How “Poor” Are the Poor?

FrontPageMagazine.com | Robert Rector | August 28, 2007

Poverty is an important and emotional issue. Last year, the Census Bureau released its annual report on poverty in the United States declaring that there were 37 million poor persons living in this country in 2005, roughly the same number as in the preceding years.[4] According to the Census report, 12.6 percent of Amer­icans were poor in 2005; this number has varied from 11.3 percent to 15.1 percent of the population over the past 20 years.[5]

To understand poverty in America, it is important to look behind these numbers—to look at the actual living conditions of the individuals the government deems to be poor. For most Americans, the word “poverty” suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. But only a small number of the 37 million per­sons classified as “poor” by the Census Bureau fit that description. While real material hardship certainly does occur, it is limited in scope and severity. Most of America’s “poor” live in material conditions that would be judged as comfortable or well-off just a few generations ago. Today, the expenditures per person of the lowest-income one-fifth (or quintile) of house­holds equal those of the median American household in the early 1970s, after adjusting for inflation.[6]

The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau, taken from various gov­ernment reports:

  • Forty-three percent of all poor households actu­ally own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
  • Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • Only 6 percent of poor households are over­crowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
  • The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
  • Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.
  • Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
  • Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
  • Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

As a group, America’s poor are far from being chronically undernourished. The average consump­tion of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes 100 percent above recommended levels. Most poor children today are, in fact, supernour­ished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.

. . . more

Comments

  1. Dean Scourtes says:
  2. Christopher says:

    note 50:

    It is the logical result of the political philosophy of the day regardless of party, i.e, “If you want power, give the ‘people’ what they want”

    Michael, perhaps we have found Dean’s nickname: Pontius Pilate

    Interesting how he washes his hands of the blood of the unborn by arguing for a “reduction”…sad…

  3. Christopher says:

    note 51:

    Come on Michael, you know better than that.

    You should know better, but you do not. What Church do you attend again Pontius?

    Come on Michael, you know better than that. If our objective is a significant reduction in the abortion rate why wouldn’t we want to employ the methods most likely to result in acceptance and success, rather those most likely to create resistance and opposition and yield the least success

    Your just repeating your comprise strategy here. A “compromise” is not possible when it comes to unborn life. Either you are a person or not, thus either it is murder or not. “reducing” murder is silly, particularly since you confuse external circumstances with moral choice, just like Marx. Perhaps your nickname should be “Pontius Marx”…

    That is a shameful, hateful comment

    Only in your non-Christian worldview. In your material world view, man is not made in the Image and Likeness (and thus is free – free to choose right or wrong) but is a victim of his circumstances. Thus, as you say, abortion is not chosen, but “caused” – caused by external realities to the person (his perceived wealth or lack there of, etc.).

    Dean, seriously, how long are you going to continue like this? Don’t take it from me, take it from Michael, Fr. Jacobse, Missourian, all the others who have told you do not think like a Christian. Your basic understanding on this issue is in error, because your basic understanding about Man and his freedom is in error. You claim Jim as an ally, who explicitly rejects any Orthodox Christian notion of the human person! Really Dean, we ask again: What is man?

  4. Mr. Scourtes #51:

    “Jim Holmon and I, on the other hand, argue for targeting abortion as a public health problem and focusing a number of public policy initiatives at it in a concerted and systematic manner….”

    Tax evasion is a less serious matter than abortion, and is also very common. Why not legalize tax evasion, and attempt to pursuade people to pay their taxes through educational intiatives? Why not? Because tax evasion is stealing (causing financial harm to honest taxpayers) and should not be condoned or even tolerated by legalization, even though lots of folks are doing it. Well, abortion is the unjustified taking of human life. That is reason enough for it to be illegal.

    Also, you write as if abortion rates would remain almost unchanged if it were banned. They would only remain high if a ban were not enforced. The most likely case is that the number of abortions would be very greatly reduced if abortion were made illegal.

  5. D. George writes: “Well, abortion is the unjustified taking of human life. That is reason enough for it to be illegal.”

    The problem is that there is no moral consensus on the issue. In fact, a majority of people think it should be legal. They largely reject the idea that the fetus is a person, especially in the earliest stages. The belief in the personhood of the fetus depends largely on religious or philosophical beliefs that many people do not hold.

    As far as making abortion illegal, the issue is not whether the anti-abortion side is “right” or not. The issue is whether something should be made law just because a number of sincere religious people have strong beliefs about it. All sincere, thoughtful people think that their beliefs are true. But that’s not a sufficient reason for putting those beliefs into the law. For example, some Catholics and fundamentalists are extremely opposed to artificial birth control. So should that be outlawed? Should eating meat be banned because some sincere vegetarians think it should be?

    The key to putting things into law is the existence of a consensus. Currently, the national consensus on abortion is on the other side of the issue, that it should be legal and available.

    The key to having a law that is actually obeyed is having a very strong, almost unanimous consensus. Take bank robberies, for example. In 2006 there were about 7,200 bank robberies out of a population of over 300 million people. Nobody suggests making bank robberies legal, and the number of offenders is miniscule.

    The consensus on drug use is not as strong. Some — even Christians — recommend decriminalizing many drugs. (Even recently in this venue.) In 2004 the CDC reported that almost 8 percent of the population used drugs in the month prior to the survey. So there are probably 20 million people in the U.S. using illegal drugs on a regular basis. And that’s even with fairly harsh sentences in effect, drug testing in the workplace, anti-drug programs, treatment programs, and so on. In 2000 the FBI reported almost 1.6 million arrests for various drug abuse violations. 1,900 drug labs were seized. 2.8 million pounds of drugs were seized, including 234,000 pounds of cocaine and 3,000 pounds of heroin — drugs that are smuggled from overseas. A significant amount of drug abuse occurs with prescription drugs that are diverted into street sales.
    http://www.drugtestcenter.com/Drugs_and_Crime/enforcement.htm

    So — let’s say that abortion is completely illegal tomorrow. What happens? Well, you’ve just created an instant black market for Levonorgestrel (Plan B), Methotrexate, and Misoprostol. You think Planned Parenthood targets poor neighborhoods? Just wail until the abortion drug dealers show up — with contaminated drugs and dirty needles, systemic infections, and deaths. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

  6. Michael Bauman says:

    Dean. Abortion as a public health matter? I doubt that you even know what that means. Nothing in anything you or Jim have written on abortion shows any real knowledge of public health. My father was the one of the most innovative and intelligent directors of a local public health department in the country for over 25 years. He did work on abortion as a public health problem. The foundation of his approach was to keep Planned Parenthood out of Wichita. Then he attempted to work with each woman individually using the public health nurses he trained and the neighborhood clinics he established. His goal was to teach folks how to manage their lives, exercise discipline, create order, become literate so that they would recognize that abortion was wrong and have the means to act in a moral manner. He was successful as long as he was director. Within three months of his forced retirement, Planned Parenthood was in town doing their dirty work and all of Dad’s programs jettisoned.

    The Democrats and their genocidal allies will never allow abortion or anything else that they can politicize to be dealt with as public health matter. Neither will the Republicans. Simple reason: they will loose power and money if they do.

    Jim, IMO has no interest in reducing abortion. He dosen’t even see it as a problem. The only thing he is correct about is that we Christians are too timid in our opposition to it. He knows that working through the normal political structure will have little if any effect. If we were really serious we’d take non-standard direct polticial action. However, risking RICO prosecution is a lot to risk. Trust me there would be no NAACP or any other civil rights organization had RICO been around during the civil rights marches. To actively oppose abortion in this country is considered racketeering and a corrupt practice.

    If Bush were serious about politically tackling abortion, he’d issue an executive order prohibiting the application of RICO to abortion protest organizations. If the Republicans in Congress were serious they would have modified or repealled RICO.

    To the extent that you have faith in ANY politcial organization, party of agenda, Dean you are deluded. That fact that you constantly mistake the democrat platform for Orthodox doctrine is just sick.

  7. Mr. Holman #55:

    “The problem is that there is no moral consensus on the issue. In fact, a majority of people think it should be legal.”

    First, while a majority of people think it should be legal in rare cases, a majority also thinks abortion on demand (what we have now) should be illegal.

    Second, while I am sure opposition to a ban on abortion is consistent with your principles, I was addressing Mr. Scourtes, who presumably believes that abortion is a moral evil, at least in most cases. If, as an Orthodox Christian, he believes about abortion what the Orthodox Church believes, he believes it is an unjustified taking of a human life (i.e., murder). So, I was wondering why he would not support a law against abortion, treating pregnancies as a health problem instead. Even more confusing is that (I suspect) he would oppose legalization of tax evasion, which is a much less serious crime (again, assuming abortion is a form of murder) that is more widely practiced.

    “All sincere, thoughtful people think that their beliefs are true. But that’s not a sufficient reason for putting those beliefs into the law.”

    Yes, it is sufficient reason. All law is based on opinions of what is true. There is no morally neutral law. We have laws against murder because someone thinks murder is wrong. We have farm subsidies because someone thinks that it is right to have them. We have speed limits because someone thinks it is immoral to endanger the lives of other drivers just to save time.

    The law may be practical, and we should be prudential in our application of it. As it pertains to abortion, there is nothing wrong with advocating for a ban, and trying to see it enacted through persuasion, any more than there was something wrong with abolitionists who advocated restrictions on slavery even though there was no “moral consensus” regarding that issue at the time.

    “The key to putting things into law is the existence of a consensus.”

    Do you support laws against tax evasion? Tax evasion is very common, even moreso than your example of recreational drug use. Because there is no strong consensus about paying one’s taxes, should people be able to exercise a “right to choose” whether or not they must support the policies of their government?

    And, in the special case of abortion, there was no consensus to legalize the practice on a federal level. Instead, a fiat ruling by Supreme Court justices legislated the “right” out of thin air. If you are so concerned about the existence of a consensus, you should advocate the repeal of Roe v. Wade, and the passage of federal legislation that legalizes abortion on demand in all states.

  8. #55 Jim Holman

    You wrote:

    The key to putting things into law is the existence of a consensus.

    Pretty amazing statement considering the topic and constitutional issues involved.

    But it’s not even true putting the constitutional aspect aside. The key to making a law is to have a democratic majority.

    While it is true that a law which virtually no one obeys is probably a bad law, it is not true that if some people don’t like a law it should be repealed. If that were true it would be nearly impossible to pass any law since a certain fraction of people could claim that there was “no consensus”.

  9. Framing abortion as a public health issue is disengenuous when you consider that the Democratic leadership wants to expand funding to promote abortion in third world countries. Its only function is to remove the moral onus of abortion which pro-arbortionists, to their chagrin, are feeling more and more as the culture shifts against it.

    The exception would be Democrats for Life and other liberals (Nat Henthoff for example) who correctly understand that abortion is a moral issue first, and that any definition of public health must include the unborn child as well as the mother.

  10. Michael Bauman says:

    My dad called what he did community health. The whole concept was to strengthen human beings to function more healthly within a community. He had an intuitive understanding that was quite sophisticated. It cannot be achieved within a bureaucratic model but requires the skill and compassion of highly trained, highly motivated people meeting face to face with people in need. A truly holistic approach. As he practiced it, most people just didn’t get it. At the base of it was an anthopological understanding that was profoundly Orthodox. He defined it in much more “scientific” terms as the interrelationship between an organisim and its environment. He understood and acted upon the understanding that every action has a consequence upon the entire community. Unhealthy actions resulted in an unhealthy community. It is in everbody’s best interest to act in ways that benefit others. One does not achieve health by denying the consequences or attempting to buffer the consequences of unhealthy behavior. Behavior must change for the health of the community to improve. Abortion is unhealthy so the mother, the father, and the extended family must be strengthen to allow a responsible approach to conception, birth and raising of children.

    It is, IMO, the exact opposite of every political approach I have ever seen and certainly is profoundly at odds with the individual rights or welfare state approach most folks gravitate toward. My dad’s approach enhanced the human dignity and freedom of the individual people by placing them firmly and irrevocably in the context of the community at large realizing the reciprocal responsibilities of each to the other.

    Dean’s idea of “public health” is simply a way to atomize, relativise, amoralize and dehumanize. My dad’s approach was just the opposite. So once again Dean proves he has no idea of what he is talking about because he fails to engage the anthropology of his own spiritual heritage, trading it for the pottage of secular humanistic garbage.

  11. Dean Scourtes says:

    No one answered Jim’s question asking what has been accomplished by all the chest-thumping, posturing, demonizing, and polarizing. The answer you were too embarassed to provide – not much.

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to attack the problem of abortion in a scientific, systematic and thoughtful manner, and I certainly don’t apologize for suggesting it. You identify the causes of a certain undesirable behavior and then you develop strategies to alter the conditions that lead to that behavior. Yes some of those causes of abortion are moral and cultural and the pro-Life movement is correct to address those attitudes directly. However, there are other causes of abortion are social and economic.

    Social causes of abortion include a culture and media directed at young people that glorifies sexual activity, and a lack of information by young people about absitinence and contaception. Among middle and upper-class there may be a such a social stigmatization, or family disapproval associated with unwed pregnancy that the young mother’s fear of embarrassment and approbation is greter than her aversion to the abortion procedure.

    Economically, we should consider that there is a level of poverty so deep and profound that it creates a hoplessness and apathy in people that leads to imlessness and disregard for the consequences of actions. Why plan for a future from which you have no positive expectations. Young men without jobs or prospects are more likely to run from their paternal responsibilities. Young women without a husband or parenting partner, job or financial security may consider a child to be a responsibility they are incapable of bearing.

    We have been discussing the underlying “nature or nurture” debate as if it was an Either-Or proposition but when I read the Gospels I get the impression that Christ saw both as important.

    To the unfortunate, Christ stresses nature, reminding the poor in his audience that the God cares for the birds and arrays the flowers in colorful splendor will take care of them as well. the debtor who is forgiven must learn to forgive others who are in his debt as well.

    However, to the fortunate Christ emphasizes nurture, reminding his audience that neglect, exploitation and oppression of the poor create conditions that allow evil to thrive. I think Christ was completely aware of the capacity of cruelty, hardship and neglect to warp and harden people making them vulnerable and suceptible to evil impulses, actions and thoughts. To protect the poor therefore, Christ told his listerners that what they do for, or to, the least of their neighbor they do to Him.

    So while abortion is a moral and cultureal issue, there are also social and economic tools sitting on the table that we can use not only to reduce the rate of abortion, but also to create a consensus towards positive action, instead of a polarizing stalemate.

  12. Mr. Scourtes #61:

    “No one answered Jim’s question asking what has been accomplished by all the chest-thumping, posturing, demonizing, and polarizing. The answer you were too embarassed to provide – not much.”

    Answer: I think a lot has been accomplished, and I would not characterize most of the pro-life movement as “chest-thumping, posturing, demonizing, and polarizing,” a description which is more appropriately applied to the greater portion of the pro-abortion camp. Opinion used to be in favor of unlimited abortion on demand, but is has shifted in favor of restrictions on abortion with exemptions for some special cases.

    “There’s nothing wrong with trying to attack the problem of abortion in a scientific, systematic and thoughtful manner, and I certainly don’t apologize for suggesting it.”

    I don’t hear anyone arguing with this, although people may disagree about what is scientific, systematic, and thoughtful and whether it requires massive federal spending programs.

    “Yes some of those causes of abortion are moral and cultural and the pro-Life movement is correct to address those attitudes directly.”

    I’m glad to hear this. Do you support the pro-life movement’s calls for legislation restricting abortion?

    “Social causes of abortion include… a lack of information by young people about absitinence and contaception.”

    Close to 100% of young people know about abstinence and contraception (unless they are living in a cave without television, friends, or internet). Unfortunately, this knowledge does not in and of itself lead to responsible behavior.

    “Economically, we should consider that there is a level of poverty so deep and profound that it creates a hoplessness and apathy in people that leads to imlessness and disregard for the consequences of actions.”

    You make it sound like people are starving on the streets. There may be a few cases in this country, but the sort of poverty you mention is exceedingly rare. The disregard for consequences of actions is much more strongly related to hedonism, in my opinion, than to poverty. And, lower income can be a consequence of such hedonism and lack of discipline.

    “…there are also social and economic tools sitting on the table that we can use not only to reduce the rate of abortion, but also to create a consensus towards positive action…”

    There aren’t just tools sitting on the table, there are tools being put into action. There are adoption agencies, lots of people willing to adopt, churches willing to help, and crisis pregnancy centers (run by volunteers) all over the place.

  13. We do not need to use social and economic tools of the State, though. We, as a Church, have the ability to change this. Maybe, instead of letting this innocents perish, we could set up many orphanages or have an Orthodox adoption program. Of course, we should keep being a witness to society and telling them that abortion/unclean sex is immoral, but I think, that when society sees part of an entire generation saved, and the things they can achieve, they will rejoice. It will not be easy, as we are a relatively small community when compared to the large amount of abortions occurring. However, if we, voluntarily and unforced by the State, open our wallets and our hearts, what can we not achieve?

  14. Note 61. Dean asks:

    No one answered Jim’s question asking what has been accomplished by all the chest-thumping, posturing, demonizing, and polarizing. The answer you were too embarassed to provide – not much.

    This is choice. For decades the hard core abortion on demand crowd has been feverishly laboring to make the abortion of unborn children morally palatable, and now that the concensus shifts against them, those who pointed out the moral travesty are posturers, demonizers, and polarizers. Call it the non-demonization demonization.

    Economically, we should consider that there is a level of poverty so deep and profound that it creates a hoplessness and apathy in people that leads to imlessness and disregard for the consequences of actions. Why plan for a future from which you have no positive expectations. Young men without jobs or prospects are more likely to run from their paternal responsibilities. Young women without a husband or parenting partner, job or financial security may consider a child to be a responsibility they are incapable of bearing.

    Shake your paternalism Dean. It’s the same “white man’s burden” thinking that gave us the Great Society, justifies the mass abortion of black children, and more. The poor don’t exist to make liberals feel good.

    Poverty has to be addressed on a family and cultural level. The moral lawlessness that glorifies licentious chaos over moral self-ordering has to be attacked. (Difficult for Democrats given their dependence on entertainment industry money.) Families have to be stabilized, a job for churches. The streets have to become safe meaning lawbreakers have to be taken off them. Education has to improve for long term benefits which means the choke hold that politicians have over the school systems (all Democratic btw), has to be broken.

    You’ll have to excuse my cynicism here Dean, but your ideas are shopworn and the moral exhortations tiresome. The ideas have been tried and failed, and the exhortations are, well, used up.

  15. Mr. Scourtes #61:

    “No one answered Jim’s question asking what has been accomplished by all the chest-thumping, posturing, demonizing, and polarizing. The answer you were too embarassed to provide – not much.”

    Answer: I think a lot has been accomplished, and I would not characterize most of the pro-life movement as “chest-thumping, posturing, demonizing, and polarizing,” a description which is more appropriately applied to the greater portion of the pro-abortion camp. Opinion used to be in favor of unlimited abortion on demand, but is has shifted in favor of restrictions on abortion with exemptions for some special cases.

    “There’s nothing wrong with trying to attack the problem of abortion in a scientific, systematic and thoughtful manner, and I certainly don’t apologize for suggesting it.”

    I don’t hear anyone arguing with this, although people may disagree about what is scientific, systematic, and thoughtful and whether it requires massive federal spending programs.

    “Yes some of those causes of abortion are moral and cultural and the pro-Life movement is correct to address those attitudes directly.”

    I’m glad to hear this. Do you support the pro-life movement’s calls for legislation restricting abortion?

    “Social causes of abortion include… a lack of information by young people about absitinence and contaception.”

    Close to 100% of young people know about abstinence and contraception (unless they are living in a cave without television, friends, or internet). Unfortunately, this knowledge does not in and of itself lead to responsible behavior.

    “Economically, we should consider that there is a level of poverty so deep and profound that it creates a hoplessness and apathy in people that leads to imlessness and disregard for the consequences of actions.”

    You make it sound like people are starving on the streets. There may be a few such cases in this country, but the sort of poverty you mention is exceedingly rare. The disregard for consequences of actions is much more strongly related to hedonism, in my opinion, than to poverty. And, lower income can be a consequence of such hedonism and lack of discipline.

    “…there are also social and economic tools sitting on the table that we can use not only to reduce the rate of abortion, but also to create a consensus towards positive action…”

    There aren’t just tools sitting on the table, there are tools being put into action. There are adoption agencies, lots of people willing to adopt, churches willing to help, and crisis pregnancy centers (run by volunteers) all over the place.

  16. Dean Scourtes says:

    If Roe v. Wade were over-turned (as it should be) regulation of abortion would revert to the States. However, this would not neccesarily result in an end to abortions. USA Today analyzed how:

    ..states would be likely to respond if Roe were reversed. The 1973 decision recognized access to abortion as part of a constitutional right to privacy and limited states’ ability to restrict it.

    The conclusions:

    •Twenty-two state legislatures are likely to impose significant new restrictions on abortion. They include nearly every state in the South and a swath of big states across the industrial Rust Belt, from Pennsylvania to Ohio and Michigan. These states have enacted most of the abortion restrictions now allowed.

    Nine states are considering bans similar to the one passed in South Dakota — it’s scheduled to go into effect July 1 — and four states are debating restrictions that would be triggered if the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

    •Sixteen state legislatures are likely to continue current access to abortion. They include every state on the West Coast and almost every state in the Northeast. A half-dozen already have passed laws that specifically protect abortion rights. Most of the states in this group have enacted fewer than half of the abortion restrictions now available to states.

    •Twelve states fall into a middle ground between those two categories. About half are in the Midwest, the rest scattered from Arizona to Rhode Island.

    The result, according to this analysis, would be less a patchwork of laws than broad regional divisions that generally reinforce the nation’s political split.

    ‘Roe v. Wade’: The divided states of America
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-04-16-abortion-states_x.htm

    So even from a political standpoint, a series of small incremental moves to reduce abortion stand a much better chance of success than a full frontal assault. My own recommendation would be to go after Planned Parenthood’s money source. Create Christian or faith-based alternative family planning centers that sponsor maternity homes and provide adoption assistance and work in Congress to re-direct the family planning-related public funding that goes to PP towards these new centers instead.

  17. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, some states would become abortion factories, others would outlaw it completely. This is probably how it should be because abortion, being a profoundly moral affair, will ultimately be reduced by appeals to the conscience.

    The federal government should get out of subsidizing the abortion business; PP needs to come under much greater scrutiny than it has, particularly concerning underage abortions, Democrats need to recover their moral center and jetisson the abortion on demand crowd that took over leadership after the McGovern loss, — there is a lot to do, IOW. Democrats have to face the fact too that they have aborted away much of their potential constituency: The Roe Effect: The right to abortion has diminished the number of Democratic voters.

  18. Christopher says:

    Economically, we should consider that there is a level of poverty so deep and profound that it creates a hoplessness and apathy in people that leads to imlessness and disregard for the consequences of actions

    Where do you get such ideas? (answer: materialism – false anthropology).

    Christianly, there is no hard link between poverty (or wealth) and morality, hope, love, charity, etc. Indeed, to the extant there is a link, it is the exact opposite as you have it. As the poor women and the temple, and ” it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” demonstrate, it is actually “easier” to the right thing, to live a moral life, if one is poor than if one is rich. Poverty (or wealth) does not cause abortion.

    Repeat after me: Poverty (or wealth) does not “cause” abortion

  19. Mr. Holman #65:

    “Here’s the latest polling results on abortion from a variety of polls:”

    The same poll conducted half a year earlier found only 45% support abortion in all or most cases. Most of the polls listed by the source to which you refer suggest the country is closely divided, and perhaps more sympathetic to the pro-life side. There is a lot of confusion regarding Roe v. Wade, however, which explains majority support for the decision despite not nearly as much support for the ramifications of the decision. In any case, whether the country is split near 50%, or whether it is slightly leaning pro-life, there has been a definite shift in public opinion since the 1970s when the pro-life side was clearly in the minority.

    “While a Supreme Court decision is not a popularity contest, I don’t believe that the Roe v. Wade decision would have been possible without substantial public support.”

    I agree with this statement. But, should the court create legislation (a violation of its purpose) based on a narrow majority opinion? If moral consensus against abortion was lost in the 1960s and, it should have been legalized through the Congress (even that bothers me because the issue really does belong at the state level).

    “Let’s be honest — laws against abortion are really all about telling other people what to do. In general we don’t do that unless a) it involves some civil necessity (e.g., taxation, traffic laws, military draft, patent and copyright law) or b) an overwhelming moral consensus.”

    Yes, I agree that laws against abortion are meant to prevent people from obtaining abortions. I stated previously that all laws are about telling other people what to do. But no, we don’t need a moral consensus to do so. First, one will not find talk of the necessity of moral consensus in the Constitution or the Federalist Papers. It was not a consideration when our system of government was devised. Second, I think this argument is too convenient. For example, the left wing likes “hate crimes” legislation, which is really legislation that condemns certain thoughts. There is no consensus regarding such legislation, but it has passed in several places. Also, there are bans on certain drugs that are quite popular. In California there is a ban on sending horses to be butchered for meat in Europe, and there are bans on bear hunting in some states. Again, more legislation that is meant solely to tell others what to do.

    “That’s because a ban on abortion would strike at the American concept of personal autonomy.”

    No, it would only strike at the concept of personal autonomy, and one that would not have been found prior to the 1960s, that is common in New England and the West Coast (see #66, Mr. Scourtes).

  20. #66 Mr. Scourtes:

    “The result, according to this analysis, would be less a patchwork of laws than broad regional divisions that generally reinforce the nation’s political split.”

    There are regional differences already. They would not be stronger if the matter were left to the states, they would just express themselves in legislation, as is appropriate in a federal system of government.

    If you worry about internecine strife (and I do not think you need to worry) due to the regional differences concerning abortion, it would be better to leave the matter to the states. That way, one side would not feel unjustly oppressed by the federal government.

  21. [Sorry is this posts more than once, but I've tried to post it a couple of times, but nothing happened.]

    Roe v. Wade is the keystone of a number of Supreme Court cases dealing with the right to privacy. The same logic that was applied to Roe was also applied in these other cases. Were Roe overturned, what you’d see is an attempt to overturn all of these other cases, all of which deal with rights that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution. So there would be a kind of “domino theory” at work. The dominos are

    Right to first trimester abortion (Roe v. Wade)
    Right to privacy in the bedroom (Lawrence v. Texas)
    Right of unmarried couples to birth control information (Eisenstadt v. Baird)
    Right of married couples to birth control information (Griswold v. Connecticut)
    Right to procreate (Skinner v. Oklahoma)
    Right to marry without regard to race (Loving v. Virginia)
    Right to send children to private schools (Pierce v. Society of Sisters)
    Right of parents to teach children a foreign language (Meyer v. Nebraska)

    Again, none of these rights are specifically mentioned in the Constitution, and the same reasoning, that these rights follow from a more general right to privacy implied by the 14th and 9th Amendments, was applied to all.

    What “right” means in all of these cases is having freedom from government intrusion in these decisions. To say that there is no right to abortion is to assert that government can force a woman to carry a child to term, whether or not she wants to, under penalty of fine or imprisonment. If the government can do that, then presumably it could order the woman to take nutritional supplements or medications to bring the pregnancy to term. It could order a woman to have six months of bed rest, to exercise, not exercise, quit work, or whatever else might be needed to bring the pregnancy to term.

    If privacy does not include the right of a pregnant woman not to have nine
    months of her life controlled by the government, then surely privacy does not include any of the other listed rights.

    When these cases are overturned, what you’d end up with is a mish-mash of wildly varying state laws. In one state condoms would be available in any drug store or pharmacy. In another state the Reproduction Police would be searching through people’s trash looking for used condoms as evidence of criminal birth control. In one state unmarried people could cohabit. In another state unmarried couples would be arrested by the Morality Police for kissing in public without a marriage license. In one state everyone would be free to marry. In another state blacks and whites could not marry.

    You think I’m exaggerating? All of the above-mentioned court cases were decided in the 20th century. We take all of these things for granted now, but without a right to privacy all of those are called into question.

    It’s amazing to me that people who have such a distrust of government
    intervention have come to embrace it in the most personal areas of life. You don’t like Roe v. Wade? Great, knock it over and see what else falls down.

  22. Mr. Holman #73:

    “It’s amazing to me that people who have such a distrust of government intervention have come to embrace it in the most personal areas of life. You don’t like Roe v. Wade? Great, knock it over and see what else falls down.”

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with government intervention. I have a problem with the Supreme Court exceeding its constitutional mandate and making laws up out of thin air. The people should rule on the decisions you cited, through their representative government. Sure, the people can make mistakes, but so can the court, and the court by its very design becomes tyrranical if it exceeds its constitutional mandate.

    As for the matter of privacy with regard to abortion, one cannot expect people who think that unborn children are human beings in every sense of the word can be expected to support the “right” of a woman to kill an unborn child because it is a personal decision. Would repealing abortion-on-demand at the federal level cause an automatic descent down a slippery slope? Perhaps, but the proper remedy, if the nation overwhelmingly found some state laws to be undue invasions of privacy, would be to ammend the Constitution.

  23. Note 73. Jim writes:

    You think I’m exaggerating? All of the above-mentioned court cases were decided in the 20th century. We take all of these things for granted now, but without a right to privacy all of those are called into question.

    Yes, I do think you are exaggerating. Further, for someone who defends “hate crimes” — where what one thinks becomes fodder for prosecution — the exaggerations are also disengenuous.

  24. D. George writes: “I don’t necessarily have a problem with government intervention. I have a problem with the Supreme Court exceeding its constitutional mandate and making laws up out of thin air.”

    Or more precisely, I think you would describe it as making up rights out of thin air. But I would have to disagree. I’m certainly not a Constitutional scholar, but I’ve always been impressed by the 9th Amendment:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    There was an initial opposition to the Bill of Rights, for fear that any rights not enumerated therein would be seen as not existing. Madison expressed that concern:

    It has been objected also against a Bill of Rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard against the admission of a bill of rights into this system . . .

    The 9th Amendment was added precisely in order to address this concern. In other words, the Constitution itself acknowledges that the people possess rights that are not explicitly enumerated in the Constitution. Thus these rights are not made up out of thin air, but are understood as existing though not enumerated.

    D. George: “The people should rule on the decisions you cited, through their representative government. Sure, the people can make mistakes, but so can the court, and the court by its very design becomes tyrranical if it exceeds its constitutional mandate.”

    But a vote of a majority of the people can become tyrannical through in effect revoking the legitimate rights of others. In other words, I should not be able by my vote to eliminate your right to send your children to a private school, or to teach your children another language.

    D. George: “As for the matter of privacy with regard to abortion, one cannot expect people who think that unborn children are human beings in every sense of the word can be expected to support the ‘right’ of a woman to kill an unborn child because it is a personal decision.”

    I would state it differently. I would say that the right to be protected is the right of a woman not to have the government control nine months of her life. More fundamentally, the right to be protected is the right of the woman to decide for herself the morality of abortion — whether the fetus or fertilized egg is a person, whether to obtain an abortion in the case of rape, and so on. The other option is to place those decisions, as Madison said, “in the hands of the General Government.”

    Fr. Hans writes: “Yes, I do think you are exaggerating.”

    I don’t think so. As I mentioned before, all of the cases I cited were decided in the 20th century, which means that they involved active, enforced laws on the books.

    Fr. Hans: “Further, for someone who defends “hate crimes” — where what one thinks becomes fodder for prosecution — the exaggerations are also disengenuous.”

    I support hate crimes laws because I believe that a hate crime constitutes a kind of domestic terrorism. Ultimately it is an attack not just on a person or persons, but on an entire segment of society. This is especially true in the case of racist or neo-nazi groups — groups that can be highly organized, well-funded, actively recruiting followers, training followers in violent techniques, and encouraging them to commit violence.

    Such laws can certainly be misused. But misuse of law involving intention or purpose is not limited to hate crimes law. (E.g., RICO law, that was reformed in 1990 because of abuses.)

    In the event that hate crimes laws were misused, I would support reform. More importantly, I’m not going to go to the barricades over hate crimes laws. I think they are a good idea, but if we didn’t have them I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.

    In any case, I understand that traditional Christianity, especially as expressed in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, uniformly opposes abortion. But it is not clear to me that a Christian is obligated to support a particular solution to the issue. There are many ways a Christian can oppose abortion that do not involve the coercive power of the State.

  25. #73 Jim Holman

    You wrote

    …can force a woman to carry a child to term

    You unwittingly exposed the simple fact that negates all your fancy arguments.

  26. Mr. Holman #76:

    “Thus these rights are not made up out of thin air, but are understood as existing though not enumerated.”

    In other words, the justices should not strike down rights granted at the state level that are not enumerated in the Constitution, short of an ammendment being adopted to strike down such rights. This is why, even though I am pro-life, I would be against a federal restriction on abortion unless it were passed by ammending the Constitution, which is highly unlikely. The matter is most properly left to the States according to the Constitution, and always was until Roe v. Wade.

    “But a vote of a majority of the people can become tyrannical through in effect revoking the legitimate rights of others.”

    Granted. A representative government is only as good as its people. The founders talked a lot about this fact. If the people are thoroughly corrupt, then the nation will necessarily come to some tragic end in any case. The question is, which route is most apt to get the country into trouble? Settling these social issues at the state level through representative government, or having nine appointed justices issue fiat rulings on matters of which the Constitution says nothing? I think the latter is much more dangerous, and some of the founders (Jefferson comes to mind) were concerned about that, too.

    “I support hate crimes laws because I believe that a hate crime constitutes a kind of domestic terrorism.”

    The incremental punishment is not for the crime, it is for the thought.

    So, you support certain laws meant to “tell other people what to do” (or what to think) without moral consensus when you deem it to be desirable, and you oppose certain laws meant to tell other people what to do on the basis that there is no moral consensus when you think the law is undesirable. As near as I can tell, your level of concern for moral consensus comes down to your judgment of what restriction is prudential and what restriction is not. In otherwords, it comes down to your political opinion about these matters.

    “But it is not clear to me that a Christian is obligated to support a particular solution to the issue.”

    Imagine that cannibalism was supported by 45-55% of a democratic society, and the only rule concerning it was that the victim must be a “consenting adult” of sound mind (perhaps the victim is terminally ill). This is an exaggeration, of course, but cannibalism was practiced as recently as the 20th century in some societies. Now, what should a Christian do? Should a Christian reason that, due to lack of moral consensus, he should refrain from advocating restriction of this right? Is it better to treat the matter solely as a “public health problem” that should be minimized by government action to improve the lives of potential victims? I do not see, by your reasoning, how it would be proper to ban cannibalism in this case, and abortion is just as morally serious from a Christian standpoint.

  27. D. George writes: “The question is, which route is most apt to get the country into trouble? Settling these social issues at the state level through representative government, or having nine appointed justices issue fiat rulings on matters of which the Constitution says nothing?”

    But as I noted before, the Constitution itself acknowledges that people have rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution. It seems to me that you’re taking the very position about which Madison was concerned — that any right not specifically mentioned in the Constitution is in the domain of the government, to grant or not grant as it sees fit. Again, I’m not a Constitutional scholar, but it seems to me that a major concern of the Constitution is in limiting the power of government to intervene in the rights of individuals — not in putting the government in a position to decide what rights they do or to not have.

    D. George: “The incremental punishment is not for the crime, it is for the thought.”

    I would say it is for the intention. But we have many laws in which the punishment is determined by the intention, not just by the mere act itself. If you kill someone your punishment can range anywhere from nothing (killing in justified self-defense) to the death penalty (premeditated murder). The intention is everything.

    An even better example is found in the laws related to domestic terrorism:

    (5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

    (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

    (B) appear to be intended

    (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
    (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
    (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
    (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

    Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 113B, Section 2331

    In other words, there are many laws — not just hate crime law — in which intention can be an aggravating factor — that the intention makes the crime more serious, requiring greater punishment.

    Look at it this way: isn’t it potentially a worse crime for someone to spray paint a nazi swastika and “Death to Jews” on a synagoge, than it would be for the same person to spray paint his “gang tag” on the wall of a warehouse? Now maybe upon investigation we discover that the person who defaced the synagogue was just a stupid kid imitating something he saw in a movie. Or maybe we discover that that the person is a neo-nazi intending to intimidate the local Jewisih population. If the latter, then it is appropriate to mete out a punishment greater than that given to simple graffiti.

    D. George: “As near as I can tell, your level of concern for moral consensus comes down to your judgment of what restriction is prudential and what restriction is not. In other words, it comes down to your political opinion about these matters.”

    I don’t think so. Maybe I’m missing something, but it’s obvious to me that a crime committed with the intention of terrorizing potentially large numbers of people is worse than one without that intention. If not, then I guess we should repeal laws against domestic terrorism.

    D. George: “Imagine that cannibalism was supported by 45-55% of a democratic society . . . Now, what should a Christian do? Should a Christian reason that, due to lack of moral consensus, he should refrain from advocating restriction of this right? Is it better to treat the matter solely as a “public health problem” that should be minimized by government action to improve the lives of potential victims? I do not see, by your reasoning, how it would be proper to ban cannibalism in this case, and abortion is just as morally serious from a Christian standpoint.”

    Interesting example, but frankly, it is hard for me to see how the right to eat someone is a fundamental and private human liberty. Let’s use a more realistic example. We have laws against animal cruelty. You can’t torture dogs or set fire to kittens. So yes, we’re telling people what they can’t do. But again, that’s not something that is part of basic human liberty. In other words, there are different kinds of rights. To assert that you have some rights does not entail that you have a right to do everything you might feel like doing. The right of you and your wife to decide whether to use birth control without governmental intervention is extremely different from a supposed “right” to be cruel to animals, but I suppose someone can make a case for anything.

    Only one way to find out. Find a willing person, kill and eat him, and at your trial claim that you were exercising one of the non-enumerated rights spoken of in the 9th Amendment. Let me know how that goes.

  28. Dean Scourtes says:

    Jim: Here is the problem with Roe v. Wade.

    Even if you accept the idea that privacy is an “implied” and protected right under the constitution, and most constitutional scholars do accept it, the constitution does not see rights as absolute, but rather balanced against “compelling state interests“. The right to freedom of speech, for example is balanced against the compelling state interest in preventing injury and mayhem by persons yelling fire in a crowded theatre.

    In Roe v. Wade the woman’s right to privacy in deciding what medical procedures can and cannot be performed on her body, are balanced against the State’s compelling state interest in protecting maternal health and prenatal life.

    In the third trimester, Justice Blackmun wrote the unborn child is so advanced in it’s development that the state’s interest in protecting prenatal life and maternal health outweighed the right to privacy, and abortion could be outlawed. In the second trimester, he wrote, the unborn child was advanced enough for the state to regulate, but not prohibit abortion. In the first trimester, Blackmun wrote, the unborn child was not viable outside the womb nor advanced enough in development to qualify as a legally protected person, so the woman’s right to privacy outweighed the state’s interest in protecting prenatal life, since the life it is attempting to protect may not be advanced enough to be fully human.

    It’s Blackmun’s claim regarding the first trimester that is so controversial. He admits in his opinion that no one, not scientists, philolosophers, ethicists or theologians, can say with certainty “when life begins”. By that statement Blackmun revealed that his use of the first trimster as the marker for when an unborn child can be considered human and legally protected is arbitrary. He is just splitting the difference to arrive at what he sees as the most politically acceptable outcome. This arbitrary finding, that life begins 12-weeks, however is the whole linchpin of the decision, the central assumption around which Roe v. Wade’s application of the rule of law pivots.

    The idea our humanity and legal rights as human beings is dependent upon our viability,outside the protective womb is an attack on the sanctity of human life. Using the viability standard, we could say people whose lives are dependent on their “protective” connection to respiration devices or dialysis machines, for example, are not human and legally protected either.

    There is no popular consensus in the United States if favor of the view that viability should be the proper standard for determining our humanity and rights as legally protected person. Frankly, if there were such a consensus i would be alarmed.

    The issues surrounding abortion are sometimes complex and confront us with strong and opposing considerations. There are many agonizing questions for which simple answers do not exist. Should a woman who has been violently raped be forced to give birth? What about unborn children with genetic markers for profound retardation or severe physical deformities? However, (IMHO) at least in the absence of these rare and agonizing complications, we should err in favor of a broad defintion of life rather than a more narrow one.

  29. Note 79. Dean writes:

    It’s Blackmun’s claim regarding the first trimester that is so controversial. He admits in his opinion that no one, not scientists, philolosophers, ethicists or theologians, can say with certainty “when life begins”. By that statement Blackmun revealed that his use of the first trimster as the marker for when an unborn child can be considered human and legally protected is arbitrary. He is just splitting the difference to arrive at what he sees as the most politically acceptable outcome. This arbitrary finding, that life begins 12-weeks, however is the whole linchpin of the decision, the central assumption around which Roe v. Wade’s application of the rule of law pivots.

    This is a accurate synopsis of the Roe problem, Dean. Further, you may not be aware that about ten years ago, Justice O’Conner opined that the entire notion of viability was flawed because it’s a fluid concept. The more medical tecnology advances, the closer the line of viability moves toward conception. (Roe is what happens when Justices think they are biologists.) BTW, Doe v. Bolton, which followed Roe, expanded abortion into the full nine months of pregnancy. That’s why it took a special law to stop partial birth abortions.

    In Roe v. Wade the woman’s right to privacy in deciding what medical procedures can and cannot be performed on her body, are balanced against the State’s compelling state interest in protecting maternal health and prenatal life.

    Actually it’s more than that. In cases of teenage abortion for example, some states require parental notification laws. In other states, challenges to Planned Parenthood have been lodged to see if there is any substance to claims PP has aborted in cases of obvious abuse and other crimes. Privacy, IOW, is not as encompassing as Jm likes to think.

  30. Christopher says:

    note 80:

    Who are you and what have you done with Pontius “Marx” Pilate???

  31. Mr. Holman #79:

    “But as I noted before, the Constitution itself acknowledges that people have rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution.”

    Yes, and I believe it was acknowledging rights not restricted by state governments. The federal government should not restrict rights that exist in the states just because the Constitution does not enumerate those rights. I think this was Madison’s concern. In fact, those matters not addressed by the Constitution are left to the states, according to the Constitution. I seriously doubt Madison would have desired the ability to decide some “implied” right to privacy or to abortion that overrides all state laws.

    “I would say it is for the intention.”

    No, it is for the thought. Hate is not an intention. Premeditation shows intent, desire to instill terror in a population is an intent, but dislike of a certain demographic group (unjustified though it may be) is not an intent, it is just a thought. If you are correct, the laws are unnecessary because the crimes could be prosecuted as terroristic acts. In hate crimes legislation, it is the mere thought that results in the incremental punishment. But, I think we’ve debated hate crimes elsewhere some time ago. My point was only that the laws are designed to “tell others what to do” and are definitely not backed by moral consensus, yet you support them.

    “Interesting example, but frankly, it is hard for me to see how the right to eat someone is a fundamental and private human liberty.”

    Of course it is hard. It is very hard for me to see how aborting an unborn child is a fundamental and private human liberty. But my point is that you are not willing to apply the moral consensus argument consistently (both in this example, with hate crimes, and with other examples as it suits you), and because that is the case, I do not see why you think I should be bothered by the lack of consensus on abortion when advocating restriction of the practice.

  32. Dean Scourtes says:
  33. Christopher says:

    So, paradoxically, my interpretation is that abortion can be constitutionally prohibited by the States, even though I don’t think it’s a very good policy idea. If all a State is doing is chasing women who want abortions to other States where it is legal, without addressing the underlying causes of why they have abortions, then it is falling far short of the objective reducing the number of abortions.

    Ah, there he is. Welcome back Pontius ;)

  34. I’m glad there’s no such thing as poverty in this country. Despite stories like this, I’m thrilled to know that everyone who is poor is poor by choice and that they can simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps without dipping into my wallet.

    I feel so much less guilty today!! Thank you!! ;-)

  35. Christopher says:

    I feel so much less guilty today!! Thank you!! ;-)

    That’s what this site is all about, assuaging the immense guilt of the secular left (never mind the title)…your very welcome, now you can go put your head back into the bottomless sand pit of the liberal left…thanks for visiting and please, don’t come again, until your next bout of angst…:)

  36. Note 87. James, I noticed most of the articles dealt with rents in San Francisco. Does San Francisco have rent control? If so, it may explain the lack of affordable rental units. Rent control kills the market for mid-priced housing, therefore rental units are converted to condos or coops to be sold. Usually its the lower middle and middle classes that get pushed out. Manhattan is the best example.

    The article made the point that rental units won’t open up until foreclosures start. This doesn’t make any sense. Usually the rental market expands in an inflated market for the simple reason that speculators want their units filled to pay the mortgage. Subsidizing half a mortgage payment is a lot better than no subsidy at all.

    More to the point though, poverty needs to be addressed with less emotion and a better understanding of markets as well as the familial and communal ties that make the move out of poverty successful. Think only emotionally, and you end up institutionalizing poverty — much like the Great Society did. Besides, no one stopping you from opening your wallet. Why not send the man some money to help him out?

  37. Note 85. Dean writes:

    I would also submit that the highest service we can provide women is not to leave them alone in their privacy to experience repeated unwanted pregnancies…

    “…to experience repeated unwanted pregnancies”? Are babies conceived by spontaneous generation?

  38. Dean writes: “Test 1: “The gain to the subordinating interest provided by the means must outweigh the incurred loss of protected rights.” Obviously the protection of an entire life outweighs the imposition of 9 months of pregnancy, however inconvenient.”

    The word “obviously” is the problem. For many people it’s not obvious that, for example, the rights of a fertilized egg should totally trump the privacy rights of the woman. In fact, since around half of all pregnancies naturally terminate even before the woman knows she is pregnant, the idea that the state has a compelling interest in “protecting” fertilized eggs is strange to me.

    If the state has a legitimate interest in protecting life in all stages of development, then we need to flesh out exactly what this “inconvenience” could be.

    Based on the logic of compelling state interest, I think the following are possible and perhaps likely eventual “inconveniences”:

    1) the woman could not have a surgical or chemical abortion.

    2) the woman could not use the “morning after” pill whether or not she’s pregnant, due to possible harm to the fertilized egg, if any.

    3) the woman could not have an abortion in cases of rape or incest. (Rights of the fertilized egg always trump rights of the woman.)

    4) the woman could be forced into extended bed rest in order to protect the pregnancy.

    5) the woman could be forced to have a medical procedure (cervical suture) or forced to take medications in order to protect the pregnancy.

    6) in order to accomplish items such as 4 and 5, there would have to be a
    mandatory pregnancy reporting system. In addition, the State would have access to all medical records related to pregnancy.

    7) State approval would be necessary in order to have an abortion to save the life of the mother. (And who does the “approving?”)

    8) the pregnant woman would be prohibited from traveling out of state to obtain an abortion. (After all, would you allow a woman to take her child out of state in order to have him murdered?

    9) it would be illegal to distribute information on obtaining an out of state
    abortion, or to aid in obtaining such an abortion.

    10) the woman would be required to refrain from unhealthy activities during the pregnancy. (E.g., smoking, drinking)

    11) in the case of fetal abnormality — assuming that such tests are permitted — the State would decide whether an abortion was permitted.

    I think that’s about it. Whether all of these would be implemented, only time would tell. But the interesting thing is that an excellent argument for “compelling State interest” could be used to justify all of them.

    In effect, you end up with an understanding of the Constitution that was exactly what Madison feared: the woman has no rights except those specifically enumerated, and all other possible rights pass into the hands of the State, which, in it’s glorious majesty, may grant or not as it sees fit. “Compelling state interest,” once used to limit State power, now becomes the tool of expanding State power.

    This is exactly what we saw in the Schiavo case, where the religious right demanded that the State intervene, and privacy, the patient-doctor relationship, legal process, findings of fact, rules of evidence, separation of powers, and everything else be damned. The religious right loved the State, they embraced the State, they couldn’t get enough of the State. What you’re advocating is a system in which every pregnancy becomes Terri Schiavo — any pregnancy potentially falls into State custody if the State disagrees with the woman’s decision.

    Dean writes: “Only the abortion procedure itself would be restricted, not any other aspect of a woman’s personal life.”

    And how do you know that? Remember, it used to be illegal in some states even to distribute birth control information.

    Dean: “The only way Roe v. Wade can succeed within these bounds is to deny that the unborn child during it’s first 12 weeks has attained the status of “prenatal life”, but to instead treat it as some form of non-human tissue. It is this contention that is so inflammatory and offensive to the Pro-Life movement and a majority of Christians.”

    Just because something is inflammatory and offensive to many people doesn’t mean that the State has a compelling interest in prohibiting it. The vast majority of peole find speeches by nazis inflammatory and offensive. Should that speech be banned?

    And so I get back to this question: in your system, what inherent rights does a pregnant woman have, over and above those granted to her by the State? As far as I can see, absolutely none.

    For those who say that there is no right to an abortion in the Constitution, I would note that the Constitution also says nothing about fertilized eggs or fetuses being persons. In your system the State would simply stipulate that they are, and poof! — the rights of the pregnant woman disappear.

  39. Fr. Hans asks: “Why not send the man some money to help him out?”

    Well, what I’m trying to determine is whether doing so would violate some Christian ethic that states that
    a) the man is not really poor and so deserves nothing because he is simply complaining and doesn’t know how good he’s really got it. Thus, sending him aid would only reinforce his pagan notions that material goods actually have worth
    or
    b) the man is poor because he has made bad decisions and is paying the fitting punishment for those choices, in which case aiding him would only enable his dependency on handouts

    This seems to be Christopher’s view at least.

    I’m not talking about “free rides” or allowing able-bodied persons to receive government handouts while neglecting to contribute. What I don’t get is why it’s so difficult to accept that there are, in fact, honest working people who have a real difficulty in providing not luxuries but basic necessities for themselves and their families.

  40. Note 92. I’m not speaking for Christopher, and apart from this blog I don’t even know the man, but my hunch is that he has probably laid out a good amount of cash helping people along the way. And, being the Christian that he is, he won’t let the left hand know what the right is doing, so don’t expect him to respond to this.

    Having said that, don’t conclude that all policies that ostensibly help the poor really help them. And don’t confuse criticism of a policy with criticism of the poor.

    Do you know why Clinton ended “welfare as we know it”? Because welfare, as it was formulated in the Great Society programs and promulgated for decades, actually locked the poor in their poverty. It did so by destroying the family structure, rewarding non-productive activity and thus destroying the incentive to work, among other things.

    When the criticism of the welfare system first started, you should have heard the outcry. You would have thought the Huns had invaded New York. Well, the truth won out and now the shift from liberal styled welfare to different systems is actually working.

    One final point. Don’t assume that those who cry the loudest about poverty are actually the ones who help the poor. See: Charity’s Political Divide.

    But again, why not contact the newspaper and send the man a few bucks? It will help in the short run.

  41. Note 91. Jim, your scenarios are ludicrous. Why prohibit jaywalking? Before you know it, the government is going to jail us for not walking on the right side of the sidewalk! Why prohibit public nudity? Before you know it, the government will make us wear Abercrombe & Fitch! Why probit drunken driving? Before you know it, the government will force us to drink three glasses of milk a day! They might even mandate oatmeal!

    When you extract the moral dimension from any discussion of the public welfare, you end up chasing rabbits. Moral sensibility serves as a guardrail not only in the public culture, but in our own thinking as well. It informs qualities like prudence and common sense; qualities that help us discern the reasonable from the unreasonable and specious arguments from real ones.

  42. Fr. Hans writes: “Jim, your scenarios are ludicrous.”

    If only they were. Look, once you say that the government has a compelling interest in protecting fetal life — when you say that the fertilized egg or fetus has a right to life — that terminating such life is literally murder — then virtually any State action in protecting such life will be seen as a compelling State interest.

    If indeed the government has a compelling interest in protecting the life of the unborn — an actual person in the womb — you’re going to tell me that you’ll going to let a woman take a two hour bus ride to an adjacent state with the express purpose of terminating that life — of, in your view, committing murder. You’re going to tell me that the government has no interest in that???? The government just says “oh well, it didn’t happen here, so we don’t care?” Would you let a woman take a child across state lines with the intention of murdering the child?

    If the fetus is literally a person in the womb, then what can’t the government do in protecting that person? What specifically would be the limits of the power of the government?

    Fr. Hans: “Why prohibit jaywalking? Before you know it, the government is going to jail us for not walking on the right side of the sidewalk!”

    Oh come on. The anti-abortion crowd believes that everything in the womb, from fertilized eggs to fetuses, are real, live people, and that terminating those pregnancies constitutes murder. You’re comparing jaywalking with murder. Nice try. Please tell me that you don’t consider jaywalking and murder equal crimes.

    Fr. Hans: “Moral sensibility serves as a guardrail not only in the public culture, but in our own thinking as well. It informs qualities like prudence and common sense; qualities that help us discern the reasonable from the unreasonable and specious arguments from real ones.”

    In protecting innocent children from being murdered, what is the “guardrail?” What inherent rights do you think a pregnant woman has?

    1) the right to use the “morning after” pill when it is not clear whether she is pregnant or not?

    2) the right of the woman to terminate the pregnancy in the case of rape?

    3) the right of the woman to refuse bed rest, even if it led to the death of the fetus?

    4) the right of the woman to refuse surgical or medical treatment, even it if led to the death of the fetus?

    5) the right of the woman to have her medical records completely confidential from State inquiry?

    6) the right of the woman to have a physician, not the State, decide whether abortion was necessary to preserve the health or life of the mother?

    7) the right of the pregnant woman to travel out of state to have an abortion?

    8) the right of the woman to receive information on having an abortion out of state, and the right of people to provide that information?

    9) the right of the woman to have a test for fetal abnormality, and in the case of fetal abnormality to decide whether to continue the pregnancy?

    Since these are all “ludicrous” examples, a simple yes or no answer will suffice.

  43. Note 95. Jim writes:

    If the fetus is literally a person in the womb, then what can’t the government do in protecting that person? What specifically would be the limits of the power of the government?

    Leave it to the legislatures, Jim. That is how American government works. Don’t leave common sense behind the building.

    You know, you can’t get yourself to grant the unborn any real value, you raise all sorts of ludicrous scenarios if abortion is regulated, yet you are the first to defend government prosecution for thought crimes. Go figure.

    Here’s a more reasonable view towards abortion regulation: The Dutch on Abortion.

  44. Fr. Hans writes: “Leave it to the legislatures, Jim. That is how American government works. Don’t leave common sense behind the building.”

    And so we come back to the quotation from Madison:

    It has been objected also against a Bill of Rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure.

    Basically, Madison was right. You want to put the issue into the hands of the General Government. Thus, the woman has no inherent rights; rather she has only those rights granted by the grace of the government.

    Fr. Hans: ” . . . you raise all sorts of ludicrous scenarios if abortion is regulated . . .”

    But when I ask for specific answers about those “ludicrous scenarios,” you give no answer. Your silence speaks volumes.

    Fr. Hans: ” . . . et you are the first to defend government prosecution for thought crimes. Go figure.”

    What I said was that, given the existence of groups that function as quasi-terrorist groups, hates crimes laws are a good idea. I also said that in the event that hate crimes laws were repealed, I wouldn’t lose sleep. I also said that were hate crimes laws abused, I would be in favor of reform. So please don’t read more into my position than what is there.

    Again the question: how do you respond to the scenarios in post #95. Yes or no? Those should be easy questions.

  45. Note 97. Jim writes:

    But when I ask for specific answers about those “ludicrous scenarios,” you give no answer. Your silence speaks volumes.

    You got my answer: ludicrous.

    Basically, Madison was right. You want to put the issue into the hands of the General Government. Thus, the woman has no inherent rights; rather she has only those rights granted by the grace of the government.

    You sound like an aging feminist warrior — the only ones still screaming for abortion on demand. Nothing like a good partial birth abortion or two to get the blood running in the morning.

    Look, the consensus has shifted. The politics of pitting mother against her unborn child doesn’t work anymore. More people recognize that aborting the next generation is not a public good. The unborn child does indeed have some value, pro-choice polemics notwithstanding. Even people in your own party recognize these very basic moral facts.

  46. Note 99. Welcome to America Jim, where the regulation of abortion will be contentious, and certainly not to your liking in some cases. Some states will be liberal, some conservative. But this contentiousness (which always surrounds issues where the value of human beings are challenged — remember slavery?) is no reason to continue with the wholesale abortion on demand that you tout as a “human right”.

    You are correct that some of the ideas to regulate abortion are not reasonable. But reasonableness is not your aim. Rather you want to see abortion on demand remain the law of the land and such travesties as partial birth abortion continued. That’s why the argument is ludicrous, Jim.

    If you extract the question of whether or not the unborn child has any inherent value from any discussion of the effects of abortion on the public culture, you a just a few short steps away from the proponents of infanticide like Peter Singer. Singer is a moral barbarian, but at least he has dropped the pretense that the unborn are not really human beings.