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Women are losing the abortion election Safetyism is not the route to true equality

Kamala Harris begins her Fight For Reproductive Freedoms tour. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Kamala Harris begins her Fight For Reproductive Freedoms tour. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)


January 26, 2024   6 mins

Ever since the Dobbs decision redefined the reproductive rights of American women, the issue of choice has started to resemble a frantic game of ping-pong. In red states, Republican-controlled senates immediately got busy passing abortion bans, sometimes in direct opposition to their own constituents. In blue states, Democratic governors announced increased abortion protections as well as anti-extradition statutes to protect women who travel from red states to have the procedure done. No doubt these statutes will prove salient, as will the ongoing battle over the deregulation of the abortion pill: in states such as Texas, where abortion past six weeks of pregnancy is now banned, virtually every abortion clinic has closed.

Meanwhile, it’s an election year, and pro-choice advocates hope to put abortion protection on the ballot in nine states — causing panic on the Right, since these measures tend to pass with overwhelming voter support. For Democrats, all signs point to this being the defining issue of the 2024 election. “President Biden and Vice President Harris believe health care decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not politicians. Period,” the White House posted this week, throwing down the first of what will no doubt be several gauntlets.

The current administration’s abortion strategy hinges on Kamala Harris, who is currently touring the country to highlight Biden’s commitment to women’s reproductive rights: on her first stop, she was photographed in front of a giant sign that read, simply, “TRUST WOMEN”. It’s an effective slogan, but also a provocative one, when even the activists who would grant the procedure sacred status don’t seem to entirely trust women to know our bodies, and accept the consequences of our choices.

In a world that simply trusted women, abortion itself would be less common, I think, because more trust equals more empowerment and therefore fewer limitations: women would be free to obtain birth control at low cost and without a prescription, a key issue that has been somewhat overlooked amid the heated battles over abortion. Add some straightforward sex education that teaches women from an early age how fertility works — as opposed to the fearmongering version in which pregnancy can happen anytime, anywhere, just from being in the same room as a sperm — and you would get an informed, empowered population capable of avoiding unintended pregnancies.

Beyond that, the rules would be simple: a woman who wanted an abortion could obtain one within reasonable limits — guided by a scientific understanding of viability, perhaps. And, with the usual caveats — foetal abnormalities, for instance, or a threat to the mother’s life — a woman who sought an elective abortion outside the prescribed window would be in violation of
 well, something. If not the law, then the social contract.

The question of just what consequences a woman could or should face for flouting abortion restrictions has always been a thorny one. Any attempts to enforce such statutes can result in innocent women being investigated for a crime after their wanted pregnancies ended in miscarriage — but even in unambiguous cases, society is at odds with itself about just who to punish and how. Two things are true: that most people support laws limiting abortion beyond the first trimester, and that most people are uncomfortable with the idea of holding women accountable for breaking those laws. (Partly for this reason, medics in the UK have recently been advised not to report women suspected of having an illegal abortion to the police.)

It’s a conundrum: a society that truly trusts women would also trust them to follow the rules or face the consequences. But then, we have always struggled with this, too. We like the idea of empowering women, but holding them accountable for abusing that power? Not so much.

It seems to me that in the abortion wars, neither side is willing to trust women — to see them as fully human, fully adult, fully capable of reckoning with the implications of the choice to terminate a pregnancy. Each in their own way would deprive women of agency, if not by stopping them from making the choice, then by never holding them accountable for it. At the root is a shared conviction that women cannot control themselves, a safetyist impulse aptly described by David Brooks in a recent column about the administrators who increasingly rule over every aspect of American life: “The whole administrative apparatus comes with an implied view of human nature,” he writes. “People are weak, fragile, vulnerable and kind of stupid. They need administrators to run their lives.”

Within the parameters of the debate over abortion rights, you could argue that both sides appear to agree that women are fragile. Much has been written about the horrors of the pre-Roe era; we know the deadly consequences of a world where women cannot safely and legally abort, and we have long scorned the callous politicians who chuckle that the best solution to unintended pregnancy is for women to just stop having sex, you sluts. Less discussed is what the pro-choice side telegraphs about its view of women, when it argues that they must not only be allowed to choose, but to have their options open indefinitely, no restrictions, no limitations.

Academics sniff at the notion that elective abortion should be disallowed after a certain point, decrying the entire concept of foetal viability as “overly moralistic”; the Guttmacher Institute insists that gestational age bans are harmful, full stop, and that abortion should be available to women “on the timeline that meets their needs”. Journalists sombrely report on the troubling implications of the prosecution of a Nebraska teenager who ended her pregnancy with mifepristone — waiting until the 23rd paragraph to mention the relevant and fairly shocking information that she was 30 weeks pregnant at the time.

These arguments lack the spectacular misogyny of the pro-life crowd’s shrieking about sluts, but they are still patronising to women. The implication is that a woman cannot be expected to make up her mind about whether she wants to have a baby within a certain timeframe, nor wrestle with difficult questions about what consideration, if any, the foetus growing inside her deserves. In this we might hear echoes of the old arguments used to control women: that we are fickle, hapless creatures who know little of our own biology and even less of our own minds.

Of course, it’s become fashionable to speak of women and our bodies this way: in terms of fragility. Our ancestors, on the other hand, recognised that the ability to bear children gives women immense power. In the ancient world, abortion was restricted less as a means of protecting women than to protect other people from them. A woman who terminated her pregnancy deprived her husband of an heir, and her crime was not murder, but a sort of theft; she had shaped his future, his legacy, in ways he could not control. The property and inheritance laws that made a woman’s survival dependent on producing children — specifically a son — were, among other things, a way of subverting whatever power might have come from being the one with a womb.

This makes for an ironic comparison with the contemporary narrative that women are in desperate need of protection — at a moment when we enjoy greater control over our reproductive abilities, and less stigma for exercising it, than we have ever before. For all that we seek to defend women from having to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, we still struggle with the raw exercise of power inherent in choosing to end one, or the possibility that with that power comes a certain amount of social responsibility.

When I was four, a tiny mole scurried out of a hole beside me while I was playing in the garden. It startled me, and I brought my foot down instinctively; I didn’t mean to kill it, but I did. My mother made me bury it, and while I did, she told me she knew I hadn’t meant to, but that it didn’t matter. That in a world populated by creatures smaller and more fragile than you, you are accountable for where you choose to step. 

I think about this sometimes — when people scoff that an abortion is nothing, just a bundle of cells, or when I see a woman holding a sign that says, “MY ABORTION WAS FABULOUS”. A mole doesn’t have hopes or dreams; a blastocyst has no sense of itself. If these are arguably lives, they are not especially significant ones, and perhaps this makes it easy to be cavalier: you are not ending so much, when you destroy them. You might even begin to imagine your choices carry no weight at all. 

And yet
 “fabulous”?

I don’t expect much reckoning with these questions in the coming year, or ever, necessarily. Amid the urgency and tumult of the post-Dobbs landscape, several things are true: that abortion must remain legal, that every attempt to restrict it inevitably inflicts far worse harm than it manages to prevent, and that if the Democrats are smart, they’ll spend the next 10 months making sure there’s not a person in the country who hasn’t heard about the unimaginable horrors that have followed the draconian abortion bans in Texas and elsewhere.

But this is a way to win elections, not to illuminate the truth: that the instincts of pro-life and pro-choice alike are too often infantilising to women, and that trusting women requires abandoning the pretence that they need to be protected. Safetyism and equality are mutually exclusive: we must insist on women’s absolute right to choose when or whether to be pregnant, even when that choice intersects with some of the most complex moral questions of all time. At the same time, we must also stop pretending that pregnancy does not carry with it a unique and potent strength. Only a woman can bring forth a whole new person from inside her body — and only a woman can choose not to, reaching over the Fates’ shoulder to snatch those first slim threads of life back through the needle’s eye.

The history of abortion restrictions is a history of men trying to undermine this power, because they are terrified by it, and they should be. It is enormous. It is unfathomable. And like all power, it isn’t without its burdens. But it is ours, whether it’s politically expedient to admit this or not.


Kat Rosenfield is an UnHerd columnist and co-host of the Feminine Chaos podcast. Her latest novel is You Must Remember This.

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N T
N T
5 months ago

Dobbs didn’t “redefine” anything. Dobbs reversed one of the vast overreaches of SCOTUS, and returned the issue where it belongs. Maybe this court will also suddenly realize that the tenth amendment means something, too.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
5 months ago
Reply to  N T

Exactly. It’s been said that even liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg thought that Dobbs was a terrible ruling and said it should be overturned. Liberals rely on the courts to dictate policy – policies that people in individual states should decide.

James S.
James S.
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

I think you meant to say that Ginsburg thought that the Roe decision was bad law. She was dead almost two years before the Dobbs decision came down in 2022.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
5 months ago
Reply to  James S.

‘Terrible ruling’ = ‘bad law’

B Davis
B Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

What James is noting is your incorrect reference to Dobbs. Ginsburg died before Dobbs came before the Court. She objected to Roe as ‘bad law’ = ‘terrible ruling”.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
5 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

That’s partly right, but mostly wrong, as to Justice Ruth Ginsburg. She thought the decision in Roe v Wade was right but the reasoning was wrong, for two reasons.

First, she thought the Court should have declared the Texas law unconstitutional and left it at that, without the discussion of trimesters. That would have let Texas decide how to make its law less extreme, and not instructed it what to do. Started a bottom up process instead of top down.

Second, she wished the Court had relied on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, not the right to privacy clause (which does not exist as the right appears nowhere in the Amendment’s text). That would have avoided all the silly talk of emanations and penumbras.

But in no way did she want Roe v Wade overturned. You can bet she would have written a scathing dissent to Dobbs had she been on the Court when it was decided.

Nor did she think Roe v Wade was a terrible decision. She just thought it could have been better.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

The American Supreme Court to me seems the most ridiculous setup for such a powerful body, whereby its make up is based on nothing but pure luck.
I could understand if each President at the start of his term got to add a new judge and remove another so the court reflected the voting patterns of the previous couple of decades, but to simply rely on people falling off their perch and hoping it happens while you’re preferred side is in charge to me is a daft way of staffing it

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I’m not sure I agree. Purely “rational” systems can work poorly in practice, (look at Israel’s pure PR system) while monarchy for example, avoids political hacks being the head of state, and also empirically being the form of government used by some of the best run nations.

Jae
Jae
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

They’re not “Falling off their perch” many retire happily. Yes, they’re old when they do so, so what. Look at the House Of Lords. Or worse still, look at legislating with logic from the UN Court of Human Rights, not much common sense to be had there at times.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago
Reply to  Jae

Just because the Lords or UN are a shambles as well doesn’t mean the US Supreme Court is anything but daft. You could potentially have one side win 6 elections on the trot, yet the court be stuffed full of their political opponents that haven’t had the backing of the public for over 2 decades

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Nah, nah, the Norwegian Blue isn’t really dead, it’s only sleeping . . .

B Davis
B Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“It’s make up is based on nothing but pure luck”??
Not in the least. Pure luck might put either one of us on the Court…it might put Greta T. there or JLo or Tom Brady or a whole collection of convicted felons. Obviously none of that is happening.
And God forbid that each election allowed/required a mandated Justice removal/replacement. Hard to imagine anything worse.
The Court is designed to be non-partisan (it regularly fails in that sense but that is the design intent). To be named & confirmed as a member of that Court is a lifetime appointment, intended to remove the appointee from the passing political fray and reinforce, instead, his or her fealty to the Law itself which stands above politics. The intent, again, is to try to provide a continuity to the Court’s interpretation of Law.
And clearly to be considered for such an appointment, the President would look at those qualified by education & experience (even though the Constitution itself does not so require).
Not at all pure luck.
The timing of any given appointment is a function of luck, but if the President is consistently choosing from a list of all-stars, the make-up of any given Court (chosen by multiple Presidents at widely different points in time) should remain of a high quality.
But that is a large ‘IF’… especially if the President in question is pre-committed to DIE, in which case we quickly bypass the all-stars and move to those whose first qualification is sex or skin color. It’s hard enough to find great people when that is your objective; it’s impossible if the primary sort criteria is genital configuration and melanin content.

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
5 months ago
Reply to  N T

The right to life, since it is enumerated in an amendment to the Constitution is not a state issue.
I think a reasonable argument can be made that the Supreme Court should have actually held abortion to be unconstitutional – and therefore not voided Roe but rather flipped it. (It has been rumored that at least Alito, Barrett, and Thomas wanted to do this, but couldn’t get the support of their less-conservative collegues.)
The 14th amendment can reasonably be extended to the fetus in the womb if one considers it a person (as I do).
I don’t think that would have been the pragmatic decision, but it would have been the fully correct one.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
5 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Mason

Every abortion, without exception, turns a live animal into a dead animal. In past times, this was a source of regret. But we’ve come around on that. It is now cause for celebration. We now do not regret the making of death, but celebrate it. We “shout” our abortions. In point of fact, there is really nothing new here. Ever since 1789, the affection for making death has been quite the thing.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Mason

Well, actually no, because your view is a small minority one, and the vast majority of people – or indeed judicial decisions – do NOT consider a foetus is a person.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Generally when a woman is visibly pregnant, it’s said that she’s having a baby, not that she’s carrying a foetus.
Does one consider a baby a person?

Bryan Landry
Bryan Landry
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

In my country, the “vast majority of people” and “indeed judicial decisions” did not believe black human persons were people for more than a century. Was the “small minority” conviction that these individuals were, in fact, fully human persons less true because it ran counter to the wisdom of the majority?

B Davis
B Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

It’s said that a majority of people believe in ghosts, Bigfoot, and Alien Visitations…..that the moon landing was fake…that witches exist….that fairies lurk in English gardens. Go back a ways and the majority believed the Earth was the center of the universe. The list of untrue things that people believe is endless.
That some consider a human fetus NOT to be a person only underlines Michael’s point about the modern celebration of death.
As for the argument of ‘personhood’ and when that label can indeed be draped about an individual…that’s just silly. A human egg combined with a human sperm, combines to create a human being. It is a human being from the get-go…and remains a human being even after he or she dies. At no point in that process, from conception through death, does the human being ever become something else. Never an oak tree, never a piece of granite, never a cherry popsicle — always a human, a person, a people, a man, a woman, etc.
At any given point of course, they might also be labeled baby, embryo, toddler, teenager, young adult, ‘in their prime’, parent, grandma, senior citizen, demented, on life support, in hospice, athlete, obese, diseased, deceased….et al….but beneath the label, always a person.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
5 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Mason

Well, yes, if (conditional statement) a conceptus is a person, then all constitutional or other legal protections that apply to persons, apply. I doubt however 1) whether any part of the US constitution settles this, much less 2) that any “right to life” is even mentioned in the US constitution. Enumerated where, precisely? (The Declaration of Independence? But then even it — not quite on a legal par with the constitution, in any event — doesn’t say, exactly, that there is an absolute right to biological viability.)

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
5 months ago

How about if we (society) let only women make decisions regarding abortion? Such decisions would still be state by state here in the USA.

William Shaw
William Shaw
5 months ago

We could, but it wouldn’t change the roughly 50:50 split on the issue.
Also, if you believe that aborting a baby is killing a living human being it’s only proper that society as a whole is allowed its say.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

I don’t believe it is 50-50, as even in the more conservative states any potential abortion restrictions that have gone to a referendum have failed

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I believe that WS means that amongst the ‘activists’ on either side the male:female split is about 50:50.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
5 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Same with going to war! All human life is precious until countries decide to go to war, then all bets are off. Society should get to decide if killing “foreign” people should be allowed, not politicians! The message seems to be “women cant be trusted and neither can foreigners”!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

The politicians – male and female – send men to war to satisfy their own greed. Countries don’t go to war; leaders send proxies.

Arthur G
Arthur G
5 months ago

Why would a father have less rights than a mother?

Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
5 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Because you have to TRUST WOMEN!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

In a situation where her own well-being was at stake should the pregnancy continue; in the case of rape, or incest.

It’s also a feature of reproduction that no man can be 100% certain a foetus is his (unless the female is being held captive).

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
5 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Because he doesnt have the wherewithal to get pregnant?

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
5 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

The rights, whatever those are, of a woman when it comes to an abortion aren’t based on her being the mother making the decision as parent of the child. They are about her bodily autonomy.
That’s where the real root of questions about the ethics of abortion end up being stuck. Even if we define the fetus at some point as having a right to live, bodily autonomy is also a very important right in most legal systems. So you have the right of the fetus, and the mother carrying it, potentially in a conflict, and the question is how do you weigh those against each other.
The father isn’t really relevant because he doesn’t have the right to negate any life the fetus has, and he doesn’t have any say over the woman’s body.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
5 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Simple. His contribution to procreation is six minutes of ecstasy and teasspoon of body fluid. Her’s is nine months of a huge toll on her liver, kidneys, heart, spine, culminating in hours of agony delivering.

William Shaw
William Shaw
5 months ago

It’s been shown many times that abortion is not a gendered issue.
There are roughly equal numbers of men and women on both sides of the debate.
Shame on the DT for that divisive headline.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
5 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Weird how if the numbers are equal then even red states voted to protect abortion rights….
Of course the number are nowhere near equal. Even in a deep red state like Kansas the pro-life mullahs got smoked 60-40. Try that in California or New York and see how the numbers stack up.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago

How is it weird? I don’t get the irony. Are you just saying Dobbs was a good decision because it created more Democracy?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

In many states Republican supermajorities have imposed severe laws against the majority will of the state electorate, which a grass-roots referendum was required to remedy. In more than a dozen, there is no exception for rape or incest. In a few states, even an already-dead fetus who endangers the mother’s life cannot be terminated.
Also, with regard to states where the majority does support extreme restrictions or a total ban: There is such a thing as a tyranny of the majority trampling over the rights and wellbeing of the individual–not the greatest feature of democracy.
What about a federal 15-week limit, with individual states able to extend that to the stage of 50% viability: 26 weeks? That standard will thrill no one, but it seems like a reasonable compromise. No zealous wing of the issue can have its way all the way anyway. A repressive Gilead where no states allow termination will not come to pass; nor will a nationwide free-for-all of the kind advocated by choice-extremists.
Extreme laws just mean that women in duress have to travel out of state, something many of the poorest women, often under-the-thumb of a man, drug-addled–or otherwise under-prepared to nurture a child–will be unable to do. Adoption should be much more emphatically urged in such cases, however. And the unfortunate procedure should never take place the same day it is requested, unless it is life-of-death.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The obsession of killing babies in the womb is so perverse.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I gather the term is ‘depth-charging’, at least here in my remote part of the UK.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The obsession is not unidirectional. When you force a woman to carry a fetus who is already dead or has no chance of survival to term, at great risk to her own valuable life, you have become obsessed.

Jae
Jae
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

That scenario is a rarity. But let’s use it to carry on aborting 3,000 babies per day in the US alone. That’ll make the world a better place for sure.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  Jae

Yes, rare. But not unique and a hideous abomination, borne of hardline idiocy. And have you noticed that once they are born, these babies are no longer on the mind of many extreme anti-abortion crusaders? Rape and incest pregnancies are, sadly, not rare at all.

B Davis
B Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

A rape (and incestuous rape as a subset of total rapes) which ends in pregnancy is indeed rare.
Given either 90K or 128K rapes annually (depending upon which definition one uses)….assuming (incorrectly) that every rape includes PinV sex….. applying the normal 5% chance of pregnancy for any given act of random intercourse….then of the estimated 4.5M annual American pregnancies, maybe 1/10th of 1% were the result of rape (far less of incestuous rape).
It is the exception…and to Jae’s point, it would seem irrational to base any policy on such exceptional arithmetic.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I appreciate that you’re trying to get to the closest thing approximating “fairness” as opposed to political gamesmanship.  A post above referenced “steelmanning” as opposed to a Strawman argument where one distorts the position of their opponent either out of bad faith or ignorance.  I do think it needs to be acknowledged that the primary distinction between a Pro-Life and Pro-Choice position is that the Pro-Life side believes the Fetus is a Human with Rights. The Pro-Choice side either doesn’t believe it’s a Human or doesn’t think it becomes a Human until a certain stage of development.  Then there is a third position which you seem to be articulating, that even if you acknowledge Humanity, it’s hard to balance the Rights of the Unborn with the Rights of the Mother.

To your point about Republican supermajorities and referendums, I think a distinction has to be made between Representative Democracy (Locke) and People’s Democracy (Rousseau).  In a Representative Democracy, there’s a belief that perfecting society is not possible and having a limited Representative form of government with coequal branches is the best possible way to check and limit the “Tyranny of the Majority.” 

In a People’s Democracy or Social Democracy, the first priority is the “General Will” of the public. Referendums are an example of this and a good argument can be made that clear, straight forward referendum questions will reflect the General Will of the Majority.  But what if the Referendums are written by partisans more concerned with political victory than ascertaining the desire of the public?  Most referendums that I’ve seen are confusing and hardly reflect a binary choice or choices.  So when Kansas or Ohio votes down abortion bans, I don’t think it’s the sweeping indictment of the Pro-Life position that gets portrayed.  I think its a response to an open-ended question where most people reflexively recognize that exceptional circumstances exist and the potentiality of unfair punishment makes people uneasy.

My biggest issue is how much the abortion debate mystifies the reality about which States are the most free.  The ongoing DeSantis/Newsom debate encapsulates it quite well. In my opinion, the beauty of Federalism is that you can vote with your feet.  If you look at which States are gaining population, it’s overwhelmingly red states with more limited government and not coincidentally lower cost of living.  I believe California and Illinois are almost totalitarian states in how much they tinker with the ordinary lives of citizens under the banner of Public Health.  But clearly, some people feel completely different.  I don’t see Conservatives spending much time trying to change Democrat-run States but at some point that will change if outside Democrat groups don’t stop tinkering with red state elections.  Nationalized rules might sound like a solution but I think History shows that the more you can decentralize a Republic, the more you can limit excessive state intervention.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I posted a lengthy reply, polite and sincere, that for some reason is in “quarantine” or editorial review, perhaps for 12 more hours as they do here.
I’ll just add one thing I didn’t address there. I’m also glad to see excessive federal power checked, but total de-centralization is also a path of excess, mirroring the failed Articles of Confederation, where 13–or 50–de facto fiefdoms make their own laws and any notion of a union is eroded to the point of disintegration and increased likelihood of war. As with the federal Separation of Powers, a balance between federal, state, and local powers is needed.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

*posted

Nancy Kmaxim
Nancy Kmaxim
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Valuing each human life is a conspicuous tenant of pro-life advocacy, so it doesn’t make sense that pro life advocates would be “screaming stop having sex you s**t” or denigrating “low IQ populations”. I acknowledge that we can all sometime not make sense but I’ve truly not experienced either of these sentiments in the pro life community. Also, no person speaks for all women.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  Nancy Kmaxim

Maybe so. But people are far likelier to express such a dark sentiment online, under cloak of anonymity, than they are to say it to your face–especially if they can detect your own ethical consistency.
Sincere question: Do you tend to reject the death penalty and oppose war too?
*For my own part I’m about 99% percent opposed to the death penalty–but that last 1% is hard to kill (and reserved for the very worst among us).

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Ha the 24 hour Unherd review is annoying but I get why they do it.  I could argue with you around the margins on abortion but everything you said was reasonable.  

I’ve watched documentaries on Kant and read his basic philosophy on Transcendental Idealism and etc but I’m not all that versed.  He’s always seemed to me to be at the intersection between good ideas and bad ideas…and maybe that’s because he correctly identified alot of fundamentals that got split off in 30 directions. 

As I understand it, his main project was trying to synthesize Empiricism and Rationalism, which I do think should be the goal.  I’m just not sure we should believe anybody that claims to have figured it out.  In order to do Empiricism right, you need 100% knowledge.  I think you mentioned being a fan of Anthropology before.  I struggle greatly with how empirical that field really is and how much it becomes subject to politically driven observations.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I’m no expert on Kant either: I’ve read sections of his work and summaries by others. I do doubt he’d reduce his own intended project to the synthesis you present; maybe I’m wrong. Nearly all the best philosophers from Aristotle onward overreached and seemed too certain of their conclusions, Kant no exception. But I think we can agree that their work endures not on false reputation or smoke and mirrors alone, but for something of enduring quality too. For a philosopher–huge qualification!–Kant is still widely read. When I’m in a serious and disciplined mood, I try to digest a little primary-source philosophizing.
Thank for coming back to check this abandoned campsite.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

No, Kant wouldn’t describe Empiricism/Rationalism as his project. He called it the Analytic-Synthetic distinction.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Yeah. But that is itself a simplification or reduction. I think Immanuel would agree. The terms are all broad abstractions with little to no independent meaning. Catch you on the proverbial next board. You’re welcome to the last word here–which I will read–if you like.

William Shaw
William Shaw
5 months ago

You misunderstand when I say it’s not a gendered issue.
The number of men who approve of abortion is roughly equal to the number of women who approve of abortion.
The number of men who oppose abortion is roughly equal to the number of women who oppose abortion.
Certain regions may be more pro or con abortion but opinions on the issue are not determined by sex.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
5 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Yes: I’m afraid I didn’t see this before making my own comment on Champagne Socialist’s apparent misunderstanding of your point.

William Shaw
William Shaw
5 months ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

Champagne Socialist is the resident troll.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
5 months ago

I think you may have misunderstood the point about the equality of the sexes on the issue of abortion. Pro-abortion people may outnumber anti-abortion people in any one state, but on each side of the argument the numbers of men and women supporting pro- or anti- will be roughly equal. Isn’t that all that Wiliam Shaw is saying?

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
5 months ago

I don’t know why we Americans go to the trouble of performing the hard, thankless grunt work of begetting the next generation of Americans, when we can just have Mexicans do it for us.

McExpat M
McExpat M
5 months ago

Don’t worry, we will have external wombs shortly. The sexes will finally be equal then. The Mexicans can raise them once they are out of the plastic pod so Mommy can rise to the c-suite. That way we can still enrich the gene pool without ever getting dirty.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
5 months ago

I think the big question is: when is it permissible to take a human life? At conception? At viability? At birth? At six months? Whenever the Supreme Court says it’s OK?
I think, following lefty JĂŒrgen Habermas, that we live in community in the world with other humans with whom we communicate and develop moral agreement. Or should.
So I don’t want feminists to set the rules, and I don’t want born-again Christians to set the rules. I want us all to sit down and discuss when it’s OK to take a human life, and at what point moral condemnation comes in, and at what point the criminal law comes in.
At the center of all this is children. And a great American philosopher once said: “Every child wants a mother and a father: their mother and their father.”

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
5 months ago

If itis not permissable to take a human life, why do so many countries go to war and so many civilians die? Foetuses are more important than those already born? Dont the legislators have a brain?
Either all life is “sacred” or none is.
And where is the responsibility/accountability of the men who get women pregnant? How many get a “free” pass?
For as long as women cannot trust men, abortion is necessary. A woman doesnt get pregnant on her own…
And as for human life must be protected, why do so many women have spontaneous abortion after spontaneous abortion, often up to 28 weeks, but few doctors investigate if the woman is “single even if her relationship is long-term. So many men still think women and women’s bodies belong to them but they dont have to live with the consequences of legal abortion or spintaneous abortion. And so many of these men also believe war is the way to settle difference. Surely in 2024, women should have bodily autonomy as it is their lives that are most affected, not that of an unviable foetus.

William Shaw
William Shaw
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

/ˈfiːtəs/ (British English) (also fetus British and North American English) ​a young human or animal before it is born

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

Your long winded strawman rationalization says so much more about you than you may realize.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

I’ve heard exactly zero “pro-choice” women, ever, state that baby trapping a man is wrong, or that men, also, shouldn’t be forced into parenthood.
Insofar as bodily autonomy goes, only American men are legally forced into the draft registry. Being legally forced to die for one’s country is unquestionably an issue of “bodily autonomy,” one that most feminists dismiss or barely notice.
Arguments for completely unregulated abortion, then – “a woman and her doctor” are apparently above any sort of law – are only arguments for female privilege.
Men and children count for very little, it would seem.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago

I think we have it about right now. Most terminations happen before the ‘quickening’ at 12 weeks. Only a woman can know whether she is prepared for motherhood. It is too big a thing to force on someone.

Veronica Lowe
Veronica Lowe
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Very few women are ‘prepared for motherhood.’ Pregnancy is always a shock to the system, and very frightening. If we relied on ‘wanted’ and planned babies, and the altruistic desire to be pregnant, we would have died out long ago. Nature in her wisdom has made man and woman irresistable to each other, and has given us nine months when a woman’s body protects her child while her mind learns what it’s about.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago

This is exactly what most European societies have done. It ends with a compromise, which is acceptable to the majority but which will never satisfy the extremes of both sides. Indeed is inevitably more difficult to (simply) defend, taking into account as it does that a foetus is at least potentially a human being and that women bear the burden of bringing it to term.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago

So to be clear, the people that were most adamant about requiring every person to take a novel vaccine regardless of jurisdiction or physical need are now claiming the moral high ground on bodily autonomy?  I don’t understand why Democrats don’t pair their Abortion stance with their Vaccine stance.  Covid is still here.  Why not run on both the vaccine and abortion position.  Are they not consistent values?

I always felt neutral about abortion until I listened to a rapid heartbeat at 7 weeks.  In the words of all great Left Wing Bureacrats “The Science is settled.”  That’s a human being.  I have great sympathy for women that have abortions and come to regret them.  I am not interested in legally punishing a woman for abortion. I think exceptions need to be available for rape and the health of the mother.  Not because the life of the growing baby is less important in those cases but because laws can’t always protect both mother and baby. A reasonable law appreciates the dilemma and permits choice in those circumstances on behalf of the mother.

People can disagree with what I said. Maybe they think I’m wrong.  But they know it was not stupid or malicious.  US Federalism is great. People that disagree with me on important public health policies don’t have to stay around.  I can also move from them as I did during Covid. I got tired of being locked down while the blue city/state I lived in did nothing about looting and violence…I moved to a red state and those issues vanished immediately.

People that disagree on a complex issue like abortion can just live in different states.  The state you pick should be a top priority.  If you’re a very progressive person you will not like living in a Red State and should avoid at all cost. People love Jesus, college football, country music and the second amendment. They are unrefined.    Also, there is a higher percentage of “low education” voters here.  Very few understand the importance of Intersectional identity or concern themselves with Climate Change.

On the other hand, Portland is a very artsy place with unlimited social freedom and extremely awakened sociopolitical views. Places like Portland or Seattle truly appreciate Reproductive and Restorative Justice.  Maybe Portland and Seattle are where you want to live if you don’t like Conservative values or the political system.  America works better when each state brings something different to the table. That’s what makes it great!

R.I. Loquitur
R.I. Loquitur
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Your generalities regarding the difference between Red State and Blue State occupants are simply cliches and quite off-putting. Take away city voters in “Blue” states and they would all be Red.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

Ok and take away rural voters and its all Blue.  You got the point.  The so-called “cliches” are a stand-in to describe the bases of the Democrat and Republican parties.  People are sorting themselves out by moving to places that better reflect their worldview and type of governance they want. Governance is determined by the occupant voters.

I think the question has to be answered, why are Democrat-leaning voters more offended by the Red State/Blue State distinction than vice versa? I think the answer is that Conservatives have figured out that Progressives control the cultural means of production because they’ve been able to parody Conservatives as stupid and unenlightened.  By Conservatives sorting themselves out in a concise Red/Blue manner, they’ve been able to demystify that parody.  If Conservatives are so stupid and/or “Authoritarian” than Progressives should be happy that Conservatives are exiting Blue governance at such a
high rate.

I don’t think you realize how cruelly Conservatives have been portrayed by pop and mainstream culture over the past 15 years.

R.I. Loquitur
R.I. Loquitur
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

“The so-called “cliches” are a stand-in to describe the bases of the Democrat and Republican parties.”

I.e., cliches.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

Cliche refers to an unoriginal, regurgitated thought.

You think this is unoriginal and regurgitated?

“Portland is a very artsy place with unlimited social freedom and extremely awakened sociopolitical views. Places like Portland or Seattle truly appreciate Reproductive and Restorative Justice.”

R.I. Loquitur
R.I. Loquitur
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Yes, extremely unoriginal and regurgutated.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

Now you’re just trolling

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

T Bone has provided interesting thoughtful and nuanced comments. On the other hand you have made one idiotic one “take away city voters…”

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

In other words perhaps, take away everyone who doesn’t agree with you! I’m no fan of Joe Biden, or the Democrats but you kind of wonder how he obtained the largest popular vote ever.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Because most of California voted for him

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
5 months ago
Reply to  R.I. Loquitur

According to Democrats, the new Miranda warning is:
You have the right to an abortion. If you can’t afford your abortion, one will be provided for you.
Since men can get pregnant, this is an important right for everyone. There’s a legal doctrine that people in their 80’s can get pregnant, so even old folks need the right to an abortion. And the right to an abortion is the only right you need. It ain’t like you could drive or take a bus to a pro-abortion state in most cases. It has to be a house call abortion or it doesn’t count.
You don’t need any of the Bill of Rights, or the rule of law. Filing a lawsuit contesting an election is a crime. Asking a lawyer how to file a lawsuit is fraud, which disolves lawyer client privilege and subjects your lawyer to prosecution for giving you advice. Petitioning public officials to do due diligence is a crime. Free speech is permitted only if it falls within federal “suggestions.” Otherwise, the FBI pays private companies to delete it. In law interpretation, Sarbanes Oxley, passed to insure accurate corporate financial reporting, was used to prosecute Jan 6 trespassing defendants as felons for “obstructing an official proceeding,” (Section 1512c). Nothing to worry about here. Worry about abortion instead! So campaineth Democrats.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

“The people that were most adamant about requiring every person to take a novel vaccine regardless of jurisdiction or physical need are now claiming the moral high ground on bodily autonomy? ”

The two aren’t really equivalent. If you’re a young female you were unlikely to be harmed by Covid directly. You were also unlikely to be harmed by the vaccine. However, indirectly Covid was harming you – parents or grandparents may have been harmed, lockdowns (which, rightly or wrongly, was the tool used to prevent harm to the vulnerable) are likely to have harmed you economically. Taking the vaccine would help prevent future harms to you by reducing harm to society.

Having a child will cause a huge change in the life of a young woman, which she has perceived as harmful. Having an abortion prevents that harm. Either choice may be regretted later.

Basically, forcing her to have a vaccine is not equivalent to giving her the option of having an abortion.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

A couple things- Your first point relies on the assumption that Covid Vaccine Mandates served a holistic public purpose. Mainly that the vaccine prevented transmission from the healthy to the vulnerable. If true, you would have a point. However many doctors such as the maligned, Jay Bhattacharya at Stanford argue that the vaccine did little if anything to prevent transmission.  It reduced severe disease.  If that’s the case, reasonable people can debate whether mandating that healthy, young people take the vaccine served any purpose. 

Someone with obvious symptoms might actually be more likely to quarantine themselves off vs an asymptomatic spreader.  This isn’t an indictment of all vaccines or an indictment of the Covid vaccine itself…which I took voluntarily.  But it does call into question whether mandating everyone take a novel vaccine for an otherwise minor respiratory illness is necessary when it potentiality poses other health risks.

In the Abortion situation, nobody is mandating or preventing anything.  The service option is simply not available or extremely limited in some states. Certain red states have essentially barred the practice of Abortion just like certain blue states allow abortion throughout the pregnancy and have also an enacted the ability to practice Elective Euthanasia.  This is an important distinction showing how different people think about the sanctity of life and death. 

But no United States citizen is “barred” from getting an abortion.  It’s an issue of cost and travel. So we’re talking about Negative Liberty (don’t force or stop me) vs Positive Liberty (Make something more accessible).  If people live in States that reflect their values, all these issues largely erode.  I don’t find it compelling that some are too poor to travel out-of-state for an abortion. For one, Abortion is not a protected Constitutional Right and two, there’s a massive arrangement of abortion activists that arrange out-of-state abortion travel. The whole issue is almost completely self-corrected by Dobbs returning power to the States.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I don’t live in the US and so I am not fully aware of the details involved in the situation there. But surely the opinions of US citizens regarding abortion don’t entirely align with whether you vote red or blue? So you can’t simply base yourself in whichever state aligns with your beliefs on abortion, especially as you don’t know if you’ll need an abortion when you make that decision. And would you really want different states to become increasingly aligned to one side or other of the political spectrum – surely that would result in instability?

You dismiss cost and travel as a barrier but clearly that depends on personal wealth/income and the positive/negative liberty distinction becomes, for some, arbitrary – not providing access in a given location will effectively prevent some people from getting an abortion (and I’m not sure it’s a case of not providing access rather than not permitting access, but that may be my lack of familiarity with the details).

I agree the vaccine was not particularly effective at reducing transmission. However, that can’t be known until after it has been taken by the population – prior to it being distributed it could reasonably have been expected to reduce transmission. Personally if I was young I would have been far more frustrated by mandated lockdowns with all the harm they caused than by mandated vaccines.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

That was a really thoughtful and self-aware response. No, you don’t get perfect viewpoint alignment by state but you understand when you move to a dark red or blue state what the cultural values are. The laws of the state reflect the cultural majority values on taxes, guns, abortion, marijuana and etc.

There are Constitutional Amendments, specifically the 14th Amendment that preserve fundamental rights for a minority in each state. The Dobbs case was about whether abortion was a fundamental right and whether it could be regulated by the Federal Government or just the states. The Court determined the latter.

Abortion is a complicated issue that has to be handed with compassion but the travel argument turns into a Universalist slippery slope. If Abortion has to be a federal right everywhere because poor people are unduly burdened by out-of-state expense than wouldn’t Elective Euthanasia need to be federally legalized as well? What’s the distinction that you draw between the two?

The United States works because of Federalism. The ability to live in places that reflect your values creates a domino effect of freedom. There’s no telling how long the world would have been in Lockdowns had US states like Florida not decided to offer people a way out of the Covid restriction madness.

The more people that moved to Florida, Texas
and etc during Covid, the more other states and the rest of the world had to take notice and follow suit.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Thanks for your in depth response. I haven’t come across the idea of moving to a state based on its politics before, the equivalent doesn’t really exist in the UK aside from a few financial reasons. People live where they were brought up, where jobs are available, where family is or because they enjoy living in, for example, London for the lifestyle or Scotland for the scenery.

In terms of abortion there’s a balance between personal choice and collective belief to be struck on when it becomes acceptable. My belief is later than yours and aligns more or less with the collective decision of (most of) the UK. An equivalent to the federal situation in the US does exist in the UK though, as abortion is less readily available in Northern Ireland.

I don’t agree on the Florida aspect – everyone became very insular during the pandemic and not paying much attention to the RotW. In the UK we were aware of the lockdown-breaking demonstrations of course, but I don’t recall them being described as reasons to loosen restrictions. My general recall is that they were condemned. In another example of the insularity during the pandemic I talked to some Swedes who were utterly unaware, and astonished, by the fact people in the UK were confined to their houses for 3 months.

Duane M
Duane M
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

No, the science is not settled on when an embryo becomes a person. There’s not enough space here to argue that fully, but personhood has seen many definitions across societies and science does not have an answer to any such social question. Viability? That is also highly subjective, depending on where you live, your financial resources, access to doctors and hospitals, etc., etc.

But back to your basic observation about beating hearts: the heart is the first organ to develop function in a vertebrate embryo, before there is a brain, before there are limbs or lungs. Because, of course, those other developing organs require a blood supply. A heartbeat indicates there is a developing embryo, and at that point in development you would be hard put to tell whether the embryo might become a turtle, a bird, a pig, or a person. That is what the science says.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  Duane M

The definition of “personhood” is complicated by legal and political considerations. That different societies struggle to define it just means the “Science” is polluted with bias.  You can make a Libertarian case for abortion.  You can say that bringing the government into a personal matter has downsides that outweigh the benefits.  Reasonable people can debate that but as far as Science, a Human embryo is a Human at the earliest stage of development. 

Your comparison below about other animals is a mystification.  There was no question when I heard my son’s heartbeat that the embryo was human because…my wife is a human. Whether the human embryo resembles a human or differs in appearance from other species is irrelevant.  Its a stage of development.  All Organisms go through different stages of development unless that development ends naturally or intentionally.  Bill Burr does a great bit about somebody taking your cake batter out an oven, destroying it and then claiming they never destroyed your cake because it never actually became a cake.  Terminating an embryo inside a human, is terminating a developing human.  Just because managing laws are tricky doesn’t mean the science isn’t obvious.

Jacqui Denomme
Jacqui Denomme
5 months ago
Reply to  Duane M

That may all be very true, but when I first heard the heartbeat of my son at 6 weeks gestation I had the exact same knowledge: that was not just a heartbeat I was hearing. There was a person attached to that heartbeat. This might not have been a rational interpretation but I knew it with all of my heart to be true and I was completely surprised by that knowledge. Even still, I mostly think that there is a ‘best path forward’ in circumstances of unwanted pregnancy and thus requires a more nuanced approach than what is happening in some US states at the moment.

El Uro
El Uro
5 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

On the other hand, Portland is a very artsy place with unlimited social freedom and extremely awakened sociopolitical views.
I recently came across a note about a sociological study conducted in Israel by a fairly neutral organization. The note was written by a left-wing correspondent (as it should be).
The purpose of the study was to establish differences in attitudes towards the media between the left and the right. These differences disconcerted the correspondent.
As it turns out, leftists have virtually no interest in “right-wing” media and 91% of them trust their “left-wing” sources.
On the right, the picture turned out to be less clear. Firstly, they turn to both their “right-wing” media and, albeit a little less often, to the “left-wing” media. Secondly, they, in general, do not trust either one or the other. Thirdly, they are less likely to be interested in the media, turning to other sources. The latter especially offended the correspondent, who was indignant at the fact that the right-wingers use, so to speak, “uncertified”, and therefore “unreliable” sources of information, unlike the media, which is responsible to publish only checked facts

Kate Madrid
Kate Madrid
5 months ago

I heard a term recently that I loved: “steelmanning” the other guys argument. I heard it re: St. Thomas Aquinas, that he would “steelman” the arguments of his opponents instead of strawmanning them. That he would always use the best version of an argument to debate. I think Ms. Rosenfeld almost does that a couple times here (also a ton of strawmanning, for sure, it’s hard not to). But kudos to her for doing some real engagement with the real arguments about life.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate Madrid

Quite so. While I could guess her stance confidently, I think she has a few doubts and regards the other sides arguments with respect.

T Bone
T Bone
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate Madrid

Great term. I’ve been looking for that word. I’m not sure she effectively “steelmanned” the Pro-Life position. I think there are holes in her argument. Still she deserves credit for actually engaging in both sides of the debate.

Max Price
Max Price
5 months ago

“ It’s a conundrum: a society that truly trusts women would also trust them to follow the rules or face the consequences. But then, we have always struggled with this, too. We like the idea of empowering women, but holding them accountable for abusing that power? Not so much.”

“ In this we might hear echoes of the old arguments used to control women: that we are fickle, hapless creatures who know little of our own biology and even less of our own minds”

Society’s reluctance to hold women accountable, and feminism’s near silence on the issue is the most interesting concept in this article. That and feminisms implied position that non feminist women don’t know their own minds or understand their interests, “the poor dears”.
It was a shame that they were articulated within the abortion issue which seems to make everyone overly emotional and therefore stupid.
I really like Kat’s articles. If I could be so bold, I’d suggest an expansion of the ideas mentioned without the baggage of the abortion debate.

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
5 months ago

Canada has had no law governing abortion for some 30 years. Our statistics show that there are very few performed after the first 12 weeks. Instead of endless debates about what abortion laws should/should not permit at what number of weeks ask the question: why do we need any abortion laws at all?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Roman

That’s the most simple question to answer, in an issue of great complexity.

Women have always sought abortion, therefore it’s better to have a legal framework in which they can do so safely rather than unsafely.

Moralising on the issue doesn’t prevent it happening.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Roman

Abortion laws make the statement that human life is precious, even for fetuses in the womb and old or disabled people who both need help to live. It’s not that doctors cannot kill them in certain circumstances, but that society needs to make sure their right to life is protected and not abused.
That’s what Canada misses, in my opinion, for both those beginning their lives and those ending it. You send a message that people can do whatever they want. Some people will abuse that. They always have.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
5 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Always, some people will abuse any freedom. That is not an argument for abolishing this or that freedom. (Abusus non tollit usum.)

Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
5 months ago

TRUST WOMEN – says the giant sign and I immediately get the feeling that I should not trust women…

Jon Barrow
Jon Barrow
5 months ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

Right. I’m generally suspicious of a slogan containing a moral exhortation.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
5 months ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

There is a simole answer. Every young man gets a contraceptive capsule on reaching puberty. It is topped up until women can trust men to be responsible adults. No more unwanted pregnancies.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

Is there something that prevents women from using a contraceptive capsule? Such a thing does exist, you know, and has proven rather effective over time. It takes TWO responsible adults for this work as you’d like.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
5 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

The pill is not 100%.

William Shaw
William Shaw
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

Respectfully, I advise therapy.
Something awful must have happened to you.
p.s. If women want control over their fertility, i.e. agency to accompany the responsibility they seek, then surely they would not want to leave it to men to prevent pregnancy.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

If responsibility were as attractive to women as height, there would be very few abortions.
It clearly isn’t, as women tend to compete with each other over a very tiny pool of “desirable” men, who therefore have far more options.
Who would want a boring, dullard husband, when one could have a series of fun, exciting boyfriends?
In other words, responsibility doesn’t provoke female desire, and may in fact do the opposite. This is probably why abortion is seen by some as an inalienable right, even when it begins to resemble infanticide.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

I think they mean trust the “right” women .
That is women like them. That’s the trouble with today’s politics. They are only applying freedom and trust to their own group and not the population as a whole.

Disputatio Ineptias
Disputatio Ineptias
5 months ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

Especially when the woman in front of the sign is Kamala Harris!

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
5 months ago

At the end of the Punic Wars (Rome and Carthage) the Romans killed every Carthaginian, tore down the cities and salted the fields. They wanted to exterminate them.

The Carthage people’s religion had human baby sacrifices – the Romans thought that so utterly evil – and they were not easy people themselves – but never did religious human sacrifice although they killed for every other reason, that they thought Carthage needed to be erased from the world..

Human Baby Sacrifice is one of the cornerstones of the Postmodern, secular, atheist religion. No other issue is more important to a lefties than they be able to ki** babies – it is a religion to them.

Over a million every year in the west – over the decades more than any genocide ever done…

Women’s health… haha, like the 14,000 adults Canadian’s intentionally ki** every year in the Health Care System is ‘Health’? Oh, yea…

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
5 months ago

“Romans… never did religious human sacrifice”. Sorry not true, though it did get steadily less popular.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20726130/

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Rob Nock

After a national catastrophe such as the Battle of Cannae*the sacrifice of a Greek and a Gaul was thought quite acceptable. Interesting that it was NOT thought necessary to sacrifice a Roman.

(* A Battle that cost 50K Roman lives. Today’s equivalent would be about 500K.)

Anne Humphreys
Anne Humphreys
5 months ago

I don’t think the Romans are a good example on this issue. They exposed newborn children when the father did not want to rear it. They even had special places to do this. So I suspect if they could have easy, safe abortion, they would have jumped at it.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
5 months ago
Reply to  Anne Humphreys

Every society on earth practiced some form of exposure/killing….if baby couldn’t or wouldn’t be cared for. Absolutely routine in hunter-gather societies ….and regular in London and Paris into the 18th century.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Anne Humphreys

The Spartans were ‘at it’ long before the Romans.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
5 months ago
Reply to  Anne Humphreys

Abortion has often been a get out clause for Joe Blogg’s extramarital affairs. Here’s the money Betty, get rid of it before her indoors finds out. China used it on an industrial scale. Islam doesn’t ban it because abortion suits men too.
I think Kate’s article explains our situation very well in a manner that requires respect for this monumental biological feat we are able to carry out. Our Bodies, our choice, the burden of consequenes is also ours too.
I strongly believe it is impertinant, arrogant and unworthy of men to have any say on this very female matter. Keep out.

Adrian Clark
Adrian Clark
5 months ago

Everyone who demands a right to kill babies in the womb were themselves around nine months in their mother’s womb. Just sayin…

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clark

Yes, and the earliest stages of life are something all must pass through, so shouldn’t be dismissed as meaningless. The author of this article presents us with mixed ideas: on the one hand there is valuation of creatures smaller and more fragile than ourselves; on the other is the idea that evil misogynists are making rules for controlling women to suit themselves, which must be stopped. New life can only occur naturally from the sexual act between a man and a woman, thus both have responsibility for it. Both can also be affected by its development or destruction, though we hear little about the results of abortion on men, nor on the wider aspect of how it affects attitudes towards life itself. Our whole value system and notion of justice is based on the idea that human life has the highest importance–and not just some human life. Politicising abortion and relations between the sexes has proved itself destructive, so much so that abortion is now the greatest cause of death. We need a better approach to these matters, one that has empathy for human foetuses as well as moles.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clark

If we weren’t born, we wouldn’t know the fact, would we? A rock doesn’t spend it’s time wishing it could be alive.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clark

SO?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

The killing and enslavement was mainly confined to Carthage itself.
Plenty of Carthaginians survived as if evident from inscriptions in Lepcis Magna* and elsewhere.
Septimius Severus even claimed descent from Hannibal Barca.

(*Particularly that of Hannibal Rufus for example.)

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
5 months ago

Rome utterly destroyed Carthage because they’d fought three wars with them and would’ve continued to be a huge threat to them.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

They also completely destroyed Corinth in the same year as Carthage. 146 BC if you use christian chronology.

Emre S
Emre S
5 months ago

It’s darkly comical that in our supposedly very modern and developed society how religious human sacrifice finds a way to creep into daily life (in the form of progressive celebration of abortion).

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  Emre S

We don’t on the whole “celebrate” abortion.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
5 months ago
Reply to  Emre S

No one in their right mind ‘celebrates’ abortion. Choice is what this is about, her chioce NOT his choice. Men are still largely responsible for making laws and they make many that applaud killings, e.g. the death penalty, the training of soldiers to kill, the making of machines for the purpose of killing, Hirsima, Dresden, etc etc. When I read male sanctimony about killing a foetus I just think, hypocrisy, deal with your own areas of power and control, leave us to deal with ours.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago

Rome wasn’t fighting Carthage over the issue if infanticide which also occurred in Rome. Foetuses are not “babies” or so the (vast) majority hold.

You sound like a complete fanatic – I’m not on the Left – but they uphold the position that it is the woman’s decision (either way) not that they want to kill as many “babies” as possible

Will K
Will K
5 months ago

Dobbs correctly noted that the constitution was silent on abortion, so Americans were therefore free to decide whatever laws they wish, in their own State.

Will K
Will K
5 months ago

I’d vote to allow either parent to terminate their child up to the age of 18. Or 21. The exact age needs more discussion.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
5 months ago
Reply to  Will K

My wild-witted Uncle Bob used the term “retroactive abortion”, mostly in jest of course.

B Davis
B Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Will K

A very good point, actually.
Whether the child is in-utero or ex-utero should make little difference if the child is or…at some later point becomes… unwanted, inconvenient, or a significant nuisance.
The bigger question really: why does the object of this kind of ‘freedom of choice’ have to be one’s child? That seems kind of limiting doesn’t it?
If we trust Women & truly empower them, then why shouldn’t we equally rely upon them to make equivalent ‘best decisions’ about their spouse, their boss, their obnoxious cousin Mabel, and the guy at the grocery store who smiles at them funny?
Why would where the victim actually resides (inside or outside the womb) make any difference at all?

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
5 months ago

The comparison of accidentally stepping on a mole to intentionally killing your own flesh and blood is chilling. If you can understand that it is wrong to end the life of something smaller, weaker and (most of all) undeserving for your own personal gain then how can you not apply it to a human growing inside you.

On the ancient stuff the author ignores the common practice of exposure (most famously in Sparta and to baby boys in brothels) – waiting for the baby to be born before leaving it out in the elements to die so that moral responsibility could be avoided. While the taboo against this is still strong (witness the current case in the UK) it worries me that there is a trend towards accepting late-term abortions which will inevitably lead to the next barrier against barbarism being broken.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

People end the lives of weaker creatures all of the time. The meat industry is predicated on removing and killing the young of other creatures.
Until you have carried a pregnancy that is either unwanted or the consequences of which you could not endure, then it would be difficult for you to understand and comprehend what goes on in the heart and mind of the woman or girl concerned.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

long live the nuclear family.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

What is that even supposed to mean? You know most terminations are performed on women who are already married or in long term relationships with existing children.

B Davis
B Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Of course it’s difficult…essentially impossible…. to understand what goes on the in the hearts & minds of pregnant women or girls. But it’s equally impossible to know or understand what goes on in the hearts & minds of men or boys who have fathered the child carried by the woman. Heck, it’s impossible to know what goes on in anyone’s heart or mind, when it comes right down to it.
But there should be a rather large, “So what?” after that truism.
We don’t need to know what actually is going on in anyone’s mind to still be able to say that the taking of an innocent human life is wrong regardless.

Will K
Will K
5 months ago

“President Biden and Vice President Harris believe health care decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not politicians. Period,”

Health care for women ok, but Fathers should have a voice in decisions about their children, before and after birth.

Elizabeth S
Elizabeth S
5 months ago
Reply to  Will K

That sounds nice, but yikes, what does that actually shake out as? The mother doesn’t want the child and the father does, so the mother can be forced to carry the pregnancy to term because of him? Unfortunately, pregnancy is binary, so there’s no “a little bit” here. There is also a complete asymmetry to the actual process of pregnancy, where one party bears (heh) the entire cost — the discomfort, the changes, and most importantly the risks to health — and the other has no physical cost. Since pregnancy is 100% on the mother, I don’t see the argument for why the father legally should be able to make decisions before birth. After birth, both parents share equal burden and responsibility, and have equal say and custody.

B Davis
B Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth S

You don’t see the argument for why the father should be able to make decisions about his child before birth?
How could you not? The child is half his. Blood of his blood; flesh of his flesh. His DNA bound as tightly as the Mother’s within the beating heart of his son, his daughter.
Yes, indeed, the mother quite literally bears the burden of pregnancy. But that is the nature of reality. It is not fair. it is a burden which is unshared. It is one of the absolutes. To death & taxes we can add female pregnancy.
But the fact that the woman carries the child she created in full partnership with the man does not give her the right to make unilateral decisions about the life they jointly created.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago
Reply to  Will K

I always love the ‘and their doctor’ bit.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
5 months ago
Reply to  Will K

Will K. Bearing in mind that the male’s contribution to pregnancy consists of around six minutes of ecstasy and teaspoon of bodily fluid it hardly warrants an equal or even a minimal right to any consequences. Whereas the female endures nine months of a huge toll on her heart, liver, kidneys, spine. Basically and unromantically, the foetus is the largest parasite a human body can tolerate and only the female can tolerate it, and not all females are able to tolerate it for the full nine months. Ejecting the foetus culminates in hours of agony. You know this. I just thought it appropriate to remind you in graphic terms so that you don’t descend into a chocolate box and roses view of what we women do to give birth.
We are hardly on an equal footing here in terms of who should be making the decisions.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
5 months ago

Abortion is awomsn’s rightvto choose. Thankfully Britain isnt America where spiteful well funded God bothering weirdos get to impose their views.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago

Just like genocide is the right of the powerful

Simon Templar
Simon Templar
5 months ago

Well said.

Simon Templar
Simon Templar
5 months ago

Doug, just to be clear, you would not be having this conversation in English on a technical platform with complete freedom of speech without well-funded God-bothering weirdos in past centuries buying your rights to a voice with their burned bodies. They built the world you live in.
You might prefer North Korea right now, where no God-bothering weirdos are allowed, but you can be executed for listening to K-Pop!

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
5 months ago

Your comment is the perfect example of a reactive cookie-cutter response.

Douglas Roxborough
Douglas Roxborough
5 months ago

I’m British, but not a God-bothering weirdo – just an atheist. But I’m an atheist who doesn’t believe in murder, which is what abortion is. Unfortunately, we have this murder on demand situation, which is not what we signed up for when the original legislation was passed.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
5 months ago

Douglas R, There are other forms of legal murders, countries vary in what they permit, and of course the language manipulation helps to smooth its pathway, e.g.death penalty, euthanasia,war. How do your atheist views feel about these murders?

Anne Humphreys
Anne Humphreys
5 months ago

This isa really thoughtful article, but all that careful thought seems to be founded on several misapprehensions. For instance that access to good sex education would result in fewer unwanted pregnancies. In the UK we have had (or pre trans, had!) pretty good sex education. . . and a very high rate of teenage pregnancies. Which then went right down when young people got hooked on social media!
Then there is the idea that we should “trust women”. Why? This is why we have laws and religion. Because people, including women, are not always good at working out how to live their lives. There has to be a balance between individual freedom and societal control. The real discussion, sidelined in this article is about where we set that in relation to abortion. The author implicitly nods to that in her shock at the teenager who aborted a 30 week old foetus. . . but surely her view is that the “woman” should be trusted to know what was right for her?

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
5 months ago

Abortion always does bring out feelings that are hard to explain. My own view? That abortion should be freely available up until 10 weeks, then restricted. Why do I think that? I don’t really know. I could give reasons, but my view isn’t based on reasons. It’s something I feel.
Maybe it comes from my experience when I did some research on abortion decades ago in college, writing a paper on the legal, moral/religious and medical facets of abortion after detection of genetic disorders by amniocentesis. Those disorders range from Down’s syndrome to Tay-Sachs disease.
As part of my research I talked to several doctors. Most of them had no qualms about doing an abortion up to about 10 weeks. The fetus has just barely graduated from being an embryo, and though starting to look human, is about an inch long, the size of a strawberry.
At that size an abortion by suction aspiration (or sometimes dilation and curettage) can be safely done in a clinic or doctor’s office. A doctor or nurse vacuums or scrapes tissue from the uterus. The fetus is small enough and soft enough to pass unnoticed in the flood of tissue, blood and fluid that flows out or is sucked down a tube.
But a fetus grows quickly, and a procedure that is safe at 10 weeks gets dicier the more the fetus grows, and the more it starts to be like a baby. At 10 weeks the fetus dies easily. Even by 12 weeks, the fetus has more than doubled in length and is about the size of a plum, and it starts to be harder to kill.
That means an abortion is harder, and is done by either an induction abortion or a dilation and evacuation. A hospital starts to be preferable to a clinic or doctor’s office.
In an induction abortion the fetus is usually killed before labor is induced, to avoid having a fetus that is born alive (though it will only live for moments). But going through labor to deliver a dead fetus intact is not a pleasant task for a doctor.
In a dilation and evacuation, the baby is torn apart by forceps or other surgical tools. The doctor or nurse must deal with body parts, arms and legs and heads.
The doctors I talked with did not mind doing early abortions, before 10 weeks. But they did not like to do abortions after that, unless there was a reason like rape, incest, or severe genetic abnormalities. And after about 24 weeks, they did not like to do them even then.
That made sense to me. Not logically, but it felt right. Still does.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
5 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

And yet spontaneous abortion can happen at any time but most happen before 26/28 weeks. If the woman has this happen outside hospital, she watches the feotus die if it has been born alive. Nature is cruel. But man ( and I use this word deliberately ) is crueler. Only women are held accountable when it comes to pregnancy. . And yet, it takes a male and a female to get pregnant. There are only two answers: to give women bodily autonomy and allow abortion until all men can act responsibly; or at puberty, all males have to have a contraceptive device implanted until they are old and wise enough to be held accountable for their own actions, since women tend to have abortions due to the actions of selfish men.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

That’s some fine misandry on display. How convenient to blame men for every eventuality that occurs.
Why is ‘bodily autonomy’ always limited to the question of abortion? Is this autonomy not also available when the woman decides to sleep with someone, when she decides whether to use birth control, when she requires (or not) the same of her partner?
I’m not an absolutist pro-lifer. There should be a window available. And there was one, but the pro-choice crowd decided the 15-week window in Mississippi was insufficient and they sued.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

The obsession with killing runs through this person’s diatribes. Chilling.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

The spontaneous abortion is a specious argument

Jacqui Denomme
Jacqui Denomme
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

I was under the impression that men were held financially accountable accountable for the baby once it has been born whether or not the man was willing to become a father. When my sons were young I drilled it into their heads: do not have sex without a condom! I told them that they could not 100% absolutely trust that the woman they had sex with was using birth control and that if she became pregnant they would be connected with her and that child for the rest of their lives and they were too young to take on

Ali Maegraith
Ali Maegraith
5 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

I can’t imagine that most women seeking an abortion would know this information.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
5 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

I’m with you, my preference for abortion would be to set the limit a couple of weeks below the earliest surviving premature baby. It that’s currently 20 weeks then set the limit at 18, if modern medicine allows them to survive earlier then drop the limit accordingly. Until this point I think of the foetus as a part of the mother rather than a human in its own right.
Don’t ask me why this is my opinion as I probably couldn’t tell you, there’s no reason as such it’s just my personal preference

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So your reader can only respond: either “boo” or “hooray”?

Veronica Lowe
Veronica Lowe
5 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Spontaneous abortion, aka miscarriage, does not justify abortion any more than cancer justifies murder.

Ali Maegraith
Ali Maegraith
5 months ago

Absolutely it is ‘spectacular misogyny’ to treat women seeking abortion in such an ugly way. How on earth that upholds the prolife cause is beyond me. The thrust of the author in calling all sides of the argument to honor and respect women does so much to lift the cause of women overall (duh
). This to me is the perfect and obvious starting point for understanding this issue and actively finding compassionate practical ways forward. For a start, prolife groups need to take a good hard look at why women fixate themselves on this one way street of abortion. As Frederica Matthew’s green says:

‘No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.’

At the same time, pro choice advocates should heed that honoring women will mean knowing that she really is aware of what an abortion is, what it involves. That she will be fully informed of all her options and the implications. How many of us mothers are so thankful every single moment for that child that we have who was conceived in less than ideal circumstances. There’s 9 months. If anyone dares to call themselves ‘pro women’ then get behind those women. If they need support give it to them. Are they hearing a voice that says ‘you can do it’?

Wouldn’t it be such a great thing if women were educated about reproduction and could make informed moral choices. But how often is this the context that abortion takes place? Never I’d say. Abortion is not a ‘raw exercise of power’. It is a desperate and terrifying act.

The raw exercise of power is when nature/the universe/God brought a human life into existence.

Agnes Aurelius
Agnes Aurelius
5 months ago

Carlos Danger writes a thought provoking comment under this article. Everybody should know the stages of a foetus’ development in the uterus before expounding on “viability”.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago

“The history of abortion restrictions is a history of men trying to undermine this power, because they are terrified by it, and they should be.”
What a nonsense statement. The abortion question raises a lot of issues but this is not one of them.

Adrian Clark
Adrian Clark
5 months ago

I simply want to see the female rights extended to females in the womb regardless of their size, level of development or environment.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
5 months ago

“President Biden and Vice President Harris believe health care decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not politicians.”
Key in supporting a political movement is whether its advocates correctly name what they want. Except in rare, dire emergencies, abortion is not “health care.”

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

It’s also a bit comical to see allusions to Biden and Harris about decisions being left to women when those two are from the party that is working to upend what “woman” means. This crowd has nominated people who, with straight faces, insist that people get pregnant rather than women.

Tony Price
Tony Price
5 months ago

What I find so very strange and disturbing is that in the US abortion is so much of a political issue. Moral, religious, ethical, medical, whatever, yes; but political?

James Vallery
James Vallery
5 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

I could be wrong but some how I don’t think I am the reason why its become an political issue is simple. Fertility rates across the planet are dropping. With 183 out of 195 countries having a fertility rate below the replacement level. This on the surface would seem to be a good thing given the resources used and waste produced. Less resources been used and less waste. But with the population aging there comes a point where its full of elderly people who need caring for. And raises the question who is going to pay the bills and care for them. When as an example for every 1 youngster entering into work there are say 10 elderly people who need taking care of as they productivity levels drop off and been unable to work. With number set to rise even higher.. All of This is due to education and contraception. Woman choosing not to have children. Fair enough. Then add to the mix woman who don’t use contraception but have abortions instead.(For me its a complicated thing. There are to many variables for it and also for against it.) However The future for the human race starts to look bleak. Less people been born less people to earn for the cost of running civilization as we know it. So yeah the political agenda kicks in to stop the leakage of less human life been born. If you don’t become pregnant so be it. But if we are killing off potential humans in the womb who could be productive and earn money. Then yeah politics kicks in to try and protect its revenue stream for the future. That’s how I see it. And why politics is becoming involved. Just google falling fertility rates and connect the dots. I truly believe a woman should have total rights to what happens to her body. I also believe the option to either have children or not. Should be I thing in which you have to agree to for the woman. Medicine should find a solution where if a man and a woman want to have a child they both should have apply to take a pill that for a short period of time allows them to do so. Kinds of like a switch .. where both have to be turn on to get pregnant. And upon reaching puberty. It is automatically implanted or Genetically turned off. Or what every and they then both have coded tablet to them which they both have to take to have children. Rather then leaving it to nature to make the decision. A shift in social thinking which make them both think long and hard before committing to having children. And by the way Yes I live in a dream world. As the option leaves to many doors open to been controlled one way or another.

El Uro
El Uro
5 months ago
Reply to  James Vallery

A shift in social thinking which make them both think long and hard before committing to having children
Social thinking has nothing to do with the desire to have children.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago

Before we go too far down the rabbit hole, let us remember that the case which led to the Dobbs decision was a lawsuit brought by the left over abortion law in Mississippi. The state provided women with a 15 week window of opportunity, longer even the original Roe decision, and on the outskirts of what most European nations allow.
Somehow, this time frame was deemed to be insufficient and in the aftermath, various blue states have extended the time frame to any point in a pregnancy and for any reason. Buildings were lit up to celebrate this momentous occasion, and a cadre of women took to shouting about the number of abortions they’d had, as if it was a point of pride. I doubt there is majority support for that sentiment anywhere in the world, let alone anywhere in the US.
It is also fascinating how words are used to obfuscate the reality of the situation. “Reproductive rights” is particularly dramatic, as if women have no agency in anything that occurs prior to a pregnancy, wanted or not. The same people screaming “choice” are the ones who wanted people fired for choosing against the Covid vaccine. While men are invading women’s spaces, often with the support of biological women, we get lectures from those same females about “women’s rights” with the disingenuous assertion that opposition is purely male-driven, as if no woman is pro-life.
There are numerous choices that appear long before the question of terminating a pregnancy arises. These include the choice to have sex in the first place, the choice to use birth control, and the choice to demand that one’s partner also use birth control. While contraception is not 100% fool-proof, it is rather effective.
Of all the issues on the table, this is by far my least favorite. It offers no middle road, something Roe tried to establish in a case of judicial overreach. Yes, some states are going to have different standards, just like some states have different standards than others on various gun issues, from concealed carry to magazine size. That’s how federalism works.
Finally, the country is being invaded. It seems unfathomable that very many Americans are huddled at their kitchen tables fretting over abortion when inflation persists, the economy appears to be spiraling toward recession, crime is rampant, schools are failing, etc., etc. I’ll close where this began – the left had what it wanted but decided the 15-week timeframe in Mississippi was not long enough. Playing stupid games has this way of resulting in the award of stupid prizes.

tom j
tom j
5 months ago

“Only a woman can bring forth a whole new person from inside her body — and only a woman can choose not to, reaching over the Fates’ shoulder to snatch those first slim threads of life back through the needle’s eye.
The history of abortion restrictions is a history of men trying to undermine this power, because they are terrified by it, and they should be.”

This doesn’t make any sense. Anybody can kill a foetus, or indeed a child. Not doing so is a moral choice. We legislate this moral choice to show what sort of society we are.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

The headline implies all women are losing something. Yet sccording to the facts, many women praise and support the ruling. So then the opening sentence claims that the Dobbs ruling redefines women’s reproductive rights. Yet anyone who has read the ruling knows that is untrue. So please advise what the point of this essay is. It is certainly not to honestly discuss abortion or women’s rights.

Rory Hoipkemier
Rory Hoipkemier
5 months ago

What IS a woman? Will Harris answer that question or is it “above her pay grade?

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
5 months ago

The Democrat pro-choice argument seems to be a deliberate misstatement of the position. The recent Supreme Court decision was not about the merits of the right to abortion. It was about whether such a right exists under the Constitution.
If a right does not exist under the Constitution, the process for changing the Constitution is clear. If that is not good enough, then the pro-choice campaigners need to propose how new Constitutional rights (any rights) should be created. If that is by simple majority vote, then the process for changing the Constitution is invalidated.
Otherwise it is a matter for the States. If you don’t like the law in a State, you have to campaign to change it, or leave.

Elizabeth B
Elizabeth B
5 months ago

“Our ancestors, on the other hand, recognised that the ability to bear children gives women immense power”

Much as I cringe at “TRUST WOMEN,” I never feel more condescended than when people use the word “woman” and “power” together. It is often, as here, used to defend a decrease in freedom, which is what you ultimately slide into advocating when you propose both that women be “held responsible” (in the vaguest terms) and that legal abortions be determined by viability.

Here are some relevant facts that are often overlooked:

— Pregnancy is counted from the time of the last period, so even if you find out you’re pregnant the very day of your missed period, you are already 4 weeks pregnant. Realistically, many women — even the most respectable and “responsible” — aren’t entirely sure they’re pregnant until they’re 6 weeks along, especially if they have irregular periods, which is common. So any time you hear about an abortion at X weeks, take about 6 weeks off that.

— Abortions, like all doctors’ appointments, take place some days after you decide you need one. There is necessarily a delay between the decision and the actual procedure, and that delay is sometimes intentionally lengthened by others who are not the woman.

— Viability is a moving target that changes from year-to-year and even region-to-region. Using it as the criterion for legality means that abortion would be illegal in some places at the same time that it would be legal elsewhere. It would also presumably mean that the window for getting an abortion would narrow over time, maybe even, after a medical breakthrough, in a sudden bound. This is both unduly burdensome and confusing in an already fraught arena. It is also not how rights work. Generally a right is unalterable and equally upheld no matter where or when an individual lives.

One of your main points is that women should be “held responsible,” but by your own admission that is the very point at which you least know what to do — you can’t quite get yourself to propose women be fined or sent to jail, but what other form could “responsibility” take? House arrest? Community service at a childcare center, so the guilty women feel really, really bad?

You also insist that viability is your criterion, but then you justify some hesitation about access to abortion by comparing a living mole to a blastocyst, which very much is not viable. So what is it, exactly, that’s bothering you? If potentiality is the issue — the fact that the blastocyst could eventually be viable, and then, after viability, potentially be alive — we’d have to set up a police cordon around every slime pit and sludge puddle in the country, because they are simply bursting with the same potentiality.

One of the problems with this issue is that it’s so emotional for both sides that we’ve lost almost any ability to talk about it rationally. To me, it’s simply a healthcare issue that really has no place in politics, but I know for others it is understandably much more. If anyone is interested in a thought experiment that may help in thinking through questions like potentiality and viability, I recommend a read through Judith Jarvis Thompson’s “Defense of Abortion,” which is rather old, but a classic. While its conclusion is, obviously, pro-choice, I think it can be helpful for people of any belief to step back from the rage of the political arena to think thoughtfully and unhurriedly about their considered beliefs: https://rintintin.colorado.edu/~vancecd/phil215/Thomson.pdf

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
5 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth B

A very thoughtful and well-put together response. I am on the fence about abortion. I have encountered women for whom abortion was a traumatic experience and yet others who view it as a cumbersome inconvenience, but nothing earth-shattering. Like you, I view it as more a health issue rather than a political one, but I think because of the rise of pious progressive moralism and its links to corporate governance, people are turning to religiosity as a guide to navigating through life and to inform their values.

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
5 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth B

Judith Jarvis Thompson’s “defense” starts with a woman who is kidnapped, rendered unconscious and then hooked up to life support for a famous violinist without her consent. She’s been rufied. She has no agency. As a thought experiment it shows that the public are strongly supportive of the right to termination in the case of rape. If the scenario shifts so that the woman initially consents to provide life support, and then changes her mind, public opinion also shifts, with majorities in some online surveys opposing her right to withdraw life support.

Elizabeth S
Elizabeth S
5 months ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

Revealing what we believe in different scenarios is exactly what thought experiments are for, so by your own reporting, I think Thompson’s paper shows us something interesting and presents some questions that are worth asking. For example, if most people who support restricting abortion cite the baby’s personhood as the primary concern, then why should it matter how that life was begotten? Assuming all life is equally valuable, why keep track of circumstances external to the baby’s life, like rape? Or are we saying that some lives are worth more, and some less, depending upon how they were conceived? Are lives borne of rape worth less? Does that mean kids born through IVF have a different value — either more or less — than “natural borns?” Or is it maybe that the debate surrounding abortion isn’t only about babies, but what we think of women and their actions? What relationship does the mother’s moral standing have to do with whether or not we’re comfortable with her having an abortion? If the mother is not allowed an abortion because she got pregnant “culpably,” in a way that’s deemed unworthy of access to abortion, does that make the question of abortion less about saving the life of the baby and more about punishing/“holding responsible” the mother? These are all questions that thought experiments can help us to disentangle.

While I want to clarify that Thompson’s account is the standard first stop for thought experiments about abortion and not some outlandish paper I chose for my own eccentric purposes, I take it from how you wrote that you don’t like it as a thought experiment. Here’s a similar one: imagine that instead of sex, we reproduced through spores, like plants. Imagine that spores simply floated on the breeze invisibly through the air, and were more-or-less everywhere. In this world, women could get pregnant at any time, through no action on their own part, and in fact it happens very frequently, including to young girls barely in their tweens, hardworking students, cancer patients, homeless women, etc. What is the status of abortion in this world? Does it seem like abortion is somehow more acceptable in this world than in our own? Why/why not? This is another one that tries to pull apart concerns about saving life vs concerns about culpability. I think it’s important that we think about questions like this in order to better understand our beliefs. I’m not trying to aggressively prove one position or another: a belief that life begins at conception and abortion is abominable in all situations because no person should purposely end a life is completely consistent.

(Also I’m having some trouble with my name on this account, but if I look different, I am the same person as the original poster)

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth S

Thanks for your contributions to this debate. If only others could think as clearly and incisively about such issues, i’m sure we’d all be in a different place in terms of our common humanity, rather than what divides us.

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
5 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth S

Apologies I’ve only seen your response today. Given we all suffer from cognitive biases I agree that thought experiments are useful as a means of gauging public opinion, and Judith Jarvis Thompson’s thought experiment suggests that the public believe a woman does not have a moral obligation to continue a pregnancy in the case of rape.
It’s not an outlandish paper, albeit it has been over-hyped, and it is framed in a way that encourages us to consider what we think about women and their actions, more so than the right to life of a putative violinist who has no biological / genetic kin relationship to the kidnapped woman. It invites considerations of culpability and agency, which we habitually factor into ethical, legal and moral evaluations, but it doesn’t require us to deem one life to be more worthy than another, any more than the dilemma posed by the Trolley Problem.
We know that a rudimentary moral sense is innate (Paul Bloom Yale) and that it relies on sensory cues to make emotionally charged decisions. We instinctively shirk from harming innocent strangers, and we know that the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex recoil when we imagine physically pushing a stranger in front of a runaway Trolley to stop it in its tracks, thanks to the MRI analysis conducted by Joshua Greene of Yale, whereas if we imagine pulling a switch to drop a stranger through a trapdoor in front of the Trolley, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex merely calculates which action saves the most lives without compunction.
In the case of abortion, no matter how much we resort to metaphysics to euphemize what we are doing, we know that after the blastocyst stage, when identical twins may have separated or fraternal twins may have merged, that termination requires ending the life of a unique human being. The fetus is not a blank slate. Adult height, physique, coloring, personality and intellectual potential are all heavily influenced by his or her genetic inheritance.
Nevertheless, roughly 60% of people believe that a woman has the right to choose in the first Trimester, when the fetus may have developed a heartbeat but is still “kinda froggy looking”, whereas when the fetus looks more like a baby, even if she is still dependent on her mother for survival, public opinion shifts in favor of the right to life.
It seems that most people do not believe that the right to life is absolute, but contingent on particular ethical contexts or dilemmas. Practically no-one objects to termination e.g. in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, or where the mother’s life would be in serious danger if she continues to term. Most believe a woman shouldn’t be coerced into carrying a child to term after rape. After that, for most people, it all gets a little fuzzier.

El Uro
El Uro
5 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth B

Unfortunately, I find your opinion biased and, in part, somewhat manipulative. Not too much but…
I don’t want to offend you or convince you of anything, if only because my wife makes similar manipulations in this matter no worse than you. Naturally, it’s easier for me to agree with all my wife says for the sake of my own peace of mind. Above that I’m very lucky with my wife, and women need to be protected. But if you want, let’s return to this issue later.
I’m waiting for your answer.

Adam Hopkins
Adam Hopkins
5 months ago

i will always remember the scene in Godfather 2 where Michael’s wife Kay tells him she aborted their son. his visceral reaction to this has always stuck with me. a man who had so much power and control could not control that secret Kay had and the way she handled it. he felt betrayed, as did she, which was why she had the abortion. but when she told him “it was a boy Michael” that when it felt to me that it crossed into murder. she murdered his son for his sins and she knew it was the greatest pain she could cause him.

Chipoko
Chipoko
5 months ago

Biden, Roman Catholic president an leader of the Democrats supporting women’s abortion rights! That’s an interesting juxtaposition of religious and political perspectives.

Anthony Taylor
Anthony Taylor
5 months ago

Although this column is ostensibly about abortion, it is really about the fact that the USA is irretrievably enmeshed in division. It’s about the very makeup of its society. Most conservatives are not particularly bothered about abortion, one way or the other. But when you accuse them of being uneducated simpletons, you are inviting the backlash to progressive ideas about, well, anything! Disdain of another group of citizens, whether fair or not, is simply asking for trouble. Enter Donald Trump.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Taylor

with excessive respect for your opinion, I do not think there is any validity to your comment.

El Uro
El Uro
5 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Taylor
Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
5 months ago

That fact is incontrovertible.

Is it?

B Davis
B Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

How could it not be?
Do you think the child guilty of some crime worthy of a death sentence? Or do you believe him not human…that it’s possible, given 9 full months, that a cactus might burst forth? some cotton candy? a sub-compact car?

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
5 months ago

I might take an opposing view, that women should only take a decision on whether to abort their baby, after they have heard the heartbeat or seen an ultra-sound of the baby or felt the kick of the baby in the womb. Then I doubt we would have very few abortions.
It is interesting that nobody talks about the ‘pregnancy test’, which can determine pregnancy the ‘day after’. It is my experience (although somewhat limited), that this (the pregnancy test) is something they do shortly afterward if they have concerns.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

That “a conceptus is a baby” is a contingent proposition. The anti-abortion movement has gotten the rest of the world to treat it, instead, as an analytic proposition. With such a seismic shift in rhetoric, the battle seems won.

B Davis
B Davis
5 months ago

What is a human conceptus, embryo, fetus, child, baby if it is not a conceptus, embryo, fetus, child, baby? In all cases, regardless of label, he or she remains a human being…either in utero, or out. How is that contingent? Upon what?
A senior citizen in Chicago is the equivalent of a toddler in Detroit…is the equivalent of a teenager in Omaha. Traveling from Chicago to Detroit to Omaha does not change the humanity of the individual, neither does his or her age, their weight, their physical condition, the label they carry, or their personal viability. Human beings all: each life equally valuable.
More than analytic proposition, this is a fundamental truth.
But it is a fundamental truth which has yet to win the war.

El Uro
El Uro
5 months ago

The history of abortion restrictions is a history of men trying to undermine this power, because they are terrified by it, and they should be.
This phrase ruined the entire article. It should have been placed at the very beginning, I would have saved a lot of time.
Dear Kat, if you see men only as patriarchs, I sincerely feel sorry for you.

Bill Beckers
Bill Beckers
5 months ago

Abortion is a moral issue, not a political one. At the moment of conception…it’s a baby.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
5 months ago

The GOP could end this whole issue by proposing a European-style week week regime in place, since that’s where the American people are and have been for 50 years. Heck, the Dems could do it too, but they never will.
I think Israel’s system works great: no absolute right (it is a baby after all) but a relatively simple process for most women. The vast majority of abortions in Israel are approved, although more rarely beyond 1st trimester (as it should be.) However, such a system requires broad institutional trust which America no longer has.
The first political party that puts a 12 week hard limit (absent rape or serious fetal abnormality) on the table will own this issue, and box their opponents into an untenable corner. I sure hope the GOP figures this out.

William Shaw
William Shaw
5 months ago

“The history of abortion restrictions is a history of men trying to undermine this power, because they are terrified by it, and they should be. It is enormous. It is unfathomable.”
You can’t seriously believe this twaddle. Complete nonsense.
Abortion is not “unfathomable,” and as many women as men oppose it.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago

To me it is incredible that many Republicans are prioritising the banning or severely restriction of abortion at the top of their agenda, above all the other progressive overreach that has been going on.. This is not a popular position.

Ardath Blauvelt
Ardath Blauvelt
5 months ago

Body autonomy demands that the only consideration is “the body”. Then what is pregnancy?

Can a leaf bud become anything other than its intended, genetic self, ie., a leaf? Can a human embryo become anything other than a human? Ergo: its becoming, has a heart, is alive and human. There’s little scientific or logical disagreement: it’s a developng human life. The argument isn’t so much about whether it’s alive or human, but whether, in an elective situation, it is wanted. That’s all.

Not about its humanity, nor about its status as a mere part of someone’s body, but about whether it’s wanted. So now the making of a human is optional. Period. It has no merit other than that. In a world quickly working at destroying merit, add living to that; optional only.

Carissa Pavlica
Carissa Pavlica
5 months ago

1) As long as the conversation acts as if every pregnant woman is the virgin Mary, considering no consequences for unwanted pregnancy upon the male who impregnated her, the conversation will be moot. Grow up already. It takes a male and a female to procreate, so stop punishing on e person for unintended consequences. Simple fact is this conversation wouldn’t exist if it were men who got pregnant and women who provided the seed.
2) “President Biden and Vice President Harris believe health care decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not politicians. Period, except in the case of vaccines and masks and social distancing whatever else we deem to say” doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? But that’s the wool they’re trying to pull over your eyes.

Jae
Jae
5 months ago

You can “Choose” whatever you want if it’s legalized, and sometimes when it’s not. But you cannot escape the consequences. Society is reaping the consequences of its choices. You would have to be blind not to see it today. We don’t discuss it in any meaningful way because bodily autonomy trumps all morality. Yet here is just one terrible consequence that is rarely discussed meaningfully and honestly. Research from across the world suggests that abortion increases the risk of mental health complications several times over and suicidal ideation by at least 50 percent compared to live birth. Yet patients are not routinely informed of these risks. Here’s a link that implies this, and still there’s some hesitancy to admit it: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20416147/

Between both sides, Pro-life and Pro-abortion, the issue of mental health rages, but only in certain circles. Apparently little advice or counselling is given to the mother on the matter. Some studies show whatever decision is made can lead to mental health issues. But I’d hazard a guess and say that most who choose life rather than death have better odds of recovery. As to elections, I say we women should care more about life over death.

I say this as someone who thinks abortion an abomination, and it is to the woman as well as the baby, but it should be legal, available, and…..rare! It is in no way rare today, there are more than 3,000 abortions carried out in the US per day. Yes, that’s right per day, in the US alone!! Over 60 million babies aborted since Roe v Wade. It is clear it’s not being used as a last resort or when someone makes a terrible mistake, but as a form of contraception.

Women through the centuries have sought to end unwanted pregnancies and often paid a high price for doing so. They deserve our utmost sympathy. They had no options open to them, no access to contraception. I’m sure if they survived they suffered horribly, I’m quite certain they didn’t advertise what they had been forced to do, they had a conscience about it.

However today, as the article states, we now have women calling an abortion “Fabulous.” We even have actors on a world stage ballyhooing their abortion because it enabled them to collect an Oscar. This should be absolutely sickening to any sentient being. But it appears it’s not.

Don’t ask why the world is always at war with itself, the answer is before us. We are reaping the wind with our “choices.”

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
5 months ago

I am reminded of what Glenn Loury and John McWhorter have been saying about DEI (also a kind of safetyism) infantilizing Blacks by way of denying that they have agency, same as everyone else. Surely the case can be made that there is a lot of agency denial going on, and that it has such consequences.
Does having no penalty (whether in law or social contract) for late abortion infantilize women by letting them, carte blanche, off any moral hook whatsoever? Only if in the first place there is any real moral hook involved. There is a certain present-mindedness in thinking this way. We encounter the Invention of Tradition (as Hobsbawm and Ranger, among others, put it). 
I have in mind James Mohr’s study, Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800 to 1900. In 1800 no jurisdiction in America had any laws, pro or con, regulating abortion. By 1900 every American jurisdiction except the Federal state did, restricting or banning the practice. But until this relatively late date it was not considered a moral question, capable of legal regulation or resolution.  What changed? His answer is the emerging medical profession ginned it up in context of establishing professional monopoly over the other medical sects, none of whom subscribed to the Hippocratic Oath (“I will not give a woman a pessary to cause abortion”). Interestingly, the clergy refused to join in (the soul is our department, not the body); the lawyers (and therefore legislators), lukewarm, joined in gradually. Hence the sea-change in laws, 1800-1900; the “invention of tradition.”
The RC church had various denunciations of abortion over the centuries, often limited local campaigns against prostitution and so forth. There was no general ideological moral hook about it – certainly no one stated any “right to life.” The language of rights would have been entirely out of place up to and through Vatican I; as would a principle like ahimsa (non-killing, as in the Hindu tradition) from a religious organization that not too many centuries ago would have been willing to burn the body in order to save the soul. (Indeed for a church founded on Platonism, ahimsa would have to have been some kind of heresy. Maybe grounds for stake or at least rack?)
In the twentieth century, the combined effect of several more recent developments have caused us to moralize abortion in the way we do. There was the demographic luxury of maternal and infant mortality declining drastically, producing earlier parent-child bonding (part of what Aries called Centuries of Childhood). Post-Vatican II, the RC church signed on to the rhetoric of rights.  Ian Donald, a CoE ob/gyn, pioneered ultrasound in 1956 with the specific intention of causing pregnant women to visualize their conceptus as already a baby, thus discouraging termination; the famous Lennart Nilsson in utero photos from Life magazine, 1965, had the same consequence howbeit unintended.
As a result, terms like “pre-born” and “baby murder” have entered the taken-for-granted vocabulary of secular journalism. The “invention of tradition” may frame habitus and moral sentiment (in a way that was not true in, say, 1800) but it hardly settles intellectual issues.
Saying to women “you’re doing wrong but don’t worry dearie nobody is going to hold your feet to the fire” may be infantilizing. Whether, in the first place, wrong is being done seems scarcely a matter of settled science.

G M
G M
5 months ago

The unborn baby has rights too, including the right to live.