DeMarco: The Boys’ Club takes on abortion

The Op-Ed Page

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul sent me this with an apology, calling it “a somewhat dated column.” And it was when he send it, on June 11. So I now offer my own apology, since I’ve hardly touched the blog since then, and now it is a REALLY dated column. I’ve been really, really busy lately, a condition that I think is now lessening, slightly. Anyway, here you go. He actually sent me another right after this, which I will do my best to post today or tomorrow…

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Most Americans are rightly conflicted about abortion. Those who favor more restrictions prioritize the welfare of the fetus. Those who favor less restriction, including most physicians, prioritize the welfare of the mother. As King Solomon knew, when he was confronted by two women who both claimed to be mothers of a newborn, there is no splitting the baby.

There is also no avoiding a decision. The irony for South Carolinians is that we had it about right. Our previous law, a 20-week ban that passed in 2016 during Nikki Haley’s tenure, successfully balanced the competing values of mother and fetus. Our current Legislature, which is more than 85% male, felt the law was too generous to women. It passed a 6-week ban which Governor McMaster signed on May 25th.

The 27 to 19 vote to pass the bill in the senate was accomplished without a single female senator’s vote. This wasn’t especially challenging, given there are only five female voices in the chamber. It’s not hard to believe that some of the supporters of the bill are striving to put women back in, what they consider, their rightful place. I don’t know what was in these men’s hearts, but I have some questions. By opting for an elective abortion, a woman is often saying, “I don’t believe I can successfully raise a child right now.” If the ban was to protect these children, why wasn’t it accompanied by a strengthening of our social safety net to ensure they are not raised in poverty?

How many of our male senators know women who have chosen to have an abortion? Let’s imagine, gentleman, that the woman in question is your daughter, whom we will call Elizabeth. Let’s drop your income to the poverty line so you have little ability to help Elizabeth. Surely if with one hand you have the power to force Elizabeth to have your grandchild, with the other you could strengthen her safety net by expanding Medicaid, providing affordable child care and preschool programs, and funding public schools equitably.

I’m not arguing that it is wrong for the senators to oppose abortion. Belief that life begins at conception and that God has known us since before we were born is beautiful idea that is scripturally based. However, that religious belief cannot be imposed on women who don’t share it. A Christian woman who supports abortion could ask, for example, “If God knows us from before we enter the womb, why are there almost as many miscarriages as there are abortions in the US?” She also could reasonably object to the belief (held by 35% of Republican voters in a 2022 Winthrop poll) that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape, presumably because God created that child.

Her conception of God and childbirth might be shaped by a different view of God, one that recognizes the difference between a fetus and a child and one that would never force a woman to endure a rape and then a pregnancy. As a Christian abortion opponent, you have every right to advocate for what you believe to be a life that God ordained before the beginning of the world. You have a right, and according to your faith, perhaps a duty, to preach about it, to publish your message on social media, to build crisis pregnancy centers-to do whatever you legally can to convince women not to have abortions. But, in America, you don’t have the right to impose your religious belief on women who don’t see the world as you do.

In your opposition to abortion, I would suggest you let women do most of the talking. I’m sure there are men who come to this issue with a pure heart. However, I have been with men in locker rooms and many of them talk, well, like Donald Trump says they talk. I also know Christian couples who believe the man is the head of the family and his wife has a scripturally enforced subservience, an arrangement to which they both happily adhere. Both of these approaches to women, as prey to be hunted or as servants to be dominated, are undoubtedly present in our state senate.

In an interview with The New York Times, Republican Katrina Shealy, one of the bipartisan group of five female senators who voted against the 6-week ban, recalled that during her tenure one of her male senate colleagues, Tom Corbin, had made derogatory comments to her like “women should be home barefoot and pregnant” and that women are a “a lesser cut of meat.”

Men like Senator Corbin, who remains in the Senate and who on his website describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, (and) a family man” are threatened by the rise of women in every sector of society. They remember a time when almost every important political or business decision made in the state was made by a man. They may still worship in churches where women are barred from the pulpit. It’s not a big stretch for them to gather together in a male-only effort to control and diminish the lives of women.

Here’s what I would ask the good senators. If you, like your daughter Elizabeth, could get pregnant, would you have voted this way? If your birth control failed or your self-restraint failed or you were temporarily impervious to the reality of pregnancy because you were young, or intoxicated, or heedless, would you force yourself to live with the consequences of that decision for the rest of your life?

A version of this column appeared in the May 31 edition of The Florence Morning News.

31 thoughts on “DeMarco: The Boys’ Club takes on abortion

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Again, my apologies for taking so long to post.

    As to the content of Paul’s post, I will say only three things, and then I need to get back to work:

    1. First, of course I vehemently disagree with, let’s say, 95 percent of it. But I’ve already addressed pretty much all of these points in the past, and if I were to wait until I have time to repeat myself on all those points, you’d be waiting for the column for another year or so.
    2. Second, I will as usual praise the tone that Paul tries to apply to this most emotional of issues. I appreciate it, and this is why I run Paul’s stuff.
    3. Third, in that spirit, here, of course, is ONE thing Paul says with which I agree: “If the ban was to protect these children, why wasn’t it accompanied by a strengthening of our social safety net to ensure they are not raised in poverty?”

    And I will, very briefly answer that question: Because our politics are royally fouled up. You see, the bizarre problem is that nowadays the unborn only get defended by Republicans, who in the aggregate would rather jump off a cliff than provide social services to anyone who needs them.

    Meanwhile, the folks who normally stand up for the downtrodden and vote for generous services have only one mode of reaction to this issue: To defend the “right” to an abortion with great passion, forsaking all other considerations.

    So there is no significant constituency for doing what I regard as the only proper thing — to make sure every unborn child has the chance to be born, and is provided with what every child needs to have a decent life on this Earth.

    Anyway, I’d better get to work…

    1. Barry

      “So there is no significant constituency for doing what I regard as the only proper thing — to make sure every unborn child has the chance to be born”

      One thing that is occurring- The birth rate is dropping quickly and will continue to do so.

      I expect that the anti choice legislative wins will help cement that decline even more.

      I happened to be around some young people this past week that are family friends. 4 of them are in their early 20s (3 guys, 1 female). We were talking about school plans/careers but the parents of all of them said they don’t see their kids having children. It was just not something they want.

      I could possibly see that changing with time, but given 2 of the 3 guys had serious girlfriends, and the female in the group was living with a young man, they seemed pretty much set in their thoughts on the matter. They seemed turned off to the entire idea.

      This seems totally different to me from when I was that age and most everyone I knew had plans to get married and have children. That was a goal. It’s not now.,2007%E2%80%94a%2013%25%20reduction.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah. Some folks blame internet porn. That might be a factor, but I suspect it’s something in our food and water, chemically changing people…

  2. Ken

    Although precise numbers are hard if not impossible to come by, currently available statistics indicate that since the Dobbs ruling last year there has been a slight decrease (of somewhere between 4 and 6 percent) in the number of abortions performed in the US as a whole (though March 2023 saw a higher number than June 2022). In any event, by most accounts that slight decline has been borne almost entirely by those who lack the resources to access abortion care, for whom, correspondingly, a child presents the greatest additional burden and who may well have obtained an abortion had it not been banned where they live. As one news outlet put it, “abortion access is now largely a function of financial and geographic circumstances.” Is this the higher moral ground that anti-abortion zealots sought? Apparently so.

    It is as predicted: those with means still can get abortions while those without can’t. That is not a moral calculus, that is a strictly economic reckoning. But perhaps it makes no difference to the zealots — those who cannot see the difference between morality and moralizing. To them, if some women suffer, so be it. They are sinners and must suffer punishment for their sins. One wonders if this was actually the goal all along. This is, after all, the sort of “reasoning” that the “It’s baby killing!” mantra gets you.

    The anti-abortion movement ignores and attempts to by-pass real-world complexities. And experience demonstrates that shortcuts to the ideal lead instead to dysfunction and harm, as we are seeing across this country now.

    Moral reasoning takes an approach different from moralizing. Specifically, if one rejects a total ban, leaving an opening for abortions under some circumstances, on what moral basis does one then draw the line? If opposition to abortion is based on the belief that it’s taking human life, then how is taking that life at 6 or 12 or whatever number or weeks or taking it because it’s the product of incest or rape any more defensible, morally, than allowing for abortions at later times and under broader circumstances? Equally important: even restrictions that do not involve total bans inevitably result in harms to women, and, potentially, others as well. Moral reasoning takes those harms into account in reaching a pragmatic conclusion about when abortion should be allowed and not allowed. Unlike simple moralizing, it balances morality with practical real-world circumstances and consequences. Included among the consequences is the injury restrictive abortion laws do to the rule of law itself. These injuries result, on the one hand, from the ultimate unenforceability of anti-abortion measures (as shown by our previous experiment with outlawing the practice), or, conversely, from draconian steps taken in attempting to enforce it. Both of these can make a shambles and a mockery of the rule of law. These are some of the consequences of trying to take that shortcut to the perfect society. When moral reasoning is applied, less restrictive access to abortion is shown, on balance, to be the wiser of the choices we face.

  3. Barry

    I agree with Paul 95%.

    At one time, I was anti-choice, but I’ve totally changed that position over the years. My observations:

    We know a number of anti-choice elected reps across the country that have paid for, or encouraged their mistresses or girlfriends to get abortions. This is also true for people that aren’t elected- just regular folks. Rules for me, not for thee.

    This has also been something that other people have made note of: many people don’t want nameless/faceless women to have abortions under almost any circumstance. When many are asked about their own loved one, they do express a desire for their loved one to have options and for them to make the decision themselves with their medical provider/family and want the government and politicians to stay out of it.

    But as I have said over and over- this only really impacts poor women in most cases. Many of them will still have abortions- just very unsafe ones and “undocumented” ones.

    Women of means- like those in my extended family- still have many safe options for an abortion and it’s more of an inconvenience- sometimes a severe one- but it doesn’t prevent an abortion.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      There it is again: “anti-choice.” My pro-choice friend love that one.

      My response is, you betcha I’m anti-choice. “Choice” is a last-resort rhetorical device people turn to when they’re trying to sell an unappealing product, like when they’re pushing taking money from the public treasury and using it to pay people to abandon public education…

      1. Barry

        That’s why I use the term “anti-choice.”

        As you admit, it’s an accurate description.

        For example, are you willing to give up choosing your own health care decisions regarding your body and leave them up to the consensus of the posters on this board?

        I doubt you’d consider that.

        But anti-choice folks do want to make those decisions for people like my daughter.

        Thankfully, that’s not going to happen.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          If I understand you correctly, here we have one of those linguistic acrobatics to which I referred in this comment

          “Your own health care decisions regarding your body…”

          We hear that one a lot, don’t we?

          I’ll answer that a couple of ways: One, I’ve never have complete control of “my own health care decisions.” When I was a kid, my health care decisions were largely made by Navy doctors. It was free care, but I was in no position to dictate to the docs or corpsmen how to treat me.

          Since then, my decisions have been hemmed in by what first private insurance, and now Medicare, will pay for. That’s pretty restrictive, but it’s kept me alive so far.

          My second point about that phrase: I would certainly hope that, in the unlikely event that I find someone else’s body living within mine, and thoroughly dependent for life upon my body, I would recognize that something else is involved aside from “my body.”

          Now watch: One of my Identity Politics friends will now go, “Aha! Yes! That would indeed be an ‘unlikely event,’ and that’s why you should STFU!!!”

          And now you don’t have to, because I’ve said it for you. And I’ll go ahead and disappoint you by saying I consider such arguments to be unpersuasive. Completely so.

          But it persuades many people, including my respected friend Paul. Hence the things he has to say about the “Boys’ Club”…

          1. Barry

            “in the unlikely event that I find someone else’s body living within mine, and thoroughly dependent for life upon my body, I would recognize that something else is involved aside from “my body.”

            – and you’d have that right to make that choice. I wouldn’t want politicians and the government preventing you from making your choice even though you do want them to prevent other people from making their choice.

            The following story, appearing on Apple News and NPR today- July 4th. Very same thing that I have said is happening.

            2 women. One had the money to travel for an abortion, the other woman could not.

            The woman who could travel for an abortion was told that her abortion likely saved the life of her other baby- a twin.


            In post-Roe Texas, 2 mothers with traumatic pregnancies walk very different paths

            The funeral did not go as Samantha Casiano had hoped — she did not get an open casket for the baby she named Halo. (When Casiano started a go-fund me to pay for her funeral, Ken Paxton, the Texas AG who is now suspended from office and other right wing anti-choicers accused her of being an “activist” because she raised money for her funeral. (As if those anti-choicers and Ken Paxton aren’t activists).

            “I was super-heartbroken,” Casiano tells NPR. “It’s the last time I was going to be able to see my daughter. It would have been the first time that a lot of my family members were able to see her.”

            Halo had anencephaly — her brain and skull did not fully develop. She lived for four hours. Casiano found out about the condition months earlier in her pregnancy, and she learned it is always fatal. Casiano, who lives outside Houston, wanted an abortion but couldn’t afford to leave Texas to get one.

            Beyond a very narrow exception when a mother’s life is in immediate danger, there is no access to abortion in Texas. And doctors who perform an illegal abortion in the state face the possibility of life in prison, fines and the loss of their medical license. They can also be sued for aiding and abetting an abortion.

            And so, in Texas, if you are pregnant and your fetus is diagnosed with a fatal condition, you have two options: travel out of state for an abortion or continue to carry the pregnancy until it ends on its own.

            This is the story of two women who walked those different paths. Lauren Miller was able to leave Texas to abort one of the fetuses in her twin pregnancy, safeguarding herself and her healthy twin. Casiano had to carry Halo until she went into labor at 33 weeks gestation.

            Both Miller and Casiano are also now plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Texas, in which 15 women are challenging the state’s abortion restrictions. “It’s the world’s worst club,” Miller tells NPR. “But I hope that this is showing people how many people are impacted by these bans.”

            When Samantha Casiano’s OB-GYN gave her the anencephaly diagnosis right around Christmas, Casiano was devastated. “I asked her, ‘Hey, what are my options?'” she told NPR in March. “And she says, ‘Well, because of the new law, you don’t have any options.”

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “and you’d have that right to make that choice”

              No, I wouldn’t. I absolutely could not possibly have a “right” to decide whether another life has value and deserves consideration, or is something that can be discarded if I choose.

              There would be little point in society having any kind of laws or moral codes if I had that “right…”

              1. Barry

                then that would be your choice. If you would “have absolutely no right” to make that choice – that’s your choice.

                Your values are not my values.

                Lauren Miller of Texas had the money to leave Texas to abort one of the fetuses in her twin pregnancy, That saved the life of her other twin, and saved her health per her doctor.

                She made that choice. Not you. Not me. Not some politician.

                It’s sad she was in such a position but it was good she had the ability to leave Texas to make that choice for her and her family.

  4. Paul DeMarco

    Thanks Brad. Once again you demonstrate why this blog is so valuable. You are willing to post a column with which you vehemently disagree, one that is counter to not only your ethics but one of the core tenets of your faith. You are broad minded enough to accept that a reasonable person might, in good faith, disagree with you. You welcome my opinion, despite it being almost diametrically opposed to yours without being defensive or resorting to the ad hominem attacks so common in this debate. In addition, you show no interest in censoring me by kicking me and my contrary opinion off the blog. I wish this wasn’t so unusual but in our current media environment I am profoundly grateful for the forum your blog provides.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thank you as always, Paul. Of course, the kind of dialogue you seek is what this blog exists for. And I’d probably find ways to spend more time on it if I didn’t have so much trouble making it happen that way. Civil conversation is so alien to the way most people think, speak and write about politics that it’s like I’m trying to persuade people to speak Mandarin. But you get it, and I appreciate that.

      I wish I could get you and other pro-choice friends to understand that for me at least, this is not about “tenets of your faith,” as I just said to Dave Crockett.

      I’d be opposed to abortion with or without the church — and had the same view I do now well before I became Catholic. About the only way the church’s “tenets” comes into it is that if Rome didn’t have such tenets (and other pro-life positions, such as opposition to the death penalty), I might not have converted.

      As an American who believes in the Rule of Law, it is inconceivable to me that anyone can rationalize handing ONE person the power to decide whether another person should be allowed to live. I mean (as mentioned parenthetically above), I’m opposed to the death penalty, but at least it isn’t imposed without extensive due process. More than that, if any potential juror in a capital case is found to be personally involved or interested in the case, that person will be barred from the jury (or at least certainly should be). And yet with the Roe approach to abortion, the most interested party on the planet, the one person who might conceivably benefit from an abortion, is allowed to be judge and jury.

      Pro-choice people think that’s a good selling point rather than a drawback — you know, “It’s a personal decision.” Basically, they think the one factor that should disqualify a person from a case is a reason why that person should be the one who decides. Which is really an intellectually indefensible position. I mean, really? Any act of violence is a personal decision. Society used to see wife-beating as a “personal decision.” Thank God (if y’all don’t mind my bringing religion back into it) that is no longer accepted.

      Again, I could go on and on and on, if I didn’t need to get back to stuff I’m supposed to be doing. So I’ll go. But thanks again, Paul…

      1. Barry

        “if any potential juror in a capital case is found to be personally involved or interested in the case, that person will be barred from the jury (or at least certainly should be).

        And yet with the Roe approach to abortion, the most interested party on the planet, the one person who might conceivably benefit from an abortion, is allowed to be judge and jury.”

        This comparison seems as foreign to me as comparing an orange with a rafting trip in the mountains.

        To suggest the woman shouldn’t be the one making the decision about her own health and body and that a politician should be is ridiculous to me- and thankfully- to a majority of the American public.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, to a great many people among the American public, anyway. I don’t know that it’s a majority, but it’s not really relevant whether it’s a majority or not. Or at least it didn’t matter under Roe, which trumped any political views, no matter how widely held.

          Now it’s back in the hands of the political branches. That’s why things are so unpleasant right now. As I always knew they would be, once Roe fell.

          Of course, talking about “majorities” suggests deciding things by referendum, which I would oppose on pretty much any issue you can name. Government by plebiscite is one of the worst political ideas I’ve ever encountered. Oh, I suppose most totalitarian dictatorships are worse, but if you let me get warmed up with plenty of time on my hands, I might at least attempt an argument to the contrary…

          1. Barry

            why should a politician make a decision about a woman’s health and body over the woman?

            When you had your recent medical issue, did you wish a politician was making decisions for you and your family regarding your physical and emotional health?

            I had a complicated surgery recently- one I had to travel thousands of miles for- but thankfully was financially able to travel. At no time did my family wonder what politicians, pastors or priests or right wing courts thought about it- at least we didn’t have to worry about that yet. Considering the surgery, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not too far down on their list. If they ended up in the same boat, I am ok with them making their own decision.

              1. Barry

                I am doing ok. It was a 4 month process because of the pre-surgery prep I had to go through – all through the holidays- until the surgery was performed. I was a bit fortunate in that the procedure I had done was the lesser of the several options available to the surgeon.

                The last payment just cleared the bank (I had to mail it and it took almost 10 days for them to deposit the check). When a surgeon doesn’t accept any insurance, it can be a bit rough.

  5. Dave Crockett

    I appreciate your willingness to republish Paul’s column despite vehemently disagreeing with 95 percent of it. I agree that Paul does an admirable job of keeping the tone of his comments restrained.

    But, of course, as you know, I agree with ALL that he has to say on the topic…especially “…in America, you don’t have the right to impose your religious belief on women who don’t see the world as you do.”

      1. Dave Crockett

        “As an American who believes in the Rule of Law, it is inconceivable to me that anyone can rationalize handing ONE person the power to decide whether another person should be allowed to live.” –B.W.

        That power is granted to individuals in this country every day, e.g “stand your ground” statutes for private citizens. We also grant the power to law enforcement and the military and, despite the occasional flagrant abuses of that dispensation, no one (including me) is calling for elimination of that power.

        But until or unless those opposed to abortion (for whatever reason) put as much energy and funding into promoting sex education, contraception availability and, most importantly, provisions for a social safety net for pregnant women in need and their unborn, abortion is an unfortunate but necessary option. It IS absolutely terrible for an unborn child to be aborted. I think we can all agree on that, as well. But I feel that it is a far worse fate for that child to be born unanticipated, unwanted, unloved and in so many cases, into poverty from which he or she will never emerge.

        There is where we are at polar opposites.

        Thank you again, Brad, for your willingness to promote civil discussion.

        1. Barry

          I agree with you

          but again, “banning abortion” doesn’t ban abortion. Never has, never will.

          It bans it for some poor women. Other poor women simply seek abortions in the most unsafe ways possible. But they still seek and have them. Desperate people do desperate things and there are always people willing to provide- most often other women who know the concern, fear, and situation.

          Women of means, like the women and teens in my family are only inconvenienced. Abortion providers are only a car ride or quick plane flight away. Some providers are focusing on such people- creating almost a new industry.

  6. Ken

    “handing ONE person the power to decide whether another person should be allowed to live.”
    – Brad

    This is a statement of the notion of foetal personhood, the idea that a fertilized ovum is on equal footing with a kindergartener, or a full-grown adult. It is a notion that no religious tradition – that is, no moral tradition – has embraced. No, not even the Catholic Church. Yes, yes, I appreciate that Brad claims his argument rests on a legal rather than a religious foundation. But in matters such as this, purely legal arguments hang loose in the air. They are, at heart, tautological, saying, in effect, that abortion should be illegal because it supposedly doesn’t fit in a legal analogy. They lack grounding. When it comes to drawing lines on abortion, only moral arguments offer proper grounding. So any argument claiming to be based solely on legal analogy (or which pretends that legal and moral considerations can be entirely divorced from one another in matters such as this) merely evades the complex underlying moral questions involved. This matter cannot be solved by pure legalistic logic.

    Brad’s argument is further fraught by the extended analogy applied, namely the notion that the interested party (here: the woman) should be “barred from the jury” – in other words, have no say in the matter at all. It declares that a woman’s choice ends once she becomes pregnant. This is the sort of “reasoning” that led the SC legislature to declare, in Section 2, Art. 6(9) of the law now before the SC Supreme Court, that “A condition must not be considered a medical emergency if based on a claim or diagnosis that a woman will engage in conduct that she intends to result in her death or in a substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” In other words, a woman who claims – and is even diagnosed by a medical professional – to be suicidal on account of a pregnancy has no right to an abortion under the medical emergency exception. She should rather die. That is disgusting. More than that, it is morally abhorrent.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m going to allow that comment, simply because I know passions rise high on this subject. Otherwise, I would never allow a comment, on any subject, that includes the phrase “Brad claims his argument rests on…”

      I do not “claim,” sir. When I say my argument rests on something, that’s what it rests upon. Only I know how my thoughts run. You have zero right, or standing, to assert that I am lying. And I won’t allow it again.

      As for the bizarre contortions of that last paragraph, I won’t even bother. I refer you back to my first sentence. I understand that the assertion of an individual, personal “right” to abortion is a difficult position. That’s why defenders of it tend to turn to one of two evasive strategies — evasive language (such oddly misleading phrases as “reproductive freedom,” or “women’s health,” suggesting it’s about fighting breast cancer or something), or to demonizing those who disagree. What you see in that last graf appears to be a good example of the latter approach…

    2. Doug Ross

      Do you have children? If so, at what point during the pregnancy did you consider the “fetus” to be alive? If you don’t have children, shut up.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        OK, I let Ken have his say, and now I’m letting Doug respond. But with those last few words of Doug’s this exchange ends.

        I was just saying to Paul this morning via text, I’m very close to implementing an EVEN STRICTER comments policy that completely limits this forum to people who interact with complete mutual respect. Maybe that starts now….

      2. Barry

        My wife and I have 3.

        we considered the fetus alive as soon as we knew about it. Of course, when we knew about it, it was a clump of cells, not a breathing baby. Nevertheless…

        at none of our children, at that point, had more importance to me than my wife and her physical, emotional health.

        If another man placed more importance on that fetus than his wife/mother, that’s his/their choice.

        I wouldn’t want politicians and government bureaucrats being involved.


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