"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Poll: Strong Support For Abortion Rights

Well, that's the headline on CBSnews.com's 2003 story on American abortion attitudes at the 30th anniversary of Roe, but more accurate might be

Poll: Strong Support For Tighter
Restrictions on Abortions
Most Think Roe Sucks


About 60% of us favor either more restrictions on abortions or an outright ban. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, that includes 56% of Democrats.

Huh.

As for who decides, men are actually slightly (40%-37%) more in favor of the current general availability of abortion than women. Women are also slightly (24%-20%) more in favor of an outright ban than men. So much for sexism. Go figure.

Women of childbearing age, under 45, were 2% more in favor of today's more liberal laws but they were also more in favor of a total ban than their older counterparts. Later for the smugness of menopause, then.


What can we learn from this? That the current law does not represent the moral consensus of this country, I'd say. Now, moral consensus in this country once permitted slavery, so it's neither infallible nor essentially good and moral. But as Scalia (and Bork I think) might argue, what else we got?

(Our new & good friend Connie claims a bit of Habermas and I suppose thereby Rawls in her background---perhaps she can stand in for them.)

But doesn't any society, whether kicking it around the campfire or the internet, consider the questions of right and wrong, come to something resembling a conclusion, and proceed accordingly? Are we not men? Are we Devo?


We would not want to accuse the supporters of unrestricted abortion of working solely for own interests, modus vivendi-types as Rawls might put it, potentially pregnant sybarites and the men who are willing to chance knocking them up. Surely there's a principle at work here.

Roe is ostensibly based on an old, and secularly sacred (oxymoron, I know) document, our Constitution. The issue of abortion is nowhere directly addressed there, on this we can all agree. But the law of our land is now based on an interpretation of that document by five of our "elders." We're not even into GK Chesterton's "democracy of the dead," we're into Quetzlcotl time, bloodily and copiously appeasing some god named Jefferson, Hamilton or Madison because some high priests say it is the will of the gods.

"Living" document, indeed. And my faithfulness to it requires my own heart be torn out. Luckily for me, only metaphorically.


(As for CBS News' reportage, Ed Murrow (not to mention Dan Rather) would be proud. Take the data and explain it backwards. Somehow, some way, in some sort of miracle, a bare majority of us have trained ourselves how not to read between the facts. We shall continue to share the wealth.)

21 comments:

connie deady said...

It would depend on what the "stricter limits are" since it's not defined in the article. If it means only health of mother, than that's pretty much a vote for no abortion. But when you add the percents together that means that over 70% would not ban abortions. That seems like a pretty strong majority to me. It seems to me that you are twisting yourself. I don't know how you get "Roe Sucks" out of that poll, particularly since the Supreme Court has upheld most state laws limiting the availablity of abortion (while still maintaining Roe).

Spin away, but please don't accuse others of doing the distortion.

Right and wrong come into play in either position. As I said elsewhere, I think abortion is one area where a utilitarian viewpoint works - greatest good for the greatest number. If you define good on an absolutist viewpoint, well then you see abortion as a yes or no issue.

Restricting abortion also results in a lot of bad, like back alley abortions, children born into poverty and abuse, teenage mothers.

I haven't read Rawls, but Habermas believed in Praxis, or the interelated, actionist shaping of reality, if I recall correctly. Is Rawls a pragmatist? Pragmatism would support abortion in a John Stuart Mill utilitarian sort of way.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I am not a utilitarian. Surely the state encouraging and even financing abortions among whatever demographic would be a financial and criminal drag on society would result in the greatest good for the greatest (living) number.

But I'd probably get in trouble for saying that or even acknowledging that. Ask Bill Bennett.

The rest is semantics---the poll questions are not posed as questions of right or wrong, only what reasonable people would, allowing for their own fallibility, press for the law to be.

("Fallibilism" is a philosophical dynamic. Of what am I sure, and how much am I willing to allow for the possibility that my own moral determinations are wrong?)

In other words, secular polls do not ask me how things would be if I were king.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Please note my comment on the post below this one: it applies here as well.

connie deady said...

Tom - you didn't answer what the limitations are?

There is a big difference between limitations of "life of mother" and limitations of no public funding, parental consent required, notification of putative father.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The limitations are not addressed in the survey.

What we do know is that the status quo under Roe is not favored by the majority.

Therefore, "Roe sucks" is perhaps poetic license, but reflects reality. Parsing my usage of it as "spin" is more The O'Reilly Factor than The Reform Club.

Debate may include contentiousness over such things, but discussion demands a little space.

James Elliott said...

Considering there are a number of solid 2005 polls available, I'm a little surprised you blithely ran with this analysis when they clearly put a dent in your thesis.

The CBS News poll you quote is an annual poll they conduct. In 2005, they found that the number of people favoring stricter limits fell one percentage point, as did the number of people favoring no access at all. The number of Americans favoring at least some access to abortion stands at a steady 72%

The LA Times and CNN/Gallup also conduct similar polls each year at the same time as CBS. Only CNN/Gallup saw an increase in the number of people favoring "strict limits."

None of these polls ask any questions about Roe. Your "Roe sucks" isn't just poetic license, it's completely impossible to draw that conclusion from available information.

James Elliott said...

In countries where the question of abortion's permissibility have been decided via legislative debate, they have all reached the same conclusions and restrictions that were reached in Roe. Any arguments about flaws in the ruling are limited to a question of procedural handling, not intellectual solidity. Essentially, you are left to say that the question should have been addressed in Congress, not the Supreme Court. I know you're just going to use your new favorite word, Tom, and just shrug this off as "parsing," but "Roe sucks" is still a flawed conclusion.

connie deady said...

The limitations are not addressed in the survey.

What we do know is that the status quo under Roe is not favored by the majority.


Tom, I don't think that we know that at all. Roe doesn't stand for unlimited abortions. Numerous restrictions passed by Congress and the legislatures of the states have been approved by the Supreme Court since Roe, even though Roe has been left standing.

My interpretation is that Roe established a privacy right of women with regard to her reproductive functions. I'm not sure it was in the Constitution, hence my concern about Roe. But many a government right is subject to restrictions and limitations. Unreasonable searches and seizures means that "reasonable" ones are okay. So too, government can have the right to restrict abortions when it was in the public interest.

So I don't see how you get from people favoring restrictions on abortion to saying that they don't like Roe.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Fine. It's a semantical point anyway. Ibid.:

"What can we learn from this? That the current law does not represent the moral consensus of this country, I'd say."

That is the germ of my argument.

connie deady said...

I don't think it's a semantical point. I look at the poll and see that over 70% of Americans believe that abortions should be legal and not banned.

You look at the poll and say that 70% of Americans believe that we should not have abortion on demand and the law (which you define as Roe) should be stricter.

Both are correct. I don't believe I'm distorting the poll and you don't believ eyou are. It's a really good example of how people can look at the same facts and arrive at a different conclusions based upon their beliefs.

I also believe that the current law does represent the moral consensus, because the current law allows for states to restrict abortions in many ways as long as they don't prohibit them altogether.

Do you think that Roe says we must have unrestricted abortion on demand?

Tom Van Dyke said...

I watched arguments before the Second Circuit on C-Span this weekend on the 2003 partial birth ban, and the language of Roe, "undue burden," permeated the room.

I cannot answer your question because I don't know what an "undue burden" is. You seem to have got your wish. "Undue burden" is a subjective term. Relativism is the law of the land.

Tlaloc said...

Subjective terms in law is hardly restricted to Roe.

Try this:
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

What precisely does "keep and bear arms" mean? Seems like the term allows for a lot of subjective wiggle room. And we don't even have to get into the glorious mess of the first amendment.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's much clearer than "undue burden," altho admittedly not for some.

Tlaloc said...

"It's much clearer than "undue burden," altho admittedly not for some."

Personally I don't see how it's clearer at all. Subjective is subjective.

The Liberal Anonymous said...

Every single law requires a subjective interpretation. Such is the nature of laws, and no amount of wishing will make it otherwise. Live with it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'll entertain the thought, LA. Please continue.

connie deady said...

How about the 4th Amendment, Tom?

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,

Unreasonable? probable cause?

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district

You should see definitions of "speedy" or "impartial"

Then here's an oldy, but a goody

cruel and unusual punishment

To more mundane levels, I was writing a Brief tonight on "good cause" for requiring a Plaintiff to submit to an Independent Medical Examination. What is "good cause".

How about the "community standards" for pornography? But would you like to have an absolute rule for what is pornographic? Nakedness?

"undue burden" is akin to many a legal term relating to government restrictions. Such is the life of law. It is, sorry to say for your sake, largely situational. That's why we "distinguish". Guiding principles as applied to factual situations.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Very well argued, Connie.

We are all lawyers now, as I wrote recently, eh? And that law is an imperfect prism through which to view the human experience before that.

American discourse is reduced to Law & Order. "Guiding principles" are irrelevant. Principles are irrelevant. Truth is irrelevant. All is sophistry.

Which side of the 4th Amendment are you on tonight? Who's paying you?

I don't mean that as a moral condemnation. What all sophists have in common is they want to be paid.

I work for a living meself, although not here. I'm not above sophistry.

The terms "unreasonable," "probable," "speedy," and "impartial" carry some resonance in common sense. Besides, we are stuck with those terms as they're part of the Constitution.

"Undue" makes no attempt at sense, and "burden" even less so. If it were written into a piece of legislation instead of judicial fiat, any conscientious jurist would laugh it out of his court as unconstitutionally vague.

(I wish you luck with the "good" part of "cause." If you laid The Reform Club's commenters end to end, they still could not reach a conclusion about what "good" is.)

(Word up.)

connie deady said...

American discourse is reduced to Law & Order. "Guiding principles" are irrelevant. Principles are irrelevant. Truth is irrelevant. All is sophistry.

See I believe in guiding principles. I try very hard to live my life by principles that I believe are important. I also believe very much in ethical processes. I believe good means will usually result in just ends.

You're too cynical. If we are all suckers, then that justifies Karl Rove's approach to politics. It's only about winning and power and getting votes. I won't go there. I still believe I can distinguish right from wrong and act accordingly.

If you want to talk 4th amendment, you'll probably find the discourse is dominated by true believers from boh sides.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You know that in my heart I do not subscribe to that. In fact, The Reform Club is dedicated to deriving those principles.

But when guiding principles are reduced to mere opinion and trading monologues, and all is considered subjective, and wisdom and nonsense are given equal standing, discussion is a waste of time.

I don't believe you're that type of person, and look forward to sussing it all out with you.

This thread is past its shelf-life, I think, but I hope to touch on some of your concerns in the future.

Tlaloc said...

There's no way you can honestly say that the term "unreasonable" carries more common sense than the term "undue." The reason I can say this is because the terms are synonyms for god's sake.

Here try this:
Undue Burden
Unreasonable Searches
vs.
Unreasonable Burden
Undue Searches

See a difference? Of course not. Because both "undue" and "unreasonable" mean "out of the norm, unwarranted, not proper."