Four Practical Dialogue Tips from My Conversation with Brent

I noticed John Paul, one of our volunteers, looked nervous in his conversation with a student in front of our poll table. I walked up and started listening so he could get help if he needed it. John Paul quickly asked me for my take, and I started asking questions to try to figure out what the other student’s view was. “Brent” had signed “Yes” to the question “Should 20-Week Abortions Remain Legal?” I asked:

Tim: Why do you think 20-week abortions should be legal?

Brent: It’s a woman’s right to live her life the way she wants to.

Tim: Do you think there should be any restrictions on abortion at all? What do you think of, say, a 35-week abortion?

Brent: Oh I’m definitely opposed to 35-week abortions.

Tim: You are? Aren’t you restricting women’s rights to live their lives the way they want to?

Practical Dialogue Tip #1: Turn the Tables on Pro-Choice Rhetoric

IMG_0219-Tim-relaxed

A great deal of pro-choice rhetoric uses the kind of language that does not very naturally allow room for any restrictions on abortion. For example, any bodily rights rhetoric is going to suffer from this problem. For instance, you can’t say “my body, my choice” to only justify early abortions, because late-term fetuses are still located in her body. In order to justify early abortion without justifying late abortion, you need to argue that the late-term fetus is more valuable than the early-term fetus.

When I notice these kinds of rhetorical mistakes, I will frequently “turn the tables” on them in a gracious way. This is often an extremely weird experience for the pro-choice person because they’re used to the rhetorical power of “my body, my choice” working in their favor, and all of a sudden they find themselves having to argue against it. This tactic would work very well in debates, but that isn’t how I use it. Rather than merely trying to score rhetorical points, I’m hoping to accomplish two things:

  1. I want to help the pro-choice person learn to think more clearly about their rhetoric. It often is not nearly as powerful as they feel like it is, and making them answer the same rhetoric can help them to understand this.
  2. I want to force them to clarify their position. Dialogues only improve when arguments become more clear, and encountering this kind of inconsistency in their position forces people to either shift to an argument with more substance or clarify why they think their rhetoric doesn’t work against their own view.

Brent: No, because before 20 weeks, the fetus isn’t viable.

Tim: You’re right about that. I’m trying to understand your view so help me out here. Why do you think viability is important?

Practical Dialogue Tip #2: Use Filler Sentences to Add Clarity

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“Filler sentences” are the short sentences you say between your substantive sentences that serve to clarify why you just said what you did. The most common example is when I tell people that I’m trying to understand their view, but I’m struggling. If I’m having a hard time understanding their view, I sometimes feel frustrated by my own inability to understand, and if I don’t clarify why I’m frustrated, the person might feel like I’m angry with them. By telling them I’m having a hard time understanding their view, I’m inviting them to work with me, rather than making them feel like I’m on the attack.

In my conversation with Brent, I used this filler sentence because it could have come across like I was asking him this “why question” as a debate tactic to shift the burden of proof on him. While in this case that’d be a legitimate move (at least at a logical level), it wasn’t what I was trying to do. I wanted to understand his argument before arguing against it, so I used a filler sentence to communicate that I was attempting to clarify, not pin him into a corner.

Brent: Because before viability, no one else can take care of it. After viability, someone else can, so it isn’t restricting women’s lives.

Tim: It doesn’t sound like you think the fetus is a non-person until it’s viable. It seems more like you’re concerned about the effect the fetus is having on the woman. Am I on the right track?

Brent: Yeah that’s right. If you outlaw abortion before viability, it limits the woman’s options because no one else can take care of the baby. That isn’t fair.

Tim: Brent, I definitely agree that for the first twenty weeks of pregnancy, no one else can take care of the child and that limits her opportunities. I wish we had some kind of Star Trek technology to beam the fetus from the woman’s body into an artificial womb it could survive in. I’m not trying to limit her opportunities, I just don’t want her to kill the kid. But the fact that no one else can care for her child seems to me more like a reason that she has an obligation to do so, even though it limits her opportunities.

Brent: What?? No way.

Tim: Have you seen the Pixar movie Up?

Brent: Haha, yeah.

Tim: Great. Remember the scene where Carl finds Russell on his porch after the house has lifted off?

up russell on porch

Brent: Yeah.

Tim: What if instead of letting Russell inside, Carl decided that taking care of the child would limit his opportunities too much, so he kicked him off the porch. Would that be his right?

Brent: Yeah, I guess so. It is his house.

Tim: (pause) Really? It’s a ten-year-old kid. You really think Carl has the right to murder him?

Brent: Well, I guess he could just lock the door. Then it isn’t his fault.

Tim: But one minute later in the movie they go through a big storm and the house shakes like crazy. Russell would certainly fall to his death.

up-storm-2

Brent: Yeah, but Carl wouldn’t be responsible. It’s not his fault a storm would come.

Tim: If he locked a kid on the porch of a flying house and then the kid fell off, I’d say he’s culpable. Even if it’s not murder, it’s at least some kind of negligence. But surgical abortion isn’t anything like just locking the fetus out of a uterus. It’s actively dismembering it. Couldn’t we at least agree that Carl doesn’t have the right to grab a shotgun and shoot Russell?

Brent: Well, yeah, I guess that’d be wrong.

Tim: Would it just be morally wrong, or should he be arrested for murder?

Brent: He should be arrested.

Tim: I totally agree. Hey, it’s really hot standing in the sun right here. Could we move under the tree?

Brent: Sure.

Practical Dialogue Tip #3: Sit Down

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After my last few college outreach days, I now have a goal in just about any dialogue about abortion: find a way to non-awkwardly get us from a standing position to a sitting position. The difference to the atmosphere of the conversation is night and day. Even if I’m being really nice, two people standing in a plaza arguing with each other is not an optimal environment for people to change their views. Friends don’t argue about serious things for two hours while standing.[Tweet that!] They sit down on chairs, or in the grass or something. I want the person I’m talking with to feel comfortable, to feel emotionally safe to reconsider their views, and I have become absolutely convinced that sitting down immeasurably helps. It feels less like we’re two strangers and ideological opponents, and more like we’re new friends thinking through things together.

IMG_0280-Tim-laughing-2-cropped

Tim: [After we sat down] So it seems like there is a big difference between Carl just not helping Russell and shooting him with a shotgun. That matters to me because abortion isn’t merely “not helping” someone, it’s killing them. Have you ever seen pictures that show the results of abortion?

Brent: No.

Tim: I have some in this brochure. Would you be willing to look at them?

To learn more about how we use abortion images, click here.

Brent: Sure.

Tim: [After discussing abortion images and how abortion procedures are done] It seems like in this story Carl doesn’t have the right to murder Russell, even though it’s not Carl’s fault that Russell is on his porch and now he has an annoying child to take care of for a while. But how much more obviously wrong would it be if Carl invited Russell to come over before the house lifted off? Wouldn’t Carl be even more responsible then?

Brent: Yeah, but so what?

Tim: Well, in most cases of pregnancy, two parties willingly engaged in an act that they knew might result in the creation of a needy child. Given that, it seems even clearer that they owe that child something minimal, something like taking care of the child until someone else can, and certainly not killing the child. In a similar way, Carl is even more obligated to not shoot Russell with his shotgun if he invited Russell to come to his house.

Brent: Yeah, but what if Carl just, like, went for a walk. Sometimes, but not very often, if you go for a walk a child might just follow you home. So if he went for a walk, knowing that might happen, and Russell follows him home, is he responsible for the child now?

Tim: That’s a great question. In that situation he doesn’t have the right to shoot the kid, but it also isn’t really his fault that the kid followed him. But sex is totally different than that. There is nothing intrinsically linked between going for a walk and having a child following you home. The one isn’t really the cause of the other. But the creation of children is intrinsic to sex. Sex causes the creation of a child. Sometimes sex happens without creating a child, but anytime a child is created as a result of sex, sex is the cause.

Brent: I guess. It just seems like if we outlaw abortion that limits people’s options. Think of people’s opportunities as boxes. Someone with a lot of opportunities has a big box, and someone with really few opportunities has a small box. I just want people to have big boxes.

Tim: That’s a great way to describe that, I like that. I’d like to help people have bigger boxes too. Again, if we could just Star Trek beam the child into an artificial womb it could survive in, that’d be awesome. I guess the question is, given that we don’t have the Star Trek option, are we justified in killing a child in order to make our box of opportunities bigger? So for instance, John Paul here [the pro-life volunteer] is just an awful person. [John Paul and Brent laughed] He’s horrible and mean, and he makes terrible life choices, isn’t that right?

John Paul: Yes, always.

IMG_0283-JP-laughing-cropped

Tim: Right. What if John Paul here had a big box, and he thought “Hey, you know what would be the best thing ever? BABIES!” Typical impulsive John Paul decision. So then he finds a girl and has a kid. A couple of years goes by and he realizes, “Wow, my box is so much smaller than it used to be. I need to make this box bigger.” Can he kill his two-year-old?

Practical Dialogue Tip #4: Be Funny

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How to do this will vary from person to person, but I will take almost any opportunity to inject good-natured humor into a dialogue (obviously I don’t do this if the person is emotionally struggling). It helps the atmosphere to be positive and gives the dialogue longevity.

One of my regular tricks for injecting humor is that when I give thought-experiments, I’ll find a pro-life volunteer or an ERI staff member to pick on, and they’ll become my verbal punching bag. Obviously I only do this with people that are good-natured and not easily offended. In my conversation with Brent instead of just giving a standard thought-experiment, I made up a story about how my pro-life friend was a terrible person. We all had a good laugh together and it became a running joke for the rest of the conversation.

Another trick I use in many conversations is my atypical way of asking if they think something should be legal. Instead of just asking “should X be legal,” I’ll say “Imagine next year you were elected supreme dictator of the universe. You get to make all the laws. Suppose you’re hanging out in your throne room and one of the peasants walks in and asks you if they can do X. What do you say?” Some people don’t think it’s funny, but most of the time it gets at least a couple of chuckles and a remark about either how great or how terrible the world would be if they were the dictator. Sometimes I’ll return to the throne room for the rest of the conversation whenever I have another question about whether something should be legal. “Another peasant says ‘Supreme Dictator Brent! I want to do Y, here’s my justification. Can I do Y?’”

IMG_0281-Tim-laughing-cropped

You don’t have to be original. I recycle some of the same outreach jokes multiple times in a day (they’re new to the person I’m talking to!). I even use jokes from our seminar. Find out what works for you, and add humor when you can. It helps the person to feel like you aren’t their enemy.

Brent: No way, he can just put it up for adoption.

Tim: But what if he doesn’t have that option for a while? Suppose he calls the adoption agency and tells them, “You guys have to take my kid, or I’m going to kill him,” and they say, “We’re sorry, we’re all jammed up, there’s a war going on or something, we aren’t going to be able to take the kid off your hands for you for about nine months. After that, we’ll take him, so just hang in there for nine months.” Now does he have the right to kill the kid?

Brent: No, I guess not. But it still seems really unfair.

Tim: I have a guess about something that’s going on in the background for you. Do you think people have a fundamental right to have sex?

Brent: Yeah, I do. It’s like, one of the most important things in life.

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I have suspected for a while that the belief in an inalienable right to sex is an unstated part of many pro-choice people’s views. I’ll share this part of my conversation with Brent in the last installment of this two-part series.

Note: Much of Brent’s argument functioned like a typical bodily rights argument, in that he was arguing for the right to abortion independently of the status of the unborn. Most of the time when pro-choice people do this, they appeal to bodily autonomy instead of something like unlimited opportunities. I pulled in the Up story from the paper Steve Wagner of Justice For All wrote on behalf of a philosophy team that included me and Josh Brahm. While my views have evolved a bit since we published the paper two and a half years ago, I still think it’s the best pro-life essay currently out there on responding to bodily rights arguments. Read the paper De Facto Guardian and Abortion here or download the audio of a speech Josh Brahm gave on the same topic.

 

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The post Four Practical Lessons in Dialogue from my Conversation with Brent originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blog. Subscribe to our email list with the form below and get a FREE gift. Click here to learn more about our pro-life apologetics course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion.”

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Director of Training

Timothy Brahm is the Director of Training at Equal Rights Institute. He is interested in helping pro-life and pro-choice people to have better dialogues about abortion through 1) taking care to understand what the other person means, 2) using more carefully-constructed arguments, and 3) treating each other with care and respect. He graduated from Biola University with a B.A. in philosophy and is a perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute.

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  • Jean Pergande

    Timothy does such a great job here and makes things so clear. What a great team the Brahm brothers are. We can all learn so much from clear thinking like this. Thank you for letting us in on the conversations. Makes so much sense. God bless you all for what you do for Life.

  • “I still think it’s the best pro-life essay currently out there on responding to bodily rights arguments.”

    I agree, but in a spirit of “Might we not need multiple approaches to dismantling bodily-rights arguments?,” I’d be very interested in what you might think of my blog post Dismantling the Bodily-Rights Argument without Using the Responsibility Argument.

    And also in what you would think of some questions I asked about a section of “De Facto Guardian” in another blog post. While not disagreeing with that section, I asked questions such as “If there were no plausible logical way to ‘make sense of their intuitions,’ would that mean that the intuitions were wrong?”

  • L.J.

    List of inanimate objects I’ve seen pro-lifers compare uteri to:

    – Cribs
    – Nurseries
    – Rooms
    – Boxes
    – Houses
    – Roads

    And now I can add a cartoon balloon house to the list. I like how creative you guys are at objectifying women.

    Speaking of objectification, you’re the third or fourth pro-lifer I’ve seen talking about artificial uteri and it isn’t until recently that I realized just how creepy that is. You are straight-up admitting that a person being compelled to carry an unwanted pregnancy is being treated as a machine–and that job should be taken over by machines, if the technology were available.

    What’s more, you’re using the lack of fetus incubators as justification for using human uteri as fetus incubators. That is ass-backward, like saying we need laundry slaves because laundry machines don’t exist. Sure, you’d say giving fetuses a chance at life is a more compelling moral interest than laundry–but that’s just saying that slavery is justified for a compelling enough cause, isn’t it?

    • Bair

      Yes.

      And if pregnancy can be forced for utilitarian reasons, then so can forced abortion and sterilization.

      All for “the greater good”

    • Jon

      Hi L.J.,
      First, I understand your concern here for objectification of women. Obviously nobody here condones such an act, but certainly some people do so without even realizing it because of how ingrained it is in our society. Is that what Tim here is doing, though? I think not. The only way that his analogies, such as the balloon house, can be construed with the objectification of women is if the pro-life position that he is arguing for is wrong and the pro-choice position that you and Brent in the article are arguing for is correct. But that is the crux of the entire debate. And you did not give a response to Tim’s statements to Brent at all, much less in a way that would show that he is wrong in his position and that he is actually objectifying women. So I would really be interested in knowing, where in Tim’s arguments did he go wrong? Is it with viability? Is it with his response to the bodily rights argument? Only if you can show where he went wrong in his argumentation can you then prove that he may be objectifying women with his beliefs.
      Also, can you please show where Tim referred to women as machines? I did not come across him saying that in the article.
      Thank you, I look forward to hearing back from you, L.J.

      • Bair

        Forced gestation deprives women of their autonomy and treats them like objects to be used

        Like appliances. Which have no say in how they are used. Just a mere means to an end

      • Crystal

        She nearly always does respond back when she can, Jon.

      • The only way that his analogies, such as the balloon house, can be
        construed with the objectification of women is if the pro-life position
        that he is arguing for is wrong and the pro-choice position that you and
        Brent in the article are arguing for is correct.
        —-
        Oh, is that all it takes? Well then, since the pro-choice position is correct, L.J. is absolutely accurate in portraying Brahm’s analogies as objectifying women. Game over, thank you for playing.
        ====

        So I would really be interested in knowing, where in Tim’s arguments did he go wrong?
        —-
        Scroll up.

      • L.J.

        objectify verb ob·jec·ti·fy əb-ˈjek-tə-ˌfī
        : to treat (someone) as an object rather than as a person

        I think you’re misunderstanding what objectification is. I’m not accusing Tim of taking sexual advantage of women, enslaving women, or any specific horrendous act. I’m pointing out what he did to make his argument, which was imply that a human uterus is something that may be used without the owner’s permission, like a house. As you correctly point out, people can objectify women without even knowing they’re doing it because it’s so ingrained in culture. I believe that is what Tim is doing here.

        Only if you can show where he went wrong in his argumentation can you then prove that he may be objectifying women with his beliefs.

        Again, you are mistaken about what objectification is. Objectification does not mean “wrong” or “mistaken,” it is treating someone as an object. I’m not even arguing in my particular comment that Tim is wrong–heck, maybe my uterus is a piece of property that I should have no say over when a child’s life is at stake–I’m just pointing out that he compared the use of a human uterus to the use of a house on the way to his conclusion. Specifically, he relies implicitly on the audience drawing the conclusion that invading a house, an object, is no more invasive than invading a uterus, a body part.

        • That’s not the point of the analogy though. If our argument against bodily autonomy argument was merely that uteruses are like houses, I would agree with you. But that’s not the point.

          When philosophers or laypeople doing philosophy talk about abortion, on either side, the thought experiments get kind of weird. There’s a reason for that: pregnancy is weird. There’s nothing in the world like pregnancy, so you end up with stories like Judith Jarvis Thomson’s. (One of the most influential pro-choice philosophers ever.) Read her paper, “A Defense of Abortion.” [http://spot.colorado.edu/~heathwoo/Phil160,Fall02/thomson.htm] She has several thought experiments, including one where the analog to the uterus is a house!!! (The one about how hard you should have to prevent people from walking into your house, and the one with “people-seeds” drifting through window screens.) But when you read her in context you’ll see that she’s using thought experiments to make different arguments related to defending abortion, and responding to possible counter-arguments.

          It would be really lame if my response to Thomson was, “But people aren’t seeds! You’re objectifying people!” That’s not Thomson’s point though. It’s just another weird thought experiment where philosophers are doing their best to make a comparison to a narrow part of pregnancy and extrapolate that into an argument. Whether or not the argument fails or the analogy isn’t analogous enough in the important ways is always up for debate.

          If you want to understand the context of how Tim is using the “Up” story, you can read a paper about it or listen to a speech I gave on the topic at https://blog.equalrightsinstitute.com/dfg. (Both the paper and the MP3 are linked there.)

          The communication problem here is something like you not understanding that thought experiments about pregnancy are often weird and that’s not the point, or being really uncharitable in the way you’re assuming Tim was using the analogy. I’m not sure which, but if you’d like to have the exchange, we’re open, although we might not be very responsive during the weekend.

          • L.J.

            She has several thought experiments, including one where the analog to the uterus is a house!!!

            Here’s the difference between the way Thomson used the analogy and the way Tim used it in this post: Thomson wasn’t using the house analogy to directly compare the permissibility of taking root in a person’s house to that of taking root in someone’s uterus. Rather she was saying, if a potential person doesn’t have the right to your house just because you knew there was a possibility they could take root there, what makes you think they have the right to your uterus?

            Contrast this to the way Tim used the analogy, drawing a direct line from the obligation to let a child stay in your house and not kill him to the obligation to let a child stay in your uterus and not kill him. It does make a difference in this case whether the intrusion is to your house or your body, in fact that’s the entire point.

            Taken together with the endless drumbeat of pro-life analogies about how women are “baby homes” and an abortion is just like strangling a baby in a crib and the obligation not to terminate a pregnancy is just like a blind person being obligated not to drive and… I can only be told so many times that my body is an object before it gets to be too much.

            Now, I much prefer the way you used the Up analogy at the end of your paper. You admit the disanalogy between a man’s house and a uterus, and clarify that the analogy is only meant to illustrate de facto guardianship. I think that’s much clearer and more useful.

            So how about if we made a more-analogous analogy of direct guardianship, one that actually involves a person’s body and pregnancy?

            Let’s say a freezer has broken down in a fertility clinic. The freezer is storing one viable embryo, and if it’s not implanted very soon into a uterus it will die. The fertility clinic is in an isolated location and there is a severe snowstorm, making it impossible to get the needed spare part for the freezer or get help in time. A woman named Carla, or, if you like, a trans man named Carl who has a uterus, is the only person reachable who is fertile and able to be successfully implanted with the embryo, let’s call him Russell.

            As the only accessible person who can be implanted with the embryo in time to save his life, does Carla/Carl have the obligation to be implanted with Russell the embryo? Surely this is de facto guardian situation where Carla/Carl is the only person that can save the endangered child’s life and rejecting him would mean certain death for the child. Would it have a bearing on the outcome if Carla/Carl is in fact Russell’s genetic parent, such as by egg donation?

            I also have a question about your snowed-in cabin analogy, if you would further indulge me. You mentioned that Mary would have an obligation to feed the baby even if there were no formula and she would have to breastfeed him or her. Well, an obligation is something that may be enforced against the obligated person’s will. If you were trapped in the cabin together with Mary and the baby, and had no food suitable for babies or lactating mammaries of your own, would it be permissible for you to hold down a refusing Mary and forcibly express her breast milk in order to feed the baby? If Mary tries to get away, would you be justified in tying her down and milking her?

            I’m not saying you would actually do such a thing (would you let the baby starve instead, though?), but if you believe that Mary is obligated to feed the baby with her breasts then it should similarly be justified to enforce that obligation by milking Mary. After all, you would be justified in restraining her if she tried to kill the baby.

          • “If our argument against bodily autonomy argument was merely that uteruses are like houses, I would agree with you. But that’s not the point.”

            Would this be another way to put that? —

            Your brother wasn’t at all saying, “Carl has a moral responsibility to host Russell in his house (an insensate object that cannot suffer), therefore a woman has a moral responsibility to host an unborn in her uterus/body (a sensate organism that can suffer).”

            He was saying, “Carl has a moral responsibility to host Russell in his house where Russell will be a physical and mental burden to Carl (a sensate organism that can suffer), therefore a woman has a moral responsibility to host an unborn in her uterus/body (a sensate organism that can suffer).”

            Interpreting your brother in this way, L.J. would still have an argument about the relative degrees of the burdens, but it would not be an argument about object vs. sensate human being. “House” is not an analog for uterus; “Carl’s body and mind” is an analog for the pregnant woman’s body/uterus/mind.

          • Philmonomer

            [deleted]

    • If you want to be offended and indignant, misunderstanding thought-experiments is a very convenient way to do it. There’s literally always a way to be offended by a thought-experiment if you want to be.

      I don’t engage with this kind of aggressive posturing in person, and I’m certainly not going to do it online. If you’re open to rational dialogue and you have trouble communicating it, I’d encourage you to engage people that disagree with you in a way that opens communication lines instead of attempting to shut down dialogue through intimidation. If you’re actually really confident in your view (like I am), then you don’t need to bully people into submission; you can just stick with rational arguments.

      If you want to have a reasonable dialogue, I’d be happy to do that with you, but your tone is communicating loud and clear that you aren’t interested in reasonable dialogue.

      • Crystal

        Hi, Tim. I can understand why you’re upset. But I can also understand why my friend is upset.

        Let me start out by saying I’m prolife and I appreciate ERI’s work, which is helping prolifers to relate better to advocates for legal abortion.

        I hope I’m not coming across as rude here: I think I’d tend to state my opinion *first* and then ask her why she believes the way she does, if it were me. I got a fairly reasonable response from her when I did that.

        Not trying to defend any rudeness here, but I’ve known her for a lot longer than you have. She has felt incredibly upset when prolifers have treated women as objects; she’s seen it for too long and that’s why she’s angry.

        I know exactly where you are coming from. But I’d like to grasp where she’s taking this too.

        • Hi Crystal, thanks for your gracious reply, you aren’t coming across as rude at all. I’m actually not upset at all, I just make it a habit to not try to engage in dialogue with people that are being aggressive and mean-spirited. See this post for more on that. https://blog.equalrightsinstitute.com/dont-be-too-nice/

          I get very upset when people treat women as objects too. Thought-experiments about pregnancy are (at least generally) not about objectifying women, they’re about drawing out important moral distinctions. The point of the Up story is not to say that women’s bodies are objects like houses, it’s to analyze the nature of responsibility. The only way to draw offense at that is to be really, really uncharitable. If you’re going to be offended that easily at thought-experiments, just steer clear of doing philosophy. I hope this helps.

          • Crystal

            Thanks, Tim, for explaining yourself.

            I would tend to encourage *you* to do what I said, because she responds to that very well. She is a very smart and educated woman and she runs circles around woeful little me (which is one reason I come down here – to get help sometimes). We’ve had convos about all sorts of things and I don’t know why but she says I (and another woman) are the only prolifers she likes.

            Your thought experiment was intended to say that as the guy in the analogy owed the little boy the responsibility of saving his life, the woman has the moral obligation to save the unborn person’s life as well, correct?

            My friend is angry for these reasons:

            1) women are uterus homes
            2) raped women just want private male organs inside them
            3) in an analogy where a child was killed violently, the response was “There *is* no woman”
            4) uterine rupture is a mere inconvenience rather than a life-threatening condition

            etc…

            Don’t *you* find those kinds of things objectifying yourself? I would appreciate your thoughts as to these sorts of remarks. They put my friend off and rightfully so, and she thinks you’re doing the same thing!

            I need to mention I am sex-positive, meaning I don’t tend to use the responsibility argument on certain grounds. I do state we owe people the responsibility to help them live (which is what your analogy was trying to communicate) but I don’t say things like “You do the crime you do the time” or “You take responsibility for the consequences of your actions” because having sex while in possession of a uteri is *not* a crime, and unborn persons are equally valuable however they are conceived, last time I checked.

            In regards to rude people, I have made the mistake of engaging them twice and I eventually just shut down because I couldn’t cope emotionally. I know my friend well enough to believe that giving her a chance would not prove fruitless but would rather teach both you and her a lot.

            I have spoken to your brother :)

            I don’t agree with him on everything but from what I have seen of him I believe him to be a *very* affable, caring, and honest individual. Is my assessment correct?

            • “1) women are uterus homes2) raped women just want private male organs inside them
              3) in an analogy where a child was killed violently, the response was “There *is* no woman”
              4) uterine rupture is a mere inconvenience rather than a life-threatening condition”

              I don’t believe any of these things, and I’ve never said anything like them. Using a thought-experiment like I did is nothing remotely close to anything like that. Anyone that can’t see the difference should avoid philosophical discussion.

              I’m very sad that some pro-life people are so nasty. Much of my life’s work is trying to get them to be less nasty. But if your friend wants reasonable pro-life people to dialogue with her, she shouldn’t treat everyone like they believe those things. If I treated all pro-choice people based on the nastiest pro-choice people I’ve interacted with, I wouldn’t have productive dialogues. We should assume the best about each other until proven otherwise.

              For the record, I don’t think having sex while in possession of a uterus is a crime either. I don’t think restricting abortion is any more of a punishment for a crime than restricting infanticide is. Children coming to existence is a natural consequence of sex, not punishment of a crime. I don’t think my position is negative about sex.

              • Crystal

                “I don’t believe any of these things, and I’ve never said anything like them.”

                I’m pretty aware you don’t, Tim. But you belong to the prolife movement. That’s enough for some people.

                “Using a thought-experiment like I did is nothing remotely close to anything like that.”

                Personally, I tend to pay serious attention to such complaints as “the objectification of women” because I think they help dialogue far better if I do, and I would encourage all prolifers to do the same. I’m not good with thought experiments or anything though. I have been debating this topic since March this year.

                “I’m very sad that some pro-life people are so nasty.”

                It’s staple fare for the mentality of certain individuals (including some leaders) in the prolife movement to speak like that, and their attitudes trickle down to the general prolife populace (although I am aware of course that many prolifers, especially grassroots ones and a few leaders, really do care about foetal rights; if they say and believe these things it’s because they haven’t realised just how harmful these attitudes can be).

                One guy who claimed to be prolife ran around saying, and I quote with intense shame on my part because this is so crude and vulgar, that he “spread his wife’s legs with gusto”, meaning that he enjoyed raping his wife. Needless to say, the advocate for legal abortion remembers him *well*!

                Another guy said that you shouldn’t kill your rapist even if you can’t get him off you. WUT?? Another friend showed me that. Disgusting. Rape culture right there. It’s time we weeded out this kind of thing; it’s morally reprehensible and it ruins our message in the minds of many.

                With friends like that, Tim, who needs enemies??

                “We should assume the best about each other until proven otherwise.”

                For the record, I have been gravely informed on more than one occasion that I “belong to a terrorist organisation” because I support prolifism. Some folks do assume the worst of every single prolifer without proof or justification. While it is true that some people do do these things, not all of us are like that.

                “For the record, I don’t think having sex while in possession of a uterus is a crime either. I don’t think restricting abortion is any more of a punishment for a crime than restricting infanticide is. Children coming to existence is a natural consequence of sex, not punishment of a crime. I don’t think my position is negative about sex.”

                I understand your meaning perfectly; your statements seem acceptable to me. No accusation here but rather observation of the mistakes of many prolifers: “the consequences of your actions” and “tort law applied to sex” send a different message to people from “the infinite value of unborn human life and compassion for the woman in crisis” which is what we *are* trying to send across, and need to convey in our simplest arguments.

                Speaking of thought experiments, please seriously consider this woman’s question:

                https://blog.equalrightsinstitute.com/why-even-thomsons-violinist-condemns-planned-parenthoods-selling-baby-parts/#comment-2310945099

                Oh, and I did mention that I spoke to your brother. Did you see that?

                I appreciate your talking with me, Tim, and I do hope we get the chance to do it again!

                • I’ve been on plane’s all day and so I’ve just read this comment thread. It makes me kind of sad, and I want to describe what I observed.

                  A pro-choice person came to what I believe to be the most friendly, safe place for abortion dialogue created by a pro-life organization, and reacted to Tim’s article. The fact that she disagreed with the content or an analogy is not the problem. On the contrary, we welcome that here. But in her comment, she made a lot of clear implications about Tim’s character while doing it. She clearly implied that Tim is so anti-woman that he thinks of them as machines.

                  That is not okay.

                  It’s actually a clear violation of our comments policy [https://blog.equalrightsinstitute.com/comment-policy-2], and I would encourage any of our readers who haven’t read it yet, to read it before commenting here again. This is not a free speech zone. It’s a place where we encourage thoughtful discourse. That can’t happen when one party is accusing the other party of being a horrible person.

                  While it would be in my right to delete the initial comment, I’m planning at this point to leave it up, so that people can see the way that Tim responded. A lot can be learned by it. [I am however deleting several other snarky comments that aren’t helpful. Again, read the comments policy.] Tim didn’t react by defending his personality against the attacks. (I’ll comment on that in a minute.) But he wasn’t willing to lie down and take the abuse either. He clearly stated the reason he wasn’t going to respond unless the person decides she wants reasonable dialogue, and if so, what should not be a part of that. I think that’s a really important balance, and extremely hard to do well. I think Tim did it flawlessly here.

                  Surprisingly, we at ERI have a reputation among some pro-life people as being weak, unwilling to stand up for ourselves or the truth. There are some pro-choice people that would prefer we were more like that. It would certainly put them in a place of rhetorical power if we tried to debate someone who continued to attack our characters.

                  That’s why it would have been foolish for Tim to have responded to that comment with a defense of the analogy, because the pro-choice person had poisoned the well by insinuating a lot of things about Tim, not merely the analogy. It would be like calling someone a racist while asking them to defend a philosophical argument they just made. No, I’m not going to respond to a person who accuses me of being a racist by trying to prove I’m not one. It’s not a conversation I’m willing to have with anybody, especially in an environment like an online debate.

                  You want to believe we hate women? You’re welcome to hold that view. It’s wrong, but you won’t discover that by accusing us of hating women right out the gate. That is no way to start a dialogue.

                  I have had some nice email exchanges recently with Crystal, and that’s why I’m surprised that she defended her friend’s comment so strongly. What LJ did was hugely inappropriate for anybody to do, regardless of what side of an issue they’re on. No, a persons previous experiences with other people doesn’t excuse that kind of behavior. I know lots of pro-choice people who would be embarrassed by that kind of activity from one of their own, and they would be right to feel that way, just like it’s right for me to feel embarrassed when I see pro-life people yelling at pro-choice people or defaming their character. That’s not how people should behave if the objective is rational discourse, and that is absolutely the objective on this blog. That behavior won’t be tolerated here.

                  If LJ cools down and wants to try again, fine. But I disagree with the way Crystal thinks Tim should have approached it, which is defending the analogy regardless of what character attacks LJ throws at him. No, Tim’s response was more than appropriate.

                  • Crystal

                    Is this comment addressed to me?

                    Also, I was wondering another thing – if I ask LJ why she thinks the way she does about it is that going to upset you? I think it’s important to know why, but I don’t want to break any rules here.

                  • Jon

                    I apologize Josh and Tim if I should not have addressed my comment in the way that I did. I did not mean to insinuate from the act of responding to her that Tim should have been a door mat for the charges she launches at him and pro-lifers. I will be mindful of this from here on out. Thank you.

                    • Crystal

                      You were fine, Jon.

              • Crystal

                My friend LOVES thought experiments. She comes to prolife sites because she wants to be intellectually honest as well. I thought you should know that about her.

              • Crystal

                “Personally, I tend to pay serious attention to such complaints as “the
                objectification of women” because I think they help dialogue far better
                if I do, and I would encourage all prolifers to do the same.”

                Please know there was no accusation intended by that statement.

                • Bair

                  For anti-choicers, the fact that someone can make a baby means that making babies is what she is for. People mistake the term “objectification” to mean “looking at with lust,” but what it actually means is “reducing someone to an object to be used.” Sexual objectification is assuming that because women turn you on, they are for sex, instead of a person whose sexuality should be an expression of their agency. What anti-choicers engage in is reproductive objectification. Women are among an array of objects to be used. The refrigerator is for storing food. The bookshelf is for holding books. The woman is for making babies. You no more give her a choice in the matter than you would give your refrigerator veto power over what food it hold because it didn’t like your method of shopping.

                  http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/08/26/todd-akin-is-just-tip-iceberg/

            • “My friend is angry for these reasons:
              “. . .
              “3) in an analogy where a child was killed violently, the response was ‘There *is* no woman'”

              The response to what?

              • Crystal

                Please, indulge me with an explanation of your analogy.

                According to LJ, you created this scenario of a child playing in a room full of toys, and someone breaks into the house and kills him violently. You were asked, “But what about the woman?” Your response was, “There *is* no woman.”

                I found that statement appalling, Mr. A. Although I understand the point of your analogy, which is to say that the unborn person is often killed violently in the same way, might I remind you that there is a child *and* a woman involved?

                However, if I have misunderstood you, please explain why I did and I will be happy to listen.

                • “However, if I have misunderstood you, please explain why I did and I will be happy to listen.”

                  I appreciate your open-mindedness about this. Under the circumstances, I think I should point out in a respectful way that your open-mindedness is a little belated — but maybe to change now shows even more open-mindedness, so that’s great!

                  Why did you misunderstand me? You misunderstood me because after L.J. represented me to you in a particular way (apparently this happened on some other page or on email), you took that representation of me at face value without further examination.

                  And I’m making a point of this because then, on this page, you defended L.J.’s behavior by saying that she has met a lot of “prolifers [who] have treated women as objects.” You then gave four examples — 1, 2, 3, and 4 — and now it will turn out that 3 was a misrepresentation that you took at face value! Did you take the other three examples at face value also, without further examination?

                  In any analogy with pregnancy, you have two situations — you have 1) a hypothetical situation, and you have 2) the pregnancy situation itself. Then you compare the two situations to see what lessons you can learn.

                  On an SPL page, L.J. and I were discussing potential unborn child-protection laws, and specifically what would be probable cause under such laws to investigate a suspected abortion. I created a hypothetical situation such as L.J. described to you, and I asked her a question about her response to the situation. She then asked me, “Where is the pregnant person in this scenario?” (http://blog.secularprolife.org/2015/05/4000-years-of-barbarism.html#comment-2057522989 )

                  I replied:

                  “There is no pregnant person, since the child is 4. Though the situation is analogous in some ways to abortion, it is disanalogous in other ways. The situation is imaginary, but not metaphorical (no mother-equals-room metaphor or any other metaphor). The killers may all be men.

                  “I only wanted to know whether such an incident would bother you and whether you would think that the police should do whatever is necessary to collect evidence.

                  “And I implicitly wanted to know whether you would try to stop the killing and whether you would think that you had a right to stop the killing.

                  “The situation is simply an example of a killing of an innocent BORN person, and I asked whether we should deter people from such killings and what steps might be justifiable in order to deter them.” ( https://disqus.com/home/discussion/secularprolifeblog/secular_pro_life_perspectives_4000_years_of_barbarism/?utm_source=reply&utm_medium=email&utm_content=read_more#comment-2062452348 )

                  So I think it was completely clear that my “There is no pregnant person” meant “There is no pregnant person in this scenario [L.J.’s words]” — that is, in situation 1. I didn’t deny that there is a pregnant person in situation 2, a pregnancy situation! (Can you imagine?) I said “the situation is analogous in some ways to abortion.”

                  When L.J. then replied to me, she began by saying “Okay, let’s make this simple then. Let’s ditch the four-year-old and everything else, since you said that scenario was a means to finding out my answers to your all-important questions.” ( http://blog.secularprolife.org/2015/05/4000-years-of-barbarism.html#comment-2066114023 )

                  She seemed to have understood my reply correctly and not to have misread it (which would have been hard to do). We then continued talking for another 5 posts. If she had really understood me as saying that there is no pregnant person in a pregnancy situation, it’s odd that she didn’t raise any objection during that discussion.

                  Crystal, all this is now way off the topic of Brent. The moderator here has seemed to consider L.J.’s behavior to be a secondary issue that is legitimate to discuss, but probably there is some limit. If there is more to discuss about this, let’s do it by email. If you click on my name above, you will find a link to my blog. There on the About page I give an email address. If you don’t want to talk about L.J.’s behavior behind her back, you can ask her for her email address and copy her on everything.

                • P.S. to my “I appreciate your open-mindedness . . .” post:

                  Now I have done the same possible wrong to L.J. that I accused you of doing to me! I have taken your representation of her at face value!

                  I had intended to preface everything I wrote with “IF L.J. really said that about me . . .”

                  Really, I had intended to do that and just forgot. I will edit my previous post accordingly.

                  • Crystal

                    I will answer your long comment (and another one I left a while back) later. Suffice it to say that I never meant to hurt you by anything I said although I disagree with the way some of these analogies are done. I understand the nasty tingle that shoots through your stomach when someone criticises something you said, so please don’t feel bad about all this. I never meant to misrepresent you either, despite my thoughts about that particular analogy, which I feel I must briefly state that, although I do not agree with the fact the pregnant woman was not included positively or at all in it, I can understand where you are coming from when you are comparing the child being murdered to the typical situation of unborn persons.

                    • Thanks for your reply.

                      “my thoughts about that particular analogy . . . I do not agree with the fact the pregnant woman was not included positively or at all in it”

                      The pregnant woman was definitely included in the analogy, as I said earlier. There can be no analogy about abortion that does not include a pregnant woman!

                      But in any analogy about abortion and pregnancy, you have two situations — you have 1) a hypothetical situation, and you have 2) the pregnancy situation itself.

                      I created a hypothetical situation, like the hypothetical situations of so many pro-life arguments, about a toddler. A toddler is a born person, so of course in all the situations involving toddlers, there is no pregnant woman! In the Carl & Russell situation there is no pregnant woman. Even in the violinist situation, with a pro-choice message, there is no pregnant woman. Judith Thomson was not being anti-woman when she created that situation with no pregnant woman! When we ask whether parents should be required to donate a kidney, there is no pregnant woman. (Although through all such situations we are supposed to learn something about pregnant women.)

                      So when L.J. asked me, I simply clarified to her that in my hypothetical situation about a toddler, as in so many hypothetical situations, there was no pregnant woman.

                      Then (if you have represented her correctly) she misrepresented me to you.

                    • Crystal

                      I see I shall have to combine comments to properly answer you, but I thank you for your explanation.

                      I will also explain, when I do write back, why I personally tend to shy away from those kinds of analogies. I can understand to a certain extent both yours and her perspectives too.

                      I will tell LJ what you said and ask her why she made those assertions. And she did *not* say them to me, but rather to another person, and I just happened to read them.

                      I believe the reason that prolifers and advocates for legal abortion don’t exactly see eye to eye with each other is that prolifers are talking about the life of the unborn person, and advocates for legal abortion are talking about the woman’s liberty, correct?

                      I repeat, I did not mean to hurt you. Nor did I mean to misrepresent you, or anything you said. I am not that type of person and I did not intend to give offence or pain by my words or deeds. Please let me know you feel a little better about all this at least – that is, if you do.

                      PS: Due to my current situation I generally feel it wisest to abstain from emailing people on the web except in an emergency. So please forgive me for not wanting to shoot you a message via your inbox.

                    • Crystal

                      Why don’t we go to SPL and talk about this issue there? Would you mind that?

                    • “Why don’t we go to SPL and talk about this issue there?”

                      That sounds good. Our talk may not really be on-topic there either, but I think there’s little risk of disturbing the moderator there. (SPL moderator — if you’re reading this, maybe you can accommodate two of your friends in this small way!) I understand your caution about email.

                      (from your just-previous post) “Please let me know you feel a little better about all this at least – that is, if you do.”

                      I will reply there. I’ll wait for you to write first, because now from the links I’ve given you (if not on some other SPL page) it will be easy for you to find some post of mine where you can hit Reply.

                    • L.J.

                      Yeah, Crystal did represent my position accurately, and I find your comparison to the other of analogies to abortion disingenuous. Though there is no literal pregnant person in the Up situation or violinist scenario, there is a person in each of these situations who is potentially obligated in some way who can stand in for the pregnant person. I don’t believe Up works as well as the violinist for the reasons stated in my original comment to this thread, but there is still a potentially obligated person in it who can stand in for the pregnant person.

                      In your slaughtered-toddler analogy, on the other hand, there is no person who bears any kind of potential obligation that might be a reason to kill in order to avoid. It’s presented as a willful, wanton killing with no possible justifiable reason at all, when the very point of the abortion debates is that there is a conflict between rights. You completely ignore one side of the debate, and thus your analogy was either a) irrelevant to abortion or b) meant to be relevant to abortion, but with the pregnant person (or their stand-in) deliberately erased.

                      So no, not all abortion analogies need to include a literal pregnant person. But they do have to include her stand-in to illustrate the central point of abortion, specifically the part where the pregnant person’s bodily autonomy conflicts with the fetal interest in life. I think your erasure of the pregnant person from your analogy, and your dishonest equation of the lack of a literal pregnant person in other analogies with the lack of a stand-in in your own, is part and parcel with your deep hostility toward women who abort–such as your repeated insistence that abortion is a dollars-for-dead-babies exchange. As though these women went in for abortion with dollar signs in their eyes. As though these women have no bodies and no lives, just greed. Your erasure of pregnant people isn’t a one-time thing, it’s a consistent pattern.

                    • Thanks for your reply.

                      Though I appreciated much of your input to our discussions on the SPL blog, the end of our last discussion there indicated to me that we would not be able to get anywhere by continuing. I still feel that way. If you are unsure why I feel that way and would like to better understand, then for my part, though only a brief explanation would be necessary, I wouldn’t see a reason to explain publicly. If you will send me an email, I will explain.

      • L.J. is hardly engaging in any aggressive posturing. If anything, she’s treating you with kid gloves. Certainly far less aggressively than anyone trying to deprive people of their rights to life, liberty, and security of person; to be free from slavery; to be recognized as a person before the law; to equal protection under the law; to be free from torture; to bodily integrity; to decide when and if to have children, and to due process of law actually deserves to be treated.

      • L.J.

        See my reply to Jon, because many of the same points apply to your reply as to his. I think you’re under the impression that I said something much worse than I actually did, which was point out that your thought experiment is objectifying (as in, treating people as objects) in implying that the unconsensual use of a uterus is no more invasive than the use of a house, as though a person’s uterus were a thing external to them.

        As Crystal said I actually love thought experiments, I’m just getting really, really tired of ones that rely on erasing and objectifying women. Similarly, I imagine that you’re tired of being assumed to be a misogynist who deserves mistreatment because you believe in the sanctity of all human life. If it helps I don’t believe you are consciously misogynistic, I think you’re a good person. But it’s also true that good people can be taught to take on toxic cultural assumptions. I think that is the case with your analogy, and I don’t believe it’s bullying or intimidating to point that out. If you disagree, as I’m sure you do, I’m opening to hearing why.

        • Crystal

          I’m thrilled to see you here at last, LJ.

          Can you do me a favour and please explain why it is that such an argument is misogynistic in nature, from your perspective? From what I saw of his argument it wasn’t meant to be misogynistic but rather deal with the our moral conscience as a society to save life. Also, how did Tim demean women by comparing them to a house, because I didn’t see that in his argument? However, you seem to have a different take on it and I’m curious as to why this is.

          Also, please know I am still working on my responses to you; I have been away from them for a few days due to work and being squeezed on a tight schedule for a very important exam. Although I can do most of them myself, I am getting help with at least one if not two of your questions because I want to answer as best I can (Gisella Perl/slavery/rape question, particularly, from what I remember).

          PS: Tim and Josh are some of the more reasonable prolifers, too. Please give them a chance to prove themselves because I don’t think they’re like the Duggars or other such wackos; from what I’ve seen I believe you’ll actually be less disappointed with them than with the folks at SPL, although you’ll have to judge that for yourself after speaking with them. I have also spoken to Josh and I have found him to be a kind and caring man who cares about rigorous intellectual honesty. I tell you this because, among other reasons, I want you to do well here, and not be blocked because an argument got your hackles seriously up.

          Please let me say this as kindly and gently as I can, because I respect you as a friend, and value your opinion. You seem to have gotten angry with prolifers you *hardly know* twice. You *were* pointing out that you disagreed with the argument, that is true. I could see somewhat where you were headed with what you were saying, although I couldn’t understand why, and would very much like to know your POV on any misogyny in the thought experiment itself. I can understand your vexation with objectification completely, please know that. I felt I had a duty to state why you were so upset, to help them understand better where you were coming from with it. I also know you try to be fair, and stated that you believed Tim was a good person; so please also be aware I am not accusing you of name-calling Tim or anyone else here as a misogynist, and I do realise your objection was with the opinion expressed itself. However, I believe you need to save your anger for prolifers you know for sure to be misogynistic or of bad character after speaking with them extensively.

          • L.J.

            Hey, Crystal! Thanks for going to bat for me here, I’m not sure what I did to deserve so much kindness from you but believe me when I say I’m grateful. I’m kind of surprised you’re still happy to see me here, though, because it looks like I’m doing nothing but causing a lot of trouble for you with the proprietors.

            Can you do me a favour and please explain why it is that such an argument is misogynistic in nature, from your perspective?

            I didn’t say Tim’s argument is misogynistic, I said it was objectifying. The two are related, true, but not the same thing. I explained to Jon and then to Tim why it’s objectifying so I won’t repeat those points here. Can you tell me why I’m wrong about his argument being objectifying? Because it seems everyone is upset about everything except what I actually said.

            Also, how did Tim demean women by comparing them to a house, because I didn’t see that in his argument?

            How did Tim demean women by comparing them to a house… as in, how did Tim demean women by comparing them to a thing that can be bought and sold and may be used without its consent? I think your question contains the answer.

            I very much appreciate that you’re using your limited free time to continue our conversation. As always, no pressures and no worries. Good luck with your exam!

            I’m actually not angry with Tim or Josh, I’m mostly wondering “What the hell just happened?” If they’re going to turn a criticism of Tim’s argument into an aspersion on his character, then let’s just say it’s kind of rich that they think I’m the one who’s going out of my way to be offended.

            ETA: I’ve dealt with a whole raft of nasty and misogynistic pro-lifers, as you know, but not even the worst of them took a counter-argument as personally as Tim and Josh did. (And they don’t seem like nasty or misogynistic people, making it even more puzzling.) Maybe it’s because they’re so wedded to their conception of themselves as good people that any intimation that they might have sexist ideas feels like a full frontal attack on their identities.

            • LJ, I’m pretty picky about the conversations I have with people online. There are many reasons for this. I’m not engaging with you. If you’re honestly wondering “what the hell just happened?” or “why did they take this so personally?,” allow me to remind you of how you started off your reply:

              “List of inanimate objects I’ve seen pro-lifers compare uteri to:

              – Cribs
              – Nurseries
              – Rooms
              – Boxes
              – Houses
              – Roads

              And now I can add a cartoon balloon house to the list. I like how creative you guys are at objectifying women.”

              If you’re hoping for good dialogue in person, starting a conversation with a nasty, sarcastic insult is not conducive to good dialogue. If you’re hoping for good dialogue on the internet after starting off the conversation with a nasty, sarcastic insult, then you’re either fooling yourself or you’re deeply naive about how internet discussions go, and how easily they became fruitless.

              I’ll tolerate a little insulting behavior in person before walking away, but online it’s not worth it. There are too many trolls online that just want to insult people and waste their time, so for the sake of protecting my time, I don’t attempt to dialogue with people that insult me right off the bat. It’s not an issue of being offended, it’s an issue of what conversations are good uses of my time. Best wishes to you.

              • Crystal

                I hope you’ll engage with me sometimes though.

              • L.J.

                I know how I started off my reply. I pointed out what I perceived as objectification in your argument, in the context of a long history of pro-life arguments comparing women to things. If you take a criticism of your argument as an insult of you personally that’s your choice, but it’s certainly not a common enough reaction for me to reasonably anticipate it–and I’ve debated a lot of pro-lifers.

                As far as I can tell what I raised was a valid objection, whether right or wrong, and the only problem you have with it is that my tone was insufficiently serious and deferential. What you’re doing is known as tone policing, and it’s a distraction from the substance of the argument. Notice how many words you’ve written to protest this nonexistent insult to yourself without being able to refute my central assertion, that the right to use a piece of property to save one’s life does not translate into the right to use a body part to do the same.

                FYI I think the Up argument can actually work, as I told Josh in another comment, when there is clarification that the flying house is not meant to denote a uterus. I don’t think the necessary clarifications were in this particular post and it adds, likely unintentionally on your part, to the cacophony of pro-life analogies that are demeaning to women and contribute to the frightening real-world consequences of this thinking. As a guy who seems pretty smart once said, clarity is our friend.

                • Crystal

                  Are you sure you’re going to be okay?

                  I’m not wanting to cause any rift between us or anything, but please be careful; I don’t want to lose you on your first day.

                  • L.J.

                    It’s sweet of you to be concerned for me, Crystal, but what makes you think I won’t be “okay” if Tim and Josh get mad enough to ban me from their forum? You won’t lose me, we have plenty of other places to hang out, including SPLP where I am somehow not yet banned despite the massive purge of pro-choicers from their boards.

                    • Crystal

                      Why shouldn’t I be concerned for you?

                      What makes me think you won’t be okay? I know you well enough to realise, if this is a fair assumption, that we have fairly similar temperaments. We’re both very sensitive people and if I were banned from a forum I would find it a very emotionally devastating experience. I was thinking it would shatter you too. You have suffered enough with one close to you emotionally abusing you and I don’t like seeing people get hurt.

                      One time recently I had a bad experience on a forum and it still cuts in so deep when I remember (especially because one person seriously misunderstood my comments and cut me from her disqus account over them); I cried over what happened more than once. One day I will tell you all about what happened; it will take a while to explain but I feel you should make your own judgments on the event. Suffice it to say though that I don’t want to see you misunderstood the same way I was. The thing is, I’m thankful it was one person and not an entire forum, but I might as well be blocked from there; I don’t travel there like I used to although I hope to go back, especially as most folks at that place treated me with nothing but kindness, and I thank them for that.

                      Don’t you go to “We Hunted the Mammoth” sometimes? I’d love to go there if I get the chance!

                    • Guest

                      Trust me. You have to be a TOTAL jerk to get yourself banned from SPL. Emphasis on the “total” part.

                    • Crystal

                      NoBrownM&Ms was banned three times and he is politeness itself. So I am not sure what you are on about. Could you kindly explain please?

                    • Guest

                      I don’t know much about the specific person you’re talking about (though for all I know, he could be a sockpuppet of someone else that was banned for good reason). But around a year ago there was a gang of nasty, really obnoxious trolls. They derailed every virtually every thread, falsely accused pro-lifers of believing horrible things about rape, insulted the moderators, went on other sites to plan massive trolling sprees as well as give each other high-fives and gossip about other commenters, and overall destroyed any possibility of rational dialogue. Yet they still don’t think they did anything wrong.

                    • Crystal

                      Can you give me the names of all those involved, because I want to know more about this. Some nasty ones, like Unicorn Farm, have gotten back onto the website. It is true that there are intellectually honest ones who want a convo (like LJ – though she left here, NoBrown, and sometimes Bair) but some advocates for legal abortion can get REALLY nasty!

                    • Guest

                      I’m not going to name any names, but look at pretty much any SPL thread from mid-late 2014. They’re overrun by trolls. Here are two examples – you can easily find more:

                      http://blog.secularprolife.org/2014/11/announcing-new-website.html
                      http://blog.secularprolife.org/2014/11/dismemberment-is-not-act-of-love.html

                      Even the ones that seem polite associate themselves with the vulgar ones and egg them on.

                    • Crystal

                      Thank you for showing me.

                      I know.

                      I haven’t finished reading through the threads, but from what I have seen and observed, quite a few (not all, but it does seem to be a tendency) advocates for legal abortion seem to become very, very abusive.

                      That being said, I need to acknowledge, of course, that everyone is different, and some advocates for legal abortion are genuinely polite and willing to be reasonable, and I deeply appreciate those people who are willing to come, to talk, to disagree with me. They sharpen my worldview and stretch my horizons, helping me to become a better prolifer. I owe them a debt I can never repay. The ones I cannot stand are people who attack, either subtly or openly; such individuals seem to be possessed with a very nasty spirit.

                      Not that some prolifers don’t say the most idiotic and abusive suggestions; they do, unfortunately, and they absolutely need to be called out on this. But still … it is a nasty spirit associated with people who believe in abortion so much they hate anything and everything a prolifer stands for and will *not* engage in a reasonable conversation with their opponent, (I’m not talking about the occasionally irritated individual but rather a consistent pattern of abusive behaviour) and I prefer not to associate with those types of individuals. I am only willing to talk to reasonable prolifers, reasonable advocates for legal abortion, and people on the fence.

                    • Guest

                      I agree completely. I was only pointing out that “a consistent pattern of abusive behaviour” was exactly what SPL had to deal with for months and months. The suggestion that they want an echo chamber where all pro-choice commenters are censored is untrue and silly.

                    • Crystal

                      Yeah, RH Reality Check looks like a confounded nightmare. I’ll never comment there. You don’t know how nasty they can get on that website, especially as they talk about abortion pretty much *all the time*. But I do read some of RH’s articles sometimes, for a different perspective, you know.

                      I do like TFA (Friendly Atheist) though; the commenters are generally fair and reasonable people and they discuss lots of topics, not just abortion; and I appreciate and respect those folks a lot. I will never forget how kind they were to me when I was so new; I owe them a debt on that one that I can’t repay.

                      “I was only pointing out that “a consistent pattern of abusive behaviour”
                      was exactly what SPL had to deal with for months and months.”

                      Trust me, this kid has experienced it on different websites from SPL but I understand.

                      “The suggestion that they want an echo chamber where all pro-choice commenters are censored is untrue and silly.”

                      I’ve heard that one a lot; why is it untrue? One commenter has been blocked repeatedly and he is politeness itself. So I don’t quite get this one. Also, can you tell me any reasonable and polite legal abortion advocates that have been allowed to stay on, and give me examples of this?

                    • I just wanted to jump in and say how much I love that you sometimes read RH Reality Check articles for a differing perspective. I hate confirmation bias, but it’s hard for people to read the opinions of people who disagree, especially when they do so obnoxiously. The fact that you still do this is awesome.

                    • Crystal

                      I read the articles but the way the commenters treat those who disagree with them or question certain elements of their beliefs is just horrible. Some of the “trolls” are asking for it with their condescending and arrogant attitudes, true, but some people really are questioning the whole legal abortion thing or want to share their viewpoints on prolife, and I hate watching the way they get bashed up.

                    • Crystal

                      Hence the reason I am a unique person with a unique mindset on the question – I read prolife and pro-legal abortion sources and love feminist theory too. So I will see things differently from a lot of people on both sides. I think you could call me a hybrid.

                    • Crystal

                      Thank you :)

                    • Guest

                      A few things here. Firstly, there’s more to not being a jerk than simply being polite. To draw an analogy, let’s suppose that a drunk, unruly fan at a sports arena shouts FHRITP at a journalist (I’m not going to spell out the phrase here – google it if you’re so inclined). A second fan gives him a high-five and explains why it’s funny to humiliate journalists by shouting sexually explicit phrases at them. Clearly, we can agree that the first fan is a total jerk. But what about the second? He’s polite in his interaction with the journalist and doesn’t personally shout vulgar phrases at her. But it would be silly to say that he’s done nothing wrong. He’s decided to associate himself with the first fan and condone his actions. He’s also a jerk.

                      Again, I can’t comment on the individual you’re speaking of because I don’t know him. I’d probably need to hear SPL’s side of the story before I could make up my mind. But SPL banning someone solely because he disagrees with their position sounds very inconsistent with my understanding of SPL (which is that the worst of the worst trolls are allowed to stay around for the better part of a year before they’re finally banned).

                      As for an example of an abortion advocate who hasn’t been banned, what about your friend LJ?

                    • “Russell Crawford” in that thread is literally insane. He has a madman’s diary up on his website with a list of “natural abortion laws.” He doesn’t think we can biologically determine the species of a fetus.

                      It’s unfortunate. There’s nothing to do but hope they are getting treated for their illness and to block them from the conversation.

                • Crystal

                  Please let me hesitantly write up a few more of my thoughts on the situation before us here:

                  If I might state why everyone was so upset, I think it was the way you stated your argument; Tim hardly knew you. To him it felt like an accusation of him personally. In your mind, you were probably meaning “You guys” to refer to the prolife movement collectively. In Tim’s mind, though, he would have probably read “You guys” to refer to Josh, himself, and all other ERI workers, personally. Hence the big reaction. Would I be correct in believing this?

                  Also, I realise that this situation was a little different from another situation which happened a while back. In that, you were very vexed with a prolifer as well, and I felt I had to speak up, because you didn’t know her very well; eventually, the two of you actually got to know and like each other. Both Tim and you are, again, pure strangers. You haven’t debated either Tim or Josh extensively, unlike certain others that you have spoken to. I understand that you intend to be fair a lot, and you stated as such, that you believed that Tim was not intentionally misogynistic by his analogy. I think what I’m trying to say is please save your anger and sarcasm for prolifers you have debated extensively and you know for certain are misogynistic, etc. If I might respectfully state it, please be more gentle with people you hardly know until you know for sure you do not consider them honest.

                  Please know I am not accusing you of attacking anyone personally, though. Because I know you well, and I know how you meant your argument, that was why I said what I said, and I’m not sorry for speaking up for you because I do respect you a lot (although I am sorry for unintentionally causing trouble with the proprietors). What I am saying is that if I hadn’t known you I could have reacted the same way others did.

                  I have no intention of contributing to tone-policing or anything; I’m trying to understand where both you and Tim are coming from with what happened here.

                  Can you please tell me, if I am truly wrong to say any of this, how and why that would be?

                  • L.J.

                    I think it was the way you stated your argument; Tim hardly knew you. To him it felt like an accusation of him personally.

                    In other words, I made an argument that I could validly raise, but put it the wrong way. So it’s classic tone-policing, where hurting a man’s feelings by not being sufficiently nice is much, much worse than the possibility that he may have contributed to the objectification of women.

                    In your mind, you were probably meaning “You guys” to refer to the prolife movement collectively. In Tim’s mind, though, he would have probably read “You guys” to refer to Josh, himself, and all other ERI workers, personally.

                    Seeing how I started my very first sentence with “pro-lifers,” I think it’s actually pretty clear what “you guys” meant.

                    I think what I’m trying to say is please save your anger and sarcasm for prolifers you have debated extensively and you know for certain are misogynistic, etc.

                    I think the way I called him out was valid, if not perfectly to his liking. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen etc. Or ban the commenter and delete her comments, as the case may be.

                    I don’t think you’re wrong, I just don’t agree with you. Anger is a valid reaction to oppression. I never said Tim’s intentions were bad, I said his analogy was objectifying and good intentions are not a defense to that. As I told Josh, I can only be told I’m an object so many times before it’s too much.

                    • Crystal

                      “So it’s classic tone-policing, where hurting a man’s feelings by not
                      being sufficiently nice is much, much worse than the possibility that he
                      may have contributed to the objectification of women.”

                      I did not intend to engage in this in any way at all.

                      “Anger is a valid reaction to oppression.”

                      I can understand that. Although I tend to approach things differently, I did state as such to Tim.

                      “I never said Tim’s intentions were bad, I said his analogy was objectifying and good intentions are not a defense to that.”

                      I realise you had every intention of being fair and my comment was not meant as an accusation of you personally. I simply thought to myself that since the environment was new it is best to assume the best of others before we know them too well. However, please know I respect your right to disagree with my comment, I never meant to cause trouble either with you or with them, and I am not sorry for defending you either.

                    • L.J.

                      Hey, personal accusations are fine. You can tell me to stop being such a prickly bitch, because I totally am! XD I understand your good intentions and admire your kindness to both sides. It’s Josh’s space in the end and he can do what he likes with commenter privileges–and I understand it’s a privilege, not a right, to comment on someone else’s space. It’s all good, I came in swinging and if the forum mods decide that’s not for them, that’s their decision to make.

                    • Crystal

                      “Hey, personal accusations are fine. You can tell me to stop being such a prickly bitch, because I totally am!”

                      Yes, but I don’t like talking to people in such a manner. It’s not kind. And personal accusations are beneath me. If I comment on anything it’s a person’s behaviour or opinions but seldom if ever them personally.

                      “XD I understand your good intentions and admire your kindness to both sides.”

                      Thank you for understanding; I want to be fair to everyone involved on this. I don’t want to tone-police you, be unfair to the proprietors, or anything. If I did tone-police I would like to know how at least. I might disagree but I would appreciate a brief explanation at least.

                    • L.J.

                      Nah, I don’t think you tone-policed. After all, you acknowledged my complaint even if you thought I should have been nicer about it. I think that’s just you being your nice, compassionate self.

                    • Yeah, this just isn’t going to work, LJ.

                      You start out with a rhetorical trick: “I like how creative you guys are at objectifying women.”

                      We responded to that accusation, and your primary response is to accuse us of “tone policing.”

                      It’s not your tone. It’s you implying things with your words that aren’t true, but give you an upper hand. People do it all the time. It’s happened in every one of the recent presidential debates. And it harms productive dialogue.

                      But you’ve said you don’t plan on changing the way you argue, and I’ve explained in my comment about not responding to people who call me a racist, why it’s appropriate for me to not tolerate that kind of thing. In the end, we have very different views of what is and is not appropriate in a serious moral debate.

                      Thanks for acknowledging that this isn’t a free speech zone and that the mods here are fully in their right to delete comments and ban commenters to create the kind of environment for dialogue that we want to create. Many people don’t acknowledge that, and I saw that as your most impressive moment here.

                      I’m glad that you and Crystal have connected in a way that you and I or Tim and you ultimately won’t be able to. I hope you have lots of very fruitful conversations with her. It’ll just need to be somewhere else.

                    • Crystal

                      You mean she’s banned?

                      If that’s the case I’m going to have to answer her comments elsewhere.

                    • Crystal

                      I wrote an email to you, Josh. Please look at it and respond ASAP too.

                  • L.J.

                    Thanks for your concern, and I agree we’re similar in many ways. However, I don’t think that being banned from ERI would be devastating to me; I’ve burned bridges with online communities before and I was okay. (More on that in a moment.)

                    I think it would have been devastating to me a few years ago to have displeased people, particularly men like Tim or Josh, because too often someone being angry at me meant I got hurt. However, I’m now a little freer from the compulsion to avoid pain by keeping people pleased with me.

                    I’d be honored if you shared your very painful experience with me when you are ready to talk about it. I’m moved that you would entrust me with your feelings, despite knowing firsthand that I can be abrasive and critical. I make it a point to be empathetic when someone opens herself up to me and makes herself vulnerable, though, which was why I chastised myself so hard about your friend Mary.

                    Don’t you go to “We Hunted the Mammoth” sometimes? I’d love to go there if I get the chance!

                    Funny story, I voluntarily exiled myself from that community after arguing with anti-religious commenters. I wrote a whole three-post saga about it, starting here. I seem to anger people on the political right and left on a roughly equal basis, which seems fitting given that I’m angered by the right and the left on a roughly equal basis.

                    • Crystal

                      “I think it would have been devastating to me a few years ago to
                      have displeased people, particularly men like Tim or Josh, because too
                      often someone being angry at me meant I got hurt.”

                      Why do you say, *particularly* men like Tim or Josh? Can you explain that, because I find it interesting that you reference the male gender so specifically like that.

                      “However, I’m now a
                      little freer from the compulsion to avoid pain by keeping people pleased
                      with me.”

                      Wow, wish I could get over that. I would like to be more spirited in real life at least! How *did* you do it, can you share a tip please?

                      “I’d be honored if you shared your very painful experience with me when you are ready to talk about it.”

                      Will do when I can. And will appreciate honest appraisal of both my actions and writings, and everyone else’s in the scenario I will present. I do need someone to talk about it with though because I still grieve over it from time to time whenever I see my rejector commenting.

                      I’ll read your three-article saga too.

                      “I seem to anger people on the political right and left on a roughly
                      equal basis, which seems fitting given that I’m angered by the right and
                      the left on a roughly equal basis.”

                      Just like me. Bair noted that I got severe clout on both sides of the fence because of what she calls my caring for both the unborn and women. I think it’s also because of what I believe about not only abortion (which tends to anger advocates for legal abortion a great deal, because I seem to be advocating for anything but “a woman’s right to choose”) but also how it should be handled (which tends to vex prolifers a lot, because I don’t hold to traditional, conservative methods and thought).

                      On some positions I am conservative, on others, liberal. On others, I’m unsure. So I’m a pretty fair mixture.

                    • L.J.

                      Why do you say, *particularly* men like Tim or Josh? Can you explain that, because I find it interesting that you reference the male gender so specifically like that.

                      Because they’re smart and articulate Christian men like my dad, whom I would have done anything to please and who hurt me so badly–often without meaning to.

                      Wow, wish I could get over that. I would like to be more spirited in real life at least! How *did* you do it, can you share a tip please?

                      I think the most basic for me was to empathize with myself. For so long I had internalized the idea that I was bad and wrong and that my feelings were invalid, I had a hard time feeling what I felt because I was so busy repressing everything. It took me some time to acknowledge that it was okay to feel the way i did, and then some time again to go back to some of my traumatic experiences and immerse myself in the way I felt during those terrible moments, acknowledging myself without necessarily justifying everything I said and did.

                      It wasn’t easy–I sometimes found myself sobbing in the middle of a task, remembering past pains–but once i had some of these sessions I found entirely new sources of vitality, a renewed sense of connection with myself and the world. This kind of self-empathy, using the basic idea and some techniques from Francine Shapiro’s Getting Past Your Past, was a hard but necessary process. It helped me get past some of my unhealthy compulsions and make clear-eyed decisions about my life.

                      Here‘s a sample of what some of those past incidents felt like for me, as remembered when I witnessed a child being emotionally abused in public.

                      I agree with Bair. I think too many people on both sides of the debate tend to minimize and erase either the fetus or the pregnant person. I know that women are my primary concern and I don’t always consider the fetus as much. Many pro-lifers have the opposite focus. I think you’re more balanced in your compassion and that gives you a lot of moral authority.

                      I tend to agree with American comic Chris Rock on the liberal/conservative divide:

                      “Republicans are f___ing idiots. Democrats are f___ing idiots. Conservatives are idiots and liberals are idiots. Anyone who makes up their mind before they hear the issue is a f___ing fool. . . . Be a f___ing person. Listen. Let it swirl around your head. Then form your opinion.”

                    • Crystal

                      “Because they’re smart and articulate Christian men like my dad, whom I would have done anything to please and who hurt me so badly–often without meaning to.”

                      I like you and I am so sorry about your pa hurting you. I have a fairly intelligent Christian father too. To me, he is the best dad in the world. He was my friend from a child and he cherishes me very much. I have so many memories of Dad that I will remember with great fondness, especially because we were so close as I grew up, especially in my preteen and teen years. He had his faults but he loves me and treated me fairly well and that’s what matters.

                      Please teach me how to empathise with myself. I have taken note of that book you mentioned as well.

                      “It wasn’t easy–I sometimes found myself sobbing in the middle of a task, remembering past pains–but once i had some of these sessions I found entirely new sources of vitality, a renewed sense of connection with myself and the world.”

                      I am trying to reconnect with myself and the world. I suffered a terrible mental illness that shattered me so deeply it’s taken years to recover from the damage it’s done to me in so many ways. I am very fearful partially because of it.

                      Also, that’s precisely why I recommend Samantha Field as a great resource, and believe you should make the effort to comment there. She is traveling a similar journey in a different way and I think you would find her very helpful:

                      samanthapfield.com

                      She was one of the ones who taught me to be an ally to non-white people, fight against rape culture, and more fully empathise with rape victims, among other things. I owe her a great debt and I wish we could be friends one day.

                      I read your sample about the little girl being abused. It was so heartbreaking. My parents never did that to me, thankfully. I believe that, except for once or twice, my mother was always very careful to rebuke me privately because she did not like to humiliate her children in public. My mother also praises and affirms both my actions and me when I do something right, a lot, and it makes me want to please her. She is so hardworking and good I am ashamed of myself.

                      Good on you for standing up for the child. Poor little mite. It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes. Children don’t need that ever. Not ever.

                      “I think you’re more balanced in your compassion and that gives you a lot of moral authority.”

                      Thanks for the compliment. It means a lot, but Bair thinks it’s cognitive dissonance. Do you agree with her assessment or see it differently? I am also curious as to what ways it gives me a lot of moral authority, if you wouldn’t mind explaining please.

                      “I tend to agree with American comic Chris Rock on the liberal/conservative divide”

                      Oh, gosh. We liberal-minded people are the cause of the world’s demise, according to conservatives. We bring Communism and fundie Islam with us wherever we go (a misnomer, because I [and other liberals] totally despise fundie Islam to the point where some have said I am “Islamophobic” although I care very much about *not* being racial towards the people themselves) because we buddy up with oppressors, especially with PC, etc – I imagine you’ve heard all this before.

                      However, I do think that we need both conservatives and progressives in this world. The conservatives exist to remind us of our need for plain common sense, but the liberals exist to remind us of our need for compassion. That is why I read both conservative and liberal sources to come to some of my conclusions. Also, whoever is telling the truth, I will take their side, whether they are conservative or progressive and no matter how unpopular it is to believe in truth.

                      “Nah, I don’t think you tone-policed. After all, you acknowledged my complaint even if you thought I should have been nicer about it. I think that’s just you being your nice, compassionate self.”

                      Thank you; I am relieved to hear I didn’t tone-police. I was just concerned I had because you mentioned “classic tone-policing” and I wanted to be sure that, while seeking to be fair and understanding to Tim, I hadn’t participated in that, even unintentionally.

                      I hope I am not being proud when I say that I appreciate your recognition of a deeply treasured character quality – compassion; there is something about having that recognised that puts me over the moon!

                      There are times when I feel I am not compassionate enough though, but rather incredibly selfish. I can always be better. Also, you are speaking to the real person; my “nice, compassionate self” is not an online facade. I am no Talkative (a reference to Pilgrim’s Progress about a character who was a saint abroad and a devil at home). I confess also that I struggle very much with being honest in real life but I want to be, deep down inside.

                    • L.J.

                      Thank you. I think the hard part about having an abusive parent is that, well, he hurt me deeply at times but he’s also my dad. I have great memories of him, and I still love him and worry about him. My dad taught me so much, he encouraged my intellectual interests, he gave me a great upbringing and education, and we shared such great times together. This love was why it took me so long to acknowledge that I was abused, because in my mind for the longest time abusers were inhuman people with no redeeming qualities and calling him such felt like a betrayal of all he had given me and sacrificed for me. (And there are in fact monstrous and nearly inhuman abusers who do not deserve the title “parent,” but they are I think in the minority and my dad certainly isn’t one of them.) My dad thought it was indeed a betrayal to call what he did abuse, and so any negative feelings I had about being relenlesstly controlled and often mistreated had to be squished down and down until they bore a hole in my soul.

                      Gradually I came to the painful conclusion that I can’t trust him with my authentic feelings, because time and time again he has thrown them back in my face and used them as yet more evidence in the ongoing trial of why I am a terrible ungrateful child. He doesn’t think he has any choice in the matter when he feels so attacked all the time, it’s his form of self-defense. As a result I’ve limited contact with him and keep our interactions superficial and pleasant. I think we’re both happier for it, though I wanted so much more and it saddens me that he is not strong enough to know me as I am. I feel sorry for him that he can’t accept people as they are but feels the need to control and abuse them until they fall in line. It’s such a waste and a tragedy when fear wins out over love.

                      Please teach me how to empathise with myself. I have taken note of that book you mentioned as well.

                      The theory is that there are memories in your past that have never beer properly processed and digested, but rather shut away because they hurt so much. These past experiences cause you to react badly to current situations that remind you of the past trauma, when you are triggered without being able to deal with it constructively because you’re not really reacting to the present but rather a shut-away past, like an unclosed wound that hurts whenever you brush up against it.

                      One example is a military veteran who got irrationally angry and upset whenever his young son cried, which turned out to be because of the memory of an Iraqi boy crying after a tragedy that the soldier had never gotten over. Once he dealt with the original trauma he was able to react rationally to his son; the earlier, traumatizing memory had been integrated and he could make sense of it in the broader narrative of his life.

                      Empathizing with yourself to stop this cycle starts with being aware of those situations that hurt you in ways you can’t control, and then letting yourself float back on the wave of those feelings back to the original trauma that you haven’t gotten past, the situation that you’ve never been able to process and integrated into your memories. You then open up the experience and truly feel the original trauma, bringing into the open the feelings and sensations that your mind locked away for your own protection. Once you’ve worked through those feelings, you won’t be in their grip and you’ll be able to deal with them, however painful they are.

                      Because of your prior history, though, I would not recommend that you try this on your own. Shapiro has many caveats for this technique in her book, cautioning people with prior mental illness to seek out a professional. Her book is mainly for people whose symptoms don’t reach the level of illness and don’t actively endanger them. It could still be an interesting introduction to EMDR, the technique that Shapiro pioneered and which many people swear by, especially if you think this therapeutic technique might have benefits for you.

                      I suffered a terrible mental illness that shattered me so deeply it’s taken years to recover from the damage it’s done to me in so many ways. I am very fearful partially because of it.

                      I am so sorry to hear that. That sounds like a difficult recovery process you went through, and you should be proud of yourself for coming out of such an ordeal. I’m a little amazed that you willingly expose yourself to internet debates, actually, where things can get pretty rough.

                      She is traveling a similar journey in a different way and I think you would find her very helpful

                      She and her commenters do seem reasonable. And though it’s been, gosh, close to twenty years since I left church, I still realize how much I’m living under the influence of Christian culture for better and for worse. I’ll keep an eye on the blog and maybe comment one of these days when I have a bit more time.

                      You’re very blessed that your parents were loving and accepting. It’s a wonderful thing that the people who were supposed to love and protect you actually did so without reserve, and that you can love them back without complications.

                      Bair thinks it’s cognitive dissonance. Do you agree with her assessment or see it differently?

                      I might agree with her if you were legally anti-abortion as well, since there is cognitive dissonance between seeing women as agents in their own lives and wanting them to have to provide their body for others’ use. However, from our conversations it seems your pro-lifism is about finding alternatives, not banning abortion, so I can see how your views can be reconciled–even though it must be painful to condone the legal killing of those you see as children deserving of life. I have the greatest respect for people like you and Mary who actually are pro-life in the true sense of the word, and don’t advocate policies that would simply drive the killings underground.

                      I am also curious as to what ways it gives me a lot of moral authority, if you wouldn’t mind explaining please.

                      Well, take me and Tim or Josh for instance, a more mainstream pro-choicer and pro-lifer. I argue that the pro-choice position works even if the fetus is a person because no person has the right to use another’s body non-consensually for their own purposes. Nevertheless, I’m not free of the charge that I don’t see fetuses as people, because truthfully I don’t. I don’t care about pre-sentient, pre-born human beings the way I do about sentient born ones. I can argue as though they’re people, but inevitably it shows that my emotions just aren’t there.

                      Or take mainstream pro-lifers like Tim and Josh. They say they don’t see women as incubators but as people, and I have no doubt that they have all the compassion in the world for rape victims and other pregnant people in desperate circumstances, who gestate against their will and must suffer agonizing pain at the end of the process. Nevertheless in the end the weight of their sympathies lie with the fetus who must die if the pregnant person is to be freed, so if push comes to shove the pregnant person must become an incubator whether she will or no, unless her life is truly in danger. That’s the ineluctable conclusion of their logic, and they are partisans for the fetus as I am for the pregnant person.

                      Then there’s you, who recognize the humanity of the pregnant person and recognize her right not to have her body used against her will, but at the same time refuse to let go of your anguish for the little ones who inevitably die for their parents’ freedom. It’s why you won’t stop looking for alternatives, where Josh, Tim, or I would be more or less satisfied with a state of affairs where one’s right is subjugated to the other (near-total ban for Josh and Tim, near-total legalization for me). You’re one of the few people who can say you care for both sides in this debate, and you take the pain of your conviction–and the heat from both sides–for it. I think there’s a lot to respect about that.

                      I imagine you’ve heard all this before.

                      I’ve been yelled at by pro-choicers for acknowledging the moral complications of abortion while pro-lifers think I go after babies, cackling, with steak knives. I’ve been mistaken as a Christian for standing up for them against other atheists, and been called a depraved pedophile by a conservative Christian because of my support for gay marriage and racial equality. My special contribution to the world must be as a tremendous unifying force: If nothing else, the left and the right can agree on their contempt for me.

                      I was just concerned I had because you mentioned “classic tone-policing” and I wanted to be sure that, while seeking to be fair and understanding to Tim, I hadn’t participated in that, even unintentionally.

                      Yeah, I should have been clearer and said that it was Tim I was criticizing, not you.

                      I hope I am not being proud when I say that I appreciate your recognition of a deeply treasured character quality – compassion; there is something about having that recognised that puts me over the moon!

                      Awww, you’re great, Crystal. Never doubt that about yourself.

                    • Crystal

                      “Because they’re smart and articulate Christian men”

                      Please expound on the characteristics of the typical smart, articulate Christian man. Again, this is NOT an attack on Josh and Tim (who I deeply respect), but rather a desire to know and understand this type of person.

                    • L.J.

                      Yeah, by that I didn’t mean to say Josh or Tim would be abusive, but rather that they seem like a similar type that I respect in a lot of ways and fear in others. To me, this type is a man suspended between modernity and tradition. He has the traditional burdens and obligations of being a strong provider, but must also navigate what seems like a whole new world where so much that he took for granted is being eroded–sexual mores, gender roles, the very meaning of life and what makes it worthwhile.

                      He is told on the one hand that he must be strong and independent, a leader; yet he is told on the other that he is oppressive and patriarchal for doing the very things he was taught was the only right way. As an educated and intelligent man he understands the demands and rightness of morality; as a man rooted in tradition, his heart rebels at the conflicting demands placed on him, at a world that says up is down and down is up. Modernity has cut off his head from his body and he must reassemble, resemble himself by finding his own image. He must be righteous, he must know where he is going and he must lead, so he does not take well to being questioned and his skin is thin as a result, too fragile to protect his heart from the cutting winds of change.

                      This doesn’t describe all smart, articulate Christian men, obviously. Many religious men take comfortably to modernity, men like my husband who is highly intelligent and believes in God but is pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights, has no problems with his wife’s atheism, and is a happy stay-at-home husband who cares nothing about the male role and his own authority. If I had to give a name to the stalwarts who are more conflicted about modernity it would be something more like the “modern patriarchs” or “the last kings.” I sympathize with them and admire them, even mourn them though I know their reign must end.

                • Ann Morgan

                  ** that the right to use a piece of property to save one’s life **

                  How’s that again? So a farmer spends all year busting his butt to grow wheat, and then someone can come and just take his harvest away, because they are starving so have a ‘right’ to his property for their ‘very lives’?

                  And the farmer will grow a crop the next year because why, exactly?

                  I don’t think so…

                  • L.J.

                    It’s a limited right, darling. If you read the actual post you’d realize it’s not the right to take someone’s property, but to temporarily stay on it to avoid certain death.

  • Crystal

    “I guess the question is, given
    that we don’t have the Star Trek option, are we justified in killing a
    child in order to make our box of opportunities bigger?”

    Tim, I understand your question. Although I agree totally it is not justified to take another person’s life to make our box of opportunities bigger, it is also not justified to limit the box of opportunities, for so many reasons. If mothers are to be good, they need to be free. Reproductive choices are empowering when chosen, and prolifers weaken themselves when they don’t realise that.

    See, this is the big problem with the prolife movement. They haven’t bothered thinking about how women’s opportunities can be preserved while saving unborn lives at the same time. It can be done and we should try it! Who knows, things might turn around for prolifers if they took bodily autonomy seriously enough to invent something rather than simply dismissing it as a sign of wicked feminism.

    • Wow, so many strawmen in this comment.

      Many pro-life people do take bodily autonomy seriously.

      Nobody I know thinks bodily autonomy = “wicked feminism.”

      I don’t believe the reason that we don’t yet have the technology to transfer the baby to an artificial womb is because pro-life people aren’t willing to fund the research.

      • Crystal

        Gosh, are you mad at me?

        I’m dead serious because I didn’t mean to behave inappropriately here. I feel seriously terrible :(

        “Many pro-life people do take bodily autonomy seriously.”

        Can you explain how then? I’m not trying to be dumb, just wondering.

        “Nobody I know thinks bodily autonomy = “wicked feminism.”

        I am happy to hear that. However, I know of people claiming to be prolife who *do* use prolifism as a way to hurt women. They make me angry, and my anger was not directed at you, Tim, or anyone else here; in fact I respect you and Tim highly.

        “I don’t believe the reason that we don’t yet have the technology to
        transfer the baby to an artificial womb is because pro-life people
        aren’t willing to fund the research.”

        What would be the reason then? I am genuinely curious to know because if I am wrong I am willing to be corrected.

        Again, I am sorry because I didn’t mean to break any rules here. I also didn’t think I was defending any bad behaviour and was going to talk to her about what she was doing as well; unfortunately, I never got around to doing that yet, hence the big mix-up.

        • I’m not mad, Crystal. I’m kind of sad that you don’t seem to have been around decent pro-lifers before. I certainly have my days where I’m really frustrated with the pro-life movement, but in those cases I’m really just frustrated with a person, or a group of people, or a common tendency of the group, or something like that. There are so many wonderful people in this movement that sacrifice so much for people.

          Anyway, in response to your questions, I don’t know many people who think bodily autonomy doesn’t exist. Pro-lifers tend to think that you should generally have the right to do whatever you want with your body as long as you’re not harming someone else. So you can’t hit people. You shouldn’t expose yourself in public. That sort of thing.

          There are other exceptions that often revolve around wanting the best for the person in question, or society as a whole, even if the person in question wills something else. (Assisted suicide laws, drug laws, etc.) All of those things are legitimate topics of debate, but the fact that there’s debate about any of this doesn’t mean that pro-lifers don’t take bodily autonomy seriously.

          “However, I know of people claiming to be prolife who *do* use prolifism as a way to hurt women.”

          I’m not sure who you’re talking about. Could you give a few examples? Are you talking about obnoxious internet trolls? Pro-life organizations? I think it’s important to work out if the people you’re reacting to are fringe or normative. For example, I hate the things Westboro Baptist Church does, but I don’t hate baptist churches, because WBO is super fringe and not comparable to the vast majority of baptist churches.

          I’ve heard people say that artificial womb technology is being worked on. I haven’t done the research myself to know if that’s true, so take that with a lot of salt. My friend Kelsey Hazzard published a short story that examined what life may look like if artificial wombs were a thing.

          My best guess is that if artificial wombs are being worked on, we’re far from having the technology perfected. Doctors are still learning how to help 2nd-trimester premies! And that’s really hard, because babies develop best in the womb, not in a NICU ward. The younger the child is, the harder it would be to transplant it including an umbilical cord hookup without killing the child. It might not be possible. I hope it is…

          The point is, imagine if I said that the problem with people who oppose torture is they haven’t themselves perfected interrogation techniques that aren’t torture. Or PETA can’t talk because they haven’t perfected replacements to edible meat that everyone likes. Those aren’t perfect analogies, but the point is that it’s entirely reasonable for someone to be opposed to torture or animal cruelty and start by trying to educate society about that. Maybe they believe the best use of their organization’s funding is education. That’s their call, and they shouldn’t get judged for it.

          Maybe here’s why your comment frustrated me a bit. (Again, we’re cool, but you really want to know what bothered me, so I’m being transparent here.) It’s this line:

          “See, this is the big problem with the prolife movement. They haven’t bothered thinking about how women’s opportunities can be preserved while saving unborn lives at the same time.”

          I’m thinking, how do you know that? What is your expertise in what the thousands of people working in the pro-life movement are and are not doing? It’s such a strong statement, and it’s super critical of so many people that you don’t know. That kind of thing bothers me, no matter whether the person is pro-life or pro-choice, or whether I know the person or not. We should be very careful with the accusations we make against people, especially people we don’t know.

          You know what I’m doing tonight? I’m speaking at a banquet for a network of Pregnancy Centers in Central Virginia, and if the event is successful, they’ll raise the funds they need to keep doing their work. They offer FREE support to young people in crises all over this area. They have seen 25,500 families at all four centers since they started! They’re working tirelessly to serve people so that those people won’t feel forced by their circumstances to kill their child.

          Before that banquet, I’m going to hang out with David Bereit for most of the day. I think he’s one of the best souls in the movement. He’s one of the founders of 40 Days for Life, where they’ve encouraged and trained thousands and thousands of people all over the world to hold 24-hour a day, 40-day long peaceful prayer vigils in front of their abortion facility. Over 10,000 lives have been saved so far in 30 nations. And he’s one of the most humble men you’ll meet, and also one of the most talented in the movement.

          I want you to learn more about people like that. I’m really sorry that you’ve had bad experiences with people calling themselves “pro-life.” I really am. Trying to eliminate behavior like that is one of my life goals. Just please don’t make judgements about the rest of the movement based on some obnoxious fringe people.

          Thank you for being so responsive. I know yesterday was an emotional rollercoaster for you, because you had your pro-choice friend here, and then a few pro-lifers responding to her, and one of your heroes reacting negatively to a few things you said. It’s a lot. But unlike most people who would take that experience and just get angry, you’re working super hard to reconcile and improve in whatever ways you can. That’s really cool to see, and I’m glad you’re a frequent commenter on this blog. (I just wish I had the time to answer all of your questions!)

          • You have the patients of a saint. I would have just banned LJ and been done with it.

            • Thanks for your comment on the blog post of mine that I linked to below. Sorry for having approved your comment for publication only just now.

              I have now replied to your comment. In that reply I also explain why the approval was belated.

              • uninvolved

                Well, I’m sort of put in a position to guess what these people are talking about when they say stuff like “no worse off.” There are a few arguments that use that phrasing but they don’t refer to the same thing. There’s two possible “no worse off” arguments that come to mind as I mentioned in that post (Kamm and McMahan’s).

                But I don’t think they work because McMahan presupposes the mother is only responsible for the existence of the fetus and not the unique needy condition, and Kamm’s argument doesn’t work for the reason Kaczor outlines dealing with the counter-intuitive implications of IVF and rape cases.

                • I’m not very well-read and wasn’t aware that when they say “no worse off” they might be referring to different underlying arguments.

                  One person I encountered who argued “no worse off” kept referring to tort law and seemed to assume that a pro-life position must be based on a misunderstanding of the principles of tort law. They felt that it remained for them only to clear up the misunderstanding, and everyone would become pro-choice. So I had probably started assuming that everyone saying “no worse off” was using a framework like that of tort law.

                  If your representations of McMahan and Kamm are correct (which I have no reason to doubt), I would look at those two with this framework:

                  They encounter pro-lifers who have certain moral intuitions about the responsibility of a pregnant woman who engaged in consensual sex. Then they make up some rules about which circumstances in life can, according to them, legitimately give rise to correct moral intuitions about responsibility and which cannot (and say that the circumstance of a pregnant woman cannot). But they are selecting arbitrarily, in a way convenient for them, as to legitimate triggers for a correct moral intuition.

                  I think that only a pre-logical moral intuition can embody a sense of right or wrong. The logical part of our mind cannot care, hence cannot say “should” or “shouldn’t;” and the caring part of our mind that can say “should” or “shouldn’t” cannot use logic — it is pre-logical. But since that part of our mind is pre-logical, logic cannot convince it, for instance (as McMahan apparently would like it to) that “the unique needy condition” is not a legitimate reason for a correct moral intuition to the effect that a pregnant woman has responsibility.

                  But on the other hand, neither can logic convince the caring, should-shouldn’t part of our mind that “the unique needy condition” IS a legitimate reason for a correct moral intuition to the effect that a pregnant woman has responsibility.

                  In fact, I don’t think it’s even possible for me to know completely whether my moral intuitions are using a kind of logic at all, or if so, what logic. Suppose I am exposed for the first time to the fact that the unborn which a couple create is created in a unique needy condition, and thereafter, for the first time, I go (my moral intuition) “Oh, they do bear responsibility.” In that case I can say that probably my moral intuition is using that “unique needy” logic. But since my moral intuition, my should-shouldn’t sense, is itself pre-logical, I don’t know for sure what its provenance was. Ultimately it came out of my unconscious in some way I can’t completely understand.

                  And, I have replied to your latest comment on my blog.

  • Tim: Do you think there should be any restrictions on abortion at all? What do you think of, say, a 35-week abortion?
    —-
    It is a moot question since no abortions are performed at thirty-five weeks. But if they were, I’d say nothing has changed such that the fetus gains the right to use the pregnant person’s body without consent. Therefore if the pregnancy is unwanted, the pregnant person has the right to use any means necessary to end the nonconsensual use of her body. Game over.
    ====

    Practical Dialogue Tip #1: Turn the Tables on Pro-Choice Rhetoric
    —-
    Ah. You mean something like, “Hows does an organization dedicated to depriving pregnant people of their rights to life, liberty, and security of person; to be free from slavery; to be recognized as a person before the law; to equal protection under the law; to be free from torture; to bodily integrity; to decide when and if to have children, and to due process of law even dare call itself the ‘Equal Rights Institute'”?
    ====

    you can’t say “my body, my choice” to only justify early abortions, because late-term fetuses are still located in her body.
    —-
    About the only thing you did get right here.
    ====

    In order to justify early abortion without justifying late abortion, you need to argue that the late-term fetus is more valuable than the early-term fetus.
    —-
    It has absolutely nothing to do with the value of a late-term fetus vs. the value of an early-term fetus. If you want to justify early abortion without justifying late abortion, you need to argue that something has changed such that the fetus now has the right to use the pregnant person’s body without consent. If such an argument could be made successfully, it will have nothing to with a subjective criterion like “value.” The prenate’s “value” is completely irrelevant at any stage of pregnancy.
    ====

    I wish we had some kind of Star Trek technology to beam the fetus from the woman’s body into an artificial womb it could survive in.
    —-
    Then come back when we do have that technology.
    ====

    I’m not trying to limit her opportunities,
    —-
    Have you seen Donald Petrie’s movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. In this movie, Ben Berry’s family has a card game they like to play. I’m playing that game now and I’m calling it.
    ====

    Tim: Have you seen the Pixar movie Up?
    —-
    Nope. I don’t watch children’s movies.
    ====

    Tim: What if instead of letting Russell inside, Carl decided that taking care of the child would limit his opportunities too much, so he kicked him off the porch. Would that be his right?
    —-
    Yes. It’s his house.
    ====

    You really think Carl has the right to murder him?
    —-
    It wouldn’t be murder if Carl was using any means necessary to end the unlawful trespass against his property.
    ====

    Tim: But one minute later in the movie they go through a big storm and the house shakes like crazy. Russell would certainly fall to his death.
    —-
    So what? The kid was unlawfully trespassing on somebody’s property. He had no right to be there.
    ====

    Couldn’t we at least agree that Carl doesn’t have the right to grab a shotgun and shoot Russell?
    —-
    Was it necessary for Carl to shoot Russell to get him off the property? Because if Carl was arrested, that’s the question I’m going to be asking if I’m sitting on the jury.
    ====

    Hey, it’s really hot standing in the sun right here. Could we move under the tree?
    —-
    So you can gang up on me three-to-one like you did with this boy? No thanks. Besides, I’m a desert rat. I like the sun.
    ====

    Friends don’t argue about serious things for two hours while standing.
    —-
    You are trying to deny people their rights based on physical status. You’re no more my friend than a member of the Ku Klux Klan could be.
    ====

    But how much more obviously wrong would it be if Carl invited Russell to come over before the house lifted off? Wouldn’t Carl be even more responsible then?
    —-
    Yes, but not for the reason or to the extent you’re asserting. If Russell accepted such an invitation, he would be doing so on the understanding that Carl would return Russell safely. Carl did not have to invite Russell, but since Carl extended that invitation voluntarily, he would now be obligated to return Russell safely. To do otherwise would violate the condition which made Russell’s presence voluntary.

    OTOH, if Russell were to attach himself to Carl’s body, dampen his immune system, tap into his blood supply to obtain nutrients and oxygen, alter his brain chemistry, steal the calcium from his bones and teeth, and use his body as a toilet while at the same time causing a number of negative symptoms and side effects and increasing his risk of death and permanent disability, then we’re talking about something Carl wouldn’t have to put up with under any circumstances.
    ====

    two parties willingly engaged in an act that they knew might result in the creation of a needy child. Given that, it seems even clearer that they owe that child something minimal, something like taking care of the child until someone else can, and certainly not killing the child.
    —-
    Irrelevant. The two parties did not engage in an act that was morally (let alone legally) impermissible, nor did they harm anyone with their act. They therefore owe the “child” nothing.
    ====

    In a similar way, Carl is even more obligated to not shoot Russell with his shotgun if he invited Russell to come to his house.
    —-
    Are you a Mormon? A Hindu? A Buddhist? Come from some other tradition that teaches the antemortal existence of souls? Because that is the only way one could possibly make this argument work. Where was the “child” that it could be invited into the mother’s body? When did the pregnant person say, “Hello, please come inside?”
    ====

    Sometimes sex happens without creating a child, but anytime a child is created as a result of sex, sex is the cause.
    —-
    Nonsense. In fact, most of the time, sex does not result in creating a child. Sex may be necessary, but it is not sufficient to create a child.
    ====

    I guess the question is, given that we don’t have the Star Trek option, are we justified in killing a child in order to make our box of opportunities bigger?
    —-
    So the lack of such technology justifies depriving pregnant people of their rights?
    ====

    So for instance, John Paul here [the pro-life volunteer] is just an awful person. [John Paul and Brent laughed] He’s horrible and mean, and he makes terrible life choices, isn’t that right?
    —-
    Yes, he is. Anyone who acts to deprive people of their rights is a horrible and mean person. Nice guy facades might fool college boys, but not men.
    ====

    “Wow, my box is so much smaller than it used to be. I need to make this box bigger.” Can he kill his two-year-old?
    —-
    Is the two-year-old attached to John Paul’s body, dampening his immune system, tapping into his blood supply to obtain nutrients and oxygen, altering his brain chemistry, stealing the calcium from his bones and teeth, and using his body as a toilet while at the same time causing a number of negative symptoms and side effects and increasing his risk of death and permanent disability? If so, then John Paul can go right ahead and kill the two-year-old. Game really over.
    ====

    Practical Dialogue Tip #4: Be Funny
    —-
    Trying to deprive people of their rights to life, liberty, and security of person; to be free from slavery; to be recognized as a person before the law; to equal protection under the law; to be free from torture; to bodily integrity; to decide when and if to have children, and to due process of law IS NOT FUNNY.
    ====

    But what if he doesn’t have that option for a while? Suppose he calls the adoption agency and tells them, “You guys have to take my kid, or I’m going to kill him,” and they say, “We’re sorry, we’re all jammed up, there’s a war going on or something, we aren’t going to be able to take the kid off your hands for you for about nine months. After that, we’ll take him, so just hang in there for nine months.” Now does he have the right to kill the kid?
    —-
    Is the kid attached to John Paul’s body, dampening his immune system, tapping into his blood supply to obtain nutrients and oxygen, altering his brain chemistry, stealing the calcium from his bones and teeth, and using his body as a toilet while at the same time causing a number of negative symptoms and side effects and increasing his risk of death and permanent disability? If so, then he can go right ahead. Game really and truly over now.
    ====

    Do you think people have a fundamental right to have sex?
    —-
    I think people have a fundamental right to do what they want so long as their actions are not morally impermissible and they do not violate anyone’s rights thereby.
    ====

    I pulled in the Up story from the paper Steve Wagner of Justice For All wrote on behalf of a philosophy team that included me and Josh Brahm. While my views have evolved a bit since we published the paper two and a half years ago, I still think it’s the best pro-life essay currently out there on responding to bodily rights arguments. Read the paper De Facto Gaurdian and Abortion here or download the audio of a speech Josh Brahm gave on the same topic.
    —-
    I have a copy. I use it as an example of how sadistic you “pro-lifers” are.

  • fiona64

    It’s cute how you think that the pro-choice are as ignorant as you are …

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