Monday 21 March 2011

Harping On About The Abortion Issue

No Compromise!: But radical Pro-Choice feminist blogger The Queen of Thorns should remember that political activists who demand "All or Nothing!" almost always end up with nothing at all.

THE “QUEEN OF THORNS” described it as “Chris Trotter’s worst nightmare”. A gathering of approximately 70 “liberal lefties” who, by daring to raise the divisive issue of abortion were, to use QoT’s provocative language: “going to just ruin Labour’s chances of winning the 2011 election”.

It was a curious way of describing the participant’s objectives. A reference, I suppose, to this posting from July 2010 in which I questioned the political wisdom of Labour List MP Steve Chadwick promoting a private member’s bill legalizing abortion at the woman’s request up until the 24th week of her pregnancy.

What QoT and a host of other feminist bloggers objected to so strongly back then, and are even more vociferously opposed to now, is the notion that reforming the abortion laws might take second (or even third) place to other political considerations. I don’t believe I’m in any way misrepresenting their position when I say they consider anyone who counsels letting sleeping dogs lie on this issue as “objectively” (if I may resurrect that fine example of Leninist jargon) locating themselves in the anti-abortionist camp.

There’s a bullying aspect to this style of politics which takes me all the way back to the late 1970s – when the only acceptable position for a man to adopt in relation to feminist political priorities was one of enthusiastic and unquestioning support. (As I scrolled down the hundreds of passionate comments elicited by QoT’s posting, I must confess to experiencing a wave of nostalgia for those ideologically invigorating times.) But nostalgia is no substitute for hard-headed political analysis. Abject surrender to ideological extremism and political solipsism is no more intelligent now than it was 40 years ago.

It is worth re-stating, therefore, that the heedless pursuit of abortion on demand could very easily prove counter-productive. There was – and is – absolutely no guarantee that kicking these sleeping dogs into angry wakefulness will result in them sinking their teeth into the forces of conservatism. As the recent, extraordinary, Section 59 acquittal made depressingly clear, social liberalism is on the retreat in New Zealand. If QoT and her comrades put their boots into the Rottweilers of Reaction they may very soon find these no-longer-sleeping canines at their throats.

As usual, the United States points the way when it comes to reactionary political trends. Before embarking on their crusade for abortion law reform in New Zealand, QoT and her friends should first consider the implications of the sudden and dramatic collapse of support for the “Pro-Choice” position in the USA.

As recently as May 2006 the Gallup Poll showed that 51 percent of Americans considered themselves to be Pro-Choice, with only 41 percent declaring themselves to be “Pro-Life”. By May 2009 the position had been almost exactly reversed with the Pro-Lifers on 51 percent and the Pro-Choicers on 42 percent. The Gallup pollsters also asked respondents to tell them whether they personally believed abortion to be morally acceptable or morally wrong. In 2006 43 percent believed abortion to be morally acceptable and 44 percent said it was morally wrong. By 2009, abortion’s moral acceptability had fallen to 36 percent, with those believing it to be morally wrong rising to 56 percent of the Gallup sample.

More recent polling (January 2011) by the Pew Research Centre shows the overwhelming majority of Americans positioning themselves in the middle of this issue. Only 18 percent of respondents believed abortion should be “legal in all cases”, with just 16 percent willing to declare it “illegal in all cases”.

New Zealand is not the USA and I must be cautious about extrapolating too freely from the opinions of Americans. What I can say, however, is that the political strategists of the Right, both in the United States and New Zealand, have demonstrated a far greater talent for the prosecution of “wedge politics” than the Left. The latter could once rely upon the so-called “liberal media” to carry its arguments to the public. But is that still the case today? Whose arguments do we hear most clearly in the 21st Century? Something tells me that in the age of Fox News – it ain’t the Left’s.

It’s all too easy for QoT to come out swinging at the liberal and left-wing contributors to The Standard (and Bowalley Road). Let’s see how far her expletives-included, take-no-prisoners tactics get her in the mainstream media.

The brute political fact remains that if New Zealand is not to experience another blitzkrieg of neoliberal “reform” in 2012, a combination of centrist and left-wing parties will have to secure more seats in the House of Representatives than the parties of the Right in 2011. Perhaps, if Labour and the Greens between them were in a position to form a government, abortion law reform could form part of either, or both, parties’ manifestoes. Unfortunately, a Centre-Left victory is almost certain to depend on NZ First crossing the 5 percent threshold. The socially conservative supporters of Winston Peters seem unlikely partners in any abortion law reform initiative.

Is QoT really so willing to abandon solo mums and their kids to the tender mercies of the two Paulas? Is she really so impervious to the argument that the consequences of unemployment and poverty will fall most heavily on women and children? If politics is about priorities, is she really so sure that abortion law reform comes ahead of protecting what’s left of the New Zealand welfare state?

Even some of her own supporters don’t think so. I’m thinking of a prominent feminist blogger who was recently elected to public office. In her election propaganda she described herself as a “mother” and declared her commitment to building “strong communities”. Nowhere in any of the material distributed to the electors did she inform them that she was an active left-wing trade unionist and a vehement supporter of abortion on demand.

In the deeply conservative part of New Zealand in which she was standing, keeping these facts from the voting public made perfect political sense. Had she been completely honest with the electors they almost certainly would have rejected her.

But that’s politics QoT. To get some things you have to give others away. Political activists who demand “All or Nothing!” almost always end up with nothing at all.

Your sister-in-arms understood that, QoT.

It’s time you learned.


Anonymous said...

The abortion argument is the logical outcome of the ideological victory of individualism and "property rights" and has always resembled a drunken pub brawl over a meat pack: one mob screaming for the right to burn it, the other side spitting "waste" while content to let it rot if "spared".

Neoliberalism's ugly offspring; spoiled brats clawing and gouging over a priceless gift that neither values.


Victor said...

Beautifully put, ak.

I've been wondering ever since some time in the late 1960s why both sides of this non-debate turn my stomach. And you've just explained it!

The only argument I have with you is that some of the spoiled brats pre-date neo-liberalism. In fact they were its harbingers.

Nick said...

ak / Victor, priceless like the gift. I have been highly critical of the rational materialist arguments of hard line neo libs / socialists / conservatives etc. All using logic from premises positioned according to their creed.

Lew said...

The obvious rejoinder to your last par, Chris, is that "nothing" is precisely what the past generation of soft-pedalling on abortion has gotten women who would rather elderly Christian men and sanctimonious moralisers of the modern-day temperance unions would butt out of their reproductive systems. The 1977 Act remains in force.

Because, AK and Victor, that is what's at stake here -- it's not about babies; it's not about the moral righteousness of society, it's not about the decline of Christianity or the rise of neoliberalism -- it's about people not being forced to submit their dignity, self-regard, mental health status and most private bodily functions to the scrutiny and wishes of sundry others.

If your generation genuinely believed that insisting on "hands off my vagina" being enshrined in law is of no value, and makes the women of 2011 who are no longer content to tolerate the lassitude of their older generations in calling for it -- if you genuinely regard these women as a "drunken mob" of "spoiled brats" and "neoliberalism's ugly offspring", then I reckon a few of them -- and indeed, a few of us -- would be happy to say "to the wall with the lot of you dinosaurs".

But I'm pretty sure you don't really think that. Do you?


Lew said...

All that having been said, I agree on the matter of electoral strategy. But this isn't really an electoral strategy we're seeing -- Q isn't, as far as I know, standing for office or setting Labour or Green party policy, after all. It's a radicalisation and agenda-setting strategy to force the debate into the public sphere, to force political actors who've gotten away with mostly ignoring the issue for a generation to take a position, and to try to shift the balance of the debate.

In this regard it's not far from the sorts of tactics you've praised before, Chris -- taking overtly antagonistic positions toward Māori, embracing Winston Peters and advocating a wholesale abandonment of the so-called Third Way. All incredibly risky propositions, electorally speaking; all morally and ideologically divisive -- the major categorical difference is that they push your buttons, as opposed to the buttons of some other crowd of people whose agenda you see as being in competition with yours.


Chris Trotter said...

"To the wall", Lew?

I knew it was a mistake using that Leninist jargon - it's catching.

McFlock said...

So in order for women to be able to obtain an abortion without pretending to be crazy, they need to shut up and hope that Labour brown-bag it their way sometime after the election? The so-called "Labour" party that trod water for 9 years, while Key has reversed much of its progress in 2?

And after Labour get elected, what then? If it's not labour policy it will require lobbying. Or will that get in the way of their declared policy, if they want to work cooperatively with more conservative MPs? So maybe for the next election? Or after?

While you might say QoT uses naughty words (none that I haven't heard in some worksites, but never mind. "Tinker's cuss", "swear like a navvy", and all that), I think that's a distraction. Your argument doesn't seem to be that pro-choice activists should act like ladies and wear chiffon, it seems to be that they shouldn't be active at all.

Someone who is an occasional supporter of the left summed it up in reasonably picturesque language:

"Because if being on the Left means waiting for the "right time" to fight for your principles, then, as the hero of Howard Spring's wonderful political novel, Fame Is The Spur, discovered, when the fight comes to you, the bright sword of principle can no longer be drawn. Through all those years, while you were waiting for the "right time", the sword's blade was rusting fast to the scabbard."

Oh, that's right - it was you.

TidgeH said...

What Lew and McFlock said. This post, and the intro provided to QoT's piece by The Standard are so incredibly dispiriting, in so many ways.
If not now, when? And even if abortion is a divisive issue (although I think your discussion of US stats is, as you say yourself, less than useful - we ain't that far gone, yet), it's not like Labour have much further to fall re: popularity anyway, much as I'd like the opposite to be true.

Tess Simpson said...

It's nice to see that being patronising hasn't died out among the left. Talking to QOT like she's a stupid child isn't going to win YOU any fans. It just shows how out of touch you are with a lot of young people on the left.

"You're hurting the cause" seems to be the thrust of your argument. An argument I think QOT's (and mine, I guess) "Sisters in arms" would have recognised.

Anonymous said...

Shutting up and going away about abortion is not the only "logical" outcome of your arguments, Chris. How about we run a smart campaign about modernising the legislation with a range of voices in a range of settings but all committed to a more progressive law? So the wonderful QoT does her thing at the Standard, and the more moderate voice of the movement speaks here

Unknown said...

TidgeH said: "it's not like Labour have much further to fall re: popularity anyway"

Well, exactly: Labour alienated the right of the party with the Civil Union Bill and the so-called anti-smacking laws. Labour is haemorrhaging people on the left (especially young, energetic, committed activists). All Labour has to gain is some of those young energetic people - and, if they can force National into opposing reform and if Labour can really get the message out, quite a lot of women who voted National last election. If Labour can't get the message out ... well, that's sort of their job, isn't it? It's not our fault this is a so-called "economy election"; that's Labour's bad management right there.

But the fact is that we can't wait on this. We can't sit around and be silent. Because the (mostly) men who decide what policy is important don't think the issue is urgent. It's not as urgent as taxation. It's not as urgent as debt. It's not as urgent as borrowing to fund tax cuts. It's not as urgent as global warming. It's not as urgent as "catching up" with Australia.

It's, really, when you get right down to it - is the indignity and humiliation forced on women every day as urgent? No - even though we could remove it all with a single bill - what's really urgent is another tiny, incremental change in taxation that might, possibly, maybe, slightly affect the class system.

Abortion's not urgent.

Tell that to the woman who just missed her period.

Gravey said...

What I find so interesting is how many comments have not been published - or more precisely whose comments have not been published.

Chris - you say "some of her own supporters don't think so" as if all feminists are supposed to all agree with each other. If so, that simply demonstrates the type of prejudice against feminists I see every day.

And any argument about the **popularity** of abortion rights is completely irrelevant. We are in the midst of something of a resurgence in moralism. It still doesn't make the popular views right.

And what, exactly, is the problem with her profanity? Is it again a marker of the neo-moralists or just a view that good girls don't swear? Because that sure as heck is seen often enough at The Standard. As McFlock says, comments about profanity are merely a distraction.

"Had she been completely honest with the electors" Let me get this straight - honesty and elections. Can anyone see a problem here? Isn't politics all about getting your way? I never knew honesty formed any part in politics.

I am surprised you would use a poll as any part of an argument. What if the poll had asked whether or not women should be forced to do things with their bodies that they did not wish to?

Anonymous said...

You selectively (negatively) interpret the Pew poll, Chris. If you were to add it up actually says 54% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That's solid support. Did you know that in New Zealand, rape is not a ground for abortion? (Why not? Because the "Royal" Commission decided too many women would lie about having been raped in order to get abortions.) So now, instead, we have to lie about our mental health. We are NOT the U.S. If you're looking back to the 70s and 80s wars in NZ as your guide, the U.S. import Operation Rescue sank like a stone here in the late 80s because those tactics didn't really appeal to "middle" NZ. I repeat: we are not the U.S. so trying to scare us into doing nothing by pointing to the U.S. is a reach. I think what is more telling about U.S. v. NZ is what Jill Stanek, an anti-abortion activist wrote on her blog about her recent tour of NZ courtesy of one of our well-funded anti-choice groups. (quote below) Among the points of note are (a) that the touring americans had to tone down the God talk and (b) that their primary target seems to be pro-choice activists. Which is why we need the support of liberal bloggers like you. Why won't you support us? I've resisting feeling that you're no long on 'our' side, and now you'll just call me a bully. But, Chris, we are so so so used to our reproductive rights always being the first thing traded away because of the electoral danger. I'm so disappointed that you have bought into that approach. This will ALWAYS be a tough issue, but surely you could at least support the women and men brave enough to fight for it in the face not just of anti-choice activism, but the kind of "let's trade it away" "not now" cowardice that is perhaps, I'm starting to think, the biggest hurdle we face.

Anyway, here's the promised Jill Stanek excerpt: (From JillStanek[dot]com)

"NZ is very secular, so there has been concern about bringing too much
God into our speeches for fear of alienating prospects and being
dismissed by the media. Bryan and I have tried to strike a balance
without completely gutting our testimonies of their most important
The other prob in NZ is cultural apathy about abortion. The country is
also very PC, even more so than the US. I realize now looking at us
from the outside that American pro-lifers are quite boisterous and
assertive compared to some others, a foreign but attractive concept to
pro-lifers here trying to launch an activist spirit.
We told them we by no means have all the answers. After all,
American’s abortion rate is just a smidge lower than NZ’s. There is
certainly much for all of us to learn from one another. But American
pro-life activists are definitely on the offensive, both overtly and
subversively attempting to make pro-aborts miserable at every turn,
along with everything else we have going on to stop abortion. “No
justice, no peace” is the favorite motto of many of us.”
Signed: Alison

Anonymous said...

A bit sad to see you stoop to deliberate metaphor misinterpretation there Lew - but it's that cool "private bodily function" desecration that really numbs the old spine. Heard it plenty before of course, in the heat of the early brawls, but if it's now a definitive attitude of your generation, then don't worry, that wall you speak of suddenly seems quite attractive.

And before you assume, this dinosaur's had more intimate and ongoing association with women all the way through termination (and it's often a very long beyond)than you've had...."private bodily functions".

You're right, it's not about ancient morality, but it sure as heck aint just "bodily" either: and a society that fosters such massive decisions - via the socio-economic conditions and value-judgements it creates - then casualises and isolates them to a contrived support-free "privacy" construct, deserves the Michael Laws soul and viciously-spiralling "bodily function" hell it has created. That aside, how's things?


Victor said...


I'm not clever enough to know the point at which human life comes into being. But I'm bright enough to know that it's a question that needs to be asked and that the answer isn't self-evident.

Nor do I know at what point abortion becomes homicide. But, obviously, the commission of homicide would be a rather more important matter than anyone's "dignity, self-regard, mental health status" etc.

I'm not an 'anti-abortionist', a 'pro-lifer' or whatever else they call themselves. I find their prim certitudes as questionable as yours.

I've been listening to the polemics (and worse)being tossed backwards and forwards for the last half century and I've yet to hear either camp of fundamentalists seriously address the concerns of their opponents. And yet they are serious concerns.

Your own contribution has been to add homicidal ageism to the unsavoury rhetorical mix. It really fails to impress.

Anonymous said...

Chris, Lew and Gravey - you have proven yourselves morally bankrupt. All three of you approvingly cite the "prominent feminist blogger who was recently elected to public office" who "Had she been completely honest with the electors [about her vehement support of abortion on demand] they almost certainly would have rejected her". Shocking and shameful.

At some point, politics has to be about listening to, and representing the views of the public. Lying to the public to get elected, then sneaking through your agenda (whether pro-abortion or any other agenda), and hoping the public will accept it, is the lowest form of politics. That is largely why Sue Bradford is so despised for her S59 - because she rammed it through against the clearly proven will of the public.

Other than that, I agreed with the tenor of your post Chris (though not your position on abortion) - Queen of Thorns was obnoxious and trolled her own guest post at The Standard. If a bloke commented that way on, say, the Hand Mirror, they would be censored straight away. You cannot bully all of NZ to get your position forced through QoT.

And none of that even addresses the issue of abortion - which shows how counter-productive to democracy QoT's rant was. Just ask Michael Laws, Queenie...

Mad Marxist.

Boganette said...

"Nowhere in any of the material distributed to the electors did she inform them that she was an active left-wing trade unionist and a vehement supporter of abortion on demand" - except that she blogs about abortion rights in her own name. And has done presentations on abortion law reform in her own name. And talks about her job and what it's like being a working mother on her blog.

Listen Papa Bear - before you get all the little lady bloggers to sit down and learn the way of the moustache can I teach you about this thing called Google? It's pretty amazing. You type in someone's name, like, say a "prominent feminist blogger who was recently elected to public office" and Google gives you a heap of information about that person, like maybe their Facebook page where they link and write about issues that are important to them, and their blog, as they don't write under an pseudonym. Or maybe to their presentations on issues that are important to them/gasp/abortion law reform(also presented in their own name) or their blogs at other blogs about/gasp/abortion law reform(also blogged in their own name). Are you following me? Or was I too shrill just then?

That attempt at bullying kind of backfired didn't it?

Also, "abortion on demand" isn't the big, scary thing you think it is. It just means you're pro-choice and think the best person to decide if a woman has an abortion or not is the pregnant woman. In terms of you being pro-choice? I don't think you understand what the term means. It doesn't mean "will allow women to have abortions if they fit my criteria for women who are allowed to have abortions - which changes if they're in an election year".

I'll let QoT deal with your comments to her. I think it's cute you're so desperate for her attention. You could learn a lot from her so thanks for giving her another platform to share her wisdom.

Lew said...

AK and Victor -- oh, so you don't really think that. Just more florid rhetoric of the sort you claim to despise. As I suspected.

Anonymous, I don't know what you're on about. I made no mention of the "prominent feminist blogger", who is most assuredly not QoT. I make no comment on that person's political strategy except to say "it's her own".


Tiger Mountain said...

As a male with a marxist world view I emphatically call for abortion on demand and have personally supported women friends that have had to deal with the current ugly system.

I used to think men should butt out this argument except to offer solidarity unless they had somehow developed the ability to bear children themselves. I don’t now though, after seeing the disuniting effect of identify politics since the 80s. The more people exempted from being able to benefit from collective action, the closer we get to the neo con dream of the society of individuals. Little in common bar getting to the mall on time.

State and religious control over women is another layer of oppression that all leftists should be against.

With Paula and Paula and the WWG suggesting compulsory contraception for women in receipt of a DPB, is just talking about abortion going to lose an election for Labour? Might do if they adopted QOT’s position as policy. Which is highly unlikely this year. Unfairly the WWG ‘eugenics’ whisper meanwhile would probably gain a few votes for the Natz from their lovely supporters.

It took Sue Bradford a decade to get the S59 legislative change, but kiwis still want the right to beat their kids, even if a lot don’t actually do it, they bizarrely want the ‘right’ to. But such is the long road of the activist. It is time for abortion on demand to be on the front burner again.

Mike said...

I read QOT's comments about you, Chris. I'm afraid this individual is sick and needs medical help. If this individual had any sane ideas they were surely lost in a deluge of filthy language and misanthrophy.

Victor said...


AK is a separate entity to myself and an entity that I have never collided with other than on this website.

But I must admit that he (she?) has a fine line in invective.

And it seems to me that a certain sort of secular humanist (such as yourself?), who blithely ignores inconvenient ethical conundrums, is a fit subject for such treatment.

A significant point is that AK merely wishes to expose you to ridicule and I want the right to laugh at his/her rumbustuous wit but you want to shoot him or her....and me.

Is that because we're also inconvenient?

Anonymous said...

I was one of the 1970s women who started on one side of the abortion debate and ended up on the other. What I discovered as many women did in those days of the despicable Air Commodore Gill, the then minister of health, was that it was an issue that women should debate and decide and even though the anti- and pro-women fought over many things it became the one thing that united us all - that men had no place in this and that they had done a particularly bad job of it till then.
Chris, you dismiss that solidarity with women too lightly.
We will want your support on the sidelines. But yes, if we have to,we will unite sufficiently to push men out of this issue.
Back in the 1970s men kept telling us that there were more important issues to fight and that we shouldn't upset the majority of voters. You are arguing the old timeworn rubbish of that era.
And yes, we the second wave of feminists, will come out to support the third wave in their new abortion fight even if we decry their swearing.

Lew said...

Victor, no, I have no will at all to send you and AK to the wall -- only that if your attitude towards those fighting for their own sorts of change is to belittle and criticise and shame and shut 'em down, then you're very likely of little further use to the progressive left.

I grouped your views because they are so similar, and your contribution was largely an echo of AK's. He does indeed have poetry in his fingertips.

I've spent huge amounts of time researching and understanding the abortion debate. It's one of a handful of battleground topics which need to be understood, because the issues in play speak to so much else in politics and society. My own personal position is much less absolute than that of QoT.(Briefly: medical science gives us a strong steer as to the ethical tipping point when a pregnancy moves from being strictly personal to having more broadly societal importance: the limit of viability. Much, much more discussion of my views can be found in comments to this post). I'm also pretty well across the other issues (religious, psychological, sociological, etc) in play, and having been involved in the births of my own little monsters, I have a small inkling about the experiential aspects as well.

So don't misread my rejection of your frankly obscene "Papa knows best" attitude -- whether 'Papa' represents the patriarchal views of the generations now largely beyond reproduction in any case, or the views of the bloke with the big beard in the sky -- as a matter of ignorance. I'm cognisant of these arguments, I just don't reckon they should hold all that much weight.

But bigger than my own view on the topic is the importance of the right to activism, and the right for broadly left-aligned and progressive causes to call on the wider left for support. This isn't an ironclad right; as we thrashed over during the Hobbit protests, my view is that movements which act without mandate aren't necessarily entitled to broader support. But the prochoice lobby in discussion here isn't claiming to speak for you -- it's claiming to speak for itself and its members. In many ways it is like any other self-determination movement: people fighting for their rights, in this case, to self-determination for their vaginas, and for those of their mothers, sisters and daughters. If you support workers' rights to self-determination via collective action; indigenous self-determination via legal process; and the self-determination of all people in society to fight for whatever causes they want to fight for, it's on you to explain why you don't support this one.

You don't have to support this movement, but unless you're prepared to advance a cogent argument in support of a collective societal property right to women's vaginas, you should probably just get out of the way.


Sanctuary said...

I decided not to bother with this discussion at the standard. This is because QoT is clearly completely bonkers.

The whole thing will be forgotten in a few weeks, except for an echo chamber of so-called feminists with enormous chips on their shoulders that is even smaller (if possible) than the hard line libertarians.

Victor said...


I glad I'm safe from your bullets. Your invective I can take in good stride, even though it's not as witty as ak's.

I'm not actually all that worried being told that I'm of no use to the 'Progressive Left' as I don't consider myself part thereof.

But if I was on the Progressive Left, I might take issue with your abrogation of the right to determine membership.

What I do worry about is your characterisation of my views as "obscene". Is that just another way of saying that I disagree with you?

I suspect I've written nothing as obscene as your "to the wall" nonsense, which you've now timidly and belatedly rescinded.

Nor do I know why you chose to characterise my views as "Papa knows best".

At no time have I ducked argument or insisted on any greater authority than you or any other poster.

Or is it simply the fact that, because I'm a bit older than you, I'm not permitted to have views of my own, unless they happen to coincide with yours.

Whichever way I look at it, Lew, you seem to be a pretty doctrinaire ageist. Well, at least you're not packing a fire-arm!

And, if you don't mind, I'll be the person who decides when I get out of the way. And I'll reserve the right to laugh when I want to, even if it is at you!

And, now, I really am going to duck further argument as other contributers to this thread probably aren't interested in our little spat and, being 'old', my RSI is setting in.

Lew said...

Victor, oh, of course you get to decide whether or not you get out of the way, and to laugh as long and as loud as you like. Let me be clear: I have no beef with old people, views or not; only old people who seek to force their generations' views on the rest of us.

But if 'obscene' isn't the word for grizzled patriarchs battling for the power exerted by the society you control over the reproductive agency of today's women -- what is?


Chris Trotter said...

"The society you control"!?

To which I (and I'm sure Victor) would say: "If only!"

And to which QoT would no doubt add: "God forbid!"

cbmilne33 said...

I did note that Steve Chadwicks support for abortion on demend has been answered by the Tories who are asking that if killing babies is a fundamental human right then why are we wasting time and money on the DPB,etc.

Lew said...

Oh, but you do, Chris. You, of course, would argue that it's the blokes with the bowler hats, rather than the cloth caps, who're running this show.

But as Tiger Mountain has pointed out here, and your sometime commenter here RedLogix said at The Standard, the sad truth is that when it comes to this issue, you're on the same side as them.


Victor said...




The battle to always have the last word is a futile one.

But I do rather like your hopelessly inaccurate caricature of me. It's given my ego quite a boost.

And now I really must go because the Neo-Liberals have ensured that I can't get ACC for OOS.

Anonymous said...

"...old people who seek to force their views on us"

Eh? Force? Can't speak for Victor (thanks for those compliments both of you by the way, admire you both for your wonderful clarity and breadth), but I tautoko his last comment; the obscene papa bears who should be shot or moving on seemed to be all lumbering from one direction Lew, (unless the word "resembles" in my intial comment is a mirage of course, in which case apologies).

To rephrase that initial point, in gray this time, it's not the argument, Lew; it's the fact, and the way, that you're arguing.

I'll respect the grizzlies sufficient to join in when they vote and act - really act - to support those babies that they claim to love: while their beamers cruise past the foodbank to tory meetings, they're just poor, frightened liars; jammed tight in their hypocrisy by the twin evils of Old Church and mammon.

And I'll respect the harpies when they do the same for the women they claim to love: and I'll listen past the hate when they produce one, just one, of sound current mind and circumstance who can sit with child on knee, look me in the eye and say "Yes. I really do wish the law had let me go the other way."

Meanwhile, with the rest of the population, I look away with heavy heart and yearn for the sound of children's laughter.


Armchair Critic said...

Perhaps you would be so good as to clear up what you actually think about the need to update the law on abortion, Chris. As opposed to having a crack at the contents of a post elsewhere in the blogosphere. And quite a tangential one, at that.
Abortion law shouldn't be updated because the left might lose the election?
Abortion law shouldn't be updated because polling in the USA shows decreasing support in the USA? Or because "social liberalism is on the retreat in NZ?"
Abortion law shouldn't be changed because its supporters use too many words you think are naughty?
No one should advocate for abortion law reform because they probably won't get everything they want?
Abortion law shouldn't be reformed because you know a supporter of reform who was elected to public office in a conservative area without campaigning on the issue?
None of these are credible. This isn't an argument about whether abort should be legal or not - it is legal already. The laws are degrading to women. Your light dismissal of a serious iniquity is a disgrace.
ak - just for you tomorrow I will sit my daughter on my knee and tell her that (a) I'm glad the option to terminate the pregnancy (which, eventually, resulted in her birth) was available, because being pro-choice is being in favour of the right to choose, and (b) I'll tell her I will support politicians that openly support reform of abortion laws, so that if she ever needs an abortion she does not need to tell two doctors that she is crazy.
She is three, so she probably won't understand. I'm of sound mind.

Tess Simpson said...

"Meanwhile, with the rest of the population, I look away with heavy heart and yearn for the sound of children's laughter."

How laughably melodramatic. With the "rest of the population?" At the risk of anecdata, ,most of the people I know are pro-choice.

Wanting abortion rights =/= killing all the babies, ever. The real reason you don't hear kids laughing these days is that they're all inside playing on Xbox.

Victor said...

The wizened one returns!

Lew, your protestations about not being an ageist are about as convincing as those of members of the Apartheid era Broderbund about not being racists.

It pores from phrase after phrase. I was, for example, particularly struck by your reference to the "reproductive agency of today's women".

Are women who are past reproductive age not also "today's women"?

It is the greatest privilege of my life to share it with one such and, last time I saw her (about five minutes ago), she was still breathing and looked good for another 20 years, which I sincerely hope she will share with me, despite my wizenedness.

Did she cease to be one of "today's women" when she passed the age of reproduction? Did she cease to be a woman?

Is she, like me, only allowed to have views of her own if she applies to you in advance for approval?

Or is she only allowed to have views on a series of issues pre-determined by you as appropriate to her age group?

If that's the case, the least you could do is to butt out of any discussions on superannuation, palliative health care for the middle aged and older etc.

But that's not the way Democracy is meant to work. We're meant to be equal citizens with an equal right to interest ourselves in any area of public policy. I had a father (and you may have had a grandfather or great grandfather) who spent six years in uniform to ensure, amongst other things, that we preserved that right.

Yet the thing that most amazes me about your hate-filled invective is that I haven't actually expressed a concrete opinion on abortion policy, merely about the way in which the argument tends to be conducted and, latterly about your all too apparent ageism.

Had I expressed such an opinion, you might have discovered that I'm far from the opinion that the current legislation needs altering in a more restrictive direction.

The big difference between us, however, is neither age nor beliefs, but your all consuming self-importance and self-righteousness and your paranoid silliness about an allegedly all-powerful older generation. I wonder what Freud would have made of you?

And, no, I'm not a typical patriarchal Freudian, either!

Victor said...

I'm sorry, 'grizzled' not 'wizened' was the particular form of hate speech you used, Lew.

Same principle though!

Lew said...

Victor, I've got an irony overdose from being condemned as ageist by someone whose opening comment on this thread was an endorsement of the description "Neoliberalism's ugly offspring; spoiled brats clawing and gouging over a priceless gift that neither values", containing the words "The only argument I have with you is that some of the spoiled brats pre-date neo-liberalism. In fact they were its harbingers." Do you need irony supplements?

While my wording was perhaps not very clear, I'm actually not among the cohort of those under 40 who blames the baby boomers for all that's wrong with the world. My point was that many of those on my side of this abortion debate are, and they will gleefully add such ill-considered positions and rhetoric as those I've quoted to the litany of complaints I'm sure I don't have to enumerate for your benefit.


Victor said...


My understanding of ak's initial point is that he was lambasting (in his own rumbustuous way) two sets of opinionated people for their (to his and my view)myopic attitudes.

My point was simply that these attitudes pre-date neo-liberalism, form part of its cultural background and are not generation specific.

Be that as it may, attitudes are things you can change. That means that even savage wit at their expense is in a different category to making an issue of people's ethnicity, pigmentation, age, health status, social origins, sex or gender preference.

But the latter is what you have engaged in with respect to age, using the vocabulary of visceral hatred in the process.

Meanwhile, I don't know which, if either of us, needs irony supplements but you would surely benefit from a humility transplant.

You're really not that important that you can decide what people should have views about and/or the age at which they should be allowed to hold them.

Nor are you in a position to decide who is one of 'today's' people and who isn't.

Or did you really not mean to write these things, just as you (by your own belated admission) didn't mean to suggest that some people who disagree with you should be shot?

Do your fingers just slide across the keyboard and choose letters to type without any conscious volition on your part?

Anyhow, let's for a moment, play with the idea that you actually mean what you write (a reasonable assumption, don't you think?):

When I come up against a racist, sexist, homophobe, Antisemite, Islamophobe or Neo-liberal victim-blamer, I recognise that, however obscene their views, they may not be wholly to blame for holding them, as they're in the grip of some well-oiled prejudice that's almost a 'meme' of our civilization.

I'm afraid that excuse won't wash for peddlers of new hatreds. Nor is it any excuse that others are worse than you are.

I'm happy to end this rather tedious exchange of polemics and extend the hand of cyber-friendship to you. Apart from anything else, it's becoming a bit of an abuse of Chris's hospitality.

But can you please give some thought to the notion that people who don't agree 100% with you aren't all fools, rogues or irretrievably damned by some involuntary characteristic, for which they deserve to be pilloried.

And, if I have been guilty of the same fault, whether intentionally or by unintended inference, I most certainly apologise.

Lew said...

Good grief, Victor, of course I don't presume to proscribe anyone's beliefs -- only to reserve my own views on them. Take them for what they're worth to you. And I certainly don't consider anyone irretrievably damned; for one thing, AK is a family friend whom I know to be a thoroughly good man; and for another, despite my extensive differences with Chris -- much more virulently expressed by both of us than on this thread -- I'm still here, and for the most part discoursing civilly, right?

In any case, I agree we should wind it back, and apologise for my part in winding it up.


Victor said...

Fair enough, Lew


Allie said...

Chris, did you notice that you've put quote marks around pro-life and not around pro-choice? I was just wondering if there was a reason for this or if it was accidental? (This sounds like a question with a challenge hidden in it. It's not. I'm just very interested at the moment in the abortion debate and how both sides are represented.)

Anonymous said...

"people fighting for their rights, in this case, to self-determination for their vaginas, and for those of their mothers, sisters and daughters."

Sorry for the ignorance, but what on earth has this got to do with the abortion debate. Surely the right to self determination for their vaginas precedes the issue of abortion. While it takes two to tango a little more self determination and the abortion issue is much less likely to arise. The big problem with abortion is not related to a womens right to choose, but the consequences of that choice. In demanding your own rights you are denying another human being their right to life and self determination.

And on the other topic, its is no wonder we rank the trustworthiness of politicians down there with used car salesmen.I wonder if any of them remember this is supposed to be a representative democracy, not an opportunity to push a private agenda.

Chris Trotter said...

The simple answer, Allie, is that the term Pro-Choice is, to my eyes at least, no more than a factual description of its protagonists' position. "Pro-Life", on the other hand, is as tendentious as it is dishonest, since it's protagonists also tend to be advocates for the death penalty and reflexive supporters of US-sponsored wars.

Or, I might just have forgotten ;-)

Allie said...

I've been thinking about what you said, Chris (in above comment), and I think that that statement itself is very tendentious.

It also riles me up. Hence the ranty blog post: