A rare Internet discussion where both sides prove their point

One of my most favorite and most unproductive things to do is argue on the Internet with people, and I know it’s so, but it feels productive in the sense that I better understand why I feel the way I do. Occasionally, I much later change my mind when I recall some argument without first remembering which side of it I was on.

One of the worst ever to get involved in is abortion because it is not the sort of thing that will resolve in common understanding. I used to wear a T-shirt I made that said ‘LEGALIZE ABORTION’ because that was the joke. It would be like a shirt that said, ‘BAN MARIJUANA’. Back then, both already were common policy and said nothing more than STATUS QUO.

But recently, I engaged with someone on Twitter on the subject of reproductive autonomy and made many mistakes but (of course) don’t feel that I was wrong.

The major mistake I made was not recognizing how the person I talked to had latched on to an age that was not rationally important to what I was saying but definitely was viscerally: 10-year-olds should have access to long-lasting contraceptives. Really, I meant anyone with internal reproductive systems should be able to have access to it as soon as they begin puberty and are at risk of becoming pregnant. But the person I talked to fixated on the example age, and I should have given them an off-ramp so their automatic emotional defenses could lower.

The second mistake was to allow any snideness or attack to creep in to what I said. To have a productive discussion with anyone, you can’t call into question their motives, even if their motives have changed throughout the conversation.

Beyond that, what follows won’t be decisive or much use to anyone else, and I’m sure many have had it before, but I was surprised by how quickly someone went from believing that unborn lives were preeminent to finding reasons to prefer everything else.

HUMAN 0
The Republican party has decided to destroy itself. Sane Republicans should become “fiscal Democrats”. It’s okay to worry about the national debt and believe in states’ rights. Democrats barely have a position on that. Come on over.

HUMAN 1
You guys spent too long calling conservatives evil, and the rhetoric only increased when we lost our party. Democrats won’t embrace anyone who can get conservative votes anymore.

Well, segregationists are no longer welcome in the Democratic Party, nationally, regionally, or at any local level I’m aware of. Restricting bodily autonomy without consent is mostly off the list, too. But making government work better is a matter of good faith, fair debate.

HUMAN 1
Segregationists aren’t conservative.

Also, coming from the idea that conservatives just want to enslave the uterus instead of approaching it as a genuine concern for the lives of children is the opposite of good faith.

By any definition, segregationists were conservatives. It’s why the unrepentant like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms were happy to find a home with likeminded people in the Republican Party once the Democrats became too ‘liberal’ on race after 1964, and why people like William F. Buckley were happy to have them.

Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with having the personal view life begins at conception, but Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t try to ban other people from getting blood transfusions because they believe it’s immoral.

As a movement, conservatives are also, for varying reasons, against providing effective, long-lasting contraceptives. It’s not a slur to say that’s because their focus is on control of others’ uteruses and punishing sex more than protecting life.

HUMAN 1
If you had a deep-seated belief that murder was being committed, would you not attempt to stop it?

HUMAN 0
You guys must be hell on IVF facilities. It’s practically genocide all those frozen embryos.

HUMAN 1
Honestly? They disturb me. But convenience abortions are currently a more pressing issue.

My main concern is that the left can’t seem to come from the idea that pro-life is genuine as opposed to some vast insane conspiracy designed to push us into the Handmaid’s Tale.

Genuine is not relevant. Personal or religious belief isn’t sufficient argument to civil society. Abraham may well have heard voice of God say, ‘Sacrifice your child!’ but were we to run across a man today holding knife to son’s throat, we’d dare not trust his faith or revelation.

If some sect genuinely believes that cremation is murder because it prevents the final resurrection of the dead, or that anything except sky burial traps the soul for eternity, this is not—on its own—cause to force some funeral rite on others.

Some group cannot appeal solely to their beliefs to say using pills to interrupt natural menstruation is murder or that eating cattle is murder or that the breath of life doesn’t enter till 30 days after birth, for that matter, and force those beliefs on others.

HUMAN 1
Okay then. When does life begin, in your estimation? Be specific, lives are at stake.

Short version: It’s entirely arbitrary, but birth is a useful dividing line because it’s stark; moreover, it has some sense because, biologically, it’s when fetus stops metabolically behaving like an organ to resemble its own being.

But try the long version.

HUMAN 1
So birth. Babies are only people when they’re born. Before that, it isn’t murder to ram scissors in their heads. A location change of 8 inches.

Yes? It’s also not murder to stab a human after they’ve stopped breathing for 10 min or kill a pig more capable of experiencing suffering than are some humans

It isn’t illegal to drink at 21 years old but it is at 20 years 364 days

Law is always arbitrary and unfair at margins.

HUMAN 1
I guess I’d rather err on the side of not murdering babies. If that’s your money after then I’m sorry, the conservatives that Trump drove out won’t be coming to you.

We could reduce terminated pregnancies by more than half (at minimum) with subsidized-to-free IUDs & other LARCs for anyone aged 10 to 35 who wanted it, invest in a subsidized-to-free generic Morning After/Plan B, and provide general nutrition to pregnant people through children five years of age.

However, a large if not overwhelming portion of anti-abortion folk have a deep-seated belief girls and women should be punished for having sex, so it’s a no-go.

HUMAN 1
See, there’s that idea. I don’t know anyone personally that thinks that way, and I know plenty of pro-life. Literally the only ones that advocate that kind of thing are Trump and company, and they’re not people.

Plus, that’s a whole lot of handouts for people who don’t know enough about sex to make an informed consent to be having sex. Age 10? Seriously?

A 10-year-old incapable of consent is not always incapable of being impregnated. Like with the HPV vaccine, providing reproductive autonomy protects people in one very important way even if they make poor choices or are victimized, and it allows them to live without a mistake resulting in serious negative health consequences.

If you view equipping people to reproduce when they intend to and not before as a handout, that is definitely part of being ‘those people’.

We can spend money up front to save it later by avoiding terminated pregnancies, or a hospital stay and delivery. It avoids years of subsidizing a parent impoverished by their own interrupted schooling, and subsidizing their family’s food, shelter, and clothing for years, and their children’s education. It drastically reduces the chances of neglected children who’ll have behavioral problems or end up in prison.

But just in terms of when you pay the straightforward bill for reproductive healthcare, it’s a clear bargain.

HUMAN 1
That’s a very common argument for welfare in general. Don’t really buy it.

In shared values then, it will literally save millions of lives (in your mind) and protect vulnerable people from having their own derailed by pregnancy, childbirth, and being responsible for another person before they’re ready.

HUMAN 1
How about this: If their parents are clued in so things can be explained to them so they absolutely know what they’re getting into, then insurance can pay for their birth controls.

Basically, I don’t want to pay for it outside of the battery of charities I support.

Not even to save millions of unborn lives?

Because this is where all your concern about precious innocents no longer rings quite so true. This is why the movement to restrict women’s bodily autonomy is just that and not higher things.

We could easily all but solve abortion as an issue without even outlawing it, but that’s never what it’s really about when you actually start talking about it.

HUMAN 1
No, you’re inventing that persona and pretending it’s me. I told you in apparently too complicated terms that I don’t think what you’re proposing will do more good than harm. And yes, part of that harm is to my wallet. The other part is encouraging Roy fucking Moore.

There are many forms of Long-Acting Reversible Birth Control, and it has literally nothing to do with children dating adult men.

HUMAN 1
When you are giving it to 10 year olds, that’s exactly what it’s about.

My sex ed course was schizophrenic. They had to play both sides, so they pushed abstinence while winking that nobody doesn’t have sex when they’re fucking 12, then basically boiled it down to “If it’s wet, and it’s not yours, don’t touch it without a rubber.”

I view it as a whole lot of money being thrown around, with quite predictable unintended consequences of 10 year olds “dating” 40 year old men.

Sounds like a good case for putting money into sex ed and taking away the “wink wink everyone’s having sex, kids, have fun”

That’s just what people in Texas said about Gardisol and daily-pill forms of birth control with the result being that children who might have protected themselves from cancers weren’t allowed to.

It could be 10 or 14 or 20. The idea is always that being able to prevent sexual harm will make them slutty, and that’s just where you’ve gone here.

HUMAN 1
No, I don’t think it will make them slutty. I think it will make them more attractive to the Roy Moores of the world, and I think the Roy Moores of the world are very VERY interested in getting free birth control to little girls.

Also, promiscuity? I told you exactly why that’s a lie you’re perpetrating on me, and you pushed it anyway. See what I mean? You idiots are incapable of making your point without pretending that I’m building the Handmaid’s Tale.

He would want to carry on an affair with a little girl that won’t leave evidence. The most painful class I took in college was Abnormal Psychology. Pedophiles aren’t interested in having kids, they’re interested in levels of control and getting away with taboo.

And yet, that scenario is not a reflection of reality.

I really don’t understand how you can characterize pedophiles as being driven primarily by a desire to have uninterrupted, unprotected sexual with someone who won’t get pregnant. This is fanciful.

A  sprinkler system does not make a building more tempting to a burglar.

A real worry is that at some age before a person talks openly with their parents about it, they’ll have sex with someone roughly their age.

HUMAN 1
Perhaps put that money into strategies that don’t get little girls victimized by middle-aged men? Education. Actual education, not like the shit I got in school.

Okay, how about this: Does the introduction of free birth control (barring condoms) increase or decrease the spread of STDs?

It would not be a reasonable point of contention that some medicine for preventing heart attacks did nothing to address cancer.

In sex, one possible outcome, with poor preparation, inexperience, or bad luck, is an unintended pregnancy. And this outcome is now entirely preventable.

HUMAN 1
Male/Female PIV sex is always going to be a roll of the dice as far as pregnancy.

Another mistake you’re making is the idea of A) a relationship having to always be sexual and B) a baby as a punishment. Neither of these things are particularly true.

I’d rather as many people roll dice that let them win 99 years out of the 100 they play than lose. Relationships may not have to be sexual, but in practice, many of them are because sex is more than just a risk: it’s also one of the pleasures of being human.

While a baby is not necessarily a punishment, a pregnancy you don’t want leading to a baby you aren’t equipped or willing to take care of certainly is. It’s based on more than convenience if you reject the sacrifices demanded of your body and professional goals when it comes at a moment you weren’t prepared for, especially involving someone you don’t want to have a child with.

For near all of human existence, an unplanned pregnancy was a much more imposing prospect for a girl than for a boy. But now that no longer has to be the case. And rather than relying on terminating the pregnancy or using lower actual-use contraceptive methods, such as the pullout method or abstinence or a pill you have to take each day, we have reliable ones.

We could eradicate unplanned pregnancies in adolescents, and therefore the need for all but the rarest of abortions, ones that are a threat to the woman’s life or that involve a fetus incapable of surviving (anencephaly, etc.).

It would protect girls at their most vulnerable. It would allow women to have relationships without being trapped or having to spend portions of their income that aren’t really disposable.

And it would save governments and society billions of dollars on top of all of that.

HUMAN 1
By giving out free IUDs? Again, I’m afraid that you (and definitely 10-year-old girls) are not aware of the risks.

Say people like me agree to giving out free IUDs (despite the dangers) would you agree to ban abortions of convenience for the 1 in 100 women who still get pregnant despite the contraception?

No, because investing in long-lasting effective contraception for all is already meeting the supposed values of people like you: saving what you define as a life and being fiscally responsible. You’re not giving up anything at all.

I’m sure there are people more qualified than I am about cost/benefit analysis for each option, but I had in mind the under the skin implant.

(Note: I’ve been corrected that IUDs are actually safer because their effect is localized).

HUMAN 1
Yeah, Planned Parenthood has been pushing those recently. Just like they did with the Pill, they’ve neglected to bother studying the health effects of dicking around with hormones.

Subcutaneous implants need more study, but I have less of an issue with them. That being said, most of my arguments stand.. Although definitely not for girls under 18. Screwing around with hormones in the midst of puberty is a horrible idea.

Having an embryo and fetus growing inside your body has health effects! Childbirth has health effects! Having to drop out of school or lose your job has long-term health effects!

You’ve made it abundantly clear that your talk before about how important it is to save lives is subordinate to many other considerations and potential dangers that might possibly occur, such as the health of anyone who isn’t pregnant and their sex lives.

HUMAN 1
And you’ve made it abundantly clear that this is more about “gotcha” and “winning” than changing my mind. I’m not here to entertain your target audience, so… Have a good night.

The longer we’ve gone on, the less I’ve believed that you care much about hormones, changes to the body, or other dangers to people under 18 once they’re pregnant, only when it comes to doing things to reliably prevent that.

This isn’t a gotcha. It’s just amazing how you’ve been doing the exact thing you claimed early on was a strawman that didn’t really exist, all the way back to caring more about people being able to get abortions than stopping what is, to you, supposedly a slaughter of embryos in fertilization clinics.

 

HUMAN 1
This is why you won’t be able to convince me. Because you will always fall back on the batshit insane idea that I want some old guy telling me when I should breed.

You just demonstrated that you care more about saving money than saving what you consider to be human lives.

You just demonstrated that protecting girls from future pregnancy makes you worry they’ll become promiscuous.

You are being the exact thing you say you’ve never met: sex-obsessed and anti-abortion, rather than pro-life.

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