Fighting Reason Tooth and Claw: Contra JT Eberhard on Abortion

Atheist blogger JT Eberhard recently joined the Patheos stable, and as a Director of Content at Patheos I welcome him happily and hope (and know) that he will that Patheos is an excellent place to share his thoughts.  Our intention has always been to host the whole conversation on matters of religion and spirituality, and to make that conversation better.  Sometimes improving the conversation means finding common ground, and sometimes it means clarifying distinctions.

After I posted ‘I Am a Hate-Filled Christian,” Eberhart was kind enough to respond directly to the paragraph in that post in which I lamented certain facts regarding abortion and the abortion debate.  I respond, of course, merely on my own behalf.

First of all, let me say that I, in contrast to Eberhard, do not find many of the opinions expressed at Patheos “bewildering.”  If a belief held by many people seems “bewildering” then it’s likely you simply haven’t understood the issue well enough to place yourself in the shoes of those who believe it.  And regrettably, Eberhard makes clear that he has not done a whole lot to understand the perspective of a Christian pro-lifer.  My own post did not much help.  For one thing, it was not intended to educate on why a pro-lifer believes what a pro-lifer believes.  For another, only one paragraph really concerned abortion, and it’s a complex issue that strains against the limitations of blogging.  I’d recommend that JT look to folks like Francis Beckwith and Scott Rae, or even to the Pope’s Humanae Vitae, for a clearer articulation of the ethics of abortion from a Christian point of view.

In the “Hate-Filled” post, I lamented how “unborn children are exterminated before they have had a chance to enjoy the gift of life.” Eberhard responds:

Tim, you say “exterminated,” but I want to make sure your connotation is clear.  Obviously there is a tremendous difference between exterminating a dandelion and exterminating a human being.  While a dandelion is certainly alive, it has cells that are moving about and what not, nobody really mourns the loss of that life.  This is why nobody would refer to the a dandelion’s loss of life as an “extermination.”  My position is that the destruction of a zygote is little more worrisome that the destruction of a dandelion.

I chose the word “exterminated” advisedly.  I choose most of my words advisedly.  Nearly all of them, in fact.  We do not use the word “exterminated” when referring to the destruction of dandelions.  True.  We do use the word “exterminated” when referring to the destruction of insects, rodents, and higher life forms.  Is Eberhard suggesting that the destruction of 1000 third-trimester babies/fetuses is not deserving of the word “exterminated,” and by implication less significant than the destruction of 1000 ants?  How far is Mr Eberhard willing to go?

If the destruction of a zygote is roughly the same as the destruction of a dandelion, what about the destruction of a fetus?  The zygote phase, after all, only lasts for a couple days.  (If I give the benefit of the doubt and assume that JT knew this, then I find the consistent use of “zygote” throughout a little disingenuous.)  Then there is the blastocyst phase, and weeks 3-8 are the embryo phase, and thereafter the fetus phase.  When we talk about abortion procedures, in most cases we’re not talking about a zygote, because women rarely know they’re pregnant so early.  Roughly 30 percent of abortion procedures take place within the first four weeks after conception (which is six gestational weeks, measured since the woman’s last period), and another 30 percent or so take place in weeks 5 and 6 (the embryo phase).  Another 26% take place in the following four weeks (transitioning from embryo to fetus) and then another 10.5% or so happen afterward (although it would be plausible to suppose that there are a fair number of unreported later pregnancies).  So Eberhard has managed to combine a couple red herrings here.  In most cases, we’re not talking about a zygote.  And no one has suggested that you ought not abort simply because the embryo/fetus is “alive” (like a dandelion) but because it’s a living human person.

Eberhard goes on to quote Richard Carrier, who states that “the killing of a neurologically inactive fetus is no greater a harm than the killing of a mouse, and in fact decidedly less” since the mouse is neurologically active.  But neurological activity is detectable by about the sixth week, and may well exist (but not be detectable) earlier.  So is Eberhard willing to oppose abortions after the sixth week?  Permit me to doubt — but the point is that we all, pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike, have to come up with some criterion for what we can kill and what we cannot.  I draw the line at conception, and many pro-choicers draw the line at birth — but I would maintain that my criterion, in terms of the nature of the thing, is a much more significant criterion.  Being inside or outside of the womb does not much change the nature of the thing.  (And even then, can you kill a full-term baby inside the womb? What if its head is still in the womb? Its foot?  What about after birth, but before first breath, or before cutting the cord?)

Eberhard tries another criterion when he says we’ve never shown much concern for things that “cannot suffer their own loss,” but this is a strange suggestion.  Why should the potential to suffer your own loss be the decisive criterion?  Either he means that we should only be concerned about those things that can suffer in dying (taking “suffer” in the more common, current sense)–which would suggest that we ought not to be concerned with killing others as long as the death were sudden and did not allow them to suffer, or if they were drugged in such a way that their potential for suffering were eliminated.  Or else he meant that we should only be concerned with things that have achieved a sufficient maturity of self-consciousness to contemplate their own loss (taking suffer more in one classical sense of “experience”).  This is a rather high bar, and suggests that we might be justified in taking the lives of children well after birth.  Is it morally permissible to take the life of a mentally handicapped person who cannot “suffer her own loss”?

I feel like the Storm Trooper to Obi Wan: This isn’t the criterion we’re looking for.

In response to my lament for the hundreds of millions of people who are not alive today due to abortion policies in various countries, and the consequent loss of creativity and life, I’m afraid Eberhard rather embarrasses himself.  He writes:

“An argument that inevitably comes up in the abortion debate is that a zygote will one day become a child (perhaps the next Beethoven!) if left unchecked.  Tim, do you not realize that every sperm in the male body is a potential human being (it just needs the female egg, itself a potential unique, glorious human being).  Yet the prospect of this lost potential does not seem to frighten you into promiscuity.”

I’m sure evangelical youngsters everywhere would rejoice if their elders decided that they should have sex with great frequency because “if a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.”  But alas, there is a key distinction between a sperm and a zygote.  A zygote, left to develop naturally, will tend to develop into a human being.  You can have a tank of millions of sperm, but without an egg not a single one will develop into a human being.  This is because — I hate to give a basic biology less here — the female contributes half the genetic endowment via the egg.  Only at fertilization (i.e., when there is a zygote) does the cell division process begin — and as early as eight cells, the cells begin to differentiate into the different parts of the body.  But more importantly, only at fertilization do you have, genetically, a human being.  (And by the way, it’s John Connor, to keep with the entertainment references.)

When I said that I “hate” (and the context of the post was a play on the word “hate”) that “women are sometimes pressured by men or by parents into abortions they mourn and regret,” Eberhard makes the point that I probably hate it when women have abortions in general.  I certainly regret it — but I find it especially unfortunate when women are pressured into decisions they regret.  Of course I’m aware that many do not regret it, or do not report regretting it.  That’s obvious.  I wonder, however, how Eberhard knows that it’s only a “tiny minority” of cases where women are pressured into abortions.  I remember one study claiming that 64% of women who had abortions felt pressured to do so, but I won’t place much weight on that because it’s easy to form studies that produce the results you want.  But when you consider prostitutes who are frequently forced into abortions, young women whose parents may pressure them into abortions, unmarried women (or married women, but 84% of abortions are to unmarried women) who may feel pressured by the father, or women who may feel pressured by friends in order to achieve their professional dreams, I don’t find it implausible that quite a few would feel pressure.

Obviously, women choose to get abortions without pressure too, or against pressure in the opposite direction.  None of this is news to me, or to anyone else.  But if Eberhard has a source for his “tiny minority” claim, I’d like to know what it is.  It wouldn’t change the fact that “I hate that women are sometimes pressured…into abortions they mourn and regret.”  And I’m not talking about post-abortion trauma or depression, so you can let that red herring drop as well; I’m just talking about regret.  I’ve known many, many women who regret their abortions.  It must be tough to admit that, given all the intrinsic pressure to self-justification.  No one wants to think that they took the life of a baby.  But there are women who, in retrospect, feel (even when they take responsibility for their actions) that they were manipulated or even deceived by a pro-choice culture around them, into decisions they mourn with every pore of their being.

For the grand finale, I want to point out some false dichotomies at the end of Eberhard’s post.

FIRST: I wrote that “I hate that women are sometimes misled into believing that abortion for the sake of convenience is okay,” and Eberhard took issue with the use of the word “convenience,” pointing out that “the average cost of raising a child today is almost $227,000.  At some point “convenience” becomes “life-destroying” and ought to outweigh interests of a clump of cells.  Well, I know few people (even the very poor ones) who view the decision to have a child as “life-destroying,” even when they did not think they can afford it.  (Doesn’t everyone think they can’t afford it?)  But more importantly, this is what’s known as a false dichotomy: either have an abortion, or pay the costs in full of raising a child.  I guess I can’t blame him, because it’s a really new-fangled concept, truly cutting edge.  But there’s this thing called…wait for it…adoption.  In fact, the mother could actually make money by carrying the child to term and then handing the baby over to another couple that is desperate to have a child.  I can give you some movie recommendations if you want to learn more about this adoption thing.  Or you can Google it.

Granted, carrying a child to term is still a tough thing to do.  I’ve seen it twice, up close and personal.  It’s a lot to ask.  But when you believe, as I do, that the life of a human child is at stake, then you want to protect that life.

SECOND, JT wrote:

“And if you’re going to suggest that the value of those unthinking, unfeeling cells is worth more than that of the conscious mother who has memories, a life she has built, love, and the ability to suffer the loss of all of it, as well as the ability to feel resentment at being forced to raise an unwanted child, you need to get a new definition of “twisted.”

This is like when Al Gore said that every woman who might have breast cancer should have access to a sonogram.  JT apparently believes we have to weigh the value of the fetus over against the value of the mother.  Because apparently…help me out here…it’s the life of the mother or the life of the unborn child?  I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek, but the point is, the measurement here (at least in the vast majority of cases where the life of the mother is not threatened) is not simply between the unborn and the mother, but between the life of the unborn and the pregnancy of the mother.  No one is asking her to die for her child, or even to completely overturn her life for eighteen years — just to get the child to birth and give it up for adoption.

JT says something sensible when he writes: “You do not get to dictate what other people do with their bodies unless you’re protecting a conscious being from harm.”  Of course, a fetus is not necessarily “the mother’s body,” but let’s put that aside.  Let’s put it this way: if someone believed that another person’s actions were going to take the life of an innocent human person, would that person not be morally allowed, even obligated, to intervene?  Apparently you would agree with this.  Yet that’s precisely what pro-lifers, on their own reasoned judgments regarding the nature of an innocent human person, are doing.  So there’s really no reason for all the hysteria about the arrogance and misogyny of trying to control women.

Christians absolutely ought to take better care of women who find themselves facing unwanted pregnancies — and in fact that’s one of the purposes of the network of crisis pregnancy centers Christians have founded.  I’m sure Christians can do more.  But Christian pro-lifers genuinely believe that there are two people at issue in this equation, the mother and the child, and the life of one takes precedence over the pregnancy of another.  It’s not at all bewildering.

Apparently (I’m just seeing this now) JT also posted some thoughts on my views on homosexuality, so I’ll respond to those next.  It will be fun.  But I would also press back against JT: Where do you draw the line, if you do, between what can be aborted and what cannot?  If you want to stick with being “conscious” or “able to suffer your own end,” flesh those out and explain why they’re morally significant.  Are some forms of abortion permissible and others not?  Do you think, like former President Clinton, that abortions should be “rare”?  Why or why not?  What about babies that survive attempted abortions and are delivered safely?  Can they still be killed?

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • http://www.herenowkingdom.com Andy Catsimanes

    Oh dear.
    I know you’re a fair, (if tenacious) advocate for your positions. But I found it hard to believe Mr. Eberhard’s piece was as vapid as it seemed from your response. So I went and read it for myself.

    Alas, it was.

    I sincerely hope that was not representative of Mr. Eberhard’s future efforts. If so, here’s hoping he raises his game.

    • Gordon

      The other side often looks vapid. For instance I cannot believe this is a serious reply to JT’s piece!

  • Jeremy Forbing

    Reading Mr. Eberhard’s essay, I found it very unhelpful to the continuing abortion debate, and I think Tim’s response engaged with it generously (though I disagree with some of the assertions it defends). But for me, the main problem was the position of righteous certainty Mr. Eberhard’s post seem to emanate from, and though there was some similar attitude in Tim’s original “I am a Hate-Filled Christian” post, the response above is almost entirely free of it.

    What’s funny is, I wish certainty were appropriate. I wish there were easy answers to these questions. Most atheists I know seek to make decisions based on pure reason, and I do wish that pure rationality had provided, by this point, a clearer and more definite response to society’s concerns about abortion. Though I am a Christian, I have no problem with atheists– I came to my religion by a very personal journey, and I cannot begrudge anyone who did not share the same process– and I am not lying when I say I genuinely wish there were one secure and logically defensible secular viewpoint on abortion.

    But science and philosophy have not yet given any definitive answer to when human life begins in the womb. The Bible does not strictly answer that question either, and though Scripture makes it clear that life begins at some point before a child leaves the mother’s body (and that God loves us during that time), it does specify that it begins at conception or any other specific point. And even if the Bible did give us an answer, the United States government is prohibited from adopting any one religion’s answers for these kinds of questions.

    I don’t think it is useful to wish for easy answers. And right now, the atmosphere is not right for science or rationality– the bases on which our government can make laws– to give us a specific answer anyway. What I do wish is that both sides– from pro-choice people who may be Atheist or Christian, to pro-life people who may also be Atheist or Christian– would admit to having less absolutely authority in the completeness of their answer than we actually have. I wish we could have saner cultural conversation about abortion.

    But of course, none of the people who rule this country have much to gain by that. The Democratic Party maintains power by warning voters that Republicans will continue to threaten what they consider a woman’s right to choose. The Republican Party maintains power by warning voters that Democrats will continue to permit what they consider to be the murder of children. Each of the two sides leverages this issue to increase their control relative to the opposite side. As a result, our nation’s leaders have no interest in bringing America together to find some kind of agreement that will unite us. Rather, their goal is to keep us divided and afraid.

    As a result, the more deeply we believe in the absolute correctness of our personal position on this issue, the more we reward our politicians for sowing division and fear. Eventually, I hope we as Americans can find a better way.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thanks for sharing those thoughts, Jeremy. Good stuff.

    • BabyRaptor

      There’s no “considering” about it. Women have no less a right to choose than you have a right to decide what religion you believe in. It’s law.

      And the Republicans want to strip that away, forcing all women to live by a not scientifically (or biblically, if you actually READ the book) backed personal opinion. The Republican view completely discounts the woman. It completely denies any say she might have in the matter, despite the fact that it’s her body being used, her life being taken over (and possibly threatened, if things go south.)

      Abortion is already restricted to cases of fatal defect or life of the mother at a reasonable place. Before viability, there’s no solid argument for there being a “life” there. If you choose to believe otherwise, that means that you personally should not have an abortion, not that you get to dictate what everyone else does. Why is this so hard to understand for the pro-forced birthers? Pro-choicers aren’t out there demanding that everyone be okay with abortions, or that everyone start getting them. We just want our right to choose, which was given to us based on law and actual fact, left alone.

      • Surprise123

        I’m a strong “pro-choice until viability (24 weeks), with an exception for the life of the mother after viability” adherent; but, I do wish abortion would not be provided in a morally neutral manner, the way Planned Parenthood currently does. Whether you believe that zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are complete human beings deserving of all legal rights, or you believe that they represent only the potential for human personhood until they attain viability (as I do), perhaps we can all agree, at the very least, that the loss of human potential through abortion is a moral tragedy.

        I would like to see abortion services provided by professionally trained clinicians who, when a pregnant girl or woman seeking an abortion enters their facilities, says, “You are very welcome here, and, we are very sorry that you have to contemplate having an abortion: although we strongly affirm women’s right to abortion (until viability, excepting risk to the life of the mother), we feel that abortion is a moral tragedy, and should be avoided, if at all possible. Before we provide you with abortion services today, we would like to learn what circumstances caused you to come here today. Would you be able to share that with us?”

        And then they would go on:
        “May we also share with you information about the fetus growing within your womb? May we show you an ultrasound of the fetus?” (None of that forced ultrasound business — women should not be forced to have clinical procedures performed on them against their will).

        And then:
        “And, may we share with you information about local homes for girls and women who might become homeless during their pregnancy? And, free or low cost medical care for pregnant girls and women? And, stories of successful open and closed adoptions? And, non-profits that match single mothers with other single mothers in shared living accommodations? And, stories of girls and women who, after having an abortion, regretted their decision for the rest of their lives?”

        And, finally, assuming the woman seeking an abortion wasn’t raped:
        “May we share information with you on how you might avoid having to contemplate having an abortion again in the future? How to avoid having sex with partners, who will not support you should you become pregnant? How to more effectively avoid pregnancy once you do decide to have sex?”

        And, there would be a small room, a very quiet room, tastefully and comfortably decorated, perhaps with a small flowing waterfall, where the woman could review alone the information provided to her by the clinicians.

        If the woman decided not to have an abortion, but needed referrals to homes for pregnant girls or women, or adoption services, or living accommodations for matched single mothers, the abortion clinic would provide them.

        But, if the woman decided to go ahead with the abortion, the clinicians would accept her decision without judgement.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

        • Uh-Huh

          So, you would have them totally violate their privacy and browbeat the woman into submission first?

    • Hominid

      You erroneously assert that ‘science and philosophy have not yet given any definitive answer to when human life begins in the womb.’ Science has indeed! The conceptus is the first stage of the human life-cycle – a fertilized egg is biologically a human embryo – there is no scientific dispute of this fact. The development of a human from conceptus to death is a CONTINUOUS process there are NO precise time points or boundaries, before which, one thing is true and, after which, another. Any attempt to so define a human is arbitrary.

  • http://outofthedepths.blogspot.com/ Steve Allison

    Excellent reply Jeremy. I hope we can find a better way also. I think think you pointed out the limitations of both the Bible and science/philosophy in answering crucial questions as they are now stated. It seems to me that recognizing what you are pointing out will help. Perhaps if we move from worrying about ontological status to exploring the question from relational perspectives, it would benefit us.

  • Nathaniel

    “I’m sure evangelical youngsters everywhere would rejoice if their elders decided that they should have sex with great frequency because “if a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.” But alas, there is a key distinction between a sperm and a zygote. A zygote, left to develop naturally, will tend to develop into a human being. ”

    Yeah, its amazing. The zygote just develops all on its own, without any help. No one else involved.

    Its not like there’s some irrelevant woman surrounding it.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Developing “naturally” means developing in its natural context.

      Is that the best you’ve got? A cheap shot? ;-)

      • Nathaniel

        Hardly cheap when it means mentioning the person who’s body is being commandeered.

        But hey, I suppose that sort of thinking comes “naturally.”

        • Philip

          Commandeered? Unless you’re talking about rape victims only, that is lazy, lazy terminology for such a conversation.

          • Nathaniel

            The body is commandeered the instant the pregnancy is unwanted, just like a boat is commandeered the instant there is a successful mutiny.

          • Frank

            Its called personal responsibility. If one does not ant to get pregnant there are very easy and fool proof ways to make that happen. It’s a woman’s body completely under her control until she gets pregnant. Then the unborn child shares that body and the father of the child should have some say in what happens as well. How selfish can a person be?

          • christinastephens

            It IS called personal responsibility.

            If a woman finds she is pregnant, and does not want to be, she bears the responsibility of deciding whether she gets an abortion or carries it through, and the responsibility of deciding if, how and when to inform the gentleman who came to the party. She also bears responsibility of the aftermath of her choices.

            The father should have some say, I agree. It’s the nice, responsible thing to do, pending circumstances. But should he have the capacity to legally force her to carry the pregnancy to term? No.

          • Frank

            I agree if a woman chooses to kill her unborn child for no reason other than convenience she bears responsibility.

          • victoria

            So just to be absolutely clear, you believe that married couples who do not want more kids should remain celibate?

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Yes, and I mentioned that person repeatedly throughout the post. The failure (if such it should be called) to mention the person when I wrote “will tend to develop naturally” is hardly a strong argument against my point of view.

          • ScottInOH

            I disagree that you “mentioned [women] throughout the post.” More than half of it is about zygotes, embryos, and fetuses and whether they are living human beings. Women are never mentioned, although they are indirectly referred to when you bring up wombs and eggs.

            When you do discuss women, it’s to emphasize the possibility that they might not know their own minds or be able to make a decision on their own. (I agree with you, of course, that no woman should be pressured to have an abortion against her will.) Or it’s to tell them that pregnancy, delivery, and adoption aren’t all that bad.

            What you don’t ever do is consider a woman as an independent person who’s being asked to provide life support for nine months against her will.

          • Frank

            Her will? She excercised her will when she engaged in activity that can result in conception. Pregnancy does not just spontaneously happen.

            That’s like whining about getting burned after you put our hand in the fire.

          • ScottInOH

            Yes, Frank. I understand your position. See my post below at 4:30 pm. I was talking to Dr. Dalrymple.

          • Frank

            I am sure if you just want to talk to the good doctor there are less public ways than posting here where everyone who visits is part of the conversation.

            And btw your comment isn’t even worth his time to respond. Your hyperbole, assumptions and fallacious characterizations don’t amount to anything substantive or engaging.

        • Hominid

          You can deny biological reality, but you cannot escape its consequences. Women get pregnant. Their anatomy, physiology, and psychology are genetically dictated by that single biological imperative.

      • Karen

        Discuss the woman, then. Explain why you think pregnancy is no big deal.

        • Nathaniel

          No method is 100% foolproof. And I feel having an abortion is a way of taking responsibility. And the man can have a say when he becomes able or willing to care for the fetus in place of the woman.

          • Derrick

            One of the key things to remember with pregnancy is that we have, in recent years, with the continuing advance of scientific discovery, precisely identified the cause of pregnancy. So yes, there is a foolproof method for avoiding it 100% of the time: don’t have sex with someone you’re not willing to have a child with. I know this kind of thinking is anachronistic, but it is also foolproof.

          • Frank

            You have a very warped idea of responsibility. The responsible things would be:

            1. Don’t get pregnant if you cannot care for the child. If that means no intercourse than so be it.

            2. If you do get pregnant own up to your responsibility

            3. Include the father in all discussions about his child if he chooses to be involved.

          • Nathaniel

            Unless you’re raped. But of course in your compassion you say “Sucks to be you. Guess you should have thought of being raped before existing with a uterus.”

            And of course in your ignorance that’s not even fully right. Its quite possible to have sex without any chance of pregnancy. Just don’t have a penis ejaculate in a vagina.

          • Frank

            Nathan its funny that you throw around the word ignorance considering your posts.

          • ScottInOH

            Frank (September 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm and 2:56 pm) and Derek (September 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm) have made their positions clear:

            The only time we should demand that a person provide nine months of life support against his or her will is when that person is a woman who has had sex.

          • Nathaniel

            If you actually have a point where I’m ignorant, do tell.

            If you’re just here for childish insults, please make that clear so I can ignore you.

          • Frank

            Let’s see:

            “Unless you’re raped. But of course in your compassion you say “Sucks to be you.” – Ignorant statement. Let me know if you need me to explain why.

            “Its not like there’s some irrelevant woman surrounding it.” -ignorant statement

            “The body is commandeered the instant the pregnancy is unwanted, just like a boat is commandeered the instant there is a successful mutiny.” – ignorant statement

            “No method is 100% foolproof. And I feel having an abortion is a way of taking responsibility. And the man can have a say when he becomes able or willing to care for the fetus in place of the woman.” – ignorant statement

            How embarrassing for you!

          • Nathaniel

            Gonna tell me how or why you see those statements are ignorant, or am I supposed to take it on faith?

            Pony up supporting statements, or we’re done here.

          • Frank

            We were done long ago. You have nothing and if you cannot see your own ignorance on display than I cannot help you. Ask someone to explain it to you.

          • Nathaniel

            So in other words you have nothing, and are arrogant enough to think otherwise.

            Goodbye.

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            I’m really feeling the love right now.

          • Frank

            Yes it IS always easier to run away when you have been exposed.

          • Nathaniel

            Yeah, the black knight always triumphs!

          • Frank

            Scott no. Only when someone is irresponsible while having sex.

            Does the pro choice side even have a cogent argument?

      • BabyRaptor

        What Nathaniel said isn’t a cheapshot. Not everyone who disagrees with you is trying to insult you. He called you out on what may well have just been bad wording, for all we knew. You were the one that chose to take it as an insult.

        That said, he has a point. The way you worded it in no way reflects the fact that a woman, a living, breathing, already sentient and here woman, is involved. Your phrasing reduced us to the zygote’s environment. The entire pro-forced birth movement does this.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I don’t consider a cheap-shot an insult, but a poor argument that’s more about scoring points than making substantive argumentation. The whole post took women into account and I by no means deny women personhood. But I’ll be happy to address this issue further in another post to come.

    • Nathaniel

      And BTW, if you haven’t noticed what you said here: “A zygote, left to develop naturally, will tend to develop into a human being.”

      So even in your words, a zygote isn’t a human being.

      • Kyle

        This response is worse than that of a grammar nazi. Address the substance of what he said, not the happenchance imprecise language that slips by.

      • Hominid

        A rose, by any other name, is still a rose. Poor word choice does not justify homicide.

      • http://derekzrishmawy.com Derek Rishmawy

        I’m going to quickly point out that what he is saying is rather that the zygote will naturally develop into what both sides recognize as a human being. At this point you’re parsing words in an obtuse fashion just to score points like that kid in class who likes to correct his teacher’s spelling just to sound smart in an argument.

        I think one of the questions that has to be answered is at what point does “clump” of cells become human? What non-arbitrary defining characteristic are we waiting for that makes it okay not to kill it? It certainly can’t be birth. An umbilical cord and a few inches shouldn’t decide whether or not something can be killed or not. After you’ve arrived at that quality, then you have to ask yourself whether or not that rules out killing infants, or old people, or people in comas. I’ve yet to see one.

        For those interested, this is a pretty good article by philosopher Peter Kreeft on abortion.
        http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/personhood_apple.htm

        • Surprise123

          Derek, I read the article. And, never once did Kreeft address whether zygotes were human beings with the legal right to full personhood.

          Also, glaringly missing from his arguments were considerations of the woman involved. Okay, make your arguments for outlawing abortion, make your pleas for the preborn, but please include a balanced appraisal of what outlawing abortion means for women.

          In the case of a secular or liberal woman, outlawing abortion means being forced to continue a pregnancy against your will: you now have a 30% chance of experiencing hypertension, blood clots, strokes, uterine prolapse, or vaginal tears; you now have a serious chance of not being able to carry out your job effectively, or of not being able to successfully compete for jobs. You also, now, have an extremely small (but, still extant) chance of dying from pregnancy or child birth.

          In the case of the conservatively religious woman, on top of the risks mentioned above, you also risk ostracization from your family and religious community for becoming pregnant outside of marriage. And, in some Mediterranean/Middle East “Honor” based communities, you’re even at risk of violent death from your very own family members.

          Here’s the deal: what if Pro-Abortion Choice proponents include an appraisal of the interests of zygotes, embryos, and fetuses in their arguments; and, Pro-Preborn Life proponents include appraisals of the interests of women in theirs?

          As a Pro-Choice until viability (24 weeks), with exception for later abortion if the life of the mother is at risk, proponent, I’m in 0% danger of sliding down that slippery slope into believing that infants or old people should be killed. Abortion is a moral tragedy, and the destruction of human potential is highly regrettable, but abortion until fetal viability should be legal. Fetuses who are able to survive outside the womb are human beings, and deserving of legal protection.

          Are Pro-Preborn Life proponents in danger of extending their sanctity for preborn life to all human life? Other than Catholics’ far more muted opposition to the death penalty, I don’t see Pro-Preborners coming out against executing prisoners or opposing war against foreign populations. So, why should Pro-Choice adherents be more susceptible to the slippery slope phenomena than Pro-Preborn Life proponents?

  • John

    Geez… what’s the criteria for being a Patheos blogger? JT Eberhard is clearly in over his head. Perhaps mercy should be shown, and he should be dismissed in favor of someone who knows what the issue entails and how to make an argument. It doesn’t even look like Tim broke a sweat here…

    • Frank

      Patheos does seems to have a very low bar for its bloggers.

      • Timothy Dalrymple

        In our defense, we have a lot of great bloggers. The bloggers at the Evangelical Channel are folks like Dr. Scot McKnight, Dr. Mark D. Roberts, Dr. Ben Witherington, Dr. Peter Enns, Dr. Me, Dr. Roger Olson, Dr. Bradley Wright, Dr. Philip Jenkins, Dr. John Mark Reynolds…I could go on. I think two-thirds of our bloggers, maybe three-quarters, have doctorates.

        Some of our bloggers are not academics, of course, and some are younger and less credentialed. Among them, there are those like Marc Barnes (Bad Catholic) who are simply brilliant writers. But the standards are different in different communities, and what one community regards as important credentials and persuasive argumentation may not be regarded in the same way by another. Some bloggers operate something more like a communicate billboard, and some have simply built a following because their audience really finds something valuable in what they write.

        If there are others out there who want to be bloggers at Patheos, they can always let us know. We generally look for people who offer a high level of conversation, sharp writing, and an established following. But of course it varies…

        • Frank

          Thanks Tim! I was generalizing and yes there are some good bloggers here. You mentioned a few but there are quite a few who needed a bit more vetting.

          And no offense but having a doctorate doesn’t necessarily mean someone knows what they are talking about! It depends on the school and the subject. :)

        • http://talkorigins.org jatheist

          Ooooh! Doctorates! Lot’s of creationist ‘scientists’ have doctorates too – but that doesn’t stop them from being a dumb as a bag of nails. A doctorate is only indicative (in it’s own) of having been in school for a long time. It’s meaningless without accompanying accomplishments.

          I still don’t understand how a transparent, vacuous twit like Bristol Palin got a blog here. For shame!

        • http://derekzrishmawy.com Derek Rishmawy

          Well, there is one young blogger I know who just started up…
          ;)

        • Maude

          Caucasian males seem to have a special talent for blogging around here…

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            If you know of other talented non-white-male bloggers for us, we’re always on the lookout for great bloggers regardless of sex and race. Let me know if you have ideas. We’ve reached out to quite a few, of course, but not everyone says yes…

  • John

    At what point in development does what is growing in a mother’s womb become a person? Is it fine to abort the pregnancy before that point?

  • John Horstman

    (If I give the benefit of the doubt and assume that JT knew this, then I find the consistent use of “zygote” throughout a little disingenuous.

    Suggesting that assuming deceitful intent instead of a simple mistake of language used to describe developmental phases through which a cell cluster goes after two gametes join is “the benefit of the doubt” strikes me as itself disingenuous, unless you have a different understanding of the phrase “give the benefit of the doubt”, which I understand to mean “assume the best motivations on the part of another until that assumption is contradicted by evidence,” than I.

    But neurological activity is detectable by about the sixth week, and may well exist (but not be detectable) earlier. So is Eberhard willing to oppose abortions after the sixth week?

    You may have missed the point of the analogy. We still do kill neurologically-active mice, cows, pigs, etc.; not killing neurologically-active creatures is not the standard being asserted.

    Permit me to doubt — but the point is that we all, pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike, have to come up with some criterion for what we can kill and what we cannot. I draw the line at conception, and many pro-choicers draw the line at birth — but I would maintain that my criterion, in terms of the nature of the thing, is a much more significant criterion. Being inside or outside of the womb does not much change the nature of the thing. (And even then, can you kill a full-term baby inside the womb? What if its head is still in the womb? Its foot? What about after birth, but before first breath, or before cutting the cord?)

    Okay, here’s the deal. The argument against abortion on the basis of ‘life’ still necessarily requires a view of women (and the few men or non-binary-gender-conforming persons capable of becoming pregnant) that denies them bodily autonomy. Viable fetuses aren’t killed when a pregnancy is terminated, they are ‘born’ extremely prematurely. The reason that terminating a pregnancy results in the death of a fetus if the fetus is not viable is because the fetus is not viable (and not being viable, there isn’t any particular reason to take care to not damage an embryo or early-term fetus in ending the pregnancy). Your slippery slope is patently absurd, because you seem to miss the entire point of abortion rights – it has nothing to do with killing gametes, zygotes, blastocysts, embryos, fetuses, or infants. That’s not the point – in no way is anyone agitating for an ability to kill something. Death is a side effect of the fact that an embryo cannot survive without a uterus (and one that can support pregnancy) to inhabit (ectopic pregnancies aside, and I don’t see a whole lot of anti-abortion activists – men or women – volunteering to be surrogates for fetuses that some women do not want inside of themselves or pushing for the medical science that would allow an embryo or fetus to be implanted in men in a situation similar to an ectopic pregnancy), it’s not the intent. Once you understand that, you see how silly your slippery slope is, because you’re describing stages of a procedure that’s already terminating the pregnancy by removing the fetus or infant. I agree completely that being in a womb doesn’t change the nature of the thing, but the nature of the thing is irrelevant, because even adult humans don’t have the right to use or inhabit (especially inhabit!) someone’s body against hir will. At the very least, you’re implicitly declaring that a fetus has the right to forcibly extract blood from a woman because it’s necessary for survival. By this same logic, we should have mandatory blood ‘donation’ for everyone who has gone through puberty, as people die due to lack of blood stores all the time (and especially after major disasters). Forcible organ extraction from unwilling donors is put on the table if the right to bodily integrity ends when someone’s life is on the line. The entire ‘fetal personhood’ debate is completely irrelevant to abortion, because a fetus doesn’t have the right to a woman’s body against her will even if it is a person.
    I’m going to skip much of the rest, as it’s largely irrelevant to the actual issue at hand. I’ll continue from here:

    Well, I know few people (even the very poor ones) who view the decision to have a child as “life-destroying,” even when they did not think they can afford it. (Doesn’t everyone think they can’t afford it?) But more importantly, this is what’s known as a false dichotomy: either have an abortion, or pay the costs in full of raising a child.

    First, anecdotal evidence based on people you know (or know of) is entirely meaningless in this context. I know very few people who WOULDN’T consider having a child a life-destroying prospect. See, I can do it too, and it’s equally meaningless – that’s why we take statistical samples for these kinds of things.
    Second, you make a fair point here about the option of adoption while simultaneously ignore the fact that simply carrying a pregnancy to term costs a lot of money, including lost wages from an inability to work (some jobs being more heavily impacted than others, and some pregnancies posing more of a problem than others). According to this (http://www.ehow.com/about_5434061_average-cost-pregnancy.html), a pregnancy and delivery can cost from $5,000 to $40,000, the entire range of which can be prohibitively expensive for someone living below the poverty line, for example. Of course, none of that actually matters anyway, becasue a fetus still doesn’t have the right to inhabit a woman’s body against her will.

  • invivoMark

    Timothy, can you explain to me, if we assume that a 10-week fetus is a human being, why it is morally wrong to kill it?

  • Makoto

    I’m sorry, but if you are advocating the possibility of adoption, you must also look to the health of the mother during pregnancy, proper health care during the delivery, and likely care for the mother and baby after birth until it’s possible to move the new baby to its new family – adoption is not a simple process, after all. So, what are you advocating for in regard to those issues? Along with any mental/physical issues to the potential mother who may never have wanted to have a child? What do you do for her, other than say “adoption is an option”?

    I suppose I should also mention I’m not a Christian – so why should Christian rules (which may or may not have been mentioned in the bible) apply to me? Separation of church and state and all that good stuff, you know. (hope this isn’t a dupe, the site timed out on me)

  • Yoyo

    Timothy, I think you are being more than a little disingenuous when you blithely recommend adoption as the answer to this issue. I would just like to raise 2 quick historical points in refutation to that position rather than go back into the full ethical debate of forcing women to continue pregnancies.
    Firstly, in my country, a wealthy western democracy, there was Government policy in collusion with the mainly Christian charities that un married women would have their children taken from them at birth, consent not required. The amount of damage that this policy did over 3 decades is incredible and continuing. To the extent that both our govt. &the major charities have finally made formal national apologies and compensation is likely.
    The reason I raise this is that adoption is NOT an emotionally neutral event. The long term levels of mental distress from women forced to carry then give up children is much higher than the levels that suffer distress following abortion. This is not surprising when we look at biology, a much longer period to feel the baby move etc or when we look at the high rate of failure of surrogacy agreements.

    Secondly, when abortion was extremely difficult in both my country and great Britain , we had the gross abuse of children caused by more children than potential adoptive parents. In many many orphanages there was both sexual, physical and economic abuse. These very orphanages were frequently run by religious bodies but also supported by the state. In Australia and Canada young children were sent overseas as slAve labour.

    So my point is this, make all the arguments you like regarding “right to life(except for mum)” but don’t delude yourself or others that adoption is the answer for any but a well supported few.

  • Yoyo

    Timothy, I think you are being more than a little disingenuous when you blithely recommend adoption as the answer to this issue. I would just like to raise 2 quick historical points in refutation to that position rather than go back into the full ethical debate of forcing women to continue pregnancies.
    Firstly, in my country, a wealthy western democracy, there was Government policy in collusion with the mainly Christian charities that un married women would have their children taken from them at birth, consent not required. The amount of damage that this policy did over 3 decades is incredible and continuing. To the extent that both our govt. &the major charities have finally made formal national apologies and compensation is likely.
    The reason I raise this is that adoption is NOT an emotionally neutral event. The long term levels of mental distress from women forced to carry then give up children is much higher than the levels that suffer distress following abortion. This is not surprising when we look at biology, a much longer period to feel the baby move etc or when we look at the high rate of failure of surrogacy agreements.

    Secondly, when abortion was extremely difficult in both my country and great Britain , we had the gross abuse of children caused by more children than potential adoptive parents. In many many orphanages there was both sexual, physical and economic abuse. These very orphanages were frequently run by religious bodies but also supported by the state. In Australia and Canada young children were sent from overseas as slAve labour.

    So my point is this, make all the arguments you like regarding “right to life(except for mum)” but don’t delude yourself or others that adoption is the answer for any but a well supported few.

  • Yoyo

    Apols for the double post ( blame apple ;)

  • invivoMark

    Timothy, even if we suppose that a fetus is a human being, why is it necessarily bad to kill it?

    Come on, Timothy, don’t moderate this question away so you don’t have to face it. If you are confident enough in your moral system, then it should be trivial to answer. Deleting this question just shows that you’re too cowardly to face it.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Don’t flatter yourself. I’ve been out of town, and will be until Tuesday. Just now checking in to approve comments. Comments from people who have not commented here before are held for moderation. I’m just approving things now but do not intend to respond to anything lengthy until Tuesday. Cheers.

    • Frank

      Are you really asking whether it is wrong to murder or take a life?

      • invivoMark

        Of course! For instance, is it wrong to sacrifice one life to save another? To save a million lives? Is it morally acceptable to kill in a war? Don’t pretend like there are no gray areas here!

        The point is that even assuming that a fetus is a “human being” (which is a matter of semantics more than anything), the morality of taking that life depends entirely on the system of morals by which we judge an action.

        • Frank

          I agree. So what system of morals allows the killing of a human life, who never asked to be created, has no power, is completely vulnerable and is at the mercy of a person who may or may not value them even though their actions created them? I cannot think of anything more cruel.

          • invivoMark

            You say it’s cruel, but you still haven’t provided an ounce of justification for that. I think you ought to take a deeper look at how your moral system is constructed.

            In the interests of transparency, I am a strict utilitarian. I won’t defend my views on abortion here, because this is obviously not the proper venue for it. But the point I wanted to make (and which probably nobody but you will ever hear) is that reasonable people may disagree (the implication being that reasonable philosophers adopt a utilitarian viewpoint). The theist’s job isn’t done – it isn’t even started, really – when he proves that a fetus is “a human being”.

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            Most Christian ethicists today will make the argument for a living human person (not “human being”), to be precise, because they believe that personhood is an important category here. Strictly speaking, you’re right that the argument must include not only the identity of the embryo/fetus as a living human person, but also a case for why and when it is wrong to kill human persons. This is no revelation to me or to any philosopher who has examined or written about the issue. There is a whole body of philosophical literature on this, if you’re interested in seeing it. In popular discourse, however, most people are willing to grant that innocent human persons should not be killed, or at least that sparing their death outweighs the practical difficulties that pregnancy requires of the mother. So it rarely comes up in these kinds of venues.

            There are reasonable philosophers who are strict utilitarians, to be sure. I don’t find it persuasive, or consistent, but there are reasonable arguments to be made on its behalf.

          • Uh-Huh

            Well, the next time you get pregnant, Frank, keep this post in mind.

  • http://www.randomthoughtnetwork.com Cory

    Before conception, it’s all just ingredients (carbon, water, amino acids etc). At conception, a genetically unique individual is created and the machinery of life is set in motion, governed by the instructions of the new DNA. The machinery continues to operate until death, at which point, it all goes back to being just ingredients.

    This mortal existence is all about choices. All our choices ultimately can be divided into two categories: Did we choose life and liberty or did we choose death and tyranny. Freeman and tyrants both want life and liberty for themselves. It’s whether they choose life and liberty for others that forms the distinction between the two.

    When a woman gets pregnant, she becomes supreme, absolute leader over a nation of one. She and she alone gets to decide if she will be a protector and defender of life and liberty or a destroyer of it. That is the choice a pro-choicer gets to make.

    Those who adopt the code of the freeman and decide to be defenders of life and liberty, also adopt the rules of morality: I will no engage in the act of procreation (i.e. sex) unless I am fully prepared to raise and nourish any life created in the process. Thus morality and true freedom go hand in hand.

  • Yoyo

    Cory, you seem a typical “right to life except for the mother type”. At no point in your suspiciously teapartesque comment was the father mentioned. And neither you or the other hard liners have detailed how you would force women to be unwilling brood machines. So much for being freedom loving – what could be more oppressive than forcing another human to stay pregnant due to your own unusual (in an international sense) ethical analysis.

    • Frank

      The real question is what is more oppressive, unethical and immoral than a dictator making choices to engage in actions that creates life and then decides to kill that very life because it would inconvenience that dictators life?

      • John

        Frank, we kill lots of living things every day. Everything you eat was alive, and died to feed you. Your immune system kill untold creatures every day. We don’t worry about these things because they don’t have some quality we define as ‘people’. Nobody previously answered my question. So I’ll ask it again: Is there a point in the pregnancy where what is developing inside a mother does not yet have the qualities we use to define a person? If such a point exists, what is unethical about ending the pregnancy at or before that point?

        And let’s not get into the potential argument. A potential thing is not a thing. We don’t let six-year-olds drink alcohol, vote or drive because they are potential adults. Greenhouses do not sell seeds at the same price as full grown plants. Individuals caught planning crimes are not punished as harshly as those who carry them out. We don’t pay business school students the salaries of corporate CEOs.

        • Frank

          Well I hope you don’t kill human life everyday because that’s what we are talking about.

          My answer to your question: no. Human life begins at conception says science.

          • John

            I didn’t ask about life. I asked about personhood.

          • John

            Addenum: And I do kill human life every day. My body destroys countless of its own cells every day I’m alive. Bacteria and viruses shed from my flora make their way into other people’s bodies, and destroy their cells, too.

          • Frank

            John you are stretching. Don’t you see that or are you so locked in that the truth eludes you?

            Cells naturally are produced and then die. That’s normal and not taking life. Actually that process allows us to live and grow and adapt.

            I am talking about human life. You might want to try and delineate the definition but its just a feeble attempt to support the unsupportable.

          • Surprise123

            The unique DNA embodied in a zygote, the fertilized egg, usually does not survive the journey from the fallopian tube to the womb: over 50% of all zygotes never embed themselves in a woman’s uterus. Some of those zygotes split apart and eventually become two fully successful and independent human beings. Some of those zygotes go on to become, what, perhaps more “primitive” societies might call, monsters: siamese twins, microcephalic infants with tiny or no brains, etc. After considering these phenomena, it’s clear that zygotes are the blueprints or algorithms for human beings, but they are not human beings in and of themselves; for if they were, how could a single zygote then result in two separate human beings? Also, it’s clear that something more than “unique human DNA” is necessary to create a human being. The missing ingredient? The mother, the actual human being who is left out of so many of the arguments of those who are Pro-Preborn Life.

            Zygotes do not become human beings without the contribution of the life blood, the bone minerals, the hormones, the nourishment, the intention of the mother. It’s a process, and it takes time. To say otherwise, to say that zygotes are fully human beings, that they have attained human personhood, is a grevious slap in the face of all women. It basically reduces women to the status of incubator

          • John

            Frank, I have been trying to get some definitions cleared up here. I have been trying to get clarity on where we are drawing the line between simply life (cells) and a person. Because wherever the cutoff is, I’m sure you will admit that at some point in the development, you have an object with less of a nervous system, no sensory organs, and fewer internal organs than an ant. At some point earlier than that you have a mass of cells less developed then the skin from the inside of my mouth I accidentally swallow and digest. So at some point, human life or not, there is an object developing inside the mother that has fewer of the qualities we ascribe to a person then the cells my body destroys when they’re infected with the flu.

            So yes, it is alive. But is it a person? If so, why? If not, why is it unethical to stop the pregnancy?

            And please address my comments about the potential person argument, if you end up using that approach.

          • Frank

            John that clump of cells is already hard wired to be a person. If left to develop on its own it will be born as an infant human.

            A different clump of cells, lets say a fertilized chicken egg also is already hard wired to be a chicken and if left to develop on its own it will be born as a chick.

            Humanity and personhood are determined as soon as that sperm fertilizes the egg. It’s quite simple and only gets complicated by those wishing to deny this biological fact, scriptural mandate and moral imperative to value ALL human life.

          • John

            Frank why didn’t you address my points earlier about a potential thing not being a thing?

            Yes, the developing object may have the potential to be a person. So what? As I said before, we don’t let six year olds vote because they are potential adults.

            Further, at an early stage in development it isn’t certain that the pregnancy will be successful. 30 to 50% of fertilizations fail before implantation, and 10-20% of pregnancies fail on their own. And that doesn’t even count ancephalotic cases. (Fetuses that develop without a head/brain).

            So no, it is false to say that left alone every fertilization results in a person.

          • Frank

            Well I guess that’s where we really differ. You see an unborn child as a thing I see it as a baby, just unborn. Its not a potential human it is a human. If something happens during its development that causes it not to survive that does not in any way shape or from change who or what it is.

            And your voting analogy is just plain silly. I hope you are just being stubborn and don’t truly believe all the crap you are espousing.

          • John

            What makes a human, human, Frank? A person.

            It can’t be just genetics, because you told me that a mass of my cells, which contain my DNA, is not a person.

            And you haven’t told me why my argument that a potential thing not being a thing is invalid, only that you disagree with it. In the Australian Skink Lizard, embryos with two X chromosomes may develop into either males or females depending on the temperature the egg is incubated at. So pre-determination, what sex is the skink? It is potentially either, but it is not male or female yet. A potential thing is not the thing.

            Is a full-term ancephalodic foetus a person? It has no brain, and possibly no head at all. It can never know anything, think anything. What makes a person?

          • Frank

            Well on a spiritual level God does so who are we to question that?

            On a biological level I already told you.You just refuse to accept the truth because if you do you cannot maintain your very weak position.

          • John

            I am not a follower of your faith, so your first argument isn’t going to help.

            As for your second, you say my position is weak but you haven’t done anything to refute it. Not even answer my questions. How strong does that make your position seem?

      • Surprise123

        No matter what your position on abortion, when I hear pregnancy being described as a slight “inconvenience” it makes my blood boil.

        Fact: 30% of all women experience some kind of health complication during pregnancy (and, we’re not even talking about constant nausea in the first trimester): hypertension, prolapsed uterus, blood clots, strokes, vaginal tears, and, of course, the extremely rare instances of death (yes, they still do occur in this day and age, and instances of pregnancy-related maternal deaths have actually doubled in the U.S.A over the past ten years).

        Fact: pregnancy can seriously impact a woman’s ability to perform a job.

        Fact: obvious pregnancy can seriously impede a woman’s chances to compete for a job.

        Pregnancy is not an “inconvenience.” It is a health condition with serious medical and financial risks for the woman involved.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I don’t know anyone who would describe it as a “slight inconvenience.” We do speak of “abortions for convenience,” by which we mean abortions that are intended to avoid having to restructure one’s life and deal with the difficulties of pregnancy and so forth, but it’s not meant to imply that it’s slight or insignificant. I’m earnestly open to suggestions. Let’s imagine that you have a woman who is healthy and wealthy enough, perhaps even professionally established, and she wishes to have an abortion in order to avoid the difficulties of pregnancy.

          I do not mean this combatively. I’ve actually searched for other terms and never found one I like. So we would call this an “abortion for ____?” Any ideas? Even when I use the word convenience, I don’t particularly like it, because I know folks like yourself interpret it as dismissive.

        • Frank

          If this is true and I believe that it is then people should be more careful but punishing an innocent human life for someone’s lack of foresight is inexcusable.

  • Frank

    Ok but I am curious what do you believe in?

    I have already answered your question so go back and reread and try to concentrate. I have no interest in going in circles with fools so please let me know you are not one.

    • John

      First, my spiritual beliefs are irrelevant to this discussion.

      Second, I, and I’m sure Mr. Dalrymple, would prefer that these discussions remain civil. Please do not condescend or insult me. It adds nothing to your position.

      Having gone back and reread, I believe you are referring to your statement that the instant conception happens, personhood happens. Am I mistaken?

      Now, that you hold that position, it raises further questions. What legal rights and duties would extend to the developing life at different points during its development? Children have different legal rights and duties than adults, for example.

      What laws would you suggest should medical science be able to pre-determine which conceptions would a) not successfully implant and b) not reach term, or not be viable after delivery?

      What is the duty of the state in a situation where a woman is irrevocably dying, and will pass before the end of gestation, but if she did not the pregnancy would come to term?

  • Frank

    I did not insult you. If you were insulted than you identified yourself as a fool not me.

    And belief is relevant because it’s our beliefs that determine our values and our morality. I am wondering what someone has to believe in order to think abortion is ok.

    Those questions are all red herrings and you know it. The answers to those questions are a matter of process not policy.

  • Jeff Lintz

    I’ve got two points to make.

    First, Tim mentioned “the nature of the thing” which I believe is central to the discussion. Who decides what a thing is? To a woman experiencing an unwanted pregnancy, at 10 weeks she has an abortion. What is eliminated from her body is so much organic material. Later, she is pregnant and is willing to come to term. At 10 weeks, this same woman considers the growing life in her a baby. Yet the organism does not differ biologically from that of her previous pregnancy. How is that? Does the nature of a thing rest on another’s choice? Non-human organism vs. very human baby. Which is it?

    My second point. If a woman has the right to decide whether or not she wants to be a mother post conception, does a man have the right to decide whether or not he wants to be a father post-conception? Sadly, this is the case for too many “deadbeat dads” . Although, our legal system will incarcerate a dad not financially supporting his children; in a “freedom of choice” world, the laws have no just basis and the current rate of fatherless children will continue.

    What is ironic, given the evolutionary design and function of procreation, our culture has convinced a great many women they cannot be truly feminine without the power to choose post-conception whether they bear a child or not. Yet this mind set constricts the biological imperative of their gender. With similar abnegation, it releases men from a corresponding moral responsibility and throws communities into turmoil. There is much societal disfunction due to the break in the parental covenant from both participants. Even if abortion rights are ethically right, they are destructive none-the-less and as a society we are paying for it well beyond the $227K per child mentioned by Eberhard.

    • Frank

      Amen! Amen! Amen!

    • Soren

      ” does a man have the right to decide whether or not he wants to be a father post-conception? ” No.

      Does a woman have the right to decide whether or not she wants to be a mother after birth? No, and neither does a man.

      Both women and men must support their children. No differences there. And the fact that a woman gets to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy has nothing to do with that fact.

      Besides, you must surely know that deadbeat dads have always existed, really, I cannot see what they have to do with the right to choose?

  • John I.

    The assumption of the female right to full autonomy, and the assumption that the unborn human has no right to the support of the mother, ignores the fact that no person is fully autonomous, and all persons are dependent on other humans for their own survival (unless you are living on a deserted island with a volleyball).

    Do we have the right to take people (e.g., hobos, violent offenders, drug addicts and abusers) out of our society and deposit them in an uninhabited wilderness simply because they do not have a rightful claim to exist within our society? Do we have the right to cut off someone simply because we do not want to support them? Why not get rid of welfare then? Why can’t parents just dump their children in a ravine any time they want to stop caring for them? The kids are still developing and can’t exist outside of a home, but that is their biological problem, not the problem of the autonomous parents. Who are we to force parents to take care of their children.? The inconsistency and hypocrisy of the autonomous womb argument is blatant.

    None of us can survive without other humans. None of us are fully autonomous, consequently it is illogical to assume that we can base a moral decision on the pretence of autonomy and the lack of a right to support. We should be having a moral argument within the context of a morality that we are not autonomous, that we do have obligations, and that we can be expected to be imposed upon by the rights of others.

    John

  • Bob Wiley

    I expect that in a few years that “morning after pills” will be available in drug grocery stores. They’ll be on racks near the cash registers. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Federal government provided funding for RV chassis to be outfitted as mobile abortion clinics.

    • Soren

      Yes and why shouldn’t they?

      They are less harmful than OTC pain relief which is on display now?

      If your goal is to ban or limit abortion why on earth would you complain about contraception being readily available?

  • Niemand

    But neurological activity is detectable by about the sixth week, and may well exist (but not be detectable) earlier.

    Erm, citation please?

  • Mary

    “You do not get to dictate what other people do with their bodies unless you’re protecting a conscious being from harm.”

    cool. You mean I can just kill you in your sleep and no one has the right to interfere because you’re not conscious?


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