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Saletan on ultrasounds

William Saletan gives some thought to the craze for bills requiring women considering abortions to view an ultrasound of their children in utero. They are part of a legislative tidal wave provoked by the Gonzales v. Carhart tsunami (O.K., I know that’s rhetorical excess).

Saletan notes that some ultrasound advocates are concerned whether this appeal to our natural emotions will work. If this is any indication, there’s some reason for concern. This is certainly a test of the strength of natural compassion, as opposed to interest or culture.

Discussions - 11 Comments

The last two links especially enraged me, Joe. The rising tide of female feticide--not only in China and India, but also here!--is striking. But I can't say I'm terribly surprised.

Feminism once again has proven itself the kow-towing slut to unbridled masculinity. In completely giving in to the whims of masculine desire (for frequent and inconsequential sex) feminists deluded themselves into thinking that this freedom was of any significant benefit to women. The burdens of pregnancy were lifted somewhat--but in what spirit? Was it a unified and noble desire on the part of men to work together to find ways to spare the lives and health of their beloved wives? No. It was to make sex less of a burden for themselves and easier to come by. And now we have a new innovation with the ultrasound technology. Now we can be selective about which fetuses to abort. So these deluded women now can watch helplessly as millions of their sisters so "empowered" march off meekly to the abortionist's clinic (most likely to respect the preference of some man for a son) to kill their daughters. It is a pathetic state to which women have allowed themselves to be driven.

No wonder men feel free to refer to us as "hos."

That said, I still wonder whether in this country the required ultrasound won't have some better effect in the vast majority of cases. I do not think it is the technology itself that has led to greater female than male feticide and to the distorted distribution of males and females in China and India and among the Asian-American population. Surely it is stupid thinking that led to this situation and technology just made it more practicable. As I said above, we have plenty of stupid thinking going on in this country . . . but it's not exactly of this variety. I think that overall, abortions undertaken for sex reasons (i.e., preferring a boy over a girl, or vice versa) will go about 50/50 in this country as people still tend to strive for the so-called American ideal of "one of each." But if the widespread use of ultrasound technology is required before abortions, their effect in dissuading many women from having an abortion at all may prove to correct out even that unnatural 50/50 distribution.

Also, it is important to remember that the ultrasound technology of today is quite different from that of even just a few years ago. When I had my kids the ultrasound would have done little to persuade me of their humanity if I didn't already feel it. I could never make anything out on those things. But today it's unbelievable. Those new machines are as close as you can get to actual photographs of your baby before birth. You don't need to the doctor to tell you where the head is, etc. But I don't know how widespread the use of these machines is yet. I think the difference in persuasion between the two types of ultrasound would be significant.

A few thoughts:



Now we can be selective about which fetuses to abort. So these deluded women now can watch helplessly as millions of their sisters so "empowered" march off meekly to the abortionist's clinic (most likely to respect the preference of some man for a son) to kill their daughters.



Ah, the ever-present pro-life argument of trivialized abortion. It is absolutely abhorrent that women (or their baby-making significant others) would request an abortion because they did not get pregnant with the gender they preferred. I don't think many thoughtful pro-choicers would disagree with you there. I'm not sure the problem here, though, lies in the fault of the awful, abortion-loving laws of the United States. Sometimes I worry that by simply making abortion illegal, we are missing the much deeper problem at hand: the irresponsibility of our citizenry. Granted, to enable a person to do something legally can give them the opportunity to do something horrendous, but it is the personal decision of the particular subject that, I think, is much more important. In my opinion, it is the hearts of our ridiculously spoiled, self-serving populace that needs changed much more than laws concerning abortion.



if the widespread use of ultrasound technology is required before abortions, their effect in dissuading many women from having an abortion at all may prove to correct out even that unnatural 50/50 distribution



Ugh. I think this sentiment misses the point as well. Yes! Let's show people pictures of the fetus, because maybe then they'll realize how human it is! How ridiculous . . . People should not be basing their decisions about abortion on ultrasound images. The abortion discussion does not (and should not) revolve around whether or not the fetus looks like a human, with little hands and feet and a little head. It's about when it actually is a human being, and that discussion would be better kept (in my opinion, anyway) outside the realm of images and "what it looks like." I think that trivializes the issue.



And if you're really interested about real feminist theory, I'd encourage you to pick up some Kristeva (although she would never admit it), de Lauretis, or some Coward. They are certainly not about to let anyone call the feminist movement a "slut to unbridled masculinity."

It's about when it actually is a human being, and that discussion would be better kept (in my opinion, anyway) outside the realm of images and "what it looks like."


I remember you! You were that guy in SC who came up with the idea of measuring skull diameter to prove that blacks were subhuman and could be enslaved...


That said, legally forcing women to view ultrasounds should be deemed unconstitutional. Whats next? You have to attend a safety lecture before you exercise your right to own a firearm? Have to read this brochure on hate speech before you express yourself? Good intentions, bad idea.

What should be used to determine what is human or not?

Logic ... it appears not.

Reason ... not an ounce of it.

Science ... please, are you serious?

Well, we can use ancient myths and susperstition, which appears a lot of people prefer to hard, cold facts, of which sonograms help provide.

We can always fall back on the fake logic, the psuedo-science, and the sophistry that has dominated this issue since Roe v. Wade. I mean, it does make us feel better about this than the truth, does it not?

I remember you! You were that guy in SC who came up with the idea of measuring skull diameter to prove that blacks were subhuman and could be enslaved...



Heh. Yep. You found me. You didn't know I was a racist? Yeah . . . black people don't share any characteristics with us other than what we all look like. A black man and I are not both biologically independent, autonomous creatures that can articulate our feelings to each other, our reasons for those feelings, create civic society through communicative structures, etc. So, when I proved that they sort of looked different from us, it could easily then be established that they were sub-human.



Give me a break, Fen. Sometimes analogies just don't work. You seem to have discovered one of those times. I was trying to talk about why judging the humanity of something on image alone is bad, and you took that to mean I would endorse using the physical characteristics of black people to establish them as sub-human? Where did that come from? I can't define what being a human is, but I don't think you should do it by saying, "Oh! It looks so much like me!" Otherwise we would be extending political rights to chimpanzees.



Dale,



I'm not saying that Logic, Reason, or Science can or should define what is human. What I am saying, though, is that images should not either. Why don't you explain to me your definition of what it is to be a person/human. I would be surprised if much of it had to do with looking a particular way. But, by all means. I'd be interested to see what you have to say.

Fen

You need government permision before you can exercise your right to own a firearm. And you can't criticise a Congressman in the three months prior to an election. We already burden other rights with more restrictions than abortion, and these are rights explicitly spelled out in the Constitution.

Matt, if you think that about me, then you have not been paying attention.

Are those with severe disabilities not human, Matt? That is what you are alluding to, right?

No, that is not what you meant? Well, that is what is sounds like.

Religion long held that human life began when the soul entered the about at approximately 40 days after conception, which was used to support the decision in Roe v. Wade.

Observations of the bulges on the pregnant woman's stomach due to the baby pushing and kicking outward were seen as obvious signs that the woman was pregnant.

Yet, today, we know different. Once we started seeing the world through microscopes, we learned that life begins at someother point, a point that once reached, no other conclusion can be had other than new human life has been created. We knew this long before DNA and ultrasounds, but we chose to ignore science for ancient beliefs and for theologian thoeries.

Matt, you were as human when you were implanted in your mother's uterus as you are today. You do not need to have all the physical similarities to be a human being and I am actually quite astounded that someone like you, Matt, would attempt to define life in such terms.

Yes, I realize that you are trying to make a point about the fact that we, as humans, define ourselves subjectively. Yeah, Yeah, I get it, but that does not mean such definitions are correct and stand up to basic scrutiny.

So, to steal a cliche ...

I define, therefor I am?

Please.

The argument about when human life begins was long ago settled and is only being reaffirmed by technology such as ultrasound.

The argument has always been whether we consign the unborn the basic right to life that we have.

But, hey everything is subjective, even our own lives, so ...

Dale,



Oh geez . . .



Exactly what part of "images should not define humanity" meant that images should be completely excluded from any definition of it? I am not arguing that we should not take into account, AT ALL, what a human being looks like, but certainly looking like us is not the only reason we consider the severely disabled as human. Right? That's all I'm saying, Dale. Actually, I am saying something else here: maybe we just can't define what humanity is, and, in that case, why are the Courts trying to? Because of a picture that looks like us? That is my point and what I was originally trying to get people here to consider (not things like "image doesn't matter at all"). The argument is not the same as it once was . . . the pro-lifers have decided that now we should show pictures of ripped apart baby-shreds from abortions to change it from the arguments you've cited into one of "Look! Isn't this horrible?!?!?" That's like some animal activist telling you to stop beating cats because they sound like us when they scream. To the typical pro-choicer, who does not believe that conception necessarily entail life, that doesn't mean a whole lot. That's what the discussion should be about . . . not "doesn't this look like a baby?"



I'm still waiting for that definition of humanity . . . maybe I should just read the new Court opinion on PBA, huh?

Matt, if you say that we can not define humanity, then are you saying that humanity is irrelevant? Are you really saying that you do not know what a human being is?


Pro-choice folks choose to be happy about a recently conceived human when it is "wanted". The pregnancy test is positive, and that is the desired result of the test, then they are having a baby. They say that, "We are having a baby." The same result, when an infant is unwanted means the positive test indicates...what? What happens to the humanity of the - whatever - in the womb? What is the logic of that?

Dale, Julie, great posts...as the line went in Signs , "swing away."

That said, I can see plenty of good people being opposed to these laws...and particularly if the reporting on them is of the same caliber of Joe's (rare) misstep here, when he says the bills REQUIRE abortion seekers to veiw the ultrasound. That would strike many as heavy-handed, I think rightly. But actually, as Saletan's lead says, the laws would: "require the abortionist to offer the woman an opportunity to view an ultrasound" of her fetus." Offer the woman an opportunity! Offer the woman an opportunity! Oh, the theocratic statist horror of requiring abortionists to say, "I am required by law to ask if you wish to view the ultrasound before proceeding"!

If know other info about the bills, Joe, do report...I'm going on what Saletan says.

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