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Start of discussion in Talk:Abortion (Archive 1) Talk:Abortion (Archive 2)

I won't try and edit this page, but I heard some discussion on the radio today about a link between abortion and breast cancer - that should probably be fitted in somewhere, though I can't see where... Martin

http://blackgenocide.org/sayso_video Genocide against African-American people through abortion. If this short blurb survives the Stalinist Left cleaner squads at this depth of removal from the main "Abortion" entry, I'll come back and put more work into an article. Get tired of putting in much time and work only to have them come in and undo it. When is this going to be a democratically assembled encyclopedia, anyway?

Frederick George Wilson, mailto:f.g.wilson@sbcglobal.net
bio and c.v., physical address, medical, insurance, and credit histories, educational and FBI background checks available upon request. Does the Gulag Panopticon apply also to the left/liberal as well, or only to neocons, or Libertarians such as myself?

Example (from top of this page) of forementioned Stalinist Left control of Wikipedia:
"Hank, and anyone else who hasn't done so, read neutral point of view carefully. If you cannot abide by it, you are simply not welcome here. --LMS"

I'm always delighted to meet people on wikipedia who are happy to go by their real names - but I wonder if you could perhaps create a user account for wikipedia and put your contact details, (and yeah, why not a short bio), on that page? That makes it easier to figure out who made what edit, and it's easier to chat to someone as User:Frederick Wilson rather than (or whatever). Just a suggestion.

I've not been aware of Stalinist Left cleaner squads in my short time at wikipedia, but YMMV. Btw, Larry Sanger (LMS) is no longer active... Martin

I have removed this from the article -- my reasons follow: Among the complicating questions that arise are:

  • If unsafe backstreet illegal abortions risk the life of the pregnant woman, is providing medically safe abortion not preferable, even if, by the 'Pro-Life' definition, abortion involves the killing of a pre-birth human being, as in the former, both lives may be lost, whereas in the latter, one at least is safe? Or does the legal existence of abortion, though safer for women, give encouragement and legitimacy to what abortion critics call an abortion culture?

  • Are acts which knowingly terminate a pregnancy that was in itself a threat to the life of a mother (where for example, the embyro (which later becomes the fetus) develops not in the womb but by accident in the fallopian tube) abortion? Are they morally permissable even if one believes that that embyro/fetus was human life?

  • Does the growing use of abortion mean that, instead of being a last resort, it becomes a form of post-conception contraception? Is that in itself a right or an undesirable consequence of a right?

  • If a pregnancy is the result of a rape, should the woman who was the victim of that rape have the option of terminating the pregnancy, rather than carry her rapist's child to term, even if one believes that the fetus is a human being?

  • Does a right to abortion mean that a woman can decide on any criteria by which to make her judgment? For example, is it acceptable to abort a fetus because it had the 'wrong' gender (male when she wanted a girl, female when she wanted a boy)? What if it was the wrong skin-colour? If it was showing evidence of physical or presumed mental deformity? And if scientific developments made possible to determine a fetus's likely sexual orientation in the womb, would a pregnant woman have a right to abort that fetus if science concluded it would be homosexual? (Perversely, such a situation could provide the spectacle of the Roman Catholic Church, for example, though anti-homosexual, defending the right of a homosexual fetus to be born, and the 'Pro-Choice' lobby, many of whose supporters back gay rights, defending a pregnant woman's right to abort a homosexual fetus, a classic example of the logical and ethical complexity of the abortion debate.)

I believe that the above has much important content -- but presented in such a decontextualized fashion, I think it borders on the tendentious. I suggest reincorporating this material into the article in its historical context. For example, some of the above material could be in a section on the struggle by feminists to legalize abortion in the 1960s. Parts could go in a section on US court decisions. Parts belong in a section on the pro-life movement that developed in the 1980s. I think historicizing this debate is crucial; otherwise it reduces a complex issue to two overly simplistic sides. I agree that in the US right now there are pretty much just two sides -- but there is a reason why this developed the way it did and the article should lay that out. Slrubenstein

I disagree with the removal completely. The above points show the complexity of a problem. The last thing you should do is incorporate them elsewhere. That would make a mess of the whole point they make. They aren't intended to be included elsewhere. They are simply meant to bring home to the reader how the issue is so difficult to reach a consensus on, and yet how even within the absolutes of both sides, practical issues arise which highlight the intellectual complexity of the questions. The above section is based on a list of "thought points" given at the very start of a third level course on the politics of abortion. They are intended to make the reader from whichever viewpoint see the nature of the ethical complexities within the absolutes of both sides. I am re-inserting them. ╔═REman 22:42 Apr 18, 2003 (UTC)

Whose "thought points" are they? Are they yours alone? If so, there is a POV problem. Are they points made by others? In that case, present them in context. This is an article about two real things: a medical procedure and a political debate about the regulation of that procedure. Both have a history. To present these "thought points" without context is at best didactic, at worst argumentative. They do not illuminate the complextity of the issue, they only seem to preach. There are two ways to illuminate the complexity of the issue: to put real arguments over abortion in their historical context. I have no doubt that at a given course in a given school opening with these "thought points" can be effective pedagogy -- you know your students, and most of them share a historical/cultural context and some common frame of reference. But this is not true for an on-line encyclopedia article, and what is an apporpriate way to begin a classroom lecture is not necessarily the best way to begin an encyclopedia article. You should stop taking things so personally and getting so defensive. Just because I made a change in this article does not mean I think you are a poor teacher. All of us are trying to work on an encyclopedia, and everything any one of us writes is bound to be edited at some point. Slrubenstein

They were delivered by a senior political science lecturer to third level students on a course on 'world political issues', in which seven lectures were on the issue of abortion. The course was widely praised, as were the points, by both pro-choice and pro-life activists who described them as "essential" and totally neutral. This article in your form has an appalling lack of intellectual depth. The whole issue about abortion is based on argument and perspective. Medical procedure flows from the arguments of both sides; what is abortion, what is life, etc. Neither side bases their primary arguments on medical procedure. They argue on the principles to do with a right to choose versus a right to life and which in a given context makes greater intellectual, moral and social sense. Before putting them in, I put the draft text to people I know on both sides of the argument. They thought it a first class rewrite. I emailed your version to them. The response from both was that the argument had deteriorated dramatically, had no focus, lost any intellectual coherence and was mediocre. That was the view of people from both sides. Maeve-Ann Carroll of the pro-choice movement said the first version had "focus, clarity and depth". The second version was "mediocre and ineffective". John Duggan of the pro-life side descrived the first version as a "first rate discussion of the complexity", the second version "a poor, unfocused narrative that does justice to neither side of the argument." Both urged me to restore the first version, as did some emails I received since your rewrite. One person asked me in their email "what happened to the good article there? Where did this other version come from? I wanted to return to your version but as I wasn't directly involved in the debate I didn't, until I emailed you." On that basis I am reverting the article to the version that had proper intellectual depth. ╔═REman 19:00 Apr 19, 2003 (UTC)

A couple of things about this article
  1. It is missing a basic overview of what abortion is, the history of abortion, methods of abortion (everything from back-alley abortions to the day-after pill), where abortion is considered acceptable and where it is considered problematic (it is interesting that all of the countries mentioned have a predominantly Christian culture--would Asian or African cultures share the same views?). Is abortion really legal and accepted in China and India because those countries are more populous? While it does not say so directly, the article certainly implies that. (And if so, why was Iceland, with 200,000 people, the first country to legalize abortion?)
  2. How about some greater recognition of the underlying religious (and non-religious) biases of people on both sides of the debate. "Life" goes undefined here--are we talking about a soul? A virus is also alive, but we have no problem removing it?
  3. Whether knowingly or not, it seems to me to be biased pro-choice: in the crassest form of oversimplification, we have the "straight-forward" pro-life argument vs. the woman's right to control her own body, which, to a disinterested reader, hints at selfishness and a less-than-straightforward argument. Similarly, we have "Holocaust" vs. "anti-woman agenda"--both very loaded terms.
  4. The five points, while seemingly pro-choice arguments, are presented in what can be perceived as a pro-life manner. In other words, their assumption is that "abortion is wrong and here are some challenging cases, where we should perhaps act more leniently."
  5. The article is U.S.-centric. Roe vs. Wade, while it is an important ruling, could be a redirect, not a summary. What's the story with abortion in Canada?
  6. The article is repetitious and disjointed. Why is there a separate section on Modern Arguments? Are the aforementioned argument "ancient"?

Given the above, I recommend that the article be split into two: 1) Abortion, describing what it is, its history, techniques, and whatnot. 2) The Abortion debate, covering the debate over abortion in the U.S., Ireland, Bulgaria, wherever. I am sure that most of the arguments will be similar. This could also cover the religious view of the abortion debate--as a non-Catholic, I don't really care too much what the pope has to say about abortion, unless it is in the context of a religious debate. 3) Other articles covering such incidental topics such as Roe vs. Wade, Pro-lifers, shootings of doctors providing abortions. Hey, we can even have lists of pro-life and pro-choice supporters. (I meant that facetiously!).

Well, these are just my piddling little thoughts. Danny 19:56 Apr 19, 2003 (UTC)

Danny, I completely agree with your comments. Deb 20:07 Apr 19, 2003 (UTC)

I agree, Danny. One thing, though. Most people I know on the pro-life side do not base their argument on the question of 'soul'. Even the current pope does not base his stance on the issue of souls.

On the points I added, they are not intended to be either pro-life or pro-choice. What they do is take the presumption in each case that each side is right, and then highlight how if that was so accepting that would involve accepting things that ordinarily those advocating that stance would not formally accept, eg, a right to choose could in theory accept the right to abort an foetus based on its sexual orientation, something that ordinarily liberals endorsing the right to choose, would clash with their belief in gay rights. Accepting a right to life could involve the acceptance of a homosexual foetus to be born, clashing with the traditional conservative opposition to homosexuality. It is a standard academic approach; accept a premise, then explore what it could mean, and in particular could that premise produce a result that would clash with the principles of those pushing that premise. So you get the issue of backstreet abortions: if opposition to abortion is based on a belief in the right to life, what if backstreet abortions produce two deaths? Going by the pro-life logic, should legal abortion in that case (which would result in the death of one lifeform) not be preferable to illegal abortion that would result in the death of two? The particular points are used in neutral academic courses on the issue of abortion to highlight the complexity, and how each side's certainly can theoretically produce a result that may conflict with their principle. I checked with both sides on the debate on those points and the earlier paragraph and both sides thought them fair, objective and something that should be in an article that had to explore an issue as complicated as abortion. Nobody (and you are talking about people who hold pretty fanatical stances on both sides) took them to be unfair to their side or POV. They all took the view that the article was intellectually stronger with them in, much weaker and indeed POV with them out.

Re the pope, like him or loath him, he is the leader of the biggest organisation on earth. He does not base his arguments on issues to do with catholic theology about souls etc, but on a fundamental secular issue of life, when it begins and what secular right are associated with it. So the option of leaving it out, or censoring his views, does not arise. He is a major participant in the debate and his opinions shape the perspectives of billions of 'pro-life' people, both within and outside his church. And 'pro-choice' people react to what he says. Leaving him out would be the equivalent of writing about Bill Clinton and not mentioning impeachment. His views aren't just relevant "in the context of a religious debate" because they are used and expressed in secular terms on a secular issue. ╔═REman 20:41 Apr 19, 2003 (UTC)

JTDIRL, perhaps you have been very busy lately, and have not had enough time to read what I wrote. Please slow dosn -- otherwise you will continue to mischaracterize my changes. You seem not to get a simple point. I am sure that upon some reflection you will get it.

I made two changes: I moved some of what you wrote down, and edited it only for brevity.

Second, I moved considerable material to the talk page. You seem to think that this means the material has been "deleted." You seem to think that I felt it has no place in the articel -- moreover, you seem to think that my cut was meant to produce a "final version" of the article. In response, you seem to present your version as the "final version," and won't tolerate any furhter changes.

I have some comments on process:

1) All Wikipedia articles are works in progress. Get used to it.

2) I am not opposed to much of the material I removed to the Talk page being reincorporated back. I certainly do not see my recent changes as "final."

3) I did not wholesale revert all of your changes -- I kept and changed some, in true wiki fashion, and I tried to explain how I thought other things you contributed could be better presented. All of this was intended to be constructive. In response, you simply reverted my changes. Do you see the asymmetry? I tried to work with your contributions, and invited you and others to continue working on them. You simply ignored my changes and comments.

Now here is a comment on content: You argue that "What (each of points removed to talk) do is take the presumption in each case that each side is right, and then highlight how if that was so accepting that would involve accepting things that ordinarily those advocating that stance would not formally accept," Yes, I am familiar with dialectics as a method of philosophical argumentation. And as I said above this is perfectly reasonable in certain contexts, especially university courses. There the professor's job is to challenge students, to argue in order to expose underlying assumptions and contradictions in those assumptions or their appliccation. Bravo -- good profesor! But this is not in my opinion appropriate to Wikipedia; our task is not to argue with our readers, nor to challenge them to critique their own categories of knowledge. We are an NPOV presentation of knowledge and debates about knowledge.

Outside of your college course, there is a real debate about abortion. It is likely that some activists, in the course of this debate, have raised many of the points you made in your course. If that is so I think it would be very good for Wikipedia to provide an account of those debates and inter alia these points. The purpose -- a little different from your course -- would be to educate beople about the debate in an NPOV way. Slrubenstein

I also deleted the section "the terminology problem," which is pure sophistry. There is no problem, at least not in the USA -- everyone knows what "pro-choice" and "pro-life" means -- most people understand that pro-choice people are not "anti-life," they merely disagree as to when life begins. Moreover, most people understand that pro-life people in many other domains celebrate the idea of "choice." The passage deleted seemed to be a sophomoric exercize at "logical" reasoning, arguing "if you say x you must mean y" But common langugae does not follow the rules of logic; indeed, it is an empirical task to discover how people use words, what they mean by them, and the rules of discourse. But the paragraph I deleted contained no empirical information on any argument about between leaders of the two movements, or the actual history of the terms (which would of course be valuable content). Slrubenstein

I agree with Danny's comments above that this article needs to be broken-up. When that happens the material that SL has removed can be copied to the daughter article on the controversy. But that material as-is isn't particularly encyclopedic so should be rewritten as SL has suggested (what might be appropriate for a lecture isn't necessarily appropriate for an encyclopedia article). But the material can be in the daughter article itself while it is being rewritten (adding of historical context is crucial to this section). We should explain how these arguments were arrived at and when - otherwise it is just a series of questions which is not very encyclopedic -- Wikipedia is not a place to post lectures especially when those lectures are Socratic in their presentation. --mav

One thing in particular I think might be good would be to start an article on Abortion in the United States, in line with Abortion in Ireland and Abortion in the United Kingdom, moving the relevant material from here to the new article. (The second footnote, in my opinion, also would be better explained in the latter two articles.)

Another might be to create an article on Ethics and abortion[?] (or some similar title) to complement the Religion and abortion article. While obviously some mention of pro and con is vital to the Abortion article itself, the finer nuances could probably be more adequately covered in a separate article.

One last nit-picking point, as with all articles of this length, would be the idea of choosing either American or British English usage (doesn't matter which) for consistency within the article. There are currently 6 occurrences of "foetus" and 11 of "fetus," for example. I think this would make it easier to edit, and of course negate the need for the first footnote. - Hephaestos 02:28 Apr 21, 2003 (UTC)

I'm probably just repeating what others have said, but I'll try to rephrase their thoughts a little. First, Wikipedia articles should document existing debates and existing arguments, not invent them. Since that is the case, it should be possible to attribute particular arguments either to individuals or at least to broad groups who are generally well known for advancing a particular argument. On a subject like abortion that's well known and where both (all?) sides have worked hard to advance their views, this isn't very difficult. It also makes perfect sense to put the arguments in their historical context, and perhaps indicate which arguments were advanced and later dropped, which were raised more recently, and which have been advanced all along. Having an Abortion in the United States article makes sense, as the debate here has its own history. Some of the US political debate has been about supporting the United Nations and whether the United Nations or its agencies should promote abortion; that part might belong in the main article.

As an aside, I think the (now delted) question raised about the "complex dilemma" or whatever about the Roman Catholic church being in the position of defending the right of a homosexual fetus to be born, is just plain silly. For it to cause any difficulty at all, the Catholics would first have to officially recognize the accuracy of some prenatal test for determining homosexuality, which seems unlikely though I could be wrong. Secondly, if the Catholic church did recognize such a test, it would surely still oppose the abortion without hesitation, since it is also opposed to capital punishment for any sin whatsoever; it is consistently in favor of allowing all individuals to live, regardless of their morality or sinfulness. So that particular difficulty doesn't seem to exist at all. Did any Catholics review that "thought point"?

One final thought: does the article give sufficient attention to the physical and psychological side effects of abortion? At least, known physical side effects and their frequency should be an easy set of statistics to come by; the psychological side of it is probably more subjective and likely to be contested. Wesley

Unless anyone has valid objections, or beats me to it, I will split certain sections from the current article to create two new articles - [abortion in the United States] and (something like) [morality and abortion]. The aim being to take the US-specific and the 'central question' parts (about 75% of the existing article) into their own space. Without any strong opposition I will make the edits on May 1, 2003. ▓╣▓ 15:28 24 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Not even one objection. I'll interpret that as complete agreement! ▓╣▓ 10:48 1 Jul 2003 (UTC)

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