Or “abortion” as it’s commonly known. Today I had a rather ugly argument on a Facebook group for UK based liberals, with a woman who claims to be a liberal, but… Well… Isn’t.
The theme of the discussion was Nadine Dorries’ proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill which cover the issue of abortions. The tl;dr version is that Dorries was trying to strip not-for-profit charities who carry out terminations of the right to counsel pregnant women because they might try to improve their profits… By… Wait a second… Not-for-profit…. Worried they might profit… Say, somebody’s not being honest here. And it’s Dorries. And her backers (rumoured to be US based “pro-life” organisations, but that’s unconfirmed because they’re hiding behind a law firm as a front, and the law firm isn’t saying – neither is Nadine Dorries).
Anyway, back to the argument. The lady on Facebook, let’s call her Derpina, treated us to a grisly tale of woe in which she was emotionally manipulated by one of their counsellors into paying the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS, one of the aforementioned not-for-profits) for a termination that she didn’t really want, they were only interested in her money, she only went there for contraceptive advice but instead they used her partner (who didn’t want kids) to emotionally blackmail, trick or otherwise coerce her into a termination. Yeah, I know. Visiting a charity who carry out terminations (rather than, say, your doctor), in order to ask for contraceptive advice, for a couple who are already pregnant. Sounds legit.
So anyway, after I’d very politely dismantled her story and her claims that every woman who’s used them hates BPAS by posting reams of positive testimonials and their Quality Care Commission reports (their average patient satisfaction survey score is 9 out of 10), she messaged me the following:
“Hi – about the abortion thing, I do not really expect you to understand. I am not going to post on [the board we were using] any more as I have made my point as clearly as I can. As things stand it is possible to get abortions really easily, and post-abortion councelling. Where the balance is wrong is that it is really hard to get impartial pregnancy advice. You would not agree but I can see that abortion clinics are more interested in getting money off vulnerable women than advising them, are very doom and gloom places and are far from impartial, in my limited experience (but at least I have more experience than you!). You argue that religious groups would blackmail pregnant women into keeping their babies. Again in my experience that was absolutely not the case! Thanks to people like you, I will be taking up this issue further. How would you feel if you had booked in for contraception advice, turned up to find that you were booked in for an operation on your most private parts and was pressured into going through with it “before it’s too late”, in the presence of your partner who does not want any children with you, who then say they are not in a position to offer any couple councelling, and then charge you £50? I can’t think of a better analogy that a man may understand? Yours in disappointment… with a British culture that just does not value life :(“
Well, something about that didn’t sit quite right with me… So I checked Derpina’s Facebook page. Want to guess what she has under “Religion” and “Favourite Book”? I’ll spare you my reply to her, but suffice it to say I pulled no punches. Quite unlike me, I know.
The whole exchange reminded me strongly of a page we talked about here two or three years ago, but which I couldn’t find in the archives, so I assume it’s never had a thread of its own: “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion” – When the Anti-Choice Choose, published in 2000 by Joyce Arthur. I recommend reading that whole page if you haven’t already, but the one she reminded me of was this one:
“We saw a woman recently who after four attempts and many hours of counselling both at the hospital and our clinic, finally, calmly and uneventfully, had her abortion. Four months later, she called me on Christmas Eve to tell me that she was not and never was pro-choice and that we failed to recognize that she was clinically depressed at the time of her abortion. The purpose of her call was to chastise me for not sending her off to the psych unit instead of the procedure room.” (Clinic Administrator, Alberta)
With perhaps a soupçon of this one:
“”I once had a German client who greatly thanked me at the door, leaving after a difficult 22-week abortion. With a gleaming smile, she added: ‘Und doch sind Sie ein Mörderer.’ (‘And you’re still a murderer.’)” (Physician, The Netherlands)”
Charlie Stross wrote a piece explaining his skepticism about some of the more radical predictions from the futurists: Three arguments against the singularity. His short version, “Santa Claus doesn’t exist.” The long version is worth reading, but he references some other works that are also worth reading, so go in with some time to kill.
One of the ideas that Stross considers is “mind uploading.” Our minds are systems of information stored in the chemicals and electrical movements of our nervous system. Theoretically, there’s no reason our minds cannot be moved to a different substrate; say, the memory of a super computer. This is sometimes mentioned as a type of immortality.
Stross considers some of the technical problems, but he also touches on some potential religious and political problems:
However, if it becomes plausible in the near future we can expect extensive theological arguments over it. If you thought the abortion debate was heated, wait until you have people trying to become immortal via the wire. Uploading implicitly refutes the doctrine of the existence of an immortal soul, and therefore presents a raw rebuttal to those religious doctrines that believe in a life after death.
John Scalzi disagrees:
I think Charlie’s correct that there will be theological arguments about it; I don’t think he’s necessarily correct that trying to upload one’s brain into the cloud implicitly refutes the soul any more than any other non-organic life-extending therapy, like getting an artificial heart or blood dialysis. In the case of a brain upload (or more accurately, I suppose, mind upload) what would be extended is not the physical body but some aspect of the consciousness, but it’s an open question of whether this represents a difference of degree or of kind. I think a theologian worth his or her salt could very easily make the argument that if the soul is not threatened by an artificial heart, neither is it threatened by the consciousness having its lifespan artificially extended via the cloud (or the net, or the wire, insert your favorite computing metaphor here).
The only thing I’d add is that it’s very difficult to predict what issues are going to become religious and political firestorms. When Evangelical Christianity became America’s majority religion, its first big issue was stopping Sunday mail delivery. This, when the issue of slavery was beginning to split the nation. After that, the big issue was temperance and prohibition, which isn’t a natural outgrowth of the supposedly bible centered worldview of the Evangelicals.
Stross’ mention of abortion is probably the best example. It’s been well documented that Evangelicals once considered abortion a Catholic issue and were reluctant to get involved. It wasn’t until Francis Schaeffer made it the centerpiece of his campaign, which crystallized the movement we call the Religious Right, that the issue took center stage. It’s possible to imagine a world were Schaeffer never got involved, and so abortion would not be the flashpoint it is today.