The FDA’s Disgust Offensive: Manipulative and Wrong

Why stop at this?

I’ve never smoked.  My wife is a smoker and I am worried about her; I also think the tobacco industry is more or less despicable. Nevertheless, I find the new disgust-initiative by the FDA on cigarette package labeling  troubling. If it’s ethical, it only passes muster in a utilitarian balancing formula, and even then I think it opens the door to government abuse.

Thanks to a 2009 law, cigarette makers must add large, graphic warning labels depicting diseased lungs, a man exhaling smoke through a hole in his neck, a baby near a cloud of smoke, a dead body, a man wearing a black t-shirt with “I Quit” written across the chest and three other ugly images to packaging and advertising in the U.S. by October 2012. These will be accompanied by warning labels with messages like “Smoking can kill you” and “Cigarettes cause cancer.” In full, stomach-turning color, the new labels must occupy the top half of the front and back of  cigarette packs, and 20% of any cigarette ad’s space. The labels must also include the number of a national quit line and the current warning labels.

All this, yet the government allows the stuff to be sold. I don’t get it, frankly. If cigarettes are so bad that the FDA feels it has to use tactics this extreme, then it should have the courage to just ban them, like they ban other harmful substances.

The labels seem inherently disrespectful to me, going beyond warnings, which are appropriate, to punishing the cigarette smoker, which is not. Why stop at requiring horrible pictures on the packages? Why not packages with needles sticking out, or with skin-flaying acid on the outside? If the straight warnings aren’t enough, why should the horrible pictures have to be related to smoking, since the objective is to make smoking unpleasant? Be creative. Mandate that the cigarettes have the odor of cow pies, or skunks. Or mandate  that the cigarettes look like little turds. Or have even more horrific photos: carnage from auto crashes, flesh-eating bacteria victims, Roseanne Barr naked. ME naked. Anthony Weiner.

The cigarette companies see constitutional problems with mandating graphic grotesquery that goes beyond informational warnings, and I hope they win their challenge. They won’t, because anti-cigarettes sentiment is in the category of gay marriage now: the power elites and the opinion makers have decided the issue, and no opposing views will get a fair hearing. But there is no good reason why this device, insulting to American citizens who have to be trusted at some point to make their own decisions based on facts, not manipulation, should be confined to cigarettes if the FDA and regulators have any integrity. Alcohol use is a scourge: why don’t Bud bottles have full-color pictures of puking drunks on them? The government wants people to drive less: why aren’t they mandating that autos be festooned with pictures of burned-up passengers in fiery crashes or photos of the crushed skulls of hit-and-run victims. Food! Have photos of 500-lb invalids on Big Mac wrappers! Put pictures of obese stroke victims, diabetic amputees, and Sally Struthers on Oreo packages. I certainly think that photos of destitute, hollow-eyed, slot machine players should adorn state lottery tickets, if cigarettes are going to have to be in revolting packages. But wait—the state wants people to gamble the rent money, doesn’t it?

If abortions are supposed to be rare, why does everybody scream foul when the anti-abortion groups use photos of late-term abortions? Following the logic of the FDA, these pictures should plaster the walls of every Planned Parenthood headquarters. Abortions aren’t a sufficient health risk, you say?

Tell it to the 50 million fetuses aborted in the U.S. since 1973.

I can accept the government warning us about risky behavior, and I think the government should ban conduct that it legitimately believes is dangerous or wrong. But manipulating our conduct—I find that to be an abuse of government power. And singling out cigarette smoking for such extreme methods of manipulation is unfair. The same methods can’t be applied to other health threats because people wouldn’t stand for them, which means that cigarettes are being singled out for the disgust treatment because they don’t have enough influential defenders.  In other words, the government can use extreme, manipulative and disrespectful methods because they’ll get away with it.

If you dislike smoking, perhaps that’s enough to satisfy you.

Not me.

27 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Philanthropy, Charity, U.S. Society

27 responses to “The FDA’s Disgust Offensive: Manipulative and Wrong

  1. Chris

    Don’t worry, these will soon be a gross-out collectible among middle school children, sort of a 21st century Garbage Pail Kids.

  2. Tim LeVier

    The market for personalized cigarette holders is about to go up. If nothing else, a competent seller would keep a roll of black out tape near the check out for customers to self serve and apply as they see fit.

    Some questions:

    1) Can a retailer blot out such images if they’re on the consumer facing side because they may be too graphic for some people who aren’t even shopping for the product?

    2) Can the manufacturer put the image on the back of the product and not on the consumer facing side of the product?

  3. Eric Monkman

    I disagree with your analysis. I don’t see why it is unethical to require cigarette manufacturers to place pictures of bodily organs that have been affected by exposure to tobacco smoke. A picture of a diseased lung provides a graphical illustration to a statement like “Smoking causes cancer” that both provides evidence for the statement and makes it more memorable.

    I understand your complaint about why cigarettes are not banned, if they are indeed so harmful. I would tend to agree that the world would be a better place if cigarettes just disappeared, but this is not going to happen. There are to many people addicted to cigarettes for a ban to be feasible or to work. Prohibiting something often does not decrease demand for it, and, while it may decrease legitimate supply, black market suppliers are always happy to step into the void created by a ban (see, e.g. prohibition or the war on drugs). One of the best ways to decrease the use of a harmful but widely used product is through persuasion, as this actually decreases demand. Once an activity is sufficiently marginalized that it is not worth a black marketeer’s time, then a ban can follow.

    Your questions about why the government does not impose warning labels on liquor bottles, automobiles, etc. seems too close to asking why the government should take in interest in preventing one group from harming others because “everybody does it” somehow, or because “there are worse things”. I might just as well ask why Congress went after Anthony Weiner when there are worse sexual offences being committed all the time that they should be going after, or why Barry Bonds suffered so much opprobrium when we all know that everybody uses steroids, so there’s no real point going after anybody, really.

    • No, Weiner isn’t a good comparison. If he establishes a standard, good. What has happened to those before him is irrelevant. And public opinion and political expediency isn’t an exercise of government power.

      Government is powerful, and we need to know that it is excercising its power 1) reasonably and 2) with predictable standards. I see neither here. I see tobacco being singled out because it is politically unpopular. That’s not the proper standard for health regulations, and psychological warfare is a big escalation from warnings. All you are saying is that smoking is dangerous so anything goes, and I disagree—anything DOESN’T go.

      • Eric Monkman

        I see the distinction between this case and Weiner’s. I was using him as an analogy. My Barry Bonds analogy stands.

        I understand your desire for government power to be used reasonably. I share it. What we disagree about is what is reasonable. I think is reasonable for the government to mandate graphic illustrations of a health warning in order to reinforce the message. You disagree and call it psychological warfare. That’s okay, reasonable people can disagree over what is reasonable. If a government thinks that my interpretation is reasonable, is it unethical for them to enact laws based on that interpretation? After all, if a government could only ethically enact laws when everybody (or every reasonable person) agreed on that law’s reasonableness, then we would live in an anarchic society. I think most reasonable people would agree that that would be unreasonable.

        I agree that ethical governments should make laws with predictable standards, but I interpret “predictable standards” much more narrowly than you do. If “predictable standards” is interpreted narrowly, then the FDA is being ethical. The standard is that all cigarette packages must have a graphical label. What is unpredictable about that? It’s not as if they are saying that only some cigarette packages must have labels, but we won’t tell you which ones.

        If “predictable standards” is interpreted broadly, so that, for example, activities that involve similar levels of harm are always punished equally, then I don’t think it is unethical for a government to be less predictable. No two activities are the same. Two activities that have roughly equal harms might have widely different levels of benefits (e.g. smoking vs. driving a car may be equally harmful, but one is necessary for modern society to function, while the other is not). Likewise, the nature of the harm might be different (e.g. smoking and drinking may be equally harmful, but smoking harms all smokers, while drinking only harms those who drink irresponsibly). The ease of eliminating a harm might be different (e.g. it is easy to get people to not use environmentally harmful whale oil because more efficient substitutes exist, but no such easy substitutes exist for environmentally harmful petroleum). When making laws, legislators must consider all of these factors, and more, often relying upon detailed studies, impact analyses and other highly technical methods. Because the results of these studies are not known, the predictability of law-making is diminished, but this is a necessary consequence of all of the various considerations that must go in to making laws. Nonetheless, I think it would be unethical for legislators to take a one-dimensional view of every problem in exchange for greater predictability.

        • Joshua

          Just a bit ridiculous when you remember that the former Speaker of the House went on record saying, “You must first pass a bill to see what is in it.” I cannot trust the benevolence of a government that is incapable of reading the laws they pass.

          This is manipulation of the worst sort. This will not prevent many people from smoking and may actually cause more to smoke. Think about kids looking to be cool. They will find the hardest pack of cigarettes and smoke it in front of people to make themselves appear cool. I know. My brothers did it.

          Next, cigarettes do have a health benefit that you may not realize. Cigarettes are stress relief. My brothers are two totally different people when they are smoking and not smoking. My brother Jed turns into a crazy, angry man. My brother Jeremiah becomes seriously depressed.

          When you see what cigarettes do for people who are extremely stressed, you will see the benefit. You may not like what they do, may find it disgusting, and think they are ruining their lives… but that is the thing. It is their lives. There are enough rules passed to make it so you never have to smell a single cigarette if you didn’t want to.

          Smokers are relegated to second class citizens in some ways, and are looked down upon as cretins and lepers. Go to a ball game and look at all the smokers corralled in small sections together just so you don’t have to go near them.

          I’m sorry. What I see from your post is a revulsion to cigarettes and your own happiness with people possibly being scarred by just looking at a pack of cigarettes. I don’t smoke, but I must handle cigarette packs daily. Do I want to look at grotesque images all day as I get packs of smokes for customers? There is no way we can keep these images completely focused on the smoker and no one else. Others will see and then we will ostracize smokers further. I’m sorry. I do not want my society manipulated to psychologically damage people.

          • Eric Monkman

            I understand your skepticism about the role of legislators in passing laws, but if one took your extreme position (that legislators do not even know what they are voting for) then all laws would be arbitrary and unethical. If any law were good, it would only be for the wrong reasons (perhaps what a lobbyist wanted was really in the best interests of the country). Since ends generally do not justify means, this would imply that all laws were unconsidered and therefore unethical. In a discussion about whether a law is ethical, one must at least assume some good faith on the part of legislators, or else there really isn’t anything to discuss.

            You argue that warnings may actually lead more people to smoke. This runs counter to the normal expectation that a warning will discourage people from engaging in a certain activity (with the stronger the warning, the greater the deterrence). Of course, people may act contrary to expectation for whatever reason, but, when making such a claim, generally some evidence beyond a family anecdote is required. If you have such evidence, post it here and send it to Congress, the Canadian and British Parliaments, the WTO, etc.

            Cigarettes may have a health benefit as stress relievers. This does not mean that they do not have many detrimental effects on health as well. These detrimental effects warrant a warning. One thing that makes it hard to quit smoking is that many of the downsides of smoking do not occur until many years in the future, while the benefits occur right now. A picture makes the warning seem less nebulous, as one can actually see what can happen to a body due to prolonged exposure to smoke. As it is, people can decide whether the benefits they gain from smoking outweigh the health risks.

            There is a simple solution to your complaint that non-smokers should not be exposed to grotesque images on cigarette cartons. Cigarettes could be stored in shops behind an opaque screen, only to be brought out for a customer who asks for them. Salespeople would still have to see the images, but I believe that someone selling a harmful product to someone else should not be immune to seeing the consequences that product can have on the buyer’s health.

            • Joshua

              I was going to write out a lengthy reply to you, Eric. I thought better of it after I re-read your last paragraph.

              You wish to punish and demean shops and smokers simply because you do not agree with smoking. That raises a red flag for me.

              I’ll leave you with this video of Nancy Pelosi. That and letting you know that not all laws are treated the same. Some will be nitpicked to death and others, like the Patriot Act and Obamacare, get passed without anyone really even reading them. Nothing is black and white, and arguing that it is, is futile and shows your lack of critical thinking.

              • Eric Monkman

                I readily acknowledge that some bills are past without proper consideration. Have you any evidence that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, H.R. 1256 was such an act? Just so you know, it was introduced in the House on March 3, passed the House on in the House on April 2 and passed the Senate on June 11. This gave legislators plenty of time to understand what was in a fairly uncontroversial bill. The bill gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products, something they had already been doing without Congressional authorization (not much controversy here). it mandated that the FDA should use its powers to discourage people, especially adolescents, from smoking through warnings, etc. because of the well known health hazards of smoking. For comparison, the controversial USA PATRIOT Act was introduced to the House on October 23, passed the House on October 24, passed the Senate on October 25 and was signed into law on October 26. The law creating TARP was rejected by the House on September 29, amended and passed by the Senate on October 1 and passed by the House on October 3.

                You accuse me of desiring labels on cigarette packaging because I “do not agree with smoking”. This is not why I desire labels. I desire labels because smoking cigarettes is harmful to one’s health and I believe smokers should be reminded of this when they smoke. I acknowledge that everyone in this day and age probably knows this, but it is easy to keep the fact that what you are doing is harmful to your health out of mind when the side effects often do not materialize for many years. Making it more difficult for smokers to keep the potential side effects “out of sight” will make it harder for them to keep the potential side effects “out of mind”. There are other things that I do not agree with (for example, I don’t much care for rap music), but I do not suggest that warning labels be placed on rap music just because I disagree with it. Likewise, even though I “do not agree with smoking”, I would not advocate that warning labels be put on cigarettes if they were not harmful to health.

                I have requested proof several times from you, so I will support my claim that cigarettes are harmful to one’s health. See, for example, Denissenko MF, Pao A, Tang M, Pfeifer GP. Preferential formation of benzo[a]pyrene adducts at lung cancer mutational hotspots in P53. Science. 1996 October 18;274(5286):430-2, or just read what Philip Morris has to say about the issue at http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/cms/Products/Cigarettes/Health_Issues/Cigarette_Smoking_and_Disease/default.aspx.

                You accuse me of wanting to “punish and demean shops and smokers”. I do not see how a warning label conveying true information about the harmfulness of a product demeans anybody. Perhaps it is “punishing” to have to look at images of diseased organs, but the sellers and buyers of tobacco products should be adults. I think they should be able to handle it.

                Finally, you accuse me of arguing that things are “black and white”. I am not sure how I have done so. I do try to see both sides of the issue and I acknowledge that adults can choose whether to smoke or not. I am not advocating a “black and white” ban on tobacco products, but I do believe that people who decide to smoke should be reminded of the potential consequences of their decision.

              • Eric Monkman

                I acknowledge that sometimes legislators pass bills without giving them the proper amount of consideration. Have you any evidence that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, H.R. 1256 was one such bill. The bill was introduced into the House on March 3, passed by the House on April 2 and passed by the Senate on June 11. This gave legislators enough time to understand what was a fairly uncontroversial bill. The bill enabled the FDA to regulate tobacco sales, something they had already been doing without Congressional approval. It also mandated that the FDA should try to discourage smoking, especially among adolescents, in part by placing stronger warnings on cigarette packages. Again, this is fairly uncontroversial, given the well known effects of smoking on health. For comparison, the USA Patriot Act was introduced in the House on October 23, passed by the House on October 24 and passed by the Senate on October 25. The legislation creating TARP was rejected by the House on September 29, amended and passed by the Senate on October 1 and finally passed by the House on October 3.

                You claim that I believe there should be labels on cigarette packaging because I “disagree with smoking”. This is not true. I believe that there should be labels on cigarette packaging because smoking is harmful to one’s health. While this may be common knowledge to most people in this day and age, it is easy for a smoker to keep this inconvenient fact “out of mind” while smoking because the health effects often do not materialize for many years. Warning labels with pictures of the consequences of smoking make it harder for the smoker to keep the health hazards “out of sight” and therefore “out of mind”. There are other things that I disagree with (I don’t much care for rap music, for example), but I do not believe that warning labels should be affixed to these other things unless there is good evidence that they are harmful.

                Because I asked you for evidence, I will provide evidence to back up my claim that smoking is harmful. Read Denissenko MF, Pao A, Tang M, Pfeifer GP. Preferential formation of benzo[a]pyrene adducts at lung cancer mutational hotspots in P53. Science. 1996 October 18;274(5286):430-2 to learn about how a chemical in cigarettes has been linked to lung cancer. You can also read what Philip Morris USA has to say about the issue at http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/cms/Products/Cigarettes/Health_Issues/Cigarette_Smoking_and_Disease/default.aspx.

                You claim that I wish to ” punish and demean shops and smokers”. I do not see how affixing a warning to a product with an image of the consequences of use demeans anybody. Perhaps it is punitive to make it hard to avoid seeing a picture of a diseased organ, but I do not advocate affixing warning labels to cigarette packages because I think anybody should be punished but because I believe that smokers should be continually warned that what they are doing is harmful. In any case, both those buying and selling cigarettes should be adults. They should be able to handle it.

                Finally, you accuse me of arguing that things are in “black and white”. I believe I have tried to see both sides of the issue and be fair to both sides. I have acknowledged that I believe that someone should be able to decide whether or not to smoke so I am not suggesting a ban on tobacco products. I just believe that people who use a product that is harmful to their health should be warned about the potential consequences of their actions.

              • Eric Monkman

                I acknowledge that sometimes legislators pass bills without giving them the proper amount of consideration. Have you any evidence that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, H.R. 1256 was one such bill. The bill was introduced into the House on March 3, passed by the House on April 2 and passed by the Senate on June 11. This gave legislators enough time to understand what was a fairly uncontroversial bill. The bill enabled the FDA to regulate tobacco sales, something they had already been doing without Congressional approval. It also mandated that the FDA should try to discourage smoking, especially among adolescents, in part by placing stronger warnings on cigarette packages. Again, this is fairly uncontroversial, given the well known effects of smoking on health. For comparison, the USA Patriot Act was introduced in the House on October 23, passed by the House on October 24 and passed by the Senate on October 25. The legislation creating TARP was rejected by the House on September 29, amended and passed by the Senate on October 1 and finally passed by the House on October 3.

                You claim that I believe there should be labels on cigarette packaging because I “disagree with smoking”. This is not true. I believe that there should be labels on cigarette packaging because smoking is harmful to one’s health. While this may be common knowledge to most people in this day and age, it is easy for a smoker to keep this inconvenient fact “out of mind” while smoking because the health effects often do not materialize for many years. Warning labels with pictures of the consequences of smoking make it harder for the smoker to keep the health hazards “out of sight” and therefore “out of mind”. There are other things that I disagree with (I don’t much care for rap music, for example), but I do not believe that warning labels should be affixed to these other things unless there is good evidence that they are harmful.

                Continued below.

                • Eric Monkman

                  Because I asked you for evidence, I will provide evidence to back up my claim that smoking is harmful. Read Denissenko MF, Pao A, Tang M, Pfeifer GP. Preferential formation of benzo[a]pyrene adducts at lung cancer mutational hotspots in P53. Science. 1996 October 18;274(5286):430-2 to learn about how a chemical in cigarettes has been linked to lung cancer. You can also read what Philip Morris USA has to say about the issue at http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/cms/Products/Cigarettes/Health_Issues/Cigarette_Smoking_and_Disease/default.aspx.

                  You claim that I wish to ” punish and demean shops and smokers”. I do not see how affixing a warning to a product with an image of the consequences of use demeans anybody. Perhaps it is punitive to make it hard to avoid seeing a picture of a diseased organ, but I do not advocate affixing warning labels to cigarette packages because I think anybody should be punished but because I believe that smokers should be continually warned that what they are doing is harmful. In any case, both those buying and selling cigarettes should be adults. They should be able to handle it.

                  Continued below.

                • Eric Monkman

                  Because I asked you for evidence, I will provide evidence to back up my claim that smoking is harmful. Read Denissenko MF, Pao A, Tang M, Pfeifer GP. Preferential formation of benzo[a]pyrene adducts at lung cancer mutational hotspots in P53. Science. 1996 October 18;274(5286):430-2 to learn about how a chemical in cigarettes has been linked to lung cancer. You can also read what Philip Morris USA has to say about the issue at http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/cms/Products/Cigarettes/Health_Issues/Cigarette_Smoking_and_Disease/default.aspx.

                • Eric Monkman

                  You claim that I wish to ” punish and demean shops and smokers”. I do not see how affixing a warning to a product with an image of the consequences of use demeans anybody. Perhaps it is punitive to make it hard to avoid seeing a picture of a diseased organ, but I do not advocate affixing warning labels to cigarette packages because I think anybody should be punished but because I believe that smokers should be continually warned that what they are doing is harmful. In any case, both those buying and selling cigarettes should be adults. They should be able to handle it.

                  Finally, you accuse me of arguing that things are in “black and white”. I believe I have tried to see both sides of the issue and be fair to both sides. I have acknowledged that I believe that someone should be able to decide whether or not to smoke so I am not suggesting a ban on tobacco products. I just believe that people who use a product that is harmful to their health should be warned about the potential consequences of their actions.

              • Eric Monkman

                Because I asked you for evidence, I will provide evidence to back up my claim that smoking is harmful. Read Denissenko MF, Pao A, Tang M, Pfeifer GP. Preferential formation of benzo[a]pyrene adducts at lung cancer mutational hotspots in P53. Science. 1996 October 18;274(5286):430-2 to learn about how a chemical in cigarettes has been linked to lung cancer. You can also read what Philip Morris USA has to say about the issue at http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/cms/Products/Cigarettes/Health_Issues/Cigarette_Smoking_and_Disease/default.aspx.

                You claim that I wish to ” punish and demean shops and smokers”. I do not see how affixing a warning to a product with an image of the consequences of use demeans anybody. Perhaps it is punitive to make it hard to avoid seeing a picture of a diseased organ, but I do not advocate affixing warning labels to cigarette packages because I think anybody should be punished but because I believe that smokers should be continually warned that what they are doing is harmful. In any case, both those buying and selling cigarettes should be adults. They should be able to handle it.

                Finally, you accuse me of arguing that things are in “black and white”. I believe I have tried to see both sides of the issue and be fair to both sides. I have acknowledged that I believe that someone should be able to decide whether or not to smoke so I am not suggesting a ban on tobacco products. I just believe that people who use a product that is harmful to their health should be warned about the potential consequences of their actions.

  4. This Guy

    Being selfish on an ethics blog is probably a bad idea, but my biggest problem with the new anti-smoking campaign is that it’s punishing me. Having to roll down the windows for Dad in the middle of July, in Florida, was all the warning label I ever needed; why do I have to get queasy every time I get a bottle of water at the gas station?

  5. Jeff

    There’s nothing I can say that Denis Leary didn’t say in 1992.

  6. For God’s sake, Jack, don’t give the feds any ideas! They’re already on a power trip of unprecedented proportions. If they really believed tobacco use was THAT bad, they should have introduced legislation in Congress to ban it. That, however, would be killing the goose that’s laid all those golden revenue eggs in their laps.

    • Sarah Jane

      This.

      Also, as long as smoking is legal, each new generation of lawmakers can crow around re-election time about how THEY were the ones who cracked down hard & required new extreme measures from Big Bad Big Tobacco.

      My dad is dying of lung cancer as I type this; he was a smoker for nearly 50 years, from the time he was a teenager. He says everyone knew back in the 60s that smoking was bad for you; it doesn’t take a complicated warning label to figure that out. This seems like nothing more than a lot of posturing on the parts of lawmakers. What a waste.

  7. Neil A. Dorr

    Jack,
    Somewhat off-topic (although this is not an attempt at starting a side-debate), but I’ve noticed it’s a common ploy for anti-abortionists to casually mention (as you did, though I’m not lumping you in with “the rest”) the total number of aborted fetuses as though it somehow changes or adds perspective to the debate. I don’t mean to suggest the numbers themselves are substantial, only that they’re not likely to change someone’s and serve only to further outrage the already converted. If you don’t think abortions are morally wrong, what does it matter if it there’ve been 1, 10, or 1,000? Do meat-eaters generally care how many animals are slaughtered for their food each year?

    As I said, I’m not trying to lull you into a side-debate, I only mention it because of the irony in relation to your post. Just as photos of blackened lungs are unlikely to stop a someone from buying cigarettes, so too are statistics equally worthless in convincing women (or anyone) of changing their mind on abortion. The use of graphic images or “disturbing” statistical numbers in ANY debate has little to do with actual merit and hinge entirely on emotional responses which is, to me, unfair. As far as I can tell, this is simply the flip-side of the “think of the CHILDREN” argument you hate to much. Neither tactic does anything to change the geography of the debate, only how people perceive the issue.

    -Neil

    • I guess I don’t see how the total number of potential human beings (or nascent human beings…or just weak and powerless human beings) can be just ignored or viewed as irrelevant to the discussion. They are the epitome of the elephant in the room. What is unfair about requiring factual evidence that argues against the correctness of a public policy? I agree that the abortion movement has relied on the fiction that fetuses are nothing at all, and that those uncomfortable images of fetuses sucking their thumbs and moving like birthed children make that fiction difficult to maintain, but I don’t understand how one can argue that the evidence is irrelevant or unfair. It may appeal to emotion…so do photos of dead victims in a murder trail, but the important thing is that the photos are also evidence of real deaths.

      • Tim LeVier

        Not sure how it relates to the on-topic discussion, but I think there’s a “swing vote” population that think abortion is only okay as long as it’s infrequent. So, numbers matter to the anti-abortion person because it might get a swing vote if the numbers are high enough.

        Of course, there’s probably some mad scientists (social scientists) that probably think abortion isn’t used enough and we’d have a healthier society if the population was under better control. Of course, the counter point to that is that illegal immigration contributes much more to our population ADD than abortion accounts for in SUBTRACT, so such a mad scientist would be better off opining on matters of border security and immigration reform.

        Is that off topic enough for everyone? My apologies, I just really wanted to type anything.

        Blast away.

      • tgt

        Argh. I hate when you misrepresent the “legal abortion” movement. The strawmanning is not cool

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