Inhuman

Let me repeat this in blunter terms.

Here is what President Bush said yesterday in defense of his veto of Rep. Mike Castle's bill allowing federal funding of embryonic stem cell research:

This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it. …

Embryonic stem cells come from human embryos that are destroyed for their cells. Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value. …

This is nonsense.

1. Countless thousands of frozen human embryos are regularly destroyed at fertility clinics.

2. President Bush claims to believe that these embryos are human lives "with inherent dignity and matchless value."

3. Therefore, President Bush has vetoed a bill that would have allowed the federal government to fund research that would use some few of these thousands of frozen embryos for research, instead of their being destroyed along with the many other thousands of embryos.

4. If No. 2 above were true, No. 3 would be an obscenely modest response. No one who genuinely believed what President Bush claims to believe could possibly be satisfied with such a response.

5. Therefore, President Bush is lying, or he does not fully understand the inescapable moral obligation demanded by his position, or he does not care about the inescapable moral obligation demanded by his position. He is a liar, a fool or a casual bystander whose inaction implicitly endorses what he believes is mass murder.

"There is no ban on embryonic stem cell research," President Bush said yesterday.

Why not? Why is he not actively, tirelessly campaigning for just such a ban?

If he truly believed that such research involved "the taking of innocent human life," then he would be obligated to stop it using every means at his disposal. "I won't fund it, but it's fine if others do," doesn't cut it. All such funding, all such research, would have to be outlawed — with severe criminal penalties for the mass-murdering Mengeles who violated this ban. The fertility clinics, also, would have to be shut down. The innocent human lives imprisoned in their liquid-nitrogen charnel houses would have to be made wards of the state until such time as they could all — in their many thousands — be placed into snowflake foster care.

I am not suggesting that this is what President Bush's position implies taken to its logical extreme. This is what it demands as a bare minimum response. It is not possible, in any meaningful way, to believe that embryonic stem cell research is "the taking of innocent human life" unless you also advocate all of these steps.

President Bush does not advocate any of these steps. If he is not a liar then he is a fool or a monster. There is no fourth option.

  • Duane

    Duane, now you’re just being silly. Do you really want to hear about the moral calculus involved? It is something I’ve thought long and hard about, and am not entirely happy with, but I honestly can’t believe the competing ethical demands I’ve struggled with to determine my diet could possibly interest anyone else. It doesn’t even particularly interest *me*, except that I’m inclined by nature to obsessively analyse the ethical implications of darn near every choice (blame it on four years of seminary) — which, as you quite rightly point out above, can paralyze effective action. Eventually, I’ve got to eat. Or die, but that’s a moral choice as well… Sooner or later one does have to take a position on the policy issues of the day, and act on it.
    Or, alternatively, I could have much more fun just making stuff up, attributing it other people, mock them for such “retarded and inconsistent” views, and then abuse them for imposing ‘em on me. (I wonder if Townhall.com has any openings?)
    Shorter Hapax: my diet is my business and so is your breeding.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    I think there’s a small problem with the “child abuse versus too much sugar” analogy, and that’s this: To stick with that analogy, there are some people who truly believe that “too much sugar” IS child abuse. Now, it’s easy for us to say, “Yes, and those people are nutbars,” but I think what’s lacking is a clear line that logically, objectively defines some concerns with our neighbors’ parenting choices as legitimate and others to be a violation of the MYOB principle.
    Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think such a line EXISTS. It’s easy to talk about extremes: you intervene when a parent clearly beating the shit out of a child; you STFU when you don’t approve that the parent’s idea of disciplining the child is more lenient than you would prefer. But since abortion does actually kill something that could become a child, it’s going to be hotly contested by people who sincerely see it as child abuse. You can disagree with them–I certainly do, I stand by the right of a woman to abort at any time for any reason because, to me, the alternative is to sometimes say that “woman”=”baby vessel”–but you can disagree and still respect/acknowledge the opposing point of view as being, at least in some individuals, genuinely derived from sincerely held moral convictions. More, I’d argue that not acknowledging that is counterproductive.
    I also think that the ire heaped upon hapax in this conversation is grossly misguided. Kudos to hapax for thoughtfully examining the contradictions inherent in his/her moral sensibilities, for recognizing that others balance their own contradictions differently, and for being willing to talk about that here. I don’t think hapax has to go all out and convert to Jainism before his/her concerns about life’s value are respected. (I also prefer “longer hapax” to “shorter hapax,” since “longer hapax” does a better job of representing what hapax actually thinks. “shorter hapax” is, to my mind, a little too dismissive of hapax’s viewpoint.)

  • Lucia

    Very well said, Nicole. I’d also say that it’s not fair to pick on hapax for an honest answer to a question that I admitted was nosy when I asked it. Hapax and I agree, I think (although, hapax, you probably wouldn’t put it this way) that “if it harm none, do what you will” is inherently self-contradictory, so each of us has to make our own compromises and moral judgments as best we can. (And I struggle with the vegetarian thing too. I’m not one either, at least not yet.)
    Meanwhile, we have these so-called supporters of a woman’s right to an abortion helping them along by arguing “process” and otherwise wanking up the thread.
    So we can’t so much as breathe a heterodox word without being demonized and belittled. Where have I seen this before? “Counterproductive” is the mildest word I can think of for it.

  • Lucia

    Very well said, Nicole. I’d also say that it’s not fair to pick on hapax for an honest answer to a question that I admitted was nosy when I asked it. Hapax and I agree, I think (although, hapax, you probably wouldn’t put it this way) that “if it harm none, do what you will” is inherently self-contradictory, so each of us has to make our own compromises and moral judgments as best we can. (And I struggle with the vegetarian thing too. I’m not one either, at least not yet.)
    Meanwhile, we have these so-called supporters of a woman’s right to an abortion helping them along by arguing “process” and otherwise wanking up the thread.
    So we can’t so much as breathe a heterodox word without being demonized and belittled. Where have I seen this before? “Counterproductive” is the mildest word I can think of for it.

  • Beth

    I don’t think hapax has to go all out and convert to Jainism before his/her concerns about life’s value are respected.
    Me neither, but hapax does have to behave like a Jain before I’ll even consider respecting his/her right to try to impose those concerns on others. If you believe that all life is sacred, I’ll respect that, even if you don’t always live up to it yourself. But if you harrangue me about killing flies and then sit down to a steak dinner, I’ll call you a hypocrite. Also, while I’ll not only respect, but support your belief child abuse is wrong, I’ll fight your attempts to install cameras in all family homes to monitor parent’s behavior.
    That is why I don’t buy the claim that abortion law is about “balancing rights.” The right to privacy within your home is nothing compared to your right to privacy within your body. If we grant so much respect to the former, how can we not give even greater deference to the latter? It’s silly to talk about “competing rights” here, because there really is no competition. If it’s in my body, it’s my business. Period. That doesn’t mean there can’t be moral issues involved, but they’re my moral issues. Your beliefs are irrelevant in this case.
    Even when privacy is not an issue, all beliefs are not created equal. That’s one of the Religious Right’s Big Lies. “Teach the controversy!” is the battle cry of the creationists. Scientists believe man evolved from apes, they argue, and we believe God created him. Nobody knows for certain what happened, so lets teach kids both beliefs, and let them decide for themselves. It’s nonsense of course. One of those ‘beliefs’ is established scientific theory and therefore a legitimate subject for science classes, while the other is not.
    They try to pull the same nonsense when it comes to abortion. Nobody can say for certain when life begins, they argue, so my belief that the soul enters the ‘body’ at conception is just as valid as your belief that a functioning nervous system is a prerequisite for a human being. They even take it a step further and say “Let’s err on the side of life,” which really means, “Let’s not only ignore the fact that some beliefs are based in reality while others aren’t, but also enshrine the most conservative belief, no matter how absurd.” (Well I happen to believe that human life begins with existence of sperm and ova, and the joining of the two is just another stage in its development. Does that mean we should make it mandatory for people to have procreative sex whenever possible in order to protect human life?)
    They’ve even got the gall to suggest that their claims that fertilized eggs are human beings is no different from the abolitionists’ claims that slaves were. That this argument doesn’t get them laughed out of the public arena, just goes to show how far public discourse has deteriorated. Never mind that back when slavery was an issue, their religious predecessors supported it on the grounds that slaves didn’t have souls (which should certainly make us wary when they lecture us on ‘souls’ today). The belief that slaves were human was based on some pretty convincing evidence. Not only did they have the same basic form as human beings, they exhibited the same basic behavior. They talked, laughed, cried, sang, mourned, rejoiced, and so on. We can’t to this day know for an absolute fact that they were truly human, any more than you can know for an absolute fact that I am human (I could be an incredibly sophisticated bot, designed to mimic human discourse), but our belief that they were human is strongly rooted in reality. The belief that a blastula is human, on the other hand, is rooted in nothing but, “because that’s what I believe.”
    Shorter Beth: I’ll try to respect your beliefs whatever they may be, but that doesn’t mean I’ll respect your attempts to impose them on others.

  • hapax

    Boy, have I done a lousy job at explaining my stake in all of this (and I’m doubly sorry I dragged that poor pig into what I admitted upfront was a poor analogy). I don’t particularly mind being a target for people’s frustrations at the horrific policy situations in America today. I’ll even be a proxy strawman for the truly nutjob misogynists out there (although I won’t particularly enjoy it) — a big part of my day job is letting people vent their frustrations at me, I know how important it is.
    But to me, the really important goal is enacting policy — as I said before, despite all my moral agonizing, sooner or later people have to eat. And the question is, how does one enact the policy (or, more accurate, preserve the currently threatened policy) I think that almost all of us discussing would agree on — that “abortions should be safe, legal, and rare.”
    It’s no secret that I — like the majority of Americans — am a social conservative (in the traditional sense). But I — also like the majority of Americans — continue to support the policy that abortion should be legal. Yet this policy is currently threatened in a way that it hasn’t been for decades — why is that? Because the minority who think that Roe v Wade should be overturned (for whatever reason, from sincere religious conviction to hatred of women to cynical grab for power) — have managed to frame the issue in such a way that it tips the delicate balance of competing values I keep harping on.
    Casting one side as “selfish baby-killers” is a POWERFUL message. It doesn’t change a lot of minds, no — but it can, and has, successfully motivated the great mass of people who previously thought “abortion is horrible and sad and almost always wrong, but there are enough possible extenuating circumstances there that I’m not going to put outlawing it on top of my priority list” into suddenly thinking that “hmm, maybe THIS is the issue that deserves my limited time and energy.” And it has worked with a sufficient number of people — not a majority, but enough — to possibly tip the balance.
    How can this message be countered? I can tell you what will not work. Pitting “arrogant busybodies” against “selfish baby-killers” is a loser of a message. Let’s face it, given the choice, almost everyone would rather be an arrogant busybody than a selfish baby killer (in fact, I suspect that some of us would kind of enjoy it.) More seriously, most people already instinctively believe (and in an argument will eventually concede) that ALL laws are, at base, an attempt to “impose our beliefs on others.” People steal, murder, run red lights, and drink beer under age because they believe they have the right or need to do so. We make these acts illegal because enough other people — for whatever reason — don’t believe that. I agree with some laws, disagree with others, and fight to change the ones I don’t — but to argue that “people don’t have the right to impose their beliefs on me” is a demonstrably false proposition.
    Similarly, the current “values” position of “centrist” politicians is also a terrible one. I hear way too many (usually DLC-types) saying little more than “I agree with you that abortion is horrible, and sad, and almost always wrong.” (at this point they usually wave their religious credentials: “look, see, I have “values” too!”) “Nonetheless, I’m going to vote to keep it legal, because it should be a woman’s choice.” This frankly translates to the audience the politicians think they are speaking to as, “This is wrong, but I don’t care, and I’m not going to do anything about it.” Hardly a winner of a message.
    For the same reason, the charge of hypocrisy BY ITSELF also doesn’t work very well. Most people hate hypocrites, true enough, and it is useful to point out blatant examples (like the telling juxtapositions of Bush’s statements on stem cell research and on the prosecution of the Iraqi war.) But most people are also aware of their own hypocrisies, and the way that balancing competing values leads to inconsistent results. Harp on it too much, and you’ll come off as smug and self-righteous — a far deadlier crime, as far as motivating people, than hypocrisy.
    So what does work? Remember, the goal here is NOT to get me — or a majority of the American people — to agree that having an abortion is a good choice, a “right” that deserves protection. This is an extremely unlikely result. The goal is twofold: 1: help enough people to see sufficient moral conflict and complexity that they will not choose to make outlawing abortion their priority; and 2:(even more important): convince them that a related issue is much less morally ambiguous and much more urgent, so that deserves their passion and energy.
    I’m not a politician, so I can’t tell anyone how to frame this. But there are plenty of successful strategies that have worked in the past, are still working pretty well *when people use them*, and I see no reason they won’t continue to work well enough in the future. (Note — I don’t particularly endorse the policy positions outlined below. These are just examples of successful framing strategies I have seen. I have already discussed at interminable length above what my personal ethics are based on)
    1. “Abortion is a horrible choice, and in an ideal world should never happen. But as we’ve seen in the past, just making something illegal doesn’t make it stop. If we really want to stop abortions, not just score cheap political points, we need to change our current world into something more like that ideal world where women are not forced by poeverty between choosing between their unborn child and feeding the children they already have. Here are my specific policy proposals to help those women.”
    2. “Abortion is a horrible choice, but sometimes it is not a choice. Unfortunately, there are women who for health reasons cannot continue a pregnancy, or who were forced into pregnancy by the criminal deeds of others. We should focus our efforts on good prenatal health care, along with effective crime prevention, and never lose our compassion for the women who our victimized by our failures along these lines.”
    3. “I don’t personally believe that abortion is a good choice, except in very rare instances. But both our political system, and indeed our very moral system, depends upon the ability of the individual to freely choose when faced with a decision; to take away free will is to take away morality. But with free choice comes responsibility for those choices. So I am going to put my efforts into tougher enforcement of child-support laws, so both men and women will bear equal financial responsibility for each child conceived; and I’m going to tighten up our welfare laws, so that everyone who is able to hold a job, should.”
    I do apologize for the length of this response. But I was hoping to move the discussion away from “what’s wrong with hapax’s beliefs” to “how can we work for a goal that we all agree on?”

  • hapax

    Boy, have I done a lousy job at explaining my stake in all of this (and I’m doubly sorry I dragged that poor pig into what I admitted upfront was a poor analogy). I don’t particularly mind being a target for people’s frustrations at the horrific policy situations in America today. I’ll even be a proxy strawman for the truly nutjob misogynists out there (although I won’t particularly enjoy it) — a big part of my day job is letting people vent their frustrations at me, I know how important it is.
    But to me, the really important goal is enacting policy — as I said before, despite all my moral agonizing, sooner or later people have to eat. And the question is, how does one enact the policy (or, more accurate, preserve the currently threatened policy) I think that almost all of us discussing would agree on — that “abortions should be safe, legal, and rare.”
    It’s no secret that I — like the majority of Americans — am a social conservative (in the traditional sense). But I — also like the majority of Americans — continue to support the policy that abortion should be legal. Yet this policy is currently threatened in a way that it hasn’t been for decades — why is that? Because the minority who think that Roe v Wade should be overturned (for whatever reason, from sincere religious conviction to hatred of women to cynical grab for power) — have managed to frame the issue in such a way that it tips the delicate balance of competing values I keep harping on.
    Casting one side as “selfish baby-killers” is a POWERFUL message. It doesn’t change a lot of minds, no — but it can, and has, successfully motivated the great mass of people who previously thought “abortion is horrible and sad and almost always wrong, but there are enough possible extenuating circumstances there that I’m not going to put outlawing it on top of my priority list” into suddenly thinking that “hmm, maybe THIS is the issue that deserves my limited time and energy.” And it has worked with a sufficient number of people — not a majority, but enough — to possibly tip the balance.
    How can this message be countered? I can tell you what will not work. Pitting “arrogant busybodies” against “selfish baby-killers” is a loser of a message. Let’s face it, given the choice, almost everyone would rather be an arrogant busybody than a selfish baby killer (in fact, I suspect that some of us would kind of enjoy it.) More seriously, most people already instinctively believe (and in an argument will eventually concede) that ALL laws are, at base, an attempt to “impose our beliefs on others.” People steal, murder, run red lights, and drink beer under age because they believe they have the right or need to do so. We make these acts illegal because enough other people — for whatever reason — don’t believe that. I agree with some laws, disagree with others, and fight to change the ones I don’t — but to argue that “people don’t have the right to impose their beliefs on me” is a demonstrably false proposition.
    Similarly, the current “values” position of “centrist” politicians is also a terrible one. I hear way too many (usually DLC-types) saying little more than “I agree with you that abortion is horrible, and sad, and almost always wrong.” (at this point they usually wave their religious credentials: “look, see, I have “values” too!”) “Nonetheless, I’m going to vote to keep it legal, because it should be a woman’s choice.” This frankly translates to the audience the politicians think they are speaking to as, “This is wrong, but I don’t care, and I’m not going to do anything about it.” Hardly a winner of a message.
    For the same reason, the charge of hypocrisy BY ITSELF also doesn’t work very well. Most people hate hypocrites, true enough, and it is useful to point out blatant examples (like the telling juxtapositions of Bush’s statements on stem cell research and on the prosecution of the Iraqi war.) But most people are also aware of their own hypocrisies, and the way that balancing competing values leads to inconsistent results. Harp on it too much, and you’ll come off as smug and self-righteous — a far deadlier crime, as far as motivating people, than hypocrisy.
    So what does work? Remember, the goal here is NOT to get me — or a majority of the American people — to agree that having an abortion is a good choice, a “right” that deserves protection. This is an extremely unlikely result. The goal is twofold: 1: help enough people to see sufficient moral conflict and complexity that they will not choose to make outlawing abortion their priority; and 2:(even more important): convince them that a related issue is much less morally ambiguous and much more urgent, so that deserves their passion and energy.
    I’m not a politician, so I can’t tell anyone how to frame this. But there are plenty of successful strategies that have worked in the past, are still working pretty well *when people use them*, and I see no reason they won’t continue to work well enough in the future. (Note — I don’t particularly endorse the policy positions outlined below. These are just examples of successful framing strategies I have seen. I have already discussed at interminable length above what my personal ethics are based on)
    1. “Abortion is a horrible choice, and in an ideal world should never happen. But as we’ve seen in the past, just making something illegal doesn’t make it stop. If we really want to stop abortions, not just score cheap political points, we need to change our current world into something more like that ideal world where women are not forced by poeverty between choosing between their unborn child and feeding the children they already have. Here are my specific policy proposals to help those women.”
    2. “Abortion is a horrible choice, but sometimes it is not a choice. Unfortunately, there are women who for health reasons cannot continue a pregnancy, or who were forced into pregnancy by the criminal deeds of others. We should focus our efforts on good prenatal health care, along with effective crime prevention, and never lose our compassion for the women who our victimized by our failures along these lines.”
    3. “I don’t personally believe that abortion is a good choice, except in very rare instances. But both our political system, and indeed our very moral system, depends upon the ability of the individual to freely choose when faced with a decision; to take away free will is to take away morality. But with free choice comes responsibility for those choices. So I am going to put my efforts into tougher enforcement of child-support laws, so both men and women will bear equal financial responsibility for each child conceived; and I’m going to tighten up our welfare laws, so that everyone who is able to hold a job, should.”
    I do apologize for the length of this response. But I was hoping to move the discussion away from “what’s wrong with hapax’s beliefs” to “how can we work for a goal that we all agree on?”

  • Duane

    Yah, let’s argue process instead of standing firm on principle. Does that work much for ya? Let’s see how many other rights we can doom with damnable support. I’ll start with this one:
    1. Women being allowed to vote is a horrible thing but their marching in the street is causing the wash to pile up at home.
    Anyone else wanna play?

  • Beth

    Casting one side as “selfish baby-killers” is a POWERFUL message…. it can, and has, successfully motivated the great mass of people who previously thought … ” I’m not going to put outlawing it on top of my priority list” into suddenly thinking that “hmm, maybe THIS is the issue that deserves my limited time and energy.”
    Why would it do that? Does viewing killers as selfish make murder that much more reprehensible? Or is it that by demonizing women who have abortions, we can rid ourselves of all sympathy for them, and turn them into objects of hatred, scorn and rage? It sounds like the way to really get these people going on an issue is to provide them with a scapegoat.
    ALL laws are, at base, an attempt to “impose our beliefs on others.” People steal, murder, run red lights, and drink beer under age because they believe they have the right or need to do so. We make these acts illegal because enough other people — for whatever reason — don’t believe that.
    That’s exactly the ‘all beliefs are equal’ nonsense that I was talking about before. There are valid reasons for those laws, and unless you have equally valid reasons for believing you need to break them, I don’t want to hear about “conflicting beliefs,” and if you do, then maybe the law should be changed.
    Remember, the goal here is NOT to get me — or a majority of the American people — to agree that having an abortion is a good choice, a “right” that deserves protection.
    What does “a good choice” have to do with “a right that deserves protection?” I don’t much care whether you think abortion is “a good choice” or not, but it’s extremely important to me that people understand that something doesn’t have to be a good choice in order to be a right that deserves protection. Liberal democracy itself cannot function unless citizens understand the concept of ‘rights,’ and free exercise is central to that concept.
    I think you’ve just helped to clarify why this is such an important issue for me. It’s not just about keeping abortion legal (though that’s important, too). It’s about standing up to forces that are trying to pervert and destroy the political process. It’s about saying scapegoating is NOT an acceptable tactic, that debate and discussion DO have a place (all beliefs are not created equal), and human rights are NOT something we award for “good choices.” If we lose those principles, we lose our democratic form of government, and I shudder to think what would rise to take its place.

  • hapax

    Duane, may I very respectfully ask your understanding of the derivation of rights? By which I mean, do you believe that all rights are inherent in the natural human condition, or do you believe that some rights are derived from the consent of the community?
    If you do not accept the distinction between natural and legal rights (or if you would divide them very differently), I am not surprised that you would find my comments both meaningless and offensive. If that is the case, I apologize for any inadvertent offense, but I don’t know how to make anything I said more meaningful.

  • hapax

    Duane, may I very respectfully ask your understanding of the derivation of rights? By which I mean, do you believe that all rights are inherent in the natural human condition, or do you believe that some rights are derived from the consent of the community?
    If you do not accept the distinction between natural and legal rights (or if you would divide them very differently), I am not surprised that you would find my comments both meaningless and offensive. If that is the case, I apologize for any inadvertent offense, but I don’t know how to make anything I said more meaningful.

  • hapax

    Beth, I apologize for sloppy language. By “good choice” I meant “choice without wrongness”, “choice with no downside.” I wasn’t trying to invoke that mythological creature who says “Goody, I can’t wait to have my fun abortion!”
    Would it be rude to ask you the same question I asked Duane — do you accept the distinction between “natural” and “legal” rights? (A legal right is not just something that is guaranteed by law — although it should be — but is derived from the system of government. The right to vote,for example, might be classified as a legal right, because it does not exist in an absolute monarchy. But in a democratic system, laws can and should be enacted to define the limits of that right — setting voting ages, for example.)
    If so, in which category would you place the right to an abortion?

  • Lucia

    If I may chime in here… for me the distinction between natural and legal rights doesn’t help me with this one. The right to bodily autonomy and the right to life are both natural rights, as I see it, and they’re in conflict here.
    I come down on the pro-choice side because for practical purposes we’re talking about a woman’s, that is a human being’s, rights on one side, and on the other side about a life that is not yet human. (As has been pointed out, as a practical matter when we talk about abortion we’re not talking about fully viable fetuses, so let’s banish those strawwomen from both sides of the question.) That’s inconsistent with my belief in the sanctity, indeed the divinity, of all living things — and you may or may not want to call that inconsistency stupid*. Nobody’s perfect.
    *As the mother of a mentally disabled child I would ask everyone to be careful about using “retarded” as an insult. Plenty of other words are available.

  • Beth

    No, hapax, I didn’t misunderstand. It looks like you somehow misunderstood my point (maybe you got it confused with the previous one?). Rights aren’t protected by law in order to let us make good choices (however you want to define ‘good’); they’re protected to ensure that we’re allowed to make even bad ones. I have a right to dominion over my own body. It doesn’t matter whether the choices I make about it are happy or sad, easy or difficult, right or wrong, popular or unpopular. They’re my choices and the government has no right to interfere.
    do you accept the distinction between “natural” and “legal” rights?
    I’m not sure I understand your distinction. I believe that freedom from oppression is an basic right, and that holds true no matter what the form of government. Voting is a tool we use to preverve that right, and ‘voting rights’ are simply a way of protecting that tool.
    If so, in which category would you place the right to an abortion?
    I believe that the right to privacy is also a basic right and that abortion is protected by it. Since privacy is a right in itself and not a means to something else, I guess it would have to be a natural right.
    Now, hapax, here’s a question for you. Once your 3-point plan is complete and you’ve eliminated everything which you’ve been forced to concede justifies the “horrible choice” of abortion, will you still fight to keep it legal? Is your support for a woman’s right to choose genuine, or is it just a tactical maneuver?

  • Bugmaster

    I don’t really understand the concept of “rights”, to tell you the truth. You may think that you have an inherent right to live, but should you ever fall of a cliff, gravity will respectfully disagree with you (and the subsequent rapid decceleration will be a lot less respectful). If people had inaliable rights, they would be inaliable, sort of like gravity. This is not the case.
    Thus, whenever people talk about rights, the discussion always devolves into “is not ! is too !” type of a shoutfest. I think that freedom from oppression is an extremely good thing, and it should be valued above most other things (note, I said “most”, not “all”) but I don’t think it’s a magic innate ability that everyone has built-in.

  • Bugmaster

    I don’t really understand the concept of “rights”, to tell you the truth. You may think that you have an inherent right to live, but should you ever fall of a cliff, gravity will respectfully disagree with you (and the subsequent rapid decceleration will be a lot less respectful). If people had inaliable rights, they would be inaliable, sort of like gravity. This is not the case.
    Thus, whenever people talk about rights, the discussion always devolves into “is not ! is too !” type of a shoutfest. I think that freedom from oppression is an extremely good thing, and it should be valued above most other things (note, I said “most”, not “all”) but I don’t think it’s a magic innate ability that everyone has built-in.

  • hapax

    Ah. Okay. First of all, “my three point plan” is not, as I stated upfront, MY plan. These are, as I said before, strategies that I have seen used successfully by candidates who supported abortion rights to get voters who opposed abortion to elect them, by making enough voters care MORE about something else.
    I’ll state again and again until I’m blue in the face that “the government” — by which we mean in the U.S. the duly elected representatives of the people — has every right to interfere in people’s personal choices on the basis of other people’s beliefs, and does so billions of time every day. It’s a straw man to argue that I’m saying “all beliefs are equal.” Of course some beliefs are privileged over others *in the law*. But it’s not the rightness, or scientific validity, or usefulness, or benefit to society, or even popularity that priviliges a particular belief. It is getting enough people to care about it that they will elect representatives who promote it — consonant with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. If it is not in accord with judicial review, then that belief can be privileged by electing Presidents who will appoint different judges, or electing legislatures who will amend the Constitution. That’s the difference between a “natural right” and a “legal right.” I’m sure that you and I agree that the basic liberty of every human being is a “natural right” — inherent in human nature, or (I would say) endowed by the Creator. But what you and I believed didn’t do any slave one bit of good until the Thirteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution. And whether or not a majority of the citizens agreed with us was immaterial — UNTIL the minority who found this to be the most important issue in the world, and were willing to take up arms and fight over it, convinced enough people on the other side that they had more important matters (like finding enough food on their ruined lands) to worry about.
    Would it have been better if everyone had been convinced through logical argument or native compassion to accept liberty as a human right? Oh, dear Lord, yes. Would it have happened eventually without that bloody war? Probably — and there are arguments to be made on either side that the sum total of human misery if slavery had been allowed to “die naturally” would have been lessened. I don’t know. That’s where moral compromise comes into play again.
    But the question of what are “natural” rights — or whether or not they exist — is very much a question of beliefs, which you repeatedly insist we may not “impose on others”. There is no objective evidence to support or identify them. So I concentrate on legal rights, which are established, protected, and limited by laws and Constitutions. And this means I have to use the political process as it is established in this country. When a particular activity is — whether you like it or not –inherently distasteful to the vast majority of citizens, regrettable but sometimes justified to a small majority, and the Worst Thing in the World to a small but passionately committed minority — I do think it is easier and smarter (if less morally satisfying) to hang onto that small majority by persuading them to care more about Something Else in the voting booth, than to shift enough of that vast majority into thinking that activity is the Most Important Thing to protect. Perhaps that is betraying “principles” for “process”. If so, I’d gladly make the trade, and toss in a bag of donuts with the deal. If you cannot, I can only respect your priorities.
    To answer your question about whether my “support for a woman’s right to choose is genuine, or just a tactical maneuver”? Well, in this case, it’s my turn to not quite understand the distinction. When MY personal plan is complete, no woman will ever become pregnant except through free choice, medical science will ensure that every pregnancy is a healthy one resulting in a healthy child, and society as a whole will value every child enough to make sure there are sufficient resources to raise him or her to a happy adulthood. In that world, I can’t see any particular reason to have an abortion except for the pure fun of it, and yep, I’d advocate to make that illegal. I guess that means my support for a “woman’s right to choose” isn’t really genuine.

  • LL

    Big ups to Hapax, Lucia and others for at least debating the point – many people don’t bother debating, they just say “God said it, I believe it, that’s the end of it.” Hapax is right, we use government to impose our “values” every day, and human history is the conflict between civic good (for its opposite, I guess I could use present-day Iraq as an example) and the natural urge to do whatever the hell we want regardless of who it hurts. The Great Uniter/Decider has not made this debate easier or more civil with his belief that he’s the ultimate law of the land and so encouraged many (present company excepted) to believe that their most fervent dreams of a faith-based state is just around the corner, filled wih millions of Christian soldiers standing at the ready to tell the rest of us how to live according to the bible. I get the sense that if Hapax et al felt that way, they wouldn’t be at this site, they’d be at Focus on the Family’s site or the like. I’m an atheist and so not inclined to be swayed by religious arguments, but Fred, Hapax et al demonstrate that many (I dare say most) religious people are not like Dobson and his ilk and do have something useful to add (as well as having the right to make that contribution). It’s just hard to remember that when we seem to only hear from Dobson et al. That’s probably mostly the fault of the ever-incompetent “media,” which loves controversy (it’s more exciting and promotable) and so always seems to put the crazies like Dobson on TV, rather than thoughtful adults like Fred and Hapax.

  • Beth

    It’s a straw man to argue that I’m saying “all beliefs are equal.”
    No it’s not. It may be a misinterpretation, but it is by no means, a “straw man.” And since the only argument you seem to have with it is that some beliefs are privileged by law and others aren’t (which doesn’t even address the question of whether the beliefs themselves are equal), I’m not even convinced it’s a misinterpretation.
    a question of beliefs, which you repeatedly insist we may not “impose on others”.
    Not only have I not “repeatedly insisted” that, I have not said it even once. What I have “repeatedly insisted” is that some beliefs are supported by reality while others are not, and only the former group may be a valid basis for laws.
    You gave the example of laws against running red lights as an example of a law that “imposes our beliefs on others.” That law certainly is based on beliefs. It’s based on the belief that running red lights interferes with traffic flow and increases the risk of accidents. That belief is well supported by logic and evidence and is therefore a valid basis for law. Some people may believe that wearing pirate hats improves traffic flow and reduces the risk of accidents, but that belief is not equal to the belief about traffic lights. It is supported by neither logic nor evidence, and would therefore not be a valid basis for law.
    In that world, I can’t see any particular reason to have an abortion except for the pure fun of it, and yep, I’d advocate to make that illegal. I guess that means my support for a “woman’s right to choose” isn’t really genuine.
    Either that or you don’t take the concept of ‘rights’ very seriously. I can’t imagine anyone thinking having an abortion was “fun”, unless they had severe psychological problems, any more than I think that your world where “no woman will ever become pregnant except through free choice” etc, etc, will ever exist. Still, if women really do have a right to autonomy over their bodies, then the law has no business interfering with that right unless it has a very good, reality-based reason. No matter how offended you may be by the thought of women having abortions “for the pure fun of it,” you cannot justly restrict our rights on that basis.

  • Beth

    It’s a straw man to argue that I’m saying “all beliefs are equal.”
    No it’s not. It may be a misinterpretation, but it is by no means, a “straw man.” And since the only argument you seem to have with it is that some beliefs are privileged by law and others aren’t (which doesn’t even address the question of whether the beliefs themselves are equal), I’m not even convinced it’s a misinterpretation.
    a question of beliefs, which you repeatedly insist we may not “impose on others”.
    Not only have I not “repeatedly insisted” that, I have not said it even once. What I have “repeatedly insisted” is that some beliefs are supported by reality while others are not, and only the former group may be a valid basis for laws.
    You gave the example of laws against running red lights as an example of a law that “imposes our beliefs on others.” That law certainly is based on beliefs. It’s based on the belief that running red lights interferes with traffic flow and increases the risk of accidents. That belief is well supported by logic and evidence and is therefore a valid basis for law. Some people may believe that wearing pirate hats improves traffic flow and reduces the risk of accidents, but that belief is not equal to the belief about traffic lights. It is supported by neither logic nor evidence, and would therefore not be a valid basis for law.
    In that world, I can’t see any particular reason to have an abortion except for the pure fun of it, and yep, I’d advocate to make that illegal. I guess that means my support for a “woman’s right to choose” isn’t really genuine.
    Either that or you don’t take the concept of ‘rights’ very seriously. I can’t imagine anyone thinking having an abortion was “fun”, unless they had severe psychological problems, any more than I think that your world where “no woman will ever become pregnant except through free choice” etc, etc, will ever exist. Still, if women really do have a right to autonomy over their bodies, then the law has no business interfering with that right unless it has a very good, reality-based reason. No matter how offended you may be by the thought of women having abortions “for the pure fun of it,” you cannot justly restrict our rights on that basis.

  • Duane

    The abortion argument is always reduced to Here Are The Facts vs. This Is What I Believe.

  • Duane

    The abortion argument is always reduced to Here Are The Facts vs. This Is What I Believe.

  • Lucia

    Still, if women really do have a right to autonomy over their bodies, then the law has no business interfering with that right unless it has a very good, reality-based reason. No matter how offended you may be by the thought of women having abortions “for the pure fun of it,” you cannot justly restrict our rights on that basis.
    You really got me going with this one, Beth. I too am offended by the notion of having abortions for the fun of it (if I were queen, I would outlaw killing animals for the fun of it) — but if I really believe in the right to bodily autonomy, I have to believe in it (I think) in (almost) any weird hypothetical universe we might construct.
    Returning to practicalities, though, in this universe I do believe that a woman’s right to bodily autonomy trumps an embryo or fetus’s right to life (again, up to a point, but again, as a practical matter we don’t need to go there).
    What you really want to know is how I will vote. I am imagining for the sake of argument two candidates for the same office, Anna and Bill. Anna has worked and voted to raise the minimum wage, end the war in Iraq, enforce the Geneva Conventions where they apply, make health care including contraception accessible to everyone, legalize same-sex marriage, toughen enforcement of workplace safety regulations, and outlaw abortion except to save the pregnant woman’s life. Bill is the other way around: he is vehemently pro-choice but on every other issue sings out of the same hymnal as James Dobson. (OK, so I am off in fantasyland again. Bear with me.) I have to say I’d probably vote for Anna, as I would believe that on balance she would do more good than harm.
    In other words, I’m not a single-issue voter. Returning to practicalities again, in my state you basically have to say you’re pro-choice, or at least not too pro-life (“personally I believe life begins at conception, but…”) to get elected to anything above dogcatcher. I usually vote for the (more) pro-choice candidate, simply because I favor the other positions of Anna above, and any candidate who holds all of them is almost always pro-choice as well. I would almost certainly vote against any candidate who campaigned using the phrase “this great Christian nation” (again, I can’t imagine any such candidate’s getting far where I live), because 1) the founders explicitly declared this not to be a Christian nation 2) I don’t want to live in a theocracy 3) I believe that imposing one’s religious beliefs on others is wrong as well as unconstitutional.
    Interestingly enough, my position on abortion is not based on religion at all. (Hang out on Dobson’s site? Please don’t make me.) It’s based on how I balance those competing rights.

  • Lucia

    Still, if women really do have a right to autonomy over their bodies, then the law has no business interfering with that right unless it has a very good, reality-based reason. No matter how offended you may be by the thought of women having abortions “for the pure fun of it,” you cannot justly restrict our rights on that basis.
    You really got me going with this one, Beth. I too am offended by the notion of having abortions for the fun of it (if I were queen, I would outlaw killing animals for the fun of it) — but if I really believe in the right to bodily autonomy, I have to believe in it (I think) in (almost) any weird hypothetical universe we might construct.
    Returning to practicalities, though, in this universe I do believe that a woman’s right to bodily autonomy trumps an embryo or fetus’s right to life (again, up to a point, but again, as a practical matter we don’t need to go there).
    What you really want to know is how I will vote. I am imagining for the sake of argument two candidates for the same office, Anna and Bill. Anna has worked and voted to raise the minimum wage, end the war in Iraq, enforce the Geneva Conventions where they apply, make health care including contraception accessible to everyone, legalize same-sex marriage, toughen enforcement of workplace safety regulations, and outlaw abortion except to save the pregnant woman’s life. Bill is the other way around: he is vehemently pro-choice but on every other issue sings out of the same hymnal as James Dobson. (OK, so I am off in fantasyland again. Bear with me.) I have to say I’d probably vote for Anna, as I would believe that on balance she would do more good than harm.
    In other words, I’m not a single-issue voter. Returning to practicalities again, in my state you basically have to say you’re pro-choice, or at least not too pro-life (“personally I believe life begins at conception, but…”) to get elected to anything above dogcatcher. I usually vote for the (more) pro-choice candidate, simply because I favor the other positions of Anna above, and any candidate who holds all of them is almost always pro-choice as well. I would almost certainly vote against any candidate who campaigned using the phrase “this great Christian nation” (again, I can’t imagine any such candidate’s getting far where I live), because 1) the founders explicitly declared this not to be a Christian nation 2) I don’t want to live in a theocracy 3) I believe that imposing one’s religious beliefs on others is wrong as well as unconstitutional.
    Interestingly enough, my position on abortion is not based on religion at all. (Hang out on Dobson’s site? Please don’t make me.) It’s based on how I balance those competing rights.

  • Lucia

    I thought about this all the way home, and I was wrong. What I think, having thought about it, is that we have natural moral rights, such as the right to bodily autonomy, but we also have natural moral duties, such as to refrain from wanton, capricious destruction of living things (including ourselves). We have a duty to minimize our ecological footprint and to use birth control (or abstain) if we don’t want to get pregnant. We have a duty not to abort just for the fun of it.
    I don’t do very well carrying out this duty (not being a vegetarian, for example), and I’m not about to try to legislate it, even if I could, but I do think it exists.

  • Lucia

    I thought about this all the way home, and I was wrong. What I think, having thought about it, is that we have natural moral rights, such as the right to bodily autonomy, but we also have natural moral duties, such as to refrain from wanton, capricious destruction of living things (including ourselves). We have a duty to minimize our ecological footprint and to use birth control (or abstain) if we don’t want to get pregnant. We have a duty not to abort just for the fun of it.
    I don’t do very well carrying out this duty (not being a vegetarian, for example), and I’m not about to try to legislate it, even if I could, but I do think it exists.

  • Beth

    I too am offended by the notion of having abortions for the fun of it (if I were queen, I would outlaw killing animals for the fun of it)
    I agree that killing just for the fun of it is pretty sick and definitely tests the “I may not agree … but I’ll defend to the death your right ….” rule. I might be tempted to slack off a bit on the “to the death” part myself, but I’d never want to deny people a natural right just because I disapproved of the way they exercised it.
    I have to say I’d probably vote for Anna
    I probably would too. As I said earlier, one of the reasons I think this issue is so important is because it’s become the vanguard of what we might call the Dobson school of politics. So given the choice between a perfect Dobsonian with this one exception, or an anti-Dobsonian with this one exception, I’d have to go with the latter.
    we have natural moral rights, such as the right to bodily autonomy, but we also have natural moral duties, such as to refrain from wanton, capricious destruction of living things.
    I haven’t really thought of it in those terms, but that makes a lot of sense. The next question then, is how much right the government has to get involved in that. Morals seem like very personal things, a matter between you and your God, conscience, spirit, whatever. While the government has a duty to avoid infringing on your moral rights or your exercise of your moral duties and maybe even to prevent others from infringing on them, I’m not sure if it has any right to enforce either one. So while the government has a duty to protect our right to bodily autonomy, if someone chooses to deny themselves that right, there’s nothing the government can or should do about it. Even if a moral or religious leader preaches that it isn’t really a right and to exercise it would be a sin, the government must keep out of it.
    There are probably times when the government may enforce a moral duty, such a when it is also a social duty (e.g. raising a child without excessive abuse/neglect) or when it prevents grevious harm to even non-human life (e.g. torturing animals). But when a moral right conflicts with a moral duty, I think the government must give priority to the moral right.

  • Bugmaster

    I don’t really see it as a matter of rights and duties. I see it as a solution to the problem: how can minimize the amount of control that other people exert over my life ? The answer is, I must participate in a society where controlling another person’s life is seen as wrong; unfortunately, this means that I’ll have to give up my plans to control other people’s lives.
    This is why I think that both Republicans and Democrats should be considered harmful. They both want to exercise an extraordinary amount of control over my actions. They want me to do different things, but, at the core, they’re very similar, and I want them both out of my life.


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