Friday, 9 July 2010

Abortion Law Reform: Queen of Thorns 1, Trotter 0

In the right corner I give you Chris Trotter, longing for the glory days of the 1950s when women knew their place: Are 18,382 abortions in a single year not enough?.
The first question I'd like to ask Labour list MP Steve Chadwick is: "Why now?" What's convinced her that the time is right to reopen the abortion debate? What ill-omened denizen of the current political environment has told her that this is the moment to introduce a members bill permitting abortion-on-demand up to the 24th week of pregnancy?

And in the left, I give you the Queen of Thorns: Abortion reform: all about destroying the Left
Seriously? At the risk of expecting you to exhibit some basic fucking empathy, Chris, you know how many abortions would be “enough”? As many as pregnant women choose to get. As many as are needed, by living, breathing, thinking human beings whose bodies are their own to control.

I wouldn't bother with reading Trotter's column, but QoT's post is a cracker. Head on over to her place to read it.


Giovanni said...

Trotter's increasingly shrill turn as the Right's useful idiot is one of the most depressing phenomena in New Zealand media. Thanks for the link, great rebuttal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Deborah! I just get filled with righteous indignation at the notion that we can't just focus on rebutting the prolifers, we've got to watch our backs against alleged lefties too.

Boganette said...

Alleged is the right word!

ZenTiger said...

Trotter's increasingly shrill turn as the Right's useful idiot ...

that has to be one of the funniest statements I have ever read about Chris Trotter.

He has always been, and will always be the useful idiot of the left. I have fisked Trotter's left wing diatribes more than any other left wing media commentator for good reason. He doesn't do "right".

I was impressed with QoT's fisk of Trotter's article, FWIW. Very good, and her arguments clearly made. It certainly helps cut away all the ridiculous logic around many of the pro-abortion arguments and focuses on what might perhaps be the core reasons.

I don't agree with them, as you know, but I'll save that discussion for another blog.

Giovanni said...

He doesn't do "right".

He writes for conservative newspapers (not that there's any other kind in NZ) a column "from the left" that does more to advance conservatism than most honest-to-God right wing commentary. That's what I meant.

ZenTiger said...

Still have to disagree. We don't have solid Conservatives in New Zealand. The papers are liberal light. Not sure why you think they are conservative. Maybe we need to check our definitions to ensure we are talking about the same ideas. Just about every political term has been warped beyond meaning over the last 40 years.

Chris is a progressive. Believes the State and the Unions will rescue the country from the the conservatives, and the evil right and the exceedingly evil far right (also known as centre and centre-right) sees most things in economic terms and class struggle.

Whilst Chris is no idiot, I think we can both agree he certainly is easily mistaken for one.

Tui said...

@zentiger, rightly or wrongly, the right wing in NZ and elsewhere has become associated not merely with economic libertarianism but with social conservativism. While Trotter may be basically leftist as regards to workers' rights, perhaps the most celebrated and familiar cause of the monolithic left, his social positions (shut up women, shut up gays, shut up people of colour, you're RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE AND BY EVERYONE I MEAN STRAIGHT WHITE MEN) are undoubtedly socially conservative. Because he positions these as coming "from the left", he becomes a tool for the right wing. Geddit? Chris THINKS he's left wing and on some topics he certainly is, but like everyone his political identity is not a monolith and you can't say "oh he's left on workers' rights so his position on abortion must be a leftist position." No. It's deliberately obtuse to pretend that this is the only difference between the right and the left in New Zealand.

Lucia Maria said...


... his social positions (shut up women, shut up gays, shut up people of colour, you're RUINING IT FOR EVERYONE AND BY EVERYONE I MEAN STRAIGHT WHITE MEN) are undoubtedly socially conservative.

That's not conservative. If you want conservative, you can read a summary of what it is on our about page

Lucia Maria said...

I think what Chris is doing is recognising the social gains the left have made. But he's becoming increasingly worried those gains could be undone due to the desires of those who would push them further without seeing how unpalatable to the everyday public their views are.

Basically, you'll end up triggering the pendulum effect, where you'll push too far to one side and unwittingly created a massive swing to the other side.

While I want abortion banned, I don't want a country that buries women to their breasts and stones them to death for adultury.

ZenTiger said...

@Tui. Too many people in NZ are so conditioned to "left wing good, right wing bad" that any contrary opinion from even the most ardent left wing commentators move them into the right just so that particular world view on the supremacy of left wing thought is not disturbed.

So, "rightly or wrongly" isn't good enough to excuse and accept what is plainly wrong.

To some point though, I think we are both right, and only because politics cannot be properly defined in merely "right" and "left" terms.

Simplistic labels create Pavlovian responses. We need to look at better terms for our quick blanket assessments.

"Conservative" versus Progressive might work better, but Trotter is far more Progressive than Conservative. At least (from the pro-aborts pov) he doesn't appear to be against abortion, he just thinks Chadwick rocking the boat at this point might do more harm than good for "the cause".

Lucy said...

At least (from the pro-aborts pov) he doesn't appear to be against abortion, he just thinks Chadwick rocking the boat at this point might do more harm than good for "the cause".

So, to summarise: he's not against abortion, he just doesn't want anyone to talk about it or think about it or move to solve any of the problems with the current system in case more women get abortions, which would be bad (no matter, you know, who those women are or why they're doing it. It would just be bad.)


Can you at least appreciate that it is pretty fucking galling to be told that your rights are less important than not rocking the boat? That because you're a "minority" (i.e. anyone except a straight white man) you must be subordinate to the wishes of the "mainstream"?

Excuse me when I say: fuck. that.

Chris Trotter said...

If QoT's expletive-filled diatribe is what passes for a winning argument over here at The Hand Mirror, Deborah, I'm perfectly happy to sit on zero.

And as for Giovanni - well, I'm sorry that his ideological watch stopped at 19:68, and that his analytical skills are on a par with his nation's woeful football team, but this issue requires more from the Left than reflexive bows in the direction of walled-in feminist orthodoxy.

Deborah said...

It's exactly the other way around, Chris. This question requires far more that the reflexive demand from the 1970s left that women their needs to one side, and wait for that magical day when all the other problems in the world are solved, and their turn finally comes. We are tired of waiting, and we are tired of being patronised and told that we must keep on waiting.

Julie said...

"Reflexive bows in the direction of walled-in feminist orthodoxy"? Chris, is that really you, or is Danyl busting out his satirical stylez again?

When you consistently tell groups who don't fit the older hetero Pakeha male demographic that pursuing their issues is detrimental to The Great Left Project you are going to get some serves. QoT gave you a good one. How about you actually have a think about why she and others are so angered by your column? Why do your writings in this area result in such negative responses from other lefties?

Giovanni said...

That's why I always feel hungry. It's 19:68 and I haven't had dinner yet!

I don't really care how you characterise my position, Chris: I hardly offered an argument for you to rebut. But to liquidate Ideologically Impure's critique as "expletive laden" is disingenuous or cowardly, or both. There are good people out there who take the time to dissect your arguments, to turn their frustration and hurt into something more useful - analysis. In a media environment in which you're the voice "from the left", we need that quite desperately.

(Then of course there's Danyl. We're all very grateful for what Danyl does.)

Alison said...

Chris, the only criticism you've made of QoT's post is that it is expletive-filled. Can you actually be seriously arguing that her argument doesn't stand because she is showing anger? Why, again and again and again, do supposed allies sell women out by demeaning and dismissing our anger? If our anger discomforts you, help us out, argue with us - our anger might be tempered if we felt like we weren't being abandoned to fight for our own agency by the very men who call themselves our allies when they need our anger to make their point.

Danielle said...

Hey, you guys, I think we might be Harming Our Cause By Being Angry (TM).

(The only sensible response to that particular bingo square is, of course, 'fuck off'.)

Giovanni said...

Not only that, but proposing a Bill in Parliament is already tantamount to Being Angry. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Chris Trotter thinks I'm no lady? Oh, crap. Fuck, I did it again. I'm ruining everything by saying naughty words, people!

Seriously, what IS it with a certain demographic thinking the cleverest thing they can do is tone-argument their opponents?

A Nonny Moose said...

Oh good FSM, the "Tone" strawman?

II: I would say maybe we could throw it back at them, but that would be stooping to their level, and we have more important things to debate than whether we say FUCK too often.

But thanks CT for reminding us that even supposed paid journos/columnists can behave like concern trolls.

Monique Watson said...

The mainstream media and politicians alike will ignore you because you display a militant lack of compassion. You pretty much said it yourself, yup you're harming your cause by being angry. Chris Trotter had a valid point: Watch middle New Zealand flee right due to Chadwick's unfortunate timing. Middle New Zealand don't generally google abortion pics for shits and giggles and are concerned about the number of abortions whether you guys like it or not. To me feminism is about cutting through the bullshit and you guys give feminism a bad name by pushing as much ideological dogma as those who are rigidly pro-life.

Anonymous said...

"While I want abortion banned..."

Lucia Maria,

Why can you not respect that a woman can do what she wants with her own body, and why are you so comfortable with women being forced to have children they do not want. It is people like that are causing so much misery in this country.


Anonymous said...

Monique you say "watch middle New Zealand flee right due to Chadwick's unfortunate timing" - do tell us when a good time is then. How long do we have to wait for abortion laws that don't demean women? I mean you seem to be the spokesperson for "middle New Zealand" whatever that means so let us know what the timeline should be.

Sanctuary said...

Whatever one thinks of the rights and wrongs of this debate, the out-of-touch arrogance of the women's movement is massive turn off. RIghteous indignation and dripping, dismissive sarcasm of anyone who doesn't duitfully line up behind the received POV will alienate most people who support you. Crosby-Textor tactics will kill you in any nation wide debate if you don't wake your ideas up and accept you have persuade people to your point of view, not merely dismiss opposing views as beneath your contempt.

Trotter's point - that with National sitting at 53% in the polls and New Zealanders seemingly unable get enough of authoritarian conservatism this is a crazy time to reignite the abortion debate, and that the women's movemnt may not be half as powerful or as clever as it likes to think it is and re-opening this debate could easily result in a massive, regressive defeat - at least bears thinking about.

Deborah said...

Whatever one thinks of the rights and wrongs of this debate, the out-of-touch arrogance of Chris Trotter, assuming that women should just get to the back of the queue yet again, and wait until everything else is perfect is a massive turn-off.

Next we'll be told that we are strident, that we ought to exercise our influence from behind the scenes and only through our relationships with those who belong in the public sphere i.e. the men to whom we belong.

When is the right time for women to be treated as autonomous adults?

Giovanni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Giovanni said...

I'd also refer you to the horrible framing of the article on the version that Trotter posted on his own blog, Bowalley road, under the extraordinary headline "Bitter Fruit". The subtext - that it's all women's fault for daring to have demands - is even more strident there than on the Dom Post.

I wont' even say what I think of the fact the he called out the Queen of Thorns from a newspaper column. The man clearly wallows in the stuff, and doesn't at all regret that political opportunity might in fact counsel against fighting certain battles at certain times. He's not so much warning of the conservative backlash as he is the very vanguard of it.

Trouble said...

Tactically speaking, what's so problematic about having a ginger group out there saying exactly what we want to happen with respect to abortion rights? I don't think that the views expressed here are that hard to swallow for the population as a whole (except for the ones who don't understand that the shits and giggles thing was clearly ironic); but even if they were, it's a political tactic that works. Combined with an electable moderate position, it's the good cop/bad cop of politics and as old as the hills.

The pro-lifers know it - a noisy minority has the bulk of the Republican party in its pockets. It's certainly been an effective tactic for the right recently - set up a tax reform group to recommend some politically unworkable solutions so that the electorate is grateful that the government softens them down. And it's characterised Maori protest and co-operation with the Crown for decades - an occupation here makes things work at the boardroom table there.

Sanctuary said...

"...When is the right time for women to be treated as autonomous adults..?"

Well now let's consider this Deborah. You demand that women be treated as autonomous adults, then use "us" and "we" as if you represent a single mass called "women" in some way. I don't recall anyone voting you Queen of the Amazons, so perhaps you should stick to "me" and "I".

So, now, what do women think? I don't know of any surveys on this matter. I do know what the unrepresentative world of online feminism thinks. So I have asked about two dozen women, ranging from 21 to 74, what their views are on abortion on demand up to 24 weeks. All of them, not some, not most, not a majority - all of them - were absolutely horrified (yes, horrified - the ones with children particularly so) at the idea of 24 weeks being the cut of point. I wouldn't have classified any of these women as socially conservative, in fact they are all anything but that. But you know that 24 weeks date is EXACTLY how the opposition will frame this debate. I'll frankly admit that my two dozen females don't amount to much of a scientific survey, what with all of them being white, urban, liberal women - in other words what I would have thought to be the assumed base of the feminist movement.

I haven't asked many men but be sure, when asked (and when they think it is OK to offer their honest opinion) they are more conservative than women on abortion. So how to propose to deal with the fact that you are going to have to fight this battle around the 24 week termination date? Because as far as I can tell, you'll lose that fight. From the attitudes I've been reading online it seems the women's movement has learnt absolutely nothing from the left's defeat in the section 59 debate. It seems to me you plan to do little more than try and build a bare majority of elite opinion, and tell everyone else to fuck off. It is exactly that sort of arrogant machine politics approach from Bradford that dealt the progessive left a generational blow over section 59.

Abortion law reform along progressive lines is a generation away. After the reforms of the last decade - prostitution law reform, civil unions, section 59 - the country has no discernable apetite for more progressive reform. It occurs to me that for a generation a new social equilibrium has been reached in this country, and to challenge it is a hiding to nothing but bitter defeat.

Jill said...

How interesting that feminists are being accused of being militants who want to shove their opinions down poor middle New Zealand's throats.

It's funny that not a word ever seems to be said about the anti-choicers who are standing outside hospitals abusing and threatening vulnerable women. Or the anti-choicers putting up websites with manipulated photos of late term miscarriages.

No no no, women on a feminist blog being naughty by using naughty words and not being lady-like enough are the evil destroyers who are doing to be the ones to blame should the law fail.

You do know how ridiculous you sound right? So far yes there has been some swearing - and I know conservatives are delicate when it comes to swearing. But there has been no photos of women who have died in illegal abortions, no websites set up to attack anti-choicers, no threats against anti-choicers. No, that kind of behaviour is squarely in the camp of the anti-choice brigade. But they're allowed to act like that right?

And the big bad feminists are the mean ones because they dare to stand up and protect the rights of women in NZ.

Anonymous said...

"the left's defeat in the section 59 debate" - the left was defeated? Didn't you hear:

You do realise that many people were against the right for women to vote don't you?

And the 24 week limit is for women whose health or life is at risk by the pregnancy. If you'd rather women die than have a termination I can see why you'd be against the 24 week limit.

Giovanni said...

And the 24 week limit is for women whose health or life is at risk by the pregnancy.

My understanding is that Chadwick's proposal is that that requirement of health risk - hence the certification by two consultants - be removed. This would make the law quite liberal by international standards. Still, it's the law in Victoria and the roof doesn't seem to have caved in on them.

Chadwick claims the change would reflect the prevailing attitudes to abortion in New Zealand. I would be interested to know if the public opinion has been polled on this. It also has to be said that her proposal is at a very preliminary stage. Chadwick will need permission from Labour to put it up for the ballot. So discussions will be had, on an important issue. It seems extraordinary to suggest - as Trotter et al. do - that we shouldn't even do that.

A Nonny Moose said...

To further what Jill was saying about calling pro-choicers "militant": I said this elsewhere, but I'll reiterate it again...

We do not protest anyone's access to health care. We do not verbally and physically threaten anyone. We do not assault anyone. We do not take weapons into public places as a threat.

We do not kill anyone for our beliefs.

That's pro-lifer tactics.

C'mon, I dare you to show us our version of Scott Roeder.

Militant requires threats, and weapons.

What we have is words, debate. To throw words like "militant" shows that you have absolutely no understanding of our anger, and an ability to engage, whatsoever. We're here, waiting, wanting to talk the facts - you're too busy accusing us of YOUR tactics.

A Nonny Moose said...

@Sanctuary: Did you explain to those women you polled WHY an abortion would be neccessary at 24 weeks? What were your exact words?

"Women want abortions up to 24 weeks, should they have it?" is disengenuous and as leading as any Herald poll.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the bill being entered and pulled out of the ballot and shot down in the first reading to the dustbin where it belongs.

Julie said...

Anon at 1am, you so totes missed an opportunity for a grand abortion joke just then.

I hope this Bill makes it into the ballot, and from there to Select Committee, although I do have some fear of the debate it will arouse. The last week and a bit have been but a taster I suspect of the militancy of those who oppose abortion. Doesn't mean we shouldn't do it though.