Kate Michelman's Testimony

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I was following along with Kate Michelman's testimony at the Alito confirmation hearings, thinking her story presents a fairly hard case for the pro-life position. She and her three girls were abandoned by her husband, and she was forced to go on welfare. She then discovered she was pregnant and after much soul-searching decided to get an abortion. She had to sit before a committee who asked her offensive questions before she could be permitted to have an abortion, and they then required her to find the husband who had abandoned her and ask his permission to have an abortion, a truly demeaning situation to be in. I had no problem seeing what she was saying as a strong consideration for allowing abortion (not that I'm convinced that even in her case it's morally ok, but perhaps it's a reason for legally allowing it in such cases).

But then she just went loopy. She claimed that Alito had no consideration for people like her in his Casey ruling. She said that he would have forced people like her to do exactly the sort of thing she had to do before Roe. But people like her weren't involved in the law in question. She was abandoned by her husband. In those cases, spousal notification was clearly not required by the law in question. It was explicit about that. She also ignores the distinction between spousal notification and spousal permission. She was forced by law to get permission from her husband who had abandoned her. The law Alito said would not have created an undue burden simply required a woman to tell her husband that she was doing it. He wouldn't have to agree that it was right. He wouldn't have to give her permission. As far as the law was concerned, he could forbid it, and she could still have the abortion. Isn't it slander to make morally evaluative claims of someone in a public forum based on misrepresentations of the facts? Whatever her situation as a young woman was, if she's so unconcerned about the truth that she'll cover it over for the sake of political results then in this context she's going to have a hard time retaining my sympathy. She undermines her whole story designed to earn sympathy when she demonstrates how far she is willing to go in service of evil. Someone can have a hard time earlier in life, but it doesn't justify false testimony.

It also doesn't justify an entire career focused on making abortion an absolute right no matter the circumstances but trying to promote that through a public face that spekas mostly of hard cases like her own. This instance of serious misrepresentation of the facts behind some serious moral issues is not just an isolated case with Judge Alito. This is the standard pattern of most pro-choice activists, and her testimony is simply one example of the sort of deception usually involved in that movement as a whole. I'm not questioning her motives. I think her desire is generally good but misguided. What she places of highest value is something that I think is of lower value than the right to life. But that's a disagreement on a moral question. People can disagree on those. What angers me is that her public argument is usually to bring out her difficult case as if it's a reason for allowing abortion-on-demand and a reason to criticize anyone who seeks (or even allows, as in this case) any restrictions on abortion in any circumstances. That's intellectually dishonest.

4 Comments

(not that I'm convinced that even in her case it's morally ok, but perhaps it's a reason for legally allowing it in such cases).


So because her husband left her, and because she was poor, and because she had 3 other children...what about that situation makes it okay to murder a human being? Is it any of the above, or just a combo of the 3, cause you're treading some dangerous ground here. Murder can be legal if...(insert situation ethics here and forget that there is an absolute right and wrong). What about the girl who will lose her athletics scholarship if she doesn't abort? What about the teenage girl with no way to support a child?


Is that human being that the woman in the unfortunate circumstance is carrying not still innocent and would that human being not still end up as dead as those whose mothers didn't have the same "compelling" reasons? Did God say, "Thou shalt not murder UNLESS *enter Kate's reasons*."


Let's see what abortion solves: Killing Kate's baby did not get her husband back to take responsibility for her children. Killing her baby did not get her off of welfare. Killing her baby did not ease the responsibility of caring for 3 children (Hey, why didn't she kill off her born kids if kids were such an issue...Why is it that only unborn children die for other's circumstances?) If the situations are the problem, we should fix the problem instead of killing the baby. The baby is not the problem and adoption is an option. The baby is also not at fault for her father's bad choices and his mother's economic hardship. Shame you think that he/she should suffer for it.


I am a social worker and I hear tons of sad stories and I'm not moved at all by Kate's. There is nothing compassionate about allowing the murder of innocent children to fix social ills (even assuming it does so). Kate may have been a victim, but I'd say her child suffered the most.


So why, oh why should abortion be legal for these reasons? Have you thought about what you're saying?


Did I say abortion should be legal in such cases? I've looked over my exact wording, and I don't see anything of the sort. I never said anything positively about when or how much I think abortion should be legal.

What I did say is that perhaps someone might have laws that allow this, but that doesn't mean it's morally ok to do it. Conceding for the sake of argument that it might be ok to allow abortions in more extreme cases like this does not amount to saying it's morally ok to do so, particularly when I said quite specifically that I'm not convinced that it's morally ok to do so.

We weren't discussing morality at all. I agree that it's morally wrong; the point of my comment is that it should not be legal. You said that although it's morally wrong, it might be acceptable to make abortion legal in such cases. You certainly didn't say that abortion should not be legal.


If you were saying that it's still wrong but reasons why others would support abortion's legality, then your wording was ambiguous. It certainly looks like you think abortion should be legal based on circumstance.

But about morality: the question is: WHY is it morally wrong? If your answer is it's morally wrong because it's murder, then why should it be legal ever? If you beleive abortion is murder, then that would dictate a position of it never being legal.

I already said what I meant. It was a "for the sake of argument" clause. I didn't want to get into the legal issues, and I was putting that in there to stave off arguments about that, because it was thoroughly irrelevant to my point. I was leaving it open for the sake of those who would choose to pick a fight over that rather than over the point I was making. I didn't expect someone to come along and pick a fight in the other direction over something irrelevant to the point I was making.

I don't think abortion is always clearly wrong. I can imagine potential cases where it's going to be very hard to argue that it's ok not to cause an abortion, e.g. if the entire world's surival depends on it because the fetus is infected with something that if it matures it will destroy all life on earth.

That case doesn't seem very likely, but what it shows is that a good argument can be made that abortion isn't intrinsically wrong any more than killing in general is. (Most people allow some exceptions to the wrongness of killing.) Once you say that, you're going to have to figure out what to say about less extreme cases, moving all the way to the life of one woman vs. the life of one fetus, which happens all the time. You'll also have to deal with which (if any) other sorts of extenuating factors will remove or lessen the moral constraint against killing innocents. Moral questions can be a lot more complex than most people who comment about abortion from either side seem to be aware of.

I do think abortion is typically wrong, but I can't say that it's wrong because it's murder. It's murder because it's wrong. That's what it is to be murder: to be a killing that's morally wrong. You can't say it's wrong because it's murder. That would be a circular argument. I've talked about abortion many times on this blog, and I'm not going to repeat everything I've said elsewhere.

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