Apparently, there ARE pro-life Democrats in South Carolina

They’re out there.

Despite our perception of the parties being monolithic on the issue of abortion, in South Carolina, that’s not quite the case.

It's not as monolithic as you might think.

It’s not as monolithic as you might think.

At least not among Democrats.

Remember when the S.C. House voted last week to ban abortion at 20 weeks or later, sending the bill to the governor?

Well, all 29 of the votes against came from Democrats. No shock there.

But it should be noted, at least in passing, that eight of the 79 votes for the bill came from Democrats.

To be specific, these Democrats:

  1. Rep. Mike Anthony from Union
  2. Rep. Bill Bowers from Hampton
  3. Rep. Grady Brown from Lee
  4. Rep. Laurie Funderburk from Kershaw
  5. Rep. Wayne George from Marion
  6. Rep. Jackie “Coach” Hayes from Dillon
  7. Rep. Russell Ott from Calhoun
  8. Rep. Robert Ridgeway III from Clarendon

You can find the vote breakdown in the House journal for that day.

Is there a commonality? Well, they’re all from smaller, more rural communities rather than any of the metropolitan centers of the state. Your big-city Democrats — such as Beth Bernstein, Chris Hart, Mia McLeod, Todd Rutherford and James Smith — all voted against.

Their reasoning for stepping out this way? I don’t know. If I had time, I’d interview all eight, but I don’t have the time right now. Maybe some of them would say they’re not pro-life, but have other reasons for their votes.

It’s just that I’ve noted this pattern on previous votes having to do with this issue, and I’ve never seen it get any media attention, so I thought that this time, I’d at least point out what the record shows.

And yeah, it could use some followup.

But in the meantime, I see it as positive. At least on the Democratic side, we have some representatives in South Carolina who think for themselves, even on an issue seen as the ultimate litmus test.

37 thoughts on “Apparently, there ARE pro-life Democrats in South Carolina

  1. Mark Stewart

    Many would just roll their eyes and see this as not dissimilar from the fad du jour to poke politics into restroom usage. The majority of the country supports abortion rights. They arrived at that position through thoughtful consideration of the issues. It’s just a position that isn’t yours (today).

    There were also Democrats who have voted down gay marriage, voted to keep flying the confederate flag, voted for capital punishment, would vote (if given the chance) to ban Muslims from entering the country, etc. In South Carolina no one should ever be surprised when any politician does the religiously and/or socially “conservative” thing that the good people fear. Maybe cross-correlating these legislator’s votes on this issue against the rabidness of their known or likely Republican challengers views would be more fruitful?

    I’m a Republican who believes in Pro Choice legislation. Do you see that as a positive – that I am willing to buck the party orthodoxy of this issue? Of course, that is a view now held by close to 40% of Republicans nationally. This is an issue that deserves to be de-politicized. It’s just an angry wedge issue for some. Red meat as they say; noise to keep people stirred up and complacent on other issues of power and control.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Nope, it’s not mine (today). And it wasn’t mine (yesterday). And it won’t be mine (tomorrow).

      I’m not sure why you added that parenthetical.

      But as someone who has “arrived at that position through thoughtful consideration of the issues,” it’s impossible to conceive of me having any other position. I’ve spent my adult life surrounded by people who oppose me on this issue, what with my having been part of the “godless liberal media.” I assure you, I’ve heard and fully considered all the arguments. And I have yet to hear one that makes the “pro-choice” position morally and logically defensible…

      Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        There is one: Human life begins at birth; and our rights as people and citizens begin with that first breath. That proposition solves all the moral and logic issues that you have presented over the years.

        The idea that life begins at conception is the wedge that divides.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Problem is, between the two, it’s the one that makes the most sense. Before conception, there is no separate individual and unless conditions change (and we’re talking binary change, as stark as that between one and zero, between on and off), there won’t be. From conception on, that separate individual with unique genetic characteristics exists, and is growing.

          In a world in which births are scheduled at the convenience of OBs, we should understand that life begins well before the baby emerges into the delivery room.

          You don’t have to wait until some magic, cosmic moment (although I think we probably should, since we had a scary experience when our doctor decided to take one of our children early). A baby that nature would have come forth on Friday can just as easily be brought out on Thursday, or Wednesday, or Tuesday. So where would you draw the line? Viability gets earlier and earlier.

          I know, I know — if you have DECIDED that life only begins outside the womb, you have embraced that as logical. It seems perfect to you. But it fails to persuade me.

          You’re right that life beginning at conception causes a conflict that wouldn’t exist were things otherwise. But I can’t change my mind on that point simply to avoid conflict…

          Reply
        2. Karen Pearson

          Mark, there is no way that you’re going to get Brad to agree with you. He’s in the “I’ve made up my mind, now don’t try to confuse me with facts” mode. He will not consider a woman’s intrinsic right to her own body (he’s gone so far as to say that she’s so involved that she can’t be counted on to make a good decision). He will not consider that if you allow abortion at all, even in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, you’ve just demoted the fetus to less human than the woman. In this case he’s absolutely willing to impose his belief on total strangers. And he certainly won’t consider any economic factors that might come into play.

          Reply
          1. Jeff Mobley

            Karen, while I can’t speak for Brad, I don’t dispute that a woman has rights with respect to her own body. But when a woman is pregnant, there’s another body involved. Neither one erases the other’s rights. It’s not as if only one’s rights must be considered, and the other’s must be ignored. Both must be considered. So, in your example of the ectopic pregnancy, if a woman’s doctor determines that the pregnancy endangers her, and the situation is such that both lives can’t be saved, then the doctor should be allowed to take action to save one (the mother, in this case).

            There are situations in which a pregnancy places a mother at risk, and there is virtually no chance of both the mother and child surviving, but there are also situations in which a pregnancy places a mother at risk, but both mother and child could be expected to survive, depending on the steps taken.

            If a doctor does what is necessary to save a woman’s life, but can’t save her baby, no one wants that doctor to be subject to prosecution for exercising her/his expert judgement.

            But none of this means the child’s bodily rights can be ignored.

            Reply
          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            I’ve “gone so far as to say” that due process and the rule of law should apply? Absolutely! That doesn’t seem to me like going far at all. It’s an area where the pro-choice position doesn’t even begin to have a leg to stand on, so it’s not a reach at all. In no other area would we allow the most interested individual on the planet to make a unilateral, life-and-death decision. This is BASIC to having a nation of laws and not of men.

            All of that rhetoric about the woman’s body and the sacrosanct nature of the physician-patient relationship is about appealing to emotion — just as people on my side appeal to the natural impulse to want to protect the helpless innocent.

            It reminds me of the (abhorrent) argument that the family of a victim should decide whether a prosecutor seeks the death penalty in a homicide case. No, no, a thousand times no! The family of the victim is the LAST set of people who should decide such a thing, if we are to be a society fairly governed by laws.

            That’s not “going so far.” It’s starting with fundamentals.

            And Karen, I’m surprised and a bit hurt that you would say I’m in “I’ve made up my mind, now don’t try to confuse me with facts” mode. That makes me sound like someone who would vote for Donald Trump, and it is in no way accurate. It’s true that it’s extremely unlikely, bordering on impossible, that anyone will be able to come up with any facts that extend my understanding of the issue — just as the opposite might be said of you and my other “pro-choice” friends.

            That might be said of many things that I — and you — have spent many years studying and thinking about. My support for public education, for instance, or my objections to libertarian thinking (in most areas, anyway).

            But yeah, there’s a component here that makes it extra hard for anyone to change his or her mind. I’ll never forget what one of my oldest friends said to me almost 40 years ago. The subject of abortion came up, and I was trying to change his mind on the subject in a friendly, dispassionate way when he stopped me. He said he would never, ever change his mind; the cost of doing so would be too great. And that’s because his wife had gotten an abortion before they were married — and before Roe, and before it was legal where we lived (they went to New York to have it done).

            Because he had had that experience, he said, he couldn’t even consider changing his mind — because the horror of deciding they had been wrong would be much too great a burden. He wouldn’t be able to handle it.

            People are different. Back in that same period, in the mid-70s, another very close friend and I were having a similar conversation, and I said something like, “I know I’ll never change your mind on this issue,” and HE stopped me and said, no, actually, he HAD changed his mind. He had been solidly prochoice until his girlfriend (later to be his wife) had a (now legal) abortion. The emotionally wrenching experience (for both of them — she was in a bad way for a time) caused him to change his mind completely.

            I really didn’t know what to say to either of them, except to say that I understood. Neither of them was more or less my friend because of the conclusions they had drawn….

            I didn’t mean to go off on such a tangent there…

            Reply
          3. Brad Warthen Post author

            I don’t want Karen to feel that I’m picking on her, but there’s one other thing she said I feel compelled to react to…

            “In this case he’s absolutely willing to impose his belief on total strangers.”

            There’s nothing unusual about such an assertion. Rep. James Smith, whom I like and respect very much (as I do Karen), used a similar argument last week with regard to the bill that was the original topic of this post (James was among the majority of Democrats who opposed the measure).

            But as many times as I heard it, I’m struck by what an odd observation it is.

            ALL laws involve imposing certain notions of right and wrong on “total strangers.” It would be strange indeed if the laws we pass applied only to our friends and families.

            Take your pick among the laws against certain behaviors — murder, rape, jaywalking, littering, creating a public nuisance — all of them involve the advocates for those laws imposing their belief that those things should not be allowed on “total strangers.”

            Yeah, I get why my pro-choice friends see this as different. Their whole case is based on a notion of an absolute right to privacy, as articulated in Griswold v. Connecticut. Therefore a society that passes laws for everyone on a wide variety of subjects is seen as overstepping itself when it gets into this area.

            Of course, not only do I reject Griswold’s discovery of such a sweeping right of privacy, I have another thing that keeps me from agreeing with my pro-choice friends…

            I see morality as objective. I believe there actually is such a thing as right and wrong that exists separately from my OPINION about what is right and wrong. In other words, far from being the pompous, arbitrary imposer of personal values that Karen’s statement seems to describe, I fully believe that something is right or wrong regardless of what I think of it.

            And that applies to others as well. Either life begins at birth or at conception, and that is the case regardless of what I think. Either a fetus has a moral claim on its mother and on her physician and on me and the rest of society or it does not. It is either a human being with moral worth or it is not — regardless of what I or anyone else thinks. Its moral worth is NOT dependent on, for instance, on what its mother thinks of it — whether she sees it as her precious baby or as a clump of worthless cells that she wants to get rid of like a tumor. It is what it is, regardless of any human being’s opinion.

            I could be wrong on the abortion issue — because right and wrong is a thing that exists outside of me, and is no way dependent on my ratification to be real.

            For that reason, I can never adopt the pro-choice position. Because if I get it wrong, I am so horribly wrong — an abortion is something you can’t take back. And I don’t see how anyone can have that kind of absolute confidence that they can espouse it…

            Reply
        3. Barry

          When my wife was pregnant with any of our 3 children, and we both heard it’s heartbeat and saw it’s legs kicking and sucking a thumb, there was nothing in the world that would convince us our baby wasn’t alive.

          and you certainly wouldn’t convince us otherwise despite ramblings to the contrary.

          Reply
          1. Doug Ross

            Heartbeat = Alive

            Abortion terminates that life. I’m okay with morning after pills, birth control, and condoms being made freely available (even via government funds!!) and I accept that some women face situations where the best option is terminating that life but would like to see that happen as a last resort.

            But once that heart’s beating, it’s a human being.

            Reply
            1. Barry

              People rationalize whatever they can (stopping the beating heart of a baby) so they can live with themselves and their decisions.

              Reply
  2. Jeff Mobley

    Brad, I think there may be something to the rural vs. urban thing. You see geographic patterns in election returns, so it makes sense that Democrats from more rural districts might be more socially conservative than their urban colleagues. And yes, as Mark notes, it’s quite plausible that more rural districts might be more likely than urban districts to produce Republican challengers who might have somewhat of a chance of defeating a Democrat perceived as being too extreme.

    While it may be true that a majority of the country believe abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances, it is also true that an equally strong majority believe abortion should NOT be allowed after the first trimester. How’s that for “de-politicized”?

    As I’ve said before, one need not be nearly as pro-life as I am to have been able to support this particular legislation. I am very disappointed that my representative in the House not only voted against it, but spoke against it on the floor.

    Reply
    1. Mark Stewart

      I would love to de-politicize this issue, too. It’s a cancer, frankly; the endless grandstanding on the head of a pin over two sides of the same coin.

      If it meant de-politizing this and reaching an agreement that would send this away for good I would be fine with saying, except in rare circumstances, abortion is only acceptable in the first half of pregnancy.

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Which means that, in those circumstances, you’d be for this bill.

        We’re in agreement on the fact that the politization of the issue is a terrible problem in and of itself. Even if could bring myself to support abortion on demand, or the notion of absolute right to privacy upon which it is based… I can’t, but even if I could… I’d be appalled at the way Roe has distorted our politics.

        It’s crazy to me that we have people on both sides of this issue who will choose a president based solely on what sort of justices we think he or she would nominate, and based completely on this one issue — even though that’s a tiny, tiny portion of what a president is likely to do in office. It’s bizarre…

        Reply
        1. Mark Stewart

          It’s crazy to me that people were forced to politicize an issue that, no matter one’s moral compass, should so clearly be a decision between patient and doctor (or really just within the patient). We saw the reality of the outcome of this situation for centuries (likely millennia); what more can it take?

          Humanity, life, religion are all push-pull conceptualizations. These are the issues our minds struggle with. There are no easy answers. Neither are there immutable truths. This is the human condition. Religion is a key component of this struggle, but it does not offer finality. Life is ever evolving. We grabble, we strive, we search, and ultimately we make peace with the universe. Can we all just accept that this is true for everyone?

          Reply
          1. Jeff Mobley

            The thing is, if life is a push-pull conceptualization 16 weeks before birth, then it’s also a push-pull conceptualization 16 weeks after birth.

            There are certain things we know. At conception, a genetically distinct living organism of the species homo sapiens has come into the picture. The question is: how mature must this human life become before enjoying the protection of the law?

            From my perspective, answering this question requires considering the continuum of maturity, starting at birth and working backwards, and identifying a point of demarcation, before which, legal protection for the life is not warranted. If no such specific point can be definitively identified with a convincing argument based on evidence and logic, then a respect for life requires protection of the life from conception forward.

            Reply
            1. Mark Stewart

              From my perspective, a human is born when it is independent of its mother and breathing on its own.

              To believe otherwise is simply to delve into absurdities of all sorts, legal, ethical, moral, medicinal, you name it, in a futile attempt to arbitrarily separate the unsepperable. That’s what creates the conflict we face today. We would have no conflict, well we would only have conflict over wow much expense medicine should incur and for what potential outcome in cases of premature birth, were this the ethical standard society as a whole were to embrace. Frankly, this is the ethical baseline the vast majority of our society has already embraced. It is the viewpoint that squares everyone’s inate human rights. It is not the viewpoint that seeks to sow conflict between who is more “valuable” between a mother and a fetus.

              The reason Christianity has such a difficult time with this “dilemma” springs from the earliest moments of Christianity: the conceptualization of Mary as but the vessel to deliver the baby Jesus to the world. In the anti abortion world it is not hard to discern the religiosity of the battle for the fetus from conception as the worship of Jesus; as if the direct connection between God and Jesus could be questioned if a break in the chain of connection were created. The problem is, we are all humans and we are fathers, mothers and children. We are all children of God. But none of us is Jesus. And mothers are endowed with the same rights and the same fullness of being; they are not simply vessels of transmorgifying God through the birthing of Jesus.

              Reply
              1. Jeff Mobley

                It’s interesting to note which of us is bring religion into this discussion. Not that I object to theological arguments, but I usually try (usually) to confine them to discussions where I’m reasonably sure that all the participants share the same basic belief system.

                What leads to the conclusion that Christians view Mary as “but the vessel to deliver the baby Jesus to the world”? Or to the assertion that religious pro-lifers (there are plenty of non-religious ones, by the way) view mothers as “simply vessels…”?

                This is the same (pardon me) silliness that Karen asserts: That, if I believe that there are two lives (rather than one) present in a pregnancy, then I have devalued, demoted, subordinated, or otherwise diminished the life of the mother. This is hogwash.

                As for the birth/independent breathing as the demarcation point, I think Brad addressed that a little ways up the page.

                Reply
                1. Mark Stewart

                  It was sort of the elephant in the room.

                  It’s hard – no impossible – to argue that there is not a high correlation between religious outlook and pro life stance.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yes, as I say immediately below, issues of life and death, right and wrong do tend toward the realm of religion.

                  But it’s terribly easy to oversimplify the connection, and I find my prochoice friends tend to do that, often in an attempt to dismiss concern for life as MERELY religious — religion being on a lower plane than secular considerations, you understand.

                  People ignore what I actually SAY on the topic, and dismiss me by saying, “Well, he’s Catholic.” And you know how those people’s priests tell them what to think and all.

                  Trouble is, I was pro-life long before I was Catholic.

                  You can SAY that I’m prolife because I’m Catholic, or that I’m Catholic because I’m prolife, but both would be serious oversimplifications.

                  It would be nearly as accurate to say that I have this attitude because of some sort of vague new-agey, early-’70s, crunchy embrace of all things natural, from long hair to faded jeans, to a fuzzy belief in life and love and the relationship between them, that I see cosmic significance in the lyric I quoted below:

                  When the baby looks around him
                  It’s such a sight to see
                  He shares a simple secret
                  With the wise man…

                  But that, too, while containing some truth, would be an oversimplification.

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                I’m kind of with you there, Jeff. Yes, issues of life and death, right and wrong do tend toward the realm of religion, but it doesn’t occur to me to address the matter in religious terms.

                You mostly get that from folks who disagree with me on the subject, dismissing the prolife position as merely religious, a mere matter of personal opinion or prejudice, and therefore somehow illegitimate in the public sphere.

                But let’s DO get theological for a moment. Mark says “But none of us is Jesus.”

                I thought we were supposed to regard everyone we meet as being Jesus. Don’t Protestants as well as Catholics say that? I seem to remember hearing it a lot well before I was Catholic.

                As the prophet Leon Russell sayeth,

                Never treat a brother like a passing stranger
                Always try to keep the love light burning
                Listen only to this song and watch their eyes
                For you might be the prince of peace returning
                Yes, it might be the prince of peace returning

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  For, you know, he hath been a stranger in a strange land:

                  When the baby looks around him
                  It’s such a sight to see
                  He shares a simple secret
                  With the wise man…

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    I was certainly relieved when you two guys weighed in on this from your opposing perspectives.

    I was beginning to wonder. I had thought this was the most interesting post of the day. I’ve not seen this reported before, which is interesting, as I think most people think of the parties as unshakable on this. So, you know, this should kinda be news.

    I only started thinking about it myself when there was a similar vote last year, with a similar result. I had been in the habit of thinking the list of pro-life Democrats consisted of Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, and maybe our own Vincent Sheheen, and that was about it.

    But it’s not quite as rare as I thought. There’s a national organization and everything. After I knew that, I started actually looking at how people voted in SC, and I saw the above pattern…

    Reply
  4. Lynn Teague

    This issue suffers from the difficult juxtaposition of two very different things. Attempting to establish a necessary connection between the biology of mammalian reproduction and people’s thoughts (often but not always religious/spiritual thoughts) on human life are always going to be awkward and imperfect.

    Personally, I don’t see any one recombined DNA protein sequence, existing or potential, as a defining characteristic of “personhood.” As someone fond of SC history and family history, I know that South Carolina is full of the same DNA sequences that I possess, in segments of varying lengths. In Orangeburg and Lancaster counties the frequencies with which people share my DNA are probably beyond absurd, given my descent from the extremely prolific Shuler and Cauthen families (and their associated intermarried families) of those areas. This isn’t defining “personhood” for me. If DNA sequences are sacred, then we are ultimately reduced to the “Every Sperm is Sacred” approach of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. I grant those who actually hold that position credit for consistency, although I strongly disagree with them.

    The 20 week abortion ban isn’t about the moment of conception, though. The “fetal anomaly” standard is not something that makes sense to doctors, as the SC head of the OB/GYN branch of the AMA has pointed out. It is about forcing women and their doctors to make medical decisions before all of the data are available, in hopes of forcing those women to carry fetuses to term regardless of their condition or potential for what many of us consider meaningful human life – viable life, out of the uterus, self-aware human life with a functioning forebrain and without being tortured by deadly seizures and painful conditions that will in many cases end life before it has been out of the uterus for more than a few moments or days.

    The demand that victims of rape and incest carry fetuses to term is to me simply brutal and cruel. I understand, Brad, the you don’t seek to punish women by preventing abortion. However, you are willing to accept inflicting serious cruelty on women in the interests of your notion of human life. The fact that you see a nonviable fetus as a person on its way to being someone’s warm and fuzzy grandchild doesn’t make it one bit less cruel to the woman carrying that fetus. That is not how most women would view a fetus produced through rape or incest (nor or is the fetus all that likely to end up as someone’s adored grandchild). And it is they who would experience it, not you. I don’t see you, or our legislators, as having any standing in this decision.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Teague

      Duh, “attempting . . . is” not “attempting . . . are.” And “Brad, that . . .” rather than “Brad, the . . . ” Some day I”ll manage to do my editing before I post on this unforgiving medium.

      Reply
    2. Brad Warthen

      And maybe someday I’ll figure out how to grant y’all the power to edit your own comments…

      And just as Mark is willing to compromise by banning abortion past the halfway point, if you’re offering to ban abortions other than those involving rape or incest, I’ll go along with you. Because that would essentially ban abortion, since such a tiny percentage of pregnancies involve those conditions.

      It’s a monotonous ritual. Someone says “abortion,” and the pro-choice side immediately says “rape and incest,” because it’s about the only place where they have an emotional advantage.

      It would be convenient if I could just say, “OK, abortion’s fine in cases of rape or incest,” but I can’t do that and be intellectually honest. The moral value of the child is not altered by the circumstances of conception. The baby didn’t rape anybody, and even if that were possible, I’m opposed to capital punishment.

      But I know that allowing exceptions for rape and incest and banning all other abortions (except for what I consider to be the one defensible condition, a threat to the mother’s life) would essentially end abortion, since the number of exemptions would be quite close to nil.

      So it would be a sound compromise. A cold-blooded one, but statistically defensible.

      Of course, pro-choice people would never go for it, because their rhetoric on that point isn’t about defending abortion in cases of rape and incest, it’s about defending abortion.

      I say that without rancor, since it’s a position held by a lot of very good friends, people I respect and care about. The fact that they can rationalize their position puzzles and frustrates me, but there it is. A fact of life…

      Reply
  5. Mprince

    “…if you’re offering to ban abortions other than those involving rape or incest, I’ll go along with you.”

    “…it would be a sound compromise. A cold-blooded one, but statistically defensible.”

    Perhaps, but not morally defensible – not in light of your absolutist moral position. If you are willing to make even that relatively small compromise, then your rationale collapses. And this is the fundamental problem – the Achilles heel – of the anti-abortion stance: if you are basing your argument on the view that “the moral value of the child is not altered by the circumstances of conception,” then it has to be all or nothing. Because once you take one step over the line and allow abortions in some cases, even if extremely few in number, then you have no moral footing to deny them in all other circumstances. Once you put even one toe across that line, you’re confronted with the moral ambiguities we have to confront every day – in every aspect of life, not only with respect to abortion. You enter the realm of moral ambiguity, in which all moral choice occurs. I embrace that ambiguity, because I agree with Reinhold Niebuhr that life is fraught with moral complexities that no absolute can fully address. In an imperfect world, every kind of moral choice is proximate, even those that make a claim to absolute truth.

    Reply
    1. Barry

      Not true at all

      “If you are willing to make even that relatively small compromise, then your rationale collapses”

      That’s pure baloney and just a weak talking point of pro abortion folks.

      Now personally, I wouldn’t want my wife or daughter to have an abortion at all. Heck, a family friend has a son as the result of a rape. She didn’t believe in abortion, and now has a wonderful son.

      Reply
      1. Mprince

        That was her choice — and that’s all it was. Not an expression of some grand God-given law.
        We should leave options open for others to choose differently.

        Reply
    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      M, you are absolutely right that it is absolutely wrong to approve of abortion in cases of rape or incest, for the reason I previously stated — that the moral status of the unborn is unaffected by the circumstances of conception.

      But if someone’s proposing compromises, that would be the one that would prevent the most abortions.

      If you think what you describe is a “gotcha” on the pro-life side, such a compromise as that is a “gotcha” on the pro-choice side. Pro-choice folks like to act as though all abortions involved rape or incest, because that’s where they have an emotional advantage. But if you ban all abortions except those involving those horrific circumstances, you’ve come very close to banning all abortions.

      My proposing that compromise — which would NEVER be accepted by the other side — is a way of pointing to that side’s “Achilles heel.”

      Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, you certainly know where to insert the knife, M, since I am no fan of absolutism.

          But there’s something in your argument that seems familiar.

          Telling me I MUST be opposed to abortion in the case of rape or incest if I’m to be opposed at all, and then kicking me for “absolutism” when I agree with you, reminds me of a game that some atheists play.

          I think it was in a book by Daniel Dennett that I was first struck by it, but it’s been awhile so I’m not sure.

          But basically, it went sort of like this: He insisted that we believers MUST believe in God a certain way — hold a certain picture in our minds, explain the deity in certain simplistic terms. You know, to make it easier to knock our belief.

          He insisted on a certain orthodoxy in our definition of the Almighty, insisting that we couldn’t think of Him in less conventional terms that would be harder to refute. It wasn’t exactly that we must think of him as an old man with a beard peeking through the clouds at us — the God that Monty Python love to mock — but it was almost as cartoonishly conventional.

          At least, that’s the way I remember it. I need to go back and find that book and see if I can find that part…

          Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            The difference between the two is this: That argument against God is flawed. But yes, if abortion is wrong in most circumstances, it is also wrong in cases of rape and incest. Only when a mother’s life is endangered — when it’s a life weighed against a life — can such action be defended.

            Reply

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