You Gotta be Kind to be Cruel

Libby Ann and Daniel Finke are running another installment of their Forward Thinking series, where they ask bloggers to contribute their thoughts on a topic. This fortnight, it’s cruelty.  Daniel kicks us off with this quote from Nietzsche:

Cruelty constituted the great festival pleasure of more primitive men and was indeed an ingredient of almost every one of their pleasures. [...] [I]t is not long since princely weddings and public festivals of the more magnificent kind were unthinkable without executions, torturings, or perhaps an auto-da-fé [...]To see others suffer does one good, to make others suffer even more: this is a hard saying but an ancient, mighty human, all-too-human principle [...] Without cruelty there is no festival,; thus the longest and most ancient part of human history teaches–and in punishment there is so much that is festive.

For me, cruelty seems to entail a strange kind of double think.   We’re able to figure out how to be cruel  because our victims are similar to us.  Cruelty can’t exist without some degree of empathy — the ability to model the way other people think and feel.  So, we lean into that feeling of kinship and connection, and then exploit it to hurt the other person in precisely the way we do not want to be hurt.  Someone being cruel swings back and forth between connection and detatchment.

Near the end of his post, Daniel wonders what to make of our love of villains like the Joker, Hannibal Lector, or Dexter.  Both these men understand humans very well.  They can carry out elaborate schemes, because they know exactly how people will respond to their provocations.  They look on human thought and feeling and understand it without loving or respecting it.  When we watch them, we feel a certain amount of delight at getting to vivisect humanity and safely manipulating it.

In New York City, I got to attend the Bodies Exhibit, where human bodies are preserved, plasticinated, and displayed after death.  I was still pretty gnostic at the time, and found it vaguely embarrassing to be made out of meat.  I almost didn’t go, since I assumed it would make me as squeamish as medical shows.  But, when I turned up at the museum, I was awestruck.

Instead of being disgusted, I was in love.  Much like when I took Immunology in college, I could finally see some of the logic of how my body worked, and I was overwhelmed by it’s efficiency and beauty.  I tried to remember the flayed muscles and blood vessels so I could almost see them when I looked at myself, and I couldn’t be lulled into complacency by the uniformity of skin.   When I saw how the bodies worked, I wanted to hold on to my similarity, so I could carry over that sense of beauty.

But someone indulging in cruelty dissects human feelings without comprehending them as beautiful.  Instead of marvelling at our ability to love, and therefore to lose, a person exploring cruelty avoids drawing parallels between zerself and zer victim.  Even if you delight in your ability to predict and control someone else, you must label that delight as different than the delight you’re denying to your mark.  Or you turn it off all together.  You can change (and degrade) yourself, so you can blot out any fellow feeling for the person you’re preying upon.

Earlier this month, in the New Yorker blog, Daniel Mendelson had an interesting observation about the ways we can betray the bodies of others.

The last of the many articles I’ve read about the strange odyssey of Tsarnaev’s body was about the reactions of the residents of the small Virginia town where it was, finally, buried. “What do you do when a monster is buried just down the street?” the subhead asked. The sensationalist diction, the word “monster,” I realized, is the problem—and brings you to the deep meaning of Martha Mullen’s gesture, and of Antigone’s argument, too. There is, in the end, a great ethical wisdom in insisting that the criminal dead, that your bitterest enemy, be buried, too; for in doing so, you are insisting that the criminal, however heinous, is precisely not a “monster.” Whatever else is true of the terrible crime that Tamerlan Tsarnaev is accused of having perpetrated, it was, all too clearly, the product of an entirely human psyche, horribly motivated by beliefs and passions that are very human indeed—deina in the worst possible sense. To call him a monster is to treat this enemy’s mind precisely the way some would treat his unburied body—which is to say, to put it beyond the reach of human consideration (and therefore, paradoxically, to refuse to confront his “monstrosity” at all).

This is the point that obsessed Sophocles’ Antigone: that to not bury her brother, to not treat the war criminal like a human being, would ultimately have been to forfeit her own humanity. This is why it was worth dying for.

Cruelty cannot negate or deny the capacity of others to love and suffer.  But, in order to inflict it, we may need to deny ourselves membership in humanity, in order to avoid recognizing the gravity of a wrong.  The more we pare down the idea of human dignity, the less we have to rely on in our darker moments, when we half-recognize the ways we wrong others, and need some reassurance that we’re something worth saving.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • mary

    “Cruelty can’t exist without some degree of empathy — the ability to model the way other people think and feel.” This quote strikes me as both quite true and also not true. What to make of the recent research on psychopathy–the sort displayed by serial killers–which reveals that many suffer from an inability to empathize, as evidenced by their faulty amygdalas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Martha-OKeeffe/100002559433793 Martha O’Keeffe

    I don’t love the Joker, Hannibal or Dexter. (I’m currently seeing a whole lot of swooning over the “Hannibal” TV show on Tumblr). I’ve never liked, admired or thought they were admirable, honest or to be emulated.
    The Joker, for me, has always been the absolute scariest Batman villain precisely because he has no limits and no empathy. On the other hand, I don’t like either the more recent attitude that “Why the hell does Batman keep bringing the Joker back to Arkham when he knows he’ll just escape? He would be doing more good to kill him once and for all.” I don’t think of The Punisher as a hero, either.
    So I’m stuck being a dinosaur with my old-fashioned views :-)

    • Tom

      But the argument for executing The Joker remains viable. The death penalty can be used if there’s no other recourse to keep people safe, and judging by the last 70 years of Batman, there hasn’t been. Although I do think they did execute him once and, comics being comics, he was back in no time.

      • thomasc

        I think that there is a difference between executing the Joker and Batman just killing him. It’s the difference between living as a community under law and a sort of outlawry.

        It is coherent, I think, to say that there is a difference between vigilante lynchings and the death penalty, because there are things that we can do as a society that it would be wrong for us to do as individuals. This is also probably why taxation isn’t a form of theft.

        • Jake

          The reason we don’t like vigilantism is because the vigilante’s estimation of the perpetrator’s guilt is likely to be wrong. There’s nothing magic about a trial, or a societal stamp of approval on justice; it just makes it much more likely that we get the right answer. In a case where the answer is known (not killing the joker will lead to innocent people dying with a probability > 99%) justice itself demands that we take the action we know to be correct.

          Batman is obligated by the innocence of future victims to do (almost) whatever it takes to stop the crazy mass murderer. The action he should be willing to take- and our implicit consent to such actions- should depend on our Bayesian priors about how likely it is the Joker is guilty, and how likely it is he will strike again.

          In practice, this doesn’t scale to a societal level. We can’t have a judicial system that lets people off the hook for committing crimes that are justified (Batman killing Joker), because it’s too hard to generalize the circumstances in which crimes are justifiable. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are certain situations where the answer is very clear, and the moral action would be to break the law.

          • branemrys

            The reason we don’t like vigilantism is because the vigilante’s estimation of the perpetrator’s guilt is likely to be wrong.

            I think this ends being untenable; the purpose of trials is not making it more likely that we get the right answer, although some features of trials are geared to this. The purpose of trials is that of making public justice a public action: a matter of authority derived from oversight and public recognition, rather than knowledge.

            We actually get a very good look at the problem with the purely epistemological account in the Wonder Woman pilot a while back that was never aired (but can easily be found online). It’s famously bad, and the reason is that despite the fact that the Wonder Woman it shows is always right about guilt, and despite the fact that she is punishing guilty people who are slipping through the cracks of the justice system, she ends up being indistinguishable from a supervillain. And what really does it is precisely that her actions recognize no authority; everything ends up being warranted solely by knowledge of guilt. Even Batman in his darkest incarnations recognizes that there are things he has no right to do, regardless of what he knows, and regardless of how guilty someone may be. (Of course, we have to abstract from the sheer shock of seeing Wonder Woman act like this, anyway, since two of her fundamental principles are compassion even for the guilty and honorable dealings with all, neither of which are consistent even with Dark Knight behavior, much less darker-than-Dark-Knight behavior. But the point remains even when one does this.)

  • thomasc

    I’m not sure about the Nietzsche quote. I don’t think he’s right.

    It’s true that public executions were spectacles that people went to watch, and clearly enjoyed. But unless we actually go back to the Romans, I don’t think that people incorporated them into public *festivities*. Not even sure the Romans did that very often: I think the leaders of the Gauls paraded through the streets were executed, but afterwards and in prison. Gladiators and wild animal fights were cruel, but I’m not sure that the principal attraction of them (or bear baiting or bullfighting for example) was the cruelty rather than the fighting.

    I am also not sure that the enjoyment of the crowds at a public execution was really about the joy of seeing someone suffer so much as the social catharsis of seeing malefactors punished – that function is part of the core idea of a legitimate authority and when society was (in day to day senses) more violent, that mattered a lot. Though it probably did coarsen the character of those watching (there was someone saintly in the nineteenth century who destroyed the galleries set up to watch a famous hanging, but I can’t remember her name), I think Camus’ view that if you have executions then people ought to go and look at them has a lot of merit. People should know what is being done on their behalf.

    It’s also possible that the crowds at hangings were partly there to hear the condemned man’s final words: there used to be a big social emphasis on what someone said just before they died, penitent or impenitent, in the face of eternity.

    Does it matter that Nietzsche’s example is fictitious? I find it interesting when someone is making a grand claim about human nature and they choose an example to tell us what they mean, and the example is false even though the claim might not be. When Lucretius chooses the sacrifice of Iphigenia as an example of the evils that can be brought by religion, did he think he was talking about something that really happened? Even if he did, why does he pick an example from ancient history?

    I think it is a way of looking like you are making an incontrovertible point when actually you aren’t. If Nietzsche had been more specific, and chosen say the Terror in the French Revolution, people might come back and say “well there are a lot of other reasons that happened apart from sheer delight in cruelty”, and if Lucretius had chosen a historical rather than a legendary murder, there would have been more argument about whether it was actually motivated primarily by religion.

  • Kim

    I’m not sure empathy is, strictly speaking, the ability to model how other people think and feel. It’s more specific than that- it’s the ability to feel their pain, or at least an echo of it, the ability to suffer with them.

    Good article here about it:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/24/health/brain-senses-the-pain-of-someone-else-s-ouch.html

    I agree with Mary that you don’t need empathy to be cruel. You do need to be able to predict someones behaviour, but maybe the reason so many people try to dehumanise their victims before being cruel to them is to avoid triggering their own ‘empathy circuits’. If you feel the other person’s pain, it would make hurting them a lot less enjoyable, and if you see someone as fully human, it’s easier to feel their pain.

    It’s possible the urge to be cruel is about grabbing power and status for yourself. It could also be a way of punishing wrongdoers. Here’s some more interesting articles about why cruelty might feel good:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/24/science/24side.html?_r=0

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/jan/04/barack-obama-empathy-deficit

    http://jeffwise.net/2010/02/17/delicious-agony-the-neuroscience-of-watching-johnny-weir/

    • LeahLibresco

      I think you’re correct that my definition of empathy is limited. But if you don’t have an intuitive, natural echo of other people’s pain, then accurate modelling is enough to cover the gap.

  • tedseeber

    Interesting thought that. My own mental illness is often described as lacking in empathy, and I certainly do to some extent. I mimic empathy *pretty well* with compassion and forgiveness, but mercy for the sake of mercy is rather beyond me.

  • Clare Krishan

    May I query you re: your use of these images?
    Do you hold to the silver rule?

    (“Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you”)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodies:_The_Exhibition
    “relies solely on the representations of its Chinese partners” and
    “cannot independently verify” that the bodies do not belong to executed
    prisoners.[20] Both the human rights activist Harry Wu[21] and the director of the Human Rights in China advocacy group have objected to the exhibit on these grounds.[21]

    If these deceased persons were Jewish holocaust victims of Hitler’s gas chambers would you pay their killers to see them posed as “thinkers” and “happy gymnasts”?

  • Joe

    “So, we lean into that feeling of kinship and connection, and then exploit it to hurt the other person in precisely the way we do not want to be hurt.”

    What if we have been hurt, but feel we are the better for it and want to help another person have the same “revelation” or “epiphany” that we experienced through similar cruelties? When is it ok to hurt someone to help them grow?

    • LeahLibresco

      I think it is sometimes necessary to make someone unhappy in the short term to be helpful in the long term. But there’s a big difference depending on whether you would want someone to do the same thing to you, if you stood behind Rawl’s veil of ignorance. Additionally, the person who must reveal a painful truth would prefer it be done painlessly, but that change would rob a cruel person of their pleasure.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I guarantee that at this stage in my life, the answer is an unqualified yes, I would want somebody to hurt me to help me.

        At least half my problem with Catholicism that led me to fall away before coming back, was the “Jesus loves you, rah rah rah” CCD classes of the 1970s. Nice, but it would have been better to have been warned about the sins that I would fall into 20-30 years later as I stumbled very badly before picking myself up.

    • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

      Do they want you to help them have the same experience? How many people are there harming if you don’t hurt/help them? These seem to me to be the relevant questions. If there aren’t doing harm and they don’t want you to bother them, I don’t see how the decision is yours to make because you don’t know how they will respond to the harm. Perhaps it will damage them more than it damaged you; you cannot know.

  • Cam

    Catchy title, but don’t you think your post goes on to successfully demonstrate that understanding other humans isn’t actually inherently good or kind, and that there’s no doublethink involved at all?

    You could split ‘understanding other humans’ into empathetic-understanding vs cold-calculating-understanding, but if intentional cruelty more commonly utilizes the latter, then again you’ve demonstrated that there’s no contradiction, because the cruel people aren’t actually empathizing. They’re not ‘leaning into feelings of kinship’, they’re observing and predicting.

    So why the need to put understanding-other-humans in the ‘good’ box, if really it’s just a neutral tool? Is it a virtue ethics thing?

    And again this idea that by inflicting cruelty on others, we do something to ourselves, or reduce our own sense of self-value/humanity: is this realistic at all? Front up with some evidence. It’s possible in some situations, but you’re speaking as if it’s common to all situations. What about people who hurt others because they consider the others lesser?

    I know you almost definitely weren’t thinking of this, but again (paraphrasing) “human dignity is why I shouldn’t hurt others and why I myself have value” seems to be another license for animal cruelty. I prefer ethical systems that reference other sentient creatures or consciousness, rather than just the human species.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Cruelty seems to me a way to project one’s own fear and pain onto another. The only “cure” of which I am aware is to teach people to recognize their emotions for what they truly are and how to handle them productively. As long as we want a warrior class in society, the acting out of anger and fear on others will be encouraged in our warriors.

    • Randy Gritter

      I would say the opposite about Warriors. They are supposed to be controlled aggression. Cruelty in soldiers hurts the cause they are fighting for. They should not pull and punches when it is time to fight but they need to be able to turn it off. It requires more self control not less.

      • Y. A. Warren

        True cruelty is, in my experience, very controlled. That is why it inflicts such fear.

        • Randy Gritter

          It is and it isn’t. True control means you don’t have to inflict pain or humiliation just to assert control. You do things that might be painful but for good reasons. Torturing slowly to maximize pain does not take away from the pettiness of it and therefore the lack of real self control.

          • Y. A. Warren

            ” True control means you don’t have to inflict pain or humiliation just to assert control. ”
            Unfortunately, many in positions of authority don’t have control of their own emotions, but are still given power over others. The only way they know how to assert themselves is with inducing pure animal terror.

          • Randy Gritter

            You are right. That is precisely why we need to train warriors. Animal terror is the lowest level of control you can assert. People will resist you every time you turn your back. They might work with an honorable soldier even if they disagree with his objectives. At least they know it isn’t personal.

          • Y. A. Warren

            A well-trained militia is a great deal different than a bunch of scared people with guns.

  • KarenJo12

    Here is an example of cruelty about which the Patheos Catholic channel has been completely — and immorally — silent.

    • Niemand

      Odd, that. You’d think that the Catholic blogsphere would be proud: their philosophy prevailed and it is doing exactly what it was intended to do. Yet there is no celebration of their success. Why?

      • KarenJo12

        I really want to hear a Catholic defend this law.

        • Randy Gritter

          The law seems OK. This might be an extreme case where a good law does not work. The solution in that case is not typically to change the law. It is for the prosecutors and courts to use their discretion, consider all the facts and do justice.

          I am not sure why the decisions were made in this case. I don’t have all the facts. What they did must make sense to them. I would like to hear from the government and the church on this case. In other cases the initial reports missed some important facts. I would want to be careful here.

          • KarenJo12

            So you think women should die if we get pregnant? Catholics think of women just like Philip Sheridan thought of Indians.

          • Randy Gritter

            I didn’t say that. A law against abortion is not a law that wants pregnant women to die. If you believe that there is no point in reasoning with you.

          • KarenJo12

            “the rockets go up
            Where they come down
            Is not my Department
            Says Werner von Braun.”

          • ariofrio

            Karen, only around 5% of abortions are done because of a health risk to the mother (according to the Guttmacher Institute). Many pro-lifers support laws against abortion that make exceptions where there are risks to the life of the mother, because we believe that the fetus is no more important than the mother, and the mother is no more important than the fetus.

            About your poem, I think it was meant to express that, by working against abortion, we are complicit in the death of pregnant women due to lack of access to abortion. But I agree that the pro-life cause must also fight against maternal mortality. And we must fight against laws and governments that put the fetus above the mother. All of that is consistent with the position that the fetus is a human being like you and me.

          • ariofrio

            Regarding the Salvadorian case, if it is true that the woman is in reasonably assured and/or immediate danger of death, then I think an abortion should be legal and acceptable.

            Please excuse me if you don’t like the following comparison, but I find it useful when reasoning about this issue. Imagine a pair of conjoined twins. One of them has an under-developed brain, while the other suffers from various illnesses. The former is not likely to survive for long, whether or not it remains conjoined with his twin. The latter would benefit from severing his connection with his twin, but the only way to do that is through a lethal injection to his twin.

            Now, if the life of the latter twin was not in assured or immediate danger, few people would argue that it is acceptable to kill the first one. Only when the risk of death is imminent, or the procedures used to keep them alive overly invasive, is it acceptable to give up on one of the children.

            So it is, I think, with abortion.

          • KarenJo12

            I used the quote to express the idea that antiabortion activists don’t even think at all about women. How does a “life of the woman” exception work? Randy Gritter below says that the woman’s own doctors’ testimony shouldn’t be considered; so whose testimony does count? How close to death counts? Apparently being permanently maimed isn’t good enough, so what is?

          • Niemand

            A law against abortion is not a law that wants pregnant women to die.

            It is when there is no exception for danger to the life of the mother. And if you support laws that leave no exceptions then you support murder.

          • PK

            Every abortion is a death. Is in fact a murder. Your calculus tries to deny this.

            If you support laws that allow abortion, you support murder, intrinsically. You dehumanize the most vulnerable population imaginable and support slaughtering them with no penalty. And you probably delude yourself into believing that this is compassion.

          • PK

            Now, in point of fact, most pro-life activists I’m aware of (in the US) do support exceptions for various levels of medical risk to the mother (although with concern about this being abused), which can be ideologically consistent depending on application, and in some cases for rape or incest, which… is understandable, but does cast doubt on the claim to be looking at the unborn child as a person.

            But frankly, no matter how often I remind myself that most people who identify as pro-choice genuinely don’t believe the child involved is a person, and are genuinely compassionate toward the mother in situations that really are hard and really do look like they’d be “solved” or at least improved if the pregnancy were to just go away — for that matter, how often I remind myself that referring to the woman involved as a mother intrinsically acknowledges that her unborn child is already a child and should be encouraged — I have trouble seeing their arguments for “exceptions” as anything but a temporary veiling of their real and dehumanizing views, instead of an honest attempt to reach common ground. I should try to be better about assuming good faith, and I beg your pardon for snarling.

          • KG

            Please elaborate on which potentially hidden facts would allow for justice to have been served in this case.

          • Randy Gritter

            You want me to elaborate on what I don’t know?

          • Niemand

            So a law that condemns women to death for having a (probably wanted) pregnancy go wrong is a “good” one? I can’t imagine any situation where I’d consider that to be true, but I guess religious people have lower standards for “good”. Certainly there is no way to call the Salvadoran Supreme Court anything but evil.

            What they did must make sense to them.

            The case is simple. It reads like something an ethicist would make up for an extreme example that no one would disagree with. The fetus is anencephalic. Anencephalic babies don’t survive. There is no way to save this fetus. The woman who is pregnant is dying of complications of pregnancy and active lupus. This is a common problem with lupus and one reason why rheumatologists get VERY nervous when their patients with SLE get pregnant and, if they are ethical and knowledgeable practitioners, talk frankly to the patients about the risk and the possibility that they may end up with a medically necessary abortion. The justices were presented with this information, they saw the outward ravages of the disease (which are the least of the patient’s problems, but are dramatic and should provoke sympathy in any decent human being). The only reason they could possibly have for forbidding it was that they want her to die. End of story. Do you support this murder?

          • Randy Gritter

            It does seem like almost a contrived example. They say hard cases make bad law. We have many, many terrible laws that prove it.

            Do the lawyers involved really want her to die? I can’t imagine why. Maybe they are pro-choice and want to avoid solving the problem because the problem is getting them good press.

            I don’t know of anything in the pro-life philosophy that would want to continue a pregnancy where the baby has no chance and the mother is at real risk. I know Catholics explicitly allow for abortion in the case of ectopic pregnancies which have a similar prognosis.

            So No, I don’t support the set of facts in the article. I do question whether they are the whole story. I would have to hear someone on the other side defend their position to be sure.

          • KG

            “I don’t know of anything in the pro-life philosophy that would want to continue a pregnancy where the baby has no chance and the mother is at real risk. I know Catholics explicitly allow for abortion in the case of ectopic pregnancies which have a similar prognosis.”

            That makes perfect sense (I’ll take your word for it that such exceptions for abortion are explicitly allowed). But then, how could the Salvadoran government have acted in accordance with Catholic tradition in this case by not allowing the abortion? Feel free to speculate about what facts might remain hidden.

          • Randy Gritter

            I would not speculate. That is not a good substitute for information. Your question is a valid one. Is the Salvadoran government actually more anti-abortion than Catholicism is? It is possible.

    • KL

      First off: regardless of outcome, this is a tragedy. Beatriz is seriously ill, and her child will almost certainly die within hours of delivery. It’s a terrible situation, and my heart and prayers go out to all involved.

      Secondly, I am always incredibly leery when civil authorities are tasked with carrying out a theological or moral norm; it rarely goes well.

      I don’t have all the facts on this matter, so I am in no way qualified to pass any sort of judgment. The NYT article, however, indicates that in the event of immediate danger to Beatriz’ life, “doctors would be allowed to induce a premature birth.” Again, not knowing Beatriz’ specific medical situation, I am unclear on the impact this would have on her health. However, I would argue that premature induction is the best course of action in this case. The procedure would be allowable under the Catholic moral principle of double effect, and would end Beatriz’ pregnancy without engaging in direct abortion. I don’t know why the government is resisting this course of action at the moment, though as I mention above I doubt civil authorities’ ability to sensitively handle difficult moral situations. I also don’t know El Salvador’s laws at all, and where a premature induction would fall legally. Again, it’s a terrible situation, and I am embarrassed by the apparent callousness of many religious commentators. They do themselves, the Catholic tradition, and women everywhere a grave disservice in failing to exhibit compassion.

      • KarenJo12

        The Catholic Church has spilled oceans of ink condemning abortiins as “worse than the Holocaust.” Every Google searc for “abortion” gets thousands of hits for Catholic sites discussing how vile women who get abortions are and how badly we need to ban the procedure. Women who use abrtion and birth control are. According to your Church, the “Culture of Death.” Kermit Gosnell’s trial got hourly updates in the Catholic blogosphere. There are hundreds of articles on China’s one child policy, usually containing lots of condemnations of feminists for our “silence” about sex-selective abortion. So, when an event demonstrates clearly that your side is actually the one who hates women, naturally you are completely silent because there is nothing you CAN say. Catholic teaching is clear — women with dangerous pregnancies should die. Your church even made a saint of a doctor who allowed herself to die from cancer to complete a pregnancy. Her child lived, but one of her older kids, a worthless girl, was sent to convent school where the nuns neglected her to death at age 8. Catholics can’t offer Beatriz compassion. Church doctrine demands that she, and all other women in her position, die.

    • Joe

      Would a simple routine C-section be an option? Why do the doctors feel it nessacary to kill the baby themselves if it will die naturally after being delivered that seems cruel.

  • KarenJo12

    And still the deafening sound of crickets chirping in the Catholic blogosphere over the Beatriz case. Please explain again why requiring women to die for becoming pregnant is a good thing?

    • Randy Gritter

      It is hard to find anyone who has commented on this case. I did find one article in the Irish Times that has something from the other side. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/salvadoran-woman-refused-abortion-that-can-save-her-life-1.1391944

      Her case is backed by the country’s health ministry but the Institute of Legal Medicine, the medical arm of the judiciary, has contradicted the diagnosis of Beatriz’s doctors, saying it did not see any problem with her kidneys or “an imminent risk of death”.

      So apparently the idea that she will die is contested by some medical experts. Again, until we know the facts it is hard to say.

      Pro-choice groups have given the “life of the mother” exception a bad name. They find doctors that will approve any and all abortions based on that exception. So it becomes just a huge loophole and not an exceptional thing at all.

      • KarenJo12

        Consider the source of the opinion that she isn’t in danger — it isn’t HER doctors, it is a body employed by the Salvadoran courts and in the pocket of the Catholic Church.

        Apparently you agree with laws that make no exceptions for the woman’s life because some women might lie? So it’s okay to kill women because other women are desparate enough to lie to get an abortion?

        • Randy Gritter

          Her doctors’ opinion is exactly what the court cannot accept. That would mean any woman could have an abortion simply by finding a doctor who says she needs it. Danger to the life of the mother needs to be determined in some reasonable way. I have no idea if the method used here was reasonable but it seems some method was used and the risk of death was determined to be absent.

          If she is at 24 weeks the baby is very close to viability. At some point it is no longer considered an abortion but rather a C-section. That is a procedure where they try and save the baby but their chances are low because the baby has issues. Regardless of the low chances of saving the baby the fact that you are trying makes it not an abortion. It should mean different laws apply.


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