Althouse | category: abortion



a blog by Ann Althouse

"Republicans fared exceptionally well in some states, including Florida and New York. In others, like Michigan or Pennsylvania, Democrats excelled."

"How can we make sense of it? The results seem unusual because of two unusual issues: democracy and abortion. Unlike in the typical midterm election, these issues were driven by the actions of the party out of power. Indeed, the party out of power achieved the most important policy success of the last two years: the overturning of Roe v. Wade.... In states where democracy and abortion were less directly at issue, the typical midterm dynamics often took hold and Republicans excelled. A comparison between New York and Pennsylvania is illustrative. The states share a border — if you drive across the state line, things look about the same. Yet their election results look as if they’re from different universes...."

Writes Nate Cohn in "Why Some States Went in Different Directions in Midterms/Abortion rights and antidemocratic stances were more relevant or pressing in some places than others" (NYT).

"In Pennsylvania, Republicans nominated a candidate for governor, Doug Mastriano, who was central to efforts to overturn the states’s 2020 presidential election results. Democrats feared that a Mastriano victory could risk a constitutional crisis and a threat to democratic government. It might have threatened another long-held right as well; Mr. Mastriano is a strident opponent of abortion, and Republicans controlled the state Legislature. The two issues were less critical in New York. There was no danger that the Democratic Legislature would overturn abortion rights. No movement emerged in 2020 to overturn Mr. Biden’s victory in New York, and there is little indication that anyone feared [GOP candidate Lee] Zeldin might do so. As a result, Republicans focused the campaign on crime. And it paid off. New York and Pennsylvania were part of a pattern that played out across the country...."

"I was so angry and just irritated at seeing man after man — you know, typically, male politicians — grandstanding about abortion."

Said Gabrielle Blair, quoted in "Gabrielle Blair Would Like a Word With Men/After 16 years of making a name for herself as a blogger and home decor expert, Design Mom has written her manifesto — about reproductive health" by Kase Wickman (NYT).

The NYT article seems to be a reaction to the fact that a book Blair created out of a 64-post-long Twitter thread has debuted at No. 2 on The New York Times’s paperback nonfiction best-seller list.

Here's the Twitter thread, and here's the book: “Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion.” 

Now, my readers may be saying tough luck for Althouse. She could have written a book called "Don't Be a Splooge Stooge," but Blair got to the best-seller list first. Of all my unwritten books, that's the one I'm least sad about not devoting a year of my life to.

Blair's point isn't exactly the same as mine. I was responding to the argument that men — because they don't have the right to choose to end a pregnancy — shouldn't have to pay child support for children they didn't want. I said both men and women have a right to decide what happens within their own body, and, anatomically, for men, the right ends when he ejaculates. You need to exercise care and control while you can. You can't extend your power into the sovereign domain of the woman's body, and, if your child is born, it deserves the economic support of both of its parents.

Blair addresses opponents of abortion. She's mad at abortion opponents who are male and who go after women for failing to adequately guard their body from pregnancy. Men need to focus on what men can do, which is to insure that they never impregnate a woman. If you had to never impregnate a woman, you could, she says. Read the book — or the Twitter thread — to see her advice in full. In short: Unless you want to create a new life — or unless you've had a vasectomy — you should never ejaculate into a woman's vagina.

She does not address the one circumstance that led to my "splooge stooge" series: The woman retrieves a used condom from the trash and uses it to impregnate herself.

By the way, Blair has 6 children. The first tweet in her "ejaculate responsibly" series is:

I’m a mother of six, and a Mormon. I have a good understanding of arguments surrounding abortion, religious and otherwise. I've been listening to men grandstand about women's reproductive rights, and I'm convinced men actually have zero interest in stopping abortion. Here's why….

Why is she "convinced men actually have zero interest in stopping abortion"? Because they keep ejaculating into women's vaginas!

What should male abortion opponents do?

Stop protesting at clinics. Stop shaming women. Stop trying to overturn abortion laws. If you actually care about reducing or eliminating the number of abortions in our country, simply HOLD MEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS.

It gets really intense and punitive. I was just saying men owe child support. Blair says:

What if there was a real and immediate consequence for men who cause an unwanted pregnancy? What kind of consequence would make sense? Should it be as harsh, painful, nauseating, scarring, expensive, risky, and life-altering… as forcing a woman to go through a 9-month unwanted pregnancy?

In my experience, men really like their testicles. If irresponsible ejaculations were putting their balls at risk, they would stop being irresponsible. Does castration seem like a cruel and unusual punishment? Definitely.

It's a thought experiment.

But is it worse than forcing 500,000 women a year to puke daily for months, gain 40 pounds, and then rip their bodies apart in childbirth? Is a handful of castrations worse than women dying during forced pregnancy & childbirth?

Put a castration law on the books, implement the law, let the media tell the story, and in 3 months or less, tada! abortions will have virtually disappeared.

This argument also works as a cure for all sorts of misbehavior. The government could cut off the hands of thieves and execute tax evaders. But, obviously, Blair isn't really coming after you with pruning shears.

Can’t wrap your head around a physical punishment for men? Even though you seem to be more than fine with physical punishments for women?

The "punishments for women" come from nature. We're the ones with the self-punishing anatomy (if you want to characterize pregnancy and childbirth as punishment).

Okay. Then how about this prevention idea: At the onset of puberty, all males in the U.S. could be required by law to get a vasectomy.

Reverse your vasectomy if and when you decide you want to be a father. There's your right to choose. I mean it would be if you were choosing the vasectomy, but Blair envisions forced vasectomy.

Again, it's a thought experiment. Blair is trying to come up with ideas that lie within the power of men, to give something for men to do instead of trying to control women. Men can get a vasectomy. But she wants to express anger and outrage at men for directing their efforts at the things women do to their bodies, so she's jacking up the aggression and visualizing cutting off men's testicles and forcing vasectomies on little boys.

And there is a market for this book, so some people are finding these visualizations interesting, funny, or exciting.

"Having no options but to be dead, criminal or a parent is not a sane or moral argument for parenthood..."

"... and it’s also pretty different than having certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Also, now that abortion is unavailable under almost all circumstances in Texas and other states, it’s an economic justice issue in that those with the financial capacity to take time off, travel in search of care and pay for it out of pocket are not affected the way those who cannot do so are. And those who can afford to get an abortion under these circumstances are also those who can afford to defend themselves against possible criminal charges...."

Writes Rebecca Solnit in "Abortion is a bread-and-butter economic issue. We need to treat it that way" (The Guardian).

Why are Democrats so unenthusiastic about the midterm elections? Is it about abortion?

I'm reading this CNN report on its new poll:
Overall, 27% of registered voters say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting this year, down from 37% just ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, and the decline in enthusiasm comes almost entirely among Democrats. Four years ago, 44% of Democratic registered voters said they were extremely enthusiastic about voting; now, just 24% say the same. Among Republicans, the number has dipped only narrowly, from 43% to 38%.

I wouldn't say a loss of 5 percentage points is "narrow," but the Democrats have lost 20 percentage points. That's enormous. What's going on?!

It could be simply that the economy is the biggest issue and people who like Democrats still don't trust them with the economy. Even if you love profuse spending, inflation hurts you every day, and at some point your own pain overshadows your self-image as a person of empathy. Maybe just stay home and disconnect. This election's not for you.

Similarly, a Democrat might abstractly endorse more empathy-oriented policies about crime but worry about their personal safety and the safety of their family. It may not be enough to flip them into voting for a law-and-order Republican, but it might induce abstention. I'll just turn away and let you rougher folks do things that might be needed.

But let's talk about abortion. When the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, Democratic Party politicians thought this was the issue that would rescue them from the red wave that had seemed inevitable. They pushed that issue hard and strongly identified themselves with a plan to pass statutes guaranteeing access to abortion. 

The CNN article tells us that abortion is the top issue for 15% of likely voters and for 29% of Democratic likely voters. But I want to know about those unlikely voters. I'm thinking that when abortion was understood and protected as a constitutional right, voting for the Democratic Party did not seem to have a direct causal connection to abortion. Now, the moral problem is stark. The Party is actively calling attention to the voters' role in making abortion available. 

I would think some people, in that situation, would distance and disconnect. Let others decide. Indeed, the erstwhile constitutional right represented the idea that the other should decide. That is, the woman who is experiencing the pregnancy makes the decision, and that is her right. But the decision-making is now in the political sphere, and those who want to stay out of the decision-making — who were adjusted to Roe — can refrain from voting.

"But in recent weeks we’ve been treated to a boomlet of pieces suggesting that maybe women aren’t really all that angry about Dobbs after all."

"In this telling, women just kind of burned hot for a few weeks, until they came to realize that they cared about gas prices and milk prices more than they cared about reproductive justice. Central to this story was the narrative that Democrats face-planted in every possible way by focusing on abortion as the only election issue. Indeed, this mistake is supposedly so catastrophic that they are poised to be walloped in the midterms for it.... Just as there was no place for Alito to park reproductive freedom in the Constitution, so too, there is nowhere to park it in larger electoral politics. Abortion, pregnancy, and birth control: These issues will directly affect at least half the electorate, yet even now they remain hopelessly niche.... As far back as the time stamp on Alito’s shallow dive into history allows, women were being told that their interests were secondary, were a distraction, and were subsumed under bigger more important interests that are in the care of men.... If you accept the framing that women’s rights will always be lesser, you are pretty much signing up to guarantee that women’s rights will always be lesser in the future."

Writes Dahlia Lithwick in "Don’t Bail on Abortion/Women have been asked to stop prioritizing this problem for centuries" (Slate).

ADDED: What happened to the reports of individual women and girls impregnated by rape or pregnant and facing serious health problems? Was a decision made not to pursue this form of persuasion? It seemed to be presumed, right after Dobbs, that these stories would be powerful, but then they were gone. Why?

"Justice Clarence Thomas let it be known from the bench—to ribbing from Justice Elena Kagan and laughter from the audience—that he was a Prince fan in the nineteen-eighties."

"Chief Justice John Roberts name-dropped the artists Piet Mondrian and Josef Albers. But the contrast between the case, in which Warhol is accused of changing too little of Goldsmith’s [photograph of Prince], and the Court itself, which is lately accused of changing far too much, created a tense sort of levity.... The Warhol Foundation wants the Court to stick closely to those words. It asserts that Goldsmith’s naturalistic black-and-white photo depicts Prince as 'fragile and vulnerable,' and seeks to 'humanize' him. By contrast, the Foundation argues, Warhol’s silkscreen process created 'a flat, impersonal, disembodied, mask-like appearance' that comments on the dehumanizing nature of celebrity. In other words, Goldsmith depicts Prince intimately but Warhol conveys an image of an icon.... The legal narrative... is an unwitting commentary on what happens when courts decide what things mean: a flattening of human reality and experience.... Alito mused that 'maybe it’s not so simple' to determine the meaning of a work—months after eliminating abortion rights.... The question hanging over this term is how the Court, which wants to appear as unoriginal as possible, will be affected by enacting so many transformations."

From "The Supreme Court’s Self-Conscious Take on Andy Warhol/In a copyright case, the Justices revealed their own anxieties about interpreting precedents" by Jeannie Suk Gersen (The New Yorker). 

Justice Thomas wasn't randomly showing off his pop culture savvy. He had a good question. 

From the transcript:


"We’re just putting out the information... [t]o say: this is not something that’s scary, or dangerous, or violent. It’s just a picture of something that’s in your body."

Said a doctor involved in an effort to produce and publicize photographs of what is removed from the uterus when there is an abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy.

Quoted in "What a pregnancy actually looks like before 10 weeks – in pictures/In 13 US states, abortion is banned even in the earliest stages of pregnancy. But we rarely see what such tissue really looks like" (The Guardian).

I'd like to see the more moderate politicians of both major parties in the United States get together and pass a law that would guarantee access to abortion up to a specified week early in pregnancy. Looking at pictures like this could help people think honestly about where that line should be.

Here is a photograph that shows the stages from 5 weeks to 9 weeks. I know it will not change the mind of anyone who believes there is a human soul in this tissue from the point of conception and that you may think it's disrespectful of me to display a photo of 5 dead human beings. I'm putting it after the jump out of deference to that opinion, but I think this picture is important to confront for those who want to participate in reaching a consensus about the kind of law that ought to be passed now.

Independent women now favor the Republicans by 18 percentage points, when last month they favored Democrats by 14 points.

That's a 32-point turnaround. How the hell could that happen?!

That's from the new Times/Siena poll, discussed in the NYT article "Republicans Gain Edge as Voters Worry About Economy, Times/Siena Poll Finds/With elections next month, independents, especially women, are swinging to the G.O.P. despite Democrats’ focus on abortion rights. Disapproval of President Biden seems to be hurting his party." 

The NYT says that's "a striking swing given... how intensely Democrats have focused on that group and on the threat Republicans pose to abortion rights."

Obviously, one explanation is that the polls are massaged and the direction of the massage changes as we get closer to the election. That would mean the earlier poll was more about shaping opinion, and the new poll, so close to the election, needs to approximate what will actually happen in the election, so the pollsters won't lose credibility. We've all heard that explanation.

But a 32-point turnaround in one month — that's so huge!

Is it that "disapproval of President Biden" is "hurting his party"? Or is it that the stress on abortion rights isn't hitting independent women the way Democrats think it would?

When you look at independents as a whole — men and women — they favor Republicans by 10 percentage points, up from 3 last month, a 7 percentage point difference. What's going on with independent women? I myself am an independent woman, but I don't feel that I exemplify my group. In case I do, I'll just say that I feel distanced from all major-party politicians.

And, for the record, I hate abortion but support abortion rights. That is, I've supported abortion rights, as protected by the courts, but I expected the moderate politicians to propose legislation that would protect access to abortion, up to a certain point, which we would openly discuss, perhaps coming up with a reasonable time limit — subject to some exceptions — perhaps 15 weeks. I wanted to see a chart showing the development of the embryo/fetus week by week and polls asking what people think is the right line between letting the woman control her own body and protecting the unborn.

But that's not what we've seen. We've got Democrats resisting setting any limit. Instead of saying let's restore access to the point of viability — the Roe line — they're resisting setting any line. I say "they" but I'm not listening all the time to all of them. I did watch the Wisconsin gubernatorial debate in which the Republican Tim Michels accused the Democrat Tony Evers of supporting access to abortion up to the point of birth, and Tony Evers never corrected him — not right after the accusation was made and not later when the moderator asked each candidate to correct anything that has been said about him that's wrong. 

So I've got to consider the possibility that the giant 32-point shift in opinion is not in spite of the Democrats' support for abortion rights but in part because of it.

But maybe it's in spite of the abortion issues. Economic matters dominate, and people may want change. But why are women — in the independent group — changing so much more than men?

"[T]he 'Lebensborn' program — meaning wellspring or fountain of life... created in 1935... provided luxurious accommodations for unwed, pregnant women."

"Part of the program’s attraction was that unwed pregnant girls could give birth in secret. In 1939, about 58 percent of the mothers-to-be who applied to the program were unwed... by 1940, that number had swelled to 70 percent. Often, the homes were converted estates decorated by Himmler himself, using the highest quality loot confiscated from Jewish homes after their owners had been killed or sent to camps. Girls who were already pregnant or willing to be impregnated by SS officers had to prove their Aryan lineage going back three generations and pass inspections that included measuring the size of their heads and the length of their teeth. Once accepted, they were pampered by nurses and staff who served them delicacies at mealtimes and provided a recreational diet rich in Nazi propaganda...."

From "A new novel tells the story of Nazi birthing farms" by Kathleen Parker (WaP).

The new novel is "Cradles of the Reich" by Jennifer Coburn.

Here's the article in the Holocaust Encyclopedia about the Lebensborn program.

I found that as I was looking for photographs showing how a place "decorated by Himmler" would look. Here's a propaganda photograph with a caption that translated into "Everything for the healthy child":

From the Holocaust Encyclopedia article:
Himmler had hoped that the program would become the wellspring of future generations of Nazi Germany’s racial elite. However, Lebensborn disappointed these expectations. Although the program’s homes claimed to uphold the highest standards of modern medicine, serious complaints about the quality of medical care emerged....
Himmler had estimated that 100,000 “biologically valuable” German women obtained abortions illegally each year, despite increased penalties. However, only around 7,000 children were born into the Lebensborn homes during the program’s nine-year-long existence. 
Lebensborn ultimately fostered many more kidnapped foreign children, although the precise numbers are difficult to establish. The legacy of the Lebensborn program includes broken homes and devastated parents. It also left a generation of children forced to contend with identity crises as well as the social disapproval that often accompanied their association with a Nazi eugenics program.

I'm not going to read the new novel. I'd rather read nonfiction on this topic, but I would like to read a novel set in the near future that envisions a similar program in America, addressing the problem of declining birth and acknowledging that outlawing abortion won't work.

Of course, the racial aspect of the story would need to be changed, but how much? We'd have some sort of ideology of "diversity" or racial balancing, and it would be interesting to depict various American leaders attempting to work that out and needing to worry that what they are doing is like Lebensborn. Like Lebensborn. 

It would also be interesting to show American leaders attempting to draw in young American women through architecture and interior decoration... displayed on TikTok and Facebook. The novel could be very funny if you got just the right sort of obtuseness as the old try to imagine what these young women today want.

Offers of great food and a wonderful health care system would be part of the draw. More things to go wrong in this novel's twists and turns.

I could write this novel, but it will remain forever on my shelf labeled "Unwritten Books."

"Justice Clarence Thomas let it be known from the bench—to ribbing from Justice Elena Kagan and laughter from the audience—that he was a Prince fan in the nineteen-eighties.""We’re just putting out the information... [t]o say: this is not something that’s scary, or dangerous, or violent. It’s just a picture of something that’s in your body.""[T]he 'Lebensborn' program — meaning wellspring or fountain of life... created in 1935... provided luxurious accommodations for unwed, pregnant women."

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