Wait... what?! This is a thing?

>> Friday, October 05, 2012

I completely missed this: both the original post and the amplification upon it that this is apparently a thing some anti-choice folks are fixated upon: apparently there's this thing where some social conservatives like Todd Akin claim that lots of abortion clinics are giving fake abortions to women who aren't actually pregnant.

Wait, what?

Okay, so wait, is this like if Todd Akin had a headache and went to the emergency room and the hospital said he needed brain surgery?  No, I don't know, I'm flabbermoxed.  This is a thing?  Seriously?  Seriously?

There are two other things I'd like to talk about. There are women who come in and have abortions but aren't pregnant. You may say, "Oh, that doesn't happen." Maybe you say that. It does happen. First of all, this woman thinks she's pregnant. She's scheduled herself for an abortion. She's come in and her pregnancy test is negative. They have a woman that they have paid their advertising dollars to get in there. They want to do that abortion if there is any way.

So they do everything they can to prove that she's pregnant or has been pregnant. You say "has been pregnant?" Yes, if they can convince her that she has been pregnant, that she's had a spontaneous abortion. She's going to have to go into the hospital to have a D&C to remove the rest of the contents of her uterus. They will convince her to go ahead and have a procedure she doesn't need that day. And it happens. Channel 4 [Dallas-Fort Worth] got it on tape—a woman that went directly from our office to a doctor's office and the doctor told her that she [had] never been pregnant, and we had tried to do an abortion on her. I don't know what percentage that is. I have no idea... 

The Slate article goes on to point out that this apparently was a thing in Chicago back in the 1970s, pre-easily-available home pregnancy kits, and these "clinics" were closed down, but even that's bizarre.  And of course the idea this would still be going on is bizarre.  And the idea it's common and medical professionals would participate in it is bizarre.

I really wish I understood the reality these people live in, and I regret to admit that it isn't out of some kind of empathy or compassion or similarly noble concern.  No, I wish I could really grok Todd Akin's worldview because I've had this terrible writer's block in my fiction for months now, and these idiots apparently live in a kind of parallel universe that's also an X-Files episode.  I could have sat on my comfy chair with a writing journal, a pen, and a glass of semidecent bourbon for a million years, and I don't think I would have thought of fake abortions, even though the idea just seems to have all kinds of awful potential, maybe.  I might even need to see if I can do anything at all with it this weekend.  It's kind of like wishing I could get a better grip on the mentality of Art Bell devotees because, again, instant fishhook: the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 were, in fact, planned and executed by human-alien hybrids fostered in stolen cow uteri by cultists from the Martian Face or somesuch.

Only, you know, I realize these ideas probably aren't salable because normal people would find them completely implausible.  "Dear Mr. VanNewkirk: while we enjoyed parts of Silent Quickening, the idea that your female protagonist could somehow find herself undergoing a 'fake abortion' reeks of sexism and is utterly implausible, displaying a basic ignorance of feminine psychology and medical ethics that we believe renders your work completely unmarketable to the general public; thank you for your interest and for allowing us to read your manuscript, but it really isn't the kind of work we're looking for at the present time."

Apparently, however, scenarios that are too lurid and incredible for fiction are perfectly marketable in politics.  An observation to which my only response is: Where's a goddamn mass extinction event when you really need one?


John the Scientist Friday, October 5, 2012 at 10:00:00 AM EDT  

You know, Eric, funny enough I read this as an argument against outlawing abortion.

Because this whole Snopes-worthy story is a slap in the face to the ethics of doctors - an unnecessary procedure is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath and will get your ticket pulled by a State Board. So if this guy had evidence of this, he could have had the woman pursue it in court and shut down the center providing abortions – which is his goal, isn’t it. So why didn’t he? I call bullshit.

But when you point out that it was a thing in the 70s, I immediately thought of my experiences dealing with the Mafia in the USSR. They provided a service I needed (currency exchange at a 10 rubles : 1 dollar rate rather than at a 1 ruble : $1.50 rate that I could not afford as a student). But they were mafia. They sometimes cheated clients, and if you crossed them, they would shoot you. When currency exchange ceased to be a monopoly of the government, they were the ones prepared to step into the legitimate business, because they had all the connections. But they were still nasty to deal with (most of them) and still cheated their clients and engaged in loan sharking. Because they were the kind of people willing to take the risks to do something illegal under the old scheme – the leopard didn't change his spots in becoming a legitimate business.

Same with those abortion providers in the 70s. I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts most of them were offering illegal abortions when abortion was illegal, and the population of backdoor providers had a few altruists, I’m sure, but the population of illegal providers in the 60s was greatly enriched in unethical scumbags who routinely violated their medical oaths. They just continued their evil ways under the aegis of the law until they got caught and shut down, and truly legitimate operators took their place.

Restricting abortions will have a similar effect – scumbags will open backdoor practices (I’m sure in some states where there is only one provider legally operating this already occurs).

But these religious conservatives see the woman as evil for having had sex in the first place, and they are willing to make up all kinds of stories, and even delude themselves into believing them, in order to justify their position.

I see you are slowly coming round to my kind of cynicism – about a third of the human race is useless, and in order to form a more perfect future, we have to find a way to limit their reproductive success, hopefully short of outright eugenics.

I’m only half joking about that.

Eric Friday, October 5, 2012 at 2:09:00 PM EDT  

I see you are slowly coming round to my kind of cynicism – about a third of the human race is useless, and in order to form a more perfect future, we have to find a way to limit their reproductive success, hopefully short of outright eugenics.

John, don't confuse pessimism and cynicism. I remain rosily optimistic that the human species can do better, and direly cynical about the chances we'll ever really do so.

How d'ya think I do what I do for a living? It isn't by being naive about what awfulness people are capable of. But if I wasn't eternally hopeful that some small number will justify being given a second (or fifteenth) chance, I would have slit my own throat more than a decade ago.

I'm not trying to beat up on you: I know your tongue is (at least partly) in cheek, John. But I'm going to be so bold as to venture I know more about the worst sides of human behavior in more detail and with closer personal knowledge than most people do--including yourself. I suspect I could out-cynic you if I really, really had it in me to, and with detailed anecdotes if I was allowed to.

But I remember the wisdom of the great journalist, fabulist and lexicographer Ambrose Bierce, who wrote this entry in his Devil's Dictionary:

A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.


David Friday, October 5, 2012 at 6:07:00 PM EDT  

My favorite quote on cynics:

"Cynics are right nine times out of ten; what undoes them is their belief that they are right ten times out of ten." (Charles Issawi)

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