The lament of a pro-life lefty

Writing in The New Statesman, Mehdi Hasan, political director of the Huffington Post, UK, says arguments against abortion can be rooted in reasoning that politically progressive people should find persuasive. He writes:

Abortion is one of those rare political issues on which left and right seem to have swapped ideologies: right-wingers talk of equality, human rights and “defending the innocent”, while left-wingers fetishise “choice”, selfishness and unbridled individualism.

“My body, my life, my choice.” Such rhetoric has always left me perplexed. Isn’t socialism about protecting the weak and vulnerable, giving a voice to the voiceless? Who is weaker or more vulnerable than the unborn child? Which member of our society needs a voice more than the mute baby in the womb?

Yes, a woman has a right to choose what to do with her body – but a baby isn’t part of her body. The 24-week-old foetus can’t be compared with an appendix, a kidney or a set of tonsils; it makes no sense to dismiss it as a “clump of cells” or a “blob of protoplasm”.

The United Kingdom is debating whether to reduce the point in a pregnancy before which a woman can have an abortion from 24 weeks to 12 weeks.

What do you think of his argument and the larger debate?

Comments (11)

All I can really say is that I am terribly uncomfortable with this subject. I liked Joe Biden's answer, something like "I accept all of the teachings of my church, I just don't believe I have the right to impose my beliefs on others." And I think that in whatever circumstance, abortions should be safe and that there shouldn't be 2-tiered access for the poor and the more privileged.

And yet, it seems like there needs to be some public policy. How does one decide that 12 weeks is OK but 13 isn't? I feel so ill equipped to make that decision for other people.

I don't like the general use of abortion for birth control, and yet I've know folks who have used birth control and had it fail. And of course, young people sometimes make mistakes... I don't want ideologues deciding how women, families, and doctors should handle complications.

These are really tough issues. I may be pro-life, but it just seems that the complications are so personal and individual that there's no one ideology or policy that is compassionate for all. I guess that is the point where we give the benefit of choice to the women, their God, their families, and doctors.

I am eager to hear true wisdom on this topic.

This issue has become so tiresome, with the pro-life (anti-choice) side all too often getting a free pass while the pro-choice side has to “prove” we are not selfish murderers. I would bet a sizeable sum that Mehdi Hasan has never bothered to read a pro-choice book. I disagree with the anti-choice movement but I have at least read some of their literature (e.g. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae). Hasan and others should read Dr. Trefil and Dr. Moskowitz’s classic book The Facts of Life to understand the science behind human development. It is not clear at all that a fetus equals a human being until the 3rd trimester – certainly the 2nd trimester is a gray area and in the 1st trimester the fetus clearly does not equal a full human being. Roe v. Wade basically agrees – with the state being able to regulate abortion in the 3rd trimester. Christians viewing from 30,000 feet a woman making the agonizing decision to terminate a pregnancy and declaring her “selfish” strike me as arrogant, ignorant theological busybodies. Christians who are charged up about abortion make us all look hopelessly anachronistic. We literally fiddle while Rome burns. I have seen living, breathing children going without the basics in life while we Christians try to force our uninformed beliefs on normal, educated Americans. No need to know facts and circumstances – abortion is just always wrong and you are a selfish slacker if you don’t see it our way.
To those who think abortion is murder – then what should the penalty be for a woman who performs her own abortion? According to those who are pro-life, aborting a fetus is the same thing as killing a 5 year old child. Shouldn’t she be executed or given life in prison without parole? If not, why not? Perhaps you really don’t have the courage of your convictions. My daughter will decide for herself when and if to bring a child into the world, period.

Bob Button

"This issue has become so tiresome, with the pro-life (anti-choice) side all too often getting a free pass while the pro-choice side has to 'prove' we are not selfish murderers."

Perhaps, because the pro-life crowd does NOT actually murder anyone? It's the "pro-choice" (i.e., Pro-Death) group that rallies for their "right" to kill unborn babies.

I believe that abortion is usually sinful, but disagree strenuously with the "abortion is murder" mantra and think that it's a decision that should be left to the woman involved.

The fact that the "pro-life" crowd does not as a whole endorse policies proven to cut down on abortion - like making contraception more accessible for everyone who wants it - shows that the argument really isn't about abortion or life, but sex.

Bill Dilworth

Why is it men seem to be the most upset (hysterical) when talking about abortion? Why is it mostly men who want the vaginal scans and other "tricks" like making women watch tv shows about what's going on in their bodies? I don't reremember any of the anti-abortion groups saying have the child and we'll pay the hospital bill and raise it.
and James your group is (pro-Death),too. Remember the doctor in Wichita, and others around the country, along with their staffs. Our very own urban terrorists.

Lan Green

The 24-week-old foetus can’t be compared with an appendix, a kidney or a set of tonsils; it makes no sense to dismiss it as a “clump of cells” or a “blob of protoplasm”.

It has no more SENTIENCE than these, and a lot LESS sentience than the chicken most of us are having for dinner.

You can blather the "unborn babies" meme all you want, but it's not persuasive. Homo sapiens is the *thinking* being, not just a specific set of DNA.

JC Fisher

Perhaps, because the pro-life crowd does NOT actually murder anyone? *


March 10, 1993: Dr. David Gunn of Pensacola, Florida was fatally shot during a protest. He had been the subject of wanted-style posters distributed by Operation Rescue in the summer of 1992. Michael F. Griffin was found guilty of Gunn's murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

July 29, 1994: Dr. John Britton and James Barrett, a clinic escort, were both shot to death outside another facility, the Ladies Center, in Pensacola. Rev. Paul Jennings Hill was charged with the killings. Hill received a death sentence and was executed on September 3, 2003. The clinic in Pensacola had been bombed before and was also bombed subsequently, in 1984 and 2012.

December 30, 1994: Two receptionists, Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, were killed in two clinic attacks in Brookline, Massachusetts. John Salvi was arrested and confessed to the killings. He died in prison and guards found his body under his bed with a plastic garbage bag tied around his head. Salvi had also confessed to a non-lethal attack in Norfolk, Virginia days before the Brookline killings.

January 29, 1998: Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a security guard at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, was killed when his workplace was bombed. Eric Robert Rudolph, who was also responsible for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing, was charged with the crime and received two life sentences as a result.

October 23, 1998: Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot to death with a high-powered rifle at his home in Amherst, New York.[10] His was the last in a series of similar shootings against providers in Canada and northern New York state which were all likely committed by James Kopp. Kopp was convicted of Slepian's murder after finally being apprehended in France in 2001.

May 31, 2009: Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed by Scott Roeder as Tiller served as an usher at church in Wichita, Kansas.[11]

[Source: ]

JC Fisher

* I'm going to ignore the inflammatory (!) assertion that abortion is "murder".

Holy martyrs for women's freedom, pray for us!

I think everyone here knows well what I mean by "Perhaps, because the pro-life crowd does NOT actually murder anyone?" An honest person would know that 99% of people in the Pro-Life movement do not murder anyone and condemn those actions of a few idiots. However, everyone who aborts a child is a murderer, unless the procedure is needed to save a woman's life.

Speaking of sex, the reason people argue for abortion as a form of birth control has very much to do with it. They want all of the pleasure without the responsibility.

In regard to abortion, there is no valid philosophizing. Hitler had his philosophies when he masterminded the Holocaust. Arguing that Pro-Life advocates are not educated about biology in order to dismiss their stance is like appealing to psychology to condone serial killing. In so many words, there is no "educated" opinion that justifies abortion or any other evil. Under this false argument, any degradation of humankind can be permitted so long as academia approves of it. Additionally, the Pro-Life movement has more women in it than men. Pro-Deathers always try to make it a sexist debate knowing full well that most of their opponents are female...another false argument.

Abortion is murder. "Holy martyrs for [unborn] women's freedom, pray for us!"

"Speaking of sex, the reason people argue for abortion as a form of birth control has very much to do with it. They want all of the pleasure without the responsibility."

Q.E.D. Thank you.

"Hitler had his philosophies when he masterminded the Holocaust."

You trivialize the evil of the Holocaust by dragging it into the argument. (Where is Michael Godwin when you need him?)

"Abortion is murder"

Odd that the Bible doesn't prescribe the death penalty for it, then.

Odd that common law historically prescribed no penalty for abortion prior to quickening.

Odd that even after quickening, English law never treated abortion as murder.

And I'm guessing that you, like most of the people who adopt this line, believe that it's murder no matter what point in the pregnancy it's done in, because "human life begins at conception." Given the fact that most fertilized eggs do not implant, but pass out with the mentsrual flow, then it's also odd that we don't act as if women were losing babies every time an egg fails to implant.

Bill Dilworth

"Q.E.D. Thank you."


I'm thinking of what our friend Doug Blanchard (aka Counterlight) says about Fred Phelps "Just keep talking; you're helping our cause!" (Et tu, James M.)

JC Fisher

Most opposition to abortion seems based on patriarchal religious doctrine. Religion does not belong in a discussion about the constitution.

Patriarchal religion is concerned about figuring out who the father is and must control women's bodies. Matrilineal societies, on the other hand, may offer women more freedom and need not worry who the biological father is. In such cultures, the maternal uncle has a position of authority.

The father as such is cultural construct of patriarchy.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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