Feat. Sarah Smith and Christian Hegg
Linda Greenhouse and Reva B. Siegel’s Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling suffers from an excess of exegesis. Half again as many primary documents could have been included in the same number of pages if not for the long, often redundant introductory remarks to each entry. It is, never the less, a fascinating snapshot of an era fast dropping out of living (or accurate) memory. Did you know that more Republicans supported abortion decriminalization than Democrats in the late ’60s? More Catholics than Protestants? That there were clergy organizations dedicated to helping women to obtain safe clinical abortions?
This was an era when “the pill” was new and relatively dangerous. When it wasn’t known that 60-80% of fertilized eggs are rejected by the human body. When a woman would be required by her university to withdraw if she became pregnant, and a woman had no recourse to being fired over a pregnancy. When rape of a woman by her spouse did not exist as a legal concept. It was an era when the social status of an unmarried pregnant woman was vastly lower than it is even today.
A variety of voices and arguments came forth, and I’ve included a number of passages that struck me below. What I didn’t find in Before Roe were a variety of arguments from the opposition to decriminalization. Whether this is a result of the editors’ decisions, or an accurate reflection of the intellectual climate I can’t say. All counterarguments presented seemed to rest on one unstated major assumption: That at the moment of fusion the egg and sperm cell become the moral equivalent of an adult human being. Here is the most succinct attempt to argue the assertion I could find in the text:
“….NRLC sees no point in belaboring the scientifically obvious. Life begins at conception and for practical medical purposes can be scientifically verified within 14 days. Within three weeks, at a point much before the ‘quickening’ can be felt by the mother, the fetus manifests a working heart, a nerve system, and a brain different from and independent of the mother in whose womb he resides; the unborn fetus is now a living human being. It is universally agreed that life has begun by the time the mother realizes she is pregnant and asks her doctor to perform an abortion.”
On closer reading, the National Right to Life Committee here gives only a definition. But just as the watchful parent deprives the child of less and less of her liberty as she develops, the transition from cell to human being would seem logically to be a gradient, absent some metaphysical concept of Creation. (Logically to me at least, but it is my web page. And I really am trying to understand.)
The passages follow.
“We continue to believe that birth control should not be based upon a lottery system; i.e. if your means of control breaks down you lose, and gain a child. After all, if a couple does not desire a child, that should be that. It is not a game. Children are not meant to be a punishment…”
“…Women are the passive objects that somehow must be regulated–thalidomide, rape, incest, what have you, you know. What right have they to say? What right has any man to say to any woman: you must bear this child?”
“Seventh, the law violates the First Amendment prohibition against laws establishing a religion. This argument refers partly to the role of the Catholic Church in opposing abortion reform, and partly to the broader issue of imposing by law upon a woman a belief about the nature of life that is not necessarily her own. In his senior paper at N.Y.U. Lucas had written: ‘If a woman believes that life began in the “prehistoric slime” and is not created but only passed along by conception and that a fetus in early development need not be accorded a right to continue growing within her body, she is nonetheless prohibited from acting freely on that belief.'”
“In the 1820s, New York’s lawmakers decided to gather the diverse common law provisions into a modern, unified code of law. The commissioners appointed to this task changed the common law regarding abortion, and made abortion before quickening a misdemeanor and abortion [after] quickening a felony, except when necessary to preserve the life of the mother. Means tried to discover why the revisers had changed the common law, and he thinks he has found the reason in a section of the proposed revisions that the Legislature did not adopt: a prohibition against all surgery, unless necessary to save the patient’s life.
Based on New York hospital records of those day, before the era of antiseptic surgery, about 30 percent of all serious operations, including abortion, resulted in death. During the same period, the death rate from childbirth was about 2 percent.
…In the United States, the maternal mortality rate, excluding deaths from abortion, is about 23 per 100,000, making abortion statistically almost 8 times safer than a term pregnancy instead of 15 times more dangerous.”
“Illegal abortions are the single largest cause of maternal death in the United States. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that virtually no deaths result when an abortion is conducted in accordance with proper medical procedures. Tietze and Lewit, in the January 1969 Scientific American state that hundreds of thousands of illegal abortions are done each year. Many authorities believe, however, that the figure should be a million to a million-and-a-half.
Most abortions are done on unwed girls or women who are married and who already have at least one child. It is generally believed that one out of every five pregnancies ends in abortion; that one out of every five women will have an abortion by the time she is 45. Most of the forty-one women who died in New York City as a result of illegal abortions during the last two years were married and left children behind….”
“Under the distinguished leadership of retired Court of Appeals Judge Charles W. Froessel, the select committee found that the then existing, 19th-century, near-total prohibition against abortion was fostering hundreds of thousands of illegal and dangerous abortions. It was discriminating against women of modest means who could not afford an abortion haven and the often frightened, unwed, confused young women. It was promoting hypocrisy and, ultimately, human tragedy.
I supported the majority recommendations of the Froessel committee throughout the public debate of this issue extending over three years, until the Legislature acted to reform the state’s archaic abortion law. I can see no justification now for repealing this reform and thus condemning hundreds of thousands of women to the dark age once again.”
“I am Francis Harwood, Assistant Professor of Anthropology. I live in Middletown, Connecticut. I would like to say that a number of speakers today have stressed the control by women over their own bodies. I would be for this entirely. However, it is often out of our hands. I was assaulted and raped six years ago. I was impregnated at that time. I then had to make a decision. I did not want the child. I did not think I could care for it and so I went and obtained an abortion. I had five hundred dollars in my savings, luckily. For those who don’t, things can get and be much worse. You go, you put the cash on the barrelhead and it is then done, often without any anesthesia. In my case, the abortionist insisted on further intercourse. This is not something a woman should be subjected to….”
“The existence of a woman’s constitutional right to such privacy has been set forth by the Supreme Court. Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972); Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). Indeed, Baird may have anticipated the outcome of cases such as this when the Court observed:
‘If the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.'”
“If the fetus survives the period of gestation, it will be born and then become a person entitled to the legal protections of the Constitution. But its capacity to become such a person does not mean that during gestation it is such a person. The unfertilized ovum also has the capacity to become a living human being, but the Constitution does not endow it with rights which the state may protect by interfering with the individual’s choice of whether the ovum will be fertilized. Griswold.
“It is obvious that the legislative decision forbidding abortions also destroys potential life–that of the pregnant woman–just as a legislative decision to permit abortions destroys potential life. The question then becomes not one of destroying or preserving potential, but one of who shall make the decision. Obviously some decisions are best left to a representative process since individual decisions on medical facilities, wars, or the release of a convict would tend toward the chaotic. It is our contention that the decision on abortion is exactly the opposite. A representative or majority decision making process has led to chaos. Indeed, in the face of two difficult, unresolvable choices–to destroy life potential in either a fetus or its host–the choice can only be left to one of the entities whose potential is threatened.
The above argument is perhaps only another way of stating that when fundamental rights are infringed upon, the State bears the burden of demonstrating a compelling interest for doing so. The question of the life of the fetus versus the woman’s right to choose whether she will be the host for that life is incapable of answer through the legislative fact-finding process. Whether one considers the fetus a human being is a problem of definition rather than fact. Given a decision which cannot be reached on the basis of fact, the State must give way to the individual for it can never bear its burden of demonstrating that facts exist which set up a compelling state interest for denying individual rights.”
“A doctor has a direct, personal, substantial interest for his decision may send him to jail. Not only does the State prevent the physician from making an impartial decision about terminating his patient’s pregnancy, it unfairly influences this decision in a shocking way. The State says that only if the physician wrongly decides that the operation is needed to preserve her life is he criminally liable. If he wrongly decided the operation is not needed to preserve her life, he is subject to no criminal penalties. The State of Texas thus requires that all errors in a doctor’s evaluation of his patient’s need for termination of pregnancy be on the side of her death…”
“Certain assumptions must be made and constitutionally accepted to find that there is a basis of rationality to the exclusion of the above-mentioned classes of women from the statute’s protection. One is that human-life begins with fertilization of egg by sperm. Another is that this ‘life’ is equivalent to the life of the woman, and the life-saving exception to the abortion law is a rational balancing of interests by the state, analogous to the laws of self-defense.
It is remarkable that the existence of a one-day-old fetus is to be equaled with the life of a grown woman. The woman is–beyond doubt–a human being, one upon whom other human beings (husbands, children, etc.) depend in a variety of ways essential to the sanctity of the family, and whose impaired health may be critically disruptive to that family; or one who may not have consented to sexual intercourse made felonious by the state, yet who is forced to bear the consequences of that same felonious act. This equivalency of interest between a microscopic embryo and the woman who bears it must be assumed in the Texas law, however, since that statute draws no line, such as viability, as the time to invoke the state’s protection.”
“The religious view that the product of every conception is sacred may not validly be urged by the States as a justification for limiting the exercise of constitutional liberties of all persons to conduct their private lives without unwarranted governmental interference.”
“Let us assume, for the time being, that the pregnant woman and the fetus she carried within her body have come before the law as equal ‘persons.’ …[T]he laws prohibiting and regulating abortion, unlike all other laws in respect of persons, compel this pregnant woman to breathe, process food, and donate blood for the sustenance of another human entity, either fully or partially developed. In no other instance does the law give another human–even a fully developed human–a right to life beyond that which the person himself can sustain.”
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I knew that Troy Minkowsky (of “We Heart Superman” and Inbound 4: A Comic-Book History of Boston) was teaming up with Line O (Inbound 4 & 5, Hellbound) for a new project, but I didn’t get excited until I saw the cover and demo page:
This promises to live at the kind of weird/wonderful nexus you go to indy comics for. Pirates! Parrots! Sock puppet narrators! Mermaid *cough*! Octocreatures! Sweatles! RIDICULOUSLY COMPLICATED ROPE ARTWORK! It’s almost as if Troy and Line are channeling not their notions of pirates, but their kids’ notions of playing pirates.
Line is probably the most intriguing independent comic artist in the Boston area. Her panels are dense with detail, her characters loosely formed without being careless, and her artwork suffused with a wonderfully energizing rhythm. Here’s a favorite from her blog:
It sounds like the next step for Open Fire! will be an eight page demo issue. This is shaping up to be a lot of fun.
Cinematic synths. Remember when the future was cool? My new working music.
Consider American Apparel. Notice something: The clothing is hideous. Ill-fitting, lumpy, revealing of the wrong aspects of the anatomy, short-changing the best, whoring the remainder. A retro among many retros, that recalls nothing more than a bad Sigourney Weaver movie from the ’80s. You would think that this brand was a failure, a joke.
But you would be wrong.
American Apparel is not a clothing company, but a sprawling meta artwork. The Millenial Era expression of one man’s antisocial personality disorder.
Sex plus product is a trackworn formula. The appeal of the ads goes deeper than that. If the models are appealing but the clothing is unappealing, what does it say if the overall ads are appealing? It says that the models are winning.
Theirs is a temporary victory. An anxious, uncertain victory, as their facial expressions — always their facial expressions, in every ad — beg us to consider. They are winning against the clothing.
They are beautiful. Strangely. Tragically. Momentarily. For just a fleeting instant — so the narrative of the artwork shouts — in the first flush of youth, they are for a manic, over- and underconfident, fast, lost moment precisely Good Enough.
They are prey.
The American Apparel narrative is art, horrible and total. One man’s view of women as objects. Objects to be taken, used, discarded past their shine — much less their usefulness.
Look at this waste. This trash. Stare for a moment. Look what I’ve done to it. What would you like to do to it? Fine, it’s all yours. It’s almost over anyway.
Sartre’s hell can’t hold the man for whom there are no other people.
Redubbed, shortened, edited episodes of “Sailor Moon,” exaggerating the characters and lampshading the absurdity of the show. Somewhat funnier than watching a cat fall off something on YouTube, in aggregate. On closer inspection, it’s one good voice actress doing the leads and production chores, with some friends tagging along. Remix-happy fun.
Stitched together in Hugin from 38 camera phone pictures. Cylindrical projection.
Words by Will Self. Illustrations by Ralph Steadman.
The sequel to Psychogeography. Another long essay (this time on Dubai) followed by collected columns on the theme of “psychogeography” — the intersection of psychology and location. Rereading the first volume, it’s not my imagination that the essays are less focused in Too, but it’s an intriguing read. Steadman is best known as Hunter Thompson’s illustrator, but this book again confirms that while Thompson may have begun to decline by the late ’70s, Steadman never even slowed down.
A few snippets:
You will die in a hotel room — I will die in a hotel room; we will all die in a hotel room, because at the moment of death — with Larry King on CNN, looking like Kermit the Frog, and with angels playing the worst muzak ever — you, me — we — will all realize that our accommodation has always been temporary. I showered in the desalinated Arabian Sea, turned off the air conditioning and swooned in the homogeneity. Dawn swam down on me through dynasties of dreams — couplings of eunuchs and multiple wives, real-estate agents hard-selling me office space in the seraglio — I went to the window and looked out across the residential suburb of Al Sufouh, to where on the horizon sunlight gilded the Burj Al Arab, and for a moment you could almost believe it was a minaret and this was a populous city with a human scale. (p. 43-44)
The hermit who most influenced my own life was called Peter Buxton. He lived in a curious hut which adjoined the even more curious cottage of an old friend of my father’s in a Suffolk seaside village. Creek Cottage was a series of ramshackle wooden extensions bolted on to an inner sanctum of ordinary brickwork. In the extensions bunk beds were fabricated at odd angles and inappropriate heights, many of them furnished with their own bookshelves and plant boxes. You could lie all day under an exploding eiderdown, reading Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography and listening to the creak of weatherboarding, while the tendrils of a spider plant tickled your nose. Or else venture outside into a soused world of salt-water creeks, reed beds and sand dunes, with a derelict windmill in the mid-distance signalling the victory of the elements. (p. 83, 85)
Ah! Dancing — it’s wasted on the young. When you’re a young man, in the full blush of burgeoning sexuality, dancing can be a bit of a torment. As I bopped to ‘Killer Queen’ in my asinine, bell-bottomed trousers, I could never quite rid myself of the suspicion that my every spasm and contortion was being filmed by secret cameras, and that soon this footage would be screened in the local Odeon, so that all my so-called friends could come along to laugh and point.
True, young women seem to dance quite happily together, but I don’t believe them to be where they physically are when they do it. Rather, they are transported into a parallel bower, and here they frolic, like stateless naiads. The male dancer is an agonized demonstration of putative prowess, a mapping out of desire: ‘Come to my place,’ the he-bee buzzes, ‘I’ve got lots of alcoholic honey.’ By contrast, the dancing queens are so many pretty blooms all in a row. The more they move, the more they remain static, luring us insects into their flytraps. (p. 135)
When night falls, we leap into our Chrysler MPVs and race in convoy through the faux-adobe towns and parched hillocks of the hinterland, to where temporary car park attendants wave torches, assigning Porsches and Ferraris to the dusty ditch. We debouch, and follow soused starlets, tottering like newborn foals on high-hoofs, into parties organized for friendless internet billionaires by unpopular retail millionaires. Barmen mix mojitos with all the time in the world, while you wait in a queue of hair care product tycoons and Russian wives-by-the-hour. A man taps you on the shoulder: he once sold you a shirt, in Soho, in the last millennium. (p. 79, 82)
Stitched together in Hugin from 19 camera phone pictures. Miller Cylindrical projection.
Loaded with diamonds: “Untired,” “Hammer,” Correspondence,” “Welcome Back,” “Hella Touch,” “Care,” “Brightness and Contrast,” “This Song Smells.” Swap the playlists to Downtime/Uptime.
Dumped, like the browser-based kart game, so that I may free up some synapses.
- A browser-based sidescroller
- Based on an inversion of Christina Rosetti’s “The Prince’s Progress”
- With high realism movement, ala Flashback: The Quest for Identity
- With zooming in-engine cutscenes
The Unusual Bit:
- The game can be ended at the end of each level
- Via branching dialogue
- With a woman one encounters there
- Triggering a cutscene showing the future
- The endings are better the earlier one stops playing
- Because no one will stop playing
- There is no woman at the end of the last level
- Rosetti’s poem follows a prince’s voyage to meet his unknown beloved
- He dallies too much with wrong turns and mystical women
- When he gets to the castle, the princess has died
- I wrote (but never finished editing) a response
- This game is based on my version
- The prince meets a series of mystical women
- He could have (should have?) stayed with any one of them
- He doesn’t
- He journeys on to meet his perfect beloved
- He finds the castle at the edge of the world
- Inside, no one opposes him
- No one’s ever lived there
- Animated vector graphics
- Multiple foregrounds and backgrounds
- Not quite a sidescroller
- Camera usually stationary
- Re-centers when the character reaches predetermined spots
- Foreground and background layers adjust
- Foregrounds and backgrounds less detailed than midground
- Expressive style
- 24 frame per second character animation
- Realistic motion
- Zoomed in in-engine cutscene
- A mix of platforming and combat
- Level passwords
- No HUD, health bars, or data overlays of any kind
- Character can’t do anything a reasonably fit person can’t do
- Can only fall so far
- No twenty foot vertical jumps
- No changing direction in midair
- Must leap, grasp and climb to reach higher ledges
- “Step based” movement
- No creeping one pixel at a time ever necessary
- One walking step the minimum distance a movement can take
- Running, leaping, climbing, swimming, etc. all in increments
- No lives or continues
- Health recharges
- No “medkits”
- Short recovery period
- Character movement indicates health
- Extremely low health makes character weave back and forth
- Requires micro-correcting
- With left and right keys
- To keep character from falling down
- Not “death” as such
- “If you want to teach players not to do something,
- you don’t need to smack them.
- You need to give them zero feedback.“
- Tile the player falls on stretches past edges of screen left and right
- Player must get up (weaving initially) and walk across flat ground
- Uninteresting expanse takes time to cross
- Long enough to dissuade
- Not long enough to ruin game
- Poem displayed in BG
- Expanse ends at portion of the game world just as it was
- Level resumes without break
- No real death, lives or continues — just the expanse to pass
- The Ravine
- Mostly platforming
- Lush green riverside
- Moon maiden at end
- The Desert
- Black rocks
- Ground crawling with scorpions
- Character weakens as level goes on
- Heavy use of weaving mechanic
- Alchemist at end
- The Valley
- Final long swim
- Lose your armor, all but knife and gloves
- The Ariel Sisters at end
- The Edge of the World
- (Movement noticeably sprightlier without gear)
- Mountain slope
- Endless field of white flowers
- Castle, overgrown by enormous tree
- Phantoms “attack” inside
- Vanish before they reach you
- Empty room at top
- Plaster tubs, drop cloths, uninstalled windows
- Overgrown with white flowers from window box
- No one’s ever lived there
- The Moon Maiden
- Starry cloak
- (Midevil milkmaids rarely got smallpox)
- (Exposure to milder cowpox virus vaccinated them)
- (Origin of the “clear/white faced milkmaid” literary meme)
- Best ending
- In-engine zoomed in cutscene of player with family
- Carefree young children
- Spreading the starry cloak on a hilltop at night
- Watching the stars wheel overhead together
- Older woman, works a forge, strength and wisdom
- Second best ending
- Zooms in for cutscene as a couple
- Lonely in the desert
- Always working forge
- The Ariel Sisters
- Three nymphlike sisters
- Rescue you from river in the valley
- Flighty, impossible to pin down
- Other two give you more attention the more you focus on one
- One you focus on colder toward you
- Always out of reach
- A lot of trouble for a neutral ending
- The Princess
- Doesn’t exist
- Cutscene shows only the unfinished state of the chamber
- No ending
- Level just leaves you to wander until you quit the game
- Engine would have to be built from scratch
- Lots of art assets
- Lots of animation
- Small potential of SVG drawing speed problems
- SVG a low priority in modern browsers
- Animation toolchain would have to be built from scratch
- No SVG drawing program does animation yet
- If one adds support, it will likely save as SMIL
- (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language)
- Despite being a standard, no browser supports SMIL
- Animation would either have to use substitution
- (One unique SVG image every frame, 24 frames/second)
- Or morphing
- Even more complicated to develop toolchain for
- Morphing better, would allow some smoothing between actions
- Would allow some physics as well (cloaks, particle, etc.)
- No clear business plan beyond banner ads on the homepage
- Banner ads in-game would kill the mood
- Would also slow down the browser, in the real world
- Is it possible to sell access to a browser-based game?
- Game that subverts common mechanics of genre to ask questions
- Would be compared to Braid
- Would lose the comparison
Why It’s a Bad Idea:
My grandmother passed away on January 14. I brought a microphone and sat down with her back in 2002, then shot some 16mm film on Friendship Long Island and edited a short. Here is that film:
Boxing Day 2010.
Stitched together in Hugin from 30 camera phone pictures. Mercator projection.
“Beautiful Burnout,” “Boy, Boy, Boy,” “Faxed Invitation,” “JAL to Tokyo (Live From Tokyo)”… I believe I’m officially Underworld’s bitch.