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Australia Bans Internet Access to Web Pages with Pictures of Aborted Fetuses?

That appears to be so according to a news site run by The Australian newspaper. The Australian blog Somebody Think Of The Children publishes what is said to be an e-mail from the government agency expressing its position (the text is consistent with one of the e-mails that The Australian is reporting about).

The site mentioned in the e-mail, http://www.abortiontv.com/Pics/AbortionPictures6.htm, indeed contains what purport to be pictures of aborted fetuses. They are quite gruesome, but in my view quite clearly legitimate aspects of political debate — even if one accepts the position (in my view an unsound position, but one that Western democracies outside the U.S. have generally accepted) that banning incitement to racial or religious violence or even racial or religious hostility is permissible.

According to the Australian Minister for Communications, Stephen Conroy,

Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there has never been any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content.

Thanks to BNA's Internet Law News for the pointer.

Sarcastro (www):
I know no one yells at me with my gruesome appendectomy pictures when I go out for my one man crusade against the killing and removal of God's bonus organ.
3.17.2009 1:11pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
While I can't address whether the Australian government is actually taking this position or not, it doesn't seem implausible given that Australia has in most respects the strictest censorship policies of any major "Anglosphere" nation.
3.17.2009 1:16pm
Monty:
I think it is interesting that they ban linking to the wikileaks copy of the danish censored sites list. On the one hand it makes sense, because you don't want people browsing the banned sites list and using it as a resource to find illegal sites. But on the other, your blocking discussion about censorship. One of the greatest tools in the fight against censorship is the list of exactly what is being censored, so that you can point to examples of overreach and abuse. Ultimately, if it is accepted that the censor list itself may be censored (it is currently secret), then there is really no protection against its abuse.
3.17.2009 1:30pm
DangerMouse:
Abortion is the holy of holies of liberalism. If true, this wouldn't surprise me at all. Avoiding the truth of abortion is a necessary component of upholding the lie that it's not child murder.
3.17.2009 1:31pm
Houston Lawyer:
They'll be banning sites that question whether climate change is man made next.
3.17.2009 1:49pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Abortion is the holy of holies of liberalism. If true, this wouldn't surprise me at all. Avoiding the truth of abortion is a necessary component of upholding the lie that it's not child murder.

This is a really disgusting comment, DangerMouse. No, liberals aren't a bunch of murderers.

First, these photos are absolutely protected, and should be protected, as free speech. Most liberals would agree with me, too. Few people are trying to censor ordinary, or even inflammatory, discourse about abortion. Yes, there are some issues with clinic protests that block women from getting abortions, privacy invading home protests of doctors, threats, and the like. Not every pro-choicer even supports all those restrictsion. But if you are a pro-lifer in America, you have several different means of getting your message out. Nobody's stopping you. And pictures of dead fetuses are waived all the time at abortion protests. Nobody's suppressing "the truth".

But second, since we are talking about "the truth", these photos are of a fetus that has significant development. The vast, vast majority of abortions occur before this stage. A photo of what is vacuumed out in a typical vacuum-suction abortion would not be nearly as gruesome. A photo of what is typically expelled in an RU486 abortion would be unrecognizable as human. In other words, if these photos were being used to argue for a ban on late term abortions, they would have a lot of salience. But they have nothing to do with the vast, vast majority of abortions performed. They are not "the truth". They are spin.

Finally, there is no "lie" in the pro-choicer's position. Pro-choicers believe in women's rights. We believe that it is sometimes necessary for a woman to terminate her pregnancy, because she is not ready or able to bear a child, because of the hardship that the pregnancy, birth, and parenting will impose on her, because she might end up the victim of domestic violence or child abuse, or for other such compelling reasons. We are quite upfront about this and our belief that these rationales outweigh any potential life claim made on behalf of the fetus. Now, you can think that this is wrong. But there's no "lie" contained in that argument, simply a claim that women's rights are extremely important and that protecting the right to have an abortion is crucial to preserving and protecting those rights. That's a claim about values. Pro-lifers have different values. That's fine. But it doesn't make the pro-choice position a "lie".
3.17.2009 2:19pm
Abdul Abulbul Amir (mail):

Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there has never been any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content.




Now that the minister did not say that the government has never blocked political content, or that it never will. He was merely commenting about a hypothetical suggestion. Further, he may be saying that they will simply classify anything they seek to block as non-political.

Aborted fetuses? We block pictures of naked children so its quite non-political you see.
3.17.2009 2:27pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
From Wikileaks:

An Australian anti-censorship activist submitted the page to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), requesting that they censor it, under their internal guidelines. The activist wished to expose the "slippery scope" of the proposed Mandatory Internet Censorship scheme.

The press release and the list itself have now been placed into the secret Australian government blacklist of "Prohibited Online Content".

The content on the blacklist is illegal to publish or link to in Australia, with fines of upto $11,000 a day for contraventions.
Go here for the whole thing.
3.17.2009 2:30pm
Patrick who once studied Con in Oz ergo is an expert :) (mail):
A) This is true.

B) I think it is possibly unconstitutional in Australia as well. Australia's High Court has found that the system of democratic government provided for in the Constitution implies that speech relevant to the political process and the formation of independent and informed opinions as to particular candidates is protected.

The protection is not absolute but is pretty strong - in the absence of express legislative words it would be very unlikely to be over-ridden. In this case I strongly doubt it is over-ridden by provisions whose legislative history (and the explanatory material thereto) is entirely about abusive and child pornography.

c) Hopefully someone with more detailed knowledge of the law than I can comment!!
3.17.2009 2:33pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"We believe that it is sometimes necessary for a woman to terminate her pregnancy, ..."

"We believe that it is sometimes necessary for a woman to hire someone to kill her living fetus,..."

Fixed that for you. We can argue as to whether abortion is murder, or at what point life begins, but let's at least use honest language. Your statement reminds me of "terminate with extreme prejudice." If you really believe something then don't hide behind euphemisms.

Full Disclosure: I am not Christian or any kind of religious fundamentalist. My opposition to abortion comes from my affection for innocent living things, which extends even to some animals.
3.17.2009 2:42pm
theobromophile (www):
Like A. Zarkov, I am a non-religious person with strong opposition to abortion. (I'm also a vegetarian, so no, I don't elevate the well-being of a blob of cells above that of a cow.)

That said, one of the strongest pro-life arguments is scientific (and, to some extent, visual): the heart beats 3 weeks after conception; at 8 weeks after conception, the foetus looks like a small person (hence the term, which means "little one"). There is a spinal cord somewhere around 6 weeks, IIRC. In short, we aren't talking about a "blob of cells," which makes most people think of a thing the size of a grain of sand with no discernible features. (In fact, when the cells begin to divide, scientists can pinpoint where the head will be.)

The visual aspect of this - which demonstrates the humanity of the unborn - is a crucial part of the pro-life argument. I happen to disagree with using pictures of aborted foetuses, for strategic reasons (all surgeries being bloody and gross, and feeling like unaborted foetuses and embryos would make much better visuals for our movement), but to make them illegal is to undermine one side, and only one side, of a debate.
3.17.2009 3:04pm
DangerMouse:
Dilan,

If you don't think that abortion is one of the foundations of modern liberalism, then you're crazy. It is heresy to dissent from abortion theology in liberalism today. I can point you to numerous examples of the left covering for abortion. Hell, CNN recently refused to air an ad congratulating Obama as president because it was from a pro-life group. Abortion is a holy thing for liberals and their media allies (probably talking a lot on JournaList).

Furthermore, there's plenty of info out there showing just how far freedom of speech, of assembly, of religon, and other freedoms have been trampled on in America because of the left's sacrament of abortion. Pro-lifers have been arrested on public sidewalks for praying or showing pictures of aborted fetuses. They've been threatened with expulsion from college for those activities.

And finally, of COURSE there's a lie about abortion. Why else would a child be deemed a "person" 1 second after birth and subject to all the protections of the law, but be deemed a "mass of cells" 1 second before birth, allowing a murderer to jam scissors into their skull and rip open its brains? The only way to believe that this is not child murder is by lying to yourself and everyone about it.

Then there's the hedging and the hewing that occurs when infanticide of born children occurs, like what happened in florida. Or the hemming and the hawing that occurs when Planned Parenthood covers up child rape, or counsels victims of child rape to lie about it, or accepts donations to abort black babies only. Nope, no lies here. None at all.
3.17.2009 3:15pm
Careless:

Pro-choicers believe in women's rights. We believe that it is sometimes necessary for a woman to terminate her pregnancy, because she is not ready or able to bear a child, because of the hardship that the pregnancy, birth, and parenting will impose on her, because she might end up the victim of domestic violence or child abuse, or for other such compelling reasons. We are quite upfront about this and our belief that these rationales outweigh any potential life claim made on behalf of the fetus.

If everyone agreed that getting an abortion had the same effect as walking up to someone on the street and shooting them in the head, you can be sure that the "women's rights" argument would be laughed off and abortions would be illegal. Now, it's not a lie, it's a genuine difference of opinion as to what, exactly, a fetus is.
3.17.2009 3:22pm
LN (mail):
See here:


I'm sure liberals are concerned about American soldiers. But unfortunately some liberals don't more about American lives than Iraq lives. This attitude is an outgrowth of the open borders, "citizen of the world" mentality, which posits that all folks everywhere are the same, and all lives are equally precious everywhere in the world. They have no preference for a resident of St. Louis over a resident of Baghdad.


A touching statement about the universal sanctity of life.
3.17.2009 3:42pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Pro-lifers have been arrested on public sidewalks for praying or showing pictures of aborted fetuses. They've been threatened with expulsion from college for those activities.

I'm not a fan of buffer zones as a constitutional matter, but we should be clear that those pro-lifers were on sidewalks where they were attempting to obstruct or make it difficult for women to enter abortion clinics. That's not quite as innocent as you make it sound.

And I don't know who was threatened with explusion of college, but that language suggests the threat was never carried out and there was no First Amendment violation. I do agree with your premise, that people shouldn't be thrown out of college for protesting abortion.

And finally, of COURSE there's a lie about abortion. Why else would a child be deemed a "person" 1 second after birth and subject to all the protections of the law, but be deemed a "mass of cells" 1 second before birth, allowing a murderer to jam scissors into their skull and rip open its brains?

And if 95 percent of abortions were 9th month partial birth abortions, that would be the relevant comparison. But in fact they aren't. The vast majority of medical abortions are first trimester abortions (mother nature aborts a ton of blastocysts as well, of course), and a significant percentage of those are RU486 abortions that occur just a few weeks into the pregnancy.

While I am not one of those who cavalierly refers to a first trimester fetus as a "mass of cells" (a blastocyst, however, does fit this discription), that's certainly closer to an accurate description of what is being removed from the woman's body than these photos or your description of an intact D&E is.

But as I said, in the end, this issue is really about women's rights anyway. It is of great import to the equality of women that they have full control over when and whether they have children, while also being able to enjoy a fulfilling sex life. The pro-choice movement isn't a bunch of callow murderers-- it's a bunch of people who care deeply about women and ensuring that they can make the choices necessary to live fulfilling and successful lives.
3.17.2009 3:46pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
If everyone agreed that getting an abortion had the same effect as walking up to someone on the street and shooting them in the head, you can be sure that the "women's rights" argument would be laughed off and abortions would be illegal. Now, it's not a lie, it's a genuine difference of opinion as to what, exactly, a fetus is.

It's not that simple. We permit some abortions of viable fetuses as well-- chiefly when there is a health threat to the woman-- even though we would consider it murder to kill those same beings at their same level of development outside the womb.

The reason is because "inside the womb" matters a lot. Preserving the fetus requires imposing on the rights of the woman, and since women's rights are extremely important (indeed, probably the central accomplishment of modern Western civilization), we can't credit the fetus' claims here even if we would credit them if the same being were outside the womb.
3.17.2009 3:50pm
DangerMouse:
Dilan,

If the issue is "really" about women's rights, then do you or do you not support 9th month partial birth abortions? Yes or no?

If yes, please explain to me why there isn't a lie involved, as I described above, and why it isn't "callow" murder for the law to permit a woman to have "full control" to the point of death over that child, just so she can have a "fulfilling sex life."
3.17.2009 3:51pm
Just a thought:
"mother nature aborts a ton of blastocysts as well, of course"

Yes, well, Mother Nature also kills 100% of born human beings.

Let's not use the argument that because the lives of some human beings end naturally, an individual should also have the right to end the lives of human beings.
3.17.2009 3:57pm
Careless:

The reason is because "inside the womb" matters a lot. Preserving the fetus requires imposing on the rights of the woman, and since women's rights are extremely important (indeed, probably the central accomplishment of modern Western civilization), we can't credit the fetus' claims here even if we would credit them if the same being were outside the womb.

I don't believe that, at all (and I say this as a supporter of abortion). "Inside the womb" is simply a convenient line to draw for where it is even a little acceptable for killing a human.

Fact is, my baby at two weeks old wasn't any sort of person, and I couldn't give a rational argument for why killing her then would have wronged her (obviously it would have wronged me and my wife). At 9 months, totally different story. When did that change? I couldn't tell you, and I don't think anyone can. So what do we do? Go to the one point we can point to, and make that the line.

Abortion supporters generally implicitly accept that it's increasingly more wrong to kill a fetus/baby as it gets older. For a, say, anti-abortion Catholic, there's basically no difference between killing a zygote, a fetus, an infant, and a 33 year old. As important as women's rights are, they don't permit murder.
3.17.2009 3:58pm
Steve:
If the issue is "really" about women's rights, then do you or do you not support 9th month partial birth abortions? Yes or no?

I don't know anyone at all who supports giving women unfettered discretion to obtain an abortion in the 9th month of pregnancy, "partial-birth" or otherwise. The idea that this cartoonishly extreme view is one of the "fundamental tenets of modern liberalism" is one of the reasons why Dangermouse is, well, pretty much a ranter.
3.17.2009 4:01pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
If the issue is "really" about women's rights, then do you or do you not support 9th month partial birth abortions? Yes or no?

It isn't that simple. I suppose I support banning 9th month abortions as long as there is a health exception. I don't think, however, that's a very important issue given how few of them there actually are. As I said, if the only abortions or most abortions were 9th month intact D&E's, the abortion discussion would be very different than it actually is.

Abortion supporters generally implicitly accept that it's increasingly more wrong to kill a fetus/baby as it gets older. For a, say, anti-abortion Catholic, there's basically no difference between killing a zygote, a fetus, an infant, and a 33 year old. As important as women's rights are, they don't permit murder.

I know they claim this, but when someone makes self-evidently bad arguments because that's where their logic takes them, it's time to reexamine the premises. Because anyone could see that a zygote ISN'T the same as a 33 year old. It just isn't. It doesn't feel pain. It doesn't think. It doesn't have organs. Nobody even knows it exists.

Further, the Church's position doesn't just mean no abortions, but no birth control pills, no IUD's, etc. Again, if "logic" is telling a person that using an IUD is the same thing as murdering a 33 year old, that's not because the rest of the world isn't as brilliant as that person's impeccable logic. It means that that person's premises are fouled up and the person is trying to solve a difficult problem through simplistic reasoning.

The reality is that life is a continuum. And drawing a line at ANY spot on the continuum is going to be arbitrary. Meanwhile, drawing the line at certain spots is going to screw over women.
3.17.2009 4:11pm
DangerMouse:
I don't know anyone at all who supports giving women unfettered discretion to obtain an abortion in the 9th month of pregnancy, "partial-birth" or otherwise.

You don't? Here's a hint: he's President of the United States.

It isn't that simple. I suppose I support banning 9th month abortions as long as there is a health exception. I don't think, however, that's a very important issue given how few of them there actually are.... The reality is that life is a continuum. And drawing a line at ANY spot on the continuum is going to be arbitrary. Meanwhile, drawing the line at certain spots is going to screw over women.

That's the point. You make clear that drawing the line at one spot will "screw over women." But if you are willing to ban 9th month abortions, then you also are in favor of "screwing over women." I'm willing to take anything. If you don't want to maintain the lie that there's a difference between murdering a 1 second old child and a 1 second-from-being-born child, then I'll take it.

But the pro-choicers never want to take it. It took a lot of effort to pass a partial birth abortion ban, and even today people like Barak Obama oppose it.
3.17.2009 4:35pm
Steve:
You don't? Here's a hint: he's President of the United States.

See, that's just insane. You're probably convinced he's not a citizen, either.
3.17.2009 4:41pm
DangerMouse:
See, that's just insane. You're probably convinced he's not a citizen, either.

What are you talking about? Obama's support for abortion at all stages of pregnancy, up to and including the second before birth, is widely known and acknowledged. He voted against a bill protecting born alive infants from botched abortions, even when it contained explicit language protecting abortion. The language was mirror-identical to a federal law that passed with the approval of Democrats. As you probably know, his campaign said that he voted against it because it didn't have that protection language. However, the committee records show otherwise. FactCheck is clear on this:


We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported. Both contained identical clauses saying that nothing in the bills could be construed to affect legal rights of an unborn fetus, according to an undisputed summary written immediately after the committee's 2003 mark-up session.

Whether opposing "born alive" legislation is the same as supporting "infanticide," however, is entirely a matter of interpretation.


And for the record, I have no problem with Obama's citizenship.
3.17.2009 4:52pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
That's the point. You make clear that drawing the line at one spot will "screw over women." But if you are willing to ban 9th month abortions, then you also are in favor of "screwing over women."

1. I don't think a 9th month ban with a health exception will screw over women. I think a ban of first term abortions would.

2. As I said, life is a continuum. Any line-drawing is arbitrary. As long as the line drawn respects the squishiness of the actual continuum and doesn't screw over women, I don't really object to it.
3.17.2009 5:02pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
danger:

FactCheck is clear on this


You didn't provide a link. Here are a few of the sentences you left out:

Obama opposed the 2001 and 2002 "born alive" bills as backdoor attacks on a woman's legal right to abortion, but he says he would have been "fully in support" of a similar federal bill that President Bush had signed in 2002, because it contained protections for Roe v. Wade. … Illinois law already provided that physicians must protect the life of a fetus when there is "a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the fetus outside the womb, with or without artificial support."


============
zarkov:

From Wikileaks


They are "a left-wing group." Just figured I should warn you.
3.17.2009 5:06pm
DangerMouse:
Yes, jukebox. And it's clear from the factcheck report that Obama changed his story when the evidence emerged that he voted against the similar federal bill in committee.
3.17.2009 5:42pm
Steve:
Obama's support for abortion at all stages of pregnancy, up to and including the second before birth, is widely known and acknowledged.

You think you've established this proposition, but you really haven't. You haven't even come close. You're basically acting like the crazy guy on the subway at this point.
3.17.2009 5:43pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
danger:

he voted against the similar federal bill in committee


He never "voted against the similar federal bill." The "similar federal bill" was signed into law more than two years before Obama became a US Senator.
3.17.2009 6:08pm
DangerMouse:
jukebox, I'm referring to his time not as a U.S. Senator, but as an Illinios STATE SENATOR. Sheesh. The FactCheck report makes that painfully clear. It appears that you didn't even bother to read it.

Game, set and match.
3.17.2009 6:28pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Dilan Esper,

Granted that nearly all abortions take place in the first trimester — but if there are ca. 1 million abortions yearly in the US, even the small fractions are large in absolute terms. I've seen it claimed that "only" 200 or so healthy viable fetuses are aborted yearly. If someone made a defective product that killed 200 babies a year, they'd be sued into oblivion.

jukeboxgrad,

What DangerMouse is apparently trying to say is that Obama voted not to let the "born-alive" bill leave committee even after it contained language identical to that in the federal bill, making clear that it had nothing to say about abortion one way or the other. I think that's true; and Obama has never explained his reasoning there. I should add that it ought to be obvious that a living infant out of the womb is no longer a "fetus," but a patient, and that it's due the same medical attention you would give to any other critically-ill human being. Unfortunately, some abortion providers don't do this in practice. IIRC the Illinois bill was prompted by the case — you do run across them from time to time — of a botched abortion in which the "fetus" was delivered alive and then dumped in the medical waste bin.
3.17.2009 7:25pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"They [Wikileaks] are "a left-wing group." Just figured I should warn you."

Great. It's about time the left did something useful. I like Wikileaks and support the notion that "information want to be free." With a few exceptions it's the left that engages in censorship. I give you campus speech codes, and the laws in Europe, UK, Canada and Australia against "racism," and "xenophobia." I'm waiting for the "hate speech is not free speech" campaign in the US to deny me the right to read what I want to read. Already outfits like La Raza openly advocate censorship of speech they don't like. La Raza is cozy with both political parties, especially the Democrats.
3.17.2009 8:06pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Granted that nearly all abortions take place in the first trimester — but if there are ca. 1 million abortions yearly in the US, even the small fractions are large in absolute terms. I've seen it claimed that "only" 200 or so healthy viable fetuses are aborted yearly. If someone made a defective product that killed 200 babies a year, they'd be sued into oblivion.

Well, how about if 200 babies were killed as a unfortunate consequence of the fact they were in a day care center next door to a sophisticated command center of a large terrorist group which had the intention and capability of pulling off 9/11-style operations, which was stormed by the SWAT team causing a firefight.

As I said, if a late-term abortion is necessary to protect a woman's health, it shouldn't be banned (and can't be, under current doctrine). If it isn't, I have no real objection to banning it. And if that gets the number under 200, that's fine.

But my understanding is that most of the very late term abortions either involve pregnancies that threaten the woman's health or babies with extremely serious genetic health problems. I don't think you can compare that to a defective product killing 200 healthy babies.
3.17.2009 8:08pm
Patrick who commented above (mail):
I guess that conversation fairly convincing proves the proposition that abortion is a political topic, lest there have been any lingering doubt!

But with a bit more time, I thought I would add the relevant sections of the primary case on this in Australia:


That being so, ss 7 and 24 and the related sections of the Constitution necessarily protect that freedom of communication between the people concerning political or government matters which enables the people to exercise a free and informed choice as electors. Those sections do not confer personal rights on individuals. Rather they preclude the curtailment of the protected freedom by the exercise of legislative or executive power.
...
Moreover, the conduct of the executive branch is not confined to Ministers and the public service. It includes the affairs of statutory authorities and public utilities which are obliged to report to the legislature or to a Minister who is responsible to the legislature.
...
However, the freedom will not invalidate a law enacted to satisfy some other legitimate end if the law satisfies two conditions. The first condition is that the object of the law is compatible with the maintenance of the constitutionally prescribed system of representative and responsible government or the procedure for submitting a proposed amendment to the Constitution to the informed decision of the people which the Constitution prescribes. The second is that the law is reasonably appropriate and adapted to achieving that legitimate object or end. Different formulae have been used by members of this Court in other cases to express the test whether the freedom provided by the Constitution has been infringed. Some judges have expressed the test as whether the law is reasonably appropriate and adapted to the fulfilment of a legitimate purpose. Others have favoured different expressions, including proportionality. In the context of the questions raised by the case stated, there is no need to distinguish these concepts. For ease of expression, throughout these reasons we have used the formulation of reasonably appropriate and adapted.

- Lange v Australian Broadcasting Commission (1997) 189 CLR 520 if anyone is interested.

There are a couple of cases since but none which really reconsider or significantly elaborate on the above (things like the application to State governments, policemen arresting a 'protestor' under State vagrancy laws, etc).
3.17.2009 8:13pm
geokstr:

1. I don't think a 9th month ban with a health exception will screw over women.

Of course it wouldn't, because the "health" exception includes psychological and emotional, as well as physical "health", which has proven to be a big enough hole to drive the proverbial Mack truck through. Probably even financial, career, relationship and/or convenience health would qualify as well. In effect, there is no bar to an abortion at any time for any reason because of the so-called "health" exception. When is the last time anyone was ever prosecuted for having or performing an abortion at any stage of the pregnancy, regardless of the reason given for the procedure? (Botched abortions resulting in harm to the mother excepted.)


2. As I said, life is a continuum. Any line-drawing is arbitrary. As long as the line drawn respects the squishiness of the actual continuum and doesn't screw over women, I don't really object to it.

That continuum called life goes from conception to death, natural or otherwise. Why set the line anywhere in particular at all, especially at merely such an arbitrary line as live birth, unintended or not? Since birth of a child puts a rather heavy burden of responsibility on the woman, she is "screwed" in the eyes of feminists if the line is drawn even after birth, isn't she?
3.17.2009 8:18pm
John Moore (www):
@Dilan Esper
One reason for showing more advanced fetuses is to drive home the point that babies of this age ARE routinely killed. Maybe not in the holocaust numbers of early term abortions, but hey - even a few hundred or thousand legally
sanctioned homicides of the innocent should be of serious moral import.


But second, since we are talking about "the truth", these photos are of a fetus that has significant development. The vast, vast majority of abortions occur before this stage.




Finally, there is no "lie" in the pro-choicer's position. Pro-choicers believe in women's rights. We believe that it is sometimes necessary for a woman to terminate her pregnancy, because


It doesn't matter what "pro-choicers" claim to believe - what matters is the consequences of the pro-choice/liberal coalition: one of the most extreme pro-abortion legal situations in the west. A "health exception" too often is construed to mean "psychological damage" which almost always means "unhappy if she has to have the baby" and nothing more.

Abortion at any stage of pregnancy is generally available to any woman in the US regardless of actual health. It is available to minors without the consent (or notification) of their parents. It is available without any regard for the rights of the father.

These are facts.

If you are true to your beliefs, then you don't mind banning any abortion of fetuses as advanced as those in the photos (except for a REAL life-and-death health situation).

So... is that your real position?
3.17.2009 8:19pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Dilan Esper,

But my understanding is that most of the very late term abortions either involve pregnancies that threaten the woman's health or babies with extremely serious genetic health problems. I don't think you can compare that to a defective product killing 200 healthy babies.

IIRC, about 1 percent of abortions (which is still, what, 10K a year?) are in the third trimester. "Most" of these, as you say, involve threats to the woman's health or serious fetal abnormalities. Even if "most" were 99 percent, that would leave a hundred viable, healthy fetuses aborted, yes? This is what I mean about the numbers being so huge that even slender fractions make for substantial numbers.
3.17.2009 8:42pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Of course it wouldn't, because the "health" exception includes psychological and emotional, as well as physical "health", which has proven to be a big enough hole to drive the proverbial Mack truck through.

You know, this claim is always made by pro-life groups, but they never seem to be able to come up with an actual late-term abortion which was permitted under a "mental health" exception that wasn't compelling.

As I said above, we are talking about a handful of abortions a year, and most of them are either clear physical health of the woman or the fact that the fetus has some serious and severe genetic health issue. Obviously, nobody's ACTUALLY driving a Mack Truck through the psychological and emotional health exceptions.

And the flip side of this is that mental health is actually a legitimate reason to have an abortion. If the pregnancy is going to drive a woman to commit suicide or condemn her to 30 years of depression or PTSD, that seems much more serious to me than pro-lifers are implying.

That continuum called life goes from conception to death, natural or otherwise. Why set the line anywhere in particular at all, especially at merely such an arbitrary line as live birth, unintended or not?

Because (1) women's rights are at stake, and women's rights are tremendously important, and (2) conception is overinclusive because it includes a lot of zygotes and blastocysts and small embryos who aren't even aware of their existence and simply have no cognizable interests.

One reason for showing more advanced fetuses is to drive home the point that babies of this age ARE routinely killed. Maybe not in the holocaust numbers of early term bortions, but hey - even a few hundred or thousand legally sanctioned homicides of the innocent should be of serious moral import.

You know, we're throwing around numbers pretty casually here. How many late term abortions are we really talking about here? 100's or 1000's? And how many aren't either necessary for the woman's health or in cases of serious genetic health problems in the fetus?

But more importantly, again, you are trying to use the 100's or 1000's, whatever it is, of gruesome late term abortions to prevent a woman from taking an RU486 pill at 8 weeks when the fetus doesn't look like that. That's where the dishonesty is.

It doesn't matter what "pro-choicers" claim to believe - what matters is the consequences of the pro-choice/liberal coalition: one of the most extreme pro-abortion legal situations in the west.

Well, not really. It is true, many countries have flat bans of late term abortions. But that's only a small percentage of our abortions anyway. Further, those same countries have federal funding for abortions and perform the procedures at federally funded clinics throughout the country. In other words, ACCESS to the procedure is much better in those countries. I'd trade a typical Western European regulatory regime for ours in a New York minute. I doubt you would.

A "health exception" too often is construed to mean "psychological damage" which almost always means "unhappy if she has to have the baby" and nothing more.

Again, you assert this, but is there any evidence at all that people are getting late term abortions under these sorts of circumstances or are pro-lifers just pulling it out of their butts?

Abortion at any stage of pregnancy is generally available to any woman in the US regardless of actual health. It is available to minors without the consent (or notification) of their parents. It is available without any regard for the rights of the father.

Well you are 1 for 3. In many parts of the country, there aren't any clinics even for early term abortions. Late term abortions are very hard to get because they are performed in only a few places. Many states have parental notification and consent laws.

The only one you are right on is spousal notification— and it's a good thing, too, given that it's the woman, and not the man, who takes the brunt of the pregnancy and because such requirements can lead to spousal abuse.

If you are true to your beliefs, then you don't mind banning any abortion of fetuses as advanced as those in the photos (except for a REAL life-and-death health situation).

My position is that I don't care very much about late-term abortions because they are so infrequent, but yes, I don't mind a ban on them if we have a health exception. Mental health should qualify. If pro-lifers can point me to some actual cases where people are really driving Mack Trucks through the mental health exception, I might reconsider that. But as far as I know, they've never identified a single case of it.
3.17.2009 8:45pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
danger:

I'm referring to his time not as a U.S. Senator, but as an Illinios STATE SENATOR


You said this:

he voted against the similar federal bill in committee


If you were "referring to his time not as a U.S. Senator, but as an Illinios STATE SENATOR," then why did you say "he voted against the similar federal bill?" Someone who is "an Illinios STATE SENATOR" does not cast votes for or against any "federal bill" ("similar" or otherwise).

I wonder if you meant to say this: 'as a state senator, he voted, in committee, against a state bill that was similar to a federal bill.' If so, then it would be good if you said what you meant, instead of saying something quite different. Also, when you say something different from what you meant, it would be a good idea to take responsibility for your own mistakes, instead of pretending that they are someone else's problem.

================
michelle:

Obama has never explained his reasoning there


Actually, I think he has.
3.17.2009 9:32pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
jukeboxgrad,

Interesting document; thanks! I admire the way this language is put in the chart at the end under "Language Clearly Threatening Roe":

(c) A live child born as a result of an abortion shall
be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.


I thought that this was already law in all states. If it's alive, born, and human, it's a "human person," protected by the law in common with other human persons. Assuming it was born in this country, it's also a US citizen; but even if it wasn't, it's still unambiguously a baby. What possible bearing can this language have on Roe?
3.17.2009 9:53pm
DangerMouse:
jukeboxgrad,

Yeah, that was my poor wording. But I figured you'd know what I meant because I assumed you read the FactCheck page on this. It is crystal clear that the entire context is when he was a state senator. Frankly, I'm astonished that anyone could think that the issue would involve his time at all as a US Senator.

Was there something else that made you think the issue had anything to do with his time as a US Senator?
3.17.2009 10:10pm
Blue:
Dilan, your position would be a bit more serious if your pro-abortion pals didn't block, at every opportunity, the collection of data that would show the distribution of abortions by fetal age.
3.17.2009 10:12pm
DangerMouse:
Actually, I think he has.

As noted, Obama's statement is inconsistent with the FactCheck report. Obama says: "And they will not tell you that Obama has always maintained that he would have voted for the federal version of this bill, which did not pose such a threat."

That is clearly a lie, because he did in fact oppose such a bill in the state senate committee. He is flat-out lying. FactCheck makes this abundantly clear:

We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported.
3.17.2009 10:15pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Dilan Esper,

I know I'm repeating myself, but can I just say again that, in the context of a million or so American abortions a year, "rare" doesn't mean "few"?

As I said above, we are talking about a handful of abortions a year, and most of them are either clear physical health of the woman or the fact that the fetus has some serious and severe genetic health issue. Obviously, nobody's ACTUALLY driving a Mack Truck through the psychological and emotional health exceptions.

One percent of abortions are third-trimester, so far as I can see by Googling. That'd be about 10,000 annually, which is quite a "handful."
3.17.2009 10:18pm
DangerMouse:
Michelle,

It's likely more than that. Planned Parenthood and other abortion mills throughout the country have every incentive to lie about it. They've lied about everything else and have been caught on camera doing so, and I wouldn't expect them to tell the truth here either.
3.17.2009 10:37pm
John Moore (www):
@Dilan Esper

And the flip side of this is that mental health is actually a legitimate reason to have an abortion. If the pregnancy is going to drive a woman to commit suicide or condemn her to 30 years of depression or PTSD, that seems much more serious to me than pro-lifers are implying. ...

I doubt there's a psychiatrist in the land who can tell which is more dangerous to a patient: birth or abortion. Furthermore, it is statistically far more likely that an abortion will lead to depression than birth will. Finally, there are few mental illnesses (especially depression) that are both long lasting and caused by a single incident. PTSD is never caused by a single incident, contrary to what our confused press would like us to believe.


It is true, many countries have flat bans of late term abortions. But that's only a small percentage of our abortions anyway. ...


Yeah, what the heck. It's just a few kids, so why not kill them?


My position is that I don't care very much about late-term abortions because they are so infrequent, but yes, I don't mind a ban on them if we have a health exception. Mental health should qualify.

See above on mental health.

As to infrequent, that's a heck of a standard to apply to rights. I guess you don't mind if police execute suspects occasionally, as long as its infrequent!
3.17.2009 11:13pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
michelle:

I thought that this was already law in all states.


Not exactly. Compare this:

A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.


To this:

For more than 20 years, Illinois law has required that when 'there is a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the fetus outside the womb, with or without artificial support,' an abortion may only be performed if a physician believes 'it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.' And in such cases, the law requires that the doctor use the technique 'most likely to preserve the life and health of the fetus' and perform the abortion in the presence of 'a physician other than the physician performing or inducing the abortion who shall take control of and provide immediate medical care for any child born alive as a result of the abortion.'


Those two things are not the same. The "live child" language can be construed as follows: 'a tiny clump of cells that is clearly not capable of surviving outside the womb is going to nevertheless be considered a "live child" and a "human person." ' Because "live child" is not defined. And there seem to be people who think that a blastocyst is fairly described as a "live child."

You can express your belief that this view is proper, but that's not a basis for claiming that this view is "already law in all states." Obviously it's not. What is "already law" embodies the concept of "reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the fetus outside the womb." And because that concept is already in the law, there seems to be no point in adding the "live child" language, unless the purpose was to undermine the "reasonable likelihood of sustained survival" concept.

it's still unambiguously a baby


You're glossing over the issue at the heart of this matter: there is most definitely a lack of agreement regarding what is and is not "unambiguously a baby."

================
danger:

that was my poor wording


It's nice that you're admitting this, but it would have been even better if you had explained yourself when I made the straightforward and civil observation that your statement was incorrect. Instead you acted as if I'm supposed to be able to read your mind and know that what you meant is something other than what you said.

I figured you'd know what I meant because I assumed you read the FactCheck page on this.


You weren't just assuming that I "read the FactCheck page on this" (an assumption that was correct). You were also assuming that I was assuming that you had "read the FactCheck page on this." Trouble is, I wasn't assuming that. Here's what I was assuming: that you meant what you said.

I'm astonished that anyone could think that the issue would involve his time at all as a US Senator.


There are lots of people here who seem to think things that I find infinitely more 'astonishing' than that. I am regularly "astonished" here. So instead of playing guessing games I assume that people mean what they say. Even when I know that what they're saying is ignorant and wrong.

Was there something else that made you think the issue had anything to do with his time as a US Senator?


I fully understand that the issue has nothing "to do with his time as a US Senator." I'm not confused about that. But your statement indicated that you were confused about that.

Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported


I realize that factcheck makes this assertion. The assertion depends on accepting the validity of this "SENATE REPUBLICAN STAFF ANALYSIS," along with statements by two Republicans (Schuh and Willeford). Factcheck accepts this information as complete and correct. I'm not inclined to make the same assumption. They are usually a reliable source, but I have also found and demonstrated that they sometimes make serious mistakes.

It's also possible that Obama made a mistake, at the time and/or later, and didn't have correct information about the content of the amendment, or the timing of the amendment. Making a mistake is not the same thing as "flat-out lying."
3.18.2009 12:29am
Kirk:
Dilan,
Well, how about if 200 babies were killed as a unfortunate consequence of the fact they were in a day care center next door to a sophisticated command center of a large terrorist group which had the intention and capability of pulling off 9/11-style operations, which was stormed by the SWAT team causing a firefight[?]

What a preposterous hypothetical; but I guarantee you that the word has not yet been invented to describe the sh*tstorm that would ensue if this happened.

Michelle, a genuine question asked out of actual ignorance: how many of those estimated 100 are late enough that they could be responsibly delivered via C-section?
3.18.2009 12:32am
DangerMouse:
It's also possible that Obama made a mistake, at the time and/or later, and didn't have correct information about the content of the amendment, or the timing of the amendment. Making a mistake is not the same thing as "flat-out lying."

Oh, it's very possible Obama made a mistake. If his time as President has shown anything, it's that he's incompetent as hell. But I think it's much more likely that he's in favor of infanticide. He promised the abortion lobby to sign FOCA as soon as possible, after all.

"How can you say a President favors infanticide!?!?" Well, he favors abortion up until 1 second before birth. It's murder 1 second before, and 1 second after, etc. As Dilan said, life is a squishy continuum. Before birth, after birth, who cares?
3.18.2009 12:47am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
He promised the abortion lobby to sign FOCA as soon as possible, after all.


If Douglas Kmiec is happy, then so am I:

I am pleased that the FOCA [Freedom of Choice Act] "scare" has proven, as all of the President's strong supporters like me predicted, to be without foundation.


I'm not likely to be more concerned than he is.

he favors abortion up until 1 second before birth.


Are you going to prove that, or are you just "flat-out lying?"
3.18.2009 1:05am
theobromophile (www):
FYI, guys: according to Dr. Martin Haskell of the National Abortion Federation, 80% of late-term abortions are performed on healthy mothers with healthy babies. The other 20% are done for genetic reasons* or threats to maternal health.

*Someone will one day explain exactly why it's okay to end the life of a human being because it isn't quite up to our standards, or might be a drain on society. To anyone who cares about ALL human life - not just human life that happens to be convenient for those with social and political power - abortion for genetic reasons is inexcusable.
3.18.2009 2:40am
Chris Chittleborough (mail):
From an Australian

This incident is about web censorship, not abortion. The current Australian government (left-of-center) promised to Do Something about internet nasties in it's 2007 election campaign (For The Children, of course). Since winning power, one of its low-priority tasks has trying to find a way to impose a blacklist of banned web pages. Naturally, their main target (and justification) was child porn, but they've also talked about blocking pro-anorexia websites. Of course, a blacklist like that has to be kept secret. It wasn't the topic of that leaked URL that got the ACMA upset, it was the fact that it came from the blacklist.

Some observations:

This censorship plan is almost useless, except to people who sell VPN services. The really nasty stuff is exchanged via peer-to-peer protocols, not on the open web, so light encryption will defeat censorship.

The main Australian ISPs have been leading an effort to make it clear that the blacklist Just Won't Work. I suspect (and very much hope) that they are defeating the wishful Think Of The Children types.

The previous government (right-of-center), though not always adroit with technological issues, got this exactly right IMO: they provided a well-publicized, free, downloadable censorware package for parents to install if they wanted it.

The decision to leak that particular URL from the blacklist is probably intended to cause second thoughts amongst the conservative Christians who have been supporting web censorship.

Whirlpool, the forum on which the link was posted, is probably the best forum/blog community I've ever encountered. For instance, a typical comment thread at this site has more flamage than every thread I've read at Whirlpool.

BTW: The High Court case that createddiscovered a Constitutional right of free speech in Australia was Theophanous v Herald&Weekly Times Ltd (1994) 182 CLR 104; there's a good summary of that decision in the Lange v Australian Broadcasting Commission ruling (op cit). (There has always been a unwritten right of free speech in Australia; Theophanous was the first time anyone discovered any such right in our Constitution. Then again, our Constitution is carefully vague about many matters: it never even mentions the office of Prime Minister.)
3.18.2009 5:55am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
theo:

80% of late-term abortions are performed on healthy mothers with healthy babies


You are misquoting Haskell, and so is your source. Your source said this:

In an interview with AMNews he admitted that "probably 20 percent (of partial-birth abortions) are for genetic reasons. And the other 80 percent are purely elective."


A more complete version of what he said can be found in several places, like here:

most of my abortions are elective in that 20-24 week range. In my particular case, probably 20 percent are performed for genetic reasons, and the other 80 percent are purely elective


(Emphasis added.) You and your source both imply that he is making a broad claim, about abortion doctors generally. But he's not. He's making a claim about his own practice. Which could be unrepresentative for all sorts of reasons.

Also, you and your source are being careless about the terms "late-term abortion" and 'partial-birth abortion.' They are not the same thing. You used one term and your source used the other. Meanwhile, without seeing the full context of his original statement (which I can't find), it's impossible to know which of the two he meant. (And it's a very minor problem, but your source also carelessly omitted the word 'performed.")

Aside from you and your source, there are many other instances of people materially misquoting Haskell.

anyone who cares about ALL human life - not just human life that happens to be convenient for those with social and political power


Personally, I have respect for someone "who cares about ALL human life - not just human life that happens to be" prenatal. Or "human life that happens to be" from their own tribe. Therefore I tend to be suspicious of people who are vociferously anti-abortion at the same time that they seem to lack concern about the fairness of the death penalty, or the lives of brown-skinned non-Christians who die in an unnecessary war we started.

Another way to show a lack of concern "about ALL human life - not just human life that happens to be convenient for those with social and political power," is to mock someone who had begged to not be executed.

And here's another way to show a lack of concern "about ALL human life - not just human life that happens to be convenient for those with social and political power:" by suggesting that the life of an American is worth more than the life of someone else.

The anti-abortion crowd seems to be selective about its concern for "human life." It also seems to be selective about the importance of condemning people who do things like "flatly lying." Misquoting Haskell is awfully close to "flatly lying."
3.18.2009 8:17am
Patrick who once studied Con in Oz ergo is an expert :) (mail):
Just to clarify the above comment by Chris, it wouldn't do you much good to cite Theophanous because it was a divided decision which was 'explained' by the unanimous court in Lange. Those explanations clearly overruled both the joining and dissenting minorities from Theophanous.

Otherwise his comments are exactly as I understand the situation to be, albeit I have no idea of the affiliations of ThinkoftheChildren.
3.18.2009 10:08am
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
jukeboxgrad,

The "live child" language can be construed as follows: 'a tiny clump of cells that is clearly not capable of surviving outside the womb is going to nevertheless be considered a "live child" and a "human person." ' Because "live child" is not defined. And there seem to be people who think that a blastocyst is fairly described as a "live child."

But, see, whether the language forces doctors to make efforts to save a clearly nonviable birth has nothing to do with whether it "threatens Roe." How can a law that applies only to born humans threaten abortion rights in any way?

Granted that a first-trimester abortion might result in the "birth" of something that can't by any means be kept alive. But infants have survived birth before the sixth month. And killing such infants — or denying them medical care, which comes to the same thing — looks awfully like "murder" from outside.
3.18.2009 11:07am
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
theobromophile,

Thanks for saying this:

*Someone will one day explain exactly why it's okay to end the life of a human being because it isn't quite up to our standards, or might be a drain on society. To anyone who cares about ALL human life - not just human life that happens to be convenient for those with social and political power - abortion for genetic reasons is inexcusable.

I tried to write something that made this point, but never posted it. There might be cases where aborting a damaged fetus makes sense. Anencephalic children survive for days at best. But the large majority of fetuses discovered to have "genetic abnormalities" late in pregnancy have Down Syndrome, and though there are physical troubles that come with the syndrome (heart defects and intestinal blockages are the common ones), the obvious reason people abort Down fetuses is because they are mentally retarded.

theobromophile is right: If it would be illegal to kill a born child because of a genetic anomaly, it ought to be equally illegal to do the same to a viable fetus.
3.18.2009 11:20am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
michelle:

But, see, whether the language forces doctors to make efforts to save a clearly nonviable birth has nothing to do with whether it "threatens Roe."


But, see, now that I demonstrated that your claim was incorrect ("this was already law in all states") you're moving the goalposts and attempting a different incorrect claim. This tends to create the impression that you're not really interested in having a serious discussion.

And your new claim is incorrect because a law that "forces doctors to make efforts to save a clearly nonviable birth" (that is, "something that can't by any means be kept alive") advances the idea that a blastocyst is a person. And reasonable people can believe that such an idea "threatens Roe."

infants have survived birth before the sixth month


If you mean 'before the sixth month begins,' you're wrong. If you mean 'before the sixth month ends,' you're correct, but just barely. Six months is 26 weeks. The earliest known survival is 22 weeks. Prior to that, the record was 23 weeks.
3.18.2009 11:40am
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
jukeboxgrad,

But, see, now that I demonstrated that your claim was incorrect ("this was already law in all states") you're moving the goalposts and attempting a different incorrect claim. This tends to create the impression that you're not really interested in having a serious discussion.

The claim ("Language that Clearly Threatens Roe") was in the chart at the end of the page you sent me to. I'm assuming the people who constructed the site think they know what they mean; I don't.

I see that your prior claim hinges on the meaning of "live child," and I apologise. What I meant was that current law in all states treats a live-born fetus with any chance of survival as a person — and by "any chance of survival," I mean "with all the apparatus we normally bring to bear when a child is born prematurely." That the pregnant woman contracted with you to get rid of the thing rather than deliver it alive doesn't change matters. The reason the Illinois bill was drafted in the first place is that a nurse described inconveniently breathing infants being stashed in a utlity room until properly dead.

And your new claim is incorrect because a law that "forces doctors to make efforts to save a clearly nonviable birth" (that is, "something that can't by any means be kept alive") advances the idea that a blastocyst is a person. And reasonable people can believe that such an idea "threatens Roe."

Your "reasonable people" are unreasonable, then. If the law states clearly that it applies only to live births, where's the problem? It is already clear that it's legal to abort fetuses that, were they born naturally, would be called premature infants and cared for as such. If there were no such cases, there would be nothing like the Illinois legislation in the first place. So there are already "persons" unprotected in law before birth, and protected after birth. A law affecting only the born changes nothing at all regarding the unborn.

Re premature births, you're right, of course: I meant that babies born in the sixth month (that is, in the second trimester, before where Roe drew its line of viability) have survived. Sorry for the misstatement.
3.18.2009 12:39pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
jukeboxgrad,

One other thing:

[A] law that "forces doctors to make efforts to save a clearly nonviable birth" (that is, "something that can't by any means be kept alive") advances the idea that a blastocyst is a person.

That's nonsense, as I hope you realize. A woman bearing a "blastocyst" would have no reason yet to think she was pregnant, and certainly wouldn't be trying to obtain an abortion.
3.18.2009 1:10pm
bloodstar (mail) (www):
You're suprised? They're using Denmarks Ban filter and then not permitting anyone to see what sites are on the banned list, and recently they banned wikileaks. So get outraged on your causes, but once you start letting governments determine what's permissible to view or see because it offends you, you may as well throw in the towel, because someone else will get into power and it'll creep until you can only see what *they* want you to see.
3.18.2009 1:20pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

One percent of abortions are third-trimester, so far as I can see by Googling. That'd be about 10,000 annually, which is quite a "handful."


Where's the evidence of even ONE abortion that was banned by the relevant state law and got through because of a SPURIOUS claim of harm to "mental health"? That's the claim pro-lifers keep making about mental health exceptions-- that women and doctors make false claims of abortions necessary for mental health. And yet nobody can point to a single example of that happening. The fact that there may be some number of elective late-term abortions doesn't prove anything, as these could be in states that don't require a certification that the late term abortion is necessary for the health of the woman.
3.18.2009 3:15pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Dilan Esper,

What you said was that there are only a handful of late-term abortions, period. I still think 10,000 is a largeish number.

But to your point: Of course there are no verifiable cases of people abusing the mental-health exception. How could there be? It is obvious that anyone wanting a late-term abortion at all wants it very badly, and will be severely distressed if she doesn't get it. Severe distress isn't good for you.

Of course, most of us do suffer severe distress at one point or another, but not usually in cases where it's a doctor's prerogative to make the distress go away. If doctors were in charge of (e.g.) college admissions, with applicants as patients, I wonder how many people would fail to get into Harvard.
3.18.2009 3:29pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
michelle:

I'm assuming the people who constructed the site think they know what they mean; I don't.


But I think I explained what they mean. And I think I'm about to explain it again.

I see that your prior claim hinges on the meaning of "live child," and I apologise.


Thanks.

What I meant was that current law in all states treats a live-born fetus with any chance of survival as a person


I think we're right back where we started. Yes, "current law in all states treats a live-born fetus with any chance of survival as a person." And that includes existing law in IL. Which means there was no need for a new law.

The reason the Illinois bill was drafted in the first place is that a nurse described inconveniently breathing infants being stashed in a utlity room until properly dead.


Except this makes no sense, because the existing law already made this a crime. So there was no need for a new law. And there was a thorough investigation, which reached this conclusion:

The allegation that infants were allowed to expire in a utility room could not be substantiated (and) all staff interviewed denied that any infant was ever left alone.


So there is no proof that it happened, and if it had happened, it would have already been a crime. So treating this allegation as the basis for writing a new law seems a bit wacky.

If the law states clearly that it applies only to live births, where's the problem?


The problem is that some people are going to claim that a blastocyst, or something only slightly more advanced than a blastocyst, is "a live birth." Why should any reasonable person feel confident this will not happen?

A woman bearing a "blastocyst" would have no reason yet to think she was pregnant, and certainly wouldn't be trying to obtain an abortion.


A woman who just had unprotected intercourse could indeed have reason to think she might be pregnant, and might indeed "be trying to obtain an abortion." Even though the intercourse was recent, and therefore she is only "bearing a 'blastocyst.' "
3.18.2009 3:56pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
But to your point: Of course there are no verifiable cases of people abusing the mental-health exception. How could there be? It is obvious that anyone wanting a late-term abortion at all wants it very badly, and will be severely distressed if she doesn't get it. Severe distress isn't good for you.

I suspect that's close to true, but that's not what the pro-life movement implies with their statements about mental health exceptions. Rather, they imply that women blithely wait until the third trimester and then take advantage of "abortion on demand" by ginning up, with their doctor, some phony mental health claim. That's what it means to say it is a "loophole big enough to drive a Mack Truck through".

I would add one more thing, though. There are plenty of women who later regret having abortions. Many of them become powerful and sincere advocates of the pro-life cause. You would think that if spurious mental health claims were really a common occurrence, somebody would come forward at some point and say "I got a late-term abortion by claiming a mental health exception, and I now regret it". Again, this doesn't exist likely because the people who claim mental health exemptions actually are facing severe threats to their mental health.
3.18.2009 4:02pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
jukeboxgrad,

Hmmm. Interesting link, though I had to search a bit to find the exchange between the blogger, Eric Zorn, and Jill Stanek (the nurse who reported infants born in botched abortions being left to die).

This is Zorn:

The reason I don't think your BAIPA effort is sincere is that you know--we all know-- that the purpose of an abortion at any stage is, by definition, to terminate the life of the embryo/fetus/baby growing in the womb.

I'm sure most people would prefer that, when a woman and her doctor make a decision to abort a pregnancy-- particularly one that is in the second or even third trimester of gestation---that it's done in a way that causes no undue suffering or indignity.

And if that were all there were to BAIPA --an attempt to assure humane treatment in those situations where the abortion technique used sees the fetus or baby being born/extracted while "born alive" under the broad definition you support -- then there would be no controversy at all surrounding the state legislation we're discussing.

But legislation demanding that, under such circumstances "All reasonable measures consistent with good medical practice, including the compilation of appropriate medical records, shall be taken to preserve the life and health of the child" goes much further.

It not only says that, despite the obvious purpose of the abortion, "all reasonable efforts" must be taken afterwards to un-do that purpose, but it does so in a way that assumes an answer to the central dilemma and main sticking point of the entire abortion debate -- the legal status and rights of the embryo/fetus/baby.

See, I thought the point of abortion wasn't to kill the fetus, but to make the woman no longer pregnant. Killing the fetus is, in the unfortunate state of our technology, the only way to make a pregnant woman un-pregnant until shortly before gestation is over.

Naive, I suppose. But this is what I've heard over and over again from advocates of abortion rights. I didn't realize that a woman seeking to abort had a positive right to a dead fetus, as opposed to an empty uterus.

All reasonable measures consistent with good medical practice, including the compilation of appropriate medical records, shall be taken to preserve the life and health of the child

sounds to me like the obvious course anyone who had signed the Hippocratic Oath would take, and doesn't strike me as onerous. But apparently for Mr. Zorn the switch between "it's in the womb, therefore you may kill it" and "it's outside the womb, therefore it's a critically ill patient and you must do everything in your power to keep it alive" is too rapid. Tough.

Re blastocysts, a woman who had unprotected intercourse might well think she might be pregnant, but she would hardly go to an abortion clinic within a week, would she? Abortions aren't expensive, but they're not negligibly cheap, either. You'd want to be sure you were actually pregnant first.
3.18.2009 4:39pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Dilan Esper,

[T]hat's not what the pro-life movement implies with their statements about mental health exceptions. Rather, they imply that women blithely wait until the third trimester and then take advantage of "abortion on demand" by ginning up, with their doctor, some phony mental health claim. That's what it means to say it is a "loophole big enough to drive a Mack Truck through".

Obviously a woman in her senses doesn't "blithely" wait until the third trimester to get rid of a pregnancy she doesn't want. From what I can gather from women I know who've been pregnant(I haven't), it's made bearable only by the certitude that it'll someday be over.

Women who wait that long must have had some reason for delaying. It might be anything from plain cluelessness about how far the pregnancy had progressed to fear of the surgery itself to the more conventionally pathos-inducing situations of not enough money or violent male relatives. But there must be a reason.

My point is that any reason at all has to be sufficiently nasty by this point that the woman will be badly distressed if she doesn't get an abortion. Therefore, requiring that she be in danger of her mental health if she doesn't get it is no requirement. She wouldn't be asking if she weren't in what some would call danger.

On the other hand, there are other things that are also severely distressing, but that we allow to happen to people. Getting fired; getting laid off; getting arrested; being left by a lover or a spouse; &c. Life is not generally arranged with a view to protecting people from all possible mental harm.

It's in this sense that people think of the "mental health" exception as a "loophole." It's not that a woman denied a late abortion wouldn't suffer mental harm, but that (a) so would any woman in her predicament; and (b) so do lots of other people in lots of other situations that can't be escaped with a doctor's certification.
3.18.2009 5:42pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
It's in this sense that people think of the "mental health" exception as a "loophole." It's not that a woman denied a late abortion wouldn't suffer mental harm, but that (a) so would any woman in her predicament; and (b) so do lots of other people in lots of other situations that can't be escaped with a doctor's certification.

Honestly, while I don't buy your argument on the merits (pregnancy and childbirth are uniquely profound and affecting events and we are probably talking about very, very severe and compelling mental health issues that give rise to these abortions), that's neither here nor there-- I REALLY don't buy your characterization of what most pro-lifers espouse and believe about health exceptions. YOU may be sympathetic to the circumstances that drive women to late term abortions, but when I do a yahoo search for "abortion on demand" and "health exception", I get 13,200 hits. And that jibes with my own experience, which is that many pro-lifers sneer at the mental health exception and simply claim (falsely) that this is a backdoor method of having late term abortion on demand. I've been in too many arguments with pro-lifers where this is thrown around.

Again, if there were all these women WITHOUT serious mental health issues who were taking advantage of mental health exceptions to have their late term abortions, we'd surely hear of at least one case of it.

The reality is that mental health exceptions protect against a serious problem-- women who will face horrible depression spells, PTSD, or suicide as a result of being forced to carry a troubled pregnancy to term. There's no reason to get rid of them unless there really was compelling evidence that doctors and women were IN FACT conspiring to circumvent abortion restrictions through the use of mental health exceptions. And there is in fact no evidence of that-- just the supposition of pro-lifers, many of whom (not you, but many of whom) simply blithely dismiss the mental health concerns of pregnant women.
3.18.2009 7:51pm
ReaderY:
Given that extraterritorial enemy combatants have a constitutional status similar to fetuses -- the Bill of rights lacks "extraterritorial application" in much the same way Roe v. Wade said it lacks "prenatal application" -- would anyone on this blog object to a mental health exception for anti-torture laws?

After all, can it be seriously be argued that the government has any more interest in the life or comfort of an enemy combatant than it does in the life or comfort of a viable fetus?
3.18.2009 7:59pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Dilan Esper,

My point is that any woman who wants an abortion in the third trimester has a colorable mental health argument that few doctors would deny. In practice, therefore, there's "abortion on demand" in the third trimester, because any woman seeking abortion in the third trimester will suffer severe distress if she doesn't get it. So that when pro-lifers say that there is, in practice, "abortion on demand" throughout pregnancy, they're telling the plain truth. There is no practical legal barrier to abortion at any time.

And yet there are all sorts of other things that can legally befall a woman (or a man, for that matter) that can also cause severe distress, and can't be avoided because a doctor forbids them.

I will worry about womens' suicides in particular when women kill themselves more often than men do, which doesn't seem likely to happen soon. At the moment women are much less likely to kill themselves than men are — just as they're less likely to be murdered, less likely to be maimed or killed at work, less likely to be incarcerated, &c.
3.18.2009 9:23pm
Zoe E Brain (mail) (www):
I'm in Australia, at the ANU. I had no problems accessing the page in question.
I'll try the same experiment from home in a few hours.
3.18.2009 11:16pm
John Moore (www):
.@Dilan Esper

The reality is that mental health exceptions protect against a serious problem-- women who will face horrible depression spells, PTSD, or suicide as a result of being forced to carry a troubled pregnancy to term


You ignored a challenge to this once, and you have stated it again.

Psychiatry can rarely predict even whether a birth or abortion will be a positive or negative experience to someone with serious mental illness. Killing someone over that uncertainty is simply unacceptable.

Suicide is likewise a risk with both birth and abortion. Again, hard to predict which is more dangerous in any case - so why should we choose certain death for the baby?

I notice you removed your previous claim of "long term" depression, so what we are talking about is women suffering time limited horrible depression as a result of not killing the viable fetus. So we should kill a baby to prevent horrible depression? Certainly horrible depression is a terrible experience, but most people subject to it will suffer it - childbirth or not.

Finally, PTSD is simply not caused by single events. It involves neurological changes caused by repeated extreme stress situations.

So what we are seeing, with the exception of suicide risk, is a proposal to kill a viable human being to avoid conjectured short term suffering to another human being - with the risk of that person committing suicide in either case.
3.18.2009 11:50pm
Chris Chittleborough (mail):
Thanks to Patrick (3.18.2009 10:08am) for explaining that
[I]t wouldn't do you much good to cite Theophanous because it was a divided decision which was 'explained' by the unanimous court in Lange. Those explanations clearly overruled both the joining and dissenting minorities from Theophanous.

I did not know that.

This is why people should get information about legal issues from actual lawyers instead of some guy relying on stuff he read in a newspaper many years ago ...
3.19.2009 6:34am
Zoe E Brain (mail) (www):
Tried it from home too - no problems accessing it.
3.20.2009 10:54pm

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