Asking the question.

There’s a scrap of video going around, which I’m not going to link to because it’s expired from the Memeorandum page and whine whine whine…oh, OK: It’s here. But you don’t need to watch it. It’s a compilation of talking-head interviews with people at an anti-abortion demonstration. The questioner asks them two questions: Should abortions be legal or illegal? Everyone replies, “Illegal,” of course — they’re demonstrating against it. Well then, the interviewer presses on, how should women who get abortions be punished?

Hem, haw. I dunno. Haven’t thought about it. “Prayer.” “Counseling.” And so on.

It’s a mild little piece of propaganda, and I don’t take it as gospel because it’s obviously coming from one side of the question and who knows? Maybe lots of people said, “Hang and flay the bitch!” and those interviews were left out. But it is safe to say that in the national conversation, not much time has been spent discussing this. Savvier pro-lifers have been wise about their talking points — the “two victims” of abortion, the “one dead, one wounded” argument. But if any have stated their bottom line, it hasn’t been clear. Which is:

OK, so we say abortion is murder. How do you punish a woman who has one? Hem, haw.

If any penalties come up in the discussion, it’s those prescribed for medical personnel who perform or assist in the procedure. But how about that big Tupperware container who showed up, placed the order and wrote the check? Oh, her. Well. Um. Perhaps her “wounding” will be punishment enough. But I doubt it.

This is one reason that while I don’t welcome recent events in South Dakota, I’m certain they’ll be interesting on many levels, and not in the Chinese-curse sense of the word. Let’s put our cards on the table. Lock up doctors? Lock up women? What are you willing to do?

A few years ago I read one of those articles that makes you happy you subscribe to The New Yorker. It was about nausea, maybe 4,000 words on this simple physical reaction and how and why it affects us the way it does. I was hooked from the second paragraph, in which it was explained that a man who breaks his ankle on a ski slope tomorrow will suffer great pain but, with proper care and rehab, will likely be back skiing this time next year. Whereas a man who overdoes it on tequila in the ski lodge tonight may never touch tequila again for the rest of his life, may well start to heave at the very smell of it for years and years to come. I love to read stuff like that. Such a simple observation, and yet.

Anyway, one of the through-line narratives in the piece was about a woman with a condition called hyperemesis of pregnancy, in which the normal morning sickness of early pregnancy becomes 24-7 puking for the entire nine-month term. It is a leading motivator for later-term abortions, contrary to the propaganda, which says women choose these procedures for fun and waistline-preservation.

The descriptions of the symptoms were nausea-inducing themselves — women are absolutely flattened by this. It’s not a question of being confined to dry toast and applesauce, it’s about long-term hospitalization and IV nutrition and life-threatening dehydration and still, even with medication, overwhelming nausea for months on end.

Of course, suffering is in the eye of the one who suffers. What one woman can endure another cannot. The woman in the story gutted it out and hung in there and had her baby and was happy she did (although I think it’s safe to say she never had another). Others can’t do it and throw in the towel. Anyone who’s had a bout of stomach flu can at least empathize.

So where do we draw the line here? What do we tell the weaker woman? Sorry, sister, but you have to go through this? Sorry if you can’t keep a glass of water down, but your condition isn’t life-threatening? What about the doctor who performs an abortion to relieve this woman’s suffering?

Let’s have the conversation. Let’s find out who the pro-lifers think are the criminals here. And how they’d punish them.

On the lighter side, Jon Carroll has some ideas about how we can all become South Dakota residents, for purposes of voter registration and influencing elections. It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work.

Big Busy Period of spring 2006 is winding up, at the end of which I hope to send invoices for several hefty paydays. That’s why I’ve been half-here and distracted. I’m also closely watching — and you Fort Wayne readers may want to click through — the next phase in the possible Knight Ridder sale, which will affect whether or not you have an afternoon newspaper this time next year. (Personally, I think things have entered the George Burns stage, i.e., don’t buy any green bananas. We shall see.) But here’s the money quote:

“The bottom line on Knight Ridder papers is that in order to make these deals work, someone has to get extremely aggressive with costs,” said Frederick W. Searby, an analyst with J. P. Morgan. “There’s no question that this means that any buyer has to go in with a very, very sharp knife and trim the fat and maybe into the muscles to get this to work.”

Hello, one-newspaper town.

UPDATE: In a nice convergence, here we have a wussified newspaper unwilling not only to ask the questions, but even to discuss the issue. How nice.

Posted at 9:28 am in Media |

13 responses to “Asking the question.”

  1. Joe Kobiela said on March 9, 2006 at 10:04 am

    Should abortion be legal? Boy is that going to get some responses. Yes it should be legal,however I do not think that the goverment should pay for it. If you want to abort a unwanted baby that should be your choice.However do not send me the bill.

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  2. brian stouder said on March 9, 2006 at 10:36 am

    Well, as anyone who deals with a credit card company knows, ‘legal’ doesn’t equal ‘right’ or even ‘fair’ necessarily;

    by way of saying that the law is often an arbitrary thing, and attempts to pre-empt discussion of an issue like abortion by asserting some Moral Absolute – or some Inviolable Right – are no less arbitrary.

    Leaving aside empty slogans and rote assertions of platitudes – I have been impressed by just the same question Nancy points to; when the subject of abortion comes up on his show, Chris Matthews always asks his guests “Who would you send to jail?”

    It is a great, incisive question.

    As a father of daughters (even if nothing else!) – I most certainly WOULD support criminal sanctions against anyone who would intimidate or brow-beat an under-aged female into an abortion….I think the parental notification laws are one part of this that I support – although I’m pretty sure that the details of such a law (if it is to be a just law) would be well and truly devilish

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  3. Danny said on March 9, 2006 at 10:49 am

    Most women suffer enough with regret and other issues. The wisdom of Solomon: Cut the baby in half.

    Nance, I think that the anectodotal argument about hyperemesis really misdirects this discussion. It truly is about murder and not about ‘throwing in the towel.’

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  4. nancy said on March 9, 2006 at 11:01 am

    So she’s a murderer? Where does she serve her sentence, and how long is it?

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  5. Danny said on March 9, 2006 at 11:12 am

    Like I said, most women suffer enough. But you are right, she is at least an accomplice. Jail time should be part of the punishment for all parties involved. And that includes boyfriends and husbands who coerced or at least aided in the crime.

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  6. Kim said on March 9, 2006 at 11:18 am

    Abortion: Being a one time “offender”, I will be punished for life, mentally & emotionally. At the time is was the right thing to do. Drug use by the father, a messy divorce, financial problems and parents who stated “We’ve already raised our kids”. 21 years have passed and it is still fresh in my mind that dreary day I had to cross a picket line calling me a baby killer (even though they didn’t know for sure that’s why I was there). I believe that it is a womens right to terminate a pregnacy, but only once. It should not be used as birth control. Women are going to find some way to get an abortion even if it illegal. It should be done by a professional , under very sanitary conditions. Do we really want to go back to “back-ally” abortions? Butchering, so that later in life when it is the right time, she is not so mangled that she can never become pregnant? It is just like anything else, drugs, gambeling, etc..people will find a way. We must also not forget rape victims.

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  7. alex said on March 9, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    Talking to some of the older generations of farm women in my family, the hubbub over Roe v. Wade was lost on them back in 1973. Back alley abortions? They never had to go to a back alley. In rural northeast Indiana, it was fairly well accepted as the norm that if you’d had numerous children and felt spent and couldn’t bear the thought of going through another childbirth, or you simply couldn’t afford another one, your family doctor or neighborhood midwife would help you terminate the pregancy, no problem, and it was nobody else’s business.

    The more I think about it, the more I see the law as merely symbolic and nothing more. Abortion’s part of the human condition and happens whether it has government’s imprimatur or not, same as a whole lot of other things. I’d almost welcome a change, if only to see the liberal backlash against the erosion of civil liberties that would surely follow.

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  8. alex said on March 9, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    Oops, one of those durned dangling participles. That should be liberal backlash that would surely follow in reaction to the erosion of civil liberties.

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  9. harry near indy said on March 9, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    something tells me the ownership and management of the s.d. paper is against the law, but is afraid of running an editorial against it because of the backlash.

    those cowards.

    and some bloggers call the ny times tools of the establishment.

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  10. jeff said on March 10, 2006 at 1:38 am

    You appear to the the first & maybe the only commentator in the last week who has figured out that the anti’s will never vote to penalize the woman who has an abortion.
    But you have forgotten your US Constitution!
    The second clause of the 14th Amendment guarantees Equal Rights under the law for all citizens of the US.
    To put it simply, if the doctor that performs an abortion is to go to prison for 5 years as the S.D. law says, then the woman that has solicited this crime should also serve an equal sentence.
    Only the S.D. law specifically prohibits any punishment for the woman, that makes this law unconstitutional.
    That’s the hook to fight the law on, because it will tie the anti’s up in knots forever!

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  11. Danny said on March 10, 2006 at 8:42 am

    I disagree, Jeff. I think that the people who are against the killing of the innocents who have no voice will come correct on this issue. Roe is by no means settled law. It is the babies who are not being given equal protection under the law.

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  12. Danny said on March 10, 2006 at 9:51 am

    And just in case anyone thinks that the protection of the law does not extend to unborn babies, consider recent case law in California. A pregnant woman who was shot in the stomach a few years ago. She lost the baby. The charge was murder. Same for Scott Peterson. He was charged with double murder for his wife and unborn child.

    I have to tell you, after reading Kim’s response, I wonder if it is dawning on some of you that the woman is wounded by this. Far from what Nancy’s glib comment would have one believe. And I also wonder if any of you made note of the conflicted message. Of the women I have known personally who have had an abortion, one a longtime girlfriend, every single one of them regretted incredibly their decision.

    Generally, law’s encourage us to do the right thing, appeal to the better angel’s of our nature. If someone is faced with jail time and it keeps them from making a bad decision that they will regret for the rest of their life, well, that is a Good Thing. And especially if it helps a young girl who has her whole future in front of her to not be coerced into the wrong decision.

    Is it so hard to go the extra mile and search out alternatives like adoption?

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  13. Harry Engstrom said on November 23, 2006 at 12:02 am

    I think rooster pheasants and hens are both beautiful and the pic you posted here is grand. However, although an artist who paints the birds I also enjoy hunting the wily ringneck.Not in the backyard or game farm no no no…out in the eastern Washington scrub where they are so wild I have taken three in three years of trying. They run between your feet. Fly towards a road just when a vehicle is passing and you can’t shoot…or just hide while you walk right on by. They are good at jumping and flying when you stop to take a leak too and your weapon is leaning against the fence 10 feet away. I admire them…but maybe I should take Dick Cheney along and would then bag more. Course he might bag me. Oh yes….abortion is ending the life of a potentially wonderful human being that may discover the cure for aids. Abortion is kicking ourselves where it hurts because we kill our own. We destroy our destiny and so far America has done so to 40,000,000. Think about that for a change. But, being a republican, maybe most of them are would be dems. That is at least a bit encouraging. We should have aborted John Kerry and it would have helped if Jay Lenno had been aborted too. Another dirty foul mouthed idiot off the air.
    Harry L Engstrom

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