Why Roe v. Wade isn’t nearly as relevant as you’d like if you’re a grating ideological drone

Titles like that are why I don’t cater to ideologues, except to troll them. One side swears that the least regulation of women’s access to abortion throughout their pregnancies is the work of the bastard love child of Anthony Comstock and Jack the Ripper, the other side swears that women’s lawful recourse to abortion as individuals under the post-Roe regime is tantamount to the gas chambers of Birkenau (often with helpful illustrations of the Nazi genocide infrastructure), and the silent majority has another pint of Franzia, since any other response would be futile. 

How does one even try to reconcile competing, irreconcilable policy interests? How can the self-determination of women facing unwanted pregnancies be squared with the welfare of the babies they are carrying or the demographic health of society? Maybe by attaching felony penalties to Godwin’s Law (everything else is already a federal felony, after all). If nothing else, we can remember that even in times of darkest derp, demographic statistics abide, although maybe not so much in the debate about abortion itself, because that frothy milkshake brings all the braying nuts to the yard.

To wit, from a Nazi-allusion-free article not about abortion at the Demo Memo: 

Baby Bust Update: 8% Birth Decline

According to preliminary estimates for 2012, the baby bust continues but the decline is slowing. The nation’s 2012 fertility rate was 63.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, the lowest on record and 9.4 percent below the 2007 high of 69.5. The fertility rate of women under age 30 is at a record low, but the rate among women aged 30 to 34 climbed slightly between 2011 and 2012 as those who had been postponing childbearing played catchup.

Overall, 3,952,937 babies were born in 2012. This was 8.4 percent below the 4,316,233 born in the peak birth year of 2007. So far, the Great Recession baby bust is not as deep as the 10.7 percent Great Depression bust, and it’s not likely to reach that level because the decline is slowing. For some perspective, keep in mind that the decline in births from the peak year of the baby boom in 1957 to the trough year of the baby bust (Generation X) in 1973 was a much larger 27 percent.

Did you notice that? It was subtle. In the course of not yelling about misogynistic sex scolds or murdered babies, Cheryl Russell mentioned that dreadful watershed year of 1973. That was the year in which American women started killing their own flesh and blood en masse with the government’s blessing and disposing of it as medical waste, except for the part about their finally starting the next year to carry more babies to term after nearly a generation of deliberate barrenness. 

It appears that what Roe really did as a policy (in contrast to its excellent service as a lodestone for acrimonious derp unto ages of ages) was to regularize a common medical procedure that had proven impossible to eliminate, even with criminal penalties. There aren’t reliable records of abortions in most states for several decades prior to Roe because no prudent physician would have documented a procedure that could have subjected him and his patient to felony prosecution. As birth records from 1957 show, sex was invented at some point prior to 1973, and for purposes of demographic analysis, it’s reasonable to assume that a constant, and very high, percentage of women of childbearing age was sexually active. That’s why Russell used data on live births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44.

These are rough bounds, but they’re accurate enough for demographic purposes. In demographic terms, the celibate minority of adults is static, mere background noise obstructing the thumpy signal of the rumpy-pumpy. The clerical celibates (sic?), of course, are especially noisy. The vulgar truth is that you and me, baby, ain’t nothing but mammals, although personally, I prefer Nature documentaries, and I find bears to have the most dignified and heartwarming mating practices this side of the quaking aspen. 

That paragraph was kind of gross. So is pretty much the entire debate on abortion in the United States since 1973. It takes a special kind of person to insist that late third-trimester abortions present no ethical or existential concerns and are totally cool. It takes a really special kind of person to march down the National Mall with a sign showing a photograph of a fetus next to one of Dachau. Centrists do not enjoy hanging out with such people. Bring out the grrrrrrlll power wimminz in shoddy crew cuts and Randall Terry with a gas chamber picture, and the substantial portion of the silent majority that doesn’t have a prurient interest in the macabre spectacle, the people who should be asserting themselves as policy stakeholders, shrink into the woodwork at warp speed. 

To a great extent, this four-decade abortion shouting match is a major front in the war between K-strategic libertines and r-strategic authoritarians for the demographic soul of the nation. Neither of these factions should be given a voice as stakeholders in the childbearing decisions of individuals. Granting legitimacy to either faction as an arbiter of individuals’ reproductive decisions is collectivist madness.

Both sides have developed a habit of becoming insufferable concern trolls. The barren libertine left concern-trolls women who genuinely want to raise families on the basis that they aren’t devoting enough time and energy to the stuff of feminist liberation. The authoritarian breeder right concern-trolls poor, defenseless babies, and at its shrillest extremes unimplanted embryos, with no thought to the gruesomeness of the alternative means of population control that eventually will assert themselves: consistently some combination of war, disease and famine. (If they think American women’s attitudes towards their infants in utero are amoral, they should consider a famine afflicting a burgeoning population. A failed wheat crop never cares.)

Neither extreme really wants competent individuals to make their own free, informed decisions, because have it all/children are annoying and le hard/baby murder!/invading proliferative Muslim hordes. Do it in the name of Carrie Bradshaw, or do it in the name of Charles Martel, but whatever you do, don’t make your own decision; make ours. 

The Eagle wept. 

6 thoughts on “Why Roe v. Wade isn’t nearly as relevant as you’d like if you’re a grating ideological drone

  1. Great analysis!

    One of the most irksome aspects of American politics are the culture wars that frequent our institutions. In fact, the inability of both extreme factions to respect the decisions of others is one of the big reasons I became attracted to libertarianism in the first place.

    • As far as small-L libertarianism is concerned, I’m with you. My objections are mostly to the big-L kind, much of which I find untenable or just weird.

      I’m all for denying third parties the latitude to get all up in other people’s business for no good reason. At the extremes, there’s no meaningful respect for self-determination because everyone’s all head-up that someone will make the wrong decision: go whoring, become a whore, drink too much, eat too much junk food, do drugs, have too many children, have too few children, ad nauseam. There’s just no way for unaffected third parties to intervene with everyone who is making objectionable life choices, but still the busybodies burrow in, with no consideration for the damage they cause.

      That’s how we end up with prostitution stings, such as a recent multiagency sting in San Luis Obispo County that went viral on the sex work blogosphere after a police sergeant mentioned that many prostitutes don’t report violent crimes to the police because they’re afraid of prostitution and then argued that one of the sting’s goals was to educate call girls about the dangers of prostitution. It’s why Prohibition-era federal agents deliberately poisoned bootlegged alcohol supplies, and why many prescription narcotics and opiates on the market today are adulterated with less efficacious over-the-counter painkillers that are toxic to the liver under chronic use.

      Out-of-control nanny statism also makes it much harder to intervene with hard cases who urgently need help. The mental health system in the United States is plagued with false positives, like little brats who are diagnosed with ADHD because they won’t sit still in class or with personality and behavioral disorders because they said “bang bang pow you’re dead” to classmates, and yet it failed Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter, even after police reported his late-night calls about Naval personnel following him from hotel to hotel with microwaving equipment to base command staff at the installation where he working with a security clearance. It would be easier, maybe not a lot easier but at least marginally easier, to identify and treat seriously mentally ill people like Alexis if so much energy and so many resources weren’t diverted to pathologizing normal people.

    • As far as small-L libertarianism is concerned, I’m with you. My objections are mostly to the big-L kind, much of which I find untenable or just weird.

      Agreed, though again I think our readers might benefit from a post on the distinction between “big L” and “small L” libertarianism.

      I know Orwell tried to render the Left-Right paradigm useless when he called for an analytical lens that divides political thought into an authoritarian-libertarian divide instead, but apart from this I think the distinction has not gotten enough attention.

    • Damn good article. Some of it made no sense to me though. What does “least regulation is the love-child of Jack the Ripper and Colmstock mean????” Please go into details.

      As for the culture war, I can’t wait for the reactionary statist Christians to fizzle out. They only make trouble for us.

    • Anthony Comstock was a sexually repressed, censorious Victorian-era headcase who took out his own repression on New York State and the United States as a whole by imposing a raft of draconian criminal laws governing sex. I mentioned Jack the Ripper because many pro-choice activists assert that restrictions on abortion endanger the lives of pregnant women. This is absolutely true in the case of high-risk pregnancies. Abortion is sometimes not just advisable, but medically necessary to save the mother’s life. In extreme cases, then, pro-life sentiment is quite callous to women’s health and lives. In legal terms, it’s depraved indifference. Anyone who forced another person to go through with something so risky without the state’s blessing would be liable for manslaughter.

      I’m afraid the Christian authoritarians aren’t really fizzling out stateside. They seem to be diminishing in relative numbers, but in terms of organization, discipline and sheer size, they’re still far ahead of libertarians of any stripe. Hopefully they’ll keep overplaying their hands like Todd Akin did last year. When they speak candidly in public, the silent majority freaks the hell out.

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