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Jews and Abortion:

My father tells me that he has quite a few Jewish friends in their 60s and 70s who tell him that they would vote for McCain over Obama but for the issue of abortion rights. This is a bit odd; obviously, few people in their 60s and 70s are concerned that they will have direct need for an abortion; the friends in question live in New York, which had legal abortion even before Roe v. Wade, and will continue to have it regardless of whether the Supreme Court further backtracks on Roe.

My father's experience is consistent with polling I've seen, and with my own anecdotal experiences. The polls show that some absurdly high percentage of Jews believe in strong abortion rights. And my anecdotal experience suggests that many Jews do consider opposition to abortion rights a dealbreaker for political candidates, elevating it about other considerations.

This is certainly not a question of Jewish tradition. Jewish law is not nearly as hostile to abortion as, say, Catholicism, but it is not exactly encouraged, either.

So why are Jews--even elderly Jews who live in states where abortion is protected by the political process--so concerned with the issue?

My guess is that they see abortion rights as a heuristic for "a (politically) secular society." They know that most political opposition to abortion rights comes from (Christian) religious sources, and so they associate such opposition with a mixing of religion and state, something that most American Jews are very much against.

Mocha Java (mail):
You must have slept in schul. Don't you know that it is the Jewish equivalent of a sacrament?
10.12.2008 10:01pm
DangerMouse:
Well, they must be very happy that they'll have the chance to vote for the Infanticide Candidate.
10.12.2008 10:06pm
great unknown (mail):
Amazing. If Jewish Law is not as hostile to abortion as Catholicism, it is only in permitting abortion to save the mother's life - and that only up to the point that the baby crowns. In any other respect, Jewish Law and precedent - dating back to clear declarations in the Talmud, Maimonedes, and the Shulchan Aruch, forbid abortion - yes, even in the case of rape and incest.

Not exactly encouraged, indeed...
10.12.2008 10:11pm
Anon21:
Interesting hypothesis. Abortion is certainly the defining issue of the culture wars, or at least it was for last generation. It certainly makes sense that a demographic with a deeply-rooted historical interest in the exclusion of sectarian religious concerns from government would see the need to check the most politically potent, illiberal group of sects in the country.
10.12.2008 10:16pm
M (mail):
The first bit of why this is "strange" is only strange if people only voted for strictly self-interested reasons. I know it might be hard for some around here to believe, but some people actually vote on principle, not for strictly self-interested reasons, so they might well think that reproductive freedom is a principle worth upholding even if they wouldn't suffer from a loss of such freedoms. Shocking, I know.
10.12.2008 10:21pm
Mr. Greenbean:
Jewish guilt for killing Jesus?
10.12.2008 10:22pm
Pete Guither (mail) (www):
Keep in mind that it's not necessarily about supporting or being hostile to abortion, but rather supporting or being hostile to the secular criminalization. And to some, that should be a religious/moral decision, and government should not be inserted.
10.12.2008 10:23pm
smitty1e:
So, why is government interference in reproduction odious, but government involvement in retirement is cool, government distortion of mortgages 'social justice' and government health care the swellest new idea?
Socialism Is The State As Church
10.12.2008 10:29pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
M: The strange part isn't why people vote for non-self-interested reasons (I'm never personally going to be affected by abortion restrictions, because even if I live in a pro-life state, I can afford travel to a pro-choice state, and nonetheless I prefer to vote for a pro-choice candidate, all other things equal; I also prefer to vote pro-gay, other things equal, even though it only affects me very indirectly; and so on).

The strange part is why these old New York Jews feel so strongly about it, presumably more than similar demographics and more strongly than they feel about other issues you'd think they'd find more important.
10.12.2008 10:31pm
Anon21:
smitty1e:
So, why is government interference in reproduction odious, but government involvement in retirement is cool, government distortion of mortgages 'social justice' and government health care the swellest new idea?
Socialism Is The State As Church

Are you actually unfamiliar with modern liberalism, which holds that government interventions in the economy for the purposes of creating a social safety net and redistributing income are good, but that government intervention in non-economic social life is bad, or are you just being deliberately obtuse?
10.12.2008 10:34pm
Francisq (mail):
few people in their 60s and 70s are concerned that they will have direct need for an abortion

but their granddaughters might. My "guess" (ie, something i've just made up without a shred of evidence) is that family is sufficiently important to elder Jews that they vote their family values -- ie, reproductive freedom for their grandkids.
10.12.2008 10:36pm
great unknown (mail):
You will find that old New York Jews think of FDR as a hero, despite accumulating evidence that he did a lot to keep Jewish refugees out of America during WWII. This, over and above the dispute about bombing the rail tracks leading to the concentration camps.

My own experience is that, with many of these Jews only slightly removed from the Eastern European mileau, they are more comfortable with socialist-leaning policies.
10.12.2008 10:40pm
Larry K (mail):
I think David is right: "My guess is that they see abortion rights as a heuristic for 'a (politically) secular society.'"
10.12.2008 10:40pm
Lior:
[New York State] ... will continue to have [legalized abortion] regardless of whether the Supreme Court further backtracks on Roe.


I'm fairly certain that, were the Supreme Court overrule Roe, a Republican-controlled Congress would immediately criminalize abortion nationwide.

That said, I think Prof. Bernstein's analysis is right: nearly all pro-life political candidates seem to be religiously motivated. Suspicion of candidates who base their legislative agenda on establishing their religious beliefs is important to religious minorities.

In particular, I'd guess that most of these Jewish men are not very religious (in the Jewish sense). I'd be surprised if a significant number of them avoided writing on Tuesday. Whether they are for or against abortion in certain circumstances is probably not entirely based on Jewish though, and is almost certainly not a religious point for them.
10.12.2008 10:42pm
scofflaw:
Here you see how anti-Semitic prejudices develop. A disproportionate number of Jews are irrationally passionate about protecting the freedom to murder unborn children in the womb. Likewise, a disproportionate number of Jews are bankers, which recent history confirms to be an uncommonly sneaky class.

Similarly, a disproportionate number of blacks are criminals.

Right thinking people recognize that there are plenty of exceptions -- i.e. most blacks are not criminals and most Jews are not bankers -- and therefore don't let the malfeasance of so many in these respective races determine their attitudes towards the race as a whole. Nevertheless, it's impossible to sugarcoat the truth in the stereotypes.
10.12.2008 10:45pm
a knight (mail) (www):
The question that should be broached here is not be whether abortion was criminalised, but whether a fetus was considered to be a lawful person. I know nothing of the Talmud, but Exodus indicates that a fetus was NOT a lawful person, and instead chattel of the pregnant woman's husband:

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

Exodus 21:22

Seems rather ugly and barbaric by modern legal standards. This also seems to be straight forward as to what the Fundamentalist Christian point of view should be, seeing as it's just one chapter past the Ten Commandments, and I'm aware of no New Testament text which overrides it. Is this the Biblical Law, or is it not? Is this a faithful transliteration of the Talmud?
10.12.2008 10:53pm
guest1:
A further oddity- much of their political sensibility will have been formed by Holocaust-era European politics, and while Hitler paid lip service to religion he was known to despise Christianity, and Germany even before Hitler's rise was more and more a secular state. The USSR was officially atheist, and the Eastern European states saw official church influence waning at or near the time of WW2 and the Holocaust.

While, ironically, Christian rightists pride themselves on being second to none in their support of Israel and Jewish causes (even if their own "final solution" is apparently conversion or death, in the service of bringing about Armageddon).

Meanwhile America's secular elites greeted Jews through much of the 20th Century with scorn and segregation. Right-leaning persons would probably embrace such seemingly church-state blends as Kiryas Joel. Why would these older Jews not embrace the Christian right?

And if not, why pick abortion- whatever its merit, hardly an essential element of Jewish faith, and if anything anathema to a small religion always concerned with its own numbers dwindling- as a dealbreaking political issue?
10.12.2008 10:57pm
Jacob Wintersmith (www):
The category of self-identified Jews contains a fairly large proportion of atheists and agnostics. For whatever reasons, many people born into Jewish families who later become non-religious continue to refer to themselves as Jews. In contrast, those of us born into Christian families who realize that Christianity is a fairy tale rarely keep on calling ourselves as Christians.
10.12.2008 11:00pm
Rich B. (mail):
What David Bernstein continues to misunderstand is that Jews vote Democratic BECAUSE they are more conservative than their parents and grandparents -- who voted Socialist.

Despite the Republican talking points that paint Democrats as identical to Socialists, American Jews (who know from Socialism) realize that real socialists are crazy zealots, real Republicans are crazy zealots (for a different zealotry) and Democrats are the sane moderates in the middle, who neither want to "Nationalize" or "De-Regulate" on first principles, but want to see which is the correct choice given the facts.

In this particular example, "Criminalizing Abortion" by Republicans is one extreme, with "Mandatory Family Planning" to other extreme for the Commies. Those who are familiar with the odiousness of one should be sensitive to the odiousness of the other.

The same applies to the "American Welfare State with substantial governmental regulation" as the happy medium between pure central planning and pure laissez-faire, and not the first step on a slippery slope to one or the other.
10.12.2008 11:09pm
DangerMouse:
I'm not so sure that Jews who support the murder of unborn babies do so out of a proxy to prevent mixing of religion and state, even if it is Christians who oppose that act. The more liberal you are, the more you love abortion. In Obama's case, he's so liberal that he's in favor of Infanticide. If those Jews are disproportionally liberal, then they disproportionally love abortion. Just like Obama wouldn't want his daughters "punished" with a baby, many liberal Jews probably feel the same way.

Is it so taboo to state that people who like abortion, actually, in fact, like abortion, and aren't supporting it for some other reason?
10.12.2008 11:15pm
Attila (Pillage Idiot) (mail) (www):
I've been pointing out for a long time the bizarre Jewish fixation on abortion. For example: Here.

My smart-aleck reason is that Jews think they're having too many children. Or they don't feel they have the right to deny Hitler a posthumous victory, as Emil Fackenheim would have said.
10.12.2008 11:21pm
JoshL (mail):

If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.


That's only half the verse, and there are issues with the translation:

An easier to read (and more relevant in particular places) translation would be this: If men fight and hurt a woman with child and the child comes out but there is no tragedy he shall surely be punished as the husband of the woman (literally master) assesses upon him and he shall pay by order of the judges (23) but if there is a tragedy he shall give life for life (24) an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot (25) a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise.

The key phrase here is "and the child comes out and there is no tragedy", with the key word being "tragedy" (ason in hebrew). The Jewish reading reading here is that "the child comes out" (that is, there is a miscarriage), but there is no other tragedy/disaster/mischief (that is, she does not die), then the culprit pays a fine, but if there is a tragedy/disaster/mischief (that is, the woman dies or is injured), then the culprit suffers the punishment.

This is in contrast to the typical Christian reading (which may be due to issues raised in translating into Greek and then English, I'm not sure). In that case, the key phrase is read as "the child comes out" (that is, the child comes out just fine), then the culprit should pay a fine, but if there is tragedy/disaster/mischief (that is, if there is a miscarriage, or the baby is deformed in some fashion), then the culprit suffers the punishment.

As you can see, the former reading (the traditional Jewish one) does, as you suggested, see the baby as a non-lawful person (the law deals with the mother, who is seen as special in some way for being pregnant). You can read the fetus as being chattel, though note that the presumption in the Bible is that the husband is responsible for supporting the wife and controls all the finances, so it is no more chattel than the wife is (that's a debate for another time). The latter reading (the fundamentalist Christian reading) sees the fetus as the focal point for the phrase "v'lo yihye ason" (and there will be no mischief), which in turn means that the fetus does have human status.


In any other respect, Jewish Law and precedent - dating back to clear declarations in the Talmud, Maimonedes, and the Shulchan Aruch, forbid abortion - yes, even in the case of rape and incest


That's probably an oversimplification, seeing as Rambam, at least, has a distinct view of the first 40 days after conception (which is, of course, the basis for the OU's support for embryonic stem cell research).
10.12.2008 11:25pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
While, ironically, Christian rightists pride themselves on being second to none in their support of Israel and Jewish causes (even if their own "final solution" is apparently conversion or death, in the service of bringing about Armageddon).


What? Where? How? Who? This is shocking -- does someone actually claim that Armageddon will come if Christians kill or convert enough Jews? It appears to me that this is what you're claiming!

This is disgusting -- I hope you're fabricating this.
10.12.2008 11:26pm
That Lawyer Dude (mail) (www):
Lior wrote:

I'm fairly certain that, were the Supreme Court overrule Roe, a Republican-controlled Congress would immediately criminalize abortion nationwide.

That said, I think Prof. Bernstein's analysis is right: nearly all pro-life political candidates seem to be religiously motivated. Suspicion of candidates who base their legislative agenda on establishing their religious beliefs is important to religious minorities.

In particular, I'd guess that most of these Jewish men are not very religious (in the Jewish sense). I'd be surprised if a significant number of them avoided writing on Tuesday. Whether they are for or against abortion in certain circumstances is probably not entirely based on Jewish though, and is almost certainly not a religious point for them.


If Roe were to be overturned, it would be based on an argument that it was decided wrongly (and it was) and that the issue was not one of Federal jurisdiction (and it isn't) I don't think a law outlawing it would be anymore sucessful than the ones that are passed now.
10.12.2008 11:30pm
Anon21:
That Lawyer Dude:
If Roe were to be overturned, it would be based on an argument that it was decided wrongly (and it was) and that the issue was not one of Federal jurisdiction (and it isn't) I don't think a law outlawing it would be anymore sucessful than the ones that are passed now.

Unlikely. The rationale would be that the Constitution does not speak to the subject. Because Congress has a general police power under the post-Raich Commerce Clause, it could make abortion a federal crime if it so chose. With an Obama victory and expanded Democratic margins in both houses of Congress in the offing, this scenario isn't likely to come to pass in the foreseeable future.
10.12.2008 11:48pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
I agree with the "abortion as proxy for secular government" idea. There is a great deal of slippery-slope rhetoric among progressives that giving any ground on abortion will be the first step to inexorable theocracy. Jews have a better-than-average reason to fear that end result, regardless of how specious the chain of reasoning is. The Jews I know, a balance of religious and secular, give a "yeah, but why take a chance?" reasoning to suggestions that such slippery-slope scenarios generally fail to materialize.

Lior - you are "fairly certain...a Republican-controlled Congress would immediately criminalize abortion nationwide." Any evidence of that you'd like to place on the table?
10.12.2008 11:49pm
abb:
Can any Jews from New York educate us on why you think the mindset described by Prof. Bernstein is so prevalent among the elders of your community?

It is fascinating but not easy for an outsider to comprehend.

Nor, it seems for an insider?
10.12.2008 11:49pm
Ken Arromdee:
What? Where? How? Who? This is shocking -- does someone actually claim that Armageddon will come if Christians kill or convert enough Jews? It appears to me that this is what you're claiming!

This is disgusting -- I hope you're fabricating this.


There are some Christians who believe this, but I'd bet the number of people who think this belief is common is bigger than the number of people who actually believe it.
10.12.2008 11:51pm
DangerMouse:
There is a great deal of slippery-slope rhetoric among progressives that giving any ground on abortion will be the first step to inexorable theocracy.

Yeah, because the first 200 years or so of American history where abortion was illegal was just one gigantic theocracy.

Or, the simplest answer is the correct one: they like abortion, they don't want their kids "punished" with a baby.

I ask again: is it so hard to admit that people who SUPPORT abortion, do, in fact, support it?
10.12.2008 11:55pm
NI:

Is it so taboo to state that people who like abortion, actually, in fact, like abortion, and aren't supporting it for some other reason?


DangerMouse, there are some of us who believe abortion is a moral atrocity but should still be legal. Law and morality seldom have much to do with each other.
10.12.2008 11:56pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
For me, personally, Judaism is all about life. Abortion is an abomination-- the murder of innocents. I am disgusted by the attitude of some of my fellow Jews on this issue. When I hear a rabbi promoting a pro abortion viewpoint, I feel like throwing something at him.
10.13.2008 12:01am
MikeS (mail):
The polls show that some absurdly high percentage of Jews believe in strong abortion rights.

Absurd: adj.
1. Something David Bernstein disapproves of.
2. Something David Bernstein disagrees with.

Also, the most extreme anti-abortion position, that abortion includes anything that might conceivably (pun intended) interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg, would outlaw manu forms of contraception. People who are in their 60s or 70s recall when contraception was illegal (albeit only in benighted places like Connecticut), and are not eager to return to those days.
10.13.2008 12:05am
a knight (mail) (www):
JoshL - thank-you. I'd not thought of it being translated in that manner before. I am also amused.

You have cited from the New King James Version, which is substantially different from both the King James Version, and the 21st Century King James Version.
10.13.2008 12:06am
Vermando (mail) (www):
Hmmm, interesting comments above...

I think Professor Bernstein's explanation makes sense, particularly if one considers the prominent role that Jewish attorneys played in winning the activist, aggressively secular Supreme Court decisions of the middle and latter part of the 20th century. Row is a pretty doggone good proxy for politicians and people who want to control your life for religious reasons, and for voters who would attack those secular decisions.

I would also take DangerMouse's remark seriously - they may just really support it for what it is. However, then we are still left with Sasha's question of why do they support this particular issue so strongly.
10.13.2008 12:08am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
The original post says,
My guess is that they see abortion rights as a heuristic for "a (politically) secular society." They know that most political opposition to abortion rights comes from (Christian) religious sources, and so they associate such opposition with a mixing of religion and state, something that most American Jews are very much against.

This is one of the main reasons why the Anti-Defamation League is a big supporter of gay marriage and is fanatically pro-Darwinist. The ADL filed a pro-gay marriage amicus brief in the California Supreme Court case that overturned the prohibition of gay marriage and is fanatically opposed to the teaching or even mention of criticism of Darwinism in the public schools. The ADL bitterly denounced two documentaries -- the "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" TV program from Coral Ridge Ministries and the "Expelled" movie by Ben Stein (who BTW is Jewish) -- that link Darwinism to Nazism; the ADL said that Hitler did not "need" Darwin. The ADL's support for gay marriage might be explained as bending over backwards to support another group that has suffered discrimination and persecution, but how can the ADL's fanatical pro-Darwinism be justified, considering that many Jews -- particularly orthodox Jews -- support creationism and/or Intelligent Design? Also, the ultra-orthodox Jews of Israel are violently homophobic. Some Jews -- such as the ADL's Jews -- just blindly view some issues as solely or mainly proxies for the church-state separation issue.

I discuss these issues on my blog in articles in two "Darwin-to-Hitler" post-label groups: here and here. The reason for the two groups is that I am limited to a maximum of 20 articles per group. Some of the articles do not concern the Darwin-to-Hitler issue, but I wanted to keep down the number of different post labels.
10.13.2008 12:13am
Oren:
If Roe were to be overturned, it would be based on an argument that it was decided wrongly (and it was) and that the issue was not one of Federal jurisdiction (and it isn't) I don't think a law outlawing it would be anymore sucessful than the ones that are passed now.

You are right, they could only make it a crime to travel across state lines to procure an abortion or to transport the any instrumentality of abortion across state lines. Oh, and probably make it illegal to use an interstate telecommunication system for the purposes of facilitating an abortion.
10.13.2008 12:22am
Sagar (mail):
If the jews consider abortion righs a proxy for secularism (or protection from christian religion), can someone explain why jews prefer that? They were not happy in a secular USSR. I am not a christian, and the threat of a christian theocracy is almost impossible for me to imagine in the US.

If christian influence in Republican party is the issue now, would the growing black and muslim influence in the Democrat party (hypothetically) become an issue for the jews?
10.13.2008 12:24am
Oren:

When I hear a rabbi promoting a pro abortion viewpoint, I feel like throwing something at him.

Are you incapable of accepting that someone might disagree with you? Is it really beyond reason to believe differently? I mean, for my part, I am pro choice but I can at least understand and acknowledge the many truths inherent in the pro-life position (as usual, this controversy is not true versus falsity but one truth weighed against another).

At any rate, it must be very hard to find a shul then, since about 2/3rds are members of the RCRC.
10.13.2008 12:25am
PC:
DangerMouse:

Should a woman who has an abortion be charged with murder?
10.13.2008 12:27am
Christopher Phelan (mail):
NI writes

DangerMouse, there are some of us who believe abortion is a moral atrocity but should still be legal. Law and morality seldom have much to do with each other.


I really just don't get this when it comes to abortion. I get it generally. It is perfectly reasonable to think, say, homosexual sex or masturbation or whatever is a moral atrocity but should still be legal -- do you really want the government policing this sort of thing even if you do think they are immoral. But this doesn't carry over to abortion.

That is, if you think abortion is a moral atrocity, exactly why do you think its a moral atrocity? I can't think of any reason other than you believe that which is being aborted is a human being. (Unless you also think liposuction is also a moral atrocity). But if you think that which is being aborted is a human being, then you have to answer why this particular class of human beings shouldn't be protected by the state from those wishing to kill them.

Abortion simply doesn't neatly fall into the "I disapprove, but don't want it to be illegal" framework.
10.13.2008 12:28am
David Warner:
They don't vote R for the same reason they don't root for the Red Sox. They may say its abortion or because Theo's a goy-wanna-be little twit, but its just tribalism.
10.13.2008 12:29am
Oren:

but how can the ADL's fanatical pro-Darwinism be justified, considering that many Jews -- particularly orthodox Jews -- support creationism and/or Intelligent Design

Even the orthodox acknowledge the basic truth of Darwinian evolution concurrent with the story of Gensis, which is allegorical.

Judaism has a long tradition of not taking the holy texts hyper-literally. See here, e.g. (note that Chabad cannot be accused of being in the liberal wing of Judiasm so this isn't some revisionist thing that happened recently, this is old hat).
10.13.2008 12:33am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Yeah, because the first 200 years or so of American history where abortion was illegal was just one gigantic theocracy."

Theocracy, no. But predominantly and aggressively Protestant Christian, yes. Please familiarize yourself with American history.
10.13.2008 12:33am
LM (mail):
Kevin Youkilis is Jewish, which means that my father, may he rest in peace, wherever he is right now is rooting for the Red Sox. As is his father, and his father....

So much for your tribalism argument.
10.13.2008 12:34am
Sarcshlomo (mail):
It is enough of a mitzvah that we should vote for the goyim, but a shiksa opposed to abortion? Oy, never!
10.13.2008 12:35am
Oren:

I can't think of any reason other than you believe that which is being aborted is a human being.

I consider abortion to be immoral because it is akin to self-mutilation, a grave sin. This, of course, assumes that a fetus is not an independent human being but is part and parcel of the pregnant woman's body (i.e. the position of Rashi when he wrote "ubar yerech imo" -- lit. the fetus is as the thigh of his mother).

Self-mutilation is still wrong, of course, but it is not for the government to shut down the tattoo parlors and piercing shops (at least not in any pluralistic society).
10.13.2008 12:40am
Oren:
Or, the simplest answer is the correct one: they like abortion, they don't want their kids "punished" with a baby before they are ready.

Fixed it for you. Having a child can be a blessing. Having a child when you are 16 is a curse on both the mother and the child. We would, of course, prefer that no one get pregnant until they decide they intend to have a child but life is not so simple.

When my father worked in high-risk obstetrics (he's retired now), he saw numerous cases of girls (not women!) in their young teens (iirc, one was like 13) that decided to keep their pregnancies. He said he hoped to God that the mother's parents or some other family member would be able to take proper care of the child. It is the awesome responsibility of raising a child that counsels waiting until the time is right.
10.13.2008 12:45am
JoshL (mail):

I consider abortion to be immoral because it is akin to self-mutilation, a grave sin. This, of course, assumes that a fetus is not an independent human being but is part and parcel of the pregnant woman's body (i.e. the position of Rashi when he wrote "ubar yerech imo" -- lit. the fetus is as the thigh of his mother).


That does not hold up, however, when reading Rambam: Rambam treats the fetus under Din Rodef if it is threatening the mother's life: presumably, if the fetus was part of the woman's body, Din Rodef wouldn't need to be invoked, since you could simply cut off the offending body part. To give credit where credit is due, I heard that take on Rambam courtesy of R' Shlomo Riskin.
10.13.2008 12:51am
DangerMouse:
I would also take DangerMouse's remark seriously - they may just really support it for what it is. However, then we are still left with Sasha's question of why do they support this particular issue so strongly.

Like I said, the more liberal you are, the more you support abortion. Obama is so radically liberal and supports abortion so much that he's in favor of infanticide.

Liberalism is ultimately a philosophy of death. Liberals tear down anyone with ability through class envy. They tear down the family by training women in woman's studies to hate men, and by training men to fear women lest they be arrested for spousal "abuse." They engender racial conflict with people like Wright. They want society to move backwards technologically, to satisfy their worship of the earth. They want to destroy all traditional moral codes and religion, to be replaced with worship of self. They want to promote a barren deviancy like homosexuality as equivalent to civilization-sustaining marriage.

Given all of that, murdering some unborn (or just born) children is a walk in the park.
10.13.2008 12:53am
DangerMouse:
Oren: Having a child can be a blessing.

Aside from the simple fact that abortion is child murder, aborting a child seriously destroys many women and leaves them demented psychologically. To this day, I know acquaintances of mine who have had abortions and cannot get it together because of it. They continue to treat sex as a game and children as parasites. They wonder why men look at them as sex objects and not as potential mothers. And when they're 40 and hoarding cats, they'll still be deluded enough to think that the abortion "saved them." Idiots.
10.13.2008 12:57am
Christopher Phelan (mail):
Oren, I can see one seeing abortion as immoral because it is akin to self-mutilation. That is what I meant by my comment comparing it to liposuction.

But you must think abortion is immoral, but not that immoral -- certainly not a moral atrocity. In fact, you probably would have used the term moral atrocity like NI if you had thought it appropriate.

But NI stated that he or she thought abortion was a "moral atrocity." That term is usually reserved for crimes which have victims. So my basic puzzlement remains and I basically agree with the thrust, if not the tone, of DangerMouse's argument: those who want abortion to be legal really don't have that much against it.
10.13.2008 12:59am
Oren:
DangerMouse, I don't know where you got the idea that liberals want society to move backwards technologically. I am a liberal and something of a technocrat, in fact, since I believe that increases in technology are the primary mover of a net increase in total utility (in the uber-technical sense).

Last I recall, it was conservatives that were attacking the fundamental notions of biology and physics because they are incompatible with their hyper-literal interpretations of the holy texts.
10.13.2008 1:00am
MikeS (mail):

This is one of the main reasons why the Anti-Defamation League is [...] fanatically pro-Darwinist


That is, it advocates that science, rather than religion, should be taught in science classes? Yes, that's how much Jews feel, as much because the pursuit of knowledge is in itself good as because of the brand of religion that would obviously replace it.
10.13.2008 1:00am
DangerMouse:
DangerMouse, there are some of us who believe abortion is a moral atrocity but should still be legal. Law and morality seldom have much to do with each other.

Why do you think it's a moral atrocity? Not that it's immoral, but an ATROCITY? That's pretty bad. What is it about abortion that makes you think it's so nefarious?

Go ahead, just say it. Don't pretend it's something stupid like self-mutilation.
10.13.2008 1:01am
DangerMouse:
Oren,

Not all liberals are gaia-worshipers. But those that are, definitely want things to move back into the stone age. They view mankind as a disease on the planet, which is consistent with the idea that liberalism is a philosophy of death. At least, death for humanity and civilization.
10.13.2008 1:03am
DavidBernstein (mail):
The polls show that some absurdly high percentage of Jews believe in strong abortion rights.

Absurd: adj.
1. Something David Bernstein disapproves of.
2. Something David Bernstein disagrees with.
Except I'm not anti-abortion.
10.13.2008 1:04am
Lior:
@DangerMouse:
I'm not so sure that Jews who support the murder of unborn babies do so out of a proxy to prevent mixing of religion and state


You are so blinded by your personal views that you have failed to grasp the argument. My I fairly guess that your vote depends significantly on the "murder of unborn babies"? Well, these Jews do not consider abortion such an important issue in either direction. However, many (most) voters and politicians who share your position are (a) motivated by religious considerations and (b) also support other policies, including mandatory prayer in the schools and a greater Christian character to public life.

While these Jews are voting against the latter policies, they are taking the "rationally ignorant" lazy step of identify whether politicians support or oppose their preferred policies by a simple, highly visible proxy: the politician's "pro-life/choice" standing. They aren't voting for killing babies any more than you'd vote to have Jewish kids pray to the Christian god or be kicked off the football team. But there is a high correlation between opinions on both issues.
10.13.2008 1:04am
DangerMouse:
So my basic puzzlement remains and I basically agree with the thrust, if not the tone, of DangerMouse's argument: those who want abortion to be legal really don't have that much against it.

Sorry for the tone. But the argument is solid. In fact, the idea that abortion is a sad, sad thing to liberals is a crock of B.S. They love it. They freaking love it. It allows them to engage in all the sex they want with no consequences. Men love it because they get to screw around with loose women. And women love it because they get to screw around like men with no consequences. All the while, of course, they're degrading themselves and building up a fast history that would make any decent person go running to the hills once learning of such a past. They become corrupted psychologically yet remain convinced that they're living a liberated life on the margins. It's all so chic to them.

Come ON. I'm not the only one who lives on the Upper West Side. You've seen your neighbors, you've been out. Don't pretend it's a sad event. It sure as hell isn't. They love abortion.
10.13.2008 1:08am
DangerMouse:
They aren't voting for killing babies any more than you'd vote to have Jewish kids pray to the Christian god or be kicked off the football team.

Yes, they are for killing babies. They DO NOT WANT KIDS, because KIDS END THE PARTY. "Breeders" once was a derogatory term of art used by gay people. Now it's been adopted by a certain class of liberal. Every yuppie from 16-35 is a GIGANTIC supporter of abortion precisely because they want to live fast and young and don't want the party to stop. The older people who remain fanatical about abortion just don't want their up and coming kids "punished" with a baby. Young girls have careers to conquer and men to romance. Young men also have careers to conquer and can't settle down early. Abortion is their savior. It's the liberal sacrament. They love it.
10.13.2008 1:14am
trad and anon:
You are right, they could only make it a crime to travel across state lines to procure an abortion or to transport the any instrumentality of abortion across state lines. Oh, and probably make it illegal to use an interstate telecommunication system for the purposes of facilitating an abortion.
And ban performing an abortion using an instrumentality that has traveled in interstate commerce, performing an abortion in a place of public accommodation, and conspiring to perform an abortion via an interstate communication system. And require states to ban it as a condition of receiving federal funds (though lots of states would just turn the funds down in this case).

I don't think it's right to read Raich as giving the feds a general police power though. The correct reading of Raich is that Scalia hates druggies (which also explains the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case).
10.13.2008 1:16am
Lior:
That Lawyer Dude: Remember the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003? In any case, it should be very easy to ban medical schools who accept federal funds (or who belong to universities who accept federal funds) from instructing their students in performing the relevant procedures. After all, once the attorney general finds that abortion, like marijuana, has no medical uses, a medical school can have no claim on federal funds if it chooses to teach otherwise.

If the Attorney General of the United States is competent to judge whether drugs have medicinal uses or not, surely he is also competent to judge if medical procedures have medicinal uses or not?
10.13.2008 1:16am
Sum Budy (mail):

While in law school, I heard an (orthodox) rabbi speak on the issue of abortion politics.

He said that as a rabbi, he believed that abortion was generally prohibited, but that he was also strongly pro-choice from a US political perspective.

The reason why was quite simple: Under orthodox Jewish law, a woman is prohibited from having an abortion generally, but she is required to have an abortion if the fetus would endanger her. It's a binary decision and there's no "choice" involved.

However, orthodox rabbis may reasonably differ regarding where to draw the line between one or the other. Some may limit abortion to those cases in which the woman is in actual physical danger of losing her life. Other rabbis may consider her mental health. In any of these cases, the final decision on whether or not to have an abortion was a very private and very personalized decision between a woman and her trusted religious authority.

Because of how the Jewish legal system worked, this rabbi felt strongly about voting pro-choice because he NEVER wanted the US legal system to put him in a position where he had to counsel somebody that Jewish law required a woman to get an abortion but that US law prohibited her from doing so.
10.13.2008 1:19am
jb (mail):
"While these Jews are voting against the latter policies, they are taking the "rationally ignorant" lazy step of identify whether politicians support or oppose their preferred policies by a simple, highly visible proxy: the politician's "pro-life/choice" standing."

This is a very interesting observation. I'm sure it goes the same way on the other side as well. Its facinating how we've decided to play out our culture war on a single issue that stands as a proxy for many others.

"Remember the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003?"

You mean the National "Federalist" Hypocracy Act of 2003? I was always skeptical of the "return it to the states" arguements given federal decision making on a wide variety of issues (e.g. drugs, drinking age, etc.), but after they passed quite literally a federal ban on (some) abortions, how can anyone still argue that they would not ban more given a more favorable supreme court?
10.13.2008 1:31am
neurodoc:
scofflaw:...a disproportionate number of Jews are bankers, which recent history confirms to be an uncommonly sneaky class...Right thinking people recognize that there are plenty of exceptions -- i.e. ...most Jews are not bankers -- and therefore don't let the malfeasance of so many...determine their attitudes towards the race as a whole. Nevertheless, it's impossible to sugarcoat the truth in the stereotypes.
scofflaw, do tell what authority supports your assertion that "a disproportionate number of Jews are bankers," a profession not known for philosemitism, and on what basis do you hold Jews to constitute a "race"?

Thanks, though, for sharing with us your perspective as a "right thinking" antisemite. (Have you and Larry Fafarman hooked up?)
10.13.2008 1:33am
MikeS (mail):

Except I'm not anti-abortion.


OK, then why "absurdly"?
10.13.2008 1:36am
Jim at FSU (mail):
Ironic that modern abortion rights and the nazi eugenics program have a common intellectual antecedent but support for abortion rights is practically an article of faith amongst modern American jews.

Or maybe they feel the same way about blacks that the nazis did?

Oh, I didn't just go there, did I?
10.13.2008 1:37am
MikeS (mail):

Liberalism is ultimately a philosophy of death. Liberals tear down anyone with ability through class envy. They tear down the family by training women in woman's studies to hate men, and by training men to fear women lest they be arrested for spousal "abuse." They engender racial conflict with people like Wright. They want society to move backwards technologically, to satisfy their worship of the earth. They want to destroy all traditional moral codes and religion, to be replaced with worship of self. They want to promote a barren deviancy like homosexuality as equivalent to civilization-sustaining marriage.

Given all of that, murdering some unborn (or just born) children is a walk in the park.


Hint: when you need to demonize your opponents to that degree in order to support your views, you've probably missed something significant.
10.13.2008 1:38am
theobromophile (www):
DangerMouse, as a pro-lifer, I take a lot of issue with your tone. I know many people who are pro-choice but do not love - or even like - abortion. As Christopher Phelan alluded to, it could be an issue of cognitive dissonance (or lack of having thought through their positions thoroughly). It could be part of the libertarian divide on abortion: liberty v. non-aggression. There are also many people who do not want back-alley abortions, or fear that the pro-life movement is about putting women in the home with a dozen kids.

I would much prefer to understand the concerns of the pro-choice (not pro-abortion) movement and address them within a life-affirming framework, rather than attack them as morally vacuous socialists.

Could we please work with these people and tone down the vitriol? We'll get a lot further. Making abortion illegal does us no good if people don't understand why it's wrong, and why a pro-life society is a good thing.

Finally, stuff like this:
And women love it because they get to screw around like men with no consequences. All the while, of course, they're degrading themselves and building up a fast history that would make any decent person go running to the hills once learning of such a past.

does not have the desired effect, unless your intent is to make otherwise chaste women run around in the streets screaming, "Someone please f-ck me now!"

/pro-life feminist rant
10.13.2008 1:41am
DangerMouse:
Hint: when you need to demonize your opponents to that degree in order to support your views, you've probably missed something significant.

Who's demonizing? Communism is a philosophy of death too. But many Communists are deluded into thinking that they're doing something good. Same thing with liberals. Many of them think they're doing good. It's the few and far between, like Saul Alinsky, who understand what liberalism is and readily practice it.
10.13.2008 1:42am
theobromophile (www):
MikeS,

I think the "absurdly" was a comparison to the rest of the U.S. population (which is split about 50/50 on abortion issues), not the position itself.
10.13.2008 1:45am
David Warner:
Jim, Danger, et. al.,

You went here, there, and all over the map. If you want to protect the feti, you might consider a Dale Carnegie course or something.

LM,

"Kevin Youkilis is Jewish, which means that my father, may he rest in peace, wherever he is right now is rooting for the Red Sox. As is his father, and his father...."

Yeah, but he went to high school down the street from me, and my grandfather's cousin fought for the Nazis (survived Stalingrad, no less), so he doesn't really count. Plus, you know, the goatee.

I think the relevant tribes of which I was speaking were New Yorker (hence the busting on Theo) and Democrat, but maybe I took a wrong linguistic turn somewhere...
10.13.2008 1:51am
DangerMouse:
I know many people who are pro-choice but do not love - or even like - abortion.

I'm fine with trying to be polite to people who aren't hedonistic advocates of this thing. But we're about to elect the Infanticide Candidate to President, so you'll have to excuse me if I think that the hedonistic advocates are growing in numbers.

Anyway, the best way to reach that subset of pro-choice people is to hammer that what they ultimately and unwittingly support is murder. Because it really is. Libertarians aren't supposed to be in favor of murder, and I'm sure that people would rather support a pregnant woman with other options than to assist her in a modern day child sacrifice to Moloch.

Making abortion illegal does us no good if people don't understand why it's wrong, and why a pro-life society is a good thing.

Abortion won't be made illegal until the people despise it for the murder that it is. It's really either that, or society continues to discard people it finds useless and who get in the way of what people want. You can soon add the old and the infirm to that list, along with helpless babies.
10.13.2008 1:52am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Sarah Palin is against abortion and she's also Jewish.
10.13.2008 2:02am
Sum Budy (mail):

Back during the age of Usenet Newsgroups, there was something called a KILLFILE, which you could use so that you'd never see a particular individual's comments ever again.

Unfortunately, that function doesn't exist on blogs these days.

It's rather obvious that DangerMouse is a total nut and/or a troll. Why anybody would waste their time arguing with him/her/it is beyond me.

To those responding to DangerMouse: Do you think that there is a chance in a million that you'll actually convince DangerMouse that he/he/it is wrong? Stop baiting the troll and it will go away.
10.13.2008 2:03am
Jim at FSU (mail):
You have me all wrong. I completely support abortion.

Abortion is a cheap and voluntary means for ensuring that the least fit members of society (coincidentally, those too poor to support children) don't pollute their world with their substandard genes.

I think we should follow India's lead and offer refundable tax credits (of some suitable amount) for anyone under the age of 30 that volunteers to get sterilized.
10.13.2008 2:05am
theobromophile (www):
It's more than politeness; it's understanding that half the nation has very valid concerns. Maybe I'm a crappy pro-lifer (ridiculous passion for unborn clumps of cells, Down's babies, and mentally impaired people aside), but I don't think that simply making a law that says, "Abortion is illegal" is a good thing.

The women's movement got - at best - a partial victory with abortion and contraception. It gave us a society in which women can be like men, and pursue the same opportunities as do men, without having children being used as a bludgeon to keep them in the home. In short, women and men could be equal, so long as women can avoid pregnancy (contraception) or are only pregnant for a short period of time (via abortion).

What it has not done is to give us a society in which pregnant persons have the same opportunities as non-pregnant persons. We've merely exchanged a problem that faces most women to that which faces only a subset of women. That is where the pro-life movement has work to do - because, even if abortion is seen as an abomination, the lack of abortion will place a disproportionate burden on certain groups of people.

There are still laws on the books in some states that require women to get the approval of her rapist before giving up the child of that rape for adoption. Now, any sane person will look at this situation and realise that a pro-life law will only make this worse, not better. But that involves being more than merely "polite" to pro-choice advocates; it involves understanding their motivations, and that their views are valid, passionate, and, given the society in which we live, moral.

So take your politeness, place it elsewhere, and cut the crap... unless you're a pro-choice shill in disguise.
10.13.2008 2:06am
DangerMouse:
Sum,

Sorry you feel that way. I've tried to avoid personal attacks here. But I won't be respectful to disrespectful ideas, and liberalism and specifically support for abortion is contemptuous. And I'll answer your question for you: there's no chance in hell you'll convince me that abortion isn't murder. I'm willing to listen to idea on how to get other people to understand that.
10.13.2008 2:07am
theobromophile (www):
scofflaw, do tell what authority supports your assertion that "a disproportionate number of Jews are bankers," a profession not known for philosemitism,

neurodoc, I think that the cite you are looking for is here.

(removes tongue from cheek)
10.13.2008 2:14am
neurodoc:
...based on Jewish tradition that makes one "Jewish" if born to a mother of Jewish ethnic decent (sic)
No. Having a Jewish mother makes one Jewish by birth, not having "a mother of Jewish ethnic decent (sic)," since the latter could mean any number of different things, e.g., a Jewish paternal grandmother in the pedigree isn't enough. (Imagine, a Wiki Answer that ain't 100% factually reliable!)
10.13.2008 2:22am
DangerMouse:
The women's movement got - at best - a partial victory with abortion and contraception. It gave us a society in which women can be like men, and pursue the same opportunities as do men, without having children being used as a bludgeon to keep them in the home. In short, women and men could be equal, so long as women can avoid pregnancy (contraception) or are only pregnant for a short period of time (via abortion).

What it has not done is to give us a society in which pregnant persons have the same opportunities as non-pregnant persons. We've merely exchanged a problem that faces most women to that which faces only a subset of women.


I see.

Respectfully, you view children as a punishment to some degree. You think children are obstacles to a woman's career, at least in today's environment.

I'm fine with making it easier for pregnant women to continue their careers after having kids. But I think you're making a serious mistake with your assumptions. Children are not punishments. They are people. There is no career on earth that is worth committing murder for.

A girl I knew once told me that she got pregnant while at Harvard and "had" to have the abortion because it would've "ruined her career." She's a mid-level lawyer at a BIGLAW firm here in NYC. Needless to say, the abortion did more to damage her than anything else. She'd have been better off if she had the kid, put it up for adoption, or had her large, wealthy family help raise it. Now she's psychologically incapable of forming lasting relationships. She's also become ruthless and bitter. A person willing to destroy an innocent helpless life in a quest for status and power certainly can't keep their cruel ambition in check afterwards. Yes, she was sad about the abortion when she told me about it at first. But she was unapologetic. She would do it again, if she had the chance. Because nothing was more important to her than her career.

Well, there are things that are more important. So I don't think abortion is a partial victory at all. It has done more damage to women than anything else in society. And that career has ruined that girl's life. The baby would've saved it. Abortion has destroyed good girls, tempting them into a a life of viciousness for a quick end to a problem. They might rid themselves of a growing baby, but they replace it with a growing bitterness and callousness at the rest of the world.

There is something seriously perverse about a feminism that doesn't appreciate the femininity of motherhood.
10.13.2008 2:29am
JB:
Very good post.

As one of the people who often rags on David for his politically partisan posts, I must say this is a superb and thoughtful analysis. Most Jews I know who are not ultra-orthodox have a very secular political bent. It is they who are most repelled by the Christian Coalition/Evangelical Right wing of the Republicans, regardless of their political principles.

Honestly, as a minority religion often persecuted by dominant religious majorities, I think they're right. With the exception of the Nazis (and Nazi ideology served very well as a replacement for religion in many other ways), every assault on Jewish identity, from Nebuchadnezzar to Trajan to the Blood Libel, stemmed from the blending of religion and state. 3000 years of Jewish history cry out to oppose such blending.
10.13.2008 2:32am
CaDan (mail):

Liberalism is ultimately a philosophy of death. Liberals tear down anyone with ability through class envy. They tear down the family by training women in woman's studies to hate men, and by training men to fear women lest they be arrested for spousal "abuse." They engender racial conflict with people like Wright. They want society to move backwards technologically, to satisfy their worship of the earth. They want to destroy all traditional moral codes and religion, to be replaced with worship of self. They want to promote a barren deviancy like homosexuality as equivalent to civilization-sustaining marriage.


And after that, at night, the ice weasels come.
10.13.2008 2:34am
theobromophile (www):
Again, DangerMouse, you don't seem to "get" anyone who does not think in lockstep with you.

Let me be clear: I do not view children as punishments. I'm re-reading what I wrote, and I can't see a damn thing that indicates that I would think that.

You said:
Respectfully, you view children as a punishment to some degree. You think children are obstacles to a woman's career, at least in today's environment.

One does not follow necessarily and logically from the other, in either direction.

I do not live in a la-la land in which being pregnant and having a baby does absolutely nothing to one's life. I don't live in your world, in which problems aren't problems. Having children is physically, psychologically, emotionally, and financially difficult, for women more so than men. This should not be news. It is from that reality that the pro-choice movement springs, not from an animus towards children or a pejorative view of them as "punishments."

There is a difference between being pro-life and anti-choice. Those of us in the former category believe in giving women choices - every option humanely possible, save abortion. That involves caring about women as well as their unborn children, which seems to be a problem with the anti-choice crew.
10.13.2008 2:43am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Oren said (10.12.2008 11:33pm) --
but how can the ADL's fanatical pro-Darwinism be justified, considering that many Jews -- particularly orthodox Jews -- support creationism and/or Intelligent Design

Even the orthodox acknowledge the basic truth of Darwinian evolution concurrent with the story of Gensis, which is allegorical.

You don't know what in the hell you are talking about, you ignoramus. For example, a news article said,
JERUSALEM -- -- Yossi Ravitz, 22, hasn't had a class in math, science, civics or English since he was a boy. But he believes the rigor of his religious studies equips him for any subject he might need to tackle later in life . . . .

. . . .Haredi Jews, as the ultra-Orthodox are known here, won the latest skirmish. Parliament last month legalized state funding for high school-age boys' yeshivas while reclassifying them as "culturally unique" schools, exempt from the obligation to add on a basic secular curriculum . . . .

. . . .About 90,000 haredi Jews study in Israeli yeshivas.

Now you want me to believe that these yeshiva students who haven't studied any science at all in years are going to accept a scientific idea that conflicts with the bible? You're crazy.

My blog has numerous examples of orthodox Jews showing extreme hostility to evolution theory -- see articles in the following post-label groups on my blog: here and here. The reason for the two groups is that I am limited to a maximum of 20 articles per group. The post labels are "Darwin-to-Hitler," but some of the articles do not concern the Darwin-to-Hitler issue because I wanted to keep down the number of different post labels.

Anyway, what in the hell does the evolution controversy have to do with anti-Semitism? Why should an organization devoted mainly to fighting anti-Semitism -- the Anti-Defamation League -- concern itself with the evolution controversy?
10.13.2008 2:43am
Hutz:
DangerMouse:

They tear down the family by training women in woman's studies to hate men, and by training men to fear women lest they be arrested for spousal "abuse."


Really? I can't imagine why a man would fear being arrested for spousal abuse unless he, you know, hit his wife. Would you really characterize putting some fear into such a guy as a uniquely liberal agenda?

Most of the commenters here seem motivated in their anti-abortion positions by perfectly defensible views about personhood. If that's where you're coming from, DangerMouse, fine. We can understand and respect your position even if we don't agree (although many here clearly do).

But that doesn't seem to be where you're really coming from. Instead, you make comments like the above, and those about "loose women" who "degrade themselves" by having sex (and, apparently, the moniker applies regardless of whether the sex leads to abortions). To you, it seems, abortion is a symptom of a culture in which sex isn't degrading and dirty, women who enjoy sex aren't whores, and men aren't free to treat women as chattel.

Many of use who fear politicians with strong anti-abortion agendas really fear what's driving those agendas. I, for one, have no great love for abortion (though my views on personhood and autonomy don't lead me to condemn it). I do, however, have a fondness for sex, think women who like it are okay too, and have no desire whatsoever to hit my wife. People like DangerMouse have made abortion rights into a proxy for all of these other cultural issues.

I do think Bernstein's question is an interesting one, but I probably haven't done much to answer it. Resistance to puritanism doesn't seem to be a uniquely Jewish instinct. (Just to be clear, I am not branding all abortion opponents as puritans or misogynists -- only the strain embodied by DM's comments.)
10.13.2008 2:46am
neurodoc:
theo, a good try on scofflaw's behalf to be sure. Shylock was only a fictive character limned from Shakespeare's imagination four centuries ago, though, and scofflaw needs more to support his antisemitic nonsense about nefarious Jewish bankers (who favor abortion?). Perhaps he will refer us to something like that notorious Russian forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
10.13.2008 2:54am
Hutz:
Do people really not understand what Obama meant with the punishment comment? His point was almost exactly the one that his critics are making: a child is not a punishment, and (he adds) shouldn't be used as one.

A reasonable response to Obama would be that he is addressing a straw-man argument against abortion. He is saying he does not agree with those who believe abortion is wrong because it lets women off the hook for irresponsible decisions. It would be quite fair to say, "but our concern is not enforcing personal responsibility, it's protecting human life." It is not at all fair, and does not contribute to the debate, to characterize this quotation as a sign that Obama hates children.
10.13.2008 3:02am
theobromophile (www):
neurodoc: I was implying, somewhat obtusely (apparently), that MoV - fictional and four centuries old - was the only support available for such a proposition.
10.13.2008 3:06am
Lior:
jb: I assumed that, on this blog, a recent law which has already made the trip up to the Supreme Court would immediately be on the mind of people reading my comment.

To make the implicit explicit, let me say that I do think abortion should be legal; even ignoring the more essential arguments, it will happen whether legal or not. A Jewish saying can be roughly translated as: "one does not make an ordnance that the public will not be able to keep".

That said, I am also a strong opponent of Roe v. Wade. General police power was clearly not delegated to the Federal Government. Moreover, to the extent that the Constitution protected unenumerated individual rights against the States, abortion clearly was not one of these rights.

Today, both the Republicans and the Democrats agree with the central holding of Roe v. Wade and its later corollaries: that there are Federal powers regarding abortion. They only disagree on the way the power should be wielded. The Democrats believe in a Constitutional right to abortion, to be vindicated by the Supreme Court and enforced by the Executive; the Republicans in a Constitutional power to ban it, to be legislated by Congress and enforced by the Executive. In private conversations, I have found both sides to mostly make "ends justify the means" arguments regarding this: abortions/abortion bans are so evil that any level of government doing anything about them is ok as long as the action points in the right direction, Constitutional issues be damned. Certainly some of my left-wing friends could not accept that I genuinely support legal abortion when I disagree with the Federal Government forcing the states to legalize it.
10.13.2008 3:15am
Rod Blaine (mail):
What does the typical NY Jewish liberal Democrat think about, eg, the Israeli Knesset banning El-Al from flying on Saturdays?
10.13.2008 3:26am
Jer:
Rather than outright banning the comment trolls, a more egalitarian method is to disemvowel their comments.

That way, no one's speech/viewpoint gets banned, but those who speak in order to throw a monkey-wrench into an otherwise civil discussion do not get to assert that power so strongly.

See, e.g., Cory Doctorow, How To Keep Hostile Jerks From Taking Over Your Online Community
10.13.2008 3:27am
Lior:
Oren: Larry is right here. The ultra-Orthodox (and many of the Orthodox), both in Israel and outside it, do believe that we have just started year 5769. They do believe that every species was individually created by god and named by man, as described in genesis. That there are a few orthodox scientists who can resolve the dissonance for themselves does not speak to the general community.

Unlike Larry, I do think a student of a rigorous Yeshiva, while lacking in basic science and mathematics, would have little trouble grasping the essential ideas of Evolution, and understand the evidence for it. However, this shouldn't mislead you: the student will nevertheless conclude he can ignore these ideas -- they are evidently incompatible with the creation story, hence surely wrong as applied to the real world.
10.13.2008 3:34am
Tony Tutins (mail):

But we're about to elect the Infanticide Candidate to President

Removing non-viable fetuses before their inevitable death in the womb is hardly infanticide. Making a woman stay pregnant till the inevitable stillbirth seems a "moral atrocity" to me.
10.13.2008 3:54am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Except I'm not anti-abortion.

OK, then why "absurdly"?
Do you actually not understand that "absurdly high" is a common expression that has nothing to do with approval or disapproval, but is simply an intensifier, used to express contrast? One might say that an absurdly high percentage of Harvard undergrads were high school valedictorians; do you think that such a statement means that one thinks being a high school valedictorian is a bad thing?
10.13.2008 4:03am
LM (mail):
David Warner:

but maybe I took a wrong linguistic turn somewhere...

If my deadpan obscured that I was agreeing with you, mea culpa.
10.13.2008 4:34am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Lior said (10.13.2008 2:34am) --
Unlike Larry, I do think a student of a rigorous Yeshiva, while lacking in basic science and mathematics, would have little trouble grasping the essential ideas of Evolution, and understand the evidence for it.

What do you mean, "unlike Larry"? I never said that the yeshiva students can't understand evolution theory -- I only said, like you said, that they would not accept it because it is against their religion. And I don't understand why ultra-orthodox Jews have not given the Anti-Defamation League hell for its fanatical opposition to criticism of evolution. In one case, an orthodox rabbi did apologize for ADL national director Abraham Foxman's vicious condemnation of the Darwin-to-Hitler theme of the Coral Ridge Ministries' "Darwin's Deadly Legacy" TV program. Jews who attack Christian fundies are biting the hand that feeds them. Christian fundies are the biggest non-Jewish friends of Jews and Israel. It is the Christian fundies who have made the Republican Party strongly pro-Israel. See this article and this article.
10.13.2008 6:52am
Mike S. (with a space):
I will try to avoid te political controversy and stick to facts.

There are indeed many otherwise intelligent Orthodox Jews who do not believe in eveloution. This is a relatively recent phenomenon and seems to stem from an unwillingness to allow Christians to have a stricter interpretation. There is not a long tradition of insisting on a literal interpretation; indeed, the contrasts between the first two chapters of Genesis would seem to exclude taking both of them literally.

A great many people who are morally opposed to abortion believe it should be legal nonetheless. Because we recognize that the consequence of a ban is not the absense of abortion, but desparate girls risking their lives with coat hangars.

The status of a fetus in Jewish law is somewhat ambiguous. Abortion is called bloodshed in the Talmud (Sanhedrin page 50 some odd) on the other hand, the Mishnah in Ohelot is quite clear that we do not delay the execution of a pregnant woman who has been convicted of a capital crime to spare the innocent fetus. The rules governing a live fetus removed from the uterus of a cow that has been slaughtered for food also suggest that the fetus is not considered an independent life.
10.13.2008 8:04am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
The paradox Bernstein points to is well on its way to being resolved. The one grandchild that most of these elderly Jews have is likely not even Jewish.

So, in 50 years, there will be no pro-abortion elderly Jews. All the elderly Jews will be pro-life Orthodox.
10.13.2008 9:57am
Per Son:
I have decided that Dangermouse is the greatest poster of all time. He is awesome. Puts a smile on this young liberal's face.
10.13.2008 10:03am
Martha:
Elaborating on what Tony Tutins said--

A friend was happily pregnant with her second child when an ultrasound showed numerous broken bones. The baby had some kind of condition that made his bones fragile. His own movements were making his bones break. My friend's doctor told her &her husband that there was no way their baby would survive birth, not even a c-section. They believed that the injuries caused their baby pain. She worried that any jarring movements on her part also caused pain (I don't know if that is true). This situation upset them greatly, and of course their 2yo was not immune to their distress.

They knew, of course, that there were options--she could spend months at a hospice that cares for pregnant women whose babies are doomed, knowing that her baby was suffering for the entirety of its short life, or she could have an abortion to end their baby's suffering sooner, knowing that they had deliberately ended his life.

I gather that some people could instantly and confidently decide which option would be the "moral atrocity." Not me. And I don't trust the government to make such decisions for all of us.
10.13.2008 10:09am
stoshy (mail):
" . . . New York had legal abortion even before Rose v. Wade .."

If that is so, why does New York's Penal Law still make abortion punishable? Take a look at N.Y.Penal Law sections 125.40; 125.45, 125.50 &125.55, all enacted in 1971?
10.13.2008 10:25am
Yankev (mail):
A knight;

It is impossible to understand the Jewish meaning of the Pentateuch from the text (even the Hebrew text, let alone an English translation) without reference to the Oral Law -- the Talmud, Midrash and other rabbinic sources. As one example, the text you cite refers to the law for Jews only. Abortion for the descendants of Noah (i.e. non-Jews) are governed by Gen. 9:6. (I realize Jews are also descended from Noah, but the Jewish religion teaches that the Jews received special laws at Sinai that apply only to Jews -- including the verse you cited.) "He that sheds the blood of a man that is in a man, by man shall his blood be shed." The Sages derive from the apparent redundancy (blood of a man THAT IS IN A MAN) that the verse refers to performing an abortion. See Rashi to Gen. 9:6.

Josh L.

You can read the fetus as being chattel, though note that the presumption in the Bible is that the husband is responsible for supporting the wife and controls all the finances, so it is no more chattel than the wife is (that's a debate for another time).


Chattels are alienable. Wives and children, in Jewish law are not. And yes, there is the issue of the Hebrew maidservant, but as you know, that is more akin to transacting a betrothal.
10.13.2008 10:57am
Anonymouse Troll:

Mike S.

There are indeed many otherwise intelligent Orthodox Jews who do not believe in eveloution.

You'll have to back that assertion with a number or two. The numbers I've seen suggest that less than 1/3 of the 1.5M or so Orthodox Jews (or about 3% of the 15M total Jews worldwide) are within the Haredi divisions.

Of the Haredi, I don't know how many reject evolution, but is it fair to say that something less than 3% s "many"?
10.13.2008 10:58am
Yankev (mail):

"abortion as proxy for secular government" idea. There is a great deal of slippery-slope rhetoric among progressives that giving any ground on abortion will be the first step to inexorable theocracy. Jews have a better-than-average reason to fear that end result, regardless of how specious the chain of reasoning is. The Jews I know, a balance of religious and secular, give a "yeah, but why take a chance?" reasoning to suggestions that such slippery-slope scenarios generally fail to materialize.
Asst. V.I., that's my take as well. In fact, I have been surprised to see this viewpoint among friends of mine who are fervently observant, and have learned in Yeshivah. For whatever it's worth, at least among Orthodox Jews, I have encountered this viewpoint (or fear) more among those who were raised in politically liberal secular or nominally Jewish homes, as was I, and came to Orthodox Judaism as adults, than among those who have always been Orthodox.
10.13.2008 11:02am
Yankev (mail):

Oh, and probably make it illegal to use an interstate telecommunication system for the purposes of facilitating an abortion.
What about using instruments or supplies that had been procured via interstate commerce? Short of mining your own iron, refining it into steel, and forging it into a scalpel, and growing your own cotton to make your guaze -- (assuming of course that Wickard v. Fillburn would no longer be good law).
10.13.2008 11:06am
theobromophile (www):
Didn't Thomas and/or Scalia say that they may have ruled differently in Carhart, on the issue of interstate commerce, if it had been brought before them?
10.13.2008 11:22am
PC:
DangerMouse, should a woman that has an abortion be charged with murder?
10.13.2008 11:23am
David Warner:
LM,

"If my deadpan obscured that I was agreeing with you, mea culpa."

Nea culpa. I'm still recovering from the gaze of the JukeBoxMedusa, so deadpans may still be beyond my powers of discernment.
10.13.2008 11:28am
Oren:

Oren: Larry is right here. The ultra-Orthodox (and many of the Orthodox), both in Israel and outside it, do believe that we have just started year 5769. They do believe that every species was individually created by god and named by man, as described in genesis. That there are a few orthodox scientists who can resolve the dissonance for themselves does not speak to the general community.

That is true. I should have made clear that I was referring to most of Orthodox Judaism, not the ultra-Orthodox. The official position of the RCA (which is the foremost Orthodox organization here in the States) is

Evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator, nor with the first 2 chapters of Genesis.

There are, of course, some Jews that reject evolution but by a huge margin (we're talking >85% here), most Jews believe in evolution concurrent with Genesis.
10.13.2008 11:45am
Oren:
Yankev, you of course also know that if a gentile converts to Judaism during pregnancy then the baby is born Jewish. The way I see it, it's another example of "ubar erech imo" but I trust you see it another way . . .
10.13.2008 11:49am
Mocha Java (mail):

Anyway, what in the hell does the evolution controversy have to do with anti-Semitism? Why should an organization devoted mainly to fighting anti-Semitism -- the Anti-Defamation League -- concern itself with the evolution controversy?


Or supporting every Goddamn gun control scheme in existence!!
10.13.2008 12:07pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
About Christians killing Jews to bring on Armageddon:
"There are some Christians who believe this"

Granted that there are some Christians who believe in UFOs or a mandatory gold standard and so on... What I'm asking is how they tie that to Christianity. I don't get it; none of the apocalyptic texts tie the deaths of Jews to Armageddon. It seems like a belief that's totally unrelated to their religion proper.

I don't think it's wrong for me to pressure you on this tangential issue; you made a pretty horrific claim.

Or is this merely a belief that the Jews hold about the Christian "rightists"? If that's the case, I can understand why you'd bring it up in this context, although I don't see why you'd state it that way (your statement makes it look like Christian support for Israel runs hand-in-hand with the desire to kill Jews in order to bring about Armageddon).

-Wm
10.13.2008 12:35pm
Seamus (mail):
There is a great deal of slippery-slope rhetoric among progressives that giving any ground on abortion will be the first step to inexorable theocracy. Jews have a better-than-average reason to fear that end result, regardless of how specious the chain of reasoning is.

Huh? Jews have a "better-than-average reason" to fear that result? Are you saying that Jews have actually observed instances where even slight increases in the level of restrictions on abortion have led to theocracy? And when did that happen?
10.13.2008 12:35pm
Yankev (mail):
Oren, I'm not sure I see your point. If you mean I am aware that the ubar does not have the full status of a person, of course I am aware of that -- it is, after all, one of the biggest distinctions between the Torah position on abortion and the Christian position. But AFAIK, the prohbition on abortion in Ber. 9:6 is on the person performing it, not on the mother. And that even where any abortion is necessary, it should be performed by a yisroel and not by a ben noach. (Disclaimer -- I have been told this by reliable Rabbis, I have not learned it "inside".) Therefore I'm not sure what is the relevance of whether the ubar once born would have kedushas yisroel.
10.13.2008 12:47pm
Oren:
The relevance is that you wrote
Abortion for the descendants of Noah (i.e. non-Jews) are governed by Gen. 9:6.

Since a fetus is not a man, abortion does not meet the predicate of Gen 9:6 because no blood of a man has been spilt.

Of course, if you want to claim that a fetus is a man in his own right (that is, distinct from the mother), then I respectfully venture that you will have a hard time explaining why the conversion of the mother should have the effect of converting the fetus as well.
10.13.2008 1:10pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If the last graf is correct, the Jews would be horrified to find out about the "advocacy" offices in DC staffed with the denomination's (there are a bunch) most liberal people constantly trying to "witness" to legislators.
Of course, they're not horrified. Some kind of "witnessing" to legislators is just dan and finedy.

The need for enemies to keep up the funds flowing to, for example, Abe Foxman's enterprise will have the Jews anti-christianing themselves backwards into the hands of the folks who really, really don't like them.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Jews have a history. So? My uncle used to fly bombers and airliners. That's my history. Doesn't mean I should jump out a window and flap my arms, expecting a nice, soft landing. That would be, how can I put this??? an incorrect interpretation of my history.

Besides, it's easier to fool yourself into fearing the folks who won't really harm you. Compared to the ones who would, given a ghost of a chance. Those guys are scary. Best not to even think of them. But that unease, percolating around under the surface, needs to be focused on somebody.
10.13.2008 1:21pm
surrender_monkey:
I strongly disagree with Dangermouse's assertion that John McCain is an 'infanticide candidate.'

Yes, he did bomb scores of innocent families, and undoubtably killed numerous babies. But he was a soldier, in a war (Police Action, whatever), following orders. To call him a baby killer, or imply that he was a baby killer, is unfair to the extreme. He may not have been a great pilot, DM, but I don't care how many babies his bombs killed; I simply will not label him the infanticide candidate, nor, allow you to do so without challenge.

(As an aside: Has anyone else noticed that you never see Dangermouse and Ann Coulter in the same room at the same time. Hmmmm)
10.13.2008 1:32pm
Yankev (mail):

Since a fetus is not a man, abortion does not meet the predicate of Gen 9:6 because no blood of a man has been spilt.
Oren, I do not have a chumash with Rashi at the office, so I cannot check to see who he was citing -- if it was not Gemara, it was midrash but I do not remember which, nor do I remember off-hand which tanna he cited. "Blood of a man" , as you know, can refer to human blood in general. Again, "blood of a man that is in a man" is clearly identified by Rashi as referring to the blood of a fetus. I don't claim the knowledge or the mesorah to disagree with Rashi on this issue. Do you have a source from chazal -- other than your own reasoning on this -- to show that Rashi is mistaken? Please bring a source from Chazal, Rishonim or Acharonim -- sources from HUC are not going to persuade me.
10.13.2008 2:07pm
DangerMouse:
PC,

I do think that some penalty should be imposed. I'm not sure what the laws on the books said about punishment for abortion before Roe was introduced. I'd have to look at those to see if they were strong enough or not.

Yeah you'd like to say that pro-lifers want to throw women in jail. Yadda yadda yadda. Frankly, it seems to me that women are more often victims of abortion than eager participants, because they believe the lies told to them by planned parenthood and others. I think it might make sense to impose bigger penalties on doctors and other people who stand to benefit from doing abortions, as opposed to women to get them because they believe they're desperate. But you're not really interested in all of that. You want your talking points.
10.13.2008 2:07pm
Yankev (mail):

Frankly, it seems to me that women are more often victims of abortion than eager participants, because they believe the lies told to them by planned parenthood and others.
And because the possibility of sex without consequences degrades women in general and society as a whole, degenerates further into a "hook-up" social life, and makes it easier for men to treat them as disposable, fungible objects, and encourages women to view themselves that way as well.
10.13.2008 2:12pm
Virginian:
surrender_monkey:

You forgot to add the obligatory "but of course I support the troops" statement at the end of your disgusting post.
10.13.2008 2:15pm
Oren:
Rashi was the one (IIRC) that said of a fetus "lav nefesh hu", which seems to imply that a proscription of spilling the blood of man does not apply.

Perhaps this is a case of Rashi v. Rashi?
10.13.2008 2:18pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Sez Dangermouse, among his more measured pronouncements:

Yes, they are for killing babies. They DO NOT WANT KIDS, because KIDS END THE PARTY. "Breeders" once was a derogatory term of art used by gay people. Now it's been adopted by a certain class of liberal. Every yuppie from 16-35 is a GIGANTIC supporter of abortion precisely because they want to live fast and young and don't want the party to stop. The older people who remain fanatical about abortion just don't want their up and coming kids "punished" with a baby. Young girls have careers to conquer and men to romance. Young men also have careers to conquer and can't settle down early. Abortion is their savior. It's the liberal sacrament. They love it.

. . . and this is consistent with the comments policy

"but we're also hoping that people try to be as calm, reasoned, and substantive as possible. So please, also avoid rants, invective, substantial and repeated exaggeration, and radical departures from the topic of the thread. "

HOW?
10.13.2008 2:25pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Oren said (10.13.2008 10:45am) --
There are, of course, some Jews that reject evolution but by a huge margin (we're talking >85% here), most Jews believe in evolution concurrent with Genesis.

Where did you get that "absurdly high percentage" (to borrow David Bernstein's words) of >85%? Did you just pull it out of the air?

The theme of the original post here is that many Jews support abortion solely because Christian fundies oppose it. Why should it be any different with the evolution controversy?

Mike S. (with a space) said (10.13.2008 7:04am) --
There are indeed many otherwise intelligent Orthodox Jews who do not believe in eveloution.

There are many otherwise intelligent people who swallow evolution unquestioningly.

Some prominent Jewish critics of evolution are very learned, e.g.: Ben Stein, David Berlinski (a secular Jew), and Gerald Schroeder.

My blog has several articles about Jewish opposition to evolution: here, here, here, and here. There is also this article on Evolution News &Views.
10.13.2008 2:37pm
Oren:
Larry, here's how I got to 85%. First of all, American Jews break up into (roughly) 30-40-30 reform-conservative-orthodox (last I checked). Now, if the RCA, the leading council for Orthodox Jewry states, as I quoted earlier, that evolution is concurrent with Genesis then, assuming they speak for at least half their flock (and probably quite more), I think 85% is an acceptable guess.

If you want to be extra skeptical, I'll agree to 70% (implying that not a single Orthodox Jew believe in evolution).
10.13.2008 3:23pm
Yankev (mail):

Rashi was the one (IIRC) that said of a fetus "lav nefesh hu", which seems to imply that a proscription of spilling the blood of man does not apply.
Was he talking about the case in Ex. or the case in Gen.? There is nothing contradictory about holding both positions. Ex. deals with a Yisroel who unintentionally inures a woman, resulting in a miscarriage. Ber. deals with a ben Noach who deliberately aborts a woman's pregnancy. One can hold "lav nefesh hu", and still rule that different consequences apply to the different cases. Again, the presence of seeming redundant words is crucial. Granting that abortion is not a case of "spilling the blood of man", it may still be a case of "spilling the blood of man which is in a man." If that proscription murder, the words "which is in a man" would be redundant. In such cases, the Oral Torah usually teaches us that the seeming redundant words come to teach us something we would not otherwise know from the text -- in the case of Ber. 9:6, that something is (at least according to Rashi and the source he cites) that a ben Noach who performs an abortion is subject to execution by a bes din. So it is not necessarily a case of Rashi v. Rashi.

So again, if Rashi expressly explains Ber. 9:6 as referring to abortion, do you have an equally or more authorative source who EXPRESSLY says Rashi was mistaken and that Ber. 9:6 refers instead to something else?

At the risk of offending some, let me wish you and anyone else to whom it pertains Chag Sameach, and that you will be totally joyful on the festival.
10.13.2008 4:00pm
Yankev (mail):
Sorry for the poor proof reading. My prior post should have read: "Again, the presence of seeming redundant words is crucial. Granting that abortion is not a case of "spilling the blood of man", it may still be a case of "spilling the blood of man which is in a man." If that proscription against "spilling the blood of man which is in a man" refers to ordinary murder, the words "which is in a man" would be redundant.
10.13.2008 4:04pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

Are you actually unfamiliar with modern liberalism, which holds that government interventions in the economy for the purposes of creating a social safety net and redistributing income are good, but that government intervention in non-economic social life is bad, or are you just being deliberately obtuse?


I’m not sure post-Wickard what meaningful distinction continues to exist between “economic” and “non-economic” when it comes to government intervention.
10.13.2008 4:15pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):


There are still laws on the books in some states that require women to get the approval of her rapist before giving up the child of that rape for adoption.


Cite please. Both the statute and a controlling case in the relevant jurisdictions.
10.13.2008 4:15pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Oren (10.13.2008 2:23pm) --
Larry, here's how I got to 85%.

That's absurd.
If you want to be extra skeptical, I'll agree to 70%

I am not agreeing to anything.
10.13.2008 4:33pm
Colin (mail):
Fafarman asked, Anyway, what in the hell does the evolution controversy have to do with anti-Semitism?

Those of us who suffer through your clumsy attempts to combine your Holocaust "revisionism" with your hostility towards science often ask the same thing.
10.13.2008 4:39pm
LM (mail):
Danger Mouse,

If abortion is infanticide, what kind of deception could justify not prosecuting the woman for some kind of homicide? It's not as if Planned Parenthood is telling teenage girls there's a loaf of bread in there that if carried to term will spring from the womb as a fully formed human baby.
10.13.2008 5:36pm
Reality Czech (mail):
Yeah, because the first 200 years or so of American history where abortion was illegal was just one gigantic theocracy.
I have read that abortion was entirely legal for the first century or so of the USA's existence, up until the rise of the American Medical Association. Newspapers carried ads for services related to "obstructed menses".
10.13.2008 5:39pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
I am not agreeing to anything.


I think some would agree that you are fully qualified, then, as a future laureate of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

(This has nought to do with the dispute; I simply like the quote to which I linked.)
10.13.2008 6:01pm
Rod Blaine (mail):
Although my views on the substantive morality of abortion are closer to DangerMouse's than to her or her opponents', I also call her or him for breaching the comments protocols.

Quaere, though, whether "disemvowelling" trolls would have any utility in a discussion where it appears upwards of 45% of comboxers are fluent in Hebrew.
10.13.2008 6:13pm
LM (mail):
Sum Budy:

To those responding to DangerMouse: Do you think that there is a chance in a million that you'll actually convince DangerMouse that he/he/it is wrong? Stop baiting the troll and it will go away.

How much of what's posted in comment threads do you suppose is intended to, much less actually does convince anyone of anything?
10.13.2008 6:24pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
If abortion is infanticide, what kind of deception could justify not prosecuting the woman for some kind of homicide? It's not as if Planned Parenthood is telling teenage girls there's a loaf of bread in there that if carried to term will spring from the womb as a fully formed human baby.


I've heard the term "parasite" used. That's a little more loaded than "loaf of bread". Less loaded would be "a part of your body" or "a lump of tissue". Then there's the tasteful "product of conception" (it's even accurate, at any age). Are none of these familiar to you?

Do the precise words matter? The overall argument is clear and repeated, and even our law treats the fetus as almost exactly that: a lump of irrelevant matter that "will spring from the womb as a fully formed human baby".

Furthermore: the question asked wasn't whether the woman would be prosecuted for "some form of homicide"; the question was whether she'd be prosecuted for murder. There's a broad range of murder-related charges, and an even greater range of homicide charges. Adding another couple of categories to the law seems like a way to prevent the obvious injustice of punishing people for something that was highly praised, promoted, and paid for so shortly before.

No, I don't have any suggestions for penalties. I also don't think it matters; we won't see any, in any state, under any conceivable set of circumstances. My fondest hope is that Congress would pass a law establishing clear guidelines under which abortion could be practiced and regulated; then we could see that law tried in the Supreme Court and affirmed, and then abortion could stop being a litmus test for the Supreme Court and would instead be one of the many reasons we vote for representatives. Yes, I'd vote for the ones that are pro-life. But I'd expect the result to be pro-discouraging-abortion, which is exactly what I want to see, and from what I've heard, what everybody except the vested interests want as well.
10.13.2008 6:48pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Fafarman asked, Anyway, what in the hell does the evolution controversy have to do with anti-Semitism?

Those of us who suffer through your clumsy attempts to combine your Holocaust "revisionism" with your hostility towards science often ask the same thing.

I asked for an answer, not a repetition of the question.

So you have no answer.
10.13.2008 7:40pm
a knight (mail) (www):
Yankev - Thank-you, I wanted an interpretation of this verse from an Orthodox Jewish point of view. As I mentioned, I am woefully ignorant of it. I grew up in a Protestant sect that takes the Bible very literally, even following much of the Old Testament strictures, which many other Christian sects do not. I was enrolled in their private parochial schools for the first nine years of my education You're probably aware of it, Seventh-Day-Adventists. I claim no faith presently, but am very comfortable around the King James, to say the least.

I am still confused as to a very important determination here, and I believe that "chattel" is too harsh of a word to describe this. Does Orthodox Jewish law consider a fetus to be a lawful person, or not? That is the germane question in my mind. Your explanation seems to indicate that it is not, and instead harm flows from a fetus being a part of the parent, not from personhood. If this is the case, then abortion cannot be murder.

This may seem like semantic games, but it is not. If a fetus is given the status of personhood at conception, then even a termination of an ectopic pregnancy would be murder. This would also mean a large increase in maternal deaths. Secular law need to be clear. Either a fetus is a lawful person or it is not. The U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment; infers that birth must precede lawful personhood, and citizenship by either being born within the United States, or becoming naturalized. For legislation that defines all abortion as murder to be Constitutional, there must be a Constitutional Amendment to alter this.
10.13.2008 8:02pm
theobromophile (www):
Thorley Winston - excuse me? Where the hell do you get off using that tone?

I don't have Lexis/Nexis access, but I know, off the top of my head, that Florida is one such state. As I'm not your research assistant, you can do the rest of the work yourself.
10.13.2008 8:28pm
a knight (mail) (www):
I realise this is a bit off-thread, but it is related. Here's an abridged survey of Exodus 21:22 in commnon Christian Bibles:

Protestant Bibles

Original King James, 21st Century King James - "If men strive and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no misfortune follow, he shall be surely punished according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
American Standard Version - essentially the Original King James, only word modernization changes
New King James Version, New American Standard Bible - premature birth, no mention of miscarriages
Amplified Bible - Specifies miscarriage
New International Version, Today's New International Version, Holman Bible - Footnoted addenda adds miscarriage to premature birth
The Message - "When there's a fight and in the fight a pregnant woman is hit so that she miscarries but is not otherwise hurt, the one responsible has to pay whatever the husband demands in compensation. But if there is further damage, then you must give life for life—eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."
New Living Translation - "Now suppose two men are fighting, and in the process they accidentally strike a pregnant woman so she gives birth prematurely.[c] If no further injury results, the man who struck the woman must pay the amount of compensation the woman’s husband demands and the judges approve. 23 But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, 24 an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, 25 a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise." Footnote [c}: "Or so she has a miscarriage; Hebrew reads so her children come out."

Catholic Bibles

New Jerusalem Bible, The New American Bible, Douay-Rheims Bible - specify miscarriage in the text
10.13.2008 8:29pm
Pauldom:
@Theo

There are still laws on the books in some states that require women to get the approval of her rapist before giving up the child of that rape for adoption. . . .

I don't have Lexis/Nexis access, but I know, off the top of my head, that Florida is one such state.

I've been looking through the link you provided, and I can't see where it requires a woman to get approval from her rapist prior to adoption. FS 63.062 (Persons required to consent to adoption; affidavit of nonpaternity; waiver of venue) says that an unmarried father consent is required only when he has

acknowledged in writing, signed in the presence of a competent witness, that he is the father of the minor, has filed such acknowledgment with the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health within the required timeframes, and has complied with the requirements of subsection (2)[which lists more requirements too numerous to mention here, but which a rapist would not meet]

The statute does require a search of the Florida Putative Father Registry but I wouldn't expect a rapist to have filed a notice there (and filing a notice isn't sufficient on its own to establish a paternity right that must be waived prior to adoption anyway).

Am I overlooking something that you specifically meant to point to? If so, I'd be grateful if you'd tell me where in that chapter I should be looking.
10.13.2008 9:08pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
There are some Christians who believe this, but I'd bet the number of people who think this belief is common is bigger than the number of people who actually believe it.

I have a relative in a church that believes this - and to this end they practice Jewish rituals, celebrate only the Jewish holidays, they send missionaries to Israel to show Jews they can be Christian and not change their observed religious traditions, AND they even have time shares in Jerusalem because its the only city guaranteed to survive Armageddon.

I look at it as just one more relative I don't have to buy Christmas presents for, but still I can confirm there are entire groups that believe this.
10.13.2008 9:21pm
Oren:

One can hold "lav nefesh hu", and still rule that different consequences apply to the different cases.

Not really. Rashi's claim that a fetus falls under the proscription in Gen 9:6 (that is to say, it is a man -- אָדָ֔ם) simply cannot be squared away with the Talmud's teaching that conversion of a pregnant woman applies to her child as well.

Nor do I think you can fall back to grammatical obscurantism to wish the problem away.

6 שֹׁפֵךְ֙ דַּ֣ם הָֽאָדָ֔ם בָּֽאָדָ֖ם דָּמֹ֣ו יִשָּׁפֵ֑ךְ
10.14.2008 1:08am
Oren:

Your explanation seems to indicate that it is not, and instead harm flows from a fetus being a part of the parent, not from personhood. If this is the case, then abortion cannot be murder.

That is substantially correct. A fetus does not attain full-personhood until the moment of birth.

That said, you have to also understand that, unlike the law in the US, personhood is not binary. A fetus is a partial-life and deserves consideration, just not consideration equal to a complete life. For instance, if a woman who is breastfeeding a child becomes pregnant, she is permitted to abort the fetus to continue breastfeeding -- the potential life of the fetus is outweighed by the actual life of a born child.
10.14.2008 1:17am
jgshapiro (mail):
Hardly anyone who is anti-abortion is in favor of imprisoning women who get abortions. Many favor punishing their doctors in some fashion, but hardly ever the women themselves. This is hard to square with a belief that abortion is murder. After all, if A hires B to kill C, it makes little sense to punish B and not also A. A is as guilty of murder as B, even if B does it for hire. So if A is not punished at all, a logical conclusion is that a majority is not really sure A has done anything wrong. Or to put it differently, they are not really sure that the killing was a killing. Especially early on in the pregnancy when B might easily have died of natural causes.

Society also does not treat an accidental miscarriage of an abortable fetus (1st-2nd trimester) as the death of a person. There is no funeral, there is no wake. Assaulting a pregnant woman in a manner that results in a miscarriage does not bring charges of murder. If a woman acts recklessly while pregnant with respect to her fetus -- smoking crack for example, or drinking heavily -- no one argues that she should have the baby taken away when it is born. Yet if she fed the baby alcohol or cocaine once it was born, it would be taken away in a heartbeat.

All of these facts, and others that I don't have the time or energy to list, are indicia that most people -- even those opposed to abortion -- do not see a fetus as exactly equivalent to a live baby, or abortion as equivalent to murder (or even manslaughter). That is especially true of early term fetuses and early-term abortion, when the fetus is unable to survive, even theoretically -- i.e., with the use of the latest technology, whether it is actually available to that mother or not -- outside of the mother. They may be uncomfortable with it, particularly as a means of routine birth control (which explains why so many people liked Clinton's comment that abortion should be safe, legal and rare), but they also do not see it as on par with killing a post-birth human. That may not fit into DangerMouse's Manichean worldview, but there it is.

Of course, none of this answers David's question of why so many non- Orthodox Jews are so fervently pro-choice. But I think you can see in DangerMouse's rants (at least anecdotally) that many people who are violently anti-abortion also hold fairly strong religious views and/or antiquated views regarding sex and the proper role of women, that are atypical of the non-Orthodox Jew.

So I think it is a good guess that non-Orthodox Jews reject anti-abortion politics as a useful proxy for rejecting the DangerMouse worldview altogether. Any abortion restriction becomes the camel's nose in the tent. Allow even the most innocuous abortion restrictions and you will get many more manifestations of state-enforced religious views behind them. And in the long run, that cannot be good for Jews.
10.14.2008 6:57am
Rod Blaine (mail):
> "This is hard to square with a belief that abortion is murder. After all, if A hires B to kill C, it makes little sense to punish B and not also A."

It can make sense, if one views A as making a bad decision under great stress (akin to provocation), but B as coolly performing a homicidal service for hire.

Society does not endorse battered women killing their abusive husbands/ boyfriends. If, however, a woman in that situation were to hire a hitman (or ask her father or brother) to carry out the hit it on her behalf, you can bet her sentence would be lighter than his.

The disparity would not be based on a belief that an abusive man ceases to be a human person with rights, but that there is a difference between what the law, apodioctically and ex ante, commands people to do and what the law, casuistically and ex post facto, commands judges to punish people for doing.
10.14.2008 7:25am
Rod Blaine (mail):
Historically, it is understandable why Jews would get nervous whenever Republicans and conservatives start delivering speeches about the mighty G*d they worship in the Red States. However - the theory that anti-abortion views are a reliable proxy for patriarchal disregard for women's rights has always struck me as rather a self-flattering myth held by pro-choicers, understandable if one cherry-picks individuals who may or may not have a large constituency, but substituting "aren't we wonderful" as a strategy for "know thine enemy". And in a month when Sarah Palin is cheered by large crowds of young Republican and conservative women as their representative, while her husband minds the children - and while Bill Clinton and various Kennedys campaign against Palin - it seems to me to require not so much self-preening as self-delusion to keep this particular meme in circulation.
10.14.2008 7:28am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Rod.
After your first sentence, you made sense.
10.14.2008 8:58am
Oren:
Because Phillys "there is no such thing as marital rape" Schafly is supposed to make us feel good about the right's commitment to women's rights?
10.14.2008 10:47am
neurodoc:
...whether "disemvowelling" trolls would have any utility in a discussion where it appears upwards of 45% of comboxers are fluent in Hebrew.
Would one of the 45%(?) explain to me, one of the 55%(?), the role or non-role of vowels in Hebrew. When they are written out, they serve only as a phonetic aid to those who have no mastery of the language? Are there other written languages that include such surplussage, if that is what the vowels amount to in written Hebrew?
10.14.2008 11:22am
Colin (mail):
That's Hebrew? I thought Oren was continuing the discussion of the Istari from upthread, and showing off his knowledge of Elvish...
10.14.2008 11:41am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
There are still laws on the books in some states that require women to get the approval of her rapist before giving up the child of that rape for adoption.


Cite please. Both the statute and a controlling case in the relevant jurisdictions.


Thorley Winston - excuse me? Where the hell do you get off using that tone?


I take it then that contrary to your earlier claim, you don’t actually have an example of a State law that “require[s] [a] wom[a]n to get the approval of her rapist before giving up the child of that rape for adoption”?

Because the link you provided says no such thing. Which is why I specifically asked for you to cite a statute and a controlling case showing that there were actually such laws in existence.
10.14.2008 12:38pm
theobromophile (www):
Pauldom &Thorley,

There is no exception on the books in Florida for rapists. If the rapist does decide to file the registry - because, let's be real, with marital rape, date rape, and abusive relationships, there are plenty of rapists who know their victims - the mother needs his permission.

Paul pointed that out, although he obviously didn't realise he was doing it. If the rapist or the abuser decides to file on the registry and make a stink about it, he can, and the fact that he may be a rapist or an abuser is irrelevant.
10.14.2008 1:23pm
theobromophile (www):
I should add: as a practical matter, it might not be an issue (regarding rapists and/or abusers who go on the registry and try to assert their paternal rights); however, it is undoubtedly an issue for women in abusive marriages who become pregnant and want to leave. It is also an issue in a "chilling effect"-ish manner: women who want to follow the law, who enquire about adoption, and are told that the father may be able to assert his rights will be more likely to consider abortion. Knowing that the law is blind to rape or abuse may be enough to convince her to get an abortion, as, once the child is born, the power is in the rapist/abuser's hands, not hers. The fact that he is unlikely to exercise that power does not change the fact that he has it.
10.14.2008 1:30pm
theobromophile (www):
Sorry, Conspirators, to serial-comment, but here's more.

Florida's notification law, explanation, here.
The law is supposedly meant to avoid highly unlikely but highly publicized disruptions in adoptions such as in the Baby Jessica case, in which a birth father later came forward to contest the adoption. Marks also helped design the law so that women cannot refuse to place public notifications on the basis of rape. This means that a rape victim who wants to place her child in an adoption is forced to go through the same public process of identifying herself, her rapist, and the rape incident - still for the purpose of giving the birth father a chance to prevent the adoption.
10.14.2008 1:38pm
Rod Blaine (mail):
> 'Because Phillys "there is no such thing as marital rape" Schafly is supposed to make us feel good about the right's commitment to women's rights?'

Well, admittedly Phyllis [sic] Schafly was a but nutty. Her callous ideologically-motivated indifference to the plight of rape victims such as Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broddrick, Desiree Washington and Patricia Bowman - all for the greater good of the conservative cause - would be considered unacceptable today, as would her delight in the details of the Manson/ Tate murders and her much-quoted slogan that "The only position for women in The Movement is prone". Nonetheless, she is receding in history's rear view mirror. If she had helped launch Palin's career, or been invited to speak at the GOP convention, then maybe I would consider your concerns more compelling.
10.14.2008 4:56pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
If a fetus is given the status of personhood at conception, then even a termination of an ectopic pregnancy would be murder. This would also mean a large increase in maternal deaths.


I don't see how that follows. The situations are different; it would be foolish to make the law the same. It's normal in law to have to make some close calls between ethical norms; but in this case the situation is clear. The fetus will not survive at all; the mother will unless medical attention is not given. Furthermore, the primary purpose of the medical intervention is to save the mother's life; taking the life of the fetus is not an objective at all, even though it's 100% certain. This is closely analogous to Just War theory.

Secular law need to be clear. Either a fetus is a lawful person or it is not. The U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment; infers that birth must precede lawful personhood, and citizenship by either being born within the United States, or becoming naturalized.


The 14th doesn't imply anything about all persons or all citizens; it speaks only to the subset that includes "persons born or naturalized". This fails to include some unarguable persons, for example persons who are born outside of the States; and it fails to include some citizens, such as ones granted citizenship via FS-240.

Whoever repeats that claim has failed in logic.

For legislation that defines all abortion as murder to be Constitutional, there must be a Constitutional Amendment to alter this.


Nope. But I hope such silly legislation is never passed.

-Wm
10.14.2008 5:02pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
I have a relative in a church that believes this - and to this end they practice Jewish rituals, celebrate only the Jewish holidays, they send missionaries to Israel to show Jews they can be Christian and not change their observed religious traditions, AND they even have time shares in Jerusalem because its the only city guaranteed to survive Armageddon.


Let me quote the "this" that we're talking about:

their own "final solution" is apparently conversion or death, in the service of bringing about Armageddon


Okay, exactly how does your quote show that there are Christians who somehow tie a desire to kill Jews in order to hasten Armageddon? I'm not arguing that Armageddon isn't a Christian belief; of course it is. I'm trying to find on what basis people think that killing Jews will bring it about (and that's somehow in their minds a good thing).
10.14.2008 5:09pm
LM (mail):
Oren and Rod Blaine,

Phyllis Schlafly's son is a regular reader of this blog. I'm no fan of their politics, but under the circumstances I think it would be an act of kindness to pick on a different public figure to make these points.
10.14.2008 7:11pm
Lior:
To neurodoc, regarding Hebrew orthography:

(pretty rough)

1. Semitic languages view their basic sounds as consonants, modified by vowels. For example, "co" at the start of "consonant" is the consonant [k] with the vowel [o] (it is also possible for consonants to carry no vowel, e.g. the "t" at the end of "consonant"). As an aside, vowels do not exist by themselves. The Hebrew word "or" (part of my name) is better written as ['or]: a glottal stop ['] with the vowel [o], followed by the consonant [r] without a vowel. With a US accent the result sounds just like the English disjunction word.

2. The same sequence of consonants can thus form many words, depending on the vowels. This is no different from English (tit, tat, tot, tut, are all distinct).

3. The Phoenicians' writing system (the alphabet) was to only write down the consonants, and leave the reader to figure out the vowels based on context. They also didn't invent the inter-word space: the reader also had to figure out the word-breaks from context.

4. Later on, various methods were developed to indicate the vowel sounds in addition to the consonants. First, four consonants (A = [the glottal stop], V, I, H) acquired additional, vowel-like functions (that is, sometimes they are written down to represent a consonant, and sometimes a vowel -- the reader still has to tell from context which is which). When the Greeks adopted the alphabet they took it all the way, designated some letters as vowels, and this continues today in all European languages.

5. Semitic languages also developed precise ways to indicate vowels, by decorating each consonant separately. Modern Hebrew and Arabic each have a method for this. However, the normal practice is to write down words without the diacritics unless it is necessary for understanding. In Hebrew, the four consonants above are used more in the absence of diacritics, indicating the vowels "A", "O or U", "I", "A" respectively. This gives a lot of information, making using the full diacritics useful only in a few cases:

a. The word is foreign.
b. The ambiguity cannot be resolved from context.
c. The target audience is learners of the language, who don't yet have the vocabulary and skills to figure things out for themselves.

6. You should try for yourself and see that it's quite easy to read "disemvoweled" English, especially when you know the topic of the discussion. Adding a consonant for vowels which had no consonant before them would help (telling apart "no" from "on" and "in", "to" from "it").
10.14.2008 11:51pm
Pauldom:
Theo, thank you very much for the further info. It's obvious that you've given this issue a good amount of thought. So perhaps I am overlooking something in the statutes, but I truly think the info you have might be outdated. (Your other link dates from 2002.) I'll briefly tell you what I see, because you might want to look again yourself, for your own interest. None of this contradicts your larger point that right-to-life policies have complex effects.

First, I don't see any requirement that the mother put notices in the paper. She has to search the notices that have been filed in the Florida Putative Father Registry, and she has to serve notice on "any known and locatable biological father":

(3) Pursuant to chapter 48, an adoption entity shall serve a notice of intended adoption plan upon any known and locatable unmarried biological father who is identified to the adoption entity by the mother by the date she signs her consent for adoption or who is identified by a diligent search of the Florida Putative Father Registry, or upon an entity whose consent is required. http://snipurl.com/4dd2c

Yes, that would mean serving notice on an abusive spouse or a date-rapist, though not a stranger rapist. But not public announcements in the newspaper.

Second, the father cannot simply refuse consent to the adoption once he knows about it. The father must also demonstrate support of mother and child by:

1. Filing a notarized claim of paternity form

2. filing an affidavit stating that "he is personally fully able and willing to take responsibility for the child, setting forth his plans for care of the child, and agreeing to a court order of child support and a contribution to the payment of living and medical expenses incurred for the mother's pregnancy and the child's birth in accordance with his ability to pay."

3. If he had knowledge of the pregnancy, paying "a fair and reasonable amount of the expenses incurred in connection with the mother's pregnancy and the child's birth, in accordance with his financial ability and when not prevented from doing so by the birth mother or person or authorized agency having lawful custody of the child."

(Those were the conditions for babies <6mo. For babies older than 6mo, the conditions were more strict.) I find it unlikely that a date rapist would do all these things, but I suppose it could happen. An abusive spouse might do all these things.

Still, there is another out: The need for someone's consent can be waived if the court finds "after examination of his or her written reasons for withholding consent, is found by the court to be withholding his or her consent unreasonably." There are other possible waivers, too, e.g., abandonment, incarceration, incapacity.

I am highly skeptical that legislation can be crafted to eliminate the abusive spouse problem. In fact, FS 63.063 says,

The Legislature finds no way to remove all risk of fraud or misrepresentation in adoption proceedings and has provided a method for absolute protection of an unmarried biological father's rights through compliance with this chapter. In balancing the rights and interests of the state and of all parties affected by fraud, including the child, the adoptive parents, and the unmarried biological father, the Legislature has determined that the unmarried biological father is in the best position to prevent or ameliorate the effects of fraud and, therefore, has the burden of preventing fraud.

FYI. As I said, I agree with your point about interrelated policies, and am just providing this info in the hopes that you'll find it interesting / good news.
10.15.2008 12:13am
Pauldom:
aargh, . . . the statute I quoted last has nothing to do w/spouses. Sorry. One shouldn't attempt copy/paste this late at night.
10.15.2008 12:16am
neurodoc:
Lior, thanks for that learned response to my simpleton question. Can't digest it all, but I do appreciate it.

Want to try another - why the distinction between consonants and vowels, with the former doing most of the heavy lifting? Vowels are more for the sake of pronounciation than for meaning, since many times they are dispensable, whereas consonants are rarely so?

And what about languages with pictographs rather than spelled out words? Why did the Orient (China, Japan, Korea) go with the former, the rest of us with the latter? No vowels there, but isn't the former terribly limiting?
10.15.2008 2:45pm
Lior:
nerudoc: W're lacking in vocabulary here -- the English one is not quite suitable -- which is part of the confusion.

Semitic languages have two different concepts: a "vowel sound", say [a], [e], [i], [o], [u], and a "vowel letter" (say the Latin A,E,I,O,U or the Hebrew diacritics). The first has to do with the sounds you make when you speak, and the second has to do with the way you write them down. English and other European languages don't make the distinction.

Now the first sentence of my post should have read: the basic unit is "consonant modified by vowel sound" (both together). Consonants and vowels generally don't exist by themselves: the come in matched pairs. I'd think of "consonant" as

"co" "n" "so" "na" "n" "t"

my name is: "li" "'o" "r"

Consonants without a "vowel sound" are pronounced like English consonants in the same situation. Thus my name is pronounced something like "Lee-Or" (accent on the second syllable).

Thus the "vowel sounds" are as important as in any other language: they are for the sake of meaning. If you change the vowel sounds you change the meaning.

Vowel letters are dispensable as a matter of orthography: they can be recovered from context. Compare "th bk s n th hs" with "th bk s n th tbl". I'm sure you can guess which sentence uses "in" and which one uses "on".

However, there is structural reason why "guessing" the vowel-sounds (and thus the meaning) given only the consonants is easier for a Semitic language than an Indo-European one. In Semitic languages, the basic method of word-formation to combine three-consonant sequences known as "roots" into word-templates. The roots are associated with an idea; the word-template with a kind of word. When you see the sequence of consonants in a word you can usually tell the root right away, and then there are only a few possible templates the word could have come from (that is, only a few possible vowel-patterns to go with the consonants you already know).

Here is an example: all the following words are nouns referring to tools [irregularities smoothed out]. I give the root in parantheses:

maSMeR (S-M-R), "nail"
maVReG (V-R-G), "screwdriver"
ma'DeR ('-D-R), "hoe"
maKhBeSh (Kh-B-Sh), "press"
maQReR (Q-R-R), "refrigerator"
maHLaKh (H-L-Kh), "move [in chess]" (literally "walk")
maSoR (N-S-R), "saw" (roots beginning in N are irregular)

the following are present-tense verbs:

meHaLeKh (H-L-Kh) "is walking"
meNaSeR (N-S-R) "is sawing"
meNaSeH (N-S-H) "is trying"
meTaYeL (T-Y-L) "is hiking"

Consonant-wise, the two templates are the same ("m" followed by the three consonants of the root). The words "mahlakh" and "mehalekh" are related (same root) but their different vowel-sounds make their meanings very different.
In isolation, they cannot be distinguished. But in the middle of a sentence I can tell if the word I'm looking at is supposed to be a noun or a present-tense verb, so I can tell which of the two templates it comes from and hence its meaning and pronounciation (which come together). Even if I don't know the exact meaning, knowing the root gives me a vague idea. If you know that "mavreg" is a screwdriver then you can guess that a verb with the root "V-R-G" might mean (probably to put a screw in), a different noun with this root might be a screw, and so on.

Life is much harder in English: the words "tat", "tit", "tot" are all nouns, but "sat", "sit" are both verbs from the same "root". The consonant pattern "rd" can be associated with reading, but also with roads and ridding.
10.15.2008 4:20pm
Oren:

Phyllis Schlafly's son is a regular reader of this blog. I'm no fan of their politics, but under the circumstances I think it would be an act of kindness to pick on a different public figure to make these points.

I don't mean it as a personal insult to say I vehemently disagree with Mrs. Schlafly's works and opinions. Since I've heard no evidence to the contrary, I assume (as with everyone else) that she a decent and caring person. Respect for the person and respect for her opinions are two very different things.
10.15.2008 6:16pm
neurodoc:
OK Lior, come clean with us - are you now or have you ever been a linguist? If not, what then is your educational/professional background?
10.16.2008 3:30am
opq (mail):
i'm amazed at some commenters denial of a woman's moral agency -- Women who are pregnant who don't want to be pregnant are too fragile emotionally to make fully rational decisions and shouldn't be fully punished for commiting premeditated murder? what else are they too irrational to make decisions about?
10.16.2008 12:14pm
Yankev (mail):
Sorry for the late responses, but I was out for Succos.
a knight,

Does Orthodox Jewish law consider a fetus to be a lawful person, or not? That is the germane question in my mind. Your explanation seems to indicate that it is not,
Oren responded quite accurately. Whether the fetus is a person, however, is not the end of the inquiry, as Judaism (and particularly Orthodox Judaism) demands respect for potential as well as actual persons.
10.16.2008 12:48pm
Lior:
I am a mathematician, teaching at a North American university. My relevant educational background consists of the mandatory two years of Hebrew grammar leading up to the matriculation exam, as well as mandatory two years of high-school Arabic. Everything I wrote (history of the alphabet excepted, but you can find that on Wikipedia) is instinctively known to any Israeli middle-schooler, and formally known to any Israeli high-schooler.
10.16.2008 12:57pm
Yankev (mail):
Oren,

Rashi's claim that a fetus falls under the proscription in Gen 9:6 (that is to say, it is a man -- אָדָ֔ם) simply cannot be squared away with the Talmud's teaching that conversion of a pregnant woman applies to her child as well.
Let me get this straight. Rashi wrote a painstaking commentary on all of Chumash and nearly all of Talmud. (His commentaries are also considered the single pre-eminent source as to Hebrew grammar.) Other authorative commentators certainly disagree with him on one point or another, but his commentaries are considered authorative and certainly no one quibbles with his scholarship. Yet out of all the places that other commentators take issue with him, you bring not one who supports your interpretation that Ber. 9:6 refers to abortion. Your sole support is that you think it cannot be reconciled with the law as to kiddushas yisroel of a vlad whose mother converted while pregnant.

I am amazed that Tosafos, Ramban, Rosh, Rif and the many others who disagree with Rashi never caught on to your chiddush.

Nor do I think you can fall back to grammatical obscurantism to wish the problem away.
First, you are misusing the word obscurantism.

1: opposition to the spread of knowledge : a policy of withholding knowledge from the general public
2 a: a style (as in literature or art) characterized by deliberate vagueness or abstruseness b: an act or instance of obscurantism. (Merriam Websdter on line.)
Rashi, the Sages and Orthodox Judaism in general engourages and do not oppose the spread of knowledge of Torah.

Second, there is a general rule in Gemara that we cannot necessarily analogize from laws of one category to laws of another : eg. personal status to laws of capital cases, business laws to laws of sexual morality, etc. In this case you are trying to analogize from dinei yichus v'kiddushin to dinei nefashos, and from dinnim affecting yisroelim to dinnim governing b'nei Noach. That just plain doesn't work.

With all due respect, I am not convinced that Orin knows more than Rashi does as concerns the meaning of Chumash.
10.16.2008 1:05pm
Yankev (mail):
Neurodoc, for an excellent popular introduction to the structure of Hebrew, take a look at How the Hebrew Language Grew by Edward Horowitz.

I do not know if Lior mentioned it, but the selection of vowels for the same consonant also gives you cues as to whether the word is being used as a verb or a noun, tense, etc., or which noun is used. Vowels also indicate whether certain consonants are hard or soft -- such as b or v, or p and f. My Hebrew is worse than deficient, but perhaps Lior can give us some examples. A few that come to my mind are SoFeR (a scribe), SeFer ( a book), SaPar (to count?).

The root ChBR (the letter Bet is ponounced hard -- B -- if it has a vowel-mark called a dagesh, or soft -- V, or vet -- without one) gives us the word for "join" or "connect", friend/companion. Add a mem to the beginning and you have the word for author. Add a thav to the end of author and you have a notebook.
10.16.2008 1:17pm
Lior:
Yankev: the situation is reversed from your description. The function of the word (noun, verb, adjective) and anticipated meaning (tense of verb, tone of sentence, collocations ...) give you cues about the correct choice of vowels for the given consonants.

Since I was just trying to give a general idea I tried avoiding complications such as bet-vet. That the same consonant letter can be pronounced differently also occurs in English. For example "s" can sound like [s] or [z], "c" like [k] or [s], g can be hard or soft.

I just realized that English also had a good example of determining pronounciation and meaning from context. Compare the following sentences:

- I read the book yesterday.
- I read the newspaper everyday.
- I read his writing.

The first sentence clearly calls for a verb in the past tense. The second for the present tense. The third is ambiguous by itself, but usually isn't when part of a larger conversation or paragraph.
10.16.2008 5:17pm
Rod Blaine (mail):
OPQ - I'm just quoting the commentators, too numerous to mention, who assure us that unwillingly pregnant women would risk back-alley butchery (death, sterility, infection, and other problems) rather than give birth to an unwanted baby. I make no comment about mental competency (any more than a defendant has to plead insanity to claim provocation), but this seems to indicate pressure or desparation.

Or maybe women wouldn't resort to back-alley butchers if abortion were illegal? What do you think?

As for what legal sanctions pro-lifers would support, all I myself would call for is the right of any women to sue a doctor who aborted her fetus, any number of years later, without any statute of limitations, if she subsequently decides that she wanted the child after all. Damages would cover (a) wrongful death, (b) emotional distress, and (c) punitive damages. -- What's that you say? A woman should make up her mind at a certain time whether she wants children or not, and then be bound by her decision? What are you, anti-Choice or something?
10.16.2008 11:36pm
Rod Blaine (mail):
I seem to have unwittingly thrown this thread off-course by bringing up Hebrew grammar and phonology... Sorry, David. Back to the original question. Would it be fair to say that Jewish Americans who worry about abortion restrictions representing the first step towards making America a conservative Christian-nationalist authoritarian state might feel less trepidation about living in a largely Christian nation where abortion is widely available and frequently practised?
10.16.2008 11:40pm
neurodoc:
Would it be fair to say that Jewish Americans who worry about abortion restrictions representing the first step towards making America a conservative Christian-nationalist authoritarian state might feel less trepidation about living in a largely Christian nation where abortion is widely available and frequently practised?
No, it would not be fair, and I expect you know it would not be. Few Jews aspire to live in Russia, the country to which you allude with your link, notwithstanding that "abortion is widely available and frequently practised" there. Nor to live in China or some other places where "abortion is widely available and frequently practised."

It is possible, indeed easy, for American Jews to "worry about abortion restrictions representing the first step towards making America a conservative Christian-nationalist authoritarian state" and at the same time not be sanguine about all the alternatives to a conservative Christian-nationalist authoritarian state, Russia representing one of those alternatives. The concern is about the imposition of these restrictions, and can have little or nothing to do with how widely available and frequently practised abortion actually is. Indeed, many who are threatened by the prospect of those restrictions being re-imposed and what that would mean for American politics may be quite happy to see a much lessened demand for abortion services, and thus abortion no so widely available and frequently practised.
10.17.2008 12:28pm
neurodoc:
Thanks Lior, Ynakev, Oren and others for sharing the theological and linguistic knowledge. Like the kid who asks the librarian for something about penguins for a school report, only to return later and tell her that the 3-volume tome she sent him home with proved to be more than what he had wanted to know about penguins, I would tell you that what you have related is more than what I expected and more than I can absorb at this time. Still, it gives me some appreciation of what is out there beyond my own ken, and for that I am grateful to you.
10.17.2008 12:37pm
neurodoc:
What's that you say? A woman should make up her mind at a certain time whether she wants children or not, and then be bound by her decision? What are you, anti-Choice or something?
Appendectomies are binding in the sense that after one has been done. There is no option of a transplant. So, after it has done, it has been done; there's no going back to having an appendix again. (The appendix is pretty much a vestigal remain, but it may confer some benefit.) Abortions, both "therapeutic" and "spontaneous," or "voluntary" and "involuntary" ones, are like appendectomies in that they are irreversible, though abortions and appendectomies may be different in so many ways, some so very consequential.

Giving a woman the right (on what theory?) to sue a doctor for performing an abortion should she ever regret her choice in the future would not be "pro-choice." The choice was hers upfront, and the fact that the procedure is an inherently and unavoidably irreversible one doesn't change that, anymore than it would if we were talking about an appendectomy. So opposition to such a perverse change to the law as you propose (i.e., allowing the woman to sue the doctor who performed the abortion should she ever change her mind in the future), one clearly intended to make it difficult, if not impossible to obtain an abortion, would not be "anti-choice" at all.

But you knew this, and surely you didn't think that anyone would change their mind about the law regarding abortions based on such silliness. What puzzles me is why anyone who believed as you do would undermine their case with "arguments" of this sort.
10.17.2008 3:16pm