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Thu Mar 22, 2012, 08:41 AM

Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding


I hate liberalism’s language of “choice.” I always have. Redolent of the marketplace, it reduces the most intimate aspects of existence, of women’s physical autonomy, to individualistic purchasing preferences. A sex life or a Subaru? A child or a cheeseburger? Life, death or liposuction? In that circumstance, capitalism’s only question is, Who pays and who profits? The state’s only question is, Who regulates and how much? If there is an upside to the right’s latest, seemingly loony and certainly grotesque multi-front assault on women, it is the clarion it sounds to humanists to take the high ground and ditch the anodyne talk of “a woman’s right to choose” for the weightier, fundamental assertion of “a woman’s right to be.”

That requires that we look to history and the Constitution. I found myself doing that a few weeks back, sitting in the DC living room of Pamela Bridgewater, talking about slavery as the TV news followed the debate over whether the State of Virginia should force a woman to spread her legs and endure a plastic wand shoved into her vagina. Pamela has a lot of titles that, properly, ought to compel me to refer to her now as Professor Bridgewater—legal scholar, teacher at American University, reproductive rights activist, sex radical—but she is my friend and sister, and we were two women sitting around talking, so I shall alternate between the familiar and the formal.

“What a spectacle,” Pamela exclaimed, “Virginia, the birthplace of the slave breeding industry in America, is debating state-sanctioned rape. Imagine the woman who says No to this as a prerequisite for abortion. Will she be strapped down, her ankles shackled to stir-ups?”

“I suspect,” said I, “that partisans would say, ‘If she doesn’t agree, she is free to leave.’ ”

“Right, which means she is coerced into childbearing or coerced into taking other measures to terminate her pregnancy, which may or may not be safe. Or she relents and says Yes, and that’s by coercion, too.”

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Reply Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding (Original post)
xchrom Mar 2012 OP
DURHAM D Mar 2012 #1
intheflow Mar 2012 #2
ProfessionalLeftist Mar 2012 #3
BlancheSplanchnik Mar 2012 #4
kestrel91316 Mar 2012 #5
marshall gaines Mar 2012 #6
happyslug Mar 2012 #7

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:05 AM

1. Thanks for posting.

"...it is fundamental to our and the law’s understanding of human autonomy and liberty. And so constraints on that freedom are not simply unconstitutional; they effectively reinstitute slavery."

"...it calls us to complete the unfinished business of emancipation."

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:44 AM

2. Love that it starts out criticizing the word "choice" in reproductive issues!

Been saying that for years now. Marking to read for later since I really need to stop dicking around on DU and get ready for work.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:45 AM

3. K & r

As I suspected...but had not yet seen it explained so well. Thanks for posting this.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:03 AM

4. I've hated the "Choice" meme for ages......

sure didn't put my discomfort into words as articulate as these, however.

I've been saying safe, legal abortion is life or death for women. We do need a usable slogan that captures the point.

GREAT article!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:12 AM

5. I have called denial of abortion rights "reproductive slavery"


for over 25 years, but for the most part women have rejected that comparison and I DON'T KNOW WHY.

When you are denied ownership rights over your own physical body, and denied the autonomy to make your own medical and physical decisions, you do not own yourself. Someone else does.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:58 AM

6. excellent



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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 12:46 PM

7. And tied in with the other non-talked about issue, when does a fetus become a Human?


In a nut shell that is the Right's argument against Abortion, if a embryo is a Human Being, to abort it means to kill it and thus it is Murder.

On the left this issue is ignored, for the simple reason we are uncomfortable with it. Is a Fetus just a bunch of excess cells or something else? A fetus can not talk, walk or even think, but the same can be said of a new born child. Thus even birth is NOT that much of a break in the development of a embryo into a human being.

This is NOT a new argument, Aristotle and St Augustine discussed this problem. St Augustine solution was Catholic Doctrine till 1869 and is the basis for the present Shiite Moslem position on abortion (No Reconstructions on Abortions in the first four Months of Pregnancy). The English Common Law rule was based in St Augustine's position, and that position was adopted by the US Supreme Court in Roe vs Wade in 1972 (Please note the US Supreme Court based its decision on what was the Rule on Abortion under the Common Law, ignoring the influence of Aristotle and St Augustine and other writers).

Yes, St Augustine used the Concept of "ensoulment" i.e. when the body assumed a "Soul" as opposed to being a group of cells, but it was the basis for the English Common Law rule which place few restrictions on abortions in the first three months of pregnancy, more restrictions till the child "Quicken" then a ban on abortion in the last three months of pregnancy UNLESS there was some medical reason for the abortion. It was a workable rule and by adopting quickening as the sign that a child had developed a "soul" a rule that could be determined without any invasive actions (i.e. feeling the outside of the womb was good enough to see if the fetus was "kicking" or doing other acts of life).

The English Common law rule as to Abortion was the rule in the US till the middle of the 1800s, when the medical community decided they wanted to take over birthing from mid-wives. Till that time period it was rare for a Doctors to do an abortion or assist in birthing, for the simple reason mid-wives did abortions as while as birthing.

As part of the move of Medical Doctors into the area of Pregnancy, Doctors convinced state legislatures to restrict abortions to when they were medically necessary (and then given Doctors the sole exclusive right to make that determination). The effect of this was to cut out abortions to anyone who could NOT pay a Doctor (i.e. no longer go to a mid-wife). Various medical reason were made for this law, most of questionable medical reasons today (Germs were NOT even considered the cause of disease till the LATE 1800s AFTER the ban on abortions were passed).

The Catholic ban on Abortion, as did most religious opposition to abortion. arouse out of this movement to ban abortions by the Medical Community. The Medical Community would state the the change was needed, religious leaders would defer to such experts and support the change in the law.

The Religious ban on abortion arouse when people among the religious started to ask the simple question, if there is no real medical difference between a fetus before quickening and after quickening, as the medical community is stating, does not the ovum become a human being when it is fertilized by a sperm? Birth is NOT the division between being a Human being and a collection of Cell, if Quickening is not, then the previous event that shows a MAJOR change is fertilization i.e. when the ovum in fertilized by a sperm.

By the time this point was being made, the Medical Community had already managed to take over birthing from mid-wives and with that duty the sole right to do abortions. Thus the medical Community saw no reason to entered the debate, they already had want they wanted.

Abortions thus was outlawed, except if you had the money to pay a doctor to determine it was "medically necessary" by 1900. That was the law till the 1960s when attacks on the State law started to be made, but not from the left but the right, i.e. the right was saying that you needed some standard to determine what was "medically necessary", not just a Doctor's opinion. This lead to more restrictions on abortions but the right still objected to the fact the state still permitted abortions.

Opposing to this move from the Right, was the movement from the left to liberalize abortion laws for it it become to restrictive. The right was dominate in this area in the 1940s and 1950s, but the left started to become dominate in the 1960s. One of the reason for the shift was the Chief Catholic Priest leading the attack on States' lack of restrictions on abortions pointed out that if you oppose abortion, you had to support a complete ban on abortion and since the States could not and would not do that, the better choice was to take the State out of the issue completely i.e. The states repeal their laws on abortion and leave it up to individuals if an abortion should be done or not. That way the STATE is NOT telling someone to abort or not to abort.

In simple terms the issue had returned to its roots, when is the Fetus a human being? If the fetus is just a collection of cells, then abortion is no more serious then removing a scab off a wound. If the fetus is a Human being, abortion in Murder.

This concept is complicated by the fact that fetus are aborted naturally all the time. The Church's position is that is nature and thus not an issue, just like if a child dies of natural causes, unless someone did something to harm the child, it is NOT murder. I was told (I have NOT found a source to confirm or deny this story) that Sophia Loren had a problem, just walking around caused her to naturally abort any fetus she was carrying. When she decided she wanted a child, she had to restrict herself to bed 24 hours a day or her body would naturally abort the fetus. These abortions would be natural, but she knew it would happen. This type of case blurs the line between Natural and induced abortions, but it is a blur even the Catholic Church accepts (i.e. you have the right to live and move around, thus these abortions were "natural" not Induced).

The more you look into the details of the history of Abortion since 1800 the more you see that St Augustine had it right. Abortions occur naturally in women all the time, what is the difference between such spontaneous abortions and an induced abortion? Now, a Child once it is quicken can sometime survive outside the womb, this was known even in ancient time (Modern Medicine can help a pre-mature child if born in the last trimester, and can even combine sperm with ova to produce an embryo, and keep the embryo alive till it is implanted in a womb, but medical Science as of today can NOT keep the embryo alive AND to develop into a baby outside an actual womb).

Thus the English Common Law, following Aristotle and St Augustine seems to be a workable solution to this dilemma, when does a fetus become a human being? It is the issue that has to be addressed when the issue of abortions come up, for some line in the sand has to be drawn. Birth and embryo status are generally nine months apart, but both tend to be unworkable cut offs as to the issue of when a group of cells become a Human Being.

Some cut off has to be adopted and that is the underlying debate in the Abortion debate that no one wants to address for it is an uncomfortable issue. Smacks of the issue of "Untermensch" of the Nazis. At the same time it is the heart of the debate on abortion. If one view a embryo as a Human Being, then to permit it to be aborted is to permit murder, on the other hand, such abortion of embryos occur all the time naturally, and NO ONE CONSIDERED SUCH NATURAL ABORTIONS AS MURDER.

I bring this up, for it is a concept ignored by the right and left for sooner or later you have to decide when does a fetus become a Human Being with all the rights to LIFE that belong to a Human Being. When someone tells you the embryo is a Human Being, tell him or her, St Augustine did not view embryos as Human Beings AND St Augustine is Doctor of the Catholic Church (And is respected theologian among most Protestants). Tell them the Story of Sophia Loren and women like her, and then ask them if such a person is just working, knowing it will cause a natural abortion, committing murder? What if she HAD to work to feed herself and the rest of her family?

Most people who embrace fertilization of a ova as when a fetus becomes a human being have NEVER even thought how do you treat natural abortions let alone someone who naturally abort a fetus by just walking around. At the same time premature infants survive all the time outside the womb IF THEY REACH THE FINAL TRIMESTER but NOT before.

Just some words on abortion and why the law is the way it is and why the rules used in Western Europe for almost a 1000 years (St Augustine's Rule which was influenced by Aristotle) is the most workable rules on the subject.

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