Has anybody significantly changed their mind on the topic of abortion since they first formed their opinion on the issue? One believes what one believes on the issue, and any mind changing that happens occurs among the privacy of friends and family.

You know what’s never happened? A rational discussion about abortion rights that started because a Student Bar Association president sent an email. The only thing that happens when somebody starts screaming about abortion is that somebody else screams back.

Luckily, the SBA email about a defaced abortion poster that we’re about to show you is so over the top that it’s more funny than annoying….

The email was sent from the head of the SBA at Washington University School of Law (St. Louis). It nominally deals with a poster that has been defaced, and as such there is a legitimate point there:

Hello Everybody–

Were they handing out “forget how to act like an adult” pills last week?

Law Students for Reproductive Justice report that one of their posters (mounted on their signage wall) was defaced. I understand that government-forced abortions for everyone/the crusade for an endless stream of babies forever (or however you choose to label the abortion debate) is a HOT BUTTON ISSUE(TM) that gets people ALL RILED UP(TM) but that is not a valid excuse to deface a poster.

The defacing of the poster makes us look bad for two reasons:
1. It makes us look like children who refuse to concede that reasonable minds can differ and that adults with differing viewpoints can function in a society; and
2. The person who defaced the poster did so in a semantically, rhetorically, logically and legally incorrect manner.

Okay, you shouldn’t deface posters. But please don’t tell me you’re about to tell people that they are “logically and legally” wrong for disagreeing with you about abortion.

The poster said “protecting the reproductive autonomy for all” and some misguided little goblin scrawled “what about the baby’s autonomy?” on it. Let’s address this point by point, shall we?

Oh dear.

1. “Reproductive justice”/”reproductive autonomy” are not identical to abortion. They also include things like preventative healthcare, prenatal and neonatal healthcare, and birth control. If you really think birth control ends a baby’s autonomy you should probably at that law school that Jerry Falwell runs.

2. A fetus is, semantically speaking, not a baby. Black’s Law Dictionary defines a fetus as “a developing but unborn mammal, esp. in the later stages of development”. While Black’s doesn’t contain a definition for “baby”, they do define “Baby Doe” as “a generic pseudonym for a very young child involved in litigation.”

3. From a rhetoric standpoint, you sound whiny. “What about the baby’s [sic, see #2 above] autonomy” lacks punch. Try dressing it up and calling someone a fascist or accusing them of un-american activity. That’s usually effective.

4. Logically speaking, this is a trainwreck. If reproductive justice removes infantile autonomy, that suggests such autonomy exists (which: see #5 below). It implicitly states that babies [sic] have, within their autonomous zone of influence (the womb?) a right to be born. I think you (the goblin) meant to say that abortion curtails this right. But your argument also implies that contraception curtails that right. As does pulling out. As does abstaining until marriage. BABIES [sic] ARE DEMANDING TO BE BORN RIGHT NOW WHY ARE YOU READING THIS EMAIL AND NOT CONCEIVING (and then carrying to term)? See what I’m getting at here?

5. From a legal standpoint (and this is 1L stuff, really), any contract with a minor is voidable at the minor’s discretion. Minors can’t vote, can’t buy booze, can’t serve in the military (JROTC programs and some exceptions aside) and can’t get married (depending on the state and the age). Some states have gone so far to limit the autonomy of children by requiring notice to and written consent from parents whenever someone under the age of 18 chooses to get a legal medical procedure.

I think my favorite part is point three where he criticizes the vandal for not being more ridiculous.

What possible upside is there in making these arguments in a school-wide email? It’s not going to change anybody’s opinion. And it’s not like this whole thing is turned into a legal discussion with a facile analogy to 1L contracts. We’re not talking about the right to vote or get drunk. If you believe that a fetus is a baby, it’s hard to justify killing them. If you believe that a woman is person and not an incubator with boobs, it’s hard to override her autonomous choice.

Where you come out on that has little to do with the law. Even the Supreme Court acts that way. You know how you’d describe Planned Parenthood to a football fan? You’d say: Sandra Day O’Connor went through her progressions, didn’t find anybody open, and threw the ball away on third down. Now conservatives want to punt the ball away back to the states on fourth down, while liberals want to go for it and keep the chains moving.

We fight about this issue through laws, but abortion isn’t a legal issue. It’s a moral one. And there aren’t many moral issues that get solved through the medium of school-wide emails.

In any event, our WUSTL SBA guy ends with a helpful threat and admonishment:

This is embarrassing for all of us. The misguided goblin (or anyone who has information on said goblin) should come forward and talk to me about this. Because if they don’t it’s headed to the Honor Council. There are cameras down by those boards and we will find you.

Mmm… I love the smell of an Orwellian threat in the morning.

Still, this is an American law school and I guess we should let the SBA president have his fun. He probably went to law school so he could have arguments like this. We’ll check on him again in a couple of years when he’s doing insurance defense and see if he’s still able to get this passionate about anything.


Hello Everybody–

Were they handing out “forget how to act like an adult” pills last week?

Law Students for Reproductive Justice report that one of their posters (mounted on their signage wall) was defaced. I understand that government-forced abortions for everyone/the crusade for an endless stream of babies forever (or however you choose to label the abortion debate) is a HOT BUTTON ISSUE(TM) that gets people ALL RILED UP(TM) but that is not a valid excuse to deface a poster.

The defacing of the poster makes us look bad for two reasons:
1. It makes us look like children who refuse to concede that reasonable minds can differ and that adults with differing viewpoints can function in a society; and
2. The person who defaced the poster did so in a semantically, rhetorically, logically and legally incorrect manner

The poster said “protecting the reproductive autonomy for all” and some misguided little goblin scrawled “what about the baby’s autonomy?” on it. Let’s address this point by point, shall we?
1. “Reproductive justice”/”reproductive autonomy” are not identical to abortion. They also include things like preventative healthcare, prenatal and neonatal healthcare, and birth control. If you really think birth control ends a baby’s autonomy you should probably at that law school that Jerry Falwell runs.
2. A fetus is, semantically speaking, not a baby. Black’s Law Dictionary defines a fetus as “a developing but unborn mammal, esp. in the later stages of development”. While Black’s doesn’t contain a definition for “baby”, they do define “Baby Doe” as “a generic pseudonym for a very young child involved in litigation.”
3. From a rhetoric standpoint, you sound whiny. “What about the baby’s [sic, see #2 above] autonomy” lacks punch. Try dressing it up and calling someone a fascist or accusing them of un-american activity. That’s usually effective.
4. Logically speaking, this is a trainwreck. If reproductive justice removes infantile autonomy, that suggests such autonomy exists (which: see #5 below). It implicitly states that babies [sic] have, within their autonomous zone of influence (the womb?) a right to be born. I think you (the goblin) meant to say that abortion curtails this right. But your argument also implies that contraception curtails that right. As does pulling out. As does abstaining until marriage. BABIES [sic] ARE DEMANDING TO BE BORN RIGHT NOW WHY ARE YOU READING THIS EMAIL AND NOT CONCEIVING (and then carrying to term)? See what I’m getting at here?
5. From a legal standpoint (and this is 1L stuff, really), any contract with a minor is voidable at the minor’s discretion. Minors can’t vote, can’t buy booze, can’t serve in the military (JROTC programs and some exceptions aside) and can’t get married (depending on the state and the age). Some states have gone so far to limit the autonomy of children by requiring notice to and written consent from parents whenever someone under the age of 18 chooses to get a legal medical procedure.

This is embarrassing for all of us. The misguided goblin (or anyone who has information on said goblin) should come forward and talk to me about this. Because if they don’t it’s headed to the Honor Council. There are cameras down by those boards and we will find you.


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