Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Self-Inflicted Wedgie

We all know what "wedge issues" are, right?  High-profile notions over which opinion is so divided that agreement seems impossible and opposing positions are so entrenched that all their focus is on stopping the other side instead of doing what they can, where they can.

     We see it all the time.  Take guns -- if you're concerned about urban violence, shouldn't you be working with at-risk youth instead of picketing gun stores?  If you're worried about legislatively-imposed disparity of force, shouldn't you be teaching little old ladies to shoot and making sure they've got something for their purse instead of hollering down a well at J0an P3terson?

     But that's not the only third rail; it's not even the highest-voltage one.  Last night, Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for one of  Indiana's U. S. Senate seats, reached out and embraced the other one.  In debate, he was handed that over-roasted old political chestnut: Should abortion be allowed in cases of rape or incest?

     Well, at least he's honest.  He replied, "I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that's something God intended to happen," a statement he's busily retconning even now. 

     Democrat opponent (and, FWIW, also opposed to abortion, though evidently willing to accept the rape and incest exception) Joe Donnelly promptly distanced himself with his own opinion about what $DEITY wants, which is that he doesn't believe "...any God, would intend that to happen."

      Mourdock had steered a careful line until last night, focusing on economic issues and "Obamacare."[1]  This could be an election-loser.  The flap will have done little to change the opinions of hard-core party-line voters; the Richard Lugar Republicans who were reluctantly willing to vote for anyone as long as he wasn't a Democrat are liable to be reconsidering and whatever undecided middle there was has almost certainly picked a side now. 

     You pays your money and you makes your choice -- but not pro-choice in this contest.  Both men are A-rated by NRA, so the decision still comes down to economic/health care matters, the only area where the two men have significant disagreement.

     (P.S. Programs to prevent unwanted pregnancy before conception, adoption and services for unwed mothers?  Still way, way down at the bottom of the list.  They don't even get their own telethon or footrace!  Outlawing handguns cedes distribution to the criminal underworld and disarms the law-abiding -- so what do you think outlawing abortion might do, Mr. Comstock (R) and Mr. Comstock (D)?)

     (P.P.S. If Comments becomes a big ol' abortion-per-se debate, I'll pull the plug.  Impasse has already been reached and if there's a heart or mind still unreached out there, the body that carries both around is in no position to read obscure blogs.)

     (P.P.P.S. Andy Hornung (perennial LP candidate Andy Hornung) is also running for this seat.  While he disapproves of abortion,[2] too, at least he thinks it's a State-level issue the Federal government should stay out of.)
1. He didn't build that, you know.  That albatross came outta Congress, which seems (as is usually the case) happy to let the President wear it.
2. I'm soooooo interested in the opinions -- pro, con or muddled -- of people who will never, personally, have to make that decision.  Oh, wait: I'm actually not.


Don said...

Given the nature of religious belief in Indiana, I don't think this will have a major effect.

I'm still voting for Andy Horning.

Anonymous said...

I think we could dramatically reduce the rate of violence against unborn children with simple, common sense legislation restricting women to one egg per month.

Sabra said...

Exceptions to moral rules are fought over of course, and within the pro-life segment the rape/incest exception is the big one. It would not be nearly as much of a problem were we not trying to make it into law.

It is easy for me to say in discussion that we shouldn't make our moral standards into law, but I cannot help but flinch away from working to overturn laws governing something I consider morally reprehensible. Probably a good thing I'm not a politician.

Anonymous said...

A silly question but just how many abortions for women subjected to rape and/or incest occur?

In such situations here the woman is offered (automatically and even encouraged) the morning after pill so the issue (I can't say never, but I can say I'm not aware professionally of it ever arising) doesn't arise. Or does he classify the MAP as abortion too?

Even in case where the woman chooses not to report the cause the availability of the pill isn't questioned on anything other than medical grounds. These are not instances where a woman has unprotected (or protection which failed) sex and only later discovers an unplanned pregnancy - the major cause of later abortions.

As such I'd have to wonder just why such a question was even raised, as an irrelevance. Whilst I'd agree it's politically naive of him to answer as he did, I wonder if it's any more than stating the moral platitudes that 'all life is sacred' and 'there must be a reason for bad things happening'.

Just asking

Phssthpok said...

To borrow (and adapt) a response I made RE suicide over at Sharp as a Marble (

"I find it amazing that (some) religious folks will, in the same breath, declare that [the body naturally aborting a pregnancy] is '...all part of His plan...' while holding that [terminating] a [rape induced pregnancy] is '...against His will...'.

How do YOU know that [terminating the rape induced pregnancy] WASN'T part of 'His' plan? Is it not possible that [terminating] person A's [rape induced pregnancy] was meant to influence a life change for person B, which would then lead to the furtherance of 'His' grand over-all plan? How do you know that [terminating] a [rape induced pregnancy] isn't what 'He' wants to happen?"

(I doesn't translate as well for the situation, but the sentiment still holds. I think...)

That's *my* take on what the thought process behind the statement was at any rate. Agree with him or not, at least he seems to be holding consistent in his view with that statement, even if it is a bit bit simplistic/not thoroughly thought out. (not going to comment on any backpedaling he may be doing as I haven't personally witnessed it)

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"Or does he classify the MAP as abortion too?"

Some people do. The MAP prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall, so the answer to that question depends on whether you consider life to begin at fertilization or at implantation.

Bubblehead Les. said...

What torques me is Mordumb's Implication that Rape and Incest is all part of "God's Plan." Under that so-called "Logic," then Arson, Murder, 9/11, Serial Killing, etc. are all part of "God's Plan," and we should do nothing to stop it. The Pregnancy is the Result of the Act, not the Crime itself. And if Mordumb can't seem to get that through his Skull, then I'd vote for the Other Guy if I lived in Hoosierland. Especially if he had an NRA "A" rating.

Some people are Too Stupid to be in Political Power.

Jennifer said...

He really stepped in it there, didn't he? I've got to appreciate the honesty. At least he didn't spout off some spin.
Pity the human being that professes to understand God's Plan. His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts.

rickn8or said...

"Pity the human being that professes to understand God's Plan. His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts."

I don't pity him Jennifer; I'm scared spitless of him.

All the rest of my standard election-year abortion rant is over at Tam's with this exception: if I wanted to live in a country governed by someone's interpretations of their imaginary playmate(s)'s decrees, I'd move to Saudi Arabia.

Sabra said...

There are a good many Christians (I am not one of them) who believe that literally everything is part of God's plan. If you are a believer in predestination, it makes sense. I reckon that is likely the case with Mourdock.

I suppose the only way to have answered the question honestly and at the same time not stepped on a political mine would have been to say something along the lines of "This is what I believe; however what I do not believe in is bringing the law in line with my personal moral beliefs, as I realize that not everyone shares them." But he'd be called a liar for that.

Archer said...

RE sub-script [2], I'm always amused (or horrified, depending on context) by people who try to write policy concerning other people in situations they have never experienced and will never experience.

Demonize people on SNAP or Food Stamps? Have those politicians ever been on SNAP? (I have. For someone trying to be self-reliant to be on hard times like that, it's downright humiliating to pull out the EBT card. You do what you have to to feed your kids, but I was MORE than happy when it came time to give up the "free" money and pay for my own damn groceries.)

Oppose abortion? Have they ever been in the position to choose? (Many of the most outspoken "pro-lifers" are MEN!! 'Nuff said. Aside from that, a family member is trying to adopt a baby from a young woman who chose life, but can't raise it. I'm sure she appreciated having the choice nonetheless.)

Need to re-structure Social Security? How many of the politicians will ever qualify for benefits? Most make/have FAR too much money.

The list goes on. It's why, given a choice between a career politician who claims to champion small business and a challenger who made his/her living running a small business, I'll usually vote for the latter.

Jess said...

I could spend hours writing about the consequences of abortion. I won't, since I can't get past the point of wondering why the money for a condom is so hard to come up with. They even have them for those that are latex intolerant.

As far as rape or a medical necessity, that's a private decision between and doctor and a patient. I have a feeling we'd hear almost nothing about abortion if that was the only reason to be found for the procedure.

Earl said...

I like honest opinion, especially from politicians.

Life does begin at conception, although love of the unborn stranger doesn't normally start until after its birth.

Medically, most abortions only kill the unborn, but every abortion is a sad statement on the people engaged in the activity. It is very sad, and the government has enough to be sad about.

Roberta X said...

I wonder, do most people refrain from, say, robbery or simple assault only -- or even primarily -- because of the laws against committing them?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say 'laws' but rather 'consequences'.

Would you risk your livelihood, your reputation, your self-respect, face imprisonment, etc., the disgrace in other words, for the supposed gains of committing such crimes? That's without even considering morality and empathy - although I suspect consequence rather than conscience unfortunately keeps more in line than we'd wish for.

I suspect most of the crime, here at least, is committed by people who risk losing nothing. They rarely work and both their self-image (not having any self-respect) and reputations, in the circles they frequent, are enhanced, in their eyes, both by committing the crime and, rarely, being caught (I won't even pretend they get anything approaching 'punishment' in the 'liberal' hand-wringing 'justice' system here). The fact that modern 'morality' excuses and encourages them to take/do what they will is hardly going to help matters.

On the original comment, as an outsider, I have noticed over time (reinforced both by the reaction and comments on this statement) that America seems to have people who act/express both an overt religious commitment/fervour and an almost religiously anti-religious commitment/fervour. Both seem excessively strange , and very uncomfortable to witness, to we here in 'wishy-washy middle of the road' Britain. (Mirrored in part by your, to us, strangely excessive and often inappropriate patriotic displays. It would be so much easier if you wore strange clothing and talked a unintelligible language to remember how very different culturally we can be).

I just wonder if the same level of opprobrium would have occurred if the statement had contained 'Fate' instead of 'God'?

Matthew said...

"I just wonder if the same level of opprobrium would have occurred if the statement had contained 'Fate' instead of 'God'?"

If fate/God or man doesn't intervene to end it, a full term pregnancy can -only- result in a human person. Since fate/God is by definition beyond man's control, all you could hope to legislate (setting aside the "should") is man's intervention in the process. After all, God/fate -might- intervene in the life of any human person, of any age; we don't get to kill random people at our discretion due to that fact.

If a "human person" tries to kill you with the capability to do so, you get to try to kill it right back, regardless of age. So the "life of the mother" exception isn't an exception at all, it's just straight self-defense law. To bring it up on either side is puerile reasoning. "Life of the mother" scenarios, are a non-issue, morally and legally consistency-wise, in the Judeo-Christian system.

To my mind the "convenience of the mother (and father)" falls on the opposite side. If a supposedly competent, rational, autonomous human being chooses to play with fire they don't get to take a life to correct the consequences of their easily-avoidable choice. You don't get to kill innocent third parties for your own convenience in any other situation. And yes I'm a man, and yes I'll carry my shared guilt in one such situation to my grave.

Rape and incest are the toughies. To my mind there is no moral "of course" involved on either side of the issue. No, a person shouldn't bear the consequences of a decision they did not choose, but neither should an innocent third party be subjected to death. Those two scenarios are the only two that, to my mind, can at all be considered morally uncertain enough to be untouchable by law.

The definition of human personhood has enough uncertainty to allow for flexibility for the person who has to directly bear the consequences, and any future guilt, to make the call in such cases on their own conscience.

Roberta X said...

Able: cultural differences aside (though they are very striking and stem at least in part from the radically different ages and histories of our two countries), your statement would play a lot better if it wasn't about those "other people" who Aren't You.

I started it, so let me start over, please: "Do you refrain from, say, robbery or simple assault only -- or even primarily -- because of the laws against committing them?" It's damn easy to make laws because Others might slip across some moral line.

(Also, in re illegalizing abortion: how's that law working out in the UK when applied to handgus? Do criminals have more or fewer firearms as a consequence?)

Matthew: are you saying Federal laws are part o the Judeo-Christian system? Please show me that in tne Constitution, right after you show me where the Feds have the power to legislate about abortion.

Also, Mr. Obama may take issue with your assertion, " After all, God/fate -might- intervene in the life of any human person, of any age; we don't get to kill random people at our discretion due to that fact." He is of the opinion the President has the power to do just that, any time, anywhere. And the Prez is just a citizen; if he can, why can't you?

And if you can but don't, why? Some man-made law, or do you have other reasons?

Sabra said...

Many of the most outspoken "pro-lifers" are MEN!!

When last I checked, a man and woman both are needed to create a fetus. Only one of them, however, has any say in terminating a pregnancy. Which of course is the only possible way to do it, as it's the woman's body, but to pretend men have no moral or emotional investment in pregnancy is just silly. I've known men whose exes aborted a child they fathered, and their grief was made much worse by powerlessness. (And again, it's not a power they can or should be given.)

Anonymous said...

Mea Culpa

I addressed my 'waffle' to your question without relating it to the thread under discussion ie. general criminal behaviour where the punishment should be tailored to actually be one instead of a 'badge of merit' (I know – engage brain before typing). I'll try to better answer the correct question this time (oops).

I do, or do not, commit 'crimes', as I suspect others do, based on a personal value judgement relying on many factors (personal circumstances, 'morals', social expectation of normal behaviour, etc.). Part of that judgement is what the 'law' defines as a crime (see what is defined as assault here for utter absurdity), its legitimacy (how fair/reasonable/just I personally view it to be) and what the consequences to me personally could be. So, in part, a cost/benefit equation, a part which becomes more important as the circumstances which raise the consideration of breaking the law become more severe (in my perception/experience).

So will a law, any law, prevent a behaviour? No. At best it will constrain some (witness our stupidly draconian firearm laws here, preaching to the choir by the way) whilst others, for whatever reason, will either ignore or simply circumvent it because for them the benefits outweigh the costs.

Will women in an unbelievably difficult and desperate situation take whatever measures they feel they need to? Yes (historically, both here and there that is unquestionable). Does anyone based on their unrelated, uninvolved and theoretical personal/moral/ethical misgivings have the right to criminalise this, and in so doing force the woman to place her own life at risk? Not only No but HELL NO!

So, I guess, what I'm saying is that I agree with what you said (whilst taking considerably more letters to do so – Hey, I’m not a professional like some).

The cultural comment was merely a query as to whether his comments were personal faith based platitudes, or as portrayed by his opponent, potentially a basis for action by him (with religion being so apparently emotive both for and against there).

Just asking, not stating, as feeling slightly groinally singed (hey, I'm a delicate flower, be gentle)

Anonymous said...

at what point will it be safely possible to remove the fetus from the unwilling mother's womb and place it in a willing womans womb? at that moment I become totally against abortion. till then not so much.

Anonymous said...

You would think that the opposing sides could find common ground in working to prevent unwanted pregnancies. No unwanted pregnancies = no abortions + freedom of choice. True, you'd never reach zero, but isn't incremental progress better than an absolute impasse?

unfortunately, that kind of work would require moderation and compromise, which have come to be seen as signs of weakness in today's political climate.

Roberta X said...

Anon, it is only fair to point out that some on the pro-life side are also opposed to contraception; so that's a sticking point. Others are not comfortable with the education required for young people to make use of contraception.

Because of the intersection of sex, reproduction and religion in this issue, it really is unresolvabkle -- and there are plenty of people who hate that, too.

--Really, if they are killing babies at the abortion clinic, if they are infringing deeply on fundamental right in Congress, why are we not in the middle of a nasty full-on civil war right now? Because it's a "women's issue" and thus only worthy of sign-waving and posturing?

...Man, I'd claim the invention of a way to preserve fertilized ova indefinitely, or the perfection of an artificial uterus would stymie this mess but you know what? It won't. Any time technology intersects reproduction, somebody's Sacred Eternal Truths are being violated. Always.

Roberta X said...

Able clarified: "The cultural comment was merely a query as to whether his comments were personal faith based platitudes, or as portrayed by his opponent, potentially a basis for action by him (with religion being so apparently emotive both for and against there)."

I think he spoke sincerely. Basis for action? I do not know; the same man has in the past pointed out the lack of Constitutional justification for many things the Feds do as a reason why they should not be doing them but I do not know if would -- or could -- apply the same logic to this issue. Nor am I terribly likely to get a chance to find out; I suspect he has lost this seat for his Party.

Again -- points for honesty. Demerits for tact.

Tony Muhlenkamp said...

I think Mourdock could have answered the question by asking "Why should abortion be different from any other use of deadly force?" This avoid any reference to the Deity of the Day; claiming to know the will of said Deity, and still being honest about his beliefs.