Beserk Paternalism? Should we mount a protest?

What  in the world could they be thinking?

From the NY Times:

The Oklahoma Legislature voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to override vetoes of two highly restrictive abortion measures, one making it a law that women undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before having an abortion.

Though other states have passed similar measures forcing women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, requiring a doctor or technician to set up the monitor where the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

The second measure passed into law Tuesday protects doctors from malpractice suits if they decide not to inform the parents of a unborn baby that the fetus has birth defects. The intent of the bill is to prevent parents from later suing doctors who withhold information to try to influence them against having an abortion.

The governor, Brad Henry, a democrat, vetoed the first on the grounds that it didn’t exempt rape and incest, and violated a woman’s privacy.  The second he labeled as immoral.  Right!

This kind of disregard for the rights of othersin order to preserve a fetus does seem to me to be psychopathological.  It  is very hard to believe that the legislators’ desire for control has left them with any empathy for anything more than a fetus.

This may make linking immodesty to earthquakes fairly small beans.  Will we feminists just stand by?


I’ve just discovered Stoat’s earlier post on this topic here.

66 thoughts on “Beserk Paternalism? Should we mount a protest?

  1. And Oklahoma is added to the list of states I will never set foot in until this insanity is overturned. The lack of respect for women is breathtaking. Astonishing. There are no words.

  2. I’m trying to think of an effective protest… Does Oklahoma have any exports I can stop buying in the mean time?

  3. JJ, you know me well enough by now. If I respond the way I want to respond to the commenter I know you know I want to respond to, would you be tempted to blast me for it?

  4. Does Oklahoma have any exports I can stop buying in the mean time?

    College football? I guess you don’t really buy it.

  5. Intrigued by Kathryn’s comment #3
    (No, that’s not who I was referring to in #5–Kathryn’s never needed any kind of trollbashing from my keyboard–I usually agree with her comments)
    I looked up some key names on the Oklahoma senate and house of representatives, thinking that maybe there would be some kind of business that united this little old boys’ network. Why hurt innocent Oklahomans by boycotting products grown&manufactured by people who may or may not support this paternalistic bs, right? Better to hit the rich white boys themselves, right in the family jewels.

    I’m more disturbed than ever. The common professions I found among the representatives and senators I looked up were law enforcement and armed forces. Scary.

  6. Two things that I think would help prevent these kinds of laws from seeming acceptable would be to also discuss the violation of liberty (not just privacy), since freedom seems to be a powerful rhetorical value in USA discussions. The second thing, related to the first, would be to talk about these laws as “government forced pregnancy/birth,” or “government control/takeover of pregnancy/birth,” or at least “government interference with pregnancy and birth” as discussed by Figleaf here. Each of these captures some rhetoric that seems to be rather powerful in the USA, or at least has been when used by the Republicans.

    Canada’s abortion access is far from perfect, but the court decision that struck down abortion in the criminal code did mention both women’s liberty rights and took a stand against government-forced pregnancy. I think in Canada this language has helped prevent laws like these from seeming reasonable, since one would have to argue in favour of restricting women’s liberty and in favour of allowing the government to force pregnancy. Neither of these arguments are very palatable.

  7. The real irony here is that the supporters of these measures are the same types of people who have objected to health care reform because it “puts the government between a patient and their doctor”.

    Uh huh.

  8. Xena, we really have to be respectful. It makes the blog better.

    Nice point, J-Bro.

    Bakka, your point relates interestingly to J-Bro’s; presumably the rhetoric helps the legislators and the voters ignore the conflict.

  9. J-Bro makes a good point. But there is a flip-side to it. Calling this ‘berserk paternalism’ with the implication that that’s bad is just as ironic, since HCR’s individual mandate is more paternalistic and yet was not opposed here for that reason.

    I’m not saying these laws are ok, but paternalism is a red herring unless you actually oppose it in general (or at least have a coherently justified position as to when it’s ok) rather than only when doing so supports your views.

  10. Anonymous, it’s beserk paternalism that’s the target.

    Paternalism is itself a very, very complex issue; I’m not sure whether we’d agree on the paternalism you see in the bill, but my view is that a paternalism that does address a very major ill in the society should be seriously considered.

  11. xena, also, one wants to refrain from feeding the trolls. Don’t give them the attention they are asking for.

  12. I know, JJ. I dropped the trollbashing thing. Does the site have me on some kind of keyword watchdog auto-delete mechanism or something? Last night, I actually did some research on the Oklahoma house of representatives, senate, Dan Sullivan the author of the legislation, and the excessively vocal right to life group that pushed for this veto override.

    My comment disappeared. I hope you can post it, because I discovered some interesting facts about these lawmakers that might be worth discussing.

  13. jj, I agree both that paternalism is very complex and that if it addresses a very major ill it should be considered. The point is simply that for people who consider the fetus to have natural rights this is such a case: even if they believe a woman has a right to have the fetus killed (which many of them don’t, obviously) they want to make sure she sees what she’s going to have killed because there’s a chance that _some_ of these women would change their minds, and the value of the lives saved in those cases will for them outweigh the inconvenience/unpleasantness to those women who don’t change their minds.

    Now, if you say it’s ‘berserk’ that’s key, I would again agree, but would like to see some criteria for it that don’t beg the question. You can bet that libertarians would call the individual mandate ‘berserk paternalism’, whereas the people mentioned above would not consider the ultrasound law berserk at all, but rather perfectly reasonable paternalism.

    I’m not trying to be difficult, it’s just that the people who favor this law also deserve some empathy and there seem to be a lot of them in Oklahoma.

  14. I was thinking that, since I jumped in on an other topic here, and it was a pleasant experience (mostly), I’d try another post. However, I suspect I might be met with fire and brimstone were I to question this post. Oh well, I’m already typing.

    I don’t understand how this is paternalism, unless you think of the state as paternal instead of maternal, or without gender. Do you really think that it is only males that support these types of laws?

    I don’t understand how being required to face a picture of the baby in your womb, before deciding to kill it, is somehow forcing something on you. Compared to an abortion, an ultra-sound is seriously quick, easy, and safe.

    Also, this is only, disregard for others rights, if you consider an unborn to have no claim to life at all. Clearly some hold that position, but some consider it to be a human life, worthy of constitutional protections. Babies are born, and live, as early as 21 weeks. I wouldn’t agree necessarily, but I could understand more if abortion was restricted to prior to a point of potential viability. Making it available at any time during pregnancy seems blind to me. These laws hardly seem worthy of protest, unless you are thinking of it in terms of a slippery slope. If so, there is no mention here of that thinking.

  15. “The lack of respect for women is breathtaking. Astonishing. There are no words.”

    The lack of respect for UNBORN women is breathtaking. Astonishing. There are no words.

  16. Anonymous: Do you really think there’s any justification for coercing women into pregnancy? For forcing a woman to surrender her body to another life that she doesn’t want inside of her? Anyone who supports this sort of terrorism obviously thinks a fetus is more valuable than a fully-formed, functioning woman who already has a life to lead. That is berserk, and also sick and vicious.

    Those who would force birth and pregnancy on a woman against her will are supporting indefensible tactics, particularly by refusing to make exceptions for victims of sexual assault.

    I just don’t know what those of us outside of Oklahoma can do about repealing this.

  17. Most of the case studies I’ve read about incest victims show a high percentage of breaks with reality and tendencies toward self-mutilation and suicidal ideation.

    But go ahead and convince me– if you think you can–that forcing these CHILDREN to look at the rapist spawn growing in their bellies or having empathy for the men who want to force them to do so will have positive effects on the girls, their offspring, or American society as a whole.

  18. Wow Jess, tell us how you really feel!

    I fail to see how not aiding in ridding you of an unborn, is forcing pregnancy on you. If a woman becomes pregnant, outside of rape, it was her choice to take the chance to become pregnant. That is unless there are more cases of virgin pregnancy than I’m aware of.

  19. Mike- I don’t think one would have to think that fetuses have no rights in order to think that this is disregarding someone’s rights. You need only think that if a fetus has rights, those rights don’t supercede the rights of the woman.

  20. off topic: Jess, is your pic, Zoe, from Firefly? I can’t quite make it out. Well, regardless, Zoe (and Firefly) rocks.

  21. Kathryn, what rights does the woman have that could supersede the right to life? Isn’t the right to life, the most important, and the one that is necessary for any other rights to exist? Additionally, in nearly all cases, the woman made a choice to allow for pregnancy. That gives her the opportunity for choice, without ending the life of the unborn. Extending her right to choose whether to be pregnant or not to after the fact, necessarily takes a life, and only really infringes on her comfort (yes, that’s putting it lightly).

  22. O NO! Let’s NOT debate abortion. We went through this before here. No one changes and the idea that there’s even a discussion is really fake.

    Mike, you are on a blog right now where there are a number of philosphy professors from different countries, some of whom have been fairly rigorously trained in a religion. Some of us have taught and thought about this issue for decades. It is not possible for you to make a point we haven’t heard before – probably hundreds if not thousands of times.

    Mind you, of course, if anyone wants to pound their head against this particular brick wall, of course I can’t stop you.

  23. Mike, I am not sure whether you have read Margaret Olivia Little’s piece about the way that the experience of pregnancy can differ dramatically depending on the circumstances, but I find it really helpful but behind a pay-wall I believe. Little argues that there is a difference between consenting to sex and consenting to pregnancy. For example, if one uses bc, then one has actually taken steps to avoid pregnancy while at the same time consenting to sex.

    The right to life is usually taken as a negative right, as in I cannot kill you, but I also have no obligation to actively support your life or the conditions required to sustain your life (isn’t this also part of what the tea party is talking about–r.e. your other post–when they object to taxes to pay for programs?). This is, I think, one of the things that makes abortion a complex question, because the two become linked in the case of pregnancy. The Little article above touches on this, as does the JJ Tompson piece on abortion when she talks about the Violinist hooked to your kidneys. I think there are serious problems with treating issues of rights around abortion as analogous to other things, because other rights involve two individuals with two bodies where one is not “inside” the other.

  24. Bakka: O no! I wouldn’t have stopped your spot on comment for anything. You’ve put it so well. Great link.

  25. JJ, I appreciate your point. I don’t intend to bash my head against the wall, and I would hope that I don’t come across as one who would be a wall. Not that I’m not self-aware enough, or unprincipled enough to think that I’m going to change my mind easily, but I also don’t think I have heard every angle, or view, despite having many, many discussions on this topic myself. Also, while not being a professor, my areas of study were philosophy and religion. Maybe that’s why with my very limited experience here, I feel somewhat welcome already.

  26. Bakka, unfortunately I can only read the preview.

    I agree and understand that there is certainly a difference between consenting to sex, and consenting to pregnancy. However I’d think that was more one of education than one of different choices. I guess it kinda seems like if you invest in a company, that with all the research you can do seems like a fairly certain, and mildly profitable risk, but it has a small chance of losing all your whole investment. When you committed to the investment, you should have know that losing it all was possible however unlikely. Even if you didn’t know, it seems it was still your choice, just an uneducated one.

    I wish I could read the full article.

    On your second point, true, normally one has no responsibility to support another life. If considered in an amoral system, removing support from the unborn would be perfectly permissible. I simply choose to err on the side of greater morality and responsibility to ones choices. I see the choice to have sex, as one that involves risk. Those risks are varied, but the risk of pregnancy is there, no matter how small, in every instance. In my way of thinking, one should take personal responsibility for the choices they make, even if they don’t go as planned.

    Yes, I know, some would argue that abortion would be taking responsibility. I can’t disagree. It just comes down to how one values life. I choose to value life high enough that I consider abortion wrong, and I see nothing wrong with wanting people to make informed decisions about choosing to abort, or the more noble choice of carrying to term, and keeping or adopting out the baby.

  27. I don’t want to debate this, but I would highly recommend both the Little paper and the Thomson paper. They might be available at a library or she has some other book chapters listed on her website also emailing her might be one idea for accessing the paper.

    The last paragraph that you write is interesting to me because I was going to add another comment not to you but about the two provisions, which is the first one makes some amount of sense to me if it were justified as helping to promote informed consent (though even here that is a bit of a stretch because usually for other medical procedures you are not forced to for e.g. see an ultrasound of your tumors, or visit with people who chose to or not to undergo the treatment you are considering). But the second provision is anti-providing information that might promote informed consent. As a pair I find them very strange.

  28. Jess:

    What are you talking about? The ultrasound law doesn’t force anyone to become pregnant or carry a fetus to birth. It doesn’t make abortion illegal. All it forces on anyone is to watch an ultrasound before having an abortion, and if even a small percentage of them on average then _choose_ not to have an abortion it could well be argued to be justified (but obviously not if you assume the fetus’ life has no value at all).

  29. So how do men whose professions–before serving on the senate and the house of representatives–were mostly in law enforcement and the armed forces consider themselves qualified to predict how (child?) incest victims will react to ultrasound images of the fetuses that were forced into their wombs?

  30. Sorry jj! I didn’t mean to be bothersome by opening that door. But just to give you some hope that it’s not all head-bashing and brick walls, I used to be pro-life and over time came to change my view (albeit through a number of discussions, not simply one).

  31. Kathryn, please – no need to apologize!! I’m thinking mostly that people who come onto feminist blogs and start off by declaring their view are not interested in changing their minds.

    In other contexts, it is certainly possible.

  32. I agree Kathryn, that the second provision seems to almost be the opposite of the first. Although, I find it strange that a doctor would refuse to share pertinent medical information with a patient, for any reason. It is not a doctors job to protect me from my own decisions, even were those decisions to contradict his opinion.

  33. Let me add that it is reasonable for the owners of any blog to be concerned about what they provide a public platform for. In addition, one of the prime goals of this site is to provide a place where feminists particularly feel comfortable. You’ll see – it’s already occurring in this discussion – that people will mischaracterize what pro-choice people think, get insulting (I’ve already removed one) and so on.

  34. And Xena, I just discovered 4 comments of yours in the spam box. I don’t know what is going on!

  35. JJ, if I say anything, or push the climate here in a direction you don’t want, I will easily move on. I have no interest in making people uncomfortable. So if you don’t want my participation, please just ask. I included my email, so if that’s preferable, you can email me.

  36. @jj- Just to clarify (although I don’t think you were taking my comment this way, but just in case) my comment wasn’t meant to criticize not wanting an abortion debate on this blog, but rather just to provide hope, through an example, that not all of these frustrating sorts of conversations are exercises in intellectual masochism.

    @Xena- excellent question. I would think for incest or rape victims it might be traumatizing.

  37. Just trying to be mindful of the manners policies, JJ. Last night, I did some serious research on the representatives and senators that overturned the veto. The bio of Anthony J Lauinger, founder and 35-year lobbyist of Oklahomans for Life is particularly troubling. He’s a retired navy officer (?!?)

    I’m reminded of a xtian argument Jen McCreight mentioned on her atheist site (and it still makes my stress vein pop when we cover it in classes on free will&determinism) God& the patriarchy say it’s so, therefore it’s so. Do the right thing, eat your vegetables and quit arguing with me or I’ll call you irresponsible.

    Say what? How do you confuse a hick? Put him/her in a circular room and tell him/her to pee in the corner.

    Unless anybody can enlighten me, I’ll have to conclude that these men think they’re qualified to do this because they’re men, they wear the uniforms and carry the guns, and they believe that god tells them it’s right. Forget about any net benefit or detriment to the women, rape and incest victims, their fetuses, or American society as a whole. Take a look at the end of the story in Stoat’s link for more on their stance on school funding–which is where these unwanted fetuses will be in a few short years. Deplorable.

    Also, I brought up a point in a comment that got accidentally spammed. My descriptions may have been a little gruesome, so go ahead and delete that one. I’ll re-phrase it now. Most of the studies I’ve read on incest survivors suggest high rates of extreme self-hatred, including drug addiction, self-mutilation, abusive partners and suicidal ideation. Some even suffer from breaks with reality, including borderline personality disorder. I suspect that forcing incest victims to look at ultrasound images of their unborn fetuses may accomplish the exact opposite of “saving more lives”. And what kind of an adopted life will a crack baby of a dead mother have anyway, even if they do manage to save it?

    Maybe this extreme form of victim-bashing was exactly what the okees in blue had in mind when they overturned the veto. Or maybe they’re working from the psychotic notion that seeing a fetus will somehow fill these girls with some divine spirit and allow them to experience some kind of “salvation”.

    I say let them (potential moms) figure out how to work and pay the bills first. Wishing for love from god or man is absurd when you have no food in your belly and you have to sleep in a park, or live through abuse and torture every day.

  38. I’m glad you found those, JJ. I was wondering about that. Please post the comment pertaining to the Fishy Example discussion.

    I guess you can delete the 3 pertaining to this post. I repeated most of that commentary in #43.

  39. Kathryn, your question about boycotting a product in protest was what propelled me to do the research into the Oklahoma Legislature in the first place. I thought that, like many old boys’ networks, there might be a common business interest uniting this crew. THAT would be the perfect product to boycott, rather than possibly harming innocent Oklahomans who may or may not have anything to do with this brand of misogyny.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t find many commonalities outside of military and police deputy service. But that alone is an alarming correlation. If anybody has anything further, I’d like to know more.

  40. Xena- I thought about that too last night… except, then I sort of wondered about the margins by which these folks were elected, or the popular support for the bills, because then to that extent, I wouldn’t feel so badly about the impact on non-politicians.

    The only large companies I could really find though anyway, were energy companies, a large Coke bottling plant in OK (except that none of that soda makes it to my state), and Quik Trip (which has no locations in my state). And as Matt pointed out, you don’t really buy college football…

  41. Yeah, the best I could do was a financial publication that discussed Canada as their biggest export destination in 08. The products were machines and pipes. “Boycott pipes for incest victims” doesn’t exactly have the same ring as “In the name of science I offer my boobs”.

    Brad Pitt’s an okee who supports stem cell research, but suggesting that we spend more time oggling Brad to protect women from unwanted pregnancy carries implications that I don’t even want think about debating with a bunch of fundies, or Angelina&the kids.

    Wait a minute–did you say Coke? As in I’d like to teach the world to THINK… What will the infants be? Force child moms to give up youth and live in slavery… It’s a real shame… for the victims of rape…Ultrasounds in their face…It’s a real pain…

    The jingle needs a little work, but it’s starting to sound like a great marching song. Boycotting something like Coke might actually accomplish something. Sisters, what say you?

  42. Xena:

    Your points about the likely reactions of incest and rape victims are well-taken. This is an empirical matter: how harmful it is to them to have to watch an ultrasound and how likely it is that they’ll decide not to have an abortion.

    I’m not claiming the lawmakers in question have the answer to it. But this empirical fact by itself will not settle the issue, since there is also the question of the value one attaches to a fetus not being aborted. Some people and some philosophers (e.g. Tooley) attach none at all, many pro-lifers obviously attach a whole lot, and I suppose there is a spectrum between these. This issue is not as easily settled through empirical studies.

    Now, I think we don’t disagree on too much here. You think these lawmakers are way off, and at least with regard to rape or incest victims you make a strong case.

    But then you say “And what kind of an adopted life will a crack baby of a dead mother have anyway, even if they do manage to save it?” This is rather extreme, the implication being that a life we don’t consider good is expendable or less worth consideration. They could parody it: “What kind of life will a stauch atheist have anyway?” or “What kind of life will a severely traumatized incest victim have anyway?” Or, to put it differently, isn’t your question itself a case of blaming the victim (the crack baby)?

  43. Could we be a bit more guarded about what the “facts” are? There are controversies we don’t want to cover up, and, unfortunately, a lot of assertions about characteristics of one type of victim or another are hardly the product of well-designed studies. A lot come from interpretations highly motivated by theories that have no scientific recognition.

    Somewhere – someone may find it if they have the time to do the search – we reported on a new book (I think) that argued that women who stay in abusive relationships often do so because they’ve been threatened with worse harm to themselves or their children if they leave. And, given the news I read, the fear is very realistic.

    Many theorists in the past have wanted to find what the victim really likes about her victimhood; it is getting more common to realize that they may – and probably are – other reasons for staying in abusive relationships.

    Somewhat similarly, I suggest we be careful about incest victims. The characteristics of those that get reported may be different from those that are not.

    It isn’t that the latter point is relevant to this debate, but it may not be a good policy to insist that those who were the victims of incest have to be totally screwed up now. There may be incest survivors who are just fine right now, and don’t need to be told they are in denial or some such.

    And in fact one recent study claims that the real trauma from pedophilia and so on is the social setting, with the attendant self-blame and so on. We discussed that here too, and I have a minute or two to look for it.

  44. jj, I think your point about being careful with how we characterize people is wise. Too often, when people are told over and over that they are a victim, or how terrible it must be to endure such an experience, we don’t really give them the credit, or the room to overcome and move on. Human history has plenty of examples of people who went through hell and back, and made what, at least from the outside, looks like a good life. If we dwell on the tragedy, it’s easy to over emphasize the struggle, and doom them to failure.

  45. Anon, if you’ve read my comments on other posts, you’ll see that I’m the last person who would ever make a classist remark. I’ve seen some of the most apalling forms of classism firsthand, and risked personal injury to defend others from racist attacks in gratitude for the help that they (the victims) offered me when I was down on my luck.

    My comment was in the interests ofprotecting the victim from a life of torture– being tossed around from state orphanages to people like Joel Steinberg to the juvie prison system and/or mental institutions and park benches for the rest of his/her life. With no mother to care for the child, any child born with serious birth defects stands less than a 50/50 chance of receiving adequate care from strangers. Euthanasia is far more humane.

    Btw, I’m a single parent of 2 kids, one severely disabled. Thanks to similar womb-patrolling tactics from the holy rollers where I live (even though I CHOSE to sacrifice everything for my boy) they’re with relatives until I can regroup and continue my fight. All too often, the hijacking of women’s bodies doesn’t stop with forced childbirth. Forcing her to give her child away is often the next step and only reduces her to the status of a broodmare.

    What kind of a life will a staunch atheist have? I can’t say I know too many who suffer from suicidal thoughts, or self loathing, given that most of them don’t believe in an afterlife. Most of them report a deeper satisfaction with what’s right in front of them, given that they don’t believe in angels and so on. Though some of them are a little unimaginative, they tend to be pretty fair in their dealings with others; again, worldly concerns being their primary motivation.

    That’s a lot more than I can say for a majority of the several dozen fostercare survivors I’ve met–2 of whom died before the age of 21. The American fostercare system is no place for a disabled child. I am most definitely NOT blaming the victims for that. Just stating that some of the stories I’ve heard, read, studied, etc. are apalling enough to justify euthanising a fetus.

  46. Just to be clear, since jj brought it up, I don’t mean to imply I have any knowledge of such empirical matters. And the reference to “severely traumatized incest victims” should not be taken to imply anything about what fraction or which types of incest victims are severely traumatized nor in what ways (for I also have no knowledge at all about this): it was merely a parody of the question regarding crack babies (about whom I also have no knowledge) designed to show it is very problematic.

    In other words, I don’t lay claim to any empirical knowledge about any of these matters, but am only trying to identify the kind of reasoning I’m guessing proponents of this law probably have in mind (if they have any at all).

  47. Xena:

    I’m afraid you missed my point, I didn’t mean to imply you were classist. You write: “With no mother to care for the child, any child born with serious birth defects stands less than a 50/50 chance of receiving adequate care from strangers. Euthanasia is far more humane.”

    What I mean is simply that it’s not for you to decide whether another person would be better off dead. Involuntary euthanasia may be justifiable in some cases, but you seem to be trying to justify it for a whole category of people because their circumstances are miserable and many of them become suicidal. But I’m sure at least some are grateful for being alive, and I don’t see how you could justify preemptive euthanasia being humane for them. Maybe you think that preemptive involuntary euthanasia is more easily justified so that aborting fetuses who would grow up and not wish they hadn’t been born is fine, but that’s begging the question on the status of a fetus.

  48. anonymous, I didn’t mean to imply that you had made such claims.

    I don’t think Xena was supposing she could decide; she was simply giving a value judgment, and she does have the right to say what she thinks is humane or not.

  49. What I find offensive about this law is that an ultrasound of the fetus at an early stage of the pregnancy is a vaginal ultrasound – the doctor inserts a stick into your vagina while you’re in stirrups. Most women undergo gynecological examinations only reluctantly, because it is medically necessary – it is something to be avoided unless the consequences of not having the examination are potentially serious for your health (guys, compare having a colonoscopy be required for undergoing an entirely unrelated, legal procedure.)

    The Oklahoma requirement is punitive, pure and simple, and has nothing to do with medicine.

    It suggests that no decision a woman makes prior to undergoing the medically unnecessary, invasive procedure can be an informed decision. In other words, your decision to have an entirely legal procedure is regarded as provisional and non-authoritative until you have allowed yourself to be penetrated with an ultrasound instrument by a medical representative of the State of Oklahoma. I wouldn’t hesitate to call this state-mandated rape.

  50. I get it, Anon. You’re just pointing out weak spots in my reasoning that the other side could use. No offense taken. But when I say that a right should be extended to a group on the basis of their hardships, I’m not ignoring the slippery slopers. Empirical evidence works well against that objection, too.

    Yeah, maybe some people will blow themselves up or abort their fetuses or use their automobiles as weapons because their ability to self govern is lacking. But very few of them do. True emergencies where people need to kill to protect–themselves or a sick person/fetus–are also extremely rare. I’m just saying that the option to defend oneself in a true emergency should be codified in law, along with the right to not get raped on a public street, because, well shit happens. Locks and laws are designed to keep honest people honest. There comes a point where overprotective government policing manouevres become invasive and offensive. This is one of them.

    But to get on about that just brings us back to J Jarvis Thomson, violinists and Henry Fonda. So, I’ll let somebody else take the stage. ttfn.

  51. Wow, just wow. Abortion is such an important topic but to see so much vitriol on both sides? I really though BO’s comment that everyone in this debate needed to get real would have some sort of impact.

    Here in the UK around 25% of what would be live births are aborted. Not sure what it is in the UK. I’m just very, very glad someone didn’t abort me.

  52. GNW, it would be helpful if you could be specific about what you feel is vitriol.

    Let me add that lots and lots of fertilized eggs are spontaneiously aborted, so you ought also to be glad that nature didn’t arrange for you to be flushed down the toilet.

    And I now request that we not debate the value of a fetus. Let’s end this part of the discussion.

  53. These laws can be condemned based purely on a medical ethics viewpoint, without needing to address the question of whether abortion should be permitted.

    The first one mandates that women receive a specific invasive medical procedure (vaginal ultrasound), despite a lack of medical necessity, with no opportunity for the patient to withhold consent, and with no opportunity for the physician to exercise medical judgment about whether it is appropriate.

    The second one permits (in practice encourages) a physician to lie to his or her patient, which is a grave breach of the profession’s code of ethics, by saying there can be no recourse if the physician does so in specific situations.

    None of these things are remotely okay from a medical ethics perspective, even if you think that abortions aren’t okay either.

  54. So J-Bro, how did the military mob overturn the veto if it’s that simple? Is there something bassackwards about red-state politics that gives military people more say than doctors?

    Where I am, abortion is such a non-issue, our opposition is actually using it to taunt the PM about the next election. He knows that we the people will toss Harper out on his ass if he even tries to make it an issue. And our military will never have more say in medical procedures than our doctors.

    What is up with that?

  55. Hey J-Bro, we are pretty simpatico! See my comment at 32 yours at 60, and then ours at 9 and 10. Seems like we see the issue in very similar ways!

    Xena, I think it is actually a problem that we are so “non-issue” about abortion in Canada. We still have loads of problems. In some provinces there are no abortion providers at all (PEI), New Brunswick only has one clinic and has tones of restrictions on abortion, in rural areas there are very few if any providers. Each of these mean women living in these areas have a very difficult time accessing abortion, even if it is technically legal. This is especially true for girls and young women since it can be difficult for them to travel.

    One thing that most Canadians are not aware of is that although almost every other medical procedure is covered by your home-province’s insurance even if it is done in another province, there is an exception for abortion service. Abortion is often not covered by the “reciprocal billing” agreements among provinces (with the exception of PEI, which is how PEI is able to have no providers, they will reimburse the procedure which is usually done in Nova Scotia).

    The lack of abortion coverage through reciprocal billing is actually quite a big deal. It disproportionately affects college and university students because these students are often still residents of the province where their parents live, but might attend university in another province. University-aged students are also at a time in their life when they do not have much money, and might be beginning to have sexual encounters. Combine those factors, with the fact that university-aged women are often unprepared to bear a child and a pregnancy could have serious adverse effects on their education and debt-load (e.g. taking time away from classes can make one lose eligibility for loans and scholarships, especially if one does not want to report the reasons for time-away). Often university age women (like most other Canadians) are not aware of the out-of-province funding restrictions on abortions and are not financially prepared to pay for one if it is needed (the male partner is often in a similarly bad financial situation). I have personally seen this happen to several of my friends and students. I think it is serious enough that I usually mention it in classes I teach, because there is wide-spread unawareness about this access-problem.

    There is a pretty informative article a The Mark on this issue, although it is misleadingly titled “Legalize Abortion” because it is part of a ban it/legalize it series they are doing. Abortion is, of course, legal as there are no laws against abortion. But the article is addressing the various other ways that the service is restricted in Canada.

  56. Xena: I know in your earlier comment that you said that military service was a commonality among legislators who supported the law, but if there’s anything to that I’d expect it’s simply a reflection of the correlation in the US between military service and conservative political views generally. Even that correlation isn’t perfect by any means. If I had to bet, my answer would be that Oklahoma Republicans (and maybe even some Democrats) prefer to elect candidates who have served.

    Physicians’ groups in the US tend to stay away from the live wire of abortion, likely because their membership is divided on the matter. I would have been gratified to see the Oklahoma AMA standing up against these laws, but if they did we didn’t hear about it in the national press. Interestingly, the second law is mute on the question of whether state licensing boards could sanction the physician for failing to meet standards of care, so while patients can’t sue it’s possible that some action could be taken against the physician’s license.

  57. Bakka: it does sound like we’re close on the topic. Incidentally, you will see the pro-choice side framing abortion bans as “forced birth” or “government ownership of uteruses”, but it has no effect on the anti-choice side of the discussion. Their dialogue, and their concerns, aren’t about the woman at all. They are only concerned for the fetus.

  58. Bakka, I had no idea it was so difficult for middle class women to access abortion here. The girls I knew that had to choose were all from extremely poor families. There was some kind of a review process, but it was fairly straightforward for them.(legally–not emotionally.) The one young woman that did get stalled told me that it had something to do with her having more than one abortion. They let her go ahead with it anyway, second trimester bc she had a medical condition.

    J-Bro, my biomedical ethics guest lecturer’s arguments make a little more sense now. I see why he framed the counter arguments–or maybe I should say compromises–to right-to-life in terms of the size and age of the fetus, rather than suffering (except death) for the infant or the mother. When he told me that the time limit here was 12 weeks, bc that’s when the fetus “looks human” (?!?) I thought he was messing with me. But that’s just the way the religious right sees it. Thanks for that.

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