Is Kleinheider Coming Around?

Today, Kleinheider says:

In my opinion, you are only pro-life if you believe abortion should be outlawed (with exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother) at some level of government. You can be pro-life and not want a human life amendment to the constitution. You can be pro-life and prefer that the issue go to the states.

But, in my mind, you cannot call yourself pro-life if you believe that abortion should remain as a legal medical procedure. You just cannot. [Emphasis his.]

Is Kleinheider getting soft in his old age?

I’ve often talked about how we, as a society, tend to think of pregnancy as the proper punishment for sluts and how so much of the anti-abortion rhetoric seems to circle around making sure that women don’t escape the punishment that they so richly deserve.

How much punishment do women deserve for being sluts?  Kleinheider spells it out for you.

You don’t deserve to die (hence the reason for the “life of mother” exception).  That’s too far.  But you do deserve to be forced to have a baby.

How do we know this is about punishing sluts?

Because Kleinheider is willing to make an exception for women who got pregnant while not willingly having sex–rape and incest.

If a human being is a human being, from the moment of conception forward, there can be no exceptions (except, possibly, life of mother).  The ‘baby’ cannot help how it was conceived.  Rape and incest are no excuse for “murdering” a baby.

And yet, Kleinheider offers those two loopholes for women seeking abortions.

Why?

Because even Kleinheider is uncomfortable with women who are already the victims of crimes that might impregnate them being further victimized by having to gestate and, at the least, give birth to the child of her victimizer.

Now, if only we can work Kleinheider up to the idea that women are grown-ass individuals who all have our own equally valid reasons for making the reproductive choice we make, we might be on to a true revolution.

24 thoughts on “Is Kleinheider Coming Around?

  1. I disagree; I don’t have time to write much, but I think there’s a different framework than the ever-popular “slut-shaming.” Rape and incest (and I’m assuming it’s the sort of incest between child and adult family members, not between two consenting adult family members) are the two situations in which the woman didn’t make a “knowing, voluntary and intelligent” choice to have sex. The idea being, women in the other situations know what they’re getting into and know the possible result of having sexual intercourse is a child.

    I’m reluctantly pro-choice – I dislike it emotionally, because I think that these days, life is cheap, and easy abortion cheapens life even further, but that’s just me. Intellectually, I think that it’s a woman’s body and I don’t need to bother what goes on with it. I feel the same way about people using drugs.

    I get there because I don’t think that a zygote/blastocyst/embryo has the same “life” that we do, and thus, I don’t think it deserves the same legal protections that a full-fledged human life does. However, reasonable minds can differ on that point (though of course there are plenty of unreasonable minds on either side of the debate), and depending on where you fall in the spectrum of what “life” is, then maybe you can balance it out and figure that if you know the consequences, and make a choice that can lead to a potential human life, maybe you don’t get as much leeway once you’ve done so as someone who never had a chance to think about it. That is to say, it’s possible for even a reasonable person to think that the Z/G/B is human enough that it deserves more protection than just any old clump of cells, but it’s not a human life as such. I think that restricting legal abortion to those women who didn’t have a choice about getting pregnant in the first place both acknowledges bodily autonomy and protects that postulated life interest. It’s actually a great compromise, in that it royally pisses everyone off.

    Of course, anyone who doesn’t make an exception for the life of the mother is way out there – like, Santorum-style out there, in the non-Savage style. We make all kinds of exceptions for people when their own lives are at stake – some states offer duress as a defense to an intentional killing, and duress doesn’t even require that the killer’s own life be at stake.

    Sorry I have to cut it off here, but I just wanted to chime in. I know it’s easier to rip on Kleinheider, but it might be good to think about his point of view, rather than putting it into the same framework as always.

  2. El Nino, of course I disagree with you that life is somehow cheaper now than it’s ever been. The way we cling to life and force others to cling to it I think disproves that.

    I’m trying to decide if I believe that Kleinheider has as reasoned a position as you do, and, frankly, I don’t think I can say that with any certainty. I think you may be giving him more credit than he deserves.

    As for me, I think abortion should be legal throughout pregnancy. I just don’t see how a person can legally commandeer another person’s body, even for a short time, and have the commandeered person be a free and equal citizen. But I think we need to give people access to real sex education and cheap and plentiful birth control, including the morning after pill. I don’t think abortion is some glorious problem-free skip through the park in terms of birth control and I’d like to see the number of abortions continue to decline and I think the most effective way to make that happen is to make people aware of how their bodies work, free to say “no” to sex if they don’t want it, and to have accessible birth control.

    The problem I have with your position is that it assumes that everyone has a lot of knowledge about how their bodies work and that women who don’t want to have kids are always in a position to refuse sex. But imagine if you came home one day and your wife was all “Well, I’m done having kids so no more sex for you until I hit menopause.” There’s not a person on the planet who would blame you for either having an affair or leaving your wife. Asking grown people to go without sexual intimacy is cruel.

    Or hang around blogs (like this one) when women start talking about our bodies and how much we know about them. Shoot, until I started Tiny Cat Pants, I had no idea that the clumps of tissue in my menstrual fluid had a name or that other women also had it. I have a master’s degree.

    Other than not having sex, which is not an acceptable option for most people, I would bet that a lot of women aren’t completely sure how to keep from getting pregnant.

    Here’s just a list of stuff I don’t know off the top of my head.

    1. They say that condoms are effective when used correctly. What the hell constitutes incorrect use of a condom?

    2. Do you have to take birth control pills at the same exact time every day for them to be effective or just roughly the same time?

    3. Can you get pregnant while you’re on your period?

    4. How long can sperm live inside the female reproductive tract?

    5. Is it true that you can get pregnant from heavy petting?

    (Rachel! I guess I should be asking you this stuff.)

    I’m just saying, if I, a grown-ass woman in my thirties, don’t know the answers to these questions (and I had what I thought was pretty decent sex ed), how many more just basic “How does my body work?” questions do other women have?

    And seriously, if we don’t know how our bodies work and if, in the case of many abstinence-only programs, we’re taught incorrect information about how our bodies work in order to scare us out of having sex, how can you look us in the eye and say “you knew the consequences when you chose to have sex”?

  3. B, and here’s the thing – as much as I read about this stuff, I would *still* go look it up again before answering you, just to make sure.

  4. because I think that these days, life is cheap…

    If I had a nickel for every instance of this being repeated–

    Anyway, El Nino, I’d like you to spotlight one time in human history when life wasn’t cheap, at least for most people. I think you’re going to have a really difficult time doing so, whether you believe in evolution or in some permutation of the Biblical human genesis.

    I’ll skip to the point: I scoff at the anti-choice position, because it focuses so keenly on the pre-born and expresses little to no sympathy for those of us already here. I’d like to be more respectful, but when I read someone writing that “abortion cheapens life,” I’d like them to give me a straight answer about other things that cheapen life, things like warfare; self-defeating and draconian drug interdiction policies; health care for profit; and rapacious, destructive exploitation of the only planetary home we humans have.

    Seriously, fellow U.S. citizens, do we not know that we are spitting in the face of God when we get so worked up over blastocysts and fetuses while our tax dollars are at work bringing agony and death to countless thousands of little ones who are just on the other side of the womb?

    No, on this issue I call bullshit on the anti-choicers. Self-hypnotic sincerity notwithstanding, the anti-abortion platform is just another tool– along with Teh Drug War and opposition to gay marriage– for using public policy to maintain a desired social order.

    Aunt B., I’m with you on this one. The reason the anti-choicers chase their tails so vigorously on the details of their desired legal-abortion-free state is that it isn’t simply about protecting pre-born life.

  5. I think we’ve all clung to life for as long as there’s been life, but I don’t think that we treat others’ lives with much worth in this age. That might have always been true to an extent, but these days, it’s a lot easier to touch more lives. That ease of touching others (in a non-perverted way) is why I’m hopeful that those three things you mention as tools to help reduce the number of abortions may actually be effective. One day.

    I take your point about my assumptions, but I have a problem with your view too: it’s binary. It’s not as if the choice is between total sexual intimacy or all abortion all the time. And though we don’t all know everything about our bodies, you’re going to be hard-pressed to tell me – and I’m willing to concede that this isn’t necessarily true for everyone, but I’m willing to bet that it is true for everyone who reads your blog, because it seems to be an intelligent readership – either gets the basics or knows how to find them out. I mean, the Internet isn’t just a repository for Paris Hilton photos. As far as the rest, sure, you’re a grown-ass woman in your 30’s who doesn’t know the answers to those 5 questions, but have you tried to find them out? Most people who want to can get those answers.

    And for talking about your bodies in general, it’s fascinating stuff, all the little things about our bodies, and some of it is pretty hysterical, but knowing what you call the clumps of endometrial tissue that are expelled during menstruation isn’t really relevant to what’s going to get a woman pregnant.

    Also: “throughout pregnancy?” I don’t mean to be flip, but are you saying right up to the point of delivery it would be ok with you to suck that late-term fetus out and pitch it in the biohazard disposal? Because I have a real problem with that arbitrary line.

    And to finish – I’m not looking you in the eye and telling you anything about what consequences you know. I agree with your larger point, and hence, I’m pro-choice. I think abstinence-only sex ed is foolish and I think it’s dangerous. But that doesn’t mean that anyone who believes that a zygote or embryo deserves some protection just wants to punish sluts. And I also think that we have a duty to educate ourselves, rather than taking what gets spoon-fed to us in school.

  6. Church Secretary, if you’re done with your coronary, please read my response to Aunt B. Also, I’m not sure where I spit on God’s face, or where I threw in my lot with the anti-gay marriage people to maintain the social order, given that my boyfriend is getting antsy (I am male), but thank you for correcting me.

  7. I’m reluctantly pro-choice – I dislike it emotionally, because I think that these days, life is cheap, and easy abortion cheapens life even further, but that’s just me. Intellectually, I think that it’s a woman’s body and I don’t need to bother what goes on with it.

    Thanks “El Nino” (ahem) because if there ever was a way to put my beliefs regarding this whole debate into one paragraph, you’ve done it quite eloquently.

    Also, I really cannot see how anybody could justify killing a baby once it is viable outside of the womb. No matter how pretty we make the package, it is still killing a baby.

    Yes, a woman has a right to her body, but to say that just because it hasn’t passed through the birth canal (or incision, as it were) that it is just “tissue” is medically and ethically inaccurate.

  8. Ginger, thanks – that’s very nice of you. I actually wasn’t trying to make a point with my name, “El Nino” is my nickname, from my aunt, who comes from Mexico and whom I evidently caused a lot of trouble when I was young, and “El Nino” was a better thing for her to call me than “El Cerote.” It’s not a pseudonym with a point.

    Church Secretary, I apologize for being catty, it didn’t do anything to raise the level of discourse. I’m not really a big fan of any of those things you mentioned, except insofar as gay marriage affects me personally – I’m not really ready to take the plunge, but it’s not a societal-level objection. Could you please explain how 1) the fact that life has never been particularly dear invalidates my point that abortion makes it cheaper and 2) how my present or former beliefs regarding the right to choose implicate any of those things you mentioned? I’ll happily give you a straight answer to any of those issues, if you like.

  9. But no one here is saying that it’s “just” tissue. I think it’s a form of human life and, obviously, throughout pregnancy it becomes more and more a legal person up until it is born at which point, it becomes a full legal person. Birth is not an arbitrary line. It is the only non-arbitrary line. There is no question about when or if a person has been born. Ascribing full legal personhood to a fetus at any point before that is making an arbitrary decision. If we want a non-arbitrary point at which legal personhood begins in full, birth is it.

    So, would it be okay with me to “suck that late-term fetus out”? No. Should a woman have a legal right to do it? Yes.

    If a woman is a full citizen of the United States, she has to have control over her body. Period. No other person should be able to have claim on her body that supersedes her claim to her body or else she’s not a full citizen; she’s a citizen the State can force to endanger herself for the sake of another. There’s no other group of citizens from which that is required. Therefore, she’s a second-class citizen. She’s got some rights, but not the right to control what happens to her body.

    I object to that.

    Ginger, you, more than anybody here, should get this, I would think. Should the State have the right to force you to go through what you went through during and after the birth of your daughter?

    I don’t believe the State has the right to make me do something that could kill me, that will hurt me, and that leave me with an 18 year legal and financial commitment to another person.

    Props to folks who choose that. It’s a brave and honorable thing. But it’s not something the state should be able to compel you to do.

    And, Ginger, come on! There are lots of reasons why a woman might have an abortion even after a fetus is viable. She might be pregnant with multiple fetuses and the doctors could tell her that she’s at risk for losing all of them, but might be able to save some if they abort others. The fetus might have birth defects so severe that its time on Earth is bound to be short and extremely painful and a woman might want to spare her child that. The fetus might have a birth defect that makes it impossible for it to survive outside the womb for very long (though it might not have any pain) and the doctors might be afraid that giving birth to the fetus could ruin the woman’s chances of being able to try for another baby. She might have been exposed to something in her environment that adversely affects the fetus. She might have been told that her fetus has some defect that means it won’t make it to term alive and she’d rather have an abortion now than wait for the fetus to die inside her.

    I could go on.

    My point is that the bimbo who just decides on a whim at 28 weeks that she doesn’t want to be a mom is a lot, lot less likely than women who desperately want children having to make a painful and hellacious decision to abort. That’s not the State’s business to insert itself into people’s personal tragedies.

  10. That’s not the State’s business to insert itself into people’s personal tragedies.

    B, I never said I didn’t agree with a woman’s right to choose!

    Here’s my quote:

    Yes, a woman has a right to her body, but to say that just because it hasn’t passed through the birth canal (or incision, as it were) that it is just “tissue” is medically and ethically inaccurate.

    Whether there are defects or the life of the mother is in danger…that is all irrelevant to the fact that it is a baby. If anything, what I have issue with is that many fail to acknowledge that because it puts a humanity to the entity that is inside the woman’s uterus, and that might damage the cause for choice.

    Look, I’m for choice, but I also cannot NOT say that the viable being inside the uterus is a baby. It would be foolish not to.

    I am a woman who, if I still had a uterus, wants to have the right to choose. Just as the State has no right to ask me to keep an appendix that is harmful to my life, it has no right to ask me to keep a deformed baby inside me that is harmful to my life.

  11. Just as the State has no right to ask me to keep an appendix that is harmful to my life, it has no right to ask me to keep a deformed baby inside me that is harmful to my life.

    Not “ask”, but “demand.”

  12. Three of those what-if scenarios you mentioned don’t really fit the term “viable” as I understand it.

    As to your contention that no other group of citizens from whom the State can demand that they endanger themselves for the sake of others … what if you enlist in the military, but then you decide you’re fighting an unjust war (not such a hypothetical today) and want out? Don’t they put you right back into the shit? And yes, I realize it’s “not the same.” It’s an analogy. But it’s one right off the top of my head example of when the State can force you to endanger yourself.

    And here’s another: I frequently see – I really like your blog, by the way! – people throwing around scenarios of when you’re responsible for the life of another. Here’s the black letter law: you are required to endanger your life for another – that is, to rescue or give aid – if you are responsible for putting that someone into danger in the first place. The law also recognizes other situations where that is true – rescuers, people with special relationships such as spouses (or parent-child, incidentally) – but the rule is that you’re required to help someone, even if it’s dangerous, when you are responsible for putting that someone into the dangerous situation to begin with … that’s the closest analogy I can think of. And that’s why, even though I disagree with the factual contention that a zygote/blastocyst/embryo deserves the same protection as a “person,” I can see and agree with the reasoning behind it.

    Birth is still kind of an arbitrary line. Or what do you think of the 28 week bimbo who aborts vs. the 38 week high school student who gives birth alone in the bathroom stall, and runs away, terrified? I mean, it’s birth … should that high school student be punished? And if you agree that a fetus becomes more and more of a full person throughout gestation, why does the right to live fail to vest til the fetus is expelled through the vaginal canal? What comes with that burgeoning personhood if not the right to live? Is it some mystical process that I can’t comprehend?

  13. It might be a point in B’s favor that the opposition to her post is almost entirely baby-focused, not woman-focused.

    So, just because I call a viable fetus a baby means I’m against the woman? That’s insane! I AM a woman who has given birth! Of course I am for the woman, being one tends to make me that way.

  14. Ginger, of course I didn’t say or even suggest that you were against the life of a woman. Nor did I suggest that one had to be either pro-baby or pro-woman. I just think it’s interesting that so far no one has come up with a really effective counter against B’s “How do we know this is about punishing sluts?” logic.
    Even if there a lot of people who don’t actively believe they are punishing sluts, they still tend to assume that (a) women are informed enough to prevent pregnancy, and (b) all sex that isn’t rape or incest (by legal definition, I’m assuming) is consensual; therefore, adult women who have sex have clearly made their beds and must lie in them.
    What B pointed out, and what I am elaborating, and what most people sidestep when discussing abortion rights, is this: assumptions a and b are wrong. Many women aren’t completely informed, and contrary to what El Nino believes, it’s not all that easy to get correct information. (Trust me… anytime I research a sexual health issue for my sex site, it takes hours and sometimes days to feel like I’ve sifted through the contradictory information from official sources.) Furthermore, there are many degrees of nonconsent that lie outside of legal or even conversational definitions of rape. These things make distinctions like Kleinhelder’s a much more complicated.
    My previous comment was merely meant that the lack of reasonable argument otherwise suggests that the woman side of the issue is worth giving more thought.

  15. It’s all good, tanglethis…I hear ya. There are always many facets to an issue, and on this one, once the baby is viable outside of the fetus, at that point, it is not all about the woman only. If the life of the mother is in danger, all measures should be taken to save her, including terminating the pregnancy. No doubt on that for me. In a perfect world, if a woman terminates a pregnancy it is at under 20 weeks. *These are all my personal opinions, I’m not trying to force it on anybody else, but they are what they are.*

    “…there are many degrees of nonconsent that lie outside of legal or even conversational definitions of rape.”

    So true, so true…I have been on dates where a guy would try to force himself on me just because we were kissing. Somehow he thought that because we kissed all boundaries were down. Had he succeeded by manipulative persuasion, I would consider that to be a degree of non-consent. In that case, I think that if the woman chooses to end the pregnancy it should be considered along the same lines as a rape. imho.

  16. …once the baby is viable outside of the fetus

    er, uh, I meant once the baby is viable outside of the uterus. Time for bed.

  17. I just want to say, too, that I think this conversation illustrates perfectly why this is such a difficult issue. I think there are very few people in the United States who are all like “Woo hoo, Abortion! Hell yes! I have no moral qualms about it, even up to the second before I deliver!” The truth is that most folks have complex and complicated responses to the issue and even folks with a lot of good will towards each other quickly reach impasses.

    But for me, it really comes down to whether the state has a right to commandeer my body for purposes that are in conflict with what I want my body to do. As El Nino illustrates, there are no perfect analogy. Getting pregnant isn’t like joining the military or anything else and there isn’t any other situation where the State requires me to risk my life for another.

    I might be morally obliged to do that, but not legally.

    I know I said it before, but I like it so I’m going to say it again, the penis is not so magical that its mere presence in my vagina should transform me into the property of the State.

  18. What it boils down to for me is that women are going to get abortions, period. When it is illegal for women to do so, it does not make women stop wanting or seeking abortions. It makes women do desperate things and take dangerous chances in order to abort the pregnancies they have no desire to bring to term. I would not ever get an abortion. I am careful about preventing myself from getting pregnant, because I do not want to be a mother right now (or ever, biologically) and I would not ever get an abortion. I marched in the pro choice march in D.C. a few years ago because I don’t want women to die or get injured seeking abortions that they are going to seek no matter how much more restricted access to abortion becomes. And because I am angry that it is already inaccessable on practical levels for many women with the least access to ANY kind of health care. It feels sometimes like neither the baby nor the mother matters, to some people on either “side.”

    Would I like it if women never experienced unwanted pregnancies because everyone knew how to not get pregnant, and nobody had sex they didn’t want to have, and therefore abortion became irrelevant? Yes. And I support and join in work to that end because it is what I would like for the human race. And to me, it has zero to do with making abortion safe and accessible to the women who are going to seek abortions. To me, abortion is a black and white issue. Women are going to seek abortions. They should not have to suffer and/or die painful deaths because of that. And there are women who are no doubt already suffering and dying because of it, because they can’t afford an abortion, can’t afford to travel to a place where abortion is still provided by doctors – their supposed right to life is nonexistent. I’m all for talking about the complexities of prenancy itself, and life, and conception. Just not in the same conversation as whether or not all women should have access to safe abortion services.

  19. First, look it up and talk to your doctor. Second, my answers, from way back when this was an issue for me (love having that hysterectomy! :) ) —

    Other than not having sex, which is not an acceptable option for most people, I would bet that a lot of women aren’t completely sure how to keep from getting pregnant.

    Here’s just a list of stuff I don’t know off the top of my head.

    1. They say that condoms are effective when used correctly. What the hell constitutes incorrect use of a condom?

    **Removing the condom so that semen enters the vaginal canal. Picture it, it can happen. Leaving the condom in your purse or wallet is probably the most common misuse though.

    2. Do you have to take birth control pills at the same exact time every day for them to be effective or just roughly the same time?

    **When I was taking them, I did not take them at EXACTLY the same time every day. But in the morning when I got up. There are more pill-type products available now though.

    3. Can you get pregnant while you’re on your period?

    **I believe, generally no. But if you have sex at the end of your period and the sperm survives long enough for you to ovulate, then yes.

    4. How long can sperm live inside the female reproductive tract?

    **I don’t remember this one. A few days? Google says: Sperm ejaculated into a woman’s vagina remain alive in the mucus of the cervix and are able to fertilize an egg for three to five days. Sperm ejaculated outside the body usually live only a few hours. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy/AN00281

    5. Is it true that you can get pregnant from heavy petting?

    **Golly! :) Heavy petting? I don’t know what that means these days. But if there’s sperm and an egg involved, yes. :)

    Nance

  20. 1. They say that condoms are effective when used correctly. What the hell constitutes incorrect use of a condom?
    **Removing the condom so that semen enters the vaginal canal. Picture it, it can happen. Leaving the condom in your purse or wallet is probably the most common misuse though.

    That’s true, but incomplete. More incorrect uses of condoms: using a condom that is several months old. using a condom that has not been stored in a reasonably cool, dry place. using oil-based lube with a latex condom. using condoms that do not meet FDA standards (many flavored or novelty condoms fall into this category). using a condom that is too large (this may fall into Nance’s first condom-misuse category). saving the condom until just before ejaculation.
    I’m sure there are more; I didn’t check a source to refresh my memory. Condoms can also fail for reasons completely unrelated to the condom, such as loss of erection during intercourse (which can cause the condom to slip off or semen to slip out).

    For these occasions, there is emergency contraception… which only recently became available over the counter, and which most pharmacists can refuse to sell you.

    3. Can you get pregnant while you’re on your period?

    Yes.
    I had to go hunting for that, and it took me forever. This whole sexual health awareness thing is time-consuming.

  21. El Nino, I must apologize. My tirade was not entirely directed at you personally. However, I must also remind you that the abortion issue is not just an issue of personal feelings or personal values. The inescapable point is that the anti-choice platform is being pushed into law. If women are legally prohibited from controlling their own bodies– regardless of the value one places on the pre-born at any stage of development– then women are essentially property of the state. That is why I lumped in the anti-choice position with opposition to gay marriage and with support for Teh Drug War. Regardless of the stated goals of these platforms, they serve to relegate specific minorities within our society to second-class status. The legal prohibition against abortion– which already exists in de facto fashion in much of the nation– would be a godsend for the reactionary authoritarian crowd. It would place at least half the population under the state’s control.

    All that said, I reckon there is often a clear distinction between anti-abortion and anti-choice, present company included. I’m just stressing the importance of the former not being allowed to mutate into the latter. And my point about warfare, health care, etc. still stands. If we allow the world to continue to be a dangerous and shitty place for most babies and adults alike, then what does that say about the value we place on life? (Hence the ‘spitting in the face of God’ hyperbole.)

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