Letters to the Editor

Pitts’ smokescreen

November 19, 2011


To the editor:

Once again, shenanigans and smokescreens arise in the abortion debate, distracting us from the core questions. Leonard Pitts’ recent column highlights the concerns that threw some voters toward the pro-choice referendum on the failed Mississippi amendment banning abortion. The measure would have defined the fertilized egg as a person and thus would have allowed no room for abortions in cases of rape or incest.

In truth however, Pitts would not be in favor of giving a rape victim the option of killing her 2-month-old baby, should she decide that raising the child would be too much for her. (He would likely say he has “moral clarity” on that question.) The thought would be abominable to him, but why? The circumstances are equally tragic and might be just as difficult for the mother. The reason Pitts would be opposed is because he operates under the premise that a newborn is a person with human rights, and the unborn is not. This reveals the question at hand, and how a child comes into this world, whether from circumstances abominable or benign is not the issue in evaluating personhood and human rights. 

Personhood is not a matter of subjective preference but rather objective fact, and no parent’s crime has a bearing on one’s value. The abortion question demands we dispense with smokescreens and rigorously debate the real issues at hand. The stakes are too high to do any less.


Kate Rogge 6 years, 7 months ago

I think any person who believes two-cell personhood is an objective fact should examine the many differences between religious fairy tales and objective facts before rigorously debating anyone, Mr. McPheeters.

Isaac McPheeters 6 years, 7 months ago


Can you quote to me where I claim that an embryo's personhood is an objective fact? I do not, nor did I make an argument that it is. What I do make, is an argument that personhood (for an adult, a child, or embryo) is objective fact. If an embryo is a person, it's an objective fact. If an embryo is not a person, it is an objective fact. Do you disagree?

Furthermore, I'd like to know what religious fairy tales have to do with my argument here? Did I mention any? Perhaps you would rather enjoy discussions with atheist pro-life advocates I've found.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Actually, it's not an objective fact.

It's a matter of interpretation, perspective, and semantics.

"Pro-life" people believe that personhood begins at conception, while "pro-choice" people believe it occurs at birth (or, in some fashion, at viability outside of the womb).

Since it's a matter of definitions, it can be defined in a variety of ways - that's not objective fact.

Isaac McPheeters 6 years, 7 months ago

Jafs, who then decides if the unborn is a person? Does the mother decide if her "fetus is a baby"?

Steve Jacob 6 years, 7 months ago

I avoid Pitts and Krauthammer columns like the plaque. That's fair and balanced I guess, avoid the far left and far right columns?

Corey Williams 6 years, 7 months ago

Maybe if humans were as rare as sea turtles they would get the same protection.

Corey Williams 6 years, 7 months ago

Oh, aren't you the comical one. Snarky remarks like that are why you have (anonymous) after your name, huh? It's wonderful that the internet lets you wage your insult war all you want with no reprisals. So go ahead. Maybe the adults in the room can just talk around you.

I forgot. It's an abortion issue. Never mind.

Corey Williams 6 years, 7 months ago

Yeah! Another abortion letter where both sides will argue their beliefs and neither side will change anyone else's opinion by one whit.

labmonkey 6 years, 7 months ago

srj... I try to avoid Pitts and Cal Thomas. Reading and commening on their opinion pieces are ways of supporting them as all the LJworld and its advertisers want are your eyeballs.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Just one thought - if/since abortion is legal, the victim of a rape will never have to face the idea of killing her 2 year old child.

Of course, if it becomes illegal, then she will have to face that very difficult situation, bearing the child of rape against her will.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 7 months ago

very nicely done Isaac! you've grown up to be a very fine man. congratulations.

I especially liked: Personhood is not a matter of subjective preference but rather objective fact, and no parent’s crime has a bearing on one’s value. The abortion question demands we dispense with smokescreens and rigorously debate the real issues at hand. The stakes are too high to do any less.

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

Yep, another man trying to say what a woman should and shouldn't do with her own body.

Those opposed to allowing a victim of rape from having an abortion are, by default, in favor of allowing rapists to choose the mothers of their children. They may not like that concept, but that would be a potential end result. I just ask, why would anyone side with rapists?

Isaac McPheeters 6 years, 7 months ago


If, by any chance, my parents had decided to name their daughter "Isaac" contrary to the Western tradition, I'm afraid your ad hominem would fail. What does my being a man have anything to do with whether my argument is good or bad (unless, of course, you would allow me as a woman to tell you what you should or should not do with your body).

And if you think I am siding with rapists, perhaps one day you will hear my opinion on such people. I would welcome further discussion on this forum about what penalties are harsh enough for such abominable men. I fail to see how letting their children live makes the fiend's life easier.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

It doesn't help the rapist, but it hurts the victim of that rape, by forcing them to bear the child against her will.

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

Easier? I didn't write that it would make a rapist's life easier. I wrote that it would allow rapists to choose the mother of their children. The continuation of the gene line could be of great importance to some rapists -- controling a woman and having her bear his child. They may not even care if they are sent to prison for it, just knowing they were able to force a woman to bear his child could be enough. I have no doubt you think rape is a horrible, horrible act and that the rapists are beyond terrible people. Forcing women to bear the child as a result of rape, however, can be pretty terrible too.

My pointing out that men arguing about women's right to choose what she does with her body is not an ad hominem. It is a simple observation.

Abdu Omar 6 years, 7 months ago

I can understand abortion if a woman is raped, a victim of other sex crimes, but not a woman who decides that she is too busy to handle another child and aborts it without the knowledge of her husband. A fetus who has a known daddy is a product of both parents and one can not end the pregnancy without the consent of the other.

However, a woman who has been raped has every right over her own body. She can and should be able to dictate the effects she chooses.

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

Can a married man have a vasectomy without his wife's consent? Can a married man be prescribed Viagra without his wife's consent?

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

I would think that in a relationship, especially a marriage, that both men and women should be talking with their partners about decisions like that, don't you?

Otherwise, what kind of relationship is it?

If I found out that my wife (or even significant other) had gotten pregnant (by me) and had not told me, and simply decided to get an abortion, I'd be very upset.

I'd also be very upset if she decided to just have the child without discussing it.

Do you think that men in these situations have no rights at all?

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

Correct. I think men have no rights in these situations at all. The key word is "rights." Legally, it should be the woman's call, no matter how upset it might make the man.

That said, I completely agree that in a healthy relationship there should be open conversation and mutual decision making on such important matters. However, if the two can't agree on the proper course of action, then the woman has to have the final say -- which ever way that decision goes. A man can't force a woman to have an abortion, for example, nor can he force her to give birth.

What if a man doesn't want to partake in birth control in the first place? Should a woman not be allowed to take birth control pills or get tubes tied if that is her decision and her decision alone? Her body, her decision.

Just fyi, this doesn't mean I believe in abortion for all at any stage of the pregnancy. Personally, I'm opposed to an abortion after the first trimester, except for serious medical issues. In an ideal world, there would be no need for abortions.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

That's an unfortunate, and extreme, position to me.

I think, as long as men have responsibilities regarding any children they father, that they must in all fairness, also have rights to be involved in that decision.

If a woman decides, against the wishes of the man involved, to bear his child, then shouldn't he be exempt from child support and any other legal responsibilities?

It is absolutely a woman's right to choose to use birth control and prevent pregnancy, just as it is a man's right to do the same.

Your argument seems to only consider the idea that men coerce women, not the other way around. What about a woman who tells the man she's with that she's on the pill and then stops taking it in order to get pregnant?

Then, the man doesn't want the child, but the woman insists, and according to your version, the woman's desire prevails. And, of course, the man involved is obligated legally to provide 18 years of child support, and may have other legal obligations as well.

How is that right?

I agree with your last comment - abortions would ideally not be necessary, or at the very least, extremely uncommon.

My fairy tale version of that would be that the women who are pregnant and don't want the children bear them, and they get adopted by people who can't have children and want them.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

That may be your fairy tale version, and that of a lot of people, but it's quite likely not a fairy tale for the person who is pregnant. I don't think carrying a child, giving birth and then giving that child away is a fairy tale for anyone, no matter what the situation was that brought this to be.

I can see both sides of the abortion issue, but ultimately it will be the woman's decision no matter what the laws are.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

If a couple has a solid relationship, no doubt abortion/birth control etc. would be discussed---as they should be. The problem comes when the relationship is not good and the man tries to force his decision on the woman---usually that seems to be a matter of control, rather than a moral decision.

So, while I agree that normally a couple should discuss these matters, I would certainly not be in favor of a law demanding that the husband/father be part of the decision.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

What if the woman forces her decision on the man?

Why is that ok?

As long as the father of a child has certain legal responsibilities and obligations, I think it's only fair that he be part of any decisions regarding them.

If a woman wants to have a child, and the man doesn't want to, are you in favor of his no longer having to pay child support, etc.?

Conversely, what if the man really wants to have the child, and the woman doesn't - if he agreed she would be released from any obligations on her part once the child is born, is that ok?

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

The difference is that it is the woman who gets pregnant and carries the child. Ultimately she will be the one who makes a decision about having an abortion---whether she does it legally or illegally, with or without the father's consent or even his knowledge. Or she may not use birth control without the man's knowledge. So, yes, she can force her decision on the father.

I'm not arguing the fairness of any particular situation, I'm trying to deal with reality. I'll repeat the two main points I was trying to make.

1 If a couple has a solid relationship, no doubt abortion/birth control etc. would be discussed---as they should be.

2 I would certainly not be in favor of a law demanding that the husband/father be part of the decision [regarding abortion]. I think it would be subject to a lot of abuse, both by women and men.

In this instance, the sexes are not equal. When a man has sex, he gives up a certain amount of control. Not making a moral statement, just stating a fact---at least until men can get pregnant.

Bob Forer 6 years, 7 months ago

I am sick and tired of hearing from these rigid anti-abortion idiots. They claim to be pro-life, but,most of them cheer the death penalty with zeal, are rabid hawks on foreign policy and never saw a war with U.S. involvement that they didn't like, and couldn't give a damn about the child once it is born. Unmitigated and unreconstituted hypocrisy if you ask me.

Jimo 6 years, 7 months ago

"Personhood is not a matter of subjective preference but rather objective fact".

Indeed. And a zygote ain't a human being, brother. So says Nature, or Nature's God if you prefer.

"The reason Pitts would be opposed is because he operates under the premise that a newborn is a person with human rights, and the unborn is not."

All human societies, including our own Western Christian one, have operated under the premise that human beings become persons when they're born. (That's why we have "Birth" Days not "Conception" Days.) No society has ever operated under the radical, supported by faith only, view that a human being comes into existence at a moment that is knowable only in the abstract and only in retrospect.

Brother, please stop trying to tell God what reality must be and be patient, humble, and listening in your heart.

Isaac McPheeters 6 years, 7 months ago


Glad you agree. And did I say a zygote is a human being? I did not in this letter, and if I do, you can bet I will do you the courtesy, my good Jimo, of backing it up with an argument.

The reason I wrote is that I always found it odd that some believe in no abortions (except) in cases of incest or rape. Well, if the unborn is not a person, I don't see why we should not allow abortions in other cases as well. But if the unborn is a person, then would anyone on this forum say we should allow abortions (granted, again, the unborn is a person)? I know some people that will argue "Yes, the unborn is a person, and we should still allow abortions." But I don't see any of those people here.

manypeoplelaughing 6 years, 7 months ago

Yes, the unborn is a person, and we should still allow abortions. Obviously you're ready to force women to carry rape and incest babies, did you know some "women" start to ovulate as early as 9, or is that too much science for you?

"The stakes are too high to do any less". Why? Is the status of my soul keeping you up at night?

Job 9:22 "He destroys both the blameless and the wicked." GOD KILLS INDISCRIMINATELY


Hosea 9:11-16 Hosea prays for God’s intervention.  “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer.  Give them, 0 Lord: what wilt thou give?  Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. . .Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.”

Clearly Hosea desires that the people of Ephraim can no longer have children. God of course obeys by making all their unborn children miscarry. Is not terminating a pregnancy unnaturally “abortion”?

Numbers 5:11-21 The description of a bizarre, brutal and abusive ritual to be performed on a wife SUSPECTED of adultery.  This is considered to be an induced abortion to rid a woman of another man’s child.

Numbers 31:17 (Moses) “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every women that hath known man by lying with him.” In other words: women that might be pregnant, which clearly is abortion for the fetus.

Hosea 13:16 God promises to dash to pieces the infants of Samaria and the “their women with child shall be ripped up”. Once again this god kills the unborn, including their pregnant mothers.

2 Kings 15:16 God allows the pregnant women of Tappuah (aka Tiphsah) to be “ripped open”.

Isaac McPheeters 6 years, 7 months ago

"Yes, the unborn is a person, and we should still allow abortions." Therefore, the writer of this anonymous comment believes there are cases where a mother can kill her child (who he agrees is a person).

Bubarubu 6 years, 7 months ago

The conditioning of abortion rights on the circumstances of conception was an anti-abortion reaction to arguments against abortion bans, not a measure advanced by abortion rights supporters. When bans against abortion were proposed, abortion rights supporters argued that it would be morally repugnant to force a woman to endure a pregnancy as the consequence of her being the victim of a crime. Her nature as a victim was a counterpoint to the anti-abortion rhetoric that painted sex as a choice freely made by an individual who was then morally bound to accept the consequences. So, if sex were not a choice freely made, then the victims of sexual assault should not be subject to the consequences. By and large people accepted that argument which is why, with a few notable exceptions, restrictions on abortion have preserved exceptions for the circumstances of conception in order to make a broader appeal. The equivocation has come from anti-abortion advocates, not from abortion-rights advocates. Pitts was pointing out that, under the Mississippi amendment, a woman who was the victim of a crime would not only be subject to the "typical" mental and physical consequences, but also obligated to endure the physical pain of childbirth, the financial strain of prenatal and birth care, but the additional mental damage of having to carry the result of someone else's crime with them at all times. Someone who has been the victim of a home invasion may find themselves feeling violated, feeling as though their sanctuary has been disrupted. They may feel it necessary to move to find relief. Obviously a woman impregnated by a rapist has no such choice. Requiring a woman to carry her rapist's offspring to term tells her that, having been the victim of a crime that is most often characterized as a crime of power, that the criminal's power will continue to be exerted over her long after the violent act is over, but now the criminal's power will be supported by the power of the state as well.

There is no viable moral code that would obligate someone to suffer the consequences of someone else's choice, nor is there any viable moral code that would put the state's monopoly on legitimate violence behind the exercise of illegitimate violence. Hence, total bans on abortion are morally flawed. Carving out exceptions is the work of people want to restrict abortion, not those who want it safe, legal, and rare. Pinning the exceptions on Pitts or other abortion rights advocates gets Mr. McPheeters' moral calculus backwards.

Mike Ford 6 years, 7 months ago

Even as bassackwards as Mississippi is they knew better than to pass this malarkey. I grew up there for almost three decades off and on. Mississippi is as much a theocratic religious republic as any country in the Middle East and yet people like my ex-grandfather don't acknowledge the connection between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam historically. Face it, you can't drag women in this country back into the past and if you're a man you should be ashamed of yourself by not respecting their bodies and their rights. Get in a time machine and go back a couple of centuries or go to another part of the world. I thought Mississippi was stupid enough to pass this law but they rose barely above the low expectations I've had of them since the mid 1970's.

tomatogrower 6 years, 7 months ago

I'll tell you what, LTE writer, if a girl gets raped and is pregnant, she will gladly take out the little cells and you can adopt them. You can put them in your body and raise them. That way she doesn't have to relive the rape over and over for nine months. Of course, maybe you like that idea. Do you support rapist's rights?

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 7 months ago


When do you believe "personhood" begins?

I agree with you that late term abortions should be (and are) strictly regulated and are illegal except in cases that affect the health of the mother.

When does "personhood" begin in your morally clear philosophy?

Isaac McPheeters 6 years, 7 months ago


I could give you the short answer, though I hate making claims without arguments (especially when they have such far-reaching implications). I could perhaps find time to respond with my reasons later on, but I believe that personhood begins at conception.

Can I presume that you are against late-term abortions but are not as uncomfortable with abortions in the first few weeks or so?

As for health of the mother, while I do not believe in a default position of preferring one life over the other, I am aware of cases such as ectopic pregnancies which make it very difficult to know the morally right decision.

pizzapete 6 years, 7 months ago

Next thing you know they'll want to make mastrabation illegal, too.

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