What the Numbers Show

It used to be that references to the culture wars brought to mind the various efforts to marginalize the LGBT community. Over the last several years, as attitudes about homosexuality and gender identity have changed dramatically, fundamentalist culture warriors have increasingly reverted to an older battle: restricting women’s right to control their own reproduction.

State after Red state has passed measures restricting access to abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood, even criminalizing “suspicious” miscarriages. Many of the more draconian measures have been struck down, but many others have not.

Activists holding passionate attitudes about the issue are unlikely to change their positions. The policy question is: where should this battle take place? In the court of public opinion, or in legislative chambers?

Political philosophy holds that legislation is unworkable and seen as illegitimate when there are deep divisions within a polity. (Even when there is wide acceptance of a rule, experience tells us that changing public attitudes can be more effective than legal mandates–just compare the dramatic change in public behavior effected by MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to the effectiveness of DUI laws.)

So the AP’s recent report that abortions have declined nationwide raises an interesting question.

Abortions have declined in states where new laws make it harder to have them — but they’ve also waned in states where abortion rights are protected, an Associated Press survey finds. Nearly everywhere, in red states and blue, abortions are down since 2010.

Most observers credit the drop to a sharp reduction in teen pregnancies and the availability of affordable, effective contraception. Interestingly,

The only states with significant increases in abortions since 2010 are Republican-led Louisiana and Michigan, which have passed laws intended to restrict abortion. Louisiana — where abortions increased 12 percent between 2010 and 2014 — was recently honored by Americans United for Life as the No. 1 state in taking steps to reduce access to abortion.

The question is: do the (mostly male) legislators sponsoring these laws really want to reduce the incidence of abortion? Or–as many feminists suspect–are they equally opposed to effective birth control?

To put it another way, is their objection to abortion, or to women’s autonomy? I’ll consider that question tomorrow.


  1. In 1970, at age 34 with five children and “female problems” and a pre-cancerous condition, I had to have my husband’s written permission to have a tubal ligation with other necessary surgery. Does anyone know the situation regarding statistics on tubal ligations (once a primary form of birth control) or is that automatically lumped in with birth control and abortion rights? Are hysterectomies covered in health care plans or is that considered birth control? It is often a life-threatening condition which is not reason for abortion in many states. Are vasectomies covered under health plans or is it only women’s health/birth control choices that are disallowed?

  2. My first reaction to Sheila’s blog is who but the Pope and his close friends would object to preconception birth control? Be nice to have some data.

    Second reaction. More abstract. IMO freedom is the relative lack of restrictions against behavior that does not in turn impose on others. So in a perfectly free world we’d each be completely free to do anything that doesn’t risk consequences to others.

    Power is the antithesis of freedom. Power comes in many forms. As in engineering terms power is related to force. So in a perfectly free world we’d be free of, and prevented from forcing on others, impositions.

    There’s the rub. Having freedom requires both giving it and restricting it.

    America has traditionally embraced freedom from organic imposition as well as that by others. Freedom from curable illness, hunger, discrimination, the elements.

    Abortion has always been about the rights of the born vs the unborn. The here and now vs future possibilities.

    I personally think that it’s a topic that is important to discuss and consider and philosophize about. I just think that freedom of the here and now in this specific situation is essential.

    Does that make me hypocritical about climate change? Imposing the good of the future on the here and now? I don’t think so. It’s a matter of the greater good.

    It turns out that being civilized is complicated but I personally think that we are at least potentially up to it.

  3. This will also decline as the ignorant, christian, white geriatrics die off. I am no spring chicken and have no death wish, but I have come to appreciate mortality as the cleansing agent our society needs to move forward. I just wish I could live long enough to see some significant change.

    It is encouraging to see the reaction to the recent terrorism in Charleston — when southern politicians are calling to put away the symbols of racial oppression, we can safely assume society is changing. There are plenty of appropriate places for the confederate flags to be placed now, like in the coffins of the old fools whose deaths will liberate our country.

  4. While “I personally think that (abortion is) a topic that is important to discuss and consider and philosophize about” what’s been going on in this country is less that and more culture war which is inherently dysfunctional as nobody listens.

    In the end the wars will be reduced only by fewer abortions and lots of preconception birth control.

    Are we making progress?

    Here’s another rub. The real rub. Teenagers. They grow up at different rates. We can only measure age, not maturity. Sex can always be impositional and we need to protect the freedom of teenagers from each other. Does readily available preconception birth control affect the incidence of immature sex or just lower the risks?

    I would assume the answer to that to be case specific.

  5. Remember that these old fools were young fools once, and that there are many young fools who will take their place. There have been several generations of racists and mean-spirited people who have gone from being young fools to old fools, and they just keep coming. Consider the recent shooters, all persons in their early 20s. I suspect that the old fools simply can’t control their speech, so they just shoot off their mouths because they know that shooting a gun carries some reals risks on one’s future survival. I wish I could agree that things will be better once the nasty old people die off, but what we know about people tends to be the best argument against it. Then add to the mix the rise in narcissism which is eating away at the fundamental assumptions of our government and I’m not optimistic. I’m open to be convinced otherwise.

  6. “various efforts to marginalize the LGBT community.”

    This really has gone on long enough.

    Even if we accept the argument that there is a “gay gene,” and that people are born attracted to the same sex, we absolutely have to start removing bisexuals and transsexuals from this population-aggregating designation, unless science now claims to find a gene that makes people want to wear the clothing of the other gender.

    As clothing does not exist in the animal kingdom, good luck.

    There is no “marginalizing.” Homosexuals are no more than 3% of a population. In healthy populations, that percentage decreases, and in dysfunctional populations, that percentage increases. These are just facts.

    Everyone, from me to Richard Simmons, is forced to accept that there are about 3 homosexuals in every group of 100.

  7. When our family camped in the National Parks, raccoons were a problem. To get them away from us so we could get in the camper (where the real goodies were), we threw marshmallows in the weeds, which they chased while we safely escaped. Abortion and GLBT are the marshmallows thrown into the weeds, to get the votes from folks who don’t understand that they are are just diversions. It would be a terrible crisis for the 1% if the public developed a positive consensus on abortion and GLBT and began talking about economic justice.

  8. “To put it another way, is their objection to abortion, or to women’s autonomy? I’ll consider that question tomorrow.”

    If I carelessly shoot my gun out the window, and have a blast just firing away, am I brought before the dock if I didn’t plan correctly and kill a lady in a nearby house? Would society have told me that I shouldn’t have been firing my gun recklessly and should have paid attention to what I was doing, and that if I couldn’t do that, I shouldn’t have been firing my gun, at all? Would I have been told that I don’t get to take another life just because I feel careless and reckless? Absolutely. Would I get to argue “autonomy” in shooting my gun? No.

    Why is it absolutely forbidden in America to tell women to keep their pants on and not to be careless or reckless with someone else’s life? Why are women given a free pass to kill someone just because they were careless and reckless?

    The Democrats took a weird turn when they abandoned populism and went with these radical social revolutions that will not leave us a stronger or more healthy people, but will strip us of any sense of right and wrong.

  9. Gopper, so how is it that you thought this little diatribe would win over people? I’m a little unclear on that.

  10. Gopper, what do you think would happen if sex was left up to individuals to figure out and do according to their own tastes? And we separated sex from procreation by making preconception birth control readily available?

    What exactly are you afraid would happen?

  11. There is certainly a long history of dual societal opinions on sexuality between men and woman. Men who have multiple sexual partners are players or studs. Men are not labeled as reckless sperm donors . Woman are called loose woman, hot pants, or Ho’s if they have multiple sexual partners. James Bond of fiction is celebrated for his irresistible sexual attraction and prowess. If there was a Jane Bond who used her sexual attractiveness to seduce men, the attitude would be different.

  12. Meanwhile, it’s legislatures dominated by men who possess this narrow point of view who pass the laws. Certain aspects of this complex problem are not difficult to understand.

  13. Gopper: if the problem is the reckless and careless risk of creating an unplanned child, why aren’t men told to keep it in their pants? Why do you assume that unplanned pregnancy is the result of recklessness or carelessness on the part of the woman in the first place? Birth control methods do fail, even when used 100% correctly. Also, why would you assume that teenagers fully understand the risks of sexual behavior and an unplanned pregnancy? Why not blame those who encourage the early sexualization of girls and teens?

  14. Interesting article in Psychology Today on Anti-Intellectualism https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201506/anti-intellectualism-is-killing-america.
    From the article:
    “The impact of fundamentalist religion in driving American anti-intellectualism has been, and continues to be, immense. Old-fashioned notions of sex education may seem like a relatively minor issue to many, but taking old-time religion too seriously can be extremely dangerous in the modern era. ”

    “An anti-intellectual society, however, will have large swaths of people who are motivated by fear, susceptible to tribalism and simplistic explanations, incapable of emotional maturity, and prone to violent solutions. Sound familiar?”

  15. Wonderful link Louie.

    Here’s more from it.

    “Corporate influence on climate and environmental policy, meanwhile, is simply more evidence of anti-intellectualism in action, for corporate domination of American society is another result of a public that is not thinking critically. Americans have allowed their democracy to slip away, their culture overtaken by enormous corporations that effectively control both the governmental apparatus and the media, thus shaping life around materialism and consumption.”

    “Indeed, these corporate interests encourage anti-intellectualism, conditioning Americans into conformity and passive acceptance of institutional dominance. They are the ones who stand to gain from the excessive fear and nationalism that result in militaristic foreign policy and absurdly high levels of military spending (link is external). They are the ones who stand to gain from consumers who spend money they don’t have on goods and services they don’t need. They are the ones who want a public that is largely uninformed and distracted, thus allowing government policy to be crafted by corporate lawyers and lobbyists. They are the ones who stand to gain from unregulated securities markets. And they are the ones who stand to gain from a prison-industrial complex that generates the highest rates of incarceration in the developed world.”

  16. Louis, these are not classy folks who happen to fall into a fundamentalist group. These are folks who find other folks who are like them–anti-intellectual, rigid, authoritarian, simplistic explanations, motivated by fear, etc.– and baptize this nonsense by meeting in a building with a steeple on it. Then they smile and call it “loving God”. Check out the “churches” in the old KKK Martinsville area where the old fools have passed on their song to the young fools. I think we have 16 hate groups in Indiana (Southern Poverty Law Center: http://www.splcenter.org/hate-map). Ah, yes. Our inheritance. Like passing on a barrel of rotting potatoes.

  17. Pete, abortion isn’t birth control.

    Stuart, I’m telling the truth. The truth has no obligation to be nice.

  18. Gopper – and mostly an FYI for everyone else – there is a sexual attraction gene and it was discovered years ago in the fruitfly, a favorite tool for genetic manipulation. Changing a single gene turned a heterosexual fruitfly (the usual state) into a bisexual one. I haven’t followed the literature, but genetic (gene mutations) and epigenetic factors (changes in how a gene works in response to external conditions) long ago suggested that sexual preference is biological.

    Sheila – in regard to your last question, I suspect the latter is the case – this is anecdote – one person – but — I had a conversation with a very conservative friend about abortion and contraception. He was very open and clear. Sex was only to be allowed within marriage. If it was up to him, every sexual encounter outside of marriage, but it pre-marital or extra-marital, would result in pregnancy and the woman should be forced to bear the child. There was no concern for the unborn and he seemed to consider the pregnancy as a punishment. I should have asked him about STDs – or maybe it is better that I didn’t

  19. According to the Guttmacher Institute,
    * only 18% of U.S. women who obtain abortions are teenagers;
    * 37% of women obtaining abortions identify as Protestant and 28% identify as
    * About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children;
    * 51% of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method in the month
    they got pregnant, most commonly condoms (27%) or a hormonal method (17%).

  20. “Gopper: if the problem is the reckless and careless risk of creating an unplanned child, why aren’t men told to keep it in their pants?”

    That isn’t “the problem.” The issue is that women surrender to their biological impulses in the heat of the moment, as God intended, then want to reverse their decision once presented with the predictable consequence of their action.

    Getting pregnant isn’t “a problem.” It’s Biology.

    “why aren’t men told to keep it in their pants?”

    Because, Natacha, I really want to get you pregnant. Not you, specifically. Well, maybe you. I don’t know. Extrapolating from myself, I just think most of us males don’t mind getting you pregnant, if you’re a decent woman. No lie. Right now, I’m actually thinking about who you are and whether you’d make a good mother. I don’t think I’m an atypical male.

    “Why do you assume that unplanned pregnancy is the result of recklessness or carelessness on the part of the woman in the first place?”

    Recklessness and carelessness get us most of the way. Bad luck gets us the rest of the way. In either case, once we’re at least in our 20’s, knocking you up doesn’t sound bad. Take you, for example. You seem intelligent enough. You seem like you have the skills to raise a child correctly. If we got together, and if I knocked you up, there’s no way I would suggest you get an abortion.

    I think men propose abortion far less than women. Far less. So much for that Earth Mother nurturing garbage.

    “Also, why would you assume that teenagers fully understand the risks of sexual behavior and an unplanned pregnancy?”

    They don’t. That’s why teens should wait until college to have sex. Good parents help with this.

    “Why not blame those who encourage the early sexualization of girls and teens?”

    Really? Are you actually accusing conservatives of not complaining about trash and filth in the media and culture? Really? Totally really? Every time we do complain, you insult us for being prudes.

  21. The thing that gets me about this blog and abortion is that Sheila is Jewish. I don’t know how well you people know Jews.

    I know them very well. If a good Jewish woman is pregnant, and if the father is of the right stock, the woman is treated like a saint, and the community celebrates the arrival of the child. This is how it should be.

    Jews even have a ceremony designed to get the spouses revved up and ready for sex. Look up Mikveh. It’s a beautiful ceremony, but a big purpose is to make Jewish babies.

    Abortion isn’t big with the Jews, because the Jews are, with the exception of the inexcusable divorce rate, a healthy, intact, supportive community.

    I get tired of hearing Jews give the goy abortion advice, when it’s rare that a Jewish woman ever gets an abortion. There are times, yes, but a strict Rabbi needs to hear a good case.

  22. Gopper, women who are pregnant but have an abortion don’t give birth. Women who are pregnant but don’t have an abortion likely will give birth. That seems to me to control birth.

    I personally don’t think it’s the most efficient way to control birth. I would like to see it very rare due to effective and available pre-conception birth control.

    Don’t you agree that’s better?

  23. By my count we’re down to four alternatives.

    1) avoid hetero-vaginal-sex unless babies are desired.

    2) instead use preconception birth control

    3) when all else fails choose between the eternal options of raising a child or having an abortion.

    4) have the baby and let others raise it.

    Now the hard part. Who gets to decide?

  24. (Jews even have a ceremony designed to get the spouses revved up and ready for sex.)

    Would that by any chance be “Foreplay” ?

  25. “What the numbers show” on this blog; three women commented and twenty comments by males, primarily disagreeing and/or proving THEIR point using their view or statistics garnered from somewhere. These numbers prove once again that it is men ruling women’s anatomy (those pesky legislators) and believe they know what is best for us and reaching conclusions without seeking our input.

    Gopper weighed in with the Jewish mind set on birth and explained the Jewish ceremony in preparation to have sex. I will stick with the old fashioned lead-in to sex called foreplay – unless the Jews consider that a religious ceremony and have merely given it a name. Gopper is tired of hearing Jews give Goys advice on abortion – if he is referring to Sheila’s blogs; they are not required reading for anyone – including Gopper. Personally, I look forward to Sheila’s views on women’s autonomy tomorrow; possibly more women will join that “discussion”…Jews and Goys alike.

  26. Red, funny, to be Jewish, the better line would have been “Closing on a condo in Boca?”

  27. Red; I see you and I are on the same wave-length. No idea where Gopper is coming from or going to with that “condo in Boca” reference. Recent comments seem to be disconnected; maybe it is the pressure of so many Republican presidential wannabes to choose from.

  28. Don’t know where Gopper got his bizarre understanding of Jewish rituals, but suffice it to say, his description is less than accurate.

  29. I’m tellin’ ya…the guy is a plant, and of late I have discovered, not a very bright one!

    My birth mother chose life for me, and it was entirely her business!

  30. Gopper, your remarks are stunning. Not sure which troll group you represent. Are you for real or are you just saying stuff?

  31. Stuart, are you seriously this sheltered you haven’t heard this stuff before?

    What world do you live in?

  32. Betty; I worked for the City of Indianapols when Sheila worked there, she was well known throughout City government for saying what she meant and meaning what she said. You always knew where you stood with her and what she stood for; she backed up her words with action. That is why I voted for her in her bid for the Senate seat. I do not believe for one second that Gopper is a plant – Sheila is too honest and straight forward to stoop that low and she certainly does not need a shill. He is simply an opinionated out-of-touch Republican who sees the beginning of the end of the GOP and he thrives on descension. Sheila’s blog is a good outlet for him to vent his outdated, vitriol and misguided view of America and Americans. Where else can he spew his venomous nonsense? Maybe he is a self-appointed shill, pushing his opinions simply to get responses from intelligent, thinking people that feed his pitiful ego. He adds nothing of value to these “discussions”; maybe if we ignore him he will go away.

  33. I personally find that all opinions spice the discussions here. Sometimes it seems on slow days that people are just satisfied with what’s been said. How much more fun is disagreement and diversity.

    I fear dull more than disagreement.

  34. “He is simply an opinionated out-of-touch Republican who sees the beginning of the end of the GOP and he thrives on descension.”

    I used to post as “Former Gopper” until the lunacy in here tripped a breaker.


    I think you’re an angry, aging feminist seething with misandry. Ditto for Betty. You really want gender-based legislation, and that’s ridiculous and untenable. Somewhere, somehow, you and your reproductive system will be told what to do by a man, and those laws aren’t bad or evil.

    “Sheila’s blog is a good outlet for him to vent his outdated, vitriol and misguided view of America and Americans.”

    You have a really low bar for “vitriol.” I’ll bet you call the cops when someone has to send back the soup. You’re stuck in your own bubble, and you’re arrogant. You never get exposed to other ideas, and you’re shocked when the real world intrudes on your carefully constructed and protected world.

    Here’s the bad news for you: as more immigrants arrive in this country, they bring much older and more patriarchal views on gender relations than anything you’ve ever seen.

    “Maybe he is a self-appointed shill, pushing his opinions simply to get responses from intelligent, thinking people”

    Please don’t flatter yourself. If you want to win against me, you need to put up the numbers, not merely give yourself an award. From what I’ve seen, I bat above you in the lineup.

    “Gopper weighed in with the Jewish mind set on birth and explained the Jewish ceremony in preparation to have sex. I will stick with the old fashioned lead-in to sex called foreplay – unless the Jews consider that a religious ceremony and have merely given it a name.”

    JoAnn, you should really read the entire post before responding. You often go off half-cocked and embarrass yourself by missing explanatory material. What is the Jewish ceremony I noted? How does it work? What’s the inevitable consequence of the ceremony? You need to improve your comprehension. You tune out when you should really be paying close attention. Never mind. I don’t want to drag down Judaism by having you go trudge about in it.

    “No idea where Gopper is coming from or going to with that “condo in Boca” reference.”

    That’s embarrassing. Bill Maher does a segment “Explaining Jokes to Idiots.” I’m thinking of you.

    “He adds nothing of value to these “discussions””

    Finally, we agree.

    At the end of all this, I’m still turned on by Natacha.


  35. Gopper; thank you for correcting my misspelling of “dissension”.

    “Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him.”
    Thomas Carlyle; Scottish historian, critic and sociological writer.

    “Women receive the insults of men with tolerance, having been bitten in the nipple by their toothless gums.”
    Dillys Lainge, Scottish poet and writer.

  36. I don’t think we should ignore Gopper, especially since he knows so much about Judaism.

    See the thing is, I’m only considered a Jew because of our “American Nuremberg Laws mindset.”

    So I hope you’ll can realize, I’m really learning a lot from him even if he’s off the mark. I’m confidant that Sheila can straighten me out if he gets too far off base. I’m serious about this.

    Consequently, since he knows so much about Judaism and I know so little about Gopper, all I can do is take the position that he is a somewhat ignorant Jew.

    Am I too far off base on that conclusion? What do you think?

  37. Marv; Sheila’s response to Gopper’s views on Judaism ended that discussion nicely.

    Pete; I agree that “…all opinions spice the discussions here…” but – there is a difference between diversity (an instance or point of difference) and devisive (creating disunity or dissension). Gopper is of the latter variety; typical of Republicans who find fault, disagree with, belittle, attempt to deny facts on major issues without offering constructive options or opinions to replace or add to the issue at hand.

    Yes; Gopper, this “…angry, aging feminist seething with misandry” is still using a dictionary. By the way; I looked in all three of my dictionaries and could not find the word “misandry”; do you mean “misanthropy…distrust of mankind”?

  38. A deep dictionary definition of NICE:

    The word “nice” according to “Webster’s New World Dictionary” comes from the Latin word: NESCIUS which means ignorant. With that said, I don’t think Sheila is all that “nice.”

  39. OMG, where do I start?
    Women have a right to decide when and how many children they can have and sometimes, the body decides otherwise.

    There are no 100% birth control methods except sterilization. Try finding a doctor that will perform that surgery when you’re under, say 35. My friend has a gene mutation that caused CF and had a hell of a time finding a doctor that would sterilize her.

    Forcing birth on a woman/child is not humane and everything but.

    Victims of rape, incest and unplanned pregnancies were allowed to end their pregnancy by the SCOTUS in 1970 something. It’s a law. If you don’t like it, change the law and good luck with that. Privacy was the determining factor, if I’m not mistaken.

    The questions you have to ask yourself is, what if my daughter who is married (or single, doesn’t matter) and wanting this child, finds out in the 20-22 week ultrasound, that the baby is not going to survive after birth, why should the lawmakers in every single state make the decision for her? The option should be for the mother (and doctor) to make the decision on when to end that pregnancy. This is a medical issue after all. Her body, her decision, her right.

    What about a woman that miscarries during a pregnancy? My sis-in-law lost a child at 8 months – he died in the womb – should she be arrested for not carrying the child to term? Is that murder? Was she negligent or was the doctor? Why didn’t that baby survive? Who can answer that?

    What about the pregnancy that doesn’t pass the 3 month mark and is miscarried as well? Should that women now go to prison because she wasn’t healthy enough for pregnancy? What if she was healthy and there is no explanation of that miscarriage? Are we women going to have to report in every week (and to whom) on whether or not we’re ovulating and possibly pregnant? Will we have a jury trial in order to get sterilized?

    Society needs to understand that the human body hasn’t been totally figured out yet. Why do some babies survive the pregnancy and some don’t?

    Why do some pregnant women get murdered by their partners while they are carrying that child? Because she ‘TRAPPED’ him?

    Why are all of these questions directed at women? From what I understand about biology, it takes a man in order to get a woman pregnant – either naturally or through in-vitro so where is the outrage for men and their responsibilities, eh?

    Should we start criminalizing men for every ejaculation for not implanting that serum into a woman’s womb? That’s life that could have been created you know?

    If life is so sacred, why do we die?

  40. Marv; I’m glad to know that someone other than myself uses their dictionary long after 8th grade. My Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary confirms your statement; I can’t help but wonder how the word “nice” has been so misused and misunderstood for so many years. This fact points to another reason to discredit Gopper’s previous comment that people stopped using their dictionaries after 8th grade…apparently we should be using it more often. And I apologize for referring to Sheila’s refuting Gopper’s Judaism lesson using the term “nicely”.

  41. JoAnn; I hate to say I had two years of Latin in high school and, as far as I know, this is the first time I’ve ever used it. I guess, there is some good in everything.

  42. “Marv; Sheila’s response to Gopper’s views on Judaism ended that discussion nicely.”

    Is Sheila an Orthodox rabbi? Did Sheila do anything except make a vacant one-line smirk.

    How about you stop talking about things you have no idea about, JoAnn? That includes much of everything, dimwit.

  43. “See the thing is, I’m only considered a Jew because of our “American Nuremberg Laws mindset.” ”

    WTF is that?

    Was your mother Jewish?

  44. @Gopper

    JoAnn knows what she’s talking about. She understands the conduct of Sheila’s Blog better than you or me. She was right. I needed to stop.

    However, when did the truth become a “vacant one-line smirk”?

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