February 17th, 2011 | Uncategorized

OPINION | Olivarius: Bieber’s abortion comments are not benign

Sixteen-year-old tween-heartthrob Justin Bieber said in an interview this week with Rolling Stone, “I really don’t believe in abortion. It’s like killing a baby?” (Yes, that was said as a question). What about in cases of rape? Bieber responded, “Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason.”

Thanks, Biebs, for your stunning insight on something you obviously know nothing about and will never have to personally deal with for biological reasons.

As Roe v. Wade is whittled down to a twig, even statements from a 16-year old coming out with a 3-D movie called “Never Say Never,” are not benign. Bieber, maybe unknowingly, is adding sound bytes to a scary political conversation that could affect women across the United States – the war on Planned Parenthood.

According to statistics from the Guttacher Institute, Planned Parenthood performed 328,300 abortions in 2008. But those abortions made up only 3 percent of the patient services that Planned Parenthood offered that year. State and federal funding given to Planned Parenthood is though Title X, a U.S. government program dedicated to providing family planning services for those in need. But Congress doesn’t allow any of that money to be spent on abortions, so Planned Parenthood pays for those services itself.

And if Republican Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, who is leading the fight against Planned Parenthood, gets his way, all of the governmental funding for Planned Parenthood will dry up. And by all, I mean all.

“What is more fiscally responsible than denying any and all funding to Planned Parenthood of America?” Pence asks. Why, Pence, I will counter your question with another question: “What is more socially irresponsible?” (Also, it is VERY fiscally irresponsible to get rid of Planned Parenthood. Medicaid costs would go through the roof).

No funding means no pelvic or breast exams, no safe-sex counseling, no infertility counseling, no birth control, and no access to dozens of other services Planned Parenthood provides for 1.85 million low-income women across the country. Not to mention that it will significantly raise Medicaid costs.

With 154 co-sponsors for his bill, Pence is closer than ever to getting his legislation passed. Republicans may have the House, but thankfully the Democrats still have control of Congress, and Obama would veto any such bill.

It is easy for Pence, with no uterus, to take a strict moral position on abortion when he will never face the risk of becoming pregnant. But how many more illegal abortions, in back alleys and unsanitary rooms, would result from undermining Planned Parenthood?

Justin Bieber is obviously no expert on reproductive rights. But statistics show that a large percentage of his tween-girl audience, screaming as he sings “Baby” at Madison Square Garden, will need the services of Planned Parenthood at some point in their lives, even if they don’t know it yet.

  • 201Y1

    Not that I have any love for Bieber or the pro-life movement, but you should probably quote him in full before attacking him on a front he acknowledges himself:

    “Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”

    Just sayin’

  • Jaymin

    This column makes me so angry.

    Kathryn, you don’t have to agree with those who claim that abortion is murder, but at the very least, can you please at least TRY to understand their point of view.

    Essentially, your opening paragraphs read as follows. “Justin Beiber said abortion is killing babies. Beiber is stupid. He has no idea what he’s talking about. And most importantly, HE’S A MAN and he’ll never get it.”

    You’ve done this before in previous columns. Whenever you criticize the pro life movement, you hardly ever address their beliefs on an intellectual level, instead dismissing them as inherently false. When life begins is, like it or not, an open question. When we do and don’t allow abortions is based on arbitrary lines rooted in subjective reasonings on what constitutes life. THERE IS ROOM FOR DEBATE AND MEN CAN BE PART OF IT. There are smart and rational people who, *gasp, hold a different viewpoint than you on this debate and you’re not going to win them over to your side if you continue with this dismissive attitude in your columns.

  • thinkcontroversial

    While I agree that it would have been more appropriate to include the full quote, I think the substance of the article remains. Bieber entered an area quite contentious in the US and his views are pretty unfortunate. A woman’s right to choose hardly exists in the US even though there are laws on the books which may say it’s legal. In other words, there are so many barriers in place preventing a woman from getting an abortion, that the fact it may be legal in certain states is irrelevant. Lack of abortion providers, high cost to travel to see an abortion, state requirement for multiple consultations (ie multiple trips which is unfeasible for women traveling long distances), doctors/hospitals lying about the legality of abortion or about the availability of such services, state governments forcing doctors to read a non-evidenced based & non-scientific script to each patient wanting to have an abortion (which makes up lies about how most women regret having an abortion and about the fetus feeling pain; both not supported by any scientific merit), women being forced to watch the fetus on an ultrasound before & sometimes during the abortion…I could literally go on and on. Now the threat on funding for Planned Parenthood is just to much.

    As a person working in the medical field, abortion provision is part of the range of services which must be offered to patients. Making abortion illegal doesn’t solve anything (countries where abortion is illegal have amongst the highest rates of abortion). So then what is the solution? Pro-life activists need to realize that pro-choicers want to decrease the rates of abortion as well. If both sides worked together to better increase the socioeconomic status of women, improve education on contraception, sex & sexuality, increase support services available for women of all ages….we would do more to decrease rates of abortion than by trying to battle each other. Don’t get me wrong. It’s foolish to think we can achieve a world without abortion; which is why it must remain a legal, safe & accessible procedure. However, taking steps to tackle the factors which result in women having abortions is a much better route to go than making the procedure illegal.

  • Jaymin


    Again, before we begin complaining that women don’t have access to abortions, we need to first decide whether that access should exist in the first place. This question isn’t addressed with the dismissive “Making abortion illegal doesn’t solve anything (countries where abortion is illegal have amongst the highest rates of abortion)”.

    Are you pro-access because you think abortion is murder and making abortion legal somehow lowers abortion rates? Or are you pro access because you don’t think abortion is murder?
    ^ Those are two very different things.

  • Madas

    Kathryn , if your gender is such a burden that you must constantly remind us of it, I’ll have you know you can fix that thanks to medical science these days. At the very least think of it as a way to finally understand the male mind. Perhaps then you’ll be able to accept a man’s opinion without your sexist assumptions that men’s opinions are never valid in certain subjects.

  • ElizabethGrayHenry

    I find it ridiculous that you assume anyone with a uterus would automatically be pro-choice. I am a girl, and I am probably one of the most pro-life people at Yale. Believing in the sanctity of life is not a dumb belief nor is it a belief that women do not hold. I am sad that a student at Yale would so fact-lessly demean a legitimate viewpoint as you have done to the pro-life viewpoint in this article.

    Having said that, I agree with you that Justin Bieber most likely doesn’t know a great deal about “reproductive rights” as you like to call them, but that doesn’t mean that anyone who does know the information is without a doubt going to be pro-choice.

    I am a woman, I am well-informed, I am intelligent, and I am pro-life. I am sorry that you didn’t think a person like me could possibly exist.

  • penny_lane

    Your comments about Bieber not understanding because he doesn’t have a uterus let pro-life men off far too easily. It also falls into the classic trap of assuming only men can be sexist towards women, which is hardly the case.

  • jnewsham

    People, please. This is Justin Bieber. He’s a sixteen-year-old pop star. Has no idea what he’s talking about. I think back on an SNL interview he dropped the line, “I don’t think.” Also, Rolling Stone had the quote somewhat wrong: http://www.avclub.com/articles/rolling-stone-clarifies-that-justin-bieber-doesnt,52008/

  • je11

    I like how the only way for abortion supporters to make a somewhat coherent argument is to bash a 16 year old.

  • lalocruz

    Right on, Kathryn.

  • RexMottram08

    At least her sister avoided logical fallacies and absurd sentimentalism…

    this is sophistry…

  • nicobataglia

    to all the “pro-lifers”…and no this doesn’t include 16 year old pop music celebrities …

    An acorn is a POTENTIAL oak tree. A cow is a POTENTIAL filet mignon. A waterfall is a POTENTIAL electrical source.

    But you don’t build a house out of acorns, you don’t pour steak sauce on a cow, and you don’t plug your toaster into a waterfall.

    All of these are examples of confusing POTENTIAL with ACTUAL. A fertilized embryo is a POTENTIAL human being – it has no rights of any kind whatsoever. When it implants itself into a uterine wall, it is living off of a HOST – it’s Mother’s body. As such it has no rights – no more rights than a virus or a bacteria has a right to be living off it’s host when infecting another organism. Rights begin at birth – the minute the organism can survive and exist as an INDEPENDENT entity, and maintain it’s basic life functions (homeostasis, etc) without a host, it has rights. The term “pro-life” is a complete lie and a joke – PRO LIFE IS ANTI LIFE. THE ONLY LIFE IN QUESTION IS THE ACTUAL LIFE OF THE ACTUAL HUMAN BEING – THE MOTHER. You are guilty of the most immoral act imaginable – sacrificing the ACTUAL human being, with ACTUAL rights to the potential human being that is unborn.

  • coldy


    And an egg is a “POTENTIAL” fertilized egg.

    Your analogies are awful, but more than that, that particular line of argument is just silly. You’ll just come back to the same debate: pro-choice will say the fertilized egg is a potential human, and pro-life will say the fertilized egg is already an actual human. Sorry to burst your bubble.

  • Jaymin


    Let me try to walk you through this:
    You wouldn’t abort a baby 15 minutes before the natural birth time right? What about a day before? A week before?

    This logic can be taken back pretty far. So some draw the line at the point at which the fetus is capable of self-sufficient living. But then, would you abort a fetus 15 minutes before it reaches this stage of self-sufficiency?

    Certainly, it would be absurd to carry this logic all the way back to the sperm and egg stage, but where exactly in between do we draw the line? And that’s a very reasonable question to ask, one that I still haven’t been able to answer for myself.

    So, by saying monstrously stupid things like pro-lifers “are guilty of the most immoral act imaginable,” you do very little justice to a very big question. If you don’t want to afford the fetus any rights, can you at least admit that a fetus is something to be profoundly respected in certain human sense? The question then isn’t about rights, but rather when this fetus garners enough of our respect to warrant protection.

  • nicobataglia

    Allow me to demonstrate to you the sheer banality of your argument and how, carrying your logic further, it would be impossible to ever legislate a legal age of majority for any of our citizens.

    From a moral perspective, it is obvious that the age of majority is different for each individual(s): Some human beings reach an adult cognitive level of development far earlier then others and morally speaking, those that have reached such a level should be granted legal autonomy. However, since it is extremely difficult for a governing body to individually assess the psychological state of every person whose adulthood status is in question, government has to legislate some standard based on some model(s)/argument(s). Does that mean that every person who reaches age 18 is necessarily fully developed mentally? Of course not. But the standard is a useful one, it is not arbitrary (a statistical study could certainly be conducted to show that from a given sample of individual(s), the vast majority have reached some level of some objective standard of “Adulthood” by age 18) and it is the critical legal demarcation point drawn up by governments. Notice that this is a legal issue – not a moral one. From a moral perspective, a fetus residing within its mother’s womb is still living dependant on its host’s life, and as such has the biological status of a commensalist or possibly even parasitic agent (Depending on the context). Now if we were to apply your reasoning in the realm of the age of majority you could say “at what point do we decide…?”. Perhaps we just shouldn’t allow anyone to decide. Perhaps no one should ever be given any autonomy at any age, whatsoever – or perhaps a panel of psychological experts is needed to evaluate every person on a case by case basis. This is absurd.

    The only answer – the only one that makes any consistent sense, is to acknowledge that so long as the fetus resides within the host – the ACTUAL person in question, that has known, ACTUAL rights – is the one that must be given a primary consideration. As for the fetus, it is a parasite/commensalist and as such has no rights until it has developed to a point at which it is able to function independently of its host. Since this point differs from case to case, and is hard to ascertain – we simply need to draw a line in the sand based on a common sense argument similar to the type reached in evaluating the age of majority and assert that while morally it isn’t wrong until after this point is reached, LEGALLY it will be considered murder beyond x months. We can determine such a limit based on the evidence of what we know about the survival rates in vitro of fetuses beyond a certain level of development (ie, 2nd trimester, incubators, etc) and then use that as the standard for setting the law.

  • Jaymin

    Well, fortunately, it seems we agree on a basic premise.

    Basically, as you point out, lines are arbitrary but need to be drawn for legal reasons.

    You think this line should be drawn at the point at which the fetus is able to live independently and you offer compelling reasons.

    Others would draw the line earlier and wouldn’t tie rights to independent living and they offer their own justifications.

    History suggests your side will ultimately win out, but my point is that your line isn’t that much more morally wise or that much less arbitrary than lines that others would draw. I’m trying to get you to understand that pro-lifers also have a rational basis for their beliefs and aren’t loons.

  • coldy

    Agreed with Jaymin.

    And I’m also agreed with your point, nicobataglia, that birth seems to be a good place to draw that line. It’s a definite moment in time, and specific, rather than something blurry like a 3rd trimester rule.

    However, please understand that this is the same type of logic that pro-lifers use. Conception is also a definite, specific moment in time. An event the same way that birth is. And so if we are resting on these legal assumptions, which I think makes sense, you can see why so many people would choose conception rather than birth. I too am VERY uncomfortable with the idea of aborting a baby a day before birth, and I’ve spoken to very few who feel differently. It’s hard for me to swallow the idea that such an advanced fetus has no rights.

  • Madas


    Love your argument. It’s so beautifully utilitarian.

    You know what else has potential to contribute to society, but doesn’t at the moment? The poor, the infirm, and other parasites on the poor lamb that is society. Until they become actually capable of being productive people, I say it’s OK to get rid of them. Pass the soilent green, please.

  • roganjosh


    Why birth? A newborn contributes no more than a fetus. Maybe newborns are worse because they demand so much extra care and for no more potential than from five minutes before labor began. All that diaper changing imposes a heavy burden on parents and landfills at the least. So probably we should set the line much later in life. Maybe after people graduate and become self-supporting. Actually no, set it later still after they have contributed enough to make up for all that they actually consumed and prevented others from consuming while raising their potential. Of all the Yale grads with the potential to significantly improve the human condition, how many actualize in anything near that manner? You’re right that we should be distinguish the potential from the actual, especially in cases where the actualization is so incredibly rare. Before that point, everyone should be subject to abortion. You lead; I’ll follow.

  • inkworks

    Abortion IS killing a baby. If you don’t want to have a baby then don’t have sex. Simple. Abortion should not be used as a form of birth control. I believe in condoms, I believe in birth control pills. I do NOT believe in killing a baby because you didn’t plan on becoming pregnant. I really do believe it is as bad as murder.

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