Saletan, light of my life, fire of my blog posts. My sin, my soul: Sa-le-tan. He's none too fond of the abortions, that fellow! In this edition of the always-anticipated Sexist Beatdown, which is kind of like The McLaughlin Group except there's no old guy in a plaid suit yelling WRAAAWWWNG! every five seconds, Amanda Hess of the ceaselessly informative Washington City Paper blog The Sexist and I shall debate his merits!
Or maybe his merits... WILL BE DEBATING US?
No; no, they totally won't be. Enjoy!
Or maybe his merits... WILL BE DEBATING US?
No; no, they totally won't be. Enjoy!
Illustration: Here, Saletan outlines his plan to bring each and every embryo in the universe to term, in his own personal body, after which he will drop them off at Chuck E. Cheese and never look back. Or, he's talking about something else.
SADY: good morning! are you ready for SALETAN?
AMANDA: rarely am i afforded the pleasure of discussing a topic of such immediate ethical consequence!
SADY: indeed! i have now read the preface to SALETAN's book! on! abortion! It is entitled "Bearing Right," and it is about how conservatives have "won" the "abortion war" by changing the terms in which we talk about it, by, for example, not making it about a person's right to choose what happens in her own body. i have also read several columns by saletan in which he refuses to frame abortion as a question of a person's right to control what happens in her own body! so, he's learned well, one supposes.
AMANDA: and this, i suppose, is why saletan continually frames the abortion debate around pregnancies that do not happen inside a woman's body, but rather inside ... another woman's body.
SADY: exactly, or the IVF thing, which he hammers on constantly. he keeps talking about how, in the course of IVF, non-viable or extra embryos are produced and discarded. selecting embryos really pushes his buttons.
AMANDA: yes, i think it's very problematic. he thinks that when a pre-baby is in a petrie dish, it is therefore out of the realm of concern for a woman's body. but, look, it's got to go in some woman's body sometime. if saletan wants to implant all the frozen embryos in the world into his body to try to nurture them into little league, he's free to do so. BUT i am here to defend saletan!
SADY: oh ho! an unexpected position! what, pray tell, is your defense? i am probably way too hard on him, i will tell you that much for free. i mean, a lot of his positions - contraception being the best way to avoid abortion, for example - are completely sensible. however, i feel he pushes for some weird policy of shaming people to make them better. even in a 100% perfect educated world, people will miss a pill or get drunk and forget their condoms. it's not great, but it happens.
AMANDA: i think my only defense is a journalistic one. yeah. i dont think saletan and i agree on abortion, but i do share his interest in the fringe cases. the construction of his that you make fun of, an introduction, followed by a crazy ethical question like, "but, would you abort your medically unsafe pregnancy if there were a one percent chance your baby was the son of god?" i mean, i kind of LOVE those. i'm sure you take some sort of sick pleasure in them also
SADY: yes, it's true, the Saletan Curveball is strong.
AMANDA: but the point i guess is that these very uncommon cases that may never actually happen are where all the interesting debate comes in. i do often disagree with the results he draws from them though. the one where the women aborted the fetus that was possibly not hers---saletan basically says she and the biological mom should talk it out. like he's advising women who may go through this in the future---essentially, no one
SADY: exactly. i guess one of my main issues with the way he constructs these incredibly rare and weird scenarios is that i feel manipulated, as a reader. the second person that recurs - what if YOU, dear Reader, had YOUR fetus implanted in another lady's uterus? what if YOU loved YOUR fetus? wouldn't YOU be sad? - just sort of (a) runs right over these individual people and their individual perspectives, and (b) doesn't seek to allow you any empathy or identification with anyone else in the story. i feel like he's trying to back me into a corner, whereas, having a uterus, i could be either lady in some ridiculous implausible scenario. but i'm not either one! and i don't know their positions in the matter, because saletan doesn't tell me!
AMANDA: yeah. he essentially says that the person who cares more about fetuses should be able to make the decision
SADY: i say we do it biblically. cut that fetus in half! this is my King Solomon jurisprudence.
AMANDA: and in his mind, a woman who pays 100,000 for a surrogate womb cares about her fetus. the woman raking in the cash is just punching the clock. i looked at where the money goes, when you pay a company to find you a surrogate womb. one interesting tidbit: you have to pay the woman carrying the fetus $2,000 if you choose to abort it
SADY: oh, yowza.
AMANDA: so the assumption is that the bother or emotional stress of having to become pregnant and then abort it is worth 2,000 dollars. i say, if those women have to spend more than that on their pregnancies of these alien fetuses, that is when they are clear to abort without saletan's concern. think about it---their abortion grief is established to be worth only 2,000 bucks to the people who donated the embryo. spending more than that on not aborting the baby is charity, in my opinion. i wish saletan would get even deeper into his arguments, is what i'm saying. the columns are just too short. i need more what ifs!!
SADY: exactly, yet when he raised the issue of surrogates terminating the pregnancies due to lack of funds, he POSTED A DUDE'S CONTACT INFORMATION so that people could contact him to stop it. without checking with the dude to see whether any surrogates actually sought to do so! and my understanding is, one did, then changed her mind, so there are Zero Aborting Broke Surrogates in the picture. yet that dude got a whole lot of e-mails, unexpectedly, probably some from 100% certified crazy-pantses. and saletan didn't check on this? he has the dude's contact information! yet did not use it!this is what i mean when i say that he has no concern for the people in the picture.
AMANDA: yeah, and he did then say---well, i mean, these women are working for free and they deserve the money anyway. but why is this different from any other sort of breach of contract? you get the money LATER, in court. not from saletan.
SADY: hah, yeah, maybe he should just set up a paypal link on the page!
AMANDA: i guess he feels like the "pregnancy" and the "women" are so delicate that they need the money now, or a terrible ethical situation will rise again. but i applaud saletan for bringing all this weird lady part shit to my attention, because i think it's fascinating
SADY: oh, yeah, and i agree with you. more complexity = longer columns = better saletan. MORE SALETAN, is what we need! and, yes, i would never have learned as much as i have about weird pregnancy issues without him. so: thanks, guy.
AMANDA: i have a lot of unanswered questions. for example: if the woman implanted with the other lady's embryo did not abort the fetus would saletan ask her to give the baby to the other woman? or does she get to keep it? this could possibly be MORE traumatic for the other woman.
SADY: well, considering that he referred to it as THAT LADY's baby throughout, and talked about how she might never get another chance, i think he's asking her to be a surrogate.
AMANDA: shit, i would keep it. the one thing that i have to ask, personally, about all this stuff is: why is this even happening? the lengths people will go.
just buy one! i think it's cheaper
SADY: exactly! i have an ethical question: is it wrong for me to sell my babies on the black market? what if they're REALLY CUTE? but, yeah, for all the every-sperm-is-sacred thing we're hearing, adoption never even enters the picture.
AMANDA: yeah. ever sperm and egg are sacred, as long as they are mine. the other ones you have to birth, too, i just don't have any insight into what the hell you do with them once they're not fetuses anymore
SADY: well, you know. at that point the ETHICAL QUANDARIES become far less fascinating, i suppose.
AMANDA: yeah, then it's just kind of a bummer
SADY: until the ex-fetus grows up, and becomes a lady, and somehow gets pregnant with a toaster! how did THAT get in there? what do we do with the embryonic toasters? don't they deserve a chance to toast? i guess what i am saying is, there are many odd fringe cases left unexplored.
AMANDA: yeah, but the point is, we already have a mechanism by which to deal with those. the woman decides, the end. but saletan can certainly write an overture to her which she may or may not consider. what i want to know is---how do i get saletan to set up a paypal account for me? i'm currently not considering aborting anything
SADY: hah, yeah, we were all once fetuses. we deserve the right to live, and in my case, cable, which i can't afford. how do i get saletan to extend his noble efforts to my cable bill?
AMANDA: what about the fetuses without cable?
SADY: um, can they download stuff from itunes, maybe?
AMANDA: kids, they can do anything
SADY: just don't put an iphone in there, or your fetus will sext!
AMANDA: by william saletan