Because I couldn’t not post

In 1973, the US Supreme Court enshrined the right to abortion—considered by me and ~95% of everyone I know to be a basic pillar of modernity—in such a way that the right could be overturned only if its opponents could somehow gain permanent minority rule, and thereby disregard the wills of three-quarters of Americans. So now, half a century later, that’s precisely what they’ve done. Because Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t live three more weeks, we’re now faced with a civilizational crisis, with tens of millions of liberals and moderates in the red states now under the authority of a social contract that they never signed. With this backwards leap, Curtis Yarvin’s notion that “Cthulhu only ever swims leftward” stands as decimated by events as any thesis has ever been. I wonder whether Yarvin is happy to have been so thoroughly refuted.

Most obviously for me, the continued viability of Texas as a place for science, for research, for technology companies, is now in severe doubt. Already this year, our 50-member CS department at UT Austin has had faculty members leave, and faculty candidates turn us down, with abortion being the stated reason, and I expect that to accelerate. Just last night my wife, Dana Moshkovitz, presented a proposal at the STOC business meeting to host STOC’2024 at a beautiful family-friendly resort outside Austin. The proposal failed, in part because of the argument that, if a pregnant STOC attendee faced a life-threatening medical condition, Texas doctors might choose to let her die, or the attendee might be charged with murder for having a miscarriage. In other words: Texas (and indeed, half the US) will apparently soon be like Donetsk or North Korea, dangerous for Blue Americans to visit even for just a few days. To my fellow Texans, I say: if you find that hyperbolic, understand that this is how the blue part of the country now sees you. Understand that only a restoration of the previous social contract can reverse it.

Of course, this destruction of everything some of us have tried to build in science in Texas is happening despite the fact that 47-48% of Texans actually vote Democratic. It’s happening despite the fact that, if Blue Americans wanted to stop it, the obvious way to do so would be to move to Austin and Houston (and the other blue enclaves of red states) in droves, and exert their electoral power. In other words, to do precisely what Dana and I did. But can I urge others to do the same with a straight face?

As far as I can tell, the only hope at this point of averting a cold Civil War is if, against all odds, there’s a Democratic landslide in Congress, sufficient to get the right to abortion enshrined into federal law. Given the ways both the House and the Senate are stacked against Democrats, I don’t expect that anytime soon, but I’ll work for it—and will do so even if many of the people I’m working with me despise me for other reasons. I will match reader donations to Democratic PACs and Congressional campaigns (not necessarily the same ones, though feel free to advocate for your favorites), announced in the comment section of this post, up to a limit of $10,000.

223 Responses to “Because I couldn’t not post”

  1. Lem Says:

    > considered by me and ~95% of everyone I know to be a basic pillar of modernity

    Must be a weirdly insular bubble you live in, which might explain the somewhat unhinged nature of these posts. (“Civilizational crisis”? Please.)

  2. Jon Awbrey Says:

    It’s just another one of those times when things will have to get worse before they get better.

  3. Scott Says:

    Lem #1: I could equally well say that you’re in a strange bubble, if you don’t see how this will create two Americas that not only hate each other, but literally boycott each other—with any blue enclaves in the red states effectively leveled by asteroids. (The situation is not symmetric, since, e.g., conservatives in blue states were never forced to have abortions.)

    Yes, “only” 95% of my acquaintances consider abortion access one of the non-negotiable basics of a civilized society … because I’m in STEM and I have unusually diverse friends. For others, especially in the humanities, it would surely be 100%.

  4. zrezzed Says:

    Thank you Scott.

    Thank you showing that regardless of field, gender, religion or creed: we should all be voicing our dismay and anger. Thank you for continuing to engage with your community, when I’m sure it would be easier to not.

    I will donate $250. I am from a blue state, but I would prefer to donate to an organization in Texas that would have an impact there. I’d appreciate a recommendation, but I will pick one if not.

  5. Dave Cochrane Says:

    RBG could have retired. 🙁 The left’s lack of strategic thinking has doomed their policies for at least a generation.

    I do think that political donations are a much more effective way to spend your money than on directly funding flights and hotel costs for out-of-state abortions. (If you insist on more direct support, mifepristone is also more cost effective.) So thank you for that level of strategy.

  6. Boaz Barak Says:

    It is a very sad day today. The party that has won the popular vote only once in the last 30 years has managed to get a supreme court majority that is supposedly “conservative” but has no trouble overturning the 50 year precedent of Roe v Wade and a 100+ year-old New York gun law.

    That said, on this day, I only feel sympathy and support for my colleagues in Texas and all other red states. While it certainly does makes it less likely I would want to move to such states and raise my daughter there, I am against academic boycotts in general, and in this case in particular.

    One of the parts I find most beautiful in science is the collaborations between people of very different countries and cultures. If Iranians and Israelis can write papers together, then so can Texans and Massachusettsans. As citizens, we should do what we can to promote human rights in our states and countries. As scientists, let’s not punish our colleagues for policies that they can not control.

  7. Anon93 Says:

    Anti-abortion is not right-wing, it is just Christian. Abortion is legal in Israel and no one wants to ban it, not even the religious right. Lots of right-wingers support abortion, like Richard Hanania.

    Wanting to embryo select for intelligence and against genetic disease is right-wing.

    Donating $$ to the Democrats is the WRONG strategy. Donating $$ to pro-choice organizations is fine.

  8. jeff tsai Says:

    “ The situation is not symmetric since, e.g., conservatives in blue states were never forced to have abortions.)”

    The analogous situation might be those blue state women or elderly people injured, raped or killed because they couldn’t carry a concealed weapon to defend themselves against (usually male) criminals physically stronger and more violent than them.

  9. Woke leftist Says:


    The panic is unwarranted.

    1. ALL women in the US have access to abortion. This continues to be true after Roe is cancelled.

    2. There are 7 blue states that allow parents to murder pre-birth babies. The only place on earth where it is legal to murder pre-birth babies, are these 7 blue states + Washington D.C

  10. Peter Gerdes Says:

    I do think it’s interesting to compare our feelings on this to our feelings on imposing our values in other countries. I mean, why is it that we are willing to put up with other societies impose much worse rules (often harming women) and we judge it to be wrong to try and force them to adopt our values while here our reaction is very much the opposite. Is it just that people in blue states actually care about the friends and relatives in red states in a way that they don’t about ppl in other countries.

    Ultimately, I’m inclined to think that if we could impose our values requiring gender equality, individual freedom etc etc on other countries without too large a cost we should. It’s just that ppl are misinterpreting the practical lesson that this is usually not effective with a moral lesson.

    But I think that’s a lesson we need to accept here as well. One cost of a democratic system is you can’t always compel others to do what you want even when you are correct and the policy imposes great harms. We endured with the war on drugs and can endure here. Sure, maybe you didn’t know anyone who was sent to prison then (or even now) but know ppl who are affected here. But it’s still the case that continuing to cooperate and pursue our goals via the political system is the better option even when it means you can’t ensure the right policy wins.

  11. Lem Says:

    > but literally boycott each other

    I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but that’s been happening for a long time.

    > with any blue enclaves in the red states effectively leveled by asteroids

    Please. Drop this ridiculous language.

    > I have unusually diverse friends

    The irony. “Diverse” meaning “agree with my viewpoints on divisive social issues”?

  12. Peter Gerdes Says:

    Also, I don’t get the focus on the court here. The Dobbs deciscion simply returns us to the situation that the UK has and many other parliamentary democracies. The question of abortion is up to the legislature.

    And if 3/4 of Americans really felt strongly enough about abortion rights this would be a non-issue. State legislatures could just keep it legal and Congress could likely even preempt state laws by adopting a sufficiently general regulation granting abortion rights (or if it really came down to it the feds could have federal employees perform them).

    The underlying problem is that many Americans have uncertain or complex views on the subject so what result you get in polls don’t really tell you what they are going to vote for.

    This isn’t minority rule anymore than anything else. It’s the usual product of both numbers and intensity of concern (will this alone switch your vote).

    I mean if spending 40 years getting judges appointed by working to elect presidents who agree (or will compromise) with your view isn’t the legitimate operation of the democratic process I don’t know what is. I’m very sad that they succeeded but, like all politics, there are trade offs and they were willing to make abortion their only issue in a way not enough on the other side did (maybe bc of Roe). We need to elect different representatives but the problem is that there are alot more than 25% of voters who support some degree of restriction on abortion beyond Roe.

  13. Max Says:

    I wasn’t born when Roe was passed but I clearly remember when the people of California overwhelmingly passed a proposition to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and enshrine this basic pillar of civilization in its constitution only for what is now called an activist court to strike it down. Unlike the revisionist version that Scott sketches here, the reality is that leftists policies very rarely have had any popular support and have been implemented by judicial diktat. Well, as it turns out two can play this game: What the Court giveth, the Court taketh away.

    As expected, the forces of Death are using all of their resources to attack those who dare to defend Life as Scott illustrates here. Will this economic warfare result in the complete ruin of those who dared opposed the Left’s policies? Will the newly libertarian leftists go Galt, shrug, and leave the flyover states to rot? Is this reality or just a fantasy imagined by Ayn Rand?

    In regards to science, the silver lining is that maybe the vacuum left by the departing leftists can be filled with some diversity of thought and diversity always results in higher quality research, am I correct?

  14. pete Says:

    I moved out of texas in 2017. More about living in the same city as my daughter than politics. But if I were living in texas now, I’d move out asap because of politics. The idea would be to leave them to their christian beliefs and watch the state decline from afar.

    The only problem with that strategy is that the next step for the right wing will be to introduce an abortion ban at the federal level (even though the mantra has been to leave it to the states).

  15. Sandro Says:

    As far as I can tell, the only hope at this point of averting a cold Civil War is if, against all odds, there’s a Democratic landslide in Congress, sufficient to get the right to abortion enshrined into federal law

    There have been many such majorities since Roe v. Wade. Many legal scholars have warned that the Roe precedent was shaky at best. Many Democratic politicians have used enshrining abortion rights as a campaign promise. None of them have done so.

    Republican politicians are not friendly to the majority of Americans. They are not your friends and they by and large don’t care about you.

    Democratic politicians may sometimes be more friendly to the majority of Americans, but they are also not your friends and by and large also don’t care about you.

  16. dubious Says:

    Peter Gerdes #12:

    The problem is “the legitimate operation of the democratic process” here involved extreme, long-term gerrymandering, unbalancing representation. Many do not consider this “legitimate” democratic action, but cheating and subversion of democracy. Personally, I find it one of the worst offences against democracy. The true electoral fraud.

  17. Sandro Says:

    jeff tsai #8:

    The analogous situation might be those blue state women or elderly people injured, raped or killed because they couldn’t carry a concealed weapon to defend themselves against (usually male) criminals physically stronger and more violent than them.

    There is plenty of empirical evidence of the harms from criminalizing abortion. Do you have comparable empirical evidence of this claim? Because if not, then these are not analogous in any meaningful sense.

  18. phb Says:

    What an utterly hysterical post. The Supreme Court has correctly identified that abortion isn’t in the Constitution (which you can check for yourself). Comparisons to North Korea aside, there is and has always been a sizeable contingent of the American population that opposes abortion, and they have democratic power. In this respect the social contract has not changed.

  19. Boaz Barak Says:

    The most crucial objective in 2022 will be to keep the Senate. Losing the Senate in 2014 and not regaining it until 2020 is what got us in this situation. (Of course this is harder because 600K people in Wyoming get the same representation as the 40M people in California, see

    According to the Cook Political Report, the democratic candidates in the tightest races are:

    Toss-up races: Mark Kelly (Arizona), Raphael Warnock (Georgia), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada), John Fetterman (Pennsylvania), and whoever the democrats nominate in Wisconsin.

    Also Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire) is rated “learn D” and in the “lean R” columns are Cheri Beasley (North Carolina) , Val Demings (Florida), and Tim Ryan (Ohio).

  20. Scott Says:

    To all those here who support today’s ruling: do you agree or disagree that something close to three-quarters of the American public, including majorities in Texas and other red states, believe that abortions at least up to (say) 15 weeks ought to be legal?

    If you agree: forget entirely about the abortion issue itself; how can a democratic system that denies what a solid majority of its citizens believe to be a basic non-negotiable right, be a legitimate system?

    If you disagree: for those of us who look at the poll results, is this another … let’s say, unbridgeable epistemic chasm between you and us, like that one about who won the presidential election in 2020? Will you at least agree to the conditional statement that, if it were true that something like three quarters of the public believed that a meaningful abortion right should exist, then any system that produced today’s result would ipso facto be under strong suspicion of not being meaningfully democratic?

  21. murder is bad Says:

    > we’re now faced with a civilizational crisis, with tens of millions of liberals and moderates in the red states now under the authority of a social contract that they never signed

    Innocent unborn children never signed any social contract either, before their little bodies were crushed to pieces and thrown in the trash bin.

  22. Scott Says:

    murder is bad #21: Nor do chickens and cows sign a social contract consenting to be eaten. Which means that, if there’s a line, and beings vastly more complicated than an early fetus (on a secular understanding of reality) end up on the other side of it from us, then the early fetuses must be very safely on the other side of it as well.

  23. phb Says:

    > Will you at least agree to the conditional statement that, if it were true that something like three quarters of the public believed that a meaningful abortion right should exist, then any system that produced today’s result would ipso facto be under strong suspicion of not being meaningfully democratic?

    Not really… Vocal proponents of minority positions tend to have outsized influence on their preferred issues. In fact this is characteristic of democratic systems. In any case the Supreme Court’s job is not to base every ruling on current opinion polls.

    I agree that most Americans favor a right to an abortion. I am one of them. However, abortion is not getting banned in the US; there is an approximately 0% chance that Congress passes a nationwide ban. It will remain legal in most places (and effectively everywhere, because of interstate travel). This sort of compromise is exactly what you would expect from a democracy where constituents hold fundamentally incompatible moral views.

  24. Woke leftist Says:

    To Scott #20,

    All of your questions are based on straw man assumptions:

    The court’s decision today does NOT deny ANY woman in America easy access to an abortion.

    Therefore all of this outrage is fake.

    To Scott #22,

    You are conveniently ignoring the fact that 7 blue states allow the murder of pre-birth babies. Not 15 weeks, not 25 weeks, not even 35 weeks.

  25. murder is bad Says:

    Scott #22: I don’t believe “complexity” is the measuring stick that should be used to draw the line; such a standard leads to absurd conclusions. If it’s a spectrum, then is someone who is unusually intelligent, or has large muscles, or good motor control, “more complex,” then someone less strong or intelligent or with worse motor control? And if it’s a binary, then how do you decide the exact line at which your life loses almost all its value? I feel that a hard rule of “if it’s human (from the moment of fertilization), its life is valuable, and you shouldn’t murder it, full stop” is the only way I can think of that confidently rules out some things that I feel instinctively are evil.

    In fact, I was undecided on the abortion debate until a few months ago, when I came across some pictures of aborted fetuses, and realized that I could not live with myself unless I found a moral framework that confidently and definitely ruled out anything resembling what I saw.

  26. lord_prokrastinator Says:

    Good picture to describe conservatives is here:

  27. Douglas Knight Says:

    there’s a big jump from “ought to be legal” to “non-negotiable right.” I doubt you can find any polls where so many people claim it’s not negotiable. But regardless of what they claim, if they aren’t single-issue voters, they’re negotiating. Anti-abortion people act a lot more like single-issue voters. It’s not obvious unjust that representative democracy favors single-issue voters. Not obviously just, either, though.

  28. Doug K Says:

    a few days ago this Court also destroyed the separation of church and state, in a ruling on Carson vs Makin. This ruling forces taxpayers to fund religious schools in states with school choice programs. I haven’t seen any significant press coverage of this, yet to my mind this is no less damaging than the abortion ruling. The separation of church and state is another pillar of modernity kicked away by the radical reactionary Court.

    As Vox explains,
    the plaintiff families in this case want the state to pay at least part of the tuition at private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ teachers and students. One of these schools allegedly requires teachers to agree that “the Bible says that ‘God recognize[s] homosexuals and other deviants as perverted’” and that “[s]uch deviation from Scriptural standards is grounds for termination.’”

  29. Olivier Barthelemy Says:

    That’s the flaw in having the judiciary do what should be done by the legislature. And the issue is not just with abortion.

    To be very clear, I’m in favor of abortion rights, gay rights, minority rights, secularism or at least religious neutrality… But the right way to assert those rights is via the ballot box, not via legal interpretation of a centuries-old document. Especially in the US where SC judges have forever been nominated by minority presidents.

    What’s happening today is the voters’ fault. You want a right in law ? Elect the right legislature !

  30. Lars Says:

    I think the only hope for the people of Texas who don’t support the ruling (and I suspect that is actually a minority) is either to leave the state or for large companies like Google and Tesla to make very credible threats to pull up stakes.

    I think lost business and tax dollars are the only thing Texas state officials *might* pay attention to at this point, and probably not even that, since they are basically ideologically driven.

    In my opinion, Texas is done. Stick a pitchfork in it.

  31. Scott Says:

    Olivier #29: No, because of gerrymandering, the lopsided nature of the Senate, and the Electoral College, the formal processes of democracy in the US diverged from what in any modern country would be considered the “will of the majority.” In such an extraordinary circumstance, cold civil war or secession was prevented only by the willingness of the court to interpret the law, among the range of defensible interpretations, in such a way that once a majority felt that something was an inalienable human right, something that would’ve been granted in any logical completion of the Constitution … then the right was granted. That was the unprincipled duct tape that held the Republic together, and now it’s been ripped away.

  32. fred Says:

    I’ll propose this alternate point of view:

    If you take an isolated sperm, no matter how long you wait, it’s never gonna turn into a specific human and experience a full human life.
    The same with a cow or a chicken, no matter how long you wait, they’re never gonna experience a human life.
    But, as soon as a male sperm and a female egg successfully merge, the construction of a *very specific* human starts, the one exactly implied by his/her specific DNA sequence, which is entirely unique and well defined.

    When someone dies, why do we care?
    Because potential life is lost.
    That’s why we typically care more about a child dying of cancer than a 86 year old dying of cancer. The 86 year-old has had the chance to enjoy pretty much the entirety of his/her lifespan (actually way more than the average). The child hasn’t, and there’s a bigger loss of potential life.
    I guess we could argue that a child is a “simpler” organism than an 86-year-old because the brain didn’t get the chance to get full of decades of lessons, anecdotes, hopes, regrets, joys, and heartbreaks like the one of an 86-year-old… so in that point of view, humanity loses more when an 86 year old dies (“all those memories will be lost in time like tears in rain”) than when a child dies now. But if you wait long enough, and with some luck, children will all turn into 86-years-old. Again, it’s about loss of potential. That’s also why in finance there’s the concept of future value… one dollar now isn’t just one dollar.
    When a fetus dies, the entirety of a potential specific human life is lost. But that life is so new that no-one really had a chance to care much about him/her yet (we didn’t even give him/her a name).

  33. Shmi Says:

    > Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, urged the court to reconsider past rulings protecting the right to contraception, legalizing gay marriage nationwide and invalidating state laws banning gay sex.

    Under his eye.

  34. Craig Says:

    If red states ban abortion, it is only natural that the populations of red states will increase more than those of blue states. From this, the conservatives will eventually be a majority in the USA, assuming children follow the ideology of their parents. Ultimately, the ideas which prevail prevail not necessarily because they are good ideas but because the people holding those ideas have more babies. Demography is everything in the long run.

  35. Jon Awbrey Says:

    Freedom of conscience, freedom of faith, freedom of religion in the U.S. took the biggest hits today I have ever known in my lifetime. The U.S. has become a country where the phrase “Bully Pulpit” takes on a Strange New Warp, where we now live under the thrall of people who recognize no religion but what they affect to believe and cannot imagine there is more than one way of being religious, even more than one way of being Christian. Freedom to them is freedom to oppress.

  36. Sandro Says:

    fred #32:

    If you take an isolated sperm, no matter how long you wait, it’s never gonna turn into a specific human and experience a full human life.

    That’s incorrect. A sperm and egg will combine and grow into a human given the right conditions. Similarly, sperms, eggs and even skin cells can now be coaxed into pluripotent stem cells and soon we will be able to grow them into full humans as well. In other words, we will soon be living in a world where, again, given the right conditions, even skin cells can turn into a specific human and experience a full human life. So this line of argument suggests we have a moral obligation to all of the skin cells we shed on a daily basis, which is clearly absurd.

    Therefore, we can have no moral obligation to either skin cells or fetuses.

    When someone dies, why do we care?
    Because potential life is lost.

    Because we empathize with the emotional loss of those who care for that person, and for the fear and pain of the person losing their life. If we’re talking about an unwanted pregnancy, no one is mourning that loss, and the fetus does not have any mental experience at all, so that too is not an issue.

  37. myst_05 Says:

    “The proposal failed, in part because of the argument that, if a pregnant STOC attendee faced a life-threatening medical condition, Texas doctors might choose to let her die, or the attendee might be charged with murder for having a miscarriage.”

    Scott — do you actually believe this to be true? How many seriously believe this would be the case going forward? Abortion is extremely likely to remain legal when the fetus threatens the safety of the mother, as this is the case even in *Saudi Arabia*.

  38. Marc Briand Says:

    I’m with Scott. Nope, Scott you’re not being overly dramatic or alarmist. I have a couple of gay friends are seriously considering moving to Europe, because Thomas and Alito have made it very clear that gay rights are the next thing they’re going after.

    This shit is real. Women will die because of this ruling. You are right to speak out about it.

  39. J Tyson Says:

    Hmm. Speaking legalistically (since indeed we are discussing a court decision), doesn’t your statement that abortion is “a basic pillar of modernity” undercut the notion that the constitution, and particularly the bill of rights, written in the late 1700s gave women the right to have an abortion?

    As someone pointed out on Twitter, the court decision says that the constitution does not guarantee the right to an abortion, but it does not say that the constitution forbids abortions.

  40. Qwerty Says:

    Why did fighting abortion become so central to the identity of many people in America? It almost feels random to me.

    Also, I thought true conservatives would oppose (not support) such a drastic change.

  41. Anon Says:

    murder is bad #25: To be consistent with your moral framework, do you also believe that women who miscarry should be punished with a sentence equivalent (or worse) to a driver who accidentally runs over and kills an individual? Because both involve the accidental killing of a “human” according to your definitions.

    Personally, I find that morality isn’t something that one should classify in a rigid and rigorous manner. Any attempt is bound to have loopholes that one would consider absurd.

  42. Scott Says:

    myst_05 #37: I’m skeptical that a pregnant woman who attended a conference in Texas would be in mortal danger, or at least, mortal danger anywhere comparable to the danger from the drive to and from the airport and other such things. But I can explain the argument that leads to these places. The argument is: I can’t understand why this state wouldn’t allow me to get an abortion, if it saw me as basically a human being rather than a reproductive vessel. But if it sees me as basically a reproductive vessel, then there’s no reason to trust any assurances the state might make, that my health would be prioritized over the fetus’s in a life-threatening emergency. All such “assurances” are just attempts to get a reproductive vessel to engage in desired behaviors; they’re not part of any dialogue where the other side considers itself bound to what it says. Therefore, I will not travel there, any more than I’d travel to a jungle full of cannibals whose whole moral system holds me to be basically food, but who pinky-swear not to roast and eat me on my visit.

  43. Thomas Says:

    If we want to talk about being civilized, it’s worth keeping in mind all the other civilized, aka western progressive, countries also significantly restrict abortion. The standard across the EU seems to be legal first trimester, restricted afterwards.

    The pro choice activists in the US always bitterly resisted any kind of national compromise over abortion by refusing to countenance any kind of restrictions. I remember the attempt to ban late term abortion and how that failed, despite consistent majorities polling in favor of it.

    It’s quite possible that by returning abortion to state legislatures we will end up with a situation much more comparable to European countries, with legal abortion in the first trimester and subsequent restrictions. Quite civilized! And given that national polling shows majorities in favor of both abortion and restrictions on abortion, why not try this legislative approach? That’s how civilized people would do it, no? And one can see that happening in Texas in due time as I do doubt that the state would be able to perpetually ban abortion but enough conservatives could work with liberals to come up with a European style abortion model as a compromise.

    But having histrionics without acknowledging that for many people abortion is a deeply moral issue is not helpful.

  44. myst_05 Says:

    Scott #42: What % of people holding these views abstain from traveling to *any* nation where abortion is restricted? Some of these places include: Mexico, Caribbean islands, Poland, India, Brazil and included Ireland until 2018. Its technically restricted in the UK as well, though more or less accessible to all.

    This reminds me of how teachers were refusing to go back to in-person teaching post-vaccination, but were still happy to visit restaurants, travel, visit weddings, etc, despite the supposed COVID risk.

  45. Pro-life vegan Says:

    Scott #22: Some people don’t like killing unborn children or cows.

    At least you people are humble enough to call yourself followers of “the enlightenment”

  46. WRB Says:

    myst_05 #44
    Also, traveling to Nicaragua, which totally outlaws abortion. I am old enough to remember enthusiastic support for Sandinistas in the academic community.

  47. JimV Says:

    I’ve been trying to donate at least half my apartment rent to ActBlue ever since Trump was elected, but I think the other half that I donate to charities probably has done more good. (That is, I pay my rent, plus an equivalent amount in donations, each month, roughly.) Anyway, I will be donating $100 each to the following sites (recommended at the Balloon Juice blog).

    National Network of Abortion Funds:

    Planned Parenthood:

    “Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo (where abortion is now illegal) is moving across the border to Moorhead, MN (where it is legal). They need funds to make that happen if you’re looking for ways to help.”–BJ

    (Kudos to Sandro at #36 for ably responding to another case of false facts leading to faulty conclusions. I won’t be bemoaning the loss of potential when Trump dies.)

    We all come from a very long line of survivors and reproducers, so our instincts tell us to do both. However, the ability to reason tells us that the Earth in general and many living conditions in particular can only support so many people. We are already using up stocks of renewable resources much faster then they renew at 7-8 billion people. There was an article in Scientific American in the 1990’s which estimated that somewhere between 10 and 12 billion people was the maximum the Earth could support, at one bowl of rice and one gallon of water a day, and all other animals slaughtered so as not to compete with us for those resources.

  48. fred Says:

    The level of hypocrisy is what really bothers me.

    It’s one thing to claim that abortions are sometimes a necessary evil, it’s quite another to try and rationalize and trivialize the horror of it by claiming that fetuses don’t matter at all.

    If fetuses matter as much as skin cells or dead chickens, then why would some adults even need to kill them in the first place?! Because not killing them is gonna ruin their day or their life. When is someone’s life “ruined” because of skin cells or chickens?!

    Well, the fetus is not conscious! They won’t feel a thing! It’s painless.
    How the hell would we even know? Because you don’t remember anything from the time you were a fetus? Every one of us doesn’t remember anything for about 7 hours a day, every day… does that make it okay to kill someone when they’re under general anesthesia or asleep? Do judges deliver lighter sentences for homicide under such circumstances?

    For all those who think that fetuses don’t matter at all, would you *personally* give it a try and vacuum a miniature human out of a womb and dispose of the little limbs and organs in a trash bag? No? Why? For the same reasons you can only handle “dead cows” as well packaged beef steaks at the super market but would never kill a mammal with your own two hands?

  49. JimV Says:

    P.S. There were about one billion people in 1900, and around 4 billion when I was born.

  50. David D Says:

    I agree with Peter G in comment #12: this issue should be decided legislatively rather than judicially. Any other precedent would give the unelected justices of the Supreme Court the power to grant- or take away!- any “fundamental right” on a whim.

    I also agree with Thomas in comment #43: Roe v Wade is barbaric by European standards. To invoke a notion of “civilized society” in support of Roe v Wade is to invoke a hollow argument.

    Third, I want to address the following facts: certain regions in America get disproportionate representation, and our federal government is not decided by a mere popular vote. That is not the case for individual European nations, but it *is* the case for the European Union as a whole. America should be compared to the European Union when we compare regions of similar size and similar population levels; likewise, each individual European country should be compared to an individual American state. America is designed to function as 50 independent nations, united under a treaty called the Constitution, that is considered to be a single nation in name only.

    Finally, contrary to Scott’s wishes, Texas’ population and economy have *expanded* over the past several years. Americans are moving out of California and NY, and into Texas and Florida; the reasons behind this are numerous, and may challenge Scott’s worldview.

  51. Rolling my eyes Says:

    Is there anything more dramatic and exaggerated than saying “Abortion is a pillar of modernity”? Really? A barbaric practice where you are allowed to kill an organism that your own actions brought into life simply because you find it too damn inconvenient to bear the responsibility of your actions?

    It would be a tragedy if you believe that with a straight face.

    >if you find that hyperbolic, understand that this is how the blue part of the country now sees you

    This is just plain unfair Scott. I don’t think you or the rest of “the blue part” care about those you are asking for their understanding now. Have you ever, honestly, contemplated the idea that abortion might be, at some time in the 9 month range, murder? Have you ever seriously considered that when it comes to ethics there might be another metric to optimize than the blind and vaguely defined “Choice” that progressives worship so much? If you don’t care and have never cared about those people or their views when you were winning, why should they care now that they are winning? It’s exactly as hard on them as it is on you.

  52. Sonya Says:

    >>To all those here who support today’s ruling: do you agree or disagree that something close to three-quarters of the American public, including majorities in Texas and other red states, believe that abortions at least up to (say) 15 weeks ought to be legal?

    The pro-choice view presently has the majority, but not by that margin – and when you break the issue down by circumstances, you get less definitive results. For example, per, 83% of those polled thought first trimester abortion should be legal when the woman’s life is endangered (and I’m frankly surprised it’s not closer to 100%; my guess is it’s the vagueness of ‘endangered’ that’s skewing that lower than expected.). On the other hand, when the reason for abortion is “the woman doesn’t want the child for any reason”, 53% feel it should be illegal. When that’s narrowed down to “when the woman or family cannot afford to raise the child,” 61% feel it should be illegal.
    Some of these polls are older, but not ancient.
    My overall impression is that a significant but not overwhelming majority oppose the legality of elective abortion, a significant but not overwhelming majority support the legality of abortion where there is a medical concern for either mother or child, and an very strong majority support the legality of abortion if the mother’s life is endangered or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Such an arrangement would be more permissive and less ideologically consistent than I would like, but it’s a compromise I could accept.

    >>If you agree: forget entirely about the abortion issue itself; how can a democratic system that denies what a solid majority of its citizens believe to be a basic non-negotiable right, be a legitimate system?
    Forgetting entirely about the abortion issue itself, define ‘legitimate’ – legitimately democratic? Legitimately ethical? Legitimate in the sense that this method of governance is sustainable? My answers would be maybe, maybe, and I hope so.
    Not forgetting the abortion issue, the denial of a “right” desired by the majority can be correct if granting the desired “right” to those who want it involves denying the basic non-negotiable rights of others. It cannot be right for the law to permit one group of people to victimize another simply because the would-be aggressors hold a majority.
    This may or may not matter to you, given how emphatic you are in your own beliefs on the subject, but I do feel like prolifers have not won as resoundingly as we might have hoped with this ruling. Yes, we’ve triumphed judicially, but in terms of swaying the public we’ve largely failed. Twenty years ago the standard Democrat position on abortion was that it should be safe, legal, and rare. Today it’s ‘abortion is healthcare’. The (blatantly inaccurate) ‘clump of cells’ argument largely disappeared for a while there, and now it’s back. We’ve lost ground socially while we’ve gained it legally and yes, I very much do see the problem with that if we want a stable society.

  53. Martin Mertens Says:

    fred #32: “If you take an isolated sperm, no matter how long you wait, it’s never gonna turn into a specific human and experience a full human life.”

    True, but a sperm and ovum in close proximity certainly could turn into a specific human being and experience a full human life. In fact, when a man and a woman have unprotected sex there are several hundred million sperm in close proximity to an ovum, meaning several hundred million potential lives, almost none of them realized. That’s why, as any right-thinking person can tell you, having sex once is akin to wiping out the entire population of the United States.

  54. Quax Says:

    if you find that hyperbolic, understand that this is how the blue part of the country now sees you.

    At this point nothing could ever entice me to move to Texas. I’d never subject my daughters to being 2nd class citizens.

  55. Qwerty Says:

    myst_05 #44:
    Abortion is restricted in India? This is the first I’ve heard that.

    When you mentioned Ireland, I remembered this story that made headlines in India some years ago. A pregnant Indian woman visiting Ireland died, as an abortion was refused. She was miscarrying and her life could have been saved by an abortion.

  56. Olivier Says:

    Does the law really prevents treatment of miscarriages, or was that hyperbole ?

  57. Indanon Says:

    myst_05 #42: Why bring India into this? Indian law on abortion is far more permissive than the laws of every country mentioned by you including the UK and Ireland (and at least de jure when compared to Mexico, although perhaps not de facto because of recent Mexican judicial rulings) as well as more permissive than that of all the major EU countries. Moreover, the law has consistently evolved in a more progressive direction since abortion first became legal in 1971. The illegality of abortion before 1971 was the legacy of British colonial laws. It has never been a political issue in independent India, and was seen as an important part of the family planning policy of Indian governments. In the 1970s commercial movie screenings at theatres were routinely preceded by government advertisements pointing out that abortion was free in government hospitals, essentially on demand. The emphasis was on preventing women from consulting quacks who might endanger their lives.

    Since the opposition to abortion in India comes primarily from the small Christian minority, it is unlikely gain any traction in the wider polity more influenced by Hindu majoritarianism.

  58. Anon Says:

    I have nothing to add about the abortion law. Really, any sane person is probably very worried about the consequences of this.

    About the STOC meeting, the proposal failed mainly because the popular (voiced) opinion was that STOC is for students, and we don’t want to hear about your kids. That was very troubling to hear, especially after hearing the inspirational talk by Irit Dinur, who told us about how inclusive and supporting the TCS community was (or used to be). I guess things have changed, and we are not so supportive anymore.

    *and the comment about the abortion law during the meeting was completely inappropriate, you could see people feeling awkward about it.

  59. Alex Lenk Says:

    Dear Scott, I’m so glad that you speak your mind in this and many other posts. And I can’t believe what I must read in the comments. I said it once and I say it again: Having an abortion must become a human right. The reason why a woman wants to abort is none of your business. I highly recommend people that do not understand that potential existence has no intrinsic moral value to take the online course “justice” from Harvard on Edx. It’s for free. Maybe this will help you all so that you no longer have to come up with disturbing and wrong ethic views.

  60. Michel Says:

    So we come to the Divided States of America, where the tenor (of the Supreme Court) is: Do not kill pre-birth babies, but arm yourself freely for the time they are of primary school age. I must be crazy myself to have these thoughts. Let us call the members of that court judges, empathically not justices.

  61. Joe Lead Says:

    > do you agree or disagree that something close to three-quarters of the American public, including majorities in Texas and other red states, believe that abortions at least up to (say) 15 weeks ought to be legal?

    I dont beieve this, if im not mistaken I saw a statistic that 15 weeks has close to 50 50 support

  62. Just_browsed_in Says:

    The 10th Amendment – any power not expressly given to the federal government is reserved for the states. No where in the constitution does it give the federal government the ability to regulate human reproduction. This is a state issue to be decided by the people of the states.
    The SCOTUS got this right. It is a state rights issue and you still have the ability to obtain abortion services through states that enact laws providing for such.
    The panic is fabricated for political reasons by person who 1) have other motives rather than abortion 2) don’t understand how our government works 3) can’t comprehend basic legal concepts. It seems to me most fall into category 1.

  63. Ben Standeven Says:

    @myst_05 #44:
    Hopefully only a small percentage; because that would be more like refusing to travel to Cook Islands for fear of being eaten, even though the natives insist they aren’t cannibals.

  64. Sandro Says:

    fred #48:

    It’s one thing to claim that abortions are sometimes a necessary evil, it’s quite another to try and rationalize and trivialize the horror of it by claiming that fetuses don’t matter at all.

    “Don’t matter at all” is not a correct characterization. If we lived in a fictional marxist utopia where everyone’s needs were cared for, or we lived in a world where fetal transplants were possible and as danger-free as giving up your child for adoption, then I would certainly reconsider permitting abortion.

    Because not killing them is gonna ruin their day or their life.

    Exactly, except not just ruining their lives.

    When is someone’s life “ruined” because of skin cells or chickens?!


    How the hell would we even know? Because you don’t remember anything from the time you were a fetus?

    Because they don’t yet have a nervous system, and humans require a nervous system to feel anything at all. All of our scientific evidence on pain suggests this. Do you have any scientific evidence at all to suggest otherwise?

    Every one of us doesn’t remember anything for about 7 hours a day, every day… does that make it okay to kill someone when they’re under general anesthesia or asleep?

    Yes. People who are executed by the state are often given anaesthetics to relieve suffering.

    Do judges deliver lighter sentences for homicide under such circumstances?

    Yes. Is this surprising to you? Consider euthanasia for someone terminally ill. Are you suggesting that a doctor that euthanizes someone terminally ill via a painless chemical injection should receive the same sentence as a doctor that dissects their patient alive until they die? Brutality is absolutely considered during sentencing.

    For all those who think that fetuses don’t matter at all, would you *personally* give it a try and vacuum a miniature human out of a womb and dispose of the little limbs and organs in a trash bag?

    Yes. Again, why is this surprising? It’s sad that it’s necessary, but necessary it sometimes is. The fact that people perform abortions at all should tell you that some people are fine with doing this, and obviously the people fine with doing it believe that fetuses matter less than the alternatives, all else being equal.

    I understand the innate emotional reaction to abortion. While emotions are useful heuristics, they are not a reliable path to moral knowledge.

  65. Sandro Says:

    Rolling #51:

    Is there anything more dramatic and exaggerated than saying “Abortion is a pillar of modernity”? Really? A barbaric practice where you are allowed to kill an organism that your own actions brought into life simply because you find it too damn inconvenient to bear the responsibility of your actions?

    Today I learned that rape and medical conditions that threaten the life of the pregnant woman are the woman’s fault.

    The law cannot foresee all possible reasons that an abortion might be necessary, that’s why the law should not enshrine what decisions a doctor and a pregnant woman should be permitted to make.

  66. Sandro Says:

    Sonya #52:

    The (blatantly inaccurate) ‘clump of cells’ argument largely disappeared for a while there, and now it’s back.

    How is it inaccurate?

  67. Jeffo Says:

    I know that we can’t assume too much about the identities of those involved in an online discussion, but at the very least the overwhelming majority here have adopted names (Dave, Jon, Peter, fred…) that are conventionally gendered as male. A discussion about abortion is a discussion about how women’s bodies are controlled by society, whatever else you think it may be about. Any time that discussion occurs without a strong presence of women’s voices (as seems to be the case here), the legitimacy of that discussion is sincerely in doubt.

    Yes, I know that male contributors (as I am) can’t control their birth gender. Yes, I know that many, many women are anti-abortion. I’m sure that many of you would respond that you can’t control whether women participate in this discussion. Technically that may be true; and yet, this is the internet. You can find women’s perspectives on abortion quite easily, if you care to. It is depressingly easy to form highly theoretical opinions about this (or any other) issue when you do not engage the people it actually affects directly. At the risk of sounding intolerant, if you have never spoken to woman who has had an abortion, or has been in a position to seriously consider getting one, about her decision, then you just are not informed enough to engage in this debate. To pitch it at your level, you’d be like the people who show up in the comments here who know nothing about QC, yet feel entitled to spout their amateur interpretations. Except the stakes are vastly greater, of course.

  68. Anon Says:

    For those who insist on using Team Life vs Team Death framing: Since Team Life keeps trampling our rights and liberties with derogatory glee, I’ll happily be Team Death. 死ね。

  69. Sandro Says:

    Just_browsed_in #62:

    The SCOTUS got this right. It is a state rights issue and you still have the ability to obtain abortion services through states that enact laws providing for such.

    I might be somewhat sympathetic to this line of argument, but it will not stop there, so that too might be ruled out.

  70. James Cross Says:

    $50 to Raphael Warnock, my Senator and critical for Democrats to retain control of the Senate.

    I’m afraid, however, that any legislation passed by a massive Democratic swing in Congress will still be nullified by this Supreme Court so ultimately the Supreme Court must be changed with additional justices added.

    While we’re at it, let’s repeal the Second Amendment.

    And, if we don’t care about precedent anymore, let’s get rid of corporate personhood.

  71. Nick Drozd Says:

    Congratulations to all the forced-birthers here in the comment section. Your dreams of compelling women by means of state violence to give birth have finally come true! We’ll all get to live in a paradise just like Communist Romania under Decree 770! What could go wrong? (Lots of unwanted babies brought into this world and left at fire stations? Those orphans might be unruly, but fortunately their teachers will be heavily armed.)

    And the fun won’t stop here. After the fascists sweep in November, they will immediately move to criminalize abortion nationwide. Then it won’t matter where your conference is held!

    By the way, did you know there’s a point in the development of a human embryo when it has an anus but not a mouth? Ah, the sanctity of human life.

  72. Jon Awbrey Says:

    Above all, the wall between religion and government must be restored. The Supreme Court is now broken — Trump and his Cult have broken it along with the other pillars of democracy they tore down — it cannot remain a Supreme Church, the missionary arm of one small sect of one religion.

  73. DT Says:

    sophistry does not ethics make. also, free advice that could save your life: let go of your progressive outrage if you want to to maintain your sanity in the coming years.

  74. Ordinary Joe Says:

    Congratulations to all the dude bros who came here to express how happy they would be to force their mother/daughter/sister/girlfriend to birth the child of their rapist.

  75. Tom Marshall Says:

    I of course agree with everything that you’ve said. The one point that I haven’t seen here is addressing the rhetoric of “murder” or “baby killing”.

    To the best of my knowledge, there is no other law anywhere in the U.S. or elsewhere where one “person” — even for those who consider a fetus a “person” — has the right to impose on the autonomy and biology of another person in any way — via organs, blood, imposing any risk whatsoever — to preserve that person’s life.

    I happen not to consider non-viable masses of cells “persons” no matter what their DNA or their “potential to become”, but this agreement or disagreement on the status of the cellular mass has nothing whatsoever to do with the legal principles of who gets to impose on whom.

    The abortion issue is now, and always has been, about male control of things in general, and women in particular. Lately, because of the social consequences, the abortion issue is also a convenient vehicle for maintaining the privilege of the already-privileged.

    We on the Left should perhaps reconsider our “broadmindedness” and consider carefully — and numerically — our priorities. They can be anything that we want them to be, but they must sum to a normalized unity. We so often make serious arithmetic errors when trying to find “the right compromises among our values”. Right now, we are living the consequences of the numerical mistakes of my friends on the Left.

  76. Scott Says:

    Tom Marshall #75: An early fetus has no brain structures that could support consciousness. But I’m totally fine with the conditional that if there were consciousness, then killing it would be a grave crime, just like it is for parents to abandon their toddler in the woods—once a conscious being exists, those who brought it into the world have a duty of care toward it until it could reasonably be expected to care for itself.

    I feel, frankly, like one reason we pro-choice people are in this desperate situation (in addition to the devious Republican machinations we all know about) is that, decades ago, we abandoned any attempt to meet the pro-lifer argument head-on, by directly addressing whether a conscious being is being destroyed (before ~5 months, the answer is no). We implicitly insisted, you might say, on defending the stronger claim that even if it is murder, it’s murder that’s justified by the overriding value of female autonomy. But that stronger claim is both incredibly difficult to defend and totally unnecessary to defend. It was a massive strategic blunder.

  77. Peter S. Shenkin Says:

    It is well known that RBG believed that Roe v. Wade was incorrectly decided. But I think it’s fair to say that she would not have favored this denouement.

    Also, this decision has a narrowly religious aspect. In Judaism, for example, the fetus is not viewed as a person until it emerges live from the womb. This goes back to the old testament list of punishments for crimes and accidents, where the death of a fetus is not given as serious a punishment as the death of a person.

    In fact, in orthodox Judaism, there is no question but that if the life of the mother is at stake and an abortion can save her, the abortion must be done.

  78. fred Says:

    A legal reading of the decision, interesting no matter what your opinion is

  79. Sonya Says:

    Sandro #66 –

    >>How is it inaccurate? (re: “clump of cells”)

    Organogenesis commences at around 14 days post-fertilization, and progresses rapidly. At 28 days there is a beating heart – yes, a heart, not a lump of pulsing cells, but a hollow muscular organ that pumps blood through a circulatory system and is necessary to the maintenance of life. It has one chamber at that point, but I have yet to hear it argued that in any other context that an organ as described above ought to be called anything other than a heart. While an embryo at 6 weeks pregnancy / four weeks post fertilization is made of cells, like any other living thing, I don’t think an organism containing multiple functional organ systems can be accurate described as a “clump”.

  80. CC Says:

    For those who say that it is a legislative issue to be decided by the states, it would help if they would argue why that should not be the case for other rights such as interracial marriage, contraception, or having gay relationships. Do they wish to claim that all those should be decided by state legislatures as well?

  81. amy Says:

    I live in a red state that’s likely to ban abortion soon, and I have stopped any involvement in recruiting to my university. There’s no reason for me to entice people of reproductive age to settle here and endanger themselves and the ability to direct their own lives. My attention has turned instead to helping young people get out, which isn’t so easy if you’ve grown up in an insular and/or evangelical community where law (as opposed to, say, a guy named Brent) happens somewhere else and families are tightly interdependent or even codependent, with a competitive blue-state world very far away, no money to speak of, a rotten K-12 education, no friends in blue states in places where you might find jobs and homes, no ability to go to college out of state, and no idea even where to begin.

    Remarkably, I find that people here are so devoted to a culture of boosterism that it hasn’t occurred to them that people will find self-determination more important than coming here for school or work. Genuinely haven’t thought about it. We have a few important programs here, but most of them could pick up and leave overnight, and frankly I’m surprised they haven’t already left, been bought and carted off. Again, the idea that these things are possible comes as such a shock to people here that you have to explain it several times, and then they still push it away. My guess is that when the inevitable happens, none of it will be discussed and people here will pretend it isn’t happening, and then decide that those programs either never existed or were bad seeds somehow. I’ll probably have to leave too, then, but I can console myself with the fact that there’s a whole lot of money attached to some of the horribleness, so I’d likely get a nice price for my house and be able to afford a decent apartment elsewhere, or a little house and yard where I can establish a new garden. But that won’t happen for a while.

    As for Roe, I cannot say I feel a sense of emergency except in the near term for women without resources, and a sense of high alert for all the other rights built on that keystone: women’s property, marital, and labor rights, rights that protect us, however feebly, from rape and other forms of violence, custodial and divorce rights, etc., etc., etc. I don’t think the collective media mind is moving fast enough on those fronts, still bogged down in an idea that these things are part of the air and not endangerable. On the whole, though, I see two constituencies supporting SCOTUS: a heavily Boomer evangelical core that was once a much larger slice of the population, and a relatively small population slice comprising obsessively, even violently misogynist men across generations. The latter has outsized influence now only because of their concentration in a socially dominant tech paired with a very old Congress that has never understood tech, and that situation is already ending; the former has less than a decade left on the clock as politically relevant. I am not saying that it will be easy or good, or that it isn’t important to swiftly support and help the women who need or just want abortions now, but my guess is that within a decade civil disobedience in the form of people just going ahead and getting and providing abortions will be so widespread that it will be convenient to have some combination of laws protecting and regulating a newly liberal set of reproductive rights and refusal to enforce laws criminalizing abortion. And I think this court will rather swiftly find itself encircled and forced left if it wants to maintain any relevance — not just because of Roe, but because the political world that’s installed it will have shrunk pretty abruptly. I see this decision as part of a last gasp. Still dangerous, with more to come, but distinctly time-limited.

    I also think it’s important to see this in a larger context of a movement that started rolling in the late 1980s, to do with white supremacy and fear of being outnumbered, and was remarkably “polite company allowed in your living room” at the time. I remember putting the books out on display in the first bookstores I worked in, real racist trash wrapped in “Western civilization” and PhDs. The moment they’ve feared has arrived — Gen Z will soon be the first majority nonwhite generation in this country, it’s a very large and multinational generation, and some of them are already voters — and if you ask me, the movement that fears the moment very much wants an excuse for genocide, and are in the process of making one up for themselves. Last I checked they were trying out “the left is arming itself and coming for you (which is stupid because they don’t know how to handle guns, great, easier for us).” But you already know what these people look like and how old they are. They’re not young, and they have trouble recruiting young people. Yes, in the name of freedoms, we’ve stupidly given them powerful organizing platforms and armories and a lovely megaphone for the leaders who’ve emerged, we’ve super-stupidly built a gigantic standing army that’s well-trained and now regards itself as the real nation inside a nation, and the Catholic evangelical law movement born in the early ’90s to do exactly what it’s doing has of necessity embraced all of this. Very strong own-goals the whole way along, which, just sayin’, I’ve been warning against the whole way along and had a lot of under-nuanced free-speech-and-patriotism-also-look-money thrown at me in return. And if they and their leaders manage to get it all right, we’re in terrible, gory trouble.

    If not, though, we have a highly aggravating, chronically violent, and exhausting 10-15 years while they die and two new generations who look at the world very differently, and don’t have a Cold-War sense of America First, take the lead. (My generation doesn’t get a look-in, which is just as well.) A lot of the exhaustion will come from trying to protect the vulnerable in the meantime. My money’s on this as the outcome, with lots of precarious moments, mainly because their side’s chock full of such tremendous dumbasses who have to be led every baby-step of the way, and they’re at a disadvantage so long as able people have alternatives to dealing with them.

    I’ll also say that this Roe decision is what happens when [disadvantaged group] is the sacrifice in nearly every political moment. This isn’t about RBG dying inconveniently; it’s about promises to women’s groups and untold almost-there moments and then, at the last minute, a compromise in which the women’s demand in question is bargained away. Over and over for half a century. Things erode if you don’t look after them.

    And, finally: Roe was decided when I was in elementary school, and it died months after I hit menopause. I am part of the only generation of women in this country that has had any significant reproductive freedom. And it has never been real freedom. It has always been difficult, semi-clandestine, largely uninsured, dangerous thanks to lack of insurance and the presence of unhinged and violent protesters, and a mystery: women don’t usually know how to get an abortion until they want one. Fewer and fewer abortion providers have been around as I’ve gotten older. I have sat in a motel all night watching a friend who’d finally managed to scrape the money together, late, and drive to my state to get the abortion bleed all over the sheets, and wondering if I should call 911 now, now, now, now, knowing she didn’t have insurance for the ER, either. That was before Casey. I remember Casey well, too, as I lived in PA at the time, and it was clear where things were going. When I was pregnant after a long time trying, I found out that if I was carrying twins, no doctor would abort just one of the fetuses; it would have to both; they had already decided for me that I’d be fine bringing up twins, and reduction abortions were only for women carrying three or more fetuses, victims of IVF gone wrong and likely to sue otherwise. Fortunately, my daughter wasn’t twins; also fortunately, had she had a serious genetic disorder, we hadn’t yet started stripping back abortion rights to before amnio week; no one had decided for me that the Lord would have, say, deliberately chosen her to be born with Tay-Sachs and suffer horribly for a few years until she died, while her father and I were traumatized and ruined. Those political decisions would happen a few years later.

    As it happens, I still have my daughter’s perfectly-fine karyotype. I started an abortion fund for her before she was born, expecting Roe to be overturned before she was likely to get pregnant. And I kept that fund going even when I was a low-income single mother. So — have we lost foundational rights, yes. How far were they ours, well. Again, it’s what happens when you decide women are fine as the sacrifice at the bargaining table over and over again, because we just aren’t all that important and can wait.

  82. Sandro Says:

    Sonya #79:
    > I don’t think an organism containing multiple functional organ systems can be accurate described as a “clump”.

    I don’t see why not. Even single celled organisms have organelles, pumping capabilities and motility. I’m not sure why the presence of simple multicellular organs suddenly fails to be a “clump”.

    I don’t see that this as a particularly fruitful line of argument on either side though, it’s just the Sorites paradox which can be debated ad infinitum.

  83. Sandro Says:

    Scott #76

    I feel, frankly, like one reason we pro-choice people are in this desperate situation (in addition to the devious Republican machinations we all know about) is that, decades ago, we abandoned any attempt to meet the pro-lifer argument head-on, by directly addressing whether a conscious being is being destroyed (before ~5 months, the answer is no).

    I disagree. Just consider their tagline, “life begins at conception”.

    If taken at face value, this means they don’t care at all about the fetus’ consciousness, they care only that it’s alive and a duty of care follows from the creation of that life. Your line of argument would not sway a single one of these people.

    No doubt some pro-lifers are metaphysically committed to the principle that life begins at conception in this fashion, often for religious reasons. I know these people exist because they also objected to various types of stem cell research for similar reasons.

    I rather think that most pro-lifers are actually in the camp fred aptly described above, where the procedure of abortion is so emotionally horrifying to them that they’re motivated to find a logical reason to reject the entire affair, regardless of the harm it may cause to sentient life, like the mother or society at large.

    Of course pro-lifers would also charge pro-choicers of motivated reasoning, like trying to escape responsibility for one’s choices and the duty to the life that was created. One example might be the “clump of cells” we just discussed, which could be seen as an attempt to dehumanize the fetus in order to assuage the guilt of ending that life. I instead reject the very notion that such a duty exists. The Supreme Court has also decided many times that fetuses are not persons, for instance.

    Furthermore, the consciousness argument would also leave forbidden the late term abortion that is sometimes critically necessary to save the mother’s life. Pro-lifers seem to have this absurd notion that doctors have no respect for life, despite their chosen profession, and are lining up to give out late term abortions like candy for any reason whatsoever.

    So in summary, I don’t think focusing on the fetus’ consciousness is the killer argument you think it is. It may sway some moderates who probably lean towards abortion anyway. There are many pro-abortion arguments, both empirical and philosphical. Abortion is known to reduce poverty and crime, improve long-term happiness, and since fetuses are not persons anyway, we have no moral duty to them beyond the parents’ wishes.

  84. Scott Says:

    Sandro #83: To clarify, it’s like every other issue—there are indeed fanatics who there’s no point in even trying to persuade; the whole battle is about the people in the middle (who exist in far, far greater numbers than you’d guess from reading social media!).

  85. Martin Mertens Says:

    Fred #48: “If fetuses matter as much as skin cells or dead chickens, then why would some adults even need to kill them in the first place?”

    What a weird argument. So the fact that pregnancy can be undesirable is the very reason why a pregnancy should never be terminated. “If wisdom teeth matter as much as skin cells or dead chickens, then why would some people even need to have wisdom teeth removed?” Because those people are horrible monsters.

    “would you *personally* give it a try and vacuum a miniature human out of a womb and dispose of the little limbs and organs in a trash bag?”

    *gasp* no, of course not. That would be barbaric. I would save the little limbs and organs for medical research… In all serious, I’m not keen on *personally* performing any invasive medical procedure but I’d do this over brain surgery any day.

  86. Hemant Says:

    If I get scraped by metal, I get a tetanus shot!
    I don’t wait 4-6 weeks till gangrene 🤢 develops.

    Women who indulge in activity which may cause pregnancy, should get the morning-after pill.

    How difficult is that ??!!
    FTR I’m no anti-abortionist by any stretch.
    But I hate how the media is hyperventilating over it …. as if the sky is falling !!
    They say 1 in 4 women will need an abortion in their lifetime
    If people were so careless about tetanus shots, yes we’d see 1 in 4 people needing an amputation too.

    Now that RoeVsWade has been overturned …. My question still remains “what’s so difficult about taking the morning-after pill?”

    For tetanus shots I have to make a bloody appointment… this thing is over the counter & self-administered. What’s their excuse for not taking it ?

  87. db48x Says:

    > considered by me and ~95% of everyone I know to be a basic pillar of modernity

    You claim to be liberal, but you appear to have isolated yourself from virtually everyone who has opinions different from your own. This makes your culture is parochial.

    > and thereby disregard the wills of three-quarters of Americans

    If, as you say, the majority of Americans believe that abortion should be allowed, then the abortion laws will not change. They appear to remain as Constitutionally allowed as ever, since the Constitution says nothing about abortion one way or the other. On the other hand, if the laws do begin to change then you may use that as experimental evidence that the minority was larger than you thought.

    As the recent court opinion notes: “… the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

  88. Richard Gaylord Says:

    scott: you write “tens of millions of liberals and moderates in the red states now under the authority of a social contract that they never signed.”. actually, hundreds of millions of people, EVERYONE living in the U.S. today, is under the authority of a constitution they never signed. this was pointed out by the great individualist anarchist, Lysander Spooner, in his 1870 pamphlet “No Treason. No. VI. The Constitution of No Authority” (freely available on the Internet) which was considered by the founder of modern libertarianism, Murray Rothbard, to be “the greatest case for anarchist political philosophy every written.”

  89. amy Says:


    Re the totally reasonable-sounding tactic of fanning out across the country to tip elections despite gerrymandered districts:

    Ten years ago, that’s what I was advocating. I can’t recommend it now unless you’re free, rich, and well-connected enough to leave when you decide you’ve had enough.

    I’ve been here for about 30 years. When I got here, it was a moderate, cautious, sensible place with progressive leanings some places, conservative others, and frankly I thought it was delightful. Many of its residents now find it unrecognizable as the place where they grew up. It’s corrupt and highly polluted, its schools and universities are a shadow of their former selves, its government has been eviscerated, and it’s suffered from accelerating brain drain. Healthcare-access problems are profound, and the population is increasingly ill.

    When a place takes a turn like this, so do all its institutions and industries. When a state government disrespects women, that disrespect shows up across law, healthcare, employment, education, every aspect of life. When education disintegrates, people don’t leave the state, get decent educations and come back: you wind up with dangerously poorly-educated and sloppy doctors, engineers, judges, journalists, etc. Most profoundly, the standards for everything decline. You’re expected to not care much if people in your family die young, or your house is sort of falling apart: these things are to be expected and viewed as uncontrollable. Public works may or may not work. Oversight disappears. Quality of life declines, ordinary things become just a little dangerous, employers seeking educated workers leave. Wages stagnate and decline relative to other areas. Fatalism becomes a way of life and is staved off with religion. You’d be well-advised to learn to do your own…whatever it is, if you want it done well.

    About 15 years ago, I got stuck here. I had a kid, got divorced, and was bound by this state’s custody norms, which made trying to leave a risky proposition. That’s meant my kid, whose only choice for college is a university that used to be much better (again in part because of local legal and social norms), will have a fight on her hands trying to get out. Eventually I’ll have to leave here. It’s already very difficult to find healthcare people who read and think, and I don’t fancy being in a hospital here and unable to advocate for myself. But I’ve worked here for local pay long enough, and been hamstrung enough by local legal ideas of what a mother should be, that it’s going to be very difficult. I just don’t have blue-state money for blue-state housing, and I’m now old enough to face significant hiring discrimination. I will likely pay for the rest of my life for having lived here this long.

    Several months ago, during a covid peak, I went out to drop off a check for a guy who was doing some work for me, and on the way back I was unnerved by how badly people were driving — it occurred to me that they were driving like they were disabled. Not just bad or distracted drivers, but disabled drivers. And then I realized that it was likely that many of them had recently had covid while partially- or unvaccinated, and probably *were* disabled; we had essentially no restrictions here, no mask mandate, no vaccine requirements. We also have no vehicle inspection requirements here. So yeah, odds weren’t bad that I was on the road with people whose brains weren’t working all that well and were driving cars they couldn’t afford to maintain well.

    Everything just gets that little bit more dangerous in a place like this through sheer carelessness, ill-education, low standards, and giving up. So — yeah. Just make sure that if you move here in the name of democracy, you can get back out.

  90. Daniel Says:

    Scott #20:

    > To all those here who support today’s ruling: do you agree or disagree that something close to three-quarters of the American public, including majorities in Texas and other red states, believe that abortions at least up to (say) 15 weeks ought to be legal?
    > If you agree: forget entirely about the abortion issue itself; how can a democratic system that denies what a solid majority of its citizens believe to be a basic non-negotiable right, be a legitimate system?

    This seems like a motte-and-bailey. The supreme court said that people don’t have a right to an abortion, and democratically elected legislatures should be able to ban or allow it. Majorities of the American public think that some abortions should be legal. But you can very easily think that something should be legal while also thinking that it shouldn’t be a constitutional/basic/non-negotiable right. One easy way to see this is that people often aren’t horrified by the idea that countries like the UK or Australia don’t have constitutional rights in the way the US has them, much less rights to abortion – instead, abortions are governed by statute, and are generally permitted.

  91. JimV Says:

    Nobody is forcing women to have abortions, or doctors to perform them. (I know a doctor who told his interviewers when applying for admission to med school that he would never assist in an abortion, and it did not disqualify him.)(They did not ask him, he volunteered the information.)

    Anyone who has seen a pregnant woman, much less witnessed a birth, should be able to tell it is a dangerous condition to be in. During the Middle Ages, when prayer was the only remedy for most ills, we know from parish records that 20% of births resulted in the death of the mother. A single mother with a minimum wage job with a changing schedule of shifts does not have good prospects either.

    I hereby retroactively give my mother permission to have aborted me. I know that I could not have missed existing, and it would have spared me roughly equal amounts of pleasure and distress. Never having to read any Internet comments would have been a large net benefit. (Present Sandro company excluded.)

  92. Harvey Friedman Says:

    The legal consequences of Roe are simply that all regulation (or no regulation) in the USA has to be by

    1. Acts of Congress.
    2. Acts of the States.

    This seems to be the only reasonable outcome from the beginning unless it is determined that there is no legitimate point of view concerning abortion other than the complex prior SCOTUS doctrine that there must be free access to abortion – within certain limitations.

    I don’t see any compelling argument that there is no other legitimate view. Especially since the prior official (Judicial) view is rather nuanced.

    So in light of that, Roe is best interpreted as legislation made by unelected officials. That is rather undemocratic.

    This kind of situation is precisely what was anticipated in the 10th amendment.

    Fundamental Constitutional Law trumps practical claims of consequences. In fact, here there is wide disagreement. Some say this will mean that some women will die. Others say that with Roe, many babies die. I don’t see any resolution of that matter.

  93. vmsmith Says:

    >” that, if Blue Americans wanted to stop it, the obvious way to do so would be to move to Austin and Houston (and the other blue enclaves of red states) in droves, and exert their electoral power.”

    How about if Democrats in places like Texas registered as Republicans and started getting reasonable Republicans on the ballot . . .

  94. Ashley Lopez Says:

    Scott #76,

    Can we say for sure that consciousness before ~5 months for the fetus is equal to zero? If consciousness is a binary quantity, then maybe. But what if it is a continuous quantity? You probably will not be able to define a point where it is zero. (Or maybe it is like you can’t even define how much of brain is required before you could meaningfully talk of it’s consciousness.) Maybe we should figure out more about such questions before you will be able to put forth the line of argument that you are mentioning.

  95. amy Says:

    @hemant #86:

    1. The morning-after pill is not magic. You can do your own reading on its efficacy and problems, including its cost. It’s also not actually available everywhere in the US, and if you’ve been paying attention to the decision and its sprouts, you’ll know that there’s appetite on the Court for doing away with contraceptive rights as well.

    2. Sex is not always voluntary.

  96. 235 Says:

    It’s a sad day, and yet we all knew this was bound to happen…

    It seems to me abortion should never have been decided by the Supreme Court in the first place.

    While for decades other democracies have had parliamentary laws to protect abortion, we’ve been relying on a single vulnerable judicial opinion with a convoluted chain of reasoning.

    Regularly we have confirmation rituals where we ask nominees about abortion without really asking, just to obscure from Americans that Congress never actually did its job.

  97. Patrick M. Dennis, MD Says:

    If you are “pro-life,” and consider abortion to be murder, then why do you not support wholeheartedly the single thing that would reduce the number of those murders far more than would any ban on abortions: an effective campaign to make effective contraception universally available, well understood by all, and everywhere socially acceptable.
    If you are “pro-choice,” why do you not address the primary argument of the opposition that abortion is murder? If that argument were valid, then it would trump virtually any other argument, yet we virtually never hear it seriously addressed. It can be addressed (see, for example, the writing of the philosopher Kate Greasley,,
    yet no one seems to bother to do so.

  98. Scott Says:

    amy #81: Always nice to have you back here, though we might wish it was under better circumstances.

    Grasping for a silver lining, the only one I could find was the news that Trump is privately unhappy about the ruling (while praising it in public), predicting that it will hurt Republicans electorally. Let it do so in spades. Let abortion rights be codified in federal law, and let the filibuster be ended to let that happen … both of which should’ve occurred a long time ago. Let Alito and all the others sneering about how this is a legislative rather than judicial issue be answered in that way.

    I do want to push back on your idea that this could’ve been prevented had the pro-lifers’ free-speech rights only been restricted. That sort of argument is precisely what the other side has seized on for decades to fuel its persecution complex. And, I confess, I’ve never understood this instinct among my friends on the left to search for right-wing persecution complexes, in order to justify them with a bit of actual persecution.

    But moreover, this is totally unnecessary: a solid majority of Americans support abortion rights (subject to reasonable limits, just like in European countries). A majority of Texans support abortion rights (!!). The problem is that the obsolete design of the American republic itself prevents those majorities from being able to express their will in legislation, and entrenches rule by a minority that actually despises the majority. That can be (barely) tolerated only as long as courts are willing to bridge the difference between what the legislative system can deliver, and the basic human rights that the majority demands. If the courts are no longer willing, the majority’s only remaining option is to force change on the system, as happened violently in the 1860s and less violently in the 1960s.

  99. Ordinary Joe Says:

    CC #80
    You do realize that this is how it works in most countries, right? In fact, a strong argument can be made that it’s exactly this peculiar US fetish to enshrine everything as a right that’s led to this moment. Maybe people should rely less on an unelected Judiciary and more on elected legislatures to pass the right laws? Look at Ireland. It legalised abortion relatively recently, but with a clear popular mandate making it unlikely that religious zealots will ever have a chance of reversing the decision.

  100. Ordinary Joe Says:

    Patrick M. Dennis, MD #97

    Well, that’s a pretty shallow false equivalence. No educated person in their right mind considers a fetus to be a person, and therefore it cannot be murdered. It’s only if you have a silly superstitious belief about a soul coming into existence at conception that you can take such an extreme stance. You don’t think we should set up our laws to appease every superstitious notion, do you?

  101. Scott Says:

    I don’t know who needs to read this, but…

    Many commenters here are gobsmacked that ~95% of everyone I know supports abortion rights. They think I must live in sole bizarre left-wing bubble.

    At the same time, many of my colleagues are equally gobsmacked that so many of my commenters are right-wing. To them, saying 95% of my acquaintances are for abortion rights is like saying that 95% support women’s suffrage. The only question is, who are the other 5%?

    For a decade, I haven’t known how to square this circle, and I still don’t know how.

  102. fred Says:

    There are plenty laws everywhere against the desecration of dead bodies.
    And on all those scales of consciousness and life (used to justify the treatment of human fetuses), dead bodies are at the exact same position as bricks and chairs.
    Yet dead bodies do get way more respect than live human fetuses.

  103. fred Says:

    Scott #99
    “At the same time, many of my colleagues are equally gobsmacked that so many of my commenters are right-wing.”

    I can’t speak for anyone else than myself, but I’m not right-wing.
    Thinking that any life is sacred has nothing to do with being right-wing. By that measure all vegetarians and vegans are basically Nazis?
    Hell, I’m not even pro or against abortion (everyone has to live with the consequences of their own actions). But I do think that all the justifications that killing a fetus doesn’t matter are plain wrong, and from my perspective the people using them are the ones who sound “right wing”.

  104. fred Says:

    The abortion debate is getting a lot of focus because it’s about the protection of a life that can’t make a decision for itself.

    But, pretty much anywhere in America, if you’re a gown up adult with all his faculties, and you’re in agony dying of the worst cancer, America just won’t give you the right to terminate your own life. If you want to regain that right under safe conditions, you pretty much will have to fly to a place like Belgium or Switzerland.

    I wished as much attention was given to the second issue, especially given that it’s a much clearer situation.

  105. Jon Awbrey Says:

    It is pointless to argue with religious beliefs. They don’t have to be scientific or even rational. All we can do is recognize they are religious beliefs. We can recognize them as such on account of their wide variety — a few beliefs are nearly universal, but the gods and the devils are in the details and the details vary a lot. Maybe some people lack experience with other forms of religious belief, but these days I see mostly a stubborn lack of respect.

    And that is precisely what the Establishment Clause is all about. A government of, by, and for All the People simply cannot muck about in religion without making a mess of itself and its People. Our Framers knew this, our present Supreme Court has forgotten it. There will be hell to pay.

  106. Gerald Says:

    Woke leftist #24:
    “7 blue states allow the murder of pre-birth babies. Not 15 weeks, not 25 weeks, not even 35 weeks.”
    Do they actually allow abortions this late unconditionally?

    Anyway, even Roe v. Wade is quite extreme compared to what most european countries have. Under Roe it is/was legal to abort a pregnancy up to a time where a premature born child would have a 30% chance to survive. I’m from Germany and here abortions are legal up to week 12, more than enough time to detect you are pregnant and decide what to do. It’s a reasonable balance between pro-choice and pro-live. A doctor aborting a pregnancy in 20th week would certainly be prosecuted in Germany and may go to prison. Most other european countries have similar laws. Also the new Florida abortion bill by Ron DeSantis is quite similar albeit somewhat more liberal (week 15).

    I’m increasingly worried about the political polarization and radicalization in the USA. I remember that in the past the Democratic Party (together with the “liberal” half of the country) was in most cases the reasonable one. The Dems are the party of the educated, the scholars and the intellectuals. And they are (or were) the adults, knowing that democracy is all about compromising. They knew that even if you win an election 75% to 25% you still have to consider the 25% and should not without good reason enact extreme laws just to spite the political enemy.

    But the party of Bill Clinton does not exist anymore. The radicalization process began somewhere during the Obama years. Today they come across as arrogant, uncompromising and fully self-righteous. They indoctrinate young school children with radical divisive ideologies (denying against all evidence that it happens) and put state workers through mandatory ideological struggle session, things that in the past were usually associated with the political right. I fear that most if not all blue states will now enact some over the top abortion laws (like Roe or even worse), something that most european countries would consider unaccaptible. This is not just about abortion rights, it’s about power. The unnecessary additional weeks in these laws we will likely see in blue states are an ideological power play against the political enemy: Shut up, you lost, you don’t exists. It is as if they want to deepen the divide, as if they want “cold civil war”.

    Maybe (hopefully) I’m wrong and more states than Florida will enact reasonable middle ground abortion laws. And then we can count: How many blue/red states are among them.

  107. OhMyGoodness Says:

    It amazes me how ideas echo through the ideosphere without any seeming application of intellectual honesty by those that should be champions of just that. As an example Justice Ginsburg was not opposed to abortion but was ever critical of Roe vs Wade.

    The exodus from deep blue states to the deepest red states isn’t limited by the Red Sea but by the availability of moving vans and moving companies that can’t fully respond to the record demand.

    This is a federation of states and the citizens have always migrated to locations they found preferable. I hope the faculty that left UT are happy in their new location but suspect they will not be, still tortured by whatever grievances are bouncing around the academic ideosphere.

  108. Harvey Friedman Says:

    I have a sense that my #92 is not being taken into account and also information like this is also not being taken into account:

    “A recent poll from the Pew Research Center revealed that only 19% of Americans believe abortion in the third trimester should be legal in all cases. Additionally, a 2019 Marist Poll found that 75% of Americans strongly support some restrictions on abortion.”

    I’d like to hear more about Scott’s 95%.

  109. Eric L Says:

    Who would you donate to if you wanted to mobilize rural women against the more egregious laws this fall? Gerrymandering may reduce the power of urban and minority voters in red states, but it doesn’t reduce the power of women, and off year elections tend to favor who is more motivated to show up.

  110. Brawndo Says:

    I’m content with RvW being overturned. It was a bad decision arising from motivated reasoning, and returning the question to the individual states is a victory for democracy. I’m not a right-winger, I’m a CS prof who leans left on social issues. On this particular one, I do believe that women should have access to abortion, although my level of support differs depending on the circumstance (which is common, given polling pointed out above).

    People can vote with their feet. Part of what makes the US such a great place to live is the tolerance for other points of view, even when (and especially when) you disagree. Trying to impose your own values universally is, in my opinion, anti-democratic and borders on being morally abhorrent. If one can’t abide by this ruling, which roughly half the country supports, perhaps it’s time to pack up and move to a place where the culture is more amenable. There’s lots of great places in the US to choose from.

    And, yeah, regarding the hysterical dimwits at STOC who let abortion issues impact their choice of venue, well, I can’t say I’m surprised. Great at writing theory papers, less so at being grownups.

  111. Scott Says:

    OhMyGoodness #107: Dana and I planned our lives on the assumption that, even if we disagreed with its governor or whatever, Texas would remain part of the United States rather than the Condeferacy. That assumption has now been pulled out from under us, throwing our lives into disarray. But that’s OK with you, it seems.

    The news today is about how Republicans are already scheming how to use their gerrymandered minority power to enact a national abortion ban, putting the lie to their previous claim that this was about states’ rights. If and when that happens, I’d expect a mass exodus out of the US as well, and in a certain sense, the end of the US: it will be regarded by both sides, largely correctly, as a Southern victory in the Civil War, just a century and a half delayed. That’s OK with you also, it seems.

  112. Harvey Friedman Says:

    Comment #111.

    I think Scott #111 is not serious, just having some fun. A national abortion ban in Congress? I could only see something like that getting anywhere if it bans abortion in the third trimester. That has enormous support.

    On the other side, the Dems passed a bill in the House that protects abortion up to the time of delivery. This failed in the Senate and seems to have backfired politically.

    This Roe ruling is really nothing much at all. It is simply an application of the 10th amendment. Nothing more and nothing less.

    You can only turn it into something more if you believe that certain types of abortion bans are evil. And what abortion bans would those be? And why are they evil?

  113. Gerald Says:

    Ordinary Joe #100:
    >No educated person in their right mind considers a fetus to be a person…

    I consider myself educated and in my right mind. I’m not religious at all or superstitious. I’m not a dualist and I don’t believe in an immaterial soul, I also don’t think that the hard problem of consciousness matters here. But I believe that a fetus is already a complete person from day one of pregnancy. It’s about the (very specific) information that has been put together. It is there, the code is running and unless some accident happens or someone forcefully interferes the person will be born. It doesn’t matter at all how much physical material (number of cells or mass) there is or if a heart is already beating.

    Abortion is a nontrivial moral issue from the very beginning of pregnancy. Comparing it with wasted sperm cells in a tissue is just ridiculous. That and theories of “lesser personhood” and the like are thinking errors.

    A future medically highly advanced society that has the means to terminate a pregnancy and then save the child by artificially continuing the pregnancy in some apparatus outside of the mothers womb after say the 4th week, will do so in any case. And it will severly punish anyone still unecessarily aborting the old fashioned way by killing the baby.

    I don’t want to totally outlaw abortion today, in my opinion some kind of reasonable compromise is needed like the bill in Florida. The pro-life people actually do have a point: Unborn life needs at least some legal protection.

  114. dankane Says:

    Gerald #113:

    What moral implications do you consider a fetus being a “complete person” to have? How is it consistent with your claim that there should be some reasonable kind of compromise? Do you consider fetuses that die due to failure to implant to be some kind of moral travesty that we ought to work on preventing?

  115. Matty Wacksen Says:

    @Scott #20, #98

    > do you agree or disagree that something close to three-quarters of the American public, including majorities in Texas and other red states, believe that abortions at least up to (say) 15 weeks ought to be legal?

    > a solid majority of Americans support abortion rights (subject to reasonable limits, just like in European countries). A majority of Texans support abortion rights

    I continue to be shocked by the number of object-level questions that you (Scott) get object-level wrong about these political issues. According to surveys, 49% of Americans think it’s ok to ban abortions after 15 weeks. in fact 38% think Roe v Wade should be overturned. 38% think abortions should be banned after a heartbeat is detected, 41% favor a ban after 18 weeks. 42% of Texans oppose a ban of abortion after 6 weeks. Scott’s object-level false claim: 75% of Americans think abortions after (say) 15 weeks should be legal, including majorities in Texas. The poll’s say 41% favor a ban after 18 weeks, so 41% is an upper bound. Of course, polls vary with time+confounders, but 41 < 50

    This is starting to reach a point where I'm thinking about removing this blog from my RSS feed because the amount of object-level mistakes that aren't being acknowledged. Commenters repeatedly point out factors like this, only to be ignored. In fact, I don't think Scott has even *read* Roe v Wade, let alone the recent supreme-court ruling; I'm not sure there is *any* awareness for the fact that some European countries have far more restrictive abortion rulings than the US. There is just too much uncritical acceptance of fear-mongering and hyperbole, I mean I'm not even American but even I can see that this issue is complex and shouldn't be simplified down to "blue-tribe good, red-tribe bad".

  116. Ordinary Joe Says:

    Gerald #113

    No, simply asserting that a fetus is a person does not make you educated. If you can provide a clear definition of personhood that can pass a peer review by today’s philosophers then go ahead and provide one. Some vague assertions about ‘code’ running just makes you look like a simpleton.

  117. Matty Wacksen Says:

    the time to edit just ran out, but regarding my comment # 114: There’s an obvious mistake/brain-fart in this comment, the fact that 41% favor a ban after 18 weeks doesn’t logically imply that only 25% couldn’t favor a ban after 15 weeks, my bad.

    But here’s another poll, that claims 48% of Americans support some restrictions to abortion after week 15.

    Indeed 48 >> 25, so my overall point shouldn’t be affected too much.

  118. CC Says:

    Ordinary Joe #99

    The US is not any country. The peculiar aspects of racism means that several southern states had bans agains interracial marriages when Loving decision was passed in 1967. It seems even now there are folks who would want states to decide as they want on such a basic issue. But they are opposed to having a similar aspect regarding guns. It is nice to want purity but it is not simple given the complexity of making laws here due to the Senate composition and originalist interpretation of the constitution. I do agree that it may have been better to have had a compromise federal law on abortion in the 70s or 80s that gave some minimal protections for abortion at the national level and left some aspects to the states.

  119. OhMyGoodness Says:


    Of course I want you to be happy where you are. I also am pro choice also and oppose the new Texas restrictions on abortion. That is a different issue then the Supreme Court’s striking down Roe that even Justice Ginsburg considered bad law. The estimates are that the new regulations will reduce the abortions of Texas residents in Texas by about 17,000 per year. Some of those 17,000 will go out of state. It seems to me that the issue is largely of the urban poor that have a relatively high rate of abortions and are the least able to accommodate a more expensive alternative. I thought that your initial response was good, to support charities that can provide assistance to those that do not have the financial capacity to find a workable alternative to include payment for out of state travel. From your past statements I think if the limit for abortions in Texas was lengthened from six to twelve weeks you would agree reasonable.

    I have lived in communities much of my adult like that I thought in the main had strange beliefs but respected their right to believe as they wish. There are always plusses and minuses and I realize I can’t mandate what others believe. Only one time did I find it intolerable and relocated myself. I hope you do find happiness in Austin (there are plusses) and work to address the short term and long term issues in a manner you find socially and ethically responsible. There are workarounds once you accept the problem.

    On the net plusses and minuses side the popular vote (by migration) suggests the reddest of red is preferable to the bluest of blue. 🙂

    I don’t consider the Confederacy an appropriate analogy at all. The Confederacy was based on evil intentions, the denial of human rights to human beings. Great Britain established an agrarian slave economy in the southern US. The cotton from the US fed the British textile industry during the Industrial Revolution. It was the total triumph of business interests over human rights. In the case of abortion I don’t believe anyone can reasonably claim it is due to evil intentions. There are no monetary rewards-quite the opposite. It is the misapplication (my belief) of the intent to protect human life with human rights. I agree with you that it is misapplied but cannot accept that the intentions are in any way evil. It is a case of good people doing stupid things rather than evil people pursuing their personal interests.

  120. CC Says:

    Harvey Friedman #92

    What happens to the 14th amendment? How does one resolve tension between the 10th and 14th amendments? Isn’t that the crux of the issue in Roe and other cases? What is your opinion on that? I am asking out of genuine curiosity.

  121. fred Says:


    “What a weird argument. So the fact that pregnancy can be undesirable is the very reason why a pregnancy should never be terminated.
    If wisdom teeth matter as much as skin cells or dead chickens, then why would some people even need to have wisdom teeth removed?” Because those people are horrible monsters”

    The reason for which people kill a fetus is that, if they allow the pregnancy to run its course, the fetus will finish growing into a baby, then a child, then an adult, and this is all too much unwanted responsibility for the people involved.
    So, indeed, the fact that a pregnancy should not be terminated is because of the very reason it’s undesirable: it’s about terminating a human life.

    But no-one on the pro-abortion side wants to frame things in terms of killing unwanted human lives. No, it’s so much easier to equate fetuses with wisdom teeth, and then vacuuming a miniature human out of a womb is exactly like removing a wisdom tooth, and both can be discarded in a trash bag, and all parties involved can just move on.
    Well, okay… but kindly notice that there’s actually a crucial difference between fetuses and wisdom teeth: every woman only has 4 wisdom teeth, while the theoretical number of human lives she can choose to ‘terminate’ is way, way higher.
    Maybe the Nth abortion (N to be determined) should always come with a free mandatory sterilization?

  122. OhMyGoodness Says:


    I just saw this proposed workaround in Austin-

  123. Scott Says:

    OhMyGoodness #122: That’s great and I hope it passes! Of course, the logical culmination would be a standoff involving Austin police, Texas state troopers, and possibly even the FBI or National Guard. There’s precedent for such things in Civil Rights era. I hope the side trying to put pregnant women or their doctors in prison would nonviolently stand down.

  124. Scott Says:

    OhMyGoodness #119: The point I keep trying to make is that, if you’re sufficiently strongly pro-choice, then it doesn’t matter if Roe was bad law. By analogy, imagine someone who said yes, of course they’re anti-slavery, but the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments weren’t passed the right way, and for complicated legal reasons the only way to fix it was to repeal the amendments and re-pass them with different wording. Imagine that you actually agreed with their legal argument.

    Now imagine that, after a half-century of crusading, they got what they wanted, the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments were repealed, and millions of African-Americans were immediately rounded up to be sold at auctions … and imagine that our legalistic abolitionist was happy, considering this the correct outcome.

    How serious would you say they ever were about abolition?

    Human rights, for those who believe in them, are almost by definition the things that are even more important than laws. A flimsy legal theory that upholds (what you’ve already agreed to be) fundamental human rights is vastly preferable to a solid legal theory that tramples human rights — and that’s an absolutely trivial decision, one that you could make a thousand times without thinking about it.

  125. Scott Says:

    Matty Wacksen #114: I meant, obviously, that the fanatical life-begins-at-conception, morning-after-pill-is-murder position — i.e., the one that’s now set to become law in large parts of the country, and that the anti-abortion movement wants to become law in the entire country —- is supported by only about a quarter of the American public. And I’m right about that.

    Meanwhile, in my comments in this very thread, you can find explicit acknowledgment of the fact that most EU countries impose more stringent cutoffs than Roe — and you could learn that I’m fine with more stringent cutoffs, as long as they give the woman a reasonable choice after learning that she’s pregnant to decide whether to continue the pregnancy or not. A 15-week cutoff (with health exceptions) seems obviously reasonable to me, a 6-week cutoff seems obviously unreasonable, and by the Intermediate Value Theorem, there must be some point in between about which reasonable people can differ.

  126. gentzen Says:

    I hereby precommit that this will be my last post, for a long time, around the twin themes of (1) the horribleness in the United States and the world, and (2) my desperate attempts to reason with …

    Do you still remember? How long ago was that? Maybe this post is just “An understandable failing”?

  127. fred Says:

    “the fanatical life-begins-at-conception, “

    There is a huge difference between sterilization, abortion, and death post birth.
    In each case “potential life” is lost.
    But with the latter two cases, a very specific human life is lost.
    And this indeed holds even just one day after conception, whether you like it or not.
    Hence the jokes about being “half pregnant”.
    That’s how many biological processes work. All fatal cancers could be traced back to the initial mutation of a single cell. If that single cell had been extracted in time before splitting further, the outcome would have been avoided. That’s also why there’s no such a thing as being cured from stage 4 cancer, there’s only temporary “no evidence of disease”, because rogue metastasized cancer cells are always probably lurking around the body and waiting like time bombs. Too bad there’s no “morning after pill” for cancers…

    One could find the remains of a killed female fetus outside an abortion clinic.
    One could mix a few of her cells with water, and mail it to 23andMe, opening an account for “Alexandria”, and then get a life time worth of updates on her specific genetic profile: tons of alerts about her DNA relatives, updates on the probabilities of her traits (90% of having a cleft chin, 80% of having detached earlobes, 60% chance of having had hair as a new born, whether she is likely to prefer chocolate over vanilla ice cream, whether she has an aversion for the taste of cilantro, etc), her health predispositions (an increased risk for Celiac disease and type 2 diabetes, etc), and her precise ancestry.
    The aborted baby girl could probably be one day exactly cloned with this information.

    But none of this is possible with the loss of “potential life” associated with a lone sperm, a lone egg, or following a sterilization.

  128. Skeptic Says:


    So, if the Mississippi or Florida laws were enshrined nationwide you would be A-OK with this? Iiuc both have a 15 week cutoff, with health exceptions. Both enacted by Republicans incidentally.

  129. fred Says:

    If we think this is the hardest debate about procreation we will face in our lifetime, we haven’t seen nothing yet.

    It won’t be long before humanity will have to face the fact that over population is the root cause of the slow but inevitable death of our planet, through global warming, the depletion of resources, and the poisoning of the ecosphere.

    There will be a few options to deal with this: the reliance on war, on pandemics, forced abortions, forced sterilizations, forced birth control, forced control of who can and can’t procreate
    … or, my favorite, forced early re-incarnation:

  130. Simon K Says:

    I think one thing this whole debate could do with – and I know it is hard for everyone – is empathy for people with different views. Scott, I don’t entirely agree with your point of view – well, I don’t completely disagree either, it’s complicated, and I’ll skip over that. But I understand how you and your wife and your colleagues feel about it–those feelings are understandable and legitimate.

    Both “a woman’s right to control her own body” and “it’s baby murder” are intoxicating emotional brews, whichever one any of us prefers to drink – and then there’s a lot of people (like me) who drink a bit from each, and struggle to answer the question of what that contradictory admixture ought to mean for law and policy.

    Not an American, but I really do worry about the future of the US. Red vs Blue seems to be turning into a “Cold Civil War” – and the worse it gets, the greater the probability that what’s cold might eventually go hot. Very unlikely to happen this year – but what if the 2024 election turns into a dispute far worse than those of 2020 or 2000? And if not 2024, where will the US be in 2028? Give the current situation another 10 or 20 years – it shows no signs of getting better, or even stabilising – where will it all end up?

  131. Scott Says:

    Skeptic #128: Yes, I already said I could live with that sort of compromise, one that still allowed the vast majority of abortions in practice. Unfortunately, what Texas and a bunch of other states actually now have, as of today, is closer to Handmaid’s Tale than to that.

  132. Anon93 Says:

    Scott Aaronson #20: I definitely think that abortion should be legal for the first 15 weeks on demand, after 15-20 weeks or so you should need a reason (the baby has some genetic disease, threat to the life of the mother, the baby will be born out of wedlock, etcetera). I am not really happy about Roe being overturned, though it is the correct constitutional decision, so if you do believe the Supreme Court’s goal is to actually follow the Constitution… well, the constitution does not provide for the right to an abortion.

    “How can a democratic system that denies what a solid majority of its citizens believe to be a basic non-negotiable right, be a legitimate system?”

    Err, well, in the states that are outlawing abortion it might not be a solid majority. I’m also not sure if a solid majority of US citizens believe abortion to be a “basic non-negotiable right”. I support legalizing abortion certainly, but of course it’s “negotiable” as there is some number of weeks it should be banned after. I think the right to have an abortion is more like the right to smoke marijuana (which I also support, again needs to be regulated) than the right to free speech, it is a right but I don’t think it is a “basic non-negotiable right”.

    OK Scott, most Americans believe in the right of people not to be hired based on their race. Affirmative action is not a legitimate policy, it has minority support. Illegitimate. Excited for Harvard vs SFFA.

    Anyway, a substantial fraction of the Republican Party continues to believe that something that has no higher thought processes, doesn’t feel pain, and doesn’t look human deserves full legal protection. Why? Christianity. This is not about women’s rights or anything else. It’s about the Christian right.

  133. Harvey Friedman Says:

    CC Says:
    Comment #120 June 26th, 2022 at 3:28 pm
    Harvey Friedman #92

    What happens to the 14th amendment? How does one resolve tension between the 10th and 14th amendments? Isn’t that the crux of the issue in Roe and other cases? What is your opinion on that? I am asking out of genuine curiosity.

    Wasn’t this addressed in the Roe ruling we are talking about? Amendment 14 article 1 is not easy for someone not steeped in Constitutional Law to interpret. I think we need to digest the analyses of Amendment 14 article 1 and see how or if it applies to abortion. I haven’t done this but am interested.

  134. fred Says:

    Andrew Yang wrote

    “Protests are now raging across the country. In the hours after the ruling, I received dozens of fundraising overtures from Democratic candidates across the country. I do think that this ruling has the potential to activate voters and energy in a way that may diminish what is expected to be a red wave in November.

    But at the same time, I found myself wondering, “Why didn’t Democrats do something about this when they had the chance?” Democrats commanded legislative majorities multiple times over the last 49 years. They could have codified Roe v. Wade into law. They could have played hardball when Mitch McConnell refused to consider Merrick Garland, which I found to be incredibly cynical and corrosive. They could have asked Ruth Bader Ginsburg to step down while Obama was still in office instead of deferring to her wish to stay in until her health failed.

    They didn’t do any of these things, and now the people who will pay the price will be poor women with limited resources in red states.”

    I would even go one step further and question whether that wasn’t the intention all along. For the top Democrats (Biden, 79, Pelosi, 82, who both lived through so many generations, well aware of the hot recurring issues) to keep the issue alive just enough in case the opposite side captured the institutions, it would be an ace up their sleeve to get the power back on their side, through the massive outrage.
    For sure this will serve the Democrats well in the upcoming mid-term elections.
    It’s all a big game of chess between the elites, really.

  135. JimV Says:

    To re-cover ground which was covered in a previous thread, abortion rules that allow abortions late in the term do not expect women to do that by whim, but for a very good reason. The actual case known to me which I presented was that a pregnant mother who already has three children, ages two to eight, finds out see has cancer and needs immediate chemotherapy to have a reasonable chance of stopping the cancer before it spreads, so that she can raise the children she already has. The chemotherapy will kill or severely disrupt the development of the fetus; the effects of the cancer may also put the fetus at risk if is allowed to spread. She has a tough decision to make. The legislature in Oregon decided to let people like that make their own decisions rather than making a one-size-fits-all rule or trying to cover all possible contingencies. Despite that permissive law, Oregon has one of the lower abortion rates in the USA, below the average. I know of no cases of a healthy woman who has carried a pregnancy late in her term suddenly deciding to abort it. The natural course as I understand it is to have felt the fetus move and have bonded with it. One could argue that a woman who would abort at that point for no good reason will wind up in jail or an asylum anyway.

  136. ultimaniacy Says:

    An awful lot of people in this comment are insisting that Roe vs Wade was terrible motivated reasoning, but, unless I missed it, not one person has substantiated this position with an argument (unless you count the lame gotcha of “the Constitution does not explicitly use the word ‘abortion’, therefore abortion bans can’t be ruled unconstitutional”, an argument which could just as easily be used to defend segregation). This seems to be a common theme of these discussions — lots of people saying that, while they totally aren’t pro-lifers, they want Roe vs Wade overturned because it was flawed reasoning in some way that they insist is extremely obvious but refuse to explain. What, exactly, is this obvious flaw in the reasoning that I’m missing?

  137. Skeptic Says:

    Scott: It would be an interesting tactic for Congressional Democrats to say `lets take DeSantis’s law and enact it nationwide.’ My guess is this would get majority support from the Congressional Republican caucus as well. Of course, this would involve making the laws in e.g. California more restrictive, at the same time as it would make the laws in Texas less restrictive.

    I highly doubt this will actually be proposed. (Why?) But I expect something like this is probably what the majority of the electorate actually wants, and what we will converge to, after a few election cycles have passed. Well, if we converge on a nationwide law at all. We might end up with a patchwork by state – with Texas (if it stays the way it is) a far outlier even among the red states.

    But I think both `no abortion, ever’ and `abortion on demand even in the third trimester’ are probably both electorally losing propositions, nationwide.

  138. AndrewM1234 Says:

    I hardly ever read your blog and this is my first time commenting, but I donated $500 to the NARAL Pro-choice America Foundation. Thank you for agreeing to match donations!

  139. OhMyGoodness Says:


    I thought I explained convincingly why there is no moral equivalence between the anti-abolition and pro-life positions, why the logical requirements for a valid analogy are not met, and why they could be considered antithetical one from the other. I clearly overestimated the strength of my explanation to counter the current widely held axiom that disagreers are necessarily the moral equivalent of nazis or slavers.

  140. Matty Wacksen Says:

    >I meant, obviously, […] And I’m right about that.

    I don’t care what you “meant”, what you wrote was:

    > do you agree or disagree that something close to three-quarters of the American public, including majorities in Texas and other red states, believe that abortions at least up to (say) 15 weeks ought to be legal?

    I don’t see the point of arguing with someone who will assert one (false) object-level fact, and then not acknowledge it was object-level false by motte-and-baileying into a position that was “meant” all along.

    Motte: A clear majority of Americans don’t support a complete ban on abortion.
    Bailey: Striking down Roe v Wade is against the will of the people.

    >there must be some point in between about which reasonable people can differ.

    Isn’t this the outcome of the supreme-court decision, letting the “reasonable” state legislatures argue out the point? You fail to acknowledge the fact that this supreme court decision was exactly about a 15 week ban, which the previous precedents did not allow. If you say 15 weeks is “reasonable”, and this was previously not possible, shouldn’t you be happy that states can now do “reasonable” things?

    >In my comments, in this thread, you can find explicit acknowledgment of the fact that most EU countries impose more stringent cutoffs than Roe

    I just read all your comments in this thread, show me which one has this “explicit acknowledgement” please.

    >as long as they give the woman a reasonable choice after learning that she’s pregnant

    These are absolute weasel words, because there are some women who only notice they’re pregnant when they’re giving birth. If anyone can get around a restriction by claiming they only just found out they were pregnant (or by claiming they’ll commit suicide if they have to carry the baby to term, i.e. “risking the life of the mother”), the rules becomes impossible to enforce. Which you surely must know, but probably don’t think is a bad thing.

    > the fanatical life-begins-at-conception, morning-after-pill-is-murder position — i.e., the one that’s now set to become law in large parts of the country,

    Ok, let’s make a bet. Abortion will remain legal up to 6 weeks in at least 47 States for the next year, if not I pay you $100, else you pay me $100. I mean we can also go with conception like you’re claiming is “set” to be law in large parts of the US, but maybe the 6 weeks give you some epsilon of a chance of winning.

  141. OhMyGoodness Says:


    It does seem to me that many people are more interested in political wedge issues than solving problems, to criticize others rather than to do good yourself, to dismantle with no clue how to build better. Cynical times these are.

    The people migrating now may be wise to leave blue states before the wall building stage to keep people in that comes later.

  142. Scott Says:

    Matty Wacksen #140: The difficulty is that people’s answers to poll questions depend heavily on how they’re phrased, and are not consistent between questions. Having said that, polls consistently find that only a quarter or so of Americans take the extreme anti-abortion position that half of states are now poised to impose on everyone in them. And the complement of the extreme position is that … well, women should have the minimal viable amount of time to find out that they’re pregnant and decide to abort the pregnancy if that’s their choice. Would you agree that this minimum viable time is somewhere around 12-15 weeks, 6 weeks being laughable?

    Incidentally, this is why I refuse your bet: because a 6-week limit is nearly tantamount to a total abortion ban, with many women not even knowing they’re pregnant by then. I don’t care whether 47 states continue to clear that largely-irrelevant bar.

  143. Scott Says:

    OhMyGoodness #139:

      I clearly overestimated the strength of my explanation to counter the current widely held axiom that disagreers are necessarily the moral equivalent of nazis or slavers.

    No argument there! 🙂

    In fairness, I know some pro-lifers, and they’re very obviously not the moral equivalent of Nazis or slavers. They’re sincere about moral views that I consider to be mistaken.

    But the point stands that, whatever we take fundamental human rights to be, they’re so obviously more important than (e.g.) “states’ rights,” or stare decisis, or the difference between the judicial and legislative branches, or anything like that, that anyone who harps about the latter issues, almost certainly believes that there were no fundamental human rights at stake here in the first place.

  144. fred Says:

    For the USA, as a federation, this move on abortion is the straw that will break the camel’s back when it comes to the Balkanization of the country. With every single issue being politicized by both side (guns, abortion, immigration, sports, culture, energy, …), there’s hardly anything unifying the population anymore.

    Either institutions will have to be reformed (e.g. make the popular vote matter), or more likely, we will see an actual split of the country in two.

    The writing has been on the wall all along with the labeling of “blue” states vs “red” states.

  145. broke leftist Says:

    JimV # 135,

    The USA has each year 500 cases of parents murdering their own children. The punishment for this crime is obviously life in prison or death sentence for the parent.

    Now imagine a hypothetical scenario in which there was no punishment for murdering your own child. In this case, easily the number of murders would skyrocket 20-fold.

    Now to the point.
    In at least 8 USA states there is no punishment for parents murdering their baby 1 day before birth. Not only that, there is a political party which sees no problem in this, and in fact claims it is the mother’s right.
    Therefore, there are undoubtedly THOUSANDS of cases of this happening each year in the US.

    It is quite an irrelevant fact that JimV has “never heard of a single case”. What exactly do you expect, the mother who killed her pre-birth baby to call your phone and report this to you..???

    I am pro-life up to at least 15 weeks if not more. However the democrats are so insanely radical, that they can easily lose their majority on this issue.

  146. Vladimir Says:

    Scott #142:

    > Incidentally, this is why I refuse your bet: because a 6-week limit is nearly tantamount to a total abortion ban, with many women not even knowing they’re pregnant by then. I don’t care whether 47 states continue to clear that largely-irrelevant bar.

    I urge you to notice that this is the exact sort of motte-and-baileying Matty was referring to (“life-begins-at-conception, morning-after-pill-is-murder position — i.e., the one that’s now set to become law in large parts of the country” being the bailey).

  147. fred Says:


    “because a 6-week limit is nearly tantamount to a total abortion ban, with many women not even knowing they’re pregnant by then.”

    And besides “women”, what about the countless teenage girls, sexually abused by a relative or stranger, who now would have the burden to investigate their own potential abortion on their own, before their pregnancy becomes visible to the rest of the family?
    For that situation alone, easy access to abortion for any woman/girl is a necessary thing, even if morally wrong in many situations.

  148. Gerald Says:

    dankane #114:
    >What moral implications do you consider a fetus being a “complete person” to have?
    I consider a fetus philosophically to be a person, because many of the persons properties can in principle already be predicted with high statistical confidence. Morally that means that we should (ideally) never abort a pregnancy unless the health of mother or child is in danger.

    >How is it consistent with your claim that there should be some reasonable kind of compromise?
    What you should (or should not) do and what should be legal are two different things. For practical reasons we obviously need a compromise because other people do not agree with my philosophy or my morals. I or they might be wrong. I would not vote for a radical abortion ban. I consider something like Germany’s abortion laws or Florida’s new abortion bill to be a good approximation for now.

    >Do you consider fetuses that die due to failure to implant to be some kind of moral travesty that we ought to work on preventing?
    I don’t know.

  149. broke leftist Says:

    In my previous comment I obviously meant to say that I am pro-choice up to 15 weeks, if not more.

  150. Tom Marshall Says:

    Scott #76: I hear you and I respect your sentiments, but I continue to respectfully disagree. We are in the current situation — with abortion and many more “basic social-justice” issues — exactly because the Right understands the power of extreme views, and “reasonable positions” don’t win elections. The data as I understand it supports my position, and — much as I wish that the world were more as you would envision it — I’m unaware of any empirical foundation for your conjecture.

    Can you elaborate, citing data where possible, on why you think that your strategy would work better than the Right’s very effective strategy? I think that we agree that the Left has not implemented any effective strategy on this matter.

  151. JimV Says:

    Broke-Leftist: “It is quite an irrelevant fact that JimV has “never heard of a single case”.”

    Those are the facts as I know them, what else am I to base my opinions on? You are free to do some research and find actual cases to refute them. Meanwhile, I am free to consider your “undoubtedly thousands” who found a doctor willing to abort them for no medical reason, or had the luck to self-abort a late term pregnancy without injuring themselves, and managed to conceal either the pregnancy or its loss at late term to all acquaintances who might have been outraged and reported that outrage to social workers, as a made-up absurdity.

    I have heard of women killing their children. In all three cases in which I did, the women heard voices from a god telling her to do so, and was thereafter committed to an asylum. No law will prevent crazy people from acting crazy, but once they act crazy they can be isolated whether they broke a law or not.

    As I stated, the case I presented was an actual one (involving a relative). Given the prevalence of pregnancy and of cancer, there could well be thousands more.

    If you believe any of humanity is worthy of trust, you should be willing to trust them to make tough decisions that don’t involve you, as to what action will do the least amount of harm. If not, then why is it moral for humanity to reproduce itself at all? Is assuming the worst of people in the name of morality moral?

    (Perhaps so, in some religions; not in my worldview. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.)

  152. JimV Says:

    P.S. I would not object to Judicial review of tough abortion decisions with the presumption of a well-meant decision. I do object to making the act itself, regardless of decision factors, illegal.

  153. OhMyGoodness Says:


    Interesting to consider what society would look like in the united blue cities. The Constitution would certainly be abolished. The Supreme Court as an equal independent branch of government dissolved. No true opposition party since by definition morally reprehensible. Policing replaced by group therapy (attendance mandatory! for all citizens). Certainly no firearms in private ownership. My best guess is governance would primarily be conducted by the equivalent of faculty meetings making learned determinations.

  154. Ordinary Joe Says:

    Rather than giving advice to people to make the tremendous sacrifice of going to live in a red state, and trying to change the politics through some form of demographic overthrow, I propose a simpler solution. Ladies, stop having sex with guys from red states! This is now a lot like playing with a loaded gun. Even if you want to have children, can you be certain that an unforeseen catastrophe might not arise leaving you with a need for an abortion?

  155. Scott Says:

    Ordinary Joe #154:

      I propose a simpler solution. Ladies, stop having sex with guys from red states! This is now a lot like playing with a loaded gun.

    Oh, it should be fine if he’s from a red state, as long as you live in (or can easily get to) a blue state!

    If the idea is instead a Lysistrata-style sex strike, then presumably the test should involve the guy’s views, regardless of which color of state he’s from. But I daresay many women have been applying such a views-based test already.

  156. fred Says:

  157. bloke leftist Says:


    I am pro choice, and I believe that your opinions on abortions are more fanatical than that of the catholic church.

    You are unable to agree on something so simple as banning abortions beyond 30 weeks, or even pre-birth.

    The most advanced european countries have an abortion limit at around 15 weeks. Because they realize that a human baby has a right to live. The only place (that I am aware of) that allows abortion without time limits is blue democratic US states.

    This is probably the best reason for canceling RvW, and having proper legislation on the issue.

  158. OhMyGoodness Says:


    I agree there is an issue about human rights. If people were like say say guppies with gestation period of a month and then live young requiring no further care this ethical debate wouldn’t be necessary. The human reproductive style almost inevitably leads to ethical debate about the rights of the mother and the rights of the fetus. These questions are answered on a cultural basis. A large percentage of the global population accepts gender based selective abortions. Some cultures accept infanticide especially in the case of birth defects. Other cultures don’t accept abortion at all. Laws concerning abortion are culturally based. There is no universally accepted standard for abortion as there is with slavery.

    So what considerations are important to the cultural determination as to the legality of abortion in the US.

    Some consider only the rights of the mother and that the mother should only be considered and allowed to abort at any time. Some would argue this maximizes social utility. That unwanted babies have poor prospects for the future and so logical to allow abortion at any time without restriction.

    Others consider only the rights of the fetus and on the basis of their moral beliefs support no abortions at all. Utilitarians argue this has the least benefit for society as a whole and maximizes the expected costs to society over the life time of the child. I understand that Justice Ginsburg had some sympathy for the utilitarian view and I admit that for me the logic of these views is sensible.

    Now in the middle of these there are multiple viewpoints that will eventually be agreed. The youngest well documented pre term baby to survive was 21 weeks. Your suggestion has been when the fetal brain is able to support consciousness and propose that is about 3 months.

    Anyway I don’t accept that there is a universal standard to determine whose rights are being violated in the case of abortion. It is culturally determined. The logic of the utilitarian argument transcends culture but in the US most have beliefs that would preclude late term abortions. They are not based on some easily referenced absolute standard but rather culturally conditioned beliefs. I agree rights of the mother versus rights of the fetus is a not easily resolved. I personally more value the rights of the mother but respect the beliefs of others that think differently. I also consider that your reference point of able to sustain consciousness is sensible.

  159. Ordinary Joe Says:

    Scott #154
    Let me clarify. Women in red states should just stop having sex with guys. The stakes are too great, especially once the nutjobs come after contraception. If they manage to escape Gilead then they can go back to enjoying sex with whomever they please.

  160. Matty Wacksen Says:

    @Scott 142:

    The difficulty is not that polls are inconsitent with each other, but that polls are inconsistent with your statements, or more generally, that your statements are inconsistent with reality. I challenge you to find *any* poll finds that nationally (a) 25% or less support a ban after 15 weeks and (b) no majority in Texas. Until you do so, please stop making quantitative claims about national and/or Texas opinion that are not backed by polls

    > Would you agree that this minimum viable time is somewhere around 12-15 weeks, 6 weeks being laughable?

    I neither agree nor disagree with anything on what is reasonable or laughable, that is beside the point. My point is that your characterization of public support for abortion bans on an object level, has been object-level incorrect, that you are engaging in hyperbole, motte and bailey-type reasoning, and are smearing your political opponents. I apologize for being rude, but I’ve tried to make this point more politely in other threads, but all that follows is more of the same.

    > I refuse your bet: because a 6-week limit is nearly tantamount to a total abortion ban

    Funny how between 38% and 52% of abortions are until week 6 (see graphic below), the distribution would obviously shift to the left if more abortions were banned – basic economics. Weird how you think the morning-after pill will be banned, but not abortions up to 6 weeks. But ok, make a quantifiable prediction you’re willing to bet on. I’ll offer this one: that 30 ( you write ” half of states are now poised to impose on everyone in them”) states will have abortion available up to week 12 in June 2023. Do you accept?

  161. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Scott#155 and Ordinary Joe#154

    Uhmm..have you seen photos from the big pro choice rallies. Count me a pass in any case.

  162. Behumble Says:

    Be humble and learn:

  163. JimV Says:

    Broke (indeed): I’ve given you an actual case in which abortion after 15 weeks was conceivably a reasonable choice. You refuse to consider it, which makes you the fanatic, in my view. Have fun flinging those stones.

  164. M2 Says:

    Ultimaniacy 136,

    The bad reasoning of Roe and Casey is a legal commonplace. It’s discussed in depth in the Dobbs decision, and the dissent does not attempt to refute it. So you could look there. Or you could read the book “What Roe v. Wade should have said,” by (mostly) pro-choice legal scholars. Or the famous article, “The Wages of Crying Wolf: a Comment on Roe v. Wade” by (pro-choice) legal luminary John Hart Ely

  165. Woke Amy Coney-Barrett Says:


    Obviously what normal countries do is ban abortion after say 15 weeks, but then make exceptions for rare cases such as medical complications.

    But what you are suggesting (and 8 democrat states are actually doing) is Akin to making all murder legal, just because there are cases in which killing is justified (e.g self-defense).

  166. Lorraine Ford Says:

    All this male-dominated morality-talk is irrelevant. Women, people, will continue to try to do what they feel they need to do.

  167. Scott Says:

    Lorraine Ford #166:

      All this male-dominated morality-talk is irrelevant.

    There are brilliant female moral philosophers (including ones who’ve written ringing defenses of abortion rights) who’d no doubt take exception to the careless association of “morality-talk” with maleness!

    It’s true that abortion is the example par excellence of an issue where a female perspective is needed. We’ve had some above. I wish we had more. Alas, despite a frequent impression to the contrary, I don’t get to shape the demographics of this comment section, like a college admissions officer! I just try to engage with whomever shows up, as long as they follow the rules.

  168. Scott Says:

    gentzen #126:

      “I hereby precommit that this will be my last post, for a long time, around the twin themes of (1) the horribleness in the United States and the world, and (2) my desperate attempts to reason with …”

      Do you still remember? How long ago was that? Maybe this post is just “An understandable failing”?

    This post deals only with theme (1), not theme (2).

    In the communities where I spend my life, blogging that abortion rights should be protected is like blogging that the earth is round, and whatever pushback I might get for that is like the pushback of flat-earthers. I.e., while I’ll get no credit whatsoever for my “bravery,” I’m also not taking any social risk here (or rather: if I did get in trouble, it would be only for giving the flat-earthers a platform to argue with me). So, it’s a completely different emotional experience from blogging about, e.g., nerds and feminism, or academic cancellations, to the point where I don’t even put the two things into the same mental bucket.

  169. dankane Says:

    Gerald #148:
    I’m still not clear on what you mean by “philosophically a person”. It seems to me like you *don’t* give them the same rights as I would give actual adults.

    For example, you think that abortion should be legal under some circumstances as a compromise. If instead of killing a fetus, whenever an abortion was performed it killed a random unrelated adult would you still think that it is necessary to find some compromise, or would you be confident that an outright ban is the best solution?

  170. O. S. Dawg Says:

    Abortion should be safe, legal and rare.

    That said, I see my country full of lawlessness nearly every where I look: the streets and shops of San Francisco, the Oval Office after the last election, Statuary Hall on Jaunuary 6, for example.

    I can’t understand the current SCOTUS view of the constitution granting decisions about laws governing abortions to the States and at the same time requiring New York to arm bears. Is it simply another form of the rampant lawlessness we are surrounded by? In normal times, perhaps our constitutional processes would be strong enough to allow us to continue as a republic until all this could be sorted out. These are not normal times!

  171. Dan Says:

    I’m pro choice, but leftists have behaved in such a morally repugnant manner over the past several years that I’m glad for the ruling simply because it makes them miserable.

  172. Scott Says:

    Matty Wacksen #160: So I finally looked up the poll numbers again, as I should’ve done at the beginning of this unedifying argument. What I found:

    Yes, like I said, a solid majority of Americans support abortion access by choice early in pregnancy, although it’s admittedly in the 60s rather than the 70s. Crucially, it’s only a tiny minority that supports the extreme position that the Supreme Court has now freed virtually every state under Republican control to enact (no meaningful abortion right and no exceptions for rape or incest).

    Meanwhile, Texans are about equally split between “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” but even most of the “pro-lifers” would allow abortion in cases of rape or incest, meaning that the law in Texas is now well to the right of the median Texas voter.

    So, I stand by my high-level point, that both in Texas and in the US, we now have a draconian outcome that we almost certainly wouldn’t have gotten in a truly democratic system.

    You’re welcome to engage directly with this high-level point and tell me why it’s wrong, but enough with this “haha, you see, a round-earther isn’t defending his position with sufficient citations and rigor in a blog comment section!!!,” without ever coming out and saying whether, in your view, the world is actually round or actually flat.

  173. Ilio Says:

    Scott #168, so you did get in trouble, didn’t you? This comment section doesn’t look good on male nerdies, like if half of us were flat-earthers when it comes to wombs. Oh wait!

  174. Scott Says:

    Ilio #173: It would be a mistake—a big one!—to see the set of people who comment on this blog as particularly representative of any other population.

  175. Douglas Knight Says:

    woke leftist 145,

    Now imagine a hypothetical scenario in which there was no punishment for murdering your own child. In this case, easily the number of murders would skyrocket 20-fold.

    You can test your prediction by looking at Europe. In Britain, infanticide is its own crime separate from murder, so it’s easy to look up that the sentence is almost always suspended. The state could hardly impose more punishment than the loss of a child. Most of western Europe completely decriminalized infanticide. It is treated by psychiatrists, not court. They can involuntarily institutionalize people, but that’s rare.

  176. Vladimir Says:

    Scott #172:

    > So, I stand by my high-level point, that both in Texas and in the US, we now have a draconian outcome that we almost certainly wouldn’t have gotten in a truly democratic system.

    If by “a truly democratic system” you mean a direct democracy where all citizens vote on every proposed law, then sure. If you mean any sort of representative democracy, then no, for reasons pointed out early on in this thread (#27).

    > You’re welcome to engage directly with this high-level point and tell me why it’s wrong, but enough with this “haha, you see, a round-earther isn’t defending his position with sufficient citations and rigor in a blog comment section!!!,” without ever coming out and saying whether, in your view, the world is actually round or actually flat.

    Is your engagement with comments in this thread meant as an attempt to have a discussion, an attempt to educate or a way for you to vent steam? Unless it’s the latter, saying the correctness of your view and the ridiculousness of other views are as obvious as round/flat Earth is probably a bad idea.

    (For what it’s worth, as a libertarian I consider abortions to be over-determinedly morally valid.)

  177. OhMyGoodness Says:


    I am starting to think there are an increasingly large percentage of people in the US that are just generally mad at life. I suspect it is related to the fundamental difference in what they have been conditioned to believe and what they experience, a form of cognitive dissonance. They have been conditioned to believe life should be fair in some fundamental way and that they are a special cherished human being. In fact nature is indifferent to human notions of fairness and bell curves (that have been banished from education) determine most of their specialnesses.

  178. Matty Wacksen Says:

    @Scott 172: Thank you for linking to a poll, and thank you for acknowledging the polling numbers. If you scroll down a bit on the first link you’ll see the numbers for 6 weeks and 14 weeks, with support for unrestricted abortion after 14 weeks being the minority nationwise (if you take out the “it depends” camp, it’s no longer a majority but 33%).

    >So, I stand by my high-level point, that both in Texas and in the US, we now have a draconian outcome that we almost certainly wouldn’t have gotten in a truly democratic system.

    I do want to insist on precision in the language here: in the US the outcome in most states is currently not “draconian”. There is no use in conflating “supreme court allows X” with “X is now law everywhere”. I don’t know what exactly “X” is, is it a post 15-week ban, what else does the ruling apply to?

    >“haha, you see, a round-earther isn’t defending his position with sufficient citations and rigor in a blog comment section!!!

    I’m not mocking you, but I’m annoyed because I know you can do better when it comes to reasoning and the reasoning in this post has been piss-poor, on the level of what I would expect at Tucker Carlson, not “Shtetl-Optimized”. So please take my criticism as a sign of respect, if I thought you weren’t capable of precise and rational discourse I would have given up by now.

    But if you want my opinion on the abortion question, which at least one meta-level distinct from the supreme court question: I think when to allow abortion is an extremely hard question. I will go with the modal abortion for what follows, there are enough outliers (such as risks to the mother’s life) that would warrant completely separate treatment. If you reply to this, I’d appreciate it if we stuck this modal case, as opposed to descending into unusual special cases. On one hand, abortion at 8 months, as has been praticed in the US and elsewhere, is sufficiently close to infanticide that I have no problem with a state banning the pratice. After all, a mother can give up her child for adoption after it is born, she is not forced to care for it after that. On the other hand, sufficiently many embryos fail to implant to imply that “death” of an embryo at that age doesn’t seem like it is a tragedy. The function here is probably monotone, so some form of intermediate value theorem applies. I don’t buy the consciousness argument, there is nothing “scientific” about it. It comes out of a reductionistic worldview of the form “we don’t know what it [consciousness] is, so it must be physical process describable by mathematics”, which is the cousin to “we don’t know what it is, so it must be God”. People who hold this world-view often think that the state must adopt it due to a misguided view of what separation of church and state means. But this is ridiculous, science doesn’t tell us anything about consciousness, let alone morality, let alone what law should be. I also don’t buy the argument, that a woman’s life is ruined by forcing her to carry to term. f you’re living in the US, you are in the top 1% when it comes to wealth, opportunities, etc. If you think your life is “ruined” because you had to carry a child, you are not appreciating life enough. That said, the state should keep its nose out of families and the private parts of people’s lives. Moreover, there are general bodily autonomy questions. So there is an argument to be made that the state should allow abortions. But I can kind of see that both sides make valid arguments, and that neither side is stupid. Kind of like I can see that both free-trade proponents and those who want to regulate have a point, even though there are (clearly) iditiots who cannot think on each side. Where exactly the truth, I unfortunately do not know.

  179. gentzen Says:

    Scott #168: Glad to hear that:

    This post deals only with theme (1), not theme (2).

    … So, it’s a completely different emotional experience from blogging about, e.g., nerds and feminism, or academic cancellations, to the point where I don’t even put the two things into the same mental bucket.

  180. Akash Garg Says:

    I … what nonsense. I am beyond tired of people claiming that the only way to have a democratic system is to impose your values on everyone through the use of judicial fiat. Election after election has occurred where people try to overturn Roe. Both indirectly via electing Republicans and directly. In Iowa they threw out judges via an election specifically because they tried to put Roe in the state constitution.

    You keep saying 75% of Americans, if that were true states wouldn’t keep trying to overturn it! People wouldn’t be getting elected on the premise they want to overturn it.

    I believe in the democratic process. I despise the courts decision on guns for that reason! Both decisions are undemocratic and unprincipled. But if the court can impose its will on people via abortion, why not guns? Or anything for that matter? What rights are left for people to decide?

    Then you don’t believe in “democracy.” That is fine, but stop using that word.

    They will probably end up with a compromise at around 15 weeks, which is in line with Europe, and I think that is fine.

  181. fred Says:

    OhMyGoodness #177

    It’s indeed easier to be resentful than grateful, and lots of people are currently taking advantage of this to manipulate the population.
    But actually it doesn’t take all that much to shift one’s point of view to be more grateful, which is a significantly healthier way to live one’s life, and the only way to cope with bad luck. And we all run out of luck, eventually.

  182. Aladdin Says:

    And frankly, look, its like, you rightly criticize Republicans for perpetuating claims of election fraud (which is, of course, disgusting, hypocritical, and idiotic.) But in 2016, go back to your posts, you were doing the same thing! Not to the same extent but you were. The Supreme Court was on the ballot that year and for many conservatives was the animating concern. Trump did lose the popular vote, but Republicans held the senate and the house! And you can distinguish that and make excuses but you either respect democracy or you don’t.

  183. amy Says:

    Scott #98: Yeah, I thought you might pick me up on that one. The questions are always good, aren’t they.

    It occurs to me, reading your reply, that you might be looking at that question of free speech and consistency generally from a philosophical or debater’s point of view, in which case your position’s reasonable and mine isn’t. But I look at that issue, as I do the question of taxes and economic regulation, as someone concerned with what people do, over and over.

    If you organize things to allow rich people to get richer, they do the same thing every time. First they have a wonderful time getting richer and splashing out; eventually they notice they have more influence; and then they throw themselves into bending whatever rules they stumble across to make that influence permanent in order to protect the ability to maraud, because they assume, rightly, that someone will notice the error and correct it otherwise. And because it doesn’t matter where or when you are: for the people inclined to spend their lives collecting wealth, there’s no such thing as enough. They’re also not especially concerned with what support team they’ve got, as long as it’s powerful and reasonably easy to use: if it’s a mob in yellow vests, fine; if it’s a library of economics professors or cardinals, fine. Eventually some number of them, like doctors, will decide they’re so wise in the ways of the world that they ought to run everything, not just the maurading-governance, and then if you’re lucky you get good art, but it’s a…well, if you wanted practice in the life without leaving America, you could’ve gone to live in Providence while Buddy Cianci was mayor. Or you could just stay home and watch the Mercers, or go hang (as I once did) with Randall Smith and his fam. They’re just mobsters and in no case do they regard lives other than theirs and their families’ as important. Law is immediately bent. Providence was an armpit when Buddy was around, because all Buddy really cared about was being Buddy, feeling the love, and directing his business, and that didn’t end until the feds came to make their raid. Under Berlusconi, Italy was famously a mess that couldn’t get up off the floor. Etc. Mobsters make bad heads of public institutions. So that’s the economic side, and the basic rule is simple: keep the rich people strapped down far enough that they can’t take over entirely or you’ll regret it, you’ll wind up with a perma-feuding oligarchy and a Boschian nightmare for almost everyone else.

    If you allow people with violent grievances and no interest in the rule of law to organize, as we did when we had early experiments in a post-NSF internet, you get what we got: Nazis noticed that they could put up Stormfront and that this was fine, and then we saw a proliferation of similar websites and fora, some pointedly political, some pointedly anarchic and devoted to taking the piss, but all of them crucially allowing people drawn to white supremacist, antisemitic, violently anti-Black and xenophobic, profoundly misogynist, paranoiacally fascist, gun-obsessed, etc., etc., etc. movements to find and amplify each other and organize, and also to normalize and make semi-respectable this kind of speech. And that’s never not dangerous.

    When I was a kid in PA, a little northwest of you, now and then we’d find KKK and John Birch pamphlets on the doorstep, and say “schmucks” and throw them out. There wasn’t any need to take them seriously because they were in fact a handful of schmucks running around in the woods. They had no power and weren’t going to get any so long as it was just a few of them and their major activity was deciding to shoot or fix something but getting drunk instead: leafleting was about the pinnacle of their self-organization. The language they used, and how far their ideas went, were also so far outside polite society that even when you did hear the sentiments echoed in mutters from management in golf pants, this wasn’t rhetoric that was going to gain traction as a legitimate thing in halls of power.

    Online fora changed that. And it changed those guys, who were accustomed to being powerless schmucks running around in the woods. That’s not surprising: it’s what’s happened every time a nationalist, fascistic government’s arisen. Suddenly these guys, corporately, have a big body and a loud voice, and since they’re still not interested in law and debate and other people, what happens next depends a lot on the effectiveness of whoever emerges as their leader — and they are looking for a leader, and they’re a handy weapon for anyone who can lead and use them. As for the normalization of what they’re saying, and emergence of more widespread support for brutalizing minorities, that’s the usual thing that happens too. Most people don’t really care about the meaning of these things; they’re interested in keeping inside norms. When the norms shift, so does their speech and behavior.

    If you leave democracy for kleptocracy and fascism, you have a hell of a time getting back. You also suddenly find that life is much more dangerous, especially for women and anyone in an out-group. So “limit speech types” is about recognizing the fact that it’s relatively easy to leave democracy (which is hard and requires participation) but hard to get back. There are limits — pretty good limits, but limits — to the freedoms a democracy can accommodate, so the goal isn’t intellectual consistency but understandings of what is and isn’t a genuinely dangerous situation for democracy’s institutions (which has a lot to do with timing: slow is a lot less dangerous than fast, but not forever). Once you get people who really don’t care for those institutions, particularly the courts, actually in there and able to take a sledgehammer to them, you’re in trouble. I’m speaking to you from a state that’s been practicing that for the last 15 years or so, and the result of effectively not having a government in various areas important to civic life is not terrific and often leaves you with Some Local Guy as the arbiter of how you’ll live. People adapt to that with lightning speed because it’s very tangible and very easy to understand. Fighting for law in the face of that is, I mean, you’d have to question your own sanity at times, fighting for an abstraction that’s hard to understand and complicated to run. Even when a local majority thinks Local Guy is unfair, their response isn’t likely to be “let’s have democratic rule of law”, it’s “let’s replace him with a Local Guy who’s more fair (however we define that locally).” They hope for Local Guy the Good.

    Moral of the story: don’t make it easy for Nazis, shitposters, fascists, the Hedley Lamarr crew generally, to find each other and organize. It goes predictably and poorly.

    As for the right losing its mind over tolerance-preachers who have limits to their tolerance, I’m really not worried. The right will readily find something else to lose their mind over because their mode is teleological and they’re (obviously) not really intent on protecting tolerance. They’re also not really afraid of having their glorious soliloquys muzzled, it’s just a debate point and an outraged response to being told that even when they’re grown up, they still have to shove over and give other people a spot too and stop being horrible about it.

    On the whole, I find that people inclined to the right are wary of or just deeply dislike other people, and/or any apparent disorder, and seek to control these things all around them. The whole bubble and ferment of democracy really upsets them — they don’t want to have to contend with that many voices and that much uncertainty, chronic change, and multiplicity, or take all those voices seriously and on their own terms. (The theocratic right has other reasons for control.) On the left? I see the same in academia…but only in academia, which has its own rigid hierarchy and ordering of life, suspicion of outsiders, and forceful molding of people. Those who aren’t interested in living inside its constraints leave or get ejected pretty fast. On the left more broadly? Assuming we’re talking about reasonably comfortable people who haven’t been so oppressed and impoverished that they’re looking for a revolutionary leader? These are the people with raggedy lawns and COEXIST stickers. Unitarian Universalists and Quakers, Jews who protest Bibi and aid to settlers. At bottom, they’re just not that worried about or suspicious of other people and tolerate disorder pretty well, and they’re way big on airy abstractions without a hell of a lot of concern for how they might actually function. Bernie’s the apotheosis of all this. In general, though, they don’t give a flying fuck what you do so long as you’re not maurading, robbing people to the point of engendering mass misery, advocating classes of citizenship, getting violent or cruel, despoiling common goods, and trying to baptize everyone in sight.

    In other words, yes, I do find the left to be more tolerant. The tolerance is just not absolute. What they aren’t is more polite. I find more politeness on the right; outside those wonderful, gentle people who seem to have been born with a sense of deep respect for others, politeness is, it seems to me, part of the world of order. There is a code like the collegial code of academia that says that this guy over here is part of your team or village or whatever and so you must treat him neighborly and accept or overlook whatever ridiculous thing he’s doing, or decide it isn’t happening. Once he steps outside prescribed lines and declares himself an outsider in some way, you’re free to shun, attack, etc.

    I can’t say I see an advantage on either side when it comes to openness to argument. The reasons for the openness differ somewhat, but as a matter of willingness, I find about the same on both sides. The question of what the argument fits into, though, is a little different: if you reach an inconvenient conclusion on the non-academic left, there’s enough higgledy-pigglediness in the general approach that people can accept the conclusion as something to live with, and shove up on a shelf somewhere or leave it in the hall to keep tripping over; on the right, if it doesn’t fit neatly into the overall approach, the conclusion tends to vanish and you’re starting all over again.

    And now I have to go out to my untidy yard and see what’s ready in the garden (answer: wasps, now dispatched), and how the apples are doing. Incidentally, I found serviceberry trees for the first time this year, had some of the berries, and immediately picked about a zillion, which still left around a hundred zillion for the birds and other critters. They make the most delicious jam I’ve ever tasted and are great frozen, too — like an instant sorbet — and if you can find some, I strongly recommend eating lots. (Unless you don’t like almonds. The seeds have a pretty strong almond flavor.)

  184. fred Says:

    Lorraine #166

    “All this male-dominated morality-talk is irrelevant”

    Sure, men aren’t women, and let’s ignore the fact that half of everyone’s DNA comes from a man… so, indeed, maybe men shouldn’t even be allowed to talk about or express any opinion on abortion, neither pro-life nor pro-choice. Abortion laws should only be handled by female judges/lawyers/lawmakers, and only female doctors should be allowed carry out the abortions. Why not? It would make things way easier for half the population.

    On the other hand, everyone in this thread (regardless of gender, color, and whatever) was once a fetus…

  185. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Aladdin #182:

    The issue is with claiming imaginary election fraud because you lost.

    Nothing wrong with pointing out actual election fraud. The most likely case by far is George W. Bush. It was pretty much a tie, but the Republicans rigged the tie breakers.

    It is also clear that Republicans are gearing up for massive election fraud in the next election — rigging election boards at every level, etc.

  186. fred Says:

    “On the whole, I find that people inclined to the right are wary of or just deeply dislike other people, and/or any apparent disorder, and seek to control these things all around them. The whole bubble and ferment of democracy really upsets them — they don’t want to have to contend with that many voices and that much uncertainty, chronic change, and multiplicity, or take all those voices seriously and on their own terms. (The theocratic right has other reasons for control.)”

    I think that’s a fair characterization, but I’m not sure it’s the whole story. I’m not sure that the right is more prone to authoritarianism than the left. I think it’s more a matter of the right being more prone to authoritarianism when it’s in power, and the left being more prone to authoritarianism when it’s out of power.

    The left has a long history of being authoritarian when it’s in power. The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Cambodian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, the Nicaraguan Revolution, the Venezuelan Revolution — all of these have been authoritarian regimes, with varying degrees of totalitarianism.

    The right, on the other hand, has a long history of being authoritarian when it’s out of power. The American Civil War, the Russian Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the Greek Civil War, the Argentine Dirty War, the Salvadoran Civil War, the Guatemalan Civil War, the Colombian Civil War — all of these have been authoritarian regimes, with varying degrees of totalitarianism.

    So it’s not that one side is more authoritarian than the other. It’s that one side is more authoritarian when it’s in power, and the other side is more authoritarian when it’s out of power.

    There are a few possible explanations for this. One is that authoritarianism is a natural tendency of all human beings, and that it’s only when we’re in a position of power or out of power that we have the opportunity to act on it.

  187. Scott Says:

    Matty Wacksen #178: You’re right, of course. I feel virtually certain that

    (1) early-term abortions should be allowed (under what circumstances late-term abortions should be allowed is a much harder and more complicated question, but those are vanishingly rarer anyway),

    (2) were the question put to a popular vote in the US, something like my reasonable view above would prevail, but

    (3) a fanatically unreasonable view (including that a raped woman must carry her rapist’s baby to term) instead prevailed across huge parts of the US last week, made possible only by antidemocratic aspects of the US (gerrymandering, the Electoral College, the absurd overrepresentation of rural states in the Senate) that have been baked in since the founding but that were recently exploited in shockingly hardball ways.

    The strange part is that, as I said, almost all the friends and colleagues whose opinions I’d ever care about—there are a few exceptions, but I can literally name them—are even more convinced of the above propositions than I am.

    In that case, you might ask, why even blog about this in the first place?

    Because it would’ve been weird not to. Because there are certain events—9/11, COVID, Trump’s election, Jan. 6, the end of Roe v. Wade—where going on about quantum computing or AI afterward, as if nothing notable had changed, would itself be seen as a strong political statement. Because when the draft opinion leaked, and 24 hours later I still hadn’t blogged my reaction, I literally got attacked for it in this comment section, called a misogynist and dozens of other names.

    Under these circumstances, while I clearly needed to blog, I hope you understand why I didn’t invest the time to bring that much more than a Tucker Carlson level of analysis and argument.

    But I’m still pretty confident that I’m right about (1)-(3) above. 🙂

  188. M2 Says:

    Scott 182,

    You say that for the first time, undemocratic principles that were always there suddenly leapt to life and caused all these totally unreasonable abortion laws.

    What about the fact that similar abortion laws were virtually universal through most of US history, and still existed in most states at the time of Roe? If those positions are so fanatically unreasonable, how did that ever happen, back in the golden age before hardball gerrymandering, etc.? Could it be that modern liberals just have a very idiosyncratic view on this issue, managed to seize power undemocratically with a blatant and virtually acknowledged illegitimate power grab, and are now howling madly because things are back to the democratic process, where they’re quite likely not to get their way once more?

  189. Scott Says:

    M2 #187: To answer your questions with questions, do you therefore agree with Clarence Thomas that the Supreme Court should extend the logic of Dobbs and also overturn Griswold and Lawrence? So that we can go back to a world where purchase of condoms and “sodomy” are both jailable offenses?

    If we still had a functioning legislative branch, one that hadn’t been gerrymandered away from any approximation to the popular will, you could say that legalizing contraception and gay sex should be its job. Alas we don’t, and you know we don’t.

    Thus, what you call an “illegitimate liberal power grab,” other people call “the only practicable way to get our ramshackle system to recognize what, with the advance of civilization, a majority of Americans now understand to be fundamental human rights.” Reversing the “liberal power grab” means both trampling human rights and disregarding the will of the majority. The question is whether you consider that an acceptable trade (I can guess the answer 🙂 ).

  190. Aladdin Says:


    See thats what I mean. There was no election fraud with Trump winning. I didn’t vote for him. But that was the allegation perpetuated. Prof. Aaronson has multiple posts advocating legislatures to instruct electors to ignore the state vote. I think that is wrong.

    Similarly, claiming fraud with 2000 election is simply false. There is no evidence to suggest Floridas election was rigged, and the court case was about selective recounts, not a general one.

    I am just very confused as to why you all think that 9 unelected people should be overruling state laws undemocratically. Then you claim to be representing the democratic process.

    I am pro-choice! I hope that, using the democratic process, people in November pass a reasonable compromise. But it seems obvious to me that the above argument is so patently ridiculous that I am not sure why anyone should take it seriously.

    You can complain about the undemocratic nature of national elections. Fine! But this is happening at the state level. What basis are those elections undemocratic? Majorities support early stage abortions … but majorities do NOT favor late state abortions. People disagree on where the line is. That is the job of the state government. Not the courts.

    Furthermore, there are specific cases where people directly voted for pro life people. In Iowa the people threw out judges SPECIFICALLY for voting for a state level version of Roe. Virginia Youngkin defeated his opponent who made support for abortion rights primary to his campaign.

    Aaronsons argument, and I hope he says I’m wrong in my framing, because I genuinely don’t understand it at all, is that, process is somewhat undemocratic, therefore its ok for my beliefs to be imposed in a completely undemocratic fashion on society writ large because he is certain majorities agree with him, notwithstanding the fact that if everyone agreed with Mr. Aaronson on everything they would have voted that way..

    The implication being I suppose that there is some secret cabal of people thwarting the will of the people and that all these people voting republican are fiscal conservatives who are being tricked by their electors in a massive conspiracy to overrule abortion.

    When the reality is that there were pro choice Republicans, and except in the northeastern enclave I hail from, they were thrown out. Along with the blue dog democrats and everyone else seemingly reasonable in this country, and no I don’t like it, but yall need to accept the fact that this IS the will of the people.

    Or the courts can provide abortion and social rights for the left and economic and gun rights for the right and we can live in a world where state can’t pass any laws at all as long as I have some poll to the contrary. Thats a great many things but it is not democratic.

  191. NJ resident Says:

    broke leftist #145: I am a resident of one of those states, namely NJ. I agree having abortion legal up to birth is silly, I’m pro-choice but I think there needs to be some limits. The fetus starts feeling pain at 20 so we can go a bit before that just to be safe. Still I think it is not as common as you imagine. To get an abortion the day before birth, a doctor has to approve it. Doctors typically won’t do it unless there is a really necessary reason. It’s easy for a mother to kill a newborn by herself, but she needs to get a trained doctor to do it the day before birth. I think most doctors would just refuse. I mean, a doctor working in a hospital would have to do it. The doctor and hospital would come under a lot of scrutiny if anyone found out (and people would find out, it’s not easy to hide a 30 week abortion). Even if not legal scrutiny, people wouldn’t like it. So I think this kind of thing is less common than you think. Almost all doctors would just refuse unless there was a really serious issue.

    Human cloning is legal in a lot of states but unfortunately no one has made thousands of von Neumann clones. 🙁

  192. M2 Says:

    Scott 188,

    I doubt you actually care much about majority rule here — once again, if you did, you wouldn’t actually think Roe was ever a good idea.

    Griswold and Lawrence are rather different than Roe. The laws in question were never actually enforced. In both cases, activists needed to get a liberal DA to agree to actually press charges *purely so that the challenge could be brought* (because otherwise, there would never be an opportunity). So there was no pre-Lawrence/Griswold world where people were being jailed for sodomy or using contraception. (In the case of sodomy, that was a relatively recent development.) Of course, the possibility was there, but let’s not get carried away about what reality was like.

    Also, only two states even still had laws against contraception by the time of Griswold — CT and MA. I think those two could probably muster the political will to repeal them if Griswold were overturned. 😉

    Now, laws that are never enforced are bad and should be repealed. That said, Lawrence and Griswold are also badly reasoned and wrong cases, so yes, I think they should be overruled. Such things are damaging to the law. I also don’t think it’s important that they be overruled, though, or likely they will be. Unlike with Roe, they are not connected to matters of extraordinarily intense moral outrage on both sides, such that having them sitting there as bad law distorts our whole political system to the extent of Donald Trump being elected President.

    I simply don’t believe in government by nine unelected people who have no warrant whatever for doing what they’re doing, but who feel that society has reached some kind of point or that most people agree with them (despite elected representatives not actually taking steps to enshrine that).

    You can dress up a power grab all you want under some grand vision of your personal views being the “advance of civilization,” and you can pretend that your anti-majoritarian impulses to force those views on everybody are actually a concern for democracy, but that won’t change the facts: it was an undemocratic power grab, finally reversed. May we eventually recover from all the damage that it did us.

  193. Matty Wacksen Says:

    @Scott 186:

    (1) Is an example of the kind of nuanced and reasonable position I would expect from this blog. Thank you for taking the time to write it 🙂
    (2) seems dubious given the poll you linked to (where a majority support restrictions to abortion by week 6, which you equated with a complete ban” in these very comments). But even if this were true, what the majority overall thinks is irrelevant to what “should” be true in individual states.
    (3) to me seems evidence you may live in a bubble, I’ve seen the red tribe claim similar concerns and it isn’t obvious to me who is “more” right.

    >24 hours later I still hadn’t blogged my reaction, I literally got attacked for it in this comment section, called a misogynist and dozens of other names.

    Consider the position that those calling you a misogonyst are wong, and won’t stop doing so if you bow to their demands.

    > Under) these circumstances, while I clearly needed to blog, I hope you understand why I didn’t invest the time to bring that much more than a Tucker Carlson level of analysis and argument.

    This reads almost like you had to post something in order to placate the mob. If you’re in danger, wink twice. Just kidding, but I do have an allergy against the type of claim that not making a statement is also a statement. It most certainly is not, and it’s really scary if political discourse in the US is seen this way. Maybe Tucker Carlson wakes up every day and thinks “I need to do a talk-show about this thing without thinking about it, because if I’m silent today that will mean I think the opposite of what I think”.

  194. Scott Says:

    Matty Wacksen #192: I daresay I’ve done more “refusing to placate the mob” than 99% of my colleagues; my record of being pilloried on social media speaks for itself!

    Precisely for that reason, though, I do feel a need to go out of my way to “placate the mob” in cases where I happen to agree with the mob anyway! (The mob, of course, meaning people in academia, tech, and journalism who are active on social media.) There are many such cases, from abortion rights to climate change to immigration to investigating the insurrectionists—in fact, almost any part of the progressive agenda that’s not about antinuclear, anti-Zionism, or the demonization and ostracism of male STEM nerds. 🙂

  195. Progressive Agenda Says:

    How about Harvard’s Asian quotas? Charter schools? Elimination of tests and academic standards? Free speech and cancel culture? How about the thought policing of speech around race and gender, and the explanation that all discrepancies are due to discrimination? The suspension of due process in Title IX? Gender ideology in K-12 of the kind Shirer worries about? Defunding the police and calling anyone who notices the crime wave a racist? Modern Monetary Theory?

    I totally agree, supporting nuclear power, Zionism, and male STEM nerds are good, abortion should be legal, immigration (especially high-skill) should not be banned, and the 1/6 people were idiots (not so sure about investigating them).

  196. Lorraine Ford Says:

    Scott #167 and fred #184:

    Yes. I SHOULD have said:

    “All THE ABOVE male-dominated morality-talk is irrelevant, because women, people, will continue to try to do what they feel they need to do.”

  197. NoLongerBreathedIn Says:

    @M2 191:

    I’m not sure it’ll surprise you, but CT is actually the first state to pass a law specifically to allow those from states that ban contraception to come to obtain it, and to give its citizens a right to recover all the money they have lost, including legal fees, to those who have sued them under HB2 or similar.

    On the other hand, if Griswold were overturned, do you really think Texas and Louisiana wouldn’t be among the first few states to ban contraception?

  198. Matty Wacksen Says:

    @Scott 192:

    The “placate the mob” thing was more tongue-in-cheek than serious, I don’t doubt that that you are serious about your convictions. Then again, if placating the mob includes Tucker-Carlson level reasoning, how much better is than placating the mob on things you don’t believe in?

    But I think this discussion is starting to reach a point where we both agree on most points. The poll numbers where something where I saw object-level disagreement, I don’t have time to continue this discussion in a direction where 99% is probably agreement anyways 🙂

  199. M2 Says:

    @NoLongerBreathedIn 196,

    Interesting! I did not know that, but (as you say) am not surprised.

    I’m very confident that Texas would pass no such law. I’m pretty familiar with Texas GOP politics. Texas Republicans are not shy about making their wishes known, even on things that clearly violate Supreme Court precedent, and I’ve never heard any such wish expressed. More generally, being against contraception is an almost entirely Catholic concern, and (unlike CT and MA back in the day) the right in Texas is not dominated by Catholics; indeed, even most modern-day Catholics aren’t much interested in banning contraception.

    Louisiana I can’t speak for with as much confidence, as I’m not as familiar with their rather unique politics, but on the whole, I very much doubt it. Although it’s a more Catholic state, contraception has far, far higher public support than abortion (even among Catholics) and the moral concerns are simply not as severe (nobody is arguing that it’s murder). I can’t see it happening.

  200. OhMyGoodness Says:


    A few years ago I had a general conversation about this. When I looked through the regulations of various countries I was surprised how much they varied (similar to abortion regulations). In Oregon assisted suicide is legal but an MD can’t actively assist, only prescribe a fatal dose of medication for self administration. I haven’t looked at the implications of this with respect to the Hippocratic Oath.

  201. Scott Says:

    Progressive Agenda #194: My feeling is that, if you pull at the threads of the worldview of those who demonize and sneer at male STEM nerds, it implicates most of the other issues you mention anyway.

  202. The Scary Black Hundreder Says:

    Scott, Comment #20:

    “If you agree… If you disagree…”

    Either way, it is a legitimate outcome in the American system, as the issue of abortion is a question for the legislature, not the constitution. If Americans want to change state or national legislation in this or that direction, there are mechanisms for doing so.

    I find it hard to believe that our host in incapable of understanding this point.

  203. Ukrainian Says:

    People posting those ridiculous one-time donation amounts: if this is how you value this, in Scott’s words, civilizational crisis… wtf? I just looked it up and the grand total of federal political contributions in USA amounts to 0.02% of its GDP. Ukrainians, the people of a country with about 1/10 per capita PPP GDP compared to USA and 1/8 its population, have been collecting millions every day for months in private donations for weapons, thermal scopes, drones, medical equipment and what-have-you. Just one large fund, Come Back Alive, has averaged a million dollars a day (pro-rated, 0.3% of prewar GDP) since 24/02, although admittedly the distribution skews heavily towards the first couple of months. There are several funds of this size, an unknown number of smaller ones, and hundreds if not thousands of private persons collecting money and buying stuff for the military and the medical services units they have relationships with. One-off collections for specific purposes, such as $1M for two new PD-2 drones in early May, have been completed in a single day on several occasions. All in all I wouldn’t be surprised if donations exceed 2% of prewar GDP, about 100x the American rate.

  204. Sandro Says:

    Gerald #148:

    I consider a fetus philosophically to be a person, because many of the persons properties can in principle already be predicted with high statistical confidence

    Many of a “person’s” properties can in principle be predicted with high statistical confidence by a male’s sperm alone. This then entails that masturbation is mass murder.

    I think we can confidently say that this is absurd, therefore I question the very premise that “prediction of properties with high statistical confidence” entails personhood. Rather, it seems clear that only the actual presence of those properties conveys personhood.

  205. Tom Says:

    Scott, I have three questions:

    1. You say in one comment (76) that the debate rests on consciousness, and that it was stupid to ignore that. But then you keep talking of fundamental human rights, as if it doesn’t matter whether the unborn child is conscious and there is an absolute right of abortion. So which is it? If it were proven by new research that consciousness exists much earlier on, would you or would you not become pro life?

    2. Why on earth is it relevant what most Americans think? No snark intended, but do you understand that the U.S. is a federation of states? The people of each state deciding on that state’s laws, with no input from anyone else, is federal democracy working exactly as it’s designed to work. Many states (including Missouri and Ohio I believe) have ballot initiative processes: if you’re right about the public opinion, then within a couple of years those states’ abortion bans will be repealed, right? And even in Texas, the election for Governor is direct, not gerrymandered, right? So if a pro life Republican was elected, and is elected again, and abortion is banned in Texas, how is that not representative democracy working exactly as it’s supposed to?

    3. How sure are you that 95% of your colleagues suppprt abortion, rather than 95% of your colleagues don’t feel safe saying they don’t? (This is a genuine good-faith question; if you say “very sure” I’ll believe you.)

  206. Scott Says:

    Tom #205: To answer your questions…

    1. Let me try one more time to explain my position then. On a secular understanding of reality, there’s no possible way that a fetus could support consciousness unless and until it has a functioning brain. Furthermore, a woman has a fundamental right to abort her pregnancy, so long as there’s no possibility that the fetus is conscious. (Once there is that possibility, it becomes a question of tradeoffs rather than of fundamental rights, and there are many defensible positions.) To deny a woman the right to pre-fetal-brain abortion is, effectively, to use the state to enforce a theological (specifically, Catholic or evangelical) understanding of reality over the secular understanding, thereby violating the church-state separation that’s supposed to be at the heart of our system of government.

    2. Yes, on one vision, the US is a loose confederation of states, with each state free to define, grant, and deny human rights however it chooses. On a very different vision, the US is a modern democratic society where human rights, once most citizens come to recognize them, take precedence everywhere over “states’ rights.” You might recall that 160 years ago, the two visions were pitted against each other in a civil war, and the latter vision won. You might recall that it won again with women’s suffrage and then a third time in the Civil Rights era.

    This is not to say that anyone wrapping themselves in the banner of human rights gets an automatic trump card: I know as well as anyone that some people have exploited the banner cynically, seeking to deny human rights to their enemies. But I don’t see how you can learn American history without coming away with a world-historically massive presumption in favor of human rights over “states’ rights”—particularly when the human rights in question are affirmed by a solid majority of American citizens.

    3. I can think of maybe 3 pro-life colleagues, all of them committed Christians. They haven’t been dissuaded at all from sharing their views, either in person or on social media—and I’m glad that they haven’t been. Other than them … well, 95% pro-choice might have been an underestimate. 🙂

  207. Scott Doesn’t Care About Us Says:

    Once again—more proof that Scott doesn’t really care about us, at all. He’s perfectly willing to grandstand on his blog about “abortion rights.” To put his neck out for the feminists and the progressives and the wokes—the same people who relentlessly bullied and ostracized him and mocked him over his most vulnerable struggles. Stockholm syndrome much? Yet Scott, who jumps immediately to the defense of “women’s rights” at every opportunity, never does the same for us incels. He never puts his neck out for us, even though he is one of a tiny number of voices in the mainstream who could. He doesn’t give a shit about us anymore. When’s the last time you stood up for INCEL RIGHTS, Scott? If you care so much about “human rights” why don’t you ever post about OUR SUFFERING? If you really care about incels—who are the most marginalized class of all—why don’t you use our platform to tell the world about our suffering, to advocate for OUR rights—to intimacy, to sex, to the most basic human needs that have been denied us? When push comes to shove, you throw us under the bus Scott. It’s so disgusting and shameful. YOU DON’T REALLY CARE ONE LICK ABOUT US now that you’ve escaped inceldom and have a wife and family. God I’m so sick of reading this blog. I’m so sick of seeing you grandstand about the rights of every “marginalized group” except US which yoh pruport to care so much about and then NEVER EVER STAND UP FOR in any meaningful way. You could be advocating for state-funded prostitution or any other number of solutions but you’d rather advocate for the wokes who hate us and I’m so sick of it and disappointed in your cowardice and self hatfed Scott.

  208. Scott Says:

    Scott Doesn’t Care About Us #207: It’s not just a matter of what I’ll get shouted down for—of having to carefully spend what Scott Alexander calls one’s limited “weirdness points.”

    It’s also that the incel problem is really, really hard. Take your proposal, for example: if you consider prostitution an acceptable solution, why not simply make some money (which doesn’t require “normie social skills”), and then pay for a prostitute?

    Most incels’ real problem, it seems to me, has more to do with a lack of love, affection, and esteem. And that in turn has to do with the lack of a peer group where they feel allowed to pursue those things, which in turn might have to do with bullying or negative messages that they received growing up. These are hard problems. Maybe I’ll try again to address them in the future—but the one time I seriously tried in the past, I paid a pretty high price, and did not succeed in solving the problem to put it mildly, though I’m gratified if I was able to make a few hundred or a few thousand people feel less alone.

    However angry you feel at me, I wish you well, and hope you manage to solve your problem in a way that brings joy both to you and to the people around you.

  209. Incelistan Says:

    Considering how often progressive activists and journos and political types mock people like me—as “incels” or “simps” or “weirdos” or “neckbeards” or “nice guys” or pathetic or dangerous to society or whatever else—I’m happy to keep on voting Republican, just so I can watch them suffer and squirm. Trump goading his frothing fans at his rallies to beat the shit out of them gave me a hard-on. Fuck democracy—I just want these social justice assholes to get their just desserts.

  210. Tom Says:

    Thanks for replying.

    There are a lot of things I could say, depending on whether and how long you want to debate this. For now, I’ll try to be brief.

    1. Well, I find that a coherent and respectable position. Even though I disagree. See, I used to be pro choice, and this was the reason: lack of apparent consciousness/how can you call that a person without appealing to religious doctrine? And then I gradually realised something that badly damaged my faith in humanity: most pro choicers don’t CARE whether or not the child is conscious. They are motivitated by pure selfishness, and a sociopathic assertion of their own “rights” with total indifference to the effect on others. Or at least, they do everything they can to present themselves that way.

    And that’s why I became pro life. Even though the consciousness argument is a strong one (though far from indisputable I now think), I refuse to live in a society where abortion is legal for the “official” reason (according to court decisions, legislative statements, press releases by lobby groups etc) of “our rights totally trump the child’s” rather than “there is no child to begin with”. From a virtue perspective, that former attitude is a mark of viscious and evil character. From a consequentialist perspective, it cultivates a disturbing disregard for human life that could spread to other areas as well. And both of these hold true even if abortion is actually morally fine due to lack of consciousness.

    Well that’s my perspective. But suffice to say I respect your position as morally principled, even though your talk of rights (without always centering the consciousness of the child as the sole relevant factor) codes you as one of those sociopathic pro choicers (until of course you clarified your position).

    2. On this, I’m sorry but I think your attitude is bizzare. You are mixing together two fundamentally different notions of political philososphy: human rights and majority rule. These are usually considered separate pressures that often pull in opposite directions, but you’re combining them into a “human rights recognised by a majority of citizens are thereafter inalienable” principle, and resting this on national polling. I don’t think relying on polling companies to accurately and fairly glean majority opinion from a survey of a tiny number is remotely democratic (even ignoring the fact that polls are often proven wrong, especially in recent elections, and issues about phrasing of questions, the very principle of trusting polling is antithetical to democracy).

    And though I am Australian, I am very familiar with US history, and I think your examples are completely wrong. The civil war was fought over whether the existing federal framework would continue or whether states could unilaterally end it at any moment, even just after they lost a national election. The existing constitional system won, the status quo was restored, and then slavery and racism were abolished by amending the constitution in accordance with its own amendment provisions. Women’s suffrage is a bizzare example; there was no conflict between states and rights at all. Congress proposed an amendment, enough states ratified it, and the electoral system was thus changed; BY THE WILL OF THE STATES. And the civil rights movement was mostly about forcing state governments to actually comply with the provisions of the amendments that had been ratified a century earlier, as well as passing some assorted federal legislation. None of these involved clashes between democracy and human rights; all of them made legal changes through the existing democratic and constitutional system.

    Ultimately, either you support democracy (being exercised through actual elections and referenda, with clear criteria for winning and losing and everyone having a voice) or you think the Supreme Court should be able to find new rights in the consitution, regardless of majority opinion. If the former, you should support Dobbs (while of course advocating reforms to the electoral process if you want). If the latter, that’s a reasonable position, but it’s not based on democracy so don’t claim it is. And to be consistent you’d need to support Citizens United and the recent gun decision as well.

    3. Thanks for clarifying. I’m curious: do you really think virtually nobody is non-religious and pro-life? I know several women who are both. Their mere existence is very awkward for the left’s narrative.

    “Scott Doesn’t Care About Us”, if only you incels were less obsessed with being edgy and “alternative” and just joined the mainstream socially conservative Right, you would have plenty of people standing up for you. You could be one group among many (along with abandoned pregnant women, and children of broken families) who have been left behind by the sexual revolution and discovered that “free love” is neither free nor remotely fair or humane. Instead, you do what you’re complaining about: you mock the conservative and pro life causes, the very movements who are against the culture of hedonism that caused you so much heartbreak. Why?

  211. Scott Says:

    Incelistan #209: Indeed, “let the world burn, I just want to spite the people who sneer at me” might as well have been Trump’s campaign slogan. It was, and remains today, the central impulse that animates his supporters.

    Interestingly, there are two diametrically opposite ways that progressives could respond to this:

    (1) “AHA, see how scary, pathetic, and horrifying our opponents are! They openly admit that they have no political program or goals other than spiting us!”

    (2) “Oh gosh … without compromising our core values, could we do something differently, so that one of America’s two political parties wouldn’t be totally consumed by the desire to give us our comeuppance?”

    Either of these two responses is, in some sense, 100% justified. Between them, though, only the first one is satisfying, while only the second one is useful. Human nature being what it is, it’s obvious which of the two would prove more popular.

  212. mtamillow Says:


    #1) You are absolutely being hyperbolic.

    #2) Your solution of “Elect more democrats to congress in sweeping fashion.” Does not seem to be a solution at all. It is in fact what every communist/authoritarian doctrine says and is consistent with the problem. The problem is that no matter how much power the ruling authorities have, the solution is always “We need more power, and everyone must comply absolutely.” Do you keep blaming the pandemic outcomes on those who did not comply with quarantine, or mask mandates, or vaccination campaigns instead of admitting that the whole thing was a charade? You, personally, are still a peon among leftist heads, and this is exactly the response they desire, cheering for votes. Not just reversing this supreme court decision, but giving them more power everywhere. They are failing in so many other ways, and that is going to crush them – even you know it.

    3) The social contract is not something anyone “agrees” to. It is also a sort of horrible monstrosity that Thomas Hobbes promoted. He was a monster who pushed all sorts of human rights abuses in the name of both fear and ‘progress’ (whatever that is supposed to mean). So if you don’t like this social contract, neither do I. No one does! But we are helpless to change it. You make it sound like people never break the law. If it wasn’t for all those drug dealers rotting in prison right now, marijuana wouldn’t be legal. They are heros, even though they were front line in wars that were territorial between each other and contradictory to the state intentions. People had to try marijuana in a widespread fashion to realize all the state propaganda was lies. Some of what you imagine is evil is nothing more than a natural part of war, and not all war must be evil. It is simply a rebuke to an unjust social contract, and it starts by simple acts of disobedience.

    4) I do hope you come around to letting the world be as it is. Stop voting. Stop fighting for causes. Stop believing lies. Embrace the fall of civilization rather than fearing it. Live your life. Everything ends, no need to fret.

  213. Harvey Friedman Says:

    #189: “There was no election fraud with Trump winning.”

    Don’t be so sure of that. A research team purchased massive amounts of cellphone location data in the legal open market from Data Aggregators, (mainly selling to law enforcement and to online marketers), and geofences were put around the large number of critical drop boxes in swing states, as well as nearby nonprofit partisan centers, and algorithms were run to compile cellphone identifiers which made n visits to drop boxes and m associated visits to nonprofit partisan centers in the relevant time frame. There was a focus on n = 10 and m = 5, but other combinations were used.

    There were about 2000 cases with n = 10 and m = 5. Videotapes were obtained thru open record requests – not all of which were available. Requests tailor made to the underlying data. Videotapes confirmed the data, with no false positives, showing stuffing of materials in drop boxes.

    All of the associated nonprofits were Dems, and none were Repubs. The patterns in the underlying data were very uniform across the 2000. Law enforcement, particularly Sheriffs, have gotten interested with some convictions and cooperating witnesses opening up more investigations. Whistleblowers and cooperating witnesses reveal money trails, with 10-50 dollars offered per ballots through the Dem nonprofits.

    Are the 10,5 visits all through the swing states (and elsewhere) part of a standard innocent process (with reimbursements) sanctioned by election officials? I.e., some processing of paperwork of some kind? There has been no announcement of such sanctioned procedures. Obviously an explanation of such massive paperwork/tasks would cause one to rethink this matter. And note that only Dem nonprofits were involved, and no Repub ones.

    Now how sure is #189?

  214. Simon Says:

    Incelistan: As another involuntary celibate male, you seem completely unhinged to me. I can’t quite fathom the kind of obsession that you exhibit. Okay, so we can’t get sex and romantic affection. It sucks, but it’s only one of many sucky things that humans have to endure. Some people are born in the wrong country, have their body ravaged by malaria at age 8 and have to watch their children die of hunger at age 18. Others are born to the wrong parents and spend their childhood being abused and their adult years failing to get past that abuse. We were born with the wrong genes and can’t get female affection. It could be worse.

    More to the point, it’s not anyone’s fault except God’s, if there were a God. It’s not the fault of women; I mean, I wouldn’t be attracted to me either if I were a woman. It’s not the fault of progressives; sure, some of them could be nicer about it, but we won’t get more sex in a country dominated by theocratic fascists, which is where the USA is obviously headed.

    That we experience some suffering, as so many others do, is no excuse to wish suffering on anyone else, or to feel glee at the disintegration of civilization.

  215. Incel Inc. Says:


    Seconded. I literally voted for Trump to spite the asshole progressives. Twice. It felt so good, both times. And for all that Scott rants and raves about “January 6,” that was amazing too 😊 If you mock me for being an incel or a creep or whatever, well—I won’t cry when a mob comes your way 😊 Before you clutch your pearls, Scott—just imagine the capitol building being full of your high school bullies and girls who chewed you out for being a creep or whatever. Does that change your mind?

    A lot of the staffers in the capitol on the democrat side are progressive cunts from ivy league schools and I don’t really care if a mob comes for them 😊

  216. Scott Says:

    Incel Inc. #215: Do you think your belief that the “progressive cunts” should suffer might have anything to do with why you’re still an incel? Do you think my total rejection of such beliefs—even in the depths of suicidal misery—might have anything to do with why I no longer am?

  217. Jud Says:

    For anyone who thinks Scott’s post is exaggerated, I present some current and future events:

    – Pregnant women in states that ban abortion are already being denied cancer treatment on the basis that it might harm the fetus and thus expose doctor and patient to criminal liability. About 6000 pregnant women get cancer in the US every year.

    – A Missouri hospital system now refuses to offer rape victims emergency contraception, again due to potential criminal liability. Other hospital systems in Missouri and states with similar laws will be compelled to follow.

    – The decision will split national law enforcement and make us all less secure. Blue states will refuse to extradite red state residents who travel for abortions, and in return red states will refuse to cooperate with blue state law enforcement. So it is no exaggeration to say the decision will split the nation in two.

  218. Harvey Friedman Says:

    Regarding Jud #217. It is the job of State Legislatures to deal with the issues you cite, and they are elected representatives of the people in those States.

    That’s the way our system is set up when the Constitution is deemed to be silent on issues, via Amendment 10.

    The focus of the Supreme Court is not legislative. It is not a mere extension of Congress. It is basically the ultimate decider on matters of Constitutional law, not on matters of policy.

  219. Incel Rights Amendment Says:

    Scott #216:

    Your language is cruel, shameful, and dripping in incelphobia, like most of the comments you direct at incels here. I don’t agree entirely with “Incel Inc.,” but stooping to sexual shaming, as you did in your response, is unacceptable. You are essentially saying that “Incel Inc.” deserves to be celibate because of his anger/political beliefs, a common talking point of incelphobes. Reflected in your response here, incelphobes will often say something to the effect of “wow, you’re so angry at women, i wonder why you can’t get a girlfriend,” which is not only cruel, bigoted and incelphobic, but ignores the causal reality that the incel is angry at women *precisely because* they couldn’t get any sex or romantic affection in the first place. By using sexual shaming towards Incel Inc in response to his political beliefs, as you do here Scott, you are lending credence to this common but ugly, bigoted, incelphobic and just straight wrong misconception about incels (that they “can’t get laid” because they’re angry at women, and not the other way around—which is of course the more logical progression).

    This is just one example of many horribly incelphobic, shameful and straight-up bigoted (towards incels) things you’ve said on this blog. On other occassions, you’ve said that incels supporting Elliot Rodger *even ironically* deserve to *burn in Hell.* Wow! You claim to be sympathetic to the incel movement, but at the same time you attack the incels showing up in the comments section, you repeat incelphobic canards and talking points, you sexually shame incels (as you did to Incel Inc here), and you purport to give them “life advice,” which totally ignored the reality that it is not their fault, but the fault of an oppressive, bigoted, incelphobic society for denying them the love and sex that is every human being’s right. Shame on you Scott. You are even worse than your typical incelphobe, because you pretend to be the friend of the incel, and then repeat the most bigoted incelphobic and anti-incel rhetoric—precisely analogous to how a “formerly” gay pastor tells a young gay man he needs to find God to get rid of his homosexuality. Us incels don’t need to “work on ourselves” Scott—we need SOCIETY to work on itself!

    Shame on you Scott. Reflect on your incelphobia and internalized bigotry towards incels (that you almsot certainly have internalized from our incelphobic society). And DO BETTER.

  220. Scott Says:

    Incel Rights Amendment #219: Look, I’ve consistently opposed the wokes when they said things like ‘#KillAllMen’—even if they later clarified that they only meant it ‘ironically,’ even if I got denounced for opposing them. So for me to condemn any incels who mention anything in the vicinity of ‘Saint Elliot Rodger,’ even ‘ironically,’ is just intellectual and moral consistency.

    The line, for me, is between saying:

    (a) I would like a happier life for everyone around me, male and female—which, as one special case, includes love and sex for me.

    (b) Because I’ve been denied love and sex, I would like the men and women around me to suffer.

    If you say (a), I’ll support you, and maybe even try to help … yes, even if mobs form on Twitter to condemn you, as they once did me (writing about these problems long after they were thankfully in my past).

    If you say (b), I’ll join the mobs condemning you.

    Is the distinction clear enough?

  221. feminist liberal arts type Says:


    I’m sorry I didn’t reply to you on the other abortion thread. You said something about wanting to wind discussion down, so I bowed out and didn’t read any more, until I checked back and there were like 100 more posts but the thread was closed.

    I had wanted to say that when I said something like “just because I wouldn’t date someone isn’t a reason to refuse them as an ally”, the first clause of that was supposed to be humour. I’m actually in a LTR with a guy who could not be described as anything other than a nerd (I mean, he works in IT and we literally met at my D&D session). The kernel of truth behind my expressed discomfort with dating nerds isn’t about anyone with a nerdy personality type (which includes me too), it that I think there’s something problematic-tending about nerdy guys who make their identity about being a nerdy guy. It’s a specific subculture and a social construct. In regards to you personally, I kind of look at you as simultaneously one of the foremost intellectuals of a nerd identity movement I don’t like, but also someone who clearly repudiates many of the bad features of that movement. You are obviously an extremely ethically careful person, and while I think your specific type of ethical scrupulousness produces some bad results, its also obviously very genuine. In terms of concrete issues I probably agree with you on 90% of everything *except* nerd issues.

    I also appreciate you are looking at Texas as no longer viable for Enlightenment-minded people for whom women as equal members of society is both ethically and pragmatically non-negotiable. My view that we’re kind of past the line where human rights can be defended by peaceful debate was based on the premise that people like you will be leaving places like Texas if they can. If not then, and if not now, then after the next horror or the next that proves too much. In the last weeks I’ve seen literally dozens of women and LGBT people and also scientists, journalists, intellectuals, etc. making concrete and specific plans for leaving red states or the US altogether. My country’s so flooded with immigration requests from doctors it’s going to change our entire health system.

    And this time when they outlaw abortion they are going to back it up with mass surveillance, internal movement restrictions, a uniquely American privatised approach to secret police snitch networks, and a carceral state which is already of proportions equivalent to the Krushchev-era Soviet gulag. Basically, while banning abortion is a horrific crime against humanity in itself, it will also feature so much required secondary authoritarianism to push the US over the edge into full police state. And, of course, they’re not going to stop at Roe or abortion.

    I shouldn’t have been cavalier about tactics. I was being morally flippant about a serious subject I’m ignorant about. And my understanding is that nonviolent revolution (Gandhi, MLK, Solidarity, Mandela) has a better record than violent revolution in terms of both chance of success and good outcomes. However, what’s almost past the point of even possibly working is electoral politics. If the GOP wins the trifecta once, either “legitimately” or illegitimately, or SCOTUS approves the Independent State Legislature doctrine, then that’s it, game over. And they look incredibly likely to do precisely these these things by 2025. Maybe violence isn’t the answer, but voting for Democrats isn’t enough of one either. And I’m pretty sure the other team, which *just tried a fucking coup*, is going to start shooting even if we don’t. Of course, if you’re Black or an immigrant or too queer, they started shooting a long time ago. US gun sales to women and minorities are skyrocketing, and the recent SCOTUS decision basically ending all gun control sure looks like it just opened up gun accessibility in precisely the places where people most hate the Republican fascists. I’m not sure if they really thought that one through.


    Simon and Scott prove you can be incel/incel-sympathetic and not be a literal demon.

    Incel Inc., Incelistan, Incel Rights Amendment, and Scott Doesn’t Care About Us do a spectacular job proving that many incels are indeed literally demons.

  222. Scott Says:

    feminist liberal arts type #221: What’s frustrating for me is that I feel like I understand, better than most people on earth, the dangerous path from “earnest young male nerd who feels like he just needs to be nice and pursue the truth and everything else will take care of itself” → “increasingly lonely and depressed male nerd who sees life passing him by as his female peers chase ‘bad boys’ and show no interest in him” → “bitter, vengeful incel who wants to make the Chads and Stacys suffer and, even more shockingly, votes for Trump.”

    I feel like I know more than most people about how to arrest this progression at an early stage. Feminist liberal arts types won’t be surprised to learn that my way involves a lot of moral instruction for and contemplation by the nerdy guys. The thing is—and feminists have to be OK with this!—it ultimately does involve the nerdy guys approaching women and asking them out. And it only works if the guys ultimately do get into relationships. Hopefully this is not only completely coercion-free, but a better world for women than the existing one, one with more guys who they consider to be eligible partners. I just don’t see any peaceful, happy world where a large and growing fraction of the population is involuntarily celibate. It’s a very hard problem, and I feel like feminist liberal arts types and male STEM nerds ought to be on the same side in trying to solve it.

  223. Adam Says:

    Not sure if I’m late to the matching offer here, but I started a recurring donation of $100/month to the DNC general fund.