Archive for the ‘Abortion’ category

Afternoon Updates

May 15, 2007

First, the Decatur Daily reports today:

Three former Alabama Supreme Court justices are asking the country’s highest court to hear the case of Alabama death row inmates who say they don’t have adequate legal representation, but the state is arguing the inmates’ claim is “a work of fiction.”

I explained here that Alabama does an extremely bad job of providing attorneys to convicts on death row. Basically, if those folks want an appointed attorney, they have to first convince a judge that they have a valid claim. Stating a valid claim, though, requires extensive investigation, legal research and writing; in other words, stating a valid claim requires a lawyer. So, as the Tuscaloosa News put it today:

Inmates who are condemned to die have to convince a judge that they need legal representation to protect their rights and to prove that they have a substantial claim for an appeal.

But a suit filed by six death row inmates says they can’t make those cases effectively without an attorney. There’s a circular quality to their argument. They need a lawyer to convince a judge that they need a lawyer.

So the state is just wrong when it says that Alabama provides indigent capital defendants lawyers for post-conviction proceedings. That said, the state is going to win the lawsuit. No way is Scotus going to force the state to set up some kind of indigent program for post-conviction proceedings.

Second, the B’ham City counsel – only a few weeks after several members proudly declared their ignorance and homophobia – has just voted to adopt a new version of a resolution condemning, among other things, homophobia. An official declaration that gays are something other than the cause of the end of the world? Jerry Falwell must be spinning in his grave. Or wherever he is.

Third, once a terrorist, always a terrorist:

Victims of Eric Rudolph, the anti-abortion extremist who pulled off a series of bombings across the South, say he is taunting them from deep within the nation’s most secure federal prison, and authorities say there is little they can do to stop him.

Apparently, he’s writing nasty stories and sending them to fans who publish them on the web. He’s been doing so for quite a while; here’s my post on a similar report from a few months ago. Whether or not the prison authorities can prohibit the letters, like I said in the earlier post, the letters certainly justify Rudolph’s continued stay in a SuperMax prison.

Finally, a case I mentioned here is about to climax:

The owner of an adult store in Decatur launched her final appeal Monday against a state ban on selling sex toys, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the law as an unconstitutional intrusion into the bedroom.


Wherein I Blog About Abortion

January 23, 2007

In response to Jeff’s question:

Kathy and Dan have both stated that they are Pro Choice and while I consider these great bloggers my friends, I have to completely disagree with them. Instead of boring you with my reasons why they are wrong and I am right I am just going to ask a simple question to you.

When Does Life Start?

Answer this question for me, and we will start the debate of why abortion should be outlawed. As I receive comments answering this question I will update the post for all to see the answers we get, and my responses.

Dan’s post is here; Kathy’s here. I am responding to Jeff’s question because I think he has inadvertently cut to the heart of the policy issue and given us a clue about why the abortion debate will never end.

One of the things that irritates me about most abortion “debates” is the terminology: You’re either a baby killer or a misogynist. But, and this where Jeff’s question comes into play, I think folks who talk like that are speaking over each other’s heads. Consider the arguments about abortion as syllogisms.

First, against:

Killing human beings is almost always wrong.

An unborn child is a human being.

Therefore, it is almost always wrong to kill an unborn child.

Second, for:

A woman has the right to do whatever she wants to do with her own body.

An unborn child is part of a woman’s body.

Therefore, that woman has the right to do whatever she wants with the unborn child.

So what is the disagreement? If it was really between misogynists and baby killers than the disagreement would be over the major premises. But no-one arguing for abortion would dispute that killing human beings is generally wrong. And no (sane) person arguing against abortion would dispute that women ought to control their own bodies. The crux of the argument is, to rephrase Jeff’s question, whether or not the unborn child is a human being.

To that, I say, I do not know. Rather, I have an idea, but that idea is not the type of idea I can lord over another. If you deny the Earth is round, or the sky blue, I call you an idiot because the answer to those questions is outside both of us. We can both look and see the correct answer. If you fail to see it, the fault is yours. If you deny that killing people is almost always wrong, again, I point you to the visible, tangible harms of killing. But if you hold a position contrary to me about abortion? My only plea is the authority of my own beliefs. I hold them, so obviously I find them persuasive, but I cannot point to anything outside my head (or the collective heads of like-minded people and organizations) to contradict you. I may ultimately be right, and my idea may actually have an existence outside my own head. But right now? It is absolutely subjective.

That it why the debate will never end. There is no conclusive evidence that a fetus is or is not a human being. It’s a matter of individual beliefs.

I’m not saying anything new. This was more or less the basis of Roe. Roe did not decide whether or not a fetus is a baby. All that case really did was re-direct the decision making power from the state to the individual. The Court’s words:

Texas urges that, apart from the Fourteenth Amendment, life begins at conception and is present throughout pregnancy, and that, therefore, the State has a compelling interest in protecting that life from and after conception. We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.

It should be sufficient to note briefly the wide divergence of thinking on this most sensitive and difficult question. There has always been strong support for the view that life does not begin until live’ birth. This was the belief of the Stoics. It appears to be the predominant, though not the unanimous, attitude of the Jewish faith. It may be taken to represent also the position of a large segment of the Protestant community, insofar as that can be ascertained; organized groups that have taken a formal position on the abortion issue have generally regarded abortion as a matter for the conscience of the individual and her family. As we have noted, the common law found greater significance in quickening. Physician and their scientific colleagues have regarded that event with less interest and have tended to focus either upon conception, upon live birth, or upon the interim point at which the fetus becomes “viable,” that is, potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid. Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks. The Aristotelian theory of “mediate animation,” that held sway throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe, continued to be official Roman Catholic dogma until the 19th century, despite opposition to this “ensoulment” theory from those in the Church who would recognize the existence of life from the moment of conception. The latter is now, of course, the official belief of the Catholic Church. As one brief amicus discloses, this is a view strongly held by many non-Catholics as well, and by many physicians. Substantial problems for precise definition of this view are posed, however, by new embryological data that purport to indicate that conception is a “process” over time, rather than an event, and by new medical techniques such as menstrual extraction, the “morning-after” pill, implantation of embryos, artificial insemination, and even artificial wombs. . . .

In view of all this, we do not agree that, by adopting one theory of life, Texas may override the rights of the pregnant woman that are at stake.

As a policy matter, that makes sense to me. The question is unanswerable, so leave it to the most directly affected individual to make up their own mind.

At this point, someone will say “The most directly affected individual is the child.” My initial reaction is to dismiss that as question begging. The issue is whether or not the thing is a child, so the assertion that it is a child cannot be part of the argument one way or the other.

Faulty logic it may be, however it does raise another important point, one sort of like Pascal’s wager. Granted that we cannot know whether or not the thing is a child, but whose guess, if wrong, would cause more harm? And would the results of the wrong guess be harmful enough to justify prohibiting the guess? In other words, what is worse, to support abortion if the fetus is a child? Or to oppose abortion if the fetus is simply part of the woman’s body? Then when that question is answered, is the resulting hypothetical harm so bad that no-one ought to be allowed to act in a way that would cause it, even though it is hypothetical? Should we, for example, refuse to allow anyone to decide for themselves that a six week old fetus is nothing but a body part because, if that person has decided incorrectly, that person has killed another human?

I’m not about to try to answer those questions. But I raise them for the same reason I wrote this post: To highlight the hazy nature of this whole problem.



Eric Rudolph: Prison Is Hard

December 11, 2006

That’s the gist of this story in the Advertiser today:

Olympic [and B’ham abortion clinic] bomber Eric Rudolph laments in a series of letters that the caged atmosphere of the federal prison where is spending the rest of his life is designed to drive him insane.

Rudolph, who hid out from authorities for five years in the woods of western North Carolina before being captured, says that his surroundings at the Supermax prison are getting to him.

“It is a closed-off world designed to isolate inmates from social and environmental stimuli, with the ultimate purpose of causing mental illness and chronic physical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis,” he wrote in one letter to The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

“Using solitary confinement, Supermax is designed to inflict as much misery and pain as is constitutionally permissible,” he wrote.

Well, duh. What did he expect when he plead? Here’s a collection of information about the prison. This is from the Wikipedia article:

most individuals are kept for at least 23 hours each day in solitary confinement. They are housed in a 7-by-12 ft (3.5-by-2 m) room, built behind a steel door and grate. The remaining free hour is spent exercising alone in a separate concrete chamber. Prisoners rarely see each other, and the inmates’ only direct human interaction is with correctional officers. Visiting from outside the prison is conducted through glass, with each prisoner in a separate chamber. Religious services are broadcast from a small chapel.

Part of the prison is a “stepdown” program, designed to encourage less antisocial behavior and eventually transfer prisoners out of the ADX and back to the Maximum Security population. The program is three years in length, each year allowing more freedom and social contact with other inmates. Any violation during the program means participants revert to year one.

Most cells’ furniture is made almost entirely out of poured concrete, including a desk, stool, and bed covered by a thin mattress. Each chamber contains a toilet that shuts off if plugged, a shower that runs on a timer to prevent flooding, and a sink missing a potentially dangerous tap. Rooms may also be fitted with polished steel mirrors bolted to the wall, an electric light, a radio, a 13-inch black and white television set that shows recreational, educational and religious programming, and a cigarette lighter. These privileges can be taken away as punishment. The 4-in by 4-ft windows confuse the prisoner as to his specific location within the complex because one can see only the sky and roof. Telecommunication with the outside world is forbidden, and food is hand delivered by correctional officers.

I could not find the letters that the article mentions, but here is the Colorado Gazzette story from which the Advertiser’s story is an excerpt. It includes some of Rudolph’s thoughts on his crime and his sentence, and based on those thoughts, I don’t think he’s quite ready for a return to the general prison population:

Rudolph is serving life without parole because federal prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for his pleading guilty to the bombings and revealing the location of dynamite he buried.

At his sentencing hearings in Birmingham and Atlanta last summer, Rudolph was smug and largely unapologetic. He read a statement saying he bombed two abortion clinics because “abortion is murder, and because it is murder I believe deadly force is needed to stop it.”

The attack at the Olympics in 1996, he said, was meant to “confound, anger and embarrass” the government for sanctioning abortion. He offered a muted apology for the woman he killed and the more than 100 people injured by the nails and screws he packed into the explosives.

He concluded his statement by saying, “The talking heads on the news opine that I am ‘finished,’ that I will languish broken and unloved in the bowels of some Supermax, but I say to you people that by the grace of God I am still here — a little bloodied, but emphatically unbowed.”

Nearly 16 months in isolation have not changed his attitude. Last month, Rudolph sent The Gazette a 16-page story he said was a “satire” based on his sentencing in Birmingham in July 2005.

The names were changed slightly, he wrote, because the Bureau of Prisons won’t let him send mail that deals with crimes or acts of violence.

In it, he mocks the prosecutors, judge and victims of his 1998 bombing of the New Woman All Women clinic, which killed off-duty policeman Robert Sanderson and maimed nurse Emily Lyons.

Lyons was struck by flying nails and shrapnel, which tore out one of her eyes. She has had 22 surgeries since 1998.

In a narrative dripping with sarcasm, Rudolph wrote that he “never learned that there is no freedom more dear to women than the right to dispose of their own unwanted children.”

Lyons, he wrote, “is a facilitator of this sacred right,” adding that he “had pointed his finger in judgment of Emily. And there is nothing more repugnant to citizens of the Brave New World than being called to account for one’s actions.”

Rudolph described Derzis as “brassy, worldly, the kind of woman who had not only been around the block a few times but was probably dragged behind a truck the entire way.”

“Releasing women caught in the shackles of maternity became her mission in life,” he wrote.

Sanderson, he wrote, was “a hero who stood steadfast watch as thousands of women made it to freedom over the corpses of their unborn children. That’s heroism folks!”

Rudolph also detailed his thoughts during the judge’s indictment of his motives:

“Deadly force is sometimes justified to save life. That is what his law books say. This is a riddle that even a fool can resolve,” Rudolph wrote. “The only real question is under what circumstances it is justified to take life.”

The document is among several by Rudolph posted on the Web site of the Army of God.

That sounds like someone who is still very much a threat.

If you want more information, here is the Army of God website, and here is their page about Rudolph, which contains the “satire” mentioned in the article, as well as several other things he has written. As you might guess, the pictures on those two sites are really, really horrific – decapitated and bloody fetuses. You can get to the satire without seeing the pictures as long as you don’t scroll any lower than the link for the satire. It’s called “The Sentence.”

Roy Moore And Home Schooling

October 27, 2006

On the Roy Moore Blog today:

The story about Germany’s anti-homeschooling law is getting uglier and more Gestapo-like. You may recall that the German law, introduced under Hitler, was recently upheld by the European Court of Human Rights, which cited “the general interest of society to avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions.” Most, if not all, German homeschooling families are Christian, but their “separation philosophical convictions” could not be allowed to initiate “parallel societies” that threaten and contradict government-approved indoctrination in Germany.

As reported on WorldNetDaily, German police are now forcibly removing crying homeschooled children from their homes and driving them to public school classes. According to,

On Friday, October 20th, three children were picked up by the police and escorted to school in Baden-Württemberg, with the “promise” that it would happen again this week. . . . The previous minister/secretary of education had said that it was senseless to use police force for something like that, that it wasn’t good for the children, who were obviously well-cared for, and a waste of time for the police. The current minister/secretary of education apparently has another opinion.

Germany’s criminalization of home education is a travesty for religious and educational freedom, and for the authority of the family vis-à-vis the state. And now that we are seeing the boorish manner of enforcement, it is all too reminiscent of a shameful era that we thought Germany had left behind.

I’m not going to fact check this story, though the World Nut Dailey is certainly NOT a reliable source. For purposes of this post, the truth of the report does not matter.

What I am going to point out is that what prevents stuff like this from happening in America is exactly what the Moore Blog slams in this post: Scotus finding non-textual rights.

The case was Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus. The state of Oregon had passed a law, like the one in Germany, mandating that all children attend public schools. No private schools, no home schools; the choice was public schools or a criminal conviction.

Opponents argued:

that the enactment conflicts with the right of parents to choose schools where their children will receive appropriate mental and religious training, the right of the child to influence the parents’ choice of a school, the right of schools and teachers therein to engage in a useful business or profession, and is accordingly repugnant to the Constitution and void.

Now there is nothing in the Constitution about “the right of parents to choose schools” or “the right of the child to influence the parents’ choice of a school” and making decisions about education requirements is a policy decision. So Scotus did like the Euro Court of Human Rights by quickly rejecting the argument and upholding the law, right?


Under the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 , 43 S. Ct. 625, 29 A. L. R. 1146, we think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children [268 U.S. 510, 535]   under their control. As often heretofore pointed out, rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the state. The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

Good luck finding any of that stuff in the text of the Constitution. I think it’s in between the right to have an abortion and the right to commit sodomy.

I point this out for two reasons.

First, I find it strange that the Moore crowd will slam Roe – a case whose result they hate – on grounds that apply with equal force to Pierce – a result they love. If Roe is bad because Scotus found rights not explicitly mentioned in the text, then Pierce is bad too. But they never mention Pierce. 

Second, as I’ve said before, ignoring the Ninth Amendment – you know, the one that says the Bill of Rights is NOT an exclusive list of rights – and saying that the only Constitutional rights are those rights explicitly mentioned in the text would get rid of a lot more than just Roe. If there is no right to privacy, there is no right to abortion and there is no right to home school. So you ought to think real hard before deciding to chuck the “right to privacy.”

Oh sure, we can comfort ourselves by saying that even without a Constitutional guarantee, we will always be free to send our kids to private schools or home schools. Nothing like that story from Germany could ever happen here. Except that it did happen. And Scotus stopped it.


Hoe Activities

October 19, 2006

I have one reason for mentioning this story (H/T Kathy):

A little-known Republican group that claims to have swayed the 2004 presidential election with provocative radio advertising aimed at black and Hispanic audiences is spending nearly $1 million this year to boost the GOP’s chances of holding on to a majority in Congress.

The group, America’s Pac, began running ads last month in more than two dozen congressional districts.The campaign discusses issues ranging from warrantless wiretapping to school choice, but the most inflammatory spots pertain to abortion. . . .

Another ad features a dialogue between two men.

“If you make a little mistake with one of your ‘hos,’ you’ll want to dispose of that problem tout suite, no questions asked,” one of the men says.

“That’s too cold. I don’t snuff my own seed,” the other replies.

“Maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican,” the first man says.

The reason for posting this? Not to point out the obvious: That in this debate over what to do with the “little mistake” no-one ever mentions what the repository of the mistake – the ho – might want. Nope. Big Man A tells Big Man B to dispose of the problem. Like no-one else is involved, it’s just his decision. B’s response? “I don’t snuff my seed.” No mention of what the woman wants to do about his seed. Why should there be? She’s just a ho. Something that exists solely for his pleasure. And the final solution? Get the Republicans involved.

Nope, that’s not why I posted this. I did it because it’s a great excuse for me to share with you my all time favorite footnote. Number one, from the Seventh Circuit case of United States v. Murphy:

The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch “hoe.” A “hoe,” of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. We think the court reporter, unfamiliar with rap music (perhaps thankfully so), misunderstood Hayden’s response. We have taken the liberty of changing “hoe” to “ho,” a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps “You doin’ ho activities with ho tendencies.”

Abortion: The Terms Of Debate

August 11, 2006

Lee may be correct that Alabama needs to revise the regulations for abortion clinics. But he is dead wrong when he says this:

late-term abortions – those that occur during the third trimester of pregnancy – will remain legal in Alabama indefinitely. Unfortunately, there’s little that Alabama, or any other state, for that matter, can do about this tragic situation. For all practical purposes, states must condone abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy…thanks to the United States Supreme Court.

On the contrary, Scotus has said on more than one occasion that states are free to ban what Lee calls late term abortions, and Alabama has done just that.

Late term abortions are a felony in Alabama. Section 26-22-3 of the Alabama Code states:

no person shall intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly perform or induce an abortion when the unborn child is viable.

Doing so is a Class A felony, unless:

[The] abortion is performed by a physician and that physician reasonably believes that it is necessary to prevent either the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the woman.

Furthermore, even where the health exception applies, under the same section of the code, the doctor commits a Class C felony if he aborts the viable child without taking the following steps:

(1) The physician performing the abortion certifies in writing that, based upon his or her medical examination of the pregnant woman and his or her medical judgment, the abortion is necessary to prevent either the death of the pregnant woman or serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.

(2) The physician’s judgment with respect to the necessity for the abortion has been concurred in by one other licensed physician who certifies in writing that, based upon his or her separate personal medical examination of the pregnant woman and his or her medical judgment, the abortion is necessary to prevent either the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the woman.

(3) The abortion is performed in a hospital.

(4) The physician terminates the pregnancy in a manner which provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive, unless the physician determines, in his or her good faith medical judgment, that termination of the pregnancy in that manner poses a significantly greater risk either of the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the woman than would other available methods.

(5) The physician performing the abortion arranges for the attendance, in the same room in which the abortion is to be completed, of a second physician who shall take control of the child immediately after complete extraction from the mother and shall provide immediate medical care for the child, taking all reasonable steps necessary to preserve the child’s life and health.

This is all in accord with the Supreme Court’s statements on the subject. The Court explained the general rules in Stenberg v. Carhart:

We again consider the right to an abortion. We understand the controversial nature of the problem. Millions of Americans believe that life begins at conception and consequently that an abortion is akin to causing the death of an innocent child; they recoil at the thought of a law that would permit it. Other millions fear that a law that forbids abortion would condemn many American women to lives that lack dignity, depriving them of equal liberty and leading those with least resources to undergo illegal abortions with the attendant risks of death and suffering. Taking account of these virtually irreconcilable points of view, aware that constitutional law must govern a society whose different members sincerely hold directly opposing views, and considering the matter in light of the Constitution’s guarantees of fundamental individual liberty, this Court, in the course of a generation, has determined and then redetermined that the Constitution offers basic protection to the woman’s right to choose. . . . We shall not revisit those legal principles. Rather, we apply them to the circumstances of this case.

Three established principles determine the issue before us. . . . First, before “viability the woman has a right to choose to terminate her pregnancy.” . . . .

Second, “a law designed to further the State’s interest in fetal life which imposes an undue burden on the woman’s decision before fetal viability” is unconstitutional. . . . An “undue burden is . . . shorthand for the conclusion that a state regulation has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” . . . .

Third, “ ‘subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.’”

Alabama has done as Scotus said it may do, and chosen to proscribe late term abortions. If late term abortions are occurring, the fault is not the Supreme Court’s. It is Alabama’s. The laws are on the books. If the problem exists, it is because no-one is enforcing the laws.

I’m not arguiing in favor of late term abortions, or even abortion at any time. I am saying that debates ought to be based on the facts. This is a serious issue, and spreading misinformation is no way to resolve it.