I. The Good News
The New York Times ran a pretty fair front-page, above-the-fold article about pro-life protesters: specifically, the ones who use graphic signs, of the kind that got James Lawrence Pouillon martyred last month.
The piece was sort of a personal view into the motivations of four members, and they had some interesting stories. Chet Gallagher was a police officer who (while off-duty) was arrested with 700 other pro-life protesters, and spent 11 days in jail. Upon his return to Las Vegas, he was fired for refusing to arrest pro-life demonstrators. Deborah Anderson was a self-described “unwanted child.” Her birth mother was unable to find a back-alley abortionist, so she put her up for adoption. Her adoptive mother visciously beat her and her sister. So far, it sounds very much like the typical pro-choice horror story demonizing adoption. But Deborah, now 62, stands for the proposition that life, even one begun with a rough childhood, is worth living. Dan Brewer screamed obscenities at James Pouillon for his graphic signs. Eventually, Dan converted to Christianity, apologized to Pouillon, and ultimately, joined him. Finally, Cameron Brewer, Dan’s 16 year old son, describes running to the scene of Pouillon’s murder, fearing that it was his dad, and discovering it was a family friend. The piece ends with him talking about counting the bullet holes in Pouillon’s body, and being proud of his for what he stood for.
II. The Bad News: Pro-Choicers Can’t Get Past Five Stock Complaints
So yeah: a very fair piece, particularly for the NY Times. Then, of course, there are the comments. Here are the usual comments pro-choicers make:
- A. “If they really want to stop abortion, they should throw more money at condoms.” The argument is completely invalid statistically. The more condoms, the more promescuity, the more promescuity, the more pregnancies. There’s not exactly a shortage of free or cheap condoms. It also amounts to saying, “if you want to win your argument, you have to argue on the opposite side,” since a large number of pro-lifers are opposed to abortion as well.
- B. Pro-lifers are bad because they believe in absolute Truth, and/or because they’re religious. This argument uniroincally says, “there are absolutely no absolutes, and anyone who says otherwise is absolutely wrong.” In its related form, it says, “beliefs derived from Faith are wrong, or at least, can only be personally held.” It’s one thing to argue that beliefs derived solely from revealed law (things like, “it’s important to keep the Sabbath Holy”) shouldn’t be legislated. It’s another thing entirely to say that any moral belief which relates to religion should be stripped from the public square entirely, including non-legislative contexts. That view is the real threat to the First Amendment.
- C. “Pro-lifers ‘force their beliefs onto other people.'” I have no idea what this means, but it’s said a lot. Is this an argument against any protest? Remember, this is a demonstration to convince women not to have abortions. It’s not even a protest to overturn Roe. In that context, they’re right, in as far as all legislation forces one set of views over an opposing set.
- D. Pro-lifers are Conservatives/Republicans, and therefore bad. Once more, it’s the refusal to see abortion through any lens but the political, and it’s almost always accompanied by ridiculous assumptions, like “pro-lifers only care about life until birth,” which is based on: (1) assuming all pro-lifers are Republicans or conservatives; (2) viewing all Republicans and conservatives as being interchangable; and (3) assuming that a refusal to create massive social programs amounts to wanting children to die. In short, any deviation from the stock liberal “money will solve all of our social ills” solution is viewed as hating kids.
- E. We need abortion because of over-population. Another argument which runs counter to all empirical data: neo-Malthusianism is just wrong.
Let’s see how the NY Times comments hold up. Looking at just #1-25.
- # “Unless these folks feel ready to tell their own young children exactly how babies are made, they need to stop using them as props for these types of activities. ” It’s sort of a nonsensical claim, but it doesn’t fit any of the above neatly, although arguments for more sex ed are usually arguments from A.
- # Peter thinks that they should stop focusing on the “wearing protests” at the extremes in the abortion debate, and focus on the role of things like high precision ultrasound in creating a “more profound understanding about life.” It’s true that there’s more of an attempt to paint pro-lifers as all extremists (although this article briefly acknowledges this). Either way, this comment is far and away the smartest comment on here, and the only pro-lifer who responds in the first 25.
- # Louis hits C, D, and B, one after another. Impressive.
- # It begins, “Bullies? These anti-choice bigots are NOT bullies. They use indimidation and lies to badger and harrass women trying to get medical treatment. ” I’m not sure that this person know what the term “bullies” means? In any case, he hit C and B, which shows you don’t need to be smart or coherent to spout off the stock pro-choice lines.
- # Claims pro-lifers are terrorists. C.
- # “I can’t say too much about this, because while trying to read this article calmly and rationally, it felt like I was swallowing acid. I did want to thank the author for titling this piece ‘the anti-abortion movement’s frontline forces’ and not ‘the pro-life movement’s frontline forces’. Thank you for calling it what it is.” Then she unironically complains about the heated nature of the abortion debate. I think she’s trying to say D with her claim that pro-lifers aren’t pro-life.
- # Jim Porter, in a particularly sick post, compares unborn children to tumors which need to be “excised,” and claims pro-lifers just hate birth control because they want overpopulation. C and E definitely, although he seems to advocate A as a solution?
- # The argument is just A. And it won an “editor’s selection” for good comment.
- # Someone named “Buck” brilliantly strews together E, C, and A.
- # Another claim that pro-lifers are terrorists. C.
- # Commenter just wants to tell us that he wants to hurl more insults at pro-lifers. Um, ok.
- # D and B.
- # A, E, and D.
- # D.
- # A (presented as a plea to get the Church to change Her views, a ploy which has a 0% success rate over the last 2000 years on issues of faith and morals), coupled with the complaint that pro-lifers should be anti-war protesting instead (despite the massive disparity in those killed). That latter argument is rooted in D, and ignores the pro-lifers who do protest the war.
- # Thinks graphic signs should be banned as obscene, while acknowledging them (unintentionally, perhaps) as dead babies. It seems that it would be better to ban the procedure which lead to those graphic images? At least this person didn’t use one of the 5 stock arguments.
- # D and C. Plus: “When they can ensure they will take good care of every unwanted child, and whatever the psychological needs of mothers who will live with the aftermath of giving up a child for the rest of their lives may be (no one in this discussion seems to think of that torture, birth mothers are tossed out of the deal after they deliver), then and only then will they have a legitimate claim.” At least someone has set a reasonable bar. Also, let’s make murder legal until we, as a society, remove every possible impetus to murder.
- # B, coupled with complains that the Times ran the story and misinformation about the Pouillon murder (namely, s/he claims it wasn’t targeted when, in fact, it was).
- # A, with some quip about how gays aren’t to blame.
- # A B, and C. Argues that pro-lifers conflate the Constitution and Bible. This is just the merger of B and C: view every activity through the lens of the political process, and refuse to allow any religious-tinged belief to be voiced in public. Then claim that it’s those who try and express their religion freely who are violating the First Amendment. S/he actually concludes “Don’t invoke the bible and I will discuss politics with you,” as is pro-lifers (and particularly those outside clinics instead of Legislatures) view abortion as purely or primarily a political issue.
- # C, D, and is patronizing re: B.
- # B, C, D. “Hardly foot ‘soldiers.’ The vocal minority the author describes hide behind fake pacificism, yet they’re the meanest gang of cowards and thugs I’ve ever witnesed who don’t deserve the attenttion. I couldn’t have more contempt for them and their attempts to foist their personal beliefs on our Constitution while they won’t be found protesting wars and the military industrial complex, where arrest and a guilty verdict will get them at least 10 years in prison. They target our society’s most vulnerable individuals, mere pawns in organized religion’s wink at anarchy. When I see these groups with their bibles, I want to vomit!”
- # D.
- # A and D.
- # B, from a self-proclaimed “minister who is involved with reproductive rights” who is made that pro-lifers see things in terms of good and evil.
If you’ve got a strong stomach, feel free to see how many of the remaining comments (25 down, 147 to go) are just pro-choicers voicing variations on the same 5 points with their own vitrol mixed in. Also, did anyone notice the ratio of pro-lifers to pro-choicers was 1:24 so far? I don’t think that ratio gets much better. We have well over a hundred people posting in a pro-choice echo chamber, saying the same five things to each other; so far, none of them have even made reference to each others’ points – there’s not only not a two-way conversation between pro-lifers and pro-choicers; there’s not even a . They’re just so filled with hate that they need to vent it at the combox.