7 years ago: Inhuman

July 20, 2006, on this blog: Inhuman

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.

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  • AnonaMiss

    While I appreciate that the purpose in calling the pro-life bluff is to cause them to reexamine their position, I always worry when when I read a post like this. There is the occasional true believer/good person who will recognize this dichotomy as truth, and choose the terrorist option.

  • Guest

    Despite what you may think, there are many sincere pro-lifers who also work the feed the hungry and oppose war and the death penalty. Obviously, politicians are not among them.

  • Albanaeon

    Well, I don’t think it’s the pro-choicers electing those politicians…

    As long as the “pro-life” movement boils down to being anti-abortion, or even if its one of it top motivation, it cannot help but be a hypocritical anti-women stance to be picked up by misogynists at will. It inheritantly denies women agency and humanity by denying them the ability to decide when they can choose to procreate.

    So, being surprised that you keep getting anti-life leaders when the “pro-life” position is against half of humanity is one reason why pro-choicers aren’t all that impressed by your group.

  • J_Enigma32

    Nope. Sorry, I don’t believe that for a second.

    I can attack every single one of your pro-life points and prove them wrong. Every single one of them*. And when I do, I get the same response every time: it’s the woman’s fault. She shouldn’t have done that; she should’ve waited to have sex.

    The toxic blend of reactionary politics and immoral policies pioneered by this in-house blend of crypto-fascism is all about purity. That’s it. And when you act and become “impure”, it becomes about punishment. And that’s the whole truth.

    * Observe, Simplicio (Content Note: Rape):

    S: Life begins a conception.
    E: Wrong. It began before. You don’t think the sperm cell and ovum were alive? Cells are alive.

    S: So human life beings at conception.
    E: Define human.

    S: A human being is a creature just like us, with a soul.
    E: Prove souls exist. Everything in modern neuroscience is suggesting otherwise.

    S: Human beings feel pain.
    E: So does everything from the cattle you killed to make your hamburger to the ant you stepped on this morning, and quite possibly even the tree you chopped down because it’s roots kept getting into your foundation.

    S: Humans are more important than that.
    E: Prove it.

    S: Well… obviously you think humans are important, right?
    E: Oh, of course. I am human, after all. But that doesn’t objectively prove anything. It just proves that I feel humans are important.

    S: So you think fetuses are important.
    E: There’s a line between potential human and actual human.

    S: So where is the dividing line at?
    E: Generally it’s been defined, in the western world, as when you’re born. This is when you go from being a fetus to being a neonate in biological terminology.

    S: Who says?
    E: Tradition. If you have a better definition, I’m waiting to hear it.

    S: Tradition says that life begins at conception.
    E: Then in this case, “tradition” is plainly wrong since life begins before and I can demonstrate that. Cells are alive; ovum and sperm are both alive. Also, we traditionally celebrate the birthday based on when the child was born, not conceived. We calculate age from the day the child was born, not the day it was conceived. And it’s always been like that. Ergo, Tradition says life begins at birth.

    S: Well, why don’t you define human?
    E: A functioning member of the H. sapiens sapiens species. I’m willing to extend that definition to the great apes and cetaceans, too. Possibly cephalopods, if there’s more evidence to suggest that they have a sense of self (albeit one that’d be completely alien to our own).

    S: You can’t do that. Humans look like us.
    E: We’re both white. You want to watch that, because at one time, that was a prerequisite for being human.

    S: That’s not what I mean.
    E: Then what do you mean?

    S: Well, I mean it looks like we do.
    E: You mean with two legs, two arms, bilateral symmetry, etc.

    S: Exactly.
    E: You described just about every land dweller on the planet, and a few ocean dwellers. And a fetus looks nothing like us – have you seen one of those things? It’s utterly alien to look at.

    S: Well, I mean, it’s like us.
    E: What do you mean, like us?

    S: It’s intelligent, like we are.
    E: Again, I’d watch it throwing that around. You’re treading into eugenics territory. As far as “intelligence” is concerned, assuming you speak of self-awareness and sophoncy, we are not self-aware until we’re about 26 weeks old. That’s about the time a human pass the mirror test. Of course, every great ape passes it, and so do the cetaceans. So again, you’re including them in the definition of human.

    S: No, because they don’t have souls.
    E: And we’re back here again. Where is your proof that souls exist?

    S: The soul is enshrined at conception.
    E: Where is your proof for a soul?

    S: Don’t you care about human beings?
    E: Of course I care. That’s why I criticize unnecessary war and the death penalty. That’s why I want free and open access birth control. That’s also why I support no-strings-attached abortion. Because I care about human beings, and I want them to be able to make the decision that’s best for them.

    S: Well, what about the human being that can’t speak up?
    E: Define human.

    S: A person.
    E: What’s a person?

    S: You define it, then.
    E: It’s a legal term. Subject to change depending upon the law.

    S: So we’re changing the law to make them humans and people.
    E: And what about the humans and people who are already humans and people under the law, what happens to them when their will and volition get trumped? They’re already human; don’t their wants and needs factor into this, since this is their body we’re hijacking?

    S: Then they should’ve thought about that before they had sex
    E: Ergo, it’s not about life at all. It’s about punishment for having sex. Gotcha.

    S: Well, no, it’s not.
    E: Then what about the people who already have the free will and volition? Where is their wants and needs?

    S: So I should just be able to kill someone because I want something they have.
    E: No, because it’s morally unacceptable. We’ve already decided that women are human, right? The question isn’t whether women are human, the question is whether or not fetuses are human. And by answering that question with “Yes”, you are killing someone because they have something you want: you want to be right, and you’re killing people because of it.

    S: Who am I killing?
    E: All of the women who can’t get the medical surgical procedures that they need in order to survive dangerous pregnancies. See, by banning abortion, what you’re doing is you’re scaring away future doctors from the field. That’s fewer doctors to preform the procedure when it’s needed most. Furthermore, you’re sacrificing rape victims, since they never even made the choice. They get stripped of their freedom TWICE, courtesy of you.

    S: I never said that women who were raped shouldn’t have access to abortion.
    E: What’s the difference between a baby from rape and a baby from consensual encounters? Why does one matter less than the other?

    S: Aren’t you doing the same thing?
    E: No. I’m asking you which is more important: The person who we both consider to be a human being having will and volition of her own or the thing that we haven’t even deemed as a human, but only has the potential to be; and through awarding that personhood, stripping the woman in question of her own.

    S: I am not! She made her choice when she got pregnant!
    E: Ergo, it’s about punishing women for sex.

    S: It is not!
    E: That’s not what I’m hearing. I asked you to define human and you couldn’t. I defined human using an example of someone who I consider to be human already – an adult woman – and you gave me no reason to believe her wants and needs should be trumped by the wants and needs of something that may be a potential human.

    S: That’s because you don’t value human beings.
    E: On the contrary; I value them very much. Because if I didn’t, I’d be just like you.

  • Fusina

    I am currently catching up on reading the newspaper–I am now only a month behind instead of two.

    Anyway, I came across an article regarding a person who shall not be named who is trying to get the GOP nomination for gov. of VA. Apparently, he wants to reinstate a law making it illegal to perform oral sex between two consenting adults, even if they are married to one another. Something about unnatural relations*? Anyway, while lying in bed not sleeping due to the heat, my brain connected him with a certain pastor of a certain martian church (also who shall not be named) who believes that women should perform oral sex on their husbands if said husband so desires, in a submissive sort of thing**.

    I have now developed a deep desire to get these two men in a room together, to see if they explode in a shower of irrationality.

    *I would like to say that personally, what two consenting adults get up to in a bedroom is, in my opinion, up to them, not that my permission is necessary, and I really don’t want any details, in a “la-la-la, I can’t hear you” sort of way. I mean, sex is great, sex is awesome, and it is also private between (among?) the parties that indulge therein.

    **I’ve never been real good with the submissive thing–I once told a friend of mine, a Baptist, no less, that not having a penis did not mean I did not have a brain. I’m pretty sure he conceded the point so that I wouldn’t mention it again.


  • John Alexander Harman

    Trigger warning: violent fantasizing below.
    If they didn’t explode in a shower of irrationality, we could leave them there with a supply of water, but no food, until they fight to the death over which one gets to eat the other. Personally, I’d bet on Driscoll over Cuccinelli.

  • Matri

    E: On the contrary; I value them very much. Because if I didn’t, I’d be just like you.

    Ouch. I need sunscreen just from being in the proximity of that burn.

  • Good lord, do these people have nothing better to do than stick their noses into everybody’s bedroom besides their own? :O

  • Fusina

    A friend suggested that perhaps it is because he has never had good oral sex, in the case of the one. In the other case, it was a wife being chastised in public–at least, that was how I felt about the Driscoll sermon. If I was his wife, I’d have been seeing a lawyer about then. Because he really, really doesn’t understand the concept of consent.

  • A

    Which is more dignified:

    (a) to be destroyed

    (b) to be used as an instrument, mere raw material for someone else’s experiments, and then destroyed?

    Holding that (a) is the more suited to dignity does not seem to be obviously irrational. It’s not unarguably true, of course, but neither is it prima facie mad: it’s an opinion a rational person could hold.

    Assuming that Bush believed (a) to be the more dignified option, and also believed 1. and 2., then his rational priorities would be, in order:

    (i) try to make sure no more embryos are created and frozen.

    (ii) try to make sure that those which have been created and frozen are granted a dignified ‘death’ by destruction, rather than used as material for experiments.

    And thus with (i) being politically unobtainable, (ii) is perfectly rational and not at all foolish or deceptive.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You…assume embryos have dignity. I suspect that that’s one of the things that, like Ross keeps saying about personhood, is conferred little by little day by day and isn’t fully acquired until sometime after toddlerhood.

  • Which is more dignified:

    (a) to be destroyed because you are no longer wanted

    (b) to be destroyed as an inescapable side effect of an act that will save others?

  • A

    Ask Mengele’s Jews?

  • A

    The issue isn’t what you suspect: it’s what a reasonable person could believe. You’re surely not saying that anyone who disagrees with you is ipso facto unreasonable?

  • Carstonio

    The theory I’ve read is that Virginia’s statutory rape laws don’t cover 16- and 17-year-olds, so the state tried to use the sodomy law to prosecute these crimes. The courts rightly told the state that they couldn’t use a law that had been ruled unconstitutional. Cuccinelli is exploiting the weakness in the rape laws to pander to homophobic reactionaries, instead of the far more sensible approach of advocating reform for those laws to protect teenagers.

  • Carstonio

    Mitch Albom concluded at the time that Bush was lying:


    “This bill would support the taking of innocent human life …” he said. “Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value.”

    OK. If Bush’s believes that, why isn’t he closing down every fertility clinic in America right now? Almost any woman who goes in for fertility treatments ends up producing more embryos than are implanted…

    “Crossing this line would be a mistake,” Bush said. But those are code
    words for what this is all about: making it look, sound and feel like
    the abortion debate.

  • Carstonio

    If those folks also seek laws banning abortions (which is the definition of pro-life), then they’re still harming women by forcing them to carry pregnancies to term, no matter what good they do elsewhere. If someone who opposes abortion seeks to reduce harm, the person should favor keeping abortion legal while pushing for ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies. When one treats abortion as a matter of women making decisions that one opposes, saying that they shouldn’t have sex if they don’t want to become mothers, one is effectively slut-shaming them.

  • Fusina

    The pandering to homophobic reactionaries thing I got, My initial reaction was that he was opening the door to a rash of peeping toms checking on their neighbors–or not, as I don’t think the majority of people care what others are up to in their bedrooms. I hope not, anyway.

  • Carstonio

    I didn’t realize that sodomy also included oral sex. Whoever created the definition centuries ago must have worshipped procreation as his or her god.

  • Carstonio

    Heh. The only flaw in your otherwise brilliant post is that you didn’t explicitly call out Simplicio for pushing a sectarian argument, meaning the soul, although you did demand evidence for the soul’s existence.

  • Fusina

    Does it? I also didn’t know. Huh. Well, what do you know. Just looked it up and apparently it does.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m surely saying that anyone who asserts that an embryo has enough worth that it overrides the pregnant person’s right to do what they like with their uterus is asserting that a pregnant person has less control over their uterus than a fresh corpse has over their (equally potentially lifesaving) various body parts, and I’m surely saying that that is an unreasonable assertion.

  • The difference is, an embryo that has been aborted would never know it had been aborted. Consciousness of one’s own existence, empirically, doesn’t seem to “turn on” until at best, perhaps 6 months after one is born.

  • A

    I’m not sure how any of that is relevant to the claim that for Bush to have acted as he did on the issue of embryos in storage (which has nothing as far as i can see to do with women who are pregnant, but if you can explain the connection I’d be interested) is evidence of either duplicity, idiocy, or mass murder.

    The point is that it is possible to construct an argument for the actions being so described as being logically consistent given some premises that could reasonably be held by a sane person (the premise that embryos have dignity is not one that everyone holds, but holding it does not automatically make someone unreasonable).