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Abortion As a Blessing, Grace, or Gift–A Renewed Conversation about Reproductive Rights
Valerie Tarico   Jan 12, 2013   Ethical Technology  

Can we reclaim the moral high ground in the debate about abortion as a part of thoughtful, wise loving and living? We won’t know until we try.
Most Americans think of childbearing as a deeply personal or even sacred decision. So do most reproductive rights advocates. That is why we don’t think anybody’s boss or any institution should have a say in it. But for almost three decades, those of us who hold this view have failed to create a resonant conversation about why, sometimes, it is morally or spiritually imperative that a woman can stop a pregnancy that is underway.

Abortion - paths diverging in woods

My friend Patricia offers a single reason for her passionate defense of reproductive care that includes abortion: Every baby should have its toes kissed. If life is precious and helping our children to flourish is one of the most precious obligations we take on in life, then being able to stop an ill-conceived gestation is a sacred gift. Whether or not we are religious, deciding whether to keep or terminate a pregnancy is a process steeped in spiritual values: responsibility, stewardship, love, honesty, compassion, freedom, balance, discernment. But how often do we hear words like these coming from pro-choice advocates?

Our inability to talk in morally resonant terms about abortion has clouded the broader conversation about mindful childbearing. The cost in recent decades has been devastating. In developing countries millions of real women and children have died because abortion-obsessed American Christians banned family planning conversations as a part of HIV prevention efforts. Those lost lives reveal the callous immorality of the anti-choice movement.

Back home, here in the U.S., our inability to claim the moral high ground about abortion has brought us one of the most regressive culture shifts of a generation. We are, incredibly, faced with “personhood rights” for fertilized eggs, pregnancies that begin legally before we even have sex, politicians with “Rape Tourette’s,” and a stunningly antagonistic debate about contraceptive technologies that could make as many as ninety percent of unintended pregnancies along with consequent suffering and abortions simply obsolete.

The voices that are strongest on reproductive rights often falter when it comes to the cultural dialogue. At least part of this absence is because so many of the pro-choice movement’s leaders and funders are secular and civic in their orientation, awkwardly uncomfortable with the moral and spiritual dimension of the conversation, or, for that matter, even with words like moral and spiritual. From language that seems moderately wise–Who decides?–we fall back on “safe, legal and rare” (a questionable effort to please everyone) or even the legal jargon of the “right to privacy.”

The other side talks about murdering teeny, weeny babies and then mind-melds images of ultrasounds and Gerber babies with faded photos of late term abortions. And we come back by talking about privacy?? Is that like the right to commit murder in the privacy of your own home or doctor’s office? Even apart from the dubious moral equivalence, let’s be real: In the age of Facebook and Twitter, is there a female under twenty-five in who gives a rat’s patooey about privacy, let alone thinks of it as a core value?

The right to privacy may work in court. But it is a proxy for much deeper values at play. Privacy simply carves out space for individual men and women to wrestle with those values. In the court of public opinion, it is the underlying values that carry the conversation.

Far too often those who care most about the lives of women and children and the fabric of life on this planet limit themselves to legal and policy fights. Fifty years ago, reproductive rights activists took the abortion fight to the courts and won, andAbortion - Toes held they have kept that focus ever since. But the legal fight has drawn energy away from the broader conversation. And the emphasis on “privacy” has meant that even the most powerful stories that best illustrate our sacred values are too often kept quiet.

Legal codes and cultural sensibilities are never independent of each other. Abortion rights were secured legally because of a culture shift that was aided by anguished stories and statements by compassion-driven Christian theologians during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The brutal deaths of American women every year, at a peak of thousands in the 1930’s, was, beyond question or doubt, a profound immorality that many Americans were desperate to stop. Protestant leaders across the theological spectrum took a moral stand in support of legal abortion. In contrast to the Vatican, they had long agreed that thoughtful decision-making about whether to bring a child into the world serves compassion and wellbeing—the very heart of humanity’s shared moral core.

At this point it should be clear that the tide has turned. Opponents, having lost in court, instead took their fight to conservative churches, where they have been refining their appeals for forty years. The last few years have seen a systematic erosion of legal rights driven by a culture shift that had been building long before. It has also seen a complete reversal of the once-stalwart moral support for reproductive rights among American Protestants, which in the 1950s was seen as a moral good by almost every denomination from the most liberal to the most conservative. Unless this shift is challenged and stopped, there is every reason to fear that abortion will once again become inaccessible for most women in the U.S.

Can pro-choice advocates reclaim the moral and spiritual high ground? Yes. But to do so will require a challenge to the status quo on two fronts. Rather than ignoring the right’s moral claims, we must confront their arguments. We must also express our pro-choice position in clear, resonant moral and spiritual terms. In other words, in combination, we must show why ours is the more moral, more spiritual position.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Most “pro-life” positions aren’t really pro-life; they are no-choice. They are designed to protect traditional gender roles and patriarchal institutions and, specifically, institutional religion. The Catholic Bishops and Southern Baptist Convention—both leaders in the charge against reproductive rights– represent traditions in which male “headship” and control of female fertility have long been tools of competition for money and power. They use moral language to advance goals that have little to do with the wellbeing of women or children or the sacred web of life that sustains us all.

The arguments they make to attain these ends are powerful emotionally but not rationally. They appeal to antiquated and brittle conceptions of God. They appeal to the crumbling illusion of biblical and ecclesiastical perfection—and the crumbling authority of authority itself. They corrupt the civil rights tradition and turn religious freedom on its head. They play games with our protective instinct and cheapen what it means to be a person. They lie.

That adds up to a lot of vulnerability in what should be the stronghold of the priesthood: their claim to speak for what is good and right.

Republican Strategist Karl Rove will go down in history for his strategy of attacking enemies on their perceived strength — for example, by attacking John Kerry on his war record. In the recent election, we saw this strategy in play on both sides. Obama proved to be less vulnerable than his opponents hoped on his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. But by the time the election was over, Romney’s strongest credential, his background in business, was seen by many as parasitic “vulture capitalism.” If we want Americans to understand and distance from the moral emptiness of the “pro-life” movement, we will have to challenge the patriarchs in on their home turf, in their position as moral guides.

Here, for openers, are a few ways we might change the conversation:

1. Talk about the whole moral continuum. A moral continuum ranges from actions that are forbidden, to those that are allowed, to those that are obligatory. When it comes to abortion, we talk only about one half of this continuum—Is it forbidden or is it allowed?—when, in actuality, a women faced with an ill-conceived pregnancy often experiences herself at the other end of the continuum, wrestling with a set of competing duties or obligations. What is my responsibility to my other children? To society? To my partner? To myself? (To cite a personal example, my husband and I chose an abortion under circumstances where it would have felt like a violation of our core values to do otherwise.) The current conversation doesn’t reflect the real quandaries women face, one in which moral imperatives can and do compete with other moral imperatives. Nor does it reflect the wide range of spiritual values and god concepts that enter into the decision making process.

  • No-choice advocates say: Abortion is immoral. God hates abortion.
  • We can say: For me, bringing a child into the world under bad circumstances is immoral. It violates my moral and spiritual values. / Whose god decides?

2. Challenge the personhood/fetus-as-baby concept both philosophically and visually. The history of humanity’s evolving ethical consciousness has focused on the question of who counts as a person, and if the arc bends toward justice it is because it is an arc of inclusion. Non-land-owning men, slaves, women, poor workers, children—our ancestors have fought and won personhood rights for each of these, and abortion foes are smart to invoke this tradition. But their ploy involves a sleight of hand. The civil rights tradition is built on what a “person” can think and feel. By contrast, the anti-choice move is about DNA, and it seeks to trigger visual instincts that make us feel protective toward anything that looks remotely like a baby, even a stuffed animal. In reality, the tissue removed during most abortions is minute, a gestational sac the size of a dime or quarter, which is surprising to people who have been exposed to anti-abortion propaganda. It strikes almost no-one as being the substance of “personhood.”

  • They say: Abortion is murder. Abortion kills little babies.
  • We can say: A person can think and feel. My cat can feel hungry or hurt or curious or content; an embryo cannot. / Thanks to better and better pregnancy tests, over 60 percent of abortions now occur before 9 weeks of gestation. Want to see what they actually look like?

3. Admit that the qualities of personhood begin to emerge during gestation. Pregnancy is no longer the black box it was at the time of Roe v. Wade. Ultrasound and photography have made fetal development visible, and research is beginning to offer a glimpse into the developing nervous system, with the potential to answer an important question: What, if anything, is a fetus capable of experiencing at different stages of development? Although this isn’t the only question in the ethics of abortion, it undeniably relevant. How we treat other living beings has long been guided by our knowledge of what they can experience and want. By implication, ethics change over the course of pregnancy. A fertilized egg may not be a person except by religious definitions, but by broad human agreement a healthy newborn is, and in between is a continuum of becoming. Most Americans understand this argument morally and emotionally. The Roe trimester framework also codified it legally. Ethical credibility requires that we acknowledge and address the ethical complexities at stake.

  • They say: A fetus is a baby. A baby is a living soul from the moment of conception.
  • We can say: In nature, most fertilized eggs never become babies. A fetus is becoming a baby, grows into a baby, is a potential person, or is becoming a person.

4. Pin blame for high abortion rates where it belongs – on those who oppose contraception—and call out the immorality of their position because it causes expense and suffering. Unintended pregnancy is the main cause of abortion. Right now half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. For unmarried women under 30, that’s almost 70%. A third of those pregnancies end in abortion. The reality is that abortion is an expensive invasive medical procedure. For the price of one abortion, we can provide a woman with the best contraceptive protection available, something that will be over 99% effective for up to twelve years. If every woman had information and access to state-of-the-art long acting contraceptives, half of abortions could go away before Barack Obama gets out of office.

  • They say: Liberals are to blame for abortion. Planned Parenthood is an abortion mill.
  • We can say: Obstructing contraceptive knowledge and access causes abortion and unwanted babies. That’s what’s immoral. We have the technology to prevent almost all of the suffering and expense caused by unintended pregnancy, but many women don’t have access to that information or technology because of the twisted moral priorities of religious and cultural conservatives. Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood have done more to prevent abortions in America than all of the choice opponents combined. The no-choice position is anti-life. It kills women. It puts faith over life.

5. Acknowledge and address the powerful mixed feelings surrounding abortion. The most common emotional reaction to abortion is relief. That said, women react physically and emotionally in a variety of ways to terminating a pregnancy. Sometimes, even those who are clear that they have made the best decision feel a surprising intensity of loss. Women should be given the support they need to process whatever their experience may be. We also need to understand that some abortion opponents actively induce guilt and trauma in women who have had abortions.

  • They Say: Abortion is psychologically scarring. Women end up haunted by guilt and permanently traumatized after having an abortion.
  • We can say: No one should do something that violates her own values. Violating your values is wounding; that is why each woman should be supported in following her own moral, spiritual and life values when making decisions about pregnancy.

6. OWN religious freedom. Religious freedom is for individuals, not institutions. If the women and men who work for religious institutions all perceived the will of God in the same way, their employers wouldn’t be trying to control them by controlling their benefits package. Religious institutions have always tried to override the spiritual freedom of individuals, and they use the arm of the law as a lever whenever they can, and that is what they are doing now.

  • They say: Employers shouldn’t be forced to provide contraceptive or abortion coverage.
  • We Can Say: The freedom to choose how your employees spend their hard earned benefits and the freedom to choose whether to have a child are two very different things. No institution—and nobody’s boss–should have a say in one of the most personal and sacred decisions we can make: whether to have child. That is why all women, regardless of who they work for, should have access to the full range of contraceptives and reproductive care.

7. Talk about children and parenting, not just women. Responsible and loving parents do what they can to give their kids a good life. We take our kids to doctors, get them the best schooling we can afford, love them up, and pour years of our lives into helping them acquire the skills that will let them be happy, kind, generous, hard-working adults. But parenting starts before we even try to get pregnant. We consider our own education and finances and whether we have the kind of partnership or social support that would help a child to thrive. We may quit smoking or drinking to be as healthy as possible during pregnancy. More often than not, the decision to stop a given pregnancy is a part of this much bigger process of mindful, responsible parenting.

  • They say: Abortion is selfish. Women just want to have sex without consequences.
  • We can say: A loving mother makes hard decisions to bring her kids the best life possible. A responsible woman takes care of herself. A caring father wants the best life possible for his children. Wise parents know their limits.

8. Embrace abortion as a sacred gift or blessing. For years we have talked as if abortion were a lesser evil, rather than a remarkable gift. In reality, no medical procedure is pleasant and yet the option to have the treatments and surgeries we need is an unmitigated good. The term “safe, legal and rare” confuses things because it implies that what should be rare is the treatment rather than the problem, unintended pregnancy. An abortion should be exactly as safe, legal and rare as a surgery to remove swollen tonsils or an infected appendix. If we think about abortion like we think about other medical services, then the attitude is one not of shame or ambivalence but of gratitude.

  • They say: Abortion is bad. An abortion is regrettable.
  • We can say: An ill-conceived pregnancy is bad. An unintended pregnancy is regrettable. An abortion when needed is a blessing. It is a gift, a grace, a mercy, a cause for gratitude, a new lease on life. Being able to choose when and whether to bring a child into the world enables us and our children to flourish.

9. Honor doctors who provide abortion services as we honor other healers. The human body fends off most infections and cancers, but not all. It spontaneously heals most broken bones and closes many wounds but not all. Similarly, it spontaneously aborts most problem pregnancies, but not all. Nature tends to abort pregnancies where there are problems with cell division or fetal development, where there is little chance for a fetus to become a healthy, thriving person. Through medical or surgical abortion, as through every other medical procedure, doctors and healers extend the work of nature—of God, if you will—to promote health and wellbeing. By ending pregnancies that don’t have a good chance to turn into thriving children and adults, they are—liteAbortion - exhuberant parentingrally or metaphorically–doing God’s work.

  • They say: Abortionists are murderers.
  • We can say: God (or Nature) aborts most fertilized eggs. Abortion doctors are compassionate healers who devote their lives to helping women and men ensure that they have strong, well-planned, wanted families. Their work is as sacred as any in the field of medicine.

10. Honor women who decide to terminate pregnancies just as we honor motherhood. Sometimes the decision to end a problem pregnancy is clear and simple. Other times not. Either way, a woman often has to fight off a sense of shame and blame that she has internalized from religious and social conservatives — too often, including other women. She may feel bad even when her own values are clear and the decision has been thoughtful. How often do we affirm and honor the wisdom of women who make difficult childbearing choices (abortion, adoption, waiting) so as to best manage their lives and their parenting?

Most women chose an abortion so that they can later choose a well-timed pregnancy; or so they can take good care of the kids they have, ensuring those kids have the best possible chance in life. Sometimes a woman ends a pregnancy because she is choosing to put her life energy elsewhere. Even then, she is accepting that to embrace life fully she must choose among the kinds of good available to her and take responsibility for avoiding harm. She may or may not put it in these terms, but those are moral and spiritual questions, the kind that religion has long sought to guide. That is why many religious traditions support a woman or couple in weighing their own deepest values when it comes to reproductive decisions.

As individual stories show, the decision to end a pregnancy may be based in humility, responsibility, nurturing, prudence, forethought, vision, aspiration, stewardship, love, courage. . . . or some combination of these qualities. Mere tolerance fails to affirm the many strengths that go into reproductive decisions including the decision to end a pregnancy. These are virtues worthy of honor.

  • They say: An abortion is shameful. An abortion should be kept secret. An abortion needs to be forgiven by God.
  • We can say: Choosing abortion can be wise and brave. It can be loving and generous. It can be responsible and self-sacrificing.

Abortion - Toe KissingIn the end the real morality of our position lies in the right of babies to be truly loved and wanted and in the right of parents to bring babies into this world when they’re fully ready to welcome them with open arms. As my friend Patricia said, every baby should have its toes kissed. Her simple message speaks volumes. Parents who get to plan and choose are more likely to eagerly await that toe kissing. They are more likely to have the emotional energy that makes those little toes irresistible even after sleepless nights and days of work. They are more likely to have a supporting community that can kiss toes when they are busy. They are more likely to have what it takes when a baby turns into a kid, and toe kissing turns into play dates and homework and I-think-we-need-to-talk. And they are more likely to still be kissing when they have to stand on their own toes to plant a peck on the cheek of a kid who’s on the way out the door with the car keys.

Toe kissing is a small, spontaneous celebration of love and life, the same values that are at the heart of our spiritual traditions. They are the values that no-choice, anti-abortion leaders claim to represent, but represent so poorly. We would do well to say so.


Thank you to Brian Arbogast and Sara Robinson for their input on early drafts of this article.

Read more on abortion by this author:
The Difference Between a Dying Fetus and a Dying Woman
When God Was Pro-Choice and Why He Changed His Mind
Dramatic Drop in Teen Pregnancy Really a Technology Tipping Point
My Abortion was Different:  Why Women Shame and Blame Each Other
What the Right Gets Right About Abortion and the Left Doesn’t Get
The Big Lie About Plan B — What You Really Should Be Telling Your Friends
Righteous Abortion:  How Conservative Christianity Promotes What it Claims to Hate
Picture a Techology Revolution.  In Contraception.  It’s Here!

Dr. Valerie Tarico is a psychologist with a passion for personal and social evolution.  In 2005, she co-founded the Progress Alliance of Washington, a collective of future-oriented donors investing in progressive change.


Can pro-choice or pro-life be framed in moral terms?
IMO, expediency.

Was hoping a real philosopher, a heavyweight, would take it from ‘there’;but will write for brevity’s sake only that what
convinced me to the pro-choice position was a realisation abortion is no existential threat of any sort; and how the emotional reactions of the pro- ‘life’ indicate an hysterical basis on their part. Valerie goes into all the rest above.

Intomorrow, the irony of your comments, as usual, astounds me:  of course we get hysterical about the evil of child murder, since after all, the very word “hysteria” derives from Latin’s “from the womb”!  Emotions are good for feminine survival and the concomitant survival of their offspring; emotion is useless and exhausting for fighting and hunting men.

With that point aside, being “pro-choice” is philosophically empty, since choices have objects.  Personhood is cheapened by its subjective and arbitrary definition by a court, as opposed to its apparent and fantastic mystery in nature.  Human trafficking doesn’t threaten the species; should we stop it?

Dr. Tarico, I am sorry for your loss.  The evil one wants us to be self-reliant, wounded, and confused.  I pray you will decide to deter women from this evil instead of encourage it.

Well, perhaps you are the heavyweight philosopher.
Will just write this:
if the pro- ‘life’ have been trying and continue to try to do something about abortion (rather than use it as a wedge issue, which may be the case) they’ve been ineffectual; in fact their stridency may have exacerbated the situation.

However we are merely talking past each other, Henry.

BTW, you write:
“The evil one wants us to be self-reliant…”

He wants us to be self-reliant?
Then the Devil isn’t so evil, is he?

I will attest that many who wish to end abortion are ineffectual, indeed non-virtuous; vicious.  It is so easy to hate people instead of hating evil; attacks against the irreducibly good.  Because virtue is difficult, many give up.  We cannot attain a supernatural end (i.e. the irreducible goodness of an ineffable mystery) by natural means, and thus failing to beseech and rely on a self-revealed gracious God is de facto undermining the ineffable good; choosing against its system.

Now we are getting somewhere, what you write is based on Scripture, not the ideology contained in “abortion is genocide, Thou Shalt Not Murder”; however ...

  “Because virtue is difficult,  many give up.  We cannot attain a supernatural end (i.e. the irreducible goodness of an ineffable mystery) by natural means, and thus failing to beseech and rely on a self-revealed gracious God is de facto undermining the ineffable good; choosing against its system”

... you must admit one can only pursue virtue, not attain it. With rare exceptions (‘saints’), one can merely go through the motions of attaining virtue.



I agree that performing motions without faith can cause one to miss the supernatural, who is a Person and who speaks.  But what is the result of the types of motions which are virtuous?  Virtue is a self-perpetuating state which is strengthened by continued acts of virtue, and which makes future acts and states of virtue more likely.  But nothing about states of pleasure, contentment, or convenience (abortion) will guarantee future states of that same pleasure.  The convenience of abortion yields the lifelong inconvenience of gnawing regret, the desertion of men denied of their sexual responsibilities or angered by the violence done to their woman and their child, who the men are naturally equipped to protect.

While basic human goods can’t be exhaustively instantiated (but instead are embodied and re-embodied as open-ended mysteries by virtuous actors), they don’t need to be crystalized as trophies on a shelf.  Marriage, for example, is lauded for its growth and maturity; octogenarians don’t behave like twenty-somethings, and would be divorced if they did.  We know “effective” when we see it, and not always when we quantify it.

Mr. Bowers, When you apologize for my loss you suggest that some other alternate reality is preferable to the one in which my daughter exists.  Millions of people in this world exist only because their parents chose to abort one pregnancy and try again or wait until they could welcome a child with open arms, which they subsequently did.  When a woman says, “I have a headache” one night and then “yes” the next; when a man decides to push a few more times before releasing, thus remixing his sperm; when a teenager abstains; when a woman coughs after coming—each of these sets in motion a different future, one with a different person or persons in it, just like an abortion does. 

Your insistence that my daughter should not exist, that you are so sure you know the will of a deity that you would insist she is wrongfully born and apologize for the non-existince of an incompatible alternate reality; your willingess to dismiss all that is known about human errancy and cognitive psychology and the history of religion boggles the mind.

To say that abortion or contraception, which each deprive a person of only their future life (and not their present or past life), is an indirect cause of a particular subsequent, loved, and very good child, nevertheless seems to assume too much determinacy in the sexual act.  The nature of the act is not that it is procreative, but that it can likely be procreative in the absence of impediments.  It can be performed perfectly, and yet non-fruitfully.  No good child is ever really planned.

I apologize for the existence that was snuffed out in a society that was not effective and inspiring enough to prevent something so unfortunate; such a society is more guilty than any single villain.

“Virtue is a self-perpetuating state…”

Virtue is a sandcastle to be washed away in the tide. There are saints, but they are so extremely rare as to be freakish.
“Tricky as a priest” is valid; priests have one foot in the secular, the other in the spiritual. Someone asked a televangelist why he liked money so much and he replied,
“because I’m not stupid”
Those four words sum it up: how religion is materialism covered by a veneer of piousness—but when you cover manure with gold bars, the manure is still manure.

...BTW, Henry, the great flaw in Christian thinking is related to subject-object dualism. The Christian (the subject) thinks he is separated from the world (the object). In the past, subject-object dualism did not matter much, as the world was not changed much.
Christ was killed about 27 CE; from 27 to 1927, just say, the world was not changed much—but gradually, the world has been changed somewhat. So the Christian can no longer be “in the world but not of the world” as he could be from 27 to 1927.

Intomorrow, I don’t think saints are that rare.  I think many single moms and some people in hospital beds would make many of the canonized look lazy.  The canonized tended to have a particular upbringing and particular gifts; it would have been beneath their dignity _not_ to have been noticed in life; they are, in the end, “unprofitable servants” (Lk 17:10) despite the heroism they displayed.  Virtue is as much cooperation as it is striving, and striving will go amiss, due to the energy required (and not always utilized) for moral reflection.

Tell me more about subject-object dualism.  Even Daoists admit to someone spinning the wheel of the universe, but decline to investigate further.  If we are all made of qi, then what accounts for beauty and movement?  It seems rather that forms make compounds, and that compounds collide at the atomic landscape interspersed with empty space which is simply non-designated matter.  The rational soul is none such matter, nor empty space, but immaterial.  Disagree?

Henry, first I’ll stay on topic, then return to metaphysics.

One cannot be for and against something at the same time: question is, should Roe v Wade be overturned? my answer is no.
And beyond that, it isn’t an important issue, IMO—if all abortions were to cease, this country would remain the same and so would the rest of the world.

“Tell me more about subject-object dualism”

Am not good with large subjects; physics, math, consciousness. However it does appear a great flaw in Christianity (though Jesus, being deceased, is not culpable) is thinking we are separate from the world, we are “in the world but not of” it, and thus we can do what we want with the world—as long as we are guided by God. Problem is the last part: what if we are not guided by God, what if we only think we are being guided by God?

Respectfully Valerie, I wish some acknowledgement on the pro-choice side was made of the fact that abortion has been the most devastating tool for patriarchy ever invented. In the West, abortion is indeed one of the elements in the tool kit for women’s empowerment, but in non-Western countries abortion has prevented perhaps as many as 100 million girls from being born.

I have two young daughters and the key for me is not whether they will have access to the technology of abortion, but the general conditions in the society in which they live- do they have as many choices for self-actualization as men? I wish more attention was paid by feminist (and I am a feminist of sorts) not to defending a particular medical technology or technique which like all such techniques is morally questionable because the issue is what is it being used for?, but to improving the general condition of women not just in the West but world-wide.


The global Left has time and time again attacked chinas 1 child policy

Some, but not even close to all examples:

“...China’s shortage of girls cannot be explained by poverty, political or economic system, by the level of socio-economic development or by educational level as these variables do not correspond to the demographic evidence. However, daughter shortage within China is closely associated with the distribution of Han Chinese culture within China proper, while the peripheries and most minority areas have more balanced sex ratios.”

Thanks for the extensive links, Kris. I will certainly check them out.

Intomorrow, if abortion isn’t important then your opinion on Roe isn’t worth the ASCII characters you typed in mentioning it.  But the importance of Roe wasn’t the author’s question, anyway.  The author wishes to impart the word “blessing,” which derives from “blood-covenant,” to the unfailingly bloody process of abortion, and assert that this blessing is bequeathed upon some subsequent state of affairs like lilac petals from the sky, fragrant and innocent.  Therefore, if her comments were in any sense made in justification of Roe, they would be examples of the state instituting a religion, which is unconstitutional.  In any other sense, her inversion of religious language is mere pulp satanism.

But what of the risk that following God is an illusory venture?  Surely you know Pascal’s wager:  if the skeptic is right, he’ll never be vindicated; if the believer is right, both believer and skeptic will know it forever.  “Although you have never seen him, you love him.”

“if abortion isn’t important then your opinion on Roe isn’t worth the ASCII characters you typed in mentioning it.”

Abortion is important as a wedge issue to keep pro-life and pro-choice raising their blood pressures so they’ll need medication someone can sell them. The abortion issue is important to sell polemical books on the subject- and magazines. The abortion issue is imortant for lobbyists on both sides to make money. Abortion does make a difference in the sum total of the cosmos: >.0000000000000000000000000000001 percent difference. School prayer made a difference: it made the childrem feel a tiny bit better, as well as they would feel drinking a small cup of cola or iced tea. Most of what we think is important is insignificant in the sum total of things; tiny little things adding up to something small. Or perhaps nothing. IMO the mundane rules our lives- not the profound.

“But what of the risk that following God is an illusory venture?  Surely you know Pascal’s wager:  if the skeptic is right, he’ll never be vindicated; if the believer is right, both believer and skeptic will know it forever. ‘Although you have never seen him, you love him.’ ”

But if the Evil One is as powerful as you say he is then he can disguise himself as an angel of light, thus the Jesus you worship may be a demon, just another run-of-the-mill demon. How can you know for absolute sure? You may reply that you possess discernment yet the discernment you possess might be a gift from the Evil One—not from God. One might be thoroughly convinced the $20 dollar bill in one’s pocket is genuine, however when examined carefully it conceivably could be revealed to be counterfeit. The gem one has had for years could turn out to be a fugazy. If the Devil made Flip Wilson’s wife (the devil with the blue dress on) buy that dress, then the Devil can fool anyone.

It isn’t that you are wrong, it’s that you expect too much, Henry. The Christian’s expectations are excessively high, as the Marxist’s expectations are also: classlessness is unattainable. The libertarian exalts freedom; unfortunately, men crave power even more than they crave freedom.



Hi Rick and Kris -
Here is an alternate perspective:
While it is true that the one child rule has increased motivation for Han Chinese and other male-valuing cultures to abort females, I suspect that the one child rule has also done more than anything else to force the equalization of gender roles in China. Most Chinese do not abort their first pregnancy if they find themselves pregnant with a female.  Instead, they invest in that female, as their only heir, the hopes and resources that would have gone into an eldest male. When a man has only daughters he is far more likely to advocate for girls having access to education and financial resources and the other trappings of power.  If he has one child, he is unlikely to hand her off to another family with a dowry, assuming that his sons will provide for him in his old age. A one child rule breaks the assumptions of patrilineage and male inheritance. The Chinese one child rule was and is fundamentally disruptive to Chinese gender roles.  Selective abortion of females is an attempt to get around this radical restructuring of gender roles, but it is only marginally effective in doing so.


The perspective found in your last comment is certainly a unique one that I did not previously consider.

I am a little reticent, however, to conflate a low number of children with higher quality parenting. Perhaps the majority of Chinese parents do keep the child if it is a girl, but I think we underestimate the psychological impact of so much “investment” being put into a sole heir- male or female- with the goal of the child achieving a high status, high income occupation. We saw this dealt with in a somewhat self-critical manner in “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”.

I also think it’s a little unfair to single out China as the sole society engaged in wide-spread gendercide, or to think that it is merely a result of their draconian one-child policy. India is just as guilty here even though the practice of selecting against girls is openly criticized by the Indian state.

Again, I believe this is an example of the moral neutrality of technology. Culture matters. The purpose to which a technology is used matters. The hope is that the hold of patriarchal societies can be eroded to the point where abortion is no longer used for preventing tens of millions of women from being in the world. The problem is that culture changes ever so slowly whereas technology moves so fast. Better to limit access to technology- especially technology used to screen for gender or than allow such a tragedy to continue.

The discussion on China is interesting—and depressing.
But what I have to say to Henry is I still think the abortion debate is blown entirely out of proportion; existential threats are far more important and it appears abortion is a wedge issue primarily, an emotional issue secondarily… and as the issue is blown out of proportion so too are the emotions involved.

Valerie’s China perspective admits of a desirable outcome, but it seems to me that consequentialism is always self-defeating; for if the threat against future children heightens appreciation for current children, how valuable _are_ the current children — or women and their rights — if future siblings are ultimately dispensable by arbitrary dictates of law?  The “wedge issue” dissolves when one stops trying to commensurate basic goods with instrumental goods.

But Intomorrow:  tell me more about the importance of certainty.  We can inspect the $20 USD bill, but can we inspect inspection?  The scientific method cannot prove itself.  Admittedly, this rejoinder of mine is ad hominem and inconclusive, but faith is precisely that appeal to and from mystery.  And some mysteries, it would seem, are worth investigating, as in living them out or responding to their appeal vs. attempting a non-cooperative analysis which by definition rejects mystery and declines appeal.

To start off on-topic and then drift off, the clincher IMO is: one cannot be pro-life and pro-choice.. one must bite the bullet and choose.
Not that you are necessarily wrong in your overall outlook, Henry, but your expectations for humanity are way too high at this time. What is meant by ‘at this time’ is in the year 2013 there is no chance for a truly virtuous world. In the year 2113, perhaps a decent life is possible however so many things (and beings) will have changed by 2113, the word ‘virtue’ wont be the same. You can’t expect words to retain their meanings a century from now.
A century ago, 1913, ethics were less elastic; but then WWI came a year later and really washed the sandcastle of ancien morality away!
I’m not writing you are mistaken in what you write, only that you are a Don Quixote tilting at windmills and that today Dulcinaya wouldn’t want you to save her soul. We two can communicate because I am backward-looking. Difference is: I know the ultimate futility of looking backward, while you do not.

An update from India via the Atlantic:

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