Monday, January 09, 2006

# Posted 1:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FEMINIST CAT FIGHT ON MEET THE PRESS: Let no one say that OxBlog objectifies women! Heck, I'm a feminist myself. I believe in straight-up equality before the law. I reject the incoherent nonsense of NARAL, NOW and other far-left organizations that claim to speak for the women of America.

Anyhow, Tim Russert decided to have some fun this morning by having Kate Michelman -- president of NARAL for 18 years -- on at the same time as the National Review's resident radical feminist-basher Kate O'Beirne. Sadly, it turned out to be a rather tame affair. However, it did produce this classic bit of Orwellian doubletalk from Michelman:
MR. RUSSERT: Can you be a pro-life, pro-anti-abortion rights feminist?

MS. MICHELMAN: You can be a feminist and oppose the act of abortion on moral and ethical, religious, on personal grounds; absolutely can be. And, in fact, many people who are pro-choice in terms of their beliefs that the policies of this nation should respect the diversity of views on these issues related to pregnancy and childbearing, abortion, and reproductive matters, that there is a diversity of views and they are informed by one’s values, as they are mine. My personal values informed my decision about abortion.

But you can be absolutely anti-abortion, if you will, and pro-choice; believing that women ultimately, not the government, not Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, but women themselves must determine the course of their lives, and central to that determining the course of their lives is determining when and under what circumstances they will become mothers. Because the thing that most women want is to be successful at mothering. And the first ingredient is being able to determine when that time is right and not being forced by the government and by politicians or by judges to bear a child under circumstances of one—not of one’s choosing. So I...

MS. O’BEIRNE: Well, as Kate just explained, you cannot believe that there ought to be legal protections for the unborn and not be read out of the modern women’s movement.
Michelman should just admit that NARAL won't let you be a feminist if you're against Roe v. Wade. All that spin won't convince anyone that she and her organization are even remotely centrist. But it may convince them that NARAL & co. can't be trusted.
(18) opinions -- Add your opinion

Explain: you can, says Ms. M., opposed to abortion but a feminist as long as you support the right to have an abortion. How is this any different, in principle, from supporting drug legalization but personally find drug use and abhorrent?

I think she's wrong, i.e., that feminism doesn't require a pro-choice position, but that's an entirely different matter.
Editorial note: should be "finding drug use abhorrent?"
To be more blunt: when verbal inelegance becomes grounds for calling someone "Orwellian" than, well, we've pretty much torn up rendered that adjective meaningless.
Hello David,

On the contrary, I fail to see how you can both be a feminist and also believe that all women should have to carry any pregnancy to term whether they want to or not. It's perfectly congruent to believe (as do many religious women of my acquaintance) that abortion is not an option they would choose for themselves, but that they believe that it should be available.

Michelman should just admit that NARAL won't let you be a feminist if you're against Roe v. Wade.
Well, yeah: they are the National Abortion Rights Action League, after all, of course supporting the right to access a legal safe abortion should be their criteria.
It makes sense for NARAL to demand that its members support Roe v. Wade, but I don't think they can say that you're not a feminist if you don't share their support for legal abortion. It's precisely this sort of exclusionary approach that has helped feminism become a synonym for liberal politics rather than simple equality.

With regard to being Orwellian, Ms. Michelman obviously has nothing on Stalin, but my sense is that she deliberately sought to obscure the issue by insisting you can be anti-abortion and a feminist and then disingenuously taking that back by saying that a feminist can be opposed to everything about abortion...except the right to have one.
Why is there necessarily a virtue in being 'remotely centrist'???
"It makes sense for NARAL to demand that its members support Roe v. Wade, but I don't think they can say that you're not a feminist if you don't share their support for legal abortion"

why wouldnt it make sense, rhetorically, for NARAL to say you need to agree with them to be feminist? Kinda like Norquist saying you need to be pro tax cuts to be conservative, Ledeen saying you need to be tough on the mideast, etc. Its the nature of special interests to claim their issue is definitive for the larger movement of which they are a part.
Actually, for Orwellian double-speak that would be Oklahoma Republican Senator Coburn who has actually performed abortions being anti-abortion.

I think the difficulty here is in separating the personal from the political. Michelman is saying that it is ok "on personal grounds" to be against an abortion. Sounds fine. It would be anti-feminist (and anti-Libertarian) to be against it on political grounds.

In fact, the ONLY reason Republicans are currently against abortion as a choice is purely political. Bush Senior was pro-choice. Reagan was pro-choice and signed abortion rights into law as Governor of California. Nixon was anti-abortion as a candidate but his wife was pro-choice. In office, he was silent on the matter. Morality doesn't enter into the Republican stance at all.

Since Republicans like to flip-flop on the issues so much, perhaps people will learn that they can't be trusted.
Sounds like a typical politician/activist/political operative to me. She gets asked a question that she doesn't want to answer, so she talks around it, trying to make her side sound good while including a couple talking points. In this case, she doesn't want to say whether her organization could consider a person who is against abortion rights to be a feminist in good standing. If she says "no" then that sounds exclusionary and leaves her open to attack, and if she says "yes" then she's minimizing the importance of her organization's cause and potentially underming the feminist defense of legal abortion (and alienating the adherents to that position). So she just says that a person who is against abortion can be a feminist in good standing, and that being against abortion is not the same as being against abortion rights, both of which are true. "Against abortion" is an issue of what you would do in your own life or what you would advise other people to do; "against abortion rights" means changing the law to make abortion a crime.
Even by your (somewhat narrow) definition of feminism as equality before the law it's illogical to assume that you can be a feminist and be against the right to have an abortion. Compelling a woman to carry a pregnancy to term against her will presumes that the presense of a fetus automatically takes away the woman’s right to control what’s happening in her own body, or to put it in a different way, takes away her right to consent - or not - to the use of her body as life support for another organism. If men were compelled to, say, donate their bone marrow to someone who would die without a transplant against their will then men and women would be equal before the law because by that law your right to own your body can be overriden by someone else’s right to live if their ability to survive depends on using your body (or organs, or bodily functions) in some way. If only women are subject to this approach, where’s the equality?

Sure, biologically only women can become pregnant so there can’t be an exact equivalent for men, but it doesn’t change the fact that you can’t be forced to even donate blood against your will; why is it ok to force a woman to be an incubator?
Yo, you're begging the question, cs. If you have rights before you're born, then it's no less libertarian to be anti-abortion than it is to be anti-whatever else takes away someone else's rights. It's not un-libertarian to support laws against abuse, or theft, or murder, etc., is it? Same thing for feminists -- there's that old poster, an ultrasound image, saying: "Supporting all women's rights, including hers." Only if you proceed from the position that there are no rights before birth does it become completely obvious that it's un-libertarian and un-feminist to oppose abortion.
Anonymous obscures the argument here by claiming that pro-life individuals wish to "force" women to become incubators. By the same biological token that allows only women to pregnant, no one forces women (except in the obvious cases of rape / incest which most in the pro-life cause grant exception for) to have sex. Advocating against abortion does not mean that one is forcing a pregnancy on someone; rather that someone is attempting to prevent the extinction of a life by asking the pregnant woman to take personal responsibility for her decision.

While I would also agree with cs that abortion has become too much of a partisan issue, I would point out to him that the Democrats use abortion just as much as Republicans. When Tim Roemer of Indiana was in the running for the head of the DNC in January, the NARAL / NOW types in the Democratic party rallied against him simply for his anti-abortion views, calling him a "skunk" in the Democratic tent.

While I cannot speak for the individual beliefs of Republicans, I would bet that most of them, as I do, find abortion abhorrent on personal, not necessarily political grounds. I agree with Adrianne's comment made about the libertarian argument for abortion. Natural rights such as self-determination, the pursuit of happiness, etc aside, nothing stands greater in terms of endowed rights than the right to life. Allowing the extinction of that right violates, at some level, the basic contract a government makes with its people to defend their inalienable rights.
yo Adrianne

I've always wanted to say that. What can I say, I'm a Stallone fan.

"If you have rights before you're born, then it's no less libertarian to be anti-abortion than ..."

I used Big L Libertarian because I meant the Libertarian political party. It is an official plank of the Libertarian Party to allow abortion as a choice:


"Women's Rights and Abortion
Individual rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex. Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that people, including libertarians, can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept out of the question."
I wasn't really prepared for this:

The abortion ratio, defined as the number of abortions per 1,000 live births, was 246 in 2002, the same as reported for 2001.

This is from the CDC report:


Abortion is *much* more common that you think it is. Myself, I personally don't like it, but I'm a guy. I don't have to choose. Still, I thought it was much less common.
I just got an e-mail from a fellow blogger who objected to the term "cat fight" as an outdated and ridiculous vestige of the bad old days. I responded as follows:

"i had hoped that my ostentatiously gratuitious use of the phrase would be taken as ironic. combined with my self-identification as a feminist, the use of the term cat fight was subtly intended as a signal that I have little patience for speech codes."
No, Charlie Szrom, it’s you who obscures the argument when you say that pro-life individuals don’t wish to force women to become incubators. Do you lose your right to medical help for your broken leg if you break your leg as a result of a car accident? After all, by engaging in driving you accepted the (relatively high) risk of having an accident, didn’t you? The fact that a condition was caused by your action normally doesn’t deprive you of your right to affect the outcome of that condition. By taking away a woman’s option to terminate the pregnancy, if that’s what she wants to do, you effectively force her to become an incubator against her will.

For those who believe in rights for fetuses: the problem is, you accord more rights to preborn than to postborn. Does an infant have a right to a sliver of his father’s liver if that infant has a life-threatening condition that can only be treated by a liver transplant and the father is the only match? Is it acceptable to force said father by law to donate a piece of his liver if he refuses? After all, the infant has the right to live and it surely is more important than the “inconvenience” of having an operation for the father. Nobody seriously believes that already-born individuals have the right to life that overrides other people’s bodily autonomy. Why should preborn individuals be accorded such absolute right?
Gosh, if dogfight is ok, I would hope that cat fight would be.

But you might not want to say pussy tussle, girl grudge, or kitty ruckus. And any references to mud wrestling, well then you're just asking for it.
anonymous, by your logic, post-natal child abandonment, abuse, and neglect would be okay. So, I'm not going to bother with the first part of your post.

"Does an infant have a right to a sliver of his father’s liver if that infant has a life-threatening condition that can only be treated by a liver transplant and the father is the only match?"

Yes, since the father brought that infant into the world vulnerable - he is required to take care of his infant until the age of majority.

Come on, give me something harder!

" Is it acceptable to force said father by law to donate a piece of his liver if he refuses?"

In the same way as it is acceptable to force fathers by law to pay child support, yes.

"Nobody seriously believes that already-born individuals have the right to life that overrides other people’s bodily autonomy."

Bodily autonomy is a fancy way of saying property rights over one's body. I find that a disingenuous argument from leftists personally (not assuming you're one) since they - on principle - don't believe in private property rights at all (and even if they do, only when the state dictates it).

But...I believe that if you put somebody in a position of physical vulnerability (say, hitting a pedestrian while drunk driving, or somehow placing somebody in a position where they would die without support), that you should take responsibility for it. Drunk driver should pay the medical bills until the person gets better, rescue somebody that you put in harm's way, etc.

So along the same lines, yes, a parent's 'bodily autonomy' should be sacrificed for a child that they choose to place under their care, whether born or unborn.

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