EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

EJ Dionne threw a wankerific curveball yesterday:

I have more sympathy than most liberals with the right-to-life movement because I believe most right-to-lifers are animated not by sexism or some punitive attitude toward sexuality but by a genuine desire to defend the defenseless.

Really?

What about this?

Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. --Pat Robertson

Or this?

The long term goal [is] the execution of abortionists and parents who hire them. If we argue that abortion is murder, then we must call for the death penalty. --Gary Demar, American Vision

Or this?

Abortion, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide -- all these grow out of this new vision that sex and procreation are divided. -- Dr. Eugene Edward Veith, in American Family
Assocation Journal

Dionne, who I like and respect, is in this case quite wankerific.  To repeat for the thousandth time, pro-choice advocates are not for abortion.  And anti-choice leaders are not against abortion.  There's a very simple way of reducing abortion, which is to provide economic assistance to low income women and increase the amount of sex education available.  The pro-life movement in general is hostile to this solution, though specific advocates are not.  But Dionne didn't write that.  He wrote that there's some breakthrough (which sounds suspiciously like 'safe, legal, and rare') in the public debate, which there isn't.  There's a politician for the eight hundredth time proposing a reasonable solution on abortion, which pro-life forces are hostile to.

Dionne might want to write that, instead of casting saying that NARAL and people who call for the assassination of doctors and parents are equivalent.

Tags: abortion, EJ Dionne, liberal, Media, NARAL (all tags)

Comments

23 Comments

Re: Wankerific EJ Dionne

I get what you're saying, Matt, and I agree with you. I think what Dionne meant was that there are people (some, not all) on the anti-choice side who feel that they cannot compromise on the issue because it is outright murder. These folks are wrong, but I know a lot of people like this, and they are very sincere. That's not to say that the anti-choice movement isn't mostly motivated by a fear of autonomous, liberated women; it is. But there are people who believe that abortion is such an egregious offense that it should not be legal. Dionne is wrong if he's trying to say these people are a majority in the anti-choice movement, but they do exist, and I think we're better served if we try to reach out to them than if we dismiss them out of hand.

P.S. I'm not saying we should compromise choice. I'm just saying we have to understand their perspective and address it.

by bluenc 2006-02-15 12:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Wankerific EJ Dionne

Matt, I think you're wrong on this one, and I think you're arguing unfairly.  The Robertsons and Dobsons of the world do not represent many people who, wrong though they are, view abortion as murder and something that needs to be reduced.  You are the one bringing NARAL and Robertson together here.

"Most right-to-lifers" refers to Pat Robertson as much as "most liberals" refers to Michael Moore or "most progressive bloggers" refers to the Rude Pundit (with all apologies to Michael Moore and the Rude Pundit).  Dionne is advocating exactly the kind of ideas you are to reduce abortions.  

I just don't see what the problem is here.

by ZamboniGuy 2006-02-15 12:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Wankerific EJ Dionne

I agree. The response to Dionne here and on Atrios is almost Stalinist: If you don't toe the party line, we'll throw the kitchen sink at you -- in this case, "you're equating NARAL and Pat Robertson."

Does this compare at all to what Gleen Gleenwald's been talking about on his bloc recently? To wit, that if you're a conservative and disagree with Bush then all of the sudden the Bushies will call you a liberal? Only here, disagree with the "progressive" line and you become a wanker.

by cgeiger 2006-02-15 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Wankerific EJ Dionne

I grew up around pro-lifers, and to a large degree, consider myself to be pro-life.  (That's complicate-- you might say that I'm about as close to being on the fence as anyone when it comes to this seemingly fenceless issue.)  I have never talked personally to a pro-lifer who thought that being pro-life was about oppressing women or anything of the sort.  Often, they are upset with feminism, but they really aren't-- just the abortion rights bit.  Generally, they're for women's rights in the workplace, in law, and in opportunity.  That said, the leaders of the pro-life movement are appaulingly conservative.  They're nuts, dangerous, and often cruel.  They create laws that seem to be intended to punish women more than reduce abortions.  Here's my frame, or whatever you want to call it:

"If you want policies that will reduce the number of abortions, vote Democrat.  If you just want to punish the women who get them, vote Republican."

by nanoboy 2006-02-15 04:12PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

Abortion sucks.

by turnerbroadcasting 2006-02-15 12:40PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

The whole issue is when does life begin, and there is no way to avoid that issue when talking about abortion. If you believe that life begins at conception, then you are going, in most cases, to oppose abortion, but if you don't believe that life begins at conception, then you are much more willing to allow abortions.

I read E.J. Dionne's comments that he can sympathize with some of those who are "pro-life" because he truly believes that most of people who are "pro-life" are well intentioned. Since you cannot know who he is referring to, your bringing up quotes from Pat Robertson and others is not fair. Just like it is not fair for people to ascribe every belief of certain pro-choice advocates to those who are queasy about abortion but, in general, support pro-choice positions. .

The American public is deeply ambivalent about abortion, which is why polls are all over the place on this issue. While it is pretty clear that a large majority of people reject the concept of outlawing all abortions, there are restrictions that people are willing to tolerate, such as parental notification for minors, etc. There are a lot of people who are like a woman I once dated who described herself as "personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice." What she meant was that she would never have an abortion or counsel someone to have an abortion, but she felt like the state shouldn't be making that decision for other women.

What is puzzling to me is how some "pro-choice" advocates act like it is crystal clear that the due process clause of the 14th amendment allows state laws on abortion to be struck down. It is obviously not as plainly stated as freedom of speech, of press, of worship, of peaceful assembly, to name just a few of the rights expressly set forth in the Constitution.

When a non-elected Court strikes down state laws on any subject, there is going to be a negative reaction from certain people. When that Court strikes down states law using a "right" that is not expressly set forth in the Constitution, the reaction is going to be even more intense.

To lump everyone who disagrees with Roe and its progeny in with Robertson and his ilk is just bad politics. That is the point that Dionne is trying to make.

by mrgavel 2006-02-15 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

While much of the abortion debate centers on when life begins, that's not really the crux of the abortion issue. Even if you believe that a fetus is a human being, you still have to tell me why a woman should be legally compelled to carry that fetus to term. One philosopher has put it this way: say you go to sleep, and when you wake up, you find yourself hooked up to a stranger. Someone (the conductor of the symphony, maybe)explains to you that this person is a world-class violinist who is dying of organ failure, and they need you to share your organs with this person. While it would be nice of you to share your organs with the violinist (and maybe even morally right), the symphony conductor cannot legally force you to keep him or her alive. It is still your choice.

by bluenc 2006-02-15 01:21PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

"While much of the abortion debate centers on when life begins, that's not really the crux of the abortion issue. Even if you believe that a fetus is a human being, you still have to tell me why a woman should be legally compelled to carry that fetus to term. One philosopher has put it this way: say you go to sleep, and when you wake up, you find yourself hooked up to a stranger. Someone (the conductor of the symphony, maybe)explains to you that this person is a world-class violinist who is dying of organ failure, and they need you to share your organs with this person. While it would be nice of you to share your organs with the violinist (and maybe even morally right), the symphony conductor cannot legally force you to keep him or her alive. It is still your choice."

I'm pro-choice but there's a pretty simple argument against the philosopher's claim. The woman [i]didn't[/i] just wake up one morning with a stranger hooked up to her. The anti-abortion argument is that the parents are responsible for whatever children they produce, both before and after the child is born. It no more violates the mother's rights to insist that she carry the child to term than it does to insist that she provide what it takes for the child to survive after birth. Whether or not the fetus is a child has [i]everything[/i] to do with the issue, it seems to me.

your friend
Keith

by keith johnson 2006-02-15 04:13PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

That argument is simple, but it's wrong. You're right that the woman doesn't just "wake up" in her situation and is responsible for her situation...unless she is raped. In that case, someone else has put her in that situation. So, then we are faced with a new question: is abortion permissible only in the case of rape? Some say yes, but this implies something very disturbing. If the argument is that a fetus is a person and all people have a right to life, why do some people have a right, while some people don't? Why should the fetus be denied a natural right simply because it was conceived during rape? It's not logical. This argument also rests on the assumption that the woman did something knowing full well the possibility of consequences. Fine, but a similar argument could be made even in cases of rape: a woman knows when she leaves her home that she could be raped! Or: by leaving her reproductive organs intact, the woman made a choice to make herself vulnerable to unintended pregnancy!

The only logical alternative would be to say that abortion is never permissible, even in the event of rape or threat to the mother's life. This rests on the assumption that the fetus is a person and thus has a right to life. Fine. A person also has a right to decide what happens in and to their body, right? We can all agree on that, surely. Then you must weigh the fetus's right to life against the woman's right to control her body. The question now is: does the right to life supersede all other rights? If I'm very ill and will die unless I get a kiss from Scarlett Johannssen, surely it would be kind of her to kiss me, but I have no right against her. My friends have no right to fly to L.A., kidnap her, and force her to kiss me. She has the right to refuse to kiss me, in fact. Thus, while I have a right to life, that right does not supersede the natural rights of others.

by bluenc 2006-02-15 05:50PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

HI Bluenc

I do need to emphasize that I am pro-choice. But I think there is a clear difference between becoming pregnant due to rape and becoming pregnant due to consensual sex. In the case of rape, the "conflicting rights" argument carries more weight IMO, but when pregnancy comes because of consensual sex, a person who believes the fetus is a person can an least [i]reasonably[/i] argue that the mother (and father) cannot ignore their responsibility to the baby who is the innocent victim.

The real point here is that there is a reasonable case for the anti-abortion side of the issue, that people of good will can disagree on the issue, which is what E J Dionne was saying as well. You don't have to be a crazy anti-feminist to think  abortion is wrong.

your friend
Keith

by keith johnson 2006-02-16 03:43AM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

I think you're 100% right, Keith. There are very good people out there who think abortion is murder and thus cannot tolerate it. I'm merely making the case that one can even believe that a fetus is a life and still not support a ban on abortion. There is not a very convincing philosophical or logical case for forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term. This is why, at a fundamental level, the abortion debate does not rest entirely on the life status of the fetus. It rests on privacy issues and women's rights. Not everyone realizes this, which is why there is so much support for restricting abortion rights.

by bluenc 2006-02-16 09:20AM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

Dionne is Catholic, and Dobson/Robertson is probably not who he is thinking of.

Matt should have added contraception to the list of what will reduce the need for abortions. This is the real wedge issue--this is where the anti-sex and anti-women folks divide from the reasonable people Dionne is talking about.  This is also where a majority of Catholics part from their hierarchy.  

Atrios is right--the anti-choice movement on the whole is anti-women and anti-sex, buy there are many individuals who genuinely believe that life begins at conceptionm and are bothered by abortion to varying degrees, and particualrly bothered by talk that having an abortion is nothing more than having a tooth pulled.

by Mimikatz 2006-02-15 01:31PM | 0 recs
Right-to-Life MOVEMENT

You have to read this carefully to see what's going on here. Dionne:

I have more sympathy than most liberals with the right-to-life movement because I believe most right-to-lifers are animated not by sexism or some punitive attitude toward sexuality but by a genuine desire to defend the defenseless.

Now, there are at least four distinct entities folks are arguing about here, two of which (though it's not clear precisely which) appear in Dionne's quote: (1) The "right-to-life" movement which is credibly represented by the overtly-expressed views of (2) its leaders, but may differ significantly from that of individual "right-to-lifers"--regardless of whether one defines "right-to-lifers" as (3) individual rank-and-file members of the "right-to-life" movement, or (4) invididuals not involved in the movement, who share "right-to-life" sentiments.

Now, it must be said that Dionne doesn't help matters by being so unclear that we have no idea what he means by "most right-to-lifers," but we can at least hazard that it's probably (3) or (4).   However, this clearly gives us absolute nonsense, since Matt is absolutely right in identifying (1) and (2) with the hateful statements he cites--which are hardly the most vicious he could have found, I'm sure.

Indeed, the logical statement to make, given Dionne's professed sympathies would be something like this:

I have more sympathy than most liberals with most right-to-lifers, because I believe that, unlike the the right-to-life movement that pretends to represent them, they are animated not by sexism or some punitive attitude toward sexuality but by a genuine desire to defend the defenseless.
This statement, at least, would be logically coherent.  But it would still be based on false information. Or rather, since no information was involved, on false presupposition.

In fact, as I wrote in a previous diary, "Forced Childbirth--What The Data Says" riffing off of another one of Matt's stories:

Summary: While individuals can certainly have all sorts of different views, statistical surveys can tell us a great deal about what mass movements and their constituencies are really all about.  And in this case, the evidence is overwhelming: those who profess anti-abortion attitudes are not consistent in their beliefs.  They are consistent, however, if they are regarded as being for forced childbirth.
In the post, I explained 4 measures of support for birth control and sex ed, and two measures of support for abortion. If "right-to-lifers" were really most concerned about protecting innocent life, and "a genuine desire to defend the defenseless, "then surely they would want to help prevent pregnancies that were likely to lead to abortions.

On the other hand, if their motive was "sexism [i.e. desire to controll women's bodies] or some punitive attitude toward sexuality [make women pay for having sex by getting pregnant when they don't want to]," then they would not want to prevent pregnancies that were likely to lead to abortions.  They would want to force women to have to make the most difficult decisions imagineable.  And indeed, that's precisely what motivates them, as a whole. (Statistical methods can never tell us what each individual feels, only what the tendencies of groups and subgroups are.)

Here's the correlations I found between pro-choice and pro-birth control positions--a correlation that would not exist if the "pro-lifers" were aas concerned as pro-choicers about preventing unwanted pregnancies:


      ABTHREAT/ PILL: R =     .24
      ABTHREAT/TEENPILL: R =     .24    
      ABTHREAT/PILLOK: R =     .26    
      ABTHREAT/SEXEDUC: R =     .25

     ABAUTONOMY/PILL: R =     .20
      ABAUTONOMY/TEENPILL: R =     .24
      ABAUTONOMY/PILLOK: R =     .31
      ABAUTONOMY/SEXEDUC: R =     .21

I then wrote:
Obviously, if the aim was to prevent abortions, those who are anti-abortion would tend to favor sex ed and birth control--at least as much as those who are pro-choice. But, in fact, they tend to oppose them more often on a consistent basis.  This is true both for abortions where choice [ABAUTONOMY] is most salient, and where it is not [ABTHREAT].

In short, Matt's right.  Dionne is not just logically confused, he's woefully misinformed.  He's been spun like a top, and now he's out there spinning others.

by Paul Rosenberg 2006-02-15 01:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Right-to-Life MOVEMENT

Paul,

You have permissions to post on Breaking Blue, if you'd like.

by Matt Stoller 2006-02-15 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

Here's one test for "pro-lifers:"

If they make exceptions for rape and incest, then they're full of shit for obvious reasons.  Then they really are just punishing females for voluntary sexuality.

If they don't make exceptions for rape and incest, they get an A for consistencey.  Now let's debate politically whether Americans want victims and rape and incest to be forced to continue their pregnancies and give birth.

In my opinion--END OF DEBATE.

Jim Hannon

by Thaddeus 2006-02-15 02:37PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

"Here's one test for "pro-lifers:"

If they make exceptions for rape and incest, then they're full of shit for obvious reasons.  Then they really are just punishing females for voluntary sexuality.

If they don't make exceptions for rape and incest, they get an A for consistency.  Now let's debate politically whether Americans want victims and rape and incest to be forced to continue their pregnancies and give birth."

I'm not sure the "exceptionalists" are being inconsistent. One could say that it's too much to ask a woman to bear a child that came from her being raped, but that it isn't too much to insist that a woman take responsibility for her voluntary actions. The argument would be that there's tension between the rights of the mother and the rights of the child, and that in the case of rape or incest the scale tips toward the rights of the mother, but that in the general case the scale tips toward the child.

your friend
Keith

by keith johnson 2006-02-16 07:43PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

There's problems with that logic. While Evangelical Christians may be the most recent public face of the pro-life movement, the heart & soul of the Pro-Life Movement have always been Catholics, particularly Catholic Women. Catholics, at least those who take their religion seriously, believe contraception is immoral because it prevents the chance of life to occur in the "Marital Act" but for the most part, devout Catholics AND Protestants are hostile to 'birth control' because they believe most contraceptives to be abortofacients.

Most contraceptives, rather than preventing conception, instead prevent fertilized embryos from implanting in the uterus, therefore, left to starve and then die. This doesen't trouble most people, but for people who believe that life begins at 'conception', combined oral contraceptives are no different than surgical abortions.

As for atitudes toward Sex Ed, firstly it's important not to confuse correlation with causation. The type of person who believes that a human life begins and is imbued with a soul at the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg, is also one who is likely to hold very tradionalist views about sex, marriage & birth control.

More importantly, you shouldn't make the mistake that those in the right to life movement must obviously be hypocrites because they don't believe as you do , that advocating contraception (of which much is considered abortofacient in nature) and sex education outside a focus on abstinence and sex only within the bonds of marriage is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies. They've got their own ideas of the best ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

by Epitome23 2006-02-15 03:04PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

Few people I know are Pro-Abortion but few I know are against a women's right to choose to have one if SHE deems it necessary. The big divide really is about privacy and the right to one's own body. The right thinks they have the right to tell all of us male and female how to live in all of our life decisions except the economic one's. Every other decision in their viewed should be open to control by some external agency whether it be the state or the church or the voodoo witch dr. or tribal cheif of our village. Women especially are view as objects to be controlled maybe the ultimate object. It's about human rights not just the right of a fetus to live. The right on the other hand has levered that fetus and given it more power then the mother who is carrying it. They would reduce the women to a baby carrying device with no rights. Strange though that once the child is born it's also suddenly befret of any rights just like the mother. Ultimately, it's all about control and power and who should have it and over whom. The right hates the thought of "individuals rights" in all but a very few instances. They were aginst the Bill of Rights and ending slavery and after that they fought against rights being extended to women and blacks. The common thread in all of this is an aversion to liberty and freedom because they fear how the individual will act. They see rights as only being vested in the community "father" or leaders to be distributed only to those they feel deserve them.( white land holding men.) This concept of "limited" freedom is what really lies behind the present "conservative movement." Ultimately the right would like to see a society made up primarily of "masters and servants." They hate the present middle class society because it has a tendency to expand rights and this whole idea is anathema to their narrow elitist agenda.

by Blutodog 2006-02-15 03:50PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

Matt. I'm with Mimikatz and Epitome 23 on this one.  There's a huge difference between what a lot of mainstream Catholics (and if I recall right, Dionne may be a Catholic himself) believe and the views of the Dobson/Robertson Evangelical crowd. There are plenty of pro-lifers who are do indeed have compassion for the woman facing an unplanned pregnancy. Lumping them all together is the same mistake that the fundies make about the pro-choice crowd. Frankly, if the pro-choicers could use a little more nuance, and not assume that everyone who disagrees is the equivalent of the Taliban, they might do a better job at peeling off some pro-lifers.

by barkley365 2006-02-15 03:56PM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

Disclaimer: I am Catholic and am about as likely to give up my faith as I am to give up the Democratic Party (translation: you can hold a gun to my family and I will never embrace either atheism or Republicanism.)

There's certainly a very different way in which Catholics and evangelicals "pro-life" protestors approach abortion.  One study suggested that Catholics are more concerned with saving human life, while evangelicals are more interested in punishing immoral sexual behavior and being conspiciously Christian.  (I didn't take very good notes at the time, so my best guesstimate is America magazine sometime in the mid-to-late-90s.)

I remember words from the Gospel According to Matthew.

"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward." (Chapter 6, Verse 5, New American Bible)

Those who consider themselves to be "pro-life" are not necessarily raving religious loons.  (A list of prominent people who believe that abortion is wrong would include the Berrigan brothers, Maya Angelou, and the Dalai Lama.)  On the flip side, not everyone who deems him- or herself to be "pro-choice" is a rational thinker who is at least one intellectual notch above Pat Robertson.  Most people seem to run on the fumes of pure emotionalism with regards to the abortion issue.

by Anthony de Jesus 2006-02-15 04:06PM | 0 recs
not that complicated

The Catholic Church position on abortion is that no exceptions should be made for rape or incest.  That's consistent, although I can assure you that the approach to pastoral ministry is not consistent with this teaching.

But please just stop and think: do you think many Americans wouldbe comfortable with the law preventing abortion when a woman is pregnant as the result of a rape?  Or a 14 yr. old is impregnated by her father?

And if you are on the fence, or Catholic, or pro-life, do you REALLY think that the laws should be changed to require a raped, impregnated woman to lose the right to an abortion?  If you do think that, then I think we have every right to say that you are NOT PRO-CHOICE and in favor of government control of a woman's life IN A RIDICULOUS< PATRIARCHAL WAY.

If you would make an exception for rape or incest, then your opposition to abortion is PRECISELY about controlling naughty girls who let their knickers down, and then you are a different kind of enemy of a progressive movement.

I'm sorry that it's such a tough issue for you, but where so you disagree with my analysis?  And while I can definitely see why someone would be opposed to abortion in one;s own life, how can anyone with any respect for women's rights POSSIBLY ARGUE ABOUT WHETHER A SECULAR LEGAL SYSTEM SHOULD OUTLAW ABORTION?

Jim Hannon

by Thaddeus 2006-02-15 05:53PM | 0 recs
Re: not that complicated

What about the argument that people can be against murder, but condone killing someone in self-defense or defense of others, or, for that matter, condone going to war?

The abortion debate has actually two components. One is whether and when abortions should be allowed and the other is whether the Supreme Court of the United States should have used the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to strike down laws prohibiting abortion. The two issues are not the same, although they are often confused.

by mrgavel 2006-02-16 01:55AM | 0 recs
Re: EJ Dionne Goes Off the Rails a Bit

Dionne said most, and "most" doesn't include the nutters like Dobson.

I've worked with the right-to-life movement, on providing services such as daycare, parenting training, pregnancy testing, information on contraception and STDs.  We also scrounged for and got contributions of baby clothes, baby equipment, clothes for the moms, and active help in getting WIC, food stamps and other services from the gov'mint.

The idea was to help women who wanted the baby, but weren't in a economic position to rear a child, to keep the baby.

Guys like Dobson make all the noise and get most of the attention.  The group I worked with is WAY below the radar screen.  I can't characterize every one in that group but I'm a liberal, a Democrat, against the death penalty, and not religious.  I wouldn't want to have an abortion so I tried to help other women how didn't want to have an abortion.  In all the volunteer work I did, I never meant someone like Dobson, and if I had, I wouldn't have worked in that group.

Dionne is not being a wanker to say what he said.  Judging by my own experience, I think he's right.

by sozzy 2006-02-16 05:36AM | 0 recs

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