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October 25, 2012 10:52 AM Mourdock’s Motivation

By Ed Kilgore

So in a development that delights many Democrats, we’re into the second full day of pondering the hammer-headed views of Indiana Treasurer and Senate nominee Richard Mourdock on exactly which tiny, tiny percentage of American women would be allowed to make their own reproductive choices in the good and godly society this man contemplates.

In trying to explain his no-exceptions (other than where a women’s life is in imminent danger), position as including compulsory child-bearing for rape victims, Mourdock came across as a mite insensitive to women and as an incompetent (or at least inarticulate) amateur theologian. And so the second-day debate revolves around whether he is the brave defender of an internally consistent if unpopular point of view, or just a piggy piggy sort of man who generally wants women to think of themselves as passive vessels for the gratification of their servant-leaders and the incubation of offspring.

This isn’t just a predictable left-right debate, by the way. For years, pro-choice folk have debated publicly and privately as to whether the religious convictions of anti-choicers (particularly men) are sincere, or simply represent a hostility to changing gender roles and/or a fear of female sexuality. At TNR today, Amy Sullivan defends Mourdock’s (and by extension, most anti-choicers’) sincerity:

Despite the assertions of many liberal writers I read and otherwise admire, I don’t think that politicians like Mourdock oppose rape exceptions because they hate women or want to control women. I think they’re totally oblivious and insensitive and can’t for a moment place themselves in the shoes of a woman who becomes pregnant from a rape. I think most don’t particularly care that their policy decisions can impact what control a woman does or doesn’t have over her own body. But if Mourdock believes that God creates all life and that to end a life created by God is murder, then all abortion is murder, regardless of the circumstances in which a pregnancy came about.

Sullivan’s right, of course, that once you adopt the premise that a zygote is metaphysically just like a fully grown adult human being, who just happens to live within the body of another human being, then it’s logical to hold that the zygote’s rights trump any other consideration beyond the life of the “host” incubator, which is why most serious “movement” RTLers (whose views have been accepted by the national Republican Party as reflected in party platforms going back to 1980) reject the rape-incest exceptions other than on the most purely tactical grounds. And as you can see from various conservative arguments since the Mourdock controversy blew up, many anti-choicers think it’s easy to distinguish that line of reasoning from Todd Akin’s disastrous comments on rape because the latter was making an empirically unsupported claim about the likelihood of pregnancy from rape that suggested rape victims were lying (so too, of course, were the vast number of congressional Republicans, including Paul Ryan, who favored a reformulation of the Hyde Amendment that narrowed its exception to cases of “forcible rape,” implying that a lot of “rapes” aren’t, to use Akin’s infelicitous term, “legitimate”).

All these rationalizations, of course, miss the broader point that significant majorities of Americans, regardless of their general sentiments on abortion, are instinctively horrified by the idea of rape victims become state-sanctioned compulsory incubators for the children of rapists.

And that gets us back to the more fundamental question about the sincerity of antichoicers citing religious justifications for views on the law and policy of abortion that aren’t just “controversial” or “unpopular,” but are in fact antithetical to the kind of charitable and respectful attitudes towards half the human race that most religious and irreligious folk alike find essential. But is Amy Sullivan right? Are religious antichoicers in the grips of a Here I Stand, No Other Can I Do conviction that compels them to say “insensitive” things and take noxious public policy convictions?

It’s on this point that I personally draw a preliminary line between Catholics and Protestants (I don’t know enough about the theological justifications of non-Christian antichoicers to say anything about their motives). Catholic anti-choicers base their views on the explicit teachings of an authoritative (and some would say, authoritarian) magisterium that has been reinforced very regularly in recent years, based in turn on a natural-law tradition that goes back to the Greeks. You can certainly argue, as do many Catholic liberals, that the hard line on abortion reflects a distortion of traditional teaching and that its enforcement reflects a perverted notion of papal supremacy, but it’s not as though grassroots Catholic antichoicers have no leg to stand on other than generalized hostility to women.

Evangelical Protestants, like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, are another matter. You can read your Bible all day long and find vague, indirect references to fetal life, but nothing like a flat prohibition of abortion, much less of abortion in cases of rape and incest. And evangelical Protestants, of course, have no pope, no magisterium, no natural-law tradition, and for that matter, no single authority for scriptural interpretation. Until recently, even very conservative evangelical denominations (notably the Southern Baptist Convention) were either agnostic on the subject of abortion or were actively pro-choice. The whole idea that being a faithful evangelical Christian meant that all political activity had to begin with a hard-line anti-abortion position is a very recent invention, accompanied almost invariably by the promotion of a patriarchal notion of family and gender roles that’s little more than a divinization of, to use President Obama’s term from the last debate, “the social policies of the 1950s.”

So pace Sullivan, no, I’m not so inclined to concede the religious sincerity of Richard Mourdock, other than to concede that he is part of a movement within American Christianity that has so confused religious and secular causes and motivations that the distinction has lost all meaning. No, Richard Mourdock (and Todd Akin) may not subjectively “hate women or want to control women,” but it’s almost worse to assume they think, with no compelling evidence, that God Almighty is calling them to control women and “hate” them in the sense of dismissing their bodies, their health, and their autonomy as systematically without value in law or policy. And they are hardly alone or without power, as we may learn to our regret after November 6.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • T2 on October 25, 2012 11:20 AM:

    once again I remind readers.... Mourdock was the winner of his primary. Just like William Todd Akin, he won the votes of his state's Republicans. He represents them.

  • martin on October 25, 2012 11:20 AM:

    Who cares if they are sincere? They can be as sincere as they want in there religious beliefs. What they are completely insincere and dishonest about is they are trying to force their religious beliefs on the rest of the country (and world).

    They can only call themselves "Pro-Life" honestly if they as actively anti-death penalty and anti-war as they are anti-abortion. At least the Catholics can make a minor claim in these regards.

    They are anti-abortion. Their actions are political, not religious. They should be treated that way and not be allowed to hide behind the irrelevant claim of religious conviction.

  • Ron Byers on October 25, 2012 11:21 AM:

    As a former Catholic and an American I have wrestled with this issue my entire adult life. On balance I have decided that the choice belongs to the woman not the State. Over the years I have known a lot of women who faced that choice. Some have chosen abortion, some have chosen carrying the baby to term. None of the women I have known have faced the issue casually. They have all struggled. I suspect nearly every woman facing the question struggles. This issue simply isn't black and white. Politicians and preachers who try to simplify it to a black and white political issue are doing a great disservice to the people and to their God. With all due respect to Ryan, Mourdock and Akin the decision to have an abortion simply isn't a man's decision. It belongs to the pregnant woman.

  • c u n d gulag on October 25, 2012 11:22 AM:

    Psychologically, all of this anti-abortion activity, I think, is projection based on the Conservatives being wrong on every Civil Rights issues of the last 200+ years, whether it was 'the rights of man,' freedom of, and from, religion rights, labor rights, rights for blacks, women's rights, or gay rights.

    They picked the fetus as their Civil Rights issue, because by doing so, they can also denigrate women and minorities, and make sure they go through what I call "Forced Labor."
    Humiliation of the "other" is a large part of their superiority complex.

    Being anti-abortion should be kept seperate from being anti-choice.

    One can be against abortion for ones self, or family members, but not god-bother everyone else into having to live by your position.

    Being anti-choice, means that you will use the tools of government to force your opinions on everyone else, regardless of their own beliefs, religious or otherwise.

    I wonder, if Mr. Mourdock’s wife was raped by a black man, if he would still look at that offspring as one of “God’s blessings?” *

    And if he’d spend tears and money raising his wife’s rapists’s child?

    Or his daughter.**

    Or, would he hustle her off to some place where she could quickly and quietely abort that black man’s fetus?

    Yeah – THAT!

    And demanding that women carry unwanted children to term, especially the children of rape, they’re also potentially harmful to the children who are born, and not given up for adoption.

    I’m a male, and I can’t imagine being the husband having to help raise the blameless child(ren) of my blameless wife’s rapist.

    And I can’t even imagine being the woman, having to raise that child, without or without help from a significant other.

    It must take some kind of superhuman empathy to try to raise that blameless child, and not hold the cause of their existance against them.

    I’d like to think I could do it, if that situation presented itself.
    But, wouldn’t it be better not to bring that unwanted child into the world in the first place?

    People who support “Forced Labor,” are sociopathic holier-than-thou god-botherers, without an empathetic atom in their bodies.

    *Note – I’m not advocating, or hoping for something like that. This is just a thought excersize.
    **Also too – ditto.

  • LiberalGRIT on October 25, 2012 11:24 AM:

    I'm sorry, but if you think a woman is an incubator, you're a misogynist. I believe it's been quoted here on the blog, originally from Salon, and it's just the damn truth.

    We get so squeamish about labeling hate speech against women as what it is. I have friends who are perfectly decent people who believe that abortion is morally repugnant, in fact one who works for Feminists for Life who is a really good and sincere person. And my friends, at least, are not, NOT, trying to change the law to prevent abortion. They are trying to PERSUADE women against abortion and provide more contraception.

    Men like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock are on a holy crusade, absolutely (in their own little minds). But their crusade isn't about babies and it isn't about men's role in sexuality, oh no, it's about women and sex. It's about controlling women's sexuality, defining what is an abortifacient and what isn't, who can have what birth control when, which women are allowed to buy totally legal contraception over the counter and which women aren't, trying to come up with ever more tortured laws that define appropriate closet space or something to shut down clinics.

    Men like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock are controlling misogynist hateful scumbags. But realistically, I don't give a damn about what they believe, I give a damn about what they DO, or WILL DO. We can pretend their motivations are high-falutin' all we want, but the end game is the same: take away women's control over our own bodies. And that's an extremist's end game.

  • schtick on October 25, 2012 11:30 AM:

    We can't change our national anthem to God Bless America or America the beautiful because they have "God" in them, but we can change the laws for abortion and/or birth control because it's "God's will" and religions can't keep their flock in check.
    If the teapub men can't understand what women go through when raped, let them do a stint in the general population of Riker's. They will have an idea in a short time.

  • SteveT on October 25, 2012 11:33 AM:

    I can appreciate the intellectual consistency of the anti-choice opposition to rape and incest exceptions to a ban on abortions. If a fertilized egg is equivalent to a baby, then it would be just as wrong kill a pre-born life as it would be to kill a child (or adult) that was conceived through rape or incest.

    But I, and a large number of Americans DON"T believe that a fertilized egg is equivalent to a baby. And I DON'T want to be subject to laws based on a religion that I don't believe in.

    We're indeed headed back to the 1950s, where wealthy women fly to Europe to have abortions, middle class white women who have abortions are shamed but not prosecuted, and poor dark-skinned women who have abortions are sent to prison.

  • Josef K on October 25, 2012 11:34 AM:

    but it’s almost worse to assume they think, with no compelling evidence, that God Almighty is calling them to control women and “hate” them in the sense of dismissing their bodies, their health, and their autonomy as systematically without value in law or policy

    That's the problem with religious "faith": its not actually based on evidence, or even ink-on-paper documentation. Its an internal conviction, which is pretty damned hard to disprove to those holding it. I suspect they'd reject the words of the Archangel Gabriel himself if he came down from above and told them they were off-base about this.

    I further suspect these idiots are in for a nasty surprise when they meet St Peter (or whatever does the judging at the pearly gates), but that's just a bit of faith on my part.

  • David in NY on October 25, 2012 11:38 AM:

    Best observation of the day, from Soonergrunt at balloon-juice.com

    "If you don’t want your wife, daughter, sister, or niece to have to take a baby to a prison for visitation with her rapist, or to make that trip yourself, vote Democratic."

  • Tom Hilton on October 25, 2012 11:41 AM:

    ...once you adopt the premise that a zygote is metaphysically just like a fully grown adult human being, who just happens to live within the body of another human being, then it’s logical to hold that the zygote’s rights trump any other consideration beyond the life of the “host” incubator...

    Exactly. Which is why that belief is a fundamentally evil belief: it leads inevitably to evil conclusions.

    Sincerity is really beside the point. The source of the belief is beside the point (sorry, Catholics: you don't get a pass for holding an evil belief just because someone told you to believe it). The point is that the belief itself is inherently evil.

  • matt on October 25, 2012 11:41 AM:

    I have long thought that the "rape/incest" exception was the hinge of the abortion debate. If the fertilized egg is a human life, then yes there can be no exception.

    But conversely, for people like Romney who claim that they support a rape/incest exception, it must follow that they *don't* believe that the fertilized egg is a life. In which case, why are they opposed to abortion? They are never asked and never say.

  • Varecia on October 25, 2012 11:49 AM:

    Well, the notion that God intents life to occur even as a result of rape would also have to include instances of rape of minors and incest, right? Is that where they really want to go? If one is a minor who has been raped or a victim of incest, just suck it up and be the accepting vessel?

  • clevergirl on October 25, 2012 11:59 AM:

    Politicians like Mourdock and Akin may speak based on personal conviction but they understand why this message resonates. I find it no coincidence that anti-abortion arguments have found wind in hard economic times. Pregnancy takes women out of the workplace...temporarily and permanently...often frustrating their career ambitions.

    Additionally I believe these politicians simply don't trust women and doctors. They would support choice if they did trust us. Instead, they expect as exceptions are tightened that women and doctors will plead rape in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

    I support policies that keep abortion legal but rare. Criminalizing abortion leads to these cyclical arguments of who is the criminal: the woman, the man, the doctor. Also, restricting abortions---or rather the procedures associated with them---has a negative impact on obstetrics care in general including denying pregnant women ready access to emergency care. I have personal experience with this, and it's not pretty watching people tie themselves into knots trying to justify what happened to me and less fortunate women like me.

  • K Wilson on October 25, 2012 12:04 PM:

    " . . . whether the religious convictions of anti-choicers (particularly men) are sincere, or simply represent a hostility to changing gender roles and/or a fear of female sexuality."

    Why is this an either-or choice at all? The answer, I think, is "yes". Once can easily have sincere religious convictions that include hostility to changing gender roles and fear of female sexuality. This also assumes that the thinking of folks like Mr. Mourdock on this issue is rational and consistent. Problems of free will and theodicy have challenged some of the best minds in history (which Murdouck's certainly is not), and otherwise very intelligent people are quite capable of holding two inconsistent ideas as true.

  • Barbara on October 25, 2012 12:05 PM:

    Equating a zygote with a fully formed, biologically self-sufficient human being, male or female, IS an extreme view that leads to extreme consequences. Amy assumes that the political position flows from theology, when, in fact, theology might actually flow from -- if not "political" position, then certainly, cultural convictions, in this case, the central role of reproduction as the defining element of what it means to be female.

    So Amy has it backwards. Think of that notorious New Yorker cover of how New Yorkers see the rest of America and substitute the uterus for New York in the picture and every other part of female anatomy for the rest of the country. That's how these people see women and and their reproductive capacity, and that's what allows them to hold such extreme views to begin with.

    Insisting on the separateness between zygote and host only makes sense if, truly, you see women as not much more than a uterus -- because otherwise, it is biologically untenable.

  • inkadu on October 25, 2012 12:06 PM:

    Ed, I'm guessing you're are or were a Catholic.

    1) How does one define an "incompetent theologian"? I'm sure he would be an incompetent theologian if he ever applied himself to it, but I'm not sure how you can look at a conclusion and assume it's incompetent. I'm sure any competent theologian can competently produce any conclusion possible. In fact, that might in itself be the definition of competent.

    2) Your split between Catholic / Protestant is nice in theory, but not in practice. Maybe you're not a Catholic after all. If you were, you'd know that the pews take very little direction from theologians and encyclicals and mostly drink the same religious and cultural ground water as the rest of us. The only real difference is that the Catholic hierarchy is allowed to speak for all its members, no matter what those members actually believe.

  • CharlieM on October 25, 2012 12:14 PM:

    If Mourdock is sincere, then let's see him state the logical followup to his position. Until these braindead religionists introduce a bill making it a capital crime for any woman and her doctor to engage in an abortion (i.e. the murder of another "human being" as they insist on labeling zygotes/fetuses/et. al.), then I'll continue to believe this is all about control.
    "Pro-life"? Oh please.

    @ clevergirl.
    Legal and rare? No. How about legal and available. These moral monsters on the right are already well along the way to making it rare.

  • JoanneinDenver on October 25, 2012 12:34 PM:

    Most of the comments here come from men. Once more into the fray, I comment as a pro-life feminist, and I think this issue is critically important. I do not see this argument as one of religion or trying to "control" women; I see it as a strategic move to unravel civil rights, as protected by the US Constitution.

    The First Amendment guarantees both freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Murdock is expressing a religious belief that is absolutely consistent with catholic theology and is held, in spirit if not practice, by over 60 million catholic in this country. People are also absolutely free to call this "belief" evil.
    I should tell you that catholics have been urged to vote their "conscience" in this election and there are wide spread campaigns to that effect via catholic media networks and by catholic political activities.

    The question to Murdock should be: "Regardless of your personal religious belief, how would you vote on a law to restrict abortion? As a Senator, how would your religious belief influence your vote? That is what people have the right to know.

    There are two ways that civil liberties can be destroyed by the Republican platform:

    1) The Republican platform says, in effect, that Congress can "interpret" all the
    terms in the 14th Amendment. So, in the event of a Republican sweep, the Congress could well define "person" as beginning at conception. One could expect an immediate court challenge to such a law, but given the conservative (and catholic) majority on the court, the law might stand. That would then allow the Congress to "reinterpret" all those terms in the 14th Amendment, such as
    "due process." That, in my opinion, is the absolute danger.

    2) The second path to changing the law on abortion lies in the Supreme Court hearing a legal challenge and reversing Roe, using Justice's White's minority opinion in Roe that abortion was not a federal issue, but a state's right issue.
    That would not automatically outlaw abortion, but would allow each state to
    make its own laws in regard to abortion. The means that each state could define who was a person...you know, like in the Dred Scott pre-civil war days. Each state, then, using the rationale from such a Supreme Court decision, could argue that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 violated states rights. This argument has already been made by Governor Perry of Texas, once the leading Republican candidate for President. The roll back of civil rights would be disastrous. These are the dangers.

    My personal political position, as a pro-life feminist and one who honors the constitution and acknowledges that, currently, women have an absolute civil right to abortion in the first trimester, is to advocate for a Human Life Amendment to the federal constitution. The process for amending the Constitution demands a public debate and a public vote by elected representative, first in Congress and then in State Legislatures. I believe that all the issues inherent in the abortion procedure would then be examined in a way that was consistent with our Constitution.

  • rlfast on October 25, 2012 12:36 PM:

    "But if Mourdock believes that God creates all life and that to end a life created by God is murder," then shouldn't he be against capital punishment?

  • paul on October 25, 2012 12:41 PM:

    No, even if you think that the zygote has a right to life that's absolutely equal to that of a grown person, the decision that that right trumps everything but the survival of the "incubator" doesn't really follow.

    Consider, for example, the "kidney theft" urban legend, which grew up about the same time that abortion started to be a huge political issue. No one claims that the right to life of the patient with renal failure trumps the right to bodily autonomy of the guy (yep, the story is almost always about a guy) who got drunk and may even in his drunken state have consented to the operation. Even though the patient would die otherwise, and the guy can live quite well with only the one kidney. There's a huge body of ethics and law that says no one can be forced to give lifesaving aid to another person. Unless the person being forced is a woman who has had sex.

  • mb on October 25, 2012 12:43 PM:

    I think the Taliban asshole who shot that little girl in the head was sincere also. So I guess we owe him our respect for the integrity of his views and his willingness to act on them. And he can't be denigrated as misogynistic 'cause he's sincere.

  • Peter C on October 25, 2012 12:54 PM:

    I think Murdoch displays both a typically Republican type of stone-age disregard for women AND a similarly Republican stone-age disregard for science.

    Remember, Republicans fought tooth and nail against the Equal Rights Amendment long before they similarly fought the Lily Ledbetter act. They feel that equal pay and equal rights only encourages women to leave their ‘proper’ roles as wives and mothers. In their eyes, good women are possessions (of their fathers or husbands) who endure sex with their husbands in order to bear children whom they will raise to be good Republicans; their role is to submit and obey, and once a male as succeeded in the herculean task of impregnation, their duty is clear and absolute. This is the core of the Republican attitude toward women.

    But Murdoch also has an increasingly typical Republican distrust of science. Back in the stone-age, birth was a mystery. Copulation seemed to have something to do with it, but sadly was not dependable. Religion stepped in to provide the answer: God was the key. Indeed, with Christianity, God was the prime factor since both Mary and Jesus came about without any copulation, but they were special cases. For the rest of us, God must have been waiting up in there to provide the necessary final ‘oomph’. (Perhaps this is why the scripts for most porn films seems to consist mostly of people saying “oh God, oh God!”)

    For true believers, it is a sign of the wickedness of the times that ‘upstart biology’ would presume to explain the mystery of conception. Only the devil would dare inspire us to butt in on God’s sphere of influence. If the building of biblical skyscrapers drew such divine wrath, imagine the thunderbolts we’re inviting for mucking about in the messy details of eggs and uterine walls and semen and whatnot. For them, God is still required, not withstanding all this superfluous biology stuff. If He took time, in his truly astoundingly busy schedule, to give the go-ahead, even in the case of rape, fearfully devout Republicans should not dare to interfere. And, it is the responsibility of Republican Men to make certain that lowly women don’t interfere either.

    We have a democracy and thus we’re trying a system whereby we govern ourselves without theological rulers or even divinely empowered kings. This means that we must select representatives who will evaluate all the best information at our disposal to deal with the actual problems that we face as a society, or we will suffer the consequences of poor decisions. If we entrust our decisions to people who believe the earth is flat, we are liable to defend ourselves only from attack from the east and thereby expose ourselves to the devastation of an attack from the west. Science has been remarkably successful at explaining our complex world; we ignore it at our peril. We must reject people who seem to derive knowledge only from one book, even when that one is generally considered a ‘Good Book’. When an entire political party seeks to empower people who dismiss science and the basic rights of half our citizens because of a dogged devotion to only that one book; it is wise to reject the whole party; they will not make the best-informed decisions.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 25, 2012 12:55 PM:

    I say fiddle-sticks about all this ideological consistency.

    The whole zygote=human life, ergo aborting zygote=murder isn't some rigorously applied logic of consistency. It's opportunistic high duncery, and I refuse to give it credit. It's pseudo-religiously consistent in the particular but not so in the general. For one, these yahoos wouldn't allow abortion if the mother's life depended on it. And, as rlfast et. al have mentioned, we don't see any of these sincere religious types protesting war or the death penalty. But NOOOO!!! People who die in war or by state execution deserve to die, unlike poor, innocent, little zygotes.

    At that thar's the rub!!! They don't fundamentally or consistently believe that ALL human life should be protected by virtue of the fact that they will quite merrily use the whole guilty-versus-innocent distinction to justify capital punishment and other man-made interventions of deadly force against others. And these TPer's have established a well-documented affinity for God-Jesus-punish-the-heathens religious theory. So, broadly speaking they don't consistently give a shit about all human life. They really do wipe with both sides of the paper.

    Ideological consistency my child-bearing poo-tang!!!!!!

  • Mitch on October 25, 2012 1:11 PM:

    The sincerity of such fools is irrelevant. I am certain that Hitler was sincere, and thought he was doing good for the German people (and his own ego). Same goes for Mohammed Atta, Timothy McVeigh, Torquemada and Colonial Era Europeans.

    Also, deriding Mourdock's "theology" is almost hilarious. To do such is to a blind eye to the evils that are commanded by God in the Bible. Sorry, this is one of the things that made me into an atheist when I read the Bible around the age of 14.

    To quote:

    Deuteronomy 22:28-29 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days."

    There it is. According to the Bible, a rape victim must be condemned to marriage to her attacker. Any attempt to explain this away is sophistry: a superficial attempt to reason away the horrbile fact that the Bible comands innocent women to marry their victims.

    The best defense of this passage that I have ever heard from a preacher is that the rapist was being punished as severely because he would be forced to marry the poor woman, and was not allowed to seek divorce.

    What a crock of heartless crap.

    Abortion, of course, is not directly mentioned. The root of the Christian "pro-life" movement is usually attributed to

    Exodus 21:22-23: "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life ..." (etc, etc, into the following verses).

    No, this is not exactly abortion. But, as it's been explained to me, abortion—which is the intentional ending of pregnancy—must be more evil than the accident due to violence described in this passage. For the millions of folks who take the Bible literally, the feelings of women do not matter. All that matters is that God has spoken through His Word.

    All the more reason to support our Founder's idea for separation of religion and politics.

    These anti-abortion Christians are not stupid, nor are they evil. They are misguided by their reliance on Bronze Age mythology. And they are more dangerous as a result, because they believe that God is on their side. Historically speaking, such folk have always been capable of great atrocities. Only the legal traditions of our nation, and the high respect for human rights that has grown in secular society over the past few centuries prevents them from commiting acts of physical violence en masse.

    But, give it time. History does tend to rhyme.

  • Old Uncle Dave on October 25, 2012 1:19 PM:

    Romney supports this assclown, yet an AP poll today says "Romney Erases Obama's Lead Among Women." http://news.yahoo.com/ap-poll-romney-erases-obama-advantage-among-women-071134277.html

    Either something is wrong with that poll or something is wrong with american women. I've gotta go with the poll. A close race makes for better ratings.

  • Hannah on October 25, 2012 1:33 PM:

    To me there are three sides to this coin.

    1) If you're pro-life for all human life then you can't be for war. On another level, being pro-life means you must ensure that everyone has access to food, shelter, and health care (to maintain health, not just in an emergency) - that no one suffers from the lack of any of it. This is the minimum that is required.

    2) If you're going to insist that a woman carry to term, because that fertilized egg is a person, then you must provide the mother with the proper nutrition and medical care throughout her pregnancy. Because if you don't, you are harming that unborn life (and possibly that of the mother).

    3) If the woman doesn't want the child, you must make sure that the baby has a good home. You must also provide any mental health support for the mother, and for her husband and children, should she have any, whether or not the woman keeps the child. Because this child was conceived in an act of violence against this woman.

    Clearly the TPers, Akin, and Mourdock don't believe in any of the above, therefore they have no right to call themselves "pro-life" nor do they have the right to tell a woman that she must carry to term.

  • Hannah on October 25, 2012 1:47 PM:

    One more thing: these MEN have no idea what it's like being pregnant for 9 months or how it affect's a woman's life. If they have children they may have some idea of what their wives went through but... Of course everyone's experience is different, but pregnancy is not a walk in the park. It's difficult enough to carry a child you want. In addition, a pregnant woman's immune system is weakened leaving her open to more disease, etc. And when a pregnant woman is ill, she can't take many medications because they are harmful to the fetus, therefore she may not feel well. Then there's missed work time for doctor visits, discomfort, less productivity at work. If the woman has a job that keeps her on her feet, well, I can't even imagine. My doctor told me I had to lie down for 15 minutes a few times a day due to high blood pressure and fortunately I was able to do that where I worked, but not all women can. And then - pregnancy and giving birth is expensive!!! And caring for the baby is expensive!!! Why should a woman or family be forced to endure all of that???

    These people are clueless or at least brainless.

  • Consumatopia on October 25, 2012 1:58 PM:

    I'm kind of disappointed that the thread had to get all the way to paul's comment to point out the obvious--the personhood of zygotes doesn't imply that we should force rape victims to give birth. The violinist example, anyone?

    Since no one is arguing for forced organ donation to save lives, Sullivan is wrong--forbidding abortions for rape victims is anti-women, even assuming full personhood for fetuses. We impose no similar duty on men, even though similar situations arise every day (e.g. people choosing not to donate blood or kidneys).

    The problem here is not that liberals are somehow ignorant of theology, it's that Sullivan is ignorant of (or at least selectively remembering) ethics.

  • JoanneinDenver on October 25, 2012 1:58 PM:

    Hannah,

    I am a pro-life feminist. I agree with everything you stated:
    "1) If you're pro-life for all human life then you can't be for war. On another level, being pro-life means you must ensure that everyone has access to food, shelter, and health care (to maintain health, not just in an emergency) - that no one suffers from the lack of any of it. This is the minimum that is required.

    2) If you're going to insist that a woman carry to term, because that fertilized egg is a person, then you must provide the mother with the proper nutrition and medical care throughout her pregnancy. Because if you don't, you are harming that unborn life (and possibly that of the mother).

    3) If the woman doesn't want the child, you must make sure that the baby has a good home. You must also provide any mental health support for the mother, and for her husband and children, should she have any, whether or not the woman keeps the child. Because this child was conceived in an act of violence against this woman."

  • BJ smith on October 25, 2012 2:00 PM:

    If enough misguided buy what old Mittie & Paulie are selling we'll be on our way back there, at least until the next election, maybe that's ok for some but i don't want that life forced on anyone. To anyone saying there is just no difference, I suggest you rethink your position. If they prevail it would destroy that party, but we are the ones who would suffer in the meantime. I've been there, believe me you don't want to go back. either.

  • thebewilderness on October 25, 2012 2:31 PM:

    Setting aside the enormous harm that an unwanted pregnancy does to a woman, he is claiming that pregnancy is not a biological function. He is stating quite clearly that pregnancy is an act of God. That he will establish law, in violation of the first amendment, to declare my half of the population subject to religious rights test.

  • Mitch on October 25, 2012 3:24 PM:

    @Consumatopia

    Always remember that theocrats (and wannabe theocrats, like American Fundies) are never persuaded by ethical arguments. Indeed, ethics seldom enter into their consideration.

    Dogma is all that matters. Anything that disagrees with their dogma is Evil and must be battled. It matters not how unethical their behavior may be, because their dogma assures them that they serve the greatest of all good.

    Logic, reason and facts are of even less use to such people than ethics.

  • Crusty the ex-Clown on October 25, 2012 3:46 PM:

    I'm just an ex-clown (otherwise I'd be in Indiana running for a senate seat) and nobody needs to pay me any attention at all, but something's been worrying me:

    If a fertilized ovum is an "unborn child", then each of us is an "undead corpse" and an acorn is an "unsprouted oak" - not to mention all the "unhatched ducks" I have in egg cartons in the fridge.

    I know demagogues intentionally torture language to deceive people but I have yet to understand why the press allows them to get away with it. Help!

  • schtick on October 25, 2012 3:48 PM:

    Another thought, if they have these exceptions for rape and incest, what government panel is going to make that decision and how many months is it going to take? Better yet, how are these exceptions going to affect trials in cases of rape and incest?

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 25, 2012 3:58 PM:

    Crusty: "then each of us is an "undead corpse"

    Yep, doubly so for those poor food stamp and Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security parasites who just can't die soon enough!!!! I think the GOP is starting a Kill-the-Zombies Round-Up headed by Paul Ryan himself, just in time for Halloween.

    (snark)

  • Col Bat Guano on October 25, 2012 4:07 PM:

    How much longer do we have to listen to Amy Sullivan make excuses for these rightwing nuts? As so many here have pointed out, none of these "sincere" believers like Akin or Mourdock have any problem killing untold numbers of actual "persons" via war or drone strke so the idea that they have some sort of religious exemption here is ridiculous.

  • Right/Left = Impulse/Thoughtfulness on October 25, 2012 4:18 PM:

    Amy Sullivan regularly defends grotesque right-wing extremism.

    She's one of the reasons this house no longer subscribes to Time magazine and one of the reasons I read Washington Monthly articles with careful skepticism (she's a contributor here).

    But she's perfectly suited to helping push the joke that "even the 'liberal' New Republic agrees with [insert grotesque right-wing extremist belief]".

  • joanneinDenver on October 25, 2012 4:50 PM:

    Two questions:

    1) What is the biological definition of a person?

    2) When was the last time any elected Republican - local, state, or federal, voted to outlaw abortion?

  • millsapian87 on October 25, 2012 5:20 PM:

    Mourdock, Akin et al should now be asked if they support rapists' custody/visitation rights to the children they have fathered, as in this case:

    http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/19628763/2012/09/24/rapist-wants-visitation-rights-teen-mom-fighting-back

    I find this completely horrifying.

  • Right/Left = Impulse/Thoughtfulness on October 25, 2012 5:32 PM:

    @ joanneinDenver

    1) When it is wholly separate from the woman, outside of the vagina, with the umbilical cord cut, then it's a person.

    2) Republicans have repeatedly voted to outlaw private medical choices and have been doing so regularly for years:

    Search: "Republican abortion House law"

  • JoanneinDenver on October 25, 2012 6:22 PM:

    @Right/Left=Impuls/Thoughtfulness

    1) You gave given the legal definition of a person, except technically it is with the first breath that may or may not come after the umbilical cord is cut.

    I didn't ask for the legal definition of a person, I asked for the biological definition of a person....exchanging legal for biological is not an answer.

    2) I did not ask about "private medical choices," I asked when was the last time a Republican elected official -city,state,or federal - voted to OUTLAW abortion.

    See, you think that definitions don't matter. I think they do. I think much of the abortion conflict is fueled by ignorance over what the law actually says and what science reveals.

    Try again.

  • JoanneinDenver on October 25, 2012 6:58 PM:

    @Right/Left=Impuls/Thoughtfulness

    I did search "Republican abortion House law." I should be very specific when I say "Outlaw abortion," I meant ALL abortion. I may not have been clear.

    Roe grants an absolute right to abortion to women ONLY in the first trimester.
    In the second trimester, the "state" may regulate abortion practices. In the third semester, the "state" may prohibit ALL abortions, providing that there is a provision for the life and health of the mother. In the DC cases, Congress governs the District, and the proposed law was to prohibit all abortions...but ONLY after 20 weeks. The law failed to pass. Republicans did vote to prohibit abortion after 20 weeks, but that is not the same as outlawing ALL abortion, which is what I meant. Also, 20 weeks is not the third trimester and so the law, if it had passed, would not have been compatible with Roe. However, if it passed, it might have been the test case for the Supeme Court to overturn Roe.

    I should have been more specific. Let me restate my question:

    When was the last time any elected Republican - local, state, or federal, voted to outlaw ALL abortion?

  • Right/Left = Impulse/Thoughtfulness on October 25, 2012 8:50 PM:

    JoanneinDenver, correct me if I'm wrong: You're against giving women the right to make personal medical decisions, you're pretending that' the Republican Party's platform isn't about OUTLAWING abortion, and you want to pretend that science can define what a person is?

    How about we declare all Sperm as having Personhood and admit that all those Republican males are constantly committing abortions that are no different than a third trimester abortion?

    If you want to give rapists the rights to fatherhood, just be honest and say so, JoanneinDenver, that's what Mourdock's and the other Republican extremist's position is: Rapists get to force their rape victims to keep their babies.

  • Rose on October 25, 2012 9:43 PM:

    Spare me the bs, I do not care what anyone's reasons are for or against. My CHOICE, not yours. As I would not make a pro-lifer have an abortion,you don't get to tell me what to do. That's all.

  • joanneinDenver on October 25, 2012 11:18 PM:

    Right/Left = Impulse/Thoughtfulness

    1) There is no biological or scientific definition for "person." "person" is a legal construct, not a biological one. I was hoping that you would see the distinction, but you sailed right by the term "biological" and gave the current legal definition of person as if it were a biological term. It is NOT. You are the one who wants use science to justify a legal position. Not me.

    2) The Republican platform is absolutely about outlawing all abortion...I addressed that issue, I think, very comprehensively in my first comment on this thread. The platform has been in effect since 1980. There has only been one
    vote by Republican elected officials to outlaw abortion by beginning the process
    of a constitutional amendment. That occurred in 1982, thirty years ago, in the Republican Senate.


    I do not believe that the Republicans will vote to outlaw all abortions. They have had control of Congress and the White House from time to time in the last thirty years and they have NEVER voted on outlawing all abortion. Not since that one vote in 1982.

    Republican women know that abortion is not going to be outlawed. It is beginning to dawn on other women that that is not going to happen....that is why Obama and Romney are now even on the women's vote. Obama has lost his advantage among women, because the argument doesn't hold.

    Murdock's position is absolutely consistent with catholic theology. Nobody needs to agree with him or his religion. The question is would he vote to put his
    religious belief into law. I don't think he has committed on that. If he were, then I think the outrage would be justified.

    Planned Parenthood would lose funding, for the same reason that Acorn did and the same way the Wisconsin public employees lose collective bargaining rights
    (until they were restored by a court decision) and that reason is they all are sources of democratic support. The Republicans are out for power and want to destroy the democratic party...I think they are doing a find job of that. No Democrat has pointed out the hypocrisy of the Republican party. The Republicans yell "Boo" and people such as the ones posting here just run around scared. It is really a Republican Trick or Treat. The very real threats to our constitution are being ignored.

    @Rose,
    You don't have absolute "Choice." You have the right to terminate a pregnancy only in the first trimester. After that, it depends on what state you live in. There can be all kinds of restrictions and in the last trimester, abortion can be prohibited unless you can present a health reason. If you want absolute "choice," you should be working on a constitutional amendment to make the right to abortion absolute, instead of heckling people, such as I.

  • pangea on October 26, 2012 1:11 AM:

    @Joannein Denver: I think you ask the wrong question. When is the last time an elected Republican voted to outlaw all abortion? Not anytime recently, probably. A better question is how many elected Republicans WOULD vote to outlaw all abortions if they thought they could survive it politically.
    To be sure, some Republicans really don't care a bit about the issues except as a wedge. These politicians likely wouldn't vote to outlaw all aborions because it is such a useful political issue for them (at least they wouldn't sponsor such legislation. I don't know that, if it did come up for a vote, they would be able to avoid voting for it). Many Republicans, on the other hand, would very much like to outlaw all abortions if they could.
    You seem to be suggesting (actually in your post directly above you come out and state it) that Roe is safe and that no one wants to outlaw all abortions. It also seems to me that it is just this kind of thinking that will allow them to do it, given the chance.

  • joanneinDenver on October 26, 2012 6:01 AM:

    Thank you for talking about the issues I raised. Would the Republicans vote to outlaw ALL abortion? I am arguing they would not, because in the last thirty years, they never even have voted on the issue. Various bills may be introduced about outlawing all abortions by declaring that life begins at conception, but then those bills are ALWAYS referred to a committee and never heard of again.
    Such a procedure does NOT require anyone to vote. The bills just "die" in committee. Neither you nor I nor anyone else "knows" what they "would do."

    But, I think it would be good political strategy to ask Mourdock how he would vote to put his religious beliefs into law. That is not being asked, I think it is politically bad strategy for the Democrats to be "shocked" when Mourdock expressed a religious belief that is held, in theory, by sixty million Catholics. This is why catholic hospitals fight to not be forced to give the Morning After pill to rape victims. It is one of the reasons in the suits that bishops have filed against contraceptive mandates. None of this is new.
    Ironically, Matthews, Lawrence O'Donnell, and Rachel Maddox are all graduates of catholic schools.

    I have heard Republicans give the argument that you suggest and that is they won't vote to OUTLAW all abortion because they would not survive politically.
    BUT, they would add, the rest of their agenda...small government, lower taxes, etc. you know the drill....was too important to risk losing over the abortion argument. Twenty years ago, I was a practicing catholic and so had many conversations with catholic republicans and that was the argument they made to me. I am a registered Democrat.

    I never said ROE was SAFE. I implied that abortion is SAFE. But that is not the same thing. I think that ROE will be overturned. BUt if ROE is overturned, that would not outaw abortion, the issue would be returned to the States and each State could vote on how abortion would be handled in that state. This is Scallia's opinion. This is what most Republicans are now advocating, as are many bishops. This is what I said:

    "2) The second path to changing the law on abortion lies in the Supreme Court hearing a legal challenge and reversing Roe, using Justice's White's minority opinion in Roe that abortion was not a federal issue, but a state's right issue.
    That would not automatically outlaw abortion, but would allow each state to
    make its own laws in regard to abortion. The means that each state could define who was a person...you know, like in the Dred Scott pre-civil war days. Each state, then, using the rationale from such a Supreme Court decision, could argue that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 violated states rights. This argument has already been made by Governor Perry of Texas, once the leading Republican candidate for President. The roll back of civil rights would be disastrous. These are the dangers."