The Raving Theist

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Judging Jill

January 20, 2006 | 31 Comments

Jill of Feministe takes aim at crisis pregnancy centers, asserting that their “very purpose . . . is to lie, mislead and coerce women” out of having abortions. To illustrate this point she highlights the experience of two women, Nichole Embry and “Danielle.” Nichole’s boyfriend wanted her to abort, but she was having nightmares about it; the CPC counselor told her that the decision would affect her entire life and that the pain “doesn’t go away.” Danielle too, was being pressured by her boyfriend (and mother) to abort even though it was “against her values.” When Danielle said that she might nevertheless terminate the pregnancy if her boyfriend insisted, the registered diagnostic medical sonographer at the CPC showed her an ultrasound image of her uterus on a television screen, played the fetal heartbeat on an audio speaker, and asked Danielle if she “would feel [she] killed [her] baby because of him.” Jill’s reaction:

Christ. Now, I deeply believe that if a woman wants to give birth and doesn’t want to have an abortion, it’s coercive and wrong for her family or boyfriend or whoever to pressure her. These two women seem fairly certain of what they want to do, and they should be supported in their choice. But telling them that abortion is universally painful and the psychological effects don’t ever go away, or that she’s contemplating killing her baby, is highly inappropriate. It would be equally inappropriate for a counselor to try and convince her to have an abortion when she clearly doesn’t want it, and I’m sure these “pro-lifers” would agree — yet they don’t see the hypocrisy in their own actions.

I don’t see the hypocrisy in their actions, either. There is none. The counselors believe that abortion is wrong, very wrong, and that women should be convinced of its wrongness and dissuaded from aborting. So of course they believe that it is fine to talk women out of abortion, but morally repugnant to talk them into it. It’s no more inconsistent than arguing that people should be talked out of infanticide but not into it.

Jill’s criticism makes no sense whatsoever in the context that she presents it, as the counselors in her examplewere supporting the women in their original choices. But more fundamentally, her analysis is flawed because her morality penalizes only the criticism of conduct — i.e., simple persuasion — rather than conduct itself. The only “wrong” in Jill’s ethical universe is trying to persuade someone not to act upon their original or existing desires, to express disapproval of what they “clearly want,” regardless of what those desires or wants may be.

And so one of Jill’s chief complaints against CPC’s is that they “lay down black-and-white judgments.” The argument collapses upon itself. For Jill herself is asserting, as a black-and-white matter, that lying, misleading and coercing women out of abortions is a bad thing. And she is making a value judgment that on the spectrum of morality, lying, misleading and coercing are worse than killing. If not, why doesnt’ she just say, “if you don’t like CPCs, don’t go to one?”

Jill particularly doesn’t like that CPCs try to make women feel guilty by convincing them that abortion is an “evil, shameful thing.” But that is the nature of judgment itself, evoke guilt or pride in conduct. Presumably Jill believes that the CPC volunteers should be made to feel guilty for persuading women to view abortion exactly they do; under her own theory, however, she may not do that. And insofar as Jill believes that absent a compelling reason, the procedure should be criminalized after approximately six months, I assume she wants women to feel that abortion is evil and shameful after thatpoint. So the notion that passing judgment, or creating guilt, is some independent moral wrong, is nonsensical. All that matters is the nature of the conduct under review.

But let us suspend reason and for the moment accept Jill’s premise that the morality of the abortion decision hinges solely upon whether the woman wants it. Even then, what is so special about the status of her desire at the instant she presents herself at the clinic door? No person arrives at her position on abortion in a vacuum — at some earlier point in her life she was “coerced” into believing as she does. Why would it be wrong for the CPC counselor at some later time to correct what she believes to be an immoral belief, and thus make that what the woman wants?

Suppose, for example, that the woman had been pro-choice her entire life but was swayed in the other direction only a week before by watching a television show about fetal sonograms. Jill would certainly respect that woman’s expressed desires at the time she entered the clinic. So what would it matter if instead the woman was persuaded by a video of that same program ten minutes after walking into the clinic? Would the decision to keep the child be any less her desire, merely because she arrived at it a week later? I also assume Jill would respect the desire of a lifelong Catholic to give birth — would it matter to her if the conversion had taken place only day before, or if the woman were simply “converted” to the pro-life position (by religious or non-religious reasons) by clinic volunteers?

The sin here, apparently, is that clinics fail to respect what Jill terms “the personal autonomy of others.” In other words, presenting women with moral arguments in an attempt to persuade them somehow turns them into mindless robots (at least if pro-life arguments are employed). But if, indeed, a woman is a full moral agent she is perfectly capable of arguing back, or walking out of the clinic if she doesn’t like what she hears. I’m sure that most of the moral agents that Jill knows are aware that getting an abortion at Planned Parenthood in twenty-first century America is as easy as sticking a coin into a gumball machine, and wouldn’t have much difficulty extracting themselves from a CPC if indeed they would ever make the “mistake” of entering one in the first place.

What Jill really means, perhaps, is that the sort of women who go to CPCs are helpless, vulnerable, undecided and uninformed. That’s hardly the same thing as autonomous. If that is the case, they are better off being tipped over to the side of life at a CPC than possibly being “comforted” and “reassured” down the road of death elsewhere by allegedly “neutral” counseling. In any event, if Jill truly believes that the abortion decision itself is morally neutral, she shouldn’t care about the ultimate outcome. And if she does believe that giving birth is in some instances the “wrong” choice she should support her claims with data regarding the grave harm that CPCs have caused. There aren’t a lot of “I hate my baby” organizations out there.

For my part, I see no problem with a CPC volunteer “violating” a woman’s personal autonomy by seeking to change her mind about abortion even where she is “fairly certain” about the choice. My friend Ashli has successfully counseled women who desperately desired to abort, who had made appointments to do so (see here and here). I defy anyone to read those stories and explain how what she did is anything short of morally spectacular, much less evil.

No, I do not believe that CPC volunteers to should lie to women about their medical condition and condemn any who do. Jill concludes from a NARAL report that this is a common practice; I have never seen it, and I invite you to find a center near you, volunteer, do your own investigation, and put and end to such evil. But I cannot say I am in the least disturbed by the fact that volunteers give warnings, forcefully stated, of the potential psychological effects of the practice. I do not doubt for an instant that a woman may have an abortion without a trace of remorse or other psychological disturbance. But the sad fact of the human condition is that a person can commit virtually any wrong without guilt, and very purpose of such warnings is to instill it, especially in matters of life and death.

Comments

31 Responses to “Judging Jill”

  1. SmartBlkWoman
    January 20th, 2006 @ 4:00 pm

    I completely agree with you. I am anti-abortion ( in about 99% of circumstances) and believe that people should be as informed as possible about any decision that they make. If the information that they don’t know is of a supposedly offensive nature, all the more reason that they should know it. The most important thing is that these women be told the truth, with all available facts, and let them make their decision from there.

  2. Thorngod
    January 20th, 2006 @ 5:00 pm

    Whose truth, O sibyl? It is the future prospects for mother and child that are of primary importance. Who better to make that assessment than mother and foetus?

  3. Pixie
    January 20th, 2006 @ 5:20 pm

    What if the mother cannot support the child? Would you still want her to have the child? What if the baby would be born, unwanted, into a hostile invironment? Should she still have the baby? What if the mother simply dosn’t want the child and the pregnancy was a result of some unforseen incident such as a broken condom? shouls the mother still be coerced into having that child?

    TRA, I like your atheistic ramblings, but you spew shit from your mouth when you go off on these wild abortion tangents.

  4. SmartBlkWoman
    January 20th, 2006 @ 5:28 pm

    Thorngod,

    The truth is not a value judgement. It does not change, it just is. 2 plus 2 is always 4 no matter how hard I might want to believe that it really equals 5.

    A persons “feelings” about the truth can change, but truth itself never changes for anyone.

  5. Graham
    January 20th, 2006 @ 5:53 pm

    Thorngod is right. When a woman and her fetus have a reasonable dialog together and jointly decide that the best thing for both of them is to have the fetus voluntarily sucked out of the womb and flushed down a drain, then who are we to stand in the way of that fetus’ decision?

  6. SmartBlkWoman
    January 20th, 2006 @ 6:30 pm

    Your argument is false Graham. The fetus wants to continue living, as exemplified by the fact that barring any intervention it will continue to develop and nourish itself just like you and I do everyday as a way to continue our life. The mother must be dialoging with someone else, but definately not the fetus.

    Under normal circumstances all things desire to live. Anything that you try to kill will fight for its life.

  7. small fry
    January 20th, 2006 @ 7:12 pm

    I am pro-choice only because I do not wish to enforce my value/belief system on anyone else. I am only pro-abortion in cases where it is known that the mother will likely die, or in the case of the possiblity of debilitating birth defects like downs syndrome. That is because I value The quality of life over the quantity. Any mother who simply does not wish to have a child and still manages to get pregnant should consider adoption. Unwanted children are very likey to become degenerates in society, but thats life right?

  8. The No God Boy
    January 20th, 2006 @ 7:12 pm

    I support and encourage abortion. Now that we can’t count on the non-god to flood the place again we need to find other means of thinning out the herd. There is a finite number of people this planet can support and we are approaching that number.

    Imagine if there were 3 billion elephants on the planet (or lions, or cows) or any other large mammal like humans.

    Doctors should not provide evidence of a moral opinion. No mre than lawyers should argue your case the way they feel.

    I hire a lawyer to tell me the law and then argue what I say, not get up and say “while he says he’s innocent ladies and geltlemen I have doubts…..”

    A doctor should tell the truth “here is what is, here is what you can do” and then do it if I instruct.

    Anything else turns the doctors office into a pulpit which it should not be.

  9. SmartBlkWoman
    January 20th, 2006 @ 7:44 pm

    [There is a finite number of people this planet can support and we are approaching that number.]

    Although it is true that the planet can only support a certain number of people we are nowhere near that number. There are many countries, especially in Europe, where the population is certainly thinning out due to people having less and less babies. There are parts of some countries ( I believe it is in China) where women are being paid to have babies because each generation has fewer children than the one before.

    Also, nature has a way of bringing population growth in line with what the planet can hold. Homeostasis kicks in and plagues happen.

    [Doctors should not provide evidence of a moral opinion. ]

    I disagree. Your doctor should be considerate of all facets of your health, including your mental health. If something has the potential to cause you great emotional pain in the long run ( as he/she might have seen evidenced in other patients before you) he has an obligation to warn you about that.

  10. The No God Boy
    January 21st, 2006 @ 12:47 am

    Too too many people. New York and San Francisco are good examples. If nature was in balance only about 100 people would live in Manhattan, about 50 in San Francisco.

    As far as doctors go, its one thing to say “hey, make sure this is what you want because…..” its quite another to judge you for wanting it.

    We need fewer people. Period. Lets start with the religious.

    D

  11. Jody Tresidder
    January 21st, 2006 @ 11:34 am

    Smart, you wrote: “I disagree. Your doctor should be considerate of all facets of your health, including your mental health. If something has the potential to cause you great emotional pain in the long run ( as he/she might have seen evidenced in other patients before you) he has an obligation to warn you about that. ”

    Pro-choice here, but I strongly disagree with you on other grounds.
    There are other medical procedures which may have devastating emotional consequences that a doctor must ultimately ignore if the procecdure itself is medically necessary. I wish I didn’t have the experience of watching someone facing – and temporarily surviving – a major amputation which – like more surgeries than we would like to think – might just possibly have been avoidable (but probably wasn’t). In other words – it wasn’t a cut-and-dried do-or-die decision, but based on best probabilities.
    Abortion is medically necessary to interrupt many unwanted pregnancies. It is also the appropriate procedure. Ultimately, this defines the area of the doctor’s obligation.

  12. leyla
    January 21st, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

    ” I do not doubt for an instant that a woman may have an abortion without a trace of remorse or other psychological disturbance. But the sad fact of the human condition is that a person can commit virtually any wrong without guilt”

    Dear RA

    As always you are right. Once I became Christian I couldn’t see the difference between a woman who abort and Hitler. Their crimes must be punished stronger. I Think we need to show to those who plan to abort, not only they are going to commit a heinous crime, we have also need to show them the consequences of it. I have some ideas about that.

    1) A movie depicting Hell with some scenes showing hundreds of cryng fetuses stabbing, amid the flames, those whores who abort . They have to suffer the due revenge. Eye for eye.

    2) We need to pass a law whereby those who abort, must use for five years (can be 20) a yellow star with two letters inside the star: BK for baby Killers.

    3) Police will inform the neighbors, name and addres of those who aborts, adding that they are dangerous persons. He who kills her baby can kill anybody.

    4) Plates for cars will be red with the firts two letter being BK

    5) A data base open to everybody and specially employers, for they to kow the moral stature of these baby killer. Be sure they won’t employ them, PR, you know.

    Of course we’ll need money and political lobbyng. In the first case all must contribute. I remember how generous you were to widows and orphans of the Miners in PA. I don’t refer to your post but to the check for $25 you sent them. Some will think you are stingy but they forget you are an atheits lawyer, and these have not many clients.

    And, for the political lobbyng, I feel at ease. Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter and the like, the very decent people, will be with us.

    I must ask you a sacrifice but a very useful one. Drop the atheist name of your blog. I Know this is going to be painful for you, but think about how your constituence will grow, and how, then, the efficiency of your preaching against abortion will increase. Is pure arithmetic , you will change a Jody for 20 believers in dire straits about abortion. There is also, a personal reason for this: You are the chosen as mi second moral guide, being Christ the first one.

  13. SmartBlkWoman
    January 21st, 2006 @ 3:43 pm

    No God Boy said: As far as doctors go, its one thing to say “hey, make sure this is what you want because…..” its quite another to judge you for wanting it.

    I agree with you. I didn’t want to imply that I think the doctor should be giving anyone lectures on morality. I just don’t think that there is anything wrong with him/her giving you a heads up and letting you know about all the possible side effects of the procedure you are about to undergo, including depression or guilt afterwards. Especially when it has been proven that other people do sometimes suffer depression.

  14. SmartBlkWoman
    January 21st, 2006 @ 4:32 pm

    Jody said: There are other medical procedures which may have devastating emotional consequences that a doctor must ultimately ignore if the procecdure itself is medically necessary. I wish I didn’t have the experience of watching someone facing – and temporarily surviving – a major amputation which – like more surgeries than we would like to think – might just possibly have been avoidable (but probably wasn’t). In other words – it wasn’t a cut-and-dried do-or-die decision, but based on best probabilities.

    I think there is a difference between someone facing the possibility of losing a leg to save their life and an elective abortion. Both of the patients need to be warned of all possible side effects though. Even those commercials you see for aspirin or other minor medications, the companies are required to say on the packaging and in the commercial all the possible side effects, even something as minor as diarrhea and particularly if you might be facing death. When someone gets their leg amputated they often have phantom pain in that region and the doctor warns them about that and lets them know that if they need any help dealing with the mental effects of the surgery where they can get it.

    In that way I don’t think there is anything wrong with a doctor saying, “if you have any regrets and need someone to talk to after this procedure here is a number or other information where you can get help. It has been my experience that x% of patients suffer some form of depression or regret after this procedure and here are some forms of help that we can offer you if this is the case with you also.”

    Again, I want to reiterate that the doctors office is not a place where the physician should be able to get up on a soap box and preach that your gonna go to hell, but being respectful of your mental health and providing you will all possible facts about your pregnancy should be required IMO.

    Jody said: Abortion is medically necessary to interrupt many unwanted pregnancies. It is also the appropriate procedure. Ultimately, this defines the area of the doctor’s obligation.

    Yes, abortion is medically necessary to terminate a pregnancy but the pregnancy itself is often not medically necessary to be terminated. If having more information about an elective procedure causes you to rethink the procedure and ultimately to not proceed with the procedure then I don’t believe that this would be a bad thing.

  15. Graham
    January 21st, 2006 @ 5:21 pm

    Hey SmartBlkWoman, in reference to my comment (#4) on this list………uhhhmm………I was being sarcastic. Of course the woman isn’t have a conversation with the fetus. I was (kind of) mocking Thorngod’s previous comment.

  16. SmartBlkWoman
    January 21st, 2006 @ 7:25 pm

    Oh, sorry Graham. I thought you were trying to mock me, like Thorngod calling me “sibyl”.

  17. Mary
    January 21st, 2006 @ 8:34 pm

    its quite another to judge you for wanting it.

    Yet you judge them for wanting to stop an abortion.

    Either wants are not to be subjected to judgment by other people, or else people are entitled to judge such wants. All of them.

  18. oDd42
    January 21st, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

    “(I believe it is in China) where women are being paid to have babies”

    Allow me to assure you it is not, of all countries, China.

  19. Mary
    January 22nd, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

    France.

    And all across Europe, and in Japan, population is in freefall.

  20. Elena
    January 23rd, 2006 @ 12:12 am

    Another example: in Russia women are paid to have children. But consider the bigger picture: most Western and non-Muslim Asian countries have declining birthrates and many have declining populations. Meanwhile Muslim birthrates and populations continue to grow. So if the world has a Muslim majority, what will happen to your right to be an atheist or read an atheist’s blog? Do you think this right will become more prevalent? I respect and admire many aspects of Muslim cultures; I know they are not all the same and that they can and do change–but don’t you want to preserve your own culture (and other cultures, languages and traditions)?

  21. Elena
    January 23rd, 2006 @ 12:39 am

    Main point: please don’t use population as an excuse for abortion. In much of the world, it’s easier to encourage fewer children than more children. And if you like your current language and cultural customs, you will probably want to encourage people to have children, or you may find that your culture and beliefs are irrelevant and dying out.

    More info on the previous post: Time magazine reported that in Belgium, the most popular baby name is Mohammed. In France, some people have worried that the majority of “the French” will eventually be Muslim (and hence benefits for French mothers with more than three children).

  22. Jody Tresidder
    January 23rd, 2006 @ 8:46 am

    Elena,
    I’ve read some sensible counter comments (based on the same sort of demographic number-crunching) suggesting that in Europe at least Muslim birth rates may start to defy worst case predictions, as a result of integration.

    I think population is best left out of pro or anti-abortion arguments.

    Otherwise, on the anti-abortion side, you start to drift into Stalinist soundbites about birthing for the good of the state.

    Which feeds straight into the pro-choice (of which I am part), and their horror of ever handing over a woman and her body to government demands – shades of eugenics and so forth.

  23. Thorngod
    January 23rd, 2006 @ 10:30 am

    Someone has calculated that we could easily fit the entire world population into the Grand Canyon. That could be one solution. Half of them would die within a week, which might be a better end than SBlW’s “plague” solution. And LAYLA, I’d rather see licence plates with a “BC” prefix (for Bloody Christian).

  24. leyla
    January 23rd, 2006 @ 5:10 pm

    Wicked thorgod
    Christian have never been bloody. What is the most important thing? It’s not the soul?.Of course Christian need sometimes a massacre but for saving souls. Saving the soul is the end. How come that Jefferson recommended to shed some blood for saving freedom and this is generally accepted, and you think is no worthy to shed some tons of blood for saving some more important than freedom like a soul?

    But are we really bloody? hadn’t we offered always to you, heretics, blasphemers, abortionist, homosexuals, atheists, schismatic, the oportunity of faith, repentance and recantation before taking yur life out? And what have happened? That you were obdurate and wicked; the proof that you belong to satan.

    Did you forget how much Christan blood have been shed for savin strayed souls?. Did you forget our martyrs,our christian soldiers, Ignacio de Loyola and the jesuits, and the missionaries who ended as hambugers for the savage cannibals they tryed to convert? Ours is not blood?

    Be a serious debater, prove first that soul doesn’t exist and then call me bloody. Youk now you will never be able to do that. Nobody can.

  25. jahrta
    January 24th, 2006 @ 10:51 am

    Leyla

    or lucymuff, or whatever name you’re going by these days…

    don’t you ever get tired of hearing yourself preach?

  26. jminnis
    January 24th, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

    Which is better: Preventing an unwanted birth or allowing the unwanted being to live a dreadful existence without love and nurturing?

    I think anyone who has children must be responsible for the offspring forever, not just until they are 18. No one asked the fetus if it wanted to be aborted. No one asked it if it wanted to be born if it meant cold, hunger, cruelty, drugs, crime, impoverishment and pain. Given the choice, I think most of us would gladly give up a brief period of pitiful existence for a continued eternity of bliss.

    Crime is at a 20-plus-year decline, largely due to Roe v. Wade and the abortion of unwanted babies. Perhaps RA and other right-to-lifers should adopt all unwanted babies they have forced to be born.

    Abortion is not pretty, but neither are the slums of the world or the drug-addicted dysfunctional. It would be better that abortions never had to happen. Pregnancy prevention is the ultimate goal, yet we refuse to allow the morning-after pill and we do not provide free birth control pills and condoms to the poor.

    No, we would rather prevent the abortion today, only to have the life killed violently in the streets or slowly through an unwanted, unviable existence. It is like not wanting to disgard leftovers. We have good intentions at first, yet we have not compunction about grinding them up in the garbage disposal when they begin to inconvenience us.

    If I were a woman and abortion became illegal, I would harvest some eggs and then get my tubes tied. I would not want the possibility of being stuck with an accident, with a child I was unable to provide the best life for.

    The pain of an abortion never goes away? Well neither does the pain of being unable to raise a child safely and properly. It is easy to be pro-life. It is a lot harder to ensure that life is a desirable one.

  27. leyla
    January 24th, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

    I don’t preach, and less to morons who cannot articulate their own ideas. Brandeis cannot remedy the wrondoings of nature. Return to you faith; judaism is not a bad path for finding God. Stop beeing RA’s speakerphone . Try to use your own brain if you have one. Even RA, being an atheist can stablish the difference between good and evil. You cannot do it by yourself, but over time and with God ‘s help you will.

  28. amba
    January 25th, 2006 @ 2:13 am

    What?? A pro-life atheist? I’ll have to go back and read that whole category.

    You may be interested in this:

    http://ambivablog.typepad.com/ambivablog/2006/01/the_ambivaborti_1.html

  29. jahrta
    February 24th, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

    dear me, I forgot all about this thread

    hey Leyla,

    In your case I wouldn’t worry about abortion – odds are you’re too scary stupid to attract a mate in the first place.

    Actually I probably shouldn’t say that – birthrates among incredibly moronic hicks seems to be skyrocketting these days.

    Leyla – do you eat eggs? You shouldn’t ya know – each one is a chicken abortion, a clucking life cut short by a cruel industry that exists to feed our gluttenous lust for breakfast foods.

    If you can explain to me what makes an unborn fetus more important than an unborn chicken, we’ll continue the debate from there.

  30. jill
    November 18th, 2009 @ 5:13 am

    I think the truth is all that was needed.. was cpc really
    looking out for that child or was it greed.. there are more choices than abort or adopt…..TRUST ME…

  31. jill
    November 18th, 2009 @ 5:25 am

    remember: do into others…
    aka……….karma…

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