Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Abortion and the Ick Factor

I had the misfortune on the weekend to need to wade through the July 2010 Your Views forum on abortion at the Herald website. I don't recommend you read it, as with over 160 comments from about 140 different people only 3 were stories from women who had actually had abortions and many were really awful women-hating diatribes from people with little compassion. Big props to our regular commenter A Nonny Moose for engaging in the thread.

What astonished me was the lack of simple biological knowledge that many arguing against abortion displayed. Things like the so-called fact that a fetus at seven weeks' gestation (i.e. roughly 5 weeks after conception) is a fully developed human being. Stuff about embryos and very early fetuses having baby-like faces and being able to scream. Someone else reckoned, from her own experience of pregnancy, that when she pushed her belly she got pushed back quite deliberately, and also when she played music there was in utero dancing going on. Wishful thinking, all of it, and Just. Not. True.

But it does rather serve to increase the Ick Factor, doesn't it, and thus to make people feel uncomfortable about advocating for abortion access. It justifies the "baby-killer" moniker, to make it seem as if embryos and fetuses are like babies in appearance and development when they really really aren't.

If some women decide to think about their pregnancies as involving a fully developed human being with rights equal to their own then that's fine by me.  They should make their choices about their bodies, and their pregnancies, based on those views, if that's what they want to do.  But to insist that all women share their views, when they are simply not based on biological fact, and then to restrict the rights of all women to control their own bodies as a result of these erroneous ideas...  well that's not OK with me. 

And then to go a step further and actively lie about what's going on in the uterus, as some do, is unacceptable;  to promulgate doctored pictures of aborted fetuses, to make misleading claims on internet forums about how fetuses can consciously smile when they can't, to publish spurious captions to inappropriate photos used to accompany news stories. 

Making mistakes and repeating misinformation you've been told by someone you trust I have a little sympathy with.  But lying to deliberately drive up the Ick Factor and shut down reasoned debate I can't stand.  If your argument is any good then you shouldn't need to lie to make your point.


A Nonny Moose said...

Heh, there are some days I wonder why I bother with YV....and then I remember that the Herald don't bother to moderate it. It really chews my grit that a forum like that is left wide open to promulgate all sorts of hatred and mis-information. It's just not on.

I'm sure there'll come a time when I can't deal with YV any more, and I'm sure it's not helping my blood pressure hanging out there. As a friend says to me "ANM, saving the world, one forum troll at a time".

It can sometimes seem like a futile case of screaming into the void, but intellectual debate would go a longer way if the Herald committed a full time moderator to the job who knew what the hell they were doing. Our local news sites have absolutely no clue on how to deal with their social media.

Anonymous said...

Could the blog owner please delete my last comment - I wrote it Anon which means I can't get rid of it. We've already gone over this unto death and there's no point getting into it again.



A Nonny Moose said...


I don't think this particular discussion is about the pros and cons of Abortion, it's about the level of disinformation diseminated and how we can combat that.

captiver said...

I admire your stomach A Nonny Moose. I stay far far away from unmoderated comments. Does anyone know of any good (or even any) empirical studies of the impact of 'places' like YV? Whether it's worth, as you say, the raging blood pressure etc to wade in, or whether it's essentially hopeless? Of course, how would one measure it, after all? So much anger and hatred are expressed in those forums, I've concluded it's not worth the psychological damage to spend time there. But good for you for doing so. I am full of admiration and gratitude. And I do have the nagging fear that by not engaging and countering some of the claims, one is allowing harm to be done.

Julie said...

Deleted as requested Muerk.

As ANM points out, it would be preferable if commenters could keep to topic (this is not directed at Muerk, thank you for realising this yourself). Not every post about abortion is about the morality of abortion and should not be taken as an opportunity to have that same argument over and over again.

Anonymous said...

See the post re this on New Zealand Conseravative, they have a good point. Abortion is a moral issue, whether you acknowledge that or not, even if you don't like free speech.

Anonymous said...

Cheers Julie - much thanks.

A Nonny Moose - sure. I don't know why the Herald forum isn't moderated.


Katherine said...

A Nonny Moose, you're a saint. I gave up on the Herald Your Views when I realised they weren't moderating them and didn't respond to complaints anout some of the worst comments that were breaking their apparently unenforced comments policy. I couldn't take the rage it would induce in me, and the opposing ignorant views on EVERY subject are overwhelming; one cannot respond to them all. Though I do remember seeing you on some of the comments sections before I gave up :)

A Nonny Moose said...

Captiver, I've too wondered about studies/evidence about the harm of unmoderated social media. I would very much like the Herald (and Stuff) to engage in a discussion about it.

Editing Teh Herald and a few other bloggers have a go at YV too. I'd hope the Herald would eventually take notice of the criticism.

Anon @ 4:31: We have plenty of discussions about the morality and choices of abortion here. This topic is about another strand of the abortion debate - derailing. We are not against Free Speech, but Hate speech is not Free Speech.