Previously, on The Dish:
They reminded me of the human beings behind these tragedies, and forced me to reassess my own certainties and beliefs. I still cannot in good conscience support these abortions; but I can offer my profound gratitude for the readers who have forced this blogger to see things I had not fully grasped so keenly before; and to return to them respect and empathy in the particulars, even while we may disagree in the abstract.
Former Republican John Cole responds:
Most of you know how much I like Andrew Sullivan, and I’m not a fanatic about abortion either way. I’ll never have one, but I think it is none of my damned business what other people do with their medical decisions. I’m comfortable with our current law, which allows for people who dislike abortion to never have to have one. With that in mind, reading this from Sullivan just really irritated me.
What this country really needs right now is a serious case of mind your own damned business. We’ve turned into a nation of busybodies and scolds, and people just need to back off. And that goes for the people opposed to and trying to make illegal Andrew’s marriage, for people like Andrew who sound like they want the weight of the law to come down on people making tragic medical decisions that lead to late-term abortions, for the nutjobs who thought they knew better than Michael Schiavo how to handle his horrible situation with his wife, to the lunatics screaming “murder” when we do stem cell research, and so on.
I’m really sick of the crap, and I don’t mean to harsh completely on Andrew, because I sense he does struggle with these matters. But if Andrew’s conscience can’t support a late-term abortion, then right now he is sitting pretty, because under our current system, anyone who doesn’t want an abortion doesn’t have to have one.
And that really should be the end of that.
It was a righteous rant, but commenters de-lurked and came out of the woodwork just to dogpile on Sullivan. My own remarks were somewhat seconded by Cole, but largely went unheeded.
A lot of hatred and unfounded accusations about Sullivan have popped up randomly a la Sully is gay, rich, and HIV positive, ergo he hates women. I don’t presume to speak for the man, but I know that if I were vilified and my background were used to argue against my political beliefs, I’d feel pretty dismissive.Another commenter: "Sullivan’s lack of real compassion in that comment was stunning – after all those heart-felt stories, he still sees abortion as an abstract principle, not the life-and-death issue that it is for so many."
I honestly believe this is the case of ‘you can take the boy out of Catholic school, but you can’t take the Catholic school out of the boy’, simply because as a straight white male who was indoctrinated into the Catholic culture for 19 years before bucking it, I share the same ignorance of a pro-choice worldview. No matter how much I agree with the pro-choice position, there’s still a small twinge of pro-life guilt because it was engraved into my head by every adult I knew and trusted growing up that it is taking the life of a child. Ask any developmental biologist or child psychiatrist, what you’re taught as a trusting child is nigh impossible to excise.
I thought his appearance on Countdown last night was admirable, simply because it was good to see a civil opposition on such a partisan show. While I now think a patient’s (Womens’) personal freedom is the fundamental underlying issue, I can understand the ‘abstract’ he’s referring to without making an effort to dehumanize women who seek abortions.
You know, if all some of you have to offer is just crapping all over Sullivan, I have to wonder what you think you are accomplishing. It isn’t changing my opinion of his blog, which I think is a great read.
And it certainly isn’t changing Sullivan’s opinion to come in here, read the comments, and see nothing but people being assholes to him. I’m honestly not sure what you think you are doing other than making yourself look bad.
And it continues from there. This is what I find somewhat distasteful, in part about blogging and the national conversation. 'A' will point out the flaw in something that an individual who they respect, 'B' said. Many readers of 'A' will grasp the point of the reasoning, but the rest will be all "B's a witch! Burn B!". The opposite tends to happen when someone 'A' hates, 'C', makes a remark that 'A' happens to agree with. C is showered by A's readers as seeing the light, of being more than worth what he was valued at yesterday.
Sullivan may label his position as a conflict between principle and reality, but I wouldn't count him out just yet. In the battle between his a priori "principled" pro-life stance, and the facts on the ground concerning the realities of pregnancy and the near-infinitely sprawling landscape of frightening possibilities and complications, Andrew Sullivan, so far today, is letting his readers have the last word, or at least more "column inches" than his principle (Post completely reproduced here, my emphasis added):
"My third pregnancy resulted in the birth of twin girls - one with horribly deformed internal organs and the other normal. I had chosen not to have testing done, because although I believed in the right to choose, I did not think I would ever choose abortion for myself. The doctors wanted to do surgery on our daughter that held a 10% chance of survival and promised another decade of surgeries for a child whose disability would leave her blind, mute and severely mentally retarded. We had to make the excruciating decision of whether to allow that course of events. We chose to baptise and let her return to God. We held her as she died three hours later. Her sister, blessedly, survived after a 2 month stay in neo-natal intensive care.
The struggle and torment of burying and grieving for a child, and explaining to the three older siblings why we only brought home one baby, was an ongoing horror that lasted years. It took a huge toll on our marriage for a long time. The next time I got pregnant, I was terrified. Your odds of having a child with birth defects goes up with age and previously affected children. I did not want to be blindsided by another child dying in my arms. I did not think my family would survive another experience like that intact.
I decided to have every test they offer this time.
I found out that I would get the amniocentisis results with only six days to decide and procure termination should I have another child with a life ending abnormality. Six days. If I struggled with indecision too long I would have to travel to Kansas. Being unwilling to put my family through that situation again, I had the number of the clinic ready to make the appointment immediately if my amnio revealed another child doomed to suffer or die. This time, thankfully, I had one healthy baby girl.
What happened to Tiller is a crime. What is also a criminal is that we already have a nation where women are forced into scenarios where all the choices are bad and made worse by the lack of freedom handed unequally to our gender in being able to access a doctor and determine what is right for our children and our families. This is Terry Schaivo territory. If the Christianists ever succeed in completely outlawing abortion, women in my situation will be forced to watch our newborns gasp their last breath and grow cold in our arms."
UPDATE: The Royal 'We'.
The man might have moral qualms arguing against what he's been taught his whole life, but given his pedestal, and his influence, at the end of the day, this is how he wraps it up. This is how he lets his audience mull.
UPDATE II: More letters and his response:
I have to say I am beginning to believe that these abortions, given their excruciating moral and personal choices, may be the most defensible in context of all abortions. And yet they seem to be taking life in a more viscerally distressing way. I need time to think and rethink these things. I would not have without reading these extraordinary accounts.
and he concurs with this reader:
The posts from real women who have had to ponder and in some cases have late-term abortions has really changed my thinking. It may be the early term abortions that are most morally problematic, not the late term ones that arise under the most excruciating of circumstances. My own feeling is that our moral duty is to agonize and struggle over the serious choices we make, not always to make the usually unknowable "right" choice. By this standard, the women you have posted have more than done their duty. I would not want to second guess them.
Thank you for posting these messages, and especially thanks to the people who wrote them and were willing to have them posted. Just as gays coming out and being known destigmatizes you and them, getting these abortion stories out takes away the cartoon quality of the whole abortion debate. There just is very little black and white in the world and loads of gray.
The same effect happens with Atheism, but that's a post for another day, until then: