A meta discussion: when, where and how to discuss abortion

abortion As the moderator here on LoGroNo, I’ve occasionally intervened when people have brought up their views on abortion while discussing topics/issues that appear to have little or nothing to do with abortion. I intervened again this week in the discussion attached to my blog post, Is this bur oak worth saving?  As I see it (I could be wrong), since abortion is such polarizing issue, injecting it into other issues brings along some of the same polarizing tendencies and the possibility of an inquiry-based discussion diminishes. (continued)

There’s little hope of a productive discussion if “How can you justify trying to save X (trees, environment, abused animals, AIDS patients, funding for you-name-it, etc etc) but not trying to save the lives of the unborn” gets leveled. There may be logic in that line of reasoning (I’m unsure) but my point is, it’s not helpful to use it except when there’s an agreement among the participants to discuss abortion.

So this blog post is not about abortion but about when, where and how to discuss it here on Locally Grown.


  1. Patrick Enders said:

    It seems to me that dropping the “A bomb” is always a great way to change the topic, and stifle discussion.

    I think your practice has been about right: gently redirect people when they inject abortion rhetoric into unrelated discussions.

    April 21, 2009
  2. Peter Millin said:

    I am not interested in discussing abortion by itself. I think that issue has been settled a long time ago in Roe vs. Wade.
    I am all for a woman’s right to chose, but don’t pretend that we are not killing life. It is a dishonest discussion in this regard.

    The tree issue has a lot to do with abortion like it or not.
    Especially when we elect ourselves to decide which life is worth saving and which isn’t.

    If we want to foster a spirit of “all life is sacred” and our decisions for our environment and the way we expand civilization are riven by it. We can’t afford being choosy about what life is worthwhile and what isn’t.
    It should be an attitude and not a case by case decision, only brought up when it fits our view of the world.

    That is all i have to say about that…( Forrest Gump)

    April 21, 2009
  3. Anthony Pierre said:

    get govt our of our lives. and that means out of abortion talk. isn’t that right peter?

    April 21, 2009
  4. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: It was my question; and it was a fair question. It is a liberty, NOT abortion, question.

    By what principle does the government have to tell a landowner that he or she must save a tree? We have determined as a society, rightly or wrongly, that the government may not interfere with a person’s liberty to terminate a pregancy. Using that rationale, should we interfere with the liberty of a landowner to kill a tree?

    On the larger issue of when, where, and how to discuss potentially polarizing issues, I don’t have an answer. If you suppress speech based upon content, you will eventually get suppressed speech. It’s your site, make up your own rules. But, don’t expect to get a fair and vigorous discussion.

    April 21, 2009
  5. Jane Moline said:

    Choosing is worth discussing. How to do the right thing is worth discussing. What is the right thing to do is worth discussing. Unfortunately the abortion issue is reduced to one group removing the discussion and decision making and forcing their “choice” on everyone else. There is no discussion. Only dogma.

    April 21, 2009
  6. Gabriel Rholl said:

    One of the things that has bothered me in this tree/abortion debate is the moral absolutes that are being imposed strictly upon this debate. Absolutes just don’t work—if we value life so much, why do we allow ourselves to eat and destroy plants? Why do some states (not necessarily in Minnesota) support the death penalty? These things must be judged separately, not absolutely.

    Of course, that introduces a degree of subjectivity into the matter, i.e. what is moral, what is not, etc. on a day by day, case by case basis. So here’s my view: Government interfering with land use is totally different than government interfering with deeply personal health issues between a woman, her doctor, and her child.

    April 21, 2009
  7. kiffi summa said:

    Gabriel: you make a clear an simple and simple distinction as to the role of gov’t in our lives.
    Gov’t makes all kinds of rules about how far a house should be set back from the street, how high a fence may be, where a vehicle is parked on our property, and on and on. These are based on standards of development and community standards, and although they affect our very own personal property, property we have bought and paid for, we accept them.

    I believe we accept these rules because they do not intrude on that MOST personal space … the control of our own physical selves.

    I find it difficult to see how some people cannot comprehend this difference.

    April 21, 2009
  8. David Ludescher said:
    1. “… it’s easy to get most liberals riled up about government encroachments on freedom of the press or a woman’s reproductive freedoms. But you have a conversation with these same liberals about the potential costs of regulation to a small-business owner, you will often draw a blank stare.”

    The Audacity of Hope, p.57, Barack Obama, Copyright 2006.

    April 21, 2009
  9. Bright Spencer said:

    First of all, thanks for this little opening, Grif.

    Before I saw this this meta discussion up, I was searching for a good place to voice opinions and this is first that I have found;


    As for ownership, no one really owns the land and we don’t own each other or ourselves. Ownership is a man made concept.

    When you cut down “your” tree that I admired and which was a symbol of life, maybe hope, or at the very least a great reminder that there was at one time, another culture of people and style of life that dwelt in these parts, when you cut down that tree, you cut part of my understanding, my heart, and my beautiful environment. The same goes for a woman who has cut down her capacity to bloom…in my eyes, she has denied us all a new joy.

    Government was created for protection from enemies.

    That’s it, pal. Just the enemies of the state.

    April 21, 2009
  10. Patrick Enders said:

    How about this simple solution to the ‘abortion keeps popping up’ problem:

    Open up a page where people can argue about abortion to their hearts’ content. This page right here will do nicely. Redirect people here when they feel the need to argue about abortion elsewhere.

    Problem solved.

    April 21, 2009
  11. David Ludescher said:

    Patrick et. al.: I would remind you that I never used the word abortion, or even suggested that we discuss abortion. I wanted to know by what principle of LIBERTY we could claim a landowner’s tree as public property. The law doesn’t permit that kind of reach for unborn humans. Why should it permit it for trees?

    Regarding when, where, and how we should discuss polarizing issues:
    – If we can’t discuss public issues here, then where?
    – If we can’t discuss it now, then when?

    April 21, 2009
  12. Gabriel Rholl said:

    David L.:

    One of the problems with discussing polarized issues is just that: they are polarized, and you’re unlikely to be able to sway anybody else’s opinion on the matter one way or another. I could start listing off all the justifications of my viewpoint for abortion, but I doubt it would sway your opinion any way or other.

    However, as I indicated above, the issues of abortion and land use are two separate and distinct instances (the quotation from our president aside… I’d have to see it in context to fully understand his opinion on the matter). Abortion has social issues to hash through, which I don’t find pertinent to list here (due to the polarization issue), while the tree has environmental ones (which I will list): How do we measure the benefit of CO2 removed from the air? The aesthetic benefit of the tree? The cultural benefit? Who owns nature? Who owns the air?

    Certainly the tree, by law, is owned by the property owner. Let’s think about this from a very basic sense, though: To live in a constitutional nation, we agree to give up certain freedoms in order for the good of the whole to live in peace and organization.

    Without trying to tear down my earlier argument, let’s look at the tree: Certain freedoms of the landowner are given up for the aesthetic, cultural, and environmental benefit of all.

    Now, abortion from the view of sacrificed freedoms: Government is a allowed to intrude into the doctor’s office and tell a woman and her doctor what to do with her body and her child. No other humans are directly implicated save a vague “moral fabric of society” argument with possible religious connotations.

    Again, to summarize: I find the distinction between the two issues completely acceptable.

    April 21, 2009
  13. Patrick Enders said:

    As I said, “Open up a page where people can argue about abortion to their hearts’ content. This page right here will do nicely.”

    April 21, 2009
  14. Britt Ackerman said:

    [An abortion protester at a campaign
    event] handed me a pamphlet. “Mr.
    Obama, I know you’re a Christian, with
    a family of your own. So how can you
    support murdering babies?”

    I told him I understood his position
    but had to disagree with it. I
    explained my belief that few women
    made the decision to terminate a
    pregnancy casually; that any pregnant
    woman felt the full force of the moral
    issues involved when making that
    decision; that I feared a ban on
    abortion would force women to seek
    unsafe abortions, as they had once
    done in this country. I suggested that
    perhaps we could agree on ways to
    reduce the number of women who felt
    the need to have abortions in the
    first place.

    “I will pray for you,” the protester
    said. “I pray that you have a change
    of heart.” Neither my mind nor my
    heart changed that day, nor did they
    in the days to come. But that night,
    before I went to bed, I said a prayer
    of my own-that I might extend the same
    presumption of good faith to others
    that had been extended to me.

    Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p.197-8, 2006

    April 21, 2009
  15. David Ludescher said:

    Gabriel: I wasn’t trying to sway anyone’s opinion about abortion. I was trying to point out the absurdity of developing a rule that forbids a woman’s from terminating the life of a tree, when at the same time we all recognize the Constitutional right of a woman to terminate the life of a human fetus. (A fetus of which she is only one-half owner.)

    It seems to me that there is a Constitutional right to terminate the life of a tree. After all, under the Constitution, only persons have rights. A fetus doesn’t have rights under the law, but it resembles a person a lot more than a tree does.

    Griff, you went one step further. You banished me from not only making an argument, but from even making a pro-choice argument. I say, “Give the landowner the choice – he should be allowed to terminate the tree if he wants or give it life.”

    April 21, 2009
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    David, I’m fine with you making an argument that the landowner should have the choice.

    But how you do it matters.

    You wrote initially in the bur oak thread:

    Since when, and why do trees get more
    protection than human fetuses?

    As soon as you make your argument that way, you signal everyone on the pro-choice side of the abortion debate that you have another agenda in the discussion, not just a bur oak/landowner agenda.

    If you had instead written:

    It’s his property. He should be able
    to cut it down if he wants.

    you could have still made your argument just as effectively without the additional polarizing effects.

    April 21, 2009
  17. Peter Millin said:


    Finally we agree on something.

    April 21, 2009
  18. Jane Moline said:

    David: You continue with your ridiculous argument. How can anyone but the woman “own” the fetus inside her body? Now a man is a 1/2 owner just because of contributed sperm. (What about pregnancy as a result of rape? Who owns that baby?)

    The problem with the abortion argument is that it is separate and distinct from any other issue. It is not like owning a tree.

    The fetus resides–and only survives– inside a woman’s body. Arguments that society has an interest in the fetus is akin to slavery. You cannot own people. Consequently, you have mostly men upset that they are unable to control or “own” someone else’s body by their inability to impose their religious laws on the woman.

    The anti-abotion crowd will have to be more charming and persuasive–or be more like the Taliban and force society to follow religious laws. Unfortunately the anti-abortion religious right are more akin to the Taliban than to being charming.

    Because of these absolutes–any abortion, any time, for any one is immoral-there is no ability for discussion.

    I am absolutely supportive of a woman’s right to control each and every medical procedure on her body, including whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. I do not find any place for government in this discussion, at any point, regardless of Roe v. Wade and viability. If the the pregnancy is at 6 months, the “baby” should be delivered and become a ward of the state, to suffer prematurity or whatever.

    That said, I am horrified that people choose to abort fetuses that are Downs. I cannot understand why someone would do that. I just know that it is the woman’s right to choose–not my right to impose my belief system on someone else.

    I believe if we were a truly supportive society that helped women instead of constantly harrassing them, that helped women to have financial security in spite of having a baby–we would eliminate most to all abortions.

    Instead we give lip-service to being helpful and supportive–but look at those welfare-mommas with 7 kids by 7 different fathers. Boy are they just a burden on society. Look at those slutty women. Our judgement knows no bounds, and the women get it.

    April 21, 2009
  19. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: I had and have no other agenda other than the bur oak tree. I was arguing that, as a matter of constitutional principles, that pro-choice means pro-choice. What I think about Roe v. Wade is irrelevant. The law is the law.

    How about if I keep it tree-specific, such as:

    1. I firmly believe that the termination of a tree’s life is a matter between a woman and her forester.
    2. It is a matter of deep moral principles which no woman takes lightly.
    3. What we need to do is reduce the number of tree terminations, not make tree terminations illegal. 4. A ban on tree terminations might cause people to seek illegal terminations, such as in the middle of the night.
    4. It’s not fair to strap landowners with the burden of owning a tree for months and years to come.
    April 21, 2009
  20. Nathan E. Kuhlman said:

    Whether or not this bur oak survives the installation of further architectural blight, and irrespective of whether its mom loves it or is able to take care of it, I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that sixteen years from now, this tree will not be breaking into my garage. At least, the probability is so small as to be negligible.

    April 21, 2009
  21. john george said:

    It seems to me that most of the discussion on this blog is an exercise in each point of view trying to find a chink in the armor of opposing points of view. I know I certainly approach many discussions this way. If everyone who posted here all agreed on the same thing, where would be the discussion? Would it just resort to a continual litany of how bad everyone else who thinks differently must be? If there is actually going to be debate, then that seems to presuppose there will be opposing viewpoints. Here is where Griff’s continual pleas for civility enter in.

    When we run across someone who bases their thinking on a set of values different from ours, we are faced with a choice of how we are going to interact with them. We can ignore them (no discussion) try to out shout or shame them (polarization) or, possibly, accept that they think differently and try to understand them (what I term real communication). This is where offenses are either taken up or not.

    Jane, if you will allow me, I would like to use your comment above as an example-

    Unfortunately the anti-abortion
    religious right are more akin to the
    Taliban than to being charming.

    Now I could choose to be offended by this, since I probably identify more with the religious right than the left, but I choose not to, for a couple reasons. Being offended only builds a thicker wall between us. Also, there is an element of truth in what you said. Since I am secure enough in my position to recognize the weaknesses of it, I am much more willing to discuss this with you than just write you off. If I was going to continue the discussion, I would probably respond with something like, “I can understand how you feel. I recognize that there are extreme factions in that group that are counter productive to taking care of what I believe are the real needs involved. Could I give you a few reasons why I do believe what I do?”

    I’m not sure that there can ever be discussions amongst passionate people without analogies. Perhaps there can, but I admit that I think along lines of analogies. That being the case, I think I do bear some responsibility of where my analogy leads a discussion. Most often, what is so clear to me just isn’t to someone else. Once I begin to understand that person better, it is much easier for me to draw on analogies that, hopefully, will not offend the person and stifle discussion.

    April 21, 2009
  22. john george said:

    Nathan- Who knows? Perhaps 16 years from now, that oak could be your garage!

    April 21, 2009
  23. john george said:

    Gabriel- Are you absolutely sure about this comment,”…Absolutes just don’t work…”? I would posite that each of us has some basis where we draw the line. That may evolve over time as we gain greater knowledge and understanding, but I suspect it will always be there. Also, if there is to be order in society, there needs to be a foundation of law that can be imposed when factions begin to fracture that society. Otherwise, there would be constant revision of various convictions, and confusion would reign.

    April 21, 2009
  24. Gabriel Rholl said:


    I think we have more in common here than less when it comes to our views on this. Yes, you are right in saying that each of us comes to the table with our own line, our own boundary, with what is moral and what isn’t. In some cases, this is absolute, in others, it isn’t. However, this variability (“each of us has some basis where we draw the line,” as you say) is the very thing that makes comprehensive moral absolutes impractical. Creating laws defining morality on a case-by-case basis is one thing, and a good thing at that. Broadly claiming that everything has a right to live and comparing moral situations that are not comparable is entirely different.

    So, yes, I concede the point on the phrasing “Absolutes just don’t work.” Adding the word “comprehensive” before it might illuminate my point a little better.

    April 21, 2009
  25. kiffi summa said:

    John: I think you just made part of my case back in 6.2, in your answer to Gabriel. You said: “If there is to be order in society, there needs to be a foundation of law that can be imposed when factions begin to fracture that society”.

    We have laws that allow abortion under stated situations, and we have laws that control discrimination against others based on gender, sexual identity, etc., and yet newly influential religious groups seek to change those laws to be more closely aligned with that ‘faction’s’ religious beliefs.

    So if a law , made for the equal treatment of all for the common good( not oppression) of society, is opposed by a ‘faction’, how big does that faction have to be before it begins to change law?
    What if the ideas about abortion, gender identity, which you say are not accepted by your “Christian” stance, but which allow individuals to make choices about their personal lives; what if your ranks grew large enough to numerically prevail?

    Would all society lose personal discretion as to how they govern their private life?

    You see, John, you say the laws you do not agree with inhibit YOUR freedom; I say they only inhibit your Personal Belief from prevailing over other persons’ choices. No law that allows personal choices for others, FORCES you to make that same (in your case) not supported choice; these laws only allow each person to make their own choice for their own self.

    So your argument that disallowing freedom for all, in order not to offend the PERSONAL beliefs systems of some ‘faction’ of society, would result in the inhibition of ALL society.

    The fear-mongering on these issues must stop; there is no “gathering storm” (as suggested in the Iowa advertising) which threatens us all.
    Laws which allow personal freedoms force NO-ONE to make a choice against their own will.

    April 22, 2009
  26. Griff Wigley said:

    David, your tree-specific lingo is clever and possibly logistically sound (I got C’s in Philosophy, so I’m not sure) but if you used it, it would surely provoke flames rather than shed light, no?

    April 22, 2009
  27. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane, this discussion is hot enough. Don’t use words like ‘ridiculous’ to characterize the arguments of others. Just make your case.

    April 22, 2009
  28. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: The fact that some choose to act inflamed by a logically sound argument with no reference to abortion is not something that is within your or my control. Hopefully, open-minded and thoughtful people will answer the questions the best that they are able, and be comfortable with their answers, or if they are not comfortable with their answers seek to discover the reason why they are uncomfortable.

    April 22, 2009
  29. john george said:

    Gabriel- Yep. It is interesting how being able to discuss any issue fosters more understanding when we are open to at least try to understand an opposing view. The choice of how we respond to those differences will either bring unity or division. I like your term comprehensive. For me, at least, it recognizes the unique way in which we are individuals.

    April 22, 2009
  30. Bright Spencer said:

    There is a major difference between an organization that wants to maintain a harsh, violently oppressive society against women even unto their very education and clothing and a religious group that wants to hold life to it’s highest respect.

    A real life example I have seen…I tried to talk a woman I knew out of going to the abortion clinic just before her appt. She was 22, healthy and supported by her family and fiance’ in every way. She did not take my advice, got the abortion and felt so guilty, she immediately took to making four more little girls, within five-six years.

    I temped in a downtown Chicago office ten years ago,
    big stock firm with big salaries and smart people. I wasn’t there ten minutes when another young woman introduced herself to me…
    “Hi, I am Jen, and I have had an abortion.” Tears began flowing from her eyes.
    What are we doing to ourselves? our daughters?

    Why can’t you afford to loose whatever stuff is in your garage to someone who is hungry for food, attention? What is worse?
    Loosing a box of tools or a person who might save your life someday? Or who might sit beside you at church and pray with you?

    Roe v Wade is telling our young people this kind of thing is alright to do. No one is reading the fine print on it, and no one is willing to listen to the lengthy explanation. That is where one of the most basic wrongs of it lie, imo.

    April 22, 2009
  31. john george said:

    Kiffi- You and I agree that laws are needed to keep society together. Where we differ is what foundation thise laws are going to be based upon. I think there are some foundations that have been constant in many cultures in the past. There are others that revolve around preferences or specific situations. This is where I would differentiate between moral bases for laws and laws that have nothing to do with any particulat moral base.

    You make two statements above, one of which I agree with, “…The fear-mongering on these issues must stop;…” I believe this is happening on both sides of the issue. This reference below is an example of that.

    Gay activists tout the Day of Silence
    as a campaign against name-calling and
    harassment, but family advocates have
    been receiving threats and hateful
    e-mails and phone calls since Friday’s

    Since I have personal experience in dealing with gay oriented people, I believe there is a place for dialogue. As I stated in 17, part of the difficulty comes in how we react to one another.

    Your other statement, “…there is no “gathering storm” (as suggested in the Iowa advertising) which threatens us all…”, I can only ask you how you know this claim is true? From my perspective of history, the decline of every dominant culture has an associated decline in the moral fabric of that culture. I respond with this observation out of Isaiah- “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” I think the embracing of abortion as an normal rather than an exceptional procedure that can be made out of concerns for convenience rather than medical concerns follows this track. I also believe that embracing homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle also follows this track. It is written that in the last days, it will be as in the days of Noah. People will be buying and selling and marrying and giving in marriage and be completely unaware of the impending storm. As I have said before, those who do not choose to learn from history are bound to repeat it. But then, I know you do not embrace any of these beliefs, so time will tell which one of us is correct. I’m willing to wait.

    April 22, 2009
  32. john george said:

    Griff- One characteristic of flames is that they do produce light. What is uncomfortable about it is who or what gets burned up.

    April 22, 2009
  33. Jane Moline said:

    Roe v Wade does not tell young women that it is right to have an abortion. Roe v Wade says that women have a right to control their own bodies and what happens to their bodies–but still limits those rights. (As opposed to men, who have a right to control their bodies that is not disputed by the state.) Roe v. Wade reserves the rights of the state over the rights of women to control their bodies based on viability. At 24 weeks the state has more rights to your body tnan you do.

    Women are subject to judicial activism because their rights are not guaranteed under the constitution of the United States.

    If women were more secure in their place in society, by having a guarantee of constitutional rights, there would be no discussion of abortion or birth control. Instead, women are insecure and unsure of their ability to control or make decisions about their own bodies and lives because there is constant pressure to codify someone else’s beliefs so that the state, a bunch of judges, or a group of elected officials may, at any time, force women to be subject to their whim.

    And Griff, I should have said that David L’s argument that a tree is the same as a fetus is specious, instead of ridiculous. False, hollow, erroneous, baseless, inaccurate, unfounded, fallacious, phony, sham, bogus, incorrect, untrue, unsound, wrong, spurious, misleading, and deceptive.

    And I bolded the ones that really apply. I had wanted to be succinct.

    April 22, 2009
  34. David Ludescher said:

    Jane: I changed my argument so as to not inflame the flammable. Terminating a tree’s life should be between a person and her forester.

    No talk of constitutional rights. On this issue, I am privately pro-life, but publically pro-choice.

    April 22, 2009
  35. Nathan E. Kuhlman said:

    David L.:

    your sophomoric detournement of President Obama’s remarks (quoted above) is mildly amusing but is B- work as pro-birther sophistry goes. You insult your readers, disingenuously claiming to be concerned only with the case of the fabled oak tree, when a casual review of your comments over time will show an improbable propensity to redirect any discussion on any topic towards your little crusade.

    When I was in elementary school, a few of us had figured out that you could display your ring finger in a simulated gesture of ‘the bird,’ getting the original point across but preserving plausible deniability when confronted by the lunch matrons. It was, after all, not the finger. Your arguments here proceed in a similar style.

    April 22, 2009
  36. David Ludescher said:

    Nathan: I wasn’t trying to start an abortion debate nor a fight. I was analogizing constitutional principles. I quoted Obama because I am reading his book, which I bought at our only remaining bookstore, Monkey See, Monkey Read. It’s a good book.

    April 22, 2009
  37. john george said:

    Kiffi- In your second paragraph above, you state:

    We have laws that allow abortion under
    stated situations, and we have laws
    that control discrimination against
    others based on gender, sexual
    identity, etc., and yet newly
    influential religious groups seek to
    change those laws to be more closely
    aligned with that ‘faction’s’
    religious beliefs.

    I know how religious groups are trying to change laws regarding abortion, but I’m not aware of these groups trying to take away any of the gender rights that have been established and supported for a number of years. To what specific agenda(s) are you refering? I am only aware of the uprising against allowing same sex couples to call their relationship “marriage”. None of these other rights to employment, housing, cohabitation, visitation rights are being threatened, at least to my knowledge. Is there a fear that if the fight for the right to call their relationship “marriage” is lost, then all these other rights will be lost, also? If so, is this fear justified, given the general direction of our society over the last decade?

    April 22, 2009
  38. john george said:

    David- It appears that those upset with the use of abortion as an analogy to challenge their line of thinking do not want their logic challenged along these lines. Guess we’ll just have to find another analogy to use to challenge their thinking. I don’t think anyone on this blog is so closed minded as to not want their thinking challenged at all.

    April 22, 2009
  39. Patrick Enders said:

    I think the problem is that – given its prominence in political and religious discourse over the last thirty years – everyone has already had plenty of time to contemplate the abortion issue, and has already pretty much made up their mind on the issue.

    I suspect that it’s not that people are uncomfortable with their positions, it’s just that they’ve heard all this over and over already.

    I suppose it is possible that someone will read David’s clever tree-fetus analogy, and suddenly realize the error of their ungodly ways. It is also possible that someone will look as the 153rd bumper sticker they’ve seen that says “Abortion stops a beating heart,” and – this time, it moves them to a profound change in their political opinion.

    However, it is extremely unlikely. Mostly, it will just be read as “more of the same.” And the conversation is then over.

    April 23, 2009
  40. john george said:

    Patrick- You are probably correct in your analysis. It is perhaps like the boy who cried wolf. I’m not sure which direction is more advisable- discussion with no agreement or no discussion at all. It would seem that apathy is more dangerous than heated discourse, at least as long as those involved in the discourse do not have immediate access to weapons and each other. But, as I advised David L., I think we need to come up with better analogies.

    April 23, 2009
  41. Patrick Enders said:

    It also might be more useful to discuss abortion/abortion rights directly, rather than trying to insert it into discussions regarding the fate of a tree, of all things, which are – at best – only very tenuously connected.

    On this page, Griff has graciously opened a topic which could be used to discuss this topic in and of itself – unaccompanied by leafy distractions.

    April 23, 2009
  42. kiffi summa said:

    John: It is pointless to continue this. You will simply not admit that you (IMO) will not allow same-sex couples to imprint their “marriage ” with a legal document that you believe should only be allowed to those who fulfill your personal, religion based, definition of “marriage”, a man and a woman.

    I believe it is not that piece of paper which is easily tossed aside, nor the sex of the two participants in the arrangement, but the quality of the commitment between the two people, which results in a “Marriage”. Capital “M” intentional.

    Since you define marriage as ONLY between a man and a woman, and I define it as a committed, or joined state of being … you would limit who may enjoy that joined/committed state of being, and I would not … there is no possibility of agreement; so let’s quit discussing it.

    April 23, 2009
  43. David Ludescher said:

    Patrick and John: I am of the opinion that the “abortion” issue is a means to sidetrack the discussion of whether or not government has the right to tell a landowner what to do with his tree.

    Let’s face it – a fetus doesn’t not have any rights until birth. I accept that as the law. I see nothing unfair or inflammatory about stating that the tree shouldn’t have any rights if a human fetus doesn’t have rights.

    Griff was gracious enough to open up another post so that we can discuss when, where, and how it is appropriate to discuss abortion. I say whenever, whereever, and however. As long as the talk is civil, should we try to suppress certain speech because we don’t like its content, or that certain individuals don’t like the conclusion?

    Gabriel is the only one who attempted an answer to the question. (Post #11) His conclusion, if I am understanding correctly, is that a landowner gives up some freedoms for the benefit of all whereas abortion merely affects the moral fabric of society. That argument doesn’t address how or why we should protect a tree against the landowner’s absolute property rights. But, it at least attempts to engage in a discussion.

    April 23, 2009
  44. Patrick Enders said:

    I missed the part where someone argued that the tree had rights. If anyone did, then they were mistaken.

    The tree issue is about public control over private property. Clearly the public does have some ability to control what is done on private land, as has been done in the past and in the present for the building of roads, the enforcement of environmental protection laws, and even in zoning.

    This tree is worth discussing simply on the level of zoning. The reason it is worth discussing now is because if the tree is cut down, then there will be no way to replace it with another one like it without waiting 100 or more years.

    It may be that the community as a whole does not think this tree is worth asserting land use rules over, and it should just be let go. (Forgive me if I am citing the wrong sections of law – I am not a lawyer.) It may be that the community decides that this tree is a tremendous asset to our city, and that public value is such that it warrants some restriction on the individual property rights of the landowner.

    However people decide that, it won’t be for the sake of the tree, or for the sake of any purported rights that the tree possesses. It will be based upon the tree’s value to the community vs. its value to the property owner.

    April 23, 2009
  45. David Ludescher said:

    Patrick: You are right to assert that the issue is about public control over private property. If the public can’t have control over an unborn human should it be able to exercise control over a tree?

    In my opinion, an unborn human has more “value” than a tree. Consequently, I don’t think the public has any constitutional or moral right to control this tree. Apparently, you disagree.

    That the government can exercise control against the landowner’s freedom to own the tree doesn’t mean that it should.

    April 23, 2009
  46. Patrick Enders said:

    David, you wrote,

    That the government can exercise control against the landowner’s freedom to own the tree doesn’t mean that it should.

    I agree 100%. I don’t know whether or not this tree is important enough to the community to warrant that taking. This is something that can be discussed intelligently and openly, and we might even come to an agreement upon this matter.

    Throwing fetuses into the mix just stifles that potentially productive discussion, because everybody has pretty much made up their minds on that issue – and a lot of people get quite worked up over it. Mixing it in just pisses people off, and leads to pointless shouting. It won’t win anyone over to your point of view on the fate of this particular tree.

    So which do you prefer: pontification or persuasion?

    April 23, 2009
  47. Jane Moline said:

    This thread is about when and how to discuss abortion–and David L, you believe it is anytime, anywhere anyhow. This thread came about because of the insertion of abortion into a discussion of private property rights over the rights of the society–whether to restrict the rights of a property owner.

    There is specific law that relates to that issue–if society thinks that the tree is very important, they can restrict the property owner. Such a restriction can be construed as a “taking”, whereby the property owner must be reimbursed by the fair market value of the “taking.” The real discussion is whether the value of the restriction is worth the public cost-which is then translated into property taxes of the public that must be used to compensate the land owner. So there is specific law and specific compensation/costs/benefits–the question is really what does the public want.

    Inserting abortion language into the tree discussion is punitive–a frustrated anti-abortion ploy to make everything about a single-item ideology. Well, everything is not about abortion, nor is it apropriate to make it about abortion. It is also indicitive of the unwillingness of antiabortionists to discuss this issue in a meaningful, thoughtful way. The antiabortionists continually site bogus statistics about “murdered pre-born babies.” These same folks actively try to disrupt a woman’s ability to obtain and use contraceptives to avoid unwanted pregnanacies.

    The abortion discussion will not be a discussion until those who care to engage are willing to follow some ground rules, which include ceasing the name calling.

    I find those that support the woman’s right to choose tend to be moderate and reasonable while anti-abortionists continually deal with absolutes–pro-choice support a woman’s right to prevent pregnanccy , terminate pregnancy or to carry their pregnancy to term and to seek support from the biological father.

    The anti-choice cannot tolerate the idea that a woman may choose not to carry a pregnancy to term–and that they have no control over her nor ability to stop her. They become “frustrated control freaks” who rabidly attempt to disrupt each and every life they encounter, with obscene pictures, false statistics, and attempts to inflame others with their frustrations. Thus, we get these bizarre comments about a tree being like a fetus.

    I think that the hardest part about the abortion questions is that it is very difficult to make absolute rules over situations that do not follow rules.

    I can think of a dozen situations where abortion would be the only logical, compassionate choice in a array of tough decisions. I can think of thousands of situations where abortion is a terrible choice. I just don’t think it is my judgement–or anyone else’s, and least of all the governments, that should be substituted for the woman whose body will be affected.

    I would love to live in a society that took children away from woman who cannot or will not take care of them and gave them to loving families where they will be loved and nurtured. I just have not found a government entity that I trust to go in and make that kind of decision. The same is true in pregnancy.

    I sincerely believe that if women felt that they had control over their lives and security in their future, they would not be as likely to seek abortion, or even consider it as an option. The more anti-abortionists seek to make more rules, the more they make women feel less secure and less comfortable that they have some say in their lives, and they push more women to choose abortion rather than face a scary, insecure future filled with judgemental control freaks telling them how to live their lives.

    April 23, 2009
  48. Bright Spencer said:

    Although I totally respect the rule of law, I don’t understand why the people around here are so willing to let the law determine everything you do or don’t do.
    When it comes to the tree in question, I think of the shade it might provide, the nests it gathers and nourishment it contains,
    I think about the leaves that rustle and blow in the wind, and dance and shiver and shake in the winter. I think about how many seasons and storms the old tree has stood through with success.
    I think about how five minutes looking at that tree will give more sustenance than five minutes looking at Target, even though I am very grateful to Target.
    I’d rather love the bur oak tree and be inconvenienced by it than cut it down and try to forget it ever existed.

    And we don’t need a law to do that, it’s something that is within us naturally.

    (And, yeah, I think five minutes of care given to a child is worth more than a closet full of Macy’s dresses and shoes, a cabinet full of cameras and a jewelry box full of diamonds and pearls and gold.)

    April 23, 2009
  49. David Ludescher said:

    Patrick: You may be right. This blog is probably not the place to have an open and honest discussion about abortion. Throwing “fetuses” into the mix probably does “piss off” some people.

    But, remember, my argument was not that the abortion law should be changed; in fact, I didn’t even mention abortion. I suggested that if we (society) are pro-choice on a human fetus, we (society) should also be pro-choice on trees. How that should piss people off is beyond me.

    So, if you think that the tree is worth more than a human fetus, I am not going to persuade you by that argument. But, if you have never thought of it that way before, and are willing to engage your intellect (without thinking that you have to change your opinion) you might discover that an unbearable inconsistency of thought.

    I would hope that we never become like Austria (Germany) where it is a CRIME to state that the Holocaust never happened. Nothing lends credibility to a statment as much as punishment for speaking it. That is the message that I am getting from all of this “complaining” about trying to compare the value of life forms.

    That I may be pro-choice or pro-life is irrelevant. We have chosen pro-choice; let’s be consistent.

    April 23, 2009
  50. Patrick Enders said:

    I am pro-choice on trees, as you describe it, under most circumstances. And nothing has yet convinced me that this tree is exceptional and needs to violate that general principle.

    However, I would actually say that the societal interest in this tree is more relevant in this case specifically because the fate of the tree matters a whole lot less to its owner than would the fate of that same owner’s hypothetical fetus.

    The value of the tree to the owner is lesser, so the threshold for taking is also lower, as it were.

    April 23, 2009
  51. john george said:

    Kiffi- I agree that this discussion is fruitless as far as any influence it might have on our relationship. My only interest is challenging the label you place upon me and any others who might think like I do. I can see the writing on the wall. There is a shift in thinking coming in this country, and it is going to have ramifications far beyond what either of us probably imagine at this time. It does not threaten or inhibit my freedom or ability to believe what I want, but I still contend that there is a threat to my freedom to express that belief.

    April 23, 2009
  52. john george said:

    Kiffi- Just one more comment I would like to address:

    You will simply not admit that you
    (IMO) will not allow same-sex couples
    to imprint their “marriage ” with a
    legal document that you believe should
    only be allowed to those who fulfill
    your personal, religion based,
    definition of “marriage”, a man and a

    I don’t remember denying this. In fact, that is my main point which I have posted a number of times. Call your same sex relationship what you like, but don’t call it “Marriage.” It seems to me that it really irks you that this heterosexual definition of “Marriage” happens to align with my religious convictions. I would point out that it aligns with the definition held by many non-religious people, as if it really mattered.

    April 23, 2009
  53. kiffi summa said:

    John: re: 18.4: You can “express” any belief you want; when you fight to inact laws that would put your personal religious belief into power over all persons’ civil rights then you have to accept that people who don’t believe as you do will fight back.
    You again allude to the “shift in thinking coming in this country” which you have done many times before. This seems to relate to your fear that what I call ‘hate speech’, and what you call religious belief, will be curtailed. This is just more ‘fear-mongering’ , like the “gathering storm” commercials in the Iowa push against their recent Supreme Court ruling.
    Both in this subject area, and in your 18.5 remarks , all I and many others on this subject who have commented, are asking of you is that you keep the influence of your religious beliefs within your sphere of influence , and not make a political case for impacting other people’s lives.

    April 24, 2009
  54. David Ludescher said:

    Patrick: I don’t think that we (society) can judge the “value” of the tree to the owner. That is one of the foundational premises of abortion. That law says that society cannot place a value on an unborn fetus. Hence, the government cannot intrude into the decision-making, because it has no interest (with limited exceptions based on health of the mother and viability).

    The question is by what “right” can you or I claim an interest in someone’s tree if we can’t claim an interest in a fetus?

    I would hope that citizens (the government) place(s) a greater value on developing human life than they do on a tree. What that means is that it should be more difficult to regulate a tree’s life than regulate a human life (albeit it not a citizen).

    Consequently, I don’t think that Griff should regulate when, where, and how we talk about laws that are on our books. But, it is not my blog.

    April 24, 2009
  55. Tracy Davis said:

    I’ll jump in to make two points:

    1) People are rarely, if ever, argued into deeply held beliefs, and are just as unlikely to be argued out of them. I find this whole thing pointless and unnecessarily divisive, but I’m glad there’s someplace to do it so it doesn’t have to derail every other conversation on LoGro.

    2) To David L.’s point in 25.6: Regardless of the will of citizens/government, it is not within the purview of the citizens of Northfield to change federal abortion law. It may be within the purview of the citizens to develop ordinances that will apply to the protection of trees. It doesn’t mean that we value trees more than fetuses.

    April 24, 2009
  56. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: I think that ordinances for the protection of trees on private property is unconstitutional. Even if I thought it were constitutional, I could not, in good conscience, support government intervention for a tree if it is not permitted for a fetus.

    I was not, and am not, trying, at this time, to convince anyone that the abortion laws should be changed. I am trying to convince you to let the landowner kill the tree. I think federal law unequivocally supports this position.

    April 24, 2009
  57. Tracy Davis said:

    David, do you believe it’s unconstitutional to regulate anything on private property? How about protecting air, water, other common environmental resources? We regulate private property in one way or another all the time. Isn’t it just a matter of degree?

    April 24, 2009
  58. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: There has to be a compelling reason for the regulation. “I really like that tree so let’s not tear it down.” is not a compelling reason. Paying the owner to keep it alive is a solution. Even in that case, payment should probably come from private individuals, rather than public coffers.

    April 24, 2009
  59. kiffi summa said:

    David: when you reduce the tree, and the saving/regulating it issue to a “I really like that tree so let’s not cut it down” you are IMO making your argument in a very condescending way; I can almost hear the whine in your voice.

    We have ( had?) a tree ordinance, we would like to encourage thoughtful development in the new Comp Plan, as the last one also did, and cities have the right to be more prescriptive if they choose. Obviously they do not have the right to violate the Constitution (although I’ll tell you, it’s not easy to initiate a petition around here…) but if the property owner’s rights are constitutionally threatened, and he/she measures that against wanting to open a KFC franchise here, and finds the tree provision onerous, then I guess they will reconsider, or just let the ‘chips’ fall where they may, as the cautious language of the tree provision has prepared us for any eventuality.

    If NF ‘regulators’ ( PC,CC) want to encourage the owner to try to save the tree, that is within their right as a municipality. It may be constitutionally fraught with problems of personal property control, but then so would height of fences, not parking your car on your lawn, all sorts of other things the city chooses to control.

    Oh, by the way… I think the owner receiving a ‘bonus’ for the tree remaining healthy for two years after the construction is a very good idea …

    April 25, 2009
  60. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: I don’t want to stray too far from the when, where, and how of bringing up controversial issues, like abortion.

    It strikes me that forums like LoGro are not conducive to honest, open, and intelligent conversations on controversial subjects. Getting “banished” by Griff for suggesting that a fetus deserves more protection than a tree has cemented this conviction.

    This difficulty appears systemic. Obama talks in Audacity of Hope about how difficult it is to make thoughtful decisions about public affairs. He credits much of his “success” to not being immersed in controversial topics.

    April 25, 2009
  61. Bright Spencer said:

    Tracy, as for changing anyone’s mind, no, I am not trying to do that. But for some who have been throttled into believing that we cannot solve world problems unless we stifle reproduction, or for those who have not yet made up their own minds, or for those
    who have not yet a voice of their own and may never unless I speak up, yes,it is for these reasons I persist in the name of Jesus Christ.

    April 25, 2009
  62. kiffi summa said:

    David: It strikes me that LG is primarily an opinion based site, and that many people in Northfield do not discuss , with the appropriate seriousness, the underlying philosophical base of many different types of issues, social, political, religious, etc. I don’t feel that most of the city council discusses issues with the base policy decision as the focus of their discussion, and certainly the NFNews has a problem with their editorial policies as well as their reporting practices, so maybe it’s a cultural fear of the hard discussion.

    I do not agree with many of Griff’s ‘banishments’, nevertheless it IS his sandbox. The reason I often disagree with the reason , you,Griff, choose to put someone in the proverbial ‘sin bin’, is that it seems very subjective,… but again it IS ypur sandbox.

    However, David, I do agree with Griff when he admonishes those who introduce the word “abortion” into every thread, regardless of the theme. I personally would not “banish” them, I would publicly, here on the site admonish them, which he has done.
    Were you actually banished? I did not notice your absence, but then I have been very busy the last 2 weeks…..

    April 25, 2009
  63. Peter Millin said:

    Kiffi I agree with you. This is Griff’s blog and he can do whatever he wants with it.

    I do agree with his move of restricting the tree discussion to the tree and leave the issue of abortion out of it.


    Where do we draw the line when it comes to infringement of proper rights by the government? How much do we let government dismiss our constitution?

    Right along that line is where most conservatives disagree with liberals.


    I would love to live in a society that
    took children away from woman who
    cannot or will not take care of them
    and gave them to loving families where
    they will be loved and nurtured.

    That’s what Lenin did and put the kids in to the “Young Pioneers” and Hitler in to the “Hitler Youth”.

    The realities of the current government run adoption system make me shudder if your dream would come trough.

    Thousands of children are being pushed from foster homes to foster homes, while thousand of wanting parents spend thousand of dollars to get kids from overseas. What’s wrong with that picture Jane?
    And you want government to do more of that? You can’t be serious.

    April 26, 2009
  64. Jane Moline said:

    Peter: You completely agree with me!

    I stated that I want to take children away from homes where they are unloved and uncared for and put them in homes where they are loved and cared for. You claim that makes me like Lenin or Hitler.

    That is NOT what Lenin did. Lenin took children from loving homes. It is not what Hitler did. Hitler abused power over youth.

    I also said that I do not trust government to handle such -so, in fact, you are in complete agreement with me.

    By the way, you should learn alot more about government adoption programs before you condemn them all across the board. There are many programs that work, and many children that have been given a much better life than they would have had in the “original” home, including foster children.

    My point is clear. It would be great if we could direct the government to always do what we want and what we believe is the best and right thing. But we cannot.

    I cannot make the government take abused children away from their abusers and give them to loving families,no matter how logical or caring that may seem to me. Why? Because we err on the side of freedom, and in social services we err on the side of keeping the family intact. When we start substituting government for personal responsibility, we end up with problems many times bigger than the one we think we are solving.

    That is what anti-abortionists want to do–substitute government rules for personal responsibility–telling women they are not allowed to make choices about their own health.

    Anti-abortionists want to force society, government and the health care industry to follow their religious beliefs. For those of you who would do so, keep your laws off my body.

    April 26, 2009
  65. Peter Millin said:


    I was in an government care program in Germany, so i know a bit more about them then you do.

    Further, my sister in law can’t have any children so she decided to adopt.
    The adoption programs in the US are full of red tape and don’t make the process simple or fair.

    After much frustration with local authorities and a law that favors biological parents, they decided to adopt a baby from Korea???

    Why would anyone want to adopt a child, if the birth parents never really lose their rights over them?? Or want to deal with a slow and unresponsive government bureaucracy???


    In June 1992, 442,000 children were in
    foster care, a 68 percent jump from

    Prospective parents have to wait at
    least two years on average to adopt.
    Some pay fees of $50,000 to more than
    $100,000 to get babies through private

    BTW I do agree that a women has the right to an abortion. Just don’t anyone pretend that the fetus is not a life.
    Call it what it is…killing.

    April 26, 2009
  66. David Ludescher said:

    Peter: Abortion was never part of the tree discussion. What I hoped would be part of the discussion is why a tree deserves more governmental (i.e. constitutional) protection than a fetus. I appear to be one of the few who think that the question was not only fair, but directly on point.

    Given Griff’s post, when, where, and how do you think that controversial subjects like abortion (and tree-killing) can be discussed?

    April 26, 2009

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