Mike Kueber's Blog

October 27, 2014

Reproductive rights – what are those?

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 11:11 pm
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Local Express-News columnist Elaine Ayala wrote a column today extolling the virtues of fading feminist Gloria Steinem. Her column started as follows:

  • Gloria Steinem came to San Antonio last week and spoke for what was at best 30 minutes at the Women in the World Texas summit. In that short window, she talked about the status of women; the women’s, civil rights and anti-war movements, and the backlash they’ve experienced; the struggle for reproductive rights and the changing demography of the United States and the world. “Most women in the world,” she said to an audience hanging on every word, “are of color.” You don’t get to be an American icon without having the capacity to put the globe in perspective in one sentence.

Talk about drinking the Kool-Aid! Does Ayala really believe that the people of San Antonio go around thinking that the world is filled with white people? I know when I return to ND in the summer, I am struck by the abnormality of being surrounded by mostly white people.

Ayala’s column, as suggested by the passage above, was focused on securing women’s “reproductive rights.” As part of her argument, she described the death in 1977 of Rosie Jimenez, who had to travel to Mexico for an unsafe abortion because Medicaid wouldn’t pay for a safe abortion here in America:

  • Many websites pay tribute to her, and Rosie Jiménez Day is marked in several cities. In the mid-’90s, October was declared Abortion Access Action Month in her memory.

I was struck by the phrasing, “Abortion Access Action Month.” It seemed to me that that is exactly what feminists mean when they say “reproductive rights.  Why not call a spade a spade?

But I decided to do some research to see if the term might mean something more than abortion access. According to Wikipedia:

  • Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedomsrelating to reproduction and reproductive health. The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as follows:
    • Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.

Amazing! Not only does the term include things other than abortion, but it does not even appear related to abortion. This reads like Newspeak from the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. George Orwell was off by 30 years.

October 9, 2014

Abortion rears its ugly head on Facebook

Filed under: Culture,Facebook,Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 12:50 am

One of my sisters-in-law posted on her Facebook wall a crude abortion-rights poster that consisted of a simple decision tree. If you are on Facebook at all, you have probably seen the thing – essentially, if you have a vagina, you are entitled to an opinion on abortion rights (euphemistically called reproductive rights); if you don’t have a vagina, shut up.

Because I find the poster to be not only crudely insulting, but also simplistically fallacious, I sometimes comment, and I did so today, with my standard response:

  • Yeah, but the next time we have a discussion about fighting a war, do we want all non-soldiers to shut up?

Usually this response ends the discussion, but my sister-in-law took a different tack by accepting my suggestion:

  • S-I-L: Might be a good idea Mike!! Each one of us should be willing to stand up and protect our individual right!!
  • Me: Unfortunately, God did not bless men with the ability to have babies; nor women with the ability to fight in war.
  • SIL: Biologically men cannot have babies. However MANY women have proved they can fight a war!!
  • Denise Whitman: You are so wrong, Mike Kueber – but you will never admit it.

Where the hell did Denise Whitman come from? You may not recall, but as I blogged previously, Denise’s sister got into a heated discussion on Facebook with Kelly and me over bossy girls who show leadership skills, and Denise interjected that Kelly and me need to get a life. Both of the women “unfriended” Kelly.

No surprisingly, Kelly mocked Denise a bit:

  • Kelly: Come on Mike Kueber you know you are wrong! Admit it:

I was mightily tempted to mock Denise, too, with a suggestion that a picture of her can be found in the dictionary alongside the term “peanut gallery” – i.e., a group of people who criticize someone, often by focusing on insignificant details.” But I bit my tongue and instead said:

  • Me: By wrong, I assume you mean that only people with vaginas should decide the abortion issue. I tried to provide an analogy that shows how silly that idea is. Obviously, I failed. I could provide you with additional analogies, but I suspect it makes more sense to stop.

By now Kelly had cooled down and tried to calm the waters:

  • Kelly: I think abortion is wrong and I think men should have the right to vote on all issues just like women were given that right about 100 years ago! It is OK to argue and not let it become personal!
  • SIL: Mike and Kelly, everyone has their own beliefs on what is right and what is wrong. I don’t want to start a family war about this. Which is the reason I don’t ever say much in person or on FB about how I feel about politics, religion, and other personal issues. There is nothing I can say or do to change the way you feel or how I do. So we should just leave it as we agree to disagree!
  • Mike: SIL, whenever Facebook friends post a political poster, I assume that they are inviting a discussion of the topic. Otherwise they should include a disclaimer to “please don’t comment unless you agree.” As Kelly has suggested, people should be able to discuss politics or religion without getting angry or judgmental. But telling all men to “shut up” is not a good way to start a rational discussion on abortion. This issue is evolving and everyone should keep an open mind.
  • SIL: I do have an open mind Mike. I have 2 brothers that are as opposite as there ever could be. I listen to both of them and feel they both have good and bad points. I know you and your brother do not share my views and that is good to. But I felt that your comments were not about the abortion issue as much as they were just slamming woman in general. We are the ones that surrender our bodies and lives in most cases. We have also fought much harder than you can believe to gain a lot of the rights that men take for granted. I also believe that at 18 all able bodied people should sign up with SS. Equality should not just be for black and white.
  • Mike: Jeez, SIL, it’s ironic that I am “slamming women in general,” while your poster has women telling all men to shut up. As they say in sports, go figure. And you are wrong to infer that I don’t share your view on abortion. Personally, I would vote for Texas to adopt the ruling of Roe v. Wade, but I think each state should have been allowed to vote on this issue instead of having the Supreme Court force it on everyone nationwide.
  • SIL: Ok Mike, I find a hung jury!! And I (my post) did not tell MEN to shut up! It says ‘IF YOU DON’T HAVE VAGINA’. Have a nice day!!

Although that last comment doesn’t seem to make sense, it did include an invitation to draw this discussion to a close, and I accepted by giving her the last word.

About a week ago, I blogged about a Facebook discussion with a woman over George Clooney’s bride wherein the woman attempted to cut her losses by suggesting that, “This isn’t worth arguing about.” I told her that I wasn’t arguing, but rather was giving my brain its daily exercise. Today’s exercise was not nearly as satisfying because I sensed a failure to communicate. Although the soldier analogy is undeniable, it was not effective. And we never touched on the essence of the abortion issue, which is when does society have an obligation or right to protect a fetus from its mother.

Another day.

November 5, 2013

Putting a face on abortion

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Law/justice,Medical,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:53 pm
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Abortion is almost always discussed in the abstract because almost no one is willing to be the face of abortion.  Even the most ardent advocate of abortion rights will express her personal opposition to aborting a fetus of hers.  That all changed today in the Express-News when an Austin woman complained loudly that her scheduled abortion had been cancelled at the last minute because of Texas’s new anti-abortion law had shut-down her abortion clinic.

According to the article, which was accompanied by a large close-up photograph, the seven-weeks’ pregnant Marni Evans was devastated:

  • This was my decision to make, but I am still pregnant today because that decision was taken away from me.”

The article went on to report, “(Marni) will use frequent-flier miles she had saved for their honeymoon to travel to Seattle this week to have the abortion, rather than try to start over with a new ultrasound and attempt to get an appointment at another Texas clinic.”

Aside from Evans’ willingness to publicize her planned abortion, the thing I found most surprising was Evans’ comment that she and her fiancé cannot afford health insurance, much less care for a child.  Both her insurance status and her ability to care for a child seem irrelevant to the article, but even conceding their relevance, they are highly dubious and the reporter should have insisted that Evans elaborate.  According to Evans’ website:

  • I believe in the power of continuous personal and professional development.  Trained as an architect, Marni Jade Evans, LEED AP BD + C, is a sustainability educator, consultant and mentor as founder of the Austin, TX based office.
  • With thirteen years of professional sustainability experience, Marni possesses a deep passion for transformation of the development industry, after a spiritual awakening led her to question conventional process and unsustainable patterns in the way we design and build today.
  • Her spark has ignited individuals and organizations to pursue deep green solutions – be it career transitions into sustainability or pursuit of the Living Building Challenge.

Does that sound like a person who cannot afford health insurance or care for a child?

February 20, 2013

New York follows a separate path on abortion

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 7:43 pm

There have been lots of reports lately about the successes of the anti-abortion movement and the defensive reactions of pro-choice people.  The anti-abortion people been able to enact laws that not only make it difficult for a woman to have an abortion, but also make it difficult for an abortion clinic to stay in operation.  There is only a single abortion clinic in several states, including my home state of North Dakota, and if proposed legislation is successful, even those single clinics might have to close.


An article in today’s NY Times, however, reports that its home state, New York, is going against the flow.  The governor of NY, Andrew Cuomo, is proposing legislation that will grant to a woman the right to an abortion of a viable fetus even if the woman’s life is not in jeopardy, provided that her health is at risk. 


According to the article, the federal courts already protect a woman’s right to a late-term abortion whenever her health is at risk, but the NY governor wants to make this protection a part of state law as a precaution should the federal courts ever back off their current position.


Because I thought Roe v. Wade (1973) had held that states could prohibit late-term abortions, I decided to find out what federal decisions the article was referring to.  What I found was that Roe v. Wade actually allowed late-term abortions when necessary “to preserve the life or health of the mother.”


Another Supreme Court decision, Doe v. Dalton, was rendered the same day as Roe v. Wade, and Doe elaborated on the meaning of the “health of the mother”:


  • Whether, in the words of the Georgia statute, “an abortion is necessary” is a professional judgment that the Georgia physician will be called upon to make routinely. We agree with the District Court, 319 F. Supp., at 1058, that the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.”


Obviously, this sort of verbiage means essentially, “abortion on demand.”  And NY Governor Cuomo wants to preserve this status even if the U.S. Supreme Court comes to its senses. 


There is a history in NY for this extreme position.  Prior to Roe v. Wade, only four states allowed abortion on demand – NY, WA, HI, and AK – so we should not be surprised that NY abortion clinics will be open for business even if Roe v. Wade or Doe v. Dalton is modified.


January 27, 2013

Feminism and abortion

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 10:05 pm
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The NY Times’ conservative columnist, Ross Douthat, wrote a column today positing that abortion rights and feminism are two separate things; that one can oppose abortion rights while at the same time favor feminism.  Not surprisingly, the liberal readers of the Times disagree. 

The following response by “Winning Progressive” earned the Times’ most-liked designation (liked by 390 other readers):

  • To call anti-choice activists “feminists” is to remove all meaning from that word.  Feminism is about providing women with the same choices and opportunities around education, careers, domestic affairs, and reproductive issues that men have always had. The anti-choice movement is about removing, through the hand of intrusive government, women’s ability to make those choices with regards to reproductive issues. The resulting impact is not only to force women to carry a pregnancy to term (even, in the fantasies of many anti-choicers, in the case of rape and incest) but would often be curbing women’s choices with regards to all those other areas of life, as reproductive freedom is critical to women having freedom with regards to education, careers, etc.
  • If your religion or personal values teach you that abortion is immoral, then don’t have one. In a pluralistic, secular society such as ours, however, you shouldn’t be trying to limit the freedom of everyone else to make that decision and choice for themselves. But, if you are going to impose that sort of restrictive, anti-choice agenda on the rest of us, please at least have the decency to not pretend like doing so is part of feminism.

Although Douthat neglected to provide his readers with a definition of feminism, the definition provided by Winning Progressive in the first paragraph comports with most dictionary definitions – i.e., the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.  The problem with that definition is that bearing a child is not analogous to any activity in a man’s life, and so in that sense it seems that Douthat in correct in pointing out that being for or against abortion rights has no connection to any type of equality with men.

I found the second paragraph from Winning Progressive to be similarly problematic in claiming that, because America is a secular society, people shouldn’t attempt to enforce their religious or personal values into our country’s laws.  Number One, America isn’t secular; it is one of the most religious nations in the world.  Number Two, just because the personal values of many people are informed by their religious values doesn’t render those values any less worthy of recognition.  Clearly, America’s generous safety net exists in large part due to the religious value of caring for your fellow man.  Further, religious values affect a person’s view of capital punishment, but there is no movement to somehow nullify those views.

Atheists and agnostics have no right in America to disenfranchise personal values that flow from a person’s religious beliefs.

August 24, 2012

The national GOP’s 2012 platform

Filed under: Issues,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:54 pm
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As a public-policy wonk and a political junkie, I love to read and write about political-party platforms.  Earlier this year, the Texas GOP produced a platform that, in addition to making a number of significant statements, created a bunch of controversy by taking a position arguably against critical thinking. 

The national GOP started working of its 2012 platform this week, and although a draft will not be released to the public until next week, the essence of several controversial provisions has leaked, and the mainstream media are using them as an opportunity to brand the party as extremist. 

An editorial by the NY Times yesterday is typical.  The editorial acknowledges that traditionally, “election-year platforms have been regarded as Kabuki theater scripts for convention week. The presidential candidates blithely ignored them or openly dismissed the most extreme planks with a knowing wink as merely a gesture to pacify the noisiest activists in the party.”  But then, without explaining why this platform is different, the Times asserts:

  • That cannot be said of the draft of the Republican platform circulating ahead of the convention in Tampa, Fla. The Republican Party has moved so far to the right that the extreme is now the mainstream. The mean-spirited and intolerant platform represents the face of Republican politics in 2012. And unless he makes changes, it is the current face of the shape-shifting Mitt Romney.  The draft document is more aggressive in its opposition to women’s reproductive rights and to gay rights than any in memory. It accuses President Obama and the federal judiciary of ‘an assault on the foundations of our society,’ and calls for constitutional amendments banning both same-sex marriage and abortion.”

Since when is opposing abortion and same-sex marriage shockingly extreme?  Even President Obama opposed same-sex marriage until earlier this year.  What would have been shocking would be for the GOP platform to condone these things.

When the GOP gives us a chance to read its entire draft-platform next week, I will be anxious to find out whether the inmates have taken over the asylum.

August 21, 2012

Political correctness and legitimate rape

Filed under: Issues,Medical,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:33 pm
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The current 24-hour news cycle is being dominated by a Republican candidate, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, for one of Missouri’s seats in the U.S. Senate.  Akin earned the news spotlight by recently asserting that victims of “legitimate rape” are highly unlikely to get pregnant. Virtually everyone, including Akin’s congressional colleagues and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has vehemently rejected his statement and many have insisted that he abandon his senatorial campaign so that a substitute candidate can be selected to compete in November against the highly vulnerable Missouri senator, Claire McCaskill.    

Most early news reports focused on the outrage created by the statement and ignored the substance of the statement – i.e., what the hell is “legitimate rape.”  (Akin later clarified that he was referring to forcible rape.)  This failure of the media to address the substance of Akin’s statement reminded me of the political correctness that required condemnation, but not discussion, when Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder claimed that the breeding of slaves resulted in African-Americans being genetically advantaged to become world-class sprinters.

Today, however, the media seems to have finally gotten around to addressing the substance of the issue, but because political correctness so permeates American life, the best the media can do is state that there is no solid evidence supporting Akin’s assertion.  Unfortunately, there is little evidence contradicting it, either. 

An article in the New York Times today is typical.  The article refers to a doctor with the National Right to Life Committee (Dr. Wilkes) who essentially agrees with Akin – i.e., forcible rape will not result in pregnancy because trauma and fright will preclude fertilization.  To counter this argument, the Times article cites two doctors who call it “absurd” (Dr. Grimes)” and “nonsense… just nuts (Dr. Greene).” 

The argument takes the low road instead of the high road because of the dearth of evidence.  The Times article is able to cite only a single medical study, which concluded that 5% of raped women become pregnant, as compared to Dr. Wilkes’s assertion that only 1% get pregnant.  In response to this study, Dr. Greene says, “I’m not aware of any data that says [fright] reduces a woman’s risk of getting pregnant.”  Unfortunately, this does little to settle the argument.       

Time magazine this week also includes an op-ed column that attempts to address the substance of Akin’s assertion.  The column by Health & Science columnist Erika Christakis makes no pretense of being fair and objective by characterizing Akin’s assertion as bizarre and unscientific:

  • This embarrassing episode is only the latest in a long string of Republican rape canards that present a binary view of female sexuality where some women are deemed worthy of legislative sympathy while others are not.  The ignorance is reaching a new crescendo but it goes back decades.”

Christakis refers to a study that found pregnancy from a rape is more likely than pregnancy from consensual sex, but she thinks this is not the crux of the Akin brouhaha.  She is disturbed that some legislators, including VP candidate Paul Ryan, think forcible rape is more egregious than other types of rape (statutory, incest, etc.), and therefore its victim is entitled to more deference vis-a-vis abortions.  Her column concludes as follows:

  • But it’s a mistake to get mired in pregnancy rates….  There will always be nuance and ambiguity where pregnancy is concerned. That’s why many Americans have long preferred to stay out of first trimester abortion decisions, leaving them to a woman and her doctor, partner and conscience. People on all sides of the abortion debate should instead unite to prevent as many abortions as possible through comprehensive sex education; better access to family planning; improved support for adoption; and greater compassion for living, breathing parents and not only their unborn children. To this list, we might also add better science education for legislators.”

The problem with Christakis’s attempt to be reasonable is that, although “many Americans have long preferred to stay out of the first trimester abortion decisions,” that is certainly not true of Akins or his ilk.  They are fighting the signal moral fight of their lives.

And regarding her final point about better science education for legislators, such an education would be more accessible if academia were less reluctant to study politically incorrect, yet widely accepted statements.  Statements like “white men can’t jump.” 


p.s., according to USA Today today, Akin is going to tough it out and not drop out.

March 25, 2012

Spineless politicians

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:04 am
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The biggest issue in this year’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination is whether Mitt Romney is a dependable conservative or someone who is running as a conservative but will govern as a moderate.  This charge resonates with Romney because he has a history of governing as a moderate when he was governor of Massachusetts, and now his campaign positions are more conservative.  As all litigators know, whenever individuals have given two different answers to the same question, they are vulnerable to charge that they were either lying then or they are lying now.  Either way the individual is shown to be a liar.

A Texas example of shifting positions was recently reported in the Texas Tribune.      Texas Comptroller Susan Combs is planning to run for lieutenant governor in 2014, but such a run is problematic because she started her career as a pro-choice state rep in Travis County, where being pro-choice is acceptable.  Such a position is not acceptable, however, in a state-wide race for lieutenant governor in the Republican Party.  Not surprisingly, Combs changed her abortion position last year and now opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or the life-threatening complications.  But the true believers wonder whether Combs is dependable.

President Obama is in the process of doing the same conversion thing in connection with the issue of same-sex marriage.  During his campaign in 2008, he opposed same-sex marriage because otherwise he would have been hammered by Hilary Clinton on the issue.  But the country (and even more so, the Democratic Party) is moving left on this issue, and President Obama last year started laying the groundwork for reversing his position by declaring that his position was beginning to “evolve.”  I don’t think there is any question the he has always favored same-sex marriage, but declined to take a principled position because it would hurt him electorally.  Now he is making an electoral calculation that being in favor of same-sex marriage will no longer hurt him.

I agree that voters have a right to be skeptical about politicians who significantly modify their positions to accommodate political considerations.  But ultimately that is what politicians should do in a democracy.  Politicians retain their legitimacy only as long as they faithfully represent their constituents.  Furthermore, although politicians might occasionally take principled positions contrary to the wishes of their constituents, they can’t do it very often if they want to retain the support of those constituents.

February 19, 2012

Down syndrome – an update

Filed under: Culture,Medical — Mike Kueber @ 3:27 pm
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This week’s issue of Time magazine has an excellent article on the status of Down syndrome in America. 

The focus of the article is on the effect of scientific advances that enable earlier and easier detection of Down syndrome.  Because 90% of the women who learn that they a carrying a fetus with Down syndrome have their fetuses aborted, the article assumes that earlier and easier detection will result in an America that is populated (currently 400,000) with fewer and fewer people with Down syndrome.  Paradoxically, the article suggests that that diminishing population will result in reduced government services because large numbers and scalability often facilitate improved services.

I was shocked at the 90% termination rate of fetuses found to have Down syndrome.  Not surprisingly, however, the one woman who was extensively reported on in the article ultimately decided to have the baby.  Despite the widespread support in America for abortion rights, there is still widespread disapprobation awaiting any individual woman who acts the right.

Because of the advancing age of women in America having babies, and because the age of the mother significantly affects the likelihood of having a baby with Down syndrome (1 in 100 for a 40-year-old mother as compared to 1 in 691 for all mothers), you might think the population of Down syndrome babies would be exploding.  But it isn’t.  Over the past 20 years, the advancing age of mothers should have resulted in an increase in Down syndrome births of 42%, but in fact the numbers decreased by 11%.  That is clearly the cause/effect of testing and abortion. 

Regarding the scientific developments on testing, it has three key components:

  1. Detection can be as early at 10 weeks (before the mother is visibly pregnant);
  2. Instead of a scary amniocentesis, testing involves a blood sample; and
  3. The risk of miscarriage is eliminated.

Another significant scientific development with Down syndrome babies is that, because of a new surgical technique that corrects a heart-defect found in half of the Down syndrome babies, their life expectancy has gone from 25 in 1983 to 60 in 2011.

Sarah Palin is one of the 10%, and I admire her action, but I sympathise with the other 90%.

August 7, 2011

Susan Combs and abortion

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:16 am
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Six months ago, I blogged about State Comptroller Susan Combs’ position on abortion – “anti-abortion, pro-choice.”  Combs, who is a rising star in Texas politics and a favorite to be the state’s next Lt. Governor, adopted her position in the 90s while running for office in liberal Travis County.  In my blog entry, I predicted that, because being pro-choice was no longer an option for Texas Republicans, “I sense a conversion coming on.”

Earlier this week with the zeal of a convert, Combs announced to the Texas Tribune her opposition to abortions:

  • “I’m unequivocal about it. I was wrong.”  She said abortion is too often used as a form of birth control. “I just find it morally repugnant.”
  • Combs has talked about running for another state office when her term as comptroller is up in 2014 — lieutenant governor is mentioned most often — but said her position on abortion has been developing for some time and isn’t keyed to her political ambitions.  “Either people believe I am telling them the straight, unvarnished truth or they don’t,” she said.

Forgive me, Susan, if I don’t believe you.  Just as I don’t believe that the positions of President Obama and VP Biden regarding same-sex marriage is evolving.  What’s evolving is the political climate.

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