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Non Sequitur?

The Washington Post writes,

Despite the steady drop in abortions across the United States in the three decades since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973 in the case of Roe v. Wade, a new generation of activists is taking up the cause with conviction and sophistication.

Why "despite"? Whether you agree with anti-abortion activists or not, they generally take the view that abortion is a grievous wrong. A steady drop in abortions doesn't make the remaining abortions any less wrong.

You'd think that a new generation of activists would still be energized to "tak[e] up the cause with conviction and sophistication" even if they think there are only several hundred thousands fetal lives to be saved each year rather than over a million. Perhaps the steady drop might even energize them into thinking that women's minds can be changed about the procedure; but in any case, I don't see why it would make them less interested in changing still more minds (and changing the law). The "despite" strikes me as a signal that the author and the editor are for some reason missing this pretty important fact about the motivations of the very people they're writing about.

(If Roe had actually decreased the total number of abortions per year, then it might be surprising that people would want to try to overturn it, though even then people might still actively urge women not to get abortions. But the total number of legal abortions plus illegal abortions increased following Roe, as one might expect.)

Thanks to OpinionJournal's Best of the Web, which has more.

UPDATE: An exchange with commenter Rich B. led me to look at some more data, which suggest the possibility that the aggregate legal and illegal abortion rate today is roughly the same as it was just before Roe; see here. I'm not positive that this is so, especially since the Alan Guttmacher Institute numbers are quite a bit higher from the CDC numbers, and since the Guttmacher Institute itself -- a defender of abortion rights -- reports that the current abortion rate is the lowest since 1974, not since 1972. Likewise, this file from Guttmacher reports a higher rate in 2005 than in 1973, without any qualifiers indicating that it's reporting only illegal abortions.

Nonetheless, even if the abortion rate is the same now as right before Roe, the shape of the curve is pretty clear: A huge spike in overall legal plus illegal abortions in the 1970s, followed by a slow but fairly steady and substantial decline since about 1980 (which is what I take the Post is somewhat confusingly describing as "the steady drop in abortions across the United States in the three decades since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973"). The spike is consistent with the view that legalization -- both before Roe in some states, and after Roe in all states -- increased the number of abortions; the decline seems most plausibly explained by changing social or economic conditions, quite possibly including increased public anti-abortion advocacy. It's of course possible that Roe was completely irrelevant, and that the spike was entirely due to other causes; it just doesn't seem very likely to me, and it certainly doesn't seem like the only plausible or even the most plausible explanation from the perspective of those who condemn abortion.

Thus, to return to the point I mentioned, even if the total abortion rate is roughly what it was right before Roe, it makes perfect sense that "a new generation of activists is taking up the cause with conviction and sophistication."

Mr. Liberal:
This is an excellent point. People who oppose abortions do not attach discrete and limited values on each life. They think it is a grievous moral wrong for their to be hundreds of thousands of abortions just as much as millions of abortions.

I do not agree with them on this particular issue, but I am glad to see thinking that rejects the idea of putting a value on life.
1.23.2008 5:43am
pireader (mail):
The Post's writer was merely relying on the premise that would-be activists must set priorities. Each faces more "evils" than he (or she) can work against. And each is more-likely to mobilize against a growing than a waning "evil".

It's hard to criticize the writer for holding this premise, since so many fund raisers live by it. I get an endless stream of hot-breath mail explaining that greenhouse gases, designer-drug abuse, warrantless wiretaps, genital mutilation, high taxes, Darfur, homophobic hate crimes, Islamo-fascism, etc. have all grown to unprecedented crisis proportions. Very few write to say that some problem's dwindling and almost licked, so let's finish it off.
1.23.2008 6:20am
Bottomfish (mail):
To anti-abortionists, a human life is priceless. To environmentalists, wildlife is nearly priceless. Interesting that two factions on opposite sides of the political fence should have a point of near-contact. Perhaps pro-life activism is like environmentalism but expressed through a different channel.
1.23.2008 7:29am
Mr. X (www):
(If Roe had actually decreased the total number of abortions per year, then it might be surprising that people would want to try to overturn it, though even then people might still actively urge women not to get abortions. But the total number of legal abortions plus illegal abortions increased following Roe, as one might expect.)


It sounds like your problem is not the "despite," but your contention that the author's claim that there was a "the steady drop in abortions across the United States in the three decades since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973" is factually incorrect.
1.23.2008 8:23am
Happyshooter:
I think Heinlein was dead on in a lot of his writing until the last few years of his life when his outlook tended towards his view of sexuality.

In Starship Troopers he puts words in the hero's mouth that I totally agree with. The question was whether a war was justifed when it was learned one power had kept a large number of POWs from the last war and was enslaving them. Then he started stepping down the number and repeating the question.

'It doesn't matter if it is one man or a thousand, you still fight.'
1.23.2008 8:46am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
It's hard to criticize the writer for holding this premise, since so many fund raisers live by it.

This would indicate that aside from being aware of its (by definition very public) fund-raising efforts the writer has no direct contact with the movement. It's just another of the press's myriad Pauline Kael moments.
1.23.2008 8:48am
Happyshooter:
To anti-abortionists, a human life is priceless

A human life is not priceless to me, I would love to see executions stepped up in this nation for people who deserve the punishment (everyone who tries to make war on the US, or helps other nations hostile to the US, child rapists, anyone who mass murders or tortures, gang leaders...)

I think the child, however, is innocent and murdering it is evil.
1.23.2008 8:49am
Tim Dowling (mail):
You make an excellent point, Eugene. In addition, even if one were morally neutral on abortion, one could still strongly favor the overruling of Roe v. Wade if one views it as untoward judicial activism that undermines our Constitution and democratic processes. Most people don't march in the streets over issues like that, but perhaps they should.
1.23.2008 9:04am
Virginian:
In other misuses of the word "despite" in a headline, Best of the Web has previously pointed out a headline that read (I am going from memory, so this may not be exactly right) "Despite lower crime rate, prison populations at record high"
1.23.2008 9:26am
JonC:

To anti-abortionists, a human life is priceless. To environmentalists, wildlife is nearly priceless. Interesting that two factions on opposite sides of the political fence should have a point of near-contact.


This calls to mind the old pro-life chestnut, "If we can only get them to see the fetus as a baby seal in utero, we will have won."
1.23.2008 9:42am
Bored Lawyer:
What this article shows (as highlighted by your post) is just how out of touch newspaper writers are.

Imagine someone circa 1865 arguing "Well slavery has been on the decline since Dred Scott, so why ban it?"
1.23.2008 9:44am
Rich B. (mail):

But the total number of legal abortions plus illegal abortions increased following Roe, as one might expect.)


Simply false by any relevant comparison of abortion statistics. This statement is based on the conclusion that all 1972 abortions were "illegal" and all 1974 abortions were "legal." This is simply false, as California and New York had legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade.

In 1972 there were approximately 130,000 illegal abortions (per Eugene's cite). There were also an additional 586,760 reported and LEGAL abortions in 1972. That is a total of 716,760 abortions.

In 2004, there were 839,226 legal abortions. There were also approximately 50% more women in America. (The U.S. populations has gone from circa 200 million to circa 300 million).

The abortion rate per woman has therefore dropped dramatically between 1972 and 2004.
1.23.2008 9:52am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I think the use of "despite" in this way is called the Butterfield Effect, after a piece in the NYT by Fox Butterfield who couldn't get his mind around the simultaneous drop in crime and increase in prison population.
1.23.2008 10:16am
kimsch (mail) (www):

Despite the steady drop in abortions across the United States in the three decades since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973 in the case of Roe v. Wade, a new generation of activists is taking up the cause with conviction and sophistication.

Isn't it interesting that those who weren't aborted are now for limiting abortion?

Of course, a reason that the number of abortions has decreased may be because potential mothers and those that might have had an abortion were themselves aborted.
1.23.2008 10:16am
Allan (mail):
The issue to me is: what means are the most effective for reducing abortions?

I think it safe to say that no-one likes abortions. That goes for the most ardent pro-choicers and the most ardent anti-choicers.

If having the option of legal abortions reduces the number of abortions overall, then Roe v. Wade was good, in a Machievellian sort of way.

I support those who offer women options other than abortion. I support those who would try to persuade women not to have abortions. What I do not support is using coercive tactics to forbid a woman from getting an abortion or to force a woman who wants an abortion to have a procedure that would cause more injury than an abortion from trained medical personnel.

I salute those whose efforts have resulted in fewer abortions and hope that they realize that tactice other than overturning Roe v. Wade are more effective in stemming the number of abortions.
1.23.2008 10:16am
pireader (mail):
Ralph Phelan @ 8:48 am -- This would indicate that aside from being aware of its (by definition very public) fund-raising efforts the writer has no direct contact with the movement. It's just another of the press's myriad Pauline Kael moments.

Not so. As noted above, activism in a wide range of social reform movements seems to respond to (perceived) growth or decline in the "evil" to be combated. So it's entirely reasonable for a writer to note that the pro-life/anti-choice movement is an apparent exception.

Since the whole Post article is based on interviews with movement activists, your comment that "the writer has no direct contact with the movement" seems incomprehensible. Did you click through and read it?
1.23.2008 10:18am
ChrisIowa (mail):
Despite the continuously declining quality of English instruction, a new generation of newspaper reporters and editors continue to mangle the English language.

or something like that.
1.23.2008 10:44am
alias:
Isn't it interesting that those who weren't aborted are now for limiting abortion?

No. No it isn't. It would be really interesting if those who were aborted were out marching in the streets to limit abortion, but those who weren't aborted generally make up 100% of the membership of any cause.

In fact, despite all of the conspiracy theories I've heard about corporations and religions, no one to my knowledge has done an in-depth analysis of the outsized influence that non-aborted people have on society. I think they run pretty much everything. Now that I've posted this in public, they'll probably track me and kill me. Goodbye.
1.23.2008 10:50am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

This is simply false, as California and New York had legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade.
And even states where it was supposedly only legal to save the life of the mother, sometimes had startlingly high abortion rates. Oregon had 199 legal abortions per 1000 live births in 1970.

Both sides in this fight pretend that Roe v. Wade (1973) is a bright line separating the days when abortion was extraordinarily rare and abortion was common. Certainly, abortion rates went up afterwards. Overturning Roe v. Wade won't mean that abortion is illegal and rare everywhere. It isn't even clear that where it becomes illegal that doctors won't do what they were clearly doing in Oregon--performing abortions by falsely claiming that they were necessary to save the life of the mother.
1.23.2008 10:51am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

No. No it isn't. It would be really interesting if those who were aborted were out marching in the streets to limit abortion, but those who weren't aborted generally make up 100% of the membership of any cause.
Not quite. There are a couple of people in the pro-life movement that I've seen interviewed who survived abortions (one of them I think missing an arm).

Still, I would agree that it is probably the case that 99.999% of the pro-life movement are those who were not aborted.
1.23.2008 10:53am
New World Dan (www):
To anti-abortionists, a human life is priceless

I find this not to be the case. If you look at the vast majority of women contemplating an abortion (not all, but most), there is a dollar value at which they could be compensated and still have the child. Furthermore, in the adoption industry, there is a high demand for healthy white babies. Yet, clearly there is a cieling on the amount of money the anti-abortion crusaders are either willing to spend or have the ability to spend. Thus I give a modest proposal: let women sell their babies.

Back to topic, though... both sides of the abortion debate have new generations of supporters "taking up the cause with conviction and sophistication." That's the very nature of politics: it's an arms race and a numbers game, and it's a battle that seems to be fairly evenly fought. Success on one side motivates the other to fight harder, locked in a never ending fight.
1.23.2008 10:56am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Of course, a reason that the number of abortions has decreased may be because potential mothers and those that might have had an abortion were themselves aborted.
Other possible reasons why abortion has declined:

1. America is a far wealthier country today than it was in 1973. A single mother trying to raise a child in 1973 would have been far worse off than today.

2. Fear of STDs may have increased use of condoms. While birth control pills, when properly used, are more effective than condoms, there are an awful lot of teenagers who managed to screw up taking birth control pills.
1.23.2008 10:57am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Rich B.: The Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that the abortion rate in 2005 was 19.4 per 1000 women aged 15-44, the "lowest level since 1974." The data I pointed to reports a rate of 13 legal per 1000 women aged 15-44 in 1972 (586,760), plus another about 130,000 illegal in 1972, which would amount to a rate of about 2.8/1000 (applying the 13/586,760 factor), for a total of 15.8/1000. What am I missing?
1.23.2008 11:05am
frankcross (mail):
EV, if you look at the data, there was a steady increase in abortions before Roe. That increase continued for some time, but at no greater rate of increase. Simply saying there was an increase in abortions after Roe isn't evidence of any correlation or causation due to the decision.
1.23.2008 11:12am
Elliot Reed (mail):
If you just consider the quoted sentence and construe it literally, it's a non sequitur. The new generation of sophisticated and committed activists could be five people and the sentence would be nonetheless be literally true. But in context it's clear that they're talking about a large and (what they imply is) growing number of committed and sophisticated activists. And sophistication isn't free: you have to take your young activists and educate them at conferences, thinktank internships, and so on, and that costs money. And even among people who think abortion should be illegal starting at conception, there are scads of nonactivists per activist.

You might think that a movement facing a declining problem would find it more difficult to convince people to spend their time being activists, or to donate the money necessary to any activist movement, but they don't seem to be having that problem. I think the "despite" is perfectly sensible in this context.
1.23.2008 11:16am
Just a thought:

No. No it isn't. It would be really interesting if those who were aborted were out marching in the streets to limit abortion, but those who weren't aborted generally make up 100% of the membership of any cause.


Just to echo Clayton: Google "abortion survivors" and you'll find a number of personal testimonies of people who survived abortions. An interesting statistic would be the percentage of people who were intended for abortion (either survived the procedure, or whose mothers changed their mind at the last moment), who now oppose abortion. I would suspect that an overwhelming number of abortion survivors (maybe 80% or 90%?) are thankful that they are alive today, regardless of the concerns to the mother's "health" that they created as foetuses. If statistics show that almost every person who was almost aborted is now thankful to be alive, that might be a strong argument against abortion.
1.23.2008 11:22am
therut:
The NYT is sad the number has decreased. That is not progress.
1.23.2008 11:29am
dearieme:
The quotation doesn't actually tell us what "the cause" is. It could be pro-, anti-, or something else. (My own suggestion: allow abortion but insist that it be performed live on TV. Now there's a "cause".)
1.23.2008 11:32am
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
In general, I would expect the level of activism to track the level of activity at which the activism is directed. (It's not a Law of Social Activism or anything, just a common sense presumption.) So the use of the word 'despite' is a helpful signal that this expectation will be defeated by the facts about to be reported. (Cf. "Despite the fact that the execution rate has dropped, a new generation of anti-capital punishment activists is taking up the cause with conviction and sophistication.")
1.23.2008 11:33am
Rich B. (mail):
EV asked:


What am I missing?


You are missing an apples-to-apples comparison. The CDC compiles the rates of legal abortions every year. In 1972, it came up with 586,000 legal abortions. You seem to have no problem with that number. In 2004, the CDC came out with its annual report and found that there were reported 839,226 legal induced abortions.

Now, the Guttmacher Institute seems to have a higher number of abortions listed,(and perhaps their analysis is more complete and accurate -- I don't know.) But you can't use a more complete 2005 number and a less complete 1972 number, and argue from that that abortion rates are going up.

The 839K number for 2004 comes from the same source as the 586K number from 1972, and is therefore the proper comparison.

You are essentially comparing "reported" abortions from 1972 to all abortions ("reported" or not) from the present. You can't use the CDC's numbers from 1972, and then disregard then for a higher number in 2005.
1.23.2008 11:53am
Roger Schlafly (www):
Everyone here seems to be agreeing that the abortion rate went up in the 1970s, and went down in recent years. If so, then the Wash. Post claim of a "steady drop" since 1973 is false. The abortion rate has not been steadily dropping since 1973.
1.23.2008 12:18pm
calmom:
The L. A. Times had an interesting article earlier this week on the new generation of pro-life activists. They made a few salient points as to why they are more pro-life than the generations before.

1. They are a generation that could have been legally aborted and they feel lucky to be alive. Some are missing brothers or sisters they might otherwise have had.

2. The science of 3-D ultrasound has changed a lot of minds and made the fetus a visible, real baby. To an older generation is was just a fuzzy shape. Now the ultrasound pictures are posted on the frig and passed around just like other baby pictures.
1.23.2008 12:29pm
genob:

I think it safe to say that no-one likes abortions. That goes for the most ardent pro-choicers and the most ardent anti-choicers.



If only this statement was true...Read Ellen Goodman's recent column lamenting that Hollywood was making movies about choosing to go ahead with a pregnancy. There is a vocal, if not large, contingent of the pro-choice side of the debate that wants to celebrate abortion as a fantastic decision for a woman who can then more easily live the life that the pro choicers think they should live...unburdened by silly things like children, free to hit the glass ceiling at some crappy job.

I think there are a lot of pro-choicers that do "like" abortion. Why else would they object to attempts to dissuade women from making the choice, or see detailed ultrasound as some sinister propoganda tool instead of what it is....evidence that there is more to a fetus than an inconvenient blob of cells.
1.23.2008 12:49pm
Student:
Perhaps the Times' writer is not neutral or impartial on the question. Use of the word "despite" suggests that those who do not hold the writer's views on the subject are radical, far-right, raving lunatics unable or unwilling to make "reasonable compromise" and unaffected by "the facts".
1.23.2008 1:14pm
Student:
Strike "Times", insert "Post".
1.23.2008 1:14pm
Houston Lawyer:
OB/GYNs now do ultrasounds as early as 6 weeks. You can see the beating heart at that stage of development. It is a powerful experience to see the beating heart of your developing child.

A lot of people are emotionally invested in denying the humanity of the developing child. Proponents of legalized abortion don't often admit they sanction the killing of the innocent, with no questions asked.

Quite a few women experience a great deal of remorse afterwords. Their voices must be suppressed lest a woman thinking about aborting learns of their plight and reconsiders.
1.23.2008 1:20pm
Peter B. Nordberg (mail) (www):
"Despite" because even for those who consider abortion to be the moral equivalent of murder, the numbers should bear on the relative urgency of the problem -- which might rationally be regarded, even by anti-abortionists, as one social problem among many.
1.23.2008 1:21pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Rich B.: Interesting; I hadn't focused on the discrepancy, and I'll try to look more closely at it. Still, according to the CDC numbers, the legal abortion rate is 16 per 1000 in 2004 and 13 per 1000 in 1972; adding the illegal abortions (about 3 per 1000) yields roughly the same abortion rate now as in 1972 (which leaves the puzzle of why the Guttmacher Institute reports that the current abortion rate is the lowest since 1974). So that suggests a return to roughly the pre-Roe abortion rate, after a long time at a much higher level. That might mean Roe had no effect, or it might mean that Roe increased abortion rates but other factors (changing wealth, changing social attitudes, etc.) pushed them back down. (I suppose it's possible that Roe decreased abortion rates but other factors caused them to sharply spike right after Roe, but that strikes me as not terribly plausible.)
1.23.2008 1:24pm
whit:
"If only this statement was true...Read Ellen Goodman's recent column lamenting that Hollywood was making movies about choosing to go ahead with a pregnancy. There is a vocal, if not large, contingent of the pro-choice side of the debate that wants to celebrate abortion as a fantastic decision for a woman who can then more easily live the life that the pro choicers think they should live...unburdened by silly things like children, free to hit the glass ceiling at some crappy job. "

exactly. it reminds me of the deaf radicals who think that cochlear implants, etc. and curing children of deafness is abuse etc. they celebrate deafness, a disability, as an attribute. seriously.

there ARE a small %age of people who DO celebrate abortion, not just as an unfortunate choice, but as a positive, woman affirming institution. are they are small %age of people? of course. do they exist? absolutely.
1.23.2008 1:24pm
frankcross (mail):
Abortion rates did not sharply spike right after Roe, they simply continued a steady increase, this data is set out in Gerry Rosenberg's, the Hollow Hope. The only sharp spike was shortly before Roe, after states started legalizing.
1.23.2008 1:31pm
KeithK (mail):
Several people make the argument that "despite" is reasonable because it's natural to expect decreasing support for a problem that has almost been solved. For example, pireader:

Very few [fund raisers] write to say that some problem's dwindling and almost licked, so let's finish it off.

I might agree if the "problem" of abortion were declining at a rate where it was clear that it was close to being "finished off". But that's clearly not the case. While the number of abortions may have declined somewhat, the number is still pretty high (hundreds of thousands per year). There is no indication that the number will drop to statistical insignificance. The abortion issue is obviously still relevant.
1.23.2008 1:45pm
Smokey:
Allan:
I think it safe to say that no-one likes abortions
Sorry, but that's wrong. Plenty of environmentalists think the entire human race should be exterminated. When you start with a false premise, what follows is false. For example:
...tactice other than overturning Roe v. Wade are more effective in stemming the number of abortions.
No. If abortions were illegal, the law would be the most effective tactic to stop the practice.

It might be worthwhile looking more closely at what pro-abortion people are actually supporting:

An obstetrical nurse who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

The doctor ''...delivered the baby's body and the arms, everything but the head. The doctor kept the head right inside the uterus. The baby's little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking.

''Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head and the baby's arms jerked out like a startle reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall. The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby's brains out. Now the baby went completely limp. He cut the umbilical cord and the placenta. He threw the baby in a pan, along with the placenta and the instruments he'd just used.''


Do you really want our society to condone abortion on demand? I do not.

But sad to say, some folks will actually kill an innocent - for money:

''The opposition to Justice Owen is not really about abortion rights, it is about abortion profits.

''Simply put, the abortion industry is opposed to parental notice laws because parental notice laws place a hurdle between them and the profits from the abortion clients -- not the girls who come to them, but the adult men who pay for these abortions.

''These adult men, whose average age rises the younger the girl is, are eager not to be disclosed to parents, sometimes living down the street.

''At nearly one million abortions per year, the abortion industry is as big as any corporate interest that lobbies in Washington. They not only ignore the rights of parents, they also protect sexual offenders and statutory rapists.''

~ Sen. Orin Hatch
1.23.2008 1:51pm
whit:
i have also heard some so called "choice" advocates claim that women should NOT watch films of abortions being performed and other "propaganda" because it might "force" them to decide not have an abortion.

iow, they (a subset of prochoicers) are not for CHOICE, let alone informed choice.

the same people who think we need to see photos of iraq deaths and injuries (and im not against this in the least) think people should not see how partial birth abortions are actually performed. selective about informing people to make choices.

i can still eat sausage, even knowing how its made
1.23.2008 1:56pm
Bored Lawyer:

Perhaps the Times [or Post] writer is not neutral or impartial on the question.


Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
1.23.2008 2:04pm
Allan (mail):
I suppose it possible that there is a group of people who would believe that every woman should have an abortion rather than a child. And there are feminists who believe any intercourse (heterosexual, that is) is rape. IMHO, the proponents of these are fringe radicals, much in the way that there are people who believe morality and ethics require them to kill those who perform abortions and to bomb places that perform abortions.

The mainstream pro-choicers would rather that every pregnancy be welcomed and go full term.

But, the mainstrem pro-choicers are realists. Some women do not want to have babies, despite the fact that they are pregnant. For them, pro-choicers think there should be options. Sure, adoption is one. Abortion is another.

This pro-choicer would rather a pregnant woman choose adoption, but have the choice to do otherwise.
1.23.2008 2:11pm
Student:
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!




Exactly.....
1.23.2008 2:15pm
Rich B. (mail):

Rich B.: Interesting; I hadn't focused on the discrepancy, and I'll try to look more closely at it


Thanks. I don't think anyone is being ill-intentioned. It makes complete sense to list what you believe to be the best available data for each year, even if the data is collected through different means over time. The problem, though, is when you look at the series of data over time and confuse better data-gathering with a real change in the data gathered.

It happens a lot with, for example, medical conditions. As tests for the disease improve or become common, a higher percentage of cases are discovered, including lots of people who wouldn't have died of the disease anyway. As a result, it looks like the death-rate for the disease is going down when you really just have a bigger pool of people now considered to have the disease.

I believe this was an issue recently with Rudy Guiliani's prostate cancer. He claimed that America has a lower death rate from prostate cancer than England. Opponents claimed that America just diagnoses more healthy people, which improves the stats. Another example are whether autism is becoming "more common" or just "more diagnosed."
1.23.2008 2:24pm
CheckEnclosed (mail):
Bringing unwanted children into the world is morally wrong. Because I hold this view, and believe that embryos and fetures are much less valuable than live born humans, and also believe that humans have the right to dominion over their own bodies, I am pro-abortion. There aren't enough of them. (I'm also no fan of Roe v. Wade)

Of course, people who are anti-abortion may also believe that it is wrong to bring unwanted children into the world, but consider abortion to be a greater wrong.
1.23.2008 2:50pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
And there are feminists who believe any intercourse (heterosexual, that is) is rape.
No there aren't. As a feminist, I know this is a myth. It comes from a common misinterpretation of Andrea Dworkin's Intercourse, which is easy to misread because it's written in feminist jargon.
1.23.2008 3:03pm
Just a thought:
Bringing unwanted children into the world is morally wrong.

I'm pro-life and I agree with this statement. And I think that you and other pro-choice people would agree with this statement: "If an unwanted child is inadvertently brought into the world, it is morally wrong to later kill it."

The disagreement arises when it comes to determining WHEN the unwanted child was brought into the world. You say the unwanted child comes into the world when its body fully exits the birth canal; I say this pure geographical distinction is illogical and that the unwanted child is already in this world, and has been so for several months.
1.23.2008 3:13pm
Peter B. Nordberg (mail) (www):
KeithK:

The reasonableness of using "despite" does not depend on the problem's "almost being solved." Nor do I think it depends on the problem's having reached an unprecedentedly low level of prevalence. The "despite" is justified, and a non-non sequitur, if the prevalence is substantially lower than it was at some previous time when anti-abortion activism flourished to roughly the same degree.

"Despite" is not synonymous with "in defiance of all reason."
1.23.2008 3:23pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Definitions matter here. In 1972 I think abortions were limited to surgical intervention. Today we have surgical intervention, chemicals to induce abortion, and maybe more.

Many anti-abortion activists insist stem cell research essentially involves abortion. Some say an IUD is an abortion inducing device. Others insist the birth control pill is an abortificant.

Some say pregnancy begins with the fertilization of an egg; others say it begins with implantaion into the lining of the uterus.

Many applaud stem cell research which others see as abortion.

Some religious say a humans must have a soul; others of the same religion say ensoulment is delayed until sometime after fertilization. So, is a single cell a human being? I don't know.

I certainly don't have a solution, but I would suggest dropping the word abortion in favor of more specific clinical terms so we know what we are all talking about. And, yes, I know: everyone's definition of the term is the correct one, and they can cite a reference to back up their claim.
1.23.2008 3:28pm
genob:
Allan:

It may be a matter of defining what you mean by "mainstream". I don't purport to know what lies in the hearts of most people that might identify them as "pro-choice" and most polls on this topic are so loaded based on the way questions are phrased and asked that they are inhereently unreliable.

But whatever the average person thinks, it's hard to believe what you say when there seems to be such steadfast opposition among pro-choice advocates to even providing women with information (like ultrasounds or photos) that might have the tendency to influence their decision against having an abortion...Read the Ellen Goodman column...She feels it's a problem that Hollywood would now make movies that show keeping a baby might have a happy ending. Read the LA Times article that seems to treat 3D ultrasounds as some powerful propaganda tool rather than jusr relevant information. Do they represent the "maintstream"? I don't know, but there clearly is discomfort among many pro-choice advocates in providing information that would tend to influence that choice. That leads me to conclude that they prefer one choice over the other.
1.23.2008 3:43pm
Allan (mail):
Genob,

There is a difference between providing information and force feeding information down a person's throat.

I resent the latter, I welcome the former.

If an ultrasound is provided to show a woman what is in her uterus, all is well and good. If it is accompanied by someone telling her "you have a baby in your uterus, if you have an abortion, you are a murderer," I am against it.

If a clinic that provides abortions has an area that provides information about alternatives, including adoptions, I am for it. If a person is yelling at people that abortion is murder and that they have to consider adoption, I am against it.

I don't know what Ms. Goodman or others are professing when they speak against these things. But, if they are against them because the extra information might cause a woman not to have an abortion (of her own free will), they are not of the same pro-choice ilk as I.

As for sex being rape... I have not met someone who holds those views. I am just saying they may be out there. I, too, have never met someone who advocates killing abortion providers or bombing clinics, but my understanding is that they exist.
1.23.2008 4:39pm
kimsch (mail) (www):
OB/GYNs now do ultrasounds as early as 6 weeks. You can see the beating heart at that stage of development. It is a powerful experience to see the beating heart of your developing child.

That is exactly why the abortion industry (Planned Parenthood, et. al) do NOT want a potential "customer" to have an ultrasound before making a final decision. That happens and the "customer" becomes an OB patient and the child becomes a pediatric patient.

My daughter opened and closed her eyes and stuck her tongue out and flipped over for a good view that she was, indeed, a girl. She even did a baby wave (open and close the hand) She was further along than 6 weeks, but that was so profound.

I have three children and I lost three to miscarriage. I was heartbroken for each one. One I actually delivered. He was about one pound at about 20 weeks. I just can't imagine doing that on purpose.
1.23.2008 4:47pm
PLR:
That is exactly why the abortion industry (Planned Parenthood, et. al) do NOT want a potential "customer" to have an ultrasound before making a final decision. That happens and the "customer" becomes an OB patient and the child becomes a pediatric patient.

Nonsense.
1.23.2008 5:40pm
FantasiaWHT:

But you can't use a more complete 2005 number and a less complete 1972 number, and argue from that that abortion rates are going up.


Why not? That's the entire basis for the case for global warming.

Back on point a bit, I don't understand the validity of the abortion "rate" equalling # of abortions / # of women of child bearing age. Wouldn't a much more informative measure be # of abortions / # of live births (or you could do # of conceptions minus DNCs)?
1.23.2008 5:43pm
genob:
So then the question is whether you would oppose a state law that required abortion clinics to show an ultrasound to a womean seeking an abortion. Or a film or photos showing how the procedure was carried out.

No commentary. ..no "it's murder". Just a requirement that the woman be shown this (very relevant) information. Is that "force feeding?" Most pro-choice advocates are staunchly against such laws. (or anything else that might cause a woman to reconsider the decision to enter the abortion clinic).
1.23.2008 6:57pm
DangerMouse:
Just a requirement that the woman be shown this (very relevant) information. Is that "force feeding?" Most pro-choice advocates are staunchly against such laws.

There are generally three types of abortion advocates:

There's BIG ABORTION, which is the industry consisting of doctors, nurses, planned parenthood, and other money-grubbing types whose livelihood depends on murder.

Then there's the feminist crowd, who thinks that abortion is a tool to free them from the patriarchy, and to assert control over their bodies and to have all the sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex they want.

Then, lastly, there's the moderates, who basically believe the position of the feminists, because they don't want to hurt their daughters' feelings by telling them not to act like a slut. Or they believe that abortion would be fine for those of lesser class (or race). They're basically moderates because they hope it'd never happen to them, but it's fine for other people or for their daughter if she hooks up with at louse she was with at the movies the other night...

None of these positions are ultimately admirable. Abortion advocacy is ultimately a morally bankrupt position.
1.23.2008 7:03pm
Allan (mail):
DangerMouse:

That is ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as saying that everyone who opposes abortion does so because they believe a woman's place is barefoot and in the kitchen (hmmm, might be better if Phyllis Schafly was)(OK, that snark was unwarranted).

Where do you place me? I am not big abortion. I am not a feminist. And I do not have a daughter of child-bearing age.

I do not believe abortion is murder or should be a crime. I believe abortion is a moral question, but I do not believe that I should push my morals on others. I do not believe that a woman should be forced to be pregnant for nine months if she does not want to be.

I do not believe that the anti-abortion crowd has anything to crow about. Until they find a way to recompense a woman for being pregnant for nine months against her will (sounds a little like slavery), provide her health care, and provide a good life for EVERY child, regardless of the parents' financial situation, the anti-abortion position smacks of hyposcricy. And, along the way, if you are going to insist that every pregnant woman have a child, you should advocate some policy for making sure that the women, should they choose to have children, are in the same financial situation they would have been in, had they not been pregnant.
1.23.2008 8:46pm
genob:
Society imposes the answers to "moral questions" all the time. The idea that you do not believe that you should "push your morals" sounds really noble, but basically means you don't want to participate in a society.

The obvious question here is whether you believe that you should "push your morals" on someone else by prohibiting them from murdering their 1 day old infant after arriving home from the hospital...Yes? Why? Isn't that pushing a moral judgment? Of course.

And since the obvious answer to that is yes, we then get to what another poster called the "inconvenient geography" question? Is it really the case that you believe that passing through the birth canal is the magic moment that changes a morally ambiguous act of personal choice into a crime deservedly punishable by the most severe penalties?

And if it's not that moment, then at what moment would you suggest? Is it "external viability"? Full term infants are not "viable" without significant assistance from adult humans. How viable?

Maybe you have an answer. It might be different than mine. Of course as a society, we have been prohibited from deciding the answers to those questions because a court has decided that they know best.


So Prof. Volokh is right to scratch his head as to why anyone would question or be surprised by continued or even increased activity by abortion opponents. Indeed, if there is evidence that some of the advocacy is working to help fewer women make that terrible choice, you would expect that the advocates would be encouraged, and that there would be more advocates.
1.23.2008 9:24pm
bluecollarguy:
http://www.guttmacher.org/presentations/trends.pdf

{HTML is not my friend here.}

Guttmacher report on abortion rates in America. See page 2 of the pdf.

It is obvious that the liberalization of abortion laws by governments resulted in more abortion. No surprise there.

What is surprising is that some folks still resort to the "I don't want to impose my morality..." canard.

Exactly whose morality is imposed every time some legislature somewhere passes a law?
1.23.2008 10:05pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"So then the question is whether you would oppose a state law that required abortion clinics to show an ultrasound to a womean seeking an abortion. Or a film or photos showing how the procedure was carried out."

Is there a reason to limit this to abortion procedures? Wouldn't it be best to require that films or photos of all medical procedures be shown to all patients? Graphic video of liposuction, hip replacement, heart bypass, lung tumor removal, etc. This would provide valuable information to patients. Who would support such a state law?
1.23.2008 10:16pm
Smokey:
Allan:
I do not believe that a woman should be forced to be pregnant for nine months if she does not want to be.
Who is forcing her to be pregnant, if not her?

Abortions are not the result of happenstance; they are the result of a person's action. If someone commits a fraudulent act and gets 9 months in jail, whose fault is that? You are treating the woman like an innocent bystander - when we all know who the truly innocent person is in an abortion. It's a real shame that some folks have more sympathy for mere inconvenience than for killing another person who has done nothing wrong.
1.23.2008 10:45pm
mea:
Professor -- abortion rates were most likely also spiking upward around the time of Roe due to the baby boom and the large numbers of women in their 20's more than the legalization of Roe.

Many of the rest of the commenters: Wow, you have many opinions that you know better than I do whether I can make an informed medical decision about the risks of death and permanent bodily harm. Sorry, even with use of birth control and a planned pregnancy THINGS GO WRONG and women have to make hard choices. Childbirth can cause death and permanent damage. If my husband and I chose to try for a child and something goes wrong it is MY CHOICE whether to continue that pregnancy. Not yours. Changing the law will change the safety of the medical procedure but not whether it happens. And folks, you do know that Planned Parenthood is a major source of information about birth control that PREVENTS pregnancies and thus averts abortions don't you? Most of us evil feminists are not seeking SEX SEX SEX, but we are very fond of bodily autonomy.
1.24.2008 12:37am
tsotha:
Am I the only one here who thinks Roe should be reversed on constitutional grounds? Not necessarily because it's bad policy, but because it's bad constitutional law? Seems to me if you can find justification for Roe in the constitution you can find just about anything, those third order emanations from penumbras being, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder.

Before Roe some 70% of states had legal abortion with varying restrictions. I would like to see this issue returned where it belongs - state legislatures.
1.24.2008 1:03am
theobromophile (www):

An interesting statistic would be the percentage of people who were intended for abortion (either survived the procedure, or whose mothers changed their mind at the last moment), who now oppose abortion. I would suspect that an overwhelming number of abortion survivors (maybe 80% or 90%?) are thankful that they are alive today, regardless of the concerns to the mother's "health" that they created as foetuses.

Anecdotally, which is NOT data: one of the young women in my school's Students for Life was intended for abortion. IIRC, someone talked her biological mother out of it.

As for the young people: One of the speakers at the March for Life asked for everyone who was under the age of 25 to raise their hands. (Now, given that this was on a Tuesday, there were probably a higher ratio of students there than there would be if it were on, say, a Saturday.) I would guess that about a third of the crowd raised their hands. Pretty equal mix of women and men. (Yes, folks, Ron Paul supporters exist and campaign outside of the internet. They were there in full force, handing out "Ron Paul" pamphlets, business cards, and other propaganda. They also had several "Ron Paul for Life" and "Ron Paul: Life, Liberty, &[smiley face]" banners.)

My personal theory about young people and the pro-life movement is that we are growing up in an era that is not the late 1960s or early 1970s, when birth control was not available, as safe, or as widely used. Title IX, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and health care parity acts have been around for most or all of our lives. Stories about teenagers in Colorado who are denied an education based upon pregnancy appall us, not as something horrible and common, but as something horrible and out of line with the world that we've always seen.

My two (or ten?) cents.
1.24.2008 1:11am
ReaderY:
Perhaps it was a mistake to have provided pictures at Abu Gahrib. The pictures tended to convey an impression that inmates were human, which led to a lot of folks seeking to impose their moral values on American soldier's ability to have a freedom of choice. If there hadn't been any pictures, everything would have been fine. It would seem we ought to be very angry at the picture takers, who make us feel uncomfortable about what would otherwise be a very private matter, none of our business at all.
1.24.2008 4:06am
genob:
Elliot123:

Whether wise policy or not to require showing graphic depictions of liposuction to potential plastic surgery patients might be a worthy debate.

The question isn't whether posters support such a state law....Unfortunately, because of Roe v. Wade, the question is whether you actually think it would be unconstitutional to have a law imposing such a requirement?....That is precisely what pro-abortion advocates argue.
1.24.2008 1:19pm
theobromophile (www):
I heard that 75% of women who see an ultrasound (with today's super-cool technology) decide to not go through with the abortion.

Certainly, there is an informed consent issue: if a woman would make a different decision based upon the development of the embryo or fetus, she ought to be entitled to see it; however, there is also the "ick" factor involved with any surgical procedure that has nothing to do with its merits. Every surgical procedure is gross and icky; the human body, although a thing of beauty, does not dismember or open up to be pretty inside. That does not mean that there is something morally wrong with surgery; in fact, it can be life-saving and beneficial. So count me against those pictures of aborted fetuses... whether mandatory for informed consent or just those people who insist on carrying them outside of abortion clinics.

The ultrasound, though, seems to be a different issue. We would think, generally, that a person ought to know something about a tumor being removed from their body before the surgery. What is its nature? Benign? Small? Malignant? Architecture?

That would be for a freakin tumor - which is, by nature, not a normal part of the human body. We're not talking about very, very underdeveloped humans here, and we think people ought to know about their tumors. If the presence of a brain, heart, and fingers would make a difference to a woman (as the statistics show it does), then why not deem it fundamental to informed consent?
1.24.2008 6:15pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"The question isn't whether posters support such a state law....Unfortunately, because of Roe v. Wade, the question is whether you actually think it would be unconstitutional to have a law imposing such a requirement?....That is precisely what pro-abortion advocates argue."

But surely someone thought it was a good idea to have photos before the constitutional question arose? And might the benefit of the photos be a variable in determining the constitutionality? So, if there is value in abortion photos, I would expect the same logic to support value in photos of wisdom tooth extraction, hemorrhoid removal, and sinus enlargement. Would a Truth In Hemorrhoids Act be unconstitutional?

Actually, there are all sorts of human conditions which can be photographed and a law could mandate their viewing by anyone contemplating similar action. Would it be constitutional to mandate photos and viewing of people waiting for a bus, pingpong players, or a guy starting a lawnmower? These are all lawful activities, and would be upheld as such by the SC.

Does anyone know of any activity where the law mandates potential participants view photos? There must be some, but I can't think of any.
1.24.2008 10:13pm