Feb 14 2006

Human Rights Smackdown: Kidney vs Uterus

“Happy Valentine’s Day, O my beloved non-viable fetus!”

Speaking of abortion — and when does a spinster aunt speak of anything else? — I have been meaning for some time to address the Organ Donor Gambit as an argument in favor of the exotic notion of extending human rights to women. A couple of recent comments at Pandagon reminded me of all the hoots that can be had in this quarter.

Despite the fact that kidney patients will write in to take a bunch of umbrage (knuckleheads who comment on blogs are forever taking “umbrage” at things. Umbrage, umbrage, umbrage!) at my insensitivity in alluding, even in hypothesis, to their disease on a “histrionic” feminist blog, it is fun to liken the plight of the uterusless embryo to that of the adult human in renal failure.

Note: this analogy does not equate babies with kidneys. Should you feel confused or emotional or sentimental at any time, please (1) remember that the cosmos doesn’t give a shit about this either way, and (2) refer to the following key, presented here in handy Aristotelian format:


An adult in renal failure has a medical condition. The condition is this: he is non-viable without kidneys. But, uh-oh. He doesn’t have kidneys. To surmount this obstacle the kidney patient must acquire an organ from a second party. Since most kidney patients occupy a place in the social consciousness that may be described as somewhere between “that’s too bad” and “what’s for dinner?” they are not typically accorded status permitting them to actually commandeer kidneys from second parties. Thus the kidney patient depends on a sympathetic second party’s voluntary organ donation. Using your not inconsiderable powers of observation, you note that nobody — not even the self-styled “pro-life” godbags — is going around on behalf of kidney patients prying organs out of people who, by accident of birth, happen to have kidneys.

An embryo also has a medical condition. The condition is this: it is non-viable outside a uterus. But, uh-oh! It doesn’t have a uterus. To surmount this obstacle the embryo must acquire a specimen of host-body. Embryos are composed only of a few invisible cells, and, unlike the evil parasitic Egyptian stomach-snakes on “Stargate SG1,” they are not of sufficient heft or guile to engage in strong-arm commandeering tactics. Thus the embryo depends on a sympathetic second party’s voluntary uterus donation.

That is, unless the unfortunate second party inhabits a patriarchy, in which case her uterus has already been appropriated, on behalf of whatever unbidden microscopic zygote happens to float by, as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the state. The state loves an embryo! Love of embryos affords the state the opportunity to legislate patriarchy’s dearest principle: the devaluation of women from “human beings” to “warm pieces of incubating brisket.”

The state, on the other hand, is indifferent to a kidney patient. This is partly because, despite the whole sanctity-of-life virus infesting the popular imagination, a kidney patient’s life is just not as sanct as the darling little fetus with its darling little heartbeat. Kidney patients are sick and unattractive. Their heartbeats are not darling, and are seldom used as evidence of their personhood. Godbag legislators (though they are hardly Adonii themselves), ignore unattractive sick people as a matter of routine, until the sick people become irreversibly comatose, at which point it for some reason becomes a matter of principle to keep their brain-dead bodies alive.

Well, crap. In my haste to give hypocritical right wing woman-hating life-lovers the finger, I digress.

Legislating love for kidney patients wouldn’t let us devalue anyone except people with healthy kidneys, so it’s useless to the patriarchal agenda. In fact, it would be considered a fairly enormous infringement of the be-kidneyed’s rights to personal sovereignty if we were to legislate the compulsory coughing-up of an organ whenever some random entity presented with the urge to live.

So, if a fully-realized human can’t compel another fully-realized human to give out kidneys, how can a microscopic bit of tissue compel a fully-realized human to cede over her uterus? Even if one defines the zygote as a fully-realized human (which it isn’t, but that’s another sordid tale), how in the name of Cool Whip are its rights to be construed as greater than the rights of the woman whose body must be appropriated as its incubator? I say again, even if the clot of undeveloped cell tissue is human, it cannot be more human than an adult woman, nor can it have the right to force any woman to acquiesce to an invasive parasitization against her will.

I mean, geeze!


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  1. bitchphd

    I, too, am fond of the kidney analogy, but inevitably some asshole says, “yeah, but the pregnant woman had sex, which is when she volunteered to donate her uterus.”

    Hence the kidney analogy, while not useful as a persuasive technique, is unparalleled at exposing the real motivation of a lot of anti-abortion folks: to punish sex-having harlots.

  2. bitchphd

    By the way, judging by the plethora of posts, you’re feeling feisty despite yesterday’s chemo. Or maybe you’re just feeling like crap and have absolutely nothing else that you’re capable of doing besides net-surfing and posting crap to the blog. In either case, it’s good to see evidence that you’re doing *something* besides puking.

  3. Twisty

    Ah, but let’s preempt, shall we, the asshole to whom you allude by reminding everybody that women cannot be responsible for pregnancy, in the sense of acting to prevent it, because women do not control when, where, how, and on what terms they have intercourse. So spake Andrea Dworkin. And as you know: Dworkin said it, I believe it, and that settles it!

    But hey, you’re up early.

  4. bitchphd

    Yeah, I have to teach today. Why they ever schedule me for classes before noon, I do not know. Anyway, I’m gonna be late, b/c class starts in an hour and I have yet to shower, dress, or have my morning cigarette.

    I love the let’s-substitute-Dworkin-for-Jesus thing. All over it. She wore Birkinstocks and had frizzy hair–it oughta be easy to get people to accept the analogy!

  5. exitr

    My inner devil’s advocate prompts me to ask, wouldn’t this be a better analogy if organ donors got their whatnots back after, say, 9 months?

  6. AndiF

    I, too, am fond of the kidney analogy, but inevitably some asshole says, “yeah, but the pregnant woman had sex, which is when she volunteered to donate her uterus.”

    To which I say if a asshole can show me that a woman signed a contract stating that she agreed to donate her uterus if she got pregnant as a result of heterosexual intercourse, I will agree that she does have an obligation.

    However, to remove any doubt, I suggest that from now on women who do not wish to be pregnant publish a legal notice in their local newspapers stating that “I do not accept any obligation to maintain and support any fertilized egg, zygote, or fetus who has taken up residence in my uterus.”

  7. Suzie

    My inner devil’s advocate prompts me to ask, wouldn’t this be a better analogy if organ donors got their whatnots back after, say, 9 months?

    Except that women don’t generally get their lives back after 9 months, either. Yes, it is possible to give the child up for adoption, but blood is thicker than water and there’s always the chance that one day, junior will want to know why mummy abandoned them.

    Not to mention that pregnancy makes lasting, sometimes permanant changes to the body, mind, and, if you’re inclined to believe in them, soul.

  8. Twisty

    So your inner devi’s advocate is saying that the state, supposedly acting on behalf of a clot of undeveloped cells, should have free rein to extract nine months out of a woman’s life–months, I might add, during which her behavior will be policed and her health will suffer–against her will? Just because she will get the uterus back eventually?

    This strikes me as an exceedingly knob-esque point of view.

    And of course we all know that the ramifications of pregnancy endure well beyond nine months. One woman I know went blind from preeclampsia, and another had postpartum depression, another continues to suffer from a prolapsed bladder. And dont forget the all-too-high probability that her partner will murder her during the pregnancy. Childbirth is itself no cakewalk. It can fucking kill you, fool. In what world is compulsory pregnancy not slavery?

  9. A White Bear

    I’ve always wondered about this point you bring up, Twisty. How is it that prolifers can get their collective panties in such a bunch about zygotes without nervous systems, and yet they don’t give two shits about starving children, innocent victims of war, universal health care, gun control, or, generally, the lives of brown people or those having vaginas?

    Speaking of which, have you ever noticed that all the foeti used as exemplary are all white? Why are there never, say, Mexican-American foeti or African-American foeti?

    Back when I was a young prolife Baptist teen, it was this very conundrum that converted me. That very day, I saw the light, was struck from the ass’s back and flung into the dirt.

    “How,” a booming voice said, “can prolifers resist gun control?”

    And then I realized what you said above: heartbeats are only adorable when in non-viable entities.

    Fuck that! I blame the patriarchy.

  10. Les

    Yeah and people with kidney failure drank too much or ate too many sweets or exposed themselves to some disease so it’s THEIR FAULT too. Blame blame blame. This works better with liver failure. They CHOSE to drink, so why give them new livers. And smokers CHOSE to smoke, so why treat their cancer? And people with missing limbs CHOSE to go to Iraq, so why give them prosthetics? And you CHOSE to get up this morning, so why do you get any coffee? From now on, nobody gets any rights to anything if their need for it derives from a choice that they made.

    Also, fetuses are only people if the woman CHOSE to have sex. If she was raped and it wasn’t really her fault, then she doesn’t DESERVE the inherent personhood of her fetus and it reverts back to being a clump of unwanted cells. True church doctrine. Also, bastards don’t have rights in society and um, medievalism is cool.

  11. Mandos

    at which point it for some reason becomes a matter of principle to keep their brain-dead bodies alive.

  12. Mandos

    Argh! Accidentally pressed “Blame”.

    at which point it for some reason becomes a matter of principle to keep their brain-dead bodies alive.

    See, it’s perfectly consistent. A brain-dead body has reentered the state of Innocence. The kidney patient analogy is easy to wash away. The embryo is Innocent Life. Terri Schiavo became Innocent, or best approximation thereof. I think people see inconsistencies in social-conservative thinking when there isn’t any. I mean, they keep using the word “innocent” regularly, and I think it means something. Adults are not innocent, so their lives are worth less than children. Embryos are more innocent than children, so their lives are worth even more. Adults who have to carry the embryo to term are not Innocent enough that they outweigh the embryo.

  13. Tracy Lynn

    OK, I actually HAVE kidney failure, and I see absolutely nothing wrong with your analogy. My kidneys failed due to a birth defect plus my use of Lithium, so could be construed as my fault.
    So maybe we could start accosting people going into hospitals for regular reasons and shaming them into donating kidneys? Alls Fair, yes?

  14. Kat

    I say again, even if the clot of undeveloped cell tissue is human, it cannot be more human than an adult woman, nor can it have the right to force any woman to acquiesce to an invasive parasitization against her will.

    I heart you, Twisty.

  15. Chris Clarke

    Terri Schiavo became Innocent, or best approximation thereof.

    Terri Schiavo became someone with no cognitive function whatsoever and a fully functioning uterus. It was only natural that the godbags adopt her as a poster child for the Ideal Woman under the patriarchy.

  16. Nancymc

    About the “woman wanted to have sex” objection:

    Ask the objector if abortion is OK in the case of rape. If they say ‘yes’ then clearly they want to punish a woman for wanting to have sex.

    If they say ‘no’ then they clearly feel that a woman must endure compulsory pregnancy even if she did NOT want to have sex. So then the kidney analogy applies.

  17. Jill

    I’m finally de-lurking today to say how much I love you, Uncle Twisty! Thank you for your consistently eloquent blaming. I, being much less eloquent, can’t possibly tell you how it helps me get through some rough patriarchy-filled days. I hope your treatment is going as well as possible.

  18. Sarah

    If you don’t like the organ donation analogy, try thinking of bone marrow donation instead – after all your body can replace it, but that’s not to say it should be compulsory.

    I still think the organ donation thing is closer to the truth though. Anyone who thinks you get your body back in the same state, unchanged, after giving birth, is someone who’d never been pregnant.

  19. Ms Kate

    Ha! I have long made a point of wandering amongst the godbag fetus fetishists asking taboo questions that actually make a few of them think. Sometimes, I just carry a coathanger as an accessory. Other favorites are “what about the horrendous infant mortality rate in certain areas – are you addressing that too? You love babies, don’t you?” …

    and, relevant to this blog, “Do you have an organ donor card? Would you like a form? Let’s save human lives!”. Some take the forms, others get wary, and a few more admit that they “don’t believe in it”.

    Far more fun to infiltrate with intellegence, I say!

  20. Craig Ewert

    “…whatever unbidden microscopic zygote happens to float by…”

    Hey, lady, you put it there.


    “…went blind from preeclampsia…”

    Wow. I was just reading preeclampsia t’otherday for no good reason, but I didn’t see this. All I saw was convulsions.

    But since you know about this stuff, answer me a question if you will. Is preeclampsia the one characterized by enlarged blood vessels in the placenta? If not, what is that condition? I saw it on a science show, but I can’t remember the details, and all the web will show me is hordes of godbags.

  21. exitr

    Nah, my point was just that the analogy has an obvious flaw, so its power to convince is limited to the already convinced. Of which I am one.

  22. Dr Diana

    I mean, they keep using the word “innocent” regularly, and I think it means something.

    Exactly. “Innocence” means “ignorance,” and reveals the, um, godbags’ loathing of rational thought and the liberal subject, which just happen to be the underpinnings of democracy and the free state. After all, these are pepole who choose to believe the mythical gobbledygook in the bible over the fossil record and umpteen other empirical evidences of who we are and from whence we came and where we’re headed. So their dream-dates are in fact the unborn and the brain-dead, clots of cells who cannot refute the obviously spurious crap in their favorite book, and not these god-awful think-for-themselves grown-ups.

  23. Katherine

    I’ve been using this argument with people for a while, and I think it’s very apt. If people argue that sex=consent, they may not also know that even after a person has agreed to donate an organ, they can back out at any time. Even right before they go under the knife. Also, if you were, say, hooked up to someone and giving them a life-saving blood transfusion, you can also stop the procedure at any time, even if it is your own child. How can this not be equivalent to abortion?

    Also, considering the number of natural miscarriages that occur, God kills more babies than abortions do. Let’s boycott God, the meanie! Oh wait, we applaud when he kills our adult enemies. For some reason we have to deal with empty platitudes if someone brings up miscarriage. Hardly anyone gets actual sympathy for their loss if they wanted their fetus, but if you didn’t want it, then you’re heartless and unfeeling and had better keep it, you dirty whore.

    Hey, another Stargate fan! Twisty gets cooler and cooler! (And hopefully feeling better)

  24. sabele

    Some quality p-blaming here, Twisty. Glad to see that the chemo isn’t keeping you down. And an SG1 reference too! How cool (in a terribly geeky sort of way)!

  25. Barbara Preuninger

    Some more devil’s advocate, if you don’t mind:

    A better analogy would be one where a healthy person is hooked up to provide life support to a person with renal failure (providing something more or less like dialysis). The effects on the healthy person could range from minimal to quite bad, but we don’t really know beforehand. When the effects are very detrimental &/or permanent, then it fits the analogy of kidney donation. When the effects are small, it’s different.

    Another analogy would be a land-owning one. Let’s say you just bought a piece of land and there are some people living there currently renting it. You wish to evict them, but the state is forcing you to wait until they have a new place to stay. If there’s good reason to believe that they will permanently wreck your property to the point of rendering it worthless, then it’s quite similar to the state taking your land away and giving it to someone else. Otherwise, it is at least a somewhat more reasonable restriction.

    Lastly, the analogy is weak if you’re not talking about rape. If you’re forced into hooking up to someone with kidney failure, it’s much different than voluntarily hooking up to someone and then deciding after the fact that you don’t like it anymore.

    For example, let’s say there’s a really fun nightclub that lots of people go to and rave about how great it is. You don’t have to go. But if you do, there’s a good chance you’ll become attached to a kidney patient who needs your body as life support for 9 months. You can wear protective clothing, but there’s still some risk. If you do end up getting hooked to someone, there is no way with current technology to unhook the person except by killing them outright. (i.e. you wouldn’t even be able to gently remove them and then move them to a dialysis machine or another person or anything – more like you’d have to stab them to death.)

    In that case, you would have a different set of obligations to that patient than you would if you were captured in the middle of the night, taken down to the hospital and forced into the situation. The risk you took actually *caused* the existence of the patient and thus their dependency on you. So there’s an added measure of responsibility.

    Saying this doesn’t imply that going to the fun nightclub is a wrong action in itself. (I have nothing whatsoever against nightclubs, personally. I’ve gone many times with little guilt, and avoided the roaming kidney patients as much as possible…) Nor does it imply that the choice of going to the nightclub now obliges you to sacrifice your life for the kidney patient or endure serious health risks. Just that it is quite different from a forced situation.

    In general, I am much more convinced by the notion that an embryo is simply not human in the way that a born baby is human, or compared with an 8-month fetus, for example.

    In conclusion, I just want to say that I blame the patriarchy for (most) abortions. I know it’s unrelated to everything I’ve said so far, but I still felt it was worth saying.

  26. Frumious B.

    I knew I’d like this post.

  27. Dianne

    Craig E: Preclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure, retention of water, and massive protein loss in the urine. Untreated, it can lead to all sorts of vascular complications, including blindness, stroke, heart attacks, etc, but the most common complication is seizures. If seizures occur then the syndrome is known as eclampsia instead of preclampsia. It is the same thing as what used to be called toxemia. The only effective treatment is delivery or abortion, although temporizing measures can be used if the woman in question desires it and the fetus is in the border zone between viable and non-viable (ie 25-30 weeks…babies born earlier than that really almost never survive without major problems). But even with treatment, it kills women on a regular basis. No one knows the cause.

    I like the marrow donation analogy myself, although marrow donation is less dangerous and painful than completing a pregnancy and leaves far fewer permanent effects (although, given that a marrow donor is jabbed in the butt with a bone marrow needle 50-100X, one can hardly say that it leaves no permanent effects). Also, the way that unrelated bone marrow donation works can be compared to the way one gets pregnant: Potential bone marrow donors register with a central databank, get their HLA type tested, and then are called if they are needed by a patient. Some people who register as donors back out when confronted with the reality of donation–perhaps because their health or life circumstances have changed, perhaps simply because they are afraid. Should there be legislation forcing them to donate if they previously agreed to be in the donor pool? After all, no one forced them to register, right?

  28. Kyra

    My inner devil’s advocate prompts me to ask, wouldn’t this be a better analogy if organ donors got their whatnots back after, say, 9 months?

    Sure. It would be a better analogy if organ donors got their whatnots back after nine months in significantly worse condition, if the wound where the organ was removed swelled up to the size and weight of a large watermelon over those nine months and required the donor to take a medication with side effects that caused even more weight gain, raised blood pressure, leached calcium out of one’s bones and interfered with the absorption of new calcium, wreaked havoc with bladder control, and required the user to avoid hot baths, rollercoasters, and alochol for the duration of those nine months, and if the return of the organ in question resulted in many hours of excruciating pain while the body got used to having it back.

  29. Hogan


    So in the land-owning analogy, the woman acquires a property interest in her uterus, but only after impregnation?

  30. Kyra

    Oh, and the “sex=consent-to-pregnancy” idea? Pure bullshit.

    Pregnancy is not always the end goal of sex. People have sex all the time without any desire to become pregnant. The motivation to have sex can therefore be completely separated from wanting to get pregnant. And given that sex usually does not lead to pregnancy (whether one uses contraceptives or not, the chance of getting pregnant from a single act of sexual intercourse are not exactly high, certainly not high enough for a person to randomly say, “I’m going to go get pregnant tonight” the way one can say “I’m going to go get laid tonight”), it is possible to separate the act of having sex from the act of getting pregnant. One can have sex just to have sex.

    To put it another way, one can get in a car and go driving without the intent of getting in an accident. There is risk of accident, certainly, but no one suggests that an accident was somebody’s own fault for choosing to drive, or that they agreed to get in an accident when they chose to drive, so therefore they don’t deserve access to medical help to restore them to their pre-accident health as best as possible.

    And before one of you devil’s-advocate people brings it up, drunk driving would be the equivalent in this analogy of getting in vitro fertilization—both are engaging in behavior that are almost certain to lead to their respective consequences, and therefore it is harder to separate the behavior from the consequence enough to justify engaging in the behavior for its own sake. I mean, nobody goes through in vitro fertilization just to experience it. And who drives drunk simply because they enjoy handling a car with beer goggles on?

  31. antelope

    How about this for a logical-world fantasy?

    If the State, or the father, really, really wants to see that fetus become viable, they can pay to have it transferred into an incubator & the responsibility for covering that expense rests with them for the remaining 6 months, not to mention the responsibility for dealing w/ the person who comes out.

    If the State, or the father, wants the superior incubation services of a woman’s body, they are welcome to negotiate with her. It is perfectly reasonable for her to charge more than what the hospital would charge for their incubator, since her services tend to produce a better outcome. Neither the hospital nor the woman can be held liable for failure to bring the fetus to term if due to circumstances beyond the service provider’s control (i.e. natural miscarriage, power outages, etc.)

    In other words – if we’re going to deny personhood to women, then let’s at least be consistent about it. A uterus, and the surrounding meat, is an extremely valuable tool, and use of that tool should cost at least as much as use of our very best high-tech equipment. It is only the woman-as-person that can be expected to cook. clean, breed & raise for free, since the assumption is that she does all this stuff out of love, and only persons can love.

    Leaving the logical fantasy behind for a moment, the biggest problem here is that the thought of turning a baby over to a fetus-lover for his or her upbringing is scary in way too many ways.

  32. A White Bear

    Katherine suggests the miscarriage problem which has so often troubled me. If prolifers go so far as to dramatize abortion as murder, why don’t they have a funeral every time they miscarry?

    I knew a pastor, one particularly obsessed with hell and damnation and judgment, whose wife recently lost her baby at five months. Everyone acted like nothing had happened. They said, “I’m real sorry.” The pastor announced it and said, “Sometimes the Lord taketh away” and shrugged.

    I wanted to scream. How dare he say one word about how women are murdering their babies? I wanted to see him on his knees, crying his eyes out about the loss of his perfect, innocent little baby. I wanted a funeral and hymns sung and a little casket and a tombstone. How dare they treat carrying on with their own lives as if it was more important than their tragically suiciding baby?

    It’s proof that, deep down, prolifers do care more about adult lives than about babies’ lives. It’s just that the only adult lives they care about are their own.

  33. A White Bear

    For the record, I hold no judgments about miscarriage. It happens all the time. They say 50% of pregnancies of women my age are spontaneously terminated, and 95% of the pregnancies of a 40-year-old woman. I’m sure I’ve miscarried at some point. However, I get really bent out of shape about those who treat each abortion as a murder, but not every miscarriage as a tragic infant death.

  34. Kristen from MA

    Brava, Twisty!

    Will you be my valentine?

  35. Suzanne

    Thank you for making my awful day much, much better. I heart you, Twisty. Thanks again for saying all that I am thinking, in the tone that I am thinking it, and doing it so well. Hope the bad effects of your latest treatment go awy fast, and the good effects for which you are going through with it stay. Happy Valentine’s Day.

  36. Barbara Preuninger


    A woman’s ownership of her uterus pre-fetus is not what’s being disputed here. (I suppose there are some crazy people out there, but I’m talking about this discussion, where no one has made that claim!)

    In my “land” analogy, I wanted to show an example where a landowner finds herself obligated to the renters and she had no direct responsibility for their existence. (So any actions occuring prior to the situation wouldn’t be part of the analysis.) If she *were* responsible for the renters being there (i.e. she had leased the land to them in the first place), that would only seem to increase her obligation to them – so what’s your point, exactly?


    Don’t know if you were addressing me or not, but I will answer your point. Of course sex is not consent to pregnancy, but it is consent to the *risk* of pregnancy in a way that rape is certainly not. If you buy stock and the stock price goes down, you consented to that risk, so you don’t get your money back. If you were forced to buy stock and it goes down in value, it’s different. I’m not saying buying stock is a perfect analogy to having sex, just pointing out the difference between consenting to a risk vs. consenting directly to the bad outcomes of the risk.

    Another thing to consider is that having sex actually creates the dependent being that wasn’t there before. It’s different than simply refusing to help someone who’s in need where the cause of their plight has nothing to do with your actions. If you engaged in some risky behavior that directly caused someone else to have renal failure, and they could only depend on you for their life, what would your obligation be to that person then?

  37. Crys T

    Y’know, the sooner some people accept that most of us fuck for fucking’s sake, the happier the entire world will be.

    Barbara: the point is that anti-choicers are always blathering on about how life is sooooooo important to them and all, but when it comes down to it, they never put their money where their mouths are. If an anti-choicer is going on about how we have the absolute obligation to sustain fetal life, no matter how it came about (ie whether it was rape, incest or any other scenario), but they baulk at the obligation to sustain the lives of already-born people, then they are fucking hypocrites. OK?

    I’m tired of the hair-splitting which is never more than “punish the dirty sluts” mentality. If I fuck with a properly-used method of birth control, I could still become pregnant. I don’t appreciate the implication that if I then choose to abort–the only truly sensible, adult, responsible choice I personally could make–I am somehow less worthy of obtaining that abortion than, say, a victim of rape would be. If you want to be celibate your whole life, you are welcome to it. Quit trying to make the rest of us into villains for wanting sex lives.

  38. Nancymc

    If you engaged in some risky behavior that directly caused someone else to have renal failure, and they could only depend on you for their life, what would your obligation be to that person then?

    If you drove in a winter storm and your car spun out of control, and hit a bystander, causing them to have renal failure, do you have an obligation to give up your kidney? Not hardly. In fact, I can’t think of any accidents that would oblige the person causing the accident to become a life support for the victim.

    So what exactly are you after here, Barbara Preuninger, the perfect abortion analogy?

  39. Aussie Liz

    I was looking forward to this post, but was hoping it was going to be about donating aborted tissue to save lives.

    I can donate my bone marrow (and am registered to do so if a matching patient arises) and donate my blood (which I do regularly). I’m registered to donate my organs when I die.

    So why can’t I donate the product of a termination, performed legally, to save lives or be used for scientific research into curing terrible diseases?

  40. MindSpin

    I’ve just started reading Michael Gazzaniga’s book The Ethical Brain. Interesting stuff.

    At about 6 weeks’ gestation, a fetus has early, disorganized neural activity emerging in the brain, along the lines of the disorganized neural activity one finds in patients declared brain dead. If an adult suffered brain damage reducing brain function to the level of that found in an 8-week old fetus, that adult would be a candidate for organ donation. At week 13, a fetus’s brain has lobes and a corpus callosum but not the brain development sufficient to make it a sentient being. Its brain development is comparable to that found in a sea slug.

    It is around the 23rd week, when the fetus can survive, with assistance, outside the womb, that synaptic growth has skyrocketed such that a fetus may respond to aversive stimuli – i.e., pain.

    It is ethically twisted to prioritize the preservation of a fetus when that fetus has no more consciousness than a sea slug over the rights of a woman whose human life is already fully realized. Yes, a fetus is an incipient human life, but a woman has a sizable window of time in which to make a humane choice. To equate abortion with murder is to embrace willful ignorance, and willful ignorance is never to be equated with virtue.

  41. yeahpope

    oh yeah! homerun!
    twisty, you are wunderbar!

  42. Kate

    Great post Twisty.

    As for the perfect abortion analogy: well, there isn’t one. But analogies are helpful for helping fence-sitters see the light. As for the hardcore anti-abortionists, I think they’re beyond help. After several run-ins with them (esp this week in Australia, where the parliament is debating whether or not to allow our drug administration body to have the authority over RU486 instead of our godbag of a health minister) I have run out of strageties, rhetorical or otherwise, for dealing with the stupidity.

  43. jezebella

    two things:

    1. you can, in fact, donate your embryo/fetus/result of conception to scientific research after having an abortion. they give you a form to sign during the intake process if you are willing. this may, in fact, be where those stem cells for research come from, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

    2. if sex = consent to pregnancy for a woman, then does sex = consent to a lifetime of parenting and child support payments for a man? I don’t see anyone saying *that*, do I?

    2a. the “every sperm is sacred” song keeps popping into my head today. I wonder why that might be?

    okay, three things.

    oh, wait, one more: In Japanese Buddhism there is a ceremony one can perform after abortion or miscarriage, honoring the loss. They even have cemeteries for this purpose. If I understand it correctly, it’s entirely optional but it can give parents a kind of closure, which I’d think must be comforting for those who are feeling the termination as an emotional loss.

  44. Barbara Preuninger


    Actually, the perfect abortion analogy would be really nice! It needs a good analogy to distance it from the patriarchal drive to punish wayward women. Finding a way to push aside that particular urge shines a great deal of light on the discussion, let me just say.

    Your driving analogy is very apt, but I’ll quibble two points:

    1) The risk of causing someone renal failure or similar type of injury in a car accident is quite low, actually. Unprotected intercourse has a very high chance of pregnancy and even protected intercourse is quite risky. (I don’t have raw numbers, but there are probably a lot fewer serious car accident victims than unplanned pregancies that occur each year.) So, if your action has a high chance of causing someone to need life support from you, and you know ahead of time that only you could provide it, does your obligation to them change?

    2) What if the accident you caused also (oddly) entailed an automatic hookup of the life-support needing person? And to disconnect them, it would require a violent removal, causing their instant death? That situation definitely has a different feel.

    By the way, I wouldn’t normally start from the position that a fetus is a 100% human being (I believe its value as a person depends a lot on stages of development.)

  45. Donna

    Barbara, I have a quibble with one of your quibbles. What if you really didn’t know that your actions might lead to an organism requiring life support from you? A lot of young people don’t understand the basics of human reproduction. You’d be aghast at the sexual ignorance of kids today, despite the increased openness about it. Abstinence only sex ed is not helping matters, either.

    So if a 14 year old girl believes she can’t get pregnant if the guy pulls out or because she’s on her period, shouldn’t she be off the hook? Even if she had sex willingly?

  46. SimoneDB

    You rock, Twisty. Your analogy of kidney : dialysis patient :: uterus: fetus reminds me of a talk I went to, many years ago (Fall of 1990 or 1991), when I was a Militant Young Feminist.

    I attended an interesting talk at the University of Michigan Law School by Kitty MacKinnon (she really does go by Kitty, I was surprised to learn, when I later took her class; and she was also more a more nuanced thinker than her writings would suggest). Anyway, at said talk MacKinnon argued that the way that we talk about abortion and fetuses in this country was utterly useless and postioned the people who supported abortion rights awkwardly. The Phyllis Schaflys of the world use big, blown up photos in which the woman is reduced to a womb and the non-viable fetus is larger than life. They call themselves “pro-life,” but pay no mind to women’s lives, and in fact, subordinate those lives to the life of the unborn. (They also don’t give a rats’ ass about the unborn once it becomes born and demands WIC and HeadStart and Medicaid).
    The thing that stuck with me all these years was that reactively, those who support abortion rights and focus on the woman’s body and her choice to bear and parent a child, end up minimizing the fact that the fetus, while viable outside the womb, is in some ways alive. Alive in a different way than a person, MacKinnon said, but having an abortion is qualitatively different than say, having an arm amputated. A fetus is not arm. It is part of a woman but in a dependent way, unlike an arm. For years I’ve looked to see if MacKinnon published the piece in any format and I never found it.

    What’s stuck with me, though, over the years, is that a fetus is neither flesh nor fowl–it’s a third category, and to disregard the woman’s right to her own decision is intellectually dishonest, so is the comparing of a fetus to an arm. I think you are right to think about it in terms of the fetus’ dependence on the uterus and to compare the uterus’ hospitality to the (voluntary, not enforced) generosity of kidney donors.

  47. ismnotwasm

    As a tranplant nurse, I find nothing wrong with your analogy. In fact, I can take it a step futher. In my experience, certain recepients should NOT be getting goddam organs. They won’t take care of them, they won’t take care of themselves, they won’t change thier lifestyle, they won’t comply with the lifelong medication regimen that success requires. Some don’t have the support, some don’t have the emotional or intellectual skills, some don’t have the strength, some don’t have the money.
    Just like certain women do not need to be having babies. Sex and conception is besides the point. It happened. Pregnancy happens. Kudo’s to the women who realize that it’s the wrong fucking time to have carry a fetus to term. A different “twist” on the whole subject I know. Sorry.
    Note to those in kidney failure or waiting for transplant–this doesn’t apply to most of you-no insult intended.

  48. NancyMc

    Unprotected intercourse has a very high chance of pregnancy and even protected intercourse is quite risky. (I don’t have raw numbers, but there are probably a lot fewer serious car accident victims than unplanned pregancies that occur each year.)

    Hmm. The anti-abortion protesters of my acquaintance were always claiming that protected intercourse is ‘quite risky.’ Where do you get your information? And what do you consider ‘quite risky?’

    According to Planned Parenthood:
    Of 100 women who use the pill, only eight will become pregnant during the first year of typical use.* Fewer than one will become pregnant with perfect use.

    And of course the older you get, the less likely you are to become pregnant. The comparison to traffic accidents skews significantly depending on if you’re comparing unplanned pregnancies of 17-year-olds versus unplanned pregnancies of 37 year olds.

    But why is any of this relevant? What exactly are you trying to get at?

    What if the accident you caused also (oddly) entailed an automatic hookup of the life-support needing person? And to disconnect them, it would require a violent removal, causing their instant death? That situation definitely has a different feel.

    Since that never happens, it kind of screws up any analogical potential.

  49. Puffin

    Twisty, where do you find such fantastic graphics?

  50. Kate

    I’d say that the land analogy has it just about right, but I’d change a few things.

    First. You have a piece of land. You don’t use it really, it just kind of abutts the land you really do use for your enjoyment. There’s no passage to it, but through your backyard and its kinda wooded and unfamiliar; kind of secret. So what, its just part of the entire piece you own and there it is.

    You decided to have a party, you have those occasionally and invite people over and even let them camp on that piece of land you have out back.

    Then suddenly you find, after one of your parties, about a month later that a huge exotic tree is growing out back. You learn that the species of tree came from seeds left from the food that you and your camping friends shared. Oh such good times, but someone didn’t clean up as well as they could have andl eft some seeds and now they’ve begun growing. Most die off, but one makes it and begins growing. At first you don’t notice but then suddenly you find that the tree is getting really enormous.

    You notice that the water pressure is reduced when you take a shower or wash the dishes. Not only that, but the plantlife on your front and back lawn is beginning to die as this tree in back is thriving. Its obvious, its sucking the life out of your property!

    It grows and grows and begins to shade your house, the roots crawl underground and enter into your basement, cracking the foundation, your house begins to sag and groan as its weight is now out of balance and the sills and foundation are sagging underneath.

    You try to fight off this tree, cutting away at it, complaining to your neighbors.

    But lo and behold! A group of people comes to your door and tells you that if you cut that tree down you are going to jail and it is YOUR responsibility to allow it to grow.

    You ask, “If you want it to grow and usurp my land and destroy my property then why don’t you pay for it?

    NO WAY they say. What kind of citizen are you?? 1) Its your fault because you had that party that brought that food and then you carelessly let those seeds get spread around on your property…sorry, your stuck. And isn’t that tree grand anyway? How come you don’t like that poor innocent tree? Uh? What kind of cruel beast are you anyway?

    “Take it!” you say, “Please take it! I can’t afford to grow this tree! Its destroying my home!”

    They wave their hands and proclaim indignantly, “Oh really now! How childish! Look at your great responsibility to mankind and earth and you talk about needing some stupid little house!”

    “Can I live in your house then?” you ask what seems the commonsense question to their response. After all, if the sanctity of your privacy and your home is nothing, then what is it to them if you need to move in with them?

    “Are you kidding?” they laugh and walk away, leaving you to deal with this alone. reminding you though, that they ARE watching and will call the police if you should try anything ‘funny’ with that tree.

    So now you find 7 months later, your house is a shambles, the rain comes in, but the land is dry as the tree has sucked out the water. The walls have crumbled because the tree roots and branches as well have crowded over it and are even sucking out every single molecule of mineral and every calorie of energy it can find within everything you own.

    Too bad. Give it up. They tell you, ‘Don’t worry, you can give up your house to someone else.” or “Don’t worry, eighteen years and the tree will move on to spread its seeds elsewhere.” others will say, “Isn’t that tree beautiful? Lets make a park! Don’t you feel wonderful, your home is a park now, aren’t you filled with love?”

    No one offers you a place to stay. You have no shelter from the cold, the winds blow and the snow falls and the tree grows, you are relegated to finding shelter somewhere within some corner of what was once your house, but you will never be the same, never.

    When a woman has sex with a man she doesn’t give up rights to her uterus in return for an orgasm (or should I say his as she has no guarantee of receiving such from her partner).

    Women like sex and can have sex and foget about who they had sex with or not give a rat’s ass about who they’re having sex with at that moment and forget his name the next morning.

    Patriarchs call them whores. It churns hard, deep in their most dark psyche that women not only can bring life, but that they can now chose just exactly whose DNA will be brought to life. Abortion serves as the ultimate wrangling from the patriarchal stronghold.

    The extent to which a woman can control her body and in particular her reproductive functions, from beginning to end; including when their is a beginning and when their is an end, will always serve as the indicator of the strength of the patriarchy and the weakness of the women’s realization as a full human.

  51. lexicon

    @ Tracy Lynn in #13
    So maybe we could start accosting people going into hospitals for regular reasons and shaming them into donating kidneys? Alls Fair, yes?

    ha! i just got a monthy python flash from the meaning of life where they do the “live organ transplants”

    What’s this, then? Mmh.
    MR. BROWN:
    A liver donor’s card.
    Need we say more?
    MR. BROWN:
    Listen! I can’t give it to you now. It says, ‘in the event of death’.
    No one who has ever had their liver taken out by us has survived.

  52. Anna Winter

    Just to make a very pedantic point, Barbara Preuninger – there is no such thing as perfect analogy. If it didn’t fall down eventually it wouldn’t be an analogy, it would be the actual thing.

  53. woojzee

    Altogehter now, the Monty Python anthem!
    “Every sperm is sacred!” What are the rest of the words…

  54. antelope

    Another thing that really gets me about all the b.s. from the Godbags – aren’t these more or less the same people who poke fun at “save the whales” & “save the spotted owls” & so forth, and yet “save the fetus” has some similarities. An innocent victim of behavior that is beyond their control. A critter that (supposedly) has only become endangered in modern times as we fall further & further from grace. The feeling that the critter is there because that’s the way the world was meant to work & who are we humans to think we can improve on the natural plan. A critter that is being harmed “merely for the sake of convenience” as a by-product of other goals that people want to pursue.

    Of course, whales and spotted owls are smarter, cuter, more interesting, and a more valuable part of their respective ecosystems than any fetus – but I wonder if what’s going on emotionally with those who would protect them is more similar than we usually think. It’s a story with a villian and a victim and you get to step in as the hero.

  55. Jennifer

    I am puzzled thatno one has mentioned Judith Jarvis Thompson in all of this. Her article A Defense of Abortion is this very story –the violinist has a kidney problem, even!

    It’s particularly useful because most of the dimwitted responses to this fundamentally sound point have already been smacked down in various articles. Yet somehow, many remain unconvinced

  56. Eleanor

    Re “wouldn’t this be a better analogy if the donor got the bits back after 9 months” – you get your body back (in whatever changed state) after 9 months, but you don’t get your old life back. People don’t just get abortions because they can’t cope with a pregnancy but because they can’t cope with *having a child*, something that affects not just 9 months but the whole of the rest of your life.

  57. Famous Soviet Athlete

    Speaking of the price of kidneys, scroll down to the update part of this for a really horrid story: http://www.snopes.com/horrors/robbery/kidney.asp

    (Did I just hear somebody say we’re not actually talking about the price of kidneys?)

  58. Famous Soviet Athlete

    And Twisty, I take no umbrage at that romantic Valentine at the top of this post. I like the way Bush’s tie compliments the purple veiny things protruding from the organ/fetus combo of love.

  59. Twisty

    Did somebody ask where I get the graphics? I steal their parts off the internet, then put’em through the Twist-o-Matic 2000. My new Photoshopping technique is unstoppable.

  60. laughingmuse

    I love this blog.

    Carry on.

  61. That Girl

    Twisty, I hope this means you are feeling better and eating delicious foods again.

    Couldnt you use the partial liver transplant? It’s organ donation, major surgery (which carries risks) and eventually your liver grows back.

    Of course, even if you give the recipient up for adoption your body will suffer the effects any major surgery has on a body, from simple earlier death to stroke, etc. – and you dont know what the consequences will be ahead of time.

  62. Barbara Preuninger

    I wouldn’t include uninformed people in the analysis, because you’re absolutely right – it would be a different case. Of course, it’s quite a crime that any mentally capable 14-year old wouldn’t know about pregnancy risk or how to use contraception. (There’s reason #1 to blame patriarchy for abortions!)

    I’m very familiar with the statistics of getting pregnant. When I say protected intercourse is “very risky”, I mean in comparison to serious injury-causing car accidents. Though I could be wrong about that.

    My goal is really to clarify this whole thing in my own mind. On one hand, I think that the kidney donation analogy makes sense, but only up to a point. And I do think that if someone engages in an action which has a very high probability of creating a dependent being, then they do have at least a moral obligation to that being, if not a legal one. If the cost to the “host” would be small (and I’m not saying that this is necessarily true in pregnancy), then perhaps there should even be a legal obligation as well (like say, you did something with a 50% chance of seriously injuring someone, and only your blood could save them – maybe, if your health allows it, you should be required to donate the blood) This is all still assuming that the dependent being is a real, live person (like a kidney patient) of course.


    I think your land analogy is very good, except that the tree would only start out as a tree, but later would become a person. Also, the effects as you described seem to only be addressing the extreme end of possible pregnancy effects. On the other extreme, pregnancy might have minimal or even some positive effects on a woman’s body. (A health exception for abortion would remove the worries about pregnancies with extremely negative effects.) I agreed with the notion of the tree stealing water and nutrients from the land, and cracking the foundation of the house. I also agreed with the way you described people’s typical reaction (totally unhelpful and obnoxious). But when I read the part about “leaving the house in shambles”, that seemed a somewhat beyond what most pregnancies are like. If it were, I can’t imagine anyone willing to go through it!

    In the end, I’d argue that if we really were talking about kidney patients, and we were disconnecting them (to a fate of certain doom) as often as abortions occur, it would be quite a tragedy. Perhaps it’s not so bad if we’re talking about sea-slug level cognitive function (which I realize is most abortions).

    I will also 100% agree with the desire to not have to make such decisions in the first place, i.e. huge funds for education and promotion of birth control. And if possible, technology to transplant fetuses would be nice too…

  63. NancyMc

    And I do think that if someone engages in an action which has a very high probability of creating a dependent being, then they do have at least a moral obligation to that being, if not a legal one.

    Is the moral obligation you’re talking about related to the risk of pregnancy? Does a teenager who has unprotected sex have a greater moral obligation to a fetus than a 40-year old woman who became pregnant while using the pill perfectly? If not a legal one.

    And since you’re talking about “dependant beings” then a woman’s moral obligation is greater still to any puppies that resulted from the woman breeding dogs. In fact, if your moral obligation = risk-taking theory applies, the woman has a much greater moral obligation towards the puppies, since deliberately breeding dogs has a far greater probability of creating “dependant beings” than having protected sex.

  64. Dim Undercellar

    As far as “a moral obligation to another being you have helped create” goes, I can’t help but wonder how many pro-birth advocates are out lobbying for tougher child support enforcement laws, child support rates that actually reflect the true costs of raising a child, and more resources for law enforcement to catch deadbeat dads and make them pay up?

  65. Sharoni

    Twisty, you rock. Kate, I think, rocks too. Well, all of the patriarchy-blamers here are beyond compare, but I LOVED Kate’s analogy. The only addition is that 18 years would not signal the end of dealing with the tree, or the child. You deal with the child the rest of your life. I have done both (1 child, 1 abortion). Had both on the pill. Thought I was being irresponsible taking the pill, but it turned out the dosage was too low for me. So, I did the only responsible thing for me, went out and got my tubes tied. You notice, I said “for me.” I raised my child, in spite of the absence of father and interference of several males along the way. I made sure that when the time came, she knew more about birth control than her gyny, and she only had children when she wanted to have children. The abortion was the only way to go at the time, and not wanting to go that way again, I fixed it. Pun intended. For a single mother in this godbagged, patriarchal world, there are few real choices. I blame the patriarchy with every fiber of my being.

  66. Char

    “For years I’ve looked to see if MacKinnon published the piece in any format and I never found it.”

    Simone DB —

    That work was published as “Roe vs. Wade, A Study in Male Ideology,” in Abortion: Moral and Legal Perspectives. Ed. J. Garfield and P. Hennessay. University of Massachusetts Press, 1984.

    The same ideas were also discussed in Toward a Feminist Theory of the State.

  67. Katherine

    The other issue I have with saying that since someone created a person, they owe it their body is, this stops being true once that person leaves the womb. If a living child needs an organ or blood or marrow and their parent is the only one who can donate it, that parent can refuse, male or female. We may feel that they have somewhat of a moral obligation, but we don’t force them. That should be true if the child is in the womb, too.

    I think this argument is more useful than ones that claim a fetus is not a person because this takes the anti-choicers’ claim that it is a person and stands it on its head. “Fine, it’s a person. Then it still has the same rights as any other person, which is not to be able to demand organs of anybody.”

  68. Kyra

    “Another thing to consider is that having sex actually creates the dependent being that wasn’t there before. It’s different than simply refusing to help someone who’s in need where the cause of their plight has nothing to do with your actions. If you engaged in some risky behavior that directly caused someone else to have renal failure, and they could only depend on you for their life, what would your obligation be to that person then?”

    If my “risky behavior” caused someone else to have renal failure, I would be responsible for it; however, I have yet to see any case of any person convicted of a violent crime which damaged someone’s organs, forced to provide replacements for those organs, much less someone who’s done it by accident. In any case if that same risky behavior was also the only thing that caused the person with renal failure to exist, then what are they complaining about? They’d rather not exist? Fine by me, and no longer my responsibility.

    Any unpleasant by-products of existance (such as fetal nonviability or renal failure) are either cancelled out by the fact that they’re alive to experience it, or, if life is a burden to them, then not having that life extended is hardly a burden. Death is an intrinsic part of life, and the only way to avoid it is to not live at all. Either life is worth living in spite of what it hands you, in which case it’s kind of a package deal, flaws and lack of security included, or it’s not worth it, in which case you can hardly complain about dying. (In cases in which pro-lifers insist that the fetus did not ask to be conceived, abortion would be the closest fix to its complaint.)

    For your analogy to be correct, if I caused the renal failure, then I also caused the existance of the person who has it, and the two cancel each other out and I don’t owe him his life twice. Or, if he considers life itself to be an additional negative, then I owe him the ability to end his life (i.e. not keep him alive against his will), which incidentally also removes his renal failure from the equation. And if he deliberately interferes with my “risky behavior” in order to create his renal failure, because he would profit in some other way from my being forced to support him (perhaps he’s sick of having to urinate) (the equivalent of this would be a zygote implanting in my uterus because it wants the nondependent life it would get after being born), then that is comparable to insurance fraud, and once again is not my responsibility.

  69. Nancymc

    And I do think that if someone engages in an action which has a very high probability of creating a dependent being, then they do have at least a moral obligation to that being, if not a legal one.

    Is the moral obligation you’re talking about related to the risk of pregnancy? Does a teenager who has unprotected sex have a greater moral obligation to a fetus than a 40-year old woman who became pregnant while using the pill perfectly? If not a legal one.

  70. Nancymc

    Sorry about the double posts – if my comments ever get moderated.

  71. Twisty

    I’m moderating as fast as I can! I’d love to turn that thing off, but if I did, the comments would consist entirely of “Great point! Love your blog! Get asian sex here!”

  72. NancyMc

    The price of popularity, Twistress.

  73. Ron Sullivan

    I knew that “The fetus didn’t ask to be conceived” thing rang a bell. My ex-brother used to say, — when he was being completely, self-indulgently, sociopathically snotty about why he was being ineffectually told not to beat up and/or strangle the smaller kids, break everything in sight, set fire to things, lie baldfacedly about it all, bust up the house, come home screaming drunk/stoned with a gun (and then, fortunately, disassemble it all over the yard), expose himself on the front porch, etc. etc — “I didn’t aaaasssssk to be born!”

    For some reason my mother didn’t retroactively abort him. Neither did I. But that’s another can of maggots.

    No fetus asks to be conceived. No fetus writes opera, doodles on the phonebook, shoots off fireworks, or any other damned thing before conception, duh. WTF does that have to do with anything? No one has squared the circle yet either. What a Klein-bottle argument.

  74. Kyra

    Oh, by the way (was in a hurry to get to class and forgot this point), regarding the sex=consent to pregnancy/obligation to the fetus argument, WHY in all the Cosmos does only the mother have this particular obligation? Whoever-it-was’s “your cause renal failure in someone else, you’re morally obligated to hook them up to your kidneys” analogy falls apart rather spectacularly here—if the actions of two people cause a third, unconsenting person to have renal failure, why would only one of those two people be morally obligated to provide the dialysis, and the other one get off scot-free?

    (And don’t anyone invoke child support as a response to that last question. I’ll accept it when women are *never* forced to pay child support when the father gets custody.)

  75. Rex Little

    if sex = consent to pregnancy for a woman, then does sex = consent to a lifetime of parenting and child support payments for a man? I don’t see anyone saying *that*, do I?

    Well, that’s pretty much how the law actually works, isn’t it (at least the child-support part; no one can be forced to actually parent)? If a woman gets pregnant and chooses not to abort, the man who impregnated her is on the hook for support whether he likes it or not. (I don’t think this is particularly fair, but I can’t think of an arrangement which would be any better.)

  76. Christopher

    Maybe somebody already brought this up, but if sex = consent to pregnancy, then living healthy = consent to organ donation. After all, if you didn’t want to lose a kidney you could’ve drunk like a fish.

  77. SimoneDB

    It may well have been. I’ve not read Abortion: Moral and Legal Perspectives. Ed. J. Garfield and P. Hennessay, and it sounds like it very well may be in there. At the time I was a huge MacKinnon groupie and was well-versed in “Toward A Feminist Theory of the State.” MacKinnon had indicated that the talk was a think-piece, work in progress so to speak, and so I looked for more contemporary versions of it. My recollection 15 years after the fact didn’t do justice to her talk; I just ‘boiled down’ the bits I remembered. Thanks for the reference, though!

  78. Kate

    If anyone cares, we here in the Antipodes have won a victory over godbag fetus lovers — our health minister now has no say at all over RU486. Control of it goes to a professional body called the TGA where it will almost certainly be given the OK.

  79. The Fat Lady Sings

    Twisty – Wow. This is one of the very best articles you have written – and that’s saying something, because everything you write is a gem. I love the way you put your thoughts – it’s not just what you say, or the fact that I agree with 99% of it; it’s the wonderful way you have of saying it. I’m so glad Bitch PhD pointed me in this direction – you are one cool lady. Just wanted to say that. Also wanted to congratulate you on another Koufax nod for Best Writing. I know you seem to be viewing these with a somewhat jaundiced eye – but I think it’s wonderful. So bravo – you certainly deserve the accolade.

    Now – interesting analogy you have made. It’s so true – which makes me mad as hell. Women’s health and well-being are just not high on anyone’s top ten list. It pisses me off no end to hear some asshole pontificate on why women should be forced to carry any and all conceptions to term, while at the same time (and on the same news show) male pedophiles facing castration were considered under threat of cruel and unusual punishment. It just makes the head spin sometimes.

  80. Hershele Ostropoler

    exitr, like others have said, that only strengthens the analogy for stillbirths — not to mention that an accidental unwanted pregnancy may well color a woman’s attitude towards sex for years to come. Even if a person thinks women are useful only for sex and babies, that’s important.

    Barbara, your analogy in 25 is more interesting. Here are reasons, if you need reasons: The effects are greater than you anticipated. Your being hooked up to the kidney patient isn’t going to help them anyway. The kidney patient’s nurses all quit all of a sudden. The nurses try to kill you. Does that change anything? Even if someone voluntarily goes into a particular situation — even if we stipulate that no, she can’t change her mind about that — if the situation changes (or if it was different from what she was led to believe from the first) all bets should be off.

    Of course, the only really good analogy to pregnancy is pregnancy.

    Kyra, I have sex all the time strongly desiring that no pregnancy result. I don’t think that approach should be condemned when women take it.

  81. Famous Soviet Athlete

    Kidney sales in the news!


    As you can see, this conversation sent me off on a tangent. I was thinking about how we live in a world of such inequity that even organs are commodified, and then I found the BBC link.

    You can go back to what you were doing now.

  82. NIkolas Nies

    Something has been bothering me for awhile now. The media with all of its liberal ways and supporters has negatively added connotations to the desire for a person to live a conservative life. My question to those who would label conservatives as “far right”, “extremists”, “fundamentalists” (as if that is suppose to be a dirty word), “fanatics”, you get the picture, anyway, how do Christian people think that they can live any other way but conservative? In Matthew 7:14, the Bible tells us: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. The preceding verse tells where liberality leads. So how can a Christian look at life and say, I am not going to take that path, it’s too narrow? I will follow the broad (liberal) path. The Bible tells us that path leadeth to destruction.
    While I was thinking on this subject, I was thinking about political hot topics, that we are being fed propaganda on everyday. Homosexuality, abortion, individuality, absence of God in everything, and other liberal topics come to mind. Well, I got to thinking about abortion, looking down through this strait gate. And I ask myself, What would Jesus say to a woman, who would come to him seeking an abortion? Now I would never attempt to speak for Jesus, or pretend that I am smart enough to know what he would say. But while I was thinking on this very subject, a verse which was spoken by Jesus came to mind. Matthew 19:6 says: Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Now, I know what your going to say; that has nothing to do with abortion that is about marriage. Well, when it came to my mind, I wasn’t thinking about divorce or adultery, I was thinking about how a Christian could justify killing an unborn child. And if you think about the verse, yes it is talking about marriage, but it doesn’t say, A man and a woman that God hath joined together. It says what therefore God has joined together. To me that is saying that anything God joins together, man is not suppose to mess with. He made man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breathe of life, and then told man “Thou shalt not kill”. Whatever he creates, he doesn’t want man to destroy.
    If you still want to argue that the verse just pertains to marriage, lets look at marriage. In what way is a marriage consummated? And what is the process that leads to conception? There is a part of a man that joins with a part of woman to create a new life. Who is in control of those two parts that are joined together? If you say man, woman, or doctor, there will be a lot on infertile couples who will take exception to your response. Only God can join the two together to make a life. And no man whether he be the President, a Supreme Court Justice, a doctor, or some liberal editorialist can spin that around to say that abortion is a woman’s right to put asunder what God has joined together.

  83. Twisty

    It’s fun to quote passages from a book written by barbarians from the Roman Empire, but does nothing to overcome one of the more rudimentary problems with godbaggy legislation pertaining to the rights of human women, which is that god does not exist.

  84. hedonisticpleasureseeker

    Nikolas, bless your heart, nice try. But all you accomplished was to remind us why we don’t go to church.

    IF there is a god, and if he’s really the Jesus, and he’s omnicient and omnipresent and unencumbered by the contstraints of time and space and matter . . . what does “he” care if any of us are living or dead, if to him we are ETERNAL???????? This is a rhetorical question. I’m NOT asking for a response; I don’t want one. Just chew on it and move on.

  85. Char

    “MacKinnon had indicated that the talk was a think-piece, work in progress so to speak, and so I looked for more contemporary versions of it.”

    Ooops, my bad.

    Although, if you do read the piece, I hope you enjoy it.bbAnyway, the thing in it which made the biggest impression on me was this:

    “My stance is that the abortion chioce should be available and must be women’s, but not because the fetus is not a form of life. In the usual argument, the abortion decision is made contingent on whether the fetus is a form of life. I cannot follow that. Why should not women make life or death decisions?”

    Although, possibly, “Reflection on Sex Equality Under Law” addresses your point somewhat more completely — I’m sure you’ve seen it as it was published in 1991. In any event, I think this language, from the article, goes to the point you were making?

    “Yet the fetus is not a body part. … The fetus is a unique kind of whole that, after a certain point, can live or die without the mother. Whatever credibility the body-part analogy has evaporates at the moment of viability, placing tremendous pressure on the viability line and its determination as a consequence. No other body part gets up and walks away on its own eventually.”

  86. niknies

    Twisty, you mention the “rights of human women.” What do you propose those rights to be? You proclaim to be an atheist, so you must see yourself as the only one responsible for your existence. You blame the Patriarchy? For what? A woman can have an abortion without the consent of the male donor. A woman recieves the child in most every custody dispute. When a man dies, his wife, and all his ex-wives receive money from Social Security, which is supposedly run by this Patriarchy. The same benefit is not reciprocated when a man dies. Are you one of those people that think that 18 year old females should have to register for the draft? What you call “godbaggy” legislation, is what gave these benefits to you.
    And hedonisticpleasureseeker, I have no response for you, you are probably proud of the name you use, but yet you “Blame the Patriarchy”?

  87. Twisty

    Niknies, I would ask that you read the FAQ before posting here again. It covers most of your points.

  88. Christopher

    I don’t quite understand why I, living in Portland, OR. should pay any attention to a local god who comes from across the sea.

    It’s pretty clear that this “Christ” fellow was tied to the lands he lived in; He never did anything outside of the Roman Empire.

    And while I would never presume to know the names of all the gods in this vast universe, nor would I presume to ask anybody to give up their gods (except to the extent that they need to to live in a civilised society), I can’t help but wonder whether your particular brand of worship isn;t dangerous to the country.

    The idea that a local god could have dominion over any but those who willingly give themselves over to him is theologically suspect in the extreme.

    Not to mention that this post brings up an actually very contentious point within your cult, and you fail to address it. A central question for you people is: How much charity must a godly man give?

    Twisty’s post compares Pregnancy to Organ Donation; Her contention is that a society should not force a person to give up their own internal organs for somebody else.

    Question: Have you donated a kidney? What would Jesus say to a man who wanted to know if he should sacrifice his well-being for others? If abortion should be outlawed, shouldn’t organ donations be mandatory?

    Really, you could have addressed Twisty’s actual point in your post and still talked within the framework of your bizarre religion, but you didn’t.

    Very rude, if you ask me.

  89. jennifer

    Was it wrong of me to suggest that people stop wasting important blaming energy on an argument that’s already been had? I love to find rebuttals, safely made by sober people, to the Thompson argument. That just makes me sad for them — “This is the best you can do? Fucking jag.” Plus it saves me drunk, ranty typing. That was all I meant to suggest up there.

  90. jennifer

    Now, inspecting my original post, I can see why people might have been moved to ignore it. Here is something more like Thompson’s paper.

  91. Famous Soviet Athlete

    And I ask myself, What would Jesus say to a woman, who would come to him seeking an abortion?

    Why would anyone go to the imaginary Dr. Jesus for an abortion?

  1. Feministe » Parts of the woman

    […] The singular Twisty writes a Valentine’s Day post about abortion vs. organ donation. […]

  2. Redneck Mother

    Twisty much?

    If not, you should. Her latest pro-choice post has it all — logic, wit and a truly repulsive illustration.

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    […] « Human Rights Smackdown: Kidney vs Uterus […]

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