On the Morality of: Abortion

Although abortion is stereotyped as the most controversial and divisive social issue there is, I think the moral issues at stake are actually fairly unambiguous. This installment of “On the Morality Of” will explain why.

Pared down to its essence, the moral question posed by abortion is a simple one: is an unborn fetus a human being, with all the moral rights and protections that pertain thereunto; or is it a non-human, an assemblage of cells, the existence of which may be terminated without wrongdoing?

The answer to this question, of course, depends critically on how you define a human being. Is a fetus a human being if it has a face, or arms and legs, or a beating heart? None of these criteria seem to me to be definitive. Being a human is far more than a matter of superficial physical appearance – we do not grant humanity to department-store mannequins, after all. Nor is humanity the mere arrangement of internal organs. If a person’s heart or lungs are failing and they need to be kept alive by machinery, does that deprive them of their moral personhood? Obviously not.

What if we were to define a human being as a living organism which possesses a certain, characteristic set of genes? This definition seems somewhat closer, but again, I think it misses the mark. If humanity consists of being a living organism which possesses human DNA, then we would also have to grant personhood rights to HeLa cell colonies, or to fetuses with anencephaly (warning: disturbing image). More to the point, if a living thing with human DNA is human, then every single one of our cells should be considered to be a human in its own right, and the millions of them that are naturally sloughed off our bodies each day would constitute a holocaust of unthinkable proportions. Obviously, this is absurd.

I submit that there is one and only one defining characteristic of a person, one thing which sets us apart and gives us our unique moral worth. That thing is consciousness – the facility for self-aware thought. That is what most clearly differentiates us from all other species on this planet, and it is also what gives us the uniqueness and individuality that is rightly viewed as a key component of moral worth.

Taking consciousness to be the defining characteristic of humanity gives us a clear dividing line to use in deciding whether abortion is immoral. Ending the existence of something which does not possess the ability for conscious thought – whatever else it may be – is not the destruction of a human being. Ending the existence of something which does possess that ability is the destruction of a person. This is a solid, rational standard. It’s a good sign that this position also neatly mirrors the common position on end-of-life care and euthanasia: once a human being has suffered brain death, or any other injury that results in the irreversible cessation of consciousness, they no longer possess moral personhood and we are under no obligation to ensure their physical continuance.

So, when does consciousness begin? This is a question which has an empirical answer. As Carl Sagan wrote on the topic:

Different kinds of mental activity show different kinds of brain waves. But brain waves with regular patterns typical of adult human brains do not appear in the fetus until about the 30th week of pregnancy—near the beginning of the third trimester. Fetuses younger than this—however alive and active they may be—lack the necessary brain architecture. They cannot yet think.

This boundary line – which is the same boundary line the U.S. Supreme Court drew in Roe v. Wade, although for different reasons – is a feasible and defensible standard. It safeguards the autonomy of the woman, and her moral right to exercise control over her own body and not be forcibly subjected to the risks and burdens of pregnancy, without compromising the important principle that every human life should be protected. If a woman wishes to obtain an abortion, it seems to me that half a year is more than adequate time for her to become aware of her pregnancy, make the decision to abort, and obtain access to medical services.

As Sagan points out, six months is actually a conservative boundary, since regular brain waves are often absent in fetuses. Also, it’s conceivable that a fetus could possess them and still lack the ability for conscious thought. Nevertheless, it’s still a good standard and not one we should seek to push. When we know, based on our physiological understanding of how the brain functions, that consciousness cannot exist, then no person is present and we are under no corresponding ethical obligation. However, if there’s a rational possibility that consciousness may exist, then we should err on the side of caution and defend that life, just as it would be immoral to shoot into a closed box without knowing if there’s a person inside. Of course, if continued pregnancy would pose a threat to the life or health of the mother, then terminating the pregnancy is an unambiguous matter of self-defense.

Until the capability for conscious thought exists, a fetus cannot have the same moral status as a person. Doubtless, the fetus is a potential person. But potentiality is not the same as actuality, and a person who only potentially exists cannot claim moral rights which match or supercede the rights of an actual, living, conscious person. (The language is imprecise here; in truth, a person who only potentially exists does not exist, and a non-existent person cannot claim anything. There is no one to make the claim.) Therefore, no harm is done when a woman aborts a pregnancy before this point. There is no person for harm to be done to.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • uhclem

    This is a very difficult issue and your criterion seems to be equivalent
    to the time necessary for a fetus to have a nonzero chance of survival outside the
    womb. I visit a friend in a nursing home and quite frequently see some of the
    residents there who clearly are vegetables. One in particular has been in that
    state for over 20 years. A strong case can be made that such an individual is
    not self aware. Having this idea in mind, a re-reading of the following sentence
    makes for an interesting conundrum:

    “Ending the existence of something which does not possess the ability for conscious thought – whatever else it may be – is not the destruction of a human being.”

    Myself, I would draw the line much earlier. Once a brain stem and the beginnings
    of a brain begin to form, it seems to me that personhood has been attained. This
    is easy to determine with high-resolution mri for example.

    GD

  • http://lostaddress.org Ray

    Philip K Dick addressed this in one of his shorter stories. He wrote about a future society where people were aborted if they were unable to understand calculus.

    The problem for both sides is that the distinction is usually a very arbitrary line. Do we take independent life as “life”, or thinking life or concious/self aware life as ‘life’? Successive governments have weighed in on this, usually in a knee-jerk reaction. I think the UK approach is the fairest – but then I’m pro-choice ;)

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    This is precisely why I find the term ‘pro-choice’ to be so infuriating, because it completely misses the point. If I believed that a human life began at conception (ignoring the vagaries of what that would actually entail) then it follows that I would also believe that abortion was wrong. I would still sympathise with women bearing unwanted children, but I wouldn’t support their ‘choice’ to murder another life. But, as you show, human life clearly does not begin at conception in any meaningful sense.

    I do get slightly confused when anti-abortion activists then switch into talking about protecting the ‘potential’ for human life, which seems to concede that it isn’t actually a human life in the early stages at all, but just would be if it was left to continue without interference. And then it’s another just example of making a grand and sweeping claim about society (“I can tell the future!”) and then only applying it to one specific realm (“…on cable television”). If we’re now going to legislate on the basis of potential, then shouldn’t we also prosecute car drivers who drive on roads with pedestrian crossings, because if they hadn’t taken the interfering action of braking there was the potential for a messy collision up ahead?

    (Luckily, the abortion debate has historically been fairly quiet over here, and there’s a tradition of not making it a party political issue, hence every vote on abortion in Parliament is a free one.)

  • http://goddesscassandra.blogspot.com Antigone

    As a feminist (and you, know, a women, who’s body this debate is being talked on), I see a slightly different take. First and foremost, while I think the six month mark is a pretty good mark, (from a legal, if not moral sense), I still want the ability to get one if there is a complication in the last trimester (it happens). It seems like people seem to argue about whether or not a fetus is a human being, while completely ignoring the fact that I am human, and part of being human is the ability to control my own body to the best of my ability and the technology that exists. Pregnancy is a unique example, because there really is no analogous experience to explain it to guys.

  • Grimalkin

    Having spent some time around newborns, I don’t like the definition of human as something with consciousness. Newborns are pretty much entirely driven by instinct. They don’t ponder the mysteries of life, they don’t even think about how stuff works or what things are made of or anything like that. They pretty much just eat, sleep, and poop and that’s the extent of it. So for me, I have trouble defining a human as something with conscious thought without saying “OK, so we can kill newborns too.”

    Personally, I don’t care where we place the human/non-human boundary. In fact, as far as I am concerned, fetii ARE human. I know that when my cousin was pregnant, it was a person she carried – a person we all cared for and loved and considered a real baby. That’s an emotional attachment and, honestly, no amount of scientific reasoning will break it.

    And yet, I am radically pro-choice. Why? Because I don’t believe that any person ought to be able to use another person’s body without their permission. No man should be allowed to rape me, no doctor should be allowed to take one of my kidneys (even if it will save a life! Even if I am the only possible match for someone!), hair dressers don’t even have the right to take my hair clippings to make wigs for cancer patients without my permission. My body is mine and mine only and only I can determine what happens to it, regardless of the circumstances. Even if losing one kidney when I have another perfectly healthy one won’t affect me much and will mean the difference between life and death for someone else, it’s still mine.

    That’s what pregnancy is like to me – being asked to give a kidney for someone. Pregnancies are very uncomfortable (like surgery) and there CAN be complications that can cause disability or even death (just like surgery). Not to mention that even the most easy pregnancy with no complications will still irrevocably change your body forever – just like losing a kidney. So if I don’t want to give of myself for another person, that’s my choice. I may be called selfish for making that choice and, maybe under some circumstances that’s true – but it doesn’t matter. It’s still my choice to make and I can say ‘no’ for any reason and I certainly don’t need to justify it to anyone.

    If we had a way to simply remove the fetus without any extra discomfort or damage to the woman in a way that would allow it to live and grow, I’d support that as an alternative to abortion. Again, it’s because I think of a fetus as a person and for someone to kill it when there’s a perfectly viable alternative strikes me a revenge thing. But until that happens, abortion ought to be completely legal. If we have any respect for humanity at all, we need to respect people’s rights to their own body at the very least.

  • Jesse

    I became an atheist/freethinker about a month ago, and since I’ve been a pro-life evangelical christian my whole life, I’ve had a hard time understanding the morality of abortion. When I became an atheist, I began to find the idea of abortion even less palatable than I did when I was a christian. After all, as a christian, I “knew” that the fetus would ascend to heaven after the abortion. There are, of course, no such guarantees as an atheist. Most atheist arguments for abortion are terrible. They simply talk about how potential people have no rights. All that really means is that they’re completely helpless and can be killed or circumcised (just after birth, they’re just as helpless) without being able to claim a right to life or liberty.

    This article clearly defines a defense of abortion that will not lead philosophically to infanticide. I agree completely that consciousness is the best indicator of personhood.

  • Adrian

    I agree with what you write here, but I think we need to consider more than just the mental state of the foetus. There’s also the question of general human health and what the consequences are of outlawing abortions. In countries & states which have restricted abortions, women still get abortions so far from achieving the ostensible goal of saving lives, it doesn’t reduce the number of abortions and instead increases the number of injuries and deaths as a result of botched abortions.

    If people genuinely want to reduce abortions and genuinely care about human life (as opposed to using this as a cover for misogynism or theocracy), then they need to provide a better response than outlawing abortions.

  • Joel

    I find the brainwave criterion a bit tricky because of the potentiality issue that Dominic Self mentioned above. Say, for example, that someone is in a coma and their brainwaves indicate that they are unconscious. Does this mean they’re no longer alive and can be casually killed? Somehow I doubt you’re nodding right now, because we’d first want to hear an expert opinion on their chances of recovery. Just because someone isn’t conscious now doesn’t mean they aren’t extremely likely to become conscious in the future. But if you switch to a “potential for consciousness” criterion, you get a nasty problem of determining what the threshold is (51% chance of becoming conscious? 33%? 96.8%?) and then determining when that threshold is crossed.

    That said, I do not support making abortion illegal. My feelings, however, would rankle most humanists: I just don’t value human life qua human life. Instead, I think the value people have comes from who they are as individuals. I value my girlfriend, my parents, my sister, my friends, and even people like you, who I haven’t met, for what they mean to me and what they have contributed to the world (emotional + practical value). Since a fetus has obviously contributed nothing to the world yet, if the mother does not value it then I see no reason to stop her getting rid of it.

  • http://www.chickengirl.net/ Chicken Girl

    I believe the right to abortion should be understood as the right to not be pregnant, as opposed to “the right to murder a potential baybee!” as it tends to be hysterically understood by pro-lifers. I believe abortion services should be readily available and not regulated until the point of viability, and that a healthy, viable fetus should be protected from abortion. As Antigone points out, some third trimester fetuses are not healthy, or even viable. In these cases an abortion may be necessary to protect the mother’s health or life. If a fetus has reached viability and is not threatening the mother, it should be carried to term. If it’s viable but the mother’s health is being threatened to the point where she needs to exercise her right to not be pregnant, an attempt should be made to deliver the fetus rather than aborting, if that’s reasonably possible. I also believe that the determination of whether the fetus is viable or whether an attempt at delivery is feasible should be made by a doctor directly involved with the case, never a politician.

    I also believe that any woman in her right mind who wants to abort will attempt to do so as soon as she knows that she is pregnant and has made that decision, and therefore essentially all third-trimester pregnancies where abortion has come into question are wanted pregnancies that have gone wrong. Nobody just walks into a clinic eight months along and says, “Oh, I decided I don’t want to have this baby anymore.” Therefore, I think the only real point of discussions like the above about what to do with healthy, viable, third trimester fetuses whose mothers want to abort them is to placate the squeamish. :p

  • http://www.yunshui.wordpress.ocom yunshui

    Antigone makes a good point, but I rather think that the experience of the mother (whilst of course being an incredibly important factor in practice!) has little or no bearing on the original (theoretical)argument, which concerns itself only with the human/non-human status of the foetus. A mother would be well within her rights to consider termination in the third trimester in a number of circumstances, but the ethical considerations would then concern whether it was correct to kill a human being, rather than an embryo.

    I find Ebon’s argument to be refreshingly rational and highly convincing – but rationality is rarely high on the list of qualities displayed in the abortion debate, so I suspect the conflagration will continue to rage.

  • Ingersoll’s Revenge

    I’m of the opinion that the “all life begins at conception” thing is part of a straw man argument intended to shroud the pro-lifer’s real belief: that all life is sacred because humans were created in God’s image.

    This is precisely what many try to sidestep in asserting their claim, as such a religious argument won’t fly in a secular court. Try getting a pro-lifer to admit that, though; it’s like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

  • Grimalkin

    Chicken Girl – You are assuming that she has a) realized that she is pregnant, and b) had access to abortion services.

    The number of women who simply do not realize that they are pregnant until labour pains set in isn’t high, but it exists. Denial plays a part, but there may also be other things going on in her life that allow her to justify what’s happening. For example, she may think that she is getting fat, that she isn’t getting her period because of stress (assuming that she isn’t – it is possible to continue bleeding regularly for at least the first few months of a pregnancy), and so forth.

    As for access, she may be underage, she may not know where to go, there may not be a clinic in her area, she may not have the support of her parents who may go through extraordinary means to delay her until she can’t legally get an abortion anymore, or she may have been tricked by a pro-life clinic in disguise (these will frequently offer abortion but then delay the procedure until the point of viability has been reached). Or her circumstances may have changed. For example, she might be dependent on the father helping out and believed that he would, but he dumps her 6-7 months along (and if she already has children, that complicates matters even more).

    The point is, we can’t just assume that everyone in situation X got there the same way and for the same reason. Everyone has something special and unique going on in their lives and the fact is that we cannot simply pass a blanket law that assumes that everyone is the same.

    Ingersoll’s Revenge – I’m not sure I agree with you. If you’ve encountered enough pro-lifers, they tend to either have not thought about it much and accept pro-life as the default, or they tend to be rather misogynistic. The idea that “sluts shouldn’t be going around having unprotected pre-marital sex anyway” comes up again and again, even from the most rational opponents of abortion. The idea that pregnancy is an adequate punishment for immoral behaviour is firmly rooted in the pro-life argument. It gets covered up with expressions of concern for the “unborn babies,” but even that is a very hollow sentiment given how few pro-lifers tend to support measures that would provide health-care for lower income pregnant women – something that is an absolute necessity for the wellbeing of the “unborn babies.”

  • Thumpalumpacus

    As Playboy (pardon the introduction of such a base source) once opined: If abortion is murder, then masturbation is mass murder.

  • Entomologista

    By outlawing abortion you give a fetus MORE rights than regular human beings. For example, I don’t have the right to take your kidney, your blood, or use any part of your body without your express consent. Even if it would save my life. So I’m not really sure why fetuses should get the right to use my own personal uterus without my consent. I’m not property, I’m not for anybody’s use.

    Antigone makes a good point about 3rd trimester abortions. The floozy who waltzes in to the clinic at 8.5 months to get an abortion on a whim is a myth. Believe it or not, women are rational human beings who know what they want, and unless prevented by ridiculous anti-choice waiting periods, will get their abortion in a timely manner. 3rd trimester abortions typically happen when something has gone horribly wrong. So to outlaw those abortions would only mean endangering women.

  • http://www.bellatorus.com Petrucio

    I don’t think that it’s all that clear at all that humans are the only species with self-awareness.

    You use that constantly to make you points as if it were fact, yet I never saw you defend that point itself and why.

    I agree that self-awareness by itself should grant you some rights. I just do not agree that those rights must then be exclusively human, if all you are basing it on is self-awareness.

  • Adam

    Ebon and anyone else,

    As Sagan points out, six months is actually a conservative boundary, since regular brain waves are often absent in fetuses. Also, it’s conceivable that a fetus could possess them and still lack the ability for conscious thought. Nevertheless, it’s still a good standard and not one we should seek to push. When we know, based on our physiological understanding of how the brain functions, that consciousness cannot exist, then no person is present and we are under no corresponding ethical obligation. However, if there’s a rational possibility that consciousness may exist, then we should err on the side of caution and defend that life, just as it would be immoral to shoot into a closed box without knowing if there’s a person inside. Of course, if continued pregnancy would pose a threat to the life or health of the mother, then terminating the pregnancy is an unambiguous matter of self-defense.

    What about the children that are killed after the 30 weeks? If you hold this view of consciousness as the boundary for being human, I have to assume that you would consider those children killed after the 30 weeks as being murdered in the womb?

    And what about the Thirty weeks: does personhood begin at midnight of the 30th week, or 1 am or 2 am?? Or do we become human the second brain activity is recorded? How can we possible know this for every child being born? Should you not pushing for fetuses to be constantly checked for brain waves…at midnight on the 30th week…or every minute starting the 28th week…or whenever you feel we should start checking for these brain waves? I see a lot of grey area here.

    We need to protect our unborn children, and if you think that we are only human when we have brain waves, then why not make an effort to protect those children for being killed, because it is happening, at least 9,643 times in 1999, after 21 weeks: see statistics from the CDC link

    Scroll down to see the charts.

  • Chris Granade

    Ray: Maybe that PKD story has a point, but I found it to be the most shrill thing I have read in a long time. It was based on such a mischaracterization of the pro-choice position, but he didn’t let it stop him from attacking that strawman anyway. That story was what caused me to lose a lot of respect for PKD.

  • http://mcv.planc.ee mcv

    I submit that there is one and only one defining characteristic of a person, one thing which sets us apart and gives us our unique moral worth. That thing is consciousness – the facility for self-aware thought /…/ Ending the existence of something which does not possess the ability for conscious thought – whatever else it may be – is not the destruction of a human being.

    Although it seems to be implicit in your thoughts that you do not consider people who are asleep, are knocked unconscious or are in a coma they are very likely to recover from to be non-persons. Then it’s not explicit enough, so you should keep that in mind. That’s ofcource if that’s there and I’m not reading it into your text.

    The second thing is that you seem to be using “person” and “human being” as synonyms, which is either sloppy or foolish. At least in philosophical literature “human being” refers to a creature from the biological speciec homo sapiens and “person” refers to something else, for example any creature who is capable of rational deliberation or smth.

  • http://mcv.planc.ee mcv

    I’m sorry there should be a tag, at the end of the first paragraph.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    My problem with biological criteria for giving human rights to something growing in a woman’s womb is just as Ingersoll stated, the whole argument is nothing more than a strawman. The real issue for anti-abortionists is a question of when God himself decides to upgrade the fetus with its very own soul. This argument will never be settled by any scientific standard.

    My second problem with having a 6 month limit is twofold. One, as Antigone and Entomologista stated, there are still legitimate reasons to get a late term abortion.

    Two, it’s naive to think that the decision to keep a baby is made by the woman alone – there are incredible anti-abortion pressures from family, partners, and communities. Some of these people, including doctors, will do everything in their power to manipulate women to think that an abortion is a dangerous and immoral decision, and setting arbitrary limits just helps their cause.

    It also furthers the perception that this really is something controversial and immoral and that’s why there are limits. The effect of these limits are clear – it sends a message to women that a bunch of fuzzy issues surrounding the rights of fetuses should take precedent over the clear-cut, easy to define rights of a woman to her own body.

    I don’t care even if this fetus in the womb is passing Calculus exams and miraculously shoving gold cuff-links out the woman’s vagina. It’s her body! As a human being, with a soul, with a conscience, it still doesn’t supersede the rights of another human being to their own body. I’m sorry but if Parris Hilton decides to get an abortion on the 11th hour of the 293rd day of her pregnancy, tough luck, but hand the baby a Darwin award and send it on its way out.

  • Cass

    I can’t understand how abortion could rationally be considered “murder,” even if we assumed that life started at conception. Pregnancy is not mystical, it’s life support. During pregnancy, the fetus uses every organ in a woman’s body (except, of course, her appendix) to keep itself alive in the hopes that it will eventually be able to support itself. In order for abortion to be murder, we’d have to assume that a fetus has a basic right to expect to use someone else’s organs without their consent. In every other situation, this would be an absurd conclusion. For instance, once that fetus is 40 years old and has chronic renal failure, should he be able to use his father’s kidneys for dialysis without his father’s consent? I think that everyone would agree that, even if the few months on dialysis would give him enough time to find a donor, we wouldn’t let the government force his father into it. We might say he should, we might say that God will hate him if he doesn’t, but his father’s right to control his own organs far outweighs his son’s right to use someone else’s organs to keep himself alive, even though he will die because of his father’s choice. No person has the right to use someone’s organs without their consent, and to give a fetus more rights than an adult person is indefensible. Unless God says so, of course.

  • watercat

    Ebon’s morality is like that of any religion in that it applies its key tenet, “Always minimize both actual and potential suffering; always maximize both actual and potential happiness…”, to members of its own ingroup. Problems only arise with treatment of outgroups, who are typically denied any rights and deemed heretics, infidels, or other euphemisms for non-human, as Native Americans prior to 1537, and variously blacks, Jews, and Arabs even today. The common element is to isolate a specific trait that automatically entitles the bearer to moral rights and protections while those without this trait are non-human, an assemblage of cells, the existence of which may be terminated without wrongdoing. This trait has been variously light skin, baptism, Jewishness, and so on, and for Ebon it is consciousness, the facility for self-aware thought, that defines the ingroup.

    While it is true generally that we possess a sophisticated sense of empathy…realized through physical adaptations such as mirror neurons… and highly developed rational thought, exceptions at both the Alzheimer’s and embryo ends of the lifespan, and cases of retardation, comas, and sociopaths discussed on this blog make clear that this metric is no more useful than skin color or ‘civilization’ in differentiating us from other ‘species’ on this planet and bestowing on us moral worth. Other species as well have mirror neurons, self-awareness and a certain amount of empathy and altruistic behavior, to a degree that in some cases can exceed that in the marginal human cases, and…if there’s a rational possibility that consciousness may exist, then we should err on the side of caution and defend that life. Workable legal standards aside, consciousness, and maybe humanity, is a matter of degree and no possible objective test exists for where or when it is present. Insisting on this specious eligibility test reduces this moral system to just one more cult claiming privileged status for their own arbitrarily-defined ingroup, however, there seems to be no barrier to
    removing it and applying the key tenant above to members of the outgroup as well. One could then consistently say the virtue of compassion entails the earnest desire for the well-being of one’s fellow living things.

  • David

    I see where you are going, and agree with the general gist of it, but I’m not sure that consciousness is enough. What of a 26 week fetus born prematurely? Most jurisdictions, even those with no restrictions on abortion, would treat that baby as identical to a full term infant. I’m not sure that a strong moral distinction can be made from scientific grounds, but once it’s been “born”, it’s probably a baby nonetheless.

    Secondly, consciousness probably needs to be pared with “possessing human DNA”, as I have no doubt that my cats possess greater consciousness than a newborn baby. In the longer term, we need a more generalized approach we may end up creating non-human conciousnesses and will need to decide if they are people (in the legal sense) or not.

  • Quath

    I pretty much agree with ths article. I think that instead of a dividing line between pre-human and human, that we should look at the process of becoming human in shades of grey. So a fetus could gain more and more human rights as its ages and becomes more human. This could be part of the basis of laws to forbid pregnant women from smoking or drinking lots of alcohol if they plan to carry a baby to term since the activities can occur before the second trimester.

  • http://wilybadger.wordpress.com Chris Swanson

    I think this is one of the best arguements I’ve ever read on this issue! Thank you!

  • Entomologista

    I don’t care even if this fetus in the womb is passing Calculus exams and miraculously shoving gold cuff-links out the woman’s vagina. It’s her body! As a human being, with a soul, with a conscience, it still doesn’t supersede the rights of another human being to their own body. I’m sorry but if Parris Hilton decides to get an abortion on the 11th hour of the 293rd day of her pregnancy, tough luck, but hand the baby a Darwin award and send it on its way out.

    Exactly right.

  • Erika

    I am not at all convinced by your argument on the morality of abortion, but I totally agree with you all the same.

    How’s that work? Well, I disagree with your basic premise that the moral question is “is an unborn fetus a human being…?”. I think it is perfectly rational for a person to hold the moral question to be “does an unborn fetus have the potential to achieve human consciousness?”. That is, I was not convinced by your dismissal of potential consciousness on the general moral question of whether or not abortion is wrong.

    That said, I think it that your discussion is the perfect answer to what I see as the question that should decide the legal status of abortion: “when should we consider an unborn fetus independent of the woman carrying it?”. Until that point is reached, the institution of the government has an obligation to protect the life, liberty, and happiness of the woman and not the fetus. Until that point is reached, deciding whether or not an abortion should be allowed is question of personal morals (and medical judgment. Medical need for an abortion should always be allowed.).

    Thus, your fine argument that consciousness is the borderline for personhood is highly relevant just not, in my opinion, in the way you think. =)

  • Erika

    I don’t care even if this fetus in the womb is passing Calculus exams and miraculously shoving gold cuff-links out the woman’s vagina. It’s her body! As a human being, with a soul, with a conscience, it still doesn’t supersede the rights of another human being to their own body.

    I agree that a woman has the right to control her own body, but that does not necessarily imply that every decision a woman has a right to make is morally correct.

  • Polly

    While I’m not won over by it on the abortion issue, basing our respect for an entity on its ability to experience life as a self-aware moral agent, is one of the best arguments for the right to abort before brain wave activity shows up. This stance also has the added advantage of being inclusive of non-human intelligence.

    Of course, there are those who believe none of us are truly “conscious” in the common understanding of the word and the “self” itself is just an illusion(That’s not my position).
    All of us are non-conscious lumps of meat during certain cycles of sleep each night. Which then opens the question: is it alright to kill a non-conscious being before it wakes up? If not, then why not?

  • Erika

    All of us are non-conscious lumps of meat during certain cycles of sleep each night. Which then opens the question: is it alright to kill a non-conscious being before it wakes up? If not, then why not?

    Polly, you may be interested in my comment (two above the one I’m responding to). I think it provides a clear framework for answering your puzzle.

  • Purple

    I only have one question, and I hope someone can clear this one up for me.

    Babies can be born without a “self-awareness” (for example, hydranencephaly is a rare condition in which a baby is born without the cerebral hemispheres). Does this make them not human?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Some of these people, including doctors, will do everything in their power to manipulate women to think that an abortion is a dangerous and immoral decision, and setting arbitrary limits just helps their cause.

    For instance, the doctors that won’t prescribe birth control because they think it is immoral…

    Also, a cursory look through the phone book will find all kinds of prenancy or abortion crisis centers where the ads claim that you can get help for your pregnancy or counseling…and in the fine print you’ll notice they don’t have any doctors on staff. These are fronts for religious orgs that try to shame young women into forgoing abortions. It’s sickening. (And, yes, I consider myself to be a feminist as well even though the “M” in “OMGF” stands for “Man”.)

  • Erika

    Babies can be born without a “self-awareness” (for example, hydranencephaly is a rare condition in which a baby is born without the cerebral hemispheres). Does this make them not human?

    Purple, mcv’s post referring to the philosophical difference between being a human and being a person may help clarify and answer this question for you.

  • Doug

    Life is precious.

    There is no afterlife.

    Life uninterrupted will become mature.

    I worship life.

  • Christopher

    Doug,

    “Life is precious.”

    Who’s life? In the event that some one you cared about was going to die unless she aborted the life in her womb, which life would you value more? And why would you vale that life over the other?

    In other words, by what standard do you say life is “precious?”

    “There is no afterlife.”

    I couldn’t agree more with you on that point…

    “Life uninterrupted will become mature.”

    What do you mean by “interrupted?” Do you imply that it’s killed by human hands? Or are you refering to death of any sort (natural causes)?

    “I worship life.”

    Not exactly the most everlasting of deities – as all life will eventually be thrown into that great void of death and disappear…

  • Erika

    I said: Until that point deciding whether or not an abortion should be allowed is question of personal morals

    That is completely wrong in that it implies that abortion should be illegal before that point, at complete contradiction with the rest of my statement. What I meant to say was “Until that point, deciding whether or not to get an abortion is a question of personal morals”. That is, I meant to say that, as is the case now, a woman has to make a decision as to whether or not to get an abortion, and that decision most certainly has moral aspects to it, but she should have the freedom to make that decision.

  • watercat

    According to Ebon, a hydracephalic baby, since it lacks the capability for conscious thought, not only cannot have the moral status of a person (or human being), it is merely an assemblage of cells, to which nothing we do can be considered harmful. Disturbingly, whether it feels pain or suffers is not considered relevant.

  • Erika

    According to Ebon, a hydracephalic baby, since it lacks the capability for conscious thought, not only cannot have the moral status of a person (or human being), it is merely an assemblage of cells, to which nothing we do can be considered harmful.

    Whether intentionally or not, I think you are misconstruing Ebon’s argument. He is only arguing that without consciousness, the life should not be considered a person. He never says that nothing done to a non-person should considered harmful. It is you who made the leap from “destruction of a fetus lacking consciousness is not destruction of a person” to “it is okay to destroy anything that is not a person”.

  • AtheistCrusader

    This argument seems incomplete/unpolished to me. As a Libertarian, I’m pro-abortion, but I’m not sure the concept of ‘personhood’ has been articulated here. Brain waves might be challenged on the basis that a fetus can be shown to react to pain. But is it really aware of pain, or is it an autonomic response? Unknown. How much or how little brain activity is required for a ‘person’ to exist? Unknown. Since late term abortions are the exception, not the rule, I’m perfectly comfortable leaving things as they are until we’ve answered all these questions, meaning, squarely the decision of the mother, and no one else.

  • http://www.originalfaith.com/ Paul Maurice Martin

    Spot on, that’s always seemed the essence of it to me – potentiality isn’t the same thing as actuality.

  • Jeff T.

    While everything that Ebon stated is right on the money—I don’t want to encourage the slowdown of the current reproduction rate because at this rate, in a few hundred years, we should be accelerating off the planet at the rate of light. Won’t that be fun?

  • Chris

    One could then consistently say the virtue of compassion entails the earnest desire for the well-being of one’s fellow living things.

    One could say that, unless one were an animal who had to consume one’s fellow living things on a daily basis in order to survive. In that case, if one were not a hypocrite, one would have to realize that lines must be drawn somewhere. Animal rights lobbyists just haven’t thought the issue through enough – *all* life is related, not just animal life. Eating your relatives is mandatory: the only thing you have a choice about is precisely how distant relatives they are going to be.

    I’m sorry, but considering non-sentient beings an “outgroup”, discrimination against which is morally wrong, and then explicitly paralleling it to historical examples of *intra*-species discrimination is just absurd. If you want to make a case that (sufficiently developed members of) certain other species belong in the “person” category, go ahead: I certainly think that personhood should be extended to other species with the characteristics of it, and whether or not any extant Earth species displays those characteristics is a factual question open to evidence.

    But it’s a long leap from “chimpanzees might be people too” to “therefore, unformed lumps of cells are people too, how dare you murder them”. A leap that jumps right over a substantial fraction of the *food supply* of the only species we know *does* possess the characteristics of personhood. This happens to be our own species, which makes the judgment appear self-serving; but AFAWK no other species is *capable* of making the judgment, or even framing the question, so it may be something more like the anthropic principle (no pun intended). Until we make contact with another intelligent species we won’t really know who, if anyone, will try to define them as non-people undeserving of what we presently call human rights.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I agree that a woman has the right to control her own body, but that does not necessarily imply that every decision a woman has a right to make is morally correct.

    Erika, you are correct that having the right to do something does not make the outcome morally correct. But the moral correctness that we’re getting into here is on the same level as throwing away a half eaten apple when there are starving children in this world. Both are regrettable actions and there is roughly the same amount of lost opportunity. But it is a right and taking away that right is much more intractable than making the wrong choice when exercising that right.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Besides, as a culture, we are not at a point yet where we can start to have legitimate discussions of how to mitigate wrongful decisions concerning abortions. 50% of the people who are in favor of limiting the legality of abortion do so because they believe that it’s because the baby has a soul. Another 25% think that women are vapid bimbos who shouldn’t be allowed to make up their own minds. And the remaining 25% just want to appease the other 75% in hopes that we can all get along.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    It’s her body! As a human being, with a soul, with a conscience, it still doesn’t supersede the rights of another human being to their own body. I’m sorry but if Parris Hilton decides to get an abortion on the 11th hour of the 293rd day of her pregnancy, tough luck, but hand the baby a Darwin award and send it on its way out.

    This is the paradigmatic example of the wrong way to think about this problem.

    I could use this same argument to demonstrate that laws against drunk driving are an intolerable infringement on people’s freedom. How dare a bunch of government bureaucrats tell me what I’m not allowed to put into my own body! I have bodily autonomy, damn it, and therefore it’s my absolute right to ingest whatever substances I want at whatever time I want. No one has any right to tell me otherwise, regardless of the consequences to anyone else.

    I hope we’re agreed that this conclusion is absurd. There are situations, when there are others who stand to suffer harm from one’s actions, in which bodily autonomy should not be absolute. I’m not saying that the right of bodily autonomy isn’t important. Of course it is; it’s extremely important, which is why I believe abortion should be the free choice of the mother for as long as possible. But in some cases, such as late-term pregnancy, I don’t believe it’s so overwhelmingly important as to automatically trump any other moral principle that’s brought to bear.

    If the fetus is nonviable, or if the mother’s health is seriously threatened, then by all means, abortion should be legal at any stage of pregnancy. I would hope there’s not even a question about that. But, in the extremely unlikely hypothetical scenario that bbk describes above, I would not be opposed to outlawing abortion. (In reality, as several commenters have said, late-term abortions of convenience occur exclusively in the imaginations of pro-lifers. But just because this is unlikely to ever happen doesn’t mean we can’t use it as a hypothetical to illuminate the moral principles at stake.)

    Is this a violation of the woman’s autonomy? I don’t think it is. I would argue that, by permitting the pregnancy to proceed to that point, the woman has granted implicit consent for the fetus’ use of her body. Because she possesses autonomy, a woman can deny that consent – through abstinence, through the use of birth control, or through early-term abortion. But I would say that, if she takes none of those steps prior to the point where the fetus achieves the capacity for consciousness, she has implicitly granted consent. And it doesn’t follow that, having once granted it, she can then arbitrarily revoke it at any later time. It’s absolutely true to say that no doctor can take one of my kidneys without my consent, not even to save another person’s life. But if I do decide to be altruistic and freely donate a kidney, I do not retain the right to cancel that agreement and demand it back later on.

    Some of these people, including doctors, will do everything in their power to manipulate women to think that an abortion is a dangerous and immoral decision, and setting arbitrary limits just helps their cause.

    I agree, setting arbitrary limits does help the anti-choice cause. That’s why this post proposes a non-arbitrary limit, one that’s based on a fundamental and widely agreed defining criterion of moral personhood.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Life is precious.

    There is no afterlife.

    Life uninterrupted will become mature.

    I worship life.

    Well, I hope you don’t masturbate Doug. I hope you don’t swat at flies or gnats. I hope you don’t scratch your skin. I hope you don’t breathe or walk. In all those cases you are destroying life. Or were you simply conflating life with personhood?

    Would you rush into a burning IVF clinic to save the frozen embryos?

  • bipolar2

    ** ideologies of pronatalism and unlimited population growth undermine humanity **

    In the US, fundies and RCs alike espouse an ideology which is pro-birth at any cost. (Pronatalism is a branch of social darwinsim — actually created by Herbert Spencer.)

    It should be obvious that pro-birth is *not* pro-life. In fact their ideology is pro-Death — creating disease, poverty and ignorance worldwide through overpopulation, damning safe non-reproductive sex, and blocking responsible medical research.

    Humanity today has safe and effective means to control conception. Problems which are population dependent — global warming, access to water, adequate food . . . will be eased by lowering populations intelligently rather than letting malthusian remedies take their course.

    There is no need for looking to science to draw some sort of demarcation criterion for viability. There is no need to alter existing concepts of person which function in developed countries.

    bipolar2

  • Alex Weaver

    Myself, I would draw the line much earlier. Once a brain stem and the beginnings
    of a brain begin to form, it seems to me that personhood has been attained.

    By that logic, hagfish are people too.

  • Alex Weaver

    I also believe that any woman in her right mind who wants to abort will attempt to do so as soon as she knows that she is pregnant and has made that decision, and therefore essentially all third-trimester pregnancies where abortion has come into question are wanted pregnancies that have gone wrong. Nobody just walks into a clinic eight months along and says, “Oh, I decided I don’t want to have this baby anymore.” Therefore, I think the only real point of discussions like the above about what to do with healthy, viable, third trimester fetuses whose mothers want to abort them is to placate the squeamish. :p

    I wish that were true, but with the number of anti-choice fanatics, and sociopathic partners, in this society, I think that for the time being there’s a moral imperative for an exemption for women in the third trimester who can show that they were prevented from obtaining an abortion by malicious and illegal actions on the part of someone else. Hopefully it will cease to be necessary.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I could use this same argument to demonstrate that laws against drunk driving are an intolerable infringement on people’s freedom. How dare a bunch of government bureaucrats tell me what I’m not allowed to put into my own body! I have bodily autonomy, damn it, and therefore it’s my absolute right to ingest whatever substances I want at whatever time I want. No one has any right to tell me otherwise, regardless of the consequences to anyone else.

    Poor example. Driving a vehicle is a privilege, not a right. So is drinking alcohol. It’s not simply doing something to your own body, but making improper use of highly regulated goods and services that are not in any way related to any fundamental human right. Moreover, there is no conflict between your rights and others’ rights. It’s not a zero sum game. If you injure someone on the roadway while DUI, you are clearly infringing on the basic human rights of a disinterested third party who was neither adding or taking away from any of your fundamental human rights. And on top of that, you’re doing so without exercising any basic human right of your own.

  • Alex Weaver

    According to Ebon, a hydracephalic baby, since it lacks the capability for conscious thought, not only cannot have the moral status of a person (or human being), it is merely an assemblage of cells, to which nothing we do can be considered harmful. Disturbingly, whether it feels pain or suffers is not considered relevant.

    You ever step on a snail, accidentally, because you weren’t looking where you were going?

    How would jail time for negligence leading to a death sound?

    Why not? It can’t think, but it certainly responds to pain, so presumably it’s “suffering” in any sense of the term that is not dependent on conscious thought…

  • Alex Weaver

    Life is precious.

    There is no afterlife.

    Life uninterrupted will become mature.

    I worship life.

    Would it be too close to flaming to ask who interrupted yours?

    (Seriously, this is the most cringeworthily shallow argument I’ve heard on this subject in years that wasn’t scrawled on a bumper sticker).

  • Chet

    I don’t see what personhood has to do with it at all. No person, conscious or not, has the right to tenancy in another person’s body against their will. It’s unfortunate that the eviction of the squatter often results in their death, but that’s hardly the landlord’s problem.

    Body sovereignty is absolute, as far as I can see.

  • Alex Weaver

    …by the way, I looked up “hydrocephalus” and I think you’re thinking of “anencephaly,” which Ebon mentioned.

  • Chet

    How dare a bunch of government bureaucrats tell me what I’m not allowed to put into my own body! I have bodily autonomy, damn it, and therefore it’s my absolute right to ingest whatever substances I want at whatever time I want.

    Well, you can, Ebon. You can drink whatever you like. You just don’t have the right to take advantage of a privilege at that point, the privilege of driving a motor vehicle on the state’s roads. The government doesn’t tell you what you can or can’t ingest; they’re making a decision about what people, under what conditions, can or can’t drive on their roads. And I think that’s fair. So, no, your counterexample doesn’t really apply. It’s not an example of body autonomy.

    But no human being has the right to tenancy in another’s body! What an absurd right to even propose.

    I would argue that, by permitting the pregnancy to proceed to that point, the woman has granted implicit consent for the fetus’ use of her body.

    Consider the abortion consent revoked. (And I’m very uncomfortable with the very idea of “implied consent” in the first place. For something as important and life-endangering as pregnancy, consent should always be explicit.)

    But I would say that, if she takes none of those steps prior to the point where the fetus achieves the capacity for consciousness, she has implicitly granted consent.

    And then explicitly revoked it. I mean how else to interpret her desire for an abortion? You’re implying that the consent, once given, cannot be withdrawn; but you’re simply jumping to that conclusion without any explanation at all that I can see. What gives?

    And you seem to be ignoring the multiple roadblocks – designed, in most cases, to “run out the clock” for as many women as possible – set in the way of women seeking early term abortions. Waiting periods. Financial hurdles. Transportation/access problems. The list is quite long. In a great many cases, women wind up with late-term abortions because early-term abortions were set behind insurmountable obstacles until it was too late. Does that constitute “not taking any steps” in your view?

    But if I do decide to be altruistic and freely donate a kidney, I do not retain the right to cancel that agreement and demand it back later on.

    Because it’s not yours, anymore; it’s the recipients’. You’d have to violate their body autonomy to get it back. And you do have the right to cancel the agreement any time up to the implantation of the kidney into their body; right up until the point where it’s a part of their body, not yours. And certainly your “implied consent” earlier in the process doesn’t prevent you from explicitly revoking that consent at any point in the process.

  • Entomologista

    My right to bodily integrity is the wrong way to think about the problem? Excuse me? Isn’t it convenient that the ONLY time it is ok to use another person’s body without their consent is when it’s a woman’s body? Pregnancy is apparently a magical time that strips women of their rights.

    Your argument also works for date rape, by the way. By allowing the make-out session to proceed to heavy petting, the woman has granted implicit consent for the use of her body. I can revoke my consent at any time I please. It’s not like “Oh, you consented to sex! No take-backs!” And you can cancel your kidney donation right up until the time it is cut out of your body. Consent is never implicit, and I find your line of reasoning deeply creepy.

  • Chet

    That’s why this post proposes a non-arbitrary limit, one that’s based on a fundamental and widely agreed defining criterion of moral personhood.

    Might I suggest an even more widely agreed-upon, and fundamental, criterion for the onset of moral personhood: birth? We’ve been doing it that way for, oh, ten thousand years or so. What’s the problem with reckoning birth as the beginning of life, exactly?

  • Erika

    bbk, you say: But the moral correctness that we’re getting into here is on the same level as throwing away a half eaten apple when there are starving children in this world.

    That is your opinion. I happen to think that it is wrong, but that is neither here nor there. We both agree that a woman should have a right to make this decision. However, you should not trivialize the moral nature involved. When a woman gets an abortion she is killing a fetus that would, with good probability, become someone we would all agree is a conscious human being. Potential is not personhood, but squashing potential by way of death is still a serious moral decision that any woman getting one should consider.

  • Erika

    And just to be clear about where I stand, I do not think abortion (at least in the first 2 trimesters) is murder. I think that the moral wrong of abortion is on level with the moral wrong of teaching your children to be ignorant, science denying creationists. Both decisions squash potential, just in different ways.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Isn’t it convenient that the ONLY time it is ok to use another person’s body without their consent is when it’s a woman’s body?

    Women are the ones who have the babies. That’s a biological fact that is not under my control. It’s unfortunate that any decision about the legality of abortion only directly affects women, but that’s how it is.

    Your argument also works for date rape, by the way. By allowing the make-out session to proceed to heavy petting, the woman has granted implicit consent for the use of her body.

    That analogy simply doesn’t work. Consent to one type of sexual activity does not automatically translate into consent to a different type of sexual activity. With abortion, however, there’s no comparable problem. The issue at stake is whether the developing fetus may use the resources of the woman’s body, and that issue remains the same throughout pregnancy.

    Consent is never implicit…

    That’s a very strange argument to say the least. Implicit consent occurs all the time. Should I not be subject to the laws of the United States unless I’ve signed a paper explicitly agreeing to abide by them?

    EDIT: Ignore that last example – I thought of a far stronger and more relevant one. Implicit consent occurs in the institution of parenthood. If a couple chooses to forego abortion and has a child, they implicitly consent to the responsibility of raising and caring for that child – or at the very least, delivering the child to someone who will care for him or her. I don’t think anyone is going to seriously argue that parents can withdraw their consent to be parents at any time and abandon their kid by the side of the road, even if they never signed anything promising not to do that.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    But no human being has the right to tenancy in another’s body!

    I agree completely. However, that doesn’t alter the moral principle I’ve proposed: if a woman becomes pregnant, has access to abortion services, but chooses not to make of use those services in a timely manner, that can readily be viewed as the granting of consent for continued pregnancy. Similarly, I don’t have the right to tenancy in a landlord’s apartment; but having accepted my application and granted me residence, the landlord cannot then change his mind and kick me out with no advance notice.

    You’re implying that the consent, once given, cannot be withdrawn; but you’re simply jumping to that conclusion without any explanation at all that I can see.

    In general, I find no problem with the principle that certain obligations, once freely entered into, cannot be unilaterally canceled. Refer again to my example of the landlord. What about that is strange to you?

    In a great many cases, women wind up with late-term abortions because early-term abortions were set behind insurmountable obstacles until it was too late. Does that constitute “not taking any steps” in your view?

    I agree that inadequate access to abortion services is a serious problem, which is why I support all reasonable measures to make those services as widely and easily available as possible. It’s heartbreaking if a woman wants an abortion but can’t obtain one; if she’s deceived by religious “crisis pregnancy” centers or other such operations designed to confuse and stonewall her, that’s infuriating.

    Unfortunately, from my perspective, that doesn’t change the basic moral issue at all. If there’s any point at which a fetus becomes a person deserving of protection, then I think we have to grant that protection regardless of how that point was arrived at. Knowing what I know about the spotty access and legal roadblocks to obtaining an abortion in the United States, I don’t like that conclusion. But for my position to be consistent, I can’t avoid it.

    What’s the problem with reckoning birth as the beginning of life, exactly?

    Birth is an arbitrary criterion: the only thing it changes about the unborn child is its location. Surely, location should not be the deciding factor when we’re trying to determine whether a living thing is a person with all the corresponding rights. Birth does not give a child any cognitive or developmental abilities that child didn’t previously possess.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I believe abortion should be the free choice of the mother for as long as possible

    Is it possible that while I view abortions as a right, you view it as a freedom? Do you care to make this a distinction? Freedom encompasses both rights and privileges, but lack of freedom does not alter whether or not something is fundamentally a right.

    For the sake of argument, I think a better example than DUI laws are gun control laws, just because many people consider uncontrolled gun ownership to be a right. Supposing that gun ownership is actually a right, there are still ample reasons to implement gun control laws in order to prevent immoral results from improper exercise of that right.

    So we can argue that both gun ownership and abortion are rights. But the difference between gun control laws and abortion control laws is that we can provide scientific evidence showing the former results in less overall human rights transgressions while for the latter we have no such scientific evidence.

    We have evidence about the effects of restricting abortion such as that unwanted babies fare poorly in life, including higher crime rates and lower self esteem. We have evidence that uneducated mothers feed into a vicious cycle of poverty that can go on for generations. But we have very little evidence to show that this is really enough, this amount of abortion rights is really all that women need, this is the 80/20 rule that will work best for society. In other words, if we have no observable positive outcomes as a result of restricting this right, then we should just leave it alone.

    As a counter examples to the idea that limited options are enough, consider a surrogate mother in her last trimester whose intended parents got arrested for some terrible crime against humanity and wants an abortion. Or less extreme, consider a young woman whose husband just ran off on her. Or someone whose parents just got disabled in an accident and she decides the right thing to do is cancel the pregnancy for a couple more years while she devotes herself to care of her family.

    The point is, why is it that a woman should have to prove that she has “real” reasons for wanting that late abortion, and what should constitute as a good enough answer?

    That’s why this post proposes a non-arbitrary limit, one that’s based on a fundamental and widely agreed defining criterion of moral personhood.

    While there is philosophical precedent for using these criteria, it still remains a philosophical precedent, but far from a consensus and even further from what could pass for a scientific theory. That was the problem with outlawing abortion in the first place – it was decided by religious precedent, no consensus and no scientific fact. We have no scientific basis for defining what consciousness even is, let alone when it starts.

    There are arguments about the differences between consciousness and self-awareness, which animals possess it and which don’t, whether or not machines can ever achieve it, or even if we ourselves aren’t just machines who “fake” awareness. Consciousness itself has strong roots in mysticism and religion. It was first used in the modern sense by John Locke. Before that, it was often thought of in the Christian sense as that heavy feeling of knowing you did something wrong that God will punish you for. Remember – consciousness was not discovered by science, it was invented by man. It is likely to continue being reinterpreted over time as science does actual research.

    I’ve been reading a few computer science books on artificial intelligence and I can say that the jury is pretty much still out on what it means for something to be self-aware. I can write a little program that prints “ouch” on your screen every time you press a key but does that mean the computer feels pain? Incidentally, maybe we can give the Turing test to fetuses – if they passes, we’ll stop letting women get abortions.

  • http://www.chickengirl.net/ Chicken Girl

    Grimalkin: “Chicken Girl – You are assuming that she has a) realized that she is pregnant, and b) had access to abortion services.”

    Well, yeah, I am making a bit of a “in a perfect world…” conjecture. As evidenced by the fact that in my scenario medical decisions are being made by doctors and not politicians. :p I forgot to add that in my perfect world health care is free for everyone, including birth control and abortions, and there’s an abortion clinic in every county, a chicken in every pot… *looks at nickname* uh… skip that last one…

    However, in a scenario like that where someone has missed the signs or their body betrayed them and there were no signs and they find themselves 8 months pregnant… it may be unfair to the woman who finds herself in that situation but I do think a healthy, viable 8 month fetus should be protected from abortion. I think the moral thing to do in that case is to stick it out for another month and give the baby up for adoption. If she absolutely does not want to be pregnant one more minute, she should induce labor or have a c-section. But I have enough (irrational?) faith in humanity that I don’t think any sane, rational woman would have the heart to kill a viable late-term fetus if they can get what they want and deserve (to not be pregnant) without doing that. I really do think it’s only moral and only fair to give the kid a shot, in that case.

  • Erika

    Is it possible that while I view abortions as a right, you view it as a freedom?

    Bodily autonomy is certainly a right, but, as Ebon’s consent examples imply, a right can be given up with a person’s consent. For example, one gives up one’s right to bear arms all the time when one chooses to work at a company that does not allow it.

    The difference between contracts and outlawing late abortion is that one can back out of a contract if one is willing to accept consequences. So perhaps a similar model should be used for pregnancy. There is some point (perhaps consciousness) where a woman’s consent has been implicitly given (assuming the woman had access to birth control, earlier abortion, etc.). After that point, a woman may still legally have an abortion, but anyone who can claim a vested interest in the pregnancy (such as the father; maybe only the father) can sue her for breach of contract. It could then be decided on a case by case basis whether or not the abortion was justified.

    Now, I think this whole idea is kind of silly, but it would be reasonably consistent with other areas of law where people are able to give up their rights.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Erika,

    I didn’t say that throwing away a half eaten apple was a trivial matter. Look at the current food crisis caused by ethanol production. The thing to take out of the analogy is that while it is a moral issue, we don’t normally treat it as such because it isn’t practical. A big thing that mitigates the potentiality of that life lost from an abortion is the fact that you can get pregnant again later if you want.

  • Entomologista

    Women are the ones who have the babies. That’s a biological fact that is not under my control.

    That’s what people say to justify all kinds of horrendous anti-woman policies and attitudes. NOBODY GETS TO USE MY BODY. There is no argument that that would ever make me agree that forced pregnancy is a moral good. Which, if you’re being honest, is what you’re advocating for.

    What should the punishment be for a woman who gets a 3rd trimester abortion that is not medically necessary? Should it be illegal for pregnant women to work in dangerous environments? To what extent are you willing to go to prevent a woman from harming the fetus, if she is determined to self-abort?

  • Entomologista

    I am not a location. I am a person.

    After that point, a woman may still legally have an abortion, but anyone who can claim a vested interest in the pregnancy (such as the father; maybe only the father) can sue her for breach of contract.

    Abusers would have a field day.

  • watercat

    Erika, Chris
    Ebon claims that “Until the capability for conscious thought exists….There is no person for harm to be done to” and contrasts a person/human, with “a non-human, an assemblage of cells, the existence of which may be terminated without wrongdoing”. It doesn’t take a leap to rephrase that as “it is okay to destroy anything that is not a person”. If I leap it is by reading into it at least an implication that anything we do to non-persons is acceptable.
    My example, that in 1537 the Catholic Church issued a decision changing the official status of Native Americans from non-human to human, was not an historical parallel with *intra*-species discrimination. Prior to that decision there could be no such thing because Americans were not admitted as members of our species—instead they were members of that non-sentient outgroup, whose existence the Church held, like Ebon, may be terminated without wrongdoing. My position is that they had rights even then. After the Papal edict they were human beings,“with all the moral rights and protections that pertain thereunto”, which just serves to illustrate the problems with arbitrary tests of personhood, such as whether or not a creature is civilized or conscious. For a legal framework such tests may be needed, but most commenters here agree that consciousness is not all or nothing, but gradient, with cats, chimps, and fetii interspersed amongst various human conditions, so that awarding moral rights is not a simple yes or no decision either, and realistically some persons and/or non-persons have more of it than others.

  • Mrnaglfar

    The abortion debate will always ultimately come down to a few questions that need to be answered in this general order:

    1) Are fetuses people?
    -No. They aren’t counted on any government survey, rely exclusively on the woman’s body to survive, and until very late term cannot survive outside the woman’s womb. Likewise, miscarriages do not make a woman an accomplice to murder.

    2) If no, When does a fetus become a person?
    -At birth. Until they are born, they lack personhood, simple as that. Until that point they rely on the mother’s body, and while at certain ages could survive outside the womb, would require the mother to consent to surgery for their removal or induced labor, neither of which are particularly pleasant outcomes.

    3) If abortion is illegal at a certain point, what is the punishment?
    - Pregnant women who choose to abort will abort that fetus at a very early stage of development most of the time; the longer the pregnancy goes on the less likely she is to abort. Suppose abortions are illegal at third trimester, is the punishment different for a woman who aborts the night before, the day of, the week after, or the month after? And what will that punishment be? Not to mention the point of determining if every miscarriage past that point was self-induced or unintentional. Will an accident that results in the death of fetus be a manslaughter charge? What good is served by jail time, or fines? There are endless webs of subtiles that would need to be waded through in order to figure out each new case. If a fetus is a person though, at whatever point, you would need to judge the loss of a fetus equal to the loss of a person; accidental or unintentional, neither tend to excuse murderers from a sentence. They also need to be counted on surveys, and in the case of an emergency or complication, their life needs to be weighed equally against the life of the mother. There’s a lot to consider, but if the line will be drawn, I say let it be drawn once the infant is no longer taking up residence inside the mother.

  • Mrnaglfar

    oh, and to add onto that last point:

    If a mother worked in an environment dangerous to the third-trimester fetus, and a miscarriage resulted, couldn’t she be charged with negligence, or child endangerment? If fetuses are people at that point, every third trimester abortion, intentional or not, would require that the law research each case of miscarriage past the third trimester. And what about doctors? Suppose there’s a medical complication and the doctors have to abort the fetus; could they be charged with murder as well? The granting of rights to a developing fetus creates complication where they shouldn’t be any; so long as the fetus is in the mother’s body, it’s not a person; once it’s out, it is. Works the same way with the organ transplant example mentioned above; you have until it gets taken out of your body to remove your consent, but once it’s out, no take-backs.

  • watercat

    Chris
    “therefore, unformed lumps of cells are people too, how dare you murder them” is just silly, which is why I never said anything like it. Also I agree that most “Animal rights lobbyists just haven’t thought the issue through enough – *all* life is related, not just animal life. Eating your relatives is mandatory”. You raise an unavoidable issue that a simple +/- test (human, conscious, Baptist, Islamic, whatever) just weasels out of facing. Once we admit that members of the outgroup have rights too, even if only limited ones, we have to reconcile an evolutionary taste for sirloin, and the inevitability of killing, with Ebon’s second Virtue: “The virtue of compassion entails the earnest desire for the well-being of one’s fellow living things.” (http://www.daylightatheism.org/2007/01/be-compassionate.html) That includes fetuses, but being compassionate doesn’t exclude killing lumps of cells, or snails, or people. When I raised rabbits I killed them because we had to eat. Right up until the instant they died, quickly and painlessly, they were the healthiest, happiest rabbits I could possibly make them. Because regardless of their state of consciousness, rationality or intelligence, they had that right. In my turn I have the same rights to life and happiness that they did, until some microscopic critters kill me. The rabbits, and me, and the fetuses and mothers, all have a right to life and happiness as long as practical, but it has to be weighed against other factors; and whether it’s human or not, sometimes it’s just better to kill it.

  • colluvial

    Your use of “consciousness” as a prerequisite for humanness has as many holes as any of the other criteria. Only it’s harder to refute because “consciousness” is more difficult to define than physical form or genetics.

    Am I not human during deep sleep? After a blow to the head? During a coma?

    And, how can you be sure no other species is “conscious”?

    I get the feeling that there’s some faulty thinking going on around this issue as can be seen with the old question of “When does human life start?” Life started on this planet billions of years ago and we’re each the latest manifestation in an unbroken line back to the beginning.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Entomologista, I have no idea why you’re treating me like the enemy. Let me recap the positions I’ve taken in this thread:

    • The woman’s bodily autonomy is a vitally important right that should be respected as much as possible.
    • Abortion should be legal during the first six months of pregnancy for any reason, no questions asked.
    • Abortion should be legal at any time during pregnancy in the case of a nonviable fetus or a threat to the mother’s life or health.
    • Access to abortion services should be safe, legal and widely available as possible. (I’d even support the position that health insurance should pay for them just as it would for any other form of contraception.)
    • “Crisis pregnancy” centers and other religious organizations which try to stonewall women from having an abortion are deceptive and infuriating and should be harshly dealt with.

    The only restriction I’ve advocated is that after the first six months, once the fetus’ brain has developed, abortions should be restricted to those of medical necessity and not of choice. As you yourself agreed, late-term abortions of convenience are an anti-choicer myth, so this situation is unlikely to ever arise in practice. But even so, this one caveat suffices to make me an advocate of “forced pregnancy”? Is that how you seek out allies in your cause?

    My argument is twofold: one, that once the fetus’ brain has passed a certain developmental milestone, it can rightfully be considered a person whose moral rights must be weighed against the freedom of the woman; and two, that by permitting the fetus’ development to proceed to that late point without seeking to interfere, a woman has arguably consented to complete the pregnancy, just as couples who choose to have a child implicitly consent to parenthood. I really don’t think either of these are unreasonable positions. You are not helping your argument by implying that anyone who wants to restrict abortion for any reason can only be driven by misogyny. Chicken Girl, upthread, took a position very similar to mine; would you say the same thing to her that you’ve said to me?

  • Chet

    However, that doesn’t alter the moral principle I’ve proposed: if a woman becomes pregnant, has access to abortion services, but chooses not to make of use those services in a timely manner, that can readily be viewed as the granting of consent for continued pregnancy.

    Which is then revoked, explicitly, by the desire to have an abortion.

    Explicit always trumps implicit. It’s ok, probably, to rely on implicit consent when no other indications of intent are given, but the mother’s desire to obtain an abortion clearly indicates an explicit revocation of her consent, and again, it’s not clear on what principle you’re attempting to override her explicit desire.

    In general, I find no problem with the principle that certain obligations, once freely entered into, cannot be unilaterally canceled.

    Only because you have a human right to shelter. No such right to inhabit a woman’s body exists.

    And you really believe that your principle is universal? Really? Even when we’re talking about “obligations” for which the risk of death is quite high? Pregnancy, after all, is the leading cause of death worldwide for women aged 12-18. I’m going to need a little more than a principle of dubious provenance before I agree with consigning thousands of women to forced birth.

    Since that is what you’re talking about; mothers giving birth against their will. I find that abhorrent. You seem to think it’s nothing less than what they deserve, for being sluts perhaps, or for the even greater sin of taking too long to make up their minds.

    Birth is an arbitrary criterion

    Hardly, Ebon. It’s a reliable diagnostic criterion – birth is obvious, objective – it’s universal – everyone alive now was born at some point – and it’s used, already, as both the legal and cultural beginning of life in nearly every nation. You’ve failed to explain “the problem” you referred to earlier that makes overturning 10,000 years of precedent such a good idea.

    What’s arbitrary is using a specific time limit as a stand-in for a developmental milestone, a time limit at which various individual fetuses may have exceeded, or may be lagging behind. Time limits are always arbitrary, even when they represent the “average” level of development at that time. Some fetuses may be more or less developed. Some fetuses might not have developed the requisite brain patterns at even 6 months. What’s your rationale for preventing the abortion of those pregnancies?

    the only thing it changes about the unborn child is its location.

    It’s truly amazing how quickly the woman and her body seems to disappear from the conversation, completely. Why, you’d almost think that being born was just a matter of moving from New York to California, or something – instead of the termination of an incredibly intimate and physically draining relationship with the mother’s body.

    Is that how you seek out allies in your cause?

    LOL! I find it incredibly ironic for you to ask the exact same question so-called “religious moderates” always ask when our criticisms of religion hit a little too close to home.

    If having you as an ally, Ebon, means a dilution of the fundamental right not to have unwanted humans stealing your body’s resources, then it’s not at all clear why we would want you as an ally.

    Again – you seem to think that your radical redefinition of the beginning of human life solves some kind of problem, but you haven’t been explicit about exactly what problem it solves. Certainly you’ve convinced many here that you’re talking about the problem of anti-choicers, but they’ll never be satisfied by any “compromise” that isn’t absolute capitulation to their demands.

    So I begin to wonder if the “problem” you’re talking about is women with just a little too much control over who’s living inside their bodies. Maybe you could be a little clearer on that point.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Ebon, don’t you think that the decision should still remain between a woman and her doctor? What possible punishment would befit a woman who had an abortion at any time? Did you ever notice how most people agree that this is a choice belonging to the woman, but the consensus is that it’s the doctors who should be punished instead.

    I could consent to a system where a woman is required to receive counseling by a qualified doctor about all of her reproductive options before receiving any pregnancy services at any facility – whether medical, religious, or secular. Before 6 months, the woman can request one no question asked, but after 6 months her provider should be required to have a little heart to heart with her to determine why she decided to get one so late in spite of being counseled on it. If necessary, this information could be used to develop better counseling techniques, revoke the license of anyone who lied to her during counseling, or revoke the license of any provider who tried to deceive the woman by providing false information that contradicted the counseling. Or the counselor could determine that some unforeseen event put the woman in a difficult choice that, had this been known some time ago, the woman would have aborted. Perhaps if earlier pregnancy services were covered by an insurer, a later abortion would require some refund if the counselor deems that the late decision is due to the woman’s negligence. At any rate, this would not affect the woman’s ability to receive the abortion for any reason that she ultimately comes up with.

  • Entomologista

    I don’t think that you’re a bad guy, and I don’t think of you as the enemy at all. I love reading your blog and I agree with you on the majority of things you write about. Just not this. And I want you to realize the implications of what you’re suggesting.

    In a perfect world, where everybody had free and easy access to a full spectrum of reproductive health care and child services, this wouldn’t even be an issue. You wouldn’t even have to outlaw late term abortions, because hardly anybody would be seeking them. But we live in a world where men hold women hostage, where there is maybe one abortion clinic per state, where mandatory waiting periods and high costs mean that women might not be able to abort until the 3rd trimester. We don’t live in a world where we can assume that a woman has consented to be pregnant.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    But we live in a world where men hold women hostage

    This is why I don’t see eye to eye with feminists. Men don’t hold women hostage any more than other women do. In some cases, women are some of the primary culprits who hold up archaic religious views. In Britain, for example, more Muslim women than men believe that wearing the veil is important to their individual identity. All over the world, there are more male atheists while the majority of church attenders are women. Go to a pro-life protest and look at the sheer number of women. It’s a sad state of affairs, but if you ask me, men are a whole lot more progressive than women. When it comes to finding allies with the opposite sex, to be a progressive male is a lot more difficult than to be a progressive female. Progressive men are persecuted by regressive women just as much as the other way around.

  • Matt R.

    Hi Ebonmuse,

    I disagree with your criteria for humanity. I think that the genetic criteria is better. I think that your refutation based on the fact that we kill human cells does not hold. I think this because abortion is not killing one or two or even one hundred cells on the fetus, it is killing all of the cells of the fetus, thus killing the fetus.

    Now if we are discussing a cell colony, I think that it is rather extreme to extend the definition. There are biochemical differences between cell lines and human fetuses. This is why there is such a problem growing new organs. The cells are different with different characteristics and different potentials.

    I also think that the example of anencephaly is not applicable because it represents a clearly pathological condition. We are not discussing the abortion of fetuses with anencephaly, but the abortion of ones without it.

    I think that the important matter that is being overlooked is the neonate status of a human. It is normal in the development of a human that there is a stage where there is incompletely developed cognition and indeed a lack of cognition. This does not mean that the fetus is not human at this point, it is a *young human*.

    There are clear quantifiable differences between human embryos and cell colonies as well as between human embryos and hair and skin cells which are sloughed off regularly. Furthermore there are clear biological differences between the gamets, or sex cells, and a human embryo.

    If one wants to abort fetuses, I think it is better to just say, we don’t care that they are human and we are just going to do what we want because we can and move on with life. That is a much better thing than pretending that because they have not yet developed the cognitive capacities of an adult that they are not human yet. It is a metaphysical justification.

    It is like pretending that God exists so that we can feel good about our lives when in fact, God is imaginary. It is better to bite the bullet and fess up to reality.

    Cheers,

    Matt

    By the way, I think your website is great and it helped me escape religion. I am not angry about your post and I respect your opinion. I just disagree with it on the above grounds. Personally I hold you in high regard for what you are accomplishing here.

  • Matt R.

    ….I also want to add that I an not addressing the moral argument here as much as the criteria of what is “human”. I think that abortion as a medical procedure is acceptable and necessary. As a form of convenience, I think it is not very respectful to the fetus, but I also recognize that people must find their own paths. I am, however, very glad that my mother chose to bear me.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Ingersoll’s Revenge

    Women are the ones who have the babies. That’s a biological fact that is not under my control.

    That’s what people say to justify all kinds of horrendous anti-woman policies and attitudes.

    No offense, Entomologista, but how is it anyone else’s fault that you were born a woman?

  • Alex Weaver

    Matt: where would your schema place the teratoma-with-an-umbilical-cord that shared a uterus with my daughter?

  • Matt R.

    Hi Alex,

    Well, to be completely correct, it is not “my system”. It is the taxonomical system that defines what a human is. Taxonomy has a long history. Taxonomy does not generally deal with pathological entities, however the medical field does. So within this system which I have described, but is not “my system” the teratoma is a pathological entity consisting of various tissues of the three germ layers from which all tissues are derived.

    Based on a quick look at some sources, it appears that the source of teratomas is in debate, there is even some speculation that certain types of teratomas may be the result of twinning. It really depends on what type of teratoma it is for me to specificaly say what it is, hoever, it is definitiely a pathological entity that may have sprung from your daughter, or another egg or embryo during incubation. I am by no means an expert on this and can not speak with any great authority.

    The important point is that you are using a pathological entity to try and compare to a non-pathological entity. Again, no one is determining the human status of teratomas, but of fetuses.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Alex Weaver

    Matt: the problem is that defining humans in primarily genetic terms makes it almost impossible to produce a definition that applies to healthy fetuses but not to clumps of random human tissues with am umbilical cord.

    Chet and others: my personal position is that I agree with Ebon on the moral aspects of this issue, and with Entomologista on the fact that there are complications that arguably outweigh those moral aspects, due to the attitudes and actions of the people we share this world with. I would generally be comfortable with the legal status Ebon is suggesting, but I consider it morally imperative to incorporate an exemption for women who have been kept pregnant, against their wishes, past the deadline due to the malicious actions of others, but still wish to seek an abortion, both for the sake of the woman’s psychological health and to reduce the motivation for others to take such malicious actions – or at least make it more difficult to carry them out effectively – on the grounds that such actions not only violate human rights but are destructive of the safety and stability of society as a whole.

    That said…

    Since that is what you’re talking about; mothers giving birth against their will. I find that abhorrent. You seem to think it’s nothing less than what they deserve, for being sluts perhaps, or for the even greater sin of taking too long to make up their minds.

    There is absolutely no intellectually honest way to arrive at such an interpretation of Ebon’s statements – either you have a childishly black-and-white view of this debate and are classing him in a massively polyphyletic category of “people who believe there should be any restrictions on abortion” which you’ve labeled “generic anti-choice” and are projecting the motives and mindset of the average anti-choicer onto him, you didn’t even read his posts, or you’re deliberately misrepresenting him. Each of these is dishonest and irresponsible.

    If you’re the same Chet I remember from certain Pharyngula threads, I am disappointed that you haven’t outgrown this sort of behavior.

  • Alex Weaver

    Oh, and as for the “sleep” bit a few of you have brought up as a supposed regutation to the consciousness requirement…

    Frankly, that’s logically equivalent to a man going in to the police office and claiming that his car has been stolen, being denied filing the report once it’s determined that he didn’t actually own a car, and then arguing that this means the police think it’s okay to steal cars as long as they aren’t running at the time.

  • Alex Weaver

    This is why I don’t see eye to eye with feminists. Men don’t hold women hostage any more than other women do. In some cases, women are some of the primary culprits who hold up archaic religious views. In Britain, for example, more Muslim women than men believe that wearing the veil is important to their individual identity. All over the world, there are more male atheists while the majority of church attenders are women. Go to a pro-life protest and look at the sheer number of women. It’s a sad state of affairs, but if you ask me, men are a whole lot more progressive than women. When it comes to finding allies with the opposite sex, to be a progressive male is a lot more difficult than to be a progressive female. Progressive men are persecuted by regressive women just as much as the other way around.

    While I wish that women would get out of the habit of expressing it in a fashion whose phrasing implies the summary dismissal of the possibility that any man could possibly be on the right side of the debate – or that a woman could be on the wrong side – it is certainly true that male dominance and male privilege are responsible for many of the difficulties specifically faced by women, and limitations on access to abortion are one of them. Granted, some women do seem to actually believe that all men are the enemy, but they’re a tiny minority, do not speak for feminists as a whole, and in most cases arguably are not feminists at all due to the tendency to hold positions that are irreconcilable with the tenet (and fact) that men and women are morally equal and that women are not the intellectual inferiors of men. Dismissing “feminists” by attacking these lunatic-fringers is like blowing off the entire environmental movement due to the absurdity of the Anarcho-Primitivist position.

    Incidentally, one of the striking things I’ve noticed is that I have yet to meet a secular woman who is anti-choice, though I’ve met several anti-choice atheist men.

  • Alex Weaver

    (Correction: “While I wish that certain women would get out of the habit…”)

  • Matt R.

    Alex,

    If one is dealing with taxonomy, one is dealing with difference between species, not between pathological entities within a species. Teratomas and other neoplasms are clearly pathologies present within the human species. So the teratoma is a human neoplasm, or a pathological state. There is no doubt that the fetus is not a pathological state. I am not sure where the confusion lies. Perhaps you are confused by my references to genetics. It is true that neoplasms have human dna in their cells. This DNA is slightly altered and that is what gives rise to the uncontrolled mitosis that causes neoplasms. As I said before, I am not specifically familiar with teratomas and do not know their mechanism of pathogenesis. There are good reasons to differentiate teratomas from fetuses, though, and I really do not see that there is a huge diffculty here.

    cheers,

    Matt

  • Matt R.

    For the group,

    For those of you who think that fetuses are not human, I would be interested in knowing what sort of an organism you propose they are. Genetically they are distinct from their mother, therefore they are not part of her body. They are not pathological entities, generally, although an ectopic pregnancy is pathological, but these are exceptions. What is a fetus if it is not human? It certinly does not belong to a different species?

    My answer is that it is an undeveloped human. So again, if you want to kill undeveloped humans, fine. Do it. But let us not pretend that they are not human. It is silly.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Adam

    3) If abortion is illegal at a certain point, what is the punishment?

    It should be treated like a drug case.

    I believe (I’m not pre-law), that during a drug busts the addict that comes forward to help the police bust the drug dealer is not charged. The police want to solve the problem by getting rid of the drug dealer.

    This same concept would apply with abortions.

    If abortion is illegal at any point, and a doctor is still performing the death wish, the charge should be on the doctor if a woman came forward to help the police search out the abortionist/baby killer.

  • Alex Weaver

    …and taxonomy entered into this when? O.o

  • Mrnaglfar

    Adam,

    If abortion is illegal at any point, and a doctor is still performing the death wish, the charge should be on the doctor if a woman came forward to help the police search out the abortionist/baby killer.

    So then the situation you create in one were doctors will refuse to perform abortions, even if the mother’s life is at risk, because they will then be investigated by the law. If the fetus is really a baby, as you suggest, then all miscarriages should be investigated as if a living person was killed. Even if it was a miscarriage, regardless of doctor’s involvement. Data will also need to be collected and monitored on all women’s pregnancies; after all, these fetuses are people to and we do the same for other living people. Likewise, families should be entitled to tax breaks if they’re pregnant as if they had another actual child.

    Because as your drug metaphor implies, the law doesn’t just target drug dealers, it targets drug users as well. If the fetus is a person, whether the doctor is responisble for the death, or the mother intentionally acts to miscarry, then it would still be murder. Likewise, even if the doctor did it, unless he forced the woman to abort, she would be an accomplice to murder, because remember, this isn’t drugs anymore, this is murder according to the fetus=person crowd. So the doctors and women should be jailed; along with anyone who knew about her intentions but didn’t inform the law. Criminal negligence anyone?

    And I don’t feel these are out of line, because you would expect the same of any living person’s death. Investigations as to why it happened, who knew, who might have been involved. Your attempt to pin all the responibility on the solo shoulders of doctors just works to dodge the question of the other ways of aborting, intentional or not that don’t involve doctors, as well the massive legal work and government agencies that would need to be created to deal with the matter on a case-by-case basis, as the state does in actual murder cases. Women would need to be investigated in order to gather evidence for whether the miscarriage was intentional or not. Sounds more like the middle east where women can be killed for the offense; though the positions of the anti-abortion crowd seem to resemble them in many aspects.

    Also, I think the drug metaphor is kind of apt, because the war of drugs is a tremendous failure that wastes money, imprisons too many people, and doesn’t actually help drug addicts (unless you count prison as help).

  • OMGF

    If abortion is illegal at any point, and a doctor is still performing the death wish, the charge should be on the doctor if a woman came forward to help the police search out the abortionist/baby killer.

    Yup, cause those poow wittle women can’t actually think and decide for themselves to have an abortion. It’s those strapping male, dominating doctors that force those women to have abortions or else they convince those women to have those abortions and turn their minds from the purity that is having a child within them.

    This is such a cop-out.

  • OMGF

    BTW, if my words sound a bit harsh, it’s because I get a little touchy at these types of arguments, which treat women as nothing but objects.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I’m not so much concerned with how the phrasing frames men because it’s true that much of the problem for women is caused by male privilege. I’m concerned with the phrasing because it says nothing about all the other causes of inequality, not to mention ignores the fact that there are some areas where female privilege exists even side by side with male privilege.

    Having encountered such views within feminism, my opinion is that feminism settled on this common language of male privilege precisely because it is the so inclusive of all these different feminists, even if they are nothing more than extremist man-haters. This language of feminism makes it difficult who is and who isn’t mainstream, in fact I think it even confuses feminists themselves. While there are many atheist feminists, there are just as many who seem to believe in a “female” god. I’ve encountered writers such as bell hooks in college literature courses even though she is an irrational blowhard who fantasizes about killing white men while at the same time believes that the erosion of traditional religious institutions is a problem for black women. And as far as I can tell, most people feel that she’s mainstream.

  • Adam

    OMGF,

    The example I gave is not a cop-out at all. If abortion is illegal at any period during pregnancy, and the woman who had the abortion is caught, the police would ask her where she had the illegal abortion, and like the drug dealer the abortionist would be charged. There is no way doctors would risk jail time and their practices to do abortions if they were illegal.

    poow wittle women

    Did you mean poor little women?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    sorry – the above was intended for Alex Weaver for this comment

  • Alex Weaver

    Right, because no one risks jail time to sell drugs now that they’re illegal.

    Your proposal would not affect the number of abortions performed, it would merely affect the number of women who suffered or died because of unsafe back-alley abortions. You’re not fooling anyone.

  • Adam

    Right, because no one risks jail time to sell drugs now that they’re illegal.

    Your proposal would not affect the number of abortions performed, it would merely affect the number of women who suffered or died because of unsafe back-alley abortions. You’re not fooling anyone.

    If you were a doctor who performed abortions, and then they became illegal, you would still do them?

    And you’re saying every doctor would continue to do them?

    I would say that abortions would start to decline.

  • Chet

    There is absolutely no intellectually honest way to arrive at such an interpretation of Ebon’s statements – either you have a childishly black-and-white view of this debate and are classing him in a massively polyphyletic category of “people who believe there should be any restrictions on abortion” which you’ve labeled “generic anti-choice” and are projecting the motives and mindset of the average anti-choicer onto him, you didn’t even read his posts, or you’re deliberately misrepresenting him.

    That’s just nonsense, Alex. I’ve presented the direct consequences of his framing of the issue. Since he can’t be offering this position as a compromise with the anti-choicers – since they don’t compromise with anyone – he clearly feels that late-term abortions, in and of themselves, are objectionable. Let’s be honest. It’s not like we were all milling about, wondering what we should consider the start of life. We had a criteria for that already – birth. Ebon wants to change it.

    It’s reasonable to wonder why he should want to change it, and change it in such a way as to prevent some amount of late-term abortions. What are we to conclude from that except that Ebon thinks too many women are having late-term abortions, and that that choice should be taken from them?

    Ebon is, of course, free to offer his own rationalizations, but in several posts he failed to do so when directly asked. At that point there’s nothing unreasonable about speculating on what, precisely, he’s trying to accomplish with this. Ebon has offered his “solution to the problem.” I’m trying to get at what precisely he thinks is the problem in the first place.

    If you’re the same Chet I remember from certain Pharyngula threads, I am disappointed that you haven’t outgrown this sort of behavior.

    I’ve posted at Pharyngula in maybe ten whole threads in my whole life. I’m certain you’re thinking of someone else. I can’t for the life of me believe that I’m anybody so memorable.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    The example I gave is not a cop-out at all. If abortion is illegal at any period during pregnancy, and the woman who had the abortion is caught, the police would ask her where she had the illegal abortion, and like the drug dealer the abortionist would be charged.

    Oh, so if a group of conspirators murder someone, as soon as they find one of them and that person confesses, they get to go free so long as they give up the others in their group, right?

    Really, this is nothing more than chauvinism. You are treating the women as if they aren’t adult enough or have the mental faculties enough to decide on their own to get an abortion. Instead, you treat it as if the women are being enticed into it and don’t really have control. It’s rather telling, considering that anti-choicers are trying to control women’s bodies anyway.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Chet,
    Yes, it is unreasonable to cast the person attacks at Ebon that you’ve cast. Some of your arguments are good, and I happen to agree with probably all of them, but attacking Ebon in the manner you have is simply outrageous. There’s no evidence that he wants to punish women for being sluts. Let’s take the personal rhetoric down a level (I know it’s a bit hypocritical after my sarcasm above) and make arguments based on logic and reason instead of insults.

  • Alex Weaver

    Trust me, Chet, comments like this tend to stick in people’s minds, and on the basis of both style and content of your posts I’m reasonably certain you’re the same Chet. Ebon has, in fact, explained his reasoning several times, and even if he hadn’t, your putting words in his mouth would be out of line, albeit in-character.

    And no, it is not reasonable to blithely attribute motives to people that are inconsistent with absolutely everything they’ve ever expressed unless you’re prepared to substantiate those accusations.

  • http://grimrhapsody.wordpress.com Dawn Rhapsody

    Chet,

    Let’s be honest. It’s not like we were all milling about, wondering what we should consider the start of life. We had a criteria for that already – birth. Ebon wants to change it.

    Who is “we”? You’re claiming that some central, authoritative pro-choice human society has declared the criteria for life to be birth and that to seek to change that is absurd and must have some ulterior motive.

    It’s reasonable to wonder why he should want to change it, and change it in such a way as to prevent some amount of late-term abortions. What are we to conclude from that except that Ebon thinks too many women are having late-term abortions, and that that choice should be taken from them?

    And here I was thinking that perhaps Ebon was dealing with this topic from a moral point of view with the specific intent of deciding when a fetus becomes human.

  • Purple

    Alex Weaver,

    At “April 28, 2008, 11:27 pm” you said I might have been referring to anencephaly, but in fact I was referring to Hydranencephaly as originally stated. This is where a baby looks completely normal and acts like a normal baby, but in fact does not have half of his/her brain.

    I apologize if you were referring to someone else, but I wanted to clear that up.
    Thanks.

  • Alex Weaver

    I believe someone else mangled it into “hydrocephalic” which confused me. Anyway, considering the dependence of much of normal baby behavior on the functioning of the cerebral cortex, I doubt this very much.

  • LindaJoy

    Whew! This conversation is long, heavy, very technical in spots, and as I read it I keep thinking about all the women (and men) I met when I was a pregnancy options counselor. We can all chat about the morality and drawing viability lines, but when it gets down to it, there are as many reasons to have an abortion as there are individual lives. While I could have a personal opinion about the choices made by the people I saw, and their reasons for those choices, it didn’t matter. The decision is a private one and one that is influenced far more by the total situation in a person’s life than by anything said here.

  • Chet

    Ebon has, in fact, explained his reasoning several times

    Not in reference to the specific point I’m making. Let me ask again – what is the problem, precisely, that Ebon is trying to solve, here?

  • Chet

    Trust me, Chet, comments like this tend to stick in people’s minds

    It’s more than just a little creepy that you, what, bookmarked that? A comment from more than a year ago? At a completely different site?

  • Chet

    Who is “we”?

    Us. All of us.

    You don’t believe me? Open your wallet and pull out your driver’s license. Is that the date of your birth, or the date of your conception? Is that the date of your birth or the date of your first brainwave?

    All I’m saying, and it’s ludicrous of you to try to contest it, is that there’s already a widely-accepted convention for the beginning of life; one nearly universal to the world’s cultures, including our own, and already adopted as the legal standard in all 50 states and by federal law: birth.

    Like I said, it’s not like we were swimming amongst a hundred different regional beginning-of-life positions already, or something; human society has all but universally come to accept birth as the beginning of life. Indeed, good ol’ MW defines “birth” as “the emergence of a new individual from the body of its parent”, emphasis on “new.”

    And here I was thinking that perhaps Ebon was dealing with this topic from a moral point of view with the specific intent of deciding when a fetus becomes human.

    We already had a decision on that, a decision reflected in all our laws and in the laws of nearly every nation. It wasn’t exactly ambiguous in any way.

    Ebon seems to think, though, that the current consensus on the beginning of life is a “problem”, and I can’t for the life of me understand from his posts why he thinks that’s the case. I speculated in an attempt to answer my own question. Where that was presumptuous, I apologize. To date he has not explained. I won’t ask you to do so in his stead; but his failure to address this crucial point is what opens him up to accusations of bad faith.

  • Adam

    OMGF,

    What are you talking about?

    I would ask that you please take off your, “I hate women” glasses. Please do not assuming that I, and everyone that is pro-life, hate women.

  • Adam

    OMGF, I am referring to this post:

    The example I gave is not a cop-out at all. If abortion is illegal at any period during pregnancy, and the woman who had the abortion is caught, the police would ask her where she had the illegal abortion, and like the drug dealer the abortionist would be charged.

    Oh, so if a group of conspirators murder someone, as soon as they find one of them and that person confesses, they get to go free so long as they give up the others in their group, right?

    Really, this is nothing more than chauvinism. You are treating the women as if they aren’t adult enough or have the mental faculties enough to decide on their own to get an abortion. Instead, you treat it as if the women are being enticed into it and don’t really have control. It’s rather telling, considering that anti-choicers are trying to control women’s bodies anyway.

    Comment by: OMGF | April 29, 2008, 5:12 pm

  • Alex Weaver

    Not in reference to the specific point I’m making. Let me ask again – what is the problem, precisely, that Ebon is trying to solve, here?

    You might examine your implicit assumption that this argument consists of a “problem” and a purported “solution.”

    …do you work in IT, by any chance?

    It’s more than just a little creepy that you, what, bookmarked that? A comment from more than a year ago? At a completely different site?

    No; I simply picked the link out of CMF’s “plonked” entry.

    I would ask that you please take off your, “I hate women” glasses. Please do not assuming that I, and everyone that is pro-life, hate women.

    Would you mind explaining how his criticisms themselves are based on a misreading of your reasoning, rather than simply taking issue with the unflattering conclusion?

    Also, consider the chart here and find some errors in the reasoning if you can.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Adam,

    Let’s run a few thought experiments.
    1) Let’s say the woman has an abortion at some illegal time, but her boyfriend turns her and the doctor in. I suppose then she’d have to go to jail too, right?

    2)Let’s say the woman and the husband came into together and a neighbor turned all three in, or just the husband and wife pair, who then refuse to give up the doctor’s name; Who goes to jail then?

    3) Let’s say that a woman was pregnant with a third trimester fetus and then she’s not; neighbor, husband, whomever claims she has an abortion, she claims miscarriage, ideas as to what to do now?

    4) Let’s say a woman was pregnant, is not any longer after said date, claims her doctor did it; doctor claims he’s innocent. Suppose the woman just lied in order to cover her own ass from a legal punishment, or that doctors just stop keeping track of it for the same reason. How do you plan on determining if the doctor did in fact perform the abortion?

    5) Woman wants an abortion, but doctors won’t do it. Instead she self-aborts or goes to some back alley ‘doctor’ for the abortion. Outside of her likely chance of getting hurt, who goes to jail then?

    And your position does kind of have that “That woman didn’t really know what she doing” twinge to it. I understand you probably don’t hate woman, but a similar position would be (using the fetus as a person stance)”woman wants her husband dead, goes to a hitman and has him killed, then reports the hitman; who has responsibility? The answer is both of them.

  • Adam

    Mrnaglfar,

    You pose interesting questions that I am sure would need an answer too if abortions were to become illegal.

    The question still remains though, what happens, legally, if abortion becomes illegal. I would answer that, if this becomes the case, law enforcement would do well to stop the doctors (like the drug dealers: see my old post) from performing abortions. The only way to stop the doctors would be to give the women who had the abortion a chance to speak out…if they wanted too (like the drug addict: see my old post).

    But doctors who perform abortions are not like drug dealers in so far as they went to medical school, spent a ton of money on education, built a practice, pay employees, have a pension…and you telling me that if abortions become illegal they will just give all of that up and continue to perform the illegal action? I would say that almost all of them would not continue.

    Now, I am not talking about emergency medical abortions. Those would be separate cases.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Adam,

    Now, I am not talking about emergency medical abortions. Those would be separate cases

    Let’s replace abortion with the words “killing a baby”, just for the sake of argument. What good medical excuse do you know for “killing a baby” to save another person’s life? Not only that, but a baby that’s incapable of consenting; that must be a tough one.

    More to the point, let’s replace “drug dealer” with “baby killer” too; while we’re at it, let’s replace abortion, in some cases, with “shooting a four year old in the head”, since that’s the moral equal to granting a fetus the rights of a human. So now, in this situation, a woman actively seeks out a “baby killer” to “shoot her four year old in the head”. She pays him to “kill her baby”, grants her approval to “kill her baby”, and he does “shoot her four year old in the head”. How is that inconsistent with the legal definition of murder and conspiracy/accomplice to murder? What if the father of the “baby” is there too? What if they’re all in on “shooting their four year old in the head”; shouldn’t they all go to jail?

    Are you forgetting that our jails are overflowing with non-violent drug offenders; not drug dealers, but people who just liked to use drugs? Kind of messed up the idea of what would happen, doesn’t it?

    For these reasons, and many more (like the organ donor example mentioned above, and rights to control your own body), personhood should be granted at birth, as it currently is in almost every legal sense of the word. The only case I can think of where it’s not is during these kinds of debates, but even then, a lot of the anti-abortion crowd doesn’t consider fetus a human; they say they do but don’t carry through on all it’s legal implications, like the ones I’ve been mentioning that have yet to be answered to me by anyone opposing abortions.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Hold the phone, I just thought up the near perfect anaolgy for this:

    A situation where an actual person is technically alive, but has the same consenting power as a fetus, and lives in much the same state of dependance; Coma patients that are biologically alive, but only so because of tubes hooked up to them.

    Now the big difference here is that coma patients aren’t growing into non-coma patients, but that’s partly made up for the by the fact that people can snap out of comas. Imagine in this scenerio that you have to pay for the care of this coma patient, and the legal power rests in your hands; is it murder to unplug your patient from the care you’re providing? Well, no. Remember Terri Schiavo? I would say a similiar principle is at work here too, except in this case, her existance relies on direct use of the mother’s body, and not money, as the cost involved.

    In the same sense, the mother has the right to withdraw investment or care from the fetus so long as she hasn’t given birth to it yet (consider the equal the coma patient waking up).

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Thank you, Entomologista. An honest comment deserves a candid response.

    And I want you to realize the implications of what you’re suggesting.

    I do realize the implications of what I’m suggesting. As I said in a prior comment, I don’t at all like the conclusion that a woman who was prevented from getting an abortion early would have to carry the pregnancy to term. I don’t think that’s fair and I wish it were otherwise. But I have to bite the bullet on this one: I couldn’t make an exception without completely repudiating the reasoning I developed in my post, with which I still agree. I think the solution to this problem is a practical one: we need to do what it takes to make abortion services as widely available as possible, so that no woman ever has to be in that situation. I know that’s not the current state of affairs, and may not be any time soon. But I also note that the policy I’m proposing is almost identical to the one that already exists. I’m proposing that we should, at the very least, shore up the ground we already have before we think about pushing it outward. Regardless of whether the restrictions that currently exist are in the right place, let’s at least make sure that we have the maximum possible freedom to act within them before we decide whether they need to be shifted.

    The next part of this comment is not directed at you, Entomologista, but I have to comment on an attitude that’s popped up in several places in this thread. I find it astonishing that you can write essays with titles like “Religion’s Harm to Women” and still, the moment you advocate any regulations on abortion whatsoever, you get accused of being a misogynist forced-birth advocate whose sole motivation is to punish sluts for having sex. One of the worst aspects of the anti-choice movement, and one of the things about that position that makes me so angry, is its almost reflexive imputation of bad faith and bad morals to anyone who disagrees. I don’t find that attitude any more charming when it comes from my side.

    To be honest, I can’t entirely blame some pro-choice advocates for being gun-shy. It really is true that in the past, and still today, pro-lifers have used more modest arguments as a facade for advancing a far more radical and theocratic agenda. The suspicion is understandable that giving any ground at all is the start of a dangerously slippery slope. So, as I said, it’s an understandable fear – but, I think, a misguided one. Sometimes seeking refuge in absolutism can weaken, rather than strengthen, a position. Giving just a little ground can result in a far stronger and more defensible stance.

    I want to stress one obvious point: there are no meaningful physiological or cognitive differences between a newborn infant and a fetus a few days before birth. To assert that the question of whether that living being is within a womb is the only thing that matters when deciding whether its existence may be terminated without legal sanction – that strikes me as a moral absurdity. If we decide that newborn children are human lives worthy of protection, surely we should believe the same about fetuses mere hours from birth. That’s why I believe my position is advantageous, insofar as it identifies a clear milestone for personhood that can be objectively determined. It just so happens that this milestone occurs while the fetus is still inside a woman’s womb. That’s very unfortunate, because it creates a conflict with the woman’s undeniable right of bodily autonomy. But the thing about a morality that’s based on objective facts is that you don’t necessarily get to draw the boundary lines where they’re most philosophically convenient. It would make things much easier for all of us if personhood didn’t develop until the moment of birth. But that’s just not a position I can discern any empirical support for.

    I’m not saying this because I harbor some secret hatred for women. I hope any frequent reader of my site can recognize how ridiculous that is. I’m saying it because I really do believe that there comes a point in pregnancy when there is an independent life worthy of protection. I agree – fully! – that it’s not fair to the woman that this happens while that life is still subsisting off of her body. But the unfairness is not of my invention. If we laid eggs, or had pouches like marsupials, this debate would be a lot easier. But I can’t change the facts of biology. I would if I could.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Ebon,

    I want to stress one obvious point: there are no meaningful physiological or cognitive differences between a newborn infant and a fetus a few days before birth. To assert that the question of whether that living being is within a womb is the only thing that matters when deciding whether its existence may be terminated without legal sanction – that strikes me as a moral absurdity. If we decide that newborn children are human lives worthy of protection, surely we should believe the same about fetuses mere hours from birth. That’s why I believe my position is advantageous, insofar as it identifies a clear milestone for personhood that can be objectively determined.

    But if we can protect infant life only short periods of time before birth (Not sure on the numbers of abortions during this time, but I imagine it’s close to, if not, zero), why can’t we protect them for a while beforehand?
    Fair enough, but the same argument then begins to apply to your idea as well; what is legitmately different between a fetus that’s only a few hours/days away from becoming a legally protected person and one that’s about to reach that stage? And then, whats so different about the one before it, and the one before it, etc etc. It sounds like, and is, a slippery slope argument, but you can bet your savings that it will be used to push for even more protection and “fetus rights” that can trump the mother’s right to her own body.

    While your criteria may indeed determine a milestone that can be objectively measured, so can being born. Matter of fact, being born is probably a more solid line; you’re either born or you’re not. The closest slippery slope argument you could get is maybe if the woman’s going into labor, but again, abortions of these type don’t happen unless a life is seriously at risk (in the one dies or both do type), at which point it’s a medical decision, not a legal one. Once the infant is outside the mother, then it attains it’s personhood as it no longer requires inhabiting the mother’s body for survival. At this point, while it’s needy, it’s needs can filled by people other than the mother (while breastfeeding is optimal, other methods are available that don’t directly rely on the mother’s body).

  • zwei

    I’m not 100% sure I agree with Ebonmuse… I think I agree with him on principle for the most part, but not in practicality.

    Personhood may well start around the 30 week mark. I would probably have put it slightly earlier – around 22 weeks is what I think (from what I’ve read), though my first stab was at 12 weeks, when the very first brain activity becomes detectable. I also used to believe that it was a woman’s responsibility to make sure she knew that she was pregnant, and do something about it early if that was her decision.

    Since then my periods have become more and more erratic, to the point now where if I am not on the pill they routinely end up spaced 12-15 weeks apart – how would I know by 12 weeks that I was pregnant? I don’t even worry about my period not showing up unless it’s been 4 months or more…

    Since then I’ve *also* read about the wonders of the US of A, where women can’t find abortion centres as readily and quickly as they can where I live. So practicality made me rethink the whole “implicit consent” thing that Ebon talked about, which used to be my position also.

    I think that a mix of the arguments from personhood, the arguments from bodily autonomy and various others have between them guided me to my current position, which is that a foetus has a right to life at the point that it could survive outside the womb. If the mother decides between that point and birth that she doesn’t want to support it any more, that should be her choice – it’s her body, after all. But when the foetus has developed to that stage (usually around 6 or 7 months, from my understanding – depending on a whole lot of things), it has *also* got to the point where an abortion is going to hurt the mother every bit as much as an induced pregnancy or a c-section, and the baby should be removed live if possible and handed over for adoption.

    I’ve seen at least one argument on this thread that a mother should be able to abort up until the last day. I disagree so strongly with that – in the last couple of months the baby *will* damage the mother coming out, no matter if it is alive or dead, and the later it gets the worse it gets. That goes hand in hand with the increased likelihood of the baby surviving outside its mother on its own. I don’t see any advantage to abortion over induced pregnancy late in the piece, and I think it should be the doctor’s responsibility to remove the unwanted foetus from the mother in the way most likely to preserve its life.

    I think the mother’s rights to have the foetus out of her body for any reason should be preserved. I just don’t think she should have the right to insist that it’s dead coming out.

    [If I'm making any huge errors in my reasoning, I'd be delighted to have them pointed out.]

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    For what it’s worth, I’d like to make it clear even though I don’t agree with the criteria he proposes, I don’t find any part of Ebonmuse’s argument to be anti-woman. His position isn’t ignorant, either. It’s worthy of an honest, healthy debate. This is at least the type of discussion we should be having to work out issues surrounding abortion, not the type of pre-programmed irrational responses that emanates from the pro-life crowd.

    Ebon, as far as the at-birth criteria, I think it’s a good one. The reason is because I don’t think that even a newborn infant necessarily meets the criteria for personhood. If consciousness was really the criteria that we had to use, I could argue that many critical neural processes don’t even develop until well after birth. If But birth is a convenient milestone just because at that point there is no longer a conflict of interest between the fetus and mother’s womb.

  • Erika

    All y’all saying “well, if late term abortion is illegal, wouldn’t that mean women and their doctors should go to jail?” should remember (because I know you know) that not all illegal actions need be punished by imprisonment.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Erika,

    All y’all saying “well, if late term abortion is illegal, wouldn’t that mean women and their doctors should go to jail?” should remember (because I know you know) that not all illegal actions need be punished by imprisonment.

    The reason abortion would be illegal is because the fetus would be considered a full person at that point. The punishment for killing a person is jail.

    Zwei,

    I’ve seen at least one argument on this thread that a mother should be able to abort up until the last day. I disagree so strongly with that – in the last couple of months the baby *will* damage the mother coming out, no matter if it is alive or dead, and the later it gets the worse it gets. That goes hand in hand with the increased likelihood of the baby surviving outside its mother on its own. I don’t see any advantage to abortion over induced pregnancy late in the piece, and I think it should be the doctor’s responsibility to remove the unwanted foetus from the mother in the way most likely to preserve its life.

    At what gestational ages are abortions performed:
    52% of all abortions occur before the 9th week of pregnancy
    25% happen between the 9th & 10th week
    12% happen between the 11th and 12th week
    6% happen between the 13th & 15th week
    4% happen between the 16th & 20th week
    1% of all abortions (16,450/yr.) happen after the 20th week of pregnancy.

    Source: http://www.abortionno.org/Resources/fastfacts.html

    Late term abortions are remarkably rare, and even giving a rough estimate of 36 weeks for a full term pregnancy, there are still 16 weeks over which that 1% happens, most likely far earlier rather than later.

    While that makes the point of how rare these abortions are, that point is irrelevant to the matter; people (women in this case), have the right to determine what goes on inside their body. Distasteful as it feels to some people to draw the line up to birth, the idea of a woman carrying a fetus for 9 months then suddenly aborting it for no reason are myths; it just doesn’t happen. By making the line birth you avoid the slippery slope, it’s clear and objective, and you bypass all the different legal/tax issues that I have described above. Not to mention that’s the standard currently used almost universally, and in every aspect of life NOT in the abortion debate.

  • Doug

    What happened to you, a miracle? You were once a couple of cells grabbing on to the cervical wall, now your a salient being. was there a miracle that made you human? Or was it a supreme court that made you pulse, breath, and eventually think? Or was it just plane old progress of life, with out divine intervention from god or court?

  • Ishryal

    Consider the following:

    A law is passed that states the following: Upon the death of all citizens, the use of any viable organs may be used by any registered medical facility to be used for donor transplantation to those citizens on a registered donor list needing those organs to survive. The citizen may at any time during their life or by Will chose to ‘opt’ out of this donor system via an officially recognised declaration.

    Is this morally wrong? Do you OWN or have ‘bodily autonomy’ when you are dead? Now, one of the sticking points if you were to say yes, or that ‘I ALWAYS have bodily autonomy’, is that you are also making the case that those ‘rights’ that we afford to ourselves also apply when ‘we’ (as a conscious, free thinking individual of the human race) do not HAVE those abilities. They apply regardless of if *I* exist or not. As such, they also apply before birth, or even if you want to take it so far, before conception. To state otherwise is to say that the right of bodily autonomy is not an absolute.

    If you said ‘no’ to the above, or that ‘bodily autonomy does not apply after death’, then when? Is it life that dictates the right of bodily autonomy?

    Hence, in my opinion, this is WHY it IS important to specify when any rights associated with birth etc come into effect. Any supportive argument about the rights that carrier/foetus have, either pro or con, should provide clear guidelines as to when that right comes into effect, if at all.

    If you decide that all rights become applicable at a certin point during pregnancy, then they must be fully respected, regardless (with a few exceptions) of one’s own rights AND regardless of location. Location is currently one of circumstance in most situations, not necessarily by choice. Consider this situation… two individuals cannot have children together, so they pay another person to be the carrier (surrogacy) using their own DNA for the supply of the embryo. Would it be ok if 3/4 of the way through the pregnancy the couple decide they don’t want the child and have the carrier terminate the pregnancy? What if the carrier decides to have the abortion without the consent of the couple? (Regardless of the legal problems of breaking a contract). This is an example of why I say location is one of circumstance… the carrier may not be the location of conception, indeed, in the future it may be that it does not even need to be a person that is the carrier, and any rights associated with the unborn individual should be applicable regardless of where it is located.

    One’s right of bodily autonomy does NOT give you the right to deny all rights to that newly recognised individual. Any deliberate abortion after this point becomes a denial of the rights of the unborn person. I’m not saying whether it is right or wrong, just that this is what happens. Any illegality and punishment should be viewed in this light. This is ignoring the potential harm or death a pregnancy may cause, but that is another issue and I will only say that IMO the life of the pre-existing carrier is more important than the foetus and in such circumstances I don’t see any moral problem in the carrier wanting to have an abortion to save their own life… I also don’t have any moral problems if the carrier decides to go through with the pregancy despite a high probabilty of death. Keep in mind that these days ‘abortion’ at a very late stage need not result in death for the foetus… they wouldn’t be abortions of course… more a case of ‘pre-birth elective cesarean’. This of course has it’s own issues… like the cost to the state of keeping the child alive, foster care, etc… kinda like the costs of adoption but with probably a higher medical bill. Just speculating.

    Another example is that of siamese twins. IF you say that any individual has a right of bodily autonomy inspite of the rights of others, does that mean that one twin may choose to be seperated regardless of if the end result is the death of the other twin? As soon as you give rights to an foetus, in a way it is like the situation of the siamese twins where most of the bodily support is provided by one ‘body’ with the other dependant on it. The other individual’s rights must be taken into consideration if the whole ‘rights of all people’ is to mean anything.

    I also do not see why the act of birth itself should be the instigation of rights and priviledges… everything else aside, it is only a change of location and support of the foetus. In most cases, this location change could have occured weeks, maybe months before hand with the child still surviving (albeit with medical help in many cases). Why should a location change be so significate an event as to endow the status of ‘person’ or ‘conscious’ or ‘human’. So we have the indicator of ‘birthday’ on drivers licences etc. So what? From an admistration point of view, it’s the most of obvious and probably cost effective measure to signify age. But is it also enough to grant those things we take as paramount as the defining attributes of ‘a human being’? Is it a case of ‘to be born is to be human’? It does NOT after all specify WHEN you are given your rights… that is determined by your citizenship… which may occure when you were born, when you were registered as being born, or if you’re an immigrant, when you signup and are given citizenship. I guess if the immigrant wasn’t a citizen at birth, then they weren’t human, and as such have no rights. Does not being human grant you certain ‘inalienable rights’ despite citizenship? If you can determine when something is human/person/conscious/etc, then they have those rights. To do otherwise is to deny us all of the status human and of any rights.

    But I think that’s enough rambling for now… I’m sure there’s many holes in my argument (and excuse any spelling errors), which I will address if I can. Also keep in mind I have not said anything about cases of rape etc, or more medical centres etc, which are also important to this debate and of which I do not cover. Really, don’t you think it’s long enough as it is? Also, my use of the word ‘carrier’ may seem insensitive to the women, but I have reasons for doing so. One is to try to make arguments as rational as possible. While it is blatantly obvious that it is women that carry the child to term, I’m trying to avoid any emotionalism that may arise from personalising it. And any argument to the effect of ‘that is easy for you to say because you are not a women and wouldn’t know’ is, IMO, an emotional one and pleading special circumstances. Why should we allow pleading in this debate when we do not offer such to Theists when they say ‘you wouldn’t know because you are not a Christian’? Choice doesn’t apply either… modern medicine allows people engaged in sex to not have children, it also allows you to not have sex and still have children, and at least for women, it allows you to not be a women and/or remove most if not all reproduction organs. Men cannot say the same currently… there is no current method (AFAIK) for a man to be given the same reproductive organs as a women and carry a foetus to term.

    I also say ‘carrier’ because if science progresses at it does, there may be a time when it need NOT be women who have the sole responsibility for pregnancy… artifical wombs incubators, surrogate species, Wombs-for-Men(tm)… these moral questions regarding abortion need to apply regardless of who or what is being the carrier. Determine what the rights of the foetus are first (if any, if it’s human, when etc), and if the system of rights are clear enough, then the rights of the carrier will stem from those.

  • http://grimrhapsody.wordpress.com Dawn Rhapsody

    While that makes the point of how rare these abortions are, that point is irrelevant to the matter; people (women in this case), have the right to determine what goes on inside their body. Distasteful as it feels to some people to draw the line up to birth, the idea of a woman carrying a fetus for 9 months then suddenly aborting it for no reason are myths; it just doesn’t happen. By making the line birth you avoid the slippery slope, it’s clear and objective, and you bypass all the different legal/tax issues that I have described above. Not to mention that’s the standard currently used almost universally, and in every aspect of life NOT in the abortion debate.

    That may all be well and true, but Ebon’s series is called “On the Morality of” and not “On the Legal Simplicity of”. Late-term non-emergency abortions do occur, however small their number may be, and Ebon is presenting a very viable case for why this should be considered immoral.

    It is not completely unimaginable for a woman, perhaps for psychological reasons, to declare she wants to abort in the last week of pregnancy, and I don’t doubt there are women who have expressed such desires. Do we, having already declared the line as birth, uncomfortably say “Well, honestly we never expected this but I guess we have no choice” despite this being the equivalent to intentionally inducing a stillborn baby?

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Ebonmuse, I’ve been shadowing you pretty perfectly for most of the debate. There are two issues — that of the mother’s bodily autonomy, and that of the child’s welfare. They can both matter.

    I honestly don’t understand why people don’t think the ‘consciousness’ criterion is important. Birth is an important milestone as regards the mother’s autonomy, but I don’t see how it applies to the question of whether we should be considering the child as a being with moral rights — unless you claim that the mother’s autonomy always trumps any rights the child might have. I can understand that position, but I don’t agree with it.

    I’m utilitarian enough to think that obligations to others can legitimately override your autonomy in certain situations. I was thinking of the analogy with parenthood a few posts before Ebonmuse mentioned it. Moreover, although it’s a pitiful comparison, the obligations of parenthood do apply to men as well as to women. I don’t mean to suggest that child support laws are nearly as dramatic a compulsion as a law that can force you to carry a child to term. There’s a difference between bodily autonomy and autonomy over your money, and violation of the former is much more invasive. Nonetheless both are potential examples of ways in which a child can place obligations on its parents without their explicit consent.

    Obviously it makes sense to avoid placing people in so extremely cruel a position in all ways possible. Abortion of a fetus that is well shy of consciousness can be, in that sense, nothing less than a moral good.

    (Oh, and I’m vegetarian — but I wouldn’t donate a kidney to a rabbit. So I’m still in favour of allowing second trimester abortions.)

  • Chris Warren

    Unwanted humans…., the little thieving bastards, who do they think they are, expecting a free ride? Oh, right, that would be the unborn children of said hypothetical 3rd trimester abortions. I understand the concept of a woman having sovereignty over her own body, and I support it. I do not support needlessly killing a viable and conveniently termed fetus, on the grounds that it is a freeloading parasite, with no intrinsic value of its own. I assert that cold hard logic should rule the day when it comes to legal precedent. I also assert that merely stating that one should have the legal right to abort a late term pregnancy under any circumstance, does not make it a morally correct decision. We can complicate, and muddy the waters all we like with complex arguments, counter-arguments, and justifications. The path to abortion should not be so completely clear, as to remove the perception of a personal moral obligation to your own unborn children. A moral person should require of themselves that they consider all the consequences of such a final action. That said, I do maintain that is should still be a choice, in order to prevent abuse and manipulation of vulnerable women, just not one that I would personally respect in situations where a better alternative exists.

  • LindaJoy

    Well Chris W.- you just said almost exactly what I posted several postings above (which was pretty much ignored in the passions of the argument) about what I observed when I was a pregnancy options counselor. We can debate all the imagined situations in the world and draw all the lines we want, but it comes down to a personal choice. And since there is no way we will agree on all the hypotheticals presented here, it should stay that- a choice made finally by the woman at any stage of the pregnancy, period.

  • Mrnaglfar

    I do love the debate.

    Dawn,

    That may all be well and true, but Ebon’s series is called “On the Morality of” and not “On the Legal Simplicity of”. Late-term non-emergency abortions do occur, however small their number may be, and Ebon is presenting a very viable case for why this should be considered immoral.

    Understandably; you can consider them immoral all you want, but the moment one says “illegal” then you enter the realm of having to anwer legal questions, which I’ve noticed, people seem relucant to do. I’ve given plenty of examples, but have yet to get an answer from anyone opposed to my line of birth as to how those cases would legally be resolved. They may only sound like hypotheticals to you, but the moment you start drawing lines as to when the choice can be made by the woman and what you define as a person, the moment that line will be challenged by the anti-abortion crowd. It will also be vigerously challenged; remember, these people are coming from the “no abortions allowed period” area of town.

    It is not completely unimaginable for a woman, perhaps for psychological reasons, to declare she wants to abort in the last week of pregnancy, and I don’t doubt there are women who have expressed such desires. Do we, having already declared the line as birth, uncomfortably say “Well, honestly we never expected this but I guess we have no choice” despite this being the equivalent to intentionally inducing a stillborn baby?

    Yes, you do.

    Lynet,

    I honestly don’t understand why people don’t think the ‘consciousness’ criterion is important.

    Never said it wasn’t important, but so long as the fetus is taking up residence directly inside and wired into the mother’s body, her choice trumps it. I know you don’t agree with it, but you too have not answered any of the examples I’ve listed above about the implicitions of your position. Here’s another; anti-abortion groups will demand your fetus (and everyone else’s) be constantly monitered so as to determine the exact moment when your option to abortion flies out the window. So you’ve now not only sacrificed bodily autonomy, but privacy too. On top of all the other implications about jail time for, what would be essentially killing a person, would you care to take a stab at it?

    Chris,

    I also assert that merely stating that one should have the legal right to abort a late term pregnancy under any circumstance, does not make it a morally correct decision

    And I assert forcing women to carry the fetus full term, give birth to it, and raise it because the alternative makes you a bit uncomfortable doesn’t make that the morally right choice either.

    The path to abortion should not be so completely clear, as to remove the perception of a personal moral obligation to your own unborn children. A moral person should require of themselves that they consider all the consequences of such a final action.

    The path is rarely that clear. Third trimester women don’t just wake up and decide “I’m getting an abortion” with a smile on their lips and a bounce in their step. They should have the right to make the choice and the responisibility to shoulder the consequences; most would probably be devastated by the choice, wondering about what would have been. Others won’t make the correct choice and spend their life bringing/raising an unwanted child into the world who will spend it’s life miserable and lonely. It’s not an easy choice, but I’m glad you see it should be a choice.

  • Erika

    bbk, just to harp on the apple issue a little more. The throwing away of a half eaten apple and abortion are incomparable in kind if not degree. The difference is that, unless a starving person is right there and you choose to throw away the apple instead of giving it to them, throwing away the apple does not make a difference; the wrong was done when you bought an apple you did not mean to eat. Even buying the apple that you do not mean to eat is different in kind than abortion. Having an abortion or not having an abortion directly determines whether or not a life is lost. Not buying an apple you do not intend to eat will, in the best case, be part of an aggregate action that will change the global food distribution for the better.

    There is a fundamental moral difference between actions that directly cause something bad to happen and those which do not.

  • Erika

    Mrnaglfar, you say The reason abortion would be illegal is because the fetus would be considered a full person at that point. The punishment for killing a person is jail.

    The punishment for killing a person is not always jail. War, self defense, even sometimes trespassing, are all situations where one person can kill another and be punished in a way that is not imprisonment or not punished at all.

    It seems reasonable to say that a woman killing a person for the purpose of bodily autonomy is one of those situations where imprisonment is not necessarily the punishment that must be given.

  • http://verywide.net/ Moody834

    My $.05…

    Here’s a fact. If those who would outlaw late-term abortion had succeeded a few years ago, my partner would have died. Period. Complications from her pregnancy were life threatening, and she was losing ground with every day she tried to hold on. However much she wanted to bear that child, it was simply not going to work. Aborting her unborn child saved her life. She was fortunate to live in a time and place that provided her with the opportunity to save herself (even at the expense of a broken heart that will never fully mend).

    Then there’s this:

    In the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain and most of the rest of western Europe, around 15-25% of pregnancies are terminated. In India, an estimated 6.4m abortions take place every year (most involving female fetuses), representing one in four pregnancies. In many African and Muslim countries the rate is probably less than 5%, says William Robert Johnston, an American pundit. But he notes that data are elusive, and that the link between law and reality is often tenuous.

    Indeed, some of the world’s highest abortion rates are to be found in Latin America, where it is all but outlawed. The Mexican legislators who voted to decriminalise abortion cited the brutal effects of this gap between theory and practice: an estimated 5,000 women die in Latin America every year from botched back-street or self-administered abortions; a further 800,000 have to be treated in hospital.

    It seems to me that there is a simple matter of priorities reflected here. Do you think that a woman (or, if you prefer, a female of child-bearing maturity) has more or fewer rights than an unborn child (or, if you prefer, a fetus)? Is a pregnant woman categorically different than a woman who is not pregnant? Who dictates here, who decides, who judges?

    When it comes to fetuses, infants, toddlers, we are always talking about potentials. Psychological expressions of biological imperatives aside, we are right to protect the welfare of children. Let’s look at the tautology and consider it: our progeny are the future of our species. It is not at all surprising that religions have embraced “protecting the unborn” as a cause divinely mandated. But how rational is it? Is it rational to overthrow a woman’s realized autonomy, to negate or restrict her personal sovereignty, to protect the potential of another life?

    What do we value more? Does it matter what the individual woman values more?

    As an atheist who considers personal autonomy a right and not a mere privilege, I am disgusted with the efforts of religious communities that would see everyone with bended knee, subjugated to the tenets of a blind faith. I also find to be grossly flimsy and dubious the claims of pro-lifers, based as they are, at best, in unfalsifiable metaphysics and so-called spirituality that barely conceal their patriarchal roots in the cults of the dying/reborn god, and based too in the desire of certain men who would see women under their complete control (which makes the passing on of one’s DNA so much easier).

    Obviously, one does not want abortion to be a cheap form of birth control. But guess what? It’s not. Only a most naïve or pathetically ignorant person thinks an abortion is easy. It’s not. The safest way to ensure that a woman does not have any need for an abortion is by improving sex ed across the board (which includes ridding kids of the notion that praying or “wishing really hard” somehow helps) and by making contraceptives available and cheap.

    Life becomes more valuable as its potential is consciously nurtured, perpetually realized, constantly developed and expanded. Quality of life is created in our efforts for those children we chose to have.

  • Mrnaglfar

    You know, while we’re on the topic of consent, I think another item needs to be considered. If not for pratical purposes then just for the hell of it.

    We don’t have the child’s consent to be conceived in the first place.

    I know that sounds silly, but I’m sure everyone alive today knows someone who might have just perferred to skip the whole “being born” thing if they knew what life had in store for them. Small percentage of them, sure, but a small percentage of abortions happen after third trimester, so both debates are about small numbers. You don’t have to ask the child’s consent to bring it into the world, people just do because they want to do it, want encompassing any number of reasons.

    The rest of my argument still stands, I just thought this addition was interesting to consider.

  • Erika

    Moody834,

    Welcome to the fray, but who are you addressing here? You seem to be addressing some religious pro-lifer without being specific as to who. This is odd, since the vast majority of the people in this conversation have expressed (a) that they are atheists, (b) that they support early abortions for any reason, and (c) they support late term abortions for medical reasons.

    The main point of contention seems to be revolving around (a) whether late term abortions are moral, (b) whether late term abortions should be legal, and (c) the appropriate punishment for late term abortions if they were to be made illegal.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Erika,

    The punishment for killing a person is not always jail. War, self defense, even sometimes trespassing, are all situations where one person can kill another and be punished in a way that is not imprisonment or not punished at all.

    It seems reasonable to say that a woman killing a person for the purpose of bodily autonomy is one of those situations where imprisonment is not necessarily the punishment that must be given.

    Ok, fine. The fetus (person in this case, according to you) is trespassing in the mother’s body, and she’s actting in self-defense to avoid having her body violated by a guest she no longer wants that’s limiting her ability to live her life and takes resources from her she doesn’t which to give(stealing). No punishment should be given, making the idea of these abortions being illegal completely pointless.

    Unless you’d like to fine the women who had late term abortions, but see, when it comes to murder, a fine normally doesn’t really do it justice; matter of fact, it treats these fetuses like they aren’t even people at all. How many murder trials do you know that end in a fine? Especially if murder occurs when the woman’s life is not directly in jeporady. Do you think this will please the anti-abortion crowd, or just give them an excuse to try and push that line even further back (along the lines of “it’s a person! You can’t just kill all these innocent people who didn’t know what they were doing/didn’t have a choice!) Of couse, this would also have to go to court to determine the extend of it, which means after dealing with the already troubling affair of aborting a third trimester baby, these women now need to go to court to be humilated and *possibly* jailed in order to let them know other people don’t approve of their choice.

  • RiddleOfSteel

    LindJoy wrote: “And since there is no way we will agree on all the hypotheticals presented here, it should stay that- a choice made finally by the woman at any stage of the pregnancy, period.”

    Speak for yourself. As an atheist who understands there is no afterlife to fall back on, I do not support the idea that someone could have destroyed the only existence I will ever have, simply because they chose to do it early on in my human development.

    Also thanks for providing another example highlighting that “pro-choice” people are hardly in agreement on when a pregnancy can legitimately be ended. You at least are legitimately pro-choice, since you advocate that abortion should be “a choice made finally by the woman at any stage of the pregnancy, period.” But it sounds like what is a choice to you, is immoral and tantamount to murder according to Ebonmuse? So LindaJoy, I am curious if you think Ebonmuse is really pro-choice, since he would not support your choice to have control over your own reproductive system throughout your pregnancy?

  • Erika

    Hmm, I realized I may as well give my position in my framing of the discussion here.

    On 1.a,b, and c, I am one of those people in vehement agreement with the general opinion here.

    On 2a, I think late term non-medical abortions are immoral. On 2b, I still think they should be legal because a woman’s bodily autonomy is something she has a right too. On 2c, I think that if late term abortions were to be made illegal despite my wishes and best efforts, the punishment should be very much less than for murder because of the importance of bodily autonomy.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Riddleofsteel,

    Speak for yourself. As an atheist who understands there is no afterlife to fall back on, I do not support the idea that someone could have destroyed the only existence I will ever have, simply because they chose to do it early on in my human development.

    There wouldn’t be an “i” in question. Fetuses aborted in the late term might be aware, in some sense, of the world, but it’s still not a person. I don’t think they’d even know what was happening.

    What about all the other life that also only has one shot at existance, life you depend on to keep living? Does that life not have as much a right to exist as you do?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Ishryal, having autonomy over your body even after death stands on its own moral arguments that are completely unrelated to a fetus. One, there are documented conflicts of interest between emergency room doctors and organ harvest teams who would like to cut off medical treatment in order to get organs. Two, the very solid moral objections to the fact that a great number of the people who would be organ donors would not have the health coverage and personal wealth to benefit from those very transplants themselves should they be in need of them. In fact, we could argue that the entire practice of organ transplants is an immoral waste of money that could be spent on basic health services that would have a much greater benefit to the lives of more people in society. There is incentive for hospitals to provide expensive transplants because they’re extremely profitable, while basic health services are not. These are the moral grounds for opting out of organ donation. It’s not just simply autonomy over one’s own body, although this is the basic right that *allows* you to make the moral decisions when choosing to be an organ donor.

    Also, how is it that you translate autonomy over one’s own body after death to autonomy over one’s own body before birth while entirely skipping the autonomy over your own body while you’re alive?

    I’ll point out the flaws in your argument. Technically, there is no autonomy over your own body after death – those decisions were made while you were alive and there is a contractual requirement to follow your instructions even after your death. We can’t break this contract any more than your offspring can liquidate the trust fund you set up for them just because you’re dead. And technically, fetuses don’t make autonomous decisions. And even if they did, we wouldn’t be able to ascertain what those decisions could be. It’s ludicrous to compare the two scenarios. It’s the equivalent of shoving a birth waiver document and a pen up the woman’s vagina were she to request for an abortion. You’re comparing apples and oranges, plain and simple.

    BUT if there is a comparison to be made here, it’s the fact that we wish to take away the rights of a woman to her own body – rights that we even grant to dead people! So in my opinion, you’ve brought up a yet another great reason to fully respect the woman’s rights to her own body. You’ve just interpreted it wrong.

  • Erika

    Unless you’d like to fine the women who had late term abortions, but see, when it comes to murder, a fine normally doesn’t really do it justice

    Is the purpose of law solely to perpetuate justice or is it also to influence behavior? If it were generally agreed upon that late term abortions were immoral (and it is certainly not agreed upon here, but is in the scenario where it is illegal but punishable by something less than imprisonment), then it would be in the interest of the government to try to discourage such actions. A large fine could be the difference between a woman having an abortion or carrying the child to term and giving it up for adoption and thus, in this case, is an effective law.

  • Erika

    Also, late term abortion would not necessarily be murder. The Wikipedia article on murder has a relatively detailed discussion of what is and is not murder. See especially the sections on victims, exclusions, self-defense, and port-partum despression.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Erika,

    Is the purpose of law solely to perpetuate justice or is it also to influence behavior?

    Influence behavioral outcomes to ensure justice, not because people find it distasteful (sodomy laws? drug laws? Obscenity laws?). The law’s bottom line is justice and enforcing rights. Whenever the law has tried to make people behave in a manner that certain people find tasteful without demonstrating clear harm to others it’s failed, and rightly so as that’s not the job of the justice system – their job is JUSTICE.

    A large fine could be the difference between a woman having an abortion or carrying the child to term and giving it up for adoption and thus, in this case, is an effective law.

    So you’re proposing large fines for women (who presumably can’t afford to pay them anyway, making it kind of biased towards those in the lower class) so that they’re sure to bring another child into the world and then give it up? Are you forgetting that there’s more to having a child than just giving birth to it, like supporting it, loving it, wanting it, etc? All your law does is essential rub it in other’s people’s faces that you don’t support what they’re doing and still give more ammo to those who wish to remove the right altogether, while increasing the likelyhood that a woman will merely seek an illegal abortion she doesn’t have to pay for and risk harm.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Erika,

    From that wikipedia article, I gather women who had late term abortions would first be charged with manslaughter, possibly murder depending on how crafty lawyers are about turning the words ‘malice’ and ‘intent’.
    Self defense isn’t a great excuse unless the woman’s life is in danger.
    Post-partum depression wouldn’t work because it’s not yet the post-pardum phase (after birth).

    And the only problem exists is if you grant the fetus personhood, becuase it’s not as simple as “this child can survive outside the womb”, it’s “this child may have a certain percentage chance of survival given it’s age, and will more than likely be developmentally disadvantaged as not wanted until it may get adopted.”

    All of which still skirts the issue of whether a woman has a right to control what she uses her body for. Again, the only reason one could make abortions illegal is because they view the fetus at that point legally a human. If it’s legally a human, abortion would be murder, or at least manslaughter, meaning you’d be trying, and probably jailing, women who are already devastated by the choice. Want to add cost to it, how about a lawyer? That should turn into a nice little media circus and clog up our justice system, until the right to abortion either gets revoked or pushed up to birth.

  • Steven

    I’m not surprised by the significant number of comments attached to this posting – but I am surprised by the relatively high level of civility. This is, for most people, an emotional issue and I applaud those who can discuss the morality of abortion in a calm and collected manner.
    I’ve never been sure about how to deal with this issue. It is absolutely clear that all of us should retain control over our own bodies and a cluster of cells is clearly not a person. I’m not worried about questions over “souls” and being made in “God’s image” – as an atheist those things are completely irrelevent to me.
    I should be old enough to have a solid opinion on this one, but I’m still at a loss. What is the greater tragedy, the loss of a potential person or the certainty of pain and suffering to an actual person? I think if you’re already here then you have a greater voice than somebody who might be here 9 months from now.
    My hope is that in the future this debate will wither away in the face of widespread responsible birth control and real education about the possible consequences of normal behaviour.
    After more than 20 years, I still remember my gym coach in health class pounding a plastic garbage can lid with his fist to demonstrate the “stopping power” of a condom. It was embarassing, yet it made birth control curiously “macho” and may even have prevented a few unwanted teenage pregnancies.
    It makes a lot more sense to me to spend our efforts in trying to ensure that fewer abortions will be necessary then in trying to make them illegal or brand them immoral.

  • RiddleOfSteel

    Mrnaglfar wrote: There wouldn’t be an “i” in question. Fetuses aborted in the late term might be aware, in some sense, of the world, but it’s still not a person. I don’t think they’d even know what was happening.

    Cause and effect. The “i” is certainly in question. That my destruction takes place before the pro-choice person deems to call me an “i”, doesn’t change the result in terms of my existence.

    What about all the other life that also only has one shot at existance, life you depend on to keep living? Does that life not have as much a right to exist as you do?

    Like potatoes? I would answer no.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Riddleofsteel,

    Cause and effect. The “i” is certainly in question. That my destruction takes place before the pro-choice person deems to call me an “i”, doesn’t change the result in terms of my existence.

    Really? Care to tell me about your experiences in utero? What were your hopes and dreams. Had you figured out how your growing eyes worked yet?

    Not to mention all those children that could have been; there were millions of other sperm, thousands of different eggs, hundreds of different days. How many other “I”s got lost for your existance? Do you mourn their deaths?

    Like potatoes? I would answer no.

    Well, now that we’ve established you feel you’re more important than other life, how about that justification? All this other life that only has one chance to exist, and will die/never be born because of your direct existance; the collective amount of life yours and mine will snuff out. What makes our life so much more important than the rest?

  • RiddleOfSteel

    Mrnaglfar wrote: Really? Care to tell me about your experiences in utero? What were your hopes and dreams. Had you figured out how your growing eyes worked yet?

    Irrelevant.

    Not to mention all those children that could have been; there were millions of other sperm, thousands of different eggs, hundreds of different days. How many other “I”s got lost for your existance? Do you mourn their deaths?

    I am concerned with real developing humans. I will leave the mourning of those precious bodily fluids to you and General Jack D. Ripper.

    Well, now that we’ve established you feel you’re more important than other life, how about that justification? All this other life that only has one chance to exist, and will die/never be born because of your direct existance; the collective amount of life yours and mine will snuff out. What makes our life so much more important than the rest?

    Sure – because I place myself above a potato, you have therefore established that I place myself above all this other life. That makes sense.

  • Erika

    Mrnaglfar, you say: From that wikipedia article, I gather women who had late term abortions would first be charged with manslaughter, possibly murder depending on how crafty lawyers are about turning the words ‘malice’ and ‘intent’.

    You misunderstand my intent with posting the reference to the article. My point was not to imply that abortion when abortion is illegal should fall under an existing category. My point was to imply that there are many existing categories where killing of a human being is not considered murder and punishment is adjusted accordingly. Obviously pregnancy, because it is not exactly analogous to the examples you cite, would not fall into one of those categories. However, those categories provide precedent for the creation of new non-murder categories of killing humans.

    On your other response, I was proposing fines as an example. What is truly a fair an equitable punishment would need to be evaluated by actual legal professionals which I assume neither of us is.

    Whenever the law has tried to make people behave in a manner that certain people find tasteful without demonstrating clear harm to others

    We’re talking about the specific example of abortion here, not some arbitrary moral stance, and I believe that very few people find abortion “tasteful” and I think it is very clear that it causes harm to others. What is unclear is the legal status of those others. If society and government were to decide that abortion is causing harm to a person (as had been decided in my hypothetical example. It frustrates me how seemingly intelligent people have trouble with the conclusion of hypothetical just because they cannot imagine the premise of the hypothetical as coming true.) that the government has a legal obligation towards, then making laws to diminish the frequency of abortion would not be outside the realm of the law.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Riddleofsteel,

    Irrelevant.

    Hardly so; see my coma patient example above. If taking someone off life-support outside of other people’s bodies is not murder, then the biological equal to that in not murder when it happens in women.

    I am concerned with real developing humans. I will leave the mourning of those precious bodily fluids to you and General Jack D. Ripper.

    Cute, it sounds like you’re making my position that I advocate aborting fetuses, or killing humans. Use whatever wording makes you more comfortable. You can be concerned all you want, but it’s not your body, so the best you can offer is a suggestion. Who are you to tell these women they have to carry a fetus during their One Chance At Existing? Shouldn’t it be their choice?

    Sure – because I place myself above a potato, you have therefore established that I place myself above all this other life. That makes sense.

    More to the point:
    The sum total of what you will consume in your lifetime
    The sum total of all that would have been able to live if they consumed what you did
    The indirect effect your your consumption has on all other life, through direct killing to indirect byproducts of it’s production and transportation.
    All of which shares your only one chance at existing

    It kind of ruins the “I don’t feel comfortable with MY one chance at existing” point because (a) You already do exist, so abortions will in no way affect that and (b) you don’t care about anything else that isn’t a human’s one chance at existing.

    In other words, it’s coming from a completely biased point of view, and answers none of my earlier points about the implications of making a fetus a full person before it’s born.

    When I said there would be no “I”, you missed the point. There would be a biological “i” that has about as much awareness of it’s environment as let’s say, a potato; this is evidenced by none of us having any memory of these times in our lifespan; consciousness, maybe, to what extent is indetermined. It’s not the conciousness part that really gets you either it seems because plenty of non-human species that our existance will kill are certainly conscious you don’t seem to give much thought to.

    Which of course, while interesting, is all made more or less irrelevant by you not carrying these fetuses inside you, making it approximately zero percent your choice.

  • LindaJoy

    Riddle of Steel- yes, I would disagree with Ebonmuse that anyone should have anything to say about a woman’s choice. The consciousness line is way too blurry to hang overriding a woman’s decision on. Even if there is some kind of consciousness at a certain point in utero, what kind is it? And why in the world would you worry about your pre-life if you don’t believe in an afterlife? Read Mark Twain.

  • Erika

    Mrnaglfar, you say: There would be a biological “i” that has about as much awareness of it’s environment as let’s say, a potato; this is evidenced by none of us having any memory of these times in our lifespan

    You’re doing a fine job countering Riddleofsteel’s point, but I hope you are aware, as you go down the path of linking awareness, consciousness, humanity, and memory that accessible memory (and, therefore, as far as we know long term memory at all) generally does not go back further than about 3ish years old. Thus, if memory is going to be your main defining characteristic of “I”, you should either point to demonstrations that children younger than 3ish have memories that are just not accessible (and be able to justify that the unborn child does not have this facility), point to some other reason children under 3ish are different from fetuses, or admit that your reasoning applies equally to both late term fetuses and infants.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    It should be noted that my arguments about what should happen to women who have illegal abortions were aimed at the “Abortion is murder” crowd. That said, Mrnaglfar did a great job in showing how that can go wrong. Adam, you might want to actually think it through. You’ll also note that I said, “Chauvinism,” not “Misogyny.” There’s a difference. Your position is one born of patriarchism and treats women as nothing more than objects that are either too dumb or too hysterical to make an informed choice as to what to do with their own bodies.

    To the topic of this not being murder, but trespassing, I don’t think women have signs inside them that say, “No trespassing.” ;) But seriously, I don’t think that charge would stick, because whether intentional or not, the woman put the interloper into that position in a sense. Also, I don’t think you can kill a trespasser that doesn’t pose a danger to you, although I could be wrong on that. I suppose one could make the argument that it’s inherently dangerous to have someone trespassing inside of you?

  • Mrnaglfar

    Erika,

    Thus, if memory is going to be your main defining characteristic of “I”, you should either point to demonstrations that children younger than 3ish have memories that are just not accessible (and be able to justify that the unborn child does not have this facility), point to some other reason children under 3ish are different from fetuses, or admit that your reasoning applies equally to both late term fetuses and infants.

    The big difference however lies with either being inside, or outside, of the woman’s body. If the baby is already born, other people have the ability to shoulder the responsiblity of it’s care, and I draw my line at birth for just that reason; once seperated from within the mother’s body it become an autonomous being, if a needy one. However, other people outside the mother are capable of caring for it at that point, and it’s survival is not predicted upon being inside of anyone.

  • http://grimrhapsody.wordpress.com Dawn Rhapsody

    OMGF:

    To the topic of this not being murder, but trespassing, I don’t think women have signs inside them that say, “No trespassing.” ;) But seriously, I don’t think that charge would stick, because whether intentional or not, the woman put the interloper into that position in a sense. Also, I don’t think you can kill a trespasser that doesn’t pose a danger to you, although I could be wrong on that. I suppose one could make the argument that it’s inherently dangerous to have someone trespassing inside of you?

    There’s a point. The “trespasser” or “squatter” or “interloper” or whichever term you choose to use is hardly intruding deliberately. Add that to the fact that in most cases it is there through another’s failure to use contraception, and late-term abortions become analogous to carrying someone onto your property and then shooting them for trespassing.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Hey, I was only pointing out a problem with the ‘trespasser’ scenario. I think there are serious problems with how to enforce and punish those who have abortions if they are made illegal and I wanted to point out one.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Some commenters have asked, if late-term abortion is immoral, what should happen in the hypothetical scenario of a woman who seeks and obtains such an abortion anyway. That’s a fair question, and I’ll answer it.

    Earlier in this thread, Erika made a good point: even if we consider abortion to be the taking of a human life, not all killings are equally culpable under the law. All sorts of reasons can mitigate the seriousness of the act. That’s an important principle that I’ll make use of.

    Just to get the terminology straight, we’re talking about abortion, which I take to mean the deliberate termination of the life of the fetus. If a woman in a late stage of pregnancy opts for a C-section or induced labor (both of which, I believe, should be available options) to end the pregnancy early but deliver the child alive, that’s a different case and I’m not discussing it here. As zwei pointed out, an abortion at such a late stage would necessarily be nearly as invasive as a live delivery anyway, which raises the question of why someone would ever prefer the former to the latter.

    In order to lay out an example we can build on, and perhaps elicit some intuitions that may make people more sympathetic to my position, let me pose a similar scenario. What should happen to women who get pregnant, deliver the baby in private, and then abandon it somewhere to die?

    Sadly, this does happen. Many jurisdictions have laws that allow mothers to drop off a newborn infant at a hospital, police station or other such place within a few days of birth, no questions asked. (Texas enacted such a law in 1999 after thirteen infants were abandoned in Houston in a single year; four were only found after they were dead.) But not every locality has these laws, and even in the ones that do, the mothers who might have taken advantage of them often don’t know about them.

    Do these women, if they’re found, deserve to be punished? No one posting in this thread has advocated anything later than birth as a defining moment for legal protection, so it seems to me we’d have to answer yes. I grant that it’s hard not to feel sympathy for them, but nevertheless, what they did was wrong. I hope there’s no debate about that. I don’t think their act rises to the level of murder, but to permit these mothers to go free with no punishment at all – especially when other options were open to them – sends the wrong message.

    I feel similarly about cases of late-term abortion not done for medical necessity. I do believe that should be illegal, but I don’t think it could be considered murder, if only because that term implies a degree of malice I seriously doubt could ever be present in a case like this. Manslaughter seems like a more appropriate charge, and yes, I would apply it to the woman as well as to anyone who assists her. Of course, extenuating factors should be taken into account, and in a circumstance like this they’ll nearly always be present. In most cases, I don’t think jail would serve a useful purpose, if only because this is the sort of offense that is unlikely to be repeated. Probation and counseling seem more appropriate to me for anything other than a truly egregious case. I think this strikes the right balance between showing compassion on women placed in a near-impossible situation while also making it clear that their act was not acceptable.

  • Joffan

    The UK Infanticide Act was/is an attempt to acknowledge the distinction of a mother killing her new-born as being short of murder.

    I’d say that, even without the radical physical changes wrought by pregnancy, continuous time with a newborn both requires and produces a significantly altered mental state from normal.

    On another tack, it’s interesting to consider where this limit on abortion might take us in extremis. Hypothetically, let’s consider a woman who decides to use abortion as a “birth control” method; getting pregnant up to twice a year and aborting at say 24 weeks (well below Ebon’s 30-weeek limit) . One question here might be: who’s paying? This is a more expensive option than other contraception, quite apart from the health risks incurred by our hypothetical subject. However I don’t see any other strong argument against this approach; plenty of people impose far greater insults on their bodies.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Ebon,

    I feel similarly about cases of late-term abortion not done for medical necessity.

    While in the above example, I could see legally punishing the woman, the case is different in that the baby has been born. It still gets into the slippery slope of “well if abortion is wrong then, why not a week before then? If it’s about to be a person, shouldn’t be protect that too”. By limiting abortion rights you give those opposed to it a crack allowing them to get in and possibly enlarge it.

    But let’s get back to the numbers I posted before.
    1% of abortions occur after the 20th week, so given a rough 36 week estimate that means 1% of abortions happen in the last 36 weeks.
    Compare that to the precentage of abortions happening within the first 16 weeks: 95%

    So these late term abortions are clearly a radically rare event, the number of abortions occuring after the third trimester are probably next to none. There’s no woman in her right mind who’s going to carry a fetus for 7 to 9 months and then suddenly decide to abort without large mitigating factors involved. Inducing labor could be seen as an option except it makes a woman have to give birth to a baby she doesn’t want to give birth to, and last I knew, birth wasn’t the most pleasant of options. A C-section is an option, but people might not like the scar/surgery aspect of it.

    Now of course there’s the matter of charging the doctor with manslaughter. That will lead to doctor’s reluctance to perform any even in the case of a medical complication because they’d just be playing the odds, except in this case it involves them potientally going to jail and/or having their license revoked; I know it might sound like unreasonable but a doctor with a manslaughter charge against him… I wouldnt’ give him good odds of being able to hang onto that license. So they shy away from the procedure, leaving a woman on her own to figure out how to self-abort (after all, she only faces a charge of being put into counseling, so for her the risks are still low, for doctors they are high – you do the math as to how that will tend to work out and decide if it’s favorable).

    Not to mention the still holding point of having to monitor women’s pregnancies to determine who’s pregnant, for how long, if the baby has the proper brain waves yet, and then, in the case of miscarriage, determine if the woman’s body naturally miscarried or if the abortion was self-inflicted.

    And you know, in court, the anti-abortion crowd will have a field day with this. Women already going through intense emotional trauma will now have to be investigated and examined to determine if there was any wrong doing, and who was responisble. The anti-abortion crowd will be able to try and target doctors or supportive family members who had knowledge of the crime but witheld information.

    And while all of which is still very interesting to consider, is still peripheral to the fact that the fetus is still inside the woman’s body, and forcing her to carry it/ give birth to it against her will just so she can give it up for adoption (or if not, then force her to care for it) hardly seems to be without our rights.

    If you want to impose a restriction let it be this; women wishing to abort that late in term should be allowed to, provided they discuss the option first with a doctor or some hosptial counciling service. I could see myself accepting of that, but I would even shy away from it because it still works to open that window into giving other people the right to decide what the mother should do with her body. I’d be skeptical if I heard that women didn’t normally do this anyway before making the call, as well as talking it over with friends and family. Either way, it’s a choice to be made between a woman and her doctor at the end of the day, not ours.

  • Mrnaglfar

    1% of abortions occur after the 20th week, so given a rough 36 week estimate that means 1% of abortions happen in the last 36 weeks.

    Should read, last 16 weeks

    hardly seems to be without our rights.

    Should read within

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Earlier in this thread, Erika made a good point: even if we consider abortion to be the taking of a human life, not all killings are equally culpable under the law. All sorts of reasons can mitigate the seriousness of the act. That’s an important principle that I’ll make use of.

    Ebon, if we can add a new category to killing – not murder, not manslaughter, not temporary insanity, not self-defense, but “murder by abortion”, and we can give it its very own set of legal standards, then we can just as conveniently counter that by add a new category to trespassing, “trespassing by fetus”. The pleasantly funny irony that Mrnaglfar created is that the people who want us to be flexible about the definition of murder to fit their arguments are themselves rigid in their thinking about trespassing because it doesn’t fit their argument.

  • Ishryal

    bbk, my point about death was an attempt to explain why it is important to classify when rights ‘begin’. It’s not meant to be an argument for or against abortion as such. It was merely a way to show that in the end, the question that must be answered before any rights, morals, or legalities are given is: When is someone a someone, when are they alive, at what point do they have rights?

    Ishryal, having autonomy over your body even after death stands on its own moral arguments that are completely unrelated to a fetus. One, there are documented conflicts of interest between emergency room doctors and organ harvest teams who would like to cut off medical treatment in order to get organs. Two, the very solid moral objections to the fact that a great number of the people who would be organ donors would not have the health coverage and personal wealth to benefit from those very transplants themselves should they be in need of them. In fact, we could argue that the entire practice of organ transplants is an immoral waste of money that could be spent on basic health services that would have a much greater benefit to the lives of more people in society. There is incentive for hospitals to provide expensive transplants because they’re extremely profitable, while basic health services are not. These are the moral grounds for opting out of organ donation. It’s not just simply autonomy over one’s own body, although this is the basic right that *allows* you to make the moral decisions when choosing to be an organ donor.

    Depends on what country and the level of health care it provides. A country that provides equal and adequate health cover for all it’s citizens may not face the ‘moral’ situations you point out. They are a matter of legislation and regulation.

    Also, how is it that you translate autonomy over one’s own body after death to autonomy over one’s own body before birth while entirely skipping the autonomy over your own body while you’re alive?

    I’m not. About the only thing it can be shown I am saying (maybe not clearly, true) is that while you are ‘alive’, bodily autonomy is an automatic right, as with every other right.

    I’ll point out the flaws in your argument. Technically, there is no autonomy over your own body after death – those decisions were made while you were alive and there is a contractual requirement to follow your instructions even after your death. We can’t break this contract any more than your offspring can liquidate the trust fund you set up for them just because you’re dead. And technically, fetuses don’t make autonomous decisions. And even if they did, we wouldn’t be able to ascertain what those decisions could be. It’s ludicrous to compare the two scenarios. It’s the equivalent of shoving a birth waiver document and a pen up the woman’s vagina were she to request for an abortion. You’re comparing apples and oranges, plain and simple.

    Rights however are not contracts… they are automatic for all people. A foetus doesn’t need to sign anything if that foetus is given the status of being a ‘person’ (or more accurately in terms of rights, a citizen). And that’s all I was talking about. Once you give someone the status of a person/human/whatever, while they are alive they have those rights. Period. Oh, and newly born children don’t make any autonomous decisions either… they are totally dependant on others… so it’s ok to kill them soon after birth as well?

    It is, IMO, more morally offensive to inflict something so final as death on someone if that someone has no say in the matter and there is less harm in finishing the pregnancy than it is to ‘deny’ the bodily autonomy of the carrier, particularly if it was the choice a carrier made (in the standard model) to be pregnant, that it is of their own making and no one else need suffer for that choice including a human that resides within her. If it is human, then it HAS those rights and all moral considerations. You cannot say it doesn’t merely BECAUSE it is a foetus any more than you can say someone doesn’t have rights merely BECAUSE they are black. One is a matter of skin colour, the other a matter of location, but both are a matter of circumstance and are completely beside the point in regards to whether their rights are any less than others.

    Keep in mind I am not advocating ‘foetus rights’. What am trying to say is that human rights are for all humans, and if a foetus is given those rights, then they are just as equal as someone who has lived for 70 years. To say otherwise is go against the very principle of equal rights for all. If science can determine that a foetus can be considered a ‘human’ at a certain point of development prior to birth, then it is deserving of every right we give to ourselves simply because it is human.

    BUT if there is a comparison to be made here, it’s the fact that we wish to take away the rights of a woman to her own body – rights that we even grant to dead people! So in my opinion, you’ve brought up a yet another great reason to fully respect the woman’s rights to her own body. You’ve just interpreted it wrong.

    But you said yourself… when you are dead you have no rights (if not, how would you define ‘technically’?). All you have are legal contracts you made while you are alive, and legal documents can be challenged and overturned. The only thing, IMO, that can overturn your rights (except you yourself giving up those rights) is one of priorities (for lack of a better word). Your rights cannot be used to effect in a negative or harmfull way the wellbeing/life of another with those same rights. If a foetus is given rights as a human being, then not even the carrier’s rights of bodily autonomy can overturn the foetus’ right of life (unless, as I’ve said, that by being alive the foetus will/continue to adversely effective the life, as in life & death, of the carrier). And no, I don’t think a ‘possible negative’ or ‘unknown negative’ effect applies. We don’t limit the rights of others based on a maybe. This is also applicable to my example of saimese twins and surrogacy pregnancies. If you view bodily autonomy so paramount, then is it ok for one of the co-joined twins to have surgery to be seperated despite the end result being the death of the other? Bodily autonomy is not an absolute, and situations like that and pregnancy is where it may not be morally right to apply it or be considered a right that can ‘over-ride’ other rights. Even more so when something so absolute and final as death is a result.

    Birth is not a clear indicator of the granting of rights since, as I mentioned, we may give someone the same rights we do when they become a citizen of our country, regardless of age. Morally it’s even worse since it’s still not morally ok to harm that person even if they have no rights (if you want to define rights as those things given to you for being a citizen of a particular country). If it is morally ok for the carrier (as the main source of support) to abort the pregnancy an hour, day, week before birth (however unlikely), then it also becomes morally ok for that carrier to leave the new born child after birth to fend for itself despite the mother being the only one around to give it support (eg, remote location). After all, isn’t the forcing of the mother to take care of the child going against her right to choose? Her right of bodily autonomy? Same would apply if the person remaining to take care of the new born isn’t the mother. If the mother dies soon after giving birth, if there’s only one person around to take care of the child, then by the same reasoning, that person is under no moral obligation to do so. If the mother dies during labor in say a hospital, then the doctors would be under no moral obligation to remove the unborn child and so it would be OK to let it die as well. After all, if it wasn’t born, it has no moral standing. Birth simply does not provide a solid basis for making such moral decisions.

    Mrnaglfar:

    When I said there would be no “I”, you missed the point. There would be a biological “i” that has about as much awareness of it’s environment as let’s say, a potato; this is evidenced by none of us having any memory of these times in our lifespan; consciousness, maybe, to what extent is indetermined. It’s not the conciousness part that really gets you either it seems because plenty of non-human species that our existance will kill are certainly conscious you don’t seem to give much thought to.

    So it becomes morally OK to do something if the main focus of that action is not aware of it? It still does not make it right. It is not morally ok to say beat up or kill a dog, despite it not having the same memory or conscious level as you do. It is not morally ok to drug and rape someone despite the victim having no awareness or memory of it. And our existence that ‘will kill’ is inaccurate and not a true reflection of what happens and which have other, different moral considerations.

    Which of course, while interesting, is all made more or less irrelevant by you not carrying these fetuses inside you, making it approximately zero percent your choice.

    Choice is one thing. But choice alone doesn’t make it moral or a right. Not all of our choices are accepted as an automatic right, and not all of our choices are considered moral.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Ishryal,

    About the only thing it can be shown I am saying (maybe not clearly, true) is that while you are ‘alive’, bodily autonomy is an automatic right, as with every other right.

    Good point; it’s an automatic right to make choices regarding one’s own body. With you so far.

    And that’s all I was talking about. Once you give someone the status of a person/human/whatever, while they are alive they have those rights. Period. Oh, and newly born children don’t make any autonomous decisions either… they are totally dependant on others… so it’s ok to kill them soon after birth as well?

    Awesome; you completely discarded every reason I listed for birth being the dividing line and then made that rhetorical question I specially addressed above. Go reread it, I’m not posting it again.

    It is, IMO, more morally offensive to inflict something so final as death on someone if that someone has no say in the matter and there is less harm in finishing the pregnancy than it is to ‘deny’ the bodily autonomy of the carrier, particularly if it was the choice a carrier made (in the standard model) to be pregnant, that it is of their own making and no one else need suffer for that choice including a human that resides within her.

    When the fetus is inside of you, then you have the right to choose; when the fetus is out, you don’t. Simple as that. You also seem to be laboring under the delusion that people in their third trimester decide to suddenly go abort, which I can figure is another one of my points you didn’t bother to read or think about. It’s not just the choice to be pregnant, it’s the choice to bring another human into this world or not. But that is a good point, that when a pregnant woman decides she doesn’t want the baby anymore we really should force them to carry and give birth to it so the world can have more unwanted children. This life doesn’t just become all roses once they’re born, and there’s more involved in a child’s life than simply giving birth to it.

    If it is human, then it HAS those rights and all moral considerations. You cannot say it doesn’t merely BECAUSE it is a foetus any more than you can say someone doesn’t have rights merely BECAUSE they are black.

    That location being of course inside of someone’s body, at which point, yes, the carrier happens to have a say over that. Imagine me clinging to your back for about a year and being dependant on you for meals, then requiring care and support emotionally and monetarily for the next 18 years to life; I think your views would quickly change to reflect the reality here. Or at least you might understand if other people want to be able to change that situation if they please when they’re put into it.

    To say otherwise is go against the very principle of equal rights for all. If science can determine that a foetus can be considered a ‘human’ at a certain point of development prior to birth, then it is deserving of every right we give to ourselves simply because it is human.

    Science doesn’t decide what’s human and what isn’t. It also doesn’t decide rights; it gets back to the point that science tells us what is, not what should be. Science cannot make that call. As for equal rights, it sounds all good until rights start bumping up against each other; it’s inevitable, and in this case, bodily autonomy rules out over the fetus. So long as it’s in your body, it’s your call.

    Your rights cannot be used to effect in a negative or harmfull way the wellbeing/life of another with those same rights. If a foetus is given rights as a human being, then not even the carrier’s rights of bodily autonomy can overturn the foetus’ right of life

    So the fetus’s right to live overturns the mother’s right to choose what happens inside her own body? I thought you just said people’s rights couldn’t infringe on the rights of others in the sentence right before you gave an example of where they did, then again the following sentence.

    unless, as I’ve said, that by being alive the foetus will/continue to adversely effective the life, as in life & death, of the carrier

    So then the carrier’s right to life trumps the fetus’s rights? Suppose the fetus could be saved but it involved killing the mother (it happens), and the mother doesn’t want to die, and is willing to sacrifice the fetus? The lines are too blurry to say you know what’s best, especially because of the slippery slope it leaves open towards infringing further on the rights of bodily autonomy. You’re automatically assuming these fetus’s are conscious and have a strong desire to live because we’re conscious and have a strong desire to live. Would you perhaps like to care to tell me about your hopes and dreams while you were in utero?

    If you view bodily autonomy so paramount, then is it ok for one of the co-joined twins to have surgery to be seperated despite the end result being the death of the other?

    Since they are born at the time, then the matter is entirely different. I admit I never heard of such a case, especailly since by one twin seperating it normally would ensure it’s own death as well. In the case of parasitic-pseudo twins, the matter is pretty clear cut. I’m also pretty sure most surgeries are done, correct me if I’m wrong, when they’re born and the parents/doctors make the call.

    If it is morally ok for the carrier (as the main source of support) to abort the pregnancy an hour, day, week before birth (however unlikely), then it also becomes morally ok for that carrier to leave the new born child after birth to fend for itself despite the mother being the only one around to give it support (eg, remote location).

    Again, you have completely glossed over my point where I dealt with this exact idea. Read it again.

    If the mother dies during labor in say a hospital, then the doctors would be under no moral obligation to remove the unborn child and so it would be OK to let it die as well. After all, if it wasn’t born, it has no moral standing.

    And in a stunning display, you again gloss over the point where I touched on the exact idea of protecting the baby once the woman’s in labor. I’d also like to point out that doctors, as far as I know, always try to save the baby if the woman dies, normally because it can be given up for adoption and also because a father for the child is normally present. Of course, these matters are also normally discussed beforehand, but your argument works perfectly if you ignore all that.

    So it becomes morally OK to do something if the main focus of that action is not aware of it? It still does not make it right. It is not morally ok to say beat up or kill a dog, despite it not having the same memory or conscious level as you do. It is not morally ok to drug and rape someone despite the victim having no awareness or memory of it. And our existence that ‘will kill’ is inaccurate and not a true reflection of what happens and which have other, different moral considerations.

    First of, are you suggesting your life has never killed other life? That’s strictly, biologically, impossible. So no, it’s not an inaccurate statement.

    When did I say it was ok to beat up a dog? Or that other animals weren’t conscious of their world? Or that I suggest it’s perfectly ok to take an actual person who has rights and infringe upon them after they’re born? Kudos on arguing against points I don’t hold though.
    I do agree there are different moral considerations with animals because without them we lose just about all medical research, and our existance is predicated upon their deaths (which, despite your clever denial of it, does not make it any less true), at the very least for food.

    Choice is one thing. But choice alone doesn’t make it moral or a right. Not all of our choices are accepted as an automatic right, and not all of our choices are considered moral.

    Choices about what goes on inside our own bodies is a right. Period. It’s not up to me to decide if those choices are moral or not, but they are a right.

    When did you see me say “All our choices are morally correct/ all choices should be protected”? It’s another fine example of how, with pretty much all your points here, you have completely blown up view points I do hold into extreme proportions and different cases that in no way resemble the point I did originally hold. You haven’t argued against any of my points, or addressed any concerns. Try that first.

  • Alex Weaver

    I assert that cold hard logic should rule the day when it comes to legal precedent. I also assert that merely stating that one should have the legal right to abort a late term pregnancy under any circumstance, does not make it a morally correct decision.

    Make up your mind.

    More later/tomorrow.

  • LindaJoy

    Ebon- I would be interested in any information you have about any doctors who would agree to perform very late term abortions simply because a woman changed her mind about having a baby and had no medical reason to terminate.

  • Adam

    Mrnaglfar and anyone interested,

    Here are some quotes from people who’ve actually performed an abortions. I would suggest to you that personhood begins before birth:

    “I remember an experience as a resident on a hysterotomy. I remember seeing the baby move underneath the sack of membranes, as the cesarean incision was made, before the doctor broke the water. The thought came to me, “My God, that’s a person” Then he broke the water. And when he broke the water, it was like I had a pain in my heart, just like when I saw that first suction abortion. And t hen he delivered the baby,. and I couldn’t touch it.. I wasn’t much of an assistant. I just stood there, and the reality of what was doing on finally began to seep into my calloused brain and heart. They took that little baby that was making little sounds and moving and kicking, and set it on that table in a cold, stainless steel bowl. Every time I would look over while we were repairing the incision in uterus and finishing the Caesarean, I would see that little person moving in that bowl. And it kicked and moved less and less, of course, as time went on. I can remember going over and looking at the baby when we were done with the surgery and the baby was still alive. You could see the chest was moving and the heart was beating, and the baby would try to take a little breath, and it really hurt inside, and it began to educate me as to what abortion really was.”

    quoted in “Pro-Choice 1990: Skeletons in the Closet”

    Saline abortions sounds really fun (typically after 16 weeks):

    “Saline abortions have to be done in the hospital because of the complications that can arise. Not that they can’t arise during other times, but more so now. The saline, a salt solution, is injected into the woman’s sac, and the baby starts dying a slow, violent death. The mother feels everything, and many times it is at this point when she realizes that she really has a live baby inside her, because the baby starts fighting violently, for his or her life. He’s just fighting inside because he’s burning.”

    –Debra Harry

    “One night a lady delivered and I was called to come and see her because she was ‘uncontrollable.’ I went into the room, and she was going to pieces; she was having a nervous breakdown, screaming and thrashing. The other patients were upset because this lady was screaming. I walked in, and here was this little saline abortion baby kicking. It had been born alive, and was kicking and moving for a little while before it finally died of those terrible burns, because the salt solution gets into the lungs and burns the lungs too. I’ll tell you one thing about D& E . You never have to worry about a baby’s being born alive. I won’t describe D & E , other than to say that, as a doctor, you are sitting there tearing, and I mean tearing- you need a lot of strength to do it- arms and legs off of babies and putting them in a stack on top of the table.”

    –Dr. David Brewer of Glen Ellyn Illinois

    “You have to become a bit schizophrenic. In one room, you encourage the patient that the slight irregularity in the fetal heart is not important, that she is going to have a fine, healthy baby. Then, in the next room you assure another woman, on whom you just did a saline abortion, that it is a good thing that the heartbeat is already irregular….she has nothing to worry about, she will NOT have a live baby…All of a sudden one noticed that at the time of the saline infusion there was a lot of activity in the uterus. That’s not fluid currents. That’s obviously the fetus being distressed by swallowing the concentrated salt solution and kicking violently and that’s to all intents and purposes, the death trauma. ..somebody has to do it, and unfortunately we are the executioners in this instance…”

    –abortionist Dr. Szenes

    This is true:

    “Even if you are pro-choice, no one likes to see a dead fetus.”

    -Vilma Valdez, Education Director Planned Parenthood of Greater Miami, The Miami Herald, Oct 24 1992

    Finally, Mrnaglfar here is a qutoe of a procedure of abortion that causes an early birth. By your own definition this baby is a person now: Should we call it murder, or manslauder?

    I am a Registered Nurse who has worked in the Labor & Delivery Department at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, for the past five years. The method of abortion that Christ Hospital uses is called “induced labor abortion,” also now known as “live birth abortion.” This type of abortion can be performed different ways, but the goal always is to cause a pregnant woman’s cervix to open so that she will deliver a premature baby who dies during the birth process or soon afterward. The way that induced abortion is most often executed at my hospital is by the physician inserting a medication called Cytotec into the birth canal close to the cervix. Cytotec irritates the cervix and stimulates it to open. When this occurs, the small, preterm baby drops out of the uterus, oftentimes alive.
    It is not uncommon for one of these live aborted babies to linger for an hour
    or two or even longer. One of them once lived for almost eight hours. In the event that a baby is aborted alive, he or she receives no medical assessments or care but is only given what my hospital calls “comfort care.” “Comfort care” is defined as keeping the baby warm in a blanket until he or she dies, although even this minimal compassion is not always provided. It is not required that these babies be held during their short lives. One night, a nursing co-worker was taking an aborted Down’s Syndrome baby who was born alive to our Soiled Utility Room because his parents did not wantto hold him, and she did not have time to hold him. I could not bear the thought of this suffering child dying alone in a Soiled Utility Room, so I cradled and rocked him for the 45 minutes that he lived. He was 21 to 22 weeks old, weighed about ½ pound, and was about 10 inches long. He was too weak to move very much, expending any energy he had trying to breathe. Toward the end he was so quiet that I couldn’t tell if he was still alive unless I held him up to the light to see if his heart was still beating through his chest wall. After he was pronounced dead, we folded his little arms across his chest, wrapped him in a tiny shroud, and carried him to the hospital morgue where all of our dead patients are taken.

    -Testimony of Jill L. Stanek, RN:

    For more fun quotes go to: http://www.abortionfacts.com/providers/quotes.asp

    Ebon,

    The only difference between your stance on abortion and my stance on abortion, as a catholic, is the timing

    You said:

    I feel similarly about cases of late-term abortion not done for medical necessity. I do believe that should be illegal, but I don’t think it could be considered murder, if only because that term implies a degree of malice I seriously doubt could ever be present in a case like this. Manslaughter seems like a more appropriate charge, and yes, I would apply it to the woman as well as to anyone who assists her. Of course, extenuating factors should be taken into account, and in a circumstance like this they’ll nearly always be present. In most cases, I don’t think jail would serve a useful purpose, if only because this is the sort of offense that is unlikely to be repeated. Probation and counseling seem more appropriate to me for anything other than a truly egregious case. I think this strikes the right balance between showing compassion on women placed in a near-impossible situation while also making it clear that their act was not acceptable.

    You’re against late term abortions because you define personhood starting at the first sign of consciousness, I define personhood at conception. Your “pro-life” after week 30, I’m “pro-life” at conception.

    Please make this plain for me, does personhood start right at midnight of the 30th week? Or a couple of seconds later? Or when the doctor first decides the baby has brain activity?

    It sounds to me that your defintion of personhood is not obvious at all, and I would hope that knowing when life begins would be an important issue to be clear on.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Joffan,

    “Technically” is the important word. I used the word “right” loosely to reflect your own usage of it, but I clearly said that technically they are not rights at all, just contractual agreements. There was no inconsistency in my argument. Our “rights” to bodily autonomy after death are just like any of our other “rights” after death. The reason for specifying a particular way to donate your organs to others is the same reason for specifying how your personal property is to be distributed – to specify differences from the legal defaults.

    We don’t break those contracts regarding dead bodies for the same reason why your offspring can’t liquidate the trust funds that you might have set up for them – even after they’re dead. When you enter into a contract, that gives you contractual rights but that has absolutely nothing to do with bodily autonomy. For example, if foul play is suspected, the police will investigate by running an autopsy no matter what your contractual wishes were to donate your organs or anything else. There is no right. Just a contract that can be broken when the interests of those who are alive precede it.

    So again, in your example of rights afforded to people after death, you have failed to show 1) how a fetus enters into a contract (how is it an autonomous entity), 2) how a non-autonomous entity has the rights of an autonomous entity, and 3) how the rights of a non-autonomous entity ever supersede the rights of an autonomous entity.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Adam,

    Wow; Shock tactics? From you? I would have never guessed…

    I mean, you totally blew my idea that late term abortions were fun right out of the water. You know, all those times I was talking about how much pleasure people get out of doing them, which is probably why they’re so common. I remember I had been telling all my friends that women just loved to have late term abortions, but you’re stories about them being unpleasant have totally changed my mind.

    Now if you’d like to argue my position, you’re welcome to try, but trying to shock me out of it isn’t going to cut it.

    As for this:

    Finally, Mrnaglfar here is a qutoe of a procedure of abortion that causes an early birth. By your own definition this baby is a person now: Should we call it murder, or manslauder?

    Inducing labor, giving birth to the child and then leaving it to die. I would call that manslaughter, though lawyers/I could probably turn it into murder depending on the case; I would not support that kind of abortion. However, if the hospital induced birth and when the premature baby was delivered and the hosptial did everything it could to try and save it, then I wouldn’t charge anyone in the case of the infant’s death.
    I would not, however, rule out other forms of abortion.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Adam, do you consider pro-life literature to be a reasonable source for unbiased quotes in this debate?

    I have a friend who worked at a nursing home. He routinely cleaeds vomit and feces from elderly people who have lost control of their bodily functions. When he described some of the things he did for a living, it was grotesque and also very sad. Have you ever watched one of those plastic surgery reality TV shows where they show breast implants being performed? Also a grotesque and ghastly looking procedure that not everyone would have the stomach to perform.

    What do these things show us? It shows that the nature of medical care isn’t always pleasant. But the pleasantness of the procedure has absolutely NO relevance to either the need to perform it or the right of people to seek it out. The fact that you would try to offend your way through a debate shows that you don’t have a strongly reasoned position to fall back on. It is is just like someone arguing against the morality of indoor plumbing and then dropping off a piece of shit on your desk to try to shock your senses, hoping you’ll never think of indoor plumbing the same way again.

  • Adam

    Mrnaglfar,

    Saline Abortions usually happen around 16 weeks. This is not late term, and according to your own statistics 82,250 abortions per year happen after 16 weeks. Do you think everyone of them are done for medical reasons?

    http://www.abortionno.org/Resources/fastfacts.html

    You say I am using a shock factor tactic, what are you talking about? It is what it is, I’m sorry if its shocking to you. Think about how shocking it is to the child.

    These are quotes from Dr’s and people who’ve actually have performed an abortion. I think they weigh more heavily in this debate then a college student.

  • Adam

    BBK,

    The problem is that we’re not talking about puke or breast implants, but people. I would argue, and I have the quotes to back it up, that it’s even more grotesque when human flesh is being sucked, pulled, and burned out of a mothers womb.

    If fact, after week 30, Ebon agrees we me.

    do you consider pro-life literature to be a reasonable source for unbiased quotes in this debate?</blockquote?

    Are you accussing the website of making up the quotes? (you do not need to answer)

  • Adam

    BBK,

    The problem is that we’re not talking about puke or breast implants, but people. I would argue, and I have the quotes to back it up, that it’s even more grotesque when human flesh is being sucked, pulled, and burned out of a mothers womb.

    If fact, after week 30, Ebon agrees we me.

    do you consider pro-life literature to be a reasonable source for unbiased quotes in this debate?

    Are you accussing the website of making up the quotes? (you do not need to answer)

    Comment by: Adam | May 2, 2008, 2:59 pm

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Adam, if it were murder then the method of murder would not alter the fact of it being murder. The fact that is grotesque, however, does not in itself make it murder!

    Besides, if it were murder then it would be a pretty grotesque murder. Yet it is typical of the pro-life and limits crowd to refuse to accept the logical conclusion of their position that, if you are correct, then these women should be put in jail for conspiracy to commit 1st degree murder. Then in that case, the grotesqueness of the “crime” (i.e medical procedure) would be valid in use for sentencing purposes.

    But you know what else is pretty grotesque? When I went on a 20 mile forced march in the Marines and my issued boots didn’t fit… you should have seen the size of those blisters that I had to pop… size of grapefruits I tell you. And all that raw human tissue that I had to pulled off and cut off with my bayonet… and all that puss that had to be squeezed out… It was so gross! If my girlfriend ever found out about it, she’d probably never sleep with me again. God, that should be a crime because it was human tissue!

  • Adam

    BBK,

    I commend you for being a Marine. Thank you for defending our country.

    Besides, if it were murder then it would be a pretty grotesque murder. Yet it is typical of the pro-life and limits crowd to refuse to accept the logical conclusion of their position that, if you are correct, then these women should be put in jail for conspiracy to commit 1st degree murder. Then in that case, the grotesqueness of the “crime” (i.e medical procedure) would be valid in use for sentencing purposes.

    I commented on this on: April 29, 2008, 3:29 pm and on.

    God, that should be a crime because it was human tissue!

    The problem with this thinking is that we’re not talking about human tissue. Evey embryologist on the planet would say that at conception a new living being, with the potential to become human, is made new. This is much different then human cell on your feet.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Are you accussing the website of making up the quotes? (you do not need to answer)

    Yes actually I do need to answer. You’d love it if I didn’t, I’m sure.

    But to repeat the same exact point that I’ve just made above, I could get just as many quotes from doctors and nurses about any other procedure.

    The whole reason why my friend quit at the nursing home was because he could not stand having to scoop up diarrhetic feces from the buttox of people whose own families had given up on them anymore. For minimum wage, no less. I can get you a quote from him that says “I quit that job because it was so grotesque and I started to get symptoms of depression. I would have to go to the bathroom several times a night just to vomit myself. I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

    Are you starting to see why these quotes are biased, unfair, and dishonest? They are not unique to abortion. and they convey absolutely nothing about the morality of abortion. Up above, in my example, what my friend was doing was honorable, courageous, moral, and necessary. But the many things he’s told me about his reasons for quitting do not convey any of those concepts. They only convey his disgust and his dismay at what he had to do.

    So why is it wrong to use those quotes in an honest debate? Because they rely on shock tactics. They’re nothing more than extreme appeals to emotion. They’re presented in a very specific context, an anti-abortion context, but they aren’t conveyed with any sense of the context in which they actually occurred. Who knows, but one of those sickeningly gross abortion procedures could have saved somebody’s life. Maybe the woman had been grotesquely raped beforehand. Maybe the nurse who provided those quotes was a Christian woman who had pre-existing biases. What if it was just a stressful job and they had a weak stomach and couldn’t take it?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Adam – let’s not forget that the quotes themselves show signs of extreme bias.

    it is at this point when she realizes that she really has a live baby inside her

    Are you to have us suppose that this doesn’t even have a hint of bias in it? This is someone making a claim that many women who opt to have an abortion require extreme pain just to realize that they’re pregnant. This is supposed to be coming from a medical professional who, knowing that many women get abortions for medical reasons, feels that they are not informed enough to know that they’re pregnant before they get an abortion. Notice his other choice of words. A “live baby”, as opposed to an unborn fetus, inside her. Let’s not forget that he’s talking about currently legal abortions, ones taking place early in pregnancy, the very type that even Ebon says aren’t developed enough to attain “personhood,” where it is nothing more than an undeveloped fetus. Is this really the type of anecdotal quote that we should accept as an unbiased assertion of what abortion is like? I don’t think so.

  • Adam

    BBK,

    But to repeat the same exact point that I’ve just made above, I could get just as many quotes from doctors and nurses about any other procedure.

    Abortion is not just any other procedure, it’s the termination of a living being that has the potential to become a full scale baby.

    Please do not compare your friend who cleaned poop, to Dr’s who spent years becoming Dr’s. I think they new what they were getting into when the entered the field. Only when they realized that the clumps of cells that are in the mothers womb actually have finger prints at 9 weeks, and was a baby, did they quite. Don’t insult there intelligence. The whole reason that Doctor quit the abortion business is because they see that they’re killing a person.

    The arguement that I am making is abortion is wrong because we’re killing life, not because the procedure is grotesque.

    And if you find it shocking that abortion is what it is remember Elizabeth Buffum Chace, who was a Quaker in 1850, who went door to door to talk to people about slavery, and almost single handedly ended slavery in our country. Do you think that she told the truth about what was going on with slavery, that people were being raped and killed, and beaten, and all that terrible stuff we did to the slaves in the this country? Do you think that it was shocking for people? Of course it was. But what you’re saying is that even if abortion is shocking to you, you agree with it and do not believe a word the doctors are saying about it, do not care that it’s happening, and in fact support it.

    Much like those that still support slavery.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Adam gives the game away,
    Abortion is not just any other procedure, it’s the termination of a living being that has the potential to become a full scale baby.
    Not is a full scale baby, but only a potential baby. Oops.

    The arguement that I am making is abortion is wrong because we’re killing life, not because the procedure is grotesque.

    Then you should realize that the nature of the act has nothing to do with your argument. Thank you for disavowing your “evidence.” (Notice the scare quotes, because you didn’t actually provide any evidence Adam.)

    Also, if you think it is wrong to kill life, then stop breathing, stop scratching your skin, stop walking, stop eating, etc.

    And if you find it shocking that abortion is what it is remember Elizabeth Buffum Chace, who was a Quaker in 1850, who went door to door to talk to people about slavery, and almost single handedly ended slavery in our country.

    Um, yeah…OK…You do ralize that freethinkers were actually leading the abolitionist charge, right?

  • Mrnaglfar

    Adam,

    Saline Abortions usually happen around 16 weeks. This is not late term, and according to your own statistics 82,250 abortions per year happen after 16 weeks. Do you think everyone of them are done for medical reasons?

    No, I don’t think all done for medical reasons, and I also don’t think they need to be. I also have no problem with that number, or the right of the women to choose an abortion or not.

    You say I am using a shock factor tactic, what are you talking about? It is what it is, I’m sorry if its shocking to you. Think about how shocking it is to the child.

    You’re using a shock factor because you’re trying to make people think with their gut and not with their brain. Here’s an example:

    The arguement that I am making is abortion is wrong because we’re killing life

    You know what else is pretty shocking? It involves death, screaming, pain, and all performed on live subjects, fully aware of what’s going on.

    It would be the slaughterhouses were animals, mainly chickens, cows, and pigs are taken to be killed, ripped apart and cut up so we can eat them.

    Some vegatarians would call this murder, because they grant human rights to animals. Some would call abortion murder because they grant human rights to the fetus. I don’t, because I don’t give to fetus personhood until it’s born.

    I think they new what they were getting into when the entered the field. Only when they realized that the clumps of cells that are in the mothers womb actually have finger prints at 9 weeks, and was a baby, did they quite. Don’t insult there intelligence. The whole reason that Doctor quit the abortion business is because they see that they’re killing a person.

    And many more doctors don’t, and they spent just as long in school. Maybe they realize the matter’s more complicated then when the fetus has fingers. What about all the women to, you’re still leaving them out of the conversation? Not only do they get to see ultrasounds of the fetus, but it’s in their body and has half their genetic material, yet those women still make the choice for abortion too. Does something about this picture not quite pan out as to make it sound as simple as you try to? What about the woman’s right to be able to withdraw her, what is essentially, life support system from the fetus if she doesn’t wish to carry it anymore?

    But what you’re saying is that even if abortion is shocking to you, you agree with it and do not believe a word the doctors are saying about it, do not care that it’s happening, and in fact support it.

    Much like those that still support slavery.

    I don’t find abortion pleasant, but I don’t find any medical procedure pleasant. I don’t enjoy needles, cutting, burns, any of it. I never said I don’t believe the doctors; there are doctors with lots of unpleasant stories, but I still believe the right to bodily autonomy trumps the other considerations.

    And wow, you totally nailed me with that slavery thing; because I support the right to choose I support slavery. I support slavery so much I don’t intend to tell women they have to be pregnant if they don’t want to, which actually, puts me farther from supporting slavery than you do.

  • LindaJoy

    Again, comments are being made that there are women having late term abortions just because they decided they did not want a baby after all. I want some evidence to support those claims. You are saying that there are doctors who agree to perform late abortions when there is nothing wrong with the fetus and no risk to the woman’s health. I think these are careless statements and need some proof before they are repeated again.

  • Adam

    Mrnaglfar,

    No, I don’t think all done for medical reasons, and I also don’t think they need to be. I also have no problem with that number, or the right of the women to choose an abortion or not.

    It’s scary that you do not care about the next generation of people in this world.

    From your own admission, over 80,000 abortions happen each year after 16 weeks, mostly done for convenience, and you could care less, all in the name of human rights. You would prefer that fetus be burned out of their mothers womb (alive) to die on the operating table Or ripped apart by hand, then sucked out, all for bodily freedom. It’s scary to think that our colleges in this coutry teach our students to not care about the next generation of people, but compare them to animals for the sake of argument.

    And what about the women who choose to kill the living fetus? They’re not killing any old clump of living cells, but embryo’s that will become just like you and me over time, a person…”but it’s not a person until it comes out” Again, the only difference between Ebon’s morality on abortion, and mine as a catholic is Timing (see May 2, 2008, 11:15 am). Most everyone on this website would not agree on your idea of personhood. There’s nothing different biologically between a baby that is born, and a fetus 2 secs. before (didn’t you learn this is your college Bio. class)

    You’re being taught that, when it comes to abortion, your personal choice matters because it’s your own body. Why are you not taught that about anything else when it comes to your body:

    It’s the law to wear a seat belt “But is my own body I can do what I want”
    It’s illegal to do drugs “But It’s my own body…”
    It’s illegal to be publicly intoxicated “But….”
    It’s illegal to buy un-pasteurized milk in most states!!

    Why can the state make decisions that prohit that regulate our bodies in other matters but not abortion?

    They regulate what goes into our bodies and on our bodies all the time, for our own good? Where’s the bodily freedom? Why can’t I just go to the store and pick up bread and some crack? “It’s my body!”

    If the whole reason why abortion is legal was because women should be able to do what they want to their bodies, why is this not the case with things in our society which are less likely to result in hurting other living beings?? And shouldn’t we be fighting for these rights with equal fervor??

    I get that you do not think a fetus is a person, but it is a living being. Why do we allow the killing of these beings out of convenience, but at the same time are not allowed the freedom to do what we want with our bodies in other cases?

    I would argue that we are allowed to kill our fetus’ because of money.

    When it comes to abortion, you can make a ton of money…legally. Planned Parenthood, and non-profit, made almost billion dollars in 2006, 58 million profit, almost all of it on abortion…Why are we giving $300 million in tax payer money each year to them?

    “Referring to the closing date of the latest annual report, Scott noted that “on June 30, 2006, PPFA had net assets valued at $839.8 million, of which $330.9 million was unrestricted and another $116.6 million was temporarily restricted. This is essentially a savings account,” he said. “The money is sitting in a bank and drawing interest….”

    http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewCulture.asp?Page=/Culture/archive/200706/CUL20070615a.html

    http://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/PPFA/Annual_report.pdf

    Planned parenthood is in it for the money, and they’ll tell you college students, and anyone listening, anything to turn a huge profit on abortion: “we do health care, sex education, health services” (these are aleady provided for in our country in our hostipals and schools).

    The good that you think they are doing is being over shadowed by their main purpose abortions for profit.

    The most shocking thing about this is that you do not care, and in fact support it…it’s your body.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Mrnaglfar:

    By limiting abortion rights you give those opposed to it a crack allowing them to get in and possibly enlarge it.

    That may well be true, but I didn’t say I was drawing the boundary line based on what was most politically expedient. I’m drawing it based on where I think humanity begins. For what it’s worth, this is the same boundary line we’ve had for thirty-five years, and the anti-choice forces haven’t succeeded in moving it any further back yet.

    LindaJoy:

    Ebon- I would be interested in any information you have about any doctors who would agree to perform very late term abortions simply because a woman changed her mind about having a baby and had no medical reason to terminate.

    I know of no such cases. I think we’re all agreed that, in reality, such things are vanishingly rare to non-existent for a variety of good reasons. The law that I proposed, I don’t anticipate ever being invoked. I posed it as a hypothetical scenario to clearly define what the implications of my position are.

    I also see that Adam has shown up with his anti-choice pornography. Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long. Typical of the anti-choice crowd, he hasn’t actually presented evidence that a fetus possesses personhood, only asserted that these procedures are sad and disturbing and should therefore be banned. This is the equivalent of my watching, say, an autopsy and announcing that I find it disturbing and hard to watch, and therefore we should ban all such operations. Mindless appeals to emotionalism may be good to get the crowd worked up before picketing a Planned Parenthood clinic, but they do not equate to a rational argument for personhood. (The idea that Planned Parenthood is motivated solely by profit is too stupid to even dignify with an answer.)

    The only difference between your stance on abortion and my stance on abortion, as a catholic, is the timing

    That is unequivocally false. You and I are nothing alike. I respect the self-determination and bodily autonomy of women, and my position is intended to grant the maximum amount of freedom and control over her own body. Your position, insofar as it has any common thread, is that it denies the woman the maximum possible amount of autonomy at every juncture. That’s why you’re against contraception, that’s why you’re against abortion, and that even explains why you don’t favor prosecuting women who obtain abortions – because you don’t think of them as independent people able to make their own decisions.

  • LindaJoy

    Adam- You say that there are over 80,000 abortions done over 16 weeks gestation, “mostly done for convenience”. As a former pregnancy options counselor, I find that statement extremely ignorant!
    Ebon- thanks for your reply to my concerns. I do not think, nor has it been my experience that any doctor would take on the ethical and legal risks of doing a late abortion when there is no evidence of fetal abnormalities or evidence that the mother’s life or health are at risk. It is just a non-existent hypothetical.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Adam, let’s talk strategy for a moment. If you really wanted to be honest with yourself about why pro-choice views are dominant in society, the only institutions you can really blame are the churches themselves. They are failing institutions mired by their own incompetence. Look at your own church. It is too embroiled in its own scandals to be a source of moral guidance by a growing number of young Americans. Remember what your own Bible says: first cast out the beam out of your own eye, and then you shall see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother’s eye. If you’re seen as a hypocrite, you’re really not going to get very far in convincing anyone of anything whether you’re right or wrong. So, please, don’t make yourself look like a hypocrite for blaming higher education for the fact that clergy of all denominations are too busy taking drugs, molesting children, embezzling money, and lying to their own congregations.

  • MissCherryPi

    we do health care, sex education, health services (these are aleady provided for in our country in our hostipals and schools),

    Not true. There are very few places where a person without health insurance could easily get an STI test or a prescription for the birth control pill. Many schools have abstinence only curriculum.

    Adam – Who is getting this money? There are no shareholders. Employees of Planned Parenthood do not have a profit sharing option.

    If Planned Parenthood wanted to make money off of abortions, why would they give out free condoms? Wouldn’t they want more women to get pregnant so there would be even more abortions?

  • Mrnaglfar

    Adam,

    It’s scary that you do not care about the next generation of people in this world.

    I care very deeply about the future generation, and I find your lack of perception towards women’s rights bothersome, your proclaimation that the world will automatically be better with more people stupid, and your attempts to invoke the well known logical stop of trying to gross people out of their rights insulting.

    And what about the women who choose to kill the living fetus? They’re not killing any old clump of living cells, but embryo’s that will become just like you and me over time, a person…”but it’s not a person until it comes out”

    I assume here you mean women that kill their children after birth, which I have already addressed. Read it again.

    There’s nothing different biologically between a baby that is born, and a fetus 2 secs. before (didn’t you learn this is your college Bio. class)

    Again there’s nothing biologically different between a person on life-support before or after they were put there. Unfortunately for your point here, I’m not using biology as a solo indicator of rights in this case.

    It’s the law to wear a seat belt “But is my own body I can do what I want”
    It’s illegal to do drugs “But It’s my own body…”
    It’s illegal to be publicly intoxicated “But….”
    It’s illegal to buy un-pasteurized milk in most states!!

    Why can the state make decisions that prohit that regulate our bodies in other matters but not abortion?

    Which is funny, because I also agree with none of those leislations. I’d love to hear you try and defend the massive failure that has been the war on drugs.

    If the whole reason why abortion is legal was because women should be able to do what they want to their bodies, why is this not the case with things in our society which are less likely to result in hurting other living beings??

    That’s a very good question; you tell me, why should someone be allowed to be drunk inside their home and smoke cigerettes, but not high inside their home on coke, herion, or other drug of choice? Doesn’t seem to make much sense, especially when you consider that cigerettes and alochol are normally the first drug used by most people and the ones that cause the most deaths. You’re assuming I agree with drug laws; I don’t.

    I would argue that we are allowed to kill our fetus’ because of money.

    When it comes to abortion, you can make a ton of money…legally. Planned Parenthood, and non-profit, made almost billion dollars in 2006, 58 million profit, almost all of it on abortion…Why are we giving $300 million in tax payer money each year to them?

    Let’s look at some numbers listed in a quick google search.

    In fact, in the last seven years alone, Planned Parenthood has earned profits – or built a surplus – of more than $350 million.

    In that time period, it has been given government grants of nearly $1.5 billion.

    Ok, so it’s reported a $350 million profit over 7 years, dividing through that gives us an average of $50 million a year surplus, reported. Bear in mind, non-profit organizations that report a surplus, as far as I know, are not allowed to “hold onto” that money in someone’s bank account, but non-profit organizations should not being making a personal profit. So, given that it’s granted $1.5 billion dollars over 7 years, that averages out to $214 million a year, so it seems it seems overfunded. However, I’m sure the IRS and US government isn’t letting them sit back on that profit as a “hey guys, keep it and spend it as you see fit”. If they are evading taxes, let the IRS take care of it; they’ve already announced a profit and their evil interest collecting scheme.

    Unlike, let’s say, religion not getting taxed. There’s a non-profit organization that gets to keep all it’s money and isn’t accountable to the government. Neat, huh?

    Planned parenthood is in it for the money, and they’ll tell you college students, and anyone listening, anything to turn a huge profit on abortion: “we do health care, sex education, health services” (these are aleady provided for in our country in our hostipals and schools).

    The good that you think they are doing is being over shadowed by their main purpose abortions for profit.

    The most shocking thing about this is that you do not care, and in fact support it…it’s your body.

    So because there is a profit made it’s an evil organization?

    Let’s check out some more information against planned parenthood

    As it has in the past, Planned Parenthood continues to provide few alternatives to abortion. For every adoption referral made, it performed 138 abortions.

    Isn’t it clear that PP does, in fact, offer many alternatives, such as condoms, birth control pills, and similiarily every means of contraception?

    Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) annual report shows more than one-third of Planned Parenthood’s annual income comes from abortions. Surgical abortions accounted for $104 million of the $302.6 million its offices brought in.

    One third comes from abortions. Ok. Now tell me, is this planned parenthoods fault for offering every alternative short of prayer, or is it simply a matter of people requesting abortions? How many cases do you suppose planned parenthood actively makes people get abortions, relative to their options?

    I like your conspiracy theory though.

    The PPFA report reveals that the abortion business continues to sell the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug at a steady clip, despite the death of California teenager Holly Patterson, who obtained the abortion drug at a local Planned Parenthood office.

    The data shows 203 PPFA facilities sold more than 95,000 abortion pills. Some 49 Planned Parenthood offices that do not perform surgical abortions sell the drugs.

    Wow, the dangerous drug that is reported to have killed one in 95,000. I’m in awe. More to the point, why would planned parenthood clinics not offer abortion, if their goal is to make lots of money killing the unborn? Perhaps it’s just to try and throw clever slouths like yourself off their trail.

    Source: http://www.nysrighttolife.org/news/12172004/planned_parenthood_annual_report.htm

    I’m even using heavily biased sources here.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) annual report shows more than one-third of Planned Parenthood’s annual income comes from abortions. Surgical abortions accounted for $104 million of the $302.6 million its offices brought in.

    One third comes from abortions. Ok. Now tell me, is this planned parenthoods fault for offering every alternative short of prayer, or is it simply a matter of people requesting abortions? How many cases do you suppose planned parenthood actively makes people get abortions, relative to their options?

    It should probably be noted that for many women, PP is their only source for receiving an abortion. Many areas of the country don’t have doctors willing to perform this service. I believe that SD, for instance, has one abortion performing clinic in the state, IIRC.

  • Adam

    “I was trained by a professional marketing director in how to sell abortions over the telephone. He took every one of our receptionists, nurses, and anyone else who would deal with people over the phone through an extensive training period. The object was, when the girl called, to hook the sale so that she wouldn’t get an abortion somewhere else, or adopt out her baby, or change her mind. We were doing it for the money.”

    –Nina Whitten, chief secretary at a Dallas abortion clinic under Dr. Curtis Boyd

    “They [the women] are never allowed to look at the ultrasound because we knew that if they so much as heard the heart beat, they wouldn’t want to have an abortion.”-Dr. Randall

    ‘Pro-Choice 1990: Skeletons in the Closet” by David Kuperlain and Mark Masters in Oct “New Dimensions” magazine

    Above are accouple of other quotes about selling abortions

  • Adam

    “I was trained by a professional marketing director in how to sell abortions over the telephone. He took every one of our receptionists, nurses, and anyone else who would deal with people over the phone through an extensive training period. The object was, when the girl called, to hook the sale so that she wouldn’t get an abortion somewhere else, or adopt out her baby, or change her mind. We were doing it for the money.”

    –Nina Whitten, chief secretary at a Dallas abortion clinic under Dr. Curtis Boyd

    “They [the women] are never allowed to look at the ultrasound because we knew that if they so much as heard the heart beat, they wouldn’t want to have an abortion.”-Dr. Randall

    ‘Pro-Choice 1990: Skeletons in the Closet” by David Kuperlain and Mark Masters in Oct “New Dimensions” magazine

    Above are accouple of other quotes about selling abortions (same website)

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    Adam:

    Got any that aren’t 20 years out of date? A lot can change in 20 years…

  • Arch

    Time has very little to do with the intentions of abortion facilities. Things may very well be far worse today than 20 years ago.

    No doctor goes to med school aspiring to work for an abortion clinic. Clinics create an atmosphere very open to degradation of the human person in multiple ways; the child and mother both included. If taking innocent life is accepted, other acts of abuse, manipulation, or violence are likely to occur as well.

  • hrd2imagin

    I don’t see abortion as a 1-part issue…

    As humanists, we can’t just sit back and say it’s okay to abort a fetus if it’s in the first or second trimester. Rather, we must also promote a secular respect for life.

    As many have previously said, I’m happy my parents didn’t abort me. I’m sure I wouldn’t have known or cared if they did, but knowing what I do now, then yes, I’m ecstatic that I’m experiencing, as Carl Sagan says, my “momentary glimpse of the universe.”

    When you abort a pregnancy at any stage, you are robbing someone of their life, of their momentary glimpse, their chance to be a kid, to ride a roller coaster, to become educated, to contribute to society, to fall in love, to raise their own children. So this secular respect for life must be taught, must be embedded in our children and teens. This should be coupled with realistic sex-education, one that teaches how to handle sex responsibly, and how to handle the consequences should any arise. America, especially, needs to get realistic when it comes to sex, and treat it with respect.

    While I don’t advocate robbing a woman her right to terminate her pregnancy, I also don’t think we should champion that right as one of the great achievements of humanity.

    Am I a dreamer? Am I the only one?

  • OMGF

    Arch,
    Taking an innocent life…I hope you don’t eat, because every time you ingest something, anything, you are taking an innocent life. How dare you.

    And, what, specifically do you have against clinics? Is it all clinics, or just those that perform abortions? And, what evidence do you have for your slippery slope argument that is predicated on you projecting your personal beliefs onto others? I could just as easily say that crisis centers create an atmosphere very open to degradation of human rights. If denying the rights of an innocent woman is accepted, other acts of abuse, manipulation, or violence are likely to occur as well.

    And for the last two posters, no one is going to the abortion clinic happy as a clam. No one hopes they can get pregnant so that they’ll get to go and abort the fetus.

  • Alex Weaver

    Irrelevant.

    Why?

    I am concerned with real developing humans. I will leave the mourning of those precious bodily fluids to you and General Jack D. Ripper.

    If you mean “human” in the sense of “human rights” then the statement is a circular argument.

    Sure – because I place myself above a potato, you have therefore established that I place myself above all this other life. That makes sense.

    You certainly seem to place yourself above your mother.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Adam,

    Wow, fun quotes. I mean, I could point out that they have nothing to do with the woman’s rights, or that there’s absolutely no context to imply that those cases are not the vast minority, or as was mentioned, that they aren’t really recent either. I could also mention that the quotes give no indication they come from planned parenthood, and not some private company, in which case you’d expect them to push what makes them money.

    But I think that all might undermine your crushing appeal to emotion in an attempt to bypass actually having to talk about rights or answer questions, so I won’t.

    Arch,

    No doctor goes to med school aspiring to work for an abortion clinic. Clinics create an atmosphere very open to degradation of the human person in multiple ways; the child and mother both included. If taking innocent life is accepted, other acts of abuse, manipulation, or violence are likely to occur as well.

    Here, you’re confusing doctor with abortion provider; while there may be some overlap (I would hope all of those who perform abortions are doctors), not all doctors working in these clinics are abortionists. Not all these clinics are public and non-profit, in which case you’d likely see the private clinic pushing what makes it the most money; if that happened to be adoption you’d see them pushing adoption, if it happened to be the pill, you’d see them pushing that. The anti-abortion crowd keeps trying to appeal to the “it’s not a pleasant procedure so therefore it should be outright banned and that will solve the problem I see”. Because as we well know, once you make things illegal they become safer and stop happening all together, just like drugs.

    All of which still does not address rights.

    hrd2imagin,

    Rather, we must also promote a secular respect for life.

    Respect for life is going to cast your net a little wide; life includes animals we eat and parasites that eat us, as well as all the bugs killed by pesticides, and all the plants we consume. Respect here is also the wrong word in my mind; respect is something earned, not something given automatically. Some life will earn our respect and love, some of it won’t.

    As many have previously said, I’m happy my parents didn’t abort me. I’m sure I wouldn’t have known or cared if they did, but knowing what I do now, then yes, I’m ecstatic that I’m experiencing, as Carl Sagan says, my “momentary glimpse of the universe.”

    Most living things don’t really enjoy getting killed. I’m sure most of us (except maybe those really really depressed ones) are glad they didn’t get aborted, but what many haven’t taken into the equation is that many of them also wouldn’t have been born if their parents hadn’t aborted previous fetuses; many of them also wouldn’t have been born if contraceptives like condoms or the pill had been used.

    When you abort a pregnancy at any stage, you are robbing someone of their life, of their momentary glimpse, their chance to be a kid, to ride a roller coaster, to become educated, to contribute to society, to fall in love, to raise their own children. So this secular respect for life must be taught, must be embedded in our children and teens.

    When you use birth control you do the same thing. You’re making the mistake I pointed out not to long ago of confusing “total number of people” with “quality of life”. More does not equal better, especially not for those people already living. You say it’s not that simple then promptly make your point that it is that simple, except simple in the sense that we need to make as many new people as possible.

    While I don’t advocate robbing a woman her right to terminate her pregnancy, I also don’t think we should champion that right as one of the great achievements of humanity.

    The right to bodily autonomy isn’t worthy of recognition? I would think it’s one of our more basic rights.

    Ebon,

    That may well be true, but I didn’t say I was drawing the boundary line based on what was most politically expedient. I’m drawing it based on where I think humanity begins. For what it’s worth, this is the same boundary line we’ve had for thirty-five years, and the anti-choice forces haven’t succeeded in moving it any further back yet.

    I understand you drew the line where you feel personhood begins, but you also said you never pictured the law being used. If it’s not going to be used, there’s no point to have it.
    But if it truly is a person at that point, how can you justify a manslaughter charge instead of homicide and merely probation rather than jail time (as would be the case for if any actual person had been killed)? It has intent and pre-planning, and unless you don’t consider them equals, as you should if they’re actual people at that point, that lowered charge shouldn’t have even come up.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I would argue that we are allowed to kill our fetus’ because of money.

    Anyone who reads my site regularly knows that I don’t use words like this often, but sometimes their appropriateness is inarguable.

    This is a stupid position – deeply, profoundly stupid. There’s just no other way to describe it.

    Let’s start with Adam’s evidence for this position. It consists of a single unsourced quote from an anti-choice website. He starts with this quote and dismisses out of hand the possibility that it was invented, exaggerated or taken out of context in any way. From this, he draws a sweeping conclusion not just about one person or one clinic, but about the entire pro-choice movement as a whole. This extrapolation demonstrates an astonishing lack of good sense and rational thinking skills. This would be like me taking the account of one person who claims they were raped or molested by a priest, and concluding from this that the entire Catholic church was founded by a group of sex predators for the sole purpose of facilitating their access to children.

    Next, let’s talk about the position itself. Abortion providers operate solely for the money? Really? It couldn’t possibly be because the founders of the pro-choice movement had seen the devastation, suffering and loss of human life that always occurs when women’s bodies were treated as the property of the state. It couldn’t possibly be because anyone involved in this movement was legitimately concerned with sexual freedom or bodily autonomy. It couldn’t possibly be because anyone felt compassion for women who were raped, or who suffered a contraceptive failure, or whose lives were threatened by enforced pregnancy. It couldn’t possibly be because anyone recognized the widespread positive effects on society that result when women can control the size of their families, or because they have an honest difference of opinion as to whether a fetus has the moral status of an adult person. Nope, according to Adam, the pro-choice movement is motivated solely by the desire to make money by killing children.

    I can’t even fathom the sheer lack of intelligence and common sense that would cause someone to make a statement like that. This is stupider than Michael Medved saying we need to elect Christian presidents so the terrorists will leave us alone; this is like the Jack Chick level of stupidity where you believe that playing Dungeons & Dragons teaches you how to cast actual black magic spells. It’s the fundamentalist’s cartoon view of the world which assumes that everyone who disagrees with you is a cackling, black-caped supervillain. Most people grow out of this view of the world by, let’s say, age 5. Any adult who still believes such things ought to be humiliated to express them in front of rational people.

    If Adam seriously thinks that people work for Planned Parenthood to get rich, he’s beyond hope. (I laughed at this page, which notes breathlessly that “90 people who work at PPFA’s national headquarters make over $50,000 per year”. The horror!) As long as we’re going to jump to irrational conclusions, why hasn’t this money-making scheme been extended to other sectors? Why aren’t there clinics that get rich by charging people to cut off their arms or to infect them with TB? Do conspiracy theorists like Adam give even that much thought to their delusions?

    Ironically, this charge could be levelled with far more justice at the Catholic church – which is, by any measure, an enormously wealthy organization far larger than Planned Parenthood, whose leaders enjoy almost unimaginable luxury, and which owns tax-exempt property all around the world. And, of course, one can conclude that the Catholic church’s opposition to abortion serves a financial purpose – raising the next generation of faithful donors, which they’d naturally want to be as large as possible. This is not a glass house that Catholic apologists want to go throwing stones around in.

  • Arch

    It couldn’t possibly be because the founders of the pro-choice movement had seen the devastation, suffering and loss of human life that always occurs when women’s bodies were treated as the property of the state. It couldn’t possibly be because anyone involved in this movement was legitimately concerned with sexual freedom or bodily autonomy. It couldn’t possibly be because anyone felt compassion for women who were raped, or who suffered a contraceptive failure, or whose lives were threatened by enforced pregnancy. It couldn’t possibly be because anyone recognized the widespread positive effects on society that result when women can control the size of their families, or because they have an honest difference of opinion as to whether a fetus has the moral status of an adult person.

    If you uphold that a woman is more free after having an abortion then you are mistaken on this issue. Abortion is absolutely terrible for women physically and emotionally. Our society needs to stop lying to women in telling them that abortion is a healthy procedure. Abortion truly does equal one dead and one wounded. I hope so truly that women who have had an abortion are able to find healing and that their voice might be able to help others know the truth about this issue. Many women are already speaking out:

    http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/

    Peace.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Arch,

    If you uphold that a woman is more free after having an abortion then you are mistaken on this issue.

    They are more free if they have the option to; try as you might you cannot bypass that simple point.

    Abortion is absolutely terrible for women physically and emotionally.

    a) no one is arguing that point, though there’s plenty of variation in terms of the emotional and phyiscal discomfort, most likely relevant to the timing.
    b) so is having to carry and give birth to and raise unwanted children

    Our society needs to stop lying to women in telling them that abortion is a healthy procedure.

    When does our society push abortions as being pleasant and easy? When has anyone here said that? Of course, if carried out properly, it is safe.
    The risk of abortion complications is minimal when the procedure is performed by a trained professional in a hygienic setting: Fewer than 1% of all U.S. abortion patients experience a major complication. The risk of death associated with abortion in the United States is less than 0.6 per 100,000 procedures, which is less than one-tenth as large as the risk associated with childbirth. (40) However, 68,000 women in countries where abortion is illegal die each year of abortion complications, and many times this number are injured by unsafe procedures. (5)
    Source: http://www.guttmacher.org/in-the-know/safety.html

    Abortion truly does equal one dead and one wounded.

    One dead, but not one person dead. Truly, in this case, seems to mean “because I said so”. I’d also like to see you reconile that point with the above data where illegal abortion can now mean (in your mind at least) two dead.

    I hope so truly that women who have had an abortion are able to find healing and that their voice might be able to help others know the truth about this issue

    Truth here also meaning “what I think about it”. From your site
    The campaign, a joint project of Priests for Life and Anglicans for Life, has three main goals:

    * Make the public aware that abortion is harmful emotionally, physically and spiritually to women and others;
    * Reach out to women who are hurting from an abortion, let them know help is available;
    * Invite women to join us in speaking the truth about abortion’s negative consequences.

    I noticed nothing on that list about remaining objective, or taking information from women who had abortions early, and how they consider that effected their life positively (like not having give birth in their teens, or not have more children they can’t afford or don’t want to have to care for, or how they had the option to have a child when they felt prepared). That’s basically a statement of their bias and what information they feel like presenting.

  • Alex Weaver

    It’s scary that you do not care about the next generation of people in this world.

    It’s scary that you are willing to destroy at least two times any number of lives (both the woman and the unwanted child) just to ensure that more people will exist (until they die of neglect, malnutrition, disease, etc.). Not every prohibited abortion has this result, but you clearly wouldn’t care if it did.

    Also, what you seem to be too thick to absorb as it is repeatedly pointed out to you is that even if, as you claim, doctors would cease to perform abortions if it were outlawed, abortions would not cease. This is exactly what happened before they were legalized. The law does not effect whether or not women have abortions, but rather whether or not their abortions will be performed with sterile tools in a clean environment by people who know what they’re doing – or, to put it more bluntly, how likely the woman is to survive.

    Oh, right. Your concern is killing people. Clearly, killing women is perfectly acceptable to you. (Isn’t it annoying when people argue by insulting insinuation rather than with evidence? Although, this is a bad example since I don’t think that way and am having a hard time coming up with something to accuse you of that really, truly doesn’t follow from your statements.)

    Again, the only difference between Ebon’s morality on abortion, and mine as a catholic is Timing

    Liar. I know from previous discussions that you also oppose contraception. Additionally, however, there is a very important difference; Ebon’s position allows a woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy with certain time restrictions; yours does not allow her to do so at all. The dishonesty of pretending that these are equivalent is beneath contempt.

    There’s nothing different biologically between a baby that is born, and a fetus 2 secs. before (didn’t you learn this is your college Bio. class)

    Are you sure?

    As for your slanderous insinuations about Planned Parenthood, how much of its “total assets” are in a form other than the buildings they own and the equipment they use? Got any data on that?

  • Alex Weaver

    It’s the law to wear a seat belt “But is my own body I can do what I want”
    It’s illegal to do drugs “But It’s my own body…”
    It’s illegal to be publicly intoxicated “But….”
    It’s illegal to buy un-pasteurized milk in most states!!

    Item 1 is significant because failing to wear seat belts imposes a severe cost in several on the families of those killed or crippled by car accidents and on society as a whole. Item 4 I believe is a mangling of the fact that it’s illegal to sell unpasteurized milk, again because such tends to harm real, live, functioning people. Items 2 and 3 are motivated mainly by the prejudices of the religious. This helps your argument how?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this thread has pretty much been hijacked. The first half of it had a lot of fresh ideas and thoughtful arguments… then the religious echo chamber found us and flooded us with their tired old tripe.

  • Alex Weaver

    Arch:

    No one claims that abortion is supposed to be a pleasant experience. I doubt there’s a single woman on earth who, all other things being equal, would rather have had an abortion than not gotten pregnant in the first place. What’s your point?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I couldn’t agree more, bbk. I think everyone who wanted to have their say has done so.


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