A fun coincidence

In a somewhat hastily written post yesterday, I noted that some of the issues we grapple with about abortion could be solved by a way to remove the fetus from an unwilling mother, and allow it to gestate without needing the mother.

But what if the choice is this: carry the pregnancy to term, or terminate the pregnancy while others do what they can to save the embryo/fetus? Aside from the gigantic technical hurdle, there are plenty of other issues that need to be resolved (who pays for it? what is the impact on the population? who raises the child after gestation?), but it changes the discussion completely. We could even use this technology to take away what I see as sex discrimination entering into the debate (anti-abortion laws mandating the only instance of violating body autonomy, and it only applying to women). There are folks who think that the biological father should have a say in whether or not the woman terminates the pregnancy…now he can have that say, as long as he’s willing to carry the pregnancy to term (and consents to the implantation of the artificial womb and surgical removal of it and the baby when ready). These are things that could become technically feasible in the future. Again, I somewhat doubt they will, because I don’t see much real motivation for it, but my crystal ball hasn’t worked very well for years (or ever).

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Abortion, abortion, abortion…

[Somewhat rushed piece…overwhelmed with work, but trying to stay in the habit of writing, and it’s been a long time. I’m sure it’s full of typos and other problems, but at this point, it will have to do]

I’ve spent a bit of time talking about abortion and abortion rights since Hitting Bregma started (notably here and here). I’m fascinated by it as a topic because it’s so meaningful to so many people, that I honestly see it as the number one guiding issue in our politics today. I don’t have any scientific evidence for this at all, and I would enjoy being shown that it’s not true, but I think the abortion question actually drives many people in one direction or another, and then the other partisan issues take hold. It’s easy for me to imagine somebody being appalled by abortion, leaning toward a particular political identity because of that, and then slowing assimilating with all the other beliefs of that political party. It seems like a key reason, for instance, why a deeply religious Christian would so predictably care about small government, about maintaining strong borders, about a super powerful national defense, about implementing the death penalty, about low taxes (especially for the wealthy). On the flip side, it’s puzzling to me that advocacy of abortion rights does such a good job at predicting where somebody stands on raising taxes on the wealthy, on being against the death penalty, about working hard for minority rights and environmentalism, and about government services for the poor. Of course, there are plenty of folks out there who don’t fall into those more predictable positions. I know plenty who are deeply religious, and guided by this to be sickened by abortion, but put this aside to otherwise favor liberal politicians who are anti-death penalty, pro-helping the poor, pro-helping immigrants, and willing to tax people to make that possible. It would be a silly straw man fallacy to say that I’m implying that this applies to everybody equally, but I find it interesting to see how many people seem to find their political identity by following the pro-choice or anti-abortion trail to the rest of the stuff.

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Some thoughts on abortion

Abortion is a very difficult and divisive issue in today’s cultural and political landscape (that might be an understatement). I am strongly in favor of abortion rights, so I do not come to this with a neutral perspective. On the other hand, I care about people, and many people I know and love are emotionally traumatized (and I do not think that is an overstatement) by abortion. In the worldview of these people, abortion is literally the voluntary, cruel, painful, disgusting murder of a child, a child unable to defend him/herself. I think all of us who support abortion rights need to remember that, and, for those of us who actually care about other people, need to imagine how it would feel if we knew that millions of children were being killed. Imagine there was a foreign country in which babies (make them two months old for the example to work) were being taken to a hospital or doctor’s office and being killed without anesthesia, for no reason other than they were too much of a burden on the parents. That is how it looks to some people who are anti-abortion. Although I do not view abortion that way, I know what it feels like to learn that children are dying, and I can imagine the outrage that I would feel if I did see abortion that way. I think that’s critically important to keep in mind. It’s that recognition that has driven me, for the past twenty years or more, to try to imagine a compromise. To be honest, I’ve put a fair amount of thought into this, but not as much as I could have for two reasons: 1) I am fairly certain there is no compromise, and 2) even if I thought of one, I have no power to implement it. That second one isn’t as meaningful as the first, because, as anybody who reads anything I post knows, it doesn’t stop me from opining on pretty much everything else that matters to me.

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When does life begin?

The abortion issue is immensely complicated, and our position about it largely depends on how we answer several questions. One of those questions is, “when does life begin?” This sounds so simple to answer, but it couldn’t be more complicated. I’m a scientist, that’s what I do for a living. I have advanced training in these things, and I have no idea how to answer that question factually, and believe me I’ve tried. I’ve looked for evidence that I can use to help form my opinion about this part of the issue, and it’s one of the few areas where I honestly feel there is no scientific answer to the question. It’s simply not an empirical question.

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The fight against Planned Parenthood, the Pledge of Allegiance, and other made-up controversies

Planned Parenthood has been getting a lot of attention in the media these days. “Defunding” Planned Parenthood has become a key point in the campaigns of many GOP Presidential hopefuls, and Carly Fiorina scored big points at the last primary debate by calling attention to videos that allegedly showed human dissections by Planned Parenthood. [She was accused of making up the videos, but it’s more likely that she saw some stock footage that was inserted into a video about Planned Parenthood, even though it likely didn’t accurately portray what happens at Planned Parenthood.] A piece at Salon argues that this is part of a long string of attempts by the right wing to “defund the left.” I think this argument is compelling, but in a conspiratorial way that I think is hard to pull off in today’s world of transparency and whistle blowing. Although it may have started that way, it seems to me that it’s become much more about dividing the country into us vs them, and trying to define who the us is in that division.

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