Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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Do I get credit for paying heed to it if I raise questions about problems with the study?

There's a basic error in the study design: "The researchers used national data for 2003 from countries where abortion was legal and therefore tallied."

In other words, there were no interviews of women who considered abortion but didn't have one to determine what effect (if any) existing laws had on that decision. You can't draw the conclusion that laws have no effect on abortion rates based on that data.

Secondly, the correlations the study's authors want to assert are not supported by the data.

"The data also suggested that the best way to reduce abortion rates was not to make abortion illegal but to make contraception more widely available."

"The lowest rate, 12 per 1,000, was in Western Europe, with legal abortion and widely available contraception."

A number of European nations have abortion laws more restrictive than those in the US, and we have widely available contraception -- yet abortion rates here are 2-3 times higher than in Europe. Non sequitur?

Thirdly, that last data point is inconsistent with the lead-in: "A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not."

We just found out that abortion rates aren't similar where abortion is legal. So the study's authors may have "concluded" that rates are similar, but not because of the data. You're the writer; you tell me if getting the lede right is important.

I don't want anyone dying from abortion, Amba. But this "study" is very poorly designed. I don't think any meaningful conclusions can be drawn from it.

And I'm saying that not because I'm pro-life, but because I did Masters work in statistical analysis and I really dislike being lied to with sleight-of-hand disguised as research. This article offends me as a Christian not at all, but it deeply offends me as an intelligent reader.

So while pro-life people may pay no attention to it, might it be not because they're close-minded but because this is little more than a PR piece for Planned Parenthood?


Could be, PJ.

Others will argue that if in fact they have a lower abortion rate in Western Europe, it's because they aren't up tight about sex and can actually face the fact that they're having it or intending to have it, therefore actually use birth control.

My observation based on very limited data is that young teen-agers don't feel pressured to become sexually active as young as American kids do. In Western Europe, at least, life is not so sexualized (the flip side of being up tight about it, I guess).

So maybe the study is just propaganda. Forget it, maybe I should delete this post.

Meanwhile, is anyone having trouble commenting? If so, e-mail me.


It is true that I come to anything that the Guttmacher Institute does with a high degree of suspicion. It is not just because its agenda is to promote abortion. It is also becuase it has spun so much distortion in the past. That someone lies however does not mean there is no truth. On the contrary, the concept of "lying" presupposes a truth to the matter.

It defies common sense to say that outlawing something -- whether it be abortion, alcohol, slavery, cigarettes, child abuse, drugs or rape --makes no difference. But if it were true, my response would be: then let us redouble our efforts. Let us not only enact laws prohibiting all abortion and but also allow the right to life to be encoded into our constitution, statutes, administrative codes, codes of ethics, hospital procedures, public service announcements and public school curricula and then undertake a campaign against abortion similar to the campaign that we undertook against cigarrettes but add to it public support for the care of children (although, from what I have seen, it is lack of love, not lack of money, that is usually the cause for abortion). And then let us see what happens to the abortion rate. If after all that it does not fall, I would say: continue the effort, just as we continue the effort against drugs and child abuse. But the reality is that with a sufficient commitment, we can reduce abortion.


You sound really loving, Dan.

Abortion has already been reduced, though not enough, to some extent by cultural change, to some extent by threats and intimidation of providers. Find me a statistic that says what the main factor has been so far.

This could be a success like the outlawing of alcohol was.


"This could be a success like the outlawing of alcohol was."

It's a good point, Amba. Laws in themselves don't change people's hearts. They can change (and do) behavior. I do understand the argument for not criminalizing everything I don't like, and in general I'm actually pretty libertarian and small government.

But on abortion, both science and morality compel me to recognize that the fetus is a human being, and that human life (especially when weak, defenseless, and dependent) deserves protection.

I would like to see abortion much more restricted and difficult to obtain, but I don't think total prohibition is the answer.


You simply cannot legislate morality or its aftermath, but you can help it along. Free condoms paid for by the government would greatly curb abortions, but the right wing Christians don't believe in anything but abstinence. Its a Catch 22 disaster.


Well, condoms are pretty widely available here, I'm told. Do free government ones have some special anti-abortion properties not found in the ones sold in drugstores or given out on colleges and in health clinics?

That must be the cause of the vastly lower abortion rates in Europe.


I take this to mean that I don’t care about women who are in crisis pregnancies. It is an insult. I do not like to parade the charitable work that I do, and so I will not personalize my response. But I will say that the pro-life movement has done more for women in crisis pregnancies than any other segment of society. How many pro-choice contributors to this blog have devoted, say, even a single Saturday to collecting resources to help women in crisis pregnancies? Why bother, when the Guttmacher Institute’s client will pay to kill the damn kid.


I was referring to the comment "You sound really loving, Dan."

Also, prohibition of alcohol is not comparable to prohibition of abortion. One major difference is that abortion is intrisically evil. Alcohol is not.

I agree that the law, without more, cannot change the culture. But it has a critical teaching function. The abortion culture will prevail so long as abortion remains legal.


I am someone who is very much against abortion. Yet I found myself getting angry at Dan for his extremism and apparently complete lack of concern for women. It is extremists like that who help create an equally extreme pro-abortion backlash.


I mean you sound haranguing and zealous and burning with crusading passion about abstractions. I would be horrified to have someone who sounds like that in control of my intimate life. Someone who sounded like you would not have persuaded me not to have an abortion. And I could have been persuaded.

You may or may not have love for tiny fetuses in your heart, but you sound like a prosecutor. You belong prosecuting abortionists under the new regime, not talking to women.


Dan, you may believe that alcohol is not intrinsically evil. And I would agree with you. But when the US Constitution was being amended to make it illegal, there was a lot of propaganda about "demon rum" -- which sounds to me like a characterization of intrinsic evil to me.

To take another example that is a little closer to us today, the same sorts of arguments as were made against alcohol are used to justify the War on Drugs. With the same level of success, I would note. But, because we all get to experience it first hand, we may be a little more aware.

I would also agree that the law can have a teaching function. But not that is necessarily does. If the laws against drugs have had a significant teaching impact, I haven't noticed it. Likewise, I haven't noticed that making abortion legal (even if via a court decision, rather than legislation) had the effect of teaching people that is was now acceptable. All it did was make it a lot less dangerous. The reduced physical risk may have had some impact on increasing abortion rates (did they increase? anybody got any hard data there?), but did anybody who had previously thought otherwise decide that abortion was now OK?


real: I'm against abortion, too.

What I wonder is, does Dan love all those innocent little babies or is it the abstract idea of them.


"does Dan love all those innocent little babies or is it the abstract idea of them"

I think passionate anti-abortion people like Dan are sincere, but like all fanatics they are out of touch with reality.

I can understand feeling compassion for something that looks like a tiny human baby, and I suppose I can understand getting carried away with that sympathy. But when you extend that compassion to a fertilized egg, then it stops being real or meaningful. You might as well feel compassion for a woman's hair when she gets a haircut. Ouch, those poor little split ends!

A Catholic I know once explained to me that since no one knows where life begins exactly, it's better to be safe and draw the line at conception. But I don't agree -- if you want to be absolutely sure, you have to draw the line before conception. You would have to rescue every sperm and every egg and make sure they have a chance to unite.

It's obviously ridiculous. I think the idea that life begins at conception came from scientific materialism, because they assume DNA is the essence of life. It's ironic that Catholics and scientific materialists are on the same page about this.

We will never all agree when life begins, and I think we have to compromise and be reasonable. It's ridiculous to say that taking an abortion pill is murder, and it's also ridiculous to say that an unnecessary partial birth abortion is not murder.

People like Dan just enrage and inspire the pro-abortion fanatics.

It should be easy and inexpensive for women to get birth control and very early abortions. I don't know if they already exist, but we should have pregnancy tests that sexually active women can give themselves every week or so. An abortion of a two-week-old fetus should not be considered murder.

I agree with Dan and other conservative Catholics that parents should not encourage their teenage kids to be promiscuous. There is nothing good about promiscuity. They should not say -- and I have heard mothers say this -- "Well, if she gets pregnant she can simply get an abortion."

Both extremes are very wrong.


I want to add that pro-lifers seem to think all women who get abortions are unmarried and immoral. They forget about all the married women who are unwilling to spend their lives as slaves to biology.

Dan would like women to surrender all control over their lives.

In earlier times, children were a financial asset, and many of them died in infancy. So having as many babies as possible sort of made sense. But now it's extremely expensive to raise a child, and almost 100% survive. It is utterly impractical and unreasonable to condemn contemporary women to 30 years of non-stop breeding and child-raising.

And yes, feminism is a part of it. Women can choose independence now, and many of us do. If we are married or in a long-term romantic relationship then we are having sex. But we also may be supporting ourselves financially with demanding careers. It is not possible to do that while having one baby after another!

You don't have to be an extreme feminist to sympathize with women's desire for independence. Has Dan ever thought how he would feel if he could not make any choices in life? If everything in his life depended on biological accidents?

I had an abortion at a time when there were no abortion pills or home pregnancy tests, so I didn't know until after two months. Now I think that is too late. Even then I was extremely emotional about it. That was in the 1970s when you were supposed to think abortion was no big deal. But I felt terrible. On the other hand, having a baby was the last thing I wanted at that time, or ever. But it never would have happened if I had been more knowledgeable about birth control.

And WHY are Catholics against birth control? Birth control prevents abortions, so they should be all for it. Birth control doesn't hurt anyone, unless you think an unfertilized egg is a little tiny half-human.

Ruth Anne

Realpc: Catholics are against birth control because we see the marital act as both unitive [good for uniting the couple emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc.] AND procreative [open to life]. When an act is merely one of these two, we see it as a moral offense. That is why we morally oppose the use of birth control [allows for unitive, but not procreative] AND in vitro fertilization [procreative, but not unitive]. Both purposes must be present.

And many many many abortions are the result of failed birth control that lead to conceptions. I might even argue that birth control leads to abortions.


Ruth Anne, that is ridiculous. You wrote it yourself: "failed" birth control (i.e., the condom breaks). Properly administered birth control is the PREVENTION of pregnancy, so the more birth control, the less need for abortions.

This was commented upon in the Guttmacher study.

The lowest abortion rate in the world in 2003 was for Western Europe (12 per 1,000 women aged 15–44), where contraceptive services and use are widespread and safe abortion is easily accessible and legal under broad grounds.

Safe and legal abortion saves womens' lives. Finally, no matter how staunch a Catholic you are, you do not have the right to dictate to another human being what to do with her body.


I think if Dan has volunteered and donated time to pregnant women then some of your comments are extremely judgmental.

If he believes that "tough love" or shaming that has worked in reducing smoking and child abuse, etc. will help women not abort, then he is going that route. Amba has expressed unhappiness at her decision, and regrets that she did not think it through. Sometimes the "tough love" angle is exactly what these type of girls might need -- where was Amba's partner when she aborted??? Men like Dan seem to acknowledge the loss, and be there for the women who choose to tough it out. All the nice talk and "good girl" affirmations are what led to her not considering what she was actually doing ("blog of tissue") and her later regrets.

Don't blame Dan for caring about these young girls and wanting to reach them effectively so they don't end up childless with the same regrets.

Ruth Anne

Every method of birth control has a known failure rate. Say a device is 98% effective. That means that it's 2% ineffective. Even properly used methods have a failure rate. I can name children who are in the world from failed condoms, diaphragms, IUDs, and even one little girl named Molly whose Daddy's vasectomy reversed itself 12 years after it was performed. The only birth control that's 100% effective 100% of the time is abstinance. It surprises me not a whit that Planned Parenthood does both birth control and abortions. The two go hand-in-hand.


Then there's something called "redundant birth control." Back in the day, there were people who practiced that.

Pill + sponge.
Pill + condom
Condom + sponge

Add to that a consciousness of cycle, where both possible AND recognized, and you've got pretty much foolproof, if you're actually determined to prevent pregnancy. Of course, anything's possible, but pregnancy (also abortion) really isn't all that likely if you practice redundant birth control.


Just sayin': It's not abstinence or nothin', in practical terms (I fully understand the other terms). What it is, is some kind of commitment to some sort of discipline that, in the aggregate, could reduce unwanted/crisis pregnancies--call them what you will. I understand why people in both camps won't and don't like my previous comment or this one.

Still: Disliking isn't refuting.

What goal is most important to you?


Say a device is 98% effective. That means that it's 2% ineffective.

Actually, it doesn't, the way you state it, and most likely mean it.

Statistics are a bear.

Sorry, Ruth Anne. It's not personal.


Also, for what it's worth (and I'm pretty sure it's not worth much, since I'm neither Catholic or absolutist), I have indeed donated time and money to pregnant women, in crisis, and their children (born and/or yet-to-be born), and over time, whether Saturday mornings or other days and time periods. In no way am I "pro-abortion," as the term goes. But long ago, I accepted that, for certain people, that's not good enough. So be it. As it happens, I don't answer to them.

I don't think anyone should have to answer to the type of force (and, yes, that's what it is) that Dan--as he explicitly outlined in his vision of public policy, in a non-theocracy, no less--advocates. Here, I have moved beyond the issue of abortion to something larger: I don't think the "Dan-s"of the world should be in a position in the "Caesar" part of life to exert "force", precisely because of the overly self-confident (and underly self-aware), foolish, ruthless way they themselves say they would wield the power of "force."

Thanks, Dan, for crystallizing certain realities for me, which I have been resisting.


"we see the marital act as both unitive AND procreative"

Well fine, but there is still such a thing as common sense. Marriage can be procreative within reasonable limits. Just because a woman is married does mean her one and only function is to be a non-stop breeder. If a woman wants to have kids that doesn't mean she wants an unlimited number of kids.

It's sane and reasonable to have only as many children as you want and can afford to raise well.

Women who sacrifice their careers and become entirely dependent on their husbands are in a vulnerable and insecure position. Having one baby after another makes it impossible to have any kind of career.

You might reply that women who want careers should remain single and celibate. But men never have to make that choice.

I can't believe I am sounding like a feminist, because I never thought I was one. But the idea of making abortion illegal again is just outrageous. It shows utter contempt for the right of women to control their lives.

You should focus on making irresponsible and cruel abortions illegal. If you refuse to compromise and insist that every sex act must have reproduction as its goal, then the other side will remain as hysterical and unreasonable as you.


I think the majority of people believe abortion is a not good thing. The issue to me comes down to whether the procedure should be legal or illegal . I strongly believe that no matter what position one takes, it has nothing to do with whether that person is anti-abortion or pro abortion.


Actually I meant to say those who believe abortion should be illegal doesn't make them any more pro-life, than those who believe abortion should be legal makes them pro-abortion


Agree with Spud. Nobody likes abortion (not anybody sane, that is): it's physically and morally devastating. Add to it a feeling of utter loneliness: it takes two to create a pregnancy but abortion is a single business...

Still, sometimes the choice is between bad and worse, and bringing a helpless human being into the world were there isn't a loving, secure, safe place for that being is just irresponsible. It's much better now than it used o be: there is a variety of contraception, even for emergency, there are early termination means... unless all that is withheld from young women by those who would like to see two miserable people - big and small - where there can be only one.


I think (now in defense of my sometimes opponents) the idea is that it's better to exist miserably than not to exist. Almost no existence is unrelievedly miserable. There are moments of joy and wonder simply in existing, and there's that background hum of appetite for life itself that you can feel in all your cells before you fall asleep at night. And if you exist, you have choices. Even if your mother is stressed, even, worst case, if she is unloving, you have the power to find good in existence.

So that argument doesn't wash, for me.


I should have been more precise (see bolded portions):

Of course, anything's possible, but pregnancy (also abortion) really isn't all that likely if you practice redundant birth control or abstinence.

What it is, is some kind of commitment to some sort of discipline--whether abstinence or redundant birth control (which, assuming that in every case a condom, whether coated or not with spermicide, is employed, will frequently also help address the issue of STDs)-- that, in the aggregate, could reduce unwanted/crisis pregnancies--call them what you will.


What it is, is a commitment to some sort of discipline. That ought to be what abortion-concerned people of whatever stripe can agree on across the divide, and it could be, if only other agendas--from both sides--weren't entangled and layered therein.

Again, I say, in a different way: State your most important goal. Be clear. Go onward, and preferably forward.


(Oh, and a teaching of that to our young people ... .)



If you think the most important thing is giving people a chance to exist, then it follows that you would encourage as much reproduction as possible.

I think you put too much emphasis on the physical existence of individuals. We are a species, a planet. We are more than physical.
According to your view on this, we should cram the earth full of as many miserable individuals as possible. Because each of them might feel a little joy, or relief from their misery, on occasion.

It's much more important to avoid completely trashing the earth, I think. And, as I said before, married women should be allowed to be something other than non-stop breeders, if they want.


I didn't say that, real. It's that once conceived, a person already exists. In that case, you're not doing them a favor by aborting their existence because it might be miserable. Once you already exist, in sum it's better to play it out, because you have all kinds of chances.

Note that I said "aborting their existence" rather than "murdering them." I really do hold that abortion is not murder; it's abortion. To abort means "to discontinue a process that has been begun," as to abort a shuttle launch. I really do hold that (early) abortion is a gray area, as unendurable as that is to all-or-nothing Catholics, where the circumstances of the parents still take uneasy precedence over the new life, for a short time while it is tiny and undeveloped. I think it is tragic and to be avoided, not criminal and to be prosecuted, to discontinue a barely begun life. I would like to make even early abortion a thing of the past through awareness, first, and technology, second.


Amba, I sympathize with your opinion. It's impossible to decide exactly when an individual life begins. In my opinion, the physical person is just a vehicle for the spiritual person, who already exists. But of course we can't prove that scientifically.

I agree that abortion should be restricted and avoided, maybe illegal with certain exceptions. The problem I had with Dan was mostly about birth control. No one can say birth control is murder or immoral. There is no scientific, or religious, reason to think married women must be constantly at the mercy of chance.

So where I most strongly disagree with the Catholic church is about birth control. Most Catholics in industrialized societies probably use it anyway.


That's exactly the point, isn't it? Amba think that "once conceived, a person already exists", realpc states that a "spiritual person" exists even without a physical body, and I am positive that eight or even a hundred and eight cells are not a person, not a child - it's the idea of a child, a possibility of one, a possibility that don't come to materialize more often than not, and by natural causes more often than by artificial ones.
We can argue all we want about it and everybody is entitled to think whatever they chose to think - we are all reasonable adults. The real problem for me begins when people want to force me act according to their opinions and beliefs, not my own. Doesn't seem right, really.

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