious grounds. (Would we even worry about abortion if there were no religion?) I am not with these people, but if you really think that, then why can’t you make that argument, even if you’ll be rebutted? I also believe that saying a woman has a “right” to an abortion since it’s her body is not a wholly convincing response. Yes, women give birth, but if abortion is seen as murder, must men—and all anti-abortion women—remain silent? If the grounds for opposition are the same for men and “pro-life” women, why do only the former get to have an opinion?
  • There are men like me who are in favor of abortion. Wouldn’t it be better if we spoke up and supported the legality of unrestricted abortion rather than just STFU? We are, as they say, “allies.”
  • Until almost everyone agrees on issue of a woman’s right to choose—and that’s a long way off—abortion cannot be seen as a “right,” which of course are things that everyone agrees should be extended to societies and groups. And until it is seen that way—until people agree that abortion is purely an issue between a woman and her doctor—it will remain a societal issue. In such cases, do we want to suppress discussion by half of the electorate? If you argue that, then you might argue (though the analogy isn’t perfect) that straight people shouldn’t vote or discuss gay marriage, that white people shouldn’t discuss civil rights or affirmative action, and so on. I doubt that many people will agree on that.

Viewed this way, Seltz’s letter is a kneejerk reaction that should not be celebrated as something “glorious.”

At any rate, these are random thoughts, and readers should weigh in below about the “men should STFU” issue.


  1. Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I’ll spell out what Prof. Ceiling Cat hints at: that if some men start listening to this “men should STFU” advice, it will be precisely those men who were pro-choice. Misogynists and traditionalists won’t listen. If you want to win, Seitz, stop telling men to STFU.

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    No men should not shut up about abortion. They may not be women but they know women. And it is men that have changed abortion laws, in particular, my hero, Henry Morgentaler and because of home Pierre Trudeau.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Because of “him” not “home” (I wrote this on my iPhone while grocery shopping – I’m a bad person).

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      I’m with Diana. This same idea has spread into other realms too – a common one is only Muslims can criticize Islam.

      The thing is that many of the rights we women now have we wouldn’t have got without the support of men. When NZ women got the right to vote in 1893, there weren’t any women in parliament voting for the Bill.

      Younger women often have no appreciation of what the world was like as recently as thirty years ago for women.

      I see this as a limit on free speech. It’s something that is common these days – trying to shut out the voices of those who don’t agree with you. I say let them talk and expose their bad ideas, then demolish them with better arguments.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:05 am | Permalink


  3. Scott Draper
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Those who say that men shouldn’t advance an opinion on abortion are making the assumption that their conclusion is correct: the issue is solely about control of women’s bodies.

    This assumption ignores the view that the fetus is alive and has rights of its own, and men have just as much obligation to protect that life as women do, even if that inconveniences the woman to whom that life is attached. You don’t need to be a theist to hold this view.

    Total rationality on the subject is difficult because we seem biologically determined to have protective feelings towards anything that looks like a baby, so I become increasingly uncomfortable with abortion the closer we get towards birth, other than for major birth defects.

    • GBJames
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      A review of what’s wrong with fetal rights.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Do people have a positive right to other people’s bodies and organs in order to sustain their lives? Because that’s what it is about, in the end.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        Possibly. Even after birth, an infant requires the use a woman’s body to survive (even if bottle-fed) and failure to provide it would be considered neglect.

        • Cindy
          Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          So if an infant has a right to a woman’s breastmilk then does a dialysis patient have a right to your kidney without your consent? Does a cancer patient have a right to your bone marrow, also without your consent?

          • Scott Draper
            Posted July 3, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

            “dialysis patient have a right to your kidney without your consent”

            Well, if I gave birth to that dialysis patient, then there might be an argument.

            But you’re probably imaging these victims to be strangers; if so, then you have a really bad argument.

            • jfwlucy
              Posted July 3, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

              A fetus is definitely a stranger, and often an unwanted stranger. Your argument makes not sense.

        • Posted July 4, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

          But after birth, the mother can renounce her parental rights and, in this case, will be absolved of any responsibility for the child’s future life.

          • Scott Draper
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

            Pretty sure this can’t happen without making other arrangements for the child’s care.

            • Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

              Of course; but we are not talking about a society too underdeveloped or dysfunctional to have this option. Actually, what shocks me about Casey Anthony and similar baby-murderers is that they had other options to get rid of the unwanted child, that is, to abort while still pregnant or to surrender for adoption after it.

              • Scott Draper
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

                Let’s not lose track of the thread. To make a newborn analogous to a fetus, you have to remove the adoption option from both. Therefore, the mother will be legally responsible for the health of the child for eighteen years. To make her responsible for the health of the fetus for a mere 9 months isn’t a huge stretch of the imagination.

                I’m not saying that I agree with this argument, but it’s one that needs to be defeated.

              • Cindy
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

                Fetus entitled to mother’s body as life support – check

                Newborn entitled to mother’s body as life support – check

                At any point is the child entitled to the father’s body as life support? What if the child needs a kidney? Bone marrow? Blood support? if the woman can be legally compelled to hand over her body to the fetus/infant then surely the same can be said of the father, no, since he had a hand in creating the child?

                I have spoken with more than a few pro-life men, and they really really care about the sanctity of life. Oh, they signal their virtue…until it comes time to hold the father equally responsible. Suddenly even forcing the rather minor inconvenience of a blood transfusion from the father to his child to save that child’s life is considered to be a violation of the father’s sacred bodily autonomy…better to just let the newborn die than inconvenience the father…

              • Scott Draper
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

                “At any point is the child entitled to the father’s body as life support?”

                Possibly yes, although most of your examples aren’t analogous.

                Keep in mind, though, what you’re now pursuing is hypocrisy, which doesn’t do anything to undermine anti-abortion arguments. Your goal is to stop people from making them.

              • Cindy
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

                It does undermine pro-life arguments because the central claim made by pro-lifers is that the fetus’ ‘right to life’, as a human being, automatically entitles it to the body of another.

                Yet they find many many reasons to invoke this rule *only* for fetuses, and not for any other human being. And then *only* to require bodily donations from women, and no one else. To claim that the woman owes the fetus her body because she had sex, yet the man does not, even though he is equally responsible, is evidence that it really isn’t about saving that precious life…

                And then there is the rape exception which also undermines their arguments, because a fetus cannot be a ‘human being with the right to the body of it’s mother’ in the case of consensual sex, and then no longer have that right if created through rape…as there is no qualitative difference between a fetus created through rape and one created through consensual sex.
                If a fetus has the right to to the body of another to sustain it’s life because it is a human being, that right is *inherent* to that fetus, and the method of conception is irrelevant. The actions of the woman should have zero bearing on it.
                Which brings us to the main question – is there a fundamental right to occupy and to use other people’s bodies, organs and tissues if our very lives depend upon it? If we manage to be using a persons’ body as life support in the case of the violinist, are we from that moment on entitled to that body indefinitely? Does possession now = ownership? If we can claim people’s bodies as life support can we also claim their property?

                Does the ‘right to life’ trump all other rights? Is the right to life universal? Is the ‘right to life’ a positive right?

              • Scott Draper
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

                ” is evidence that it really isn’t about saving that precious life…”

                No, it isn’t, because the man isn’t able to carry the fetus to term. If he could, you might have a stronger argument.

                Your other examples of donating body organs is hypothetical and doesn’t apply in the vast majority of the cases.

              • Cindy
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

                The primary principle that pro-lifers are arguing is that there is a positive right to life – that the fetus is entitled to the woman’s body precisely because it is a human being.

                Yet they do not invoke this argument under *any* other circumstance when this general principle would still apply. If a fetus is a person, and people have the right to other people’s bodies as life support, then location is immaterial. As is method of conception. If the woman can be legally compelled to let the fetus use her organs for 9 months, then there is no reason why a father cannot be legally compelled to donate his tissues after birth.

                There is absolutely no reason to dismiss other methods of donation that would save the child’s life, born or unborn. Anything else s just special pleading on behalf of fetuses.

              • Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

                As soon as the child is born, responsibilities are shared between parents. Before birth, he depends only on the mother, but after birth, it is not clear why the father should be let free. However, all the abortion discussion in the USA is about control over women, so it is natural to think that only they are responsible for their children and the fathers are as free as birds.

              • Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

                People of ancient Greece and Rome practiced infanticide – much more widespread than the government-sanctioned newborn selection in Sparta. I wonder, didn’t they care for their newborns, or simply hadn’t resources for all of them? And if they hadn’t resources, how did the resources mysteriously appear when Christianity took over and exposure was banned? The question – if you are pro-choice, what about infanticide (in absence of adoption) – is difficult for me.

    • Geoffrey Howe
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      I was pro-life for years, almost a decade, until someone stopped talking about a womens right to her body, and mentioned “Hey, did you know that there is nothing approaching a brain in a fetus until (I forget how many) days into the pregnancy?”

      Instantly, my mind was changed. But despite my mind being changed, and now being a pro-choicer, I despise pro-choicers in general.

      It’s not about a womans right to her body. Our right to swing our fist ends at another persons nose. The question at hand is instant the moral/philosophical question of whether it’s acceptable to kill a fetus. That is by far the most important part of the discussion (and the only part in the average situation for which an abortion is considered).

      If killing the fetus is morally equivalent to killing an adult, then abortion is wrong, except in the case where it threatens the health of the mother. Any pro-choice argument that ignores this fundamental question, is not going to change minds. Indeed, the idea that this is all about a womens body is morally repugnant. It’s the equivalent of saying “Yes, well it’s my body! You don’t get to tell me to not use it to beat up this homeless person!”

      I suspect the people that made these arguments were the proto-regressive-left. Ever since I was convinced into being Pro-Choice (and really, back when they were doing a damn good job of convincing me being Pro-Life was the right decision) I’ve hated them as much as I hate the RL now.

      • Cindy
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        If killing the fetus is morally equivalent to killing an adult, then abortion is wrong, except in the case where it threatens the health of the mother. Any pro-choice argument that ignores this fundamental question, is not going to change minds. Indeed, the idea that this is all about a womens body is morally repugnant. It’s the equivalent of saying “Yes, well it’s my body! You don’t get to tell me to not use it to beat up this homeless person!”

        I partly agree. If embryos and fetuses were thinking, feeling creatures, abortion would absolutely be outlawed, mostly on emotional grounds.

        As for the homeless person…abortion and pregnancy are not the equivalent of randomly beating up homeless people on the street. Location *does* matter. In fact, abortion is all about location. What if the homeless person needs your body for his very life? Or your property? Is he entitled to it? If he manages to get a hold of your body or property, can you exercise your bodily autonomy even if it kills him, or is it always murder because he needs your body and/or property to sustain his life? Does a need create an entitlement?

      • Scott Draper
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        “the idea that this is all about a womens body is morally repugnant.”

        Agreed. This is why the pro-choice and pro-life proponents no longer communicate with each other.

      • Posted July 4, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        Making abortion a legal non-issue will not make it an ethical non-issue. There are many women who are pro-choice in principle but would think 1000 times before aborting their own fetus, esp. if it seems to develop normally. Your comment reminded me of something in the post, namely, that women should not be lied about a majority regretting after abortions. Maybe not a majority, but there really are women regretting their abortions – I know some – and even if they are a minority, it is little consolation if you happen to be among them.

        • Canoec
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          I have no idea of the numbers, but would be very surprised if no woman regretted her decision to carry a fetus to term. Especially if, say, it turned out to have serious physical and mental problems that made it’s life – and hence the mother’s – much more burdened than she had hoped for. All that means is that there is always a chance a decision, especially a very significant one, will turn out to be wrong.

          • Posted July 5, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

            Of course, this decision can also be regretted, and sometimes for good reason. I do not approve the way Down syndrome advocates and other disability activists paint an idealized picture of disorders so that to deceive parents of prenatally diagnosed babies until it becomes too late for abortion.

    • Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      I agree that one needs not be a theist to care for the fetus (I am an atheist and I do care, though I am pro-choice). I also agree that “men have just as much obligation to protect that life as women do”. Unfortunately, the failure of some men to admit this obligation leads to quite a big share of abortions. I’d like to see more cultural pressure on Western men to marry and to be responsible husbands and fathers.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure that pressure to marry is what we want….what we want is for men to want to marry and be responsible husbands and fathers. Marrying when you don’t want to marry probably doesn’t make anyone happy in the long run.

        • Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

          I am not talking about men who do not want to reproduce at all, but about those who want the benefits of being in a long-term relationship with a woman without taking the responsibilities. In many modern Western societies, a man can leave his children on their mother’s back without suffering any stigma. I do not approve this.

          • Scott Draper
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

            I’m not talking about those men either. I’m not sure that men exist who want to reproduce without any responsibility….they really just want sex and the reproduction aspect is a nuisance.

        • Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          I think marriage is an oppressive institution, and oppressive primarily for the man. To me, the severe punishments laid by many societies on women having premarital sex or – horror! – “illegitimate” babies are actually designed to modify the behavior of men. To force gentlemen to marry if they want sex, by making non-marital sex too difficult, expensive or risky to obtain.

          As soon as high-quality contraception became easily acceptable, men developed the habit to ask their long-term girlfriends, “Why to marry? We are so happy and love each other so much as it is, what does a signature matter?” To which I’d reply, “If the signature really does not matter for you, why on Earth are you so reluctant to put it down?”

          • Scott Draper
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

            “oppressive primarily for the man”

            If men could get all the sex they wanted, and women had some guaranteed means of financial support while she raised children, I bet almost no one would get married.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

              Women like having sex too.

      • merilee
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        Not sure that the actual marrying is necessary. Both my kids, son and daughter, had babies in the last six months and so far neither couple has chosen to marry. Both fathers live with their partners and are very responsible for and involved with their baby daughters. Not sure this would be any more so with “the piece of paper.”

        I am 100% pro-choice, but the fact that the two babies I adopted at birth (22 months apart) were fortunately not aborted sometimes gives me pause. My adopted daughter is also 100% pro-choice. I keep saying that the adoption option must somehow be made easier.

        • Posted July 5, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

          If surrogacy is made legal and stigma-free, any woman who prefers to give for adoption her unwanted fetus rather than abort it, will be able to claim that she is serving as a surrogate mother (actually, not that far from the truth).
          A family I know recently adopted a baby born by a single woman whose community is not kind to single mothers. Like you, I am glad that the birth mother didn’t use the option to abort.

  4. Zado
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Better suggestion: people whose moral reasoning depends on a belief in souls should STFU about bioethics.

    • harrync
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink


    • Kevin
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink


  5. Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    If I may dare, as a man, express an opinion, I cannot see why a new-born baby’s life deserves protection, but not the life of a baby the day before it is born. The viability of the fetus seems the appropriate determining factor to me.

    • Scott Draper
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      Just for the sake of discussion, what if we had an incubator that could take a fertilized egg and carry it to term. This would mean that viability would be from the moment of conception. Should we then make abortion illegal under all circumstances?

      • Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        I could quibble and qualify by saying natural viability, but yes that technology raises a new moral question. In the time that has passed since Roe’s trimester framework was enunciated, assisted viability has gotten earlier and earlier. It is one of the reasons the so-called abortion war has intensified.

        If we want consistency, we could go back to Roman law and allow unwanted newly-borns to be “exposed” I guess.

        • Scott Draper
          Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          I think the difficulty in achieving a consistent position is that we tend to think of “alive” as a binary value, when it’s probably more accurately viewed as a continuum.

          • Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

            Not the issue. Even a zygote is technically alive, and we end non-human lives with impunity. The question is when should a fetus get rights as a human. Anyone who thinks this is a simple legal and moral issue is mistaken, imo.

            • Scott Draper
              Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

              The technical definition of “alive” isn’t relevant. But fine, just change my statement to “human-ness is a continuum”.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

              In Canada, we ignore that whole issue. Abortions are allowed based on the medical prudence to do so. We have very few late term abortions in Canada, so leaving this issue untouched hasn’t caused women to rush out and abort their late term fetuses, as so many think will be the case (which of course is a lubricous position that assumes women are just chomping at the bit to have abortions)

              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

                I can imagine few women would carry their babies to term and then want to abort, just as I can imagine few women would want to kill their new-borns. But what about the few that do?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

                Usually those types of abortions are because of something wrong with the pregnancy. They are very dangerous usually so very few doctors will perform them. In Canada, we see the decision as between the woman and her doctor not the woman and the state.

              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

                Just for the sake of argument, suppose a Canadian woman with a perfectly healthy late term fetus presents herself to her doctor and demands an abortion, and the doctor determines it could be done safely. Would the doctor have to comply?

                I know such a case is fanciful, but often the law turns on such cases.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

                Yes, the doctor would comply if the doctor felt it could be done safely. Of course, the “comply” part implies you think someone would need to be forced to do something.

                Here is more about Canadian Abortion Laws.

              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

                Thanks. Still seems murky though–at one point the article says third-trimester abortions, although legal, are generally not available, at least in Quebec. If the medical practioners get to decide, it is hardly a woman’s choice.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

                I don’t know about the whole Quebec thing. Could be more a general statement that they aren’t medically sanctioned. The state can’t prevent a woman from having an abortion if it’s medically feasible. A doctor can, however, not do one for medical reasons. The laws are clear here. No murkiness at all.

              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

                It is clear in the sense that there is no law on abortion in Canada. The murky part to me is whether women can find a willing medical provider. At least that is the situation here in Washington State where abortion is legal at any time in the pregnancy, but good luck finding someone willing to do a third trimester.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

                There are laws for abortion in Canada and those laws say that women are allowed abortions at any time, for any reason and that those abortions are funded through our medical system. Abortions can be had at many clinics and hospitals so women are not restricted in getting them. It isn’t murky about late term abortions – if a doctor can do it, he/she will. This is no different than any medical procedure. If it is safe to do, it is done.

                Here are some stats around abortion in Canada. In particular this stat talks about the risk associated with late term abortions and that past 20-21 weeks doctors typically don’t do them unless there are health or genetic reasons to do so because of the risk to the woman.

                Over 90% of abortions in Canada are done in the first trimester; only 2-3% are done after 16 weeks, and no doctor performs abortions past 20 or 21 weeks unless there are compelling health or genetic reasons. The risk of maternal mortality is probably greater in carrying a pregnancy to term (7.06 per 100 000 live births) than the risk associated with abortion (0.56 per 100 000 terminations) (Grimes D. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2006; 194: 92-94).

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

                Oops for got link. Here it is

              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

                “…no doctor performs abortions past 20 or 21 weeks unless there are compelling health or genetic reasons.”

                That statement says to me that, except for “compelling” health reasons, women cannot get late term abortions in Canada. That is, there is no late term abortion on command for women in Canada despite the fact that the state does not prohibit it. Am I correct?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

                There are no abortions performed “on command” at any time in the pregnancy. Just like here are no radiation therapies on command or drug prescriptions on command despite those things being allowed. In order to access abortion as any other medical procedure, you need to work with a doctor. Something that is medically risky, such as having radiation instead of another therapy or taking drugs for the wrong ailment, will not be permitted. Late term abortions happen but rarely. Typically, these are done, not because a woman was sick and tired of her fetus, but because there was a medical necessity. The stats bear this out. Most abortions are done early term, even though they can be done later. This is most likely because the procedures are difficult and women typically decide to abort a fetus early in the pregnancy.

              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

                PS Women not being able to get abortions unless there are health reasons is not the same as women not being able to get abortions because of health reasons.

                Sorry to sound argumentative. Just trying to clarify before rool nine kicks in.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

                And that differs in no way from other medical procedures. No one gets to demand that a medical procedure is done or that drugs are prescribed. Decisions are made in consultation with a doctor. The doctors don’t simply execute the demands of their patients. I can’t just demand chemotherapy because I think it will help me lose weight. I can certainly try, but the doctor is under no obligation to give in to that demand.

              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

                Your last comment clarifies. Thank you.

              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

                As background, here in Washington State abortion is legal at any time but the Catholic church is affiliating more and more hospitals which then refuse to do abortions. I would rather have the state say when and if abortions can be done than the Catholic church.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

                Or the state tell the Catholic church to piss off. The PM I grew up under, Pierre Trudeau, was a Jesuit and practicing Catholic. He still helped create the abortion laws today as he believed in the separation of church and state. I think he got in hot water over that with the church.

                His son, my current PM, also a Catholic, got in trouble with the Catholic Church for saying that he was pro-choice. Too bad Catholic Church, you don’t run Canada even if the majority of Canadians are Catholics.

              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

                Yes, but if medical practioners determine whether a procedure is to be performed, as you described, would that not that put the CC in charge here in WA? How can women claim to have a right to abortion if it is up to the providers to determine whether it should be done? I think I must be missing something here.

                I am sure PCC can help me out out and invoke rool nine. 🙏

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

                Because you have a right to something, it doesn’t mean you get it. I have a right to be treated under the Health Act in Canada. When I had cancer, I worked with my doctor to determine what treatment I should have. I could have demanded he give me a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy and he would have refused because it was a bad decision. I have a right to have my cancer treated but I don’t necessarily get to decide how that’s done. Of course, I’m free to go to another doctor or refuse treatment as well.

                With religions settling, in Canada you can, as a physician not do certain procedures but you must refer the patient to another doctor.

              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

                To be honest, I do not see how a patient determining what is the best treatment for her cancer is the same as that of a woman determining whether she should continue a pregnancy.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

                You’re moving the goalposts. Your argument was that women didn’t have access to late term abortions because they couldn’t demand them when a doctor could override for medical reasons. This is no different than a doctor not giving into my demand to have any other dangerous procedure. I live in pain because no surgeon will operate on my neck. It’s too risky so they just won’t unless I lose use of my arm through the nerve issues. That is no different than a physician not performing a late abortion that is risky. Same with cancer surgery that is not the right treatment. My oncologist didn’t give me chemo, for example, because the risks were to high for my cancer.

                Now you have started to argue about a woman determining if she wants to continue her pregnancy. That’s a different argument. I’m speaking only about how physicians determine risk for medical procedures, including abortion. There is no there there. In Canada you get an abortion if it is medically safe just like you can get chemo if it is medically safe or you can get surgery of it is medically safe. The hypocritical oath does say, after all, first do no harm.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:19 pm | Permalink


              • Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

                Okay, but that is NOT what is stated in the quotation you gave me, which I repeated in my 7:31p comment. That quotation says that doctors do not perform third trimester abortions unless there are compelling health or genetic reasons for doing so. That is not the same as saying doctors perform third trimester abortions only when it is safe to do so.

                But I am sure that you know the Canadian procedures better than I, so I will clam up now and say thank you for the conversation, Diana.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          The upside, was unwanted Roman babies were often taken by others because – hey free baby!

          • Gordon
            Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            Ummm..I think the Mary Beard book I just finished also suggests free slave.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 3, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

              I think it depends who found you but slaves were always something Romans relished.

        • Taz
          Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          Since there is no consensus cutoff line outside of birth itself, I’m content to leave the decision to the pregnant woman.

          • Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

            If there was consensus on birth, this would not be an issue.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

            …and her doctor/medical team. Some abortions are dangerous.

            • agender
              Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:46 am | Permalink

              Sorry, this is not precise.
              Pregnancies are dangerous – in human women even more so than in average mammals.
              Risk enhancement each passing day of pregnancy.
              Savita Halappanavar!
              One of the late Dr. Tiller´s patients died, but he did a dozen or so late abortions per year. Since his death it is possible/probable(?) that ALL of the women with comparable health issues from pregancies are statistical “cases” (I do not want to link to the abortionforbidders, and did not find the pro choice pages I remember despite using DuckDuckgo as search machine). And in the beginning of RU 486 (Mifegyne) research I made a collection of newspaper clips (if they exist behind paywalls on the web now, or are eradicated, I cannot find out, it was in the 1980s.)the German ones – even in Switzerland, mentioned that it was the woman´s 13th pregancy – and without the mifegyne try she would have died anyway – and NONE of the French -language newspapers mentioned this decisive fact.

      • Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        A fertilised egg has no nervous system, no brain capable of feeling and being a person. So, my answer to your question would be no.

        On the other hand, a baby a day after birth is pretty similar in those respects to how it was two days earlier. So I cannot agree with paying no regard to the rights of the fetus one day before birth if you do give it rights one day after.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

          But if you decide to draw a line somewhere it will have to be an arbitrary line. Development is a continuum.

          • Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I agree, development is a continuum and one has to draw a somewhat arbitrary line somewhere.

            In the UK the law has a time limit which is justified in terms of the development of the nervous system and brain of the fetus. This is not perfect, and is to some degree arbitrary, but it does have pretty widespread support.

            I sometimes think that the American opinion in favour of allowing abortion one day before term (an opinion which sounds extremist to a Brit) is a reaction to the rampant anti-abortion sentiment in the US. Faced with an absolutist opponent challenging any rights to abortion, the pro-abortionists take on a somewhat absolutist position themselves.

            • rickflick
              Posted July 3, 2016 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

              Good point. People’s opinion does not form in a vacuum. Resignation, indifference, group pressure, anger at the opposition, etc.

      • Cindy
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

        Technically, every embryo is viable since they can survive up to 14 days in a test tube..

        But as someone below stated, they are not naturally viable – prior to around 24 weeks gestation, the fetus is incapable of sustaining it’s own life autonomously as it’s organs are incapable of supporting life. The reason that embryos die when a pregnancy is ended – even if expelled whole – is because the woman is no longer acting as a biological life support machine. She is no longer performing the very functions of life for it.

      • jeremyp
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 7:11 am | Permalink

        If we had that technology, we would presumably also have the technology to remove the unwanted foetus from the mother and raise it separately.

      • Posted July 4, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Or worse, a machine that would extract an ovum and artificially fertilize it, then use the previous machine. Should all women be obligated to have all their ova extracted (when?) and processed in this way to ensure that they are all going to live and develop?

        Viability is very tricky!

    • Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      I see your point and I have thought much on this myself. However, I fear that if we give rights to a baby still hooked to his mother’s body, even if he is already viable and could live if successfully unhooked, we set a myriad of other problems. E.g. imagine a mother in a difficult birth, doctors saying that only C-section could save the baby’s brain or very life, but the mother refuses it because she has been brainwashed that C-sections are bad. Can we tie the stupid woman to an operating table, sedate her and cut her open against her wish? (Such cases have happened in real life.) Imagine a woman who comes to the hospital and says she has suffered a stillbirth. Should she be investigated to exclude foul play? Imagine a depressed woman in late pregnancy who has attempted suicide; should she be jailed for not waiting until birth? (Such cases have also happened.)

  6. Merilee
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink


  7. Joe Stalin
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I entirely agree with Prof Ceiling Cat on all aspects of his arguments. His short essay has discussed all the salient points.

    • Newish Gnu
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Given your moniker, Mr. Stalin, I’m not sure if your comment is sincere or snark.

      • Craw
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        Nor am I but I second it.


    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:17 am | Permalink

      I also agree, genuinely.

  8. steve oberski
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that Ms. Seltz is seriously proposing that men not be allowed to hold an opinion on this matter.

    I see it as a very effective rhetorical device to show how ridiculous it is that a womans right to autonomy over her own body is being circumvented mainly by older males typically for religious reasons.

    Good for her, I would love to see more pushback of this nature in the public marketplace of ideas.

    If one is espousing an irrational and anti-human idea then expect the opposition to these sorts of very bad ideas to be very pointed and passionate.

    • Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      + 1

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 5, 2016 at 3:35 am | Permalink

      + 2

    • scottoest
      Posted July 5, 2016 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      I agree that it’s probably a rhetorical device, but I completely disagree with how effective it is – if your intended goal is making allies for the cause and effecting more practical change, not to simply to win an internet debate.

      The fact that Prof CC, a person who is completely sympathetic to their goals, felt compelled to write a post like this in response, pretty clearly suggests that the rhetoric was not effective.

      Reminds me of the battles over “privilege” – there’s no quicker way to lose a potential ally, than to lecture some lower-class white person about their privilege.

  9. Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny that no one mentions the obvious flaw in the “it’s only the women’s decision” argument: women are not the only ones who have a legitimate stake in the children. Men have an evolutionary interest in the survival of their childen, they have strongly enforced legal duties to financially support their children, they often do their share of raising children, emotionally and in terms of time, labor and money. In other words, having a child is almost as life-changing for men as for women.
    But when it comes to deciding whether a pregnancy can be terminated, they’re supposed to just shut up… why, precisely?

    • Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      You have a point.

      But, throughout history the paterfamilias of the family was the one who decided if a child was to be allowed to live after birth and be nurtured as a member of the family. In many countries even yet, men are the ones who determine whether a child that is born is to live or not. We’ve recently come through a period in China in which the government’s rule to have no more than one child per family caused families to kill baby daughters leading to the death of a generation of girls. In other cultures, girl babies who are not wanted are routinely not fed or are put out to die after they are born. This after birth abortion (murder) is practiced mostly on girl babies.

      1. If sex education and birth control were not restricted by fundamentalist Christians and Catholics (etc.), some of these births could be prevented and fewer abortions would occur.
      2. Despite the emphasis on young people remaining virgins and abstaining from sex, we know how effective that is as teen-aged hormones will and do win out. Not an effective means of birth control.
      3. If the hyper-righteous against abortion would ensure that all children were properly and fully cared for after they are born, the families that can’t afford children might use the abortion option less. However, concern about the well being of children at the governmental resources level seems to apply prior to birth, but not after. Make sure they are born, but let ’em starve or die after.

      Despite the notion that “every sperm is sacred”, it is well past time to stop promoting excessive births on an overrun planet.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      1) I don’t think that men should have a right to force women to gestate every fertilized egg. Women don’t exist so men can pass on their genes at will. Not that this is your argument, i am only commenting because ‘what about the father’ and ‘what about the grandparents’ are often used as arguments in favour of banning abortion. It is also in a man’s interest, genetically, to pass on his genes, regardless of the effects that it has on the women that he impregnates.

      2) I dislike the double standard offered up by many feminists – that if a man doesn’t want to be a dad, that he should keep it zipped. If a woman does not automatically consent to motherhood when she has sex, then a man certainly does not automatically consent to fatherhood when he has sex. Biology should not be destiny for either sex.

      • Dee
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        ‘Biology shouldn’t be destiny for either sex”

        Except in this case biology does impose some practical limitations. Biology has provided an option for women (namely abortion) that doesn’t exist for men. Absent male contraceptives or giving a man the right to force a woman he has gotten pregnant to have an abortion, the only options I can see for men who don’t want to be forced to consent to parenthood with sex are sterilization or keeping it zipped.

    • Dragon
      Posted July 5, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      When it comes to deciding whether a pregnancy can be terminated, the woman and doctor can choose to include anyone they wish. In my case, I never had sex with a woman who wouldn’t have included me. My experience is certainly not universal in that regard, but I hope it is a small majority.
      But the State must never legally require the man to have a say – because in all cases of a disagreement between them, the woman must have the deciding voice. It is her body being used and exposed to dangers.
      Every legitimate stake the man has the woman also has. She just has a significant amount more at stake.
      Thus, in a mutual relationship, the man and woman of that relationship should talk about it. But no law should ever mandate the man can in any circumstance overrule the woman.
      Men outside that relationship, i.e. third parties writing opinion pieces, have no standing. The third parties certainly have no ethical right to interfere. Again in terms of law, no law should require them to remain silent. But the newspaper doesn’t need to publish their opinions on what other people must do. Newspapers will still publish such opinions because it engenders controversy and that sells. But that is the wrong reason, and newspapers should be ashamed to do so.

  10. Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    All topics should be open to discussion by all people. No one should have to STFU on any topic as long as they aren’t trying to force all other people to adopt their point of view. Some of the most dangerous ideas are those that are made taboo, and not open to discussion.

    However, when speech becomes passage of laws by mostly men to restrict or eliminate abortion which only affects women,that is too much. I still believe that the pregnant woman is the only one who, in final analysis, must be the one making the determination to have or, not have, an abortion.

    • Newish Gnu
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      There’s the winner!

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      Had I read your post first, I would not have bothered to write mine, posted at the same time. Nothing more is needed.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Well said Rowena.

      Yeah, I believe that men should have the right to speak up regarding abortion…that no one should be censored. I welcome all ideas and frank, open discussion.

      The irritating thing with many pro-life men is that they tend to dismiss the ‘minor inconvenience’ of pregnancy. I once had a disgusting conversation with a catholic man who argued that that 9yo girl who was pregnant with twins in Brasil would have been completely fine because, and I paraphrase ‘old enough to bleed old enough to breed’. I am not one prone to violence but he deserved a punch in the face for that.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        When I was younger, I had the knee jerk opinion that men shouldn’t have a say in abortion because I often passed by the picket lines of anti-protestors at my university (there is a hospital on campus) and the only ones picketing were old men. I changed my opinion as I thought things through (that I’ve peppered throughout this thread) with time.

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      All topics should be open to discussion by all people.

      Totally agree…and then I think of Trump. 😉

      • Merilee
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Not sure Trump discusses; more like bloviates😖

    • Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      + 1

  11. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    The great problem with this topic in America is the reality of politics and the intrusion on Roe v Wade over the years. This intense intrusion has been going on state by state for several years and just recently and finally took a hit against this pathway to end all abortion. So maybe it will eventually be turned around and get back on track, following the law instead of religion and politics.

    I would think, although it is only speculation, that many women would wish men to STFU because their anti-abortion dogma comes from people who do not give birth, do not get pregnant and do not generally spend the following 18 years or more taking care of and raising the child. This is just a guess on my part, as a male.

  12. Kurtis Rader
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    The only thing I would say in addition to all the excellent points made by PCC is that I do think editors should exercise some judgement. I see no reason to publish letters that only present theistic arguments (“god says abortion is murder”) or that repeat thoroughly debunked lies (“abortion increases your risk of breast cancer”).

    In addition to the essay PCC linked to I highly recommend Katha Pollitt’s book “Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights”. There’s also an excellent debate on YouTube between Matt Dillahunty (one of the hosts of “The Atheist Experience” show) and Kristine Kruszelnicki who attempted to make a secular argument for banning abortion.

  13. geckzilla
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Is it really the best thing to say? Is it actually going to happen? No, and no. I can’t say I don’t share her sentiment, though. The number of men who have very strong opinions on this matter who also obviously have no clue what they are talking about is disturbing.

    The veneration of her and other outbursts is perhaps more concerning, but then again I guess it’s just human nature to express ourselves emotionally and it’s not surprising that a lot of people can relate.

  14. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Also, white people should not shut up about racism either. I hate it when one group shuts down another based on them not being something. I was shut down recently because I don’t have children, a friend was shut down when he was in pain because he never gave birth. I think it’s lazy arguing. Argue my points, don’t tell me I can’t have an opinion and if you think my opinion is wrong then engage me and try to change it.

    • Kevin
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Indeed, there is a bit of the permutation: “You aren’t who I am, therefore you can’t know who I am.”

      Utter BS. Anyone can know who I am. I can tell anyone everything about my life and they could know. Just because I am not black or have not been raped or had an abortion does not mean I cannot understand. Maybe I can not? But why is it true that anyone can know how I feel?

      People who claim that others can never know or understand or make statements wisely about circumstances they have never lived through are acting religious.

  15. Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    This debate isn’t going away anytime soon. Two things that would help enormously is if people would at least argue in good faith, not inventing lies to bolster their position, or repeating those lies unquestioningly.

    The other thing would be if men, as a group, didn’t tend to think they should have control over women’s bodies in general. Not all men, I know. Too damn many. And before any of you guys give me flack, think about whether or not you’ve ever claimed that a woman needs protection just because she’s a woman, or that she somehow asked for sexual assault, or that she should appreciate unwanted attention, or that she SHOULD [insert thought or behavior specifically related to being a woman here] because you think so, and of course you know more about her than she does.

    If you never behaved the way I described in the previous paragraph, let’s call the Vatican and get you on the fast track for sainthood. If you have behaved that way in the past and you now know better, you are on your way to mensch-hood, which is even better.

    • Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Let’s be fair here. There obviously are men who behave as you say. I have been fortunate enough to know many (and be married to one for 57 years) who did not. There are many men who treat women with respect and value their abilities, thoughts and speech, in addition to their sexuality. I have known very many women who have equally stereotyped notions about what men are, how they should talk and behave.
      I sympathize with you if you haven’t been fortunate enough to meet many men or women who have progressed beyond these sexual stereotypes.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        Thankfully, many men who think this way are in the millenial generation. We often slam millenials, but they have gotten some things right and it’s always a joy to work with younger men.

  16. Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    It boils down to an assertion that the value of an argument or opinion depends not so much upon its own merits but upon who presents it. That’s clearly a fallacy.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Yes but what about the reality on whom it affects? I cannot give the opinion of the 65 year old gentleman the same weight as the 18 year old girl who is pregnant

      • Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        What if the 65-year-old gentleman was pro-choice even though the issue had no significant effect on his own life, and the 18-year-old girl was against keeping abortion legal even though her own pregnancy threatened to ruin her life? Whose opinion would you award more weight in that case?

        • rickflick
          Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

          Wow. That’s a tough call. Maybe offer to extract the fetus and divide in twain lengthwise and give each their share.
          This is why society needs to have a general rule of justice based on reason, not age, gender, or political orientation.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted July 3, 2016 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          I think you just made my point, thanks.
          Obviously the girl, the female, the one who should make the decision regardless of which way it goes. I say the whole idea of opinion on this specific subject is fine, everyone gets an opinion – but only one counts. I do not think the courts or the politicians should get to decide this one. The woman and her Dr.

          • Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

            Wait, what? I asked about conflicting opinions of what the law should be. It sounds like you’re pro-choice, yet you wrote that you would “obviously” give more weight to the opinion of the girl who believes abortions should be illegal.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink


  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    No man has a right to be heard concerning an individual woman’s decision to have an abortion, unless asked by that woman. (I think in some circumstances, a woman has a moral, but not legal, obligation to consult with the man involved, and I’ve no doubt that most women in most circumstances satisfy this obligation.)

    But everyone, regardless of reproductive equipment or capacity, has a right to speak out on the socio-legal issue of abortion.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      “No man has a right to be heard concerning an individual woman’s decision to have an abortion, unless asked by that woman”

      Not even the husband??

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        Not a legal right. That’s the distinction between a woman’s moral and legal obligations.

        Do you know of any jurisdiction where a woman is compelled by law to consult with her husband before obtaining an abortion? Do you think such a law would be wise? Should a man be legally required to secure his wife’s permission before undergoing a sterilization procedure?

        • Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          I know of a couple that sought diagnosis and treatment for secondary infertility. They already had 2 daughters but the husband wanted also a son. During the examinations, it turned out that the woman had an IUD. In dysfunctional families, you can find this sort of things.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

            Indeed. In a functional family, a wife impregnated by her husband will no doubt make a joint decision with him regarding the outcome of the pregnancy. A legal requirement that she do so, however, will hardly turn a dysfunctional family functional. To the contrary, it would likely make the dysfunction worse, often putting the woman in jeopardy — physical, financial, or emotional, or some combination of thereof.

            • Cindy
              Posted July 4, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

              Also, reproductive coercion is a thing:


              Reproductive and sexual coercion involves behavior intended to maintain power and control in a relationship related to reproductive health by someone who is, was, or wishes to be involved in an intimate or dating relationship with an adult or adolescent. This behavior includes explicit attempts to impregnate a partner against her will, control outcomes of a pregnancy, coerce a partner to have unprotected sex, and interfere with contraceptive methods.

              The mantra ‘don’t want a baby, don’t have sex’ ignores the often messy reality of people’s lives.

        • Eric Grobler
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          I do not necessarily disagree with you, but I think you are far too confident that there is an objective morality.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

            I wouldn’t deign to prescribe any objective overarching socio-philosophical standard of morality, Eric.

            But when I’m in a committed relationship with a woman, I nonetheless feel certain responsibilities to her (and expect her to feel roughly reciprocal responsibilities to me) — not to betray confidences, not to disrespect her or embarrass her in front of third-parties (other than within the mutually understood bounds of good humor), not to engage her in sexual conduct outside the penumbra emanating from her comfort zone, not to leave the toilet seat up — “golden rule”-type stuff, essentially.

            Such responsibilities do not arise by legal fiat; they arise instead, I believe, as a matter of “moral obligation.”

            That’s all I mean when using that term above.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

              Toilet seat and “golden” rule. Good one given the colour of pee.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

                I was gonna add “switch the t-paper from over back to under” — but none of the qualifying women have had that particular predilection (that they’ve admitted to anyway). 🙂

  18. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    And surely any man who has had a fetus aborted that they themselves fathered/progenerated should definitely be permitted to speak (regardless of which side they are on).

  19. Rich S.
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Trying to silence the opposition so that they can’t even speak their arguments is a classic despotic tactic.

    Or, let’s put it another way … how would the poster feel if “only people who own guns should be able to opine on gun rights.”

    See … it just depends on whose ox is being gored.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that makes sense. Carrying a gun is just like being pregnant.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Trying to silence the opposition so that they can’t even speak their arguments is a classic despotic tactic.

      Strange. I thought that the classic despotic response to opposing speech was to have the speaker and as many members of their near family as you can round up killed under humiliating torture in a public place.
      Or do you have a different meaning to “despotic” to the dictionary – “a ruler or other person who holds absolute power, typically one who exercises it in a cruel or oppressive way” ?

    • Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      In gun “rights” discussions, I’d give extra weight to the opinions of people who have suffered gunshot wounds, and also the relations of people killed by guns.

  20. Seversky
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I am atheist. I believe the right to life should cover the whole of an individual’s lifespan from conception to death. In practice, since it’s virtually impossible with current technology to detect a single fertilized egg, that would mean that whatever can be detected would automatically be protected.

    That said, the various legal dodges tried by anti-abortionists to restrict a woman’s access to perfectly legal medical procedures are cowardly and underhanded. If they really believe that the unborn should have the same right to life as the born then they need to persuade society as a whole that the law must be changed. Until then, the woman has the right to choose.

    As a man, I will not STFU about such issues any more than I would tell women to do the same. What we need is a vigorous and open debate and that means that neither side gets to shut the other down.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      I am atheist. I believe the right to life should cover the whole of an individual’s lifespan from conception to death. In practice, since it’s virtually impossible with current technology to detect a single fertilized egg, that would mean that whatever can be detected would automatically be protected.

      There is IVF. Have a woman, man, and doctor committed murder when they choose not to implant every embryo? When those embryos are destroyed, experimented upon, or simply die of freezer burn many years down the road, are they victims of murder? If a defective embryo is destroyed – one of those embryos that will spontaneously abort 2 weeks into the pregnancy – is it murder? If embryos are people – the equivalent of born children, destroying a defective embryo should be no different than the murder of a disabled child.

      • Seversky
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        If the law were changed as I suggested then the frozen embryos would enjoy the same right to life as any other. As I see it, the right to life more specifically is the right not to be killed by the deliberate actions of other members of society. This would necessarily exclude the destruction of viable embryos for the purposes of scientific research.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

          One might also say – every sperm is sacred.

          • Cindy
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:32 am | Permalink

            A secular pro lifer recently stated that “abortion ruins feminism”

            By that logic, I say, “contraception ruins feminism”

          • Seversky
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

            “…Every sperm is great.
            If a sperm is wasted,
            God gets quite irate.”

            You can’t argue with Monty Python.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:44 am | Permalink

          If the law were changed as you suggest, what would be the appropriate punishment for a woman who disposes of frozen embryos?

          If those viable embryos could be brought to term, who is responsible for the cost of doing so? Who’s responsible for raising the child born of such an embryo?

          Should a woman be required to submit her monthly menstrual discharge for a medical examination, to determine if it contains a fertilized egg?

          • Cindy
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink

            If a woman has10 excess embryos that will die of freezer burn within a few years, should she be legally compelled to have them implanted? If she refuses, should she be tied down and forcibly implanted? If those frozen embryos die in 10 years should she be charged with murder?

            • Seversky
              Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

              If the law were changed as we have been discussing it would prohibit anyone from taking any deliberate or purposeful or intentional action that would result in the death of the fetus. This would prevent a woman from seeking to abort any fetus she might be carrying but she would not be under any legal or moral obligation to accept implantation of any frozen embryos.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

                So if the embryos become un-implantable because their “use by” date expires, the woman is in the clear — but if she switches off the freezer before that she is liable for a violation of the law prohibiting the deliberate killing of a fetus?

                Is that a distinction you believe the law should recognize?

              • Gregory Kusnick
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

                As Ken suggests, that’s some pretty fine hair-splitting, but we can split it even finer.

                Suppose I’m the manager of a clinic whose freezer is becoming rather full of these unwanted embryos that I’m not permitted to dispose of. I need to free up some freezer space for wanted embryos of paying customers. So I buy a cheap secondhand freezer of dubious reliability and move the unwanted embryos into that, knowing it will almost certainly fail and render them non-viable and legally disposable.

                Am I obliged to provide better storage for these embryos? No; I am merely prohibited from actively killing them. Have I committed such a deliberate act of killing? Presumably not; the death of these embryos, when it comes, will be the result of an accidental (but predictable) mechanical failure.

                Your proposed law incentivizes this sort of perverse gaming of the system. Are you sure that’s what you want?

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 12:45 am | Permalink

      Even granting your premise that the right to life extends from conception, it still doesn’t follow that the conceptus has a right to compel the mother to provide life support. The right to life doesn’t entitle a starving man to sit at your table and help himself to your dinner, or homeless people to steal the coat off your back in freezing weather. The fact that A needs something B has doesn’t oblige B to provide it. So I don’t think right to life can do the work you want it to in restricting abortion.

      • Seversky
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        I assume this is referring back to Judith Jarvis Thompson’s “violinist analogy” and it does pose a very difficult ethical dilemma. I would agree that, as a general principle, the fact that A needs something B has does not mean B is morally obliged to provide it. On that basis, the mother is not obliged to provide life support to the unborn child. The caveat would be that the right to life more specifically means the right not to be killed by the deliberate actions of other members of society. If the fetus were to have the right to life then neither the mother nor doctors could take any actions which they knew would kill the fetus.

        • Cindy
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:30 am | Permalink

          I would say that the “right to life” is the right not to be *unjustly killed* by other members of society.

          I do not like the word “deliberate” because killing in self defense is deliberate, as is choosing not to donate your bone marrow and so on…and in the case of embryonic research, killing embryos for the benefit of others is definitely a deliberate act. If embryos are the equivalent of a toddler, one could never justify killing toddlers for science. That would be Mengele style science.

          Now, if we were to argue that embryos are entitled to women’s bodies, then yes, abortion – which is the withdrawal of life support, or in the case of un-implanted embryos, the denial of life support – is absolutely unjust killing.

          If the “right to life” as others have suggested means, as a general principle, a positive right, an entitlement, to other peoples bodies and property, then such a right would necessarily be a univesal human right and not just something that is afforded to the unborn.

          • Seversky
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

            Put simply, the right to life is the right not to be killed unlawfully, not a right to not die. In the case of pregnancy, the fetus is not entitled to unrestricted use of the mother’s body but the mother would be prohibited from doing anything that would kill the fetus.

            Obviously, every effort should be made to relieve the mother of the burden of carrying an unwanted fetus as soon as possible. If she is determined that doesn’t want the child then it should be delivered as soon as is possible safely.

            That said it is at least arguable that both parents owe a duty of care to the child they have conceived, at least until they formally renounce any responsibility or rights concerning it. Even that, in my view, would not absolve them of the moral obligation to explain to the child, if asked, why they had rejected it.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          So to be clear then, your view is that even though we agree that I owe the violinist no moral obligation, I must nevertheless remain shackled to him, against my will and at the cost of my own liberty, for the rest of my life if need be, because to free myself would be to kill him by deliberate action.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      “I believe the right to life should cover the whole of an individual’s lifespan from conception…”

      Surely we do not value a week old fetus the same as a fetus that is viable outside the womb on rational grounds.

      • Seversky
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        How do you measure the value of a human life, whatever the age? In any event, I would argue that considerations of value or personhood are irrelevant. The right to life is the right not to be killed by other members of society. In a sense, it’s a guarantee that keeps your options open. The right to free speech does not mean you have to keep talking. It’s not a “use it or lose it” deal. You could take a vow of silence and say nothing for ten years but at the end of that time you would still have the right to free speech. By the same token, the right to life is not contingent on having a value or being productive or virtuous. It’s a guarantee that no on else can take your life. What you make of that life is entirely up to you.

        • Cindy
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          Then animals and bacteria should also have the right not to be killed, since you seem to be stating that human life is only valuable because it is human, which is a fantastic example of circular reasoning.

          • Seversky
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

            In my view, rights are freedoms or entitlements which human beings in society agree should be granted to all. In other words, human beings grant these rights to themselves. Why not? Who else should it be? At present, rights are almost exclusively the preserve of human beings but there is no reason why they could not be extended to other animals if that’s what people decide.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

          If personhood is irrelevant, then presumably you hold that a brain-dead corpse has a right to life, such that it would be immoral to withdraw life support. This view seems problematic to me, since in the absence of personhood, there seems to be no principled reason to distinguish the corpse as a whole from any of its component parts. If we amputate a leg, does the leg, as a personless clump of human cells, now have a right to life of its own, and are we obliged to provide separate life support for it (since discarding it would be a deliberate act of killing)?

          If you want to assign a right to life to an embryo, but not to a wart or an amputated limb, on the basis of something other than personhood, you’re going to have to spell out exactly what criteria qualify a clump of cells for this right.

        • Eric Grobler
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

          All your arguments are based on the assumption that the human condition can be defined in neat little boxes.

          “How do you measure the value of a human life, whatever the age? ”
          It is fairly subjective, but I value the life of a healthy young child more than an old man with dementia – don’t you?

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

            Of course, the human condition cannot be defined in neat little boxes. And the matter of when “human life” begins admits of no bright-line distinctions.

            But if the government is to insert itself into a woman’s reproductive decision-making, lines necessarily have to be drawn. I don’t think that the government should be involved, other than perhaps at the extremes — and then, the lines should be drawn as clearly as possible, so that those affected can adjust their conduct accordingly.

            • Eric Grobler
              Posted July 5, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

              ” I don’t think that the government should be involved, other than perhaps at the extremes ”

              Well said, I agree.

  21. Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    In social justice land, men and women are anyway only social constructions. How do they know the writers “identify” as a man anyway? This is simply assumed, erasing the lived experiences of PZ Myers, Greta Christina et al and their merry troupe (it sounds funny, but the US secular scene really does feature religiously fierce arguments and schisms over whether it’s okay to e.g. address pregant humans as “women” — which is selectively ignored like in this case).

    I’m of course pro-choice as well, but not up until birth. Individual circumstances can differ. I don’t see this as a hard and fast rule, but the pregnant has usually months to make a decision. I believe that the weight of the decision must be balanced for both, the becoming human and the possible mother.

    For that matter, I deem it questionable to wait too long with the decision to abort, because the development from lump of cells to person is continuous. We live in times where every plan can change at the last minute, with a whatsapp message, but these matters are a bit too important for this attitude.

    Of course this should take vile right wing politics into account, that e.g. move abortion clinics far away, thereby delaying the procedure. Hence I emphasize the decision (with the expectation it’s carried out reasobably soon thereafter). Such politics are wrong, and should be challenged there.

    Parents, both of them, anyway need to make a commitment and with this in mind, it is reasonable to expect that a pregnant can make a decision within a few months, and then be expected to stick to it for a few more months to carry to term, should she decide for it. We have such obligations on far more trivial matters.

    But should men have no say? Who can say what is an inane argument, and rests on identitarian criteria, which are (as mentioned above) inconsistent. Because there is no coherent reason why someone else, uterus-haver or not, should have a say on someone’s choices, which are based on individualistic human rights, not group rights.

    If the argument was that women have “lived experience” and can assess things better than others in this case, we’re in SJW identity politics quagmire that makes these people look so ridiculous. The “lived experience” is the implied reason in this case, and rests on an intellectual embarasing foundation, even more so when on the other end, they actively subvert or deny that women or men exist (ranging from, it’s not binary, to identity is fluid, to gender and sex as social constructs) — what is clear, to these people, straightforward men or women aren’t a thing and thus cannit be invoked arbitrarily when needed.

    If anyone should shut up, it’s these social justice kultists and their normative statements of who can and cannot do certain things.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      SJWs only value lived experience up until the person with the lived experience disagrees with them at which point their opinion can be dismissed because they suffer from internalised misogyny/racism/homophobia etc.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      Well argued.

  22. Taz
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Telling people to shut up about a topic usually has the opposite effect.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      Can you think of a case where the tactic has worked?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      Works about as well as just saying no to drugs and abstinence-only sex ed.

    • Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      Only if these people feel strong (which, however, will be the case here).

  23. Johan Richter
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Should men who happen to be physicians not express any views either on appropriate abortion procedures? Should male lawyers never say a word about what the state of the law is on abortion?

    Are males at least allowed to have an opinion on how abortion should be handled in public healthcare systems? What happens to our tax dollars does affect us after all.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Yes….as do all of those unwanted children.

  24. wildhog
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    What if only plantation owners had owned slaves? Then anyone without a plantation should’ve shut up about slavery?

  25. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    “Perhaps newspaper readership among young people would grow if every time we opened a paper, we didn’t have to read old men’s fusty opinions about uteri.”

    Welcome back to newspaper readership, Heidi, since most days you can open your paper without reading any opinions about uteri, least of all old guys’ fusty ones.

    Neat thing about newspapers is it’s also easy enough to skip over the letters and opinions you don’t want to read.

    I’m sure your local paper will be thrilled to have you as a subscriber, even if you limit yourself to the parts from sources you approve of.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      And maybe Summer’s Eve can start a product line for old men — you know, a refreshing mental douche for those days when they’re feeling all “fusty” up there.

      • Merilee
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        Re: Summer’s Eve comment -LOL

  26. mikeyc
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I have one question for Ms Seitz and all who think like her; what opinions am I allowed to have?

  27. eric
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    My cynical self tells me that if newspaper editors did stop publishing letters from men about abortion, they’d simply switch to publishing misleading “even-handed” sets (i.e. equal amounts from both sides) of letters from women.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Women, as I’ve stated before here, are best at enforcing restrictive, oppressive rules on other women – much more so than men. Perhaps the real issue is there aren’t a lot of female voices being heard in general. If there were, we’d all soon realize that it isn’t just old men that are for the regulation of female reproduction, but women young and old too.

      • Cindy
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        I also find it interesting that some of the most violent misogynists in Islamic culture are…the women. The fathers have to fight the mothers to let the daughter pursue an education etc. The mother wants to force FGM on the kid and the dad thinks that it is wrong and so on…

        So yeah, it is wrong to assume that women will always be for women’s rights and that men will always be for men’s rights. This is nothing but identity politics, and it should be rejected for sound, rational arguments, as PCC stated, regardless of who is making the argument.

        • Posted July 4, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          It is no doubt vaguely analogous, in some cases, to the resistance some medical schools have encountered with the idea that medical residents should not do the proverbial 24,36,48 hour shifts. I.e., because *they* went through it, the *up and comers have to do it too*. This is a special case of “appeal to tradition”.

          • merilee
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

            Those long shifts are nuts. I lived through those times with my ex. You really hate to think of those residents doing surgery, etc., after so many sleepless hours…

      • Posted July 3, 2016 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        Ask around, who is most nosy about life choices, having a partner (the right one etc). Whose magazines are filled with judgmental pieces on how some celebrity gained weight, is their marriage in crisis? And so on. It’s not the men’s.

  28. Geoffrey Howe
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    I’ve discussed elsewhere why men have the right to comment on this (short version: I have the right to tell women it’s not okay to beat homeless people up with their bodies either), so let me just offer my two cents on this one.

    Assuming a normal pregnancy (I’m not going to bring in caveats, except to say that I have no problem making exceptions for them as needed), I think abortion time should be more based on an “Awareness and decision” window than anything else.

    It would take a woman, what, six weeks before she can be reasonably sure her period is late and she is pregnant. Now, add on, say, a month to make the decision, get the money, and make an appointment.

    Throw on an extra 2 weeks because I like a nice round 3 months. I would then require all abortions (for standard non-health related reasons) to have made an appointment in that 3 month window. The abortion can take place after that, depending on the doctor and mothers schedule.

    Any point where abortion becomes unacceptable, even after birth, is arbitrary. There’s a continuum of the childs advancement, and self-awareness. I think the sooner the abortion is done, the less murky our waters. So that’s why I favor a limit based on a reasonable window to make a decision.

    Now, again, the 3 month window is not some decided thing. It’s just a time I’m putting out there as what seems right. I’m not wedded to it. And I also think there is plenty of room for exceptions (after all, lines are arbitrary, I don’t need too much convincing to redraw them). Rather, I just want to make the case and put out the idea of a “Decision Window” restriction. An attitude of what my grandfather expressed in the phrase “Take your time, but hurry it up,” which is to basically say “This is important, so don’t rush it, it needs to be done properly. But please focus on this and get it done as soon as possible.”

  29. jfwlucy
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Darwinwins and GeoffreyHowe are dragging out that same old red herring of women who are just too feckless, lazy, and frivolous that they actually wait “too long” before getting an abortion, and the fetus has developed to the point where they think abortion is immoral.

    Let me lay it out to you both that you yourselves are prima facie EVIDENCE of why men should not pontificate on abortion. Why? Because that stuff JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN. Pregnancy is not fun. It is not easy. It is painful, it is exhausting and sometimes dangerous hard work. No woman who is not longing to have a baby wants to go through that process for one minute longer than she absolutely wants to.

    If a fetus develops to a late stage but is still aborted EITHER that woman could not afford the money/time lost from work/travel costs that an earlier abortion would have required, OR the fetus is not viable/mother’s life is in danger. That’s it. There are no bon-bon munching, bourbon-swilling airheads mooching around going “gee, maybe I don’t want this eight-month old fetus after all,” heading off to PP one rainy afternoon.

    • rickflick
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      ” “gee, maybe I don’t want this eight-month old fetus after all,” heading off to PP one rainy afternoon.”

      Ha! Great image.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, stats support what you say. Here are some statistics for abortion in Canada where we do not restrict when or why a woman has an abortion and consider it a decision between the woman and her doctor not the woman and her state:

      Over 90% of abortions in Canada are done in the first trimester; only 2-3% are done after 16 weeks, and no doctor performs abortions past 20 or 21 weeks unless there are compelling health or genetic reasons. The risk of maternal mortality is probably greater in carrying a pregnancy to term (7.06 per 100 000 live births) than the risk associated with abortion (0.56 per 100 000 terminations) (Grimes D. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2006; 194: 92-94).

      If women were indeed feckless, one day waking up and saying, late in a pregnancy, “screw this, I don’t want this fetus anymore”, you’d see far more abortions after 16 weeks. However, as the stats show, 90% are performed in the first trimester and only 2-3% after 16 weeks. Women just don’t put off making a decision about abortion until it’s really late. Such a decision is a painful and difficult one and it’s one most women never want to have to make.

      This site, where I got the stats, is interesting as it breaks down the demographics of women who have abortions in Canada, where 80% are on birth control.

      • agender
        Posted July 6, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        Why does my browser give me this now, and not the first time I approached this article?
        Or did the number of comments overload my attention span?
        Any way: this discussion is one of those few why I grudgingly consent to the free speech approach here; my bad experience throughout the fight for the right to control one´s own body would point to the STFU approach.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      From what I have read, an abortion at 8 months can cost in the range of 30,000 USD. There are only 3-4 facilities in the USA that are even capable of performing post-viability abortions. They take up to two days, as the fetal heart is stopped in utero and labour is incuded. It is a long, painful process.

      Anyone who can afford that could have had an abortion in the first trimester. These risky and expensive late-term abortions really are for medical necessity, and are almost always an otherwise wanted child.

      • Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        An example:

        “When I was pregnant with my first daughter, she would kick responsively, and then she would take naps. It seemed logical. This baby never stopped moving, but she never did anything responsive, either… We met with the neurologist, who told us that our baby had Dandy-Walker malformation, the most severe presentation of the syndrome. It basically meant there were holes in her brain. She also had agenesis of the corpus callosum, which meant the bridge between the two hemispheres of her brain didn’t grow. So we had two malformations, each of which had a wide range of outcomes, but, combined, had a horrible prognosis. The doctor said, “We expect your baby to have moderate to severe mental retardation; she’s going to have moderate to severe physical disability; she is probably never going to walk or talk; she will possibly never be able to lift her head; she is going to have seizures all of the time.” At first, I was thinking, “This doesn’t make sense, she’s always moving,” and then he mentioned seizures, and I understood…”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      Women are certainly not delaying abortions until late in their term so they can enjoy a few more months of the side-effects of pregnancy. Such late-term abortions are performed solely because of severe health concerns or possible birth defects. The only exceptions that I’m aware of involve minors or mentally challenged women who may not have apprehended the significance of their condition, or were afraid to confide in a parent or guardian, earlier in their term.

      Sure, if doctors were routinely performing purely elective late-term abortions, that would be a problem. But they’re not. And if they were, the appropriate remedy would be referral to their professional regulatory boards for potential licensing sanctions, not criminal prosecution.

      • Craw
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

        This is an excellent market oriented observation. I suggest such reasoning applies very widely, and undercuts most demands for intrusive regulation.

      • jfwlucy
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        Or who were guilty of being poor and living in an underserved area.

  30. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    The Catholic church seems to have a great deal of concern about the unborn at all stages but after they are born…not so much.

  31. Canoe
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I was surprised to learn that the writer believes abortion should be legal until birth, and would like to learn the basis for and reasoning behind that. It’s not easy, for example, to see the difference between one day before and one day after birth in this context, yet the latter would presumably be illegal. Enlightenment, please?

    • jfwlucy
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      Because “abortions” of late-term healthy fetuses simply don’t happen. See my note above.

    • Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      I commented above: basically, even if the baby is viable if unhooked from the mother here and now, the unhooking itself is an intrusive action of the type never allowed without the patient’s informed consent.

  32. Lee
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    I have to take issue with the assertion that “at bottom, all ethics is grounded on subjective preferences”. Rather, I believe ethics is grounded in the observation that if my life, happiness and welfare matter to me, and your life, happiness and welfare matter to you, then it would be unjust for me to assert that your life matters less than mine.

    As a hypothetical example, if there were a world where one group of sentient beings held another group of sentient beings in slavery, and it had never occurred to anyone that slavery was wrong, it would still be wrong. The first person who came to that conclusion would be right. When laws were finally passed outlawing slavery, it would be a move in the direction of justice for that world. I don’t believe slavery is wrong just because some people are offended by it, but because it is fundamentally unjust, artificially valuing one person’s life above another’s.

    That said, I have to say I deeply appreciate your observations and insights, Dr. Coyne. Thanks so much for the good work you do.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 12:28 am | Permalink

      Off-topic, but I think your hypothetical is incoherent. If your slave group is being forced to serve against their will, then by definition they consider it wrong. If they serve voluntarily, then they’re not slaves.

      • Posted July 4, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        That’s an example of how a lot of seemingly ethical pronouncements are tautonomies – true by meaning alone.

        For example, “Do not murder.” Well, since murder is (legally or morally) unjustified killing.

        The *crucial* bit about what justifies actions is always missing, and that’s where the ethics does work.

      • lee
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        I don’t agree that “by definition” someone made to suffer considers it wrong. They might have been raised to believe slavery is the divine order, and to accept it as such. Many American slaves were. They could dislike it and still believe it was their “lot”. Same for Mormon polygamy (including FLDS child polygamy to this day), and other situations where people are coerced by religious belief to their detriment. Teaching false beliefs in this case is just another form of whip and chains.

        I would argue that the basic wrongness of these practices didn’t evolve over time, based on some average of attitudes (although culpability, which requires knowledge of right and wrong, is a different matter). Opinions on these matters may change, but I would characterize this more as a raising of consciousness, developing moral imagination and learning to see the moral universe around us, than a change in the basic morality of slavery, forced polygamy etc.

        My point is: slavery didn’t become wrong just when it occurred to enough people that it was wrong. If not, was the first slave or abolitionist who thought “hey, this ain’t right”? wrong, just because his/her views weren’t shared by others? Was the moral status of slavery iffy until enough people got on board with the idea? It seems to me that the whole idea of the “moral arc of the universe tending towards justice” is incoherent if justice is a matter of personal opinion.

        • Cindy
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          Rape is non-consensual sex.

          Does a woman consent to rape when she fails to dress like this:

          If you do action X, do you automatically ‘consent’ to Y and Z?

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

          Fair enough, but I think you’re going to have trouble extending your moral universals to sentient beings of substantially different biology.

          Suppose for instance that your slave people have not just been indoctrinated to accept their lot; they’ve been biologically selected to derive pleasure and satisfaction from it, like worker bees selflessly serving the hive. Do you still insist they’re wrong to feel that way? Does morality demand that we genetically engineer that acceptance out of them, transforming them into people who think more like we do about such issues, even if that makes them less suited for their biological role?

          If servants can be mass-produced cheaply by the thousand, while raising a master requires extra care, special diet, and so on, then it may literally be true that the servant’s life is worth less, and completely appropriate for their society to value it as such, even if servant and master are equally intelligent and equally capable of feeling frustration or satisfaction (albeit for different reasons).

          Now of course you can say that your remarks weren’t meant to cover such exotica, and that your point is that the rightness or wrongness of slavery for creatures of substantially humanlike biology does not depend on anyone’s personal opinion of it. In which case I would be inclined to agree (and perhaps Jerry would as well).

          But notice that by adding that qualification, you’ve essentially conceded that morality is not a matter of universal absolutes, but of innate moral intuitions programmed into us by our particular evolutionary history. Which is what I take Jerry’s point about “subjective preferences” to really be about.

          • Posted July 5, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

            I am not convinced that relativizing our ethics to the species makes it *subjective*, rather than merely relational in some other way. For example, is the nature of a bill or a coin *subjective* in the way that my preference for vanilla over cotton candy ice cream is? I think since one can in principle appeal to the nature of the species, it is thereby independent (in general, and in no way that would matter even if not) of human psychological states.

    • Helen Hollis
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 12:59 am | Permalink

      Lee, what can you specifically say about when you think that life begins?

      • lee
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        I’d say life begins at conception. A zygote is a living thing, although it’s not yet a person in any meaningful sense (a “potential person” is by definition not yet a person), and I believe that the idea of personhood, while it may be somewhat hard to pin down, is much more relevant to the discussion of the morality of abortion than “life”.

        I have to say I’m not comfortable with allowing abortion at any time up until birth. There’s nothing about the birth event that magically confers personhood on the baby. It’s not a stage of development, just moving to another neighborhood as it were. If it’s wrong to kill a newborn infant, why would it not be wrong to kill the infant right before birth? Like voting age, age of adulthood, etc there has to be some arbitrariness to the decision about when abortion becomes disallowed, but my belief is that this needs to be based in facts about the development of the baby, and to err (if it must) on the side of protecting all persons involved, baby included. It’s not an easy question.

        • Cindy
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

          I view the ‘abortion up until birth’ thing as bit of a red herring.

          The point of abortion is to end a pregnancy. Many pro-lifers like to pretend that the point of abortion is to kill, and that women who abort are murder-loving psychopaths who relish cutting babies into pieces.

          Birth ends the pregnancy. One might say that birth itself ‘aborts’ the pregnancy.

          Now, pro-lifers often say that the only difference between a fetus and a newborn is location. That the fetus and the woman are equal. So, I like to ask them a question, a question so far that no pro-lifer has ever answered. Basically, there is such a thing as obstructed labour. The fetus, if too large, can get stuck in the birth canal, for hours, even days. It often happens to young girls, whose skeletons have not yet matured – 12 year olds who have been impregnated by their 60 year old husbands. The fetus gets stuck and it wears a hole in the vaginal wall, creating an obstetric fistula. The woman will now be leaking pee and feces out of her vagina for the rest of her life if she is unable to get proper medical care. Ah, the minor inconvenience of birth and pregnancy eh guys? It is morally repugnant to even ‘think’ about the woman’s body!! But I digress…

          The question is:

          obstructed labour
          developing nation
          rural area
          no medical care

          Do you:

          1) kill the fetus in order to save the woman, who *will* die eventually if the fetus is not removed (often in pieces) or do you

          2) kill the woman in order to save the fetus

          Without modern medical technology it will not be possible to save both…

          • Canoe
            Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

            That, it seems to me, avoids the critical question, which is whether there is some point beyond which abortion should not be permitted. A question asked by the courts in this instance is when does the fetus develop the capacity to feel pain. It seems to me to be a more relevant question than those generally being raised here, and I think it is the right question to ask. It comports with our natural feelings towards others, does not assume or refer to any higher being, and affords a rational basis for picking a date beyond which abortion is not legally permitted. Importantly, it avoids slippery and ofttimes unanswerable questions about a “right to life.”

            • Cindy
              Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

              Fetuses develop the capacity for sentience around the 25th week of gestation. By that point, you could say that the fetus ‘has a mind’ , even though it is unconscious in utero, and will not be conscious until birth, when the first breaths are taken.

              It just happens that 23-25 weeks is also when the fetus is capable of surviving ex utero with extreme medical care. However, fetuses born that early tend to suffer from severe disabilities, as the full 9 months is needed to properly develop. From what I understand, it is considered legally permissible, in some places, for parents to choose not to approve to resuscitate an extreme neonate…

            • Posted July 4, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

              I do not think that the fetus’ ability to feel pain is a ground to ban abortion; to me, it is rather ground to include in the abortion procedure anesthesia for the fetus. I have heard that some US conservative legislators are fighting to include such anesthesia in order to emotionally blackmail the pregnant woman and to make abortion more difficult. This put aside, I think that the idea is good. I have undergone screening tests well into the second trimester, with a fetus fairly big, with completely human shape and surely capable of some reflexes, if not of real pain. If he had been diagnosed with some malformation, and if I had decided to abort him, I think I’d prefer him to receive anesthesia. (I am using masculine because his sex was known by that time.)

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted July 4, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

              The capacity to feel pain can’t be the whole story, since animals have that capacity and yet as a society we apparently feel it’s morally permissible to kill them for our convenience, so long as we make an effort to do it humanely (i.e. without unnecessary pain).

              If the rules are different for human fetuses, we have to ask ourselves why they’re different, and whether the difference is justified.

              • Canoe
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

                Sure, but I’m not up for fighting more than one galactic war at a time.

          • Posted July 4, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

            Ah, a trolly car morality question–someone has to die. From a social welfare perspective, saving the baby would save the most expected life years, but the baby is not likely to be self aware yet, so save the mother. Or, do a Solomon and let the mother make the decision since she has the greatest interest in both lives.

            • Posted July 4, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

              Do not let the mother make the decision, to emotionally blackmail her into accepting her death, or to burden her with eternal guilt if she prefers to live. Save her without asking. 1) She is self-aware. 2) Imagine, in the opposite case, what life you are actually saving. What it means to grow without a mother and to learn that your mother has been left to die so that you can live.

              • Cindy
                Posted July 4, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

                I am going to try to condense several replies into one comment:

                1) Pro-life legislators don’t actually care about fetal pain. Birth squeezes, deforms and crushes the fetal skull. I imagine that getting your skull crushed would be pretty darn painful eh? So where is the concern for fetal pain during birth?

                2) Regarding letting the mother die to save the fetus, there is the case of Angela Carder:

                Nonetheless, and despite medical testimony that such a procedure would probably end Carder’s life, an order was issued authorizing the hospital to perform an immediate C-section. Obstetricians at the hospital initially refused to carry out the procedure, but eventually one reluctantly agreed. A three-judge appellate panel upheld the decision in an emergency telephone appeal, despite Carder’s own repeated pleas of “I don’t want it done.”

                3) Pro-lifers refuse to answer my question because then they are forced to abandon their argument that fetus and woman are 100% equal. If they save the mother, they are admitting that the fetus is not yet a fully realized person like her, which works against the pro life argument that abortion is murder. If they save the fetus, they are admitting that they consider women to be of lesser value.

                A pro lifer once said that embryos are more valuable than women, and newborn infants, because a freshly formed zygote has 80 years + 9 months ahead of it, whereas a newborn has already lived those 9 months, so it is less valuable. I mean seriously, WTF?

              • Posted July 4, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

                Hmm. Making a decision for an adult woman that she might feel should be her own to make. Is that not that paternalistic?

              • Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

                To me, not. I regard the wish to live as default. We do not offer people the option to die for other people, unless we already consider the lives of the former person already devalued. Besides, it is very likely that the woman will not be fully conscious by this time.
                How do you feel about the Catholic church giving sainthood to women who preferred death to abortion?

              • Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

                “If you are the first to choose, you must choose the smaller piece.”

      • Don Quijote
        Posted July 5, 2016 at 5:26 am | Permalink

        At 40.

    • Helen Hollis
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 1:09 am | Permalink

      I remember a Jewish girl I met when I was very young who told me that her faith required her to value life. I realized later on that she was talking about her older married sister who almost died giving birth. Her sister lived, thankfully.
      I wonder what would have happened if she would have lived closer to the Catholic hospital to this day.

  33. Dale Franzwa
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Excellent discussion. I too am pro-abortion, no restrictions. I think one additional fact needs mentioning. Planned Parenthood statistics show that most women who come to them for abortions do so because they are married, already have children, and are poor. They want an abortion because one more child would take food out of the mouths of their other children. This, alone, is justification enough for legal abortion. The anti-abortionists never seem to consider the consequences of their rigid position. Don’t get me wrong, other reasons are also valid.

  34. Lauren
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    The father of the fetus in question should have some say regarding an abortion, but ultimately it is the woman’s choice.

    I am not interested in the opinion of any man, other than a potential father of an existing fetus, who wants to restrict a woman’s right to make and carry out decisions regarding her body.

    • agender
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      Do you mean a rapist???
      Or are you speaking as heterosexual (and thinking of consent situations only)?
      Mind: LAWS in half of US federal states and most of Europe gives even a convicted rapist FATHER RIGHTS over woman and child forever – and these laws are just as horrible as abortionforbidderlaws.
      Such a legal situation should warn off any woman from having a child!

  35. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    As others have pointed out, men can have supportive voices.

    In Victoria Australia there were some bad old days. 1969
    Abortion was illegal and the police and others were in the back yard abortion racket.
    A doctor called Bertram Wainer started campaigning for abortion rights.
    He receives multiple death threats from police and survived 3 attempts on his life.
    This started the ball rolling for effectively abortion on demand.
    An inquiry into police corruption named many problems.
    But, as is the way, most got off scot free.

  36. Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    As a male favoring unrestricted reproductive choice, I also favor unrestricted speech. It seems to me a sorry state of affairs that inclines this Seltz person to advocate the silencing not only of those with whom she disagrees, but of an entire half of humankind, based on her own genetic profiling (selection by configuration of chromosomes) — this apparently simply to protect her own delicate sensibilities.

  37. Diane G.
    Posted July 5, 2016 at 4:00 am | Permalink


  38. dave78981
    Posted July 5, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    This fits a pattern on the left of various groups attempting to silence both critics and supporters by claiming only members of the aggrieved group has any right to speak or be heard on the subject. Obviously false but also detrimental to forming coalitions centered around an issue. Telling would be supporters to stfu limits severely the natural allies that revolve around various lefty issues.

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