Thursday, April 28, 2011

The View From The Fence


Below is a scene from last week's Invincible#79, courtesy of Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Cliff Rathburn. Mark Grayson, the title character, has recently returned to Earth after a year (comic time) in space fighting the Viltrumite War and has reunited with his girlfriend Atom Eve. We discover she has had a small but noticeable weight gain and, more importantly, has a big secret she's afraid to reveal to Mark. Finally, in issue#79, she breaks down and tells him.

Which leads to Mark's reaction.

This issue struck a chord with me, particularly since my wife and I are trying to conceive right now (not a smooth road for couples in their mid 40's). I'll say this for Kirkman: He's got guts. That's a rough issue to cover in a superhero comic.

Believe me, it's rough enough to even write a blog entry about it.

I'll level with you about my stance on the abortion issue: I'm, well,...split. Part of the "muddy middle". On the fence, if you will. (Hence the title of this post.) It's not that I don't have strong opinions on it. I do. But many of them are conflicted. There are complex and unresolved questions about when life begins (about which I'm not entirely convinced that either side's position is correct), as well as what happens when two sets of rights intersect and conflict. And it can be a grisly procedure, depending on the stage at which it's performed  (NOTE: Thanks for the correction, Saranga). However, I get more than a little nervous about giving governments that much power over womens' reproduction. Historically, it's been a recipe for disaster. We've seen how that scenario plays out.

This isn't an issue that easily lends itself to compromise. However, all three positions would undoubtedly find a general consensus on the wish to reduce the number of abortions. Which is why the recent attempts to defund Planned Parenthood make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Allow me to explain.

There has been a staggering level of disinformation on the abortion issue. How much? So much that when The Onion published this satirical piece from a woman who claimed she was "totally psyched" about her upcoming abortion, one blogger actually thought it was the real deal. (This led to such hilarious responses as "For your next post, how about a passionate speech on the need to immediately free Prince Albert from the can?") Yes, this was only one guy, but one can infer from reading the Onion article that it was intended to lampoon the widespread idea that women enter into the decision casually. Even to those those unfamiliar with 'The Onion", there were some very obvious tells, particularly in the paragraphs detailing the procedure itself. Depending on the stage, it can sometimes be highly invasive, in case you weren't aware. (Once again, thanks, Saranga.)

It doesn't help matters when you have politicians like Senator Jon Kyl who, while arguing for the defunding of Planned Parenthood recently, claimed that 90% of Planned Parenthood's services were abortions (as opposed to the actual percentage of roughly 3%). Kyl's spokesperson claimed later that his claim was "not intended to be a factual statement", which is apparently code for "lying his ass off in hopes that it would stick with low-information voters", an all-too-common political practice nowadays. This revelation was ridiculed in the media, most notably by Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Wyatt Cenac.

However, the bigger deception was all but ignored. The main argument for Planned Parenthood's defunding seems to be that federal funds should not pay for abortions because taxpayers should not be required to support things that contradict their moral beliefs. Let me point out two problems to those of you out there who support this argument:

1. I can name several things that I don't want the federal government to fund because they contradict my moral beliefs, like the 3 wars or Guantanamo Bay, to name a few. So can millions of our fellow Americans. But those things keep on receiving money. So, in the words of Hal Jordan....

And, more importantly...

2. You already won this fight. 34 years ago.

That's right: The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, already forbids federal funding from being spent on abortions, including funds to Planned Parenthood. Consequently,their abortion services are not funded by federal tax dollars, but rather by private contributors like the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation. Here's what that means: How many tax dollars will go toward Planned Parenthood's abortion services if we defund it? None. How many tax dollars will go toward its abortion services if we don't defund it? Also none.

I can understand why Planned Parenthood would be a juicy target for those against abortion. They perform roughly 332,000 annual abortions nationwide, which is around 1/4 of the roughly 1.21 million total abortions performed annually in the United States. So if Planned Parenthood shuts down completely, the USA's annual abortion amount is reduced by 25%, right?

Not necessarily. That's only part of the calculus, you see. Their entire range of services includes pap smears, contraception (birth control), cancer screening, and counseling, among other things. (See the chart below.)

Let's take the contraception program. The number of abortions the organization estimates were prevented by their contraception program is roughly 220,000. That reduces the net abortion increase that they are responsible for to approximately 112,000 (332,000 - 220,000 = 112,000). And that's just factoring in the unborn. There's also the lives of the women and men themselves who would be saved by the cancer screenings and other services provided. And yet these are the services that the conservatives in Congress want to defund.

I've got one word to describe that strategy: Idiocy.

Trying to cut down on abortions by defunding contraception is like trying to reduce crime by firing all the cops. It's like trying to protect coastal cities from flood damage by tearing down all the levees.

It's like trying to neutralize the Joker's crime sprees by killing Batman.

If I controlled Congress, and I wanted to reduce abortions, I wouldn't want to remove the funding of the non-abortion services of Planned Parenthood, I'd want to quadruple it. Fund the crap out of contraception. Make it more effective, more efficient, more accessible, and more affordable, especially for lower income women who need it.

Yet many in our government want to do the exact opposite.

That's not a sound, rational reproduction policy. That's a Monty Python skit.


At 9:19 AM , Blogger Saranga said...

Good post. Like you, I have complicated feelings towards abortion, but ultimately I think it's every woman's right to choose, dependent on her personal sitation and no one else has the right to impose their will on her, either way (including the father).

But as I say, my feelings are complicated and I am not responding in order to get into discussion about abortion.

I would like to argue a point though-
when you say that abortion is grisly, it does depend on what stage you have the abortion at.
Early stage abortions which involve taking 2 pills are not grisly, not invasive and far less complicated than later stage abortions.
And really late stage abortions do not take place on a whim. They take place if the health and life of the mother and child are at sever risk. And yes, by all accounts they are grisly and horrible and traumatising. My heart goes out to any woman who goes through one of these.

As you say though, the way to reduce the number of abortions is to fund contraceptives and sex education. It's the only way that works!

I wish you and your wife luck in conceiving :)

At 10:02 AM , Blogger notintheface said...

1. Valid point on the difference between stages and trimesters. My mistake on not factoring the differences AND not factoring in RU. (Still deciding what text to use to fix my post.) Still, it underscores my other point about the degree of disinformation that I fall prey to it here, doesn't it. (And I'm not trying to pull a Donald Trump "congratulating myself for being full of crap" move with that last sentence. Honest!)

2. I included the paragraph about the Onion article precisely to point out (and hopefully dispel)the "on a whim" fallacy.

At 10:02 AM , Blogger notintheface said...

Also, thanks for the well wishes, Saranga!

At 11:00 AM , Blogger Saranga said...

Fair play. I'm not trying to have a dig, I just wanted to respond.

As you say there's so much misinformation out there that I (sometimes) think it's worth challenging things if it;s not made clear.

For example - I sued the thinkt he morning after pill was the same as an abortion. It's not. It prevents the sperm fertilising the egg, but if that's already happened it has no effect. This explains why it decreases in effectiveness over the 72 hour period you can take it.
I wish someone had made that clear to me when I was younger!

At 11:43 AM , Blogger notintheface said...

I tried to put the corrections on there in a way that kept up the flow of the post but still acknowledged your assistance. Hope I succeeded.

At 5:30 PM , Blogger Ami Angelwings said...

This is a good post :) I tend to cringe when I read abortion posts from ppl "on the fence" but yours was very fair, and I think you were very respectful :) And yeah, Saranga is right, the images used by anti-choice advocates are not of most abortions (and some aren't even of abortions at ALL), where the results are literally miniscule and about a few CM long of tissue. Women aren't visibly pregnant during the stages where the vast majority of abortions are done either (there's a GREAT Sociological Images post about how a lot of media reporting about abortion issues use stock footage of 8 month pregnant women, and that leads to the idea that that's when abortions are happening). :) Not that it changes nething to me about how grisly something is (operations can be pretty grisly, GRS is quite grisly), b/c you know my stance on it (body autonomy, as I hope you can understand, is a v personal issue for me also, b/c state control of the body and what's "necessary" and not also has to deal with other issues, including hormones and GRS) but I do understand that these details are big factors for other ppl, and while I'm not saying what ppl shoudl believe or not, they should at least have some myths clarified (what the results of an abortion look like for one, also when it almost always takes place) :)

And ty also for pointing out that if you're anti-abortion but anti-contraception you're shooting yourself in the head -_-;;

The onion believing guy is hilarious xD The anti-gay marriage ppl in Canada did that too when they filed an Onion article in court while the court was deciding on gay marriage xD And the MRA guy I pointed out. I think, and this applies to ALL extreme ideologues not just ones I disagree w/, when your view on life is best proven/illustrated by a satire newspaper going over the top parody w/ what's alrdy a societal stereotype/misconception... there's I think an issue w/ your perceptions of reality >_>;;

Neways, sry I'm late to the party, but I just wanted to say that this was a very good post, and very honest also and I respect you even more for it :)

At 5:31 PM , Blogger Ami Angelwings said...

Oh and I dun have time atm to look for links about what the products of an abortion looks like, or the Sociological Images post (if you haven't seen either :) ) but you can proly find them using google :)

At 7:06 AM , Blogger notintheface said...

Thanks, Ami! Glad you liked it.

I'm still kind of kicking myself on my original error. I was familiar with everything Saranga mentioned prior in her comment when I wrote my post, but I flat out forgot to factor it in. When I make errors on my post, I usually try to correct them quietly if I spot them within a time I can reasonably assume no one but me has read it yet. But when someone spots it and comments, what I do next depends on the error. Usually, I leave it in the post as is and make any mea culpas/corrections in the comments section. In this case, it was TOO BIG an error to leave in the post as is (it contributed too much to the general atmosphere of misinformation), but I didn't want to whitewash that I'd made it and who corrected it for me.

Ironically, Ami, one of the graphic images you mention was ised in the original post of the guy who misinterpreted the Onion abortion spoof.

BTW, speaking of the MRA guy (MarkyMark?)you mentioned, check out my (admittedly cannibalized) response in his comments section.

At 5:50 AM , Blogger Maru Tamehana said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6:03 AM , Blogger Maru Tamehana said...

"You already won this fight. 34 years ago."

Are parents still killing their children in the womb?

Then no, the "fight" is not won.

Who gives a shit about who's paying for it? People just shouldn't be doing it. It's sick, and beyond amoral. You've got people justifying it by the lack of shits they give about the life of a unborn child.

Do you have an obligation to like those wars? No? So what makes you so special? You can lobby against your causes, but everyone just have to shut up and take it as society around them turns into ancient Aztec?

If your neighbours killed, say, their three year old girl, would you feel so blasé? Oh, it's only immoral when they're cute, and you can see them?

And 'contraception' is not the same as abortion. Preventing conception is entirely different, and most people don't have so much an issue with it, especially not compare to say, sucking the fetus through a blender and mashing it into bloody bits.

As for the 'not grisly' versions, well, neither is euthanasia or gassing, but it's still killing it.

And while the Onion article was satire, the women who go on tape, and rage on their blogs about how much joy and relief they get from their abortions, how wonderfully liberating that they can just eliminate their burdens, is not. They really are trying to push the 'there's nothing wrong with it, because look how happy I am about it' in an attempt to convince people it's guiltless.

You're getting 'abortion-positive' movies like 'Obvious Child', trying to reinforce this. A feel-good movie about abortion. A comedy.

You don't ever think that maybe there's something wrong with parents who think pregnancy is like picking out a suit? That maybe the world is a little bit insane for valuing their children, even the potential for children as little more than amoebic? Or a commodity? Or a horrid burden worthy of an Aliens film?

Even asides from the moral value of life itself, just think about the fact that we place so little emotional value on it.
Do we as a society, hate children and family that much?

No-one wants to think they're evil. To admit that abortion is taking the life of person is to admit that you've essentially been endorsing the holocaust. But that's the way it is.

And the thing is, if you realise this, absolutely no-one will hold it against you, no-one will think of you as evil, simply that you've learned.

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