What’s really wrong with Todd Akin

All the moralizing on this previous post about the work Wesley Donehue is doing for this month’s pariah, Todd Akin, goads me to share what I actually think of Mr. “Legitimate Rape.” Even though I know it’s going to make pretty much everybody mad at me.

Well, here goes…

To begin with, Akin is one of those people who makes you furious because he’s on your side of an issue (if you’re me), and he’s giving people on the other side of the issue more than enough excuse to dismiss you and all who think like you (or, once again, to be more accurate, me) as idiots or evil or both.

The issue here being abortion, not rape. The thing (I think) I agree with him on, that is.

As for being an idiot or evil, well, I reject both with regard to myself, although of course I’m not perfect. With regard to Akin… I don’t think he’s evil, although he possesses a certain very common character flaw (which will be my point, when I get to it) in an extreme form. And as to the idiot part… well, my wife often calls me down for calling people idiots, which is one of my character flaws — and after all, we are specifically enjoined from doing so, and very sternly warned about it, in the Bible.

But… confession time here… when I heard about what Akin said, and then saw a picture of him, one of my first thoughts was, Yes, he looks stupid enough to have done that. Which I know is wrong, to leap to such a conclusion just from looking at someone. I am in fact quite embarrassed to confess it. But there it is.

Basically, Akin tried to make a point that would have been extremely objectionable to most people even if he had put it in the most diplomatic way possible. And then, he managed to put it as offensively as possible. This suggests a sort of genius for offending, but again, I look at him and I think he only stumbled on this perfect combination by accident.

Neither I, nor I suspect his most vehement political opponents (although I could be wrong here) thinks that Akin meant to say that any sort of rape is “legitimate,” in the sense of being licit, or a good thing. So we can set that aside. (And yes, I know I’m setting aside a whole, complex discussion about how some people reject that all cases of rape are “real” rape, but I’m trying to address a separate point, and believe me, this post is going to be long enough.)

And of course, I think he was just trying to defend a political position that I share — the notion that if one truly believes that abortion takes a human life, one cannot defend exemptions for rape or even incest.

And yet, I, too, am deeply offended by what he said. I see it as both foolish and wrong. But then, I think his sin is a very common one.

Finally I get to my point: Like many, many people across the political spectrum, Akin sought to rationalize away any human cost of his own political position. What he did reflects both sloppy thinking and a sort of moral cowardice. And it’s a function of the absolutism that infests our politics today.

Akin and I agree that you can’t have exemptions for rape when you’re talking about a human life. That innocent unborn human didn’t commit the rape, and condemning him or her to death for it is unjust in the extreme. I’m deeply opposed to the death penalty even for murderers, but I can certainly see more justice in that than I can in this.

But here’s where Akin and I diverge: He wants to explain away the consequence of this position. He wants to say, well, if it’s really rape, then the woman won’t get pregnant. Which is amazingly foolish and ignorant, but which seems to arise from a very human desire to believe that no innocent human being will suffer because of the position I’m taking.

I know better. I’m not going to shy away for a moment (I hope) from the fact that the human cost to a woman caught in this kind of situation is horrific, beyond even imagining. I can’t even begin to think of what to say or do that would ease the suffering of a woman in such a situation (aside from such weak expedients as providing material support). I don’t want her to be in that situation, any more than the pro-choice person does. It awakens in me powerfully strong protective impulses, and vindictive ones, including a determination that the person responsible for it must be punished to the fullest extent of the law (while, at the same time, knowing that no amount of punishment could possibly erase this woman’s pain). I am fully aware of the terrible odds her child will face — not only not being wanted by his or her mother, but being the material embodiment of the most horrible moment in her life.

But none of that justifies killing the child, either before or after he or she is born. Not in any truly moral balance that I am capable of conceiving. As much as I understand the pro-choice advocate’s desire for a magic solution that makes at least this one facet of the crime go away for the woman, I can’t see any way that that expedient is justified in a society that is just. It in fact adds another moral horror to that which already so unjustly exists.

It’s not comfortable to face and acknowledge the additional pain to which having to bear this child would condemn a rape victim, but I see no moral alternative to doing so. Akin? He wants to cop out on it.

But that’s a common impulse. Too seldom do any of us face up to the very real consequences of the positions we take. We like to believe that our attitudes are all to the good, that nothing bad would happen if only the things we believe were acted upon. And in the take-no-prisoners absolutism of today’s politics — in which each side wants to see itself as all good, and the other side as all bad — people regularly paint themselves into corners trying to make their positions look as good as possible. And to make themselves feel good about those positions. There are a lot of Todd Akins out there.

For instance… and here’s where I make everybody mad… there are those on the opposite side of the abortion issue who rationalize away the human life that is destroyed by abortion. They say it isn’t a human being at all, even that it’s nothing more than a random collection of cells, and ridding oneself of them has no more moral weight than sloughing off dead skin.

(Not all do this, of course. Right off the bat, I can think of pro-choice friends who have persuaded me that they are fully cognizant that abortion takes an innocent human life and that it is deeply wrong — but that the imperative of choice overrides it. This chills my blood — just as my antiwar friends are chilled by my advocacy of some military actions in spite of my pro-life beliefs — but I can’t criticize them for failing to face reality.)

They say this — that the fetus is not a human being — because they would find the moral burden of believing their position results in the destruction of innocent human life even more unbearable than Akin would find it to contemplate the suffering of a rape victim. (Now, before all my pro-choice friends shout that they say it because they believe it, let me quickly interject that I know you believe it. I just, personally, find it very hard to believe that you would believe such an unlikely thing without a powerful human need to rationalize, which is related to the fact that you are a good and caring person.)

Now to an empiricist, of course, there’s a difference between Akin’s rationalization and the it’s-not-a-human-being rationalization — one that I readily acknowledge. After all, you can physically, scientifically prove that Akin is wrong in his fantasy about true rape not leading to pregnancy. Whereas science can’t prove or disprove that a fetus is human — no matter how strongly I believe it unlikely that smart people would assert that it isn’t, in the absence of this powerful cause for rationalization. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that similar mechanisms are at play.

This dynamic translates to other issues, of course. There are those who advocate war, and blind themselves to the worst aspects of the human cost — such as the deaths of noncombatants, at the most extreme end of that spectrum. On the other side are those who are so opposed to war and its horrific human costs that they try to rationalize away the cause for war — minimizing the evils of the Saddam Hussein regime (how many times have I read that we invaded an inoffensive country that wasn’t doing anything to anybody, as though it were Switzerland?), or the costs of a precipitate withdrawal from Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to rise again.

There are costs both to acting militarily and not acting militarily, and it’s wrong to blind yourself and try to wave them away. For my part, seen as I am here as the bloodthirsty warmonger, I try never to turn my mind from the horrors of war, and I recoil from efforts to make war seem costless just as much as I reject attempts to paint it as never worth engaging in. And for me, the horrible thing about war is not just that innocent civilians, or one’s own soldiers, get killed and maimed. Every armed enemy’s death also diminishes us. (I’m reading right now a phenomenal book about the cost of killing in war, Dave Grossman’s On Killing. It powerfully reinforces something I have long believed — that the greatest price we ask of a soldier is not that he die for his country; the most awful thing we ask of him, the thing that costs him the most, is expecting him to kill for his country.)

Well, I could go on and on. Actually, I have. There are other places I could go with this, carrying this phenomenon out of the realm of life-and-death issues. I could get into how, for instance, in this absolutist political atmosphere, neither those who want more government spending nor those who advocate shrinking government small enough to drown in a bathtub like to face that there are tradeoffs to their positions… but I think this is enough for how…

68 thoughts on “What’s really wrong with Todd Akin

  1. Steven Davis II

    Chapters… Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3… it’s not that difficult to insert.

    Why all the obsession with Akin? He said something dumb, just like Joe Biden did last week and I don’t remember a half-dozen articles about it.

  2. Lynn

    Here’s an inconvenient fact, based on evidence from Mass, when women have access to good comprehensive health services that includes contraception the rate of abortion goes down. Most folks who oppose right to life don’t support abortion but do remember when it was illegal and women died or were left unable to have future children.

    Brad, when you’re through with your hissy fit, please explain to me why people who are against abortion and so pro capital punishment?

  3. Burl Burlingame

    Akin just let the cat out of the bag, that’s all. There’s not an eyelash of difference between his positions and the Republican platform.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    Bogus science aside, he strongly implied that if a woman gets pregnant, she wasn’t really raped. That is inexcusable!

  5. Mark Stewart

    Please look in the mirror and say:

    “I, too, am an absolutist.”

    God seems to have asked us to engage in ethical debate and since we have such a capacity for it. Thay

  6. Mark Stewart

    … that alone suggests to me that nuance and attenuation are the way to sort through complicated, fracturing issues.

    That’s not saying we should just split the difference. But a nuanced viewpoint is a solid base for discovery.

  7. Brad Warthen

    Burl, how do you describe this cat which has been let out of the bag?

    Lynn, I’m not aware of having any sort of fit, “hissy” or otherwise. I felt quite calm writing this. You seem upset, though, and I regret that.

    As for your question, I can’t explain it, because I don’t think that way. By MY lights, they are inconsistent, although I suppose THEY would argue that a person guilty of a capital crime deserves death. You really should ask someone who thinks that way, though,

  8. Tom Stickler

    You went to great lengths to find some difference between Akin’s position and yours.

    My wife was going on at a similar length with all sorts of legal and sociological arguments against Akin’s (and your, and the GOP’s) position on abortion.

    I reminded her that all of her finely thought-out arguments would likely have no effect on getting Akin (or you, or the GOP) to see things her way.

    I said that the only way to deal with this situation would be to tell Akin ( and you, and the GOP) to STFU!

  9. Brad Warthen

    And Kathryn, yes, as I noted parenthetically, that’s a whole OTHER level of offensiveness, beyond what I dealt with here.

    As I also suggested, if someone set out to be offensive, it would indicate a sort of genius to offend in so many ways. But I don’t see a genius when I look at Todd Akin.

    What I see, and hear, is someone who wouldn’t be in Congress if not for the dumbing-down of our politics brought about by the Tea Party.

  10. Brad Warthen

    Yeah, “Tom,” that’s helpful. That really raises the level of debate, and furthers understanding and real solutions. Congratulations.

  11. Brad Warthen

    Y’all see why I don’t like Culture War issues, folks? No matter how we might try — and I DO try, and try hard, when they rise to the fore — we don’t get anywhere.

  12. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – “he strongly implied”

    So you’ll agree that he never said that. Correct? As someone who states she she worked as a lawyer, you sure make a lot of comments that are not fact, and more just your opinion. How does “strongly implied” hold up in a court?

  13. Steven Davis II

    “But I don’t see a genius when I look at Todd Akin.”

    If the two of you ever met, he’d probably say the same thing about you.

  14. Steven Davis II

    “What I see, and hear, is someone who wouldn’t be in Congress if not for the dumbing-down of our politics brought about by the Tea Party.”

    So in your opinion it’s just Republicans that are dumbing-down Congress. That if Democrats held all of the seats things would be perfect. Interesting. Explain Jim Clyburn.

  15. Tavis Micklash

    Brad Warthen says:

    “Y’all see why I don’t like Culture War issues, folks? No matter how we might try — and I DO try, and try hard, when they rise to the fore — we don’t get anywhere.”

    It is a no win situation. Its much easier to post about policy issues than moral ones. Typically its easier to back an opinion for a fiscal issue than defend your position on a moral one. There IS no right answer. Just each person’s opinion.

    Usually your posts have grey backgrounds too Brad. This one didn’t. Wierd

  16. Burl Burlingame

    Kathryn and Steven:

    “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” is what Akin said.

    We know from his past legislative efforts that this is the same as his and Ryan’s definition of “forcible rape,” in their draft versions of “personhood” bills that would ban abortion AND contraception.

    So, he didn’t imply it. He said it.

    Brad, that’s the cat. This notion that women who get pregnant after being raped weren’t really raped is a core belief among conservatives. But they’d rather not call attention to that before they pass laws on it.

  17. Tom Stickler


    I have no idea how old you are, but I have been in the trenches of the abortion wars since 1970 on the pro-choice side.

    I spent 34 years on the Board of my local Planned Parenthood (which never performed a single abortion) making sure that women had access to contraception.

    I have debated the President of National Right to Life Committee on TV, and have come to the conclusion that some people will never change their position.When the daughter of the local anti-choice activist shows up at the local clinic for her abortion, the fine folks there did not rat her out.

    So, I stand by my response to certain people. OTOH, if you want to sit down and really talk about it sometime, let me know.

  18. Burl Burlingame

    Uh-oh. “Legitimate Rape” has already been defined in the Urban Dictionary:

    “Rape between one man and one woman who are not married or even acquainted; the only rape sanctioned by the Republican Party.”

  19. Brad

    So, are you saying your name IS Tom Stickler? If so, I apologize for the quotation marks. We get a lot of pseudonyms here, unfortunately.

    And Steven, you COMPLETELY misunderstood what I just said. Read it again. I said TEA Party, not Republican Party.

  20. Brad

    That Urban Dictionary doesn’t fool around; it stays on top of the language.

    I suppose we should be encouraged that someone can find humor in anything that comes up…

  21. Ben Wislinski

    I’ll say this and this alone, based on your point, Brad: if we’re getting philosophical, the underlying assumption is a human life is more valuable than all else – whether you agree or disagree with abortion. One could, for example, say you’re just as much a murderer to kill an ant. Species on our planet, after all, are only so important hierarchically as we so classify them in our own history of our existence. People like you and me, I dare say, have certainly stomped on a roach, swatted a fly, or accidentally run over a squirrel.

    I hear bells ringing as this seems to be an underlying tone with you, with your sapien-centric, Christian-based underlying tones on ethos and ethics. Remove the sacredness of human life as an empirically “better” life form than all else on Earth and, all of a sudden, a human death is no worse or better than the next species’ death.

    I’m not saying this is what I absolutely believe – nor that it is true or isn’t. What I am pointing out is the hypocrisy of “non-absolutists” that are, in fact, that much. Unless you’ve never killed an animal, in my mind at least, you’re no better to take this stand. In fact, as our world continues to become overcrowded one might have an anti-establishment discussion about the benefits of being pro-choice.

    Again, not saying that’s where I stand – just noting the logic in such a claim. And its counter.

    In sum, it’s clear I’m pro-choice. What’s unclear is how your stand outlines your value of life – writ large. That is, of course, unless you feel us more holy than all else. And then, of course, your logic has re-rooted itself in, yet again, a Judeo-Christian view of the world.

    Personally, I think we’re beyond that. And I think it’s not about the value of a human life. We’ve surpassed such a discussion with all other action throughout the history of human existence. //BW

  22. Bryan Caskey

    Wow. I actually agree with Brad’s original post in all points. It’s simple, and I’ll try to sum it up:

    Akin has a position that all abortion is wrong because he believes that life begins at conception. When faced with a question about rape being an exception to this (which logically it cannot be) he tries to rationalize rape away as not being able to achieve conception because he is too afraid to come out and say “no exceptions”.

    It’s moral cowardice.

    I guess it’s time for my annual: I agree with everything Brad just said in the original post.

  23. tavis micklash

    Ben, Don’t pull punches. Say what you really mean.

    “I hear bells ringing as this seems to be an underlying tone with you, with your sapien-centric, Christian-based underlying tones on ethos and ethics. Remove the sacredness of human life as an empirically “better” life form than all else on Earth and, all of a sudden, a human death is no worse or better than the next species’ death.”

    I want to dissect that and bottle it for if I ever get a degree. I just cant get my mind around it.

  24. Greg

    It looks you all had a bunch of fun yesterday and last night. Sorry, I was tied up with high school football.
    Wow, the level of vitriol here is astounding. Much like the Wesley Donehue issue (which is of course connected), it’s POLITICS, people. Get real! (You need to be real, because there is very little real in politics. It’s all smoke and mirrors, unfortunately, and don’t you dare look behind the curtain.)
    There are some realities here for me, and for all of you. The fact Akin may not be able to string together an acceptable sequence of words, and in fact may be an idiot as Brad suggests, these realities are absolute, and this is my version of them:
    1. I don’t like abortion.
    2. I want a big Republican majority in the Senate.
    3. I don’t want Obama re-elected.
    4. I don’t get to vote in the Missouri Senate race, and I assume, neither do any of you.
    #4 is the one that virtually everyone who has written or spoken about Todd Akin seems to forget.
    So there.

  25. J

    Brad, I presume the basis of your stance is that “life” begins at the very instance of conception. Do you allow for Plan B after a rape or other situation where the possibility of a child being created would be dangerous for life of the mother?

    We all have beliefs that shape our lives and I espouse the priesthood of all believers or not having to go through another human in a theological hierarchy to have guidance or a relationship with the spirit of love. I presume your catechism is that “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”

    I don’t know if you check your Rheims-Duyay or the NEB version, you may see that a reading there showings that life begins at the first breath. While that is a theological or philosophical view, there are other facts in biology that “offer a number of stages in the life cycle that have been seen as candidates for personhood:
    fertilization, the fusing of the gametes to form a zygote implantation, the start of pregnancy, occurring about a week after fertilization
    segmentation, after twinning is no longer possible.
    when the heart begins to beat
    neuromaturation, when the central nervous system of fetus is neurobiologically “mature”
    “brain birth” concepts (compare with brain death):
    at the first appearance of brain waves in lower brain (brain stem) – 6-8 weeks of gestation (paralleling ′′whole brain death′′)
    at the first appearance of brain waves in higher brain (cerebral cortex) – 22-24 weeks of gestation (paralleling ′′higher brain death′′)
    the time of fetal movement, or “quickening”
    when the fetus is first capable of feeling pain
    when it can be established that the fetus is capable of cognition, or neonatal perception
    fetal viability

    If the zygote implantation which is the start of pregnancy (occurring about a week after fertilization) doesn’t occur then the process stops and no child is produced. Is this is a possibility to use the Plan B pill to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy (during the first week or so) which might be acceptable to you or your church’s concept of when life actually begins?

    Does the RC hierarchy accept that here are many fertilized eggs that never implant and are “simply washed away” after conception? Is this just God’s will or can a women have some degree of control over this?

    Does the actual use of birth control devices and pills actually violate divine dictates or is withdrawal or abstinence during certain days the only theologically acceptable processes?

    My seven decades of life experiences say to me that there are certain situations that no religious hierarchy nor clergyman has the divine wisdom nor right to decide for an individual what action is proper and godly for them. I guess we’re advised “to not lean on our own understanding,” but we’re still spiritually responsible for our actions!

    I’ve seen organization stability and church growth desires overcome and mitigate many real spiritual concepts put forth by the Christ. These are just our western ideas of religion though.

    Thanks for bringing an opportunity for fuller exploration of this situation and the limited opportunity to communicate with each other.

  26. Herb Brasher


    Thanks for this. I represent perhaps others who can appreciate the thought and effort that have to go into crafting every word on a post like this.

    Basically I agree with you throughout this, though I don’t like the analogy to the Iraq war, which I didn’t and still do not support. Still, your point about ‘asking him to kill’ is very perceptive. My brother-in-law has written about his experience as a foot-soldier in the Vietnam war. The experience–including killing human beings when he was only 19 years of age, marked him for life. Fortunately he found a way to some degree of healing by becoming a psychologist and counselor to other Vietnam veterans. Others cannot overcome this so easily.

    And to all those who say that pro-lifers cannot change their position: while it is true that those of us who are convinced of the reality of God and our accountability to Him–with the resulting high value for human life–annot simply throw away our convictions, the dialogue even on this blog has often caused me to rethink my positions. I have been affected some by my pro-choice friends, at least to see that the issue is to some extent not abortion itself, but the role of government in policing this and other cultural issues. (Interesting that the right-wing wants government involved in culture wars and out of everything else, and the left wants government in everything else and out of culture wars. I find myself stuck in the middle nearly all of the time.)

    I am told (have not verified) that evangelical former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop once said that if the pro-life movement had been able to compromise in the early 70s, there would not have been a Roe v. Wade decision, and there could have been some restrictions on abortion, at least in the third trimester. The U.S. is barbaric in this respect.

    @ Lynn: I used to be persuaded of capital punishment, and the reason is that I am an evangelical, and I do believe that the Bible is God’s Word. There are passages there (for example, Genesis 9 and Romans 13) that seem to give government the right of capital punishment, whether for soldiers in defense of a country, or for the punishment of evil-doers. The OT commanded capital punishment for murderers, both to emphasize the value of the life taken, and to literally give the life of the murderer back to God, from whom all life ultimately originates.

    But my views of Scripture have been tempered over the years by an engagement with other cultures that has forced me to read the Bible in the cultural context that it was written. It is, for me, still counter-cultural and authoritative, but it is not anti-cultural, and it can be easily misunderstood by those who think that American 21st century culture is the highest standard in the world, and the lens by which everything and everyone else should be interpreted. (Which is why I disagree most strongly with Ben’s statement, ‘Personally, I think we’re beyond that.’ Beyond what? What lies beyond?–nihilism, I expect.)

    It was fellow evangelical Bob McAlister’s talk against capital punishment at a church I used to attend that convinced me that I could no longer support capital punishment, especially the way it is applied in our judicial system.

    I cannot give up my values, as indeed Brad cannot his. If Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, then ultimately what He thinks is all that matters. It is not easy, however, to apply that to daily life, as Brad has well and ably pointed out.

  27. anne m

    I completely agree with Kathryn. The implication of the word “legitimate” is that rape is often just the victim “asking for it”. That kind of thinking really takes us back to the Dark Ages and someone who thinks that way has no business legislating anything, no matter how they stand on abortion.

  28. Juan Caruso

    Contrast an “alleged rape” with a “legitimate rape”. Al Sharpton has been on record refusing to see the difference. Although Sharpton is hardly the brightest bulb American culture, militant women and effete men see it his way.

    I prefer a more factual appraisal:

    “Every state has its own statutes. In about half, the term rape has been replaced with the wider term sexual assault”, says Prof Paul Robinson at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “Where rape is still used, it is reserved for forcible sexual intercourse, he says.” Hmmmm!

  29. Phillip

    Brad, I appreciate your extensive explanation of your position on this, the moral complexities involved. There’s one key element missing from your essay, though…which is that the moral quandary of this issue (which you acknowledge exists in your own position as well as more pro-choice-leaning individuals or those who favor the rape/incest exemption) is so profound that it cannot be solved as a matter of laws and enforcement. I’ve lately been impressed by the writings of David Frum on this, pointing the way for the GOP and conservatives (even social conservatives) to back themselves out of the Akinist position. Though the analogy is certainly imperfect, Frum thinks that the example of Prohibition is instructive as to our way forward on the abortion issue. In other words, our goal should be to reduce abortion by reducing the circumstances that lead to it, but it is counterproductive (from an anti-abortionist standpoint) to pursue that goal through means of law, of criminalizing abortion.

    The moral quandaries which you outlined so well above are so deep that they can only ultimately be answered by the individual. Many people are anti-abortion on a personal, individual basis but do not believe that this answer can be forced upon women as the answer (especially in the case of rape, e.g.) by law. I see no other way forward on this issue in the future of this country: those who believe deeply in the position you take must argue eloquently and passionately for their belief that their way is the best, if imperfect, moral answer to the quandary, and hope that most (even those who have suffered from a rape) choose that path. But to make that decision, make that the answer for every woman by means of the law, at penalty of prosecution? That’s enshrining a moral certitude, an absolutism, in the hands of the state over the individual that the state cannot credibly claim for itself.

  30. Lynn

    Herb Brasher, yes Bob McAllister is a most wise and thoughtful person. A true Christian who can em pathetically deal with tough moral questions that are various shades of gray.

  31. Mark Stewart

    Thinking through the idea of life from conception no matter what the consequences was a depressing journey this morning.

    Yesterday I said in another post that the future is where our focus should lie. I didn’t mean that in the way Brad presented in this post. I meant that what we do today, we should do with the future in mind.

    It is Medieval to ask generations to suffer for Religious Imperialism.

    Mothers used to die so that their baby could be brought into this world. Before sixty or seventy years ago it was not possible to save a mother and terminate a pregnancy – not in any medically safe way. So this whole issue is new to our generations. Given that mothers do not regularly die in childbirth, this must be considered progress.

    My world is multi-hued grey; it is not black and white. I cannot see that, humanistically, the “right” answer would be the most extreme position. Regardless of the issue…

  32. Brad

    Phillip, you indirectly frame the problem. You speak of the individual. Pro-choice people think there is only one individual involved, and that the state has no business intervening in that individual’s business.

    Those of us on the other side recognize another individual, and do not believe that, under any circumstances, one individual has the right to kill another, without any sort of due process.

    This isn’t about the government intervening in a person’s right to choose Pepsi or Coke. This is about whether a single individual has the absolute, solitary right to choose to kill another. An individual, by the way, who has a deep personal interest in the outcome and would never be allowed on the jury, if such things were determined by juries.

    I said before that I can’t speak for people who opposed abortion and support capital punishment because I’m not one of them, but I will say in their behalf that at least they have the defense that their sort of killing does not occur without due process.

  33. Brad

    I appreciate all (or at least most) of the comments, especially Herb’s.

    J raises a number of questions with regard to Roman Catholic teaching on the matter. I should probably point out that I held the position I hold on abortion years and years before I was Catholic. Pretty much everything I said in this post is something I worked out myself, in the grand old American, up-from-below manner. So any errors in reasoning are my own.

    I’m really not sure how well or closely all the things I said square with formal church teaching. I just know that the church is opposed to abortion, as am I.

    A lot of other things are fuzzier. For instance, is the church opposed to capital punishment? You can get a debate on that. Cardinal Bernardin’s Consistent Ethic of Life is not church doctrine, just something a lot of us like to cite. Actually, maybe it’s more that that, particularly in his old archdiocese, but I don’t really know how things like that work, in terms of what is officially part of the magisterium and what is not. As a convert, I didn’t get taught a lot of stuff like that coming up. They didn’t even teach me to cross myself. I learned that from Latin American ballplayers and gangster movies.

  34. Brad

    Wait, I was wrong there. The church’s opposition to the death penalty is pretty solid. I just looked it up.

    Maybe I was thinking of war. War is fuzzier…

    This error on my part (mea culpa) just takes me back to my original point to J — I know better what I think than I do what the church teaches. Some Catholic I am, huh?

  35. Steven Davis II

    Brad are Catholics instructed to be like pilots? You know the old joke of how do you know if there’s a pilot in the room? He’ll tell you. I could really care less what religion you belong to, yet you insist on bringing up the fact that you’re Catholic about every 4th post you make.

  36. Brad

    Regarding Greg’s 4 points above:
    “1. I don’t like abortion.
    2. I want a big Republican majority in the Senate.
    3. I don’t want Obama re-elected.
    4. I don’t get to vote in the Missouri Senate race, and I assume, neither do any of you.”

    I agree with you on 1 and 4, not 2 and 3. I don’t want a big majority of EITHER of these two parties. At the same time, I get sick of the gridlock. So I don’t think in terms of how Congress comes out, and it’s ridiculous for me to think in such terms anyway, in light of No. 4. I just concentrate on each actual member. Of course, that does me little good, either. This year, I only get to vote on Joe Wilson, and he has no opposition.

    On 3, I don’t feel all that strongly one way or the other, but I find most of the reasons offered by Republicans utterly and completely unpersuasive. For instance, they want to do away with Obamacare. My beef with Obamacare is that is doesn’t go far enough. But if that’s all we’ve got, let’s give it a chance to work. Every single excuse Republicans give for doing away with it pushes me away from them.

    Oh, and on 4 — as I’ve said many times, whom voters in other states choose to send to Congress is not our legitimate concern here in SC; that’s their business. But the Akin thing comes up because Wesley’s working for him.

    And that causes me to think, well, what does that make me think of my friend Wesley (a question that Doug posed immediately when I reported on Wesley’s new client)? Then I realize that I can’t answer THAT without sorting out what I think of Akin.

    Hence this post.

  37. Steve Gordy

    There have been a number of thought-provoking comments on this thread (particularly Herb’s), as well as the usual number from those who do nothing except hurl barbs at others. Regarding Herb’s position about the pro-life movement not compromising: it takes two to compromise. The Wade in Roe v. Wade was Henry Wade, DA of Dallas County, who a notorious non-compromiser. He’s also had probably more death penalty verdicts overturned than any other prosecutor in his career. Not to mention the fact that if Jack Ruby hadn’t removed Lee Harvey Oswald form the picture, Wade would have been in charge of prosecuting JFK’s accused assassin. That could really have done wonders for the global image of U.S. justice.

  38. Ralph Hightower

    Nine months of reliving hell! Akin mentioned rape, but what about incest? Both are crimes.

    Which brings forth another question?

    Who is responsible for the pregnancy health checks? The birth and hospitalization?
    The mother’s health insurance? Her husband’s insurance? Or the state?

  39. Greg

    While we’re talking Obamacare, I’m with you; I wish a really good plan had been put forward. The one that was passed, and especially after it’s “rape” by the Supremes, does more harm than good. But we’ll do all that in another post.

  40. Rose

    I appreciate the thoughtful comments and discussion. But for those people who believe that life begins at conception and are opposed to abortion even to save the life of the mother, how do they feel about ectoptic pregnancies? These pregnancies have to be terminated to save the mothers’ lives – and because they are not viable pregnancies since they occur outside of the uterus, most often in the fallopian tubes. Would a ban on all abortions also ban aborting these kinds of pregnancies?

  41. Kathryn Fenner

    Akin said, in formal logic terms,” if rape, then not pregnant.” This implies, as in “is the exact same truth value,” “if pregnant, then not rape.” It’s called the contrapositive, Steven. The use of the term “implies” was very specific and very accurate, and means, in this sense, “equals.”

  42. Brad

    Rose, we weren’t talking about a situation in which the mother’s life was in danger — the idea here is to protect life.

    We were just talking about the horrific situation of a woman becoming pregnant as a result of rape.

  43. Rose

    J and Mark Stewart’s comments included discussion of the life of the mother being at risk, and at what point life begins.

  44. bud

    All pregnancies involve some risk to the mother. Should it be up to the government to decide what level of risk to force the mother to bare?

    Many unwanted pregnancies involve horrible decisions of morality; the rape/incest arguments being paramount. Should it be up to the government to decide what is the morally correct decision?

    If you regard a fetus, regardless of how young, a human life then do you impose first degree murder sanctions on the mother if she acts to have an abortion? Do you really want to impose a life prison sentence to a 15 year old who aborts a 3 day old zygote by using a morning after pill? If not then you’re acknowledging that the fetus is really not the equavalent of a human life. Do you really want to impose a life sentence to a 15 year old who aborts a 3 day old fetus by using a morning after pill?

    Pro-choice really is the only tenable position to take in the abortion debate. That is because wherever you draw the line with exceptions you invariably you introduce unresolvable contradictions.

  45. Susanincola

    @Bud, even murder of fully-formed humans prescribes different punishments for different circumstances. I think you are presenting false choices here — allow it, or throw the mother in prison for life?

  46. Brad

    Indeed, Susan.

    Some of my pro-choice friends habitually set up this bogus choice — and they always assume the pregnant woman would be the target of prosecution, rather than the abortionist. I would ask why they do this, but the obvious emotional advantage this approach provides for their argument would seem to answer the question…

  47. Barry

    “I said before that I can’t speak for people who opposed abortion and support capital punishment”

    I am such a person.

    It’s quite easy for me. I oppose abortion because I view it as killing an innocent life.

    I support capital punishment because I view it as extinguishing a guilty person as determined in a court of law.

    and yes- I do not like the way capital punishment is currently handled. But that doesn’t mean I don’t support it in some cases.

  48. bud

    This is the problem with this whole abortion issue. I really don’t like to discuss it because for me personally abortion would not be an option. But the option Brad describes as “bogus” is just as crystal clear to me as anything about any political issue. It’s like talking to a wall. Therefore I will say no more. But this particular issue involves a winner and a loser. There can be no compromise.

  49. bud

    Ok, one more comment. Just thought of a great analogy. Remember those magic eye puzzles that were all the rage back in the 90s. Either you could focus your eyes in the specific way to see the image or you couldn’t. Both sides have the magic eye puzzle and the pro-life people just cannot make out the image.

  50. Karen McLeod

    And how does one find these abortionists? Start charging into the examining rooms at ob/gyns to see if they are in the midst of an abortion? The only way I know to find them is to put pressure on the woman who is seeking/has gotten one. When she gets desperate enough she’ll try a do-it-yourself with a coat hanger. Lovely. I understand that your concern is with the unborn children. I don’t like abortion either, but I was around when they weren’t legal, and that, all to often cost child and mother their lives.

  51. Barry

    “The only way I know to find them is to put pressure on the woman who is seeking/has gotten one.”

    Really? That’s the only way you know?

    There are few people on the pro life side that want to penalize a woman for seeking an abortion.

    There are a lot of us that would want to penalize the doctor when the situation is discovered.

    I know of no one that wants to storm hospitals.

    I am pro life- but there are exceptions and I see no chance that the “no exceptions” laws would ever be put into place.

  52. Karen McLeod

    @Barry, how else would you suggest. If abortion is illegal they aren’t going to advertise. You may find one or two, but most will stay well under the radar. Meanwhile the women are going to find someone, qualified or not, if they are truly desperate.

  53. Ben Wislinski

    Tavis – And bottled it was. Not that I expected a response. It is our own undoing that is judgment of life as if we’re its centerpiece. …This is, of course, the reasoning behind the debate to begin. Oh holy aren’t we? We make a life one whence it’s not yet one – but that’s our description. …We can ignore the rest. I find our – read: who I disagree with – sense of morality and ethics more ridden in hypocrisy than a SC political line in the paper. I would love to have a philosophical/ethical discussion with many SC’ers, no less.

    Welp, that’s why I’m coming back.

  54. Barry

    “But how you be prolife with exceptions? Either you believe a fetus is a child or you don’t.”

    I believe it is a child. But in a society, I believe there has to be exceptions in extraordinary circumstances.

    The larger problem, in my view, is that we have a society where a lot of children are killed in the womb because of basic irreponsibility.

  55. Barry

    @Barry, how else would you suggest. If abortion is illegal they aren’t going to advertise. You may find one or two, but most will stay well under the radar. Meanwhile the women are going to find someone, qualified or not, if they are truly desperate.”

    It wouldn’t include tracking down women and putting them in jail, or storming hospitals looking for potential doctors that had performed abortions.

    It would involve revoking licenses, fines, and other possible actions.

  56. Karen McLeod

    Barry, to do any of that, you have to discover who they are. And what leads you to believe that they would necessarily have licenses? Most of your illegal abortionists wouldn’t be doctors.

  57. `Kathryn Braun Fenner

    So how can you justify killing a child, regardless of the circumstances?

    (I don’t think a fetus is a child, for the record.)

  58. Barry


    You’d do it one step at a time – like we do a lot of things.

    We can’t stop burglary either- but we try- and we stop some- and some we don’t.

  59. Barry


    It’s not a matter of justifying it.

    In tragic circumstances, I believe you have to have exceptions.

    I wouldn’t have wide exceptions, they’d be extremely limited. For example, in exception cases there would be a strict time limit – not an open ended situation that we have now in most places.

    FWIW-one of my wife’s best friends was raped right after she graduated high school. She hid it from her parents at the time because she was scared to death, chose to have the baby because abortion wasn’t something she was remotely interested in, gave her baby up for adoption- and met her son when he was a teenager. They have a wonderful relationship now and from what I understand, he’s simply an outstanding man and citizen.

    So I understand the issue a little bit.


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